February 2015- Immigration & Privilege

Rest Area Sign

A word from Thomas Merton: “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence… It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

We are renewing our efforts at taking a Sabbath this semester, and to be honest, it is almost harder to stop doing than it is to do. So far, we have successfully carved out about 3 hours a week for a mix of exercise, devotionals, and much needed parents-of-a toddler sleep. This week, being more centered means being more mindful of the burdens of people around us from Haiti.

Haitians in the DR
Last week in Santiago, a Haitian youth was found lynched, hung with his hands and feet tied, at a park in front of the hospital where Laurie taught. His name was Tulile, and he shined shoes for a living. It is hard to really let ourselves sit with this awful thing for very long. We did not feel good about exposing you to the photo, but seeing Tulile forced our own sometimes slow and self-interested spirits to prayer and action.  NPR reports his death amid continuing tension over an immigration law that is leaving many folks stateless by not providing documents to those born in the DR to undocumented Haitian parents.

Haitian immigrants are all around us. They are our students, church members and neighbors. Early every morning, Haitian workers walk past our house on their way to low paying manual labor jobs. Sometimes we catch a beautiful Creole hymn lilting from the still-dark silence. Cars honk at mostly Haitian fruit vendors, whose bodies nearly parallel the road as they block traffic to push heavy carts up busy streets. Police barricades regularly check for Haitian immigrants in vehicles leaving the city, while our white faces are mostly waved past (or asked for money for a coke). We could go on.

Besides the new law (condemned by some international human rights groups), we have long been aware of how completely different we are treated as cool foreigners born to privilege in the U.S. vs. how Haitian immigrants are treated by some. People generally like to be associated with us, help us with our silly foreigner questions, and listen more patiently to our second-language blunders. For many Haitians, seeing Tulile hung from that tree makes them feel even more vulnerable, and the Haitian flag burned two neighborhoods away last week was likely no comfortable expression of freedom of speech.

Responding to Privilege
In college, Laurie once tried to eat a whole bag of delicious oranges that arrived from her grandma’s house without offering to share with housemates- because well, they were just that good. As you guessed, most of them spoiled in short order. The underlying lesson was God’s calling to love others as we love ourselves. And don’t we all have examples of times where hoarding what we’ve got simply spoils our own lives anyways, where the goods could be life-giving when shared around?Neighbor boys

During Lent we want to focus more deeply on sharing, specifically with two Haitian boys in our neighborhood. David and Martin(names changed) are 6 and 8, and both of their parents work all day until 9pm. Because they don’t have documents, they have been unable to attend public school (!), so they roam our neighborhood. Most days they stop by for a snack in the late morning and chat.  Join us in praying for understanding how we can engage more in their lives. Telling you is our accountability, and also a reminder to have grace with ourselves in our own limitations. Both seem important, as God helps us feel more urgent about the sad possibility that these boys may grow up without even an elementary education.

May God strengthen us to not succumb to the violence of overwork, to allow for wisdom, mindfulness and more fruitful labor.  Let’s give courage to each other this month to take the next small step with grace for ourselves and towards whomever is standing at our gates.

Life notes
Finances: Thank you for your courage in contributing to this ministry at the years end! With a few more ends to tie up, and the estimated typical support that comes in during the year, we are confident that we will have what we need for 2015! Thanks be to God!  Thank you very much partners, old and several new. David thanks you too for his snacks:)feb pic pensum papers

University PT curriculum development continues on, evidenced by the stack of papers at this meeting!

Finally, it has been an intense season in our family life. We were grateful to be home at Christmas after Laurie’s aunt passed away, which allowed some quality time with Laurie’s grandpa before he passed away last week. We will miss you, retired-missionaries grandpa Dale Kietzman & Aunt Ruth.

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