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House-building trip to 'other side'

A Massachusetts church youth group calls border ministry in Mexico an 'eye-opener.'
By Staff Writer
Fall 2005 8.15.05

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Much more than a house got built when a Massachusetts UU youth group went to Mexico. Eleven youth and five adult advisors from the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church did in fact build a much-needed house in Juarez for a single mother and her three children.

But that was only the start. When the Melrose group knew it could make the trip it contacted director of religious education Janet Kincaid at the 100-member Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso. What began as a courtesy call resulted in an enthusiastic relationship between the two groups.

And now there’s another development. The El Paso congregation, whose members are engaged daily in the fight against the oppression of Latinos/Latinas, has decided to open its doors to other UU groups who want to come to the border for social justice work.

When the Melrose group arrived in February, the El Paso congregation provided home hospitality and meals and arranged educational opportunities so the youth would be better prepared for their trip across the border. Those opportunities included a presentation by an 18-year-old refugee from Honduras, and a discussion led by a Catholic missionary about what the youth were going to experience and how they might feel about it.

When the Massachusetts group went home, El Paso co-ministers the Revs. LoraKim Joyner and Meredith Garmon met with Kincaid and the congregation and decided to create a “border ministry,” which will host other UU groups.

“This was something we’d been wanting to do for quite some time,” said Kincaid, who is also a literacy teacher in the El Paso public schools. “We’d love to help other groups have this experience. We saw how this trip impacted the lives of the youth who participated.”

Melrose Director of Religious Education Anne Principe said a group from the church hopes to return next year. “We made strong connections to people not only in Juarez, but with Unitarian Universalists in El Paso who shared the reality of their region with us. We are grateful for their hospitality and support.”

When the Melrose group returned home it led a worship service. “Experiencing what everyday life is like for people born on the ‘other side’ was an eye-opener,” said Mel Shaw, 17. “It made me realize that even if we own nothing in this world, what we share from our hearts is worth more than anything you could buy.”

For more information about the El Paso program, contact Kincaid at uucep@huntleigh.net.

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