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Posts tagged ‘Justice’

The benefits of losing everything you wrote in one day

Write+exam+study+xxx

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?

 

 

 

Helping others to help myself. Self care

The Good Samaritan. Did he have pure motives? Beautiful painting by van Gogh.

The Good Samaritan. Did he have pure motives? Beautiful painting by van Gogh.

Once, some years ago, my daughter, Elise, who has always been wise beyond her years, asked this: I have some money I would like to give the refugees, but the reason I want to give it is so that people will think highly of me. If that is my motive, should I or should I not give the money? Did I mention she was 11 when she asked this?

I told her she should give the money, because the money has the same value whether it is given by a selfish bastard, or by a selfless nun. But that her goal should be to work on her heart so that eventually she would start giving simply because it was the right thing to do. Not because of the praise, or other benefits, she will receive. Eventually, I said, the joy of giving will be a reward of itself. If people know that you gave or not will be of less importance.

I honestly don’t remember what she ended up doing.

I have thought about this though, because living in a rich nation where people have everything they need at all times, where people seldom have to fight really hard to get food on the table and warm socks to wear in the winter, I am often faced with people who want to help for the wrong reasons. They want to help because they want to feel good. They want to help because they want to be challenged. They want to help because they want to have worth, and what better way to increase your worth than to be seen helping starving children?

That kind of attitude sickens me. I heard once: The poor don’t need your charity. They need justice. And justice, what is that? Sometimes I think justice would be to place all of us in a slum where cockroaches abide close to our sleeping mat, where food is luxury and medicines only for the rich and privileged. Justice would be to allow the poor to storm our houses, our shopping malls and our cruise ships.

It is a good thing for you, and me, that I am not the judge of the world.

Is it right to do the right things for the wrong reasons? Is it OK to fly to Africa (or to Asia, or anywhere else for that matter) and spend some days giving of our abundance, get some photos taken and then go home and feel better about our lifestyles in the small part of the world that spends most of the world’s resources? A lot of people are doing just that nowadays. Travel agencies advertise for vacations with a meaning. People say they are tired of just vacationing on the beach. Now they want to go to an orphanage too.

To be totally frank, I don’t know. Part of me says: No way! No to charity tourism. No to turning poor people’s dwellings into zoos so that some rich people can have a good experience and feel like they did a good deed, and then go back home and continue their extravagant lifestyles.

We have all met them, the nerd outreach teams.

We have all met them, the nerd outreach teams.

 

But then there is a part of me who thinks that it can be good to take the rich to experience the lives of the poor too. The experience may change them. The afternoon they spend with orphans blowing bubbles and throwing balloons in the air may actually make them realize that these are kids just like our own kids. They just don’t have the opportunities our own kids have. Would they have come to that conclusion if they had stayed on the beach? Or in their own living room watching the news? Most likely not.

In my country there is a group of people who wants to send immigrants and refugees out of the country faster than I can say Asshole. They want to give less money in foreign aid than we currently do because in their mind the people who are poor are largely responsible for their own problems. They also want to prohibit begging since beggars mostly are criminals or plain lazy. It often occurs to me that their inhumane attitude must come from the fact that not one of them have had dinner with a refugee, they have never wiped the nose of an orphan, and they have never sat down to share a cup of tea with a beggar. They have never actually spent any time with the people whom they reject. It is likely their attitudes will never change, unless they become friends with one of the people they despise.

Our goal must be to work for a just world. Our goal must be that the goods will be distributed in such a way that we all can have full stomachs when we go to bed, be warm enough, feel safe, get medicine when we are sick, study, work and dare to dream about the future. The best thing would be if we all willingly gave up some of what we think of as ours to give to them, and then the problem was solved. We all know it is not that easy.

Then there are the times when the chemistry is just right.

Then there are the times when the chemistry is just right. Here is my good friend, Haavard with new friends on the border of Burma.

So, the answer to the question I asked myself is that, yes, sometimes one has to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Eventually that may turn into doing the right thing for the right reason.

It reminds me of when I emptied my closet and gave the clothes to refugees. I wanted to help, that is true. But I also wanted an excuse to buy new clothes. The refugees who were blessed with my old clothes were happy. They needed clothes. And I, I confirmed the theory some people have about humans being corrupt, selfish and even dishonest.

 

 

 

 

#dieandseeificare

It’s that time of the year. It’s time for much of nature to die. Seeds were planted, grew, bore fruit, and now their mission is done. They die. My sugar snap peas gave me a lot of enjoyment. Now they are gone.

It’s also time for people to die. Children. Babies. Teens. Mothers. Fathers. Aunts. Uncles. Best friends. Grandparents. Colleagues. Neighbors. This is the time of the year when they shall die.

Rohingya baby

You may think I have smoked something strange and that I am just babbling nonsense. But this is not the case. I don’t smoke anything. Ever. I also don’t lie. And I hear a lot of stories I wish I didn’t have to hear.

Some days ago I was sitting in a small room with people whom I love and admire. There were nine of us. We were from four different countries and three different continents. You could almost say we were from five countries and four continents, since some of us came from one country and lived in another. This is not the point.

The point was that we were all sitting there feeling like a heavy rock had been chained to our hearts. We saw no possible way to get it off. Actually, this is not really the point either. The point is not us. The point is the people we were talking about. The ones who are dying right now. As we were sitting there, looking forlorn, they were dying. A slow death. But a certain death nevertheless.

We all knew the people who are dying. We had all visited them, talked to them, touched them, smelled them, eaten their food, held their babies. We were talking about the Rohingya people of course. Their plight became the heavy rock hanging from our heart, making smiling impossible.

One of us said: For two years the UN has refused to register them as refugees, thus making helping them illegal and close to impossible. With some simple steps from the UN, they could at least be given a small food ration. 

Rohingya in camp

Another said: They are desperate enough to pay a high sum of money to get on a boat that will take them away. None know how may have died at sea, and how many have been sold to traffickers who torture them, withhold money, food and other privileges, how many girls have been sold into prostitution, how many children have died due to lack of food and medicine on the boat.

Yet another said: They are dying a slow death. What is happening is genocide. The government wants them gone, whatever it takes. Their death is a good option. So they don’t allow aid groups to distribute food. Starvation is a quick and certain, though painful, way to die. By withholding medicine and doctors from their concentration camps, their imminent death is more certain. 

My thoughts were: My country gives money to the UN, believing they are the ones who are doing the job best. It is sad to think about all the wasted millions that should have been used to feed, heal and educate children and their families being spent on high salaries, Land-rovers, and rent of buildings belonging to former military generals. It is aggravating to think about what we could do with that amount of money. 

My friend to the left said: What is the point of even feeding them when they will still die. We are just prolonging the inevitable: Their certain death. We can’t feed them forever. 

Rohingya girl

All of us wondered: How can we help get them away from this small corner of hell? How can we ensure that they don’t just disappear? The children with the big dark eyes and the curious stares, the girls with the serous demeanor, and the boys with the dedicated attitude will perhaps not survive for another year. Who survives on a cup of rice, some water and the prospect of living in a small enclosure with no freedom to move, work, grow food, and pursue one’s dreams for long? Who survives when there is no hope? 

I am not making this up. It is the sad, the terrible, the brutal, the honest, the shocking, the sickening truth that without a major change of attitude of the world, the people group called the Rohingya may cease to exist. The dark-eyed children will not be able to live any longer if they have nothing to eat. The fathers will stop living when they can’t go back to their jobs, their boats, their fields, and their communities where they played an integral part.The mothers will die,perhaps not from lack of food, but from broken hearts. Seeing their children die and not being able to do anything to ease their pain is a death-penalty for any mother.

Rohingya woman

My sugar snap peas completed their mission here on earth before they died. They did what they were created to do.

The hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who right now are living under conditions worse than those of deprived animals will most likely not reach their potential, will most likely not ever feel like they are wanted, needed, sought after and loved. Unless we do something to change destiny.

See, I think we can change the course of history. Right now it looks like the Rohingya will continue to die their slow death and the world won’t care that much. An article on CNN, Huffington Post of the Guardian may pop up from time to time. But nothing that will shake governments resolve to get a piece of the pie called Burma’s natural resources. They don’t care that children are dying as long as they get re-elected, or at least get the credit for lucrative business deals. I think we can change this.

Would you write me, or add a comment on the blog and let me know how we can change it? I need your help.

Rohingya boy

 

I am serious about this. Write me and tell me how we can help save lives. Tell me if you have a way to help. Tell me if you know a president that we can meet. It is not yet time for the Rohingya to die. Read more here and here 

 

 

 

 

Carbohydrates, yoga and a small light beer

Diabetes makes you weird.

Diabetes makes you weird.

They say that it is the subject line of your blog that draws the readers. I almost considered putting the word SEX in there as well, but felt like it may also cause me to lose some of you. And although it may have helped me gain a few new followers, I was not willing to lose any of my current readers. You mean too much to me!

This week my husband decided to change his diet 100% .After he got diagnosed with Diabetes type 1 about six months ago he has not been able to control his blood sugar any longer than I am able to control a hula hoop round my waist. When he started reading about the long-term effects of high blood sugar and the unpleasant surprises that come with excessive insulin injections he decided he loved life more than chocolate, and wanted his legs to remain on his body more than he wanted baguettes and mashed potatoes. He cut all the carbs in his diet cold turkey. And when I say all the carbs, I even mean his Friday beer. Unless it is served in a very small glass, and is l-i-g-h-t.

I didn’t want him to live on a diet consisting of scrambled eggs and hotdogs with an occasional leg of chicken or possibly a pork chop. So for the last week I have spent my free time glued to no-carb recipes and I am almost an expert already. I can make bread, crackers, granola, lasagna and much more using only food from Steve’s Yes-list.

But this is not a food blog, although there are days I wish it was. The days when I have nothing smart to say. That is when I wish I could just give you a recipe, followed my ten photos of the dish in the making. But that is a different story. All together.

You can make delicious bread with just lots of seeds and some other ingredients that you can ask me for.

You can make delicious bread with just lots of seeds and some other ingredients that you can ask me for.

 

As I have been going through this rather radical change in our household (the girls and I want to show our support of Steve by disguising the maple syrup, or eating fried cabbage with a sprinkle of chia seeds together with him) I have been saddened by all the things he will not eat anymore. It makes me so very sad to think of the banana splits that he loved to eat. Now there will be no more ice cream, no more banana, no more chocolate sauce. But, he can have as much whipped cream as he wants, unless it is sweet. My homemade bread is the best, and so are my cinnamon rolls. How will his life be now that he no longer can eat either? When (if) we go to Belgium, he won’t be able to try all the monastery beers made by the trappist monks.When we eat fresh cut-up fruit with vanilla yoghurt in the evenings, he can only have the plain, lactose-free yoghurt minus all the fruit. He could have flax seeds however.

But then I thought about this: He didn’t go blind. He didn’t lose his hearing. He didn’t get diagnosed with a brain tumor or cancer. He didn’t get ALS. He didn’t become paralyzed from the neck down. He didn’t get arrested and sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He got diabetics type 1, which sucks, but which can be managed with some self discipline and perhaps some yoga as well.

And me, the wife, will keep making food that helps him feel that life is good.

 

What I am also thinking is that we live in a country where medicines and doctor visits are close to free, in a country where you can buy chia seeds and coconut flour, in a place where there actually ARE doctors and nurses, in a country where we are free to travel where we want to, despite the fact that Steve is an immigrant. We live in a country where controlling people’s excessive eating habits is harder than their lack of things to eat. We live in a country where fish is abundant in the ocean, and beer is so expensive it is better not to buy it anyway, but to save for retirement instead. Not all people are that privileged. Not all people can say that life is good, even with diabetes. Some people just have to come to terms with the fact that for them treatment is impossible and diabetes is not a disease one learns to live with. It is a disease one dies from.

 

So, I gladly figure out how to make waffles with no flour, no carbs and no dairy. (Flour, dairy and carbs are actually similar things. I just liked the sound of it in the sentence).  I do it in honor of my brave husband and of the thousands who are diabetics in countries where there is no treatment or help available and they just die from diabetes. Like Burma. Or Myanmar, like some people like to call it.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

missions

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.

missions 4

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.

mission 5

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.

5 things to help children not get arrested

I have been thinking about happiness. I guess one of the reasons I have had this in mind is that I want to be happy. And when I find the ever so small seed of discontent in my heart, it is time to ask why. The answers I find, I gladly share.

But then I find myself embarrassed by my small world. I am even more embarrassed by the fact that I can be discontent when I have every privilege one can ever wish for.

In my last blog I wrote that it sometimes is helping others that will give us the greatest happiness. I truly believe that!

The last few days I have been getting some disturbing reports from Burma. They have not just been disturbing. They have been appalling. We have heard of more attacks on the Rohingya people that I have written about in the past. Now we hear of children and women getting hacked to death for no reason, and of the police arresting all men and boys aged ten and older. You can read a detailed account of the atrocities here. My good friend and hero, Matt Smith in Fortify Rights, wrote it. He spent a long time verifying the facts. And if you know Matt, you know that when he says something, it is true.

This is me with Matt and his wife Amy. Matt is a lot better at human rights reporting than he is with technical stuff such as iPhones.

This is me with Matt and his wife Amy. Matt is a lot better at human rights reporting than he is with technical stuff such as iPhones.

It makes me sick.

But this is the thing: Feeling terrible about terrible stuff isn’t going to help anybody. We have to do something. So I thought of five things we could do to help these people right now. And here is where you come it. I need help from EVERYBODY!

1. Read the report Matt wrote and post it all over the place, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on your blog, on Tumblr and Flickr and on all the other social medias you can imagine. I can’t keep track of them all. The more people that hear about this, the less likely it is that it will happen again. The government of Burma may not care about Rohingya children getting killed, but they do care about their reputation and about the big companies in the world wanting to invest in their country so that they can be richer than they are now. And companies are less likely to invest in countries that massacre their own citizens. It is just how it is.

Boys aged ten and older can get arrested.

Boys aged ten and older can get arrested.

2. Give money! I know it sounds old, but the fact is that unless we have the money, we cannot help these people. Last year we gave food to thousands of Rohingya who were starving. We treated the sick. We gave blankets and tarps. We documented and reported what was happening. It was all possible because people gave  us money, and it will not be possible unless we do get money. So GIVE! Here

3. Contact your government. Ask politicians if they seriously don’t think that this is awful behavior and if they think so, what are they going to do about your county’s involvement with Burma. Are they still going to wine and dine the president, Thein Sein? Or are they going to say that unless he and his government starts to treat the Rohingya as human beings, then your country won’t have anything to do with them. You know that it is the little people like you and I who count. If there are many enough of us, something is going to happen. But that means we all need to take responsibility and don’t just hope somebody else will do it.

4. Pray. I do struggle with prayer sometimes. I don’t know if it works. I don’t understand how it works. But I think we need to put the theological questions aside and just do what the Bible tells us to do: Pray. Pray for an end to the violence. Pray that you will get God’s heart for the Rohingya. Pray for all the children who have lost their parents, their homes and everything they know. Get a heart for the children!

Arrange a Run for Relief. It is fun and good!

Arrange a Run for Relief. It is fun and good!

5. Arrange an event! What is more fun than when many people get together and do something meaningful? Imagine arranging a relief run for the Rohingya, or a yard sale? Or how about doing a dinner, or invite a bunch of ladies to do a ladies’ night and have them all donate to the cause. You could do a concert, or a theater performance on the street if you are brave. There are so many great ideas to do, and the only limit is your own creativity. Imagine that all that fun actually could help save the lives of people who felt forgotten or resented. To help you out, here is a great link for ideas that will get you so excited!

So there you go. Five great ideas for things to do to help the Rohingya today or in the next few days. And when it comes to happiness: I think the best medicine to get happy is not to smoke pot, but to focus our eyes away from ourselves and on to others.

What does Naw Mary have in common with Florence Nightingale?

One of the things I have been made aware of in my life as an aid worker is how so many aid workers are good at doing stuff, but not so good at listening. I am afraid that I have been one such worker many times. As I am getting older, and hopefully wiser, I am learning that good aid workers, and good aid organizations, are the ones who are not out to just fulfill their own agenda. They are the ones who come as servants, with a heart willing to learn and to listen. See, just because we come from the richer part of the world, the part of the world with the most stuff, doesn’t mean that we are the smarter ones. The key to good aid work is to listen to the people we are trying to help. And better yet, to get them to do the work that they are more capable of doing than we are.

Today I have been reading through pages upon pages of reports on Partners’ work. It has recharged me. And it has made me sure of one thing: We are in the right place.

I read the testimony of one of the Karen women who have been trained by our staff and who is now teaching her villagers how to have better hygiene and how to take better care of themselves. I was moved, and hope you will be too:

Another Karen woman that I met. This is not Naw Mary.

Another Karen woman that I met. 

“I love my role as a village health worker! Before, we had a lot of sickness in my village. I used to think it was because we didn’t have medicine or a doctor. Now I know that it was because we lacked knowledge. I teach my neighbors about hand washing with soap, using a toilet, nutrition and iron tablets. In the beginning, they didn’t know anything about anemia. They thought that their fatigue was because they had to work so hard on the farm. At first only a few people would take my iron tablets. But after some time, those people started to shine and seemed energetic all the time. Later, more people started to take iron tablets. I can see that my neighbors believe me now, because they are paying attention to cleanliness. I built the first toilet in my village, now I’m bringing you a request for eleven more.”

Naw Mary was trained by Partners staff, and look at what she is doing! She is building toilets for her village! She is one of 50 such health workers we have trained in just one part of Burma last year. You think it is a good investment? Of course it is! The goal of the Village Health Program is to equip local people to meet their self-identified health needs, and to educate them on additional opportunities to improve the community’s health. If that is not good development work, I don’t know what is.

I am so proud to be a part of Partners Relief & Development, and think you should also join our team. It is easy. Just click here!

 

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