What a beautiful, challenging, and transformative ministry the YAGM program is. Even as our current volunteers are still fully engaged and connected to their host families, site placements and communities, we will begin to plant seeds and prepare the ground for a new cohort to arrive in August. This week I spent the week with faithful, passionate, and courageous colleagues as we reflected on the joys and challenges of our contexts and our programs. Then, we participated in... the DIP (Discernment, Interview, Placement) event in Chicago, accompanied by many of our Global Mission and Churchwide colleagues from the ELCA. We were joined by an amazing group of YAGM alumni, who are still being shaped and formed in different ways by their own YAGM years. And we met over 80 brave, compassionate, talented young adults who are discerning a call to service this year. I give thanks for the complicated, exciting, intentional process of vocational and spiritual discernment, for the imagination of all involved as they look ahead to the ways in which God is calling them to engage in the world, and for God’s presence and accompaniment all along the way. I also give thanks for our global partners, who, year after year, open and expand their hearts to love and welcome these young people into their communities. It’s a year of accompaniment-and although our YAGMs go out to serve and accompany others, we witness and are transformed by the power of the connectional church, awakened by the great cloud of witnesses in our past, present and future, in the US and all across the world, who joyfully accompany us, each other, on the journey.

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A reflection from our hosts and friends from Frontera de Cristo, PC(USA) Mission Co-workers Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado serving in Agua Prieta. And a shout out to our current YAGM, Nikki Wahl, for her reflections they included from our recent border immersion.

I feel that this is truly our calling in global mission and particularly as part of the YAGM program-Come and see the truth about our neighbors all around the world, come and see the ways God is present in every land, come and see the ways in which you can come alive serving alongside Jesus, and then Go and share the Good News with all you meet.

People who overcome their fears and cross borders often experience Jesus in more profound ways than if they stay comfortably within the confines of “their” own boundaries.

More pictures of the jacarandas!

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Toni François added 3 new photos.

Jacarandas en Chapultepec. Ciudad de México

It’s easy to anticipate the coming joy and celebration of Easter in Mexico City, as we find ourselves in one of my favorite times of the year-jacaranda season. During early spring, Mexico City comes even more vibrantly to life, as thousands of trees around the city bloom vibrant violet flowers. The trees, which are native to Brazil, were brought to Mexico by Japanese gardener and landscape architect Tatsugoro Matsumoto at the beginning of the 20th century. Matsumoto immigr...ated to Mexico by way of Peru and lived in Mexico until his death. He worked for wealthy families in Mexico City and then became so well recognized that he was eventually hired by Porfirio Diaz. His prestige and closeness to government officials played a crucial role in helping him protect and provide for persecuted Japanese immigrants in Mexico during WWII. He had a fascinating life and left a long lasting legacy in México through his gift of the jacaranda trees.

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In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, presented the United States with almost 3,000 cherry trees, which were then planted throughout the U.S. capital. In the years that followed, Washington, D.C. came to be covered with millions of cherry blossoms, coloring the city’s landscape every year....

Do you and your congregation know about AMMPARO? AMMPARO is the ELCA's strategy to address the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America in a holistic and effective way. On January 28th, the YAGM Mexico Program was privileged to meet with a delegation from AMMPARO in Mexico City. We met with director, Mary Campbell, as well as members and partners from Churchwide, Washington DC, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The Delegation spent their day in Mexico City v...isiting Casa Refugiados, a refugee resettlement agency, Café Min, a migrant shelter for women, and Casa Tochan, a long term migrant shelter for men. YAGMs also had the opportunity to speak with Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, the ELCA’s program director for migration policy, to learn about the ELCA’s involvement with immigration issues, before they embarked on their border immersion trip.

To find out more about AMMPARO and the critical work they are involved in, check out this article from Living Lutheran.

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A man in flip-flops, dirty jeans and a worn T-shirt sat on a rickety chair in a migrant safe house in southern Mexico. His two teenagers stood beside him. Holding his head in his hands, he said, “I’m just so thankful my daughter wasn’t raped in front of me.” The day before Mexican bandits as...

If you haven’t seen Coco yet, it’s never too late, to learn about, celebrate and enjoy the rich history, culture and traditions of Mexico. Congratulations and Viva México!

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"VIVA LATINOAMÉRICA, COCO!!!" 'Coco' wins Best Animated Film at the Oscars!

Girl power triumphs in México! Very cool story....

Xochitl comes from the Chiapas highlands and has shown interest in science since she was 4 years old.

This past Friday, the YAGM Mexico program had the honor of visiting with a delegation from the ELCA including the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, the ELCA’s Director of Global Mission, the Rev. Jaime Dubon, Area Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Marie Anne Sliwinski, the ELCA’s Program Director for Disaster Response and Sustainable Development. We spent the day together at Casa Tochan, a long term migrant shelter for men in México City and YAGM Blake Hereen’s pl...acement site this year. Nicole Garcia, the other México City based YAGM joined us as we toured Casa Tochan, spoke with the director Gabriela Hernandez
Chalte, and met with some of Tochan’s current residents and volunteers. We read Cuban poetry together, reflected on the YAGM experience, discussed the evolving challenges of migration, shared expectations and hopes for Casa Tochan and global mission work in general, and were privileged to bear witness to the stories of some of the Central American men in the midst of their journeys of exodus and migration, and shared a meal together. Thanks be to God for these holy moments of accompaniment, sacred sharing, and dreaming of what God’s kingdom can truly be.

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Last day on the Border
Reflection by YAGM Nicole Garcia

On Saturday we met with representatives from 3 different organizations. First, in Green Valley we heard from 2 organizations that work on the border. The Samaritans make trips into the desert of Arizona looking for people in need of help. They leave tanks of water in the desert so that people crossing the border don’t die in the desert heat. The Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign is another organization whose main concern the environmental impact of a border wall/fence. Many laws that protect land and animals have already been broken in order to build fences and walls along the border, disrupting natural migration of animal populations and causing unnecessary changes in the environment along our southern border. Back in Tucson we met with Casa Mariposa Detention Visitation Program, a group who write letters to and visits women who are in the Eloy detention center in Arizona. We spent our last night at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church, visiting with Casa Mariposa members, including one woman who was detained, and then writing letters to the detainees for Valentine’s Day.

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Border Immersion: a time to process, reflect and rest
Reflection by YAGM Carlee Wood

The last bit of our journey, before arriving in Tucson for a final night, we spent time at Windsong Peace and Leadership Center in Patagonia, Arizona. This retreat center has a colorful history and we thoroughly enjoyed the sustainability practices (eco showers, composting toilets, and community garden - oh my!), delicious meals (the vegetarian and dairy free eaters in our group were very gr...ateful), beautiful landscapes, and stunning sunrises and sunsets that it boasts nowadays. We took time to unwind from a week of exploring the border and issues surrounding it, and were able to process and reflect upon all that we had learned; we hiked and hung out at the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Patagonia Lake State Park; we had a worship service and did "Ash Wednesday" together; and we dreamt about coming back to this magical place!

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Border Immersion: Closing our time with Frontera
Reflection by YAGM Meg McClure

This morning we went to have breakfast at C.A.M.E. (Centro de Atención al Migrante Exodus) in Agua Prieta, MX to eat with some of the migrants staying in the shelter and Linda, a mennonite woman devoted serving the migrants. We then crossed the border with privileged ease and walked less than 10 minutes from Linda's home in Douglas, US to the towering wall. There Linda talked about her and her hu...sband's practice of going to pray each morning and often with groups. For me the most important part of what she talked about was how intentional we need to be about not dehumanizing anyone with regards to border issues. Some people dehumanize the migrants fearing the drugs they bring, the potential terrorists, and the loss of jobs for US citizens. Others dehumanize the opposite way, blaming Border Patrol agents for their part in separating families, arresting people who worked so hard to make it that far, and the ever increasing death toll. Linda says that they are there to pray for everyone, for all who are caught up in this broken system. Wrapping up our time with Frontera de Cristo these were words I needed to hear.

After praying at the wall we made our way to the Douglas cemetary to view the headstones of the people who have died in the desert. Of those many were not labeled with any name, because the body was never identified. Linda told us that at first the headstones were engraved with the word Unknown and the date the body was discovered. But later, for Bibilical reasons, they changed it to Unidentified. Even if the body found is not identified, that person is known by their loved ones on either side of the border. No body is ever unknown. But many remain unidentified, their families and friends left to wonder for the rest of their lives what happened to their son, father, daughter, brother, aunt, friend. It tears at my heart thinking of the pain of not knowing the fate of someone important to me. It was a very sobering way to conclude our time in Douglas.

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Border Immersion-a day of hope and promise
Reflection by YAGM Tori Wilson

On Wednesday of the Border Immersion retreat (2/17/18) I woke up tired and with that desperate feeling of the world’s hurt being too big and the group of people being willing to sacrifice for that to change being too small.

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During our Border immersion trip, we were hosted by Frontera de Cristo, a bi-national Presbyterian border ministry in Douglas/Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora. FdC works to break down all kinds of barriers in their work including barriers of language, nationality, denomination and more, providing experiences of transformation, worship and understanding for all involved in their ministries. We were welcomed with open arms in homes, churches, shelters and on the street, as we ...explored the lens of immigration and its effect on communities on both sides of the border. Perhaps most importantly, we were reminded that the issues facing us along the border are not about us v them, they are our problems and opportunities to solve by working together, transcending nationalities and politics, as we recognize our own power and participation in systems of injustice. Only working together, following in Jesus’ steps to more fully fight for and create the kindom of God here and earth, can we move forward. Thanks to all who hosted us here, especially Pastor Mark Adams and Jocabed Gallegos, Frontera’s coordinators, as well as First Presbyterian Church in Douglas and Lirio de los Valles Iglesia Presbiteriana in Agua Prieta, and Isaac Badachi, Frontera intern and Vicky, Frontera’s new office manager for accompanying and guiding us through a transformative, eye opening and convicting week!

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Border Immersion Continues as we worship and refill water tanks...

On our first full day in Arizona, we joined with the congregation of San Juan Bautista for morning worship. This is a Spanish speaking, ELCA congregation located in Tucson. For me, this worship service was the best way to start off our trip. In this trip, a lot of what we learned showed how united and close-knit the two sides of the border are, and how it is more than just a wall that separates us. With this c...

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An interesting article about the delicate balance between climate change, economic and political stability, and immigration.

Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.

Do you know what the Dream Act is?
Do you know what the DACA program is and what its status is now?
If not, take a look at United We Dream:, one of the largest youth led networks working to protect undocumented young people and their families through advocacy, legislation and community organizing. In the months since Trump killed the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, over 200,000 young people have lost protection from being deported and on March 5th, more will begin losing protection due to the expiration of their DACA status.

With a driving force of more than 400,000 members and an online reach of over 4,000,000 across the nation, we envision a society based on human dignity that celebrates our all our communities.