Tag Archives: Introductions

A Letter to the Blog Readers

One of Paul’s letters stands out from the rest. Usually, his writings focus on reaching out to communities and churches which he has already been in contact with, and is reinforcing a teaching or giving advice. Romans wasn’t; instead, it was written before Paul arrived in Rome. It was meant to be a letter of introduction — the cover letter for his ministry to the Romans. Paul wanted to introduce himself and explain his ministry to the new church before his arrival.

There's where I'm going!
Uganda’s location in Africa

This week, I started “boot camp” for Backpack Journalism, a program that has us traveling to Uganda to create a documentary about the ongoing refugee crisis that is happening at the edges. I’ve started learning bits and pieces about how to use a camera, and why I’m doing that completely wrong. This is my letter to the Romans.

Well, obviously this is a little less high minded, but this is my introduction and explanation to the ten of you that will probably read this blog for why I’m traveling  to Uganda next week.

First of all, a little bit about me. I grew up in a town in the middle of nowhere in northwest

It's not a phase, Mom
The edgy picture I took in high school and still use as my profile pictures on Facebook and the place to “find God’s match for you.”

Iowa  called Rock Rapids that has a lot of people that would be angry I called it a town in the middle of nowhere. I’m going to be a senior next fall at Creighton, and I’m studying theology and political science. Yay writing papers. I’m planning on pursuing a career in ministry (Reformed, not Catholic, so I can keep my Christian Mingle profile running).

So, why am I going to Uganda?

It’s an opportunity to experience a story that’s unique to Uganda and to be able to make that unique story something others can relate to and learn from in their own life. The way Uganda deals with refugees is something that is sure to be different from that of my own home communities here in the United States. There are things to be learned about how this small African country deals with the problems that face it and its neighbors. Things that can be learned, and brought back home.

Next to these experiences, I wish to be able to get better at that last part: bringing it back home. I believe God calls us to do justice, and there are few ways better to  do that than advocating for those at the margins of our societies. I hope that this opportunity gives me the option to learn about film making and writing that will give me a better grasp and ability to share these experiences, and others like it in the future.

Finally, if this pastey white boy is ever going to get a tan, he’s going to need some high powered rays. My mother won’t let me stand shirtless in front of an open microwave, so I guess I’m going to have to do it the normal way that nature intended.

I look forward to the trip, and can’t wait to keep you all updated as it happens!

Why Backpack Journalism?

There are few things that bring back memories of my childhood quite like sitting down at the kitchen table in the early morning hours to read the local newspaper. From the time that I learned how to read, I was infatuated with the newspaper and would excitedly spring out of bed at 6:00 am on the dot in order to ensure that I had as much time as humanly possible to read about everything going on in the world around me before school. There were two sections of the newspaper that really stuck out to me – the sports and world news sections. By reading these two sections, I was able to experience all of the “important things” going on in the world without ever having to leave the comfort of my hometown situated snugly along the U.S. – Mexico border. In particular, stories about far off places with seemingly unpronounceable names in Asia and Africa captivated my imagination and filled me with curiosity. One day, when I was about eight or nine years old, I remember telling my mother that I would go and visit these far off places and write stories about them as a journalist. I remember her just sort of chuckling about my constant comments about this dream. Nevertheless, I insisted that one day I would really visit these far off places and write about them as a journalist. 

Fast forward a few years and suddenly my home snuggly situated along the U.S. – Mexico border and its sister city just across the Rio Grande were the center of the news stories that I loved to read. Witnessing these stories firsthand was completely different than reading about them. Corruption, poverty, rampant crime, and bloodshed became harrowing realities instead of far off issues that others had to deal with. With these horrors, my childhood innocence and almost everything that I had loved about my home disappeared.

Almost as quickly as these horrors descended upon my home along the U.S. – Mexico border, they disappeared without a trace. Even though they have disappeared from the the front pages of newspapers across the globe, the horrors of what took place never truly left my mind. Instead, they have left a lasting impact that has inspired me to truly be the change that I want to see in the world. These horrors have inspired me to strive for justice and to seek out ways in which I can bring justice about.

For me, the Backpack Journalism program represents a truly amazing way to bring about justice and awareness in the world that I live in. It allows me to tell the story of people living on the margins of society suffering from a violence much like that which struck my U.S. – Mexico border home. I truly feel that the way to end the world’s suffering is to highlight the issues faced by marginalized members of the human population. If more people are aware of the things plaguing human society, there are sure to be more people willing to go out and fight for justice and bring forth positive change. As a future journalist, Backpack Journalism offers me the opportunity to make a difference in the world around me by utilizing the skills of my future profession – while at the same time fulfilling my childhood dreams. That’s why I am participating in the Backpack Journalsim program.

First Day Nerves and a New Adventure

Sitting down to write this blog I feel just as awkward as I did at the start of Welcome Week. It’s the first day of school jitters all over again. And what’s worse is they don’t go away unless you lock onto a tiny bit of courage and introduce yourself. So hi, my name is Rachel O’Neal. I’m a Journalism and International Relations (I.R.) double major. My favorite color is black, my favorite animal is a bison, and I have 6 siblings. Good, now that we have the basics out of the way let’s talk about Backpack Journalism.

While I came to Creighton with the intention of declaring a double major in Journalism and I.R., I heard about the Backpack program long before I became a Journalism major. My freshman faculty advisor was actually the first person to suggest this program because he knew I had a passion for telling stories (the truthful kind). I immediately decided that at some point during my 4 years at Creighton I would go on one of these trips. The fact that this particular trip happens to connect with an issue I am passionate about – immigration – was just an added bonus.

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com
Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com

Growing up in California it’s hard to ignore the reality of an unjust immigration system. Families are torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) on a daily basis. On Sundays families and interfaith groups gather to protest I.C.E. holding centers with candlelight vigils. And the list of these types of events goes on. What people fail to understand when they watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh is that the people these so-called journalists spew hatred about are living, breathing human beings. Undocumented workers aren’t statistics to be used to fear monger. They’re people just like you and me.

As a Jesuit University its imperative that we address this topic so that people understand what respect for human dignity truly means. It’s not a sermon to be given on Sunday and promptly forgotten on Monday. It’s a lifestyle. Recognizing that no human is illegal is fundamental to this tenet of Jesuit Catholicism, which is why I am excited to be a part of this journey.