Ministering on the Emerging Grid

It used to be that when people thought of “missionaries,” the image that came to mind was of men going off into dark jungles to live among tribal people in a primitive, pre-industrial culture.  This concept has changed over the years as missionaries have reported back to churches from savanna grasslands, major metropolitan areas and everywhere in between.  Still, the second time I went to Brazil one of the first-timers (who, by the way, had missed the pre-trip orientation) was nearly shocked to discover we were in a teeming city of hundreds of thousands (Belo Horizonte) and not in a village along the Amazon.  All he’d ever heard of that vast South American country involved rainforests, something almost as far from the daily reality of most Brazilians as it is of most Americans.  Brazil is a large, populous country with a powerhouse emerging economy that is counted as part of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Brazil is a connected nation.  When I moved to Brazil in 2001 I had to take a bus across town in Uberlândia to use the Internet at a cybercafe. By the time I was able to go online at my house (via dial-up) there were cybercafes all over the city.  Now I hear that broadband is becoming common in many homes.  Even many of the favelas of Rio and São Paulo are finding their way online, legally or illegally, in much they way that they’ve managed over the years to tap into the power grid.

Still, vast inequalities continue to dominate in Brazil.  The strongly centralized governmental system concentrates a great deal of power in few hands, and the bloated governmental bureaucracy at all levels opens the doors to immense corruption.  The situation is arguably better than in times past, and certainly an improvement over the inhumane leadership of the military dictatorship that dominated for decades, but hundreds of thousands are slipping through the cracks.

What keeps a poor boy from a life of theft and drug dealing?  How can a girl from a home where more than one meal is a luxury find a way to avoid the lure of prostitution?  Strong, united families can overcome these obstacles, but throughout the poorest neighborhoods of Brazil (and even some of the less-poor) dysfunctional homes and a pervading sense of hopelessness with the status quo proves too much for many young people.

A resource-rich nation with a creative, entrepreneurial population like Brazil can do better.  The elements are all there, it’s just a matter of organizing them and bringing them together.  Sometimes the missing piece is simply the Good News that Jesus is Lord.  That alone can forge a new community of disciples that labors for the hearts of the lost and the future of a nation.

Brazil is a nation with a broad but shallow Roman Catholic culture.  It isn’t unheard of at all for children to take Bible stories to school and have them read aloud.  A generally tolerant nation, no offense to other belief systems is intended by the implicit acceptance of Catholic culture.  It’s simply a part of life.

With a common identity shared by many in a Christian tradition, it is no wonder that the Bible is widely respected and evangelicalism continues to grow as the biblical message is preached and taught.  In my own experience I rarely encountered any resistance when I referred to the Bible as a primary source of religious authority.

In such a context, where infrastructure is being built (albeit unevenly) and can be tapped into, where profound inequalities are known to exist and readily admitted, and where the claims of Christ can unify a vital group of disciples, great good can be accomplished.  Brazil has a lot going for it.  I believe that with the right community development strategy, including English and tech training courses together with a missionally-impelled program of Bible training, the lives of many can be transformed.  Homes, neighborhoods and even entire cities can feel the positive impact of the reign of Christ.

I want very much to be a part of ministering on this emerging grid.

The Position I Seek

Only a few weeks ago I received word that my company’s operations would be transferring from New York to Boston.  The entire New York team of this struggling start-up was being laid off.  Rather than a setback, I see this as an opportunity.  I’ve learned a lot during my nearly two years with this company, and I’m ready to learn more and advance professionally.  So, what position do I now seek?  It’s easier if I just bullet-point what I’m seeking:

  • Funded start-up, based in New York.
  • Primarily customer service/community management with social media management possibly somewhere in the mix.
  • Company’s development done using Ruby on Rails, preferably utilizing the agile  methodology.
  • The opportunity to work with the development team to build on my basic programming and qa knowledge. 
  • Full-time with medical benefits.  

In essence, I want to continue what I was doing before but with the challenge and opportunity to grow.  I know how to wear many hats and have a strong desire to acquire new skills and deepen the ones I already have.  I’m an analytical thinker and team player.

Check out my resume below, and be sure to have a look at my LinkedIn profile.  I have plenty of references.  Contact me if you think I may be the person you’re looking to hire.


Dump Video

Set aside 40 minutes to watch this video about the dump in Honduras where good work is being done for the poor in the name of Christ.  Watch it all the way through to the end for the full effect, and to see how this goes beyond immediate relief into a search for sustainable solutions that can be applied elsewhere throughout the developing world.

 THE DUMP from Andy Hubright on Vimeo.“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” – Isaiah 58:6-7 NRSV

“When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” – Luke 4:16-21 NRSV

Book Review: What Makes Charity Work

When I first read “What Makes Charity Work” way back in 2002 I was in Brazil, halfway through my first, short-lived attempt at long-term mission work.  Though I loved Brazil, or perhaps because of that love, I was deeply frustrated by the social inequalities and deep corruption in that nation, much of which I attributed to excessive governance (that’s still more-or-less my view, though tempered and mellowed now).  Within that context this book made perfect, undeniable sense.  Lately, however, I gave it a re-read.  It’s lost something of its shine in my eyes over the past few years.

There is a lot of good in this book, a compilation of essays by different writers, edited and introduced by Myron Magnet.  I find the story of “Dagger” John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York, particularly inspiring.  This was the first essay in the book and, in my opinion, the strongest. Dagger John was presented as a no-nonsense, hard-as-nails and tirelessly committed worker for the good of the poor in New York City, particularly the Irish.  The accomplishment of essentially “civilizing” the Irish immigrant population in roughly a generation is nothing to mock or ignore.

Still, in this and at least one other essay, I found the pro-Catholic tone a little distracting.  In one of the essays a conversion to Catholicism was treated as the reasonable result of a search for the truth, acting upon available data.  Please.

The pro-Catholic tone of the essays naively ignores a glaring and sad reality facing the Roman Catholic Church in our times: child abuse.  I can’t help but wonder how many children in those Catholic orphanages and schools were subjected to abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be helping them.  Then again, as in any human-made system, evil is bound to be present somewhere.  As I mentioned above, the net result of the efforts of Dagger John and Catholics in 1800s New York was little short of miraculous.

“What Makes Charity Work” is a very political and ideological book, veering heavily into minarchist libertarianism at nearly every possible turn.  With essays from different writers the result is sometimes less than harmonious, with some essays complaining about the evils of any public system, and others calling either for their reform or even (in one case) celebrating the creation of laws to defend the poor.

One of my main objections to the overall tone and direction of this book is that faith cannot be restricted merely to the private sphere.  The call to repentance, whether from the Hebrew prophets or Jesus of Nazareth, has always demanded more than a change in personal religious beliefs. It is a summons to genuine, wholehearted obedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Christian faith in particular does not have the luxury of being either public or private.  It must embrace both spheres of life.

What I liked most about this book was the emphasis on the great good “regular” people can do, as well as the connection between morality and poverty.  Though many times poverty is the result of outside oppression, sometimes the oppression comes from within through addictions and other vices.

If you choose to read this book, I suggest you also read Walter Wink’s excellent “The Powers That Be.” This latter title will provide much-needed balance and theological insight.

Moving Further in Tech

My formal education and professional experience, after high school, was mostly in Christian ministry. Although I have an associates in General/Liberal Arts from Moberly Area Community College, my bachelor’s from Harding University is in ministry. I preached for churches while in college and then went to Brazil for a few years as a missionary. Though both my brothers work in different fields of technology, I never really considered that area. For a long time I thought the full extent of my “non-ministerial” work would be in teaching English as a Second/Foreign language. When I considered alternative forms of ministry, it usually involved ESL/EFL. Over the past few years of living and working in the greater New York metro area, this has changed.

I’ve gone from B2B customer service, to mobile data support and then into wearing many hats at a tech startup in Manhattan. Ubuntu Linux has replaced Microsoft Windows in my home, and the command line is now almost second nature to me. I can now say that Ruby is my first programming language (hopefully of what will become a handful of languages) and Ruby on Rails has been fun to begin learning. A few years ago I knew virtually no one, other than my brothers, in the tech field. Now, through NYLUG and other local meetups I have several good friends and contacts in this area.

As I’ve said recently, I’d like to eventually go back to Brazil. When I think of what would be involved I don’t imagine doing what I did before. Something more like what Jon “maddog” Hall is advocating comes to mind. Open source solutions and tech training for sustainable community development projects in Brazil that help lift people out of poverty…that’s what I want to be about.

At this point I’m not fully prepared for the task of tech training and advocacy in Brazil. That’s where work experience right now comes into play.

My time at that Internet startup in Manhattan gave me a place to begin, a basic skill set upon which I can build professionally, with an eye toward doing good in South America.

If you know of any full-time positions in or around Manhattan where I could utilize my customer service, tech support and/or training skills together possibly with my fundamental understanding of QA and object-oriented programming, in a work environment were I would be encouraged to learn more, let me know. I’m more than happy to work my way to the level of training and experience I’ll need to really make a difference.

View Adam Gonnerman's profile on LinkedIn

Looking for the Next Big Opportunity to Advance in Tech

Having worked nearly two years with an Internet start-up in Manhattan, I find myself laid off (along with the rest of the New York staff) as the company relocates offices to Boston in a larger overall shift of focus. These were two very productive years for me. I’ve gained familiarity with GNU/Linux, Mac, the command line, Ruby, Rails and basic testing with Selenium. I’m ready now for the next big opportunity to grow professionally and contribute to tech development.

Check out my LinkedIn profile as well as my resume, below. Feel free to pass it along to any hiring managers in the greater NYC metro area. Let me know if you have any questions.

I’m excited about the possibilities.