A Contemplative Day: Farmworker Voices

Copy and pass around to group. Ask for volunteers to take the part of Workers 1, 2, 3 and 4. Faciltator can read the part of “Reader.”


Worker 1:
We are only shoulders here, wanted because we do the work no one else wants to do.

Worker 2: The other day that we were at Mass, I couldn’t feel my face because it was cracked and that comes from the fertilizers. The fertilizer is alive. It is alive. It is alive in the soil! You pick it up and you start with this rash. Then it starts penetrating…

Worker 1:
We are only shoulders here, wanted because we do the work no one else wants to do.

Worker 3:
We were all shaking because it was so hot, almost dehydrated. You know what I did? I left them…. It was less than an hour before finishing, and I thought for $6 I am not going to die here. I’m leaving. In the field, there were no shade trees. It is just a ditch full of weeds, but that’s where I stayed, and it didn’t matter if there were snakes or thorns. It didn’t matter… All I wanted was shade.

Worker 1: We are only shoulders here, wanted because we do the work no one else wants to do.

Worker 4: You know, the Americans don’t really like us. They only want us to go to the US and work, like animals. The Mexicans go there to suffer doing hard work, while the Americans stay out of the fields. In the time I worked in the United States, I never saw an American in the fields. You never see them out picking. They hire Mexican supervisors to work their own countrymen to death. They’re real tyrants. You can’t even stop because they’re always yelling, “Faster, faster. You’re getting paid to work, not to stand around.”

Worker 1: We are only shoulders here, wanted because we do the work no one else wants to do.

Reader:
Our food, which nourishes our bodies, hasn’t yet been totally reduced to technological process. Some would have us forget where food comes from. They seem to believe it is a product of biology labs and machines, with a heavy sprinkling of fertilizers thrown in for good measure. Food nevertheless, at its most nourishing, remains a product of the wholly and holy cycle of nature: seed placed in earth, blessed by rain, harvested and cooked by human hands (and shoulders) as a meal for the body—and the body is community.

From session 1 (page 7) of “Hands of Harvest Hearts of Justice.” Food: A Sacred Exchange” (a farmworker curriculum by National Farm Worker Ministry and NC Council of Churches, 2004). Worker quotes are words of actual farm workers in North Carolina documented by Sister Evelyn Mattern in the 1990’s, except Worker 4, documented by Daniel Rothenberg, found on page 313 of With These Hands

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A Contemplative Day: Farm Worker Statistics

Pass around to participants so that each person reads one fact aloud.

Farmworkers’ Reality

1. A study conducted in a five-county area in central North Carolina found that due to low wages, nearly half of NC farmworker households cannot adequately feed themselves or their families.

2. Each year, 2-3 million farmworkers and their families labor in fields in the US. 77% of these workers are Mexican.

3. 85% of US fruit and vegetable crops are still harvested by hand.

4. North Carolina’s major crops include cucumbers, tobacco, apples, sweet potatoes, Christmas trees, and green peppers, all of which require hand labor.

spreadingtheword_0_0.JPG5. In North Carolina, there are an estimated 142,000 migrant farmworkers and their dependents during the growing season, 90% of whom are Latino.

6. Most federal and state labor laws, such as those governing minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation and protection when joining unions, are different for farmworkers or exclude them altogether.

7. Pervasive poverty and joblessness in Mexico and Latin America force thousands of farmworkers to cross to “the other side” to work in the US, both legally and without proper documentation. At least 52% of farmworkers are undocumented.

8. 71% of every food income dollar goes to corporate food processors, 23% goes to farmers, and 6% goes to farmworkers.

9. Most farmworkers earn less than $10,000 per year. Studies have shown that increasing farmworker wages by 50% would cost the average consumer less than $5 more for fresh produce per year.

10. Agriculture is considered the second most dangerous occupation in the US, after mining. Workers labor long days (often 12-14 hours per day) exposed to intense sun and heat, with few breaks. In 2005, two farmworkers died in the fields of heat-related illnesses.

11. 45% of adult immigrant farmworkers are married and have children but leave their families behind while working in the United States. Most live in isolated labor camps provided by employers.

A Contemplative Day: Cesar Chavez’s Fasts for Righteousnes

This should be read before the walking meditation, and can be read by being passed from one participant to the next. Facilitator can choose to use 1-2 of the reflection questions or none at all.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

In this Beatitude, Jesus speaks to his disciples regarding righteousness in the most elemental terms possible. There are no physical sensations more primal than hunger and thirst. If a person is in dire thirst there is nothing she will not try in order to satisfy her craving. The reason for this is simple: without water a person will die. Hunger and thirst are regular parts of our lives, and they are instincts that save us from death. It is with this powerful language of hunger and thirst that Jesus confronts his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount.

cesarcross.jpgIn the original text there is a definite article before the word “righteousness.” This article is often not expressed in our English translations. A more accurate translation might read, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after the righteousness, for they shall be filled.” What does this mean? What is Jesus trying to communicate here? It seems that Jesus is confronting popular conceptions of righteousness, and promoting a specific type of righteousness. The righteousness that Jesus promotes is not an abstract righteousness, or dusty legality, but a deep and abiding righteousness that bears witness to the kingdom of heaven on earth, a truly new kingdom defined by forgiveness, peace, and hospitality. The righteousness that Jesus refers to in this Beatitude is the kingdom ethic promoted on the Sermon on the Mount. How are humans supposed to respond to this new ethic, this specific righteousness? We are supposed to desire it as we desire food. It is to be such a priority to us that we sense that we would starve without it.

*****

In “The Long, Hot Summer of 1967,” brooding political and social tensions erupted into violence across the U.S. Radical political rhetoric increasingly evoked violent imagery. Riots broke out in Detroit and Newark, and violence loomed over the fields of California. The popular vision of violent and rapid social change seduced some of the striking farm workers in César Chávez’s movement. They had grown tired of participating patiently in the non-violent struggle for justice. They began to carry weapons, threaten scabs with beatings, and commit acts of sabotage on police cars and farm machinery. César grieved this violent spirit and rebuked the strikers saying, “You reap what you sow; if we become violent with others, then we will become violent among ourselves. Social justice for the dignity of man cannot be won at the price of human life.” Despite his words, the longing for violence among the disgruntled farm workers only seemed to increase. Early in 1968 large scale violence seemed unavoidable. Cesar then began another form of rebuke, one that reveals profoundly what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

César’s non-violence was inspired by his Catholicism. Additionally, he had seen non-violence work in the Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle in the South. César understood that non-violence is truthful because it reveals Christ’s righteousness. For this reason, César understood the emerging militant tendencies of some members of the United Farm Workers union to be a move toward unrighteousness. Thus, as the leader of the farm worker movement, César announced that he would refuse food “until such a time as everyone ignored” him or “made up their minds that they were going to be committing to non-violence.” César announced his fast on February 18th, and told those near him that he had already been fasting for 4 days.

Day after day César lay in a bed declining food until the members of his cesarwalking.jpgunion convinced him that they were committed to the righteousness of non-violence. This fast became a defining moment for the farm worker movement. As César lay in bed, farm workers from all over California gathered around his quarters. The farm workers pitched tents near César’s house, creating a community. They began to share food among themselves and pray together. César’s fast was inaugurating a spiritual revival among the farm workers. On March 11th, the twenty-five day fast ended with a Mass, attended by 8,000 people. He broke bread with his mother and Senator Robert Kennedy. He began to fill his stomach again, because his hunger for righteousness was also being filled. After the liturgy, a statement written by César was read over the loud speakers. In the statement César wrote:

“The Fast was first for me and then for all of us in this Union. It was a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice. Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and our spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons. “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act…is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. God help us…”

César’s fast in the winter of 1968 provides a dramatic example of what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. While Jesus may have been speaking metaphorically, César’s fast is a literal embodiment of experiencing hunger for the sake of righteousness. The righteousness of non-violence was so important to César that he expressed his longing for it through becoming physically hungry. His desire for the righteousness, both his own and that of the farm worker movement, are inspirational to farm worker advocates today.

Reflection Questions:

  • When were you most physically hungry in your life? Describe what it felt like. How does that experience influence how you understand this Beatitude?
  • How do you think that César’s faith helped sustain him during struggles that he saw in his 31 years of work with farm workers?
  • Why do you think that people are so quickly satisfied with their own righteousness? What do you think is at the root at the root of spiritual complacence?
  • Reflect on the statement that César had read after he broke his fast. How is it related to the Sermon on the Mount?
  • Do you think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically or literally when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled?”
  • Do you think César’s hunger for righteousness was filled?

page 13-16 of Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Beatitudes Embodied by Matthew Smalley. National Farm Worker Ministry 2005.

A Contemplative Day: Farmworker Communion

Pass around for each participant to read one paragraph each before the meal.

Communal Act

Many generations after that first supper, there was another feast, and the guests ate and drank throughout the day and on into the night. A huge table was draped with a dazzling white cloth, woven of cotton picked by farmworkers in Alabama and Georgia.

Baskets were heaped high with fruit: citrus plucked in Florida groves by Hispanic, Black and Haitian migrants; melons carried from South Carolina fields by malnourished migrant children; apples and cherries picked in Pennsylvania and West Virginia by underpaid families traveling to follow the harvest.

Platters were piled high with fresh vegetables: white and sweet potatoes, cucumbers, corn, beans, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, onions–each representing the hard labor of seasonal farmworkers.

Throughout the feast, wine flowed–wine from vast California vineyards, where Latino laborers had organized, to demand and receive better pay and working conditions.

And the people sat back and ate, and drank, and talked and laughed, and the air was clouded with smoke from their North Carolina tobacco.

When the hour was come, a brown skinned guest, wearing worn overalls, stood among them, took the remaining bread, offered thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; take and eat, in remembrance of all of us who labor in the fields, that you might eat.’

And likewise, she took the wine and when she had given thanks, gave it to them. And she said to them, “This is the blood of the migrant farmworkers, which is shed for many. Verily, I say unto you, we will not drink of the good wine, nor eat of the feast until the kingdom of God comes to this earth.”

A Contemplative Day: Buddhist Meal Prayers

Make copies and pass out to group to read aloud together before meal.

*
Over the full serving bowls of food, say:

In this food I see clearly
the presence of the entire universe
supporting my existence.

*
Looking into one’s own empty bowl, breathe in the suffering of all those whose bowls are empty while saying:

All living beings are struggling for life.

Breathe out while saying:

May they all have enough food
to eat today.

*

Food is served. Just before eating, see into the food and beyond the food to all the hands that brought it to you: the cooks, the grocery clerks, the truck drivers, the food processors, the farmers, etc., and hold them in gratitude and compassion while saying:

The plate is filled with food.
I am aware that each morsel
is the fruit
of much hard work
by those who produced it.

*
At the first mouthful, say:

With the first taste, I promise
to practice loving-kindness.
With the second, I promise
to relieve the suffering of others.
With the third,
I promise to see others’ joy as my own.
With the fourth,
I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity.

*
After the meal, say:

The plate is empty.
My hunger is satisfied.
I vow to live for the benefit
of all living beings.

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Contemplative Day Reflecting on Food & Labor

(Modeled on Peace Hill Gathering 9/9/05 facilitated by Melinda Wiggins, Student Action with Farmworkers & Lori Fernald Khamala, National Farm Worker Ministry)

In advance:

  • Prepare altar with candles, religious symbols, photos of farmworkers, and foods farmworkers pick
  • Ask participants to bring a healthy, nourishing dish for potluck lunch
  • Ask participants to bring stories or readings from their own faith traditions about food
  • Bring a bell (or other) to break silence

9am-9:30 Gather & Welcome

  • Introduce selves and why you came today
  • Overview of the day
  • Opening quote/theme (below): examining ways we are connected and disconnected from our food; nourishing ourselves physically and spiritually; connection between what we put in our bodies and how it gets there

Food is basic to life, and those who provide it enable us to live. Sharing food, the means to life and livelihood, is what a community does. Breaking bread implies that those of us who receive the food pledge ourselves to justice for those who provide it.

from “Hands of Harvest Hearts of Justice” (a farmworker curriculum by National Farm Worker Ministry and NC Council of Churches), Session 1 “Food: A Sacred Exchange” theme written by Sr. Evelyn Mattern

9:30-10:00 Centering Reading by Wendell Berry (below)

Sit in Silence

We can [not] live harmlessly or strictly at our own expense; we depend upon other creatures and survive by their deaths. To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of creation. The point is, when we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament; when we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration…in such desecration, we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.

from Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983, 1981), pp. 272-281 (I took it from page 12 of Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut of Earth Ministry, Denver, CO: Living the Good News, 2002)

10-10:30 Discussion–Food: A Sacred Exchange

  • Overview/thoughts about the rituals of food (feast and fast) in our secular and spiritual lives and how those intersect
  • Opening reading by Thomas Moore (below)
  • Discussion of our faith traditions’ relationship to food: How does your own faith tradition connect with food, feasting and fasting?
  • Share any readings participants have brought
  • Open sharing of personal food rituals & how related to personal spirituality. Examples: Spiritual rituals: communion, Ramadan fasting, Jewish Passover Seder, Moravian Love Feast, table grace, church picnics. Secular (and secular as spiritual): shopping, eating around a table, gardening, farmers markets, family holiday gatherings, etc.

Reading by Thomas Moore*:
In fasting and in feasting, in proscriptions and blessings, religions around the world stress the importance of food for the soul, not just for the body. When I was a child, we ate fish on Friday and fasted for hours before communion and gave up certain food in Lent, and these simple food practices helped link religion with daily life in a simple but effective form of enchantment…

…Give us this day our daily crumb, our ice cream cone, our cherry pie. The slightest things–a walk, a word, a breeze, a passing view–please the soul immeasurably, and feed it. An dinner with a hint of imagination and effort, a tree bearing fruit outside the kitchen, a favorite market, an old recipe, can all feed the soul even as they nourish the body…

…Religion and poetry teach us how to recapture the soul in food, but we don’t have to “baptize” food by surrounding it with pomp and circumstance or elaborate symbolism. We could maintain food’s simplicity while at the same time safeguarding all the fantasy, memory, and emotion that are associated with or contained in it. Such ordinary activities as shopping, canning, boxing, making a pantry, and filling a shelf are rites of food that give as much to the soul as they do to the body.

* from pages 64-66 of The Interiority of Food by Thomas Moore, in Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut of Earth Ministry, Denver, CO: Living the Good News, 2002 (originally printed in Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore, 1992, HarperCollins).

10:30-10:45 Stretch Break to affirm the body, “God’s beloved creation”
Yoga may be appropriate if someone can lead the group

10:45-11:05 Sit in Silence

11:05-11:20 Preparation for meal & transition from food to labor

  • Gather around altar of food and other items
  • Ask participants to list all the hands that touch, for example, a tomato as it is planted by a farmer and trace its journey to being eaten on a hamburger in a fast food restaurant (remember planting, tending, picking, transporting, packaging, unwrapping, slicing, eating)

1:20-12:00 Lunch

12:00-1:00 Silent Walking Meditation

Open the meditation by reading Cesar Chavez’s Fasts for Righteousness

1:00-1:30 Discussion–Politics of Food: Farmworker Issues

  • Centering quote by Wendell Berry (below)
  • Personal sharing by facilitators of how they got involved
  • Farmworker statistics read aloud by participants by passing around sheet
  • Farmworker quotes read aloud by participant volunteers
  • Discussion and questions

Quote by Wendell Berry*:
Eaters…must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.

* Page 249 from Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut of Earth Ministry, Denver, CO: Living the Good News, 2002

1:30-2 Closing
Farmworker issues are intertwined with farmer issues, environmental issues, consumer issues health issues and all is tied to our spirituality

  • Participants brainstorm positive signs they have observed and offer alternatives for eating that is healthier spiritually. Examples might include: Community Supported Agriculture, new labor contract covering 8000 farmworkers in North Carolina offering them a voice for the first time ever, increase in organic produce, farmers’ markets etc.
  • Closing reading (below)
  • Closing moment of silence

Closing reading: A Word of Hope

Fundamentally, food and agriculture are about life: life for the hungry and for all who depend on farmers and farmworkers for what we eat every day. But they are also about life for farmworkers who risk their health to pick our food, sometimes not knowing what pesticides are in the field. They are about life for subsistence farmers in Africa trying to feed a family and make a meager living. They are about a way of life for farm families in the United States who are unable to meet debt payments and face selling a farm that has been in the family for generations. These reflections call all of us to make the protection of life and dignity the foundation for our choices on agriculture. We know these are not easy times, but as believers we have hope for the days ahead:

  • We have the capacity to overcome hunger in our nation and around the world. What an achievement that would be!
  • We stand with farmers, particularly those who own small and family farms here and abroad, in their struggle to live with dignity, to preserve a way of life, and to strengthen rural communities.
  • We insist that agricultural workers be treated with dignity–decent wages, safe working conditions, and a real voice in the workplace.
  • We advocate for creation to protect the fields and streams, which are gifts of God.
  • We find in our faith–the lessons of Genesis, the passion of the prophets, and the words and life of Jesus–the ultimate source of hope.

* from page 14 of For I was Hungry & You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers. US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC 2003.

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Farm Worker Worship Service

Compiled by the National Farm Worker Ministry

OPENING PRAYER
Leader: Let us begin by recalling the words of Cesar Chavez: “Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations…”

Lord Jesus, too often we don’t pay attention, we don’t stop to think that, even in this day and age, injustice remains an invisible ingredient in much of the food that we eat. Shake us awake, Lord, open our eyes to see our power and obligation as consumers to help put things right. Justice demands it. Love demands it.

SONG: WHATSOEVER YOU DO (or other appropriate song)

BEATITUDES OF THE FARM WORKER
Reader 1: I was hungry, and you said “We only deal with problems in the city, not in the rural areas.”
Reader 2: I was imprisoned, and you said you were sorry but there was nothing you could do.
Reader 3: I was naked, and you looked the other way as you passed Me by in your expensive three-piece suit.
Reader 4: I was sick with pesticide poisoning, and you never thought of the human cost in the vegetables on your table.
Reader 5: I was homeless, a migrant sleeping in My old car with My family of six, and you refused to see how your board members could make a difference.
Reader 6: I was grieving over My children, who never had a chance to get an education, and you said “Too bad” and continued with your business as usual.
Reader 7: Whatsoever you do to the least of My people, make no mistake, you do it to Me.

POSSIBLE READINGS
Matthew 10:34-39, Matthew 19:16-26, Luke 4:16-21, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 18:1-8
“Gandhi, King, Chavez, Mother Teresa, the nameless saints–they are all irritants, challenging the careful, comfortable ways we have organized our lives. Yet we love them. Why do we love them? It is only partly because of who they are. They give flesh to what they believe and thereby awaken a spirit deep within us. By their words and deeds they call forth that part of us that yearns to give life, to love mercy and to do justice. By living their lives the way they do they reach for what is deepest and best in each of us–pulling, organizing, putting our love for justice to work in practical ways that serve the poor. We respect and love ourselves more as we put into practice what we believe in our hearts; and we love, with a universal love, those persons who led us on that better way…” (The Rev. Wayne “Chris” Hartmire, founding director, NFWM)

“Most middle class church people will squirm out of taking responsibility for justice work if they have no direct stake in it. If not too much is asked, it’s all right. But when we contemplate deeper involvement we quickly think about possibly offending people we regularly see at church, at home, at work, or about losing our job, going to jail, getting embroiled in a long fight and not being able to get loose. Middle class people need poor people pulling them into action on behalf of justice and wholeness. Works of love and justice renew our always disintegrating integrity. People who were blessed and renewed in their work with the farm workers are an important reminder of the rewards of the Kingdom. These experiences enhance our understanding of the Beatitudes.” (Pat Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed, Ventura, CA)

POSSIBLE SERMON / REFLECTION THEMES
1. God’s bias toward the poor and weak and the implications of this for our response to the farm workers’ struggle.
2. The difficulty of avoiding the issue of farm worker justice–we all eat, we are all consumers.
3. Jesus and the prophets as the challengers of the comfortable.
4. Justice as one way of practicing love in an imperfect world.
5. Why do we get tired of a justice struggle like the farm workers’ cause? How do some people stay with it?
6. Relating to the poorest of the poor: service as compared to servanthood, charity as compared to justice work, giving from one’s surplus time/money/energy as compared to sharing.
7. The farm workers and nonviolence.

SONG: HERE I AM, LORD (or other appropriate song)

CLOSING PRAYER (written by His Eminence Roger Cardinal Mahoney)
Father, God of goodness, you give us the land to provide us with food. Hear the prayers of your people and give all who work on that land a full measure of human dignity and justice. May we bring the spirit of Christ to all our efforts, and may these efforts yield a rich harvest of justice, peace, and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
All Respond: Amen.

CHARGE TO THOSE PRESENT
Leader: Listen to the words of Dorothy Day (Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day, Harper & Row, 1963):
“Young people say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers [and sisters] with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.'”

Let us begin with one action.

[Contact the National Farm Worker Ministry for current actions requested by farm worker organizations around the country. Choose which action(s) would be most appropriate for your group. Some actions can be done in a gathering, e.g., letter-writing, and some, e.g., making a phone call, can be done after participants have returned home from the service. All are valuable ways of aiding farm workers in their struggle for justice.]

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Quotes and Readings

Voices of Farmworkers


“We were all shaking because it was so hot, almost dehydrated. You know what I did? I left them…. It was less than an hour before finishing, and I thought for $6 I am not going to die here. I’m leaving. In the field, there were no shade trees. It is just a ditch full of weeds, but that’s where I stayed, and it didn’t matter if there were snakes or thorns. It didn’t matter…. All I wanted was shade.”

“I believe it is better to speak up than to stay with the same conditions and do nothing – either way I might lose my job. [But] if I speak up at least I do something for my co-workers.”

“The other day that we were at Mass, I couldn’t feel my face because it was cracked and that comes from the fertilizers. The fertilizer is alive. It is alive. It is alive in the soil! You pick it up and you start with this rash. Then it starts penetrating….”

Worker in Mexico: “You know, the Americans don’t really like us. They only want us to go there to work, like animals. The Mexicans go there to suffer doing hard work, while the Americans stay out of the fields. In the time I worked in the United States, I never saw an American in the fields. You never see them out picking. They hire Mexican supervisors to work their own countrymen to death. They’re real tyrants. You can’t even stop because they’re always yelling ‘Faster, faster. You’re getting paid to work, not to stand around.'”

“We are only shoulders here, wanted because we do the work no one else wants to do.”

Dorothy Day


Young people say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers [and sisters] with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.’ — Loaves and Fishes, Harper & Row, 1963

Mary Ann Williams

quoted often by Nelson Mandela
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Leone Jose Bicchieri

farmworker organizer
One of these lessons I have learned is that there exists a chunk of responsibility to fight for justice this is mine alone, and I can either accept that responsibility or run from it. It is no one else’s by my own.

Dolores Huerta


Be angry about injustice! Use your skills to make the world a better place. – Duke University, 1983

Gustavo Gutierrez


To not take sides is to side with those in power.

Rev. Chris Hartmire

founding director, NFWM
Gandhi, King, Chavez, Mother Teresa, the nameless saints–they are all irritants, challenging the careful, comfortable ways we have organized our lives. Yet we love them. Why do we love them? It is only partly because of who they are. They give flesh to what they believe and thereby awaken a spirit deep within us. By their words and deeds they call forth that part of us that yearns to give life, to love mercy and to do justice. By living their lives the way they do they reach for what is deepest and best in each of us–pulling, organizing, putting our love for justice to work in practical ways that serve the poor. We respect and love ourselves more as we put into practice what we believe in our hearts; and we love, with a universal love, those persons who led us on that better way…

Gerald and Patricia Miche


…it is the prophetic task to announce that the world was created not to be destroyed, but to be fulfilled; not to stand still, but to grow toward wholeness. – Toward a Human World Order

Miguel de Unamuno


Sow the living plant of yourselves in the furrows of life.

John Cardinal O’Connor


The most important ‘issue” in religious and public life is the human person. We must once again recognize that we cannot meet any other challenge of our day until we come to believe in the worth, dignity, and sacredness of every human person. Unless we do so, we will ultimately destroy ourselves with contempt. It is the sacred human person, made in the image and likeness of almighty God, who deserves primary consideration in all issues addressed Whether sociological, scientific, economic, political or otherwise.

United Methodist Church


The Church in mission is a sign of God’s presence in the world. By the authority of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the church joins God’s mission to reclaim, restore, and redeem the life of all creation to its God intended design; confessing by word and deed the redeeming activity of God in Christ among the whole human family.

Pope Paul VI


Let all the people examine themselves, to see what they have done up to now, and what they ought to do. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustice and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action. It is too easy to throw back on others responsibility for injustices, if at the same time one does not realize how each one shares in it personally.

Pat Hoffman


Most middle class church people will squirm out of taking responsibility for justice work if they have no direct stake in it. If not too much is asked, it’s all right. But when we contemplate deeper involvement we quickly think about possibly offending people we regularly see at church, at home, at work, or about losing our job, going to jail, getting embroiled in a long fight and not being able to get loose. Middle class people need poor people pulling them into action on behalf of justice and wholeness. Works of love and justice renew our always disintegrating integrity. People who were blessed and renewed in their work with the farm workers are an important reminder of the rewards of the Kingdom. These experiences enhance our understanding of the Beatitudes. – Ministry of the Dispossessed, Ventura, CA

William James


Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void. Not the Jews of the captivity, but those of the days of Solomon’s glory are those from whom the pessimistic utterances in our Bible come. It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true. – The Will to Believe, 1897

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Scriptures Related to Farm Workers and Immigrants

Social Responsibility & Action


Deuteronomy 15:11: Open hand to poor
Proverbs 21:13: Hear cry of poor
Timothy (II) 1:7: Spirit of power
Psalms 41:1: Consider the poor
Psalms 82:3-4: Justice to weak
Luke 4:18-19: Good News
Isaiah 1: 13, 15-17: Seek Justice
Jeremiah 22:3: Do justice
Zechariah 7:8-9: Show mercy
Matthew 10:40: Receiving Me
John (I) 3:17-18: Love in deed, truth
rowsofcrop.JPGCorinthians (I) 12:12-13: Body is One
Corinthians (I) 12:26: Suffering by All
Corinthians (I) 12: 12-27 Full verse
Philippians 2:4: Interests of others
Matthew 22:39: Neighbor as Self
Luke 10:27: Neighbor as Self
Romans 12:21: Good over Evil
Poverty & Standing with Poor
Psalm 112: 5-9: Righteous: Give to poor
Paul of Tarsus, 2 Corinthians 8 (tev): Help those in need
Isaiah 3.15: Grind faces of Poor
Deuteronomy 24:14-15: Pay wages
Amos 5:11-12: Trampling the poor
Psalms 72:2-4: Defend cause of poor
James 5:1-6: Riches have rotted
Luke 6:20, 24: Blessed are poor
Luke 16:19-31: Lazarus at Gate
Matthew 25:34-40: I was thirsty
Luke 1:52-53: Filled the hungry
Psalm 35:10 (or all): Deliver the weak
Jeremiah 9: 22-23: No glory in riches
Timothy (I)6:17-18: Rich, be generous

Justice (general)


Exodus 3:7-8
Amos 5:21-24: Justice roll like waters
Micah 6:8: Do Justice, Kindness
Ecclesiastes 4:1: Tears of oppressed
Isaiah 30:18: God of Justice
Isaiah 32:17: Effect of justice, peace
Isaiah 58: 6-11: Free oppressed
Psalm 72: 1-4: Defend poor; crush oppressor
Jeremiah 10:23-24: Steadfast love
Isaiah 16:3-5: Grant justice
Jeremiah 21:11-12 Execute Justice
Jeremiah 22:13,15-17: Woe to exploitator
Amos 5: 7-12: Those doing injustice
Hosea 10:12-15: Sow righteousness

Justice & Hospitality towards Immigrants


Exodus 12:49: Same law
Exodus 23:9 Don’t oppress strangers
Exodus 23:12: Rest for alien
Numbers 9:14: Same law
Numbers 15:29: Same law
Deut. 23:7: Don’t abhor Egyptians
Deuteronomy 24:14-15: Pay wages
Deut. 27:19 Don’t oppress sojourner
Psalm 146:9: Sojourner watched over
Jeremiah 7:5-7: Don’t oppress alien
Duet 10: 17-19: Execute justice
Deut 17: 19: Don’t pervert justice
Exodus 22:21: Don’t wrong stranger
Leviticus 24:22: One law
Lev 19:33-34: Love stranger as self
farmer.gifEzekiel; 22:29-30: Stand in gap
Eph 2: 14-19: Break wall of hostility
Zechariah 7:9-10: Don’t oppress alien
Peter (I) 4: 8-9: Practice hospitality
Hebrews 13:1-2: Entertaining Angels

Farmworkers


James 5:1-5: Laborers cry out
Timothy (II) 2:6: First share of crops
Corinthians (II) 9.10,12: God supplies seed; thanks

Labor


Isaiah 65:22-23: Not labor in vain
Mark 10:42-45: First is last
Genesis 2:1-2: God rested
Deuteronomy 24:14-15: Pay wages
Isaiah 5:1-7: Vineyard parable
Jeremiah 34: 8-14: Set slaves free
Strength & Survival
Corinthians (II) 4: 7-10: Afflicted not crushed

Hunger: Selected Biblical References


Luke 12:22-23, 29-31:Not Bread Alone
Isaiah 16
Luke 18: 1-8
Matthew 18:15-18: Tell it to the church
Ezekiel 34:25-31: Covenant of peace
Mark 11:15-17: Money Changers in Temple
Revelation 1:1-4: New Heaven & earth
Genesis 1:26-28: God the Creator
Matthew 6:24: Can’t serve 2 masters
Amos 2:6-7: Trampling head of poor

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Litanies and Responsive Prayers

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LITANTY OF CHRISTIAN HOPE


From scripture and the words of Cesar Chavez


Leader: When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving do we find life.

Response: FOR WHOSOEVER WOULD SAVE HIS OR HER LIFE WILL LOSE IT, AND WHOEVER LOSES HIS OR HER LIFE FOR MY SAKE, WILL FIND IT.

Leader: But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. God gave us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.

Response: THEREFORE, CHOOSE LIFE THAT YOU AND YOUR DESCENDANTS MAY LIVE.

Leader: Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose us are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and our spirits and the just of our cause.

Response: FOR THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD IS WISER THAN HUMAN KIND, AND THE WEAKNESS OF GOD IS STRONGER THAN HUMAN KIND.

Leader: We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and a more just world for our children. People who make that choice will know hardship and sacrifice. But if you give yourself totally to the non-violent struggle for peace and justice, you also find that people will give you their hearts and you will never go hungry and you will never be alone. In giving yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love.

Response: BUT THEY WHO WAIT FOR THE LORD SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH. THEY SHALL MOUNT UP WITH THE WINGS LIKE EAGLES. THEY SHALL RUN AND NOT BE WEARY: THEY SHALL WALK AND NOT FAINT.

Leader: What do we want the churches to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, as God among us. We ask the churches to sacrifice with the people for social justice, and for love of brother and sister. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds… a multitude of simple deeds for justice, carried out by men and women whose hearts are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible!

Response: ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU: SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND: KNOCK AND IT WILL BE OPENED TO YOU. AMEN. AMEN.
 
 
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INTERCESSIONS


Leader: For the reconciliation of all people through the revolution of non-violent love…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For churches and synagogues, that they may be humbled, reformed, united…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For all poor and hungry, migrant workers, outcast and unemployed…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For victims of discrimination, harassment and brutality…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: That farmworkers may someday win the justice they seek…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: That with compassion and fidelity we may work for a better world…

Response: We pray, O God.

Pause for Personal Intentions… (Respond: We pray, O God.)

Leader: For the labors of those whose backs are sore from bending, whose lungs cry for air free of dust and poisonous fumes, whose labors enable us to eat…

Response: We pray, O God.
 
 
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AFFIRMATION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

Leader: We believe in God,

Women: Whose breath gives energy for the struggle,

Men: Whose power goes beyond human weakness

Leader: We believe in Christ,

Women: Whose solidarity accompanies all our deaths,

Men: Whose life frees us to the resurrection.

Leader: We believe in the Spirit,

Women: Who liberates us from powerlessness

Men: And brings us toward all truth.

Leader: We believe in God the Holy Trinity,

All: Whose grace upholds our being, whose unity call us to be the church an to live out the hope of the Kingdom.
 
 
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A CHRISTIAN CONFESSION

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers like Isaiah and Jesus,
People: And we throw them out or nail them to crosses. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers of your Word,
People: And we claim they are extremists or radicals or idealists. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers,
People: And we divert our attention or turn up the TV or talk about “practicalities” so we won’t be disturbed. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers,
People: And we ignore them because they remind us that we are implicated in this injustice. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you incessantly send us truth-speakers,
People: And we seek to hide from your call to participate in bringing lasting justice. Have mercy on us all.
 
 
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A THANKSGIVING LITANY


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Speaker: O God of seed and harvest, the meal before us is a sight to behold and we are grateful.

Response: The meat and the vegetables, the fruit and bread, the drink and fellowship of this meal are gifts from Your mighty hand and outstretched arm

Speaker: This turkey has given up life so that we might have life.

Response: We are mindful of the sacrifice—the exchange of death for life—associated with our being fed and nourished.

Speaker: From egg to chick to bird to food, countless human hands have brought this turkey to our table.

Response: We are grateful for the farmers, the poultry plant workers, the shippers and market place workers, and those who have prepared this meal.

Speaker: We are sorry and repent for any suffering, abuse or exploitation that workers feel as the result of their labor on our behalf.

Response: We commit ourselves to eat this meal in peace, and rise from this table for work for justice and harmony on the earth and among the people of the earth.

ALL: Taste and see how good God is!
 
 
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A CHRISTIAN LABOR DAY LITANY


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Leader: O Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, on this Labor Day we thank You for Your care and loving concern for workers throughout the world. We remember all workers: men and women; young and old; all races, ethnic and language groups in Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa, North Africa, North America, Central America and the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East. Help all working personal realize a deeper understanding of Your presence, and call them to do justice and build human community where they are employed.

Leader: For workers who face dangerous conditions or hazards in their work without sufficient warning or protection,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all who face the conflicts of working and caring for children without adequate support,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers who cannot find work and for whom unemployment assistance is not available,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For workers who are displaced by technical change or global pressures to relocate jobs,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For children whose childhood has been cut short because they are forced to work,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all who face difficulties or are discriminated against in getting work or at the workplace because of race, gender, ethnicity, physical disabilities, political or religious beliefs or sexual orientation,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers who have been affected by labor disputes or who have been discriminate against as a result of their union activity or because they sought justice in their place of employment,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers whose work is taken for granted, is unappreciated or lacks meaning,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer. Amen.
 
 
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JUSTICE FOR FARMWORKERS


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Leader: God of Seed and Harvest, we give thanks to You for Your graciousness. As Your people, we know that we are called to be attentive to the workers who harvest food for our tables. These workers often suffer hardships to bring us our feed. Keep us mindful of farmworkers and their struggles. Keep us attentive tot heir cries for justice and dignity. For the 20,000 strawberry workers of California, who work up to twelve hours a day in the fields without clean drinking water or bathrooms, and in the midst of pesticides.

All: We pray for the men and women in the fields to be loved more than the profits they bring.

Leader: For the fifteen thousand tomato workers in Southwest Florida who have organized for fair wages and working conditions, yet the tomato growers refuse to respond to the workers and recognize their union.

All: We pray for the courage to respond.

Leader: For the thousands of pickle workers who toil in six-hundred pickle farms in North Carolina. These workers earn only half what Ohio pickle workers make under union contracts.

All: We pray that ALL workers be treated with fairness and dignity.

Leader: For each farmworker whose average life span is only fifty years, compared to more than seventy for other Americans.

All: We pray for the courage to advocate for justice in an economy that deems some lives more valuable than others.

Leader: We give thanks for leaders like Cesar Chavez, who throughout history have advocated for the basic rights and freedoms of farmworkers. We pray that their vision for love and justice will continue to burn brightly.

All: O God, keep us mindful of farmworkers. Keep our ears open to their cries for justice. May we be nourished and strengthened to work for justice and compassion. Amen.
 
 
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LITANY OF THANKS


from National Catholic Rural Life Conference www.ncrlc.com

Leader: For the gift of life and a place at the banquet of life,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For America’s heritage of land and abundant resources,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the bread on our tables and the bread on our altars which sustains our life,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For our families and the security their love gives us,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the blessings of a bountiful harvest and economic security,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the prophets and peacemakers everywhere in the world
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Add other prayers which you wish to voice, responding with “Let us always be thankful.”
 
 
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CONFESSION AND PARDON

Unison: God of all ages and peoples, God of all times and beyond time, Hear our prayers.

Men: Forgive us, O loving Creator, for our deafness and blindness and muteness of spirit. Forgive us, 0 Lifegiver, for the evil we have wrought, the corrosion we have brought to the intricate sculpturing that is your creation

Women: Forgive us our participation in oppression, whether it be on the grand scale of government and church, or on the minor scale of family and home Forgive us those things we did with awareness as well as those things we did unaware of the dominance given us by accidents of wealth, nationality, color or gender.

Unison: We make our confessions of neglect, or corruption, Of failing to take ourselves seriously. We confess, trusting that these uplifted prayers. Already initiate the healing of all who dwell in lonely exile here.

Leader: The Good News is present among us. Even in our brokenness, in our separation from ourselves, from God and from one another, there is that Grace that makes us whole.

Let us turn to each other and extend the sign of forgiveness and peace. Peace be with you!

Unison: And also with you!

(Extend The Peace to those around you with an embrace, a kiss, or a handshake.)
 
 
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PRAYER OF OFFERING


Leader: We offer and dedicate our gifts and lives to God.
Reader: We confront anew the way in which your power works, O Eternal One. You came as one of us — frail, human, limited and bound. Your power expressed itself in the gentle breathing of a newborn infant, in the stumbling of a child and in the frustrations of an adult.

You let us know that your power and your love are identical. We rejoice that you have extended your special care to all of us. We offer you our newly-discovered power, Which does not seek to coerce or dominate, But to enhance the wonder of your creation.

Leader: Accept our offerings, we pray. Loving God. Breathe into them and into us the possibilities of new life throughout the earth. Amen.
 
 
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PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Leader: Let us praise God in gladness and humility for all great and simple joys; for the weak things of the earth which have confounded the strong.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For birds; for children and the gladness of innocence; for the joy of work attempted and achieved; for the joy of harvest and the wedding feast.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the glory of God shining in common-place lives; for husband and wife scheming to please one another; for the sacrifices of both for their children.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For all who have loved the common people and borne their sorrows in their hearts; for all obscure and humble saints.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the multitude of nameless saints and farm worker ministers who for nearly 80 years have given of themselves to the farm workers of America.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the men, women and children who feed us all, for their leaders and all who have risked a safe and secure life to serve their just cause.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: And for each other, who believe and hope and love and work and laugh together in a common struggle for justice and peace.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!
 
 
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INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Leader: Let us seek God’s help in the struggle for justice for farm workers.

People: For the workers who harvest the food that comes to our tables, may they have a living wage. Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: May the seeds of our actions produce a harvest of justice.

People: For the fruits of decent housing, health care, and hope for the future. Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: May the church be filled with the Holy Spirit to be in solidarity with the workers.

People: For strength to the organizers who work for the fruits of justice. Lord, hear our prayer.

All: God bless our hearts and our hands in this harvest of justice. Amen.
 
 
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PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

Leader: Are we the People who live for others? Whose human relations are charged with forgiveness?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP. WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the People who walk the second mile when one mile would do?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the ones who turn the other cheek? Who give the shirt off our backs when our coat is gone?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we a community recognized and known by our love?
Assembly: WE PRAY THAT WE ARE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: When the poor of the world ask us for bread, do we give them a stone? When they ask us for fish, do we reach them a serpent?
Assembly: NEVER. GOD HELP US; NEVER.

Leader: Do we care only for those who care about us? Do we serve only those who will tell us how grateful they are?
Assembly: NO, GOD HELP US; NEVER.

Leader: Are we the People who thirst for a Justice that promises cannot slake?
Assembly: YES, WE ARE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the People who are restless enough to make peace? Who are strong enough to be gentle, and gentle enough, to resist violence?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the ones who take seriously our titles “-“Salt of the earth” — “Light of the world” —”Leaven of our society?”
Assembly: YES, WE ARE THE ONES.

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Contact us

National Farm Worker Ministry
P.O. Box 10645
112 Cox Ave., Suite 208
Raleigh, NC 27605
Email us here
919-807-8707 (office)