May 13 – Vamos Conversar


As in polite company, short-term missionaries are told not talk about politics. Five of us leave for Brazil next Thursday, and when we’re there I plan to be impolite. We’ll be talking politics with our Brazilian friends.

In fact, some of our short-term and long-term mission partners in different parts of the world ask that we not talk about the political situation in those places where they have been called to serve. Political opinions openly or indiscreetly expressed might jeopardize the work of the mission and bring threats to the life and wellbeing of indigenous partners. It’s a good idea to not talk politics. Wisdom and faithfulness calls for nothing less.

But we will be talking politics in Brazil.

Many of you know that Brazil is in the midst of its most significant political and economic crisis since the end of the military dictatorship 32 years ago. The president faces an impeachment trial and 60% of the members of congress have been, or are expected to be, indicted on corruption charges of various kinds. The economy is experiencing its steepest decline in a hundred years.

We will be talking about politics in Brazil.

And in Brazil we will be talking about politics in the USA.

“Of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who do you think is the least awful?” my Brazilian friend asked me the other day, capturing quickly the dilemma confronting many American voters this election year.

Vamos conversar. Let’s talk.

I am preaching on the Sunday we are in Brazil and I don’t intend to preach politics – well, maybe a little church politics – but nothing about impeachment and corruption. But as we visit with our hosts (we’ll be staying in the homes of church members) we’ll be talking, and the longer we talk the deeper we will go, and the deeper we go the more we will want to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus whether you live in a Philadelphia suburb or at the edge of a Brazilian favela.

In English and Portuguese and a with little bit of Spanish and not a few gestures, all five of us on the LPC team – Brian, Eva, Cathy, Becky and I – will accept the invitation, “Vamos conversar.”

Cross-cultural and multi-lingual conversation is hard work. When rightly done, it makes all of us better conversationalists when we’re back home, whether home is in a Philadelphia suburb or at the edge of a Brazilian favela.

Because we don’t know much about the Brazilian political system or sensibilities, we will listen more than we talk. And because our Brazilian friends don’t know much about super delegates and the Electoral College, they will listen more than they talk. Some of our Brazilian friends have been greatly helped by the policies of the now disgraced rule of the Workers Party. Others have been suspicious of them all along. We’ll want to listen well.

By the way, voting is mandatory in Brazil and it is against the law not to vote for at least one candidate in each race. “None of the above” is not an option.

We will listen and listen again as we try to understand and encourage. Good conversation is always that way.

This mission trip has no particular project to complete by the end of the week, a house to build, a clinic to run, a children’s program to conduct. It is a mission of encouragement and sharing the life of Jesus. We’re going to continue to build relationships between two very different congregations where wanting to know how to be a follower of Jesus in a complicated world is one of our common bonds. I remain humbled and astonished by the way God has used such relationships for Kingdom good.

Who knows, maybe we’ll decide that LPC can help IPJA with its mission and outreach in the favela. We’ll know if we listen well.

Conversation, listening well and speaking carefully, friendships and a common bond of seeking to be a follower of Jesus in our complicated worlds. And maybe some things we might do together. I am ready to be astonished.

Vamos conversar. We – five Americans and a congregation full of Brazilians – will be talking about families and joys and things we like to do. We will laugh at the little things that are the same everywhere. We’ll talk about our hopes and our fears, about our churches and God’s work in our lives. And, yes, we will talk about politics, because there, too, Jesus would be Lord.

I am ready to be astonished.

See you Sunday