Archive for Desmund Tutu

Irony in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , on 09/09/2009 by mattlindsey

Dear Child of God, if we are truly to understand that God loves all of us, we must recognize that He loves our enemies, too. God does not share our hatred, no matter what the offense we have endured.

Desmund Tutu

Irony in the Desert

Still not sure how Chris sniped this photo; comes with his tactical training, I suppose. Anyhow, this is one of my favorite shots of the summer. It is a sad manifestation of the dilemma in Ciudad Juarez: Guns vs. Peace. A city crying out for hope, submerged, but rising up from beneath a heavy layer of bullets, blood and boots.


Fatally Comfortable

Posted in Life in Juarez, Matt and Misty Lindsey with tags , , , on 02/11/2009 by mistylindsey

All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.

-Irresistible Revolution

In my research to find statistics for what is really going on here in this bloody city, the most dangerous city in Mexico which seems to be fighting for the top spot in the world as well, I ran across a humorous, yet sad article about the lethargy, the pacifism of one of the safest cities in the US, just across the border from it’s fatal opposite. In short, it found in studies that there was a significant amount of lithium in the water supply which was apparently sedating the city. Who knows if this was true, but it made me think about how this same lithium affect seems to be running rampant in our American society today. It seems to have crept up on us and we don’t even realize it. I wonder, if someone did a study of our water across America, what would they find? What are we being sedated by? Are we overdosing on the false hopes of the American dream? Is it our own placidity that has come to be the drug we cannot live without? We have been slowly hypnotized into a coma by the singsong lullaby of our culture, little by little becoming addicted to our own type of lithium.

We have successfully constructed so many layers of separation between our lives and the anguish of the majority of the world that it is difficult to feel the pain of those so desperately hurting. We’ve effectively padded our lives with the soft feathers of opulence and we are scared to ruffle even one of them, petrified of the uncertainty that lay outside. How can we possibly take on the pain of the world when it would overwhelm and crush us? We know that things must be different and we cry out for change, but if we are frank with ourselves do we really want change? How many of us could honestly say, “I am going to give my vacation savings to the homeless family downtown”, or “I will take a cut in pay so others can keep their jobs”. We must wake up and do something, whether we know what that something is or not; and if we don’t, and we choose to go back to our beautiful houses and storybook lives, and barricade ourselves in to our safety with chains of fear and despair, who is it that is truly dying? When we are able to open our eyes to the pain of those around us, when we begin to feel through all of the layers, the desperate pain of the world, we are compelled to do something to help.

So often when people hear about the suffering in our world, they feel guilty, but rarely does guilt actually motivate action like empathy or compassion. Guilt paralyzes and causes us to deny and avoid what is making us feel guilty. The goal is to replace our guilt with generosity. We all have a natural desire to help and to care, and we simply need to allow ourselves to give from our love without self-reproach. We each must do what we can. This is all that God asks of us.

-Desmond Tutu

So after living here for eight months, we are still trying to wipe that familiar sleep from our eyes and to find what the something is for us. We are adjusting to this very different life and culture, and trying to figure out how to make our voices heard as we speak out for the marginalized multitude. We sometimes feel overwhelmed by the need, shattered by the pain and hopelessness swirling around us, and desperate to have hands to hold through this process, but this is our “something”. Every day we will wake up and do something, and eventually we will have ushered in freedom, beauty and life to this country, an ocean of water to this parched desert, even if it is drop by drop. We know that this burden is too big for us to bear alone; it gets a little lighter as more and more people decide to carry it together.


Seven Months in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , , on 01/29/2009 by mattlindsey

The history of Mexico is the history of a man seeking his parentage, his origins. He has been influenced at one time or another by France, Spain, the United States and the militant indigenists of his own country, and he crosses history like a jade comet, now and then giving off flashes of lightning. What is he pursuing in his eccentric course? He wants to go back beyond the catastrophe he suffered: he wants to be a sun again, to return to the center of that life from which he was separated one day.

Octavio Paz

Seven months ago I was not talking like this;  I was not writing like this. Of course, seven months ago I did not live in the so-called “Murder Capital of Mexico”. Maybe you all should not have sent us down here. I could still be tooling around with a saw and  a hammer and following Chad up routes that are way over my head on the weekends. I could be finishing the flagstone on my endless landscaping project, or buying dented cans and cheap coconut oil from the ‘weird store’. I could be skiing, maybe in some new AT setup or at least enjoying a mid mountain ale. 

Instead, I am looking out my barred window at razor-wire and trying to convince folks back home to join us here in the desert. 80 Mexicans have been killed in our tormented city since January 1. 13 over the weekend. Add that to the estimated 1600 in 2008. In 2007, there where less than 400 murders in the city, and it was a record number. The military and Federal Police have made the entrance to our patio a consistent parking spot for their Hummers and Pick-ups so that they can conduct their coerced searches. I was working in our future garden a few days ago with Cesar, our 10 year old neighbor and friend, when the convoy set up a check point just outside the gate. El Toro and El Lobo had been lazily and innocently enjoying their Mezcal and juice in the sun across the street. The soldiers, with the help of the Feds, rushed over to my inebriated amigos and stood them up, and obliged them to put their hands against the wall and spread their feet apart. This was nothing new for the Bull and the Wolf and I was impressed with their calm cooperation. At the same time, other soldiers were shaking down the ‘Yonke’ (Junk Yard/Car Parts/Mechanics) across the street. Nothing new for those cats either. The dissatisfied raid ended with the captain forcefully grabbing each hand of their detainees and pulling their fingers up to his nose hoping to smell residue from a ‘rooster'(marijuana cigarette). Nope. Innocent they were. The military searched a few cars, then the captain whistled to his men, pointed his forefinger to the empty blue sky and made a whirling motion, all the men jumped in their trucks and they zoomed away. I will never forget Cesar saying to me after the convoy was gone, “I cannot wait until things are normal again.” Yesterday Misty and I were eating breakfast at our kitchen table while we watched the soldiers running around outside again. What is ‘normal’ for Mexico?

Still want to come to the desert? Still think that we should be here? There is a lively debate taking place about the stability of the country, some are saying that Mexico could easily become a failed state. “Experts” from around the globe are calling the streets of Juarez a no-man’s land. The mayor of Juarez is supposedly living in El Paso. All U.S. soldiers are banned from partying in Tiajuana and Juarez. But I am not super concerned with experts making such claims, especially if they have never spent much time in this city, and our soldiers should probably stay home anyway and rest up for a new war or play cards in their barracks. What has me concerned are all of the aid organizations, churches, and well known ministries that are pulling out of the city. Without these groups who have historically lead in the struggle to bring peace, hope, and opportunity to this city, there is something very powerful missing.

Being present in a dark situation is a powerful tool. Imagine what Gaza would be like without aid workers. Imagine what Darfur would be like without peacekeepers. Recoiling from the situation, closing up our homes, putting up fences, and giving in to fear only empowers that which we are fighting against. Like Desmund Tutu says in God Has a Dream, “The statistics are discouraging and can be numbing. Only when we remember that the people in each statistic could be a member of our family, ARE members of our human family, do these statistics come to life. When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing despair and guilt that festers under our numbness. We clean the wound, our own and others, and it can finally heal.” I wrote this same statement as  a comment on a recent internet article posted by an El Paso blogger called Border Explorer. She posted her article on the All Voices site writing about the start of the New Year in Juarez where, the first day, three people were killed. I cannot help but feel that gnawing idealism creeping on again when I talk like this. I mean, how much philosophizing can we do before something actually gets done around here?

Seven months in and I am still stoked to be here. As much as I would like to be in the mountains, with all the richness and familiarity of my life in Colorado, this is where I am supposed to be. This is where God is waking me up, schooling me, breaking my heart for the things that break his, bringing my spirit to life in a way that I could never have imagined. Ironically, in this city where there is so much death running rampant, in this desert, I am coming alive.

Razor Wire

In the Mud

Posted in Life in Juarez with tags , , , on 12/07/2008 by mmlindsey

If your religion is one in which you are not required to change the way you live your life, it is one God rejects.

~Desmund Tutu

We left Ciudad Juarez a few weeks ago and I was  feeling a bit thrashed, like I’d been trying to run uphill against the wind. Questions like, “Really, just what am I doing here?” have rattled around my bloated skull, interrogating my ambition. The work ahead in this tiny speck of a neighborhood, forced up against the dry thorny mountains of Ciudad Juarez, this prickly little cactus of a colonia, often feels unconquerable. In the colonia lies a pile of need, stress, and pain, so high that it clouds the air like the dust blowing in from the obtrusive desolation around us. The despair is difficult to escape, so I have to be intentional about it. And not wanting to drown in a black sludgy sea of endless pity, I am impelled to explore the hiss and mummer of words like  hope and change.

Somedays I feel like an ignorant young man fighting for ideals and innovation, which feels more like I am spinning my wheels in the slimy mud. What am I doing here in Ciudad Juarez? What is this buzz-word called hope? Why am I asking all these people for money? Is it all really in vain? Can I make a difference?  Recently, I was told that I have this ambition because I am young, and that one day I will realize that I cannot make much difference. Really? Is it true that upon approaching a mature age, all of this moxie and fortitude will turn into the soft and sophisticated placidness of a seasoned man? I know that I am young and at times a bit idealistic, but I am choosing not to fall into the traditional rut that says, “this is how it goes…” or “this is how I have to live…” I am amazed that the children of God are the ones that seem to despair the most. The ones that in reality hold the hope for a future generation, the ones that have the ability to bring real change are the ones easily lulled by the heretical, dismal gloom-and-doom talk. Desmond Tutu said that we are, “agents of transformation”, Jesus said that we should pray the “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, now, as it is in Heaven.” I am searching for a better way, and the best part is that I am not alone. There are millions of people that are turning their faces towards God with a fresh perspective, and with this comes a new horizon and an untouched landscape.

Not long ago, our friend Todd posted these words of encouragement. He was writing about faith that holds its ground against all odds.

 …So, is that what faith looks like? I don’t know. I do know that my faith doesn’t look like a dusty, old manuscript still sitting on my desk after 5 years of writing and nearly 50 rejections anymore, and that it does look a little more like the first installment of what God has just begun in me…

We settle. We get tired. We love tradition so much that we are going to line our coffins in it, lay down and crumble into the dust from which we came. It is our comforting blanket, our reason to stay home. Change is uncomfortable and greasy. It can be a psychedelic whirlwind of dirty, scary, ugly, painful, lovely, and good feelings. Different can scare the crap out of us. Moving to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico was and is like that. And though I love change very much, this one was like trying to swallow a cinderblock. I have had to stand back, step away from the illuminated pain and agony, and gaze at the whole and what can be. Trash and dust, forsaken young men running from the police, mangy dogs, families living under  sagging and saturated tar paper, malnourished little boys buying drugs for their parents, dissatisfied soldiers holding assault rifles; all are snapshots of a beautiful abstract composition: the aggregate of life in Juarez. These snapshots stand and live next to the overwhelming radiant color of young people playing soccer late into the night, 400 children eating a scrumptious meal, the richness of passing time with friends and family, eating tacos and elotes on the street corner.

Change does not mean that one has to pick up and move to Mexico, or even across the street. It looks so different for everyone. Our stories are different and as a whole they make up a sensational bouquet and each individual story is like a complex flower. And because life has ended up, turned out, or gone a certain way for so many people, I do not want to live with an expectation of less. I want to really live. I might fail, it might not turn out like I had hoped or even made up in my head, I just don’t want to stop the fight. 




Here is a link to an NPR report about our crazy city:

 Economy, Drug Wars Hurt Cross-Border Business


Palo Chino's Future

Palo Chino's Future

On our way to the kitchen.

Moon Setting in Palo Chino