U-C: What I See

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Story by YAV Kerrie Yarnell

Here's something else you might want to check out. It's an article by a Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer serving in Wapato, WA.



Descriptions from Colombia


If you have a moment, check out this website with photos and reflections from my friends Britt and Danna, who are the current short-term accompaniment team in Colombia.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Save the Women Event - Ciudad Juarez

Hi, this is Jean Marie Peacock, Vice Moderator of the 216th General Assembly. Rick has asked me to share with you some of the highlights from my recent experience in Ciudad Juarez.
Sunday, April 3rd was a meaningful and memorable day as I joined hundreds of Presbyterians from Mexico and the US as we gathered in song and worship for the "Save the Women Event."

The day began in the morning with worship at First Presbyterian Church in El Paso, Texas. I preached at the worship service, which was attended by many people who came from out of town to attend the Save the Women Event. First Presbyterian Church showed us great hospitality, providing lunch following worship. Then we traveled by vans to the U.S./Mexican border and walked in a procession across the bridge into Ciudad Juarez. It was a warm and dusty day, but spirits were high as we joined sisters and brothers from the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico for worship in the park.

The purpose of this gathering grew out of the 216th General Assembly, which passed a commissioner resolution (item 13-08), which expresses concern and grief over the deaths and disappearances of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. As many as 400 women have been murdered and thousands are estimated to be missing in Ciudad Juarez over the past twelve years. Those killed tend to be between the ages of 13-22, with many showing signs of having suffered sexual violence before being murdered. Amnesty International reports that investigations of these murders have been marred by negligence. One of the action items included in the commissioner resolution calls for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join with the church in Mexico in "public witness and worship that cries out for justice and claims the promise of resurrection."

That public witness and worship is what we were about on April 3, 2005 in Ciudad Juarez. It was a moving, meaningful, and memorable day. Choirs from the Presbyterian churches in Juarez and from El Paso provided music throughout the service. Over 600 people were in attendance. The worship service lasted about three hours, and it was truly a collaboration between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The event was organized by Pasos de Fe Border Ministry and the Presbyteries of Tres Rios, Sierra Blanca, Palo Duro and Chihuahua (National Presbyterian Church of Mexico). There was also a strong ecumenical presence at the event, with representatives attending from the New Mexico Conference of Churches and the Texas Conference of Churches.

I joined Lic. Teodoro Villanueva, the Treasurer of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico in preaching for the worship service. It was an emotional experience, and I found myself choking back tears as I expressed on behalf of our denomination the depth of grief and care that we feel for the victims and families of victims. Here is a short excerpt of what I said:

"God has brought us together this day, across national borders, to witness to the unity that we share in Christ. What a blessing it is to be here with sisters and brothers from the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, as we stand together and speak with one voice. What a blessing it is that Christians from many churches have come together to speak for justice. We want to make it known that when one of God’s children is hurt or suffers, the whole of creation groans and cries for justice. When one of God’s children is abused, murdered or disappeared, all of the human family experiences the brokenness of sin and evil. When one of God’s children is in need, we all have a responsibility to reach out in love."

"Across the church – whether we live in Mexico of the United States – we are bound together by God’s love. God created us as one human family to care for each other. And we do care deeply about what happens to each other. We care deeply that over 400 women have been murdered and thousands disappeared. We care deeply for the families of the victims. We care deeply for the rights of women to be safe – free from abuse and violence. We care deeply that these crimes against women have gone unsolved."

One of the most poignant parts of the worship service was when we heard from those who had been victimized by the violence. The father of a fourteen year old girl who disappeared and has never been found read a poem that he had written. At the end of the service, another young woman, who had been abducted and stabbed, spoke of her ordeal, her gratitude for the public witness we were sharing, and her desire for justice, safety, and protection against such crimes.

It was truly an emotional day of worship as we witnessed to the resurrection, expressed our solidarity for sisters and brothers who suffer, and spoke for justice. What I want to share with you, from the experience at the "Save the Women Event", is the depth of gratitude that people expressed to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico for our concern and our solidarity. I cannot count the number of people, especially women, who came up to me and thanked me for our witness and support.

Several pastors from the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico in Ciudad Juarez commented to me that they had been discussing among themselves ways to respond to the violence against women. It was not until they learned of the General Assembly action of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that they felt empowered and galvanized in partnership with the larger church to take action. As I was leaving with others to walk back across the border to El Paso, I said good-bye to the Treasurer of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. He indicated, as we said our good-byes, that he wanted me to take the lapel pin off his jacket and put it on my dress. The pin had on it the insignia of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. It was a moving gesture that affirmed the unity that we share as Presbyterians across borders and nationality.

If you are interested in pictures and further reporting on the event by the Presbyterian News Service, please visit www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2005/05194. I also encourage you to share with others the reality of what is happening to women in Ciudad Juarez, so that we can continue to raise public awareness about the violence. International pressure continues to be felt by the Mexican government as we press for investigation of the crimes. Please remember in prayer those who have been victimized by the violence, as we all pray for justice and for peace in our world.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The courage of Peter and John


A quick reflection:

I've been thinking a lot about the disciples in these weeks after the resurrection, and the movement of the Holy Spirit that they experienced as they struggled to make sense of Jesus' death and deal with their own fear of the religious and civil authorities. The last chapters of the book of John and the first few chapters of Acts speak eloquently to their transition from a small band of followers cowering in fear (locked in the upper room) - through their encounters with the risen Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost - and into the streets to preach the new news of the risen Christ.

Then, as I was flying to Florida today (two full flights - middle seats. Gotta love the life of the moderator) :) I was captivated again by the story of the early ministry of Peter and John in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters of the book of Acts.

I'm so impressed with their courage and their determination in their interactions with the Priests, the Saducees, and the Captain of the Temple. Even after they're jailed, their witness becomes stronger and stronger. In chapter 4:13, their boldness is noted, and we're told that "even though they were ordinary and uneducated men," they were recognized as companions of Jesus.

What intrigues me is how we can emulate that kind of courage and boldness about what we know to be true and who Christ calls us to be. Can that kind of courage be found in our church?

Here's the best line:

"Whether is is right in God's sight to listen to you (religious leaders) rather than to God, you must judge; for WE CANNOT KEEP FROM SPEAKING ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD." (4:19 and 20)

As I travel, I keep looking for that kind of conviction in our church. They responded to human suffering boldly as countless numbers brought the sick to them to be healed. They defended their new understanding of the new, far broader community of the faithful that was called together in the moment of the resurrection, even when tried by the authorities. In the end, they were quite willing to be jailed for their convictions.

Finally, let's not forget the courage of Gamaliel, the Pharisee and teacher of the Law whom we are told was quite well respected, and who spoke boldly to the council when the others wanted to put Peter and John to death. In Acts 5:38, he demands that they be left alone, "because if this plan or undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God." Seems like advise that would be useful to those of us across the theological spectrum right now who would like to identify others as heretic.

Let's be on the lookout for stories of that kind of courage to live our faith.


To the Fallen in the Deserts of Death

Brothers and Sisters,

I spent this week in northern Mexico with a group of five Executive Presbyters who came to learn about the situation on the border. We spent one night sleeping on the floor (that's right - your executive presbyeters!) at a migrant shelter run by the Catholic Church in the small city of Altar, about 60 miles south of the border. Altar is the point of departure for thousands of migrants each week who are headed into the desert to walk across the border in search of a job in the U.S.

There is a new monument in front of the shelter, which is called the Community Center for Assistance to Migrants and those in Need (CCAMYN). It is quite tall and made of plates of steel, into which the words of a poem have been stamped. Here's my rough translation of the poem (unofficial, unauthorized and unchecked by use of a dictionary).


In memory of those who, when seeking a better life,
found only death,
In memory of those who risked risked everything and lost it,
Who went with hope in their eyes and challenge in their souls.

The sun calcified them, the desert devoured them,
and the dust erased their name and their face.

In memory of those who will never return
we offer these flowers . . .
To them, with respect, we say:
Your thirst, is our thirst.
Your hunger, is our hunger.
Your pain, is our pain.
Your discomfort, your bitterness, your agony
Are also ours.

We are a shout that demands justice. . .
In order that No One, ever again, will have to
Abandon their lands, their beliefs, their dead, their children
their parents, their family, their race, their culture, their identity. . .

We are a silence that has a voice . . .
In order that no one will have to look for their destiny in other lands.
In order that no one will have to go to the desert and be consumed by loneliness.

We are a voice in the desert that cries out:
Education for all!
Opportunity for all!
Work for all!
Bread for all!
Liberty for all!
Justice for all!. . .

We are a voice that the desert cannot drown. . .
In order that the country offers equality to all its children
The opportunity for a decorous and dignified life. . .

"For the right to live in Peace"
Mexico, Winter - 2004
Othon Perez (Poet)