Monthly Archive: February 2006

YAR Travelogue from Venezuela No. 1

Yesterday my wife (!) Charletta arrived in Venezuela for our honeymoon. We decided its the first time for both of us that we´ve been in a Latin American country as purely a tourist (previously it was studying, volunteering or CPTing). Venezuela seemed like a great place to go to see beautiful countryside and do some political sight seeing as well. We´ve been reading about Chavez for the past 8 years so it was about time we saw what it was all about first hand.

First impressions so far have been mixed. Our first political opinions on Chavez were from Emilio and Samuel on the bus ride from the airport into Caracas (tell you something about their economic status). Emilio is a student from the Southeast of Venezuela studying optometry. He used to go to St. George´s on Grenada but transferred to the Caracas campas after the Reggae culture of too much Ganja and Cocaine got to him. He was travelling with his cousin Samuel who is a professor teaching physical therapy. Neither of them had a particularly good view of Chavez. They said that he has been a polarizing force in the country, turning families against one another (sound familiar). They described his ideology as a mix of socialism, communism and anti-capitalism. These accusations weren´t new to me. However, they also said that in order to get a job with government or even to get a government contract “you have to have the right opinions.”

So that´s the first portrait. Over the next 2 weeks I´ll occasionally post other perspectives and reflections on the the politics and culture here in Venezuela. Hasta Luego!

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dreaming the day away

A few days ago, I was asked what I dream of for the church. It came just after an unrelated discussion about this event. The truth is, I couldn’t answer that question at the moment. I’m still stewing over it; it involves something along the lines of a place where we can share our joys as well as our brokenness. I want church to be a place not that caters to individual whims but which draws in all followers of Christ and transforms us one by one. I want it to be a place that always leaves me slightly discomforted. I want the church to be a place that deals more in the spheres of grace than of legalism.

I’m not attending the gathering at Hesston College, but I do like their questions on the web site, so I’m going to steal a few, and toss them at you all. How would you re-imagine the church? What do we really care about, and how can we make that happen? Of what do you dream?

Realize

Running from the Military Police

This last weekend, I had to decide exactly how radical I wanted to be. I was put in a situation where I stood between an AWOL soldier and the military police, who very much wanted to arrest him. If only I had a nickel for every time this happened, I’d have close to five cents. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly a classic “What would you do?” moment, but it was interesting just the same, and I thought y’all might be interested in hearing about it.

A conscientious objector, who has been trying to get out of the Army for more than two years, was facing a deployment on Friday night. He had applied for CO status and was denied … twice. While he was in Iraq the first time, he refused to load his weapon even when on patrols. When he got back he filed a Habeas Corpus in federal court, challenging the ruling, and was denied … thrice (if you count appeals and temporary restraining orders). He made it very clear to his chain of command that he was not going to go back to Iraq under any circumstances. They hadn’t even gotten him to pick up his weapon for about a year. His commander, however, wasn’t taking no for an answer. So, Agustin made himself “unavailable” during the final deployment formation (aka he went for a drive at an undisclosed location). Saturday morning, he went to the military police station and turned himself in.

At that point, he expected to be court-martialed, given a dishonorable discharge, put in jail for 5-9 months, and then move on with his life. I’m not sure why he expected this to happen. Maybe because that’s what his military counselors, his lawyers, and current precedent suggested would happen. It was not to be, though. He was instead brought back to his house where his wife, two daughters, and I were hanging out, and he was told to get his gear. He explained that there was no point, because he wasn’t going to deploy. The First Sergeant was like, “Okay, whatever.”
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