By Rev. Elizabeth
It's 8 am and I have been up since 4. I am on a plane surrounded by young adults excited to immerse themselves in life on the border for a week, that we might learn in an up front and personal way about how our immigration policies effect the lives of others. We're all excited.
I am not a fan of traditional mission trips. You know, the trips where people travel to (usually) an exotic locale to "help" the locals by building houses or working at orphanages or whatever. While well intentioned, these trips usually take from the local economy (the things we are doing we could send money for others to do creating jobs along with housing), or harm kids by having a rotating life of people to get attached to who then quickly leave. They also rarely ask the questions about the systemic reasons others are living in poverty. People go home feeling like they helped, no more aware of why the help was needed in the first place (there is too much writing on this to cite here, but if you google harm and short-term missions you will find a lot of info to back me up). Because of this, I often find myself in a quandary when it comes to taking students somewhere. After all, getting outside of our bubbles and learning from people different from us is really important and can be especially formative for young adults.
In fact, when I was 19, I took some time off from college and went on an Outward Bound course to West Texas. As a part of this course, we did a week of border studies in El Paso/Juarez (where we will be this afternoon!) and it changed my life. We visited colonias, met with people who had been deported, people who housed and fed migrant workers, the Border Patrol and so much more. The stories I heard are with me to this day and deeply impact my work for social justice and stance on immigration policy. I wanted our students to have a similar experience.
Through the recommendation of colleagues, I found Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey in El Paso and their border immersion trip. We will be guided through a week long experience by people who live and work in the communities we will visit. We'll worship with Latino Lutherans, visit with social service agencies who accompany immigrants, migrant workers, and those who live on the border. We will meet with the Border Patrol and go to court to see what an immigration hearing looks like. We will visit colonias (unincorporated, usually poor communities), eat with people and hear their stories. I can't wait to experience this with our group and to have them share what we learn with you. I hope you will follow us on our journey.