National Conferences Make Opportunities for Staff Training and Global Connections
Have you ever seen one of those pictures that is made up of tiny little pictures of other things? From a distance your eye captures the confluence of all the colors together and sees one large image, but up close you notice each pixel is a tiny image in and of itself.
That is how I see us as an organization at Ciudad Nueva. Up close we are a full picture of our community and all that is happening here, but we are also part of a larger picture of community development in our nation and around the world.
Attending conferences in other parts of the country is an opportunity for us to connect to that big picture and also an opportunity for us to partake in the larger conversations that affect the community members within our microcosm. It is also excellent opportunity for our staff members to receive training while they connect with other community development professionals..
Staff training provides a time for growth
This year, eight staff members attended two different events — the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Detroit, Michigan, and the Matthew 25 Gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is always good to get away from the everyday grind. It allows us time to think and discuss where we are now, and where we are headed.
Keisha Branch, Ciudad Nueva’s High School Coordinator, explained one highlight of the Matthew 25 conference was connecting with other like-minded Christian workers.
“They are doing the same work that I am,” says Keisha. “They have a heart for social justice, mercy, and shalom.”
Those who attended this conference also had the opportunity to meet Ciudad Nueva’s founders, Cliff and Christine Warner, and to hear the original heart and vision behind Ciudad Nueva directly from them. This was a highlight for some of our staff members who have not met Cliff and Christine before and also provided a time of encouragement.
“In my time with Cliff Warner, I expressed to him the struggles of working in a place so different from home and a feeling of inadequacy,” says Keisha. “Cliff affirmed my feelings and reassured me that the love we show for the students means more than anything. Just the fact that we have decided to be obedient to the call of God and do his work in such an unfamiliar place shows the students God’s love.”
Making time to delve into important issues
Immigration and racial tension are issues that we naturally encounter in a border town like El Paso. They are issues directly affecting many of the families in our neighborhood at Ciudad Nueva. The conferences and breakout sessions were excellent opportunities to explore these issues on a deeper level.
“Immigration is a big issue, and reform is necessary,” says Lexi Moles, one of our Border Fellows. “But listening to people’s stories can be more important than being an activist.”
“Even though we live in a border town, racial discrimination against Latinos, Mexicans, and blacks is not talked about openly,” says Tamy Diaz, our Launch Pad and Food Co-op coordinator. “However, we see it all around — how not having a green card or not speaking English makes other people treat you differently.”
We learned that taking a humble attitude and learning to be good listeners can be the beginning of change in our own community.
“We need to have an open posture of learning and a culture of humility in how we view all aspects of our life and relationships with others,” says Alison Schulte, Ciudad Nueva’s Partnership Development Coordinator.
Many of us were particularly impacted by a short trip to Nogales, Mexico, to hear stories of struggle and hope directly from immigrants there. Keisha wants to bring those stories back and help her high school students connect with them.
“Although our students may have family members that have possibly gone through similar situations as the immigrants we heard from in Nogales, the weight of these stories meant a lot,” says Keisha. “It is something my heart longs for our students to hear.”
Staff training gets us geared up for the year ahead
Connecting with other like-minded community workers, delving into important topics, and being encouraged to deepen relationships within our own community were highlights for all of us. Change is sometimes slow, but it is encouraging to know we are working toward a goal shared by many others — bringing hope and connection to our neighbors and those in need.
Lexi is looking forward to deepening her relationships with those around her this year. “One of my biggest takeaways is that progress is slow, but relationships are important,” she says.
“It has helped me form a new perspective and posture of life,” says Alison. “I want to keep asking questions and being open to listen.”
“We cannot love God without loving our neighbor,” says Keisha. “We have to love each and every person, and do for those that cannot do for themselves. I am more motivated in my position here at Ciudad Nueva, and I understand even more now the call God has placed on us to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.”
Want to learn about what we do at Ciudad Nueva? Click here to find out more. If you are interested in our newly formed immigration clinic and the other practical ways we are engaging with a community of immigrants, click here.