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Posts tagged ‘Justice’

People are fleeing because I want too many shoes

Rohingya IDPs

Rohingya IDPs

My friend said this: The refugee crisis we have in the world at the moment is because we have too much stuff. For some seconds I thought he was not entirely in touch with the state of affairs we are in right now—here on planet Earth.

It seems to me we have a refugee crisis because rotten leaders are leading rottenly, and people fleeing just have rotten luck all the way. My cluttered attic has less to do with the current plight. Is my over-stuffed shoe-shelf the reason millions are fleeing warn-torn countries?

We live in an unjust world, my friend continued, and I thought he was getting closer to the core issue. But still I wasn’t sure about the issue of my stuff. My closet is bulging. This causes stress whenever I buy a new dress or shirt because I am out of hangers. But I never considered that it would cause families to pack a few belongings and head for an unknown future in an unknown land.

The uncomfortable truth is that my friend is right. I knew it all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Realizing one is part of the problem is never a good feeling. Realizing that solving the problem will require giving up some of what I think is rightfully mine stings. Fact: I have been teaching teenagers the exact same thing over the past week. I just didn’t want my theory to affect my own comfortable lifestyle.

Why do people get trafficked? I would ask the teens. Why do wars start? Why do people flee their homes, leaving all they know and love behind? The answer varied every time I asked. But sooner or later a bright youngster would raise his or her hand and ask: Is it because of poverty? Bingo! said I. Then somebody else would add: And oppression? Score! I replied.

When parents can’t feed their children, when governments don’t build schools in villages, when adults have no jobs to go to, when vaccines cost more than a family can pay, when doctor fees are higher than a monthly income, when privileges are not yours because of your race, skin color or religion, people feel desperate. When, in addition to an already impossible situation, soldiers come and attack, people  seem to do one of three things:

1. They continue to be desperate and hope the situation will change, trying their best to improve it. 2. They join a group that will use whatever means possible to bring what they perceive justice to be. This may not be justice the way we think of it. This may be “justice” in the form of revenge. 3. They flee.

Then there is the other question that is harder to answer: Why are people poor and oppressed? We could answer that they are poor because they come from poor countries. But that is not necessarily true. In Myanmar people are ranked among the world’s poorest. Yet, the country is bursting with natural resources. The reasons nations are poor are as many as beads on a pearl necklace. For many it started all those years ago when the countries were colonized and plundered. Kind of like getting polio as a child and never recovering. Not that I am an expert on the theme, but it seems to me that every country that once was a colony is still trying to learn how to walk. Think Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar and others. That the leaders who have led since have been as capable as sea slugs have made already big problems bigger.

One would think that western nations who once stole resources and distorted cultures would want to make things better now that we are wealthy and fine, and they are still stuck in the mud. What poor nations are given by the West, however, are unfair trade deals, aid dependency and climate change.

So I am getting myself into a tangle here, and while I am struggling to put my thoughts together, I see myself getting labels such as communist and worse. I am not. I am just trying to understand why the world it so unfair, and I am seeing that the answer is not black and white. There is no one correct answer to the question: Why do people flee their homes and their countries? There is no simple solution. All I know is this: It is so heart-wrenchingly unfair.

One can have many opinions on economics and the solution to poverty. I am not an economist, just an ordinary woman who knows about myself that I could do so much more. One of the things I could do is to stop spending my money on stuff that I don’t really need, just want. So in that respect my friend was absolutely right. If all of us just spent a little less on ourselves, and a little more on them, we would already be a on the way to solving the refugee crisis. If we also could convince our leaders that cheap gas, diamonds, teak furniture, new smart phones every two years and designer purses don’t matter that much to us, then they too may start changing their politics.

Jesus was ahead of us in his thinking, and I wish we would all be better at following his example and commands:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)












Can lives be saved on Facebook?

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to say something. It has been brewing for months. No, let’s say years. And now it is at the boiling point. Or, should we say it is boiling over. I am of course talking about the crazy, insane, terrible, heart wrenching, atrocious, to-cry-over refugee situation that is unfolding in front of our eyes in Europe.

The last couple of weeks the images of desperate people fleeing the horrors of war have haunted me. The photo of the weeping dad holding his children.

refugee crisis 3

Photo by Daniel Etter

The photo of families creeping under the barbed-wire fences built to keep them out. Children crying. The photo of the dad with a sleeping child on his shoulders, selling pens to provide for his family.

syrian dad

Unknown photographer

And today, the photos of little Aylan dead on a beach in Turkey.

refugee crisis 2


Later watching an interview with his dad, full of grief and guilt. He was not able to save his little family from drowning. Now his two sons and his wife are all gone. “All I want to do is to sit by their graves,” he said, lips quivering.

I have watched the news and read the papers, I have followed the trail of refugees online and I have marveled at our politicians and leaders who seem to be moving in molasses when decisions have to be made. Worse still are the politicians who consistently claim that our countries cannot and should not, under any circumstance, allow any of these desperate people to cross our borders. I watch, listen and wonder how they got in a position of power. Who were the people who elected them? Not my friends, I hope.

Little by little it is dawning on me: Why am I sitting here, watching the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen since WWII unfold in front of my eyes? Why am I waiting for our politicians to make up their minds about the value of human lives? Why do I think that I am personally exempt from getting involved? These people are me, they are my children, my husband, my friends and neighbors. Why should I not personally help them?

While discouraged about the lack of concern of the world leaders, and appalled by callous attitudes by some, I am also starting to see a movement across the world. I read today about a couple who sold their car and their vacation tickets to get money to help. I heard of a man seeing the photo of the dad selling pens for a living finding out who the man in the photo was, then raising thousands of dollars for him and his family. ( I hear of families giving away their clothes and other belongings, of others offering a place to stay. I hear of children doing bake sales, and of grandmothers raising funds.

There may be some big mouths with loud voices saying that we are over-burdened, and in no place to help desperate people. There may be people in power who are more concerned by the next election than by people coming to their shores. But am starting to see that there is also a new move, a wave of people who are willing to do more than talk. They are taking the issue in their own hands and they are doing the only right thing to do: Getting involved.

They are doing more than clicking Like on Facebook posts. They are doing something that involve sacrifice and work. They are refusing to let history to be made. They are making history. They are not the bystanders. They are the movers. May the number of people like these multiply many times!

As I am writing this I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

Where is the easiest place to spot a fake Christian?

Today’s riddle: When can you see if a person is a real Christian or not?

My answer to my own, pretty lame riddle is this: When they are waiting in line to get food.

And why do I think so?

It’s because I have seen it with my own eyes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

Last week Partners was honored to get to serve two meals a day to the participants at a large Christian festival in the south of Norway. To the festival came well-known Christian leaders and preachers. Many of them carried labels stating their importance on their shirts. Many came to the festival to minister as either intercessors or as counselors. This I also noticed on their badges. Then there were the normal Christians who were there just to get some good spiritual fellowship and teaching. Not to mention worship and prayer. All of this is well. In the sanctuaries where the meetings were held people lifted their hands in worship. Words of the Lord were shared. Insightful teachings were delivered. Prayers were prayed.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

But then there was time to get in the food line. The line was long, and the amount of food per person was calculated with pretty good accuracy. It was going to be enough for everyone if everyone ate just their share.

Something happens to Christians when they are hungry, and, even worse, when they think there may not be enough food for them. It appears all their Christian virtues were left in the sanctuary. Because while waiting in line, I saw more people pushing, cutting in line, taking more food for themselves than they were allowed, and using bad language to the servers if they didn’t get what they thought they were entitled to. They refused to move if they didn’t get more than we had given them. They rarely said thank you.

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne's. I look like I wanted to put poison in people's food. (I didn't want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne’s. I look like I wanted to put poison in people’s food. (I didn’t want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

You know the worst offenders? The big-shots. The ones who believed they had “the anointing.” The ones believing about themselves that since they were so spiritual, they deserved to cut ahead of others in line, and get seconds before the rest got firsts. I had a few intercessors forget about their calling too, and there were counselors in the lines that I would not recommend you get counseling from. If you know what I mean.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

Then there were the ones who waited until everybody had eaten. By then, the best stuff was often gone. Left was pasta without sauce, or hamburgers with no hamburgers, just the buns and tomatoes. Some of them made loud complaints. Understandably. But there were also the precious few who smiled and thanked us for the dry pasta and said that this was all they needed.

I thought a lot about this during the week. The people waiting in the lines every day were mostly well-fed. Many of them too well-fed, I would have to say. I doubt that a single one of them had ever not had enough food to eat. None of them had ever really starved. So why were they so stressed, so selfish, so inconsiderate, and so greedy?

It dawned on me that what I saw in the food lines at the conference was a microcosm of our world. And now I talk about the Christian world. (I could talk about the world as a whole too, but this time I want to point fingers at Christians.)

How can we, in all sincerity, worship God and quote His word, and be all good Christians when in church, when among our own peers, when in places where it is easy to fake it, but then forget all about the teachings of Jesus when we are hungry? Why do we forget about what Jesus said about the first being the last (or was in vice versa?)

You know where I am going, don’t you? The thing about that there was enough food for everybody, if everybody just took their share. That is true. The problem is that you, I and millions of us, who call ourselves followers of Jesus even, don’t just take seconds before all have gotten to eat. We take thirds, fourths, fifths and sixth…we take a hundred portions before we allow somebody else to get a few dried macaronis.

I am trying to lose weight, for heaven’s sake! Today I ate too much—again. Portions too big, and too many.  I am saying to my family that we have got to get rid of some of all the clutter. We have stuff falling out the windows. Before the world’s starving children get to eat until they are full every day, I want a chance to have a  raw food, low carb, high protein, gluten free, grain free, Paleo, lactose free, vegan, vegetarian diet, with super foods such as quinoa, chia, goji, hemp, wheat grass, coconut oil and wild salmon. These are foods and diets that will make me stronger, prettier, live longer, have less wrinkles, run faster, do more push-ups and make my hair shiny. These are all such good things for me that I can’t afford not getting it, and, sorry to all the ones further back in the line. I hope there will be some Wonder bread and grape jelly left for you when it is your turn. I am sorry that you happened to be be born in the part of the world where you were born, and with the parents that you got, and the climate and the government you were given. I am really sorry, but not so sorry that I am willing to trade places with you. I need my green tea. 

I was so angry with some of the people in the food line that I at times just threw the food on their plate as a way to show my disgust with their selfishness. But when I got back in the evening, I was met with something scary: My own reflection in the mirror, and a message that I believe was from God himself: Dont judge others unless you want to be judged yourself. 

How far does your love reach?

It struck me that she was just like me

It hit me that she was just like me

It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.

The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.

The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated  25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.

Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.

My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.

We can give them bottles of water. We can give them some bags of food. We can hand out fever-reducing medicines and pills to stop diarrhea. We can film and document. We can take pictures of crying mothers and begging men. We can show photos that the world can choose to see, or not to see. But we cannot save them! The only thing we have to offer is some relief from their pain, and we can buy them some time before they die on sea anyway. Unless a miracle happen.

The miracle would be if these people were allowed to return to their own villages and live the life they long for the most: A life without persecution and closed doors.

Recently I read a quote by a man named Jarle Haugland that has stuck with me ever since: How far do we have to be removed from our close relationships before other things become more important than other people’s lives?

Are these people’s lives as important as our own lives, or are they just too far away? Do the millions of refugees from Syria or Myanmar have the same value as our closest family? If the answer is YES, then why don’t we care more? If the answer is YES, then why do our elected leaders continue to trade with nations, like Myanmar, who treat people this way? If the answer is yes, then what do we answer a child who asks: Why don’t anybody want us? If we call ourselves Christians, how can we justify not loving our neighbor as ourselves.

There is a lot about this crisis on lots of news media. Start by checking out our Webpage. Then like our Facebook page. Thereafter you can read these articles.Do read Fortify’s latest publication as well.

Thomas the Tank Engine has also become a show off

Really sucks to be a Polar Bear these days

Really sucks to be a Polar Bear these days (Photo credit:

Since the world is in such a state as it currently is, the best option for us would be to not get out of bed. Basically, no matter how we look at it, we are screwed. Sorry to break it to you, but anybody who says anything else is lying.

There may be a terrorist in every neighborhood. Countries are disappearing under water. The oceans are polluted with dioxins and other crap, making our seafood carcinogenic. The garbage incinerators send toxins into the air that falls down into the grass that the cows eat, making meat some of the worst things we can eat, along with cabbage, I presume. Our youngsters don’t know how to spell, much less write cursive. Species are disappearing. The rainforests are diminishing at rapid speed, while ISIS continues to grow. Thousands are dying at sea, and if they don’t die, they are likely to end up as slaves, fishing shrimps, or sewing our cheap t-shirts. And now I read that Thomas the Tank Engine has become a bad role model for children, who, according to The Guardian, “frequently shrink his responsibilities in order to compete against the others to show off.”

Even Thomas the Tank Engine is taking on the values of the world. He has become selfish.

Even Thomas the Tank Engine is taking on the values of the world. He has become selfish. (Photo credit:

What are the odds of making it, whether you are rich or poor?

There are times when I think of this, and feel doomed. But mostly, I just go on with my days. Answering emails. Paying bills. Drinking coffee. Downloading an app that will help me stay in shape. Honestly, I try to avoid reading too much on global warming, about the homeless people in Nepal or about the rise of cancer world-wide. It just makes me depressed. And why bother?

I guess I should bother for the same reason you should bother, and we all should bother: Because it matters. Small people can move big mountains. We just need to start by moving the first stones, like a wise person once said.

So this is what I have decided. To keep fighting and moving forward. Because quitters don’t win. And winners don’t quit.

It matters what I do. Because THEY matter.

It matters what I do. Because THEY matter. (I took this photo of Rohingya munchkins less than a month ago. They need people like you and me to not give up.)

I can, for example, buy fewer new clothes. I could stop shopping less. Period. I could wash the plastic baggies and re-use them. I could boycott all seafood from Thailand and other places that use slaves to fish. I could commit to living on less. I could stop eating so much meat and more weeds that grow in the forest and on the fields around my house. Or just normal vegetables for that matter. Broccoli is the cure for all, with spinach a close second. Not to mention oats. I could share my wealth with organizations, such as Partners, who work their butts off to save lives, or to Fortify Rights who are reporting on atrocities the world seem not to care about. I could invite lonely people home for dinner. I could decide to not ever vote for politicians who will not help refugees in need. If I all did this, together with you and millions of others, the ship may start changing course. If we don’t, however, but instead stay in bed and let men dressed in black take over the planet, then we shouldn’t be surprised when the world goes from bad to worse.

I saw this quote that I thought was fitting for some of us who think that our calling only takes us as far as from bed to our computer screen: Dignity: The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes. Shannon Alder




Shitty days and Metaphysics

This is how I feel at times

This is how I feel at times


















Some days are just shitty. Sorry to use such a strong word, but there are times when strong words are the only words that suffice.

These are the days when your dog has gotten diarrhea and this is evident on the leather shoes you left on the floor in the hallway. They are days when you discover some unpaid bills that somehow had been hidden under a pile of newspapers, and whatever money is left in your account will be exactly enough to pay them. These are days when your children won’t stop reminding you of your ignorance, lack of wisdom and clumsiness. Days where everything you own is in disarray, your friends seem to have forgotten you, the only sms you get is one reminding you that you have failed at yet another task, and you feel the beginning of a sore throat.   You notice that all your underwear is dirty. These are the days when the scale in your bathroom is brutally honest and you understand that the price of excessive ice-cream-eating and wine-drinking is higher than you first thought. Then winter does its own thing, making your planned run more than an impossible challenge.  Days when all you want is a little peace, and all you get is loud noises everywhere.

I feel sorry for myself. I wish that somebody would take notice and come to the rescue. I clench my teeth and go on. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I remind myself. In reality, what doesn’t kill me makes me really cranky.

When my children’s lives are falling apart, according to them, I remind them that life will never run as smooth as Shinkansen. It is impossible. Because life is full of particles that have their own agendas, and there are metaphysics. Said in simple terms, life is hard because there are so many of us who are all trying to make it on this planet, and some of us seem to forget that one has to love one’s neighbor as oneself. And if that is not enough, dogs eat stuff that give them diarrhea and the climate seems to be doing its own thing too. The best thing one can do it to put on the seat belts and try to enjoy the ride, however bumpy.

This is what I will do too. I will put on my seat belt. I will enjoy the moments of pleasure, because one can find them, even during shitty days. It is challenging to find a reason to smile while cleaning dog pooh, but, hey, at least I didn’t step in it. It really did suck to find the unpaid bills, but at least I did have money to pay them. My kids are at times too eager to tell me about my shortcomings, but I need to welcome them. Nobody else told me I had bad breath or that my laugh was a little too loud.

And, besides, I am not living in a remote refugee camp, wondering if the world has forgotten me, and if there will be anything to eat today. At least I am not running for my life because evil men want to kill me. At least I am not dying from a flu that turns into pneumonia that cannot be cured since there is no medicine. At least I didn’t get Ebola. I am just having a hard day with problems that for most people wouldn’t even get close to qualifying as a problem. They would just call it a bump in the road, if that.







Thoughts on the Holocaust

Rohingya baby

Holocaust memorial day was yesterday. It is a day that most people don’t even know about. Holocaust day is nothing like Halloween or Valentine’s day where the stores display shelves upon shelves with paraphernalia, gifts and other stuff that bring us into a festive mode. Never have I seen a magazine full of ideas for how to celebrate Holocaust day. I have never been to a gift shop that has been full of decorations we can buy to make our house festive for Holocaust day. And we know why. One should not get festive when one remembers the brutal and horrendous murders of six million Jews. One gets in a sober mood by remembering the world’s worst genocide.

But I still wonder why the day is not a bigger deal. Why don’t we stop the world on January 27th? Why don’t we all take some time off and reflect? Why did it happen? Why didn’t anybody stop the massacres? Why weren’t there more people who spoke up and who overcame their fear? Why did so many innocent people have to die in the most gruesome way? How can we stop it from happening again? Is it happening?

Perhaps we don’t take the time to ponder these questions because we are afraid of the answers. Perhaps we are afraid to face ourselves an our own fears? Would we have defended the Jews? Would we have tried to save them? Would we have put our own lives, careers and reputation at risk to save the ones we knew were innocent? Or would we have just pretended we didn’t know what was going on?

I am aware that comparing anything that is happening today to what happened during the Holocaust is risky. And I don’t do it lightly. There has never been a genocide of the same magnitude as the Holocaust. Hopefully there will never again be. But we see similar attitudes and actions today. The attitude the Nazis had towards their own race, and towards the Jews we can see clearly in the attitude the Burma government and religious leaders have towards their own population, the Rohingya people. Some of the same things the Nazis said about the Jews, the Burma government and religious leaders say about the Rohingya. Like: They are a virus that we need to get rid of. Like: We need to either send them all out of our country, or we need to fence them all in. Like: We can withhold food and medicine from them for as long as we find it necessary.

Rohingya in camp

When trying to get the world to see that what is happening to the Rohingya right now is looking more and more like a genocide, the ears that are hearing appear deaf. When telling leaders and investors that the country they are doing business with, and the leaders they wine and dine are in fact responsible for the death of thousands, we only get a sad look and comments like: Yes, it is really bad. We hope that our investments and our engagement will bring about change in due time.

Yesterday, one of the 300 survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Roman Kent (85) had tears in his eyes when he recalled the horror he had survived. And his plea to the world, “Let us add one more command to the ten commandments: You shall not be a bystander.”

While feeling very reluctant to add or take away from Scripture, I still think that Mr. Kent’s point is worth considering. Are we bystanders to another genocide? Are we just observing when we should be acting?

Are we going to remember the death of thousands of innocent victims 70 years from now and ask ourselves: Why did the world let this happen? Or are we going to change history by starting to protest what is happening to the Rohingya?


How chipmunks taught me about justice

chipmunk 2I went to the IMAX theater with Kristin and we watched a movie about a chipmunk trying to survive in a world where most of the creatures were bigger and more dangerous. The chipmunk diligently collected acorns for the winter. He stored it in his little home and as the cold season approached his storage grew. He was confident that his hard work was going to pay off. He would be able to make it through winter with the acorns he had collected. Half way through the movie, an older chipmunk finds the storage of our chipmunk friend and steals almost all the acorns.

I felt so angry while watching this. What a mean, selfish, low-life, no integrity creature this old chipmunk was. The audacity. The complete lack of respect for other people’s property. The self-centeredness. I was cheering for the young chipmunk, and desperately hoped he would get his acorns back.

Then it dawned on me that I was getting upset about the unfairness of a chipmunk’s life. I realized I was angry on behalf of a small animal whose food was stolen. While it was indeed unfair and mean, I remembered that I had read in the news that very same day that 1% of the world’s population owns 48% of the world’s assets, and that of the remaining 52%, 46% was owned by 20% of the world’s population. If you don’t like math, just remember this: 80% of the people of the world have to share 5.5% of everything there is. This made me think that a few old chipmunks have stolen all the food from the ones who work so hard to make a living, and they are left with almost nothing. There is something really, really wrong with a world that allows a handful of people to enjoy 94.5% of everything that is, and then everybody else is left with just a few scraps. Selfish chipmunks is one thing. Selfish humans who take what they don’t need nor deserve and let children and their families starve is a whole other story.

In the movie, the young, hard-working, honest and courageous chipmunk won. He got all his acorns back while the dishonest, selfish, coward of a chipmunk who stole what was not his was left in the cold and probably died during the winter. It is not looking like the world’s chipmunks will endure the same fate. At the rate it is going, according to Oxfam, they will keep gaining acorns, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. How I wish we would care more.


Feeling as insignificant as fly poop

business mtngI was sitting in a office belonging to the biggest corporation in Norway. In front of me, across a big table were two well-dressed men. Everything about them matched. Their shoes, their suits, the color of their shirts, the hairdos and even their fingernails were statements of perfection, class and power. Before entering the office I had walked through the corporation’s headquarter, and it appeared more like a small kingdom to me. Once inside its walls it seemed like you became a loyal, faithful and devoted citizen of the kingdom. All the people spoke highly of the company they served, and if what they said was true, it was a flawless company. The company’s only aim and mission was to make the world better, safer, happier and healthier. That they worked here was only because their life ambitions were the same as the company’s. They would die pursuing the dream of a perfect world. You do understand, don’t you, that the company was an oil company.

“So what do you want from us?” they asked. It seemed like the question was genuine. It had been easy to answer the question: What do you want? when I practiced it at home before the meeting. I wanted them to give us money. Money to help children. Money to build schools. Money to train medics and to help the sick. Money to develop new methods to improve food production. But sitting there, across the big table, in the glass office, with the expensive suits and the high tech reception that was 100% digitized, I suddenly felt so small and stupid. Why would they give us money? We were like a speck of fly excrement on the top of their polished shoes.

And when I asked, the answer was as expected: “We don’t give money to groups like yours. We do of course give money to charity, but then we give to the ones who really matter, like the UN for example.” They went on to tell me why they couldn’t give money to any of the Partners projects. They also said that just because they were interested in oil drilling in Burma they weren’t directly or indirectly responsible for human rights abuses. And hearing what they said, I didn’t disagree. Even idealistic aid workers like me see the need for businesses to develop in order for a country to prosper. I just wished they had chosen a different business than oil drilling, and a different area than the ocean outside Rakhine state where currently the worst kinds of human rights abuses are taking place.

The honest truth is that there are times when I wish that my job was selling a product that promised beauty, long life and prosperity. It is so hard always promoting life-saving products, such as food, to starving, poor and oppressed people. There are times when I wish I did work for one of those large charities, the ones who claim to only be spending 10% on admin, but who still manage to find money to pay for ads that cost thousands of dollars every month, who still have a list of employees that is longer than our list of donors, and the ones who end up getting the sponsorships from large corporations who feel that giving to the big charities is the safest thing.

girl in Mae Ra MuuBut then I think like this: I know that we are not insignificant. Not for the 911 kids that get a home to live in because of Partners. Not to the hundreds of people who received eye glasses and to the thousands who received medical care. Not to the 71 farmers who got training in agriculture and who learned how they can produce food for their families and communities. Not for the hungry Rohingya people who received 94.9 tons of rice. Not for the 10,000 Kachin who have access to community care. Not to the thousands who have received food and blankets. Not to the almost 100,000 children who are allowed to go to school. To them we are not small and insignificant. To them we are a life-source. To them our help makes the difference between life and death.

boy w hat for winter warmth

Some times I wish that the corporations, agencies and other groups that say No when we ask for support would be able to see the children’s smiles when they get their rations of food, their new shoes, the opportunity to go to school, or the news that they can still live with their parents instead of moving to a refugee camp to study. Some times I wish they had understood that for the price of one of their high-tech computer systems, we could develop land and grow food to feed hundreds of people, we could train community health workers and birth attendants. We could pay teachers and buy school books. I wish it was a little easier to make the world better for the people who need a better world. And, who knows, it may change soon. Next time I meet the men with the suits they may be asking me how they can help. Miracles do happen still.



The benefits of losing everything you wrote in one day


The trick is to fit thousands of words and hundreds of pages worth of knowledge into one small essay.

I am terribly late. In just 18 days (or it may be less by now. I just don’t want to think about it) I need to submit the biggest paper of the semester for my class. As always I have put off starting way too long, and now I am regretting it. Like a cartoon dog with ADHD I am throwing papers around, trying to find the perfect quote that can confirm that my thoughts are correct, if not genius.

Today was the day I was going to get a good solid introduction and some of the content down. For six whole hours I sat in front of the computer and resisted (sometimes) the urge to check Facebook instead of writing my thesis. Satisfied that I had 1/5 of my paper down at the end of the day, I decided to close the program. Bewildered as I tend to be at times, I told the program not to save my whole day’s work and in one nano-second it was all gone. I said some words that are better not repeated. I had to walk around the office for a while. I needed to take many deep breaths. I had to share my misfortune with some people who would tell me how sorry they were. Then I started all over and tried to re-write what I had written once already. The second draft wasn’t half as good, but I just don’t remember what it was that made the first draft so much better.

My one consolation in my deep despair is that having to start over again, I will know the material so much better. Boy, do I know about Psalm 103:6. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Having to rewrite so many Bible verses has given me more time to reflect on them, and to let God speak to my heart. At the end of the day I am more convinced than ever that God’s heart is justice. That he wants his people to care for the poor, the oppressed, the vulnerable, the downtrodden. We are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to invite strangers into our homes (not weird men on the street, but immigrants, refugees, homeless, lonely and perhaps sad people), to visit prisoners. As I remember from my first draft,  a Bible verse that told us to spend more money on stuff for Christmas or to get some more imported steaks at an exclusive restaurant was never mentioned. No, I am pretty sure there are no verses with that being the admonition.

I have a book next to me as I am doing research on human rights, advocacy and Christian faith. The book is called Generous Justice and is written by Timothy Keller. I would recommend it if you are serious about following God. And even if you are not, you may benefit from reading it. In it he says, for example:


Caring for these...

Caring for these…

If God’s character includes a zeal for justice that leads him to have the tenderest love and closest involvement with the socially weak, then what should God’s people be like? They must be people who are likewise passionately concerned for the weak and vulnerable. He continues by saying: If believers in God don’t honor the cries and claims of the poor, we don’t honor him, whatever we profess, because we hide his beauty from the eyes of the world.

Do I hear a WOW?





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