Monday, September 4, 2017

Transition; A lifestyle and a finale

Today marks one month since I left Grand Bourg. This time last month I was running home to finish cleaning the house before my dear friends came to haul me away. I remember leaving with such mixed feelings. There was a part of me physically drained from a week long marathon running back and forth between Grand Bourg and Puerto Madero to obtain the proper paperwork for Penne to return with me back to the United States.
Penne made it to Chicago
Two hours there and two hours back every single day. I was also emotionally tapped out from anxiety. It would be a challenge for me on Friday morning to give my final good byes to the precious students and staff that I have grown to adore this past year. Deep in my spirit though I knew it was time to go. Under the surface I was thrilled to begin this approval process for ordination, to begin a new position in a hospital setting, and to finally move somewhere and start a normal life without Big Brother looking over my shoulder. There was so much to process in this transition that there were truly no room for words.

Moving back stateside proved to be much stranger than I originally imagined. There were plenty of nights back in Grand Bourg that I dreamed of seasoned food and amazon prime. Some times I would specifically think of using New York MTA and ordering food from the bodega. After hearing a number of stories about reverse culture shock, it became a habit for me to keep into perspective what I once knew back home. Silly- maybe. However I was not moving back to New York and I knew almost nothing about my new home in Chicago so all of this memory work I thought I was doing really did not matter much. Chicago would be an entirely different beast to battle and the transition back would be much different than I imagined.
My parents and younger sister Bri drove to Chicago to help me move.

Language: Even though english is my first language, I struggled expressing myself the first few weeks back. I would stumble on words or have to stop and fix my own grammar. I have always used phrases like “mira, pero, como se dice,” and such however I found myself using a lot more every day phrases in english conversations with strangers. The other day at a taqueria I comfortably ordered all my food and had bits of conversation with other patrons present. The Argentine dialect is a bit different than standard spanish as well so even in spanish I am trying to adjust back to certain forms so I am not looked at crazy. On both sides the readjustment has been quite entertaining.

Transit: Chicago Transit has a similar swipe system to Buenos Aires and I found myself waiting for my card balance on-boarding the bus one morning. I stood in the doorway waiting for a number to flash as the bus driver looked at me with a side eye. Uber is available in Argentina as well however after they broke the Taxi Strike at JFK I stopped using their services. Needless to say my return to the states included this very luxurious usage of Lyft. The cost of both public transit and car sharing is significantly different in the U.S. than abroad which hit my pockets much faster than I expected. Luckily my parents carried my bike from New York to Chicago which allows me the ability to opt out of driving and public transit for the time being. The style of driving and the quality of the roads and sidewalks in Grand Bourg made me hesitant from purchasing a bike for the year. I am now re-experiencing a love of mine that I have missed greatly.

Community: I moved from a predominately european/ mestizo region of Argentina into a culturally and racially diverse city in the United States. In many ways it was a breath of fresh air to see myself and familiar identities in my every day life. It was a relief to not constantly be the sore thumb in a room or to have strangers grab at my hair. Making friends has been incredibly easier and more of them exist outside of my work sphere. Previously much of my network was within San Lucas and the Greater IELU community. On the reverse side to this, I no longer live in a place where I know every store owner and employee. I am unattached to a church. There are no abuelas inviting me to lunch at their house or family asados on the weekends. I still scroll through my social networks and see family gatherings back in Grand Bourg and I wish I was still around to laugh and fellowship with them. I did not realize how much I enjoyed congregational relationships.

If you have been following my blog this year, you have seen many of my highs and lows in a parish setting. You have read or listened to my many joys in Argentina. With that being said I  cherish this year abroad serving at Iglesia de San Lucas. I am thankful for the gift of language and the synodical support in my formation. My supervisor was incredible and my site gave me exactly what I needed for my own growth. Being a Horizon International Intern made sense for me. I was challenged and allowed space to truly evaluate my call to the church. There were times during evaluation periods where people would ask me “What does this question mean? Why are they asking US this question? This seems very tedious. Nothing has changed here.” As I explained why we the ELCA do the things we do- having to verbalize many of our processes and reasoning made me also very weary of how “efficient” our process may not actually be. To see church function differently made me both critical and appreciative of how the ELCA is designed. Though we still manage as an empire in many ways, one can see the way we are slowly undoing these structures. 

To also be true to myself, I must admit that a year with Global Missions did me justice as a future leader in the ELCA. Prior to seminary I only saw myself as a full time parish pastor. I did not really know that there were so many avenues of ministry. Soon I became aware of chaplaincy in various capacities. Missionary work however still held (holds) this white savior connotation that never resonated well with me. Taking on that title and training with dozens of others who would be deployed in other countries around the world in different capacities forced me to recognize that mission work (in the ELCA) is not forcing Christ down someone’s throat in exchange for resources our neighbors may need. We work with other already established Lutheran Churches and local NGOs that partner with the people already living and doing there. We bury ourselves in accompaniment theology, training, and practice. I would have probably never been exposed to any of this if it were not for this opportunity. Because of this I can now better discern where I am called to be in this body.

What’s Next

Penne and I are now settled in our new home in Chicago. He will continue to serve as a guard cat, slayer of all mice and insects, and I have begun my position as a Chaplain Resident at a Trauma I hospital in the South Chicago area. I took on this residency to explore the field of Chaplaincy and more specifically to better understand trauma. This may come across mildly strange after reading about my community’s traumatic experience this past June. In reality I do feel called to be on the caregiving side of trauma but there were many factors involved that I was no where near prepared for while on internship; children deaths, children being my students, cultural differences in grieving, and the language barrier. June also exposed areas of growth for me. When envisioning where I want to be in my call this type of work will only be an asset.

While I serve as a Chaplain I will be in the process of receiving approval for ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. If approved, I will be entering the assignment process which is essentially a National Draft of Lutheran Seminarian Graduates. At the moment it is still unclear of what exactly I will do but I am hoping to serve as a part- time pastor in a Latino or African Descent context while taking full employment elsewhere as either a Chaplain or in Non-Profit work. In regards to international work, I am not quite sure if the spirit is moving me to leave the U.S. so soon but I am open to opportunities that may arise. 

This chapter of my life is officially closed. #ReclaimMissionary will no longer be. For those who have followed me on this year long journey I am beyond thankful. It is my hope that you learned a bit about me and the work I love. I hope this journey has given you life to go out and do what you too are called to do. Above all I am just grateful for your companionship. Many of you have been very supportive this year and have reached out to me on numerous occasions. It  has been life giving to still be connected with my friends and family back home. I am planning to start a new writing segment entitled Chaplain Assassin. This idea developed in my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education about a young woman working as a Chaplain while trying to escape a former unconventional life. Chaplain Assassin will be a retelling of the life in Chaplaincy trauma work while exploring the complexities of being a young person and clergy. While I am not quite sure if I am a strong enough writer to pull this off I am certain it will be a much more entertaining way to explain chaplaincy work. If you are curious to see where else life takes me then feel free to stay tuned. More information of how to read Chaplain Assassin will be posted soon.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Vicar Goes to Winter Camp

We are at my final days on internship and there is still so much left. Last week I went to camp (again) with my youth from Grand Bourg and another IELU congregation in Caseros. This time instead of going out to the campos we stayed local and did our three day event at the Sedes in Olivos.

My video below is more of a reflection/ resource for youth ministry curriculum based on the Matthew story of Peter denying Jesus three times. I discuss the gospel, our conversation starters and a follow up Luther oriented game to bring the show home. I hope other youth ministry types can find some sort of value to the games and set up.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resource: The Parable of the Talents

This week the YAGM had their final retreat. The coordinator invited me to do a session with them as kind of a full circle since I spent much of orientation with them as well. My topic was Spiritual Gifts, a topic I have been working on with the congregation I am serving. After a year of serving overseas it seems only right to come together and assess what one can offer to their home communities whether that is a congregational setting or the workplace.

For those who are not familiar with the Spiritual Gifts Assessment it can be found on the ELCA website and search "Spiritual Gifts Assessment Tool" for a prinatable and online copy.

The session began with a retelling (transcript pasted below) of Matthew 25:14-30 the Parable of the Talents. This retelling was done with visual items made at home. As the story was told slowly and steadily the pieces were placed on top of the large fabric and moved around as needed. Characters that were speaking were centered while others disappeared.This included the following:

-A large solid color fabric or paper. This worked as the background and way for the audience's eyes to maintain focus.
- Four cut outs of a family (Mother and three kids). The cut outs were very basic shapes and shared the same pattern for the bodies. These were the four main characters.
-Two paper cut outs of a farmer and rancher. These are supporting characters added into the parable.
-One industrial cityscape and one farm. These are basic drawings made but help stimulate the imagination.
(All of the above is made out of color paper and markers. In this case sticky fabric was added to the back of each for easier movement.)
-Five seeds
-Two eggs
-Ball of yarn

This style of teaching was introduced to me during a Christian Education Seminar at LTSP. Dawn Stewart came into class with a box of well crafted tools that she would use to tell us the Parable of the Sower. She had the entire class sit on the floor as she sat infront of us slowly pulling our her accessories and speaking in a warm and calming voice. The difference here was Dawn's intended audience. She was simulating working with children so her reflection questions were quite simple. She then had us break into creative spaces where we could draw, paint, or collage our thoughts and reflections from the parable. We would later come together and share our art.

Rather than breaking into artistic spaces, the volunteers and I turned our attention to the Spiritual Gifts Assessment. As I read each question out loud, the entire group graded themselves between 0 and 4 then adding up their scores in certain categories to see which are their gifts. Then we took time again to reflect on what qualified as a gift and if any were shocking to receive. The session continued with a clear explanation of each gift along with where in the church their skillsets would best be utilized. Reflections continued as the reality of some of these gifts began to hit us. Some quivered at the gift of evangelism as the term has become tainted with fundamentalist hate speech and hollering on the streets. Others were overwhelmed at the gift of pastor/ sheperding as that had only recently began to cross their minds.

"Isn't discernment personal? How is that a gift? Why is mercy a gift? Shouldn't everyone have that?"

It is quite amazing how some gifts we really do not think twice about. Faith, for example, is a gift. One would think anyone taking this assessment would already have faith being a relatively active member of the church however even faith is not guaranteed. For that reason it is important for us to know each others gifts as we may accompany each others in areas of our weaknesses and uplift each others strengths.

After two hours of Spiritual gifts we concluded in prayer but we are beginning anew.

*Below is the Parable of the Talents which can be used and adapted as needed*


There was a small Toban family living in the campo of Chaco. There was the Sheu, the eldest, then Eliseo, and Nalpapi. Their father worked over 2500 kilometers away in the oil fields near Comodoro. Mother was their healer- their dwelling- their caretaker. Then one day Mother gathered the children around.

“Sheu! Eliseo! Nalpapi! Come here- come here”

Mother’s children gathered around her feet curiously gazing upwards towards her face.

“My darling children, soon I will be leaving you to visit your father. When you were younger I would carry you on my back back and forth across the coast. But now you are older and must care for the few things we have here.”

“We understand Mother.”

“Sheu, my child I do not have much but please take these seeds. I only have five of them but I am sure you will do well with what you are given.”

“But  Mother,” said Sheu “you know I do not work the lands. I tend to the needs of the house.”

“Trust in me” said Mother. Then Mother turned to Eliseo and said, “Eliseo my child I do not have much but please take care of these chickens. We are down to two but I am sure you will do well with what you are given.”

“But Mother,” said Eliseo “you know I do not care for the livestock. Since I was a kid I maintained the fields.”

“Trust in me” said Mother. Then Mother turned to Nalpapi and said, “Nalpapi my child I do not have much but please take this ball of yarn. It is only one kilo but I am sure you will do well with what you are given.”

“But Mother,” said Nalpapi, “you know I do not work with textiles. I provide for the animals in the yard.”

“Trust in me” said Mother. So Mother packed her things and left for Comodoro and the children went on their way. Sheu went into the town and saw a farmer with their child in tattered clothing. Sheu approached the farmer and offered to watch the farmer’s child and fix their clothing in exchange for the farmer to grow the seeds and to feed their neighbors. That summer the farmer grew the seeds in abundance and provided crops for their neighbors. Sheu and the farmer had met once again and where the farmer offered her back twice the seeds Sheu had first given him. Eliseo too had walked into town where a rancher was complaining about dead grass his livestock could no longer eat. With feelings of compassion Eliseo offered to fertilize and replenish his grass if the rancher agreed to mate the chickens. The rancher did not only that but acquired enough eggs and chicklets to provide meals for the homeless in town. Eliseo and the rancher had encountered each other in town again where the rancher provided Eliseo with four new chickens in gratitude of compassion. Nalpapi however, did not take the ball of yarn into town. The yarn was placed in a small crevice of the house where the sun does not touch and the water does not leak. Nalpapi kept that yarn there since Mother had left for Comodoro.

Then the time came when Mother returned. She was greeted at the house by Sheu, Eliseo, and Nalpapi.

“Mother, Mother” cried Sheu, “I have something to share with you. You gave me seeds to care for even though I maintain the home. I shared these seeds with a farmer in need and the crops came in abundance. People were fed all around Resistancia and in return the farmer gave me twice of what I offered him.

“Sheu I am so proud of you. Thank you for caring for what was given to you.” said Mother.

“Mother, Mother” cried Eliseo, “I too have something to share with you. You gave me chickens to raise even though I work the land. I shared these chickens with a suffering rancher and the chickens flourished like spring flowers. Our community in Resistancia is cared for and in return the rancher doubled what I offered him.

“Eliseo I am so proud of you. Thank you for caring for what was given to you.” said Mother.

Nalpapi was quiet and hesitant to speak. “Nalpapi, what about you my child?” asked Mother.

“Mother I saw how much you loved the ball of yarn and when you said to care for it I decided to keep it safe from everything. So I buried it in a crevice in the house until you returned.” said Nalpapi.

“But my dear Nalpapi, why would you hide anything I ask for you to nurture? You were given yarn even though you care for the animals. You were offered freedom from your self inflicted limitations but you chose to remain closed off from your neighbors and keep something from others that could have helped someone else. How does one build community without sharing and indulgence? Now we see that those who act in abundance will receive in abundance while those who act as though the lack will have nothing to show.”