Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cerial Blog edition 1

Week one in the US of A I ate a box of Total Blueberry cereal. It was great. I ate fresh blueberries with the cereal and kefir instead of milk. I felt healthy and energetic all day. What cereal should I try next?
I hope you enjoy my new series on common cereals. Please send me the names of your favorites so I know what to try next.

I made a mistake, it wasn't Total, it was Special K. I don't know why I made this mistake but please forgive me, all three of my readers. I haven't picked my second box of cereal yet because I have no income and cereal is expensive.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things are Heating Up

I realize that over the past month I have not been updating as regularly as I had intended to. Part of that is because of busyness (limited freetime to devote to rest, reading, internet and whatever else I may want to do) but also because of costs. If $ were no factor to things I would then I would have uploaded all my photos, emailed many friends personal updates and generally kept closer to you whom I love states-side. As it is, I´ve limited myself to R$5 of internet usage per month. Please understand/respect my decision to live simply.

Recently we´ve had a few really hot days. The kind of days where you come out of the shower and instantly begin sweating again. These days are difficult in a world where I only experience air conditioner once a week for a brief time. But still there are some cloudy days and some rainy days so it´s not like day after day of continuous sweating.

For instance, this Monday on the streets it was raining heavily. So we ducked under an awening with 8 or so of our friends who call the streets their homes, regardless of the weather. One women (19) and her 1 year old baby boy were there asking if we could help her find a shelter that would take her and her baby. The next day Rich searched but some shelters had closed down and most required money. There are so few shelters that will allow women to stay with their children here. And it seems that the government does not fun sufficiently very many options for this friend of ours.

On a brighter note, Friday night at the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen for men of the streets, we had some very exciting conversations. Our Portuguese teacher has done a very good job with us and it´s exciting to be able to understand people´s stories and then to be able to tell people what we are about.

Yesterday we hiked Corcavado (the mountain of the christ statue) with four of our closest Brazilian friends. It took us 2.5 hours to climb up but then back down part way to the vans that shuttle people to the top. They were charging R$24 to get up to christ. Last time I came it was free. I thought charging so much was an outrage so 5 of us walked as far as was permitted without a ticket and took pictures of the backside of christ. Then when the group got back together we continued to walk all the way to Alto do Boa Vista. We had to have covered 10-12 miles, some VERY steep. This was an absurdly fantastic adventure.

Thanks for reading.
Happy Birthday Matt!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meio Passado esta passada

Half this trip is now over. I feel like we have gotten to the pinnacle of the roller coaster and now we will be flung down in a whirlwind to the end.

Tuesday was Children´s Day. I am convinced that this holiday is expressed by blasting music and shooting fireworks until 5am the night leading up to the holiday prohibiting children and parents alike from any sleep. On the holiday taking children to the park for a picnic and lots of cake. Culminating in street parades and singing happy birthday to no one in particular at 10pm. And ending the event with a mix of American dance club music (especially Lady Gaga) and Brazilian Funk until 3am. Of course the day before and the day after the holiday are taken off from work to allow for such involved partying.

Needless to say, I haven´t been getting much sleep these past few days. So while composing this message I was relaxing at a used bookstore/cafe enjoying espresso with dolce de lette topped with whipped cream. The espresso was strong and bitter, well paired with the sweet toppings. This was a great way to prepare for working at the sala (Projeto Ester).

On Children´s Day we escaped to the beach for the majority of the day. We all got a lot of sun but our Brazilian escort/housemate Diego probably got the most sun burnt despite having used sun screen. We also endured frequent pummeling from the ridiculously strong waves and wind. Truly it was a wonderful day. I look forward to a quieter week ahead.

Diego is a really neat guy. We (4 gringos) moved into his space 9 weeks ago and now I think he kinda loves having us around, mostly. He is from North Brazil and has worked with YWAM in Argentina and Paraguay as well as in other parts of Brazil. When he was much younger he was called by God in a dream to minister to children in Mozambique. Now he is 22 and this January, Lord willing, he will be on his way there for a year of service, though he feels called to 5 years. He will be a dad to the orphans while preaching the Good News. I have loved getting to know this brother. Currently Diego is on staff with WMF. It will be really hard for the community here to see him go but is will also be a miracle. Fundraising and acquiring VISA and passport have been very difficult for him even though he has a very close and wonderful church community.

Thanks for reading. Please pray for the Brazilian servants of God-their tenacity to follow the callings they have received. Ta ta for now. Thanks for reading and praying.

``Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say `who is the Lord?´´

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How do I get to last place?

This is a quote from Caleb, a young man on my servant team who always seems to have the best quotes come out of his mouth. Jesus taught us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. In this upside-down kingdom I find that I have been born into a disadvantaged position. I have been born into relative wealth and possessions can be dangerous. `Possessions are dangerous because they often encourage unconcern for the poor, because they lead to strife and war, and because they seduce people into forsaking God. Even more, they put people in the never-ending loop of covetousness.`Ron Sider `Rich Christians in an age of Hunger.` I´m still trying to break the bond I have to things and security.
Last night we went to Central Rio and hung out with 25 people or so (someone is always coming and going). We took our usual food, games, and bible story. I sat with children coloring in my lap most of our time there. As we were getting up to leave, I pulled my rain jacket out of the bag and began to put it on when a young man (16 or so) with his arms tucked inside his tank top asked me for my jacket. My response was Eu pressiso (I need) and I think my facial response was to quickly close down. I failed to see him as a person surviving the elements without the opportunity to easily acquire his perceived needs as I was. Another young man who has been meeting with Word Made Flesh for nearly seven years stepped in to rescue me. He knew me and this group as friends so he helped me get my arm into the jacket. The first boy asked next for my sun glasses and the second boy in again. He rescued me from this uneasy situation.
I desire to be seen as a friend, not a rich American. And I desire to see these people as real friends not people I have to guard against. There is so much between us.
This week we went to a passeo (field trip) to Quinta Boa Vista (a big park) with the kids from Projeto Vidinha, 15 or so ages 4-18. I played lots of baseball, soccer, Frisbee, and other games. It was a wonderful time. I got my first sunburn since being here. It has been raining a lot these past four days but the sun came out long enough for us to enjoy the park.
Afterwards we went to a Brazilian friend´s house and ended up watching A Walk To Remember. This was NOT chosen by the Americans. Cheesy!
Sunday we went to a place called the Jerusalem Cultural Center which was a large model of the city of Jerusalem during the years 66-70 CE. It was complete with Herod´s Temple, the palace of David, Upper and Lower city, the city of the second wall, and the New City. This was really cool. I love maps so this 3D map got me really excited. I wish I had access to this while studying bible at LCU and Wheaton. The model was located on the property of a mega church not to unlike Willow Creek. It even had a Bob´s (Bob´s is like Brazilian McDonald's) on site. Afterwards we walked to church in the pouring rain.
I´m still really enjoying being here after 7 weeks. I´m loving having access to fresh fruit and veggies. I made a veggie stir-fry for four the other day and spent about $1.10 USD in total. Today we bought 2 pineapples and a pint of strawberries for $1.75. We´ve been making smoothies often to try to stay cool and get our vitamins. It´s a real treat. Anyway. Off I go. Cooking pizza tonight. Tchou! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Psalm 139

Read the chapter first if you want to understand

Yesterday we did Lectia Divina on Ps. 139. I was touched by several images. The phrase that struck me most was `You hem me in` remembering the prayer of St. Patrick. Then considering the final stanza about search me, know my heart, know my thoughts, see if there is offensive ways in me, lead me in the way everlasting. (paraphrase of vs. 23-24).
God is with all his children even in the places we consider most dark. God makes those places of light. He also directs us to become agents of light, driving out darkness. He exposes the dark places inside each of us.
There are parts of me which are opposed to the light. I pray that God would either destroy those parts or completely reconcile them to Himself. I realize that I am a mess spiritually at time. I profess Christ and He is instructing me in freedom but I abuse this freedom possibly to an extent that damages Kingdom efforts to reconcile a broken world. I am free to do all things except that which harms my brother or sister. Sometimes the effects of my actions are hard to discern. It seems I need increased wisdom in these matters as well.
Lord begin this painful work in me.

Last Tuesday by grandfather passed away with ALS. I expected he would while I was here in Brazil but it was still hard being so far from the family. My dad was able to call Wednesday night while I was teaching Jessica our new cardio workout. It was good to hear his voice. I´m thankful for our group cell phone. Then Friday during the funeral I went to the Metropolitan Cathedral to pray alone. This was a good time for me.
Last weekend we stayed at the Nichol´s house outside the favela. The Nichols are the American WMF staff. There was lots of English speaking and American food. When we left the house to go to the grocery store it took me a little while to remember I was in another place. Yesterday and today were good to be with Brazilians again, speaking Portuguese, giving positive attention to children who don´t want us to leave.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I got to run nearly 5.5 mile on Sunday at an island called Paquita in the bay. It was a chilly overcast day, perfect for running.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

one month

Friends and Family
I´ve been in Rio a couple days short of a month. I have the tan lines to show for it and maybe a couple extra pounds. But maybe you want to know what´s impacted me or how I´ve impacted this community in that time.

Last night we went to the streets of downtown Rio and gathered with many people: children (8-14 years), young adults (15-21), and young families (22-older). There was a woman maybe 21 years old and 8 months pregnate with a 1 year old child. There was a motherly figure (probably late 30s but looked nearly 50), a young woman (16ish) under the mother´s care (not her mother), and a couple men all going to the same house later this week. There were 5 or 6 8-12 year old boys with a girl (maybe 9) practicing their provacative dance moves and several other individuals gathered this week. I spent most of the evening listening to the stories of an energetic/buzzed man (one of the ones going to a house together). He had never been to this woman´s house and said he was afraid to go. He said she was strict (not sure what that implied). He told me he has been living on these streets since he was 8 years old. He had been married but said that was no good and has a 19 year old son he hasn´t seen in 2 years and is now too ashamed to go see/find him. Many times he expressed his gratitude that we were there and said it was not good when we are away.

Almost every women I have met living on the streets18 years or older is pregnate. It seems like a perpetual state of being for these young women. Abortion is illegal in Rio but many have lost children presumably this way and many are raising children while barely able to support themselves. My heart breaks.

But then I get on a bus, ride for an hour to my current home which is like a huge suburban home compared to the conditions of my new friends´ trying to survive on the streets. I eat a big meal, have a shower, and sleep fairly peacefully. Perhaps this journey from ´have-not´to ´have´ is tearing me to peices.

I desire to build genuine relationships but feel limited because of the language barrier. I´m understanding more and more each day but can´t contribute much to a conversation. This is okay. It´s a humble position to be a baby, unable to talk only able to look and smile. I´m certain body language communicates our love sufficiently for now.

My greatest impact right now can only be my prayers. I´m dreaming about and wrestling with ideas about what my role might be in this place if I will be able to make a long-term committment.

That´s enough for now. Right now I´m making tortillas for everyone in the house. Yum!
Much love, I miss you, pray for you, and look forward to seeing you again!!!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I have now been in Rio 3 weeks and we are in the midst of a colonial revolution. Yesterday we blockaded their points of entry and poisoned the disputed territory. This morning I found 8 enemies dead and only 3 living but I know the battle is no where near over. As often as we discuss colonialism and our role hopefully as reverse colonialists we are actively participating in the genocide of Baratas (tiny Portuguese roaches), the natives. They have the run of our kitchen even though we clean thoroughly everyday. We store nothing in the cabinets or drawers. Our food is kept in plastic containers with sealing lids. Our dishes are stored in the fridge. Never fear, we will prevail!

Since being here I have read a lot, "Tuesdays with Morrie", "Dispossessed", "The Jesus I Never Knew", "A New Kind of Christianity", along with Ester, Job, and Joshua. I am now reading "Compassion" by Nouwen, McNeill, and Morrison, "The Kite Runner" and Judges. I also picked up a copy of Runners World in Portuguese. It is the August edition even though we are now well into September-oh well.

It has been a bit overcast and drizzly since Sunday. This weather has me thinking about fall in Chicago. It would be great running weather if that were an option for me here. Instead I sit inside and read.

Perhaps because of the gloomy weather we had a great gathering of children and young families on the streets Monday night to hangout with. Mondays are when we walk the streets looking for people we know living without homes. There were nearly 25 of our friends in one place. The past two weeks we have maybe found 3-8 people generally in a couple areas. This time we were able to set up for a few hours with a soccer ball, sidewalk chalk, drawings, Jenga, Uno, a Bible story (the story of the lost sheep), food and drink, and lots of attempted conversation. The smallest children are very precious, when they see Dandy or Jacqui (Brazilian staff) walking up they run for an embrace. It is evident that real relationships have been formed. And many women have benefited from Project Ester, the conversations and connections formed there.

Yesterday was a big work day for the Servant Team at Project Ester. We sanded and painted metal handrails and a suspended iron gate. We were filthy from the dust that had settled for so many years and tired from working from a ladder for so many hours. But the place looks pretty good, much improved anyway since it was purchased a year ago. Yesterday was also Brazil´s first independence day so there was a big parade in downtown and a "march for Jesus" in our favela. No work for Brazilians but extra work for Americans.

Thanks again for reading. This weekend would have been Mother Teresa´s 100th birthday so I will leave you with a quote, "If the work is looked at just by our own eyes and only from our own way, naturally, we ourselves can do nothing. But in Christ we can do all things. That´s why this work has become possible, because we are convinced that it is he, he who is working with us and through us in the poor and for the poor."

Just a reminder of my continued financial need. I left three weeks ago trusting that God would provide the support necessary for my participation in this ministry completely before I return in December. To date I have received $3500 of $5200. If you want to support you can either through the WMF website ( or by mailing checks to Word Made Flesh P.O. Box 70 Omaha, NE 68101. Remember not to put my name on the check but in an enclosed note. Thank you for your prayers as well!

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" Luke 14:11
Please join me where you are in learning to be a servant, humbly walking with God, seeing every lowly person as Jesus who we are sent to serve.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Fund Raising

I wanted to let people know where I was regarding fundraising. It appears that I have raised $2750 of $5200. This presents a problem for me as I will be responsible for the difference when I return if it has not been raised by then. So here is how you can help... PLEASE SEND SUPPORT TO:
Word Made Flesh
P.O. Box 70
Omaha, NE 68101
Please don´t write my name on the check but on a note attatched to the check. Thanks!

check out the web site, see what we´re doing. Read my stories. Sorry that none are up yet. I´m still getting my barings, not much free time.

email me with specific questions, I respond to those more quickly.

Much Love, stories to come!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Word Made Flesh Bible reflection

This is the last of my pre-departure reading responses. That means that at least one thing is now complete for take-off. I still have to change my address on accounts and services because when I return from Rio I will not be staying in the Chicago area. That means that I am working on two moves at once. Fun! Thanks for reading.

The Bible and what God has to say about the poor

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me, declares the Lord” Amos 4:6.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” Matthew 25:34-40.

Recently I had a conversation with my spiritual mentor, a professor at Lubbock Christian University. He is redesigning his intro to missions class and planning a new Old Testament class. We discussed some of the changes he would be making to these standard courses it is was words from God, exactly what I needed to hear as I was preparing to write this reflection and put thought into action in Rio.

We discussed the grand narrative (creation through redemption) and our purpose at this point in the story. Generally our theology has been shaped by concepts of heaven and hell, physical and spiritual, and the separation of these things. I highly suspect this was not the paradigm that Moses, Abraham, Jonah, Jesus, or even Paul operated from. Through my reading, reflection, and conversations I am learning to see God as a Creator of creators redeeming His creation through us. This means that I have a role in the redemption of this world. My role has been demonstrated through the life of Christ.

Christ lived to redeem (make perfect) this world. He healed the sick, threw parties for the poor, fed the hungry, hand-selected people to love, develop, and value. That is my example and I am trying to mimic the life Christ demonstrated. That means in Brazil through prayer I will seek to have eyes open and heart softened to see the people that I can be like Jesus toward. I am not the savior and I don’t want to be misunderstood but I do believe that it is the believers’ role to redeem God’s creation until heaven is fulfilled.

The 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 founder. He thinks like a lawyer and has seen terrible brokenness all over the world from the Rwandan Massacre to thirteen 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.

“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).

Haugen’s book is intentionally encouraging. He recognizes frequently the overwhelming power of suffering to freeze and numb people while reminding his readers that God goes before us, he is the firm ground beneath us even as we venture into chaotic and dangerous territory. If we are to be God’s hands and feet, we must go to the people Christ healed and comforted.

"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).

Haugen reminds his readers that the first step in bringing justice is to remember the suffering people. So many of us live in comfortable, controlled places that disconnect us from real suffering in the world. We could read in a newspaper about a terrible war crime or assault but neglect to remember the victim as uniquely created in God’s own image until we step out of our comfortable world into the world of suffering armed with the lovingly powerful heart of God.

I had forgotten how powerfully inspiring and convicting this book is, having not read it in nearly three years. I realize that in my own life, even knowing people that have personally experienced tremendous oppression I may remember them fondly for the friendship created but still I neglect to remember daily and petition for justice to reign for these dear friends. How quickly we forget even the most profound spiritual lessons when we live comfortable lives of detachment from unjust suffering.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

21 days to go

The countdown begins. 21 days=3 weeks. I've been telling people I'm leaving in like a month or something. BUT OMG it's only 3 weeks away!!!!!
I have finally printed support cards and a small stack of support letters. I've been debating whether I should do a full scale mail out like I've done in the past. The letter looks great and I have wonderful friends who probably enjoy receiving a physical letter but mailing that many letters is a bit pricey and I'm trying to collect rather than spend money in this case. What to do...
I have not received notice from WMF yet as to my current funds collected. This makes me very nervous. But it's in God's hands.

To prepare for this trip I have to read and review 3 books plus have a reaction to what I'm reading in my current Bible studies. Today I sent in my responses to "Brazil: An Oxfam Country Profile." By Jan Rocha and "In the Name of Jesus" by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I was not actually able to read these books because my heavily loved and notated copies are lost in Lubbock somewhere. But I was able to read what I have written on them in the past and use my questionable memory to have new insights on the material I recall to be contained in them. And for the sake of possible commentary I'll post both of my responses here.
Thanks for reading!

Brazil by Jan Rocha

I recently read over the essay I submitted on this text three years ago and have reflected on what details have stuck with me over this time. It is evident to me that I took remembered the information that I understood experientially. I remember reading about the rural poverty in Brazil, the take over of family farms and youth leaving their families for the cities. I remember in great detail the explanations on stripping the Amazon to increase cattle grazing lands and the subsequent expansion of arid (un-farmable) lands. Growing up in a West Texas town, rural poverty and agrarian practices are simple truths. These were the concepts that I read about and could relate to directly.

Trying to reflect on the description on the urban environment, I remember very little about what Jan Rocha tries to convey. I do know that there was a section on favelas, their origins, what they are, why, and where. This background was helpful to me going into the favelas for the first time and also as I began to understand the culture of these places. Consequently, a year ago I went to a barrio in Venezuela incidentally assuming that it would be very similar to what I experienced in the favela only to be shocked by the blatant differences. I could not find a paradigm for understanding what I was seeing and being told while at the same time trying to find the similarities between the Venezuela barrios and my home in Jacarezhino.

I also remember appreciating that this book was more than a history of Rio de Janeiro, a description of politics, or social tourism. Jan Rocha tried to take an unbiased approach to describe some of the over-arching themes of what makes Brazil the place we find it to be today. Brazil is a place of booming economy (car manufacturing and vast energy sources), evolving government, and the full spectrum of poverty and wealth among its citizens.

Working in a place that has healthy and fractured elements is difficult. It can be difficult to explain to people at home that I’m not going to Brazil to find beautiful beaches but to confront some of the greatest poverty in the world. It is hard to reassure families that by going to this place of poverty that I will find the safety that I need to maintain health and sustainability. Brazil is hard to wrap your mind around, it is also hard to experience but never the less it is a place where God is at work and is beckoning me toward.

In the Name of Jesus by Henri J. M. Nouwen

"Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead."

This short, easy read by Nouwen is one of my all time favorites on ministry. Nouwen assess the way Christian ministers have traditionally taken on their role and reveals through the temptations of Christ how a minister in love with Christ might lovingly take on the challenging role of ministry.

The way of this world is to move up the corporate ladder, to gain power, money, and popularity. The way of Christ is through humility, love, giving, and relationships. The way of Jesus is counter-cultural and as much as I may desire to follow the example Christ has set for my life, I struggle. I want to be a person motivated by love. I want to be a person who values healthy relationships and is not swayed by personal power or influence.

This book is broken into chapters discussing the three temptations of Christ, to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. In relevance, I see the trends in ministry books to address culture, sub-cultures, and generations in relevant ways. Nouwen cautions against this approach because it not genuine. Altering your message and style obsessively to reach particular people is not profound and cheapens the love Christ has for all people. Ministers who are deeply in love with their savior effect people richly.

The second temptation, to be spectacular reminds me of the reaction some people have when I tell them that I am going to Rio to live and work from the favelas. They tell me I’m some kind of super-hero and I want to plug my ears and scream. People try to make their ministers heroes, better than the normal human, and in this way unattainable to the average person. I want to have some comeback to this reaction to people who want to make me other than them like saying “I slept through work one day last week and my co-workers don’t think I’m wonderful” or “I cuss when I get angry on the road” but that would not solve the cultural complication. Nouwen suggests ministers especially need to be in the habit of confession. Communities should be in the habit of confession to one another. Christian communities need to see that we are all average people but God has made us spectacular. Our lives are still full of sin but God is bigger than that and chooses to use each of us still to bring love and reconciliation to a hurting world.

In the third and final temptation, Nouwen exposes our shared temptation to be powerful. So many ministers and people of influence and leadership are corrupted by the pursuit of power. Nouwen suggests that our response to subduing the urge for power should be reflection on God theologically and contemplatively. Quite simply we are to focus our attention on the one who has the power and off of our egocentric selves.

Last time I was in Rio, I spent a lot of my unstructured time on the roof reading, being intellectual, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. This time, going back, I want to make my priority building relationships with people that are healthy. I do not want to grow close to my Brazilian neighbors to “convert” them or for the specific task of teaching me Portuguese. I want to make friends to sharing in the joys and suffering of my neighbors, or learn and to impart, to mutually value. And perhaps God will bless these relationships and teach me to love and live a bit more like Christ.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mullen's Fun-Raising Party

See my flier for August 6th 7-9pm Open Bar party at Mullen's Restaurant and Bar in Lisle, IL. Hopefully you can join in the fun.

Updated Support Letter

new support letter

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brazil Servant Team 2010

I have been nearly silent on this blog for the last couple years but I would now like to announce the grand re-opening of unconventionalwisdom at blogger. That's right, my voice will once again be recorded on this site regularly. So get ready to hear about some awesome adventures.
July 6th I accepted an invitation to join the Brazil Servant Team with Word Made Flesh in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 17-December 17th. That means I have a lot of preparations and not a lot of time. So far I have applied for a VISA though I haven't received any indicator yet that said VISA has been granted. I have tried to find a plan for managing student loans, car and credit card bills while away and unemployed. And lastly, I'm trying to make a plan for fund-raising.

Fund-raising is not that difficult but it does take some planning. For instance, I have had a list of places to call to see if any restaurants or bars could help with setting up parties where proceeds would go to Word Made Flesh. I have a support letter drafted but not yet finalized or distributed. I have plans to make little cards with my information and address for funds and care packages. Mentioned today was the idea of having a car wash...if you know anyone who could help to arrange this let me know.

I am going to post my support letter here and begin over the next two days to email it out to see what kind of initial response I am getting. Please send ideas and encouragement this way because planning to leave the country for four months as an adult (rather than as a student) is a bit challenging. Perhaps it would be more difficult if I had a house, kids, spouse, but one reason I don't have those things is because I want to be available to serve in the places God opens the door to, not excluding my backyard or the other side of the world.

Support letter, draft 1:

Oi Amigos e Familia,

Many of you may know that I moved back to the Wheaton, IL area in March 2009 and have been working as much as possible in hopes of being able to return to Brazil. I am excited to announce that the invitation to return has been extended and I will be returning to Rio de Janeiro this August.

Once again, I will be working with Word Made Flesh. They are an ecumenical community of Christians working and living among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. The Word Made Flesh community in Rio targets women and children living in the favelas (shanty towns). “Our witness to the hope and transformation Christ brings is offered through ministries among the excluded and marginalized, especially children living on the streets. Our ministries include mentoring and modeling relationships, education and recreation programs, partnerships with local ministries and supporting the local church’s mission to be a light to the community and the world” (an excerpt from the Brazil vision statement).

This trip will be a time of intense exposure to one of the world’s poorest population. In the context of a dying world (both physically and spiritually), our team will be seeking God’s heart for the poor and how He would have us respond to the suffering of this world.

Many of you might be willing to go and serve alongside us if it were not for other responsibilities in your lives. So, I want to stress the important role you play back home. By giving financially and supporting me with your prayers, you are allowing families to be fed, clothed, and loved. No gift is too small. I cannot do this without your support, and Word Mad Flesh would not exist if it were not for the gifts of supporting people back home. I urge you to prayerfully consider what God has called you to give and partner with me as we follow His call.

I am responsible for raising $5200 by September 1. Already I have received

$1516. Above the program costs I am trying to raise additional funds to use to bless the missions community in Rio so they can continue to bless their neighbors ($650) and continue to make payments on my students loans while unemployed ($650). If you feel like God has called you to serve with financial gifts you can send checks to the Word Made Flesh office in Omaha (address on the next page) or to me personally. Please do not write my name in the memo line but do write my name on a separate paper attached to the check.

As I said, no gift is too small. To know that you are mindful of those serving among the poor is very encouraging to us. Please be prayerful of our travels, expenses, and that God would impart to us wisdom and sensitivity to His Spirit. Care packages can be sent to address on the back of this page. We always enjoy American junk food (not excluding Jiff peanut butter). Thank you for your time and concern. I look forward to sharing with you all that God will accomplish in the months to come!


Jen Pare

Addresses for sending support:

Word Made Flesh

P.O. Box 70

Omaha, NE 68101

Jen Pare

859 E Lawrence Ave

West Chicago, IL 60185

*before Aug 15

6012 73rd Street

Lubbock, TX 79424

*after Aug 15

Please post a comment or email me if you want my address in Brazil for sending letters or care packages.

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to your advice/suggestions/support!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reaching Out

"In our world full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture and country, from their neighbors, friends and family, from their deepest self and their God, we witness a painful search for a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found. Although many, we might even say most, strangers in this world become easily the victim of a fearful hostility, it is possible for men and women and obligatory for Christians to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings. The movement from hostility to hospitality is hard and full of difficulties. Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting and enemy to suddenly appear, intrude and do harm. But still--that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into a hospes, the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced."
-quoted from "Reaching Out: The three movements of the Spiritual Live" by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, May 31, 2010

squaw peak 50

4 days 6 hours and 30 minutes until the race. I can't sleep. I've saved the details until this final week of preparations and now I'm worried. I'm also very excited BUT....

What does it take to train for a 50 mile race you may wonder. Lots of people ask me how many miles per week I run, what my longest training run has been, how I've prepared for the terrain and altitude. Every time I answer these questions I find myself a little nervous. I don't really know what I'm doing. I've never done any thing like this before and I've found that there is little detailed information on how to train for ultras. Well, that's not entirely true. There are lots of personal accounts of training but because each race is it's own event (unlike the standard road marathon) the training required would be very different for me living in flat lands training for a 50 mile mountain race then it would be for a Vail runner training for Badwater (super hot, dry 135 miler). So I've had to try to decide for myself what my training should require.

I needed to learn to climb. So I found Mount Hoy (Trashmore) and ran up and down 4-5 times twice a week. To put this route on a grander scale it would be like an elevation gain of 400-500' per mile. Come to find out the race will require me to scale 1,000' per mile miles on end. I'm not yet sure that I can do this. I did run on snow lots this winter and there is a good chance I'll encounter some snow along the course. It's been a couple months now but I should be okay in this respect. My trail shoes are fresh and comfortable. I have a couple pairs of back-up shoes though because my feet are worn out from the past 7 month of abuse. And as for endurance and distances, I ran the marathon distance two weekends in a row. The second weekend I participated at the Rockford Marathon instead of running my usual training trails. This race was suppose to be a confidence booster and it was in some regards. I proved to be better trained than for any of my previous marathon performances however my body had it's issues. I started out too fast even though I felt great. My digestion got all messed up and I had chills for more than half the race despite warm weather. I could have finished 13 minutes faster had I not had to stop for all the port-a-johns along the way. I wish I knew the cause of this ailment. Now I'm worried about what will happen along a 50 mile trail course if my body responds the same way.

There are so many variables when it comes to racing and the longer the race the more potential variables. I have prepared as well as I was able to and wanted to. I have been looking forward to this race since Dec. 1st when I mailed in my application. Now I'm left waiting for the clock to count down the final days and put up the best I have to give when the time comes. It would be nice if everything came together perfectly. If I have full energy, the weather is right, my brother can come and pace through the tough part, my dad can push me through the finish, and I can enjoy the feeling of giving it my all.

I leave for Utah on Wednesday after work. I expect to arrive in Denver by Thursday morning then complete the drive by Friday morning to Provo, UT. This won't leave enough time to acclimate but maybe I'll not suffer too badly. The race is from 5,000-9,000', only 3,000' above what I'm accustomed to. Updates from the race will be posted to my facebook wall. Please send encouraging words. I'm a bit stressed at this point.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I haven't made it public knowledge yet but I realize that by putting something on the Internet it is instantly public knowledge. What am I talking about? I've been offered a job with Outward Bound in the Florida/Alabama area. This would be a very enjoyable job but also a sizable pay cut. It's not like I'm making that much to begin with. I can't even afford to have an apartment right now. Everything I make gets tunneled into gas, food, and primarily student loans. By taking the new job I can realistically expect to get out of debt in 25 years. Not what I want to see happen. However, I have another option. On this other route it would only take me up to 5 years to pay off my debt and I could still afford to have my own place. The downside is I don't want the job. It's very stressful, limiting, and unfulfilling (at least for me). Could I last in an environment like this long enough for the benefit of being free from debt with any chance of former passion still intact? I'm being dramatic now. I hate big decisions. I want to do the right thing for me. I'm not even trying to be selfless this time, it's about me and my future.

I found something today while I was cleaning up from Christmas season 2008. I wrote on a church bulletin "Who doesn't trust in this $? Who doesn't work for $ so they can provide for themselves shelter, food, coverings, pleasures. No we make lifestyle choices because our faith is in $, not God. St. Francis woke up & realized that our lies are held captive to $. He gave wealth away & set his life to serve the poor and trusted God would sustain his life w/out $."

Thinking and praying, thinking and praying....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last Segment of the Grand Illinois Trail

Untitled by pare.jennifer at Garmin Connect - Details
Kim and I finally finished the Grand Illinois trail with this epic ride. We met a dog musher, a sniper, quick sand, river crossing, sun burn, head wind, bugs, and a glorious finale.

Running at Kettle Moraine SP

Untitled by pare.jennifer at Garmin Connect - Details
This is a beautiful place. Pictures to be added later of my adventures.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for the bike loop

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for the Bike Loop

After work today I felt drawn to absorb as much glorious sunshine as possible. What better way is there then going for a nice long bike ride?