August 29, 2011

Navigation Team Profile: Jonathan Seefeldt

Name: Jonathan Seefeldt
Hometown: Mussoorie, India
Favorite Movie: Time Bandits
Favorite ice cream: Rum Raisin

If you could be any animal, what would it be?
To be honest, I’m kind of still into the human being thing, but if I had to change I think I would go with bear-hood, since Baloo seemed to have a pretty chill, very well-thought out lifestyle in the Jungle Book.

Give us some background about yourself and how you ended up here in Austin and a part of the Vox community.
Brace yourself, it’s complicated. I was born in Delhi to second (dad) and third (mom) generation American missionaries in India. When I was 10 we moved north from Delhi to the Himalayan foothills near Nepal and Tibet. I attended a quirky international boarding school in this area and generally should have absolutely enjoyed my teenage years in this wonderful setting. After high school, I took a gap year mainly because I forgot to apply to college in the far off USA. I spent the year working on a kibbutz in Israel. It was by far the best time of my life and I can spend hours talking about it to any unsuspecting soul who dares bring it up. I eventually ended up at Wheaton College outside of Chicago, IL. I was told I would lose my newfound faith at this most Christian of colleges; instead I found a lot of truth, much encouragement, and a wealth of grace hidden amongst the cliches. I also happened to find a beautiful young woman the likes of which none of us (yes you too) have ever seen before. If you think this paragraph is confusing, ask her to describe her background; it will begin with something like ‘My mom is from Honduras, my father is from Saudi Arabia…’ and thats the simple part. So anyway, I took a break from telling everyone that I wasn’t going to get married until an early retirement in my mid-50s, bought a ring and nervously proposed during our last year together in college. Bizarrely, she said yes and we moved to south-side Chicago where she worked at an inspiring inner-city Christian health center and I settled in to a strange, wonderful job as an employment counselor to refugees. After a few months of honest to goodness bliss, we made a surprise discovery. Nine months later we had baby boy named Abner and not a clue how to care of him. In search of wisdom, we moved to Austin, where Linda’s mother and step-father gently helped us enter the world of parenthood. Much has happened in the ensuing five years, the most surprising and life-giving has been the discovery of a little church plant called Vox Veniae.

Where has God placed you to live the church during the week?
Austin has its hipsters and its professors. At the moment, I’ve been placed firmly and squarely with the professors. For the last five years, I’ve worked in various capacities for UT’s Asian Studies program; I’ve been mostly involved in helping start-up and run a new, advanced Hindi and Urdu language program at the university. It’s the first of its kind and it’s another topic that I can spend hours talking about. Amidst all of this, I’ve also been a PhD student in Hindi literature at UT. It’s all very academic and distant, one would think, from such notions as mission, incarnation, justice etc. Yet, I’ve learned to bite my tongue and can now bear witness to the fact that God is present and interested in the most mysterious corners of Austin. One aspect of my current vocation is to simply demonstrate that Christ is not foreign to any culture. There is beauty and power in language, and I would like colleagues and students to see that I find Christ in the languages and literatures that I study. But God has also pushed back at me in some ways, and I can now see that part of my current calling is directed right back at the Christian community. Contrary to popular stereotypes, I’ve seen compassion, sincerity, solidarity and humility in my academic colleagues. I hope to bring some of that approach to life back to our church community.

Why are you looking forward to being a part of the Navigation Team?
I loved Vox right from the start. It’s family for me and for so many others. I’ve seen it grow from infancy to what’s probably toddler-hood right now. There’s potential in this community and I’m excited to be a part of drawing that out. In terms of my particular role, I’m fond of communication — written, spoken, bodily indicated — and I’m excited to see Vox become a family of communicators. We can speak grace into each others lives, we can speak grace into the community, and perhaps we’ll have the privilege to hear the occasional echo of God’s redemptive work in his broken world.

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