Jacquline Brett is a recent graduate of Meadville Lombard’s Masters of Divinity program (MDiv) and will be at Meadville for another year for the Master of Arts in Leadership Studies (MALS) program. She has participated in UUCSJ’s 2015 Religious Professionals Journey to the Border and our 2016 Journey to Nicaragua, Guardians of the River: Climate Justice for Theologians.
One of the profound things about participating in a UUCSJ trip is that memories of the experience, and the processing of what was learned, linger for months after returning home. The experiences are rich in depth of meaning and are very impactful. Even months later, I continually find myself coming to a deeper and fuller understanding of something I witnessed, was in conversation about, or heard in a story someone told. And then months later still, I connect another dot with something else occurring here at home, or elsewhere in the world. This has been true for me both on the Border Witness journey to Arizona and Mexico, and perhaps most especially on the trip to Nicaragua.
On the Nicaragua journey, as a woman of color I very much wanted to understand how race and gender intersected with issues of climate. I was left with much to consider as we engaged with many different communities of people: university professors, workers, scientists, leaders of non-profits, a women’s group, and powerful activists who were simple but proud peasants determined to take a stand for environmental justice in their communities. I especially appreciated that almost everyone we met were people of color who told the story of their experience or of their research. As I listened to a scientist explain and illustrate a simple process that was used to engage the wisdom of the community in tracking climate change, I was not only impressed by the process, but began to understand as I had not before how urgent this situation is in the world over.
I loved living with a family in the mountains during part of our stay. I so respected their fierce commitment to their community and their generosity of spirit as hosts. We arrived in Nicaragua just after the U.S. election of 2016, full of both our privilege as Americans and a sense of dread for the future of our country. We were told more than once by Nicaraguans we encountered, who looked us straight in the eye and advised (with great sympathy), that rather than figuring out how to help them, we Americans had plenty of our own work to do back here at home. And we needed to set about doing it. I for one returned home with a greater sense of our interconnectedness in this process. As I remember the women at the edge of the Yaoska River who prepared an amazing, simple meal over an open fire, I’ve reflected on how greatly each of us is needed to change the world, no matter what small corner of it we occupy, no matter how wealthy or poor we are. We each have the capacity to offer a little something of ourselves. And it all makes a difference.
Learn more about our Journeys for Religious Professionals or register for the upcoming fall journeys at https://uucsj.org/journeys/religious-leaders/