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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In both Spanish and Portuguese, "esperar" means both to wait and to hope. I heard today that the same is true in Hebrew. One word with both meanings.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalms 37:7

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

_Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

Psalms 130:5-7

permalink written by  cjones on December 20, 2008 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
from the travel blog: so-journ
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New stage

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Another rainy day in Rio and I'm at the computer making contacts and preparing for the next stage of my life, now that my financial resources for this journey are just about depleted. There is a lot of good work I could do but no funds to do it. In this fallen world, the economic system does not usually reward the work that is most needed and unfortunately often rewards the work that is most destructive - war profiteering and unregulated securities trading to name a couple of examples.

I'll be writing some grant proposals but this is a time-consuming process in which most attempts do not succeed regardless of the merits of the work proposed. In the meantime, I'll need to earn some income and return to the job market at what is now a particularly challenging time in economic history.

permalink written by  cjones on December 16, 2008 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Wrapping up

Tarapoto, Peru

Today is my last day in Tarapoto this year and I've been blessed with these 2 months of working with and getting to know Jose and others in this jungle city. In the work of A_Rocha, Jose took the lead on the educational and inspiration programs with the church and the schools, but I was able to help make some contacts with various organizations and individuals who could help provide opportunities for education and service projects.

The other aspect of my work here has been technical assistance to the government agencies and other organizations involved in conservation. Last Thursday, I gave an all-day training session on the use of 3 free mapping programs and their relative advantages and disadvantages for the users here. Then this Tuesday I gave a presentation to a group of 3 people from the regional government and 5 others from conservation NGOs that work with the government on alternatives for sharing maps and map data over the internet. There was a lot of interest in this discussion and 4 of the 8 people came from different cities to attend.

I also developed a couple of programs to supplement and convert the data available in the regional government so it could be used with the public domain software.

At this stage, the goal of the fledgling group of A_Rocha in Tarapoto is not to manage our own conservation projects, but to assist the existing projects of the authorities here in the best ways that we are capable. As a pastor with experience working with teenagers in the high schools, Jose is well equipped to spread A_Rocha's message of the biblical calling for creation care and to motivate the kids to join in the local conservation projects. With my background in software and in the projects I worked on earlier this year, I found an opportunity to help with my technical experience.

permalink written by  cjones on December 5, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Chazuta, Peru

Visited the town of Chazuta, a beautiful but poor village a couple of hours away along a bad dirt road that follows the river valleys down into the lower Amazon. Accompanied by Irma, a nurse working in a_mission at a church in Tarapoto, who I met through another friend I know from last year who I just happened to see on the street a couple of days ago. Irma's cuñado (brother-in-law) is in charge of a medicinal plants project in Chazuta so I got the tour of the chacras (fields), plant nursery and laboratory there. It was interesting to compare with the project I visited a few months ago in Guatemala.

Last weekend, I visited friends in Juanjui, where I stayed and worked last year. The weekend before, A_Rocha had taken its first group of teenagers from Juanjui to the Rio Abiseo National_Park. This is the park I visited as a guest of INRENA - the Peruvian natural resources department - when I was in Juanjui the last time. The A_Rocha trip was organized by my friend Alex and the first group was about 20 members of the church where Alex is the pastor. Arrived just in time to see the slide show of the trip and Alex's talk about it and about creation care on Saturday night.

permalink written by  cjones on December 3, 2008 from Chazuta, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Some photos

Tarapoto, Peru

Just 2 weeks left here in Tarapoto. Between my work with A_Rocha and frequent visits to the dentist, I haven't had time to visit many areas in the jungle outside of the city, and would like very much to see more. Still I wanted to post a few photos of the couple of short excursions I've taken since I've been here - to the towns named Lamas and Sauce (pronounced "Sowsay").

So far Jose and I have given 3 presentations in his church, attended by some of the church members and many others from the community. On Monday we have another presentation at one of the main high schools in the city. The topic of all of these talks is conservation or creation care from a biblical perspective, and the needs and opportunities for conservation that exist in Tarapoto and the surrounding areas. We've been strategizing with the local government about how A_Rocha can help motivate the high school students to become involved as volunteers in their conservation projects.

In addition I've been serving the existing conservation projects with my experience in Geographic Information Systems, providing some much appreciated free software consulting to the regional government and a couple of associated Peruvian conservation NGOs that have offices in the city.

permalink written by  cjones on November 21, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
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Roots of affliction

Tarapoto, Peru

Started having a toothache about a week ago, so I visited a couple of dentists and today I'm going through the fourth day of a root canal treatment. Although I found a dentist who seems very capable, it's been an adventure especially with facilities and tools that are more primitive than those of the dentist offices in the US, or probably even in a bigger city like Lima.

This week I've been reflecting on the recent presidential election in the States. I voted absentee before I left for Peru in September, and I think that symbolically it is a great achievement for a black man to have been able to win the presidency - 145 years after the abolition of slavery and only 40 years after the end of legalized racial segregation.

Still the intersection of politics and religion continues to be disturbing. For example, I read that 3 out 4 for white evangelicals voted for one candidate, and the overwhelming majority of black evangelicals voted for the other. Can this be explained by racism? Or could it be that the more privileged class does not give as much importance to the concern for social justice reflected in the statements and positions of the candidates? African Americans have a history of oppression that could have prepared them to be more sensitive to systemic injustice, so possibly the black church is less blind in this area.

This is no great revelation, but I believe that politicians of every party are controlled far too much by powerful financial interests. I also believe that the public is expertly manipulated, and recall a good example of this described by Thomas Frank in a Bill Moyers interview I saw online several weeks ago.

In the interview, TF argued that "conservatives" can use a social or religious issue to advance their economic agenda and its attendant evils to which people may be blind. For example, it's no sacrifice for the economic principalities and powers that be to support candidates who take a conservative position on abortion laws as long as the candidates also support economic policies that favor the powers that be above everyone else. Thus because of a hot-button issue, many people will vote against their own economic well being. The other catch is that the politicians only need to speak correctly about the hot-button issue, and in fact do not or can not deliver on their words.

I've been reading an excellent book by Martin Luther King called "Strength to Love," which is a collection of his sermons in the sixties. He remarked that the church was the most segregated major institution in America at that time. Is this still the case?

Searched for translations of MLK's works into Spanish or Portuguese and haven't been able to find any except his "I Have a Dream" speech, which is unfortunately about the extent of what most people know about him. It seems that all of the translated Christian literature in Latin America I've seen so far is by best-selling white authors who may not be very outspoken about the injustices of the status quo socioeconomic system.

permalink written by  cjones on November 6, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Life in Tarapoto

Tarapoto, Peru

It's been over 2 weeks since I've been here in Tarapoto and feel like I'm starting to settle in and appreciate the rhythm of life here. Think I'd like it better if there was less motorcycle traffic but I still prefer these to cars. In a typical day, I walk about 5 blocks from my room to the office in the church, and from either place it's about 6 blocks or so to the town center where there are restaurants, grocery stores and even a good coffee house.

Here most of the people seem very friendly and there doesn't seem to be much of a crime problem - at least as compared to other places I've stayed, like Lima and Quito. I like that I can take my laundry to a lady who lives across the street and buy fresh fruit from the house of another lady who lives on the same block. There are many restaurants with 2-course lunches with juice for a dollar or two. Some families serve dinner out of their houses on their front porches. Last night I had a juane (rice, olives, spices and a little chicken wrapped in a banana leaf), a few small humitas (like a soft tamale), yuca (a starchy root vegetable) and a small pitcher of cebada - a drink made from a kind of barley, like a dark beer but sweeter and without the alcohol.

One example of a difference, or inconvenience, here are the gimnasios. I visited a couple of these to get some exercise, and they are cheap but hot, dirty and stocked with equipment that almost without exception is comically defective. Many of the machines take a lot of contortions just to position yourself to use them. I've injured myself in some good gyms in the States but it would be so much easier to injure yourself here. Last time I broke the rope cord used in place of a steel cable on the pulldown machine. I have the impression that some enterprising businessperson found a pile of useless equipment about to be discarded, and had the brilliant idea of opening a business with practically no upfront capital costs!

Another interesting thing are the health food ("naturista") liquor establishments. These are also very informal - sometimes in the front room of someone's house - and stocked with homemade liquors from local fruits and medicinal plants. I bought a couple bottles of one "antigripal" concoction to help me get over the cold I had last week.

It's very hot during the day, but I feel relatively comfortable having a place to live with a clean bathroom. Can't complain about the price - just 200 soles/month, which translates to about $2/day. In contrast with many other places in town, including restaurants and the church, the water supply has been reliable there so far. The erratic water supply in other places is largely due to the deforestation in the area, which has caused less rain and more runoff of soils into the rivers. It's supposed to be the start of the rainy season here in the rainforest, but there has been surprisingly little rain so far. That makes for a lot of dust in the air, and in houses or buildings by the dirt roads, kicked up by all the moto traffic.

One of the things I'm adjusting to is that in this environment, it's not always possible to work as efficiently as I'd like. My laptop computer has been having issues again (sometimes it boots and sometimes it doesn't) and the internet access is not always available. It's also been difficult at times to reach people for meetings. However, in spite of the discomforts and inconveniences, I like the simplicity here - the openness and neighborliness that is lacking in the harried and more impersonal, car-centric environments of the big cities, especially in the US.

permalink written by  cjones on October 19, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Creation care

Tarapoto, Peru

Reading the new book "Kingfisher's Fire" by Peter Harris, who founded the A_Rocha organization in Portugal about 25 years ago. As Jose and I are working to establish an A_Rocha presence here in the Peruvian Amazon, I was encouraged by Peter's stories about how other groups around the world got started with little more than a few people with desire and commitment. I was also impressed by his explanation of how the Bible teaches that creation care is not just one of the good things that Christians are called to do. Understood correctly, it is at the core of what it means to worship and serve God.

Yet Christianity has become so corrupted that most Christians ignore their calling to be stewards of nature, and pay their allegiance to an economic system that is destroying the planet. Furthermore, many environmentalists - be they Christian or of another persuasion - believe that the justification for conservation is the enjoyment, health or even survival of human beings. Peter Harris suggests that the justification is about all of creation, not just people, and about our relationship with God.

Whether we interpret the stories in Genesis literally or metaphorically, to believe in creation care means to understand that everything comes from and belongs to God - nothing exists apart from God; creation is the visible expression of the unseen God and we show our love for God by appreciating and caring for his creation.

Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
"There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.

There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the_field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying.

Hosea 4:1-3

permalink written by  cjones on October 15, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Jungle home

Tarapoto, Peru

In a sense, it felt like returning home yesterday when I stepped off the airplane onto the tarmac and walked over to the small waiting room at the airport in Tarapoto. After a warm welcome by Jose Antonio, we took a mototaxi to his apartment where he lives with his wife Angela and kids Annabelén and Joel. The weather is hot here in the jungle and I'm now renting a comfortable small room (except for the lack of a fan, which I need to buy today) a couple of doors down from Jose's apartment.

Using the internet from the office in Jose's church, where there's a big window with a view of the street and a continuous stream of motorcycles and 3-wheeled mototaxis passing by (practically no cars here).

We'll be working on research and planning for environmental education and conservation programs in and around Tarapoto, involving the internet and activities with schools, churches and the local government.

permalink written by  cjones on October 4, 2008 from Tarapoto, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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Lomas of Lachay

Lima, Peru

I've been back in Peru almost a week now, staying with Amparo, Ronald and their son Esteban - a family I met last year through A_Rocha. Leaving for Tarapoto in the Amazon region of the country this Friday. In the meantime I've been visiting friends and learning about environmental education projects around Lima. Today I went with Amparo on a field_trip she organized for a group of 35 ninth-graders to the Reserva Nacional de Lachay, about 2 hours up the coast from here. The area is best known for its "lomas," or green oasises in the barren sand landscape of coastal Peru, which receive moisture from mist blown in from the ocean. In addition to gaining an appreciation of the natural beauty in this place, the kids learned about important ecological concepts, such as the effects of deforestation and climate change.

permalink written by  cjones on September 30, 2008 from Lima, Peru
from the travel blog: so-journ
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