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