Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘YCM’ Category

Generational Food Justice

In Animals, JustLiving Farm, Peace & Justice, SAGE Quest, YCM on August 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm

15.08.02

 August 02, 2015
[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

This is supposed to be humane? I thought to myself when David Bell took me to the cattle auction for the first time. He wanted to take me the first week I arrived so I could handle it better once we brought workgroups. I’m glad he did so too because I was on the point of tears.

Cows, bulls, steers, heifers, all corralled into small spaces, running into each other, stumbling over one another. The cowboys and girls on their horses chased after them with paddles, flags, and whips to move the animals along. One cowboy even yelled, “Hey! You son of a bitch. Hey!” over the desperate mooing as he tried to force an extremely frightened steer into a corral.

One beautiful, brown steer with a white face met my gaze with tired eyes as he struggled to maintain his footing against the many other, larger cattle around him. He didn’t fight back or try to escape. He had clearly been there all day and gotten used to the circumstances. Perhaps he had even been there before. His calmness told me it was indeed humane.

The paddles, whips, or flags weren’t hitting them; instead, they were only surprised by the sound made by the instruments. They had some space to move. They were fed and kept healthy until they were sold. The animals freaking out the most were the ones who probably hadn’t had a day of stress in their lives, who were raised on pastures with their families. Plus, it’s understandable for the cowboys and girls to get frustrated every once in a while, but most of them were patient with the animals. The place really could have been a lot worse. In fact, many of cattle would later go to worse places, to factory farms or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where they would spend the rest of their lives standing in a pile of their own shit. They would get even less exercise, they would get fatter, and they would sell for more.

Suddenly, I cried the tears I had been fighting, feeling helpless. As a vegetarian, I know I don’t support the CAFOs or factory farms, but people who do surround me. Plus it’s more than just cows, or even pigs and chickens. It’s all food. Read the rest of this entry »

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Justice Arrives Through the Voices of the Fearless

In YCM on July 26, 2015 at 9:22 am

15.07.26

July 26, 2015

I watched as folk went to the microphones and spoke. Over a few days, they spoke on a number of issues and resolutions at the assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Many who spoke were pastors or folk who held some role of publicly speaking in the Church. Many were eloquent. Many others like myself were passable in getting across their thoughts. There were others though, who were fearless.

The fearless were the folk who are not pastors, who are not professionals, but rather folk who stand at the edge and outside the rooms and places of Church power. To hear another pastor or church leader is to listen to so many passionate, God called, Pharisees and Sadducees (don’t hear this as a bad thing, but rather folk whose life is fully embedded in the church). The others though, the folk who listen to those folk, who hold great opinions, but seldom publicly speak, well they are the fearless, the heroes.

The voice of the non-pastor matters because too many who find themselves in the places of church power (those Pharisees and Sadducees), who first came to their work because of their prophetic voice, now find themselves navigating the space between the prophetic and the “how to keep the greatest number of people united and conversing with one another,” or “how to keep my job—or how to keep doing the work I believe I am called to.” These are folk who can use a bit of extra care and one more prayer.

It matters greatly there are the folk who stand at the edge and in places outside of power, who fearlessly raise their voice. When these folk arrive at such assemblies, with a sense of wonder and hope, a want to listen others, who have no intent to raise their voice, but who do when a matter of justice or injustice twists a gut, the assembled people experience a moment of fearlessness. (Fearless does not mean the speaker is not terrified or on the edge of panic, but rather they speak their truth while remaining in that space of horror.) Read the rest of this entry »

God is in the Flies

In Animals, Reservation, SAGE Quest, YCM on July 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.07.19

July 19, 2015
[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

When I first arrived at JustLiving Farm/Yakama Christian Mission this summer, I was determined to prove I was more than just a city girl. So to detox from city life, I sat down on a bench and willed myself to connect with nature.

There were stunning mountain ridges that sat patiently for my acknowledgement. The wind danced with the grass, the tree branches, and the flowers, expecting a high score from me for the performance. The crickets chirped, the sprinklers sang, and the cows mooed in a well-rehearsed musical composition. Together, shades of blue met green, spurts of red, and pink, creating a canvas unlike any I had ever seen. As I watched, the fresh scent of grass kissing flowers introduced itself to my nose. The wind danced with my hair then and I suddenly realized that everything I experienced expected me to sigh one word: “breathtaking.”

But I couldn’t and here’s why.

Butterflies waved as they passed by, merely implying their greeting, but not the flies. The ants continued their workday below me, too busy to chat, but not the flies. Unlike the butterflies, simply gliding to their destination didn’t satisfy the flies. Instead, they anxiously zipped here and there, unaware of how to fill the extra time. They weren’t as busy as the ants either, so they constantly buzzed their anxiety to each other, their choices in conversation local always near my ears.

As a result, the more I tried to enjoy time away from my iPhone, laptop, Netflix, and kindle, the more I struggled against one fly in particular. It must have realized what I was trying to do and found it hilarious. It didn’t think I could truly unplug from my gadgets and connect to nature. It laughed at even the thought of it – buzz, ha, buzz, ha! Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Francis’ Bolivian Apology: A Call to Conversation or A Religious Appeasement?

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on July 12, 2015 at 8:21 am

July 12, 2015

Many hoped Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, would take a path leading to a new voice from the Church. I don’t know if we are hearing a new voice, yet, but at least the voice we are hearing calls for deeper conversations.

While visiting Bolivia this last Thursday, Pope Francis apologized to Americans whose ancient heritage is the American landscape. The apology was for the Church’s support and involvement in the colonization of the Americas. Though not a direct apology for his predecessor’s support of the genocidal Doctrine of Discovery, the apology is a first step.

The Pope’s apology calls for an interesting conversation during the coming months. For just prior to Pope Francis’ arrival in the US this fall, church structure is in place to canonize Father Junipero Serra on September 23. Pope Francis is concluding a path begun in 1988 when Pope John Paul II beatified Fr Serra.

While many folk may not know Fr Serra, most Californian’s who attended school in California do. Few born and raised Californians did not draw or construct a Mission while in school. For me it was the Mission San Fernando Rey de España located an hour south or so from my elementary school. Mission San Fernando was but one of the twenty-one missions dotting the California coast from San Diego (San Diego de Alcalá, 1769) to Sonoma (San Francisco Solano, 1823). The credit of developing a mission infrastructure where missions were located one days ride from one another goes to Fr Serra. Known for his intellect, the development of the string of missions, and the conversion of California Indians, the church and the state has held Fr Serra in good regard. California Indians, whose ancestors provided the labor to build the missions have, let’s say, a different take. Read the rest of this entry »

From Historical Oppression to Modern Oppressor

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on June 28, 2015 at 6:54 am

15.06.28

June 26, 2015

I, like many others, never heard of the 2013 Dominican Constitutional Court ruling saying citizenship would no longer naturally be given to a person born in the Dominican Republic. Like others, I tripped over my own foot when I understood the people/government of the Dominican Republic (DR) approved a systemic change that could lead to the deportations of Dominicans of Haitian descent. I fell over my other foot when I understood the policy would be retroactive to 1929.

I might not know the intricacies of all that is going on, but I have two thoughts just the same. If it were my family, and my mother was four years younger, it would mean she is in danger of deportation at the age of 86. Of course, Belinda and I would be right behind her, our children right behind us, and our grandson right behind them. Imagine, four generations deported in one fell swoop. I find it hard to imagine one can argue a position of justice for this action.

Of course, DR did not come up with this throwing away of people. The US has been doing it for much longer. From throwing away of today’s south of the border generations, who came to work US farms, to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the DR did not have to look far to find a mentor.

Throwing away of people who have been on US or DR soil and worked for generations to better those countries is one example of what the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) looks and feels like today. The DoD, from inception, has been about the extraction of resources. DoD countries have used law and power to mine mineral and people of other landscapes to benefit themselves. Then throw those people away when they no longer have monetary value. What is so very hard is the realization that landscapes who were once the victims of the DoD have often adopt DoD practices as they come into power themselves (under the guiding hand of their DoD oppressor).

Clearly much history has occurred between DR and Haiti since Christopher Columbus’ landing in 1492. Read the rest of this entry »

Forever Learning, Forever Teaching

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, SAGE Quest, YCM on June 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.06.21

June 21, 2015

[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

There it sat, promising it could get me to where I needed to go if I only had the patience – a 1986 Nissan pickup truck.

The yellow paint was faded with age. The trunk suffered from something similar to tendinitis. The steering wheel sometimes took a bit of muscle, frustration, light perspiration, and mumbled swear words to turn. The driver’s side door was temperamental, refusing to lock from the inside and only locking from the outside when it felt like it. Despite all of this, though, the old King Cab had some fight left in it yet.

There was only one inconvenience keeping me from eagerly taking it for an exploratory ride around Yakima County. The little yellow intern truck David and Belinda Bell had lent me for the summer had a manual transmission. Since I only knew how to drive automatic, I knew I had some learning to do if I was going to be a productive intern for the Yakama Christian Mission.

I was suddenly sixteen again. Every driving skill I mastered in the last five years was set back to a beginner level. It was more than the difficult aspects too, such as driving in reverse or doing a three-point turn. I couldn’t even press the gas without making the truck jerk, sometimes stalling in traffic. My face would turn the same shade of red as whatever stop sign or light I had jerked to a standstill in front of that day. Each time, I felt like the truck was taking me by the shoulders and shaking me in frustration. My goodness! Get your act together. What an embarrassment.

The truck wasn’t the only one frustrated. I wanted to shake the truck back. “Don’t you think I’m trying?” I mentally retaliated. “Give me a break! This isn’t as easy as it looks.” Then my left foot would prematurely depart from the clutch and the truck would stall again. I smacked my forehead against the stubborn steering wheel several times. Read the rest of this entry »

A Summer of Conversation and Theology

In SAGE Quest, YCM on June 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.06.14

June 14, 2015

For fifteen summers there’s been an intern(s) at the Mission (before I arrived as well…however, I have found no records to who and when. So, if you were or you know someone who was an intern at the Mission, please send me contact information!) This summer, Selys Rivera, a senior at Florida Southern College, is interning at the Mission and living at the Farm. Selys arrives having nearly finished and a bachelor’s degree in English—with a writing concentration, and a minor in Spanish. She finishes her undergraduate degree this December! Though living in Florida, Selys’ landscape of birth is Puerto Rico and Massachusetts is the landscape of her childhood and youth

Today, Selys is a reader, writer, and dancer. She arrived at the Farm wondering about what God’s plan might be for her—wondering through the lenses of reading, dancing, and writing. Which brings an interesting insight to the Mission, for while I enjoy reading and writing myself, the lenses of dancing in the context of the Farm and theology bring a focus I often miss.

This is why I enjoy summers and what makes my work rich. Hanging with young adults each year gives me the opportunity to revisit conversations of faith about God, Jesus, Hope, Redemption, Evil, Good, Forgiveness, Retribution, Love, Spirit (to name a few) in light of the Landscape. Such conversations with young adults from backgrounds different from my own push my edges as it pushes theirs. That, I find, is cool!

So, the theological summer of 2015 has begun. What it holds is to be seen and known. In the meantime, our community will have a young adult who knows herself for the theologian she is, with a voice that will benefit our listening ears.

(By the way…Selys comes to the Mission by way of Disciples Volunteering. She has a small stipend for the summer. If you would like to contribute a few dollars that might allow her a trip to Seattle, backpacking in the Cascades, or hiking the Columbia Gorge, feel free to send the gift to Yakama Christian Mission, PO Box 547, White Swan, WA 98952.)

Changing A Statement of Mission: Trying to Think Better

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on June 7, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.06.07

June 07, 2015

After nearly fifteen years, the Yakama Christian Mission has changed its statement of mission from,

To enhance the wellbeing of children and youth through advocacy and education.
to,
To enhance the wellbeing of indigenous children and elders of North America and Canada.

There are numerous reasons for the change. At the top is admitting an emphasis on children alone is not holistic. In hindsight, the fifteen-year old statement’s singular focus on children was little different from the Mission’s previous eighty-year approach. Both approaches hold today’s children as tomorrow’s future. Nothing wrong with that. However, as commonly lived out in the US (and certainly on reservations), this approach has a tendency to separate children from their elders—except those specific elders who carry and project the correct virtues of the community. From the eighty-year stance, the correct values were most always White values, which from the historical perspective of many in the church, few Yakama elders held.

The approach over the last fifteen years is similar insofar as programing focused on children and youth and, though I wish it were not the case, because of embedded White worldviews of staff, board, and church leaders. Due to this focus, there was a natural separation of young people and elders. Granted, this model is a societal norm. After all, US parents give their children to the “correct” people for their scholastic education, and children stay home while parents go to a school board or a church board meeting—interesting, isn’t it, when folk think it is groundbreaking to have a “youth” representative on a board? Read the rest of this entry »

Losing Ourselves on the Side of the Street

In JustLiving Farm, YCM on May 31, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.05.31

May 31, 2015

“If a panhandler comes near you and you are fearful, call the police.” The statement is not exact but it is close to what I’ve heard on the radio once a week for a number of months.

I don’t so much find this statement bad as I do evil. Built into such a message is “you ought to fear those folk you see on the side of the road.” My guess is, if folk did not fear panhandlers in the City of Yakima yesterday, they will tomorrow. Like too many messages we hear in our communities, this message is not one of peace and wellbeing for one’s neighbor, but one of, if you don’t look, smell, and think like me, you are questionable at the least and a danger at the most.

It would seem this announcement lead’s toward one path—the imprisonment of panhandlers and homeless people (Homeless folk are a small percentage of panhandlers, however, I’d guess most folk think the opposite). The hope, it would seem, for those supporting and funding this announcement, is to eliminate those who struggle greatly within our society—under the guise of justice.

The absurdity of such an announcement is not only hurtful to those who have little societal voice, but damaging to the whole of community. To make our sisters and brothers on the street, who struggle to make a dollar, as something other than ourselves—into folk to be feared, we damage our sense of justice, of peace, and our spiritual wellbeing. To lose our brothers and sisters, whose lives are so different from our own, to our fear and possible imprisonment is to jail our own created self.

*KIMATV.com: File photo

GMO And Cardboard Food

In JustLiving Farm, Peace & Justice, YCM on May 24, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.05.24

May 24, 2015

Folks in Jackson County, Oregon are having a fit. The people of Jackson County voted last fall to ban GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Alfalfa growers are ticked off. Lawsuits are filed. Having planted “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, a perennial plant that is productive for years, GMO farmers claim a potential devastating income loss.

Roundup Ready crops like alfalfa allow farmers to spray their entire field with Roundup (imagine a crop-duster plane), killing the weeds while leaving the resistant crop alone. Some folk argue there are problems with the GMO plant itself and they don’t want it fed to the livestock of they eat or provide their milk. Others question what widespread, non-specific spraying (of any type really) is doing to the soil, water, and air. Interesting enough though, is in time the arguments may mean little because weeds are developing an immunity to Roundup. Which might mean that about the time GMO alfalfa is normalized, Roundup will not be effective, and chemical companies will have developed a new herbicide.

There are alternatives though and I hope folk begin to recognize them. I’m not wholly against herbicides, however I am against wholesale use with little regard for tomorrows folk who must use this same land. Farmers could decide to quit large-scale herbicide use and accept a few more weeds and a little more work, and the consumer could pay a little more for their food. However, this would call farmers and consumers alike to change their practices. Alfalfa wise, farmers would have to learn old practices of allowing weeds to go as far as developing a seed head and then cutting their crop before the seed ripens. Done well, the plant (often) thinks it has reproduced and does not therefore put another seed head on. Read the rest of this entry »