By members of the program
Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM), ranging in age from 21 to 29, take the plunge into a life-changing year of international service. Support all the YAGM or those serving in Mexico. Learn more by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Discover creative ways to involve your youth at Youth for YAGM.
Oct. 7, 2014
In rural Ayotzinapan, Mexico, children make and release paper balloons.
YAGMs in Mexico and ‘the excluded ones’
By Lindsay Mack
The Rev. Lindsay Mack and Omar Turcios Mixco are the Young Adults in Global Mission program coordinators in Mexico.
Greetings from Mexico! We write to you fresh off 19 full days of orientation with our new group of volunteers! As we’ve now come to expect, orientation is a bit of a whirlwind of activities, but it is also loads of fun getting to know our new group and beginning to build community.
As we begin our second year as coordinators, we continue to try to strengthen the program, which has been through a lot of changes since we began. It is a continual learning experience! Fortunately, a strong Young Adults in Global Mission Mexico network of non-profits, church connections and caring families was left to us by previous country coordinators. We’re immensely grateful for this network, which has helped us to develop six new worksites and five new home-stay families this year. All this newness in our program has kept us quite busy over the last few months. As with many things in Mexico, it has been a process of relationship building, family meals and conversation around the table, phone calls, afternoon coffees and chatting and a whole lotta faith, which has helped these new sites and homes be ready to receive a new volunteer.
When I served as missionary in Honduras almost 10 years ago, the Honduran church struggled to be a place “donde quepa el/la excluido/a” or “where the excluded one has a place.” That phrase has stuck with us, and Omar and I often bring up this saying in our work as coordinators. We try to ask each other, our volunteers and the people from our Mexican community, “Who are the excluded ones?”
This question led us to develop some different work sites for our volunteers this year. We felt it was important to get more of our volunteers out of the city and into some smaller towns and rural communities. After all, although many Mexicans are migrating to the cities, a large portion of the population is still rural and farms corn and coffee. So, while one of our volunteers in Mexico City lives with a working-class family close to an area called “Santa Fe,” which is a modern, sleek, manicured part of Mexico City filled with skyscrapers, powerful businesses, money and expensive cars, another volunteer will work this year in a rural community steeped in rich indigenous tradition where people grow coffee, corn, vanilla, black peppercorns, honey and cinnamon. The contrast between these two places – a contrast so characteristic of Mexico – couldn’t be greater and that makes us excited!
Throughout the orientation over the last weeks, we had the opportunity to visit all of the YAGM volunteer service sites. Although we could talk for hours about each one of our sites, here’s a brief look at several of the worksites to give you an idea of what our crew will be up to.
We started off our time with a visit to one of two migrant shelters where our volunteers will work this year, Tochan Nuestra Casa. During our visit, we listened to the migrants’ stories and also enjoyed an impressive birthday rap given by Emiliano, a young migrant, for two of our volunteers who had recently had birthdays.
We also visited with la Jugareta, an organization that promotes reading, literacy and the right of the child to play. In our visit to rural Ayotzinapan, we visited Se Sentanemililis, a library and community center far up in the mountains about seven hours northeast of Mexico City. Here we were warmly welcomed and participated in an activity with local children making paper balloons, which are traditionally made on Day of the Dead and released into the sky. The balloons or “globos” help the deceased who have come to visit or those who have recently died to find their way back up “into the sky.”
Another of our new worksites in the city of Puebla strives to include people who are socially excluded because of a physical disability by providing job training, coaching and self-esteem workshops.
In our work with the young adults who participate in the YAGM Mexico program, we are continually reminded what a privilege it is to walk along side these young people and Mexican communities.
Omar continues to enjoy and be challenged by his work as director of La Frontera Ministries. The current challenges on the U.S./Mexico border have opened up unexpected spaces to converse about issues of migration and the struggle to build bridges of understanding between the United States and Mexico.
We are grateful for your continued support and encouragement!
Lindsay and Omar
July 15, 2014
‘Convivir’: to live with
YAGM Rachel Birkedal learned the significance of this important Spanish word during her year in Mexico. Seehttp://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/434.