Thursday, February 4, 2010


So, it's been a while. Again. I'm not proving to be punctual in the blogosphere. Thank you for reading.

Leti and I are doing okay here in El Paso. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say were somewhere between 1 and 10, depending on the day. There continues to be challenges and good times alike. We are in the second semester of our year here on the border. There is a sense of a new beginning of sorts. A new vision, and a fresh look at our community after having visited home. I have some new goals at my job placement. After having learned from coworkers, from the community, and from my own experiences, I have a better sense of how to direct my efforts for the next six months.

Most Catholic parishes, like Sacred Heart where I am working, have what is called a Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It is a group of people that inflict physical pain on themselves, to be in solidarity with the suffering of Christ, you've all seen the Da Vinci Code right? Just kidding, let me start over. It is a group of volunteers dedicated to taking care of the poor and struggling members of the neighborhood. Most Societies are large and active. Unfortunately, Sacred Heart's Society has dwindled in the recent years. It is a shame, as our neighborhood is the poorest in El Paso, and one of the poorest zip codes in the US. Right now we offer a generous food shelf and some rent and utility assistance. I am hoping to recruit more volunteers, and find creative ways to raise funds.

Another goal of mine is to build relationships with the folks who come in and out of our Social Ministry Office. A big part of my job is to be available to meet with people about any needs they may have. Needs vary from finding work, education, paying the bills, attaining US citizenship, referrals to services around the city, to food, shelter, and friendship. It's easy for me to get caught up in the logistics, the bottom line, and moving people through quickly. But I find that when I spend a bit more time with a client, listening and talking, we gain more confidence in each other and doors open. I am able to interact with an individual, instead of a client. I learn their deeper struggles, and the story behind them. I also become more vulnerable and emotionally involved myself.

Leti continues to meet interesting people on their path to US citizenship, permanent residency, or refugee status. Some Cubans and Iraqis, but mostly Mexicans. She works with many families and enjoys getting to know her clients and hear their stories. She gets to celebrate along with clients when they pass the citizenship test. However, she accidentally got someone deported this week . . . just kidding, sort of . . . ok Leti, I was totally kidding.

Just recently, Leti and I together helped someone in getting her US citizenship. Her name is Claudia Hernandez, and she has two kids and a husband in Chihuahua, Mexico. She had to be away from them for months, staying with an aunt here in El Paso while she fixed her papers and attended her appointments. She came to me at the church looking for help studying and practicing for the citizenship test. We studied together and problem solved many times, and I later passed her on to Leti for some professional advice. For a while it looked like Immigration wasn't going to give her US citizenship, but just a couple weeks ago she got it. Woohoo! She has invited us to their house and to visit the Copper Canyon with them in June.

We're excited about gardening as it will begin to warm up here soon. We're still picking lettuce and carrots, they are delicious. The challenge is keeping the street cats and their dumpster fed feces away from our vegetables.

I am still training for the marathon on March 7. My left foot has been bothering me, but other than that it has been very enjoyable. I went on a beautiful, long bike ride this weekend as an alternate workout. Leti stopped training so she could spend all her spare time studying for the math and writing portion of the Praxis test; AND SHE PASSED BOTH! We are very happy and she is very smart. She will take the remaining two tests in April. Besides that, she has been sewing up a storm. She has discovered a gift.

Thanks for reading and taking an interest in what we're doing.