Archive – Page 2

Genealogy and Immigration, a reflection by Winton Boyd

632de6a08e8a34adb516df817dc1dbb1This reflection was written after a presentation to our Over 55 luncheon group by Joyce Nigbor, a member of ORUCC.


I sat in the back, listening to the presenter tell story after story of her work with genealogy. She’s traced her own history, her husband’s history and even friend with Norwegian heritage. She thought she was mostly German, about her DNA test revealed there her background was actually more British, with a wee bit of Middle Eastern and Asian roots. She told of unknown family stories discovered and lost relatives reconnected. As she finished, members of the audience told their stories as well.

Adoptees finding biological siblings.

Biological families discovering children given up for adoption.

Secretive stories emerging in funeral records, newspaper accounts and anecdotal stories.

Anecdotes of strangers reaching out for information and family puzzles being solved.

Behind all of the branches on the family tree, known and unknown, lay the stories of the human heart. Stories of quest and adventure, escape and survival, family loved and family lost. Beneath the points on a map where distant relatives ‘landed’ are places from which they came. Some came out of curiosity. Some were forced out or brought here against there will. Some came to escape violence or poverty. Beneath the trajectory of their journeys on a map lies the story of migration and love. Opportunity and hope. Desire, persistence, rejection, welcome.

I couldn’t help but realize that all of these stories existed because someone welcomed them to a new country, and new plot of farmland, or a new tenement house. The welcome wasn’t perfect by any means. But, I couldn’t help but realize that the make up our families, our communities, our places of work, education, and worship exists because there has been the freedom of movement. However hard, however treacherous, and despite the loss of millions to disease, drowning, violence or starvation – the land and the era provided enough open space in the heart, and room to roam for the feet.

Immigration is not about others coming to take our jobs or our state benefits. Immigration is our story, then and now. Immigration is who we have been, and who we are. It shapes our understanding of family and it defines our religious faith; it shapes our schools and our streets. It is our coming and our going; indeed it is the place on which we stand in the present.

Immigrants are not “them.” They are “us.” What differs is the name of our old country or countries; but we all have one. What differs are our surnames and our family’s native languages, but again, we all have them. History asks us if we will seek to continue that welcome, and in so doing, honor who we are as members of an ever moving human family.

Honoring the Voiceless – Reflections from a Borderlands Immersion Trip, April 19th


A drawing of the courtroom during “Operation Streamline.” Because photos were not allowed, Paul Hedges captured this in his notebook.


We invited 4 members of our traveling group to share from the experience of our Borderlands Immersion Trip.  Our trip was sponsored by Borderlinks.

The first clip features Laura Kolden speaking about faith in the midst of fear and Deb Holbrook reflecting on how her own salvation is tied to the salvation of others and how this trip raised her conviction level to be more involved in prison issues.

Laura Kolden reflection;

Deb Holbrook’s Borderland Reflection;


The second clip features Joyce Pohl expressing gratitude for ‘Samaritans’ and her desire to aid those in need and Paul Hedges offering a clear eyed description of “Operation Streamline” which strips those seeking entry into the USA of their humanity.

Joyce Pohl’s Borderlands Reflection;

Paul Hedges Borderland reflection


Our service closed with a litany written by Ruthanne Landsness and Winton Boyd

Visualize an aging cement block building about the size of a single garage with a Mexican flag outside. The building is located within a block of the US-Mexican border, set back from the street by a lawn of sand and rock. Inside is a desk, a few officials, and some boxes of clothing. Outside are two rows of benches facing one another. Our group sat on one set of benches; Ruthanne and two men, broken in spirit and body, sat on the other. Their names were Alfredo and Antonio. We were asked not to take pictures.

We asked, “Would you would tell us about your life? Where are you from? Where did you go? What did you do? How long were you in the United States? (Spanish interpretation)

You said you were from southern Mexico and crossed to the United States to earn money for your families. You said you made your way to Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky, working in the tobacco fields and installing sprinklers on golf courses. You traveled in vans through the night, lived in safe houses in St. Louis, were in constant fear of deportation. You worked in the United States for 14 years. Children of God, we remember you…

Sung Response: Through our lives and by our prayers, your Kingdom come.

We asked, “Then what happened?” (Spanish interpretation)

You told us of raids, of being grabbed and shackled, of being imprisoned; being dropped off in Mexico, in the middle of the night, by Border Patrol guards, not knowing where you were, fearful of being caught by the cartels.

We asked about your families. What’s next? (Spanish interpretation)

You told us that you are no longer in contact with your family. You took off your glasses. As you wept, you said that you could no longer work, because you could no longer see well. The first thing you needed was some medical care. Children of God, we remember you…

Sung Response: Through our lives and by our prayers, your Kingdom come.

We shared a prayer, we said goodbye. You walked up the road. We drove away. We remember you, Alfredo and Antonio. You are no longer nameless. We pray for you and all those who are caught in the complex web of poverty, laws, and borders. Children of God, we remember you…

Sung Response: Through our lives and by our prayers, your Kingdom come.


Previous materials from this trip

A reflection written by Marv Beatty – Border Story 2

The Layering of Love – A sermon preached by Winton Boyd on April 12

group in nogales

“To Me and My Family, This is the North” – A First Reflection on our Borderlands Immersion Trip

group in nogales

Borderlands Immersion group: Grace Dover, Paul Hedges, Kim Kaspar, Marv Beatty, Laura Kolden, Cecelia Lopez, Deb Holbrook, Ruthanne Landsness, Winton Boyd, Joyce Pohl


by Winton Boyd

From February 22 -28, 8 of us from ORUCC and Salem UCC in Verona traveled to Arizona for a Border Immersion trip, hosted by a non profit educational institution, Borderlinks.

In April, we’ll be offering some more formal opportunities to share our collective thoughts and prayers, but I wanted to begin that process with a few initial reflections.  I was delighted to be part of the ‘delegation’ and appreciated the contributions and insights of each one of my travel mates.  Our time was filled with learning, crying, praying, laughing, eating, wondering, and asking questions.

We met with people who are undocumented workers (from Mexico), with those seeking to help undocumented people gain legal status, with lawyers and legal aides who work alongside undocumented people in detention centers, with a representative from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and with church people seeking to support workers and provide sanctuary for those in danger of being deported.  We met Mexican families in Nogales, Sonora (across the border from Nogales, AZ) and shared an overnight stay in their homes.  We walked on the Mexican side of the border wall, prayed at a makeshift shrine to a young 16 year old Mexican who was shot by the US Border Patrol, and visited two migrant resource centers in that same city.

A backpack found in the desert near Green Valley, AZ, probably left by a fleeing migrant.

A backpack found in the desert near Green Valley, AZ, probably left by a fleeing migrant.


We learned many things, chief among them that our immigration policies with our neighbors to the south are complicated and hard to navigate.  We appreciated the stories we heard from so many people because they helped put faces and names to an ‘issue’ that is overwhelming and over politicized.  While our hearts were broken open by the challenges and trials of people trying to make something of their life, we were also left with many questions about what a sensible approach to immigration might look like.

Joyce Pohl, Deb Holbrook and Ruthanne Landsness with their overnight host, Blanca and her son in Nogales, Mexico

Joyce Pohl, Deb Holbrook and Ruthanne Landsness with their overnight host, Blanca and her son in Nogales, Mexico

One voice that impacted me was that of Lupe Castillo, a retired history professor who is also part of an effort called Keep Tucson Together.  In an office filled with applications for young people seeking legal status, she reminded us that what most of us in the United States consider the wide open southwest has been known and experienced by her family and ancestors as the ‘north.’  She reviewed for us the habitation patterns for the area known today as northern Mexico and southwestern United States; beginning with indigenous peoples, then the Spanish, then the Mexicans and only recently, “Americans.” She encouraged us to consider the many layers of history that inform that part of the world as we consider what borders mean and how they should be viewed.

For most of history, the ‘border’ has remained invisible and people moved back and forth all the time. She also reminded us that all throughout our history as a country, efforts to define the ‘true American’ have troubled our souls.  Ben Franklin didn’t want to allow Germans to immigrate.  New immigrants from the ‘original sending countries’ of Northern Europe didn’t want to allow Italians or Russian Jews.  What we see in our country today is not new.


KINO Border Initiative Migrant Center in Nogales with a depiction of the Last Supper


Some of us on the trip have been very involved in our local Southwest Partnership and saw similar patterns and struggles among Mexican and Central American immigrants and our African American neighbors here in Madison.  Migration of all kinds seems to stem from a desire for a better life; be it an escape from poverty, violence or both.  We experienced again the desire of families or individuals to start anew and to make their claim on the resources of employment, adequate housing, and a safe living environment.

Arriving at our host homes in Nogales, Sonora (Mexico)


On our trip, it was helpful to remember that sometime in each of our own family histories, a similar impulse brought our ancestors here to this country.  Some in our group know that trek first hand, but most of it have only heard stories from parents and grandparents.  Unfortunately, it is easy to lose touch with both the courage it took to migrate and the power and privilege that come with generational stability.

I come back to my own home pondering what it means to be human and neighbors?  I reflect again on how it is that I can live with the security I do, knowing that it is only the luck of geography that separates me from most of the men and women currently in detention for ‘illegal entry.’  As a child of God, my heart ‘broke open’ several times as I pondered both the beauty and tragedy of human life.  I cringed with anger and sadness at what my government does to people in the name of national security.  I marveled and was humbled by the efforts of people of faith (Green Valley/Sahaurita Samaritans, Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, Kino Border Project) who are giving time, energy, and resources to aid and support human beings stuck in the middle of this ‘immigration issue.’

I look forward to a chance for others in our group to share pictures and stories as we continue to process what this means for us individually and as a congregation.

Winton Boyd with Borderlinks hosts Cecelia Lopez (left) and Grace Dover (right). The Border Wall is in the background.


All the photos on this page were taken by Paul Hedges.

Who Is My Neighbor – Interviews with 4 Southwest Neighbors

As part of our Southwest Partnership, we’ve been getting to know other leaders and activists in our wider Southwest Madison neighborhoods.  On Sunday, March 9, we had a chance to hear stories from four Southwest Madison neighbors. Here are links to their videos.  Short biographies of each of them are below.

Tamar Pardee and Charly Jordan

Sheray Wallace and Tutanhkomen Assad

Tamar Pardee lives in the Hammersley neighborhood, where she has raised her family.  She is an active member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on Gammon Road.  Along with one of our Southwest Partners, Kim Neuschel of Dane County/Madison Public Health, and many others, she has been an active supporter of events and issues in the Hammersley neighborhood.  This includes the development of a neighborhood house on Teresa Terrace.  She has been instrumental in two vigils/marches in the Falk School area in recent years.

Charly Jordan currently lives in the Meadowood neighborhood.  She is on the board of directors at the Lussier Community Center near Memorial High School.  Jim Frymark and Winton Boyd serve on a Economic Development Workgroup for Southwest Madison that Charly chairs.  She has been an active member of the Southwest Madison Community Organizers, supporting and promoting events in both the Meadowood and Hammersley neighborhoods.  She also works at HyVee at Odana and Whitney Way. 

Sheray Wallace lives in the Meadowood Neighborhood.  She has been active with the Southwest Community Organizers, has helped organize community suppers for all residents in the Meadowood Neighborhood, organized a peace march that included many ORUCC members in the Hammersley neighborhood in 2013, and has hosted a ‘summit’ on violence for teenagers.   She currently works at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) and is a personal care attendant for a number of people.

Tutankhamun Assad (Assa) lives in the Meadowood Neighborhood.  He describes himself as a ‘concerned father.”  Assa started the Mellowood Foundation, which sponsors athletic opportunities and mentoring for young children in Southwest Madison.  He and John Wroten organized a citywide summer flag football program last year based out of several community centers.  Barb Hummel helped Assa write a grant for additional funds for this coming summer.  He works at GE Medical and at West High School as a basketball coach.