Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Comforts of "Home"

I'm back in my hometown for Christmas. There is an 11" blanket of snow on the ground and homemade cookies in the cookie jar. People are still angry about the noise pollution from the airport and Twin Peaks Mall is still a blight on society. Tebow fever is raging and Kathy Sabine's coat sleeves are too short.

Not much changes around here.

And I like it. I like coming "home" to this familiar, pokey town. With so much changing in my life these days, I find comfort in this town.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gettin' Ready

I confess I usually don't give enough attention to Advent. I don't think I'm alone. It is difficult being a student and having to worry about finals in December. Who has time for Advent? Who has time to prepare for Christ?

In my spiritual direction group this week, we looked at a Mary Oliver poem. It seemed appropriate for Advent, so I'm going to post it as my Advent gift to you.

Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
Still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.


Even when I fail at Advent, Christ still comes. Even when I fail daily to invite God in, God comes anyway. In this I find peace.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cute Creation

After camping in Washington state during my fall break, I've made a vow to spend more time outside. This can be a challenge when I'm bogged down by papers and sermon writing and whatnot. So today I had an hour to fill and while I felt the urge to sit down with the sermon I'm currently working on, I decided to go outside and walk. Two dogs appreciated this option.

As I was walking dog #1, a woman stopped and said "You have a really cute dog! Can I pet her?" I responded with "Thanks! Yeah, go ahead." As soon as the word came out my mouth, it felt completely wrong. Thanks? It's so funny that I instinctively took credit for the cuteness of this dog. First of all, this isn't even my dog. She belongs to my friend who is devoting this year to service in Guatemala. Seems odd for me to take credit for my friend's dog's cuteness.

And then I thought, but even if this were my dog, it's still odd for me to be taking credit for her cuteness. I mean, it's not like the woman said "Way to go! You adopted a really cute dog!" If she had complimented my choice of dog, that would be one thing. But she was complimenting the dog itself. I can't really take credit for this lil hairball full of love and cuteness. I didn't have anything to do with her creation.

So as I walked away from this encounter I thought of a better response: "I know! Isn't God good at making cute creations?"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Candidate

I recall the first time I flew into the Austin airport, coming to visit the seminary and have my face-to-face interview with the Admissions staff. I was full of anxiety, unsure that this journey to seminary would be a good fit.

This past weekend I again flew into the Austin airport, coming "home" from my meeting with the Presbytery in Colorado to move on in the ordination process. I was full of peace, sure that this journey I'm on is a good fit.

Yes, this was a hoop to jump through, but it was also one more affirming step in the process. I'm thankful to have a community of supporters, letting me know that I'm not crazy to think that God would be calling me to ministry.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Todo el Mundo, en sus Manos

Throughout the month I spent in Colombia I struggled to see how people could maintain hope amidst such crisis. The people of Urabá face a reality radically different than I do. They are imprisoned by poverty, living on land that is not theirs, yearning for the land that was taken away from them. They deal with political corruption which makes any corruption in the U.S. look like child's play. They face the threat of violence from paramilitary at all hours of the day.

I could not understand how they hold on to hope.

We spent a lot of time with kids while we were there, probably because kids are more bold and willing to talk to us foreigners. All of them were eager to practice their English skills and learn more. We found ourselves teaching them a lot of songs, one of their favorite being "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." We spent a lot of time in our apartment in Apartado teaching this song to a 6 year old whom I'll call Marcella. On our final day in the city, when the taxi pulled up to take us to the airport, Marcella hurriedly asked us to go over the words with her one more time. As we drove away I watched her out of the rear window of the cab, going through the hand motions, singing the song to herself.

I was grateful to be wearing sunglasses, as they hid the tears welling up in my eyes. This is the image of Colombia that I cling to, months after my time there. A young girl, immersed in a chaotic context, holding on to hope. Trusting in God's providence. Resting in the assurance that the whole world is in God's hands. I now realize that when a person lives in a place that is unstable, she won't put her trust in things of the world. She'll put her trust in God, the only constant, stable thing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gross Day

Today was one of those days when I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away. I'm currently working on a paper on atonement, an assignment that has got my head spinning. I thought I had a grasp on it this afternoon, but when I sat down with it again this evening I was lost. I fought the urge to keep working on it into the wee hours of the night, but I decided to go meet up with an old friend who is in town. Sometimes taking a break is a good thing. After seeing friends and being reminded that there's more to this seminary thing than cranking out papers, I felt recharged and ready to go.

And then my dog rolled in shit.

The stress and frustration of the day came pouring back in. I was on the verge of major tears as I hosed her off outside, realizing it was going to take several baths to get the stench out. I cussed under my breath as we walked up the stairs, realizing that my apartment was going to stink because of my dog. And then I calmed down as I bathed her, realizing that she's a dog. Dogs roll in poo. This 10 minutes of bath time turned into a reflection time over my day.

I thought about how wonderful it was to drink my tea this morning.
About how much I enjoyed my classes this morning.
I thought about my friend who took the time to tell me about her understanding of atonement, which gave me great insight.
About the break I took from writing when I picked up my clarinet and worked through the major scales.
I thought about how much I love having classes with close friends and with people I don't know very well.
I thought about the two hours I spent at the public library this evening, trudging through my paper, but loving the sound of children giggling at the book they were reading.
About how much I enjoy conversation over beers at the Local, and how sad I'll be when all but three people at that table tonight will be leaving next year.
About awkward, wonderful hugs in the middle of the street.
And I thought about how grateful I am for a patient boyfriend who is willing to help me walk the dogs.

It seems peculiar that I close out this day thinking it was a not so great day, when really the list indicates that there was a great deal of beauty in it.

For that I am grateful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Colombian Free Trade Agreement

Today President Obama signed the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. My heart laments as I think about what this means for the future of the people of Colombia. Here is a quote from this website regarding the "losers" in this deal:

"Losers are expected to include small producers in rural and urban areas, and small farmers. These will certainly constitute a reservoir of “crises” for the insurgency and organized crime to draw upon. In other words, the FTA, in spite of benefiting a few winners, might generate enough violence amongst to the greater number of losers, which could erode the economic gains of everyone!"

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remembering Laughter

Remembering LaughterRemembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This little book is full of wonderful reflections on life. Stegner creates a story which draws the reader into a dreary world of pain and resentment. It is honest and it is beautiful. As soon as I finished I wanted to start from the beginning and read it again.



View all my reviews

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking Far From Home

While in Colombia we did a fair amount of walking. Some weeks more than others. This made me think of Iron & Wine's song "Walking Far From Home." Check out the youtube if you haven't heard it.

I decided to write my own version of this song, using similar lyrics. Hopefully I don't get arrested for Copyright issues.



I was walking far from home
Where the potholes could swallow mid sized cars
Saw a giant sanctuary
But the church was so small, church was so small
I saw downpours, lots of storms, and a shantytown full of poverty
I saw piglets in a pen, they cried out for release, out for release

I was walking far from home,
But I carried your love in my heart
I saw merchants, selling goods, just trying to get by, trying to get by
I saw hunger, and Compassion,
I saw tears and a few of them were mine,
I saw children who were smiling, but their hearts were so hard, hearts were so hard

I was walking far from home,
And I thought about our foreign policy.
Saw a field full of bananas, and the plantains were also nearby,
I saw knitted little dresses, handmade with care and with love.
A sleeping man on the bus, fatigue set in, fatigue set in.

I saw iguanas on a bridge and a theater pumping the A/C.
Saw a soldier with a gun who was guarding the road, guarding the road.
Saw an old man, in his home, where he sits and he weeps, sits and he weeps.
I saw families in their hammocks, swinging to and fro, to and fro

Saw a turkey with a tumor, and some chickens in search of some food.
I saw babies want their mommas, crying out for some milk, out for some milk.
Saw mountains, saw an ocean, I saw driftwood and debris on the beach.
Young men on their motos, cruising all around town, cruising all around town
I saw small homes with dirt floors, housing so many ones, so many ones.
I saw a woman, learning to read at the age of 62.

I was walking far from home, where the potholes could swallow mid sized cars
Saw how God is working there, and liberating people, liberating people.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Accompanier Report #4

Here is the final accompanier report I submitted. Life at seminary is starting to calm down, so hopefully I'll sit down to write very soon!


Questions of Faith, Theology and Politics in Urabá.
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 3rd September, 2011. (Linda’s note: Becca and Kelsey have been back in the U.S. for a while now. I held back this report until we were through some of the “excitement” of Antonio’s disappearance, and Colombia FTA advocacy work. As the latter still continues, perhaps we should consider the conclusion of the Colombian church, reported here, that “the social and public dimension of Christian faith pushes toward a social-political commitment”. They come to that conclusion in a context where to do so is far more dangerous than it is here. Let’s take encouragement and strength from their commitment and courage. If you haven't already signed up for Colombia Advocacy alerts at http://www.presbypeacefellowship.org/ - top right of the page - then maybe now's the time to do so.)

One of the best ways to understand a church is not to look at the answers they give, but to look at the questions they ask. The church in Colombia is asking a heavy question: “What should the church be doing for the world today?” We saw how the church is trying to answer that question. They take care of each other and minister to those who have been displaced. They provide space for Compassion schools, giving the children of the community a safe place to learn and be empowered. And they are seriously considering the church’s role in the politics of Colombia, discerning how they should be getting involved in bringing social justice to their country.

We got a taste for the dialogue on church and state at the first ever Seminar on Faith, Theology and Politics hosted by the Presbyterian Church, and open to all Protestant Churches in Urabá. We weren’t sure what this seminar would be like, but we knew this day would be a unique experience when a rambling, colorful bus called a Chiva, or “party bus,” came to pick us up. We arrived in style and found ourselves at the Inter-American Church in Apartadó where roughly 200 people were gathered.

The first speaker gave a message about how the church can no longer overlook the injustices that are going on in Colombia, encouraging the use of faith when considering politics. His rhetoric and mannerisms were reminiscent of Biblical prophets who spoke with conviction about the injustices of the times. Next, we heard about the history of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, which was a fascinating look at how the church came to be.

Finally, one of the elders of the Central Presbytery examined passages of scripture, looking at how faith and politics are related. He used 1 Samuel 8, Romans 13, and John 11 which all address the relationship between church and state. This thorough examination of scripture made it clear that church in Colombia has spent much time with the Bible, discerning how they should respond to the situation in their country. The elder concluded his presentation with a theological reflection on how salvation is related to social and economic issues, therefore theology must be political if there is to be change in the policies that are oppressing the citizens. This indispensable social and public dimension of Christian faith pushes toward a social-political commitment, considering the needs of the people, especially the weakest and poorest. In his final statement he acknowledged that Colombia is living in turbulent times of political disillusionment, but that isn’t a reason to give up hope. Now more than ever Christians must engage in the socio-political realm, to seek out a better way, one that liberates the people.

Hearing this message was encouraging and our hope is that the momentum continues. This was a reminder that the church is the greatest hope for the broken world.

Accompanier Report #3

My colleague Kelsey wrote this beautiful accompanier report about the women we met in Currulao.


Women of strength and faith in Currulao.
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 24th August, 2011.
"Mujeres de fuerza y fe: Presbyterian Women of Currulao"

We recently spent around five days in the large settlement of Currulao, widely recognized as the epicenter of displacement in Urabá. Although both of us had previously traveled in developing nations, Currulao presented something of a shock compared to our reasonably sheltered experience in El Tres. The poverty here seemed somehow more visible, the close-clustered houses more humbly constructed, the muddy roads more deeply rutted, the children and animals more apparently malnourished. Also clearly evident were the effects that violence and social instability have had on family structures here: most of the adult church members in Currulao are single, and many are widows or widowers due to violence or illness. Of those widowed, the vast majority are women and single heads of household who often struggle to survive and support their families, a pattern that repeats itself across Urabá.

As the days passed, we found ourselves astounded by the diverse yet unified experience of the women in Currulao. They are small business owners, teachers, students, artists, farmers, fiercely dedicated mothers and grandmothers. They are elders, deacons, worship leaders, fundraisers, tireless supporters of their church and community. With much respect to our brothers in the faith, in a country where "machismo" remains a daily reality, we felt a sense of sacred comfort in the company of these sisters. The sketches below offer snapshots of our time spent with four women in Currulao, who either shepherded us through busy days or welcomed us into their homes for visits.

• At the front of her house is a tienda stocking basic groceries and household items; in the backyard, pigs snort and chickens cluck in a small farming operation. "Noemí" is one church member who has proved that she has a keen sense for business. A mother of four sons who is now also raising a young niece, Noemí recounted her experiences using microloans from a local bank for women to build her two small businesses, including the backyard farm that raises funds to support church activities. She proudly sold us several items from her store, making sure that we chose the highest quality products!

• When "Marina" showed up with her children in tow, we immediately noticed the colorful outfit worn by her three-year-old daughter: hot pink crocheted overalls topped with a crocheted hat, electric blue and embellished with a flower. As we ooh'ed and aah'ed over the detailed work, she casually mentioned that she had made both pieces by hand. "It's easy," she shrugged, as she pulled skirts, hats, shawls, belts, and bags of all colors from a wardrobe in her bedroom, "I do it to pass the time." Despite her modesty, Marina's knitted and crocheted clothing is nothing short of artwork! As amateur knitters ourselves, we were in awe of her creativity and skill.

• A shelf overflowing with books was our first clue that "Dora" had been privileged in terms of education. A lifelong Presbyterian, she teaches at a local colegio, where she puts her "whole heart" into working with her students. Dora explains that she enjoys combining her love for natural science with her primary subject, Spanish, in order to teach her students practical lessons like caring for the environment. She applauded Becca for studying ministry and theology, saying she believes it necessary to hear a feminine perspective from the pulpit.

• In the face of the tragedy and horror that many Colombians have experienced, a sense of humor is both a blessing and a necessity. "Anabel," a deacon in the church, kept us in wonderful spirits, responding to everyday interactions and mishaps with a quirky and subversive wit. Anabel's life has not been without hardship: she has given birth to eleven children, three of whom have died, and she now lives as a widowed woman in a small house with her grown daughter and infant granddaughter. She remains firm in her faith, confident in the belief that God is leading her through life. In addition to her faith and her immense care for others, Anabel's indomitable sense of humor undoubtedly keeps her going.

Our prayers go with these and other "mujeres de fuerza y fe" whom we've met in Colombia, these women of strength and faith whose impact on our lives and our understanding will not soon be forgotten.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling In

I swear I'll post all the stories I have backlogged from Colombia, I just haven't had time yet. I got back to Colorado, turned around and drove to Austin two days later, then started the semester two days after that. As always, life is a bit chaotic with the start of a new school year, but now I'm finding my rhythm and getting to things that have been put on the back burner.

Today I went to day one of the Austin City Limits festival. This three day party where 70,000 people are invited is a bit overwhelming but it's one of my favorite events in Austin.

Today I thought about the people in Colombia. I had this overwhelming urge to go there, fill up a Chiva full of my new friends, and drive them on the Pan-American highway all the way to this festival. I wanted them to fall in love with the lyrics of Ray Lamontagne. I wanted them to experience the joy of seeing dozens of gigantic balloons being tossed around as Coldplay did their thing. And I wanted them to shout the chorus of "Pumped up Kicks."

But then I realized how silly that would be. I can't make these two worlds collide the way I want them to.

As time passes, it's getting easier to forget about Colombia. Forget about the people I met there. I hope in the coming weeks as I share more stories, I'll be able to keep my Colombian friends closer to my heart.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mind Blown, Heart Broken

I'm back in the States trying to get my bearings. I feel a bit disoriented, sitting in that liminal space between life in Colombia and life in the U.S. No doubt, this blurry state of being will linger for a while, at least until I can process what I just went through.

Or maybe this confusion is all because I have a "plantain earache." My ears haven't popped from my 3 flights yesterday, so my head feels foggy.

Yesterday at the Miami airport, a guy wearing skinny jeans and a fedora sat next to me and asked if I was heading out or heading home. I said I was heading home. He then asked me to describe my trip in just four words, without asking a single question about where I had been. He pulled out a notebook and a fountain pen to jot down my response. After thinking for a few minutes, I said it was "mind blowing, heart breaking." He wrote it down and walked away.

I have a lot of posts to get up on this blog, but it's going to take some time to sort through my notes. We didn't have much time in the last week of our trip to sit down and write, so I'll be working through stuff over the next few weeks. Come back and visit once in a while, as I'm sure there will be some good stuff on here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Church as a Refuge

Here's an interesting article about religion trends in the U.S.

Education and Religion

I'm especially intrigued by the last paragraph:

"Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less educated Americans can turn to for social, economic, and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so."

While we in the U.S. turn away from the church when the going gets tough, many people here in Colombia seek refuge in the church, knowing that it is the only safe and secure resource for them to turn to. It reminds me of the situation in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. At least in Pearlington, it seems that those who were connected to a church fared better than those who weren't part of a church. I have no scientific basis for this, but I would like to think it's true!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Pastor's Life in Uraba

Another cheater post...here is the latest accompanier report I submitted. I've been fascinated by the life of the pastor here in Uraba, especially with the tremendous challenges they face. As I think about my vocation and possible future in the pulpit, I'm humbled by these servant leaders. We in the PC(USA) world could maybe learn a thing or two from them!



A pastor’s life in Urabá.
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 21st August, 2011.

We’ve had the opportunity to spend time with three pastors here in Urabá, and while we’ve noticed that each has their own style of ministry and unique needs in their congregations, the pastors here share a few common traits. During our time with these pastors, we’ve come to learn what the demands are like for these faithful servants who lead the churches in Colombia.

One thing they share in common is a willingness to set aside their personal comfort by living in manses next to the churches. This practice seems to be waning in the U.S., but the churches here each have a residence for the pastor that is located on the church property or very close by. While this offers a convenient location for the pastors to live, it can often lead to the loss of privacy as church members stop by at all hours of the day. Some of the churches also have Compassion projects with the joyful noise of children learning and playing often disrupting any hope for peace and quiet.

The pastors also share the reality of having few financial resources to support their positions. One pastor shared with us his monthly salary, roughly equivalent to $400 US. But he was quick to interject that the church also provides him and his family with a safe home, which he would probably not have otherwise and he is very grateful for it. For those who serve as Lay Pastors, there is no pension plan in their contract and the prospect of retiring comfortably someday seems a near impossibility for them.

Then there are the demands of the job. Although each of these churches has very active lay leaders who serve on Session and as deacons, the pastors here in Urabá are expected to be “Jacks of all trades” as they go about leading their congregations. They are expected to preach, teach, counsel, serve as administrators and community organizers as well as provide pastoral care.
These expectations sound a lot like those of solo pastors in small, rural churches in the U.S. But in addition to these challenges, pastors here in Urabá are faced with the reality of life in Colombia. They serve in a nation that is immersed in violence, poverty, injustice and corruption, each presenting added challenges to the job of ministry. Many pastors are “wounded healers” as they themselves have been affected by violence and injustice.

Learning about the lives of these pastors has been a humbling experience. Their jobs are demanding and the compensation for the work doesn’t sound enticing, but they continue to serve with love and humility. The churches here are blessed with these servant leaders who carry on with their jobs knowing that God is very much at work here in Urabá. Please hold them in your prayers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

30 Years

I'm going to take a break from the Colombia topics to write about this day in history. If you look up significant events that have happened on August 22nd, you'll find some interesting gems.

In 1848 the U.S. annexed New Mexico.

In 1864, the Red Cross was formed (Holla, Erin!).

In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to ride in an automobile.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI arrived in Bogotá, Colombia. It was the first time a pope had visited Latin America (sorry, had to give a shoutout to Colombia).

In 1981, Micheal Weaver and Donna Kenady said their vows of marriage.


Did you not find that last one in your Google search? Well, I think it should have shown up. It was a pretty big event, you know.

Happy 30th anniversary to my parents! I wish I could be there to celebrate them in person, but a shout out from 3000 miles away will have to suffice. Cheers and blessings to you both!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Machismo

Each week we've been here in Colombia, we've had unique experiences which have given us the opportunity to understand the various facets of ministry and life here. Our first week in El Tres we spent a lot of time at the church, getting to know the pastor and his family and enjoying time with the kids at the Compassion project. Our second week, in Curralao, we spent a lot of time out in the town, making pastoral house calls to various members of the church. This past week in Carepa, we had significantly more down time than the previous two weeks, however, we did have the opportunity to dialogue about the politics and life here in Colombia.

We spoke with a regional facilitator for the Compassion project for several hours today, which was one of the most insightful conversations we’ve had thus far. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this guy is a kindred spirit, one who views the world through a lens not too different from my own.

He’s a feminist living in a machismo culture. He earns major points for that. He recognizes the limitations of the culture he lives in and he’s working to set things right so women can enjoy equal rights. He hopes that his work with the Compassion projects is one step in the right direction, empowering the girls who attend as well as the women who teach at the projects. Each day he goes to work, he thinks about how he can continue working toward social justice, thinking about his wife and daughter as motivation. He mentioned that this attitude carries over into his home life where he strives to co-parent with his wife and he even cooks dinner 4 nights a week. At this point in the conversation I wished I were more fluent in Spanish so that I could express to him how much I admire what he is doing at work and at home. I also wanted to tell him that his egalitarian approach to home life is something I hope for in my marriage someday, but I didn’t know how to say it without being awkward.

From there, our conversation became a mosaic of topics, ranging from music to politics to tattoos. He brought up homosexuality and wanted to hear our opinion about the matter, but we were interrupted by lunch and were unable to continue. I would love to have heard his insight on that subject.

One of my biggest struggles while here in Colombia is trying to suppress my judgement against the machismo culture. It’s hard. But having conversations like the one with this man, shows me that there is hope thanks to the few who are working to change the system.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On the Map

We're in Carepa this week, a city that's actually on a map!


View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Displaced Ones

When I had learned that there are currently more internally displaced people in Colombia than in any other country, I was very confused. Why don't we hear about that in the news? Darfur has gotten a lot of media coverage, yet we in the U.S. rarely hear about the situation in Colombia. I still don't have answers concerning the ignorance of the U.S.

The situation here in Colombia has been grim for several decades. There has been an internal dispute raging between the liberal and conservative parties, which was fueled by the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948. Much blood was shed as a result when 180,000 people were killed and since then there have been waves of tumultuous times, with uprisings in violence. One of the worst times was 16 years ago, when many people were forced off their land. They have been displaced ever since, trying to rebuild their lives from scratch, with few resources to work with.

The churches here in Urabá primarily serve people who are displaced. They were forced off their land 16 years ago, and put into ghettos where they have tried to start over. Very few have been able to find stable work and the ones who can find work are faced with very little job security. We have met many women who are the head of their households after being abandoned, widowed or divorced from their husbands. This presents an extra challenge as they try to support their families with very few options for work.

Listening the stories of these displaced people has been heartbreaking. Many have invited us into our homes, and wind up opening up their hearts to share their stories. We've heard some pretty graphic stories and have sat with people as they cry. One of the frustrating things for us is not being able to do anything for them. Sure, we can become advocates when we return home, but as we sit with them and listen to their stories, we can only offer them words of hope and our comforting presence. At time this feels so futile.

Plantain, Bananas and Pigs

We're getting ready to head out to the third church of our month, in Carepa which is south of where we've been up until now. Here are a few pictures of our journey so far...



Packing plantains at the farm.




We toured the banana farm/processing plant in El Tres. Most of these bananas go to Chiquita, but other companies buy them as well.




The kids at the Compassion school love to sing songs to us.




We've met a lot of pigs on this trip. The church in Curralao raises them and sell them to earn money for their new sanctuary.



The young people of the church are very active!

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Norms

We've now been in Colombia for two weeks. Time has flown by! Kelsey and I were reflecting on some of the things that seemed so peculiar when we arrived, but now they seem like our norms. Here are a few things we came up with:

On the public buses, you don't pay when you get on. Instead, there's a guy who rides on the bus and collects the fare. You don't even need exact change because he'll take your large bill and come back with change after everyone has paid. I'm so used to buses in the U.S. that require exact change and if you don't have it you get yelled at!

Cold showers actually feel good now. The water is lukewarm and very refreshing after being out in the heat all day. I do miss water pressure, but I've found the bucket baths to be quite nice.

In between towns, there are national army soldiers stationed at certain checkpoints. When we first arrived, it was unnerving to see men with AK-47s on the side of the road, but now it doesn't seem so weird.

When we’re introduced to a class of children, we’re usually asked to sing them a song. The first day we did this, it felt awkward and goofy. Now it just seems normal.

The lack of doors on bedrooms was hard to get used to, but we’ve learned how to be discreet and know when to change clothes and whatnot. Yesterday we were napping in the house in Curralao and had several people just peek in at us. There are fewer boundaries than we have in the States but now it doesn’t feel so weird.

Being exposed to a new and exotic fruit has become another norm. At first we were so amazed by all the odd fruits we’ve been exposed to, but now they’re all just plain fruits.

Counting Bibles in the worship service has now become normal to us. The first week we giggled really hard when the Clerk of Session got up at the pulpit and had everyone who brought a Bible raise it in the air. After counting Bibles they have people stand up and recite a passage of Scripture from memory. They certainly put us Presbies in the U.S. To shame with our lack of discipline when it comes to bring Bibles to church and memorizing scripture. Yesterday when they did this during church, it just seemed like routine.

Lounging in hammocks. At first we were really uncomfortable just laying back in a hammock in the middle of the patio or room, especially when we had visitors. But now we take the opportunity and chance we get!

Things that we are not used to:

Being called “Gringa!” on the street and being stared at by everyone.

Being told horrendous stories about how people became displaced.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Predicación

I've now preached twice here in Colombia, and it looks like I'll have two more opportunities. Normally I would be intimidated by the task, not really wanting to preach and my first response would be “no thank you.” But when I signed up for this trip, I made it my goal to serve in any way I was needed. I realized it would be weird for a seminary student, a pastor in training, to decline the request to preach, and so I agreed. As soon as we started meeting the residents here and were able to hear their stories, I actually got excited to preach. I have an opportunity to give them a message of hope, something they are thirsty for as they carry out their lives as displaced people.

Preaching here is very different from what I’m accustomed to in my home context. The biggest challenge is that I don’t speak Spanish, but I’m blessed by Kelsey who is very skilled in Spanish and is able to interpret the message for me. The first week when we preached in El Tres, I was thrown off by having to pause after every sentence to allow her to interpret. It felt very disjointed and at several places I lost my train of thought. In a different situation I might have considered that sermon an epic fail, but somehow I was okay with how it went. I preached on 1 Peter 1:1-9 about living hope. My hope for that sermon was that the Spirit somehow spoke through it and gave the congregation a message of hope and encouragement.

This week I wrote out a manuscript which I was going to try to avoid, but I resigned to it after realizing the interpretation element was going to be a challenge. I was hoping to let the “Espiritu muevete,” which is the custom for preachers here in Urabá. But even the Holy Spirit seemed to be struggling that first week with having to move through two languages. So, I used a manuscript, which I found great comfort and familiarity in, and the sermon was much more fluid this week.

Each Sunday we find ourselves at a different church, which makes it a bit easier because I can use the same sermon for all four weeks. Normally I wouldn’t dare do such a thing, since I like to think that each context and location deserves a fresh message. But here I have limited time for sermon preparation and I don’t have access to any commentaries, so I’m going to stick to one sermon.

May the Spirit continue to move as we preach this message about living hope.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Minding your own business in El Tres

I´m going to cheat a little bit with this blog post by using our Accomanier Report from our time in El Tres. If you´d like to subscribe to the reports, go to www.presbypeacefellowship.org and click on the tab to the right.


In El Tres, no such thing as "minding your own business".
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 11th August, 2011.

"It is tempting to say that what you do with [the] time you save is your own business. Briefly stated, however, the Christian position is that there´s no such thing as your own business." -Frederick Buechner

At the Presbyterian church in El Tres, Colombia, there really is no such thing as one´s own business. This fact became apparent as we were led by the pastor into the swept-dirt yard of the church. Behind the sanctuary, he gestured toward a series of rooms with concrete floors and cinderblock walls. "The pastoral residence!" he announced. A few more steps, another broad gesture with his arms. "And our project for children, sponsored by Compassion International." Two open-air classrooms bustled with dark-headed children as young staff members taught lessons and pored over paperwork.

For the past several days, we have been staying with the pastor and his family in this small town north of the city of Apartadó. They have been amazingly hospitable--especially considering that they themselves are displaced persons and do not own their own home. Despite the lack of material resources, we have been welcomed with open arms, invited like sisters into their home and made a part of their family. The church members here are mostly (at least 80%) people who have been displaced from their homes and land, most for a decade or more, due to violence perpetrated by guerrilla forces, paramilitaries, and/or the national army. They work together here in true community, caring for one another and especially for the children of El Tres and surrounding areas. Here in rural Colombia, as the pastor told us today, "Your life is not your own," in any number of ways.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the small parcel of land where the men of the church (and some of the women, too) grow plantains for export as a way to support the activities of the church, including the children's project. Plantains and bananas are the crops here--the way that most people make their living is by working on the bananeros or plataneros. The church members rotate responsibilities on the parcela to ensure that someone is always working to maintain the plantain crop. Yesterday we helped the pastor put together cardboard boxes provided by the export company--folding, labeling, and stacking them in preparation for this week´s harvest, which was packed and shipped early this morning. Today we visited a working banana farm and saw the process of harvesting and packing bananas for export. Please remember, the next time you eat a banana, that it most likely came from the sweat of these humble, hard-working Colombians.

Our brothers and sisters in Colombia share more than resources. They share a collective experience of violence and displacement that continues to affect their daily lives in ways both obvious and subtle. They share a frustration that comes from feeling that their voices go continually unheard by those in power. They share a level of material need that surpasses any we have ever experienced. When asked what he would want church members and elected officials in the United States to know about Colombia, one hermano responded, "Tell them that there is an entire church in Colombia where we are all desplazados, and that we need some kind of help." Let us also tell of a church strong in faith, determination, and love for one another, where there´s no such thing as your own business because your survival depends on community.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Impressions of El Tres

At our training in March, we were told about the three different Presbyteries in Colombia and we were given a description of the conditions at each. We were told that Uraba was a bit more rustic, a bit more rural than the other two and if we were going to serve as accompaniers there, we should expect camping-like conditions. I figured I could handle that, after living in Mississippi without running water in my trailer for almost a year. Just how rustic could it be?

While we camping folk like to romanticize the idea of "roughing it," I've discovered there's nothing romantic about it here in Uraba. It's simply their way of life. We are staying with the pastor and his family in the manse which is connected to the sanctuary. They have been blessed with a beautiful home, one that is much nicer than most in this area and they are certainly grateful for it. There is no running water in the region and while there is well water, they make use of their rain-water cisterns more. They have a crafty device that catches the water from the roof (similar to gutters) and dumps it in the cistern in the backyard. There aren't any sinks indoors, but there is a big sink in the backyard where all of the dishes and laundry are done. There are two outhouses there as well, which double as showers. For the first two days here, Kelsey and I were a bit confused as to how we shower, but it turns out there is a drain in the floor of each stall and the bucket of water is the source of water for bathing. I'm still not sure I'm doing it correctly, but I guess I feel clean when all is said and done. Privacy is rare in this household, since the doors are just curtains. After this experience, I promise to never make fun of anyone who uses a curtain for a door. Turns out they work quite well!

Our first day here has been very laid back. Literally. There is a lot of time spent in hammocks. The pastor seems to want us to rest from our journey before showing us the ropes of his ministry, which we are looking forward to!

The Day in Food

We're still waiting for our ride to El Tres, so I'll give you a bonus post! Here is a documentation of the food we've been eating. Here at the apartment, we have a woman who prepares our meals in the kitchen at the school. It's been wonderful to experience the local cuisine.

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Breakfast day 1: eggs with toast and cafe con leche. Delicioso!





Lunch day 1: soup with tripas, salad, rice and juice.





Dinner day 1: Chicken with rice, potatoes, one green bean, fried bananas and juice.


New Spanish word in my vocabulary: Tripas
Dictionary Definition: Pig intestines.
Contextual definition: The first "unusual" food I've eaten in Colombia. Kelsey was nice enough to wait until I was done eating it to tell me what it was. It was rubbery, but not too shabby!

The Day in Pictures

Today is day 3 in Apartado and we're about to embark on our journey around the Presbytery. Today we head to El Tres (good luck finding that on the map) where we will stay for 6 days. We're not sure if we'll have internet or not, so I thought I would post some pictures of what our time here has looked like.



View of San Jose, Costa Rica. I think this was my 3rd, or maybe 9th flight of the journey. I lost count.





Here's the view from our hotel in Medellin. We stayed in a bustling neighborhood with lots of restaurants and cafes.





My colleague Kelsey and I on the tiny plane flying to Apartado!





Our wonderful apartment in Apartado - a queen sized bed, a bunk bed, couch, table and our own bathroom. Very classy!





We spent the morning yesterday at the private school that is connected to the Presbyterian Church in Apartado. We got to work with three classes, trying to teach them a little bit of English. We taught one class the Noah's Arky Arky song, another the Istanbul Energizer and the third He's Got the Whole World. It was pretty hilarious since we didn't know what we were doing, but thanks to YouTube, I think the kids had fun.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Loco de la Señora del Reloj

We have safely arrived in Apartado! I wrote a post on Tuesday when were traveling and so I'm just now posting about our travels. I promise the rest of my posts won't include so much detail. It was a long evening in Medellin and I think this post was a result of anxiety and boredom. More to come on our experience here in Apartado.

8/2
Today was a long journey, but now we're enjoying the comfort of a hotel room in Medellin. Last night Kelsey and I flew into Miami. I arrived at 5pm and spent my time reading, doing Rosetta Stone and people watching. Kelsey arrived at midnight and we enjoyed some catching up time and sharing tales of our day’s journey. The ticket counter for TACA said it would be open at 1:15am, so we killed time in the lobby, looking forward to finding a cozy spot to sleep near our gate. 1:15 came and went, still no employees at the counter. So we waited. And waited. Finally at 3:30am we were able to check in, check our bags and head through security, looking forward to the glorious carpet that awaited us.

Our gate was deserted which meant we got our choice of sleeping space. I was so tired I laid down and fell asleep pretty much right away. But the blessed sleep was short lived because I woke up an hour later, freezing cold. I guess the Miami airport turns up the AC at 5 am. Not ideal when you’ve packed for a trip expecting 90ºF and 90% humidity. In addition to the cold, there were some pretty annoying announcements on the intercom. Elevator music and CNN were our constant audio soundtracks, but we also got a very helpful time update every 15 minutes saying "The current local time is..." That clock lady was aggravating to say the least. Unable to sleep, Kelsey and I opted for the food court which had hot beverages. We discovered some padded benches that looked comfy. At this point we were so tired we didn’t care if the food court employees were scowling at us, so we each took a bench and got one more hour of sleep.

7:15am came around and it was time to head to our gate. We boarded with no problems and I fell asleep as soon as I had my seatbelt buckled. 2 more glorious hours of sleep. We landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, boarded a bus on the jetway like celebrities and rode to the terminal, only to go right back on a bus to another plane heading toward Medellin. At this point I was tired but not sleepy, so I opted to watch the in flight movie. My head was full of anxieties like worrying I wouldn’t get through customs or that my bag didn’t make it to Colombia. Fortunately it was a quick flight and we were in Colombia by 1:30pm. I fumbled through my explanation of why I was visiting Colombia and got my Visa. Victory! I was sort of flattered at how the customs agent was patient with my broken Spanish. Amazing how in the U.S. we’re so impatient with people who don’t speak English. Here I’ve felt very encouraged by our hosts, taxi drivers and that customs agent.

We were met at baggage claim by our new friend, Maria (not her real name) who is a member of the Iglesia Presbyteriana de Colombia here in Medellin. She has been a gracious host and was very helpful in getting our flight changed from today to tomorrow. We would have been so lost without her! She then took us to a hotel where we would stay for the night and we had dinner at the restaurant across the street. Not a bad way to end the day! I was so tired I could barely focus on our conversation and I certainly didn’t have the energy to try and speak Spanish to her. I hope tomorrow will be different after I’ve had a full night of sleep on an actual bed!

I've made a vow to stop complaining once we leave Medellin - pretty sure the waambulance doesn't make calls to Apartado.



New word in my Spanish vocabulary: Proximo
Dictionary definition: “Next”
Contextual definition: If the woman at the ticket counter yells “Proximo” at you, it means it is your turn, you idiot. Pay attention and stop making her angry. It’s 3:15 am and she’s not pleased about being at work right now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Prayers for Colombia

I'm sitting in the Houston airport, waiting for my flight to Miami. I just received an email from a friend asking what she can pray for regarding this trip - I thought I'd post my request in hopes of building a community of folks praying not only for my trip specifically, but also for Colombia. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (the organization I'm participating with) has a weekly prayer suggestion for us to unite in prayer on Thursday nights at 8pm Colombian time (same as U.S. Central time). I thought I'd post the devotional for the first Thursday of the month if you want to incorporate it into your devotional time this week. Here are the details:


Pray weekly with and for Colombia

Join our sisters and brothers in Colombia in weekly prayers for peace.
Religious People, Priests, and Spiritual Leaders Committed to a Humanitarian Accord and Negotiated End to the Conflict in Colombia

We invite all Christians and citizens of faith to hold times of prayer, symbolic religious observances, and/or vigils for humanitarian exchange, truth and justice as a way out of Colombia's civil war.

INVITATION

Take a moment for prayer every Thursday at 8:00pm (9:00pm Eastern time,
U.S.A.)

FIRST THURSDAY OF THE MONTH

Let us pray:

That Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe would facilitate and guarantee conditions for the liberation of Captain Pablo Emilio Moncayo, Private Josué Daniel Calvo Sánchez, and the remains of Major Julián Ernesto Guevara, a unilateral commitment made by the FARC guerrillas.
That the government and the FARC guerrillas would be willing to diligently undertake a humanitarian exchange that would make possible the freedom of 22 members of the armed forces and the political prisoners, as has been done in the past.

Biblical illumination: Ecclesiastes 8:8-9

"No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; weapons are no use in such a war, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other's hurt."



I realize that these prayer requests might seem a bit odd, but hopefully I'll be able to illuminate you readers on Uribe and FARC and ELN and other buzz words that are important in Colombia.

Paz!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go

Tomorrow I embark on this journey to Colombia. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of actually being there, because so far my mind has been consumed by pre-trip logistics. Little things tend to add up like travel insurance, cramming as much Spanish into my brain as possible, raising financial support, figuring out what to do with muh dawg while I travel, and getting things in place both in Longmont and Austin for when I'm gone.

Plus it's been a challenge to figure out how to actually get to where I need to go. Tomorrow I'll fly out of Denver with a 3 hour layover in Houston and then on to Miami. The plan is to spend the night in the airport to keep costs down and because my fellow accompanier doesn't fly in until after midnight. Seems silly to get a hotel room when she gets in so late and we fly out at 8am on Tuesday. So then we fly to San Jose, Costa Rica for a brief layover and then on to Medellin, Colombia. Our hope was to fly to Apartado on Tuesday as well, but we were unaware that we needed 4 hours between flights because of travel time to another airport. So, we'll find a hostel in Medellin and crash there for a night.

Once in Colombia, Kelsey and I will spend most of our time in Apartado (which you can find on a map) and we will likely be traveling around the region of Urabá (which you won't be able to find on a map) for part of the time. I'm excited and anxious to get there and meet the faithful people of the Presbyterian Church who are tirelessly working for peace.

This trip is unlike any other I've taken. I've never traveled outside North America. I've spent time in a country where I don't speak the language (two separate weeks in Mexico), but both times it was in a large group of people I knew. The longest I've been out of the country is two weeks, so this month may stretch me. I've also never traveled while in a relationship which will add an unfamiliar dynamic to the trip. I'm going to try to avoid being the mopey girl who misses her boyfriend, but I admit I'm going to miss him a lot.

For now I'm going to try and calm my nerves, look over what I've packed for the 47th time to make sure I'm not forgetting anything and enjoy the evening with my parents.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Letter for Peace

As I continue to prepare for my trip to Urabá, Colombia, I stumbled upon this letter calling for peace in that region. I've highlighted a few names (and places) of people who signed it. Just when I thought this corner of the world was forgotten, I'm reminded that there are people who are aware and care deeply for the welfare of the nation of Colombia.


Open Letter to the Colombian People, Press and Government:
Stop the Bloodshed in Uraba,
Due Process for Jose Antonio Lopez, Nelson Campo and others,
and an End to Faceless Justice and Political Repression
Open Letter to the Colombian Public

We, the undersigned, are North Americans and others who are deeply disturbed by the human rights situation in Colombia.

Massacres, disappearances and torture happen continually in the anguished region of Uraba. We can not understand how paramilitary groups operate so freely in this militarized region where the Colombian army is present in massive numbers, and which does not perform its constitutional function of defending the civilian population. And we can not understand why the regional paramilitary leader is not apprehended and brought to justice for his crimes against humanity.

We call upon all armed parties -- paramilitary units, guerrillas, army, police, urban militias and commandos -- to immediately cease all attacks upon both the civilian population and upon each other. Justice, peace and a fruitful life is never found through murder, torture, kidnapping and intimidation.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. government gave the Colombian government millions of dollars to help establish Faceless Justice, which was supposed to protect judges and others from narcoterrorism. Today, however, many of the detained are NOT narcoterrrorists -- but include community leaders, trade-unionists and ordinary people. We feel ashamed that the U.S. government, under the guise of the War on Drugs, helped the Colombia have juridical system that would never be accepted within the United States -- a system where it is virtually impossible to prove your innocence.

We call attention to the use of Faceless Justice in the case of the detained former Mayors of Apartadó Jose Antonio Lopez Bula and Nelson Campo Nuñez, accused of being the masterminds of La Chinita massacre of 1994 (case #20397-2635 of the Regional Judge of Medellin). According to sworn affadavits, their political enemies manufactured evidence which is being manipulated for political reasons. A major Catholic Church official has stated that he believes Jose Antonio Lopez innocent. We urge the Colombian authorities to provide LEGAL DUE PROCESS to those accused in this case.

We ask the Colombian mass media for objectivity in its reports and that it stop condemning, without presenting all the facts, Apartadó's former mayors Jose Antonio Lopez Bula and Nelson Campo Nuñez. We shall continue to denounce human rights violations until there is peace and justice and respect for all in Colombia.

Signed:
Ed Asner (Los Angeles,CA), Tammy Baldwin - Representative, State Assembly (Madison, WI), Medea Benjamin (San Francisco, CA), Phillip Berrigan (Baltimore, MD), Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. (Los Angeles, CA), Roy Bourgeois (Lucher, LA), Noam Chomsky (Lexington, MA), John Dear (Richmond, VA),. Obispo Auxiliar Thomas Gumbleton (Detroit, MI), Douglas LaFollette - Wisconsin Secretary of State (Madison, WI), Robert Meeropol* (Springfield, MA), *Hijo menor de Julio y Ethel Rosenberg Michael Parenti (Berkeley, CA), Martin Sheen (Los Angeles, CA), William Thiesenhusen, Ph.D. (Univ of Wisconsin-Madison), Mike Verveer - Councilman, City Council (Madison, WI), Haskell Wexler (Los Angeles, CA), Colombia Support Network (Madison, WI) Dane County-Apartad— Sister Communities Project (Madison, WI), Chicago Colombia Human Rights Committee (Chicago, IL), Colombia Multimedia Project (New York, NY), Common Courage Press (Monroe, ME), Community Action on Latin America (Madison, WI), Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace (Geneseo, NY), Office of the Americas (Los Angeles, CA), Veterans for Peace (Port Matilda, PA), U.S.-Guatemala Labor Education Project (Chicago, IL), Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua (Madison, WI), Wisconsin Interfaith Committee on Latin America (Madison, WI), Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice (Cleveland, OH), Christa Acker (Solon, OH), Julaine Allen (Spring Green, WI), Lynn Alten (Madison, WI), Gloria-Jeanne Anderson (Milwaukee, WI), Teeter Anderson (Milwaukee, WI), Frances Anderson (Windsor, OH), Renee Leilani Arakawa (Madison, WI), Clark Arrington (Boston, MA), Jackie Austin (Oregon, WI), Jo-Anne Baccielo (Wethersfield, CT), Susan Bailey (Geneseo, NY), Thomas Baker (Chicago, IL), Vivian Balester (Cleveland Heights, OH), Rev Ann Barner (Cleveland, OH), Len Barron (Boulder, CO), Sophie Bartell (Cleveland Heights, OH), Greg Bates (Monroe, ME), Mary Kay Baum (Dodgeville, WI), Laura Beldiman (Northampton, MA), Rev. Charles H. Berthoud (Lewisburg, PA), Ione M. Biggs (East Cleveland, OH), Ethel Biro (Madison, WI), Lajos Biro (Madison, WI), Regina Birchem (Irwin, PA), Bea Blank (Milwaukee, WI), Phillip Blank (Milwaukee, WI), Charlotte Bleistein (Greendale, WI), Bonnie Block (Madison, WI), Gabe Blood (Madison, WI), Joan Bloom (Boulder, CO), Elizabeth Boardman (Madison, WI), Dan Bolef (Irwin, PA), Tom Boswell (Madison, WI), Judith Botwin (Cleveland Heights, OH), Dean Bowles (Monona, WI), Dr. Jeffrey Boy (Champaign, IL), Robert Braby (West Lake, OH), Brad (Denver, CO), Chris Brady (Corvallis, OR), Peter Brandon (Madison, WI), Erik Breilid (Madison, WI), Sandra Brown (Milwaukee, WI), Peggy Brozeiceoil (Burlington, VT), Eric Buchanan (Madison, WI), Betty Burkes (Wellfleet, MA), Lee Burkholder (Madison, WI), Mary Burns (Madison, WI), Jeremiah Cahill (Madison, WI), Thomas Campbell (Madison, WI), Miriam Campos (Boulder, CO), Betty Cernan (Cleveland, OH), K. Laurence Chang (Lyndhurst, OH), Dorothy Ciarlo (Boulder, CO), Stephen Coats (Chicago, IL), Kenneth Coffeen (Lake Mills, WI), Mark Cohen (Madison, WI), Mark Cohen (Denver, CO), Aspeth M. Colwell (Dodgeville, WI), Edgar Concha (Zephyr Cove, NV), Lisa Concha-Foley (Zephyr Cove, NV), Bryan Conde (Shaker Heights, OH), Bob Cormier (Middleton, WI), Mirna Corrigan (Cleveland Heights, OH), Judy Corrigan (Cleveland Heights, OH), Ted Crowell (Providence, RI), Lisa Curich (Madison, WI), Rose Daitsman (Milwaukee, WI), Jane Dalrymple (Mount Morris, NY), Jack Dash (Mount Morris, NY), Rose Marie Dereks (Madison, WI), Verdell DeYarman (Milwaukee, WI), Mary Dial (Poynette, WI), Joel Diegelman (Madison, WI), Todd Dinkelman (Madison, WI), Bernadine Dohrn (Chicago, IL), Tricia Doughty (Madison, WI), Evan Douthit (Chicago, IL), Nathan Dudley (New York, NY), Stuart Dymzarov (Madison, WI), Jean Eden (Madison, WI), Lois Edgerton (Cleveland, OH), Kathryn Elwers (Madison, WI), Fr. Jogues Epple (Cleveland, OH), Allison Epstein (Madison, WI), Linda and Eugene Farley (Verona, WI), Katherine Feely, SND (Lakewood, OH), Jeff Feinblatt (Madison, WI), Dorothy Fiedelman (Denver, CO), Ann Fleischli (Madison, WI), Kate Fleming (Madison, WI), Rona Foldy (Cleveland Heights, OH), John Fournelle, Ph.D. (Univ of Wisconsin-Madison), Elizabeth Gaines (Madison, WI), Judy Gallo (Cleveland, OH), Marcelo Garcia (Madison, WI), Michael Gay (Wisconsin Dells, WI), Carl Geiser (Corvallis, OR), Betty Gifford (Brecksville, OH), Alex Glendinning (Lakewood, OH), Sarah Goldstein (Madison, WI), Janet Gollin (Boulder, CO), Juan Bernardo Gomez (Stone Mountain, GA), Michael Goodman (Madison, WI), Linda Gore (Longmont, CO), Jean Gore (Boulder, CO), Dorothy Gosting (Madison, WI), Nancy Graham (Madison, WI), Gary Grass (Milwaukee, WI), Audley Green (Boston, MA), Meredith Green (Madison, WI), Cort Greene (Madison, WI), Dolores Grenzz (Madison, WI), Margaret Grevatt (Cleveland Heights, OH), Richard C. Groeppe, Ph.D. (Atlanta, GA), Babette Grunow (Milwaukee, WI), Erik Gustafson (Madison, WI), Vera Hall (Cleveland, OH), Allison Halpern (Madison, Wi), Jane Hammatt Kavaloski (Dodgeville, WI), Thomas Hanlon-Wilde (Allston, MA), Jennifer Hanlon-Wilde (Allston, MA), Jerry Anne Harrold (Boulder, CO), Anna Hawkins (Madison, WI), Michael Heller (Iowa City, IA), Patrick Herriges (Glenwood City, WI), John Hickman (Madison, WI), Helen Hift (Monona, WI), Steven C. Hill (Plainsboro, NJ), Dorothy Hill (Omaha, NE), John Hill (Omaha, NE), Phyllis Hodgson (Avoca, WI), Rev. Bill Hogan (Chicago, IL), Dick Hogan (Portage, WI), Suzanne Hogle (South Euclid, OH), Michael Holcomb (Madison, WI), Sr. Catherine Holtkamp (Melbourne, KY), Tom Hoopes (Madison, WI), Elizabeth Hoopes Castiglion (Madison, WI), Maria Hope (Iowa City, IA), Allen J. Hubbard (Madison, WI), T. Phillip Hufford (Longmont, CO), John Hugh (Lakewood, OH), Kelly Hume (Lexington, KY), Morris Hybloom (Mayfield Heights, OH), Yoshiko Ikcita (Lakewood, OH), Al Isaza (New York, NY), J.E. Johnson (Rockfort, IL), Helen Johnson (Greendale, WI), Paul Judziwiecz (Madison, WI), Clarence Kailin (Madison, WI), Gayle Kanary (Cleveland, OH), Vince Kavaloski (Dodgeville, WI), Jonathan Kelley (Denver, CO), Kathleen Kerlin (Minneapolis, MN), Robert Kimbrough (Madison, WI), Judith Klehr (Madison, WI), Moses Klein (Madison, WI), Kathleen Knipfer (Madison, WI), Mark Koenig (Cleveland, OH), Thomas Kozlovsky (Madison, WI), Virginia Krowilden (West Hartford, CT), Dana Kuehn (Madison, WI), Rosi Kuerti (Cleveland Heights, OH), Dr. Martin Kulldorff (Universidad de Uppsala, Suecia), Paul Kusuda (Madison, WI), Rosa Lapiz (Madison, WI), Mary Lauby (Madison, WI), Jack Laun (Elkhart LaKe, WI), Elizabeth Lavelle (Lakewood, OH), Louise Lawler (Cleveland, OH), Ron Leder (Madison, WI), Michael R. Lehman (Urbana, IL), Donna Leist (Bethany, OH), Dorothy Lemmey (Painesville, OH), Joan Lewis (Chicago, IL), Kathleen Lipscomb (San Francisco, CA), Beverly LoGrasso (Lyndhurst, OH), Lorene Ludy (Madison, WI), Paul Mack (Mineral Point, WI), Katherine K. Marshall (Shaker Heights, OH), Ken Martinson (LaCrosse, WI), Jonathan Mason (Madison, WI), Ellen Mass (Cambridge, MA), Joseph Mathers (Fitchburg, WI), Margaret Matlin, Ph.D. (Linwood, NY), Arnold Matlin, Ph.D. (Linwood, NY), Jodine Mayberry (Rutledge, PA), Mary Mayer (Windsor, CT), William McBride (Portage, WI), Cliff McCarthy (Athens, OH), Sr.Maureen McDonnell (Madison, WI), Robert McFarland (Boulder, CO), Kathleen McGowan (Mount Morris, NY), Sandra McPherson (Cleveland Heights, OH), Donald McPherson (Cleveland Heights, OH), Emma A. Melton (Shaker Heights, OH), Susan Michetti (Kenosha, WI), Betsey Mikelethun (Cleveland, OH), Bruce Miller (Madison, WI), Paula Miller (Cleveland, OH), James Mincey (Madison, WI), Pamela Minden (Madison, WI), Ellen Moore (Madison, WI), Paul Mugth (Urbana, IL), Valerie Mullen (Vershire, VT), Judith Munaker (Madison, WI), Irene Naeseth (Middleton, WI), Ray Nashold (Madison, WI), Lyle R. Neptun (Hemet, CA), Laurie Ellen Neustadt (Dodgeville, WI), Ben Nickels (Madison, WI), Ida Norr (Cleveland Heights, OH), Rodney North (Cambridge, MA), Peggy Noton (Berkeley, CA), Charlotte O'Brien (Viroqua, WI), Donna O'Donovan (E Falmouth, MA), Genevieve O'Hara (St. Louis, MO), Laura Olah (Merrimac, WI), Margaret Orner (Media, PA), Ted and Mary Page (Madison, WI), Catherine Palzkill (Dodgeville, WI), Michael Parenti (Berkeley, CA), Shirley Pasholk (Cleveland, OH), Joan Patchen (Wellfleet, MA), Judy Patenaude (Mount Horeb, WI), June Paul (Madison, WI), Ruth Pauly (Madison, WI), Prof. William Pelz (Elgin College, Elgin, IL), Diane Thum Pinchot (Cleveland, OH), Amy Pitt (Rochester, NY), Sidney Podell (Madison, WI), M. Helene Pollock (Philadelphia, PA), Daniel Postel (Chicago, IL), Maria and Jim Powell (Milwaukee, WI), Edward Powell (Madison, WI), Sheldon Rampton (Madison, WI), Josephine Rentz (Madison, WI), Jeffrey Reynolds (Milwaukee, WI), Robin Rice (Madison, WI), Celeste Robins (Madison, WI), Laura Roby (Milwaukee, WI), George Roby (Milwaukee, WI), Allyne Romo (Chicago, IL), Phyllis Rose (Madison, WI), Joan Rosen (Madison, WI), Manuel Sanchez (Sheboygan, WI), Praxedis Sanchez (Madison, WI), Mary Sanderson (DeForest, WI), Jeremy Scahill (Baltimore, MD), Joanne Schalch (Middleton, WI), Elinor Schambach (Cleveland, OH), JoAnne Schmitz (Madison, WI), Ruth Schwartz (Mayfield Heights, OH), Pat Scott (Middleton, WI), Peter Shaw (Port Matilda, PA), Genevieve Simha (Cleveland Heights, OH), Pearl K. Simon (East Cleveland, OH), Ida Slutsker (Cleveland Heights, OH), Barbara Smith (Madison, WI), Mary Smith (Boulder, CO), Diane Soles (Madison, WI), Melanie Stafford (Westminster, CO), Liselotte Stern (West Hartford, CT), Jow Stern (Fort Collins, CO), Prof. Daniel Stern (Northeastern University, Chicago, IL), Jean Stewart (Cleveland Heights, OH), Saskia Strauss (Madison, WI), Janis Strout (Cranbury, NJ), Steve Stuckert (Belleville, WI), Carol Sundberg (Madison, WI), Mary Sutphin (Cleveland, OH), Mary Swenson-Resource Center of the Americas (Minneapolis, MN), Laura Tate (Madison, WI), Tammy Teschner (Madison, WI), Kathleen Todar (Madison, WI), Mary Ann Toth (Cleveland, OH), Alison Turner (Madison, WI), Kristen Ude (Madison, WI), Paul Uelbeher (Madison, WI), Sr. Carlotta Ullmer (Green Bay, WI), Ellen Unruh (Madison, WI), Jeffrey Valtes (Cambridge, WI), Judith Vankleef (Cleveland Heights, OH), Tony Vento (Cleveland, OH), Carolyn Vrtunski (Shaker Heights, OH), Tracy Wahl (Madison, WI), Kathy Warpinski (Dodgeville, WI), Steve Watrous (Milwaukee, WI), Mark Weatherley (Poulder, ID), Carol Weidel (Madison, WI), Liz Wessel (Madison, WI), Angela West Blank (Chicago, IL), Richard Wherley (Cleveland Heights, OH), Chris Whipple (Newington, CT), Ananda Wiegand (Minneapolis, MN), Rich Wildau (Boulder, CO), Chris Wilkinson-Levie (Milwaukee, WI), Roosevelt Williams (Westville, IN), Rita Wlodarczyk (Monona, WI), Wencil Wlodarczyk (Monona, WI), Sandra Wolosenko (Northampton, MA), Cecilia Zarate-Laun (Madison, WI), Joshua Zell (Madison, WI), Fran Zell (Madison, WI), Mary Zepernick (South Yarmouth, MA), Lisa Zimmerman (Washington, DC)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Commissioned

Last Sunday I stood before my congregation in Austin and spoke to them about my upcoming trip to Colombia. I shared with them what the program is about and why it exists. I told them about how I felt compelled to join this peacemaking work and finally have the opportunity to do it. I told them it wouldn't be possible without their love and support and prayers.

And then Pastor Lee asked me the questions. "Will you serve Christ...Will you act with humility and faith...Will you continue to obey God's call..."

And then the congregation stretched out their hands as the commissioning prayer was said.

And I was filled with love.

As this trip approaches, my nerves are starting to kick in and my doubts are rising to the surface. But to calm those anxieties, I think back to this moment when the Church held me in its arms and promised to be with me in this journey. I am grateful.

Monday, July 11, 2011

FTA protest in DC

Members of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship rallied in front of the White House today to speak out against the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.

Check out the article here.

What a powerful witness from these folks. Prayers for the four who got arrested.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mentors

One of my favorite things about making the 16 hour drive from Longmont to Austin is listening to the Christian talk radio stations in the Texas panhandle. I like to keep in touch with what kind of theology the world outside my tradition is being exposed to, which usually makes me cringe, but I think it is a healthy practice to know what's going on out there.

This past drive through the panhandle turned out to be the most enlightening radio experience yet! The first station I turned to was talking about doctrines that are worth breaking fellowship over. They were discussing baptism in particular and were examining the various opinions over sprinkling versus immersion, infant versus adult. They agreed that differences of opinion in this regard were not worth breaking fellowship over. They did say that Christians should break fellowship with other "Christians" who claim Jesus isn't the Messiah, or that other religions are a means of knowing God. This one made me chuckle because my friends are all over the board on this one, yet I don't feel compelled to stop being friends with them and I hope they feel the same about me and my kooky liberal notions.

When that discussion was over, I turned to a different station (there are many Christian stations to choose from in the panhandle) to find out what other hot topics are out there.

I turned to a station that was talking about 1 Timothy and were exploring the theme of mentors. They were looking at the relationship between Paul and Timothy and how they impacted each other. Then they asked listeners to phone in and describe mentors they've had in their lives. This part stopped me in my tracks a little bit. I thought this was a wonderful activity to encourage. Taking time to recognize the mentors in our lives who have shaped us into who we are today.

Then the weirdest thing happened. I looked over at a billboard that was next to the highway. On it was an advertisement for an insurance agent who happened to have the same name as one of my mentors from childhood. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, but then realized I was still in the Texas panhandle, which is pretty much the same thing.

My eyes started to tear up as I thought about how this women influenced me and helped me get to where I am today. She saw something in me that I was oblivious to, and did her best to help me realize my gifts. I can't imagine where I'd be without her encouragement, but I do know that she's a big reason I came to seminary.

This all made me think about Mr. Rogers, a humble Presbyterian minister who was determined to make children feel special and loved. Here is his acceptance speech for the Lifetime Acheivement Award at the 1997 Emmy's.



What I find most admirable about his speech is that he didn't take credit for this achievement, instead he acknowledged all the people who helped him along the way.

Have you thought about the special people in your life who helped you along in your way?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prayers for Fran

The July Accompaniers who arrived in Colombia just a few days ago are having to cut their service short because one of them has become very ill and will need to go home. Please join me in praying for Fran as she makes her way back to the States. Uraba isn't exactly an easy place to get in and out of, so she's looking at a long journey home. I hope she makes it out safely and has a speedy recovery at home. I'll update when I hear more about her situation.

Update (7/6/11 9pm): Fran has been flown from Apartado to Medellin and will stay there tonight, flying to the States tomorrow. Continued prayers for her safety and health.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Undefined Blog

It just occurred to me that I wrote 10 blog posts in the month of June, which is way more than my typical posting per month this year. I think being unemployed has something to do with it, but I also think I'm rediscovering my love of blogging. I once talked to a woman who said that blogging is her spiritual discipline. She writes for herself and doesn't care who reads it. I admire that and I wish I were that bold.

When I titled this blog "Defining Selah" the idea was that it wouldn't have any sort of theme. It would be undefined the way the Hebrew word "Selah" is undefined. It's been fun having the freedom to post about anything from thoughts on bin Laden's assassination to romantic relationships. I'm glad there are people out there who are willing to read what I post, even when it contains slightly ridiculous content.

As I embark on the second half of 2011, I'm excited to see what life brings and what I'll have to blog about. The first six months have set the standard pretty high and it is going to be tough to beat. I checked three things off my bucket list (I know, how cliche, but it was an assignment when I was an AmeriCorps memeber) so far this year and am in the process of checking one more off. I have a feeling life will continue at this pace, especially with a trip to Colombia in August, Seattle in October and jumping back into Seminary in September. Life is looking pretty good right now!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Coexistence Pt. 2

This story starts back in high school when I read the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I'm not proud of this fact, but I was a budding evangelical so it made sense to read it. I was convinced that "courting" was the way to go and that if God wanted me to have a boyfriend, God would make that happen. So I waited. And waited. And then I got confused. I wondered if God wanted me to be single forever, to take a vow of celibacy and to devote my life to the church. So I got it in my head that I should take that vow of celibacy but if Gilbert Darcy (my dream man) happened to come along, I would take it as a sign that God wanted me to be in a relationship.

That's what happens when you read too many books, watch too many movies and hang out with too many Crazy Conservative Christians.

I had gotten so used to be single, it became my norm which was comfortable and safe. By keeping men away, I could protect myself from getting hurt. I'd go on first dates, but I'd refuse to go on second dates when I knew there was no chance that he and I would get married someday. Needless to say that was a pretty strict system which resulted in very few second dates. I had intentionally closed myself off from others, pushing them away before they had the chance to get close. I'm going to skip through my relationship history since I've written about that before. So I'll jump ahead to present day and get down to the business of coexistence.

I got to seminary and started to understand how our Trinitarian God functions in relationship and we are designed to mimic that. That sounded great in theory, but I wasn't even sure I was capable of being in a romantic relationship after all these years of solitude. I started to wonder if there were a different way to approach life, one in which I would allow someone else to get to know me and see my vulnerable side. That notion sounded frightening and wonderful all at the same time.

And then I met this great guy. We did the friend thing for a few months because I became unavailable and then he was unavailable. Then one day we went out for a movie and drinks which wasn't supposed to be a date, but let's be honest, it was a date. Right after that non-date, I went to Trinidad and Tobago for 2 weeks and I couldn't stop thinking about this guy. I got some advice from friends and worked up the nerve to tell him I had feelings for him and wanted to be more than friends. I was going to ask a guy out for the first time in my life. I didn't actually get to ask him though, because he beat me to it.

It's now been about 6 months and we're still together. I wouldn't dream of claiming that I'm an expert on relationships after 6 months, but I do feel like I've gained some insight into what it means to be in a committed partnership. Here's where Barth comes back into the story.

Barth claims that an intimate relationship between two people should look like the perichoretic dance of the trinity. I realize that's one of those fancy pants theology words that most of the world doesn't know about, but it's become one of my favorite words. "Perichoresis" refers to the constant "dance" of the trinity which is something beyond our human understanding. We are finite beings using limited language, after all. To use a really terrible metaphor, think of three people throwing a frisbee to each other, but the three people are catching and throwing that one frisbee all at the same time. Sound confusing? Welcome to Trinitarian theology. The Trinity is in constant movement with the three persons, yet the three persons of the Trinity remain distinct. They live in constant mutual indwelling and reciprocal love. No one member of the Trinity is valued above the others which means there is no subordination of a member. This is the ideal for our intimate relationships as well.

One of my biggest fears about being in a relationship is losing my identity. I have a problem with the tradition of lighting a unity candle at weddings when the original two candles are blown out. All that talk about two becoming one sounds romantic, but I still want to be my own person. The three persons of the Trinity are still three distinct beings and yet they are inseparable. They don't just mesh into one holy blob. I don't want to become a blob in my relationship either. I have dreams and goals and thoughts that I want to be my own. I know that a relationship requires sacrifice on some level, but I don't want to sacrifice all of me. I want to keep my own goals and dreams while at the same time embracing my partners' goals and dreams and making new goals and dreams that we can share.

One of the biggest surprises about being in this relationship I'm in, is that I don't feel like I'm losing myself. It helps that we have different views on things like politics and theology and we also have different gifts and talents. We both seem to be able to hang on to these things that make us unique and yet there is this connection that draws us together. I can't describe this connection because I don't have the right words, but I will say that it is the closest I've come to feeling the "perichoritic" dance. Needless to say, this is all very confusing. Almost as confusing as the times when this guy tells me I look beautiful when my hair is poofy and I'm not wearing any makeup. That doesn't make sense to my head and this perichoritic dance doesn't make sense to my heart, yet both of these things make me smile.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A People's History of Chrisitianity

A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the StoryA People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have a friend who says that a book earns 5 stars for her if it is better the second time she reads it. I think that's a wonderful system to use. My system for rating a book 5 stars is if it makes me cry. I found myself sobbing through the last 30 pages of A People's History of Christianity.



I picked up this book because it was recommended by a friend. When I found out that Bass counts Phyllis Tickle, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor, Jim Wallis and Lauren Winner in her circle of friends, I figured she must be alright. Turns out, she's more than just alright.



Bass writes a beautiful narrative of the history of Christianity by focusing on those who are often not included in the history books. She calls them quiet souls and she makes it her mission to give them voice and show us how they have shaped our tradition. One of the things I love most about this book is that it is steeped in feminist ideology, and yet it isn't blatantly so. Those who are weary of feminism will not be turned off by Bass' writing. Here are a few of the women who are included in this book:



Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book published in English

Heloise, Abelard's wife who helped Abelard develop his theology of sexuality and intimacy (saucy!)

Hildgard of Bingen, a prophet and a visionary from the 12th century

The Beguin nuns who started charity communities

Katharina Schütz, who encouraged women to speak up during the Reformation period

Anne Askew, a woman arrested for her Protestant beliefs

Elizabeth Hooton, the first female, Quaker preacher

Maria Stewart, a woman who spoke up against slavery in the 19th century



I was unfamiliar with the stories of these women, but I now count each of these women as treasured gifts to the church. Thanks to Bass, their stories as well as many others have been brought to life. She has managed to write a history book that doesn't highlight the violent, corrupt nature of Christianity. Instead she has shown that it truly can be a religion that is driven by social justice and a life of spirituality.



View all my reviews

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coexistence Pt. 1

I've been thinking a lot about love and coexistence lately. Seminary is mostly to blame for this, but my current relationship has contributed as well. I'll address the seminary issue in this post and the relationship issue in the next post.


It all started with Karl Barth. To be honest, I had never heard of this guy before coming to seminary and I'm pretty sure the first time I read his stuff I pronounced his name "barth" not knowing it is actually pronounced "Bart." I think someone else made that mistake before I did, saving me the humiliation of revealing my lack of Barth knowledge. I'm not sure how I managed to grow up in church without being familiar with one of the most important theologians of the 20th century.

We were exposed to a lot of Barth in Systematic Theology I/II our first year, and I got even more of him in year two with Feminist Theologies and Reformed Confessions. He and I got quite acquainted when I used his theology on the Word of God for my final paper in Reformed Confessions. Maybe I didn't do his work justice, but I managed to write on this doctrine in 12 pages while it took him 13 volumes in his uncompleted Church Dogmatics. Not that I'm bragging or anything, but conciseness is good sometimes.

Barth is big on the notion that we are created to be in relationship with one another, not as solitary beings. He states that for us to exist we must coexist with one another, especially in intimate relationships. He was very focused on relationships with men and women, which is great, but I have to disagree with him on two things. First is his assertion that there is order between the genders and that men are ranked higher than women. I respect Barth, but I gotta disagree with him on this sexist notion. Since we're created in the image of God, we're created without rank, because we know in the Trinity there is no rank. If we put a rank on genders, we deny the non-hierarchical nature of God.

My second disagreement with Barth is when he solely focuses on relationships between men and women. I would argue that coexistence and deep love can be found in many types of relationships. I would include homosexual/queer relationships, but I would also say that this deep love can be found in many more forms. I think of the film How to Make and American Quilt which is a beautiful story about the various love relationships we can have: husband/wife, mother/child, sister/sister, and even one story about a woman and stranger she only met for a few hours. I think this understanding can be reassuring to unmarried folks, because it lets them know they are not in some way deficient because they haven't married.

I'm going to give Barth some grace by understanding that he was a product of his time, thus his narrow minded, heteronormative way of thinking. Despite these points of contention, I have to give Barth props for emphasizing this very important matter. I think it's so easy for us to convince ourselves that we're just fine on our own, but that old saying is true. No one is an island. We are relational beings and even the most introverted (myself included) thrive on being in relation with others. I'm grateful for being exposed to his theology which has taught me a great deal about humanity, and myself in particular.

Acompañamiento

I've been trying to learn a bit of Spanish in preparation for my time in Colombia. Thankfully my co-accompanier speaks fluently, but I'd like to be able to communicate at least a little bit. I've been doing Rosetta Stone, which is great, but I've had to supplement with other resources to find words and phrases that might be relevant to my time there. Here are a few I'm working on (still haven't figured out how to type accents):

poverty: pobreza

war: guerra

displaced people: las personas desplazadas

corruption: corrupcion

God is good: Dios es bueno

I'll be praying for you: Voy a estar orando por ti.

introvert time: tiempo introvertido

I'm from Texas: Yo soy de Texas.

Yes, Texas is big and somewhat ridiculous: Si, Texas es muey grande y un poco ridiculo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

That Troublesome Plastic

I'm glad my parents taught me how to be financially responsible.

The other day I went to my credit union to apply for a credit card. I already have a credit card, which I use for emergencies and rare times when I buy a plane ticket or two, but I would like to get rid of that card so I can be fully invested in my wonderful, non-profit credit union. I've decided I'm done with those corporate banks.

So I walked in and asked how I could go about applying for a credit card. A very friendly employee said she could help me out and we started the process. She asked me where I'm currently employed. I told her Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She asked me what my job title is. I told her "bookstore cashier." She asked me what my monthly income is. I told her "about $250." Then her jaw dropped a bit. She asked me how much my monthly rent is. I told her "$425." She didn't seem pleased at this point, but I explained that I'm a grad student on scholarship. This didn't seem to impress her.

She ran my credit check and as we waited for the results she told me I could only qualify for a $500 limit. Then my jaw dropped a little bit. $500? That's it? She got my credit score back and was pleasantly surprised by what she saw. She said she could raise my limit up to $1000. I would have preferred a bit more wiggle room, but settled for the $1000 limit. I realize that this credit union is not in the business of giving out credit cards to irresponsible folks. I appreciate that a lot, actually.

When I got home I checked the mail and found two pieces for me. One was from Discover, offering me a $25,000 card and the other from Chase offering me a $10,000 card. I tore them up and shook my head.

I'm glad my parents taught me how to be financially responsible.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Go South, Young Woman

This past semester I took an exegesis class on 1 Peter. This brief letter is addressed to churches who suffer for doing good and following Christ. I became baffled by this notion of a church continuing its ministry in the midst of tremendous suffering and I tried to think of an example of such a church in our modern day context. The church in Colombia came to my mind. You may have heard about the situation in Colombia: 60 years of a corrupt government and civil unrest has devastated this nation. There continues to be a power struggle between the paramilitary groups and guerrilla forces, which has led to violence against civilians. Colombia has recently surpassed Darfur for having the most internally displaced people within its borders. The situation in Colombia has been complicated further by the Free Trade Agreement which is currently being considered by our nation’s leadership.

Amidst all of this violence and suffering, the churches in Colombia continue to serve and work toward peace. The PC(USA) has a partnership with the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC) which has built a bridge of support for our brothers and sisters in Colombia. The Accompanier program was started in 2004 and since then there has been a constant PC(USA) presence in Colombia. I learned about this program during my first semester of seminary and had an overwhelming urge to dropout of school and go to Colombia. I resisted that temptation, but the desire to participate in this program has been overwhelmingly strong. I finally have an opportunity to go, even though it will mean delaying my anticipated graduation date. In August I will serve in the rural region of Urabá, Colombia. I'll be there with another young woman, Kelsey, who I met at the training in March. Our purpose for being there is threefold: to be a ministry of presence and support to the IPC, to keep an eye on what is happening in Colombia, and to offer our presence as a means of safety for the church workers who face potential violence. In the seven years this program has been going, there has never been an instance where an accompanier has been harmed and with God’s blessing, that record will continue!

I've started making preparations for the trip and as the departure date approaches, this dream is starting to feel more like reality.