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PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers work to see beyond the rusted wall

‘It is in these ignored and forgotten stories that we will find Christ’s hope and good news’

by James Martin | Mission Crossroads

The young adults engaged in the Tucson Borderlands program. (Photo by James Martin)

When I first came to the border communities of Douglas/Agua Prieta, I specifically remember mission co-worker the Rev. Mark Adams asking our group how old we thought the border wall was.

Looking at the border wall for the first time, it seemed to me like it had been there forever; it had a rusted red color, as if it had seen significant weathering. I was very surprised then to learn that this wall was actually a recent addition to the border as a result of increased border militarization from the Obama administration. And it was that first time seeing the border wall that I began my journey of learning about the life, culture and place beyond the wall in the borderlands.

It is not unusual for many young adults like myself to see the border for the first time and see only the narrative of border militarization and “border problems.” The problem, though, is that this is the only narrative I heard about the border, or at least the one that was loudest. But the reality is that the borderlands is filled with many narratives: There are stories of family, stories of friendship, stories of growing up, stories of caring for others and stories of faith. Yet these are not the stories of the border that many people know about. In this way, the borderlands is also a story of colonization as only the dominant culture’s narrative of politics and militarization is told or addressed.

And while it is important to talk about border militarization, I believe Christ’s preference for marginalized stories calls us to first learn the stories outside our dominant U.S. culture that came before and still exist in the borderlands. They are stories of migrants, the stories of Mexico, the stories of Indigenous people, the stories of a binational community that are just as important in the kin-dom of God.

And as a church driven by Christ’s mission, we must teach and lift up these stories first before can even address border militarization. It is in these ignored and forgotten stories that we will find Christ’s hope and good news. Therefore, the mission of the Tucson Borderlands YAV program is to bring young adults from both the U.S. and Mexico to see the border beyond a U.S. rusted wall and to be witnesses to Christ’s life and hope that is lived in our binational border ministries.

James Martin is the Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteers coordinator.

Mission Crossroads is published twice yearly to share news about personnel, partners and Presbyterians doing God’s mission in the world. For a free subscription, or to read the digital Spring 2023 issue in its entirety, click here.

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