Fabian Tomasi

Former farmworker Fabian Tomasi, 47, shows the condition of his emaciated body as he stands inside his home in Basavilbaso, in Entre Rios province, Argentina on March 29. Tomasi’s job was to keep the crop dusters flying by quickly filling their tanks but he says he was never trained to handle pesticides. Now he is near death from polyneuropathy. “I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing. I didn’t know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists,” he said. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)




Aixa Cano

Aixa Cano, 5, who has hairy moles all over her body that doctors can’t explain, sits on a stoop outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on April 1. Although it’s nearly impossible to prove, doctors say Aixa’s birth defect may be linked to agrochemicals. In Chaco, children are four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects since biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)



Appreciation Balloon

Lungs filled

chest stretching out from the inside accumulation

incomprehensible, expansive growth

that gratitude inflates in my heart

Bigger, bigger,

to burst

to breathe

balanced and free

To relieve

this tense

massive presence

I attempt to thank, to affirm

and to express

my joy

like bursts of confetti rising into a cerulean sky

or a dove

breaking free

snapping her rusty

cramped cage

Sometimes it suffices

but only for a moment

because the gratitude balloon filling my body


and receives

intermittent bursts of new, fresh




unconstrained, uninhibited



This dear friend joy consuming me

accompanying me

-sometimes exhausting me

is not the result of innocence and naivety

A sheltered life guarded from the horrors of

One’s mind

or a broken world

I too

have seen, known,

and thought myself


in that damn rusty bird cage

heavy and damp with despair

hollow of hope



in black hole

quick sand sucking


soul ripping

seasons of darkness

Body in convulsions

of anxiety


paralytic loneliness

dulling apathy

That enormous, and much loathed shadow

Of death



Is gone.

Thank God.

But I now see too

How it was

That which

Has inelegantly

superstructed me

to be


That uncomfortable

tedious fight

Was the best teacher



I can and do


Daily discover

How to weave my soul with

And wholly appreciate

so much more

The joy that is


(God with us)

To love

Every neighbor

To recognize life

Accept life

Live life


And hope

Through the perspective of

Soul-soul relational


All the while

Buoyed up by

Yahwey’s swooping Spirit-embrace

We is perhaps

One of the most


Brilliant words

I know

We are not islands

We are light reflecting

Prisms of scattered color

Let your light shine

God radiate our souls

Enlighten our hearts

As we go together

Or alone – but finding others along

the way

May our lights

Together light up each other

And sneak sparkles of illuminated rainbow glints

Into the shadows



I want to say a special thanks to my parents for being such awesome pillars in my life through all of life’s storms (and the good times too!). And an ENORMOUS thanks to GOD. 🙂

Real life

I was just talking with a close friend who is participating as a YAGM on the other side of the world.  As we talked about some of the struggles and behind the scenes things that go on ‘behind the Facebook wall’ I realized that the way I share my life publicly on Facebook, my blog, and in my newsletters can potentially be creating a skewed perception of what life is really like here for me.

Much of my life here is day-to-day living.

As my friend put it, “It’s life, but with a different address.”

I experience emotions and moments similar to what I experience in Minnesota.

I experience boredom.

I experience loneliness.

I get confused.

I get frustrated trying to figure out exactly what my role in the world is.

Sometimes I doubt my faith.

But I also intentionally appreciate and celebrate the many good things here too; just like I try to do back in MN. And overall, I enjoy life pretty darn well.

I have had incredible opportunities to see and experience things that make me feel like I am living a full-blown adventure. And I am. But life in its totality is an adventure. You don’t have to pick up and move somewhere far away to live intentionally and witness Jesus’ love to the people around you.

You can do that wherever you are.

Go live your adventure!

Yours in Christ,

Katie Menke

“All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from it. Today is the only day there is.” ~Frederick Buechner


Age of Anger- Hands of Tenderness Guayasamin, Oswaldo

Age of Anger: Hands of Tenderness Guayasamin, Oswaldo

I believe in redemption. I believe that the Holy Spirit strengthening and guiding us to patiently and consistently beam reflections of Christ’s love for us has the capacity to light up the world’s darkest places and let God’s kingdom break in- on earth as it is in heaven. I believe sometimes it’s not us people just us that need to be redeemed, but the Christian Church as well.

Unfortunately, powerful people operating within and as direct agents of the institutional Church are many of history’s most notorious examples of how imperialism, hypocrisy, and arrogance can infect our world with really really ugly sin -sin that destroys.

I recently joined a street theater group. We started out clowning trying to raise social consciousness on the beach and in the parks in an anti-littering campaign. However, the Argentina Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice is approaching March 24th and we decided to perform something less clown-ish. I was all in. Social justice + creative expression = a very enthusiastic me.

Since I have been traveling quite a bit, I missed quite a few practices and just got clued in on the progress my street theater friends have made. The performance is an excerpt from a speech made by Jorge Rafael Videla, a senior commander in the Argentine army, who ‘justifies’ the government’s actions at this time by referring to Christianity.

Videla was known to flaunt his ‘Christian faith’ while dictating the torture and disappearance of thousands of civilians. Several high-level church officials publicly  and actively collaborated with the military dictatorship. Christian Von Wernich is only just one such example. He was a priest serving as chaplain of the Buenos Aires Province Police and on October 9, 2007 was found guilty of complicity in 7 homicides, 42 kidnappings, and 32 instances of torture. (Nice name man – a double whammy of sick hypocrisy.)

Many others agents of the Church were guilty of passively standing by and not interceding despite knowledge of what was happening. However, the particular passage my friends chose, to me, sounds like a stinging indictment of Christianity as a general overarching term. It does not differentiate between Christianity as a particular human-made institution failing miserably at God’s calling at this point in time and Christianity as a faith.

To me, it feels like an incomplete perspective. It doesn’t take into account the priests and people of faith tortured and killed right alongside other detainees for speaking out against the abuses.  It doesn’t take into account Jesus.

We talked about how I thought this excerpt was powerful, that I realize that this is what this man really did say, but that I will not be a part of a presentation that only offers this perspective of Christianity. (We are still friends.)

I am not advocating for the Church’s complicity in human rights abuses to be ignored. These events should be talked about. We should study them. We should learn from them. The Crusades, the Spanish inquisition, the genocide and enslavement of indigenous people, the African slave trade, Native-American children taken from their families and then subjected to sexual and physical abuse in boarding schools, and numerous wars all have one glaring common denominator. They are events that have all at one point in time been ‘justified’ by perpetrators (and the silent majorities) under the guise of Christianity.

One woman in our acting group mentioned how she is terrified of nuns, she gets goose bumps when she sees them because they wrecked her childhood. Another friend mentioned how as a participant in a gay marriage demonstration she saw other participants violently pushed down on the cement and yelled at by counter protesters claiming to represent the Church.

All that stuff did happen. It did.  But it did not happen as a result of Christian faith. It happened because Christian doctrine got hijacked and manipulated by hypocrisy, self-righteousness, imperialism, and personal lust for power.  We should cry out in lamentation that our faith has been so badly represented. We should make sure other people know that we don’t think these things are okay nor are they accurate examples of faith in Christ. We should recognize and help the world recognize that the church (lower case c –because we are humble like that haha) is not an institution; it is a living, breathing, body of (imperfect) witnesses. It is us.

How do we make the Church, the institution, more Christ-like?

We need to stand up against social injustices.

We need to recognize and apologize for past and present mistakes committed in Christ’s name.

We need to remember to be humble.

We need to remember to love.

We need to remember that Christ is our foundation.

We need to pray.

We need to be redeemed.

And we need to remember to give thanks for all the beautiful ways God has worked in this world through the church.  We need to remember how Christ transforms, heals, and sanctifies us, how he resurrects us from our sin, and how the Holy Spirit has compelled movers and shakers within the church to call out, push back, and work to reform the church and the world at large in big and small ways. People like Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Shane Claiborne, Pope Francis, friends, family, your neighbour down the street … and you?

Together We Walk This Journey

I was cleaning my room today and found a piece of paper hiding in my desk. It was a piece of paper from my November Young Adults in Global Mission retreat with the other Argentina and Uruguay volunteers. At the retreat, Krystle, our country coordinator each gave us slips of paper to read out loud written by one of our group members. The responses were to a the prompt we had more than a year ago in our YAGM applications: How would you articulate your Christian faith and how does this faith inform who you are? As we went around the circle, reading one another’s answers, I was blown away by the profoundness in everyone’s thoughts on faith. The one I read, I ended up keeping, because every time I read it, I feel inspired.

“I believe in the impossible grace that’s been impossibly used on me. In the Trinity there is a community of persons and still individuality. In the moments when I feel closest to God, I also find myself feeling more like me and less like anyone or anything else. I revel in that free grace- given to me freely, and somehow freeing me to love and serve others. There is a call for justice and healing. One day all will be right and in right community, but should there be suffering in the meantime? Jesus didn’t put off healing, but did all he could for all that he touched, even while in the process of something far more glorious. We can do no less than what we can -right now- for those around us. I do my best. Faith is a dynamic relationship. I feel God’s presence around at all times -in my unbelief, He is who I call out to.” -Elizabeth Thomas (published with permission)

I think so often, we think faith is a personal thing, and while that is true, it is a very very communal thing as well. Communal in the sense as something to be shared in community (however, not in the sense of discriminatory hate-based legislation).

In that moment, as we shared each other’s faith statements, I realised how many conversations I had yet to have- the many topics that could be explored -and the wisdom that I could gain by listening to the perspective’s and life experiences of these people I knew so well (and other people too!). But, the thing is, I haven’t really taken advantage of opportunities to do that. While I don’t think it is a very helpful thing to force a conversation about faith with someone who does not want to talk about it, I personally really appreciate it and find it refreshing when other people bring up the topic of faith in conversation.

I think we are so worried about offending others that we clam up, because we all know people (or are someone) hurt by those who have ‘shared’ their personal religious beliefs not out of of a place of love and humility but rather self-righteousness and arrogance. I frankly don’t like talking to those people anymore than you probably do. However, by avoiding the topic completely, we devalue the importance of it in our lives and lose opportunities to learn, grow, and share.

Even when we disagree, we learn from one another, and are compelled to probe deeper into why it is we believe what we believe. It is good to ask hard questions, to talk with and be friends with people that believe differently than we do. It helps keep our faith from being stagnant. I believe my faith in Jesus is, as Elizabeth described it, “a dynamic relationship.” Relationships aren’t destinations. They are part of our day to day living and need to be actively engaged with in order to thrive.

Thank you to everyone in my life that has played a part in my faith journey. Truly.

Yours in Christ,


P.S. I would love to hear from you how you would respond to the YAGM application prompt.


This is a carpincho.

I actually didn´t even know exactly what this animal looked like before googling it right now. It´s kind of cute!

The capybara (as its called in english) is essentially a large river hamster. Everyone explained it to me in spanish as a large river rat.  I honestly felt relieved after googling this imgage just now to discover that the carpincho is much more hamster-ish than rat-ish, because in all honestly, rat-like imagery is not very appetizing when discussing pizza crust substitutions.

Wait, what´s that?

Pizza crust substitutions?


That´s right! Carpincho meat is also known to occasionally replace traditional flour-based pizza crust on some dinner tables. (Shout out to Belén and Ramón for being wonderful people!!!! I stayed at their house for two nights for the feria franca expo in Yapeyu. They are really fantastic. We bonded quite a bit.)


The best part about carpincho is that it is cholesterol free! The pizza is also really good with fresh dill on it. 🙂

And while I don´t think I will necessarily be making homemade pizzas in the states with carpincho crusts (since I have never seen capybara meat in grocery stores)  I do think I might continue using dill. The dill was really really good.

A day in my life

Wow. I am exhausted.

But I am the best kind of exhausted. I am collapse-on-my-pillow-and-fall-asleep-instantly-tired but with a soul bursting from joyful contentment.

It was my second “normal office day” that I’ve had for awhile because INCUPO has an extended summer vacation, so I had been traveling. I spent one day in Cordoba with two lovely new friends I met via couchsurfing.com. I chose to split my 26 hour bus trip to Mendoza in half by doing two night bus trips (Cordoba is halfway between Mendoza and Corrientes). Then, I was in Mendoza for a week with my aunt Linda and her friend Denise who came to visit me and we had a GRAND OL’ time. I love them! After Linda and Denise left I traveled an hour south to a town called Tunuyan and stayed with an amazing family that I met over New Years. They are relatives of my housemate and fantastic friend Aylin. After that, I traveled another 18 hours to Bariloche for a YAGM volunteer retreat. I absolutely LOVED my entire trip and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that this is real life. However, while I had an amazing couple weeks filled with new friends, old friends, family, and beautiful mountain views, I am also SO GLAD I get to immerse myself back into the community I have found myself surrounded by here in Corrientes for the next 5 months.

It is such a blessing to have been welcomed into a community during my short time here, to the point where I feel like after being away for awhile from Corrientes I am coming home to old friends.

Today at work I mate’d (shared mate) with my coworkers, laughed, and worked for several hours on the feria franca website I have been creating. Today I was surprised to receive a personally addressed invitation from the president of the feria franca in Yapeyu to go to a regional feria franca expo this next week and stay with him and his wife in their house! I met the president and his wife at several feria franca meetings here in Corrientes and was able to talk with them for an extended period of time at the province wide expo that we had here in December. They are such kind people and I am really excited to get the opportunity to spend more time with them. They love the history channel and know more U.S. Presidential history than me! After discussing the details of my trip next week to Yapeyu I also talked with Paia (my site supervisor) about the work I will be doing these next five months and my interest in really understanding food sovereignty on a macro more structural level. She lent me a book called malas comidas that I am excited to read about the food systems here in Argentina.

After work, Paia invited me to her house for a late lunch and then to the beach near her house. It was my first time at her house. We had the BEST conversation ever about the intersection of social justice and our christian faiths. It is essentially my favorite topic and she shared so much about the origins of INCUPO that I hadn’t known prior. She talked about how her parents had to decide whether they wanted to be pacifists or more militant during the dirty war here in Argentina when 30,000 Argentines disappeared. Her parents chose pacifism, and her mother helped start INCUPO with the help of a Catholic priest. Due to the protection of the Catholic bishop in Santa Fe (a province to the south of Corrientes) no one from INCUPO was disappeared, even though similar organizations were unfortunately targeted. However, Paia does remember that when she was a small child the military came to her house and ransacked their home looking for weapons and “communist” propaganda.

I asked her a lot of questions about her now deceased mother and we looked at old pictures of her family. Our conversation drifted to the ecumenical Taizé community in France and she rushed to find me a book with a chapter on Brother Roger de Taizé. You should read about his life if you get a chance! It is inspiring. She told me that the article in this book about him was incredibly powerful and impacted her heavily as well as one of the articles about Christian de Chergé, and Teresa de Lisieux (two people I hadn’t previously heard of, but will soon be reading about!) The book is titled, Vidas de fuego: Grandes figuras espirituales de la historia del sigle XX. In english that translates to Lives of Fire: Great Spiritual Figures of the Twentieth Century. Other people included in this book (14 people altogether) include WWII german political dissident and lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, catholic activist (United States) Dorothy Day, and Salvadoran Priest Oscar Romero who was assassinated during mass for protesting government mass killings. However, GUESS WHO ELSE was in this book!!

Paia’s MOTHER, Siliva Stengel (Pereda). Co-founder of INCUPO.

That’s right.

Wow. Mind blown. Paia says she doesn’t think her mother should necessarily be included in this book, but I am so excited to read the chapter on her!

After our awesome conversation, Paia, her 8 year old son, and I went to the beach and swam in the Paraná river. We spent several hours there and mate’d a bit too. I already felt like Paia and I were fairly established friends but I think our friendship grew a lot today. After the beach, Paia drove me around the neighborhoods close to her house and I realized how little I know of Corrientes as a city. I live and work in the city center and so I rarely go outside of that centralized bubble. I visit my godmother, Alicia and her family all the time but the bus goes directly to her front stoop so I don’t know Alicia’s neighborhood all that well. The Phillips, Hawthorne, Como, and Harrison neighborhoods in Minneapolis are all incredibly distinct from downtown Minneapolis, and likewise the city center in Corrientes is very different than the Laguna Seca, Apipe, and Quintana neighborhoods.

After I came home, Josh one of the other YAGM Argentina-Uruguay volunteers facebook messaged with me explaining why I was having so many troubles embedding my interactive map on the feria franca website. He’s essentially a computer genius and I am so glad that he is willing to spend time and energy helping me figure out my technology troubles.

After talking with Josh, I listened to music with Yani, who is my housemate and a super-wonderful-awesome friend. We also talked for awhile and then made plans to cook lunch together tomorrow.

Like previously stated, I am SO EXHAUSTED, but so content.  If there are a ton of spelling/grammar errors forgive me as I’m posting this blog entry prior to editing it. I’ll edit it tomorrow. I’m just too tired right now.

Good night!


Everyday Newness

There is newness in everyday.
But sometimes I get trapped by what appears to be the mundane, but it is because I haven’t pulled back the slight veil of normalcy that gracefully drapes over the divine. And there is divine everywhere. God is so great; no matter where we are we can catch glimpses and sometimes all-out, panoramic, souring vistas of an evident frenzy of our Creator’s caressing love prints on Nature: stars, snowflake patterns, friendships, and dogs. And what about those twisting trees bending beneath the weighty gift of fresh fruit? Nature’s desert is healthy and cancer-busting and is free of plastic packaging and long grocery lines. Why do we eat skittles anyway? They are such fakers. If I want to taste the rainbow, I’m going to climb me that mountain, feel the rain streak my face in wet kisses, and eat that wild mango letting its flavor sensation quench the hunger in my soul.

Go find your mango.



Christmas School 

Our church has one younger kid (Mateo), but thanks to the time intensive planning of Ester, our church president -(who also doubles as Mateo’s mom)- we had a Christmas school. We had fairly good attendance! One of our church members brought her granddaughter, her granddaughter’s friends, and some neighbors. Mateo brought some friends from school, and Ester invited some of her coworker’s kids to come.  It was essentially set up like a VBS or typical Sunday School in the states. We met 8 nights for 3 hours each time. We played games, had bible study, learned a song, and made crafts, T-shirts, christmas cards and gingerbread cookies.



Christmas Service

December 21st was our last day of “Escuela de la Navidad” and we had a Christmas service.  I was really happy to have a Christmas service. For awhile, we were not sure if we were going to have one since our congregation of 6 families is without a pastor. However, a pastor and two teenagers from the nearby province of Misiones drove 5 hours to celebrate with us. The kids from the Christmas school sang and danced to the song that we practiced. A lot of their parents came. It was nice to meet new people and share the evening with them. One of the moms got my number so that she can invite me to go with her and her kids when they go to the costanera (riverfront) to hang out. -The mom’s name is Macarena which is essentially the coolest name ever.

The fact that we almost didn’t have a worship service made me realize what a tremendous gift it is to be able to gather together in community and celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is not something I have ever needed to think about prior to this year since Christmas services have always been such a mainstay of my Christmas season. I am so thankful for my community of faith here!

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” -Matthew 8:20

Also, side note: I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas OUTSIDE! And by a MANGO TREE that had ripe, juicy, big mangos. That was way cool.










Day Summaries

November 5th

I had a really good skype conversation with Elizabeth who is doing the YAGM program in Montevideo, Uruguay. I make a contract about my work with Paia today at the office and then attend the monthly feria franca association meeting. I meet the feriantes from San Roque who will take me from the bus terminal to their farmers market on Saturday. They are really nice. I find a way to slow down the speed of interview audios and now it is so much easier to transcribe. In the evening Anita teaches me to make chipacitos -cheesy bread made with tapioca starch. I use cheese from the Itati farmers market.

November 9th

Lini helps wake me up at 5 AM even though she doesnt need to get up that early herself. She then helps me call a remis when the one I reserved for the day before does not show up. I bus to San Roque and the hospitatily the feriantes give me is unbelievable. I have two interview with two different ferias francas, one in the morning, and another one in the afternoon. Rita is very kind and makes lunch, she is such a joyful woman, and has uncontainable joy. The sister of one of the feriantes surprised me and had a prepared shower waiting for me at her nearby house so that I could shower before my bus departure to meet up with the other YAGM volunteers in Buenos Aires. She heated hot water over the stove and had it waiting in a large bucket in the bathroom for me to use along with shampoo, soap, and a towel and then surprised me again by making me dinner with homemade handcut noodles during my shower. I was able to meet her 94 year old father. He was really sweet.They then took me to the bus stop. My backpack was twice as heavy as it was before I came because I had so many peanuts, peaches, fried cakes, and fruits gifted to me. I am glad that I will be meeting up with the other volunteers tomorrow so that I can share this food. It is too much for just me!  I hope that the information I obtained about their farmers markets can be useful for them, I am learning so much and being shown such kindness.

November 10th,

I make friends with the kind smiling women on the colectivo. It is so great to have someone nice by me to talk to during our 12 hour bus ride. I give her some of the peanuts! She is excited to share them with her grandaughter who she will be visiting in Buenos Aires. I arrive to Buenos Aires and Ignacio shows me how to use the subte to get to ISEDET. Krystle has sewn a new zipper on my backpack for me. She visited me in Corrientes last week and took the backpack with her to fix for me. I am so impressed by the professional job and little blue ribbon she attached to it. It is so good to see everyone. It has been so long.  Kristyn, Jenn, Elizabeth, and I walk around Buenos Aires for the afternoon. We come back and see Tyler, Erin, and Josh. We are all together again! Krystle cooks with fresh food from San Roque. Delicious! Kristyn surprises all of us who had birthdays in September and October with a birthday cake after dinner. Krystle puts a firework candle on it.

November 13th

We toured the organic farm that is part of the Valdense Spiritual retreat center. First time in my life that a cow calf sucks on my fingers. We talk in small groups about how we so often forget to value the simple act of being present and accompanying someone during joys and struggles. We start our silent retreat. I thought it would be harder to do then it was. I really enjoy sitting alongside the country road and meditating on some of the liturgy and prayers in Common Prayer Pocket Edition: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Jonathon Wilson Hartgrove. I feel so much more centered afterwards. I especially like this prayer:  

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it its in dying that we are born to eternal life.

November 7

November 7

We celebrate Yanina’s birthday outside in the backyard with two of her friends, Lini, Nati, Jose, and Aleja. Such a fun time spending time together. Her b-day is next Tuesday but since I won’t be here I insisted that we also celebrate a little early:) I made banana cake for Yani with Aleja and we put a homemade frosting that has flour in it. Who’da thunk? We put sprinkles in the dough to make color magic. Aleja and I go to Cadombe presentation with Jose, Aleja’s boyfriend. He is very nice. I tell her I approve. 🙂 I meet Aleja’s colombian friend Angie too! We all dance and dance and dance. My movements it turns out were not as contained as I thought they were as they then become the topic of discussion at our birthday cake get-together afterwards… However, drums, indigenous flutes, and beautiful voices made for an incredible performance that I was not about to spend sitting still when I have 5 semesters of african dance movements to utilize.  Also, today I also found out that YES it is very possible I had scarlet fever. The  dermatologist semi-confirmed it this morning when I explained all my symptoms. She couldn’t say that I did for sure because all my symptoms were already gone, but I KNEW it. Alicia and her family were convinced I am a hypochondriac but looks like they are the ones who owe me an as asado. We had a bet. Note: I technically have only four lines to write my journal summaries but sometimes I write really really small….

Nov. 2 and Nov. 3

Nov. 2 and Nov. 3

Anita gifts me with homemade chipacitos which are a tasty bread made from tapioca starch and cheese! I go to Parque Mitre in the morning. People still show up to buy products despite the rain and mud! I go to Itatí for Laura’s birthday (Laura is a feriante who I met in Puerto Iguazú at the Encuentro in October). I walk to Laura’s house with Myra and her family and other neighbors and there are fish swimming in the flooded water on the dirt road. I can’t believe it. BIG fish. I bring my banana bread and bond with Teia, who is a feriante and also now the newly elected mayor of Itatí. In the morning I mistake Florencia (Myra’s daughter) for her quinceanera picture that hangs right above her bed in her room in the morning and talk to it as I wake up. I wake her up. Man, was she confused. So was I. Lovely day at Itatí Feria. Get 2 interviews done. See Itatí’s costanera and basilica terrace. I feel like an independent traveler. I am so tired when I get home that I put sunscreen in the fridge. I have a really great conversation with Anita over mate later that night.

October 31st

October 31st

It’s Halloween Here- some US culture has made its way here but not really. It’s more just that people are aware that in the United States people are celebrating today with customs they think are really strange. I got to the doctor’s office today and am seen without an appointment. That was a huge relief because sometimes that is not possible. Thank goodness! The doctor thinks I had an allergic reaction and the flu at the same time. I buy crackers and fruit/wine sauce to share with Alicia for taking time out of her day to accompany me to the doctor. I then have a pleasant afternoon w/ Anita and Yani in the backyard. Anita makes me fruit salad an we take a picture with the best photobomb of Samy in the background EVER! I have dinner at Patricia’s house who is a friend I made at an English university class I sometimes attend. It was so nice of her family to invite me over. I learn more about carnival.

What have I been doing?

I’m sorry I haven’t written on this blog for awhile! My days tend to be very full. Full of what? Full of variety, that’s what!

Luckily, I have been keeping a journal. I bought it shortly before I left for Argentina and it’s called The Happiness Project: One-Sentence Journal. Like blogging, I’ve never been much of a journal writer, but this book is great because I only get four lines! It’s not possible for me to tell myself that it’s too much effort to write a one sentence summary of my day. However, there have been weeks I’ve been backlogged by 10 days! Those times have made me realize even more though, how important it is that I write every day because trying to remember what I did for the last 10 days is difficult and I’m living moments that I don’t want to forget. Thankfully, my lack of discipline luckily has been slowly eroded by my motivation to remember.

What needs to happen now, is I need to SHARE what I’ve been doing with all of you who have made this year possible for me. I truly apologize for my lack of blog dedication. As always, if you have any specific questions feel free to email me and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

In the next couple days I will select a variety of different days/journal entries and post them here. I’ll also include pictures.  Before I do that though, I will summarize in this post what I have been doing and major events that have taken place so that you have some context to pull from when reading the journal entries.

I’ve been working at INCUPO everyday during the week and traveling often on the weekends visiting different farmers markets to do interviews. The information I am collecting from these interviews are used to collect information about how the farmers markets got started, what challenges they face, and what their future goals are.  This information is helpful because right now, there is very little information written down about the ferias francs and the impact they have on the producers’/vendors’ lives has been tremendous. There is also very little regulation with agro-chemicals here which are often used at very unsafe levels so these farmers markets are incredible resources for consumers as well to procure organic produce. I can write more about all of this in another post later if you would like!! I’ve created a blog and interactive map for the provincial association of farmers markets as well. See! Haha I have been blogging!! You can check it out at: feriasfrancasdecorrientes.wordpress.com

It is all in spanish but google chrome has a translating tool for websites in other languages if you are interested in reading it.

I was traveling and away from my computer for the majority of November. I went and visited 2 farmers markets in San Roque, Corientes en route to  Buenos Aires for a YAGM retreat. We have retreats every three months here. It was great to see everyone. We traveled together from Buenos Aires to Uruguay by ferry, spent several hours exploring Colonia del Sacramento, and then spent 5 days together at a spiritual retreat center/organic farm. At the retreat we had workshops, worshipped, shared our experiences, made a thanksgiving meal together, and had a 17 hour long silent reflection time. It was wonderful. I thought I would hate the silence since I’m not a very silent person, but I actually really enjoyed setting aside intentional time for introspection. It also helped that we were in such a beautiful place and I could stare at cows, plants, and the big expansive sky. What surprised me about Uruguay was how much the countryside reminded me of MN. That was a nice surprise;)

After the retreat I went and spent time with Jen and Elizabeth where they live in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. I then traveled back by bus and ferry to take a 14 hour bus ride to the eastern side of Corrientes Province to visit the farmers markets there. I spent 3 days in Colonial Leibig and 2 days in the countryside around Virosoro. It was a really really great week. I was invited to celebrate Christmas with both the family’s I stayed with in Colonial Leibig and Virosoro! I will be spending Christmas with Alicia, my godmother here in Corrientes capital, but it was so so kind of them to invite me with such open arms to spend the holidays with them!!

After my week in Colonial Leibig and Virosoro, I returned to Buenos Aires for a 3 day long IELU Lutheran Assembly. Congregations from Argentina and Uruguay came together for a weekend to discuss the life and mission of the lutheran church. It was neat to be able to see how the lutheran church operates here- and more than that, I met some really fantastic people and made connections to hopefully be able to volunteer at a lutheran youth camp next month!

After 18 days away from Corrientes capital I was happy to come back to what I call my home this year. I love that I already feel such strong ties to my community here that I was so excited to come back  from my time away even though I was doing exciting things elsewhere.

Shortly after coming back, I organized a Thanksgiving potluck with the help of my church here. I made 3 pumpkin pies and a large apple pie with Aleja, one of my close friends who lives with me here and is from Colombia. Anita also helped me later that day with the homemade stuffing. She is a genius and we found some large buckets that we washed and used to mix all the stuffing ingredients together because I definitely went overboard and made too much. WAY too much.

I had people from all different areas of my life  here in Corrientes come and it was great. Everyone got along really well. How could they not? They are all so great. We had a short biblical reflection that I have already posted on this blog about Jesus and the 10 lepers and then we went around and said things we were thankful for. Some people got teary eyed and told me it was so meaningful for them to take time and think about all the things they were grateful for.  Later I read the article that i posted last month while everyone was eating their dessert. Fact: Pumpkin pie was a huge hit.

The following weekend, there was an Encuentro Provincial de las Ferias Francas. Almost all the farmers markets came to the event here in the capital for a weekend to sell and showcase their products. It was sort of a family affair, since the farmers markets have created such a close knit community. It was their 14th annual event. Fact: They also like pumpkin pie.

Since then life has been composed of a lot of conversations, lots of baking, birthday parties, drinking terere, clown practice (that’s right! I joined an improv clown group!!!!!) going to the costanera ( the 3 km long river front), working, Christmas activities for youth with the church, and trying to stay cool in this crazy hot weather.

Always with love,


Thanksgiving 2013

God’s Harvest for All: A Thanksgiving Reflection by Bruce Epperly

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. . . . having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. ~ Philippians 1:6, 11

Thanksgiving is the virtue of interdependence, the recognition that our achievements are not fully our own, but emerge from a network of relationships that sustain and shape us, giving us the materials from which we create our experiences moment by moment. Thanksgiving as a spiritual practice reminds us that all our gifts are communal as well individual. Our creativity and freedom, our ability to choose the good and noble, have their origins in forces larger than ourselves — God, this good earth, and persons who have guided, protected, inspired, and nurtured us.

Many Americans are tempted these days to circle the wagons and care only for our own kin, whether in terms of school, property, or civic responsibility. While we always have an obligation to hearth and home, our gifts and talents are meant to be shared with the wider community. Thanksgiving reminds us that we are in this together; that our personal fulfillment is connected with the well-being of others, including people we may never meet. Rugged individualism is an illusion of every level of life. What is needed is innovative and responsible relatedness.

Thanksgiving is the virtue of abundance. It looks at life in terms of possibility. It imagines a meal for a multitude in five loaves and two fish. It visualizes a few civil rights marchers taking the first steps to equal protection for all Americans. It believes that pausing a moment to reach out, at just the right time, can transform a person’s life. As the adage goes, even when we didn’t have money, we weren’t poor: we were abundant in dreams, love, and relationships. As chaos theory notes, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can influence weather across the country, and so can acts of grateful generosity done over and over again.

Thanksgiving turns us from individualism to community and to wider and wider circles of care. It is important to remember that Paul’s letters, such as Philippians, were written to communities and not just individuals. Paul is imagining God’s harvest emerging from a small community of faith, in which each of the members matters for the well-being of the whole. In the spirit of Paul’s description of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), the well-being of the whole and the well-being of the members are interconnected seamlessly. No one can be left behind, rejected, or neglected if the body is to remain healthy and whole. Generosity is built into gratitude because in an interdependent world, there is no “other” — there is no one who is foreign to us, or ultimately separated from our well-being either as giver, cause, or receiver.

One of my favorite thanksgiving stories centers on an elderly woman, now deceased, who shared her daily habit with her pastor, who later related it to me. Each morning, as she took her walk, she gave thanks for the many blessings in her life. Though she walked slowly through her neighborhood, burdened by the aging process and the grief accompanying her years as a widow, she confessed that she never ran out of things for which to be thankful. Her simple practice of thanksgiving shaped how she lived her life, faced aging, and related to others.

Yes! “Thank you” can be said over and over again  and not just to God for the blessings of this day, but to everyone whose life touches yours in a creative way. Such gratitude opens us to new blessings, but more importantly opens our hands to bless others — through a kind word as well as our time, talent, and treasure.

there really is enough food to go around if we act wisely both in distribution and in the creation of economic infrastructures that encourage justice, responsibility, and initiative. We can sustain the earth by living wisely and thinking abundantly.

One of my favorite sayings comes from the late United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold:

For all that has been — thanks! 
For all that will be — yes!

Gratitude is the gift of “yes” — yes to life, yes to blessing, yes to God, yes to possibility, and yes to others. In an interdependent universe, the energy of life is constantly flowing through us, and we are constantly receiving and giving — gratitude is the awareness that we can shape our lives to bless and heal and love out of the bounty we have received. So, throughout the day give “thanks” — remember those who have supported you and upon whom you depend today; notice your interchanges with others; and look for the movements of God in every interaction. This is a wonderful life that beckons us to give thanks at every turn.

10 Lepers and the gift of thankfulness

Jesus encounters 10 lepers.

Luke 17:11-19

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[a] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[c] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

These 10 met Jesus, and standing at the required distance, shouted: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”.

Jesus sees them.

He tells them to do what is required of cured lepers.

They need a certificate from a priest that they were cured.

Then, and only then, could they return to normal society, to family, to home.

And as they were headed for Jerusalem to see the priest, they were cured!

The disease was gone.

More importantly their isolation, their separation from society and family and home was ended.

There is no indication that all ten were not thankful.

There is no indication that all ten were not elated that their ordeal was over.

But, only one returns to say thank you to Jesus.

The other nine did nothing wrong.

In fact, they did exactly as they were told and presumably also enjoyed healing.

But, the one who returns, a Samaritan no less, acknowledges Jesus as the one who has brought him healing.

You see it is possible to be grateful and thankful for what we have without acknowledging God as the provider of the blessings we have.

Many people are thankful, in their own ways.

If people stop and think about it they would acknowledge they are are thankful for family–spouse, child, parents, friends.

Or they happy for the circumstances in which we find themselves for home and shelter, freedom from illness, or the freedoms they enjoy in our country.

But, not everyone connects those blessings as gifts from God, and as a result there thankfulness stops short of thanking God.

But, the Samaritan makes the connection.

And he is blessed a second time.

After asking where the other nine are, Jesus tells the Samaritan, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

The word for “well” here is a complex Greek word that has layers of meaning.

Jesus tells the Samaritan not only physically well, but also whole and, indeed, saved.

The Samaritan receives the blessing of physical healing like the other nine, but he also receives the blessing that comes from recognizing blessing and giving thanks TO JESUS — the blessings, that is, of wholeness and even salvation.

Reflection written by Lloyd Menke