Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Food, Future, Global, Meaning, Narrative Theology, Ramblings, Resurrection, Travel, Urban

Resurrecting Ghosts

If you walk across the US/Mexico border into Tijuana, you will likely cross a large pedestrian bridge moving from the border to a tourist-y downtown section of Tijuana. As you walk across the bridge, you cross the Tijuana River which, at this spot, is a concrete channel with a deep vein down the middle and slowly sloping walls. The channel is large enough that cars could drive along the river on either side of the vein – a massive concrete basin that, both times I’ve walked across, sits mostly empty – a little water but nothing else.

But it wasn’t always empty.

At some point the concrete river bed was a living, breathing neighborhood, called El Bordo. The population of El Bordo was largely men and women deported from the US into Tijuana. Most were not from Tijuana and may have never been in the city before. Some were not Mexican, some didn’t speak Spanish. But they made a home in the concrete channel of the Tijuana River. There was no where else to go.

Sometimes community pops up in the most unlikely spaces.

It wasn’t the best neighborhood in Tijuana. There was crime and drug use. Many residents could not find work. The channel served as a concrete quarantine for those who made their home there. There was not much hope. The word ñongos was used to describe the area – a problem, a blight. Those who lived in los ñongos were the unseen, the walking dead. Some called them ghosts.

Samuel Pérez waged peace on behalf of the ghosts living in El Bordo first by seeing them and immersing in their lives. He walked their streets, he heard their stories, he took seriously their hopes and dreams. He recognized that no vision for flourishing in Tijuana could overlook El Bordo. Samuel’s work and passion involves agriculture and environmental sustainability, so he worked with the neighbors in El Bordo to construct dozens of raised garden beds in the middle of this concrete city. He saw humanity in their faces and advocated on their behalf.

The ghosts were beginning to breathe.

Samuel described the transformation of some of these neighbors – “they were becoming like humans again.”

My heart raced as I heard Samuel’s story, a story of resurrection happening in this place I was standing.

He did not belabor the point, because despite the miraculous recovery of life Samuel witnessed, the story took a sad turn. El Bordo was cleared out by la policía, possibly because El Bordo was impacting the flow of tourist dollars from the US into Mexico. What good could come out of El Bordo? 

Samuel said he did not know where the former-ghosts were now living; the garden beds had been destroyed. What was once a community beginning to breathe again now existed as a stark and empty concrete channel.

God have mercy.

May we become the people who learn to see ghosts.
May we become the people who speak in valleys of dry bones.
May we see breath enter dust and begin to breathe.

May we witness not only to the resurrection of Jesus but the resurrection of the world.
May we witness resurrection in the neighborhoods that have gone unseen.
May we witness resurrection in the neighborhoods that we call home. 

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Brokenhearted Theology, California, Church, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Eucharist, Global, Leadership, Meaning, Ministry, Narrative, Peacemaking, Pedagogy, Prayer, Ramblings, Resurrection, Spirit, Urban

Poetry and Place: Listening to Your Neighborhood’s Voice (Part 2)

Last fall I spent a week in the Mission District of San Francisco and spent time exploring and listening to that neighborhood. Part of that week was spent learning to

hear the sounds of the streets

listen to the voices of the people

taste the city’s flavor

see the sights of everyday life

feel the sidewalks, the fabrics, textures, the pain and the beauty of a place

recreate the voice of the neighborhood with a bit of poetry.

The product of that experience was a poem – the colors scream – but also a desire to recreate the experience and invite others to listen to their neighborhood’s voice in all its beauty and brokenness.

This month, I’ve been meeting together with a group of friends who are exploring and experimenting with our neighborhoods and our role as a neighbor in that place. Our “homework” the first week was to map our neighborhood/place and spend time listening, exploring, and creating some kind of artistic response to what we heard/saw/tasted/smelled in that place.

Here’s a poem I wrote inspired by my place:

Image

walk up, time to see the day
the neighborhood awaits our presence
in its beauty and in its pain

vacant lots, echo chambers
locked up toys and runners
runners in pink, runners in green
big runners, small runners
costumed runners, laughing runners
all just passing through

‘the spirit of God is upon me’
her voice cuts through
the runner’s drone and the drum’s resound
her words call out, I am recognized
‘be careful,’ a Siren sounds

to protect my child or 
protect this stranger?
the cruelest of choice
a Siren sounds, ‘be careful’
our wheels roll on
my heart lingers

the lilies of the field
the lilies of the field
and the birds in the air
will they be okay?
will she be okay?
will we be okay?
a Siren sounds

East Hollywood, California // April 2014

 

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Brokenhearted Theology, Equipping, Future, Global, Green, Meaning, Quotes, Ramblings, Relational, Resurrection, Worship

Talk Like a Pirate, Live Into Resurrection

Today is Hug a Pirate Day or something like that.

And I just happen (!) to be reading a book about pirates and piracy right now: Kester Brewin’s Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates, And How They Can Save Us.

Great book. Fun to read.

Here’s a section that got me thinking:

The skull and crossed bones does not just mean ‘we are bringing you death’; rather it announces ‘we are the dead.’ We, the abused, the flogged, the ones you treated as less than human, have escaped your power, have slipped away from the identity you foisted onto us. We, the ones who you took for dead, are returning as dead – and thus free of all fear, free of all human labels or classifications or ranks.

We might say that pirates did not raise the Jolly Roger as a symbol of violence, but rather as a declaration that no more violence could be done to them. They were dead, and yet lived still – and thus the Empire should tremble in fear, for the powerless slaves it had thought could only be tamed by death, had gone beyond death and were free and living without fear of God, the law, or any majesty of any nation. (kindle location 903-910’ish)

This is worth thinking about, especially if you’re a believer in the resurrection of the dead.

  • In light of unjust systems.
  • In light of murder and torture and war.
  • In light of broken and abusive governments.
  • In light of neighborhoods without any real neighbors or neighborliness.
  • In light of starving kids dying from malnutrition while Western dumpsters overflow with food.

Resurrection is not license to take a pass on the issues in the world.

Resurrection is not an excuse to ignore brokenness, injustice, or violence.

Resurrection is the declaration that “no more violence can be done to me.”

Resurrection is a call to piracy. To boldly and freely live into the promises of new creation and, “free of all fear” for our own safety and well-being, live for the sake of the other.

Happy Pirate Day!

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