I am moving from this wordpress site to my very own www.KristenSarahBruce.com! We are still working out the kinks but should have everything running smoothly soon. Check it out!
Thanks to the lovely Lauren Fester for designing it for me!
In case you needed any more persuasion to hop a plane and just go… Here’s some travel inspo for ya…
Shot w/ Canon T2i, in the air over Honduras.
Shot w/ Canon T2i in the mountains of Copán, Honduras.
Oh ya, and I’m moving there soon. In case you forgot.
“Who would name their dog Tequila??” Disapproval and disgust were in her voice as she wrinkled up her forehead in a snide expression, studying the little Chihuaha-mix mut on the front steps of my house.
My friend, that’s who, I thought. My neighbor. The mother of these two children who just heard you ask that question.
I wanted to snap back with something equally as snobby like, “who would wear such an ugly hat?” But then I realized that I was the 23-year-old and she was the high school student who apparently didn’t know any better. Still, I reasoned with myself, I ought to do herself a favor and teach her a lesson by bursting that little self-righteous bubble of hers.
Maybe I was more bitter than I should have been, thinking about how I wished that someone had burst my self-righteous bubble when I was that age. I know I would have asked the same question at 15-years-old.
It was day two of a summer “missions trip.” This youth group from out of town was assigned to our neighborhood for their service project as part of a summer camp being held on the campus of my alma mater. For three days in a row the group would come into this neighborhood they had never visited before and spend 3-4 hours ministering to our neighborhood kids by playing games, sharing Bible lessons, eating snacks and making crafts. Great concept. Great group of people with great intentions.
But somewhere in the midst of the lesson, sitting in the grass of our front yard on that sunny summer afternoon, in between the hushes and snaps of fingers and demands for children to pay attention and sit still, (impossible requests given the circumstances) I caught a glimpse of what many missionaries must feel when groups come to “help.” As much as I would have loved for the kids to be enthralled by a lesson given by a middle-aged man they’d never met about how scientists have not yet been able to engineer anything close to what God created such as the single blade of grass he held in his hand, chances were slim that they’d be paying attention.
I did my best to encourage listening and interest in the topic at hand but it was apparent that there was a distinct “us and them” division. Clearly unintentional on the group’s part, they had failed to relate to the kids, build any kid of foundation of friendship, trust or respect and it left the kids feeling talked at rather than talked with. I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t want to choose sides. If it came down to it I know who I’d be with.
My friends and I have been building relationships with these children and their families for over four years. It is kind of strange to see new people come in and start making new rules. We don’t want to be territorial but we do feel a sense of ownership. It takes time to earn trust. It takes time to learn the people and atmosphere around you. I think it is a great disservice to march into a new place with a rigid plan and a disregard for individuals’ needs.
Honestly, the kids probably had a blast. They played with soccer balls and did parachute activities. I’m sure they enjoyed the break from summer vacation monotony. This is in no way a reprimand or diss on the part of this particular group. It is a commentary on all service projects, social ministry and short-term mission trips. I think it would be healthy to reconsider the way we have traditionally done missions.
When that young girl came into my neighborhood and judged my neighbor for naming her dog after alcohol, I felt personally offended. I didn’t feel embarrassed for my neighbor because this church girl found out the controversial name of her dog, I felt embarrassed for this church girl because she had vocalized judgment instead of grace and it was not representative of the heart of my Savior.
What if when we went on “mission trips,” instead of barging in like an army taking territory, we let grace lead the way? What if instead of coming at people we decided to just be with them? What if instead of telling them what they should consider important, we learned about what was important to them? I don’t think we will win those around us to the heart of God by suggesting they change the name of their pets… I think those around us will be drawn to the heart of God when we walk across the street and visit them on their porches; sitting and talking and laughing, accepting them for who they are, Tequila and all.
The not-so-detailed Details and not-very-concrete Facts:
Here’s the thing, I have already committed to participating in Argo Christian Fellowship’s annual medical missions trip (which I love) the first week of July. I have managed to raise enough funds for that trip and, like usual, we will spend our week in Copán, hosting clinics in various villages. This is just the beginning of my crazy month of July – from there I will return home from Honduras, get ready for the wedding of my best friend, Brianna, have a few days at home to pack before I leave to work a conference in Florida and then on to Honduras to live. I don’t know at which point in those 30+ days I will have a chance to sleep but I can at least count on it being interesting.
I am very excited about having students and having a classroom and being able to pour into such impressionable lives to impact their futures. I’ve been reading a self-help book for teachers that belongs to my friend who teaches ESL at a local elementary school. I am only a few pages in but it might be changing my life, haha. I am kind of in the oh-crap-I-hope-I’m-prepared-for-this stage. (hence, the Clase de Inglés teaching Pinterest board I just created)
Pray that I will be prepared to take on the responsibility of a classroom and that I will be able to break through any cultural barriers to effectively reach the hearts and minds of these little ones.
This past week I attended a Mother’s Day service at a local Hispanic church (I was invited by some of my neighbors) and a few days later, an elementary school graduation of a Mexican boy who is in our mentoring ministry. It is not unusual for my friends, roommates, fellow mentors and I to find ourselves at events like these… I really enjoy being involved in the lives of the neighborhood kids and their families.
At church on Sunday, the pastor preached to the immigrant congregation about not neglecting the families they left back in their home countries. We had a moving time of prayer for family members “back home” who may feel abandoned or betrayed by their loved ones’ choice of moving to the U.S. He spoke of how the Lord knows the heart of the immigrant and knows the tears, pain and the agonizing process of deciding whether or not to leave one’s home country and all things familiar for an indefinite amount of time. He reminded us of the Bible characters (including Jesus) who moved to distant lands either for reasons of famine, searching for work, fleeing oppression or by a command from God Himself.
There I sat on Mother’s Day – amongst families from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, etc who had left their home and other family members behind in search of opportunity – knowing that I had the luxury of driving only a couple hours into the next state to see my mother and they didn’t share that luxury with me. I could sense the ache and maybe even a little remorse in the sniffles that filled the sanctuary as we pleaded with God to protect those still remaining in poverty, war-torn countries and without access to education.
Don’t fear, God knows your heart.
A couple days later I attended a 5th grade graduation. The boy I was there to see is from Mexico. His legal status is pending. He was brought to this country as a baby by well-meaning parents only wanting the best for their son. I watched him receive award after award for scholastic achievement and heard teachers, principals and board members charge the group of students to “make wise decisions” and remind them and their parents that there should be no excuse not to complete high school and continue on to college. Before he and a handful of his classmates went up to receive the Presidential Academic Excellence Award, a letter from President Barack Obama was read. The President congratulated the students on their hard work and encouraged them to continue pursuing outstanding performance in their education. Everyone seemed to be on board with this sentiment. But how many parents and educators in that room really realized the opportunity disparity that will become evident among this class of 2019 in the next few years? While citizen children will be able to easily earn a driver’s license, their classmates lacking documentation will have no chance at receiving a legal state-issued ID. While citizen high school graduates will be receiving scholarships and paying in-state tuition, some of their peers will have little chance at higher education, much less financial aid, and will have to pay out-of-state tuition for colleges that are right down the road from their high school.
To many latino immigrant families, moving from 5th grade to middle school is huge. This step is something that many parents that I personally know were not able to take while back in their home countries due to economic hardship. Seeing their children continue with their education is an emotional moment in which they realize that every sacrifice they had to make was worth it.
I had a recent conversation with my neighbors who are from Mexico and Guatemala about the political climate in my home state, Alabama, and updates on the anti-immigrant legislation that was passed last year. They told me about a Mexican man living in Alabama who came home one winter evening after work to find his water and electricity cut off. (as suggested by the new law – “no one is to enter a contract with an undocumented immigrant” including landlords and utilities companies) He, his wife and small daughters went to bed that night without showers or heat. When he called to inquire about it he was told he had two days before he would be evicted. Two days later they headed to Tennessee where they now live.
My neighbors have voiced their concerns with me before about waking up each morning not knowing if that day could be the day they get detained or deported. These people have lived here for years. They have established families. This is the only culture and country their children know. I asked if they had some kind of plan in place for their children in the instance that they were arrested. (I heard of many families in Alabama having to do this with other family members or neighbors after HB56 was passed) They told me not really but that they make sure that all their children (who are natural born citizens) have their passports as soon as possible. If anything were to happen to one parent, the whole family would follow back to the home country - being separated is not even an option.
I consider these families very dear to me. So when I hear ignorant anti-immigrant political rhetoric… it hits me in a personal way. Whether this affects you or anyone close to you, I challenge you to have the courage to think critically beyond the stereotypes and xenophobia. Put a human face to the issue. And if you are a follower of Christ I sure hope you are able to see that God knows the heart of the immigrant, even when we don’t.
I cannot even begin to imagine the great responsibility of being a parent… the privilege and honor of stewarding over another human being. Sometimes I think, “How can I be trusted with that??” I certainly don’t imagine that I will have it all figured out by the time that moment comes in life but here are some prayers that I have for my future children:
I pray that grace would blind your eyes to all offense and entitlement. I pray that I would help lead you to the Truth, but that the vehicle by which you arrive would never be fear or manipulation or guilt.
I pray that the home I make for you would be a safe place to dream dreams, ask tough questions and voice unpopular opinions. I pray that you would always feels respected and validated and that in return you would learn to respect and validate others.
I pray that you would see unconditional love exemplified in our home and that you would never see yourself or anyone else as too far gone for redemption. I pray that as you see those around you make mistakes or bad decisions or different choices, that you would never view them as inferior but as a human in need of grace, just like you, just like me.