Thursday, April 26, 2007


Christian & Non Christian
A couple of weeks ago I attended a 5 day intensive seminar, Recovering From Trauma. Our facilitators/instructors worked through a wide range of material: from restorative justice to overcoming nervous stress. The seminar included both Christians and non Christians. I enjoyed comparing differences and examining points of agreement with folk who did not share my belief system. Networking with other groups committed to issues relating to mental health is not outside the church's call to be salt and light in the world.

The non Christian participants were social workers well versed in the areas of mediation and communal development.

I particularly liked the session on overcoming the cycle of victimhood and persistent conflict. How do victims find their voice, forgive and challenge the oppressor? Is it really possible to break the cycle of conflict which freezes people into a victim-oppressor mould? Most of us found answers in our own stories of overcoming family conflicts and discrimination. My sharing centred mostly on how a personal faith in Christ is helping me to overcome discrimination and prejudices. The discussion was lively.

Restorative justice (RJ) as opposed to retributive justice was also well received by participants. One of the components of RJ is to view wrongdoing not only as a crime against the state but more importantly as an offence against persons. Sentencing takes into account the offender’s commitment to a process of restoration. Whenever possible, victims and the criminal meet under the guidance of a facilitator with the aim of finding closure not only for the victim but also for the offender. This fosters a greater sense of personal accountability before the needs of the community. Models of this approach can be found in South Africa, Finland and other European countries.

Mental Health
One of the highlights was the relationship between physical and mental health. The body, a healing agent, improves mental health. We were taught simple exercises. And to prove the point we had masseurs working on our backs and forehead, while we were seated, during some of the lectures!

Our trainers, hailing from the Mennonite tradition, were all women in their late 20’s. I found this a little strange because I normally encourage women to share their perspective on issues at meetings or seminars. In this seminar however we had women leading the sessions and I missed a male perspective! Life is full of quaint ironies.

Above on your right is a photo of the participants at the seminar. On the extreme left is Rev Federico Bascuñan, the bespectacled male. He's the pastor of the anglican church, Light Of The World. His arms are around his wife Rosie the lady in the pink blouse.

Saturday, April 21, 2007



The bus driver, groggy from alcohol & driving at top speed, could not make a fast enough turn at a narrow curve on the road to Cochabamba. He lost control of the vehicle and sent several to their deaths. Seems that he was seen, twice, dozing off at the wheel.

The bus flew over the precipice, flipped in mid-air, smashed against the ravine and crashed headlong into an abyss, 87 meters deep. People were flung from the windows. Some of the bodies, crushed by the impact of the bus’s twisted metal on the rocks, were strewn all over. The tragedy claimed 35 lives and left 25 injured; some of the injured are in serious condition. Rescue teams arrived 30 minutes after the accident. The incident, in taking place on the day after the shootings at Virginia Tech, was a grim reminder of our vulnerability to evil and plain irresponsibility.

Questions are now beginning to surface: Why was a driver under the influence of alcohol allowed to drive a commercial bus? Sadly, tragedies, involving drunken drivers are not uncommon in Bolivia. Bus drivers, involved in long city to city journeys are supposed to submit to urine tests.

The Virginia Tech gunman, a mentally sick person, fit the profile of someone disturbed enough to commit acts of violence. Was he allowed to study in the university without any controls or supervision? And, for the crying out loud, how did a schizophrenic get access to guns and so much ammunition?


Friday, April 13, 2007



We celebrated Holy Week – from Palm Sunday right through to Good Friday - with special night services. God’s word was shared in the daily Eucharist. One person surprised us by attending all the services! On Thursday we had a foot washing ceremony after the Eucharist; the lay leaders together with the Pastor led the way. Michelle put together a multi-media presentation for Good Friday and some interesting liturgical movements in a procession during in the Easter dawn service. The entire congregation had breakfast together over hot coffee and a simple ham sandwich.

Holy Week has taken on great significance in the congregation. Several years ago I told everyone that remembering and proclaiming Christ's death and resurrection during this period would make it highly inappropriate for anyone to go on vacations. It’s hard to contemplate one’s responsibility – our sins – in Christ’s suffering on the cross at a holiday resort. I heard someone say once, “If we cannot see our face nor hear our voice in the crowds screaming “crucify him”, then we do not understand Christ’s death nor the gospel”.


In Latin America, Good Friday is marked by processions and a diet of fish and vegetables. Almost no one eats red meat unless you're an evangelical Christian trying to prove a point.

A huge bloodied statue of “Christ” is laid to rest, like a corpse, in a transparent coffin and paraded around the town centre and neighbourhoods. It’s a very solemn affair, almost like a funeral, without a hint of His victory on the Cross. As an over reaction, local Christian churches at times avoid any sense of sobriety during Good Friday and tend to play down the significance of our Lord’s death. It leaves the impression of Christ's resurrection being the necessary solution to the failure of the Cross! Luther is probably suffering from heartburn in Paradise. Christian churches come together however at the huge soccer stadium, pray through Saturday night and recieve the dawn of Easter's promise with fireworks, singing, a message and dance items. They know how to pump up the atmosphere on Resurrection Sunday!!


It’s a challenge to soberly proclaim Christ’s victory on the cross without wallowing in defeatist grief; the joy of resurrection only makes sense within the ambit of redemptive suffering and the promise of Christ's new creation. In this respect some of the lyrics of the old hymns are particularly helpful (try modernizing some of the tunes!).

I tried to reduce my posts on the blog and cut down on internet activity during Holy Week. It was tough; I confess that I was not entirely successful. But the discipline was helpful. Praise The Lord!