Friday, January 12, 2007

Saludos de Nicaragua

Right now I am in Nicaragua for a January Term travel seminar on Fair Trade coffee, thanks to a scholarship from Lutheran World Relief. This has been an amazing trip full of transformation and insight. Yesterday was a huge day in the history of Nicaragua, as Daniel Ortega was inaugurated president. We watched the ceremony and speech on TV, since it was in Managua and we´re in Matagalpa, but this city was sounding with fireworks. Most of the areas we´ve been visiting are of Ortega´s Sandanista party and have hope in the new government. It´s quite an exciting time to be in Nicaragua.

Today (Thursday) we were in the city of Matagalpa, and headed out to La Esperanza (Hope) Cooperative, which LWR supports. We heard various stories from the people that work at this coffee cooperative, and the benefits to the community. One is that because of the cooperative, their wages don´t go up and down because of the market, but are sustained. Another is many community projects such as road improvement and a car for emergencies. The community was very hopeful that we would share their stories with all of you, and keep promoting Fair Trade coffee. They send thanks to all of you who support their cooperative through LWR.

Then we visited a women´s collective supported by Project CIPRES and LWR who works on growing, processing and commercializing medicinal plants and conserved products. Two women shared their stories of how the medicinal plants not only help with income, but also with the health of the community. The other 24 women were invited to meet with president Ortega and president Chavez of Venezuela.We ended the day with reflection. Overall, I am struck by the vibrant spirit of Nicaragua, the deep beauty of it´s people and land. I have seen the Spirit of God shining in the resilience and hope in the people I have had the pleasure to meet here. I am learning a lot about the depth of solidarity, and this is equipping me for ministry.

I will be documenting the rest of the trip on my blogs to come (when I return to the US).

In Gods peace,


Sunday night I traveled 2.5 hours down to Columbus, OH for my Approval. Approval is the 3rd of 3 interviews that I must go through in order to be ordained as a pastor in the ELCA. I wasn’t too nervous heading down for the interview with the Candidacy Committee, but I was unsure of what to expect. I really didn’t know the people on the committee-would they be tough on me, challenge me, be supportive of me?

Pleasantly, they were all 3.

The time we spent together (about an hour) was filled with them asking me questions regarding an essay that I wrote which included a sermon, theological reflection on forgiveness, a discussion of public ministry, and a personal reflection section. The questions they raised for me were challenging and opened good opportunities for conversation. I did not feel they were out to get me, but rather out to understand me. That was reasurring, as their task asks them to recommend me for ministry within the Church.

After the time together, I stepped out of the room, they talked about me and invited me back in 15 minutes later. Their recommendation was for approval. The rest of their recommendation was extremely flattering and it gave me energy again for this ministry that will be set before me.

Their final words to me were nice to hear. As I still have one more year of school left they said, “Remember, we’re still your committee. If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know.”

With that I left, called some loved ones, and departed-approved of-not only by them, the church, myself, but also, by God.

Isaiah 65:13-16

This was one of the readings in my devotion book this morning. I struggle with passages like this from scripture-where God’s chosen are blessed and their enemies are cursed. Usually, I try to gloss over these sections and make the enemies refer to something sprititual in my life or to see myself as the enemy of God. Yet, originally, that is not how this text was intended. It literally meant the enemies of God’s chosen, of Israel.

How do we interpret these texts in our world today? Our President spoke the othernight of killing and capturing our enemies. Are they the ones that God will curse? We proclaim a gospel of grace-of good news for all humanity and creation. Yet, these passages do not lead us into inclusivity with our neighbors, but an exclusivity from our enemies. We cannot only hear the blessing, because the entire passage is a blessing to those on the inside and it is all a curse to those on the outside. We claim that we belong on the side of blessing and that the “other”stands on the side of curse.

In this passage of good news for Israel, it is sometimes hard to hear good news for all. I don’t know if we can find good news for all in it.
This semester I am taking a class on Israel’s Prophets (finally). I hope to struggle with these texts and questions throughout the semester. I’ll continue to share my reflections as they come.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy New Year!

Christmas and New Years were great for me. I spent time with my family, went to my home church and had a nice break from papers and grading and homework. I am just teaching during J-term, not jetting off to anywhere exciting or even taking a class. So I have a little downtime now as well. But even now I realize that with re-organizing my apartment after one of my roommates moved out and teaching and all the little things you promise to do for people, there really isn't much leisure time. This semester my resolution is to make more time for people. I get carried away with work and don't spend time with some of my friends because I am just too busy. So all the people around campus that I've been saying I just need to go have lunch with sometime or catch a movie with or play cards with. . . well I am going to (try to) actually do it this year!

Have a blessed 2007!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Another 2 days in Geneva

The jet lag has apparently hit me. After sleeping for 14 hours the first night here (maybe NOT such a great idea?!), I've been hardly able to sleep at all the past two nights...I'm hoping tonight is the night I'm going to get back on track.

Yesterday Krista, my roommate, and I did some more walking around the area we are staying and actually found what we were looking for the day before. There's this fabulous "balcony" that overlooks the lake and the beautiful mountains. Here's a pic of me and the mountains :)

Last night (Saturday) almost all of the 23 in our group had arrived, so we ate dinner together and had a short meeting. Most were super tired as they had just arrived.

Today we got up and went to the worship service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva...English speaking :) It was really great, with people from all over the world, and many languages spoken. Here's a picture of the church....looks more like a chateau, which we found out is because churches aren't allowed to look like churches in Geneva!! Why? Because John Calvin was real big back in the day of the Reformation, and the Cathedral of St. Pierre where he preached is a great big cathedral that is very noticeable in Geneva's "skyline." And apparently his was the only thing that could look like a place of worship. Anything that wasn't a Reformation church wasn't allowed to look like a church at all!!

Since there's so much history here with the Reformation, they have a wall that is a monument for it. We went by that wall, plus we even got to go to the Reformation Museum :) Here's me with Martin Luther's "statue" a big block with his name on it. Apparently there's some Germans in Geneva who are pushing for a "real" Luther statue - Calvin and others actually have their bodies as statues in this same park...but not Luther....

And finally near the end of the day we went up the 157 steps to the top of the tower at the St. Pierre Cathedral. As you can see below it was a pretty amazing view. We found out at the bottom that one of the guys in our group proposed to one of the girls!!! (Yes, they knew each other before today!!!) How romantic!!

Tomorrow class starts....which means I have to go do some reading to prepare!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Exploring Geneva

Well we have almost made it through our first whole day in Geneva! It is about 7:30 pm here and I am updating the blog before heading to my room to watch a dvd on my laptop and eat Swiss chocolate :)

Several interesting things to note today:

*Bus. We waited in the rain last night for a bus that only comes once an hour. It came. We stood right outside the doors and waited for them to open. The people on the inside looked at us. The bus drove away.

So we learned the hard way that we must push a button to get the bus doors to open or it will drive away from you!!!

*Sleep. We went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 11 am. Aaaah.

*Walking. We decided to "hang low" today, so we took a walk around the block. Which turned into walking all the way to downtown and the lake and such.

This picture doesn't do justice to the amazing view of mountains we have right behind the place we are staying...

The famous jet d'eau in Lake Geneva.

*Fondu. We had some delicious, and expensive, cheese fondu today. We also found out that they don't serve you water for free here....we had to pay almost 5 Francs for a bottle of water!

Yep - that's me eating fondu :)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Follow me in Nicaragua...

I received a scholarship from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) for a study visit to Nicaragua from January 5-14, which I will be taking for my J-Term course. During this study visit we will explore the roots of faith and fair trade via the LWR Coffee Project. We will meet farming families that have benefited from the Fair Trade coffee cooperative they run. Please follow me in my trip in our group’s online study diary:

Becky's J-Term

Hey everyone! I have just arrived in Geneva, Switzerland for an almost 3 week long J-Term class. It's called "Ecumenism in a Globalized World." I plan to update this blog regularly with my adventures, and hopefully some pictures too!

Well, my roomie and I are safely in Geneva, Switzerland after a mostly smooth ride. Well, ok, we DID miss our connecting flight from Zurich to Geneva...but we got on the next one immediately after, and our luggage even made it too. Bizarre thing though - we had to go through security again at the Zurich they took my water that I saved from the earlier flight. Weird.

There was supposed to be someone picking us up at the airport in Geneva but there was no one to be found (and it turns out they just forgot or something - it WASN'T because we missed the flight...which did I mention was not our fault? We sat on the runway in Chicago for almost an hour...). Anyway, we were adventurous and took a city bus to where we are staying...the John Knox Center. What little French I have left has come in very handy so far!!

So it's almost 5 pm here, but our bodies are telling us something much different. We are 7 hours ahead of the central time zone by the way. We are about to venture onto the city bus again and head into town for some din-din.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Orleans for New Year's

I rang in the New Year in New Orleans this year. I was there for my 7th and final National Gathering, and this year happened to be an ecumenical event called Celebrate. I was also representing LSTC at an exhibitor table with staff and students from the other ELCA Seminaries.

For all those who go to New Orleans and only stay in the downtown area, they may be deceived by how the city looks. The downtown area is a fun place to be, and mostly redone and making tourists happy. As soon as you head into actual residential neighborhoods, however, you can still see the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, a year and a half later. Entire neighborhoods are still empty. For sale signs and construction crew ads are everywhere. Trees are down. Water still sits. You can see the flood line on many buildings that you pass. Perhaps the toughest thing to see was the markings on each building. Each building had to be marked that it had been gone through, and the number of bodies found inside was included in this marking. I suggest if you have the opportunity to go down to the Gulf Coast area and help out, do it! They still need so much done. The people of New Orleans have an amazing spirit, and were so so thankful for our presence there. I have a new hope for that city than I did before I traveled there this New Year's.

Gutted out houses...

Vacant strip mall...

Torn up house...

It was hard to get a good picture of the markings on each house, but this is an example...

Monday, January 01, 2007

¿Donde esta Jesús?

Yesterday I delivered a sermon at my “Ministry In Context” (field education) church. It was great experience for me getting to preach in Spanish. The Gospel text was Luke 2:41-52, where Jesus at 12 years old goes to the Temple in Jerusalem, and his parents go frantically searching for him, and finally find him three days later. We can picture Jesus’ parents frantically searching for him while he’s dazzling all the professors of Systematic Theology.

When Jesus’ parents find him, he says: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He must be in his Father’s “house” or “engaged in his Father’s business.”

Sometimes we can “loose Jesus” too, leaving us frantically searching for him. It is in our searching that Jesus finds us and invites us to join him in being engaged in his “Father’s business.” As we enter this season of Epiphany and this New Year, may Jesus encounter with radical and abundant grace, in ways that are fresh and new, that we never would have expected. May our faith keep us with eyes wide open.