Telling the Story
IMMIGRATION IMMERSION, March 2020
- Team Leader: Louise Kienzle
- Team members from Oregon and Tennessee
This team of 15 included friends and new friends from Oregon and Tennessee. We spent a very busy 5-days learning more about the real issues at the border, both in Tucson and Nogales.
Our week started with a meeting with Rocio, a woman from Bolivia who spent 2 years and 1-month in the Eloy Detention Center. Her story is heartbreaking and heartrenching, but brought her to this time of hope and healing. She is now the program coordinator for Casa Mariposa Detention Visitation Program.
We continued through the week talking with the Border Patrol and hearing about the history of humanitarian aid. We sat in court during Operation Streamline watching groups of up to 60 individuals, men and women, walk into the courtroom in shackles. People from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador. They were called up to the bench in smaller groups (2-8); some given translation head-sets so they can understand what the judge says. The judge asked a couple questions: “I want to make sure this is what you want to do.” Most had already agreed to a plea and given up their right to appeal, often unknowingly. The judge gave a sentence: if this was the first illegal entry, the sentence was usually time served and deportation. If they had been caught previous times, the sentence could be 30 days to 2-years and deportation. The judge then said: “Dismissed. I hope you have no more troubles.”
One day was spent in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with Border Community Alliance visiting NGO’s and a migrant shelter that has been open for 38 years. San Juan Basco, a youth center supported by the Salesian Order of the Catholic Church has been vital in offering education, sports and positive values to children that only get ½ day of school. Our guide stressed the idea of social investment rather then charity.
Another day we experienced the desert through Humane Borders and Tucson Samaritans. Both provide water for migrants through water stations. These water stations are placed in high-traffic areas; migrant trails. “Our primary mission is to save desperate people from a horrible death by dehydration and exposure and to create a just and humane environment in the borderlands.” Humane Borders
"There are so many people in the Tucson and border areas working hard on the immigration problems! The groups know of each other and work together, but each has its own niche and set of volunteers dedicated to that particular task. The compassion of everyone was really uplifting."
"I know much more about what is really happening with migrants. The migrant “system” is unfair and migrants are not treated as deserving human dignity."
"I feel more educated and a little more equipped to work toward solutions, even though I have a better understanding of how complicated it is. I am haunted by the pictures from the medical examiner's presentation. I am in awe of the dedicated people working in all the ways they are. I am proud of the role of the United Methodist Church and the other churches that are giving so much."
UMCOR West, January 2020
- Team Leader: Etha Carruthers
- Team members from Magic Valley Ministries
Six members of the Magic Valley Ministries United Methodist Churches traveled to Salt Lake City to work at the UMCOR West depot for three days in January. This was our sixth annual winter trip to work at the depot.
Our group verified and boxed 1224 school kits.
The depot opened in 2009 in a 22,000 square foot warehouse where supplies for three kinds of relief kits arrive from around the country. Items are sorted into large boxes for health kits, school kits, and cleaning buckets. From there already made kits are verified to see that items included are correct and supplies for kits are assembled, then they are boxed to be ready for shipment. These are labeled and stored on pallets in the warehouse until there is a need and UMCOR headquarters arranges to have the kits sent where they are needed.
Some comments from team members:
"I always enjoy our trips to UMCOR West. It gives me a chance to feel like we are a part of the actual work being done by UMCOR."
"I learn from Brian new information about the organization and build camaraderie with the folks I work with."
We thank you for your prayers and know they sustained us and blessed our work.
Kenya, July 2019
- Team Leader: Louise Kienzle
- Team members from Oregon, California
People from Oregon-Idaho continue to be drawn back to Kenya. I remember hearing several years ago: “If you leave clothes in Kenya, you will return.” I don’t believe that’s the reason, though. The reason is that the people of Kenya find a place in each missioners heart; that’s what pulls us back. As we leave a community, our friends always say: “We will see you again next year. Yes?”
This year, our team included six members from Oregon who had journeyed to Kenya on at least two other mission trips. We were joined by three people from California (University UMC in Irvine), traveling to Kenya for the first time. Our journey included work in and around Maua Methodist Hospital, around Meru and at an orphanage near Nakuru. We continued building relationships in these areas while also making new connections. Our work included building (well, helping to build) a house for a family of five impacted by AIDS/HIV, working on a perimeter wall around the hospital, facilitating two medical camps, providing food support at a school and two Masaii communities, providing funding to complete two more classrooms, visiting an orphanage and providing a short VBS. We did all of this and more. But maybe more importantly, we visited friends (old and new), learned about new projects, had tea, and saw what opportunities that we had previously made possible brought to communities, churches and schools. We played with children and worked alongside Kenyans employed with the funds we offered.
Some impressions from members of the team:
- “The generosity was astounding and shapes my own reflection on sharing. The faithfulness of those we met looks radically different and is impressive. Be ready to let the experience shape you rather than going in to shape the experience.”
- “The overwhelming and humbling faith and hospitality of the Kenyan people.”
- “It is necessary to listen to the needs of the people and not assume that you know what they view as priorities.”
- “It is important to support the education of children generally but especially those in poverty-stricken areas.”
- “Mission ministry must be done in partnership with those being served and must respect the local context.”
To see more, you can visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OR.IDKenyaMissionTeams.
ERT Deployment, North Carolina
- November 2018
- Western Jurisdiction; Larry Johnson, ERT Coordinator/Team Leader for Oregon-Idaho
Beginning the week of October 28th and continuing through Nov 18th, three Early Response Teams (ERT’s) from the Western Jurisdiction traveled to Beaufort, North Carolina to conduct clean up work on homes damaged by Hurricane Florence. Even though it was eight weeks after the storm had passed through the area, there was plenty of work to do. These teams consisted of Early Response Team trained volunteers from the Pacific Northwest Conference, Oregon-Idaho Conference, Mountain Sky Conference, California-Nevada Conference and the Desert Southwest Conference. This is not the first time Conferences have cooperated to form teams. However, this was the most teams formed in recent memory.
Team 2 was lead by Larry Johnson from the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Even though most on this team were strangers they came together quickly. Each volunteer used their unique talents and skills to help their assigned clients continue their recovery from the devastation brought by Hurricane Florence.
Although it was hard work, all three teams received overwhelming praise and thankfulness from all the families that were served. These three teams served over a dozen families in Carertet County area. The common message that each of these families shared was that the work done by the team was truly a blessing to them and gave them hope!
Our bright green shirts made us also stand out in the communities that were served. Many community members asked about our mission and expressed their thanks and gratitude for our efforts to help in their communities. They were amazed we would travel so far to help their communities.
One team member shared these thoughts “it was my first trip and it was a blessing to work on a team alongside others from the Western Jurisdiction whom I had never met. We worked well together from the first day! We “lived” at the Ann Street UMC educational building in Beaufort, NC camping inside in Sunday School classroom. Each morning, we saw little children coming into day care which brightened our day! Their parents expressing thanks for our presence.”
I think most everyone involved was struck by the stories the survivors had to share. How even in the worst of times people can see hope for the future when helping hands and a Christian presence enters into their lives.
These mission teams were made possible by the support of many in the Western Jurisdiction. If you have an interest in serving on an ERT team, your service will be welcome. Training is ongoing throughout the Conferences. Contact your Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or ERT Coordinator for more information about training and mission opportunities.
- August 2018
- Ashland UMC, Berit Larson
It was with great excitement that six members of the Ashland United Methodist Church headed toward the Okanogan. We were on our way to help rebuild a house that had been lost in the 2014/2015 fires in that valley.
Ed’s house burnt to the ground during the fire and he had no way to replace it. Through the Rising for the Ashes Recovery Project, teams like ours were rebuilding his house. He was so grateful for this willingness of strangers to come build a house so that he could have a home. He talked about how he couldn’t wait to shave in a bathroom with running water.
Ed will have a home and our team went away feeling that we had been blessed. We were blessed by Ed’s joy as he saw his house become a reality. We were blessed by God’s presence. We were blessed by knowing that the work we were doing served God and Ed. We were blessed by Barry, project manager, who trusted that we could complete that tasks assigned. We were blessed by the deep friendships that we formed with our team members. The list could go on and on.
Three of the members had never been on an adult mission trip. Here is the testimony of Lois DeBruno, one of those first timers:
I will go on other mission trips—without question. It was a week where working to help others in need brought me many unexpected gifts. The week of blessings included:
- A full nine days, released from the daily stressors of MY life. This release moved me into a place of inner peace and I lived with a deep sense of joy the entire time.
- On a very basic level, I increased my skill set to include installing insulation and dry wall and calking the outside of a house! AND I have to mention that this week-long experience was done without a SINGLE instance of anger, frustration or irritation! I don’t know that I have ever gone that many days in a row with such comradery and shared sense of purpose.
- The gift of community. I’ve known for a long time now that the way to truly become a part of your church, is to share in the life of the church by serving on committees, work groups and other church events. The extended time together that one experiences on a Mission Trip, the deep sharing of self in the times of devotion and the simple pleasure experienced as the group worked toward a common goal, are gifts that I really can’t describe in words.
- And lastly but most importantly, I saw God on the face of everyone I came into contact with during this very blessed week.
As the team prepared to depart, we all asked, “Where do we go next?” God will have an answer for us. We will answer, “Here am I Lord”!
- February 2018
- Portland First UMC, Elaine Jones
We had a wonderful trip to Costa Rica. Four of us representing Portland First United Methodist Church completed a VIM trip to Los Chilles, Costa Rica.
We participated for a week in drilling a well for a group of nine small rural farms and homes to assist them in getting safer water. They had wells but could not drill them more than 30 to 40 feet so had unsafe water. We helped a three-man crew use a drill and drilled 150 feet deep, managing the mud and water coming out. Three more groups followed us and helped with the infrastructure so the well could be finished. These nine families were in between two water systems and had tried for years to get hooked into them. They asked this non profit a year ago to help. They will now manage and each family will pay about $2 a year together for the power.
Agua Viva Serves, a nonprofit located in Los Chilles, was asked to help. Agua Viva Serves was created by the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, Florida. VIM groups can travel to Los Chilles, a border town in northern Costa Rica to fund projects and provide funds to keep seven locals and one American employed.
We had a wonderful time learning to drill, visiting with the nine families and attending a United Methodist Church in Los Chilles. We were fed by the ladies of these homes every day at lunch so had a great time with them. Agua Viva Serves is a good program. I will take a group back definitely, we loved it.
Note: You can find more information about Agua Viva Serves at GBGM.
- January 2018
- Hermiston UMC+, Louise Kienzle
A team of nine left PDX on January 4 for a 21 day mission trip to Kenya. Some had gone before, but for some this was their first time—a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. During our time in Kenya we built a house for a mother sick with HIV and her two children, provided two medical camps, handed out well over 500 de-worming pills, started a permanent classroom at a very rural school and provided funds for another. But more then all of that, we spent time with the people. We played with the children, talked (as much as possible among non-English speakers) with the people, and worked alongside carpenters and health-care workers. Here are some comments from our team:
“One of the things that has stuck with me the most is how welcoming everyone in Kenya was to our team. In addition to how glad they were to have us there, they were so generous, giving us so much when they had so little.”
“Having heard about the AIDS Orphan houses for the last few years, I was very glad to get to help build one and to be a part of the house dedication where I was able to see how much the community supports the single mother and her sons for whom we had built the house. I also appreciated the opportunities to visit a variety of schools and see the differences between them. The difference between Nkanga and St. Peter’s is amazing, but no matter the state of the school buildings, education is still valued, and I appreciated seeing that as well.”
“This trip further confirmed my belief that we do not need to teach people in Africa how to make their lives better. We can help with resources, especially money, that are in short supply elsewhere, but we need to be very careful about even that much. Americans and Kenyans can learn from each other and pray for each other, but we are not the missionaries that come to rescue.”
“People appreciated our presence in their community and said over and over again how important that presence is to them. Also their recognition that many people in our communities and families had made it possible for us to be in Kenya.”
To learn more about this mission, you can visit our OR-ID Kenya Mission Teams Facebook page.