BA: Sociology; African & African American Studies (University of California, Davis)
MA: Master of Divinity; Intercultural Ministry (Denver Seminary)
I am half Brazilian, half white (Amish), and grew up in an inner city, predominantly black neighborhood in East Oakland, California. Nope, that was not a typo. Yes, it is true. Amish, Brazilian, black neighborhood... All flowing through the blood in these veins. This birthed in me a deeply rooted passion for the call of the Gospel to issues of social justice such as poverty, socio-economic inequalities, and especially issues of race.
I spent the past almost ten years living and serving in Soweto, the largest township in South Africa. Generally speaking, a township in South Africa is, by definition, exclusively black in its racial demographic. Except... well.. for me. I have been presumably the token lighter-hue homegirl dwelling in the great, sprawling, 5-million-strong, legendary Soweto.
What I did not know until I arrived to stay, was that I stepped off that plane a white person, for the first time in my life. That's right, in Soweto I am perceived as entirely white and, therefore, considered among the oppressors. It was an identity crisis unlike any I had ever encountered.
It took me two years to realize that if I had any hope of gaining relational currency, trust, or credibility in my beloved community, I had to embrace my identity as "white" in this context. Trying to explain how I was not - and had never been - white, only served to sabotage relationships and trust in my community.
Wrestling day in and day out with how I could be an agent of healing, justice, and reconciliation as a white person in the most racially polarized country in the world thrust me into a crucible of discovery. Those ten years in Soweto radically challenged and changed my ideas of racial "reconciliation" and I began to see the Gospel itself in an entirely new light.
This has changed the way I facilitate, teach, coach, consult, and disciple on race, reconciliation, justice, and equity. The Gospel is at its very core.
After six years of church planting in Soweto I decided to focus more specifically on orphans and vulnerable children, the work of (re)conciliation, and work in the immediate community.
I adopted the most beautiful, tender-hearted, wise little soul, whom I named Jericho Elijah. I subsequently fostered and adopted the single most resilient child I have ever encountered., Judah Manqoba. He is spunky, outgoing, courageous, and ridiculously funny. They are now 8 years old. They both have significant medical challenges and a history of profound trauma. And they are amazing. It is the greatest honor of my life to be their mother.
I am a dancer and artist, through and through. Interwoven amongst my passions for discipleship, the meat of God's Word, and social justice, is a raw and deep love for the performing arts and their ability to change lives.
I received my Master's of Divinity from Denver Seminary with an emphasis in Intercultural Ministry. I received my BA in Sociology and African & African American Studies from the University of California, Davis.
My boys and I have now returned to the U.S. and I have devoted myself to the training, equipping, teaching, facilitating of true Gospel-centered racial (re)conciliation and justice.
Soweto in my Soul
One of my favorite things in the world was to walk the streets of Soweto... just be there. Among the people. Not necessarily with any agenda. Just be with the remarkable, resilient, struggling people of Soweto. I often felt that being on these streets taught me much more than I could ever hope of giving back.
More important than anything I could 'do,' just being in Soweto, given what my skin color represents, was a ministry all in itself. Just walking the journey of building relationship with the people around me is perhaps the biggest challenge and the most significant ministry, the impact of which can have huge implications on peoples' worldview. Most have never been treated as a peer by someone with my skin color.
Furthermore, given the brutal legacy that Apartheid has left, being an interracial family is also a ministry all in itself. Although it is common in Soweto for people to be caring for children in the extended family, most have never seen a child adopted into a family to whom it is not biologically related. Adoption, in this particular sense, is very rare in Soweto and many other parts of South Africa.
These were the most critical aspects of my presence in Soweto, none of which can be quantified or adequately explained. All of which I prayed would be a living, breathing testimony to the love, kindness, truth, and healing of the Gospel, whether spoken with words or lived in community.
Much of the those ten years were invested in abandoned babies, orphans/vulnerable children, and the beautiful teenagers in Soweto. I have used the arts as a tool to mentor, build relationship with, and teach life skills to the teens; many of whom call me, "Mom."
I also teach, preach, write, and facilitate dialogues regularly in many different contexts: churches, conferences, schools, graduations, retreats, chapel services, etc.
And, of course, my greatest work of all was/is investing in, serving, and nurturing my children in front of a watching world, particularly Soweto, many of whom have never seen such a thing across racial lines. We are a spectacle. We are HIS spectacle. And trying to make it one that is a 'city on a hill,' and 'a lamp on its stand.' It is life in a fishbowl... for the glory of His name.
* All photos used with permission (where faces are recognizable). If subject or
guardian could not be reached, faces have been blurred.