Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another video...but not in English! :)

So, a while ago I was installed as lay minister in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, specifically at my home church and placement at Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Rio's north zone. 


What does it mean to be a lay minister? Here's a blurb from my church's website to explain:

"The lay minister can participate in various functions, such as: serving in public offices, preaching, administer the Eucharist....direct liturgical offices...Church of the Most Holy Trinity is blessed in having a number of Lay Ministers who go back and forth between these functions, including preaching, teaching, and serving together at the altar as subdeacons."   Essentially, I am in a leadership position and can work with the priests in specific functions, even though I myself am not ordained as a priest.

Serving as subdeacon and assisting the priests during Communion.
Holding the Bible during the Gospel reading.
So far, I had just served as subdeacon a few times, that is - assisting the priests behind the altar during the service. But a couple Sundays ago, I finally had my first real major challenge: preaching in Portuguese!


text



You can click here for the text of my sermon in English. I was pretty nervous at first, but I think I relaxed after a while. If you speak Portuguese, please pardon any grammatical mistakes -- I didn't finish in time to have someone edit it for me. If you don't...well, read the English version and let me know what you think! :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

4 months + a [video] surprise!

.... UGH. So, I'm sorry, people. Every time I sit down and plan to write a blog, I feel like I want to make sure I include so many things....and then it either all gets away from me, or I just feel overwhelmed and don't write anything, haha. So, first of all, apologies for the delay. I'm working on my newsletter as well so I can be more detailed there. But, for lack of anything for the last couple of months, let me put an update here on my blog, too!

I'm not sure if anyone's noticed, but I write so little in English - at least, anything more comprehensive than perhaps emails and Facebook posts - that sometimes I think my writing in English has become captive to me using it as though I'm speaking in Portuguese -- which, whilst it has a more...structured grammar, in some ways, is, I would say, more fluid than English in others. But that said, there have been times - even speaking in English; my sister's noticed it via Skype at times -- I'll try to throw in a word in English that is a literal translation of something in Portuguese...and it's not the actual word in English :) language problems!

Well, perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news to update with at this point is that I will be staying in Rio de Janeiro the entire 10 months I am here! =) As some of you may recall, the idea was for me to do part of my time in Rio de Janeiro, and part of my time in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, in Santa Maria. Well, since things are wont to change, and we ought to be flexible and go with the flow of whatever change occurs... I am feeling very blessed to stay in Rio the whole time -- time has already flown by! BUT, I am also super excited, because the Young Adult Service Corps is sending another young adult to Brazil! Rachel McDaniel from the Diocese of East Tennessee will be coming to Brazil within 2 months [please pray that she does not encounter the same visa drama I did!] and will be spending her year of service in the Diocese of the Southwest, in Santa Maria, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, working in support of Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva. Bishop Francisco is not only the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of the Southwest, but also the Primate [or Archbishop] of the entire Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. I have met him various times, and have visited his diocese, and I am super excited for Rachel to have this amazing opportunity!

Well, even though I waited a long time to post anything, I don't want to overdo it in a blog post, so I will save the bulk of the details for my next newsletter -- but, as I alluded to in the blog title....there's another surprise! My home diocese, the Diocese of Olympia [western Washington] has an amazing, absolutely wonderful team of people working in support of the Diocese. Of course there is my friend and Bishop, Greg Rickel -- his miracle-working assistant and bowtie king, Blaire Notrica -- and I have also had the pleasure of working with a few members of their incredible communications team, including Dede Moore and Greg Hester. They listened to my stories and experiences, and set up a time for me to visit and be filmed, and with their hard work, have put together the following video!

They have also enabled [most generously, I might add] the ability for one to donate and support YASC efforts online -- click here for more information on that!

Now, I promise I won't delay so much in another blog post -- in fact, I actually have a couple in mind / drafts already underway, but I needed to get this one out first! Next up, newsletter, then more news via the blog -- stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2.5 months, 1 World Cup, and a monkey in a pine tree

Like always, if you are interested in learning more about how to contribute and support me, I very much appreciate it! Please click here for the link to the 'How to Help' page -- many thanks!

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Well, witticisms of the blog post title aside, I did spy a little monkey in the tree outside my window once. He scampered off before I could get a good picture, though I did snag something. 


Also, the bigger tree a bit further away played host to this noisy guest one day: 


Or as a friend of mine joked, "where do you live, a zoo?" Well, sometimes between wildlife and traffic congestion, it seems like it! 

That said, time has flown by and it's hard to believe it's been 2 and a half months already! I was a bit slow in getting things organized on my newsletters, so my first newsletter covers the entire time I've been here -- from now on I will try to get one out per month. You can read the first newsletter of this second year at this link - and you can keep tabs on my 'Newsletters' page on the blog at this link here.

In the newsletter I have some photos and talk a bit about Holy Week in Brazil and at my church, Most Holy Trinity -- since that was a busy week, I'll let you take a peek at that if you're interested! Other than that, on that front, we have been keeping super busy lately! 

  • We're working on getting our second community flea market/bazaar up and going for this next week -- we had a lot of success the last time, which helps us with fundraising for building repairs and future  construction plans, but also had a lot of good interaction and feedback with and from the community, so we are looking for ways to be even more involved in the immediate community in Meier! 
  • Something big in Brazil that's coming up is festa junina, or June festival - it has its roots in traditional Portuguese cultural celebrations of the saints [coinciding with the pagan equinox festivals], and has over time become part of Brazilian culture as well, utilizing the symbols of rural cultural celebrations from Portugal -- will be posting some pictures in the next couple week as that happens!
  • Yours truly has some excitement next Sunday -- I am being installed as a lay minister in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, during the service held at my home church at Most Holy Trinity when Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira has his official visit. What does this mean? Well, kind of what the name suggests - some of the roles that the ministers [reverends/priests] have within the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, but as a lay person -- that is, not a member of the clergy, technically not a priest. So this enables me to serve and participate in more leadership roles, including assisting in other various positions during a Sunday service or life in the community, including preaching/giving a sermon - yikes! Guess it's time to brush up my grammar.
  • Speaking of grammar, I'm in the midst of working on getting some resources and lessons set up for fine-tuning my Portuguese even more...you know what happens if you give a Nina a language...!
  • And speaking of languages...it also is in the works that I will be giving some English lessons soon enough. Good practice, right? 
  • Also, we are preparing and organizing to receive a group of 10-15 people from the US on a short mission/service trip to Rio the week after the World Cup ends -- it's certainly giving me the chance to hone my skills in organization and such...all things I like to do, and enjoy practicing to improve and gain more experience!
Displaying a fun find from the last flea market.

Leandro up on the roof decorating for festa junina.

Our banner out front with the upcoming big days -- next up, Trinity Sunday, and then Thursday after, Corpus Christi.

Out other banner with information about festa junina at Holy Trinity.
My work at the Diocesan office has been pretty flexible -- some days my commute is halted by a random strike [such as the bus strike last week or so], and sometimes my work is from home, due to other issues [getting my shower fixed - but yay, I have hot water again!] But luckily most of what I do is also doable virtually, so I have been able to keep up -- my organization skills have come in handy, and we're working on setting up an image database of sorts...since I have experience with my own photos and organizing them, some of this just seems to be a piece of cake! 

Anyway, aside from all that, this week is the beginning of the World Cup -- so I am curious to see what kind of impact this will have on commutes, and all sorts of things. As some of you may well know, there are conflicting feelings about this year's World Cup due to varying factors -- FIFA [international associated football federation] and their actions, the actions of the Brazilian government to appease FIFA and prepare for the Cup, and everything in between. There are many articles out there on the matter, but for those of you just tuning in to the issue or wanting a summary, here is a good one



Anyways, aside from all of that...not a lot else, really. I'm finally back into training both of my main martial arts interests now, including muay thai [a form of kickboxing originally from Thailand], in addition to my Brazilian jiu jitsu. It gets me my workout, my social interaction since I don't otherwise spend a lot of money to go out much, and - in my personal opinion - plays a huge role in my mental and emotional self care, in addition to physical. I'm a bit sore since it's been about 5 months since I really and regularly trained muay thai, and I am now doing it for an hour and a half five nights per week, with 2 hours of jiu jitsu following after a half hour break 4 of those nights per week. But I am happy! :) 

That's pretty much it for now! I hope all is well with all of y'all, and please feel free to drop a line! Take care and all the best,

~ Nina


Friday, April 25, 2014

Settling in to Rio

Now that things have calmed down a little, I can write a bit about the last few weeks, and my first month back in Brazil – because, amazingly enough, it’s already been a month! So what’s been happening? What am I doing, after all? After two months home in Seattle, I am back in Brazil, but in Rio de Janeiro this time (last year I was in Sao Paulo).

A bit about Rio…

            Rio de Janeiro is perhaps Brazil’s most well known and tourist frequented city. Situated on the south-central western coast of the country, its metropolitan area boasts a population of some 14 million (comparable to New York City). Rio is home to an impressive array of natural beauty, including numerous beaches and coastlines, mountains, and forests. A sub-tropical climate, its average temperatures thus far seem to stay in the 80s (Fahrenheit)/high 20s/mid 30s (Celsius). I have yet to have a day where I need to wear a jacket during the day, though have had a couple of nights that, sans a blanket, I’ve worn my sweatshirt to bed. Usually I sleep with my window open to stay cool enough to sleep.

The arches of Lapa, not even a five minute walk from where I live. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Sebastian in the background.
            Rio de Janeiro is split up into geographic zones, consisting of north, south, east, west, and central. I live in the central zone, in the neighborhood of Lapa – minutes away from its iconic white arches. I work in two different neighborhoods (work explained in a bit more detail below), Tijuca (north zone), and mostly in Meier (north zone). There are two buses that go to Meier (one that also passes Tijuca), and it’s a short walk to the street parallel to mine to catch them both. With good traffic, it’s just 20-30 minutes to Meier – though catching rush hour in the late afternoon/early evening can delay things somewhat, more so when I catch the second option for a bus (which takes a longer route).

What am I doing, anyway?

I have two main roles here in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro. One is part-time administrative & communication support at the Diocesan office at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Tijuca. This is just a couple mornings and afternoon a week, and has technically yet to really begin in earnest – until recently, diocesan bishop Filadelfo Oliveira was recovering from multiple cardiac surgeries – but has recently returned to work in Rio de Janeiro, and it was so incredibly good to see him in person, and see him up and about. He has an upcoming trip to the United States, and it is likely after that (mid-May) that I will really begin my position assisting with the Diocese.

A picture with Bishop Filadelfo from July 2013.

            The other position I have is with Church of the Most Holy Trinity, a parish located in Meier. A small Anglican parish that has its roots in a mission plant from 1910, it passed through some difficult times in the mid/late 1980s to early 1990s, a time during which many members left, and the state of the building suffered greatly. Before, during and after this same timeframe, the neighborhood itself changed greatly as well, with area demographics shifting from middle class to working class. This era also saw the parish’s worship styles and attitudes shift from what had been slightly more evangelical, to charismatic, to its current more traditional Anglo-Catholic form.

Church of Most Holy Trinity, April 2014.
Being presented to the community by Rev. Eduardo Costa at my first Sunday service in March 2014 
            For more information, click here to read Holy Trinity’s parish profile in English.

            Aside from regular participation in services and community events, some of the highlights of my presence at Holy Trinity is working with Episcopaz, the parish’s human rights ministry. Rooted in our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being, Episcopaz and Holy Trinity host regular events open to the community on various topics of importance. The first one in which I participated was the weekend after I arrived, on domestic violence against women. People came together to create murals, as well as joining a panel discussion with activists and church members.



            Holy Trinity is in the process of fundraising to remodel and expand its existing property so as to better serve the community – currently it plays host to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and a weekly community lunch that is also available free of charge to area homeless. Given that Meier’s homeless populations is one of the largest in Rio, the church is hoping to respond to this need by having a parish nurse in the future, as well as space for people to take a shower, receive a haircut, donated personal items, etc…

            It’s a quick summary, and I don’t want to write too much at once, but this is essentially a glance at life in Rio de Janeiro. I feel like I’m settling in well, but it’s hard to believe it’s already been a month. I hope you all are well—drop a line sometime! Until next time! Até a próxima!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

ola from Rio de Janeiro!

Well, it's been a bit over a week now, and I have been settling into life in Rio de Janeiro quite well. Admittedly, the weather has been a bit of a change -- in a more positive and happier direction, for me! I would much rather be warm than cold! 

Somehow I don't think that will be a problem.
I was supposed to leave on a Tuesday and arrive on a Wednesday, but my flights got moved around, and I left and arrived a day later than intended. After a couple days to re-acclimatize to the heat, we got right to work with the exciting event "Vamos pichar o machismo!" with Church of the Holy Trinity's human rights ministry, Episcopaz. You can click here and find out how it went!



Call 180! Domestic violence, never! (180 is the crisis number to call for domestic violence)
I did the dove! :)
With Sunday's panelists/some of the amazing team that made the event possible! Myself, Rev. Lilian Lira (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil), Fabiana Karine (LGBTT activist), Ricardo Pinheiro (Holy Trinity/Episcopaz), & Pamela Castro, president of Rede Nami.
That same Sunday I was also introduced to everyone, and I can tell you that I am very happy to be here with these amazing people! 

Rev. Eduardo Costa introducing me at Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
Since then I've been blessed with the opportunity to have some time to relax and get to know the city more, and do some work remotely from home a bit - some translations and editing and the like. Holy Week and thereafter is when it'll really start to get busy! 

Also, part of my work here in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro will be supporting the work of Diocesan Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira, who quite recently had heart surgery. The great news is that not only is he out of intensive care after his operation, but he is also out of the hospital! He is recuperating with family in his hometown of the northeastern city of Recife, but hopefully will be back in Rio de Janeiro soon enough, as clergy and lay alike miss him and wish him all the best!


And last but not least, myself and other fellow Young Adult Service Corps members are keeping up a blog of Lenten meditations, and my first post is available at the following link: 

Meditation from Millennial Missionaries: To Be Of Service.

That's all for now -- I just wanted to update everyone with a glimpse into what the last nearly two weeks have looked like! Greetings and hugs to all in Seattle and beyond, and much love from Brazil!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back to Brazil!

And just like last time, time has flown by too quickly once again! It's time for me to go back to Brazil...and technically, I should have already been in the air, but due to some weather and scheduling issues, my flight got pushed back a day. I leave Tuesday morning at 10am PST, arrive in Atlanta around 5pm EST, and depart Atlanta just four hours later or so, arriving in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday morning at 830 local time (4 hours' difference from the west coast). 

It has been an absolute whirlwind of a time back in the US, and there is definitely more I wish I could have done, but I am yet human -- something I find myself having to remember that regularly! But I did manage to squeeze quite a bit into that time, including a two week trip to New York City, where I spent time at the Episcopal Church Center in Manhattan. Aside from having time to work on some reports and the like, I also met with staff who oversee the Young Adult Service Corps, and had a sort of debrief like the ones most of my friends in the program had back in October. Since my start time was a bit delayed, I was still in Brazil during that time, but luckily I was able to meet with the great staff of the Global Partnerships team anyway!

I also had the chance to meet with Bishop Greg Rickel, my diocesan bishop here in western Washington in the Diocese of Olympia. I had the opportunity to talk with him about this last year, but also the coming year -- and additionally, he and the Diocese kickstarted my fundraising with a generous $2,000 donation! 

Myself and Bishop Greg Rickel, with a gift I brought back from Brazil.
This last Sunday at my home church, St. John the Baptist Episcopal, I had some information about Brazil and my experiences, and a goodwill offering basket reaped another $272. This leaves me with just $5,228 to fundraise by the end of the year. If you are interested in learning more and/or feeling led to assist in donating towards my goal, please click here to be taken to the 'How to Help' page!

I also received a generous physical donation from a couple of anonymous donors, including a certain notorious humanitarian. I had mentioned that one day I would be interested in attaining a Macbook, as they are quite good for photo/video work -- and the next thing I knew, I had received a generous donation towards acquiring said Macbook. Being a much lighter laptop, this will also make my travels a bit easier, as well! Many thanks to all who give in the spirit of generosity!



Just days after my arrival in Brazil, I have the distinct pleasure of being directly involved with an event this coming weekend -- hitting the ground running in Rio! As I've mentioned in a previous post, part of my work in Rio de Janeiro will be with the human rights ministry Episcopaz. Episcopaz is hosting an event at Church of the Most Holy Trinity in the neighborhood of Meier, combining with Rede Nami, a feminist network for urban art -- and together, we will engage the community with art, as well as host a roundtable discussion on the topic of the empowerment of feminism, and confronting violence against women. 



And so I leave another country, another home once more, again posting this song by Michael Franti, which is - ironically enough - filmed in Rio de Janeiro. Until more! Ate mais!

"...I say hey, I'll be gone today
but I'll be back around the way -
it seems like everywhere I go, 
the more I see the less I know
but I know one thing, that iIlove you - 
I love you, I love you, I love you..."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From Sao Paulo to Seattle --

So, apologies for not getting something out sooner! But despite being back in Seattle for almost three weeks now, in some ways, things haven't really stopped moving much.

I had a great meeting today with my bishop, Greg Rickel, and am very excited about some upcoming stuff (which I will update in a timely fashion this time!) about amping up my virtual presence in keeping the Diocese of Olympia informed of what I've been up to and what's up next with Brazil, round 2!

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my local church, Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church in West Seattle, and though it was somewhat sparse due to the random whopping snowstorm that whipped through and was gone in less than 24 hours, I heard much good feedback -- but I wanted to share it with all of you who were not there!


In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…amen… or, as we say in Brazilian Portuguese, em nome do Pai e do Filho e do Espírito Santo, amém.

It is wonderful to be here with you all today, and to be back in Seattle after a year abroad. My name is Nina Boe, and I have been a member of this parish since 2005. In 2012, I applied to the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC – an international program of the Episcopal Church of the United States for young adults the ages of 21-30 to spend a year in another country – a year of service, a year of community, and a year of giving of yourself—as well as receiving the gifts that this incredible experience will inevitably give to you. In my year there were 13 of us; this last year saw almost 30 applicants. Placements range from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America, and after interviews, prayer and discernment, an offer was made to me: Brazil. The bustling city of São Paulo, to be precise—working in support of the national provincial office of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. My work would turn out to be heavily communication-based: a lot of translation, writing, editing, and administrative support—things that the provincial office sorely needs. I also had incredible opportunities to travel and visit six of the 9 dioceses and 1 missionary district that comprise the Church—and experience the beauty that is Brazil, from north to south, central to coastal. 

From today’s reading from Corinthians, a line in particular sticks out in my mind. “I came to you in weakness and fear; with much trembling…no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” How can we be that salt of the earth or city on a hill if we do not walk forward to what God has beckoned us, to come to the Corinthians of our calling? I’m always up for an adventure, and I love traveling, but to do something like this for a year…it’s kind of a big deal. I had never been anywhere in Latin America before, and a year ago, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Yes, I was excited to go, and I very soon felt at home—but in retrospect, I see that there was much I had to learn, strengths on which to improve…weakness and fear, while perhaps not the words I’d choose—but on the other hand, I can completely resonate with them. 

In piecing this reflection together, despite feeling like this is perhaps one of the biggest revelations I’ve ever had, it still feels like a strange, Sunday school sense of deja vu—I’ve learned this before, haven’t I? And yet I’m learning it all over again…what exactly happened in Brazil? I met God, face to face.

Jesus is in the pews as much as he’s also – perhaps sometimes more so – out of them as well…in the happy smile of a baby turning a year old, and in the joyful spirit of service of the 94 year old who is the oldest deacon in the entire Anglican Communion. God in the love and sadness in the notes and placards at the nightclub in Santa Maria, where 242 youths died in a tragic fire last year. God in the eyes of the prostitutes on the corner, in the homeless you walk by every day and likely don’t look in the eye. God walking even with the kid trying to rob me once, shouting vou te matar! I’ll kill you! Jesus amongst the crack addicts and slum-dwellers, the ones who go scrounging for garbage, cardboard and salvage scrap metal. I saw God even in the places I know I should see him, but didn’t want to see him–if I’m honest, I probably avoided bumping into God at least just as many times, but with time I at least became – hopefully – a bit more sensitive and open to the idea and tried to pay attention more. 

I think that a lot of times when we say we know God is there, it’s like some stupid spiritual pact of coexistence. God is not there so we don’t have to be. We have to be there because God is there.  Jesus doesn’t just hang out at polite Episcopal gatherings with a few glasses of a nice wine. He’s just as much there when you give in to your first real cultural immersion of watching Brazil beat Portugal in a World Cup qualifier, accepting a cheap beer, fried yucca and some beef cubes, sitting on a grimy bar stool and engaging in an incredibly odd sort of cultural communion as you yell at the TV when it doesn’t work out right—or when it does.



People would joke – or maybe ask seriously – why on earth was I there, just to do what I usually do? I mean, taking pictures at protests, go to the gym… does anyone remember the kids’ book, If you give a mouse a cookie? He’ll probably want some milk, and if he has milk, then he’ll ask for a straw, and then he’ll ask for a napkin…it’ll lead somewhere else, and inevitably somewhere else… for me, it’s more like: if you give a Nina a new country, she’ll inevitably live in it and make herself right at home...and who knows where that leads? I don’t need to do something miraculous, spectacular, or even all that unique –I just need to be. A number of Brazilians, clergy and lay alike, have told me that they practically consider me Brazilian by now. 

Indeed, this last year in Brazil has been interesting, not just for me, but for Brazilians, too.  Amongst the many experiences emblazoned in my own memory are the protests against a hike in transit fares last June—currently underway again in Rio de Janeiro—and these protests have been the biggest social movement that the country has seen since the end of the military dictatorship in the 1980s. This made it historical in and of itself, but it was a big deal because it was a struggle of the Brazilian people. My new home, my community, my country for the time being—my participation in and witness to these events was more than a matter of polite solidarity by association—it was my ability to say and show: I stand with you in your struggles.



The prophet Isaiah reminds us of our calling: “to loose the chains of injustice…to set the oppressed free...to share your food with the hungry, provide the wanderer with shelter—to not turn away from your flesh and blood.” In Brazil, I learned about new, similar and different forms of injustice and oppression. I tried to understand the ways in which people are hungry in today’s world. I realized that in some ways, I too was the stranger, the wanderer, and found myself sheltered innumerable times in so many homes, however different they were from my own. I realized that though Sao Paulo was a very long way from Seattle, these people too were my flesh and blood. I’m reminded of a quote I used in my sermon I gave last year before leaving for Brazil: when Trappist monk Thomas Merton once wrote, a revelation whilst on a street corner in Lexington, Kentucky of all places: “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I was theirs.”

I have realized that at the end of the day, the fact is that Jesus – God – the Holy Spirit – love – is in every single person and place out there, from the pristine church to the back alleys that smell of human waste. And when I’m completely honest, I sometimes have problems with that at times—with one or the other side, or with the very fact that I even have a problem with anything in the first place. But I am so glad that I am fighting with myself over this, and not letting myself remain on only one side or the other. I read a book whilst abroad, a memoir of a Lutheran pastor in Denver. A lot stuck out to me, especially this anecdote of hers—ironically enough, a reminder from her husband who is also a minister: when you draw a line between yourself, your people, and someone else, God is usually on the other side. Well, damn. (Her words, not mine.) 

There are those of us who might find it easier to see God in young people, older people, clean people, the homeless, the poor, or in wealth and generosity. I may find it easier to hug cute, dirty kids than to hug less cute, dirty adults, but until I can remember to shut up sometimes and be reminded, as Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu began each and every chapter of a particular book of his, with the words: dear child of God – I must keep fighting to remember to look at every single person through this lens. Because at the end of it all, a year, a day, a mission, a lifetime – it’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s not even about the church, either. 

It’s about God, and our mission is to see God in everyone out there, and treat them as we ought to anyone in such a position. Despite all of our stupid spiritual, social, political, religious, ethno-nationalist, sexist, racist bickering, Jesus is quite clear about what it means to do just that: love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, these experiences in Brazil changed me. It has more deeply and totally reaffirmed my conviction that unless we are truly acting, living and loving in this spirit—loving everyone in this spirit—then we’re still not quite getting it yet. I admit, I’ve had problems with this over the years, because I’ve never been very good at really loving myself. But this experience abroad helped truly make some progress in the process of reconciling me to myself—and to love myself as much as I love my neighbor. And as my friend and Bishop of Brasilia, Mauricio Andrade once said, “Reconciliation is part of our Christian vocation. If we do not believe in reconciliation, then we do not believe in Christ.”

These prophets of all the ages speak the words we need to hear. As poet June Jordan wrote, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” We are the ones who are called. To love is our calling. To set the oppressed free. To not turn away. This and so much more is what I have been learning about—not just in Brazil, but through this time of service. To both give and receive…and to return to do just that, and learn how to continue doing so in service for the rest of my life. Amen.