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The sad nation of bread and jam and other lessons

My new little friend whose name, she says, is Carrot, looks at me with a concerned face. She is eight years old and is trying to learn about the world she is living in. “So, in your country, what do you eat every day,” she asks. “Different things, like bread and potatoes,” I reply. This is when she starts feeling very sorry for me: “Oh, yes, I have heard that in your country you just eat bread and jam. It is a shame that you don’t have anything else to eat.” I want to defend myself and add: “Well, we also eat fish.” She is not impressed. “It must be hard for your people. You are never really full, are you? You should all move to our village where you could eat all the rice you want and feel really full.”

Carrot showing off her Play Doh sculpture.

Carrot showing off her Play Doh sculpture.

She and her friends are sitting on the porch of the house where we are staying stringing beads and making necklaces, rings and bracelets for themselves and for the members of our team. Carrot speaks up again: “Why don’t you have any green beads. These are only pink and purple ones.” “We are going to use green beans for something else later,” I explain. “And why do you want green anyway?” “Because green is the color of everything growing in the nature. That’s why,” she says and settles for the boring pinks and purples that have no meaning whatsoever.

After a while she has thought of a new question for me. “How long will it take you to get back to your country then?” “Two whole days,” I say, not including that this is just the flight home, not the two days it takes to drive to her village on the border of Burma. “Two days! That means you won’t get home until Thursday. Me, I have never been that far away from home. The furthest I have been is over there. See that village over there? That is the furthest I have been.”

As we keep stringing the beads there are other themes discussed as well. One of them is the two copulating dogs we saw on our way back from taking a bath in the river. “Did you see the two dogs we passed?” Carrot asks. I feel a little embarrassed to discuss what we had observed. Somehow I feel that teaching about reproduction is not part of my job description. I have to admit I passed the dogs quickly without looking too closely. For the children, however, it is just part of living in a village surrounded by animals. “Did you see those two dogs?” Asks Carrot. “Well, yes, I did happen to see them,” I reply and want to change the theme. “You know what it means, don’t you?” My little friend asks in a way that makes me understand she is checking how much we have learned about the cycle of life in our bread-eating country. I act ignorant. “OK, it means that in not too long we are going to have dog babies here in the village,” she patiently explains to me while she ties the ends of her necklace together. Then she tells me that she unfortunately has to leave the team and me now as she has other commitments. She needs to go home and take a bath and eat her dinner.

As I watch her leave I am confident that I have just met one of tomorrow’s leaders. I am so glad that it is girls like her that Partners help educate.

And here is Carrot's friend. I just had to add this picture because it is beautiful.

And here is Carrot’s friend. I just had to add this picture because it is beautiful.

Busting some old-time myths

It is a myth that when your kids get older, you will have more time on your hands.

No, life doesn't get less busy when the kids get older. It is just busy in a different way.

No, life doesn’t get less busy when the kids get older. It is just busy in a different way.

It is also a myth that Norwegians always ear Lefser and Lutefisk.

Today though, I decided to write about some other myths that are way more important to bust.

Myth 1: Everything that is fun, exotic, exciting, meaningful or popular costs money.

Busting Myth 1: No, there are lots of things you can do that are fun, exotic, exciting, meaningful and popular that doesn’t cost money. One of them is to become a Partners Advocate. It is totally free and you may end up having more fun that you thought possible.

Myth 2: To help poor and oppressed people, I have to move to a country far away.

Busting Myth 2: There is no need to move to a far away country to help the poor and the oppressed. In fact, you may help them even more by staying right where you are, in your own town. From the comfort of your own home you can become a Partners Advocate. You might even be able to arrange Partners Advocate meetings at your favorite coffee shop.

Myth 3: In order to make an impact on the world, I need to have a degree in something like, for example, a Masters in World-changing.

Busting Myth 3: Education is very good. That is why it is a focus for Partners to help children in Burma get an education. But, guess what? You don’t need a degree to become a Partners Advocate! What we ask for is a willing heart and a desire to help. With that you can go a long way in changing the world.

Myth 4: Helping people takes a lot of time.

Busting Myth 4: This myth could be true. Sometimes it takes a long time to help people. But one can also do a lot to help many in just a short amount of time. You can become a Partners Advocate and in just a couple of hours a month you could make a huge impact on children affected by war. You could still have time to watch your favorite TV show or go for a run.

Myth 5: People who work with Partners are all perfect, smart and beautiful.

Busting Myth 5: All you need to do to bust this myth is to spend a little bit of time with us. We are far from perfect. That is why we need Jesus so much. We know our limitations and shortcomings. The amazing thing is that God uses us anyway. You will most likely have the same experience if you sign up to become a Partners Advocate. God will use you to do things you thought were impossible.

See, people in Partners can be really nerdy and still find their place.

See, people in Partners can be really nerdy and still find their place.

Myth 6: Blogs are a waste of time.

Busting Myth 6: My friend thinks I am wasting my time writing a blog. It is up to you to prove him wrong! Sign up to become a Partners Advocate today and I will let him know he was wrong!

 

New life in many forms

New life is a miracle every time.

If you Google new life, you will, in less than a second, get six billion five hundred thousand sites. I am serious. Try it! That is almost one new life for every citizen in the world on Google. Not surprisingly, most sites are either churches or other places related to new life in Jesus. Some also write about new life in a new place, or new life after they almost died. I guess, since it is mentioned so often, new life is something many of us are longing for.

These days I am thinking about and observing new life daily. It comes with the season. Some weeks ago, Kristin and I planted seeds in small pots. Now they are sprouting and will be nutritions vegetables or colorful flowers. From the seeds come new life. On the road to the grocery store we pass a couple of farms where little lambs tumble on the meadows like cotton balls. Spring brings new life. In crude nests by the ocean close to our houses the geese have put their eggs, and now they are watching over them with their own lives on the line. Soon balls of fur will follow the adult geese out into the ocean, decorating it with new life.

Yesterday I got photos from Partners farm in Thailand. A cute little calf was born. She is a girl and has big ears and kind eyes. I was so happy to see those photos of new life being brought forth at our farm, confirming that with the life at the farm, new life will also be given to hundreds of people.

I heard a story today. In Kachin state, where a terrible war has been raging for more than three years Seng K lives with 1700 displaced people in a crowded camp. Life, the way it used to be, is but a memory. He is 57 years old and has worked with Partners for a while now, doing community support network. Mai also lives in the same camp as Seng K. Her husband has been away fighting for the freedom of their people for a long time. Mai had three children already, and now she expected twins.

Mai with her new babies and two of her other kids. Next to her is Seng K, the person who made it possible for Mai to go to the hospital (along with the generous people who gave money)

Mai with her new babies and two of her other kids. Next to her is Seng K, the person who made it possible for Mai to go to the hospital (along with the generous people who gave money)

 

To deliver twins can be scary under any circumstance. Think about how it would be to deliver, not one, but two babies, in a crowded and primitive clinic in a camp for displaced people. Even the staff at the clinic was pessimistic about the prospect of delivering the twins there. But, a few hours away there was a hospital where she would get proper care. The only problem was: Mai didn’t own a car, and she had no money for transportation. It would cost as much as 15 USD to get her there. That was a lot more money than Mai owned. 

The small community of people who had lost their homes and everything they owned, including family members, heard of Mai. They have no income and no reason to believe they will get an income any time soon.They are struggling to feed their own children. They live in the most basic conditions. And yet they were willing to help Mai! All of them gave a little bit of money, and soon they had the 15 USD she needed. Off she went, and the delivered two healthy babies. New life in the midst of death and sadness. What a reason that is to be hopeful!

Mai’s life is as hard, if not harder, than before. Now she needs to provide for five children, not just three. But even though it is hard, she knows this: She is surrounded by people who cares about her and her children. She has experienced that firsthand. My prayer is that the twins will grow up with a new life for Kachin state.

Happy spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dalai Lama conspiracy

It has been one of those days. Or should I say weeks, or month. The glaciers are melting around the world and this will have terrible consequences. I think it sucks that our leaders can’t figure out that it is more important to protect our planet from further damage than to listen to the lobbyists who claim that they will be politically dead if they pass policies that will harm the oil companies or other climate bullies. Then I am catching a cold and that is in spite of a daily ration of cod liver oil, C vitamins and lots of the green stuff that is really good for you, in powdered form.

My dog, who we were told does not shed, now has so much hair that he leaves black hair balls around the room, and also, most of the sand and mud around our place gets stuck in his fur. Until he comes inside. Then it falls off. My husband is gone and our car has problems so big we will be in financial ruin if the car company won’t cover it. The farmers are spraying cow poop on the fields and it smells like cow poop. And this is just the beginning.

Our government is so bad they keep me awake at night. I lay there, while the moon is gently looking in through my window, and think about how I can contribute to get rid of them. They are going to ruin our country with all their stupid ideas, and not only that. They refuse to meet Dalai Lama! Dalai Lama, you people! They won’t meet him because China told them they couldn’t and that kind of settled it for our prime minister, foreign minister and other members of the government. When China heard that Norway obeyed them, they said that there are more things they need to obey too, one of them was that they are never ever allowed to congratulate a Nobel Peace Prize winner whom China doesn’t like.

Dalai Lama says dangerous stuff like: “Every single being, even those who are hostile to us, is just as afraid of suffering as we are, and seeks happiness in the same way we do. Every person has the same right as we do to be happy and not to suffer. So let’s take care of others wholeheartedly, of both our friends and our enemies. This is the basis for true compassion.”

Dalai Lama says dangerous stuff like: “Every single being, even those who are hostile to us, is just as afraid of suffering as we are, and seeks happiness in the same way we do. Every person has the same right as we do to be happy and not to suffer. So let’s take care of others wholeheartedly, of both our friends and our enemies. This is the basis for true compassion.”

My kids have at times been bullied. And I always tell them that they cannot ever let the bullies tell them what to do. Stand up for yourself, I say. It seems like our government did not have parents who taught them how to stand up to bullies.

It is a big issue for me. The thing with the glaciers is big. And I may get back to that at a later stage. The thing with my cold and our broken car is also big, in a small sense. But right now I am thinking about Dalai Lama and our leaders. How in the world am I going to trust leaders who will not take a stand for what is right? How can I trust leaders who say one thing, and do another? How can I trust leaders who change opinion depending on what they see is at stake? How can I trust leaders who appear to think that money and good business is more important than doing what is right? How can I trust leaders who turn their back to those who are weak and embrace the mighty and powerful? The answer is easy. I can’t.

And I don’t. I don’t trust my government. I don’t believe they have the interest of the people in mind. I think they have the interest of themselves and the ones who will keep them in power in mind.

This is how I feel right now.

This is how I feel right now. This is me in Burma, at a hotel with pretty ugly teak furniture and plastic flowers.

This has led me to take a look at myself and my stand too. Are there times that I am afraid to take a stand because I know what is at stake? There are. It is in a much smaller scale, of course, since I am just the size of a banana fly compared to the people in our governments. But the principle is the same. I need to stand for something. And I need to stand for it even when it is not the popular stand, even when it means I will lose friends, like China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you risk your life to give strangers food?

Here are some brave people. Shan young en and women going to school to become teachers in some of the poorest villages you can imagine. Photo by Jon Ivar Solberg

Here are some brave people. Shan young en and women going to school to become teachers in some of the poorest villages you can imagine. Photo by Jon Ivar Solberg

“I am brave, but I am chicken sH_t,” sings Alanis Morissette. That is exactly how I feel. I am brave as long as I know that I will probably be safe in the end. I can do things that others call brave, but the real truth is that I can hardly take an ice-cold “bucket shower” without cringing. It is unlikely that I would ever throw myself in front of a tank in order to save lives. In theory I would, but I doubt that I would actually ever dare to.

The exception to my chicken poop-attitude would probably be if something were happening to my kids. Then I would likely turn into a vicious and rabid tiger with saliva dripping between my killer teeth. Would the same tiger attitude come to life if the lives of people I don’t know and whose language I don’t speak were in danger? I would love to say yes, but I have to admit that I just don’t know.

There is a man in Norway who the media and my country folks refer to as a hero. He is a hero because at the age of 40 he still wins Olympic medals. He is a hero because he goes to bed early and rises with the sun in order to get the maximum impact from his workout routine. He never drinks alcohol and at times he does all his hand shaking with gloves on so he won’t get any weird bacteria attacking his athletic body and giving him a common cold or worse. He is a hero in our country.

I think he is a good athlete, but a hero? Not even close.

Yesterday I heard of a hero. Actually two. Two men whom I know are both risking their lives in order to get food to the starving Rohingyas in Rakhine state, Burma. You may think that giving food to starving people is not an act that involves the risk of somebody’s life. Difficult? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Dirty? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. But dangerous? Why would it be dangerous?

Because the people these two men are trying to help are wanted dead by the government in Burma. I am not making this up. I know that this is not 1942 and the ruler of Nazi Germany is not waging a war against anybody who does not look like his image of a perfect human being. I know we are in 2014 and we don’t normally starve people to death any more. And if somebody tries to, the world usually reacts with outrage and loud cries.

But not so with the Rohingya. When the government kicked out all foreign aid organizations a few weeks ago it left the 140 000 Rohingya internally displaced people completely desolate. “The parents can only sit and watch their children starve to death,” said one of our friends who is also a refugee. It is a little strange to me that the world cares more about the trial of Oscar Pistorious than about this fact.

Anyhow. My point is that there are two men out there somewhere—and I don’t even know exactly where—risking their safety and freedom in order to get food to some thousands who we know are starving. They are doing this to people whose names they don’t know, whose language they don’t speak, whose religion they don’t share, but whose future they care about.

I am in awe. And I am glad that not all the world is full of chicken-poops, but of people who dare to act on their convictions. May many of us dare to do the same, even though it may cost us our reputation, our comfort and even our lives.

Is the world a good or a bad place? What do you think?

What a crazy three weeks it has been! What amazing people I have met! What many different places I have been sleeping. What strange food I have been eating. What many tears I have been crying. What many laughs I have been having.

I am sitting in a tiny hotel room in Malaysia now. There is water rationing in the city, so we get water two days and no water for two days. Today is a no-water day. Luckily the hotel and us had the foresight to fill some big bucket of water so we can wash and flush the toilet.

Did you know that in Malaysia they have train cars for ladies only! Cool. Steve really wanted to go inside.

Did you know that in Malaysia they have train cars for ladies only! Cool. Steve really wanted to go inside.

It is a wake-up call to all of us who are here together studying about climate change and its severe effects on the planet, and consequently, on us as well. It should be no surprise that in the years to come water will become scarce some places, and there will be too much of it other places.

The three weeks that have passed have been full of impressions. I have met more people than I can count.

My camera and I became friends on this trip. You will see some of the photos shoonish.

My camera and I became friends on this trip. You will see some of the photos shoonish.

 

I have sat with Buddhist monks and listened to their ideas and stories on how to improve their villages. I have watched 40 kids crammed together into a primitive structure that they call school, diligently writing in the only notebook they own.

Cute little school girl in Shan state

Cute little school girl in Shan state

I have sat in cars with local leaders who have risked taking us to areas that are not totally safe. I have been to a clinic that only had a small shelf of medicines and two nurses who both work there for free. I have listened our staff sharing about how they do their work with such excellence. I have gotten to know people who are small in size, but gigantic heroes nevertheless, here in Malaysia.

My head is full of impressions. My heart is full of gratitude for all the wonderful people that I have gotten to share my life with. What a strange world we live in. When I look in one direction I feel so encouraged about the state of mankind. Our world is carried on the shoulders of the small heroes in the villages and the cities that we rarely get to hear about. Then I look in the opposite direction, and all I see is death, hate, lies and unspeakable violence. How can it happen in the same world as the world where monks build schools for small children, and executives give up their wealth to help the poor get food?

While I am sitting here in my waterless hotel room, our staff is diligently working on finding funds and ways to help our dear friends, the Rohingya. Again (or should I say still) the world seems to turn their back to them. Desolate, alone, rejected and lied about hundreds of thousands of them are facing tomorrow without anything to eat, with no medicine for their children and no hope of ever getting to live a life in dignity.

And at the same time, while I am sitting here, thinking about this, there are people around the planet who live with the poor in slums, give blood, start urban gardens, take in street children, feed stray dogs, bake for their sick neighbor, use their wedding to get money for the poor, visit the lonely, give their allowances to refugees, become foster parents, stop shopping for a year, advocate for justice in the corridors of power, help prostitutes find jobs, give small business loans to diligent women, start seed banks for rural farmers, buy Fair Trade, try to save the polar bears, eat vegetarian, sleep with lepers, treat the sick, and so many more things that I haven’t even heard of.

It is a wonderful and a terrible world we live in.

 

 

 

 

 

The things you think at an international airport.

Airports feel like such places of lost time. We are all in transit here, walking around with our carry-ons, wondering if we ought to buy something at Duty Free. We look at the screens displaying departure times, gates and other messages. We bump into people we never will see again. We breathe old air that has been recycled a thousand times. Some people take the opportunity to drink beer for breakfast. Others buy the gossip magazines they don’t want to be seen reading other places.

Comfortable, but not pretty

Comfortable, but not pretty

I am on my way to Burma and I put on funny shoes when I left snowy Norway. The shoes are OK for warm climate, but while I am still in Scandinavia I had to wear socks with them. And to make matters worse, I chose thick purple socks. They are very visible below my black pants, and I would never have chosen such nerd-dom had I not been traveling with people I don’t know, and, like I said, most likely will never see again.

It may be a stretch, but an airport is a miniature world. And the people wandering here are a picture of how life is for too many of us. Walking aimlessly. Pushing our stuff around. Avoiding talking to the people that may be sitting so close to us that we are actually touching each other. Watching things that give no meaning, but that makes time pass. Waiting for something to happen, but not really sure what it is. Eating crap.

The privilege of having Gold status with an airline is not mine. I want it badly, but I think the tickets I buy are too cheap to qualify for bonus points. Or something. But today I paid 20 dollars and was allowed access to a lounge together with many business men all dressed in white shirts. They are walking about with their iPhones and headphones talking loudly to the person in the phone. They are saying things like: “But I told you already what the deadline for the deal is, and it hasn’t changed.” “My associate said that when we signed the contract it was agreed that we will assume this responsibility.” “I attended a workshop with the CEO and he had some brilliant insights into the current affairs.” They say all this so loudly while they are holding their phones with one hand and a glass of Scotch with another. What do I know? Is there actually a person at the other end of the line, or are they just pretending to be important? Could it be that they actually don’t have any friends, no job and not even a Gold card on an airline? Could it be that they too just paid a little bit of money go come in here so that they can get the feeling of importance and of status?

Me, I spent the time finishing a magazine and drinking some wine while watching airplanes come and go.

Me, I spent the time finishing a magazine and drinking some wine while watching airplanes come and go.

Did they post a photo on their Twitter account? (You do know, don’t you that this generation of VIPs are not that keen on Facebook, and Instagram is for their kids. It is Twitter that counts now.) Did they post a photo of the wine glass and the incandescent lights in the background and title the photo: “On my way to a meeting in Brussels?” It is impossible for me to guess. I will never know.

I do know this though: I have been sitting here for three hours now. I have also had  a glass of red wine and some soup that tasted gross. I have been incredibly productive with my time at the airport. I have worked and I have crossed things off my to-do-list. My socks keep my feet warm and the time in transit has helped me get ahead of the work I knew I needed to do. I have on purpose not talked on the phone, and I have not tried to look important. But, it is very possible that some people have watched me sitting here for this whole time and wondered what my problem is. They may have thought that I am on the computer for this long just so that I can look like I have a job. They may look at my socks and wonder how I ended up at an airport lounge since my style is so out-of-date. But it is more likely that nobody has even taken any notice of me. I am just a person occupying a chair.

It is strange how small an airport makes you feel.

 

 

 

You may have heard of the 5.2 diet. But have you heard of the 2.5?

This baby. I don't know if he lives any more. He was so malnourished and weak. A little formula from me wasn't going to be enough for him to grow up. This was a Rohingya baby who was denied food from the Burma government.

This baby. I don’t know if he lives any more. He was so malnourished and weak. A little formula from me wasn’t going to be enough for him to grow up. This was a Rohingya baby who was denied food from the Burma government.

Cynical people are not my favorites. I get the feeling they are just sitting around thinking the worst of all of us. And even when we try to be good, they are sure we have ulterior motives. But then, there are days when my own cynicism creep up to the surface. Then I just think it is natural and useful. 

Right now I have one of those days of extreme cynicism. It has to do with diets. 

The new craze

There is a new craze that many of you may have heard of, and even tried. What do I know. It may help you lose a few pounds. But to me, the talk of this diet, and what it promotes, has again reminded me of the sick world we live in. 

The 5.2 diet is great. It is great because for five days a week you can keep eating as much as you want. Then for two days you eat very little. In other words, you can keep up your unhealthy life style for five days a week and starve yourself for two. You  can indulge in meat and caviar, in wine and truffles as much as you want. And on the two fasting days you can dream about what you are going to eat next week. 

What is wrong with our world?

We live in a world that is beautiful. It is inhabited by people who are miraculous. ( I say this hesitantly, because right away a list comes to mind with names such as Mugabe, Putin, Thein Sein, and Kim Jong-un) At the same time we are so messed up!

What is wrong with a world where more than 1,4 billion people are overweight? What is wrong with a world where people make millions from trying to help people lose weight? What is wrong when in the same world, children die every second from lack of food?

The 2.5 diet

This is when I want to say: I met some mothers some months ago. They came up to me carrying their infants while their toddlers tugged on their skirts. With their fingers they showed me how many days it had been since they last ate. Some of them showed me five fingers. It is not unrealistic to say that for those women in the refugee camp in Rakhine state, their diet consist of eating for two days and fasting for five. They live the 2.5 diet. This is not so that they would lose weight. This is because there is no food to eat.

This is what I want to say to all of us who have a hard time eating just the right amount when so much is offered. This is a word to all of us who find it hard to resist temptations. This is to all of us who have a few too many pounds:

Two simple tricks 

Eat less. Exercise more. There are no shortcuts. When you want that bowl of ice-cream you know you shouldn’t eat, put the money it would cost in a jar and send it to Partners. When you are tempted to take a second helping with gravy on top, think about the mothers who haven’t eaten for days. When you feel you deserve a bag of chips with your Friday beer, then drink some tea and give the beer money to the poor (I know, this one hurts).

This may sound like I am guilt tripping you. And you know what, I am.

Wasted food

Just in little Norway with our five million people we throw away a staggering 377,000 tons of food every year. Reports from the US and the UK suggest that as much as half of all the food that gets produced gets thrown away. 

This at the same time as 21,000 die every day from starvation or other diseases related to lack of food.  

Add that to all the overweight related diseases people suffer from, and even die from, and you will have to agree: Something is seriously wrong. 

 

 

 

What do you think are the three essentials in life?

Boy, do I remember my days as a radical activist of 18. Life was so easy. It was mostly black and white. You were either good or bad. It was easy to categorize the world into neat compartments. The poor and the rich, the conservative and the liberal, the healthy and the unhealthy, the smart and the stupid. I would always, and I mean always, sympathize with the poor. And I considered myself liberal, healthy (I ate whole wheat and raw foods), and smart. I also thought that all smart people would agree with me.

Life was easy when the solutions were simple

Life was easy when the solutions were simple

Now I see that life is not that simple. Some people are smart who don’t agree with me. Some poor people are jerks. Many rich people are incredibly kind. People can eat healthy and still get cancer. Others can live on Coke and chips and stay skinny. Life is not straight forward, black and white. Life is not fair. And life is not predictable.

Now, as a middle aged woman I have learned that most people care mostly about themselves and the sphere they live in. I read in the new today that the members of the International Olympic committee are going to change the rule that says they can only stay in the committee until they are 80. They think that is too young to resign. They feel discriminated.

I read the news and try to understand the conflict in Ukraine and the more I read, the less I do understand. Just trying to keep the names of the actors straight is a challenge. Never mind who is for the engagement with the West and who is for the East. And who is the less corrupt of the ones who are struggling for power.

I see that the president in Uganda says that gay people are disgusting. So he signed a bill that will allow the police to arrest and imprison gay people because they are gay.

What a messed up world!

I read that the world has stopped caring for the people in Syria. The world is a bit bored with the whole situation. Been there, done that. Tell me something new instead. Not the same old story about children getting killed, of a generation lost, of millions without blankets in the cold. That is so…Yesterday.

Today my friend and colleague in Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith published a report with undeniable proof of the Burma government’s systematic and planned discrimination, oppression and harassment of the Rohingya population. And after the release the government of Myanmar came right back and said: “The government does not remark on baseless accusations from Bengali lobbyist groups.” What else could they say except to admit that what the report said is correct?

I am working on a degree in development. Not that I have the time, but I do have the desire. We are studying the effects of climate change this semester. If you want to get really, really depressed, then study that.

The paper I have to read this week challenges my brain cells, and has forced me to drink more coffee than I should. But it is challenging in a good way. It is written by Archbishop Rowan Williams, and he says good stuff. One of his points in this paper is that the real problem with climate change, as well as other social issues is that we have lost a sense of what life is. We are disconnected and need to be reintroduced to life. He goes on to say that saving the human future is inseparable from  securing a future for all living things. Later he talks about how we need to understand that we all live in a shared world, not a world that belongs to ourselves. 

I felt encouraged in a weird way as I read this. To save our planet from climate destruction, from moral and ethical destruction, we need to be reintroduced to life. We need to start connecting with the things that really matter. And if I build that down to the essentials, I think I am left with just three things: God, relationships and nature. Botox, exotic travels, decadent meals, leather boots and designer purses don’t make it on the list of essentials. We lived in a shared world. That is what it is all about.

 

 

Does Jesus care about missions? Really?

I am going to convince some 40 youth that missions is cool. Before that I am also going to convince my family to do the house cleaning for me. I am not sure which challenge is bigger. It is possible that I will wake up tomorrow feeling like both my undertakings failed.

In preparing to talk to the youth I have asked myself what I think about mission myself. I was once a missionary, you know. So I better know what it is and why it is important. The first important thing to realize is that the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about mission or missionary.

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The second thing to understand is that the meaning of mission or missionary is not to go to another country and tell the people there that they will go to hell unless they change their religion, their culture, their diet and their friends. There are many definitions of the word mission in the dictionary, the one closest to what I think we think about when we think mission is: the vocation or calling of a religious organization, esp. a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith. Makes sense, right?

But what does it mean to spread our faith, and why does it even matter?

This is what I am going to have to explain to the teens. And to myself.

I often feel ashamed of being a Christian. Not because of what the Bible tells me to believe and do. I am ashamed of being associated with so many knuckle heads. Sorry to say it, but I am.

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I am ashamed of being associated with the TV evangelists who, in my mind, are just one step above absolute clowns. I am ashamed of being associated with the conservative and judgmental Christians who have nothing better to do than to point fingers at everybody but themselves. I am ashamed of being associated with the people who are not able to love the gays, the homeless, the single mothers and the anarchists, the socialists, the rock stars, the ones with the tattoos and the ones who smoke pot. I don’t want to be one of those people. And I don’t want one of them to be empowered and justified in going around the world sharing their faith either. Because that kind of faith is not the faith I have received. It is not a faith I have found in the Bible.

So when I talk about missions, I need to be able to articulate what that means. To me personally, but also what I believe the Bible wants us to think about missions.

I was reading a special kind of Bible as I was preparing for the lesson I am going to teach. It is a Bible called the Poverty and Justice Bible.Fear not, the words are the same. The difference is that every verse that mentions poverty or justice in the Bible is highlighted. And you know how many verses that is? More than 2000.

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It is clear to me that the mission of Christians is not to go out and condemn people for their tastes in clothes, music or even love life. Our mission is to care for the poor and the oppressed. Just to figure out if 2000 verses mentioning poverty and justice was a lot, I compared it to some other words that you might think are important in the Christian faith. Sin for example. It was mentioned 400 times. Approximately. And prayer. Just about the same.

So, yes, when we are talking about missions, we need to talk about Jesus and who he is. But it seems to me that equally important is the fact that Jesus cares about the weakest, the poorest, the most unlovely, the most unwanted, the most oppressed, the ugliest, the smelliest, the hungriest, the coldest, the dirtiest. And if he cares, so should we. Why does he care, and why should we care? Because he knows that behind each of our masks is a jewel. And it is that jewel he cares about. And it is the uniqueness of each person we are called to see and love. And it is that each person is loved for who they are that is our mission.

This is what I am going to try to make 40 teens understand. This is what I need to understand too.

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