Archive | The Work Here RSS feed for this section

keeping up with Zoe Church & the Julians

22 May

I want to really thank all of you for joining with us in São Paulo this week! The thousands of hits we’ve received on the blog have been a phenomenal encouragement, and I’m so glad you let us share our stories, our pictures, and our learnings!

There are a few more things to be added to this blog this weekend, so be sure to check back later if you’re interested in:

  • Awesome (and rather urgent) opportunities for individual students or teams of students to participate in international mission trips
  • Teaching notes from Michael Frost’s last two messages with us

By now, most of your friends and fam are on the last legs of their journeys home – or have already arrived (like me!). But the fantastic work of Zoe Church and our missionary friends, the Julians, continues! So for those of you who – like us – have been captivated by what God’s doing through Zoe Church and the Julians, you can keep up with their story!

To join the newsletter list to get a regular email about the work in São Paulo, go here to sign up:

Thanks everybody! Without the support and prayers of so many of you, this trip never would have been what it was.


colégio quatro: University of São Paulo

21 May

The fourth campus that we’ve had a team at this week is the enormous University of São Paulo, a public university that happily sits adjacent to the “University City” stop on the subway. Apparently USP (which local residents cutely pronounce “oo-spee”) is one of the higher ranked colleges in the world.

I also know that this campus is big, and I’m truly quite unclear how much of it I actually explored on Thursday. (I never could find a map…) It certainly isn’t as “well-kept” as the private universities I’ve visited, and it’s also undergoing plenty of construction. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a magnificent campus, and it was a joy to explore this massively important “campus tribe.” (It’s also good to remember that “beauty” is different in different places; for instance, I know that graffiti is actually a part of São Paulo culture, so the “wall decor” below is probably very welcome.)

Of course, we’ve had a team ministering there all week. But some of our teammates also had the opportunity to observe (and potentially minster at) a large party that was being assembled Thursday night. I haven’t heard yet how that went, but it was supposedly very much a college party, organized by the Communications department, which somebody here noted is indeed a department known for being a little wild.

Some of the pictures below capture a little more of my exploration, starting with the incredible clock tower and beautiful grassy area in the center (or a center) of campus. I’ve also included pics of the various dogs that roamed the campus, the art museum in the middle of campus, the tables that provided my only opportunity to buy a USP T-shirt, and the cool courtyard within the Arts classroom complex.

colégio três: Senac

20 May

My campus-visiting not only kept moving here, on our next-to-last day, but it actually included not one but two great college campuses here in São Paulo!

The first of these treks included Senac (pronounced “sen-ak-ee”). Senac is a private – and quite impressive – school that actually has some sixty “units” scattered throughout the state. (I don’t think all those “units” would look like “campuses,” but there are at least a few of those.) My visit took me to what seems to be the central hub of all these units and campuses, Senac: Centro Universitário.

I had some help exploring this campus; Ethan, the Valdosta State student who spent a few months ministering here, clearly has a huge love for this place. And Andressa, one of our new Brazilian friends who has been attending Zoe events, is a Graphic Communications major and showed us much of the campus, too.

Here’s the Senac web page, and a description in English.

Of the campuses I visited on this trip, this was certainly the “nicest” in terms of facilities. I had heard about the large sports complex, too, and it was indeed a sight. And while the pictures can’t relay this fact, the courts and grassy area at the back of the sports complex were perhaps the quietest place I’ve been in this bustling and noisy city – an amazing little respite that, if I was a student, I’d wander to often.

colégio dois: Mackenzie Presbyterian University

19 May

Today I got to visit another campus: Mackenzie Presbyterian University, a 140 year-old school not too far from Downtown. And as always, I joined one of our teams, for whom Mackenzie has been “home base” for the week!

One very interesting thing we’ve learned is that the public colleges here are free! So even though, for example, the University of São Paulo is a prestigious school, students don’t have to pay.

But Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, on the other hand, is a private school, started by missionaries in 1870. Still, like all schools in Brazil, Mackenzie is not allowed to require any religious activities of its students.

Unique fact #2: Mackenzie also houses kindergarten through high school! So all across the campus, I saw little kids and high schoolers, all in school uniforms.

This was actually a really pretty campus. It’s hard to get a sense of it all at once, because of the hills. But while it’s not big (as far as I could tell), it offered a lot more exploring than the College of Law did.

More facts available at Mackenzie’s Wikipedia page.

One thing I did notice was that things “felt” more collegiate, although I certainly defer to those on the ground here. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit more of a “student culture” among the college students at Mackenzie than at some other schools. Many of them come from wealthy families (so working may not be as necessary), and apparently many of the students live in an apartment complex nearby.

We got to eat with Andre (sitting by column), a civil engineering student at Mack.

Sports courts, with the city in the background! (It did rain today.)

colégio um: University of São Paulo School of Law

18 May

If you don’t know me, you should know one thing: I’m an explorer of college campuses. Back in the States, I’ve visited some 300+ in the last few years as I’ve researched college ministry all over. So the opportunity to visit at least four college campuses this week in São Paulo is pretty exciting. I’ll be joining with each of our teams as each of them spends time on a different campus this week.

My first campus to explore was the School of Law in San Francisco Square. I had passed the school both during the Virada Cultural festival and during yesterday’s voyage, since it’s right in the heart of Downtown São Paulo.

But you might ask: If this is just the Law School of USP, why consider it a college of its own? Well, we’ve learned a couple of interesting facts about the college experience here (beyond what we already learned in the Orientation):

  • A student only studies in their major. No “core curriculum,” no “rounding out your degree.”
  • Students immediately (after high school) decide their course of study, including things like Law that we (in the U.S.) place after the undergraduate education.

So students studying at USP’s School of Law are younger than in our Law Schools, and they’re also a bit more “locked in” at their age than we tend to be. The college therefore functions really as a distinct “campus” of the University of São Paulo.

However, I soon found that this campus is no expansive setting. But that’s pretty understandable, since it’s one of the oldest schools in Brazil and is truly in the middle of the city, as seen in the picture above. Meanwhile, much of the small amount of space inside is actually taken up by a large center courtyard (as shown on the right).

It is possible, however, to wind one’s way back into classrooms as well as upstairs, and certainly much of the architecture and decor turns out to be pretty cool:

While on a T-shirt hunt, we found some sort of underground Student Center, which seems a little different from some of the Student Centers in the U.S.:

I will say that I was impressed by the few students I had the chance to meet on Tuesday – these rather young people are becoming lawyers through their 5-year program, and that’s pretty impressive. Several were also extremely helpful and friendly as they aided me in locating and purchasing a T-shirt!

For more details on this school, check out its Wikipedia page.

an immersive introduction

16 May

I inferred in a few earlier blogs that we might be participating in a rather adventurous service opportunity Friday night, and we did! Following the amazing Zoe church service, about a dozen from our group – and another dozen or so of Zoe’s members – left for that project… and we wouldn’t return back to the hotel until 2am! So I wanted to share about our adventure to the heart of the city – not simply because it will make me feel better about staying out so late, but because it provided another excellent introduction to São Paulo, Zoe Church, and the ways the two are able to intersect.

Annually, São Paulo hosts Virada Cultural, a 24-hour, multi-site arts & music festival that spreads throughout the downtown area. Dozens of sites host various cultural productions, bands, and other activities through the night and most of the following day. (Though it’s in Portuguese, I encourage you to scroll through the list of locations / events at the Virada Cultural 2010 site, to get an idea of the massiveness of this event.)

For Zoe Church (and its somewhat rag-tag North American co-laborers), it was a great chance to connect to and serve the city.

After over an hour of walking… bussing… subway-ing… we ultimately arrived near Downtown. Our first sight after ascending from the subway station was a big floating (though tethered) hot air balloon, occasionally glowing with fire while an acrobat dangled underneath the basket, performing in mid-air. Other examples of radical showmanship were planted throughout various spaces. These were connected by streets that wound between the enormous buildings, allowing attendees to stumble upon each activity as they rounded the next corner or came into a new public square.

But even more noticeable than the events were the throngs of people, which, not surprisingly at that time of night, included mostly jovens (youth and young adults). Most of these simply milled about or stood with groups of friends – in the streets, underground on the subway platforms, on the steps of large buildings, and at the event sites. The only comparable American activities I know are the occasional celebrations that break out spontaneously following various sports championships; the mood was celebratory, certainly, but mostly in the sort of determined way that indicates the party may last the entire night. (Some celebrants were certainly wilder – or more intoxicated / “influenced” – than others.)

Our project involved two-pronged service: offering free sandwiches, and offering free hugs (the latter advertised with “Abraços” signs). Many of us wore Zoe Church’s “Z ♥ SP” shirts. Of course, the Brazilian Christians bravely led the way, but the rest of us gradually warmed up to the idea of immersing ourselves in this rather unique (and personal space-less) service opportunity.

Importantly, the Free Hugs initiative has been a regular activity of Zoe, and their shirts and service activities are becoming (slowly but surely) more recognizable to the citizens of this city. (We’ll be participating in some of the same things later this week, in fact.) So this wasn’t simply “something neat to do” but a real chance to meet felt needs in the middle of one of the city’s great cultural events, while sharing about Zoe with the interested.

An interesting theme of this trip has been recognizing that we are called to serve all kinds of people. We pretty easily recognize that this includes the “down and out,” such as the homeless people huddled out of the way of last night’s festivities. But we’re also called to serve those the so-called “up and out,” those materially successful individuals who still lack the life that is truly life.

Reflecting that opportunity, we had the chance to give sandwiches (and hugs) both to those who clearly needed those things, as well as those whose needs weren’t as evident. But even (or especially) a hug can strike a dramatic chord; one Zoe member described once seeing a lady simply begin to cry as she was given a hug. The Virada Cultural crowd was indeed quite receptive to all of the above, even as many expressed surprise that we would be offering something truly for free.

Sure, this kind of service sometimes leads only to smiles, “obrigado” (“thank you”), and little else – but even that’s part of loving the city. But in many cases dialogue begins. When conversations do get started, they often result in sharing information about the church or its several activities around the city – all in a way that is both purposeful and rather natural. (And as one Zoe member described this morning, the “Gringo Factor” didn’t seem to hurt last night, as the Brazilians were intrigued by the presence of Americans offering these surprising free gifts.)

Last night, quite a few individuals seemed very open to connecting with the church later on. Others may simply have noticed a group not only claiming to “heart” São Paulo, but actually putting feet (and arms and sandwiches) to our claim. As one member of our team noted this morning, the whole project also revealed to the city the community that is such a pillar of Zoe Church. He’s right – anyone who noticed our laughing, connecting, serving group will find the very same friendly community when they attend a Zoe service.

Zoe Church

15 May

If you want to get to know the church we’re participating with this week (and attending the service of, as I type), this video is a must-watch: