Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Internship in Argentina

I have just started my internship year at LSTC, which is the third of the four year Master of Divinity program. The internship year where we are sent all over the country and world for full time ministry under the supervision of a pastor/supervisor:
I’ll be doing my internship in Resistencia, Argentina, with the ELCA Global Mission Horizon International Internship program:

Argentina is finishing up its winter, so when I arrived a couple weeks ago it was 40’s and 50’s. It may seem strange to those of you sweating in 90s and 100s that I broke out the winter coat, long underwear, and am clinging to a box heater. I am also sipping lots of mate, the classic Argentine tea, which I may actually like more than coffee.
I took an overnight flight to Buenos Aires, where I spent a day, where I got to meet the directors of ELCA Global Mission here, as well as the president and staff of the IELU (Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Unida - United Evangelical Lutheran Church), and to see some of downtown Buenos Aires. We walked past a political rally, which was for Cristina Kirchner, the wife of current president Néstor Kirchner, who seems to be the current front-runner for the presidential elections to be held in October (an exciting time to be here). I then took an overnight bus to Resistencia, the city I’ll be doing my internship in, and my pastor/supervisor picked me up.

The terrain is flat and swampy with tropical plants and lagoons. Resistencia, a city of roughly 400,000 people, is a city of sculptures of all sorts of styles. The city centers around a very large plaza (see photo), Plaza 25 de Mayo (25th of May), which is the actual Independence Day of Argentina (and also my birthday). The culture here is distinct, especially as compared to Buenos Aires. It’s more laid back and they have a nice siesta in the afternoons. This is the capital and main urban center of the province of Chaco. Chaco is home to many indigenous people, who are an ostracized minority in the country. Chaco is also one of the poorest provinces in the country. There are many children throughout the province who suffer from malnutrition. Because of these realities, there are many people that migrate to the city and settle on the outskirts.

So far I have been getting acquainted with my pastor/supervisor, who along with the other people I’ve met, has been very warm and welcoming. I have already gotten to attend a worship service at Misión Maria Magdalena (Mary Magdalene Mission), which is on the outskirts of Resistencia. The church has been a driving force for, and partner with, many social programs in the neighborhood, and the pastor works with a couple of social workers. There are hot meals for children, after-school programs, health programs, and several other programs the church is involved with. The other church I’ll be with is San Mateo in Corrientes, a city of about the same size, which is across the Parana river.

I preached at both churches last weekend for the first time on Luke 13:10-17, “Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman.” I talked about how revolutionary this act was and all the cultural and social rules Jesus was breaking by healing the woman. The woman had been ostracized and defined by these social rules. When society tries to define us, it’s hard not to listen to them. It can sometimes be so much that it has us bent over like the woman. That’s when Jesus comes and with a touch he helps us stand up straight, and reminds us that we are not who society says we are, that we are full of dignity and wonderful in God’s sight.

I’m excited about ministry in this context, I will continue to keep you posted.

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