Monday, December 10, 2007

Newsletter 7

Greetings Friends and Family from Rio again.

We are counting down the days until we have to hop back on an airplane and come back to our respective homes and places of work. Today is Monday and we leave on Saturday so we have five more days to make the most out of our time in Rio.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are preparing for Christmas and more time with family and loved ones. I am looking forward to not only family and friends but also SNOW and rediscovering winter clothes. My tank tops are looking a bit stretched out and ragged from four months of hand washing and active wear. It has been strange observing some of the things I miss most about life in the States. I think I'm really going to relish the freedom to be alone when I want and the ability to go places when and where I want with much fewer restrictions.

It has been since early November that I gave a lengthy newsletter and for that I'm very sorry. November has been a very involved month and December is even more busy. About a month ago we climbed Corcovado to the Christ statue. The climb was steep and jungley, lasted about 2 hours and most of the time we were climbing through a cloud. Once we committed, we couldn't see much of the statue because of the density of cloud cover, rain, and strong winds that threatened to blow us over the cliff edges. That was the first time I have been really cold in Brazil. But still it was such a memorable experience and I'm so glad we went.

A couple weeks ago we took all the Projecta Vidinha (orphanage) kids to a really big park to play futbol with the older kids and other games with the young kids. That was such a huge success. I played soccer non-stop that whole day. The kids beat up on me terribly but still my team was determined to get me to score. I preferred to play defense. A couple days before that was my birthday and then also I got a chance to play, this time under an over pass with the street kids with commuting business people occasionally walking through our make-shift playing field. On this particular day I scored three goals. Unfortunately those years of smoking and perhaps also being a bit high make the street kids slow enough that I could keep pace.

Ben, our servant team coordinator who has been in the U.S. since Mid October was finally granted student VISA so he was able to come home to Brazil on Wednesday. This was a huge relief to us all. We missed having him around terribly and he returned just in time to take us on our debriefing retreat to Angra, a beautiful beach town with hundreds of nearly abandoned islands. We left for that retreat on Thursday night after we helped run a Christmas party at Timonis (the favela kids program). The Christmas party was lots of fun. We decorated the place with lots of lights and streamers, had candy to give away, made mini pizzas, and had a huge supply of sodas. Each of us operated a carnival type game that the kids would rotate around to and receive points to redeem for a Christmas gift at the end. My game was a huge tub of sand with 10 marbles buried in it. The kids had a minute to dig through it and pull out all the marbles. They had a lot of fun with it but I was covered in mud by the end of the day. Mud because when sand settles on a really sweaty person it becomes mud. Oh, the power had gone out again so not only were the Christmas lights not lit but also none of our ceiling lights or fans were operational. On really hot days the electricity tends to go out. The wiring in illegal residency doesn't tend to be that great but many people are starting to own window air conditioning units that drain entire blocks of electricity. We're getting used to always being covered with a sticky film of sweat. Unfortunately the party ended on a sour note because of a police raid that was warring with the Drug Traffickers on the streets outside. We kept the kids inside with us until the area immediately surrounding us had quieted down a bit. Happy Birthday Jesus, right?

Then we hurried home to clean up for the debriefing retreat to Mangaratiba and Angra dos Reis. We have a Brazilian friend who has a house not 100 yards from the ocean at Mangaratiba and he allowed us to invade his house again for this weekend. It is such a beautiful place unfortunately half the time it was raining. We still had a good time and spend a day and a half on the beach. Yesterday, for the last day of the retreat, we went to the bigger city of Angra to go on a boat trip to Ilha Grande (the big island) and to a couple small islands along the way with beautiful beaches. We also went snorkling at one point on the Ilha Grande. Yesterday was the perfect day to step back from our life in the favelas and from this time in Brazil to consider what God has done in our lives and what we have learned during these past four months.

We have just a few days left now. Next week I'll be back in Texas to the things that have always been familiar to me speaking a language I know. I can't wait to come back and reconnect with all of you. I can't wait to share in more detail some of the experiences I had and also to hear about what has been happening in your life since the last time we were together. If this letter wasn't too long for you check out this blog posting for more details from my days:

Miss you all. I'll see you soon. May God bless your life this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

almost over

I can't promise I will write any more blogs during my time in Rio. I will write lots I assume once I return and am trying to make since of my time in this place. But for now, I'm pretty busy both with normal ministry activities as well as additional end of our time stuff like Christmas parties, farewell parties, debriefing retreat, and growing desire to spend time with our Brazilian friends. Today was a bit out of the ordinary as far as ordinary days go. I'll try to capture a few moments from it for you now.

Today, being Wednesday, was a long day of work. We were up a bit before 8am to make cafe de manha (breakfast-meaning coffee) and head out to catch a onîbus (bus) to Lapa (an area of downtown where the Missionaries of Charity is located). The bus didn't come right away. It seemed like every other possible bus had passed by several times before a very full bus that would take us where we wanted to go arrived. We had to stand about half the 45 minute commute and when I finally sat it was in the back row (5 across) and I got stuck in the very middle between two men. One was asleep and seemed to seemed to drift more and more onto me. Finally the man on the other side of me got off the bus and I got to sit on the crack between two seats so the sleepy man wasn't leaning on me anymore.

We arrived at MoC and say hi to all the wonderful old women who cook amazing almoça (lunch) on Wednesdays. We tell them that this week we have brought the sobremasas (desert), it is chocolate bolo, but we like to call it Brownies. After that anouncement, we joined the Sister from Rowanda to help with the laundry. She told me happy birthday in both English and Portuguese and asked if I danced for the party. She really likes dancing but I think that pleasure is a bit stiffled if you are a nun, but of course I can't be sure. A little later after the laundry is done and after we learn how to get coco (coconut) out of a dried green oblong shaped ball and how to then shave it like what you would find on the baking isle of a grocery store, the sisters let us try some candied coco. It was heavenly. Then they said to take it home with us to share with the other Americanos. After more time has passed and we have prayed with the cooks and eaten their amazing meal of rice and beans and noodles, and mean and salad and pineapple they get to try our brownies that we have been trying to make and give them for over a month now.

After MoC we get on another bus and ride 30 minutes or so to Tijuca, another area of town between DT and where we live. We check the mail box, nothing for me, then walk to Projeta Vidinha (the orphanage). Kids are eating lunch. IN (a 10 year old boy) is playing with the four little kittens with a clothes hanger. B (2 year old girl) is in a great mood and having my head be a race track for a matchbox like car. R (8 year old boy) is obediently eating. No other little kids there at the time. We take them to the main room after they eat to play a memory card game. It works for a bit before the other Americans on staff show up with their baby. B is playing with markers and stealing our cards. T (6 year old boy) and PV (8, boy) arrive. R has started to cheat. IN is rearranging the cards. R is becoming more obsinate each minute. Finally the other Americans who can speak excelent Portuguese come in and give the kids more direction. Now they will create Christmas cards for their American sponsors. Last week they created cards for their Brazilian sponsors. So because of this repitition they weren't very excited or engaged in the assignment. IN followed directions well once he possisioned himself on the other side of the room from me and requested marker colors he needed in Portuguese and had me throw them across the room to him back and forth. R just wasn't having a real good day and kept pouting. The other boys T and PV focused for a total of 10 minutes. Once they were done so were Heather and myself. The house quickly became chaotic again with kids trying to use us as jugle gyms, yelling and fighting each other. All the while I'm locking in having to throw markers across the room at IN. Three and a half hours of being in this house finally pass and we decide we've had enough and need to get home for the evening. We get directions for the next day from the American staff then start saying our good-byes to the kids. I ask little B for a hug in good enough Portuguese for her to have no doubt about my request for a hug, I said, "Eu preciso uma abrasar." She got a really big smile on her face, opens wide her little arms and flings herself at my chest. I'm squatting on the floor so it's perfect. Then the other kids see me within their reach so before I know it PV and T and R are all on my back. This frustrates me as much as it makes me feel loved and appreciated. We finally leave and tell the kids we will see them again Friday for Enlgish class.

So we leave and hobble like wounded soldiers the half mile or more to the bus stop more aware than ever of the toll that being in a forein country, doing manual labor, and working with kids has on a person. The bus this time is another 45 minutes and I settle in comfortably by Heather and start to drift to sleep (not deep sleep but just kinda nodding off now and again). We get off and walk home another 1/2 mile through the favela. At home Heather and I part ways, her to the internet cafe and I to the roof of our house.

At the roof, I take "Announcing the Reign of God" a book we will be discussing as a group tomorrow that I haven't finished yet. I also have my water bottle and disposable camera hoping to catch a good sunset and noticing that the neighbor kids are trying to get their kites to take flight. I love watching the flight of their little kites. It looks like a lot of work but well worth it. One of the kids has a roof like ours that is really tall above all the buildings around it. The other is under several clothes lines and has taller buildings on three sides so it's much more difficult to get a kite to fly from such a position. I watch them struggle for a while and then I hear teenage girl voices behind me and realize the kids from a couple houses down are joining me on my roof. I recognize them but have never had conversations with them before. Now I speak more and am up for the challence. T (14 year old girl) asks to see/use my cameral. I let her. She takes a picture of her friends. Then one of me confussed that she has so quickly figured out how my camera works, I will trash that one once I get them developed. Then she takes one of her friends and me with the mountains and kites in the backgrownd. We talk a bit about names, ages, where I'm from, do I have a boyfriend, my favorite types of music, and that was about all. Then the oldest starts beating up on T. Not really sure why but it destroys our moment of conversation and they find their way back to their own roof.

I look up after this and see the kids have finally sucessfully gotten their kite flying. I hollar PARABANS! (congratulations) at them and the girls I was talking to start laughing of course. Just as quickly as the kite takes flight it seems to crash back down so I decide I can probably invite them over to my roof because it is so much better possitioned for flying a kite but no kids live here to do the honors. So I hollar over again "vocês pode vam car aqui com suas peples." please excuse my spelling I'm not sure of my accuracy with Portuguese spelling but this is my attempt to say "Ya'll can come over here with your kite." They act like they understand and seem to say, really? After one attempt the kid runs downstairs and looks like he's asking mom for permission but then returns to the roof and resumes flight there. So I give up and just enjoy the sunset with the kids still trying to fly their beautifle kite for a long time. Heather joins me after a while with her camera also. I share a cookie with her that I got last night at my birthday party.

Then we go downstairs and evaluate our options for super. We are now out of noodles, out of rice, out of meat, cheese, we have two eggs, some slightly moldy bread, and good spices. I have no money. I have just enough money for the bus fair until we get paid Friday morning. I have so little spare money that I have been borrowing toothpaste and soap all week. I made the mistake of going out to eat Chinese food with Lisa on our birthday. It was worth it but now I have no extra. We don't get much money to live on, which is good. About 1/3 of the R$100 we get goes to transportation. The rest basically covers our food. But then we always end up doing things during the week with our Brazilian friends and nothing is cheap. So we decide to make egg sandwiches with curry and tabasco. Heather has some spare money and buys two slices of cheese. She is very generous to me. Most of her weekly allowance probably went to my birthday celebrations. I decide to contribute to the meal by sharing some Crystal Light to go Cherry packets with her. It is a really good meal.

After eating I came to the Lan House where I am at the moment. I hope you enjoy my day. So ordinary and yet so amazing. I really love Brazil. I love Rio. I love my teammates and friends. I really love the favela. And I thank God for drawing me to this place in relationship with all these people. Thanks for reading. I'll be back to Texas in two and a half weeks and to Chicago at the first of the year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Eu Sou Muito Amavi

Today I found this picture and received a package of all the things I miss most about being home (minus the people I love) from my co-workers. I feel loved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Friends.

Today I am thankful for you, my friends. I want to say a special thanks to all of you who throughout the past 3+ months have taken the time to send me emails. You will never truly know how encouraging those emails have been for me. Thank you also for those of you who have sent me letters and packages. Getting mail always makes for a great day, no matter what else occurred during that day. (however please don't try to send anything else my way because it wont get here before I leave)

I also thank you friends for your prayers. I have full confidence that many of you have been praying frequently for us, our safety, our ministry, and probably many other things. Thank you for bathing this experience in your prayers. And now as we are coming into the home stretch, only three weeks remaining in beautiful Brazil we will need your prayers all the more. We are already getting choked up at the thought of saying good-bye to our many friends here. How do you tell a 10 year old good-bye for real when you are so accustomed to saying I'll see you tomorrow or next week? How do you tell so many close friends and casual acquaintances in this place that we wont see each other again most likely until the throne room of God? My prayers now are that those we have been ministering with will come to see us as not-so-distant cousins that they will always be able to look back and fondly remember and know that someday we will get to romp around again and create wonderful adventures. Because we all are in fact family. The children we have become so close to are our brothers and sisters in Christ with equally strong bonds as any blood family could ever be. I hope you will realize that these new friends I have in Brazil and that I write stories about are also your brothers and sisters. I'm sorry you may not have the opportunity to meet them face to face but they are still your family too.

On this Thanksgiving, as anticlimactic as it is in a country that obviously doesn't recognize this holiday, I am thankful for the opportunity to meet this part of my family in Brazil. I am so thankful to have met this extension of the body of Christ. I am thankful to see the movement of the Spirit in this place. I am thankful for being part of a family that isn't bound by nationality, ethnicity, sex, income, occupation, time, or distance. I hope on this Thanksgiving day you too will remember your extended family and brothers and sisters that may currently be unknown to you but that live all over the world in all conditions imaginable.

I pray for you also. I love you and miss you. I will be coming home to you soon. We fly out of Rio at 11:55pm December 15th. So I'll be back to Texas on December 16th and back to Chicago-land December 31st-ish.

Deus te abençoe (God bless you),

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm Slacking

on creating new posts that is. I have finished several books since my last quasi report and intend to at some point in the near future at least record what books I'm been reading and a one or two sentence summary of each. But for the past few weeks I just haven't felt like writing such seemingly unimportant words that may or may not take up your time to read when you could be living life in some more constructive way.

I also haven't recorded for you enjoyment any funny stories from our experiences in Rio, which have been occurring undoubtedly, but again I have not slowed down my own life in order to reflect on these moments and type them out in a humorous account. So sorry, you will have to wait for more fun stories from Rio.

The things that have happened lately that I would want to write about are unfortunately very difficult to reconstruct with words when I know that my readers are primarily if not entirely based in the U.S. suburbia. There is nothing wrong with you being a US suburbanite, it just makes trying to explain particular events in daily life in Brazil a bit more challenging.

For instance when I talk with a Brazilian I can say this morning as we were leaving the favela we encountered the Caverão face to face for the first time. And immediately that statement conjures up countless relevant images in their minds and they begin to tell us stories that relate to my one short statement. Yes, I will attempt to describe the Caverão and other things that are happening in our lives but perhaps some stories I will go into deeper detail with once I return and practice trying to describe the events face to face with close friends before I go off trying to type it out. Then maybe what I will say will make a bit more sense.

Suffice it to say that life is still moving at lightning speed. We realize the we will only be in Brazil for something like 24 more days. We know the exact number of times we will return to each ministry. When we left the Missionaries of Charity today we said to each other, 5 more times. We will go to the streets 2 more times, the orphanage 7 more times, etc. We have two more weekends after this coming one that we are busy planning. We want to make the most out of each moment. That's our life right now.

No more time to write now, I have life to live and processing to do for what we have experienced. I don't want to be a basket case when I return. I want to make some good healthy decisions before I hope on that plane. Right now I feel very healthy mentally. I don't think I will freak out as bad returning even as I did when I returned from China. I will be tired however and in desperate need of alone time. I haven't had alone time in four months. How blessed it will be to have my own room for two weeks while I'm in Texas. Yeah! Life is good.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What are we doing in Brazil?

Just so you know,

Our time in Brazil is being spent relaxing

on the beach

and in the slum.

Newsletter 6

Oi Friends and family,

I have been observing that Brazil has a lot of holidays. There were at least 2 last month: children's day and teacher's day. November 2nd was All Saints Day and November 12th I think will be another holiday. These are on top of our own Thanksgiving holiday and double birthday party the following Monday.

This month we will also throw a big birthday party for all the spring birthdays at Projeta Vidinha (the orphanage). The founder of that home, Dora, has a birthday on November 13th so I'm guessing that's when we will have their party.

2 Women from the Word Made Flesh staff in Omaha, NE are visiting the Rio community in mid November as well for about a week. We are all hoping to do many touristy things during that week because even after having been here for two and a half months we still haven't been to the Christ statue or a couple of the world famous beaches.

Though our life continues to maintain a type of simi-consistent weekly rhythm I realize I have yet to really expound upon what we do here. What follows is a brief description of our responsibilities but it all adds up to a long newsletter. I apologize for this fact and hope you will persevere to the end.

Sunday morning we attend the Timonis church in the favela Maginhos. The church was began there in early October I think. Sunday afternoon we go to the market and buy fresh fruit and veggies and decide which church to attend in the evenings (Sunday night is the big church gathering).

Monday mornings we study or rest up, eat lunch together, then travel downtown to a gorgeous cathedral with a tragic story. This cathedral is called Candelaria and during our time there we pray before walking to Praça XV to spend some time with our friends the street kids. Generally we spend a few hours with them. Chatting, playing uno, drawing, and solving math problems before distributing sandwiches, fruit, and chocolate milk. They generally are more appreciative of our time then of our food.

Tuesdays we still split up to double our ministry involvement. David, Will, and Lisa work at Timonis, a place for the kids in the favelas to learn the bible and play. I explain more about that later. Heather and I head to Tijuca (a nice part of town) where Projeta Vidinha is located to play with the kids living there. We learn each others languages, draw, do homework, chat, rest, eat, and generally have a decent time together. Sometimes we tell Bible stories and pray and sometimes we don't. I don't feel any guild about this. It's a very religious environment so often we share the love of God in more creative ways.

Tuesday afternoons we travel downtown to Lapa (the aqua ducts) and walk to the Missionaries of Charity home where we find the nuns in their personal quarters praying and the gentlemen in residence, thrilled to have two American women greatly limited in their understanding of Portuguese ready to attempt to converse or play dominos for about an hour. Most of these men are seriously limited in their mobility by various forms of cancer or injury. Then we descend to the kitchen and dinning area to assist with transforming the tranquil monastic setting into a bustling soup kitchen for homeless men for the following couple of hours. It's exhausting but also lots of fun.

Wednesdays are a reverse of Tuesdays in which we begin our day at the Missionaries of Charity and end at Projeta Vidinha. Wednesday morning at MofC are the weekly big cleaning day. We have have frequently been put to work doing laundry, washing windows, organizing the clothing donations, or changing the sheets and cleaning the men's rooms. We have the most fun when working along side a sister and get to hear a bit of her story. My favorite sister is a young woman from Rwanda. She makes me laugh a lot. Last week we threw four 50lb. sacks of jeans down the stairs together. She knows how to have fun while she works. After our tasks we return to the kitchen for more laughs with the crazy old women cooks. They are so full of joy, so beautiful, and their food is to die for! Yum!!! This week we promised them we would bring the sobrimesa (desert) and their faces lit up with excitment. We are going to try to make carmel brownies. Brazil doesn't really have brownies which is a shame. I think they will like it. After lunch we return to Projeta Vidinha and continue to spend quality time with the kids.

Thursdays we have community time. In the mornings we discuss our reading assignments. We just finished reading "From Brokenness to Community" by Jean Vanier. Then we eat lunch together and in the evening we have our Portuguese lesson for a couple hours.

Friday mornings we teach English at Projeta Vidinha. This class is going suprisingly well. David and I team teach the high school class. Heather, Lisa, and Will teach the younger kids. They do fun stuff like paint by numbers. David and I just talk from the chalk board.

The rest of the day Friday and all of Saturday varry from week to week. Sometimes we go to the beach, sometimes we go to the mountins. And sometimes we do nothing at all. This Saturday I slept until 9, read for a while, spent some time online, then went to the roof of the house in the favela Jacaré for a couple hours just to see the view. I think the mountain behind the favela is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I spend a lot of time on the roof and I have the farmer's tan to prove it.

That's our week and the regular responsibilities we uphold. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays David, Will, and Lisa work at Timonis is the neighboring favela. It is a children's program where they teach a Bible story, do a drawing, eat a snack, and play hard like there's no tomorrow. We also do other things of course. We have many Brazilian friends now and they are showing us the city bit by bit. We went bowling last week and went to a pizza rodisio (all you can eat brought fresh to the table including desert varieties). They boys went to a Brazilian broadway musical, sometimes we get taken to a beach or to a friend's home for food. Rest assured we are quite busy, healthy, and staying safe.

Congratulations on making it to the end of this long note. I hope you are all well. I'll see you in a month and a half if you are a Lubbock friend or 2 months if you are in the Chicago area. There's still time to get a birthday card sent to me (Nov. 26th). It takes 3 weeks to get here. My address is:
Jen Pare C/O Ben Miller
Caixa Postal 24103
AC Tijuca
Rio de Janiero, RJ 20550-970
Be sure to send air mail. Remember I have a blog, and have added new posts tagged "fun stories" that are quick blurbs from my life in Rio. The oldest ones are best. And please continue to send prayers, art, and other articles for my WMF project to encourage their full-time missionaries around the world. I have also added a snapfish photo album of some of the early moments of Rio. More will be added soon. Here is a link to view those photos. is doesn't work let me know and I'll find out a better link.
Thanks for reading. God bless. Don't freeze this winter.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I Heart you Chicago!

Word Made Flesh Project Progress

This is doesn's have many enteries yet and I need you to continue to submit prayers, scrture, personal art and writting, articles and other stuff for this project to benefit the staff of Word Made Flesh to help keep the burning passion alive in each person for justice for the poor around the world. Thanks to anyone who does submit through comments more enteries for this database.

You may know that I'm collecting "stuff" (poems, prayers, verses, art, articles, etc) for an encouragement prayer book to gift to the workers of Word Made Flesh in their endevours around the world. Here is where I will collect that stuff. If you can submit any materials, please do. Thanks!

1. When I dare to be powerful–to use my strength in the service of my vision,then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid-Audre Lorde

2. The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

3. Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen

4. The Real Work by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to doWe have come to our real work,And that when we no longer know which way to goWe have come to our real journey.The mind that is not baffled is not employed.The impeded stream is the one that sings.5. Life is on our side.The silence and the Cross of which we knoware forces that connot be defeated.In silence and suffering,in the midst of dishonesty (most of all our own dishonesty),in all these if victory.It is Christ in us who drives us through darknessand which can only be foundby passing through apparent despair.Everything has to be tested.All relationships have to be tried.All loyalties have to pass through the fire.Much has to be lost.Much in us has to be killed, even much that is best in us.But Victory is certain.The Resurrection is the only light,and with that light there is no error.

-letter to Cxeslaw Milosz from Thomas Merton
February 28, 1959, CT 57-58

Shawn Mcdonald - Here I Am
lay myself at Your feet

Asking You won't You meet

Won't You meet me

I cannot do it on my own

I cannot do it all alone

Here I am, oh, tonight

With my arms open wide

Won't You come inside

Won't You come inside, God

Come and fill this heart of mine

I'm in need of You

Of Your touch, of Your life, of Your love

I need You

I need You

By Julie Clawson, December 2, 2007
First Sunday of Advent - Hope
Some hoped for a warrior. One who would come to overthrow the Romans. A great and might King who would stand above the masses and once again bring glory to the nation.
Some hoped for a purifier to come and cleanse the nation of it’s sin. One who would enforce the laws and punish those who transgress. One who could motivate a nation to toe the line of legalism and save themselves through piety.
What they got instead was a baby. God incarnate indeed, but God incarnate lowly, poor, and vulnerable. And a kind of hope that those obsessed with delusions of grandeur or religious fervor could barely comprehend, but which echoed in the hearts of the oppressed desperate for any hope at all. The type of hope that the one who bore this child understood when she proclaimed -
“My soul glorifies the Lordand my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,for he has been mindfulof the humble state of his servant.From now on all generations will call me blessed,for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.His mercy extends to those who fear him,from generation to generation.He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.He has brought down rulers from their thronesbut has lifted up the humble.He has filled the hungry with good thingsbut has sent the rich away empty.He has helped his servant Israel,remembering to be mercifulto Abraham and his descendants forever,even as he said to our fathers.” Luke 1:46-55
Jesus came as the incarnation of this hope for the brokenhearted. He urged us to love others and bring freedom to the oppressed. He healed the sick and ate meals with outcasts. He offended those calling for violent revolution and scandalized those upholding the letter of the law. But he proclaimed hope.
On this first Sunday of Advent we are called to remember that hope. To celebrate the incarnation that brought hope to those who had never dared hope before. But celebrating doesn’t mean just saying a few nice words or a prayer of thanksgiving. It means being that hope. It means as followers of Christ expressing his incarnation by being his hands and feet. By healing the sick, by setting the oppressed free, and bringing good news to the poor. Hope must be tangible and make a concrete difference in the lives of those who need it for it to be real hope. Let us not just proclaim hope, but be true harbingers of hope as we seek to live in light of the incarnation.
The words to one of my favorite carols of the season, O Holy Night, capture a bit of what this incarnate hope can look like in our lives -
Truly He taught us to love one another;His law is love and His gospel is peace.Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;And in His name all oppression shall cease.Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,Let all within us praise His holy name.


One of Word Made Flesh's central values is community. This concept of community is one of the main reasons I chose to apply with WMF. I have learned that I need community. But I don't want to get into that here.

Brazilian culture seems to foster community in many distinct ways. I would like to share a bit about what I have seen community to be in Rio.

Primarily, the family is community. It is quite common (at least among the people we know that are middle to lower SES) for adult children to still be living with their parents and still sharing one room regardless of gender. Nobody ever leaves home except when a man gets married. Then he moves in with his new sogra (mother-in-law). And our Brazilian friends love their families and especially momma's cooking. I think this form of community is a beautiful arrangement because ever Brazilian has a place in society provided you get married and have female offspring who outlive you. The elderly are loved and charished. They have family to take care of them. It's beautiful and economical.

Secondly, nas ingrasas (in the churches) you will find community. Sunday night is the big church time but they have other sevices for the "real christians." Christian culture here seems really ridgid to me but they have the community in place to support it. Sunday morning church is like Willow Creek Wednesday nights for the believers craving meat. This is also where they quarterly community is served. On top of Sunday morning and night, they also meet every night of the week for special prayer time and healing. These services go late into the night. And after each gethering of the church they must eat together. And often smaller groups of church members will get together before sevices to "hang-out" so essencially the "real christians" spend all their time that's not spent at work or sleeping at church and with church people. This is odd to me but it is definantly a strong form of community.

We have now lived inside and outside the favela and through the recent displacement we realized we were experiencing a separation from community. The favela (slum) is a community. Everyday in the favela we waved and chatted with the same neighbors as we executed the daily routine. The neighbor kids would invite themselves over to play Janga or Uno, the mom of a friend from the local church would prepare us some homemade Brazilian Cuisine, the drug dealers would say "gringas" as we passed y in their ominous ways, and the list of acquaintences that somehow add up to the community of the slum continue. We had only lived there two months and already we had connections with tons of people. I can't imagine how vibrant the bonds would be if I were a hild of the favela and my family had lived there for several generations. Wow!

There are two more types of community I want to talk about but not now. I want to describe them in story form when I'm feeling more creative. These communities I'm thinking of are the Choparias (bars) and the street kids. Wait for it. I promise to get these stories up next week.

Friday, November 02, 2007

MTVs The Real World

In case you guys haven't been watching MTV lately, it was just announced that next season's Real World will be in Brazil and will be featuring young Christians oddly enough, where people stop being polite and start being real. Get this, our veggi stand neighbors said they saw us on TV a couple weeks ago at the Brazil vs. Ecuador futbol game at Maracanã.

We had been suspecting something was up for a while. Ben seems to be best at spotting the hidden cameras. One time he and Rich were downtown when people and cameras came out of nowhere and engulfed them in hugs. They said they were "free hugs" or something like that but we suspect otherwise. Another time Ben saw the cameras and upon inquiring was assured "don't worry, it's for the Amazing Race." Now I am convenced, these things are no coincidence. We are being made into a TV show. And a darn entertaining one too I'm sure.

People are interested in how young American Christians living co-ed in another country will behave. I'm not ashamed. America can see how we live, how we get angry, how we spend our time in a small house in a poor neighborhood.

Just so you can know what part of the season is currently being filmed, I think we just reach the climactic fourth of the way in where MTV really gets the viewers hooked on evesdropping into our lives. 2 weeks ago Will dropped the monumental quots, "I'm not going to live like your not coming back." This proceeded Will and David's weekend trip to visit some twin girls in São Pãulo which corresponded with the weekend the girls moved out of the slum to Jenna's one bedroom apartment in Hiegenopolis. The following weekend's Episode was where 3 out of 4 of our leaders were abroad so we had to fend almost completely for ourselves in the big city.

This week they filmed the episode on who our feal friends are. One group of friends from Jacaré are taking us bowling and some other friends had invited us to go to their beach house in the country. We are living large and living Real.

The Real World!

Evangelical. Am I?

I've been feeling frustrated with a friend a few times when Brazilians ask "are we Baptista" He says Will and himself are and the rest of us are Evangelica diferente bla bla bla Portugueseness....

A few days ago Lugamila (our new language teacher) was asking each of us individually this denomentational question. Lisa was asked first and said Nazerine and David chimed in with the Portuguese pronounciation. I was next and said "No, I don't have a denomentation" They were confussed so again David chimes in with the Portuguese, "Evangelica não-denomenação bla bla bla... I say "I'm not Evangelical!" and cut him off. I was rude. I didn't mean to be. Luge asked if I was Catholic and I wanted to say yes but I knew she wouldn't understand my intention so I said No. Rillo (Luge's brother) asked if my church had a name and named off all the denomenations he knew and I said we didn't have one of those. Next time I get that question I'll say I belong to a house church and if they want more details I'll say I ascribe to Emergent Anglican Theology. If that doesn't seem to make sense, I'll say we're a bit of an intelectually liberal church. I don't know what liberal means to Brazilians. Maybe I will substitute the word progressive in place of liberal, but that doesn't seem quite right either.

Do the members of Via Christus consider themselves evangelical? I know Church of Christ would not and thus I would not. Technically if I belong to a denomination it would be to the CoC. But I agree more along the lines of Angly/Catholic/Orthodox theology minus the institution which are all also outside the Evangelical parameters. But if it's the institution I have problems with, maybe I'm not Christian at all. Maybe I am simply a disciple. As much as I study and strive to imitate Christ hopefully nobody not even myself could argue with that label.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy New Year!

Yes, it's true, I am jumping the gun a little here but I am so excited to return to Chicago and start another year. This is not in an unhealthy I hate my life and want to get to the next stage as quickly as possible sort of way as it may have been in previous years of my life. But for once I love my life now, can look back and say I loved my life then, and can even look forward and see that it will continue to get better.

It is strange I think that I miss school so much. I was able to look up my tenative spring course schedule which got me thinking about going back to work. These things got me thinking about living with more wonderful families from Via Christus. The thought of that went to snow and commuting which drove my thoughts to when will I ever have time to cook these amazing Brazilian dinners and how wonderful it will be to work out at the Wheaton sports center again. Oh, how I long to run again.

Last night I mapped out a budget. I will stick to it this time even if I have to share it with the people I live with and make a poster on the wall in an easy to see location so they can check up on me often. I was also thinking about getting healthy again. Running regularly, doing strenth training so I don't injure and give up. Eating well balanced instead of eating crap food because I'm vegitarian and nobody has well balanced veggi food that doesn't require hours of prep and cooking time.

All in all I am so excited about the disciplined life I have mapped out for myself to return to. It will be fun. It will include lots of people time, me time, and make money and get out of debt time. I will also be taking wonderful classes about urban issues, ministry, and the Holy Spirit.

I have less then 7 weeks remaining in Brazil. The time here is running out but it's not yet over. I am truly loving being here but I will not be upset to return. I have learned so much here and I will continue to learn in these next several weeks. But the learning doesn't stop here. I'll go on to other phases of life and God will continue to teach me things. Alright, I'll stop writing so I can go rejoin the rythems of life in Rio.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Asphalt Angels

Asphalt Angels
Ineke Holtwijk

This book is based on the life of a real child living in Rio de Janeiro. The Asphalt Angels are a gang of street kids. The book recounts the story of one 13 year old boy, Alex (not his real name), how he ended up on the streets, how he learned to survive, and how he came to be part of the Asphalt Angels.

It is a terribly sad story for the most part. Incredibly inciteful and relavant to our work here. I knew all the places they went to, I can put faces on the kids and cops, and in a way it gave some perspective as to why the people of Rio are so afraid of the kids and look at me like I am a circus freak when I am casually hanging out with the kids. For details read blog from last week "circus freak."

I am really glad Holtwijk put for the effort to capture this young man's story. The lives of these kids are not dispensible and their story needs to be made known.

A Quote: "We are not criminals. Criminals are the rich steal and the police who kill. We steal to live. And the street belongs to everybody. We aren't leaving, because this is our home. We have just as much right as everybody else. Nobody has to worry about us because we take care of ourselves. We help one another. We, the Asphalt Angels don't die. Because when we die, There'll be new Asphalt Angels." (pg. 131)

One of the ways to get to Christ

Just so you know...

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation
-a novel-
by Uxodinma Iweala

This book was not as informative regarding child soldiers as "A Long Way Gone" was but this book was also more artistically written and on my part more artistically read.

Here is a quote for an example of the artistic language: "It is night. It is day. It is light. It is too hot. It is too cold. It is raining. It is too much sunshine. It is too dry. It is too wet. But all the time we are fighting. No matter what, we are always fighting. All the time bullet is just eating everything, leaf, tree, ground, person--eating them--just making person to bleed everywhere and there is so much blood flooding all over the bush everywhere and there is so much blood flooding all over the bush. The bleeding is making people to be screaming and shouting all the time, shouting to father and to mother, shouting to God or to Devil, shouting one language that nobody is really knowing at all. Sometimes I am covering my ear so I am not hearing bullet and shouting, and sometimes I am shouting and screaming also so I am not hearing anything but my own voice. Sometimes I am wanting to cry very loud, but nobody is crying in this place. If I am crying, they will be looking at me because soldier is not supposed to be crying." (pg. 117)

What I mean by artistic reading is in a different way I read parts of this book, for instance on the battlegrounds of an actual war involving a type of child soldiers. As I read through this book I heard the sounds of guns, helicopters, screaming, trucks, and motorcycles.

When I read "A Long Way Gone" I read at Harrik lake. The only identifying I had with the child was the fear of bugs. We simutaneously fought off mosquitos. But in this book, Agu and I both shuttered at the sounds of bullets flying through the air.

As a novel, "Beasts of No Nation" was brilliant. However, if you desire facts about the occurances of child soldiers, there are better resources available. If you like beautiful and creative language don't pass this book up.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Good News About Injustice

Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World
Gary A. Haugen

Gary is the International Justice Mission guy. He thinks like a lawyer and has seen terrible brokenness all over the world from the Rwandan Massacre to 13 year olds in brothels to child bonded labor in Indian mudalali cigarette factories to many other situations of terrible oppression. His writing is orderly and logical (he is a lawyer after all) and the book serves to remind the body of Christ that we all play a role in fighting global injustices. The book includes the anatomy of injustice and what you can do to combat it.

Quote: Overtime I have come to see questions about suffering in the world not so much as questions of God's character but as questions about the obedience and faith of God's people" (pg. 100). "Why O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? God may be asking similar questions--not of himself but of his people: 'And the LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene.' 'Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' (Isaiah 6:8; 59:15-16)" (pg. 140-141).

When Toasters Fly...

I haven't seen a toaster (or a microwave come to think of it) in more than two months, but today I saw a sardine can on wheels.

On a day like today, after it's been raining for 3 days and considering the present condition of road construction, it likely would have taken us three hours to travel from Jacaré to Candelaria (look these places up on Google Earth, they are not that far). But what would take three hours by omnibus (bus) managed to take about 20 minutes by sardine can (Metro Train).

Story: We (Heather, Lisa, and I) arrived at the Metro station and the train approached. It was covered by an advertisement like the Lubbock Citybusses in such a way that we couldn't even see through the windows. When the doors slid open, we looked at each other and groaned, "Uh oh." Somehow we managed to squeeze in among the mass of people and it wasn't too bad.

Three stops later we are at the main station terminal. Everyone exists to get on the next train which will take us downtown. We can see into this one as it pulls to a stop. It's worse. People were practically falling out as the doors slid open. I force my body in. Heather's not so sure we can all fit. I hold the door as one might hold an elevator door and say "come on." It's really tight. We can't move. The man behind Heather and I needs off at the next stop. As he tried to move, I try to fill the area his body previously occupied. It's like human tetris.

Next challenge, we don't know which side of the train the doors will open on when it gets to our stop. Only two stops left. Should we force ourselves to the other side of the train or should we stay put? What to do? So I attempt to speak to the friendly looking man beside me (I think he's friendly because he chuckled as I rolled my eyes trying to board the train). In Portuguese I say, "You Know Door." Pathetic, I know. In our broken Portuguese, his broken English, and only one stop to go we manage to communicate which stop we want off on and he tells us which side. We wiggle a couple feet towards the other side of the train and push our way out.

As the train is pulling away, we turn around to bid it farewell and observe just how full each car is.

Everybody knows the train is reliable during the rainy season, EVERYBODY.

Ragamuffin Gospel

The Ragamuffin Gospel
By Brennan Manning

This book is about Grace. I don't remember Manning's exact quote but a couple times he writes something to the effect of 'God expects more failure from you than you allow yourself.' And in the context of the writing he's talking about this unconditional love and it doesn't matter what we do or how many times we mess up, we are loved. This is good news indeed.

Sometimes I have a hard time forgiving myself. This book spoke to that tendency I have to remind me of the potency of God's love.

Quote: "We settle in and settle down to lives of comfortable piety and well-fed virtue. We grow complacent and lead practical lives. Our feeble attempts at prayer are filled with stitched phrases addressed to an impassive deity. Even times of worship become trivialized.
This is the victorious limp often lived by this writer. At different times on the journey I have tried to fill the emptiness that frequently comes with God's presence through a variety of substitutes--writing, preaching, traveling, television, movies, ice cream, shallow relationships, sports, music, daydreaming, alcohol, etc. As Annie Dillard says, "There is always an enormous temptation to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end." Along the way I opted for slavery and lost the desire for freedom. I loved my captivity and I imprisoned myself in the desire for things I hated. I hardened my heart against true love. I abandoned prayer and took flight from the simple sacredness of my life. On some given day when grace overtook me and I returned to prayer, I half-expected Jesus to ask, "Who dat?" (pg. 180)

Egg = Grape

This is the longest I haven't been in school since I was 5 years old and starting Kindergarten. Isn't that crazy? I think so.

Tuesday, Heather and I went to Projecto Vidinha and found H at the lunch table doing homework. How convenient. I was hoping for an excuse to pull out my Portuguese homework at work and sucker some unsuspecting kid into helping me out a bit.

After calling a grape (uva) and egg (ovo), H decides I need a vocab lesson. So he points to everything on the table. Apple (maça), banana (banana), grape (uva), cup (copo), plate (plata), bowl--stop--this is where I crash head first. He says, bacia (pronounced bas-E-a) I repeat bas-I-E. Over and over I make this mistake. We would repeat the whole sequence beginning with the fruit and ending with the bowl and without fail the only word my brain could conjure was bas-I-E.

Eventually, we got to my homework which was writing sentences with -er verbs conjugated correctly. I showed them to my teacher Wednesday night and she was pleased because it was perfect. Little did she know about my struggle to associate bacia with bowl. Thank you H, C, and A for your patience with me Tuesday.

Naked Before God

Naked Before God: The Return of a Broken Disciple
By Bill Williams with Martha Williams

This book was very creatively written. After just reading the first two chapters I already had to step away from the book because it was intense. Not only is the writing style creative, the story is captivating and the theology requires reconsideration. It seems to cover all the ground McLaren hits in "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy but not in such a defensive tone. Williams seems to very lovingly ask the reader to rethink our presuppositions about God, about people, about grace, and about a whole host of other things. I especially want to recommend this book to anyone with chronic medical conditions all the way from arthritis to MS to cancer to diabetes. You will know why after the first pace. Great book, great thoughts. This one touched my heart not just my intellect.

But why evangelize, if it doesn't leverage people into New Jerusalem?
Because the reward of faith is on earth, not in heaven. Those that receive it will find strength and endurance for their other wounds--as Christ says, faith makes you well. That's reason enough isn't it?
We do it for the reason we pursue all healing acts; because we're called to be healers. And if the soil is rocky and the seed dies, this is no more of a judgement on a person than cancer or Tourette's syndrome. It is yet another expressing of the Not Yet: the waiting for healing that we all endure. (pg 181)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Circus Freaks

I am a circus freak.

We were downtown Monday, hanging out with the street kids under the bridge and the eyes in every bus, taxi, personal vehicle, and motorcycle were glued on myself and my friends.

I turned to Jenna and asked, "Jenna, why are they staring at me?" Jenna says, "I don't know if you know this or not, but you are in a very dirty place and you are a gringa." I am used to being stared at because I am a gringa but not like this. These stares were painful.

I turned to Will Smith (pronounced "Wiw Smitchy") and asked, "Why are they staring at me?" He responds, "I don't know if you know this or not but they think you are about to be mugged or worse at any moment. They think you are in a very unsafe place." But Wiw and his friends aren't about to harm me in any way. They are my friends. We now have two months of history together. They have guarded my purse many times through the time we have spent together. They have in fact given me priceless gifts including pictures to illustrate their love for me and Portuguese tips. These people are my friends. They are not about to harm me. This must not be why the people are staring so violently.

I turned to Lisa and asked, "Why are they staring at me?" She gently put her hand on my sholder and said, "I don't know if you are aware of this, but you have a second face growing out of your back. They are staring at you because you are a circus freak. I would stare at you to."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Newsletter 5

Hello again family and friends!!!
Sorry I have not written for quite a long time. I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer turning into fall. I heard that Colorado is already getting dumped on by snow. Burrrr! The other day it got up to 36 degrees here. I don't really know what that means but I think it was in the 90s. I got a good sunburn the other day at the beach and was reminded that I need to be really careful, it's still early spring. In fact we just sprung forward so I am now 3 hours before CST zone.
These past three weeks we have been invited to many incredible places. The Brazilians are incredibly hospitable. They share everything they have including food and home with us, gringos they have only known for a very short amount of time. If you want to know where all we have been go on Google maps and look up: Mangaratiba, Mendes, Barra de Tijuca, and Floresta de Tijuca. At Mangaratiba we spent a weekend at a friend's beach house. It was awesome! And incredibly relaxing. It was exactly what we needed at that time. The following weekend we went to Mendes, the home of the leaders of Timonis (the after school program in the neighboring favela). It was up in the jungle/mountains and was the first time we have really been away from all the people. The floresta de Tijuca we have been to a couple times now. It is the national forest located on the mountain we see from our bedroom window. Beautiful place. And Barra is the less touristy beach that we have also used a couple times. These places have been great retreats from the taxing life that we get engrossed in. However, we still haven't made it up to the Christ Statue. Our updated plans are to go early in November. It is difficult to get there and a bit pricy so that's how I have lived here for over two months and not gone to such a well known national symbol. And one thing I learned from all this travels is that grilled pineapple is to-die-for! Don't believe me? I challenge you to go fire up the grill, slice a pineapple and throw it one for a bit on each side to toasty it up. Ummmmm! Delicious.
On a more serious note, while in Rio I am required to do some kind of project to benefit to staff in Rio or Word Made Flesh staff around the world. My idea is to put together a book a prayers (and other stuff) that will remind the missionaries why they do what they do. But I need your help. I need to collect a ton of prayers, poems, art, short stories, or anything else that might be useful for reminding the staff why they do what they do which is serve the poor, encourage/refresh/rejuvenate, or stimulate thinking for fresh ways of dealing with corruption/violence/poverty/abuse/etc... also including theological works of justice, peace, and poverty. If you know of any of these articles that we could use please email them along so we can be partners and this work.
Half of our stay here is already up and everyday I find myself loving Brazil more and more. I love the work so much more now too because I know and love the children, the nuns, and others we daily interact with. My life here reminds me of what I used to idealize and tried to make my life at LCU. For a short time there I was invited to serve in groups that fed the hungry and cared for the orphans. These two services are essentially what I do in Rio, but I'm having a blast all the while. I'm fairly certain this is what I want to do with my life. But I still don't know where. There are children's shelters all over the States that I probably will work with until God sends me out again. But for now, I'm here for another two months. It's exciting to be doing the thing I love so much. This prayer has taken on new meaning for us here:
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

One more thing, we keep getting emails saying, "keep up the Lord's work." which sounds good but it's not really true. The interns talked and agreed that we aren't doing the Lord's work but he is doing his work in us and hopefully through us as well. My prayer for you these next couple weeks is that God will be working on and in you as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

casa dulce casa

I never get tired of this view.

Yesterday we went to the Brasil vs. Equador game at Maracana. It was awesome. They dominated with a final score of 5-0. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton Essential Writings
Christine M. Bochen

humm... what to say. Four parts to this book. 1 biography, 2 contemplation, 3 compassion (justice), 4 unity. All the sections were so relative to the place of the U.S. church. Merton didn't write very long ago but his writing did predate the current Terrorism terror/war.
We are a people of activism. Merton describes contemplation as true prayer where in silence we allow the true God to seek our true selves. He suggests that we do not often know our silent true self because we are activists acting out our religious activities trying to fill all silence and when loneliness and silence confront us, our true self is often not welcome. We are uncomfortable with it. But in this silence God speaks to our silent self.
Reading this section esspecially frustrated me because unless I am alone I don't feel like can access this silence to process what God is teaching me and I don't feel like any of us are able to go to that place of silence. I want all of us to learn from Psalm 46:10 to be still and seek/know God. This is important. We are too activistic. How do we got beyond that. Do we all need to be contemplative?
The third part of compassion included many of Mertons essays and poetry in reference to Auschwitz and how terribly normal and sane the people were who accomplished the atrochious deeds. Merton said that God isn't calling us to be sane at all but insane, not conforming, radicle, revolutionary, odd, silly, childlike, compassionate. We are not to blindly follow as the world leads but through the silence of contemplation to listen to God's silent voice and follow the shephard.
And the final section on unity is not to be confussed as pragmatism but as a loving and discerning ecuminism that in no way robs truth or creates a weaker all embrasing unitarian religion. Merton participated in dialogue across religious barriers including Sufism, Zen Buddhism, Hasidism Raja Yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism. May we see and may we seek truth in people all over the world. People are all made in the image of God, are they not?

Now for a prayer and a poem that I loved from this book:
"Merciful Lord, who prayed that we might be one, who died that we might be one, show us the true path to Unity. Bless, we beseech you, the sincere, devoted efforts of the Churches and their Shepherds, to come together in one. Bless above all and enlighten our own hearts to know and understand the power of silence, prayer, and fasting, so that we may more perfectly obey your hidden and mysterious will by which alone we can become truly one. For the glory of the Father, in the Word, through the Holy Spirit. Amen" (pg. 185)

"Life is on our side.
The silence and the Cross of which we know
are forces that cannot be defeated.
In silence and suffering,
in the heartbreaking effort to be honest
in the midst of dishonesty (mot of all our own dishonesty).
in all these is victory.
It is Christ in us who drives us through darkness
to a light of which we have no conception
and which can only be found
by passing through apparent despair.
Everything has to be tested.
All relationships have to be tried.
All loyalties have to pass through the fire.
Much has to be lost.
Much in us has to be killed,
even much that is best in us.
But Victory is certain.
The Resurrection is the only light,
and with that light there is no error."
(pg. 187)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi
By G. K. Chesterton

I finished this one a couple weeks ago so I have already forgotten what I wanted to write about it. Please forgive me for this error of procrastination. I do remember how enthralled I was by the use of language by Mr. Chesterton. He is so lyrical and deliberate about the use of each individual word. Each sentence is so flooded with meaning that this book was best read in a quiet well light uncluttered room so that I wasn't distracted by the common happenings around me. If I began to daydream even for only a moment I owed it to myself to backtrack and try once again to soak in what Chesterton was trying to document about the life of the beloved Saint.

Saint Francis is by far my favorite saint. He was a man completely in love with God. His love was for God was Innocent and sincere. Many people misunderstand Francis and his asceticism because they cannot understand the passionate love Francis had for his savior. Francis was glad to give up everything (family, possessions, money, prominent future, popularity) all to follow his lover (Christ). And truly he lived a beautiful life. One thing I learned about Francis is that he would chase beggars and thieves in order to give them what little he had not sparing anything for himself. Crazy man. Crazy in love. wow

I want to love like that. I want to see Christ in people like that. Francis is cool! You are cool. Read about Francis and let his life change yours.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving From Affluence to Generosity.
Ronald J. Sider

"We each have our own unique gifts and calling. God wants many of us to fast and pray about social sin. Most should study, and many should write and speak out. Some should join and support organizations promoting social justice. Others should run for political office. All of us should ask how changes in our personal lifestyle could help model a better world. But God does not want anyone to feel guilty for not doing everything--or for taking time off for relaxation and recreation....Correct[ing] social sin is not a heavy burden. It is an invitation to joy and meaning in life, an occasion for blessing our neighbors, and a wondrous opportunity to be a coworker with the Lord of history." (pg 117, emphasis mine)

This is a really insightful book. I recommend it to all Christians especially those with big hearts who have not yet been handed a thanksgiving sized platter of the realities of international inequalities and injustices. This book will help a person grow their social consciouses. It is a difficult read because many of the things contained in it are not pretty and the lifestyle alterations recommended are not always easy or entirely comfortable. But compared to the alternative (countless lives lost often due to our abundances and neglect) I think it's worth while.

The book has four parts. The first part focuses on the division between rich and poor. It is chalked full of stats and numbers to make the distinction tangible. This section gives of history or how the rich got rich and how the poor became poor. It also defines rich and poor.

Part two is a biblical perspective on poverty and possessions. This section makes clear God's preferential treatment on the poor. But more than that it expounds upon God's desire for justice and those that are oppressing are struck down and those being oppressed are cared for. Israel has been on both sides of that coin and we can read about that all we want in the Old Testament through the Exodus and then through the divided kingdom and the prophets. Some questions posed in this section: "Have we allowed our economic self-interest to distort our interpretation of Scripture?" "Are the people who call themselves by Christ's name truly God's people if they neglect the poor? Is the church really the church if it does not work to free the oppressed?" A quick summation of the conclusion of this section would be, "God is not biased. Material poverty is not a biblical ideal. Being poor and oppressed does not make people members of the church.... God actively seeks justice for those who are oppressed and neglected. (In fact, by pulling down oppressors and lifting up the oppressed, God does what is good for both groups.)" Then there is a big part of the jubilee. One painful quote reads, "Christians in the United States spent $15.7 billion on new church construction alone in the six years between 1984 and 1989. Would we go on building lavishly furnished expensive church buildings if members of our own congregations were starving? Do we not flatly contradict Paul if we live as if African or Latin American Christians are not also part of Christ's one body along with those in our home congregations. The division between the haves and the have nots in the body of Christ is a major hindrance to world evangelism. Hungry people in the Third World have difficulty accepting a Christ preached by People who symbolize (and often defend the materialism of) the richest societies on earth." (pg 87) "It is not because food, clothes, wealth, and property are inherently evil that Christians today must lower their standards of living. It is because others are starving." (pg. 98)

Part Three is on what causes poverty. This is probably the best section but it is difficult to read. So I will leave that up to you. Check it out from the library and soak that reality in!

Part four is on our reaction as individuals, as community (church or otherwise), and as a society to reign in justice. My favorite quote which also arguably an ideal from Charles Wesley is, "Christians should give away all but the plain necessaries of life that is, plain, wholesome food, clean clothes, and enough to carry on one's business." Wesley wanted all income given to the poor after bare necessities were met. This reminds me of the early church. There are lots of good suggestions for other personal changes some that are simple and some that will take years to transition into. The community discussion isn't complete and needs to be considered further within your individual communities. I like the Christian commune thing but also I realize the effectiveness of house churches. Thank you Via Christus, I love you!!! and then all the societal things are mostly over my head but I am trying to learn and move in that direction backed by communities. We can all do something and we must!

"Growing divisions between rich and poor will lead not only to more starvation and death but also to increasing civil strife, terrorism, and war.... To obey will mean to follow. And He lives among the poor and oppressed, seeking justice for those in agony.... God regularly accomplishes his will through faithful remnants." (pg. 269)

Read the book, love your starving neighbors, live simply so that others can simply live!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

dumb quiz thing to lighten the mood a bit!

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Searching (for real this time)

Disclaimer before reading:
In this blog I will refer to being a Christian as being married to Christ. Please do not suppose I have taken vows of any sort particularly to celibacy. I have in fact vowed to abstinance before marriage and faithfulness in marriage but not to celibacy, poverty, or obedience.
Also this article might make more sense if you take the time to read the other two articles on searching. They give this one a bit of context.

Begin reading:
Because of my upbringing I was destined to an arranged marriage to Christ; I did have some freedom however as to what age I would be when that took place. It happened on the side of a mountain in the chilly evening of July 31, 1997. I was 11.
As might be expected of any new bride I was anxious to know everything I could about my new love and reciprically I shared with Him everything I knew to about myself. Through the early years that excitement began to pale into my desireing a longer leash to discover who I was apart from this arranged marriage partner. This phase occurred while I was still in High School. I wanted not only to know myself but to know what life was like not being yoked in marriage. But the most peculiar thing is everytime I began to walk away, He was right there with me as if my Lover wanted nothing more than to be always by my side.
And so I learned to live with him. But not only did I learn to tolerate His presence, I began to learn to truly love him. I began to cling to His side and follow him wherever the lead me. And when I wasn't following Him and I relapsed into doing my own selfish things, they were completely devoid of meaning. I now not only loved my Lover but also I learned to love the things He loves.
This journey or search has obviously taken many different forms. To China, to sit at the feet of LCU Bible and Missions professors, to South Plains, to Pine Springs, to other mountains and nature settings, to South Plains Children's Shelter, to Chicago, to the back of a motorcycle, to "seminary," to various friendships, to Via Christus, and to Brazil.
Through these events and other experiences I'm trying to learn from my Lover what it is He is passionate about so I too can be passionate about those things and spend my life working in love and harmony with Him. Again and again I have been pulled into Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, and the Gospels. I have called out many times, What do you want from my life Lord? And His response comes back as to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow Me" (Lk 18:22).
But I try to follow my Lord without first dealing with my material belongings and that buys me four months of following my Love in Brazil. I know however that because I have not completely followed the command I must return to the life I left and the debt and responsibilities attatched to my name. I am greatful to get to return to my friends and mentors and hopefully they will be able to encourage me to more fully follow this command.
But my Lord's command is not so vague as to follow into the unknown. He has told me what He wants of me and what He will lead me into. That is, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). And more direct commands can be found in Isaiah and Amos (and many other places).
Now that I know what my Love wants from me, upon returning to the States from this honeymoon I will make the necessary preparations to follow through on his commands. That means not accummulating more debt, and as quickly as possible laboring for my freedom from debt. I am like Gomar, the prostitute of Hosea. I have forsaken my true love for the comfort and convenience of being self-serving and making for myself a home in this world. The child I have born through this prostitution is my debt. But fortunately my Lover is kind and good in correcting me and my poor choices. I must now deal with this child, debt, most severely. And until I deal with it and gain freedom I will be held back from completely following my Lord's intentions for my life.
What will it look like to be a servant of my Lord during this shackled time? I want to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I don't want to be religious while continuing to participate in social systems that oppress people. I want to live simpily so that others can simpily live. I want to continue to liquidate the things I call mine to be generous to God's children in my backyard, Chicago. Unfortunately as long as I live in the U.S. I think I will be part of the problem. I will be consuming things like oil that are harmful to the environment, I will be consuming foods produced in countries where people die of starvation, I will be wearing clothes sewn by children held in slave labor. And I will not see the suffering I am causing. I will not be able to love the starving person, or help the person suffering the flooding of global warming. I will not be able to offer an alternative to the child who will sell herself for sex or labor. I will not be able to love the least of my Lover's children. I must follow Him, I must seek him out where He is among the suffering in the world. And to completely Love Him is to commit myself to the labor of love among the least.
Freedom from the world=
freedom through obedience to God

Friday, September 28, 2007

I love my life

...just wanted to say that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job

how to Be A Monastic And Not Leave Your Day Job. and invitation to obilate life
Brother Benet Tvedten

This book was like a bag of M&M's. You buy it, take it home, tear off the corner of the bag with the intention of eating just a few of the sweet candies and saving the rest for later. But after getting a taste for the sweet chocolate, accedentally finishing the whole bag in one setting. The book is only a little over 100 pages. I sat down with it and found it to be a very easy read with fabulous dry humor and wonderful content, so I finished it in a very short period of time. I need to stop eating so many books. I'm probably gaining weight.

Back to monasticism...When I ordered this book on Amazon I don't think I realized it was specifically about the rule of Saint Benedict, not that that is a bad thing. I learned many things about the Benedictine Rule and the orders of St. Benedict that I wouldn't have known otherwise. For instance, I wouldn't have to be a catholic in order to join the third order of the Benedictines, the oblate.

I picked up the book because I didn't know much about the third or secular order of Monasticism. Some of you may remember a tall skinny blond I dated last year named Steve, his mom was a secular Franciscan. I didn't really know at the time what that ment. Steve was in my life just as I was beginning to become interested in monasticism. If I had known then what I know now about it all she and I would have had some serious conversations and I may have been on my way at the moment to becomming a Franciscan. But alas, God had other plans. I do not even know if as a Protestant that door would be open to me.

Which leads into a good monologue of if I didn't have the option to become a secular Franciscan would I join the Benedictines...
The Benedictine rule is said to be a beginers rule for ordering life on the way to perfection. The rule is not a burden. It is easy and there is room for mistakes. Benedict was diligent in emphasizing the need for balance. Never go to extremes in anything. Too much wine is bad. Too much food is bad. Too much scripture is even bad. In all things moderation is best and balance between labor and study is ideal. For an oblate (one choosing the Benedictine rule belonging to a monastary but living outside their walls in a secular profession) that means study of the way of Christ and Christ-like buisiness practices, raising children and being a spouce in a way to glorify God and other such things. However I have two issues with their practice. First is their ambiguous stance on justice. In the rule Benedict states that they will actively persue peace and justice but today in praxis it is hard to decide what role they will take and it has been translated into a kind of individual place for interpretation. Some followers are very diligent in serving God in love and in ways that are actively working towards world justice and others are ignorant of the whole conversation. The intire spectrum exists. There doesn't seem to be any firm voices at this time saying that the Benedictines will commit themselves to justice in specific ways in this age.

My other issue is their value of stability. Don't get me wrong, I value stability but God doesn't seem to have called me to stability at this point in life. In my mind I am a friar, not a monk. The difference is the monk belongs to his monastery whereas the friar roams the country side in small clusters preaching and serving where ever the Lord leads. I am convinced this is the life I am called to at this time. I do desire stability in community but in a community of friars, not monks. I really did appreciate the book and I learned many things. Now I want to know about other secular monastic orders.


I appologize for all the lame book report blogs lately but for whatever reason I have not felt the urdge to write about myself as much. I'm still searching. I still don't know entirely what for however. Monday morning I was invited to tell my life story to the Servant Team group here at the bungalow in Rio and it reminded me of truely how many years I have been searching. The search has taken many forms but has lasted for most of my life thus far. The difference is now I am aware of it.

I found a quote of Mother Teresa in my journal from March of 2007 that says, "My call is not to serve the poor. My call is to follow Jesus. I have followed him to the poor. But if he called me to the rich, I would go to the rich."

I will work on summing up what is occuring along this search while in Rio over the next week and it will focus around this quote to some degree. God is working on all of us here. We had an incredible conversation this morning on a part of "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" by Ron Sider. We were discussing the complexity of poverty and the was we perpetuate the causes. Next week we will discuss how we can work to overcome the structures of injustices. These things have me thinking. The systems of injustice have never been so easy to see as when I am here. And my understanding of poverty is completely different from what it was previous to this experience.

Like I said, I will think on these things and sometime next week will report what is actually going on in my heart, what God is teaching me at this time. What I report will not be intended to make anyone fill guilty for how they have decided to live. Don't read it if you feel like it might have this effect on you. I simpily want to fulfill my role as a member of this community and point to where I have seen God working in this world.

Now I'm rambling.

Newsletter 4

Oi Amigos!

I AM learning Portuguese. It is slow going and a lot of work but I am learning. And knowing the language is making a big difference in how we relate to the Carioca (people of Rio). Learning another language is not even the most difficult thing I've ever done, it is actually quite natural. When there is mutual love between people, they want to be known and understood by each other. The people we have consistently spent time with over these past 5 and a half weeks are opening up to use and are extremely patient with our language differences. There is a group of older women who volunteer to cook at the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) on Wednesdays so every Wednesday we eat their amazing lunch with them. One woman we call Dona Maria knows some English so we bonded with her from the first time we were introduced. Every week we talk to her and teach each other some of our first language and she expresses her pleasure at how much Portuguese we've learned. Some weeks I don't feel like we have learned anything but she is so encouraging and helps us realize we really are learning.

There is an 84 year old Chilean man who is in residence at the MoC. I gravitated to his bedside from the first time we visited in hopes I could understand his Spanish. I couldn't. Chileans speak very differently then Mexicans. But Wednesday Heather and I were finally able to carry on an extended conversation with him in part about why he is so sick with cancer now. It was an exhausting time trying to understand him Portuanish (Portuguese/Spanish) but also so rewarding to see that our relationships are being blessed in a new way now. Those relationships are also deepening with the kids at the orphanage, in the favelas, and on the streets.

We had an interesting experience on the streets Monday. We have heard about the corruption of the police but this was our first personal observation of their mistreatment or power abuse to the street kids. I was sitting with some of the kids playing UNO when a couple of police started eyeing our group (I'm sure having gringos around attracted their attention). They picked up a backpack lying on the pile of random stuff and it happened to belong to Will (one of us Norte Americanos). The police carefully searched his bag then moved on to a rattier looking backpacked that belonged to Ben, our leader, and searched through every bag of sandwiches it contained. Then he moved on to criticize D (a woman with a 9 month old baby, M). He told her she was being cruel to her baby and reached up his hand threatening to take M away. The young men playing UNO with me stood bold upright at this point. All the kids made a protective circle around mother and child to keep the police from laying a hand on either one of them. This pattern continued for about 30 minutes with varying intensities. D ran off with M a few times to put more distance between herself and the cops (it is undignified for the cops to run). At one point the cops caught up with her and began beating her with an umbrella. The young street men ran over to protect her again. We were able to reestablish some sort of peace after that and gathered together hand in hand to sing and pray before distributing the food but them the police interrupted again to lecture the kids about respect (the kids were saying some things to provoke the cops to anger). Then D said, "We are people and deserve respect too then." The police responded, "That may be true but I wear the badge." Then they kept bickering back and forth with the police on a complete power trip.

Later we were talking with one of the pregnant women after the police left about the situation. She had 7 kids. One of her kids had to run away to another city with his dad because a police but a gun to his head. She was telling us that she wanted to live in the U.S. because the poverty isn't so bad. She said the one thing better about Brazil is there is no war. Even still at least with war you expect there to be death. In Brazil, death is unexpected. The police kill without just cause those who are poor or involved with drugs or those who look like they belong to one of those categories.

That's wisdom from the street. At least Brazil isn't involved with organized war however, the unacknowledged war between the corrupt power structures (namely the local government like police, drug gangs, and the extremely rich landowners) claims the lives of an undocumented number of people across the nation.

Through all this Jesus stands up on his mountain with arms outstretched and we wonder when he will ever swoop down and reign forth justice. Slightly off the suject we plan to hike up to the Christ statue tomorrow.

Psalm 82:1-4
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the "gods":
"How long will you defend the unjust and show pariality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Prayer Requests: Our health is generally better at the moment. Some coughs, sneezes, hoarse voices, and aches are common still but nothing serious. Heather may have had a parasite but we think it passed on Monday. Thank you for your continued prayers for our health. Also please pray that God will use our bodies to be his physical hands and feet. That God would fill us so fully that the words that come out of our mouths are no longer our own but Christ's sent to love the least of this world, to serve, and to administer justice.

I hope you enjoy the stories. Sorry it's so heavy and serious. I also hope you are all well. Send me updates!