BetterMeans: Democratic, Collaborative Project Management – No Hierarchy Required

Ruby Nuby will reportedly be adopting the BetterMeans project management system. It’s still in beta, but it looks pretty good and is designed with the right kind of principles for a group endeavoring to promote social good.

Check out the videos below for an introduction to BetterMeans,and of course take a look at their website.

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Resurrection: Reason to Serve

Really read this:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.1 Corinthians 15:12-28 NRSV

The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians provides a brilliant summary of the Christian hope derived from the resurrection of Christ. It’s long been one of my favorite sections of Scripture from which to preach and teach. One item in what the apostle Paul has to say here that intrigues me is towards the end of the chapter, the conclusion of this part of what he has to say in this epistle. If you had the modern, Western Christian perspective to go on, you’d expect him to tell us that since we have this hope, let’s just wait for our own resurrection. Instead, he brings the future hope to bear on the present.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

Isn’t that interesting? Since we have this sure and certain hope, let us now live in faithful obedience, committing our work to the Lord in the confidence that it is not meaningless, but will be remembered and stand firm in the new creation that began with the resurrection of Jesus and which will be completed in New Heavens/New Earth.

There’s some motivation.


See also:
De-Sanitizing the Resurrection (The Pangea Blog)

N.T. Wright on resurrection:

Ubuntu, Unity and Gnome 3

Via OMG! Ubuntu! I came across the video above. It visualizes the development that has gone into Ubuntu’s new Unity project. Just a couple of months ago I posted about how I support Canonical’s right to create and use Unity in place of the Gnome shell. This should not be taken to mean, however, that I think Unity will be superior to Gnome. In fact, according to a recent review by  Scott Gilbertson over at The Register, Unity may we not be really ready for prime time.

Check out Scott’s rather critical review, Bruce Byfield’s fairly detailed comparison of Gnome 3 and Unity, Ryan Pauls positive evaluation of Unity and Katherine Noyes summary of the situation.

As for me, I’ll definitely upgrade my laptop (but not the family home desktop) to Ubuntu 11.04 when it comes out several days from now, so I’ll find out for myself what I think about Unity then. If I don’t like it, I’ll either revert to the Gnome shell or else possibly switch to Linux Mint Debian or some other distro utilizing Gnome, and if Gnome 3 has issues, there’s always Xfce.

Child Sex Trafficking in the United States

Earlier this month I wrote about Rapha House and a way for youth groups to raise money to help fight child prostitution on the other side of the planet. If you’re in the United States, you may be unpleasantly surprised to learn that child sex trafficking exists in this country as well. I’d heard about this for years, along with mention of major cities like Portland and Atlanta, among others, being hubs of this despicable market. Listening to the two reports below, from NPR’s Youth Radio, I gained a better perspective on how this takes place and what’s being done officially to combat it. Please, take some time to listen to both parts. The first includes two young ladies explaining how they became teenage prostitutes, and the other describes law enforcement efforts against child trafficking and prostitution.

(download mp3Part I, Trafficked: An investigation into the shocking world of underage sex trafficking. Youth Radio gets the inside story from two young women who’ve recently escaped from The Game.

(download mp3Part II, Trafficked: Youth Radio goes inside a police sting to investigate what the Oakland police and FBI are doing to combat sex trafficking.

Here are some statistics to ponder in addition to those two, very well-produced reports:

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, 2004 www.state.gov/tip/tls/tiprpt/2004/
Every year:
– 200,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry
– 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the United States
– 5,000-7,000 people are trafficked into the United States from East Asia and the Pacific
– 3,500-5,500 people are trafficked into the United States from each of the following regions: Latin America, Europe, and Eurasia

The DNA Foundation has a very good summary of the problem and links to further information. Have a look as well at the fact sheet, Sex Trafficking is Modern Day Slavery: Facts and Statistics and the interactive Slavery Map.

Child sex trafficking is both a local and a global problem. In the past I’ve written about the problem of child prostitution in Brazil. As you can see, it happens in the United States as well. I believe that the work in church-based community development that I hope and plan to do in Brazil, along with my wife and others, will help fight this evil through providing family and individual counseling as well as vocational tech training to young people.

If you’re ready to be a part of the battle against modern-day slavery, you can’t go wrong by joining the Not For Sale campaign. Also, pray for those of who are preparing or who are already on the field working with young people around the world to give them a better perspective and hope for a brighter future.

Update:

Nick Kristoff has written about the problem of minor girls being prostituted in the United States.

20 Years of Linux

Have you ever heard of Linux? If you think about it at all, you might see it as a niche OS, a distant third to Mac’ OS and Windows. In reality, “Linux” refers to the kernel, the very heart of GNU/Linux systems. It’s used widely on diverse distributions and for many different purposes. If you ever go online (like right now), you use Linux without even knowing it.

For a quick history of Linux, check out the video below.

For more information, check out Linux.com. If you are interested in trying a distribution of GNU/Linux out on your desktop or laptop, you have many options, but I recommend Ubuntu.

Ideas, Resources and Objectives for Community Development in Brazil

When I moved to Uberlandia, Brazil in 2001 to begin mission work, the others in the ministry team already had the practice of going door-to-door to do a “survey,” at the conclusion of which they would ask the person if he or she would accept a personal, one-on-one Bible study. The original intention of the person who created this survey, which asked questions about how many children lived in the home and whether the parents were interested in activities for their children, was to understand the community better and be able to tailor the ministry to help meet real needs. What ended up happening, long-term, was that this survey became merely a ruse to engage people in conversations and then offer a Bible study. Not feeling entirely comfortable with this strategy, I rewrote the survey to discuss mostly issues of a doctrinal nature. There were questions about whether the person believed in an afterlife, God, absolutes of right and wrong, etc.  In retrospect, I’ve come to realize that what I did was re-write the survey, when instead I needed to re-write my approach to ministry. This is something I discussed some time back in a post called Doing It Wrong.

This is not to say that there is no place for evangelistic ministry, or that all ministry outreach must be “holistic.” My brother-in-law Marcelo Lima is an excellent evangelist, focusing heavily on the proclamation and acceptance of the Good News that Jesus is Lord. However, he also incorporates marriage and family counseling into his outreach, and not for the sole purpose of “drawing people in.” My point in discussing where I think I’ve gone wrong in the past is that although there are many types of ministry, I’ve erred in trying to squeeze myself into a type of service that does not fit what God has called me to do. Over the past several years I believe that, through both hardship and the joy of discovery, God has been re-writing the purposes of my heart to conform to what he expects of me in particular.

The general area of ministry to which I feel called, and which in fact I felt most plainly during my first experience in Brazil in 1997, is community development. I’m not the type who’s great at going out and engaging people in religious discussions for their own sake (again, there is a place for this), but rather someone who is drawn toward building community and teaching. I have an aptitude for tech and, at the same time, a deep love of theology. There are many projects and strategies that I’m learning about, and I hope in the next couple of years to become qualified through reading, training and practical experience to serve in Brazil as an able community developer. As a married man, this isn’t something I want only for myself, but also for my wife. In fact, I believe my wife could even take a leading role in much of what we do in the community. More on this later in this post.

The two tech projects that I currently find most intriguing are Project Cauã and Ruby Nuby. The former is directed by Jon “maddog” Hall, a leader in the open source community. Shunning projects like OLPC that have used custom hardware and taken it to places well off the grid, maddog prefers to use readily available components, open source software and existing small business credit option to promote (in Brazil first) the sustainable teaching and implementation of administrating thin clients and wifi networks for business and personal use. For instance, a man could obtain a small business loan, purchase the hardware and install open source software, selling leases for this service to businesses or individuals in an office building or residential area.

The latter project, mentioned above, involves teaching Ruby on Rails to entrepreneurs, then enlisting those newly-skilled professionals to teach poor and at-risk youth the developing skills they have learned, perhaps even providing internship and employment opportunities to these young people. I have been attending the Ruby Nuby classes and hope to learn more, both about developing and working for social good. I believe that there may well be a way to bring these two approaches together in a future project in Brazil.

Beyond the tech field there are rich resources available in the approach of restorative justice and the process of community organizing. I’ve written about each of these in An Introduction to Restorative Justice and Faith-Rooted Organizing Introductory Training.  Although I haven’t located anything beyond online resources and books about restorative justice, I’m very excited about the discipline and hope to find seminars and workshops about this field in the New York metropolitan area.

As for community organizing, the training I attended a while back was said to possibly be the first of several, so there’s a chance I’ll be able to learn more about this practice. It is very unlikely that I would find myself in Brazil campaigning for the already overly-bureaucratic Brazilian government to legislate or regulate more, but it is entirely possible that I could join with others in working for greater freedom and less red tape. Essentially, I’d be facilitating organizing against what I see as the three great hindrances to Brazil’s progress, as I discussed in What Keeps Brazil Back.

So, the vision is this:

Return to Brazil, find employment in the IT sector and begin Christian community development work in an underresourced neighborhood, together with my wife and others who are interested, providing counseling for families and sustainable tech training for youth. In What’s Worth Teaching to the Poor I’ve criticized efforts to teach only the arts to youth in poor communities, as I believe music, painting and dance can be encouraging but not very financially rewarding for most people. I’ve also explained in Tech Mission to Brazil’s Emerging Grid how the fairly respectable infrastructure for power and communication, combined with Brazil’s recent rise as an economic power, makes tech training ideal for poor and at-risk youth in that country.

At the same time, this isn’t all about me or anyone else deciding from a distance what’s best for a community on another continent, and then going in and providing the solution. As Michael Mata explains in a webinar called Assessing Your Urban Community, a walk-through (many over time, in reality) is necessary to do “exegesis” on the neighborhood. Based on what is seen and feedback from residents, efforts can be tailor-made to fit the situation. In keeping with the Christian Community Development Association’s principle of relocation, this ministry would be incarnational. My family would not only move to Brazil, but also live in the neighborhood with which we work. As The Message Bible puts it:

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Near the beginning of this unusually-long post I mentioned my wife. She’s got the personality and charisma I lack, and I have the technical and theological background. We share a heart for people and a yearning to provide real help, ministering in ways that make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that my wife’s innate tendencies and talents would allow her to take a leading role in direct work with people of the community we serve.

The following article and video talks about Instituto Rukha and the valuable work this organization does in communities, helping break the cycle of poverty through changing the habits and outlook of the poor. Although the alleged Kierkegaardian philosophy and definite Freudian psychoanalysis don’t interest me, the general concept and application make a great deal of sense. This is what I can envision my family and the local church engaging in for the genuine betterment of the community, employing Christian teaching, community development principles, a restorative justice approach and a clear focus on family counseling and tech training for youth.

For Favela Residents, Services Delivered With Tough Love(Forbes Blog)

If you feel like you’ve already read enough with this long post, full of links, perhaps just take a few minutes to see the video about Instituto Rukha. Like I said, this is generally the path I’d like to take. Thanks for reading this far, in any event.

Undead Rails Development Training (a.k.a “Rails for Zombies”)

This post will be short and sweet. If you are interested in learning about Ruby on Rails, there are a lot of great resources available online. One is RailsTutorial.org (it serves as the basis for the Ruby Nuby classes). Another two are TryRuby.org and Rails for Zombies.

TryRuby.org gives you a simple, interactive introduction to Ruby in the browser itself, simulating a command line. Follow up on this tutorial with Envy Lab’s excellent Rails for Zombies video course.

Good stuff!