A Stranger, A Foreigner, A Extranjero – My Swan Song at Louisville

A foreigner

I am for you

Only a foreigner

I have my life in many halfs

But my love for you is whole

I was given 5 years to stay here and I think I live it the best I could

What a precious gift, actually a wonder to behold.

Here I learned how to be an adult, how to be in the academy, how to experience Christian institutions and their idiosincrasies

Here I learned how to gain and how to lose.

Here I stretched myself to places I didn’t even know I could go

Here I cried and I laughed

Here I first felt as a foreigner, than as a citizen, than as a stranger

5 incredible years of blessings and joys

Here I healed and was healed

I inflicted pain and was wounded

I made mistakes and when I knew it I asked for forgiveness

Here I was welcomed and deracinated

Made one of your own and alienated

Invited to stay and asked to leave

A foreigner

I am for you

Only a foreigner

I have my life in many halfs

But my love for you is whole

My songs in the lines I sang … were all finite

With the hopes to bless ourselves

It was as if I was always calling you to hold my hand

and explore places unknown to us

Shifting the furniture, making our known spaces a little unknown

creating possibilities for us to live together

and entering spaces we have never been

Like countries without borders

I took the task of liturgy as making it a foreign space

A space that we enter with care and wonder, fear and trembling

Because it is neither yours not mine, but God’s

Trying to love each other in ways we can only invent

Borrowing from one of my favorite poets, the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish, I changed the word country by liturgy in his poem. It says:

And we have liturgies without borders,

like our idea of the unknown, narrow and wide – Liturgies whose maps

narrow to a gray tunnel as we walk in them

and cry out in their labyrinths: “And still we love you.” (Darwish)

Like a beaten up train, I continue my journey,

In my brief visit in this particular station called Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

I was gifted with the presence of many people

I saw those who came and left

And those who will stay here forever

I saw people happy, perplexed, blessed,

In this station, perhaps as in many others, one stays depending on how one behaves

And I heard the whistle announcing my leaving before the departure time

It was time to replace the coal and move on

A foreigner

I am for you

Only a foreigner

I have my life in many halfs

But my love for you is whole

So many beautiful people in this place

People so wonderful that I wanted to make my nest near to them

And never leave

For I knew that to be next to them was to be well.

I learned to love Louisville

A beautiful land,

Delores Williams lives here

Fascinating professors at our seminary live here

Wonderful pastors around

Brilliant students

And a great number of people doing fascinating things everywhere

There is this fantastic Humana festival in the Spring

Cardinals basketball team

And a growing UofL soccer team with the promise of Andrew Farrell

It has the Hispanic/Latino Coalition and a great grass-roots movement

It has Thomas Merton and Gethsemani

And all an all it has Wendell Berry

A luminous gift I received in this land

I discovered him at Carmichael’s browsing books and there he was

“Citizenship papers” I picked it up and it was love at first sight

Wendell Berry

A Luminary to our times

And like a prophet, not well celebrated in his land

I will never forget when he said yes to come to my Sacraments and Globalization class

And he spoke of the land, theology, the Greek poets, and we all broke bread together

Louisville, a wonderful place.

Because of you! Because of you!

Oh, and there is also this thing with horses here right?

Here I found precious friends, colleagues and companions.

Among them, some became like brothers and sisters of my own blood

I was deeply loved and cared

And my life will never be the same

How can I thank you for this incredible party?

I am overwhelmed with your love and care

And my Brazilian heart will be forever thankful

As I leave, there is much for you to do here

A work yet to begin to make this seminary diverse

Beyond the black and white divide

And there is this Herculean work against mountaintop removal

Do not let them do it!

Woooh! Wooooh!

Can you hear it?
It is the whistle of the train telling me it is time to leave

I must depart

And from the window of my train I finish with another poem from

Mahoumed Darwish:

Close to the gardens of broken shadows,

We do what prisoners do,

And what the jobless do:

We cultivate hope

A foreigner

I am for you

Only a foreigner

I have my life in many halfs

But my love for you is whole

But my love for you is whole

Thank you for everything.

Philadelphia, here I go with great excitment!!


Pastor, Teacher, Friend…

(a poem for Claudio Carvalhaes, written by Beau Brown)

A pastor, a teacher, a friend, a confidant

You love people as much as you love God

And that’s rare to find in a place like this

Where politics take over, that’s risky business

You got a love for the Church that takes deep root

And the courage to listen and always speak truth

And what you taught us goes far beyond the classroom

But we did enjoy the Mexican wrestling costume

and the way you spoke about the Eucharist

made me understand there’s power in the ludicrous

the idea that through death comes power

and the idea that this life is not ours

it belongs to others, it belongs to Christ

and you modeled that for us, showed us what it looks like

so, Claudio, this is what you are

a pastor, a teacher, a friend, a shining star

5 thoughts on “A Stranger, A Foreigner, A Extranjero – My Swan Song at Louisville

  1. ze lima

    Querido Claudio.

    Bela passagem. Apenas estrangeiros amam com gosto de saudade. E como dizia Drummond em seu poema “Memória”:

    Amar o perdido
    deixa confundido
    este coração.

    Nada pode o olvido
    contra o sem sentido
    apelo do Não.

    As coisas tangíveis
    tornam-se insensíveis
    à palma da mão

    Mas as coisas findas
    muito mais que lindas,
    essas ficarão.
    – – – – – – – – – –


  2. Deb Trevino

    Not a stranger, not a foreigner; a friend and a brother

    When you came to us, we were amazed at your boldness.
    We first worshiped under the trees,
    Curiously tasting the fruit of friendship and the sustaining bread of scripture.

    We opened the chapel together, filling the font with water of remembrance and restoration,
    Constantly speaking of God’s endless grace that welcomes us all.
    Our hearts whispered, “Not a foreigner, a brother!”

    What is language when we used no words to praise God apart from the universal music of love and acceptance?

    Whether a prayer was said in silence or Portuguese, Spanish
    Or English spoken through tears so as to be unintelligible, our hearts were knit together and God heard our cries.

    Dear brother, we have shared love, compassion, empathy, prayer, music, celebration, accomplishment, growth; how could you be a stranger?
    Why do you want to be a stranger or a foreigner when you have a place in our hearts?
    You who encouraged and pushed me to be what I only dreamed of becoming, why do you strain the cords that bind us together by claiming to be a stranger!

    I refuse to allow you to protect yourself from those who love you and claim you as brother and life-long friend.

    Like it or not, we love you, dear brother , pastor, teacher, mentor who spoke to me of three lives just before I preached my mother’s funeral with your voice ringing in my ear and your prayers carrying me through.

    NO! You are neither stranger nor foreigner! Damn it, you are my friend.

  3. suzanne

    Powerfully exciting and scary at the same time to read your entry just as I embark on my first train ride. So glad to see you in Philly – welcome to my hometown – birthplace of my closest companion and playground of my youth. My station stop is just north of you – I will wave at the crossing!

  4. Sue Hudson

    Mi Hermano, Claudio,
    You welcomed me to LPTS when I was also “reeling” from change and transition and the feeling of “foreignness” in my own land… and I will never be the same. When I felt like I was being “spit out” from the mouth of my own whale on the sands of Louisville,KY, friends showed me that I was being kneaded like yeast into a new loaf of bread. You were the FIRST to speak “peace” to me when my heart ached. Like Deb Trevino, who learned to “see with you” — you will always be a brother and friend to me. Dios te bendiga! Sue Hudson

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.