Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sabbatical starts...

Friday, July 3, 2009

We headed out yesterday on a seven week adventure: Hackensack, Minnesota to visit friends; Osage, Minnesota to see grandparents and family; then out west through Yellowstone to Yakima, Washington and then to Vancouver, Washington to see Jon, Sarah, and Vasu. Finally two weeks at Holden Village.

It’s hard to pack for seven weeks, especially with such different destinations. A tie and two collars, with dress shoes and pants in case I present or preach; beat up jeans and lots of T-shirts for picking. They represent such different worlds.

Preparing for departure was quite the task – practically and emotionally letting go of upcoming projects and decisions. What is that like for those who come with such unknowns to this country? To people like Irma, who knelt outside her little hut in Guatemala, praying to make the decision to go north, when her ailing mother lamented that she would grow old alone. But with two kids to support on her own, she could see no option. What was her packing like? What preparations? Did she get to say good-bye to her neighbors? What did she need to let go of and let go of the future of? What decisions will she no longer get to influence?

The night before leaving, we met at a home in Decorah to welcome a delegation from a congregation in El Salvador that is a sister parish to the Methodist church in town. It was a group of about 6 people. We spoke about Postville. They had such insight about what motivates people to come. They spoke of the larger social issues – of the government’s own complicity in forcing its people to migrate, because of their heavy dependence on remittances. The absence of protection, education, work and opportunities that force so many to leave. The breaking up of families – fathers who came a generation ago and then started a new family in their new land and now their children, who had been forgotten, see themselves forced to follow in his steps and go north… What about the women?

Paul talking about the economics of it. We’ve built an economy based on the US consumer’s overconsumption. Their confidence came from what seemed an ever-growing housing that allowed them to borrow beyond their actual means. And then it bursts. You can get the fundamentals of the economy back in track, but we need a new way. The spending spree is not sustainable… The seven years of plenty are in a way truly over. What will the role of the immigrants be? Who will be the new consumers, as babyboomers come to the end of their run and start scaling back? As they retire and demand more resources and care, but produce less…

Then the conversation with Lynn’s mom, who has not heard anything about Postville – really has no reason to have heard. She goes to church regularly and sings in the choir. What would engage her? She listened to what I had to say… What’s the frame of reference for her?

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