Year Joined MKLM: 1994
Focus: Sustainable development, pastoral care, education, justice and peace
Project(s): Community-Building Through Endogenous Sustainable Development
People Served: A parish community of 80,000 families
Jim joined MKLM from Wray, Colorado, where he was a parishioner of St. Andrew of the Archdiocese of Denver. As a farmer, Jim gained an understanding of nature and an ability to creatively work with what’s available. It is these skills, in addition to his business degree, that Jim lends to his ministry.
Before joining MKLM, Jim was involved in community works and activism, including participating in a Global Build trip to Nicaragua with Habitat for Humanity, and volunteering at the Catholic Worker House in Denver, his parish’s food bank, and Annunciation Housing Partners doing house rehabilitation. Jim was also active in the Fort Collins Chapter of Maryknoll Affiliates. Jim has had a variety of mission experiences. From 1995-2000 he was assigned to the altiplano of Peru where he worked at the Institute for Rural Education, a church-run farm school that offers support, formation and ongoing training for indigenous farmers. In 1998, Jim married fellow MKLM missioner, Karen Halberg, while they were both serving in Peru. In 2000, they returned to the U.S. to work in MKLM’s outreach efforts. They have three young children, Daniel (2000), Emma (2003), and Jacob (2007). In 2007 they were assigned to Juárez, Mexico, their first overseas experience as a family. In Juárez, Jim worked at the Human Rights Center and as part of a team promoting Small Christian Communities within the parish and the archdiocese. In September 2010 Jim and Karen were assigned to Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Jim and Karen live with their children in the marginalized and peri-urban Southern Zone of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Jim’s ministry takes place in the large Jesuit parish of El Señor de la Santa Vera Cruz which incorporates a population of about 80,000 Catholic families, most of them of Quechuan descent. The majority of these families have moved to the Southern Zone of the city within the last 5-10 years, leaving rural lifestyles to seek work in the city. As part of the parish team Jim has been an encouraging voice for a pastoral approach that recognizes the indigenous Andean spirituality alive in people’s Catholic faith practice. In this context Jim has guided reflections on care for the environment, justice in food security, and the importance of rethinking Christianity in terms of Bolivia’s hope for decolonization. In choosing to live in the Southern Zone and within the parish, Jim and Karen have been able to connect to members of the parish in an integrated and day-to-day manner. Their children attend a neighborhood school that is affiliated with the parish. This connectedness has allowed them to develop a mutually nurturing presence in the community.
On a broader level, Jim strives to build self-reliance by encouraging local food production. He hopes to encourage more families to garden on their own land, not just as part of the parish effort. His efforts include compiling data to help people value improvements in soil and human health in addition to the market value of a garden product. 2012 began with shortages of sugar and corn, and overall food prices have been rising at twice the rate of inflation. Food imports for Bolivia rose by 50% in 2011 reflecting not only rising prices, but also continued abandonment of the rural population for the urban centers.
Jim’s efforts to build parish community through this connection with the land were recently highlighted in a work day organized by the parish council. Leaders from several of the parish chapel communities came to help weed and pick sweet corn and till the soil. The day began with a very moving reflection where many spoke of the importance of working in daily ways to care for the environment and the joy they get from food they are able to grow in the city. The participants ended the day at dark, eating sweet corn and visiting. It was a nice affirmation of how integral the community garden work can be to the pastoral work of the parish, and how the parish community can witness to an understanding of God being present not only inside, but also outside the temple.