Palmer Becker's blog

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Unforgettable days in Chile and Uruguay

A typical Latin American welcome or parting kiss. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Young pastors are responding to the call to ministry. Boris and his wife are in a poor mining town in Chile. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

In each country I was treated to fellowship meals featuring local foods. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Church planters hold hands in support of each other after a workshop in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

A lot has happened since I last wrote. The ten days in Chile were especially unforgettable!

Chile, with seven climate sub-types, is 4,300 km (2,670 miles) long and 350 km (220 miles) wide.  I was almost down to Antarctica! Chile leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, income per capita, globalization, transparency, and state of peace. The country has a female president.

Five reflections in South America

C. Paul and Hildi Amstutz serve in chaplaincy and spiritual formation ministries in Asuncion, Paraguay. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

A South America Mennonite Brethren church building in Asuncion, Paraguay (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Palmer and his wife Ardys enjoy the view and the moisture from Iguazu Falls. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Jairo Roa, his wife Alecia Almeida and their daughter Malena give a friendly greeting. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Ardys and I have been able to spend ten wonderful days together first in Asuncion, then at the world-famous Iguazu Falls and now in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ardys is now on her way back to Canada; I leave on Thursday for ten days of ministry in Chile. Weather has been in the 80's with an occasional tropical rain. 

While I do not pose to be an authority, let me share five reflections from my contacts here in South America.

Reflection # 1: Admirable mission work 

News from Paraguay

Paraguayan pastors and church workers arrive by truck to attend a four-day workshop. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

What is an Anabaptist Christian? These workshop participants are eager to know. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

The Nivaclé people love to sing! (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Palmer learns to know his Paraguayan hosts. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

Everywhere I go I extend greetings from my church, family and friends. There is always an enthusiastic response saying that I should convey greetings back to you. Greetings!

Good fellowship in Brazil

Youth are engaged in graffiti evangelism. Note that Jesus is going to church in a boat on a skateboard with a Bible in one hand and a spray can in the other! (Photo by Palmer Becker)

Manioc is a staple food that Brazilians eat in many different forms. (Photo by Palmer Becker)

While Brazil's population is very mixed, the people of Curitiba are primarily of European backgrounds. (Photo by Palmer Becker)

Brazilian students were vigorously engaged in the study of such questions as, "What is Christianity?" "How do we interpret the Scriptures?" "What is essential for community? and "How do we work at reconciliation in the church and in the world?" (Photo by Palmer Becker)

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, both in land mass and population. The densely forested Amazon Valley, which includes up to 69 Indian tribes, makes up a large portion of this very interesting country of mixed peoples. According to government reports, 55 percent of the Brazilian people have some African blood. This is due to Brazil having slavery until 1889 and the owners having many children from their slaves, who they treated as mistresses.

Greetings from Bolivia

Lizette, co-director of MCC, was an excellent translator.  (Photo by Linda Shelly)

MCC volunteers and staff took part in a quarterly, two-day fellowship and planning retreat. They are a spirited group! (Photo by Cesar Flores)

We met repeatedly in groups of three to process and apply what we were learning. (Photo by Linda Shelly)

Bolivia, named after its first president, Bolivar, is about 4,500 miles south and one time zone east of Kitchener. It is a beautiful country with lots of tropical foliage, including 1,200 species of fern and 1,400 species of birds. This land-locked country is south of the equator, which means that we need to look north to see the sun. In the distance are 6,000 meter (21,000 feet) mountains that settle down into the Amazon Basin. Weather is warm, with a tropical downpour every day or two.

Mid-point reflections from Gaza

This is midpoint in my five-week ministry here in Gaza and Bethlehem. Things are going well. While my students in Gaza are doing research, book reports and various kinds of homework, I have had the opportunity to teach classes at the college, lead workshops in the community, help to establish the peace studies center, and interact with the Muslim and Christian communities of Bethlehem. 

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First report from Gaza

I am writing this from prison. All 1.8 million of us who are living in Gaza are in prison. The walls around Gaza keep us (except us privileged foreigners) from leaving to work, to shop or to go to another church, town or country. We cannot sell our crops or manufactured goods. Some have meager food and very little money to buy it. We are trapped in a small space about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide."

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Muslim, Jewish and Christian Relationships

Classes are going very well. Students are appreciating the role-plays, practical illustrations, and the newly published textbook, which was partially funded by Waterloo North Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ont.).

Some people are of the opinion that Jews and Muslims have always been, and always will be, in conflict. This is not true. Ishmael and Isaac both received a blessing from their father Abraham (Gen. 17:20), and in the end they came together to jointly bury their father (Gen. 25:9).

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Prime minister and taxi driver

I got a warm welcome when I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, but, of course, nothing like the unprecedented welcome that Stephen Harper received!  He was here with about 145 parliament, news and support people. Some will worked on economic and trade matters that are important to the present government. I hope that they also sought to understand the political realities and that they will work towards peace in this land.

Recently I was talking to a taxi driver. The conversation went like this:

PB:  Were you born here in Bethlehem?

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Called to Bethlehem

I have received a new call from Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) and Mennonite Church Canada to go to Palestine/Israel for nine weeks to teach Pastoral Care and Counseling in the biblical towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth. There are over 70 churches and 55,000 Arab Christians in Palestine. Unfortunately, few of the pastors have been trained in the practice of pastoral care. I will seek to respond to some of that need. 

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