Brazil’s Tech Future (and Possibly My Own)

It’s a great time to get into the tech field in Brazil.

In 2000, the year before I moved to Brazil and married my beautiful wife, I took a certificate course online and by mail. It was to teach English as a second/foreign language (TESL/TEFL). Although I was going to do mission work, I felt I could better relate to people there if I had a job. I also didn’t want to spend months or even years working to raise the extra support I’d need to be a “full-time” missionary. Friends in Brazil kept saying how well-paid I’d be as an English teacher and how abundant work was available in this field. Although I found the latter to be relatively true, the former was inaccurate, to say the least. I was paid per class taught and was rarely given enough classes in a semester to be able to say I was being paid “full-time” wages.

Slogging away from 2001 to 2003, the low pay at a language school drove me to try going independent, teaching privately to students around the city of Uberlandia. The pay was better, but this was exhausting work, taking me all over town by bus and often getting me home late.  Discouraged by this, the slow process of receiving all my immigration documents and by the rather grim business climate, my wife and I moved our family to the States. It’s been like a period of exile to me, and I’m hopeful that this time is nearing its end.

As I said, it’s a good time for tech in Brazil.

Brazil is an emerging economy. An abundant agricultural producer, it also has a rich store of other natural resources, including oil. Major international companies are making moves to position themselves to benefit from this growing and potential-laden market. Brazil may have have a stable middle class within the next two decades. All this bodes very well for the tech industry.

Major corporations need software engineers and system administrators. Businesses large and small will need talented web developers to create sites and Internet products market to the newly-connected consumers with money in their pockets.

As someone fluent in Portuguese, interested both in Linux system administration and Ruby on Rails development and with wife and kids who are Brazilian citizens, this is a no-brainer.

This isn’t to say that I expect it to be easy or to become wealthy. Far from it. I’ll be glad to find employment and be well but reasonably compensated for my labor. My real love is for Brazil, and – if I may be clear about my worldview – the mission of God in that land. Aside from getting a job and raising my family, I long to work in community development projects, particularly with poor and at-risk youth. My aim would be to provide tech training to those who are willing, along with life skills to help them make the most of their country’s growing wealth and prominence among the nations.

Teaching English wasn’t the best option if I wanted to be self-supporting in Brazil. A tech career, on the other hand, could be very worthwhile. Interesting work, fun people, great climate, meaningful social justice efforts…what more could I want?

A recent example of a company buying into Brazil (there are many others):
GE buys Wellstream to strengthen Brazil ties (Financial Times)

This 60 Minutes report provides an excellent basic primer on Brazil:

An Introduction to Restorative Justice

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”Matthew 5:9 NIV

“Restorative Justice” really only came onto my radar in the past month or so when I stumbled across an article referencing it.  I’d been watching for news about the police activity to take control of some slums in Rio de Janeiro, and with my own plans for future community development work rattling around my brain, this approach seems well-worth learning.

Making peace and building community are certainly not only Christian values, but are recognizable as positive social values to people of most faiths and perspectives. This is the essence of restorative justice, in that it attempts to bring people together and resolve conflicts without civil litigation, criminal proceedings or violence. In Brazil, where court cases are known to drag on for years, a restorative approach can be far more direct and efficient than the legal alternative. This is the context in which Dominic Barter developed his “Restorative Circles,” making it even clearer that this methodology is something I should pursue learning.

Have a look at the video below, then scroll down for more links explaining Restorative Justice. As I learn more I’ll share more here on this blog.

// An Introduction to Restorative Circles with Dominic Barter from Restorative Circles on Vimeo.
Click here for a page including this and a few other videos about Restorative Circles.

See Also:

Restorative Justice (Wikipedia)
Restorative Circles
Restorative Justice Online

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas everyone.

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.’” Luke 1:46-55 NIV

December 2010 Mission Update – Uberlândia, Brazil

The following is the latest update from my brother-in-law, Marcelo Lima, on the mission work in Uberlândia, Brazil. My wife and kids were born in this city, it’s where I served a brief while as a missionary, and is the city to which I hope we can return in a few years. Although my focus will likely be more in the area of community development (and perhaps youth ministry), Marcelo does excellent work in evangelism, counseling and discipleship training. Take a look and perhaps add Uberlândia to your prayer list.

How to Create a MySQL Database in Linux

A few weeks ago I blogged about how to configure a Ruby on Rails project to use MySQL as the database engine. One item I left out was how to set up the MySQL database. If you are following a Ruby on Rails tutorial that uses SQLite as the default, but are actually using MySQL, you may run into a problem when you try rake db:migrate. The database won’t be found simply because it doesn’t exist.

Assuming you already have MySQL installed (including libmysqlclient-dev), type:

mysql -u root -p

You will be prompted to provide the password you created when you installed MySQL. If you did not define a password, simply hit enter.

If all went well, you should now be at a mysql command prompt. Type in the following:

create database your_app_name_here;

Obviously, provide your own name for the database. Don’t leave out the ’;’ as this is essential to MySQL accepting the command entered.

Finally, exit out of the mysql prompt with quit; and then run rake db:migrate within your Rails project folder. All will be well.

You should learn more about MySQL if you are going to use it. Click here for a tutorial.

Advice to Christians on Seasonal Giving (and Beyond)

Nick Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times (one I like quite a bit, except when he opens his mouth about abortion) focuses his attention on the poor of the world. Some of his reports have really moved me, like a video report some time ago about people who live off of what they can salvage from garbage dumps…including food (afterward I became aware of the mission work in Honduras that works, among other things, to feed, care for and hopefully get people out of one dump in particular). A couple of weeks ago he shared some advice about holiday giving, and I’d like to add my own two cents as well.

My first tip assumes  that if you are a “Christian” that means you go to church regularly. If not, the only reasons could be that you either live in the middle of nowhere with limited transportation, are residing in a country hostile to Christianity (like Saudi Arabia), or else are disabled and shut-in. Did I miss anything? As disappointed and, really, fed-up as I’ve been during long stretches of my life with some churches, it really isn’t terribly biblical to try to be a disciple of Christ without a community of Christians that you meet with regularly.

That said, tip #1 is this: Consider supporting the missions/projects your church supports. Oh, by all means, do the research. Maybe your church foolishly supports something like Feed the Children, which Kristof mentioned in his article. You wouldn’t want your money to go to waste. On the other hand, most congregations have fairly-well vetted outreach programs and ministries that they support. Since you are part of the life of that local congregation, give to the good work that your church supports. For example, my family’s home church supports HOPE worldwide. This is certainly a worthy and worthwhile organization that shares my faith and values. You can either send the funds directly to the mission or see how your church handles individual, specific donations to those works.

Of course, the donations I’m talking about here are above and beyond the regular offering you make at church. The church light bill needs to be paid, you know.

My second tip is this that if you want to support something extra beyond what your home congregation promotes, look for a ministry with low overhead. While World Vision does great work and deserves support, an organization that size has much higher administration costs. Part of your donation will likely go towards paying staff and running day-to-day operations. Folks like Marc and Terri Tindall, on the other hand, are doing great work with the poor in Honduras. Their ministry is small and in most cases 100% of donations go directly towards their projects, including feeding the hungry.

One major caution to this is that smaller ministries often, though not always, lack the established connections and infrastructure to get things done. While this may certainly be true, it can also be argued that they have greater agility than larger organizations to adjust and respond appropriately to needs as they arise.

In the end, what we really need to do is practice good stewardship, not throwing our money around (however limited it may seem) at any and all charities, but focusing on those we know and can trust to do the right thing and make a real difference.