Monday, September 27, 2010


He fought his way up the ladder
Middle class family
Academic scholarship to Duke
Law degree from Harvard
A year abroad, broadening his horizons

Hands raw from picking corn
Skin leathering from the sun
Someday he'll be Northbound for money to send home

100% Silk shirt, on one sleeve at a time
Made in China
Thriving on espresso
Working long hours to afford it

The storm raging through the town
Taking his crop
Taking his house
Taking his livelihood

"I now pronounce you man and wife."
She's pregnant now.
Celebration for the new baby girl to be.

He gathers enough
to hire the coyote
to be guided past the border
away from the 25 feet high scrap metal

Two months until the baby's due
Wife goes to the store
Daily errands to take care of the new family, the new home

Three days pass in the desert
He's run out of water and food
His memorabilia is long abandoned

"Paper or plastic?"
She opens her wallet
A man enters, shooting

Delirious from thirst, he finds water
left in the desert by the love of strangers
he makes it through
Arrives to Iowa,
to work on the farm
Cash to send home

Ambulance sirens wail
Blood stained, gasping for breath
her life is on the line

"Migra! Migra" shouted from all over
He feels the handcuffs behind his back
Thrown in jail

"I'm sorry, we tried everything we could
The baby couldn't handle the stress.
Mom is barely hanging on

Morning comes
30 minutes with his lawyer
A "fair" trial, along with those 69 others
Sentenced to 90 days in jail

"She may not survive
and if she does, there will be permanent damage"

For trying to provide for his family
For trying to provide for her family

Two injustices
One place

Stephen Colbert Speaks Up

Thanks Miriam, for your blog post that lead me here. I think you all should listen to that clip above. It helps that its humorous, too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Operation Streamline

On Thursday, 9/23, Ali, Jacob and I went to Operation Streamline. I took some notes while sitting in the courtroom observing the procedures with the intention to come back to them to write something capturing the experience and making sense of it.

I've tried to make sense of it. I've realized there is little to none to be found, so instead I'll copy my journal from that experience. I think my random, sporadic, initial reactions as a witness in that room will better illustrate the experience than if I were to labour days over this post to really hone in on an explanation of it altogether.

Brief explanation of what is Operation Streamline:

It's a federal program to deter people from immigrating illegally to the states by putting them on a mass trial (about 70 people on trial at once) and giving the person a jailstay and a criminal record. The intention behind it is that the person entering illegally would be so distraught after his 30-90 day jail stay and criminal record he's now received, and the threat of a felony and impossibility to ever enter the US legally if he were to do it again, that he would go and tell all of his peers not to do it as to deter them as well.

There is a smell in this courtroom. It's a mix between blatant hypocrisy and total paralytic fear. It's a hanging reminder of the overall "rotten" idea of the "Operation."

It's a wierd feeling, flood of emotion being in this court room watching these precedings. The actual set up of the room- the wooden witness benches, the leather seats for the jury, the sides for both sets of lawyers, resembles what I learned about in the textbooks in school, and my one and only prior experience in a courtroom. I was so priveleged growing up that my initial experience of a courtroom was playing- participating in Mock Trial. But the real mockery here is what's going on in front of me. "A fair and speedy trial," my ass. The defendants, yes- you read that right- defendants (usually between 40-70), fill the twelve leather seats off to the side for the jury, and the first few rows of the witness benches. Today there are around 50 people sitting in front of me, all on trial at once.
The judge asks the lawyers- "Have you each had sufficient time to meet with your client?"
One of the lawyers didn't even have time to be in the courtroom with his client right now, nevertheless to have spent the appropriate time preparing for the trial. (note- I later learned that as a part of this "operation," the lawyers are given 30 minutes to meet with their client the morning before his/her case.)
Some of the lawyers surrounding me sit shuffling papers, looking important and driven. The lawyer right in front of me, however, is playing a game on his iPhone.
The judge says "I want to make it clear to you the rights you individually have" to the group of 50 on trial, at once.
"Has anyone forced you to plead guilty?" This question got to me every time I heard it. Those on trial had been taught to answer "si" and "no" accordingly- making the precedings seem more like a play, where they're performing some memorized and practiced actions, rather than an actual trial. No one may have forced the hand of any of these men and women to plead guilty, but, coming from three-five days in the desert, being reprimanded, threatened that he will be separated from his family, one is not left with another real option.

The first wave of 6 men completed their "fair and speedy trial," and preceded out of the courtroom- in handcuffs and with chains around their ankles, passing right past my line of sight as they exited the door to the right. The first "offender" to walk out of the courtroom was laughing hysterically. It's like he understood the joke that this process makes of our judicial system.
Another question asked by the judge to each group of 6 as they stood their "individual" trials- "Any legal reasoning why the court shouldn't accept these please of guilty?"- Yes. This isn't how our system is supposed to operate. This isn't a fair trial. I see no jury of peers.
This is disgusting. Me da asco. Right now, I regret my citizenship. I regret that my government is playing this role, and putting on this trial. I don't even understand why this system is in place at all- it is masquerading as something that follows the US court systems and procedures.

It's as far of a cry from the system I learned about in school, and how it's supposed to work, as if the 50 individuals "on trial" here today had been tazed, tortured, ripped of their dignity, and kicked over the border.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prayer Requests

One of my roommates, friends, and co-worker, Ali, has a friend whose mom has recently been diagnosed with Brain Cancer. She asks for continued prayers for the Schuyler family. Chemotherapy has started, but the prognosis is not hopeful. I ask for your prayers for both Ali, as she tries to balance being in ministry away from her home and friends in need, and for her friend's family.
I ask for prayers for BorderLinks as an organization. That it continues to practice its mission of popular education of Border Issues, that delegations don't shy away from the opportunity to be a part of it because of the media's portrayal of Border Violence, and that as an organization altogether it continues to operate and be able to operate.
I ask for prayers for all of those who are lost, thirsty, separated from family, abused, and hungry.
I ask for prayers for the government, that it can represent and protect people and ideas rather than partisanship and money.


Prayers for those bereaving everywhere.

Prayers for those associated with "Operation Streamline." Those on all sides.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three moments

An activity we (Ali and I) did as a part of our orientation at BorderLinks was to depict the "rivers of our lives." We were only given a few minutes to complete this task, so undoubtedly, not all of the flowing parts made it onto the drawing.

These following three moments were the first three that I thought of in terms of shaping my young life, and more-over the person I am today. Perhaps I was thinking about them because just before completing the task, I'd read the mission of BorderLinks, and it very much so reminded me of the Montessori Method. But more on that later.

So, here's to you, Mrs. Suzelle Poole, Mrs. Mary Loew, and Ms T, the Guides of my childhood.

The Golden Rule
I'm sure I remember this moment more as a dream than how it actually happened. One day in my primary class, (that's 3-6years old, for you non Montessori children), Mrs. Poole gathered us together for a Grace and Courtesy lesson. That day's lesson was the Golden Rule.

I went to Sunday School growing up, and I'm sure I'd heard it in other ways with my childhood teachers. But this particular moment sticks in my mind. I really struggled with the idea of "do unto others as you would have them do to you." I remember asking something like "but what if someone really just wants to be mean? Are you mean in return?"

I feel like I was a pretty good, nice, caring child. But, instead of reinforcing those attributes, I feel like that moment, learning the Golden Rule, served to teach me retribution. It showed me that actions are done to elicit responses and certain behaviors in other people. Instead of being nice, friendly, compassionate and loving because we want to, we do it because we want others to do the same to us.

So moment 1: The Golden Rule- I learned that others don't necessarily think with their hearts first. That others may be led by other, more selfish desires.

All throughout lower elementary, I feel like I had a timeline project to complete. I don't ever recall finishing a single one of them, but I do remember starting many. One in particular is a timeline of animals, starting with the Trilobites, and tracing evolution to Human Beings. I remember asking Mrs. Loew, "In Sunday School we learned that Adam and Eve started the world. This timeline shows that we evolved. Which is right?" Her response was, as any good Guide's response would be, very calm and collected; she said something along the lines of "well, some of those stories are believed to be metaphors, and this timeline depicts the scientific idea of evolution." To which I replied something along the lines of "Which is the right one?"
"Well, it depends on the individual"
"Isn't there a right answer, though?"

Lesson: There can be many different interpretations of "the facts."

Interview with a Superstar

This moment is, by far, my favorite.
I was probably 11 or 12 at the time, and of course, knew everything. The class had been assigned to interview someone famous. So I decided to interview Ms T, my Upper Elementary Guide (4-6th grade). I developed a list of somewhere between 20 and 100 questions. Before the interview I patted myself of the back, congratulating myself for thinking of absolutely every worthwhile interview, for being such a thorough 11 year old journalist. And, just in case I had forgotten a worthwhile question, I'd even thought of that possibility. My last question was "Is there any other question you think I should have asked that I didn't?" I thoroughly expected the answer to be "no,", of course, since I'd certainly covered all of my bases.

But, that was not the case.

Ms T responded "yes" to my last question. And I was unprepared. So I followed up with "what question did I leave out?"
"You didn't ask me what I want to be when I grow up?"

I was confused. She was a teacher. That was her title. She was grown up.

So, I asked the question anyways. I don't remember the response. But I do remember that moment being when I realized that we will always be growing, and never have to give up on learning, changing, and experiencing new things.

Who is this Stevie girl, anyways?

I want to use this blog as not only a means to communicate parts of my experience as a Young Adult Volunteer in Tucson, AZ, but also as a means for questions and conversation.

This blog will showcase lessons I've learned, stories I've heard, or sometimes just a walk through of my day. As my mom informed me, it's very "stream of consciousness." As a result, sometimes what I post will be thought through and make sense, and other times I may not realize that I'm leaving out important parts of the story- please advise me if you're lost!

I've realized not all of you reading this know my story, my background, or anything about me other than I am currently doing something with border ministry somewhere in Arizona. So here's a bit about me:

Hi, I'm Stevie. I graduated from Austin College (in Sherman, TX) with a degree Media Communication, and minors in Latin American Studies and Spanish. I'm excited to be working at Borderlinks as part of my 2010-2011 year as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer. In particular, I'm looking forward to developing relationships on both sides of the border and learning in concert with the delegations I will be facilitating in my role as a Program Organizer. I am also excited to put my degree to work and broadcast the stories from the border in my work with the "Ver, Pensar, Actuar" newsletter.

I am embarking on a journey. In this next year of service with YAV I will experience new opportunities for growth, see the world in a different light, and be challenged in ways I have yet imagined. At Montreat Youth Conference last summer I felt truly moved and inspired by Rev. John Fife's accounts of working in ministry in the Tucson border area. He described the dire situations, the struggles, and the hope the immigrants had in a better life in the United States. His stories of selfless compassion and living by the greatest commandment- “to love your neighbor as yourself” called to me. Join me on my journey as I explore the call of the gospel in the social and political realities of the border area.

Please comment, question, negate, explore, and learn along with me.

It's going to be

This morning in church at Southside, we sang "Here I am Lord" AND we had ice cream afterwards.

It's going to be a good year.

Today I walked into a coffee shop down the street from my house and David Allan Coe was playing.

It's going to be a good year.

Yesterday I almost fell off of my bicycle because I was laughing so hard with good people.

It's going to be a good year.

Thursday I got to make cookies at work.

It's going to be a good year.

Helmets and salsa lessons sometimes mix.

It's going to be a good year.

It's going to be a year. A year full of challenges, stories, learning, bonding, crying, smiling, translating, interpreting, reflecting, anticipating, mixed emotions, and excitement.

A good year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Biking tucson!

Top photo is all six of the YAV house residents' bikes together.
The middle two photos are of a community art project called the Bike Sanctuary.

The bottom photo is me and my new bike! I'll be using it as my main way to get around town.

Rules of Life

How do I want to be in daily prayer?

Be still
Reflect on concerns/hesitations and know that God is present with me during them
Rejoice in the happy moments, and recognize the joy of God's companionship in the sadness, anxst, sorrow, and hard times
Pray for others with others and alone
be intention in reflection and communication with God
The five finger prayer

What practices will I use to allow god to form me spiritually?
Reflect daily
Study the works of those who have studied before me
interpret those works and the Bible with an open mind and honest, personal reflection
Break comfortable routine
Keep an open mind to allow the Spirit and others to me me.

How will I live out me call as a Christian in a hurting world?
Have mercy
"Pray for the opressor" (MLKJ)
Live simply
"Be sign of joy and love for others" (Taize)

Some excerpts from my roommates Rules:
"Climb Mountains, dream bigger, jump higher"

"Practicing radical acceptance"

"Be a sign of joy to others. Practice gratitude"

"By the power of God, fear nothing, die daily, and practice truth"

Feeling Free

"Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still

Reflections on a time I felt truly free.

These moments of feeling free revolve around beauty surrounding me- sometimes through the people around me, sometimes through the beauty around me, and sometimes both.

a few times I felt truly free:
The car ride back from Austin with a few good friends, blasting Pam Tillis' Maybe it was Memphis.

Laying on the beach in the middle of nowhere for hours and only seeing two other people.


First photo- the Kiva style sanctuary of Southside Presbyterian Church
Middle- door to the church- First Presbyterian Church of Ossining
Last photo- our group at the marina

In the last two Sundays, I have been commissioned into service as a Young Adult Volunteer twice more.

Fifteen or so churches in the local presbytery of Stony Point commissioned groups of volunteers. Jorge, who introduced himself as George, drove Aaron (who is serving in San Antonio), Meredith, Luke and me from Stony Point to Ossining Presbyterian Church for the 10:30 worship service. Jorge was very kind and welcoming. We stopped along the way to take some photos- both of the Marina and of the scenic overlook.
We arrived at the church at 10:00 am and met Linda, the pastor. The church is big, beautiful, and full of history. It was started in 1763. During the 1970s, according to Linda, the church was in its prime- with over 700+ members filling the pews. Now attendance dwindles, and membership is around 100.
Those small numbers didn't matter though. The character of the church has been preserved. I walked into the church sanctuary with 30 other strangers, and immediatly felt welcomed. This church had never met us before, but that didn't matter, and they opened their arms to us. We were given the time normally devoted to the sermon during the service to present about the YAV program, what it means, how we got involved, and what we'll be doing while there. After the offering, we walked out of the sanctuary, down the hall, and spoke to those at the Spanish service. This was a welcome surprise for both us and the church. We, the four YAVs, didn't know there were two services at the same time at the church- one in English and one in Spanish. The church didn't know that two of us spoke Spanish fluently, and would be able to tell our story in both languages. The pews of the small chapel were packed. We sat, elbow to elbow, listening as the congregation expressed praywers of sorrow, joy, excitement, and anguish. During the open time of prayer and sharing, we were invited to share with th econgregation again. This time in Spanish. Aaron and I talked a little about the program and what we'd be doing. I tried to say that I'd be serving as a translator, but it was difficult as I had forgotten the Spanish word for translator. Aside from that little flub, I felt really encouraged and supported by this new congregation. The service was a great experience. The character and personality of the church was tremendous. But what really struck me about this expereince was the spirit of the people around us. The congregation was warm and welcoming.

The fourth commissioning was this past Sunday at Southside Presbyterian Church. Again, it was a really great opportunity to share our story with a new congregation. This time, a more local congregation with which we can hopefully get involved. The church is set up like a Kiva, which was also really neat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Benediction from back home

"Now, as you leave this place,
May the living Lord go with you.
May he go behind you, to encourage you;
Beside you, to befriend you in obedient ministry;
Above you, to watch over you;
Beneath you, to lift you from your sorrows;
Within you, to give you the gifts of faith
and hope and love;
And always before you, to show you the way. Amen."
-Rev. Blair Monie

These words have been resonating with me throughout the week.