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Wednesday, November 2nd

Last night, we had our first discussion on what is really going on here in Tucson. A Catholic priest and social worker in the area, Father Ricardo Elford, came to share his experience of living in this area for the past forty years and about his work in the thick of the immigration issues here in Tucson and down on the border in a city called Nogales.

It's hard to convey everything he shared, but his impression is that things are radically different, that the climate here has turned dramatically worse - especially in the last twenty-five years. He can remember a time as recent as the mid 80's when the border zone between the United States and Mexico was a much more fluid thing, more of a shared space than a definite line between two countries. He described the current conditions along the border as a type of war zone, and he referred to an article in the New York Times yesterday that reported a significant drug bust that involved a number of illicit routes up through this region into Pheonix.

The picture he painted was fairly distressing: initial attempts to secure the border led to separation of families in this region, crime has multiplied year after year and is now organized and far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined twenty years ago, individuals/families desparate to reconnect with family members living in America continue to risk crossing the border even though it is much more dangerous these days to do so.

He also had spoken to the two men who had appeared at this retreat center Monday. He said that they had traveled eight days in the desert, had gone four days without food, and that when they went in desparation to a man's backdoor to ask for help, the man pointed a gun at them.

Of course, the question is, why would anyone risk crossing the border these days - especially given the brutality of the drug cartels and the hostility they could face on this side of the border? Well, i guess I ask another question to myself: if a border were created in the next nine days between Tucson and Indiana, would I be willing to risk my life in order to see my family again? Or, if I was unable to fully support myself, and I was unable to find work to provide adequately for my family, how far would I go to change my family's reality?

I could tell that Ricardo was really torn up about how much fear and crime and hate had been injected into this region in his own lifetime. He said at one point that if he were not a Christian, he would probably have given over to despair long ago - especially given some of the horrible things he has witnessed as a result of this now harsh border land.

I think now about Paul's words again that as Christians we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. It takes faith to recall and hold onto the promise that God is still directing this region of our country, and - indeed - still directing the events all over our country and in our community and in our lives.

Today, we are going to participate in an exercise to help us get a better sense of what leads people to cross the border and what they go through in doing so.

Our nation has changed dramatically ... let us pray that God's Kingdom would come again here and everywhere.



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