Mixing it up in MississippiService Adventure https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mixing-it-up-in-MississippiMixing it up in MississippiBy Laurie Oswald Robinson

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Helpers bring hope to Latin AmericaFinding helpers https://www.pjsn.org/news/Helpers-bring-hope-to-Latin-AmericaHelpers bring hope to Latin AmericaBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Transforming bags of groceries into bread of GodResources for refugees https://www.pjsn.org/news/Transforming-bags-of-groceries-into-bread-of-GodTransforming bags of groceries into bread of GodBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Mission Network responds to COVID-19 in AfricaHope in Burkina Fasohttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Mission-Network-responds-to-COVID-19-in-AfricaMission Network responds to COVID-19 in AfricaBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Defying gusts of pain by lighting candles of peaceColombian peace vigilhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Defying-gusts-of-pain-by-lighting-candles-of-peaceDefying gusts of pain by lighting candles of peaceBy Eric Frey Martin
Gospel accompaniment, empowerment increase social capitalGospel accompaniment https://www.pjsn.org/blog/Gospel-accompaniment,-empowerment-increase-social-capitalGospel accompaniment, empowerment increase social capitalBy Peter Wigginton
Mennonite Mission Network appoints new executive directorElkhart, Indianahttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonite-Mission-Network-appoints-new-executive-directorMennonite Mission Network appoints new executive directorContributed by Mennonite Mission Network board
Upcoming webinar teaches cultural humility in a connected worldFree Webinarhttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Upcoming-webinar-teaches-cultural-humility-in-a-connected-worldUpcoming webinar teaches cultural humility in a connected worldBy Travis Duerksen
A Luke 4:18 Journey: José Manuel Guamán shares a testimony of transformationEcuador partnership https://www.pjsn.org/news/A-Luke-418-Journey-José-Manuel-Guamán-shares-a-testimony-of-transformationA Luke 4:18 Journey: José Manuel Guamán shares a testimony of transformationBy Holly Blosser Yoder for Mennonite Mission Network
Mennonite Mission Network shifts how it does ministry in response to COVID-19 pandemicPandemic ministry shiftshttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonite-Mission-Network-shifts-how-it-does-ministry-in-response-to-COVID-19-pandemicMennonite Mission Network shifts how it does ministry in response to COVID-19 pandemicBy Laurie Oswald Robinson

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Defying gusts of pain by lighting candles of peacehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Defying-gusts-of-pain-by-lighting-candles-of-peaceDefying gusts of pain by lighting candles of peaceBy Eric Frey Martin <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">n early 2019, a car bomber drove into a police academy in </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Bogotá</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, Colombia, killing 22 and injuring 68. Neither the culprit, nor the purpose, were identified. The country had just begun to emerge from 60-plus years of civil war, so this act was a reminder that full peace had not been achieved. Would these acts of violence become common again in a country that had begun to hope for a more peaceful future?</span></p><p>The day after the bombing, my wife, Kelly, and I (serving with Mennonite Mission Network at that time in Colombia) were in the city of Riohacha, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is the location of a Mennonite church that sponsors a ministry that houses elderly adults and where 45 Venezuelan refugees sleep each night. The church owns another site where 1,200 people are fed each day in a ministry coordinated by the Red Cross and World Hunger Project. </p><p>Over the past several years in Venezuela, corrupt power, inflation, and a struggling economy mark life for millions of Venezuelans. As a result, more than 2 million Venezuelans have migrated to Colombia to better provide for themselves and their families. The new immigrants find a mix of empathy and fear. Colombians know well what it is to be displaced by war and economic factors, but they do not want jobs and opportunities to be taken away from them. </p><p>This unrest and struggle formed the back story to the bombing in Bogotá. Across the country that evening, citizens held vigils in their city's central plaza to remember the bomb victims, and we joined a vigil in Riohacha. After a short prayer service in the Catholic church, we moved to the outdoor plaza. It's where a dove with an olive branch in its mouth (strikingly similar to Mennonite Mission Network's logo) was painted on the ground. We lit each other's candles and placed them on the outline of the dove. </p><p>It soon became clear that our attempts at showing solidarity for peace would be a struggle. A constant breeze wafting from the nearby ocean kept blowing out our candles. A little Venezuelan boy quickly tried to relight the flames with the few candles that were still lit. Soon, his dad, several other Venezuelan refugees, and people in the crowd joined him. Just as soon as we relit some flames, wind gusts blew several other flames out again. The comedy transformed the somber mood into joy as people smiled and laughed. The job of keeping candles lit became a labor of love. We did not want another thing to die too quickly. </p><p>The Venezuelans were the first to attempt relighting the peace candles. They probably did not feel the tension about the bombs as acutely as did the Colombians. On the other hand, perhaps they more deeply felt the interconnection between their suffering and that of their neighbors. They modeled how flames that signify love, compassion and solidarity can be transferred to others without extinguishing our own. </p><p>This time of pandemic-induced uncertainty and anxiety is deepening our sense that we are not islands unto ourselves. Rather, we are intertwined in a web of human connection and interaction. Yes, we are forced to be physically distant from one another, but we do not need to remain distant with our thoughts, prayers and compassion.</p><p> As more choices about interactions are opened to us, may we continue to embrace how our neighbor's health and well-being also affects our own. May we better envision how God's work in the world extends beyond ourselves to include all of creation. May we tirelessly light candles of peace that winds of injustice, suffering and pain cannot extinguish.   <br></p>
Gospel accompaniment, empowerment increase social capitalhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Gospel-accompaniment,-empowerment-increase-social-capitalGospel accompaniment, empowerment increase social capitalBy Peter Wigginton <p><em>Peter Wigginton serves with his wife, Delicia Bravo, as Ecuador partnership coordinators while also sharing his gifts in music, education, and church development with Ecuadorian partners. </em></p><p><a href="https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/world-missionaries-made.html">In a 2014 article in <em>Christianity Today,</em></a> Andrea Palpant Dilley revisits a doctoral dissertation and research by Robert Woodberry. Woodberry does statistical analysis on the history of Protestant missions. He concludes that some countries became democratic especially because of the work of conversionary Protestant missionaries. On the contrary, other countries became dictatorships, or theocracies. Woodberry asserts that the work of these Protestant missionaries is key to how nations developed. The main premise for this, according to Woodberry, is that Protestant missionaries were usually not connected with any government. Instead, in many cases, the missionaries pushed against government authoritarianisms. Also, Protestant missions highly prioritized literacy and education in their missional work. </p><p>In the past couple decades, criticism has arisen toward former Protestant and Catholic missionaries. Many times, missionaries infused the gospel message with a colonial flavor. Yet Anabaptist ideas of mission have often differed from this practice, a subject discussed by myself and Julián Guamán, indigenous Mennonite church leader and scholar, during a podcast of <a href="https://themennonite.org/the-latest/merienda-menonita-podcast/"><em>Merienda Menonita</em></a>. We dialogued about how Anabaptist ideas of mission have often differed from other types of church missions. Guamán pointed out that many missions have come from the perspective of Jesus Christ bringing "civilization." Whereas the Mennonite Church mission focused on accompaniment — "that we are brothers and sisters in the same way or path to God."</p><p>Also discussed was the ministry of Henry Klassen, an Anabaptist missionary who worked with Gospel Missionary Union in central Ecuador 1953-1993. Guamán said he didn't believe a connection exists between Klassen's work and the indigenous national uprising in the 1990s in Ecuador. However, he does believe that Klassen's work in the central part of the country that has an indigenous majority established more social historical awareness; this led to greater social capital. For example, Klassen established schools, an evangelical indigenous church association and other projects. His initiatives sparked indigenous communities to support one another in new ways that shone lights on oppressive systems. Years later, these indigenous people joined other sectors in the large indigenous protests that overturned several national governments. These protests sparked repercussions in the indigenous uprising of 2019.</p><p>We continue to focus our work in Ecuador with this Anabaptist sense of accompaniment and empowerment. We walk alongside our brothers and sisters in the indigenous and Spanish-speaking churches. We are building bridges by strengthening social connections and relationships. We strive to make sure the revolutionary message of Christ shines through in cases where free nations have flourished, and in places where justice might still be lacking.<br></p>
Six reasons why choosing a year or more of service might be for youhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Six-reasons-why-choosing-a-year-or-more-of-service-might-be-for-youSix reasons why choosing a year or more of service might be for youBy Lauren Eash Hershberger<p><strong><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_PositivePresence.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="You feel a strong urge to be a positive presence in the world" style="margin:5px;" /><br></strong></p><p><strong>6: You feel a strong urge to be a positive presence in the world.</strong></p><p>Ever hear anyone say, "You can tell what people care about by how they spend their time?" It's a simple idea, really. Rather than allowing your convictions to stay trapped in your head (or in an argument on social media!), take a year or two to put them into action. See which service placement on ChooseService.org lines up with the issues you care most about. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_LifePath.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="You are itching to venture off the predicted path for your life" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><strong>5: You are itching to venture off the predicted path for your life.</strong></p><p>It's hard to follow the road less taken. If it was easier, it wouldn't be … you know, less taken. Yet pushing yourself beyond what's "expected" can lead to opportunities you may have thought were unattainable. Find freedom in the idea that your life is not made up of a single "calling," but of many. Maybe your "calling" for this time in your life is nudging you toward intentional service. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_community.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="You long to experience community in a new way" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><strong>4: You long to experience community in a new way. </strong></p><p>As Peter Block states in his book<em> Community: The Structure of Belonging</em>, "Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence. To belong is to act as an investor, owner, and creator of this place. To be welcome, even if we are strangers. As if we came to the right place and are affirmed for that choice." Read how Karen Spicher, a mission worker in South Korea, experiences this feeling in her <a href="/blog/Community-A-place-of-belonging,-sharing-and-love">blog post</a>. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_Door.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="You are eager to get your foot in the door with agencies who are making big changes" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><strong>3: You are eager to get your foot in the door with agencies who are making big changes.</strong></p><p>Maybe you've heard that it's difficult to stand out in the vast sea of applicants. One way to "swim to the top" is to do an internship! Service gives the opportunity to work in a placement that may be difficult to otherwise get in. Not only will this build your resume, but it could potentially transform into a paying job when your term is over. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_Vision.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="You get excited about assisting local leaders in their vision to help their community" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><strong>2: You get excited about assisting local leaders in their vision to help their communities.</strong></p><p>Don't want to get wrapped up in a savior complex? Don't worry — we don't want you to either. That's why Mennonite Mission Network doesn't go anywhere we aren't invited, and we take direction from local leaders who best know the needs of their communities. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2020/Icon_MMNSupport.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="Mennonite Mission Network support" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><strong>1: You can feel good about the fact that Mission Network has employees who themselves have been program participants, international workers, or are parents who send their children through Mission Network programs.</strong></p><p>It's true. Many employees at Mission Network are either alumni or have sent their children through our programs. The reason? We believe in our programs and have seen the benefits firsthand. It's why many of us are here! I invite you to join us — as a service participant yourself or as a person who encourages others to consider serving with Mennonite Mission Network.</p>
8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/8-1-reasons-why-a-second-year-of-MVS-benefits-your-career8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerBy Carmen Hoober<p><strong>1)     You just now learned what you're doing</strong></p><p>For most professional jobs, the first year is kind of like drinking from a fire hose. If you have supervisors and coworkers who are understanding, most of the time you'll get a pass when things come up that you haven't learned or internalized yet … which is great, but not exactly fulfilling. <strong>Do not underestimate the personal and professional satisfaction you can experience when you are operating on all cylinders.</strong> Leaving after just one year of MVS deprives you of exercising the mastery you've just developed. </p><p><strong>2)     Increased responsibility</strong></p><p>People in the second year of their placement often say they are entrusted with much more responsibility and opportunity for growth. Whether it's taking on new assignments or leadership, a second year <em>deepens </em>your experience because you have a more complete understanding of your organization's methods and goals. We hope your service experience isn't JUST about building your resume, but more responsibility means more experience, and more experience makes you a much more interesting candidate for future opportunities. </p><p><strong>3)     More value to the organization</strong></p><p>As an MVSer, you expand the capacity of a nonprofit organization who cares about creating a more just and equitable society. That's great! But just because you're a volunteer doesn't mean they aren't also investing in <em>you</em>. The organization provides your training, supervision, and the mental/emotional labor of incorporating you into their office community. </p><p>Think about it from the organization's point of view. When you depend on a revolving door of volunteers, you are probably <strong>most </strong>thankful for the ones who make your investment worthwhile. Staying for a second year means becoming less of a tourist and more of a contributor. </p><p><strong>4)     Establishing yourself in the larger community has benefits on-the-job</strong></p><p>Your placement isn't the only new thing to you in your first year of MVS. <em>Everything </em>is new, including your house, your roommates, your faith community, and the ins and outs of getting around a new city. Even in the best-case scenario, there is still A LOT of transition. And, frankly, that can be exhausting.</p><p>The only fix for all this newness is, well, time. Time spent talking to people after church. Time hanging out at the local coffee shop. Time figuring out the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Time spent seeing familiar faces and becoming a familiar face. A second year in your MVS placement will likely feel more relaxed and settled, leaving more mental and emotional bandwidth available for you to dive into your service placement. </p><p><strong>5)     Trying out a new placement, a new city</strong></p><p>MYTH: To do a second year of MVS you must stay in the same city and placement. FACT: Doing a second year of MVS can give you the opportunity to try out <em>another </em>city and placement (or even another placement in the same location). Depending on your situation, there may be lots of benefits to doing so. Take a look at the <a href="/serve/placements/mennonite%20voluntary%20service">website</a> to see what else is out there! </p><p><strong>6)     Your opportunities to do service narrow the older you get</strong></p><p>I have the privilege of interviewing many retired folks who are interested in doing short-term service work through <a href="/Serve/SOOP">SOOP</a>. A common refrain is, "I/We always wanted to do service, but then you get older and life (work/school/kids/caring for aging parents/illness/you name it) gets in the way." Before jumping straight into the next thing, whether it be grad school, a job, or marriage, consider that these kinds of opportunities offered by MVS are not always guaranteed. </p><p><strong>7)     Two is the magic number</strong></p><p>When you google <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=ideal+number+of+years+to+stay+at+a+job&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS828US831&oq=ideal+number+of+years+to+stay+at+a+job&aqs=chrome..69i57j33.10402j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8">"ideal number of years to stay in a job before leaving,"</a> the general consensus (on the first page of results, anyway) is TWO. Maybe it shows that you're not a job hopper. Maybe it shows that you were at some place long enough to actually contribute and grow. Of course, doing service isn't entirely the same as having a traditional jobby-job, but in terms of skill development and building your resume, it's really no different. All that to say: GOOGLE KNOWS BEST. Stay for two years of MVS.</p><p><strong>8)     More time for discernment while staying professionally engaged</strong></p><p>For some volunteers, MVS opens up a whole new world of questions. Who are you? Why are you here? What does meaningful work look like? A second year allows you more time to process, to explore, to self-reflect. If you're unsure of what your next step will be after MVS, then taking a second year can bring much-needed clarity. Young people often rush into jobs and careers and grad schools out of fear and pressure to start paying back student loans or to keep up a façade that they've got it all figured out.  </p><blockquote><p><strong><em>8.1) And speaking of grad school ...</em></strong></p><p>I try really hard <a href="/blog/How-to-decide-about-graduate-school">not to give advice</a>*about this because it's different for each person, BUT if you are in discernment mode with your next steps, it would be far better to do one more year in MVS than to make a financial/geographical/life-altering decision to attend a grad school you're not 100 percent sure about. A second year of MVS allows you to continue building on the progress you've made in the first year, and gives you more time to consider your options going forward. </p></blockquote><blockquote><p>*Apparently not hard enough. Sorry!</p></blockquote>
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVShttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Witnessing-the-church-in-real-life-what-we-learned-from-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-and-MVSWitnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten <p>Even before our wedding in 1965, we had decided to spend the first years of our marriage in Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). Several units were suggested to us; we chose to go to the inner-city unit at the Woodlawn Mennonite Church in southside Chicago. It was a decision that completely changed the course of our lives. </p><p>The Woodlawn congregation felt strongly that it was their role to speak out on justice issues and to get involved. Opportunities for involvement were often shared before the Sunday morning service ended. </p><p>As we began to really listen to the people we lived and worked with, we started to understand how pervasive racism was. As we heard the stories and experiences of people in the community, we came to know more about their reality and ongoing issues. </p><p>These were the years of the civil rights movement in the United States. Soon after we joined MVS, Martin Luther King, Jr. was invited to come to Chicago to bring the racism and prejudice of the north to light. Both of us, along with other VSers, Woodlawn church members, and thousands of others joined together in marches through downtown Chicago (often from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall) and in rallies. </p><p>Most of the marches were peaceful, but once the marches spread beyond downtown and the Black neighborhoods, it was a different story. Here is one example that Neill experienced while protesting the housing discrimination in some neighborhoods in the city. </p><p>Dr. King's entourage sent two couples into the Chicago Lawn - Gage Park area, a lower middle-class neighborhood in the city's southwest side, on the pretext of renting an apartment. The area's population was largely made up of working-class eastern Europeans who lived in bungalows and for generations were predominately Irish Catholic. One couple sent there was Caucasian with little education, and the other was a well-educated African-American couple. The Caucasian couple was given several choices to rent; the African-American couple was given no options. </p><p>As a result, Dr. King and his delegation organized a march through Gage Park on Aug. 5, 1966, to highlight this disparity. Dr. King had orders for the assembled crowd before the march began. We were to look forward at all times. We were never to look into someone's eyes during the march because we could set them off on a tirade. We could not chew gum. Women were to be put in the middle, with men on the outside. If we could not refrain from violence when confronted by people watching, we were to leave and not participate. He did not want us there if we could not follow these orders. <br></p><p>Dr. King was struck by a rock thrown by a taunting mob as he was leaving his car — a sign of the violence that would happen that afternoon. Thankfully, he was not hurt too badly and, after being cared for, came to the front of the line to finish leading the march, with police right by his side. He was understandably shaken and told newsmen that he had never been met with "such hostility, such hate, anywhere in my life." </p><p> The night-stick wielding police estimated that there were approximately 7,000 of us there to march that day. We were ridiculed, sworn at, called all kinds of names, and spat on. Children spewed the same hate as the parent next to them as we walked past their house. Some carried Confederate flags. Signs were common: "N***** Go Home," "Wallace for President," "KKK Forever," "White Power," "Wallace in '68," "Washington D.C. is a Jungle — Save What is Left of Chicago." </p><p>We were told that when the march ended at Marquette Park, there were about 3,000 police officers to watch us. As the Caucasian crowd of men, women and children grew and tried to confront us physically, the police surrounded us marchers to protect us from what had become a mob throwing cherry bombs (exploding firecrackers), stones and bricks — in addition to their slurs and insults. I was ashamed to be Caucasian! </p><p> As this chaos swirled around us, we waited for the rented buses to pick us up and take us all back home. When the buses finally arrived, the bus drivers needed full police protection to get through to us. For a moment, I felt safe on the bus, but I was wrong! We had to stop at a red light before leaving that neighborhood and a group of about 50 youth and men rocked our bus and tried to get at us inside. Someone threw a brick through the bus window and hit a man in the seat in front of me in the head, giving him a large gash. The rest of us yelled at the bus driver to go through the red light to get us out of there. It was not until we got into the African-American area that we felt safe.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After the march, we regrouped, and Dr. King spoke to the gathered crowd. He had been hit with a brick on the back of his head during the march. I remember him saying then — as well as many other times — that we must forgive our Caucasian brothers and sisters because they do not know what they are doing. They were taught that hatred, and now we needed to show them forgiveness and not fight back, he said. That is the only thing that can make them stop and think.</span><br></p><p> Those two years with MVS in Chicago made us question the role of the church in “real life:” We witnessed the unfairness of the political process in the United States in regard to its neediest residents. </p><p> The desire to learn more about how we as Christians could affect change and work with people in marginal situations influenced our education after MVS, as well as our decision to live alongside indigenous communities bordering Lake Winnipeg. We served there in a pastoral and community development role for 36 years before becoming the co-directors of the Native Ministry program for Mennonite Church Canada. </p><p> As you can probably imagine, we have many stories of our MVS time in Chicago that made an impact on our life  —<a name="_GoBack"></a> way too many to include in this reflection!</p>
The wound in the wallhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-wound-in-the-wallThe wound in the wallBy Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As I peered at the 15-foot-high U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Douglas, Arizona, I felt sick to my stomach. Was this really happening </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">here</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, in the United States, in the </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">21</em><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><sup>st</sup></em><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> </em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">century? My breath caught as the sight of this immovable barrier hit me.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span></p><p>The closer I walked toward the monstrosity, the more I saw that despite its perceived impenetrability, slivers of light were escaping through tiny openings in the steel. It made me think of line penned by Rumi, an ancient poet: "The wound is the place where light enters you." </p><p>I was wounded by the presentations we were hearing about past and current U.S. immigration policies. The tightening of our borders is growing the bitter fruit of trauma for migrants and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America: family separations, deaths in the desert, deportations, and increasingly long and more convoluted paths toward legal U.S. status.</p><p>We visited the border wall in November to engage in collective and individual prayer and to lament. As participants of Mennonite Mission Network's alumni and friends service-learning tour to Arizona, we lifted to God the burden of all we were absorbing about these immigration heartaches. </p><p>According to latest statistics, the border wall has been built along 700 of the 1,900-plus miles that constitute the U.S.-Mexico border. Though it is not the number of miles constructed that gives power to this wall to divide and destroy trust among people groups. It is the psychological message sent to all of us that fear, rather than faith, will rule our lives.  </p><p>Despite fear's shadow, it was the faith of migrants and those advocating for them that cast slivers of hope into my soul and lifted some of the wall's weight. Three examples were particularly poignant for me. </p><p>One is the work of Tucson, Arizona, artist Alvaro Enciso, born in Colombia. He has created more than 900 crosses to honor migrants who have died in the Sonoran Desert. He calls his project "Where Dreams Die."</p><p>"I wanted to honor the deceased … and decided upon the symbol of the cross," Enciso said during a tour group presentation. "It is a Christian symbol of faith and a Christian symbol of death. It is also the instrument of torture used by the Roman Empire to kill people through the heat of the sun and the lack of water. These elements contribute to the death of migrants in the desert." </p><p>"The cross is also a geometrical equation that includes a vertical and a horizontal line — just like the coordinates on our maps where a red dot is placed to signify where a body was found." </p><p>Another example is the migrant advocacy work of Jack and Linda Knox in Douglas/Agua Prieta. For many years, as members of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson, they have connected with migrants and U.S. border patrol agents charged with deporting the migrants back to their dangerous homelands.</p><p>At the Migrant Resource Center situated on the border in Agua Prieta, the Knoxes minister directly to migrants and asylum seekers. They befriend officials from their home community of Douglas. They talk with them on the streets and invite them into their home for coffee. </p><p>"Though those of us working for justice may perceive border patrol agents to be our enemies, they are human just like us," Jack Knox said. "In order to survive doing their work, day after day, they often have to harden their hearts so as not to feel all the pain. We hope that by befriending them, we can help humanize the situation for them, and all of us, who live and work in this community that is so beset by tension."  </p><p>A third example, and perhaps the most crucial, is the perseverance of the migrants and asylum seekers. Katherine Smith, border and migration outreach coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee, encouraged trip participants to humanize the border situation by perceiving hope amidst hopelessness.</p><p>"Yes, there are a lot of sad things [that happen here], but my goal is to give you a different perspective," Smith said. "I meet a lot of really resilient people who have come into the United States with a strength that empowers them to flourish despite all the obstacles they confront in our current immigration system."</p><p>I pray that the light of these kinds of stories embolden us to lament, rather than deny, how we as U.S. citizens contribute to this wall of woundedness. May honest reckoning help us to peer beyond the barren steel into the faces of our migrant brothers and sisters who are persevering beyond the pain. May lament help move us to enact new policies that transcend immovable concrete with concrete advocacy and solidarity. </p><p>One tangible way of engaging such peace and justice issues is to participate in an upcoming Mission Network alumni and friends service-learning tour. The next tour, that will focus on racism, is planned for this March in Mississippi. To learn more about how you may join a tour, visit the <a href="/events/Alumni-Service-Learning-Tours">service-learning tour page</a> at MennoniteMission.net. <br></p>