Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For justice, for freedom, for mercy, hear our prayer

When I tell friends that I spent six joyous, spirit filled, calming days constantly surrounded by high school youth, I receive blank stares and offers to drive me to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluation. But it's really true. I was blessed with the awesome opportunity to serve as a chaperon for the youth mission trip to Virginia's Eastern Shore.  I gained Classic Rock's blessing when I promised not to hover and to allow him his "space" with his friends.  I think he was happy to have me there when he realized he'd forgotten toothpaste. A mama is always needed.

On a hot and muggy afternoon, we loaded 17 young men and ladies among stacks of potato chips, granola bars and sleeping bags. After our group prayer for safe travel and successful work, our pastor wished us luck and waved us goodbye. We were graciously housed by a Catholic church in Cape Charles which was centrally located to our many adventures. After the unpacking and grocery shopping, we settled for evening prayer. The theme of the week was Social Justice. Our church emphasizes seven themes, or guidelines, and our activities were chosen to reflect and instill those teachings.

These seven themes are as follows (and more detailed information is found here):
  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation
  • Rights and Responsibilities
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
  • Solidarity
  • Care for God's Creation
Our first day started with the gleaning of potatoes.  Along with much of the produce available in the US, potatoes are gleaned by migrant workers.  Some are undocumented immigrants.  Our three hours of gleaning allowed us to experience what a typical worker's day might be like.  We learned that meant limited water breaks, limited bathroom breaks, oppressively hot and dusty conditions, and back breaking poses.

In all hardships of life, we strive to find the bright side or the
cloud's silver lining.  One young man found the bright side of gleaning
with this awesome potato! 

Following a quick stop at our "home" for clean up and lunch, we visited a migrant camp to deliver the 2000 pounds we'd collected.  Yep, that says 2000.

I wanted to respect the residents and didn't take pictures of them accepting bags.

I did not realize until visiting the camp that the families do not have separate bathrooms.
The entire community (maybe 100 or more families) shares a common bath house.

They also share a common kitchen building. 
Their houses are really rectangular, cinder block buildings divided into four units.
One family per unit, and most are without air conditioning units.

During that evening's prayer the youth minister asked the group for their impressions of the day.  Many reported their shock at seeing the conditions of the camp.  The inhabitants were joyful people, but still people living a difficult and hard life.  Several responded that, for the first time, they truly understood the term privileged and they would never take running water, a full stomach, or medical care for granted.  One young man stated that the trip was about meeting the poor and humble and that “to humble ourselves to their work and coexist with them was a really joyful experience.”  Another expressed that potatoes will never again taste good because he now understands that migrant workers are treated horribly.  The youth agreed that their role was to bring their experiences back to their community and become the voices of the migrant workers.  They are now the hands and feet of Christ.  

Today's post title from the hymn There is a Longing.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing experience for them to have (and you)! My grandparents were migrant workers for about 8 years when they first came to America. The stories they tell are a part of my family history.


I thank you for visiting with me and for sharing your thoughts. I hope your day is fabulous and that you make some time for music - no matter what kind!