Tuesday, March 29, 2011

windy city

I'm very excited to go this Sunday and join with CCDA (www.ccda.org) for a week long immersion in Chicago. The wind of the Spirit is blowing through many ministries in this windy city; here is a look at some of my destinations next week:

  • Emmaus Ministries: Conversation with Al Tauber and Jonathan Hancock from Emmaus Ministries. Emmaus’ mission and purpose is to make Jesus known on the streets among men involved in sexual exploitation and provide hope in Christ by developing ministries of evangelization, transformation, and education. (streets.org)
  • Chitown Futbol: Lunch and dialogue with Jeff Welsh. Jeff has a long history of involvement in Christian Community Development, specifically in the areas of housing & economic development. He is the owner of Chitown Futbol, an indoor soccer facility in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood.
  • Sunshine Gospel Ministries: Tour and dialogue with Joel Hamernick, Executive Director. Sunshine’s mission is to seek renewal in the city through ministries of discipleship, mercy, and justice. Sunshine does this through building relationships, teaching and mentoring, developing life skills, care and advocacy in the community. (sunshinegospel.org)
  • Canaan Community Church: Conversation with Pastor Jonathan Brooks, who is leading Canaan into deeper levels of understanding and practicing the philosophy of Christian Community Development. “Pastah J” is a present member of CCDA’s Emerging Leader Cohort and a speaker at our CCDA National Conferences. (canaancommunitychurch.org)
  • Pui Tak Center: Tour and dialogue with David Wu, Executive Director. Pui Tak is a church-based community. Each year, they serve over 3000 Chinese immigrants through ESL classes and tutoring for adults, children and youth programs, services for new immigrants, family literacy, school, a music program, computer center and outreach programs. (puitak.org)
  • The Marin Foundation: Conversation with Andrew Marin, President and Founder. The Marin Foundation is the very first organization that works to build a bridge between the religious and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in a non-threatening, research and biblically-oriented fashion. Their unique approach is one that strategically reaches out and partners with both religious and LGBT organizations -- working closely with each to make a sustainable, structural difference for the Kingdom in today’s socially driven secular and religious cultures. Andrew is a former member of CCDA’s Emerging Leaders Cohort and a speaker at our CCDA National Conferences. (themarinfoundation.org)
  • South Loop Community Church: Conversation with the pastors of our host church, Tom Kubiak, Jalon Chan, and Mark Lockett. SLCC has been a part of the South Loop community for 10 years with a mission to be used of God in helping people become fully functioning followers of Christ. (southloopcc.org)
  • La Villita Community Church: Tour and dialogue with Pastor Victor Rodriguez. Established in the neighborhood of Little Village on Chicago's West Side, La Villita Community Church is committed to the neighborhood and it’s inhabitants. Providing an array of programs that help the community's youth, some of which are tutoring and sports, LVCC's vision and mission is to be a church that Praises, Loves, Teaches, and Shares. (lavillitacommunitychurch.com)
  • Breakthrough Urban Ministries: Tour and dialogue with Arloa Sutter, Founder and Executive Director. Breakthrough Urban Ministries demonstrates the compassion of Christ by partnering with those affected by poverty to build connections, develop skills and open doors of opportunity. Located in Chicago's East Garfield Park, where disinvestment has left the neighborhood devoid of opportunity and full of broken dreams, Breakthrough Urban Ministries is restoring the broken networks of youth and families and empowering adults in the community to achieve self-sufficiency and break the cycle of poverty. (breakthrough.org)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Michelle Alexander at UNI Wednesday

I encourage you to attend author Michelle Alexander's public lecture this Wednesday (March 30) evening at 7:00 p.m. in the UNI Center for Multicultural Education. Ms. Alexander is the author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." For additional information about the book, go to The New Jim Crow Website.

This important book has been the focus of the Cedar Valley Community book discussion over the past several weeks sponsored by Cedar Valley Citizens for Undoing Racism in partnership with a number of other local organizations.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

youth art team returns!

Youth Art Team is back in session! Hurray! The night kicked off with a grand art scavenger hunt in which we had to use picture clues to find twelve pieces of art around downtown Waterloo. When we found them, we talked about how the art made us feel, what we thought about when we looked at it, and how it transformed the space it occupied. 5 teams- 17 kids, 12 adults- had a great time, and even though my team only found 9 of the 12, we did come up with the coolest team name. We were "Ruby Slippers" because we identified our six team members from red pieces of paper given to us..and because "there's no place like home!"

Back at Harvest, we listened to Chawne Paige, a local artist and a designer of one of the very murals we saw downtown! Chawne showed us some images of how he uses digital design in his murals. So cool, and he's one of my newest local heroes!

And, the kids got brand spankin' new sketchbooks and watercolors this night. Can't wait to see them transform the pages with their creativity!

Youth Art Team exists to love people through artwork, and through these next five weeks, the kids are going to share a message with their community by designing and painting a mural on a building in Triangle Park.

Our group was reminded tonight of the Scripture passage where Jesus feeds 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. In it, Jesus says, "Bring me what you have." When we bring Jesus what we have, he can make much of it! Our desire is to offer him the gifts he's given us this session and pray that He will multiply them into a miracle and blessing for our community.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

big differences, bigger God

Monday evening, I spent 2 hours with about 50 people representing 20 churches in the Cedar Valley. It was a mixture of churches and people of faith that you don't commonly see interacting together or relating around our community. This was our 3rd and final gathering to plan Love Cedar Valley and this last meeting is always focused more on sharing a meal, praying, and worshiping together than it is about event planning. I love this 3rd gathering each year, and I'm still reflecting about the dynamics of the evening and the work that God does in such a setting.

As we were led into a time of prayer and worship on Monday, I was aware of the vast differences of worship tradition in the room. Some who prefer praying silently than aloud around a table. Some who speak in tongues. Some who stand and spread out their arms while singing. Some who are accustomed to an organ and hymns. Some who meet with and worship God in a liturgy. Others who are fluid and like to "follow the Spirit's leading and timetable".

Big differences, Bigger God. I'm really convinced that if the Church is going to attempt to walk toward unity and reconciliation, we will have to stretch ourselves into places that are bound to feel somewhat uncomfortable. Places that will cause us to wrestle with questions and all sorts of emotions. Places where we will catch ourselves judging. We will catch ourselves justifying our desire to distance ourselves. We will catch ourselves wanting to quickly go back into a setting that feels like a better fit; a safer, more familiar, and comfortable place. And from that deceiving "safe" place, we will look out at the lack of progress being made in our community and the barriers that remain firmly in place.

I'm reading the book of Luke with about 600 other people right now. Each day, we are reading a new portion of a chapter for 89 days. I've never read Luke in such a way, and it is one of the most powerful encounters with Scripture that I've had...to read it in community, and to reflect deeply on one passage each day. I am so struck by how Jesus challenges "the established order" ALL the time. Over and over again. He knows our human tendency to shrink back into familiar, into comfortable, into self. And he knows the intention and discipline that will be needed for there to be growth and reconciliation. He understands that we will go into unfamiliar territory and immediately want to judge, justify, retreat. Instead, I believe he calls us to tarry there a bit and discover that God is bigger, Jesus is Lord and Savior, and people are more valuable than all of the differences we so often allow to get in the way.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Update from partners in Haiti

Pictures: cassava machine, cabbages, kids at the nutrition center

Below is a GREAT picture of a Christian Community Development model!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight," Proverbs 3:5-6
Dear friends;
It's been a while since we have written a newsletter. This is not because things haven't been happening; on the contrary, there are so many things that are moving, we haven't had time to sit down and write about them. Let me try to write about a few of the exciting things God has been doing in our area.
Andre Chansman continues to rejoice in his new-found faith. He is a witness to all around him. He still has many people that come to him wanting him to perform vodou for them but he uses those opportunities to share about Jesus. Andre tells these people who still put their faith in Satan's power that the devil and his evil spirits have only limited power. If they want to experience true power, they need to accept Christ as their Savior. Christ will protect and give peace and joy. He recently was able to talk to 3 other witchdoctors from his hometown of Maisade (a town quite a distance away) and lead them to faith!! Those 3 men will be under the discipleship of another pastor/friend of JeanJean that lives in their area. Andre's light is so evident to others that they can't help but notice how different he is--may we all have that light! Andre is basically bedridden. We don't know the full extent of his illness but I worry he may have prostate cancer. He has been struggling with this for almost a year. Please pray for his health and for God's guidance. And rejoice with him to as Andre and his family will soon be able to have a new house through the generosity of an American brother who wanted to give Andre a fresh start.
The cassava business is up and running! We have made several batches of the cassava flat bread and so many people have been to our place to see this machine do its work. For those who aren't familiar with cassava, let me tell you a few things about and why it is so important to Haiti. Cassava comes from manioc, a tuber crop that we in the US process to make tapioca. The biggest advantage of manioc is that is grows well in Haiti's soil. Much of Haiti's soil has been depleted of many nutrients due to deforestation and erosion and Haiti has long dry seasons. Manioc has water-conserving adaptations that allow it to endure the dry season. Therefore, it is crop that farmers here can grow well. But, they haven't been able to find a market for it. People here love cassava bread; JeanJean grew up eating it all the time. Starting around 1986, cheap rice was imported into Haiti and took over as the staple of people's diets. Unfortunately, the price of rice has risen a lot and it can't be produced commercially in Haiti at this time since we don't have the infrastructure to produce large amounts of it. Haiti needs to stop importing so much and go back to foods that the country can produce itself. Manioc is one of those foods. By hand, cassava bread is very difficult and time-consuming to make; that has been its limiting factor. With the machine that we have for the community, we can grate and grind the manioc quickly, press it, and have it ready to bake in a fraction of the time. We have already started to buy the manioc from the farmers in the area. We want to show how using national products and not importing is feasible.
I can't tell what a joy it is to go and see UCI's drip irrigation garden and the pump irrigation gardens in the surrounding communities. It is gives me so much hope to see all those wonderful bright and colorful vegetables flourishing in the dry season. Our school and nutrition centers have benefitted greatly from the added vegetables as has the community. Our program with the irrigation pumps is that the association of farmers are to pay back the cost of the pump over a 2-year period. The farmers have already been able to give a significant amount towards that goal. Today, we are starting the process of putting drip irrigation gardens into each of the nutrition centers. We have 2 objectives in this. We want the centers to have more vegetables and we want to teach the parents and kids how they can grow their own vegetables.
UCC elementary school is going so well. The kids are advancing very well. Mirlange, our first grade teacher, tells us that 10 of her students prayed to accept Jesus in their lives during her class! Pray for these young children to learn more and more about Him through the school. The school rooms are painted-inside and out-and look great. We have a learning center where the kids are able to play to learn. And our team that is with us now is putting in more playground equipment!!
I was able to weigh the kids in LaBok, our 6th nutrition center, last week. I'm so happy to report that the majority of the kids had a 2-4 lb. weight gain in the last 4 months! Thank you to the churches that provided meals from the Heartland and bountiful beans and peanut butter.
We have been blessed with many teams that have helped us to get a lot of work done. I can't list them all but here is a partial list: construction on a church in LaBok, construction of a house for a family living in a house that was ready to fall down, VBS to share Christ with children, women's conference, teacher seminars, cement floors, prayer walks and distributions, revamping our solar system, medical clinics, water treatment, and many, many more. Thank you to the go-ers and the senders that made these things possible.
Finally, I can't end this newsletter without talking a little about the vision of UCI. We have always desired to share UCI's model with other communities. In the words of our Haitian board, we believe that UCI's example of changing communities through the gospel and developing sustainable practices through Haitian leaders can change Haiti. We hope to start satellite UCI bases in other areas. Towards this goal we will be starting a Bible and trade school. Our goal is to start with only 3 degrees: theology, agriculture, and elementary education. We don't want these 3 subjects to be separate; rather, we want a student of our school to have education in all these areas. For example, a student desiring to be a pastor could get his theology degree but he will also know the basics in agriculture and education. This is so important in Haiti since the majority of pastors here can not be supported fully by their church and need a second job. Also, many churches use their resources and building to start a school for the community since there are not enough public schools. Also, an elementary teacher or agriculturalist at our school will have a good theological foundation for their professions. Computer skills will also be emphasized. Our goal is to train godly leaders that will return to their hometowns to reach people for Christ. We desire your fervent prayers as we start this process this year.
Thank you for all that you do for UCI and Haiti. May God richly show you His presence in your lives today!!
JeanJean, Kristie, Tana (now a 13 year-old!!!) and Kerri Mompremier

last classic Saturday

Fifteen months ago, I determined to go through the book Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith. The book contains 52 excerpts from writings of men and women who have had a great deal of spiritual authority through the years. As you can see, it took me a bit longer than my original 1 per week plan, but that's okay. Slow and steady disciplines have just been so key for my spiritual walk, and I am blessed so much if I just stick with them..even if the discipline (and the growth) take longer than I anticipate.

Today's last devotional classic is an excerpt from Watchman Nee (1903-1972) From his writing What Shall This Man Do?, Nee addresses what is necessary for a person to be saved.

"God has made from His side, a threefold provision for every person in that person's hour of crisis: Firstly, Jesus has come as the Friend of sinners; secondly it is He personally (and no intermediary) whom we are called to meet; and thirdly, the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, to bring to pass in us the initial work of conviction of sin, repentance, and faith, and of course, all that follows."

"From the side of the sinner, one condition and one only is demanded. We are not required-in the first place- to believe, or to repent, or to be conscious of sin, or even to know that Christ died. We are required only to approach the Lord with an honest heart."

"..the main question is whether or not we have the Son, and not, first of all, whether or not we understand the whole plan of salvation. The first condition of salvation is not knowledge, but meeting Christ. I have come to see that all that is needed for the initial step is that there should be a personal touch with God, and when that is so the rest will surely follow."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

a deep well

Katie is a deep well from which to draw much truth, faith, and courage in Jesus. If you've never read her blog, spend a few minutes on her last few posts, and I think you'll agree.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

power of love

Spent an interesting 90 minutes this morning in discussion about racism, activism (or the lack of), and the book The New Jim Crow written by Michelle Alexander.

I believe there was one comment made in our time when a person talked about the greatest power being found in numbers and money. I believe the greatest power is the power of love.

If blacks and whites are going to join together to fight racism, I believe it will take the power of love. From my experience, anger and guilt are not motivations that will draw people into a cause together nor keep people committed to it. But oh, what can happen through the power of love!

3:16 House

Great groups cleaning, prepping, and painting this week at the 3:16 House (316 Walnut). The house is aMAZING. Built in1908...big rooms, unbelievably gorgeous leaded windows and woodwork. The work teams were also aMAZING. Lots of joy in the midst of a lot of wonderful work getting done.

One of the groups of college students drove the night before from Davenport, stopped in Iowa City/Coralville at about 11 p.m., on to Ames to pick up a friend who goes to ISU, and arrived in CF at 4 a.m......all so they could volunteer starting at 9 a.m. Now, that's zeal to serve the Lord!

I love seeing the body of Christ come together on a common task and experiencing community and joy together!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

classic Saturday

A quote from Spiritual Revival the Want of the Church by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892).

Habbakuk 3:2 "Oh, Lord, revive thy work."

"Make no resolutions as to what you will do; your resolutions will surely be broken as they are made. Instead of trying to revive yourself, offer prayers. Do not say, 'I will revive myself', but cry, 'O Lord revive thy work.' "

Thursday, March 10, 2011

knitting for peace

I spent a little time tonight at my friends' "Knitting for Peace" finale. This group has been knitting together at church over the past five years and blessing the world with their handmade goodness. Washcloths to Mozambique, Haiti, the Philippines, and Cambodia. Teddy Bears to AIDS orphans in Africa.

Not only did this group offer gestures of care and compassion through their knitting, but they also formed a beautiful intergenerational fellowship that spanned a good 70 years of age. Due to some changes in the Sunday morning church schedule and the changing seasons of the leaders' lives, the Sunday morning knitting group is disbanding. But, oh, what a blessing they've been! And I am sure that the friendships and the knitting will carry on. Beautiful!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

partnership covenant

I'm meeting tonight with our partnership team and just spent some time reading through the covenant that we formed together in the fall. How greatly inspired I am as I read through this covenant!

Harvest Vineyard Church and Orchard Hill Church Partnership


Called together to be a Kingdom community who will link lives and gifts to follow the Spirit of God for the glory of God and the wholistic development of people and places through the love of Jesus Christ.

Partnership Core Values

1. Spirit of God. We value listening, discerning, and obeying the Spirit of God as He moves and directs our partnership. We believe that it is only through the Spirit's leadership, grace, and power, that we will accomplish the mission God has for this partnership. We believe that the Holy Spirit reveals God's will and directs us through His Word, prayer, His people, and through circumstances.

2. Reconciliation. We believe that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, people can be reconciled to God and reconciled to one another. We value that this partnership crosses lines of denomination, gender, age, race, class, and culture and results in people who recognize one another as created in the image of God with equal value and worth in the eyes of God. We value respect for our differences and believe we can learn from them as well as celebrate our common bonds in Christ.

3. Christian Community. We value the loving relationships that develop as God binds person by person together in this partnership. We value the friendships, the gifts, the encouragement, the honesty, the reciprocity, the accountability, and the growth that is present in authentic Christian community. We believe that we must lead with these relationships and not lead with resources in this partnership.

4. Mutuality. We value interdependency in the partnership. We believe that each person and each church has gifts and resources that can be offered as well as needs to be addressed. Together we can share and help one another grow and develop in Christ. We believe that a partnership should be roughly balanced with a shared experience of giving and receiving by both partners.

5. Mission of compassion and justice. We value God's heart for his suffering people, and we believe that He calls us to hands-on compassion and sends us into the darkness to be his salt and light and healing presence. We believe we are called to cooperate with Christ to bear witness to his kingdom of righteousness and justice on the earth.

6. Wholistic development. We value addressing the needs of a whole person...spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental. We believe Christ came to redeem our whole selves. We value making disciples who know their identity and calling in Christ. We value working together to empower each individual toward their God-planned potential. We value training up and releasing leaders. We also believe that Christ came to redeem systems and places as well as individuals, so together we value partnering with Christ and one another for wholistic community transformation.


1. Practice prayer How will we pray with and for one another this year?

2. Practice planning What team will we form to plan and communicate what God is calling us to be and do? What goals will we set and what kind of evaluation will we set up?

3. Practice presence How will we be present and participate with one another this year?

4. Practice postures of serving and learning How can we serve one another and what do we need to learn from each other this year?

5. Practice play How will we play and celebrate together this year?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

classic Saturday

From an excerpt of "Dead to Sin" written by John Chrysostom (345-407)

"God's exceeding desire to be loved comes from loving exceedingly. This is why Jesus said, 'Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.' He even calls us to esteem that which is most precious to us-our soul- as second to the love of God, for our Father wishes to be loved by us entirely."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

what keeps my head in the sand?

I am in a discussion group over the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. We met this week, and one of the facilitators spoke during our discussion about how difficult it was for him to believe that so much about institutional racism that we're learning about in the book could really be “aha” moments for so many people in the room. He questioned whether he lived in a different reality since racism is so blatant and so obvious to him everyday. I have several thoughts that have stirred from his sharing, and I’ve tried to unpack this question of myself, “What has kept my head in the sand?” Lots of answers surface when I ask that question and consider both my life and many like me who I have grown up with and lived around…

*Upbringing. Systemic, institutional racism is very pervasive and effective. I, like many other white, middle class Americans, went to school and swallowed the textbook history we were taught from a young age. Media has also played a large part in reinforcing stereotypes and racism. And living so separate from others of color didn't help me come to know or spend time with many who were different than me. Someone else spoke last night in saying that they were taught from a young age to blindly trust institutions such as church, criminal justice system, educational system, etc. That was also my upbringing.

*Our experience. Mahdi, one of the instructors at Undoing Racism, talked about racism being like the water surrounding a fish…or I might add…the air that humans breathe. We don’t think about it much unless it’s tough to catch our breath (like high altitude) or we breathe bad air. Another example might be our human bodies. When my back is working fine for me, I don’t give it a thought. But when it is off kilter and in pain, I can’t stop thinking about it. I imagine that these might describe the different realities that people of color and whites live in.

*Definitions and thought processes. My understanding of the definition of racism keeps evolving. When I was younger, I believed that racism meant racial prejudice or bigotry. I considered it mostly in an individual mindset. Further on the journey, I thought about racism as being related to slavery. I considered slavery and I thought about how even though the Civil Rights Movement began to win rights for the African-American, there were many lasting hardships as a result of slavery. I believed that the breaking apart of families, emasculating black males, the oppression and crushing of the mind, body, and spirit, the lack of freedom, lack of education, lack of opportunity for employment and advancement, not being granted human rights, etc.. all resulted in high levels of poverty and long term negative effects for the African-American community. Much like the analogy used by Mahdi in Undoing Racism that it’s like telling a class they’re going to play Monopoly. You give one half the class 2 hours to play before you let the other half join in. The second half is then trying to play catch up and is starting at such a disadvantage and deficit. This is how I thought about racism during this stage in the journey. It disturbed me, and I considered how I might get involved in relationships that might be helpful or healing.

My journey continued as I served at House of Hope and in other environments of need. As I served, some of my assumptions were challenged, I learned personal stories of people, came to know people of color, observed obstacles, trappings, injustices, and I even saw how my understanding of “helping” was, in fact, often perpetuating the problem. My interest turned at this point to learn about wholistic approach, empowerment, development vs. charity, asset-based community development, listening to the community, indigenous leadership development, and racial-reconciliation.

And not until just recently, did I begin to look intently at institutional racism and seek to understand it more in depth. Until reading this book, I would never have considered the high numbers of African-Americans incarcerated to be the result of a racist system actively at work today. I had never considered that black communities are often targeted and that blacks/whites use drugs at similar rates. My mind has been socially conditioned to justify illegal behavior of my teenage social experience and to criminalize that of others of a different race…particularly black males… and those from a lower socio-economic status. The high numbers of people being locked up who fit these descriptions have only served to reinforce my bias.

*Sinful nature. I can’t ignore our sinful human nature when I consider why we consciously or unconsciously have blinders on most of the time. In our sin, there’s blame, shame, fear, pride, greed, selfishness, hiding. We compete and compare. In our human nature, we set up value hierarchies. We try to gain power and control. We bite the hook and buy into lies all the time that abundant life and freedom are found in things, status, approval, wealth. All of Scripture points out the problem of our sinful nature, points us to a God who is about righteousness and justice, and introduces us to a Savior who can restore and reconcile us.

*Addictions. It’s really no surprise to me that so many live unaware or with blinders on. Scripture says, “Wake up, O Sleeper.” And we’re not just asleep in regards to racism. We live much of our lives in bondage to our addictions. Money, status, approval, comfort, sex, food, etc. become idols for us. In our addictions, we live in denial. We justify. We might know that something is wrong, and we might even intellectually be able to admit it, but changing is another story. First, we have to want to stop the addiction, but the addiction itself keeps us from wanting to. Then, once we desire to be free, we have to fight very hard, very “daily” for the change. We have to fight to stop the behavior, to rewire our brains, have a plan to live differently, discipline ourselves, have accountability, etc. We often give up and take the path of least resistance. And when the addiction is a cultural norm, it’s even more difficult to name it and fight it. Comfort, materialism, ease, power….all addictions/idolatry that fuel racism. In our human nature, people think of their addiction as something that frees them..that’s the nature of addiction… but in fact, addictions, or idols, enslave us and damage relationships. This is true as we consider racism.

*Status Quo. I know I've had my head in the sand because any listening, learning, acting outside of the “boxes” of the norm, might make me suspect to being too different. I don't think I'm alone. People like to be accepted. People don’t want to be rejected. Not many people “rock the boat” or risk going out on the limb to live differently. Herd mentality. Many Americans go to work, manage their houses and stuff, raise their kids, watch television, fill their schedules with sports and activity, and live on autopilot for the most part. I’m not sure the majority of people challenge the process or live very deeply, reflectively, or intentionally.

*Individualism. We are an individualistic culture. We tend to say, “I don’t have a problem with race.” Or “I have black friends.” We talk about personal responsibility, personal morals, etc. We can’t see racism from a systemic lens. I know that has been true of me most of my life. Not only that, our individualistic think keeps me from living for the good of the whole. It’s more about doing my part right where I am for me and my family. Seeking security, safety, comfort, progress, happiness for me and mine. Individualism keeps us from seeing the whole, caring about the whole community, or living outside of ourselves in a larger story.

*Overwhelmed. There are some pretty big giants in our world to fight. Racism, global poverty, world hunger, HIV/AIDS, Children soldiers, sex slave trade, environmental concerns, wars raging, natural disasters, economic crises, to name a few. People often feel overwhelmed and paralyzed because they feel the problems are too big. Besides, many people are overwhelmed right in their own daily lives with broken or strained marriages and relationships, debt and financial strain, raising children, health issues, managing schedules, work, etc... The battles on the homefront often zap the motivation and vision to look beyond home to issues that seem rather unrelated to their lives.

*Separateness. Our separateness is a big issue. We’re often encouraged to be a generous and kind family member, a good neighbor, co-worker, classmate. We’re told to “lead where we are” or to serve and be on mission right where we find ourselves in a day. The trouble is, we have set up our lives to be so separate from one another, that my serving and loving at school, work, neighborhood, church, etc… involves people who look and live an awful lot like me. Are there needs in these places? Loads. Lots of broken hearts and lives everywhere we go. But, with this reality, we won’t find ourselves naturally coming together with many people who are different than us. Most of us will need to intentionally come together with people of other races in order to build relationships and seek racial reconciliation.

For these reasons (and I'm sure others), our society stays largely stuck in matters of injustice such as racism. I'd love some of your thoughts if you're willing to share.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

the first two JFL graduates!

Two students from the first Jobs for Life course offered through our Harvest/OHC partnership have graduated from the 8 week course!

In their own words....

JFL helped me gain confidence in myself.
I have overcome the fear of talking to strangers.
I am headed in the right direction of being a positive member of society.
I believe in myself more than I did 8 weeks ago.
I want to go in whatever direction God points me in.
Sometimes roadblocks are put in your way by God to steer you in the right direction.
JfL helped me put goals into a realistic plan.

My prayers for these men to obtain and sustain work that will help them meet their financial needs and will help them use their gifts and grow their skills!