• Funny Face, Internships and Empathy

    Audrey Hepburn is my favorite.  Hands down.  She has such an incredible presence in films and brings with her a genuine delight to her roles.  I've watched so many of her films, but one that seemed evasive over the past couple of years was Funny Face.  Don't gasp or say, "You love Audrey Hepburn, but you've never seen Funny Face?"  No.  But I have now, so all is right with the world again. No, I'm not going romantic on you.  I want to speak on empathy.  Audrey Hepburn's character, Jo Stockton, is a girl wrapped up in books, philosophy, and all things head knowledge.  Then Fred Astaire, who plays the character of Dick Avery, comes along and introduces her to a completely different world -- heart.  Throughout the rest of the film I watched a bobbing of dynamics from one side of the playing field to the other: head vs. heart.  The way they merge?  Through community with one another.  I am Jo.

    Growing up, I admired the laws and statutes God established in the Bible.  I loved -- and still love -- the beauty created from order and the art mastered by discipline, but my head was wrapped up in a solid brick wall that only knew what it was to be the light of Christ on paper; and I was just beginning to scratch the surface of what it meant to be the light of Christ, in person, when I was attending a university.  So when I stepped out from under the academic umbrella, a torrential downpour of experience came when Jesus took me to splash in the puddles and take a leap into the unknown.  I became a physical representation of Christ's love in the most vulnerable place I could go to: home.  And it all began with my internship.

    As I mentioned in the beginning of this year, I had never understood the world of missions except through the basic formula that: me + plane + foreign country + Jesus = missions.  I had never been introduced to a higher math of mission work in my hometown.  Funny how the greatest culture shock I think I have yet faced has been right at home.

    God is bringing me from sympathy, to empathy.

    Looking back, I realize I have been struggling to live from the safe distance that is sympathy -- I seem to understand where others are coming from, but that is about as committed as I come.  I'm going to take Jo's definition further and say that empathy is not just putting oneself in someone else's place, but committing to stick around and come alongside others.

    Jo is introduced to a whole new perspective when Dick kisses her at the end of this clip.  She sees there is more to her world than philosophy and books.  I'm not saying it took a kiss for me to come around, but a community of families who daily exercise empathy and seek Jesus and his kingdom in all things.  This is my experience with Border Fellows and Ciudad Nueva.  Hearing a student's hopes and fears when we're making crafts, or laughing over jokes as I drive them home reveals Empathy's beauty.  My head has found empathy in community.

    God has come in and invited me to see his heart for, not just the Ciudad Nueva community, but the world.  Literally.  Every person on this planet.  God's heart for us is to bear our burdens, to reach across the chasm of our brokenness and create a bridge to beauty.  This is Jesus.  This is Jesus in us.

    I will never be the same.

    Posted by Tessa

  • My New Favourite Book

    It's official: I have a new favourite book--a book so awesome that one can only describe it with Canadian spelling. Thank you, Border Fellows class, for such an incredible syllabus.

    Before I tell you which book it is, let me whet your appetite a little bit.
    World War II.
    Eastern China.
    An internment camp run by (surprisingly?) hands-off Japanese overseers.
    Americans, Belgians, Cubans, Russians, Britons, and more.
    Catholic priests, protestant missionaries, Jews, humanists, agnostics.
    Not quite enough room.
    Not quite enough food.
    Required not just to survive, but to self-govern.
    Now, if that doesn't sound like the most fascinating social experiment ever, I don't know what does. (Admittedly, it feels a bit callous to refer to the lived experience of these former internees as an "experiment.") So, what happens when you throw all these ingredients together for a couple of years? 
    Langdon Gilkey shows us the answer in his memoir, Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure. Gilkey's experience in the internment camp as a 20-something-year-old American would impact his life and career in profound and unexpected ways. The time he spent observing human nature without any of the social crutches of class, wealth, status, or even a common national bond heavily influenced his beliefs about God and man. After his return to America, he went on to become a prominent 20th-century Protestant theologian. But for the years at the camp, he was just Gilkey, a young, observant man just trying to get by until the War was over.

    After returning home, Gilkey reflects on all he had discovered about himself and his fellow internees:

    “The most obvious dilemma had been the moral one: men must be just, fair, and generous if a creative and stable society is to be possible at all, and yet apparently this is for us a supremely difficult if not impossible task. How are we to understand ourselves; why does such an obvious necessity seem to be unattainable and even unnatural to our present nature? As in camp, I continued to find both the humanistic and the rigidly pietistic answers to these questions unsatisfactory.

    “Those humanists who insist that men are naturally wise and good enough to be moral seemed to me to be continually refuted by the patent persistence of dangerous selfishness among the people whose intentions were good. Those religious perfectionists who believe that pious Christians are holy and holy people are good were refuted by the intolerance and lovelessness of many of the pious.”*

    This is a potentially crushing verdict for religious and non-religious people alike. You'll have to read the book to see how Gilkey resolves the dilemma in his view, but for now, sit with the dilemma. Reflect with me. Where does our morality come from? Does our piety bring about love or lovelessness? Does our faith in humanity overlook a pervasive selfishness? How do we solve the dilemma?

    * Langdon Gilkey, Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure (New York: HarperCollins, 1966), 229-230.
    Posted by Carmen
  • Wisdom in a Bottle Cap

    "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day." - E.B. White

    My friend, Lynn See, showed me this picture the other day and all I could get out was, "hmm... yep."  She had mentioned that it reminded her of us.  She and I both enjoy the arts.  Anything.  You name it: theatre, dance, film, writing, painting -- anything that allows one to enjoy life and express the beauty in its glories and complexities.  There is sorrow, there is hope, there is broken, there is mended, there is judgment, there is mercy, there is grace, there is joy.  There is joy in all of it.  There is beauty in all of it.

    Hard days = joy.  

    The tears, the sweat, the anguish, the hurt, the loneliness, the disrespect, the reputation scorned, the rainy day spoiling sunny plans, weakness exposed, disappointing loved ones, tearing down...

    Tears: acknowledging pain and meeting it in its moments.  Sweat: knowing work is producing fruit, patience, perseverance.  Anguish: recognizing the state of our heart and giving it permission to lament.  Hurt: understanding we do have value.  Loneliness: remembering the company of friends and the ways we may have taken advantage of it before.  Disrespect: learning to love without being loved back.  Reputation scorned: going back to our roots and asking ourselves what really matters in life.  Rainy days and spoiled sunny plans: finding life sprout because a spoiled plan turned into a seed of opportunity.  Weakness exposed: trusting God works best through our weaknesses by providing community to hold up our arms when they're weak.  Disappointing loved ones: still finding grace in their eyes and a readiness to forgive.  Tearing down: building up.

    There is redemption in everything.  I challenge you: seek it out.

    Good days = joy.  

    The laughter, the peace, the community, the comfort of a shared moment, a pull-the-heartstrings movie, a hero forming from the day-to-day hard day, a glorious day of plans carrying on without interruption, discovering strength in teamwork...

    The crazy thing about this list, is that I usually see pieces of this in my hard day, when I choose to glance at it out of the corner of my eye.  Not only that, but I discover these forms of goodness by first experiencing the hard days.


    Every day gives us much to think about, and truly count our blessings.  My desire to improve the world and enjoy it holds hands so beautifully in the act of thanksgiving and a trust in the knowledge that redemption is still at work and evident -- in the turning of seasons and asking forgiveness -- and nothing and no one is too far from being redeemed.

    This is art.

    Posted by Tessa

  • Things I Never Knew About Immigration

    As I mentioned in my last post, we have been learning about immigration in our Border Fellows class. The following is a random assortment of things I never knew (or thought about) regarding immigration in the US:

    1. Jesus was a refugee. According to Matthew 2:13-16, Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt because Herod was trying to kill Jesus.

    2. “Anchor babies” often give false hope to their parents. The way the current system works, US citizens are allowed to petition for their non-citizen parents to immigrate to the US. However, most adults who give birth to a child in the US and remain in the US afterward have no chance of immigrating lawfully by having their child petition for them in the future. Firstly, they must wait until the child is 21-years-old before they can petition for their parent. Secondly, the parents must return to their home country during the time that the child is petitioning for them. However, if the parent lived in the US for over 10 years without legal status, they automatically trigger a permanent ban from entering the US the moment they leave the country.

    3. The wait times for family-based immigration vary by country and priority category. For example, for unmarried adult children of US citizens, the US government is currently processing applications from February 1, 2007 for Chinese applicants and from October 15, 1993 for Mexican applicants. (source:

    4. There is no relationship between the police and Border Patrol/ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). However, many undocumented persons do not know this, which discourages them from calling the police even if they are in dire need of help. (source: presentation by Border Patrol)

    5. Every year, the US government receives $6-$7 billion dollars in taxes from undocumented workers with false Social Security numbers. (source: Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang,  Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 34)

    Interesting stuff. Was any of this new to you, like it was to me?

    Posted by Carmen
  • My Migration History

    In our Border Fellows class, we are just beginning to discuss immigration and related contemporary issues. One of our assignments for this week is to write out our own migration history. As I continue to research my family history, I am becoming more and more fascinated with how God's leading and my family's faithful response have not only impacted my life but have brought about the very circumstances in which my life could exist at all.

    There is not space to recount generations of history here, but let me just share one story. My great-great-great-grandparents were foreign missionaries to Madagascar. While they were there, the gave birth to a daughter who would eventually become my great-great-grandmother. While still in Madagascar, this daughter met her future husband (and my future great-great-grandfather), who happened to be another foreign missionary from the same country. If these people had not heard and responded to God's call to be missionaries, I would never have been born generations later.

    Fast forward many decades to my life. The reason why I chose to come to El Paso was because I heard God's call and I responded. And let me tell you, I have been blessed in so many ways by the experience God has prepared for me here. I am excited to see what ripple effects my Border Fellows year will have in my life and even in the lives of those who will come after me. Maybe my great-great-great-grandchildren will be Australian-born missionaries to Peru. You just never know!

    posted by Carmen