*On the week of November 3-10, I was part of the group of Albuquerque YAVs who travelled to Tucson, Arizona, where we met up with other Young Adult Volunteers serving in both Tucson, Arizona and Austin, Texas. As a collaborative effort, we dedicated our entire week to learning, engaging, and exploring systemic issues of fronteras (borders) and how we are complacent to these fronteras in our daily lives.
Along with the guidance and passion of ‘Frontera de Cristo’ (Presbyterian border ministry), we travelled to Douglas, Arizona and crossed el muro (the border wall) into Agua Prieta, Mexico. For 3 days and 2 nights, we visited many places, met many people, and continuously reflected on our role in both the symptoms and systems violently constructed and enforced.
I will attempt to tell the story of my journey during this time through the best way I know how, which includes plenty of symbolism around butterflies. I understand, however, that events I describe are limited to my own perspectives and barely scratch the surface of the convoluted complexities of el muro.*
I invite you to read, question, and listen for the Divine in stories I describe below.
In order to begin my stories with the butterfly, in which God presents Herself to me in simple, yet profound moments, I would like to rewind back to a particular occurrence during the week of YAV Orientation in Stony Point, New York. In the midst of this jam-packed and transformative week, Taylor, Audrey, Tali and I decided to entertain our curiosities and dedicate a few minutes for exploration around the Stony Point property. We strolled along a miniature path which led into the woods and continued along this trail. The trail twisted through the trees and brought us to an old cemetery seemingly tucked away, protected by forest and hidden from afar. The four of us, intrigued by this discovery, began to explore the site. Taylor and I started walking together, peering at headstones and spotting pretty flowers, when suddenly a butterfly flew right through my field of vision, fluttering by to an unknown destination. Feeding my desire to learn every bit of Spanish I am able to remember, I proceeded to ask Taylor the question, “Como se dice ‘butterfly’ en espanol?” in which Taylor replies with, “Mariposa”. ‘Mariposa’, I thought, ‘What a beautiful word for this lovely creature.’
The ‘butterfly thread’ begins its unraveling with this story. Reflecting back on this moment in my life, I remember feeling the anticipation of longing to leave the comforting, soft sands of suburbia and eagerly dive head-first into pounding, vast waters of the unknown. My eyes remained steadily shut, as I prepared to protect myself from the crashing waves of whatever lay ahead. I would soon learn, and am still learning, however, that as long as I keep my eyes closed, all that I am will never truly leave the comfort of the sand. In order to swim in the living waters of God, I must embrace both the pain and beauty that comes from keeping my eyes wide open.
Mariposa. God has a unique way of letting us know She is present in all places, nudging us to dive deeply into living waters of the unknown, eyes-wide-open and all.
Three months came and went before the next synchronistic encounter happens with the butterfly, continuing this ‘thread’ of events which somehow connect through this symbolism . The Albuquerque and Tucson YAVs are joined together around a rectangular table located in a small office space in Tucson, Arizona. We had just finished watching a documentary on Detention Centers, which briefly introduced the crude, sinister operations contributing to their existence. Alison, the Tucson YAV site coordinator, began us on our next task by introducing the organization ‘Casa Mariposa’, described as “a space of solidarity and support for people affected by the immigration-prison industrial complex.” Alison then proceeded to scatter notecards and pens around the table, prompting us with the task of writing letters to people currently imprisoned in Detention Centers. In order to best introduce ourselves in the letters, we began our greetings as ‘friends of Casa Mariposa’.
As people around the table started to pass notecards and pens to one another, my mind slowly spiraled away from this moment, entering into flashbacks with the mariposa which happened to catch my eye during the week of orientation. Invisible lines of connection between these two moments burst forth, while understanding and gratitude ignited within me. Struck by awe and reverence, I felt God present Herself before me in these places through the symbol of the mariposa.
Snapping back to my current space around the table, I became hyper-aware of the presence of God connecting all people together in this moment. Here, as we gather around the table, we share our insecurities, our sins, and our complacencies to this ego-fueled empire designed selectively for the dominant, white center; Yet God, who intentionally intertwined our spirits to dwell together in this place, is beaming with radiant Love as we attempt to swim together through the low, dark depths of the Living Waters.
As God continues to present Herself in seemingly simplistic moments through the mariposa, the last major ‘God Spark’ takes place during an especially powerful moment in Mexico. With the guidance of Frontera de Cristo, the YAVs and I travelled to both sides of el muro.
Beginning my story in Douglas, Arizona, the YAVs and I are huddled around Mark, the coordinator of Frontera de Cristo, after exiting the van which drove us along the dirt path located directly next to el muro. As we gaze along both sides of us, el muro continues to expand into the mountains and desert, guided next to the wide dirt path created for border control to monitor and high-speed chase any sign of movement or life. “This is your wall,” Mark clarifies to us, as atrocities of trauma, suffering, and death lie the only realities that continue to thrive around el muro. “Hold on to your wall, sit with your wall, and think about the walls in your own mind that willed this physical barrier to exist.” And so we stood, grasping at the cold, metal bars, while border control slowly drove by and eventually disappeared into the distance. We were seemingly not seen as ‘dangerous’ or ‘threatening’ enough to question our whereabouts.
After all, this is our wall.
Three days later, the YAVs and I are scattered around the sidewalk of a bustling city, some of us deciding to sit on benches and write in our journals, while others of us gaze and contemplate the profound artwork painted on el muro, which sits directly next to us in Agua Prieta, Mexico. Mesmerized by a specific image painted on el muro, I seat myself on a bench facing this image, and begin to pray. Here, God shows Herself again, prevailing through the looming barriers of Her canvas that is el muro. My eyes fixate on the mariposa wall, while hope and beauty begins to radiate through this image. In the midst of tension created through the political and societal climate surrounding me, it is as if this painter brought to life a certain passage from the bible:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
“Bethany, you had a God Spark,” my roommate exclaims as I attempt to vocally recapture the synchronistic moments with the butterfly to her.
As God continues to spark my life with imagery and symbolism such as the mariposa, I challenge you, the reader, to open your heart and feel where, and how, ‘God sparks’ Her magic in your life.
Please, share with me what you find.
I would love to hear from you.