Blog Archives

HOUSE NEWS: The revolution begins with the Word

Dear friends,

To see the schedule for this week, click here.

SCRIPTURE STUDY STARTS TUESDAY – NEW TIME! We’re experimenting a little with scripture study this semester, deciding to do it during the day instead of our usual evening study. We’ve found that our evenings have traditionally been a little overloaded, and we’re trying to balance our schedule out some. We hope that those of you with some flexibility in your schedule might be able to join us on Tuesdays, from 2:30-4pm, this semester. If you haven’t been to our scripture study before, we think it’ll be like no other study you’ve attended. We look at the scripture story as the revelation that proclaims revolution. Come see why…

ROUNDTABLE – LEAH SARAT ON THE IMMIGRATION DETENTION INDUSTRY: We’re thrilled to have Leah Sarat, a UF doctoral student in religion, join us again to continue what have proven to be some of our most vigorous discussions, around the issue of immigration. Leah’s research and work has focused on border issues, and her knowledge of and passion for her subject is evident to all. This week, she’ll be talking about the immigrant detention industry, described by the New York Times as the “fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America.”  She’ll lead us in discussion about how the rise in immigrant detention is tied to demand on the part of private, for-profit prisons to fill jail space. Please bring a dish to share if you can! We hope you’ll join us!

NO SUNDAY CAFE: Each year we forego Dorothy’s Cafe on the first Sunday of February due to the Super Bowl–not because we’re huge football fans, but because First United Methodist Church just a few blocks from us puts on a big Super Bowl party and most of our usual guests head there to watch the game, eat barbeque, and win door prizes. It’s quite the celebration. Kudos to First United Methodist!

In peace,

John

HOUSE NEWS: Easter People

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This past week, the addiction issues at the house came to a head again, and sadly we had to ask two people to leave.  We will truly miss them; we already do.  But facing the truth and its consequences are part of living responsibly as a community together. We hope with all our hearts that these friends will be back someday.

 Also, this week, my son Joe came home briefly and brought home with him two other difficult stories I want to share with you. One was a chance meeting with some migrant workers at a bus stop in Atlanta a few weeks ago. The bus was terribly late, and there were a number of folks stuck waiting at the station who did not speak English and were baffled about what to do after four hours of waiting.  They had left jobs in one place to find work in another (the plight of migrant workers), but if they didn’t arrive on time they would lose those jobs. Joe translated their concerns to the desk clerk, who was “not helpful.” The clerk said he had no idea about the bus (although he had announced every hour for the last four that the bus would arrive in approximately 20 minutes) and said he could not refund their money.

 Joe spent the wee hours of that morning talking with two of the workers, a young couple from Oaxaca, Mexico.  He said his own powerlessness within the Greyhound system really made him feel for the precariousness of their situation – new to the country, not speaking the language, desperately looking for work, having no idea what to do or to whom to turn . .  . yet still more hopeful of finding work here than in their home country.  While Joe felt abused by the bus situation too, he had resources they didn’t; they had emptied their pockets buying the tickets. In the end, they wound up staying in Atlanta – and they are still looking for work. Joe arranged to meet with them at the same bus stop on his way home this weekend so he could give them the English language book they had requested. They plan to stay in touch.  

Another story he shared was an interview he had with a former Viet Nam vet.  It was part of a history class project, and he was excited to be able to interview Scott Camil, a well-known Gainesville veteran.  He asked Scott to share with him not just the stuff he could get off the internet, but what it was like to be a young man in Viet Nam. The little Joe had time to share with us over breakfast just tore at our hearts.  You can know the story of Viet Nam or any war – its statistics and strategies, its motives and historical impact.  But there is nothing like looking into the eyes of a person who has borne some of the brunt of it.  The death and destruction he witnessed and participated in at such a young age – and the struggles and persecution he faced when he told the truth of his experience – had a tremendous and ongoing effect on his life. Today, he is still struggling to make some sense out of it – and to somehow redeem his own participation in it by telling the truth every chance he gets.   

What do we do with these stories?  They are part of who we are as a community and as a country, but they are so painful. Joe said he could understand why Scott might fall completely into despair after having experienced what he did.  But Scott found the heart to come to terms with it and to face down the painful truth by telling it. And the two Oaxacan immigrants, struggling to get by in a strange system where their labor is needed but not respected have the heart to befriend a college student passing through the same bus station. As for the addiction issues… I still don’t know where to find heart in it.  I do believe it is good, though, to face such a sad issue straight up, good to offer help whether taken or not, good even to suffer the consequences we all make ourselves vulnerable to when we face a difficult truth.  

As Christians, we profess to believe that walking with people in their struggles is a way we can follow Jesus in the here and now.  Jesus put himself in places where the difficult facts of human existence were apparent.  He shone a light on hard and ugly truths people would rather not have seen.  Dorothy Day often quoted Dostoevsky: “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”  That truth is glaring on Good Friday when we contemplate a love that brought Jesus to the cross. But we remember at Easter that truth and goodness – God – prevailed.  May God be with all of us this Easter season and may we all – such a struggling lot – be somehow transformed into Easter people, brimming with life and hope.   

 -Kelli 

ROUNDTABLE: Immigration

firstillegals.jpgLast Thursday Joan Prado, who has worked for many years for the Department of Labor, led a discussion on immigration. She described the current political atmosphere and attitude toward undocumented migrant workers and also the harsher penalties being considered for “illegal aliens” and those who employ them. The conversation around the issue was particularly interesting because of the diverse experience of the folks at the table. 

Joan pointed out some of the misinformation we regularly hear:  that these people do not pay taxes for instance – which they do through their employers; and that they are taking jobs away from American citizens – when her perception was that they were taking jobs (and hours), as farm workers, that no one else wanted.  Several folks who work at labor pools in construction pointed out that they felt they had lost jobs they were seeking in construction when Latinos, who were willing to accept much lower wages, were hired before them.  These folks understood the desperation of people who have traveled so far from home to work but were feeling the pinch because of it. This led to a discussion about the loss of production work in the U.S., since so much has been sent overseas to lower paid workers in order to increase profits for shareholders (at the expense of the workers who relied on that work to take care of their families). It made us wonder how the resentment between workers will grow if the economy continues to falter.

And if there’s anything we can do about it. Toward the end of the discussion, someone pointed out that there were probably not five items in Jubilee House’s large dining room that were made in the U.S.  Are there ways that our habits of consumption are supporting this system that is causing harm to some of the most vulnerable people?  How much of it is so far gone that we are locked into a system of supporting unfair practices in other countries, as well as our own? Do our own spending patterns mirror the greed (in a very reduced way) that motivates corporate execs to abandon factory workers here to increase their own profits?

It also raised the question of what is going on with the migrant workers’ home country’s economies that they are forced to travel so far from home and family – and often at extreme risk – to find work.  One friend from the labor pools, experienced in construction work, put it clearly: “If you’ve got a leak, you don’t keep mopping up the mess, you look for the source.”  This made everyone consider whether our time and energy prosecuting illegal immigrants might be put to better use helping support their home countries’ economies.

We ran out of time too quickly, but I think we came away from this roundtable better informed by the various viewpoints – and the complexities of the issue.  We’re hoping to revisit issues surrounding immigration soon.  

ROUNDTABLE: Crossing the Border

This past Thursday, we discussed immigration, specifically Mexican immigration, with Leah Sarat, a doctoral student in Religion and the Americas at the University of Florida. Leah shared stories from her recent research trip to an indigenous Mexican community in which many of the members had crossed the Mexico-US border once or several times. After making the vigorous and excruciating crossing at the border and seeing the more luxurious and anonymous America in which they’d arrived, these native Mexicans made the conscious decision to return and stay in Mexico. Leah lived with and interviewed many of them, expressing her desire to give voice to the unheard.   

A striking oddity to many, and certainly to Leah herself, was the ritualistic simulation of a border-crossing, which had become a tourist affair in this part of Mexico. It was a simulation of the arduous journey, one in which participants did get tired, thirsty, muddy and blistered, even stopped by dressed-up border patrol!  Leah said she “crossed the border” four times, and found it a tough experience.   

The simulation was created by this community of former border-crossers in order to sustain themselves. This group had no resources to live off of, no trinkets to sell to tourists, but they did have some money and an idea, so they decided to pool the money together, buy the land, and create this experience. 

What can we make of this, not only striking oddity, but seemingly pointed mockery of the journey many Mexicans have to undertake? In fact, Leah learned, it is more than that. Through her interviews with those who run the simulation, she learned that they hope those who come find more than just a mindless adventure. They want it to show, as upper class Mexicans make their way to the simulated border, that if they can make it through this arduous journey, as many do in the “real world” day after day, they can also pull together as a people and come up with solutions to the apparently complicated problems of poverty in Mexico and immigration to the US.      

Leah was also surprised and intrigued by the notion that, in many cases, these men and women were not forced to come to the US, but had options and had chosen that path. The community she stayed with was largely made of those who, disillusioned by the US, chose to come back home. She read part of an interview in which the man was unsatisfied with the pay of his job in the US, the quality of housing and food, and the attitude which US Americans held toward the Mexican workers. In contrast, in Mexico the food was natural, his pay was better, and, surrounded by his family and community he had support and did not have to deal with the prejudices of the US.   

After Leah’s presentation, we engaged in an interesting conversation about these topics surrounding immigration, touching on the failures of US immigration policy, the privileged status of some immigrants over others, other’s experience with immigration battles in the US, why some immigrants are welcomed by the US and others are not and the role racism plays in that, the impact of the US on other nation’s economies, etc.          

-Holly