From Valerie Reinke, Canon for Faith Formation – 35 and Under:
Church Collaboration Brings Summer Camp Experience to the Children of Farmworkers
After months of collaborative planning and with support from a Bishop’s Initiative Grant, La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección in Mt. Vernon welcomed nearly 70 children of farmworkers for a robust week of summer day camp.
Baudelina Paz, who coordinates Children’s Ministry at Resurrección and is in the discernment process for ordination to the priesthood, says that without activities like this the children are on their own during the summer since parents work in the fields from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.
This is the second year of a collaboration with Grace, Bainbridge. The island church brings clergy, staff, teen crew leaders, and adult volunteers. This year they were joined by St. Michael, Issaquah, and their clergy, staff, teen, and adult volunteers, effectively doubling the energy and impact of the camp. St. Paul, Mt. Vernon served as the host church.
Offerings included arts ‘n’ crafts, puppet shows, games, music, cooking, visiting artists and authors, science and robotics, and hot meals. A field-trip to Padilla Bay rounded out the week.
On the last day of camp, children took home new backpacks donated by Dakine, filled with children’s books donated by independent booksellers, coordinated by children’s author and Grace member Jennifer K. Mann, and school supplies collected at Grace.
The following interview and reflection detail how God is using this ministry to impact the lives of the children and families in the community.
A Story of Transformation: Baudelina Paz & La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección
As told to the Rev. Wren Blessing, Rector of Grace, Bainbridge
Wren Blessing: Tell me about your ministry in Mount Vernon.
Baudelina Paz: Our ministry is to the whole community. People come to get diapers, to get clothes. We help them complete paperwork for hospitals, and we go with them and translate in the hospital. Lawyers come to offer workshops addressing the needs of immigrants. Most of our community is indigenous from Oaxaca, and they speak Mixteco. This church is open to everyone, so people come here to find support. People feel that they can trust us in this place.
WB: How did you begin your ministry at La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección?
BP: I was living in a farmworker camp when I was ten years old and I met (now retired priest) Jo Beecher when she was giving out school supplies. Over time, we got to know her. Through her, the Bishop learned about our community, came to the fieldworkers camp where we lived, and gave us a blessing. He prayed with my mom. It was a huge thing that a Bishop would come and see us where we live, in a small house! Since then, I have started to enjoy coming to church more because at church, I discover myself and where I belong. I am finding my voice. I was a shy person, but I was serving as an acolyte.
In 2005, when I was eleven years old, I went to Diocesan Convention in our diocese, and my sister and I spoke about our lives as immigrants in this country. We told our own story, the story of our parents. That was my first step toward speaking in front of many. I was nervous and I cried. But that was the beginning, and since then, I’ve started speaking on behalf of fieldworkers. I spoke up asking for bathrooms and for water at the fields where I worked. Now that people are speaking more about this, there have been many changes. They are treating workers much better than they were. I found that I could speak on behalf of people.
Our church, Resurrección, isn’t just a church. The people can come; they trust greatly in us. They know that even if their first language isn’t Spanish, they can always come, they will always find help. Our church is for all of the community. Not just summer camp, though summer camp is a way that people have come to trust us. People know that they can come, whether than can pay or not, and they will always be treated with kindness.
WB: How do you hope your ministry will grow?
BP: In five or ten years, I wanted to see Resurrección grow more. Right now, we are a small group of thirty people. I want to be involved in the church more than anything. I am in the process of taking steps to become a priest, and even though it surprises me, that is my goal. People are showing me the way. People are helping me learn how to grow the church. Please pray for us.
A Resurrección Reflection
Shared by Emily Hung, Teen Crew Leader from Grace, Bainbridge
Now that our week of camp is over, I’ve had time to reflect back upon all that I have learned.
It seems as if I was the camper and the kids were my leaders. They taught me so much and I had so much fun. And while it will be nice to have some downtime to put my learnings into action, I will miss the energy-filled kids that have changed my life.
I was a leader of the Pufferfish group, which consisted of 1st graders. I loved all my campers, as they all added a special element to the experience, though one camper left an imprint in my life that will last much longer than the rest. His name is Edgar.
Now, Edgar came late to the first day of camp (technically he came on time, but would not come to our group) so he arrived in the middle of the class. Everyone was trying to get him into the classroom, and after many tries, we did and closed the door. After a few seconds, he frantically clawed at the door, his eyes filled with so much fear. When this occurred, I was filled with immense fear for a second. Then it fled, and I was overcome by the realization: this is how most people react to differences that we are unaccustomed to.
It shocked me. I had dealt with this before. Later when Edgar regrouped with us, I learned that he was mute. He grew an immense bond with a fox puppet. It went with him everywhere.
At this time, Edgar became my mission. Not something I would use as an excuse. What I wanted to do was to build a connection with Edgar, so he felt welcome and knew that we cared about HIM, much past his disability.
Edgar, as I am sure Julie (Julie Davis, Camp Coordinator) would agree, came with a few strings. He was using diapers. This was a challenge because we could not communicate with him, only trying to sense when he needed something. And when it came to using the bathroom, that sense came a little too late. This was a challenge not only I faced throughout the week, but all the people who helped me with him faced (quick shout-out to Wren Blessing, Julie Davis, Valerie Reinke, Makayla, and Christy! Thanks so much!). All of them helped me gain a better connection to Edgar.
Edgar is a very smart boy. I have come to realize many of us doubt the intelligence of people different from us. But at naptime, he found the foam letter and number puzzle pieces and would only put them together in exact numerical or alphabetical order. He loved colors, sorting, foxes, goldfish, spiral staircases, and washing his hands.
The main thing I will never forget is his smile. It was a flat, wide, toothy smile that seemed to light up the world. It came out when he saw his siblings and family, was on the playground, washing his hands, or other random times. It was this smile that made it all worth it.
By the end of the week, the fact that he could not talk was behind me. I knew what he wanted, and he knew the drill, and it was as if a barrier had been broken.