It's been over 8 months since the last update, so my apologies for being behind. Two things contributed to delays: starting some B2B meetings for fundraising and language sharing, and beginning local, seasonal work to pay my personal living expenses. But there’s good news to share, so here goes ...
The group that met to do the immigration retreat met a few times more, mostly taking the summer off. In our second meeting, we looked at the body of Christ, reflecting on what different parts of the body might translate to as far as personal gifts and talents. We then had the opportunity to give each other feedback as to which parts of the body we each are. We had a large human-body silouette, and we each pasted our names onto the different parts of the body that our interactive exercise revealed. The great result was a dynamic, tangible, and visible expression of who we each are, and how we together form the body of Christ.
Time is short to complete the next step I had hoped, which was to offer the immigration retreat to others in the same small group format. If we can’t do it before I go to Ecuador, hopefully we can when I return.
We had a presentation meeting on June 10, where I gave a review of the last visit to Ecuador, and we decided to set up a followup meeting to continue the discussion and a response. From that, it was decided to focus on developing language and culture exchange in faith, and also on fundraising.
After it proved challenging to find dedicated support in setting up a public event for a fundraiser, especially in the time frame involved, I decided to focus on an on-line effort. The effort is continuing, and can be reached here:
After initially considering a larger fundraiser to support me for a year, I changed the effort to just help me get to Ecuador (more on that below). That means I’m looking for others’ participation in the costs of transportation and visa renewal - about $1400.
The online fundraiser includes a variety of ways to engage:
A video summarizing what I do in Ecuador. This is a short video I put together from my experiences over the years in Ecuador.
A detailed summary of what the money is needed for. A detailed budget so that givers know where their gift is going.
A video including words from some of the people of Chontal. A friend in Chontal agreed to take videos of some people who want me to return. I ran the video by the folks who participated and they gave me permission to share it with you all. In any case, you get to hear directly from the people there!
Artisan gifts that you can choose from if you make a gift. I bought these in Quito in my last days there in January. There are some nice items, and the musical instruments work!
A commitment to use 10% of the money gifted to a new outreach program in the parish. When I was leaving the last time, there were initial steps to begin an outreach ministry to people most in need, especially seniors. By bringing some funds dedicated to that ministry, I hope it can get re-energized while I’m there. So, your gift will go to also assist those most in need, and develop a badly needed ministry in the parish.
Language in Communion
The Language in Communion effort didn’t start in the parish in East Boston, as the clergy were not interested in the ministry. They expressed interest in my teaching the religious ed teachers English, but not in a language / culture sharing group that could be a catalyst of the English and Spanish speaking communities coming together.
Assimilation is not a Christian concept. Assimilation is the notion that a migrant must learn the language and culture of the host country, but not vice-versa. In general, it is the idea that the new person must adapt themselves to the host community, organization, institution, or other social construct that they are joining, while the organization does not adapt itself to the new person.
Assimilation is the predominant mindset in the world, and reflects what Jesus and Paul would call, the spirit of the world. It is the reason that after a generation or two, Americans lose the language of their ancestors. It’s why I don’t speak any Irish or Armenian. Assimilation is a social phenomenon based on the de-personalizing notion of “usefulness”. It places the migrant below the host, re-establishing the social mountains and valleys that God desires leveled, and in general affirms and reinforces the human person as a subject to a social system.
Teaching English as a Second Language is an assimilation approach to migration. It is dehumanizing, as it devalues the language and culture. If the host doesn’t make an equal attempt to learn the language and culture of the migrant, then not only do they fail to accept the migrant as a whole person, and thus do harm to the migrant, but they then also lose out on the whole gift that God wants to give to the host when He sends a new person, thus doing harm to themselves.
Assimilation is an extreme, and the other extreme, which is also common, is simply separation. That means no learning of new language or culture, by either the migrant or the host. But the Christian response, the response of love, is integration. Integration involves both migrant and host in equal relationship, giving and receiving language and culture mutually. This doesn’t preclude an “official” language. There is no reason that there can’t be a nation where everyone actively speaks multiple languages, yet one is the official. In fact, this is the situation throughout most of human history, and it can be found in many countries in other continents.
Anyway, my experience is that ESL programs mostly serve the self-affirmation of the teachers, sponsors, supporters, and organizers, who always are in a position of “having”, “knowing”, and “doing good” by assimilating the migrant into the economy. Because they don’t learn the migrant’s language and culture in hand, they cannot relate to the migrant, and always remain in a position above. It’s easy to get self-affirmation from “doing good”. But truly doing good always involves - if not starts with - becoming poor oneself before the wealth of another. In any case, the “success” rate is actually very poor in ESL programs. The stress level for the migrant is very high, and the pedagogy is lacking. I want no part of it.
So, several of us who had been in the Barriers To Bridges meeting began to do Language in Communion in an apartment in East Boston. It has grown, and these days I am looking for more English speakers who I know, who want to participate in forming friendships in Christ, across the Latino and North American languages and cultures.
Return to Ecuador
I will be returning to Ecuador on November 6, to hopefully stay until May 1. That will depend on whether I get a missionary visa from the bishop while I’m there, which looks highly likely. Thanks to your generosity so far in the fundraiser, as well as my credit card, I’ve made some progress in paying for the travel and visa costs, and have most everything paid for on this end, including the apostilled background criminal records from Massachusetts and the FBI (they’re clean!). There will be more costs on the Ecuador side when I get there…
I am really looking to develop visits for people from the States, so please keep that in mind as you read all of this! It's something that I want to promote more, amidst the juggling of so many things. I'm looking for people who want to take a step outside and see what I see, understand what this is all about. The only way to really do that is to come ...
New Books ... Still ... Coming
Still! As noted in the last two updates, I'm trying to reprint the first book I wrote, Flowers In Winter, and then two more sequels. All that's left is to write the auxiliary texts (introductions, etc.) and format and publish online. But that takes time and in the midst of looking for part-time work and my housing situation this year, it fell to the back burner. But it’s still a goal that hopefully can be finished before I leave!
Role with Missionary Society of St James the Apostle
Beginning October 1, I’ve begun a provisional role with the Missionary Society of St James the Apostle that will support me in - and keep separate - this effort of Barriers To Bridges, while also giving the Society support in their home office in Boston for several critical months next year, and also being available for lay missionary ministry in their parishes in Peru for a few months next year. This will be an opportunity for the Society to experiment with lay involvement in administration and mission, and it will give me support to be able to continue with the Barriers To Bridges effort separately in Ecuador.
To be clear, Barriers To Bridges is not affiliated with the St. James Society. Rather, I myself am working for the St James Society while I’m not in Ecuador and while I’m not doing B2B activities in Boston.
The Society’s support for me will include some financial assistance for me to use in B2B while I’m in Ecuador. That will keep me available for the work next year for the Society. After a full year, we’ll review the whole setup and see what if anything would be next steps.
This to me makes a lot of sense both for B2B and the Society, especially in light of the fact that, without that support from the Society, Barriers To Bridges would have to cease operations financially. After offering and inviting over the last several years, I’ve not found much of a desire for participation or support from others here in Boston.
So, I’m grateful for this opportunity, and am glad to soon be going over the wall!
Thanks again to those who have participated and given!