Thursday, January 14, 2016

WALKING EPIPHANY in the Rio Grande Valley: neighborhood notes from Erica Jarrett

Welcome to the second annual WALKING EPIPHANY series of guest posts.  I've asked a few friends who live (literally) around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods and share some of what they see through photos, videos and words.  Each one has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods.  Will you join us?

Read here for a brief description of the liturgical season of Epiphany. See the 2015 WALKING EPIPHANY posts here. Also, don't miss the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking questions for your own neighborhood, listed at the end of this post.

The Jarrett Family
the Rio Grande Valley
along the Texas/Mexico border
by my friend Erica Jarrett (Liturgy of Life)

Prompt: Subversive Christianity

Build houses in a culture of homelessness. Plant gardens in polluted and contested soil. Get married in a culture of sexual consumerism. Make commitments in a world where we want to always keep our options open. Multiply in a world of debt. Have children at the end of history. Seek shalom in a violent world of geo-political conflict and economic disparity. This is Jeremiah's word to the exiles. This is Jeremiah's subversive word to us. And in this vision we just might see, with Jeremiah, "a future with hope" (Jer. 29:11). This is what it means to work and wait for a miracle. This remains at the heart of a subversive Christianity.

Brian Walsh

The rest of Mexico refers to Tamaulipas as a "failed state." It is a place overwhelmed with poverty and violence. Last week our good friends and mission partners at Isaiah 55 hosted a horse and cart clinic on the edge of the city dump a few yards from the walls of Boy's Town, an area of legal prostitution. Many families rely on their horse and cart as they earn a living hauling and sorting trash. How beautiful it is to see those whom the world as ignored glowing with pride as they worked alongside the team to vaccinate their animals and repair their carts.

photo credit for the horse & cart photos: Kristy Holliday, who blogs at Prone to Wander


Prompt: Life on foot

Walking is the beginning, the starting point. Man was created to walk, and all of life's events large and small develop when we walk among other people. Life in all its diversity unfolds before us when we are on foot. In lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities, the prerequisite for city life is good walking opportunities. However, the wider perspective is that a multitude of valuable social and recreational opportunities naturally emerge when you reinforce life on foot. 

Jan Gehl 
Cities for People

Moving to South Texas and living along the Mexico border has not always been easy for us though we are gradually learning to love this place for what it is. One of the perks of the nearly never ending summer is that we can go barefoot almost all year long.

Enjoying a quick break while out exploring with my little girl.

Off again. Did you know that the Rio Grande Valley is one of the nations top destinations to view exotic birds and other wildlife?

A street festival with my daughter riding on her Daddy's shoulders.

We are also not too far from the coast.


Prompt: Foreigners As Neighbors

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this. 

Pope Francis from "Pope Francis' Address to Congress" on Sep. 24, 2015

One of the greatest highlights of living on the border has been getting to interact with new neighbors who have come from all around the world seeking freedom. Here are two kids -- who in their own countries would be enemies -- playing on swings. And my own daughter getting acquainted with new friends.


photo credits for this prompt: Kim Kaiser.

Prompt: Place

Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom. 

Walter BrueggemannThe Land

These are photos taken by one of the missionaries in Mexico as they took an dilapidated old house on the edge of boystown and reclaimed it as a sacred space. It is now used to house community events for the neighborhood kids and one of the rooms has been converted into a chapel where the team prays daily for those suffering around them.


Imagine waking up to the smell of plastic burning, to the sight of wild dogs tearing up trash in the yard and then looking up and seeing the sun rise.

Prompt: Imaginative act

What I see behind my eyes changes what I see in front of them; my imagination shapes my perception so that I must look not once but twice at the world to see it whole. Walking down the street, I see a wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library. His gray hair is matted. His dense beard covers the slogan on his grimy T-shirt. His small darting eyes are as volatile as a hawk's. I look once and think "drifter." I look twice and think "John the Baptist," and in that imaginative act my relationship to the man is changed.

Barbara Brown TaylorThe Preaching Life

Seeing poverty and exploitation can quickly lead to desperation. But on good days I find it better to meet the world with imagination. Not imagination leading to fantasy but imagination that hones in on true beauty in the midst of pain and hope in the midst of suffering.

Imagine feeling out of place and alone and mid-afternoon noticing that the potted plants you have had for years for the first time ever have produced this bloom.

Imagine rainbows and dancing in a place of desolation

Imagine a future where childhood remains innocent.


Erica is an an Ohio girl, now living on the Texas side of the Mexico border.  She is the wife of an Anglican Priest, mother to one daughter and family physician turned full-time homemaker. 
Follow Erica's hope-filled blog Liturgy of Life: Sacramentally Cultivating a Household.  (This is a great time of year to join up with her stellar Reading Group, too!) My family would also highly recommend The Trinity Mission, an Anglican website created by Michael Jarrett which offers morning, mid day and evening prayer services in written and in podcast form.  Giving to the Trinity Mission helps support the work the Jarretts among the communities living on the Texas/Mexico border.

What about your neighborhood?

  • Where do your neighbors hang out when they are not inside their homes?  Front porches?  Backyards?  Town parks?  
  • What are some different methods of transportation your neighbors use?  What would be needed for more people to be able to enjoy your neighborhood on foot?
  • How does your neighborhood embrace foreigners? Are there organizations set up specifically for that purpose?  What other signs of “immigrant” culture can you find in your neighborhood?
  • What historical meanings -- stories that have "established identity, defined vocation and envisioned destiny" -- are told about the place where live?  
  • What sort of declarations are made in your neighborhood as a "protest against the unpromising pursuit of space"?
  • Give us a tour of your neighborhood as an "imaginative act" the way Barbara Brown Taylor describes her encounter with the wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library in the quotation above. 
  • How has your place shaped your imagination about what's possible for your life?  What possibilities has it opened up?  What limitations has it created?


**Each of guest posts in the WALKING EPIPHANY series selected a few prompts from an overflowing folder of quotations I've saved from the Daily Asterisk.  Thank you *culture is not optional for all of your good work. **

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