Week 2 in Juárez: Learning to swim

I just finished my second week in Ciudad Juárez. I’m “swimming” a lot better than I did the first week, thanks in part to a wonderfully supportive team that has done everything to make my transition into this new job easier. And I have to say, the “sink or swim” approach has done wonders for my Spanish. I’ve lived in Mexico for almost eight years, but there’s nothing like being forced to use Spanish almost 24/7 to engrave it more thoroughly into my being. (Below is a picture of young men from a juvenile detention center called CERSAI. More on that below.)

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Good news (mostly): hung jury/mistrial in Scott Warren case

On Tuesday came (mostly) good news on the legal front: The felony trial of Scott Warren, the man who trained and led our volunteer team during my time with No More Deaths in January 2018, ended in a hung jury, which makes it a mistrial. Eight jurors voted to acquit and four voted to convict, in a case where the verdict must be unanimous.

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Thrown in the deep end in Juárez

As you all know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve gone to Ciudad Juárez to work on a new project created by the Salesianos, a Catholic group devoted to helping young people. Well, things have taken an unexpected turn for me. I had expected to be a simple worker bee, inserted into some appropriate slot. But on my very first day at work on Monday, my colleague Aarón (pictured in the car with me below) asked me if I wanted to be co-coordinator of the entire project with him. With a mix of excitement and terror, I said yes.

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June 1: Off to Juárez!

Well, it’s official: Everything has finally fallen into place, and I will be flying to Juárez on June 1 to work with the Salesianos there. I’ll be living in a house with my colleague Aarón and a few others. Good news: I’ll have my own private room with its own bathroom. 🙂

It is a paid position, and it will involve things like visiting young people in prison and working with other young people on the outside, project planning with Aarón, and translating reports into English.  Plus, there will be a lot more that we’ll figure out as we go along. We’re very much creating this job on the fly.

I’m excited to be getting started with this at last! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Bodies in the borderlands: The Scott Warren trials begin

Scott Warren’s misdemeanor trial for leaving “personal property” in the desert—in other words, leaving food and water for migrants in need—began on Monday. His felony trial for allegedly “harboring” migrants and engaging in “conspiracy” to smuggle them northward—charges that could subject him to twenty years in prison—begins on May 29.

The following article, written by Ryan Devereaux for The Intercept, is an excellent exploration of these trials and the background behind them. It is long, but the detailed account of Warren’s journey, the larger context of that journey, and the potential impact of these trials on humanitarian aid workers and the people they serve in the borderlands is worth the time.

Since I was there during the events that led to Warren’s arrest, the article and the accompanying photos and videos bring vividly to mind my memories of January 2018 in the Arizona desert. These are my dear friends, and my compañero Scott (pictured above) is one of the most caring and compassionate human beings I have ever met. I pray that God’s love and infinite care for all of our brothers and sisters illumine the hearts, minds, and spirits of everyone involved as these trials proceed.

Here’s the article:

Bodies in the Borderlands

Host or join a vigil for the disappeared Friday, May 3

While preparing for my new work in Ciudad Juárez, I’ve continued to work for No More Deaths from a distance. I’ve been working with the translation team, translating written communications from English into Spanish. I’ll be doing some phone banking soon to ask for support for Scott Warren in his upcoming trials.

In addition (sorry for the short notice), this coming Friday (May 3), No More Deaths is having a series of vigils all over the country “for those crossing [the desert], those who have died in the desert and all those whose lives are devastated by the detention and deportation machine.” For more information, and to host or attend a vigil, click here.

Note: If you want to participate in the phone bank I mentioned above, which involves calling No More Deaths supporters in the Arizona border region and inviting them to support Scott and No More Deaths in various ways (not fundraising), click here.

Happy Easter…even in the midst of tragedy

I woke this morning ready to celebrate a happy Easter with Patricia’s family, only to hear the heartbreaking news of the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka that killed over two hundred people—many of whom were at church for Easter services.

My loving thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this attack. And I would still like to wish everyone a happy Easter, even in the midst of tragedy. On a day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, I pray that this sad act of hate will lead to the resurrection of kindness, compassion, and love.

God bless our brothers and sisters in New Zealand

The day after writing my post about going to Juárez to help those in need there, I was shocked to hear of the 49 people killed (and many more seriously wounded) by a gunman in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Loving thoughts and prayers to everyone touched by this horrific event. You can donate to help those who have been immediately impacted at this link. May this tragic expression of hate motivate us all to be more deeply committed to extending love to our brothers and sisters, whoever and wherever they may be.