By Student Servant Leader Sam Amodeo
Every night at Miracle Ranch, where we spent the last part of our trip, I would sleep outside on a cot and look at the stars, feeling myself slowly absorb everything I had seen at the border and in the migrant home, talking with those who were next to me. Realizing how young I was and how much of my life I had left to think about what I was experiencing.
Now, a month later, I’m remembering still, and I’m coming to some more conclusions. Something that puzzled me to no end was how optimistic the migrants and deportees were. Enrique said that he enjoys learning Mexican cuisine and working here, since his chef’s education had ironically taught him every cuisine but Mexican. Juan has finally connected with his family, gotten his stuff that he wasn’t allowed to take with him back when he was deported, and plans to work in Mexico until he can move back. An under-aged migrant who had failed his attempt to cross said with enthusiasm that he will try again.
Most of the people we talked to had a smile on their face at one point, they haven’t given up on their dreams. At Miracle Ranch, the kids are happy and helpful and everyone there believes in their futures. Much much later (now, when I write this), remembering the migrants and deportees being persecuted in and kicked out of the U.S. got me thinking about the topic in church that I was assigned many weeks later to speak on during our group’s presentation: which is derived from a biblical quote: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When is it ever righteous to persecute a whole population? Persecution IS the mistreatment of people based on race and religion, so in definition it makes sense to target whole populations. Is it righteous? I’m reminded of strict parents obsessively protecting their children from danger and corruption, as if they were a significant portion of what actually awaits them, a Tangled scenario. These people that we met have been through this, and yet, they still smile, they still believe, they still treat others with kindness.
The kingdom of heaven, as I think of it, will not be one country of one people, nor a place with boundaries; it will receive people from all populations and backgrounds, countries of them, and the community will be huge and diverse…and still heavenly. Who could DO that? The quote reads “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and I think this goes beyond just membership, just going to heaven. We are instead referring to who receives the membership, who creates the atmosphere of mutual friendship between people of very different cultures. If that is so, I can think of no better stewards of heaven than the people who received us in Mexico, with their smiles and stories and generosity. God bless them.
Before we left, we gathered in a circle with some of the kids and Cesar. We were invited by Cesar to speak in prayer to the circle. After a couple people went, I spoke about how the experience was special and that I was so glad to have had it before graduating and entering the big boy world. I insisted that the program should continue to invite college students to come and absorb what I had, as the things in Mexico we had seen had given us perspective that I thought everyone should have. It felt good to thank Cesar and the people around me for making the trip everything it was. I hope to be able to speak of what I learned to my friends and family and remember this for the rest of my life, long enough hopefully to see walls slackened and a number of migrants and deportees welcomed back as civilians. I’ll pray for it; you should too!
Although this isn’t a typical blog post, we thought it important to share experiences from our group that went on the Alternative Spring Break Trip to San Diego & Tijuana this year. There are profound words here and we pray that all might learn from these reflections & stories! If you want to hear more, join us for pause this week, April 13th at 9pm, as this group will lead and share from their trip.
“Our overall “mission” was to form connections, to develop understanding, and to gain perspective in a time in our history, and the history of others which is extremely turbulent and frequently misunderstood. We get all of our information from the media; this time we got it ourselves.”
“I thought I was traveling to San Diego and Mexico to learn about immigration and deportation, but I ended up learning more about how love and compassion entwines humanity as one. I feel so blessed to share this opportunity with these incredible people.”
“We gave our full attention to our surroundings, to the environment of each place, to the hearts and stories of each person. We did not go there single-mindedly focused on one project and leave ignorantly satisfied. Our trip consisted of learning about anti-immigration and deportation with Enrique, discovering Mexican culture, history, and idealism through the murals of Chicano park, and hearing the stories of migrants and deportees. We are bringing that knowledge back with us, which is exactly what everyone we met asked us to do.”
“A recurring theme that I noticed throughout the trip was family. Deportees often have to leave their families when they return to Mexico. Their wives, husbands, children, and grandchildren are left behind with no way to help their loved one as they start their life over in a far off place. Once a year, on Children’s Day, a select few families have the opportunity to re-unite for a mere two minutes before they have to return to their separate lives on opposite sides of the border.”
“We went with a mindset that we weren’t going to change the world, but to learn what was broken; that we weren’t going to heal people, but to walk with them; we weren’t going to pity the stories of deported men, but to hear them, and laugh with them, too. We don’t deserve pats on the backs or a gold star, but we owe it to others to share what we learned.”
By Student Servant Leader, Corey Bergman
Can you imagine if Jesus had a Twitter?
No this isn’t going to be one of those cheesy “We need to get in touch with young church goers” sermons where they kind of shame you into admitting you would “follow” Jesus, and simultaneously get parts of how Twitter works wrong so it is just awkward for everyone involved.
I firmly believe that Jesus wouldn’t have been a Twitter evangelizer. I don’t think “loving your neighbor” coincides with replies that call you out for doing something wrong, or something as basic as the prayer of the day. I think Jesus would have focused more on the day to day things that him and the disciples were doing. You know like “#Congrats to my new favorite Canaanite couple, hope you enjoyed the wine”, or “Chilling with the cuz at the Jordan” and there is a picture of him and John the Baptist attached.
For some reason that is the Jesus I would rather “follow”, not the one who shames me about what I do, or tweets bland prayers that don’t necessarily interact with my life on any meaningful level. I would rather “follow” the Jesus who was real, the one who was so good at being human, that it made me want to be more like him. I believe Jesus would agree with me too. We have entered the Easter season, and soon we will hear passages that talk about hypocrites on street corners, and keeping secrets from our hands. These passages seem to be all about how to interact with other people as a person of faith. To me, it doesn’t seem like any of them tell me to shame my friends in Christ, but to get along with and love them.
By Allison Cunningham
This spring break, I experienced perhaps the best opportunity that the University of Minnesota has given me so far. With Lutheran Campus Ministry, I was able to go on a mission trip to Mexico to learn about and experience immigration and deportation issues. Based on the discussions we had before leaving, I expected this trip to be mainly educational, but it was more than that. Of course, I did learn about immigration, how deplorable the U.S. deportation process is, and that a shockingly large number of people have had to completely start their lives over because of this outdated, unjust system. However, that wasn’t all I learned.
A recurring theme that I noticed throughout the trip was family. Deportees often have to leave their families when they return to Mexico. Their wives, husbands, children, and grandchildren are left behind with no way to help their loved one as they start their life over in a far off place. Once a year, on Children’s Day, a select few families have the opportunity to re-unite for a mere two minutes before they have to return to their separate lives on opposite sides of the border.
But the stories I heard about families weren’t all heartbreaking. For the last three days of our trip, we stayed at an orphanage called Miracle Ranch. The children there had been abandoned or taken away from their parents, but not a single one of them lacked a family. One of the girls who I was particularly close to mentioned in passing that she loved spending time with her “mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.” Those kids, although having been left by parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them, had the greatest sense of community and family that I’ve ever seen. I feel so lucky to have been welcomed into their family, even if it was only for a few days.
Everywhere we went, our hosts thanked us for coming. We were thanked for visiting Chicano Park, thanked for going to the Migrant House, and thanked for staying at Miracle Ranch. I never felt like I deserved to be thanked. It felt more right when we thanked them in return. I felt so grateful for the opportunity to learn about Mexican history, to hear personal accounts of deportation, and for the opportunity to help out at the orphanage (which mainly meant just playing with the kids). I’m so thankful to have met and gotten to know everyone along the trip: everyone from LCM, our guides, the migrants, and the kids. There weren’t any easy goodbyes, and the time definitely went by too fast. I still catch myself wondering what the kids are doing right now, or whether the man I talked to at the Migrant House got the job he was applying for.
Since I’ve been back at school and have talked to people about my experiences on the trip, I’ve been asked what should be done to fix the immigration system. Honestly, I have no idea. I know it’s broken and needs to be fixed, but beyond that, I don’t know what, specifically, should be done in the future in terms of government policy. In the short-term, however, I think people are already doing exactly what needs to be done. Border Angels runs water drops in the desert, as well as other services for people trying to cross the border. Multiple organizations have rallies to raise awareness of these issues. Casa Del Migrante takes in people who have been thrown out of their country and helps them get back on their feet. These are all things that need to happen, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to learn about and interact with people who perform such amazing services for others.
By Student Servant Leader Sam Amodeo
Music has always seemed to be the number one way to reach out to people. It exists to communicate, to connect with thoughts and emotions on any level of depth. As a trombonist, perhaps I’m biased, I have spent more time than the average young sprout looking at notes and interpreting them into the toots of a horn. But there’s so much more to music than the playing of it; there’s where you are, who you are with, what emotions and memories exist that can be connected to. Eventually, music becomes a bridge to some of those memories and emotions, which comes in handy when you lose yourself in a stress tornado.
Last year, I walked in to my youth group service with a thousand things on my mind. I was treasurer for two student groups, taking eighteen credits, playing trombone in the marching band and pep bands, organizing Feed My Starving Children volunteers, volunteering at robotics competitions, and trying to perform at the level of the rest of my fellow physics majors. It was a year full of expectations, everyone told me that I had to be at the peak of my intelligence, but what I saw was myself falling behind and everyone else always doing a little bit better.
This state of being in college is what led me to go to church. I was desperate for a place to come back to myself, make sure that I knew what I was doing and why. I still had a hard time accepting my situation, that I was lost in the world I had built around me, so it was admittedly a venture I could only take with some thinking time and an invite from a friend or two (Libby and Allyson, thank you). I came in with the most open mind I could, but my mind still raced, thick with the fog of checklists and sleep deprivation, as it had for weeks. I needed it to end, a way out, a bridge to cross. Suddenly, we were singing, and I found that bridge.
Service at Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) always starts with the band, with voices singing hymns together to the strumming of guitars, a violin, and a banjo. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but singing with them cleared my mind. I found focus in reading the lyrics and matching my vocal chords to the strength and tone of those around me. The chords rang and lyrics held emotion; it was beautiful to be there. I felt that singing connected me with the group, rather it connected us all to the same state of mind, reading the same lyrics, finding similar connections to parts of ourselves. The sermons and discussions afterward were then at that same level, despite the vulnerability felt from putting honest reflections in to words.
To this day, LCM’s services have continued to be meaningful to me because of that atmosphere. The sermon and the discussions teach a new lesson every time, always depending on what part of yourself you have chosen to reflect on. Even if some questions can’t be answered, I have left service always feeling further down the right road, and thankful for having once again been able to put my life on pause. It was through these services that I learned how to once again have meaningful conversations with myself and my peers.
It was a true journey, but I got through that year. I passed everything, more than half were B- or above, and I continue to get better. I found parts of my life I was holding on to solely because of others’ expectations and let go. I now believe more strongly in my future and try to chase my goals every day. It truly helps to have a better sense of myself and trust in those goals because of that. While I can thank the pastor and the other students at worship for helping me more than they probably know, I must always thank the musicians first for the connections they build within us all that allow for such great explorations into ourselves.
By Student Servant Leader, Libby Witte
I listen to a lot of Christian radio. Last week, though, I heard a monologue on one of my favorite stations about all of the flaws with the theory of evolution. This frustrated me. I am a person of science, and I am also a person of faith. In my mind, the two work together to create an understanding of the world.
When I was in Taize, I heard this great analogy for the relationship between faith and science. One of the monks held up two maps of France, one political and one geographical. He then asked us “so which map is true?” Well, they were both accurate, they just answered different questions.
In our Faith and Leadership conversation about faith and science, we heard from Professor Dave Bernlohr about how being a Christian informs his work in research at the University, and one of my favorite things he said was how he saw no real hardship in being a scientist and a Christian at the same time. It wasn’t a big deal to him, since he didn’t see the two as conflicting. He confessed to not being a biblical literalist, and acknowledged that people sometimes ask him questions about how the two conflict. But that sort of stuff doesn’t bother him anymore.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever doubted or questioned my faith (I do it all the time!) but I don’t think having strong faith means being without questions or doubts. Diving deeply into these questions about faith and science allows me to pursue an understanding of the world from many different angles. Engaging in these questions, though, does not mean giving in to some contradiction. I don’t believe faith and science are enemies. There are so many people who live in both worlds, and it is great to embrace that. Some of my friends I know through science coursework may not understand my faith, but like Dave, I don’t want to let that bother me. Faith and science are not enemies in my mind.
By Student Servant Leader, Corey Bergman
Corey here for another semester of LCM blogging. I am typing this up on an airplane returning from San Francisco where I was visiting PLTS, a seminary I might attend next year. As part of my visit I got to sit in on a class called “Evangelism”.
Before I get into what I actually want to talk about I will go on a (hopefully) brief tangent about what the term Evangelism means in a more basic sense, and what it has come to mean, or at least be associated with, in the modern discourse. Evangelism, like a lot of big church words, has its roots in the ancient Greek language it comes from the word “ϵυ” meaning good, and a form of the verb “αγγέλλω” meaning to bear a message so Evangelism means “to bear a good message”. In the world of today though Evangelism, and the people it is most generally associated with has come to mean something very different than just sharing the good news. I’m sure you’ve all seen the people on campus with the big signs telling you that you’re going to hell, or pacing and reading verses out of the bible. These people are generally known as “Evangelicals” and their way of bearing a good message has become commonly associated with the use of the word “Evangelism”.
Alright back to the class. It was the first day so instead of discussing a reading, the conversation revolved around our own personal experiences with Evangelism. In the group I was put in we had two positive and two negative examples. We started talking about the similarities, and differences between the examples. One thing we noticed is how the person who was doing the Evangelizing treated the person they were trying to evangelize. In the negative cases, we noticed that the person who was trying to do the evangelizing was treating the other person like a blank slate. By a blank slate we meant they weren’t appreciating the ideas and beliefs the person already brought into the situation. They would just try and write the way they expressed their faith onto the other person as if there wasn’t something there already. In one example the person being evangelized tried to enter into a discussion about the differences in their faith but the evangelizer backed away after realizing they couldn’t make them into what they wanted. The other way of approaching the situation was treating them as an actual person and trying to meet them where they are when bringing the “good news” of Jesus. I found this profoundly important for anyone who feels like they need to convert people into God’s Kin(g)dom. If that is your goal, remember that the person you are talking to is a person, and the Savior you are trying to emulate is the best example of meeting people where they are at, whether they are adulterers or tax-collectors he always went to them as they were and didn’t just try and change them into who he wanted them to be.
Each semester, Lutheran Campus Ministry offers a few small groups in varying topics that just about anyone can find one that interests them! Small Groups are a great chance to connect with a small group of people, grow in your faith, and have some fun together. This semester, our small group topics are:
Vocation: Discernment for the Present and Future | Wednesdays, 7pm | @ Grace
Are you unsure about what you want to do with your life? Or how you connect your faith with what you’re studying? Whether you’re a freshman picking a major, or a senior deciding what comes next, all are welcome into the conversation. This small group will be a semester of listening, to God, to ourselves and to one another…a mixture of large and small group conversation, meditation, speakers, journaling and exploring. This is led by Pastor Kate.
Get to know a small group of students well, while also diving into scripture, talking about faith and life. This is led by by an LCM Servant Leader.
Men’s Group | Thursdays, 8pm | @ University Lutheran Church of Hope (Dinkytown)
Join together with other guys to talk about faith, learn about scripture, get to know each other better, and just hang out! Co-led by LCM Outreach Intern Tim Schroeder and Brady Wilmer
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to join one of these small groups!