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 (www.wordmadeflesh.org) 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.