Day Six: Native Peoples


A mural found in the plaza of the Tohono O'odham reservation depicting a popular Papago legend, The Man In The Maze

Quote of the day:  "We didn't cross the border.  The border crossed us."  Yaqui saying

Today we journeyed to two different indiginous tribes. We started by waking up in our amazing hotel room and going to breakfast. We left around 9:00 and drove to the San Xavier del Bac Mission – Tohono O’odham Reservation. There we took a tour of the 17th century Spanish mission and parts of their museum. We saw the beautiful façade on the outside of the church and the amazing sculptures at the altar. We learned about some of their traditions including San Xavier. People will buy a milagro (small medal charm) and pin it on San Xavier’s clothes, after lifting his head three times. The milagro is a form of a healing prayer.

Next, we went to some of the stores on the reservation and ate lunch at a great taco café on the reservation. Rev. Debbie Royals, Canon Missioner for Native Ministries for the Diocese of Arizona, was our guide for the day. Debbie told us about the relationship and friendliness of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe culture. The tribe is all about giving not taking. She told us they don’t own any possessions, nothing is yours but everyone’s to share.

After lunch we visited Debbie’s village, Old Pascua, the center of life for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Angel, of the Yaqui Tribe, told us about their enhanced tribal card program, created by the tribe’s Information Technology and Enrollment departments for tribe members to cross the border more easily. Their work was so impressive that other tribes have asked for their help to create cards for their own nations. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe works with several other tribes around the us to create more of these cards. The cards let tribe members, that are U.S. citizens, cross the border through land and water.

Something that really stood out to us was that most of what is being publicized is talking about migrants and the boarder situation in Mexico, when an additional story that needs to be told is how families and tribes are being split by the AZ and MX boarder.

We really enjoyed learning about a perspective of the issue that is not usually depicted in the media. Tomorrow we are heading to Phoenix to talk to places that work in migrant advocacy! We can’t wait!! 

Preparations: Meghan

As I am preparing to go on this pilgrimage with the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA), I remind myself that I will be with all of my friends and familiar people, as my biggest concerns are having to meet with new people and having to speak in public. I am looking forward to being able to see how others outside of my community live, discover all of their struggles and the journeys that they have had and to be able to experience all of these things with them. Their “best” may not be the same as what we perceive as being great. Our lives are not nearly as hard as theirs, but they feel happy and are grateful for what they already have. Many of us often do not feel the way that they do  in the United States, and I feel that we expect too many things to be handed to us when others have to work hard so that they are able to earn what they need in order for them to survive. I am very excited to observe and learn about how people deal with the circumstances life throws at them. I feel that this will help me to become more grateful for what I already have and give me more strength and confidence to go outside of my comfort zone. Through this journey and with the support of my peers, I choose to let go of my fear of public speaking and know that I will be able find the right words and my use of my voice. One thing I will be keeping in the back of my mind is that “Happiness comes from Hopefulness”.

~Meghan, St. James, Amesbury

Preparations: Emily

In order to respond to God's call on the Arizona/ Mexico trip, I need to let go of any nerves I may have. Worrying about small things in the craziness of traveling will not give me any help in connecting to God and the people of Arizona and Mexico. In fact, it will only bring stress to me and other members of the team, making the trip a negative experience. Any factor that could distract me in communicating better during this trip is one that I would like to leave behind. Nerves can result in feelings that I don't want the trip to be associated with. In order to make sure that nerves do not take part in the mission trip, I need prayers. So before the trip, it needs to be prayed that everyone will remain calm and happy (instead of nervous and stressed). Also, another prayer I would love for others to take part in before the trip is that our group will not get caught up in the panic of traveling and will try our best to communicate with others and God. Doing this will not only make our trip better, but affect us for the rest of our lives by giving us a better relationship with God and his people. All these prayers will result in a fun, educational trip that will stay with all of the YLA members forever.

- Emily, St. Paul's, Lynnfield

Preparations: Autumn

As I prepare to go on this pilgrimage I need to leave behind my anxiety. That will be difficult since anxiety is a mental illness and something I can not just get rid of. For this trip I want to fully embrace God's call for me by putting my anxiety to the side. I want to experience this trip in the best way possible without stressing too much about every little thing. I need to leave my overthinking and stressing in Massachusetts as we embark for Arizona. On this trip I want to listen and understand other people's stories. I want to spend time with these girls, who are the best friends I could ever ask for. I want to have a great time and understand others' experiences. I want my perspective on life to change in a good way. To do all these things i will need to try my hardest to manage my anxiety for this trip and give my all to follow God's call for me. On this trip I will not let anxiety restrict me or my experience in Arizona and Mexico. I want to let go of overthinking about getting sick, overthinking about speaking my mind, and overthinking about where we are going. I need to let go of these things and manage my anxiety to follow God on this trip and be my true self.I hope my friends and family can pray for me on this trip. I hope they pray for me while I battle my anxiety on the trip. I hope they pray and believe that I can get over it. I also hope everyone prays for the other girls and the struggles they are facing too going into this trip. With these things in mind i will experience this trip in the best possible way and live life to the fullest.


- Autumn, Grace Church, New Bedford

Preparing: Claire

As I delve deeper into my faith during this time of elongated prayer, there will be several things I will wish to leave behind. I plan on leaving the items, both physically and through thought, that would hold back my learning of faith on this week long trip to Mexico and Arizona. Physically, I plan on leaving behind my cell phone, which would take away from the experiences of beauty, and distract me from living in the moment. However, I still want memories to be made, so I will be bringing a camera. Leaving this behind, I am hoping that the negative views I have been given by the media will stay in the back of my mind. Leaving this behind, I hope to understand what these people are going through, because they must also have hardships. This connects to the media because news and online social lives are what feed us the information about the border. We also truly have no idea how people on the border live. We again only hear horror stories about life on the border, but this could be incorrect. There could be beauty and happiness there, but we cannot see it because of everything we hear, and do not see. Lastly, I want to be able to live in the moment. This is something I have trouble with. My mind always wanders ahead, and I want to be able to keep a clear head and understand what is happening in the moment. I hope God can help me with those things, and guide me and my friends along our journey.

- Claire, Grace Church, New Bedford

Preparations: Jenna

There are many things I need to let go of, both figurative and literal, in order to fully respond to God’s call to me. However, there is one that I believe is the most important. One thing that I always struggle with is being self-conscious. I am constantly worried what other people think and how they see me. Do they find me annoying? Am I being too shy? Do I seem weird? All these thoughts will cloud my mind and I think I need to be able to let go of this feeling of constantly being judged. I know that my fellow YLAers will not be judging me and neither will the new people we meet. In fact most people will be too focused on worried about being judged, like me, that they won’t have time to be the ones doing the judging. I need to let go of these worries to fully immerse myself into this mission trip experience. If I can let go of the nagging thoughts I will have time to listen to God.

Another thing I need to let go of is my cell phone. Now I haven’t seen everyone else's blog posts but I imagine many of us will say this one, and if the didn’t say it they probably thought it. I was going to deny the fact that I’m stressed about having to leave my phone behind, but I don’t think it’s that uncommon. We don’t like leaving our phones because we feel it is our only connection back. We don’t want to miss drama with our friends, and truly the worst thing that could happen is our snap streaks ending. To really hear God’s call to me I need to leave it all behind. All the stress, drama, nagging thoughts, and snap streaks. I am willing to be vulnerable and go into this new experience, new state even, with an open heart and open mind.

- Jenna, St. Paul's, Natick

Preparations: Libby

God has blessed me with the wonderful gift of talking. However, while I am in Arizona and Mexico, I am going to have to try to leave my chitter chatter behind and tap into another gift that God has given me: listening. My job on this trip is to listen to the stories of the people I will be meeting. It will be different for me to be on the other side of the conversation but it might be a breath of fresh air for the person on the other side doing the talking, sharing, and storytelling. I think it will also give me a breath of fresh air to hear what the people have to say. I have a feeling we’ll be talking more with adults who will be more experienced with many more things than I, and therefore, have a lot more to say than I. Because of that, I am very excited to turn off my voice and turn on my ears. I am eager to hear what they have experienced and bet they will be excited to have such a focused audience, me, to tell their stories and share their experiences with. I do hope they will share because I am very willing to come forward and look them in the eye and incline my ear to them ready to go on a new adventure with them through their magnificent and wonderful stories. I am excited to embark on this journey bringing with me my blessed gift from God: listening.

- Libby, Trinity Church, Concord

Preparations: Alison

Mis esperanzas y oraciones para el viaje de YLA: I am EXTREMELY excited for this trip. Learning about the world is my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE thing to do. I listen to hispanic pop music and watch Telenovelas in my free time to learn about the spanish language and the culture. I live for historical anecdotes, and our founding fathers (especially Alexander Hamilton) are my heroes. I enjoyed learning about the details of the U.S. government this year through my amazing history class in school. I now appreciate being able to understand the conversation, however frustrating it can be, in the current hostile political climate of our country. I have also learned about Native American history this year, and shed tears at the horrific ways people of my own beloved country have treated an entire race of people, who are and should be considered as a valued part of our nation. Additionally, in the past year I have learned and grown so much spiritually because of the Youth Leadership Academy. I am ecstatic to travel as a member of this incredible group. In a nutshell, I feel this trip is perfect for me.

However, I still have much to learn. Learning at home or in a classroom is one thing, but truly experiencing is quite another. In my life, I have mostly stayed on the East Coast of the U.S. I live in a safe and sheltered community where I receive a great education and have a good home life. On this trip I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ll be seeing areas of our country and Mexico which I do not know very much about and have never been to. I will be experiencing new temperatures (Arizona in August!), people, and places. My goal for this trip is to immerse myself fully in the experience- to take everything in without making judgements or assumptions, expand my knowledge, and gain a new appreciation for experiences that are different from my daily life. I don’t know what God’s call for me is yet, but I know the only way it will appear is if I keep my eyes, ears, mind, and most importantly, my heart open to the world. I so appreciate everyone who has supported me to be able to go on this trip. Having my friends, family, and congregation behind me encourages me to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. Pray that I may reflect on my experiences but never focus inward so that I may aid others in their journeys and stay connected to the present moment. Pray that God may keep my fellow missioners and I safe in our travels and guide us and those we meet. Pray that doors may be opened, bridges built and conversations started between our country and Mexico. Lastly, please pray that we may serve as an example for those in Arizona and Mexico as New Englanders, Americans, Christians, and as caring souls who are eager to learn and help in whatever way we can.

- Alison, Church of the Good Shepherd, Acton


Preparations: Val

As our trip is coming closer I am beginning to worry about many things; like what should I bring, what clothes, will I pack too much, what if I forget something, what if I pass out,etc. I am the type of person who likes to control everything and I get very anxious when I am not. This is something I'm trying to work on because being a leader doesn't mean you're in control it's about being able to listen to and help others. When we go to Mexico and Arizona my main goal is to leave all my worry and stress behind me, also to let others lead me and just enjoy our trip. What I am hoping to gain from our pilgrimage is just being in the moment, I like planning everything and when that happens to me I tend to not enjoy my time instead of being happy about where I am and who I am with. But something that I must remind myself while we are there is that I am a guest in the places of worship we are going to and my service is to listen and just observe what is going on. I'm very excited to go to a place where I have not been before. It's also very exciting to go with a group of girls who are the strongest, smartest, sweetest people I have ever met. Being able to travel with people you truly love and care for is such an amazing thing. And I can't wait!!


- Val, Christ Church, Medway

Preparing for Mission Pilgrimage

August 4, 2017, members of the diocesan Youth Leadership Academy and their adult companions head off for a week of mission and pilgrimage to Las Fronteras, learning about life in the Arizona/Mexico borderlands and tribal lands , organized in parthership with the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. They will explore issues of borders, boundaries, walls, bridges, paths, strangers, family, protection, and hospitality.

As our young leaders prepare for the trip, amid the packing, they have been asked to reflect on something they will need to leave behind in order to be more present to what God has in store for her or him on the trip. Over the coming weeks, look for their reflections here.