Advocacy


Why was Jonah willing to save the boat full of pagans, but not go to Ninevah?

That was a tangental question David threw out during last week’s sermon. He didn’t want to dig into it since it was really related to the overarching topic.  But was still a good point to ponder…

I e-mailed him a response over the weekend:

Something similar has been on my mind lately… especially regarding things like Darfur, Somalia, HIV/AIDS…

I think Jonah didn’t want to save those people over there, you know those foreigners.  Why would God want us to be uncomfortable to benefit someone besides ourselves?  Why should we care about Africa when we have problems here…

But once those foreigners became part of his life.  We don’t know for sure who was on the ship but I imagine that at least one of the sailors was a Nineveh-ite.  They had some shared experiences playing poker, dropping back some rum, you know hanging out.  Their relationships probably became stronger as the storm picked up.  Adversity tends to bring people together.

When Jonah and the sailors figured out what was happening he faced a few choices, do nothing and hope everyone lives, be pragmatic and realize that people are going to die, take a risk and jump overboard, get thrown overboard.  Jonah must have been a pretty decent fellow since God wanted him to prophesy on His behalf, so it seems Jonah was willing to do whatever it took to help is new buddies.  Plus if he died, he still wouldn’t preach to Nineveh!

I think once we’ve experienced Africa or know someone with HIV, it becomes real and personal.  You are more willing to act and take risks to help them.

Does that make sense? What do you think??

I would definitely, be interested in hearing your thoughts and reactions to that question in the comments.

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The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

Image via Wikipedia

In the past few years I have written about HIV/AIDS quite a few times (see them here). But let’s be honest here for a few minutes. Who really cares?

AIDS is a four letter word, that like so many others shouldn’t be spoken about in polite company. Do you even remember what the four letter’s stand for? Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.  Yea, that means nothing to me. When you spell it out like that, it makes even less sense.

So what will actually make sense? We are very blessed that in the US, even though over a million people have HIV/AIDS (CDC), for many people it is managed through medication and is almost thought of as a type of cancer.  But did you know that babies die from HIV/AIDS related infections or were you to busy protesting at an abortion clinic?

You see, HIV/AIDS ravages your body so that something as simple as a winter sniffle could end up killing you.  That is the simple version, but it makes sense. Why did the baby get HIV? Her mom gave it to her, more than likely.  What kind of terrible mother would give her child HIV?  Who knows, maybe she was raped by a stranger in the middle of the night.  But does it matter how she got it? Only if you want to pass judgment. Why can’t we love someone without trying to pass judgment?

Ok, so babies and children are dying because of no fault of their own. A quick question, if the entire population of Spain had HIV/AIDS do you think someone would care? What about the entire population of Texas? Well according to World Vision, that is the current estimate of how many people are currently suffering with this ailment. 40 million.

By 2010, the number of children orphaned by the disease is expected to exceed 25 million — slightly more than the population of Texas — according to the United Nations. The impact on these children, both before and after the deaths of their parents, is catastrophic.

A few days ago was Black Friday.  Did you go waste your money on earthly materials that do nothing but provide five minutes of happiness to your child before being thrown in the bin with last year’s?  This year a Walmart employee was “trampled to death” by shoppers eager to purchase the latest craze.

Something is wrong with this picture.

This is truly a sad state of affairs.  As a culture we are willing to trample over fellow Americans to purchase a blender.  I guess it should be no surprise to me that no one cares about babies dying in a foreign land.  All of this makes me angry and sad.

But I am thankful for the organizations, churches, and individuals who are willing to stand up today and throw off the chains of injustice and care for the orphaned child and suffering widow.  These are our brothers and sisters and they deserve our love and admiration.

James 14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

Will you sit idly by or will you act today?

Bloggers Unite

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I can’t say how thankful I am for everyone of you who supported me through the marathon and especially through my fundraising efforts for Team World Vision. It was a humbling honor to run on behalf of my African friends and to share their stories with you over the last months.

It really has been fun to combine two of my passions into such a powerful event. Thank you! I am excited to announce that as of writing this post, we have raised $2,086 for Team World Vision!!! This exceeded the $2,000 goal!! Thank you!!

Below you will find a list of the posts where I shared about my passion for Africa and my experiences there. You can also read all of the posts by clicking on this link. In the order they were published:

That pretty much sums up Team World Vision. I’m not sure when/if they actually close down the fundraising page, but you still have the opportunity to give today. Thank you!!

Team World Vision

Team World Vision is a fund raising arm of the organization which uses ordinary people like me, to get ordinary people like you involved in ending poverty and injustice across the world. I have decided to commit the 26.2 miles of my first marathon to the memory of and in honor of the children I have met during my international travels. I can’t remember all of their names, but I have many pictures and stories.

On the right side of my blog there is a widget that will allow you to support me during this race or you can visit this secure page. I have set a goal of raising $2,000 which will help children have a chance at living to become adults across Africa.

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This comes from the 30 Days group which offers a prayer guide for the month of Ramadan:

Somalia: Hard realities for Muslim men and families
For Tuesday 23 September, Ramadan 2008. “Loving Muslims Through Prayer”

Total Somali population: 9,119,000 (July 2007 est.)

Some men have found a way to escape from the harsh realities of Somali life. Khat (Catha Edulis) is an evergreen shrub that grows in the highlands of Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen. Chewing the leaves of khat has a stimulating, narcotic effect, and like most drugs, khat is addictive and must be consumed daily. The majority of Somali men are addicted to khat, which has a huge influence on their life in Somali society.

Khat chewers suffer from various health problems, yet those who really suffer the most are their families. Men often spend most of their money on khat, yet their families go hungry.

[Full Text]

Prayer Starters:

  • Pray that the bondage of khat would be broken. Social pressure encouraging men to chew khat is huge. Strength, wisdom and courage are needed to break this national addiction.
  • Pray for wives and children to know how to cope with the absence of men.
  • Pray that Somali society will experience God’s healing of families and come to know true fatherhood and the Father in Heaven.
  • Pray with the whole family for Somali families, giving God special thanks for Dads and Mums.

+ Google Map Link: Somalia, East Africa

+ YouTube Video Link: Somalia, land of Need [18: 34]

+ Gospel Language Link: The Look Listen and Live series is a discipleship series in the Somali language


You are welcome and encouraged to forward these e-mails to others.
This is an excerpt from the 30-Days Muslim Prayer Focus booklet, also available via our Book shop.

Learn more about Ramadan here.

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Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani both mocked Barack Obama’s career as a community organizer. Palin made the most blatant mockery of the profession by comparing her experience as mayor to his as an organizer by saying “a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

As I’ve thought about the comments they have made me a little upset, in some ways my job and experience is tied very closely to that of an organizer. As to be expected the community of organizers are very upset, no doubt organizing against McCain & Palin!

The joke played well to the party faithful, but in my opinion, mockery may be the best form of flattery, but its not a good way to get votes. Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t make fun of her experience as a mayor of a small town.

Christianity Today
wrote that

Obama was incensed by the mockery, asking, “Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they (Republicans) fighting for… They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?”

I’m not sure how any one could say that there is no responsibilities in community organizing. Essentially organizing is the most basic form of democracy – working at the grassroots level gathering support for community change. I don’t know much about Obama’s work in Chicago, but in general organizing is tireless work, often calling for long hours and at times small, incremental successes.

The Wikipedia definition of community organizing may shed some light on the situation:

Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. From winning living wages to expanding affordable housing to improving the quality of public schools to getting health coverage for the poor and elderly, community organizers have made and will continue to make our communities and our country better for all of us.

It is my understanding that the Republican Party doesn’t really like these issues. I am a moderate who tends to lean conservative on many issues, but these are issues that are important to really discuss and actually act on during the 4 years between presidential campaigns.

Less Controversial – A Christian Perspective


Surprisingly Christianity Today quietly chastised Giuliani and Palin for their remarks.

for a party still trying to shake off the stereotype that Republicans are out of touch concerning the plight of the poor and care only for the rich. Certainly pro-lifers and others who help the poor do their own brands of community organizing in dysfunctional pockets of society. Whether community organizing is the best way to help the poor is one thing, but to dismiss out of hand the work of someone willing at least to try to help is another entirely.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners was offended by these comments, but more importantly he provided comments from a variety of faith-based community organizers, some of which are or were Republicans.

When people come together in my church hall to improve our community, they’re building the Kingdom of God in San Diego. We see the fruits of community organizing in safer streets, new parks, and new affordable housing. It’s the spirit of democracy for people to have a say and we need more of it,” said Bishop Roy Dixon, prelate of the Southern California 4th ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, member of the San Diego Organizing Project and former board chair of PICO National Network.

I should also note this paragraph about what community organizers have been doing since Hurricane Katrina to help prepare for Hurricane Gustav. So community organizers were doing a ton of work to help evacuate and prepare people for a potential disaster:

“Perk,” as we used to call him, reported on the enormous consequences of 2 million people being evacuated because of Hurricane Gustav, much of the state now being without power, how hard cities like Baton Rouge were hit, the tens of thousands of people in shelters and churches, and the continuing problems caused by heavy rains and flooding. Then he talked about how their community organizers were responding to all of this — responding to hundreds of service calls, assisting local officials in evacuation plans, aiding evacuees without transportation, coordinating shelters and opening new ones, providing food, essential services, and financial aid to those in most need. Since Katrina, Perry’s Louisiana interfaith organizations have played a lead role in securing millions of dollars to help thousands of families return to New Orleans and rebuild their homes and their lives.

Another blogger from Sojourners, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah had this to say:

Community organizing attempts to give voice to the voiceless in our society (not just the powerful and the elite) and attempts to build influence based on relationships, rather than positions. Community organizing provides a prophetic voice because it arises from outside the system of power from the local community. Those feel to me like very biblical values.

Sojourners has published some great articles in the past about faith-based community organizing – Organizing Hope and Saul Alinsky goes to Church.

Elana Wolowitz responded at the Wellstone Action Blog with a post entitled: Responsibilities of an Organizer. She had this to say:

Being an organizer means putting the needs of the community above yourself and your ego. Your task is to influence the powerful with little more than the common will, and do so while developing the leadership of those around you. A good organizer is always working to put themselves out of a job, because many others should be prepared to step up and take their place. You listen and learn, coordinate and plan, arrive early and stay late, and do the real work that improves people’s lives.

I guess this means putting people first – not country first.

A local paper, Minn Post interviewed several organizers around the Twin Cities including

Elana Wolowitz, communications director for Wellstone Action!, is quick to point out that the nonprofit organization she works for is bipartisan. She’s just as quick to note that Palin’s “remarks were insulting and inappropriate to a field of work that is made up of people who are really sacrificing of themselves to give back to the community.”
Chuck Repke, longtime executive director of the District 2 Community Council in St. Paul, said “Clearly [Palin] doesn’t have much understanding of what community organizers do in a larger city.”

The District 2 Community Council facilitates communication between 10 neighborhoods in northeast St. Paul. It also offers English classes, carries out recycling efforts and crime prevention measures, and holds school supply drives, among other programs.

“The big thing of a community organizer is empowering the citizens to be able to take control of their communities, to give a voice to people who normally are voiceless, to empower those people who tend not to have much power and to facilitate the development of leadership in the community. It’s about making other people have power, not power for yourself,” Repke explained.

Yes the Democrats need to be thick skinned and should expect some harsh words and criticism about their lives. But in their remarks, Giuliani and Palin attacked a profession, not a person. I would venture to say that Republicans don’t really like Community Organizers too much because they are the opposite of big business and oil. Organizers are often organizing against “the establishment”, it is the nature of the beast.

Two late posts about organizing from The Moderate Voice and Daily Kos (don’t think about them as a liberal blog, take a second and look at their photo diary of organizing).

What do you think?

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On Sept 3 we decided that we would risk going to St Paul to take part in a peaceful rally to raise awareness about the ongoing Genocide in Darfur. The event combined the national organization Camp Darfur with several local groups. The host organization, Minnesota Interfaith Darfur Coalition (MIDC) estimated around 200 people attended.

Camp Darfur is:

An interactive awareness and education event that brings attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and gives individuals the opportunity to discover their own power to make a difference. This traveling refugee camp raises awareness and examines Sudan’s Darfur region and its humanitarian crisis – genocide – by placing it in historical context with Armenia, Holocaust, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Camp Darfur empowers communities to raise their voice and take action for the individuals of Darfur.

According to St Paul’s Pioneer Press Coverage:

“People have Darfur fatigue, for one,” said Rabbi Sim Glaser, who co-founded the MIDC and helped organized the day’s events. He said that three times as many people showed up to a rally — in the rain, no less — three years ago. “People can’t deal with the enormity of the problem.”

I might agree with that statement, but I think that the anarchists and police levels in St Paul, may have had a significant effect on turnout as well.

This was one of the major lines from a professor at the U of Minnesota’s Human Rights Center:

The event, which featured musicians, experts on the violence in Darfur, and religious leaders in the Twin Cities, urged people to pressure representatives in Congress to do more to end a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of at least 300,000 people.

A similar number to the entire population of St. Paul.

Again from the Pioneer Press, one of the more powerful speakers:

Alice Musabende [pictured at right], who was orphaned after her family was killed in the Rwandan genocide, didn’t mince any works, and her frustration about inaction boiled to the surface during her speech

“People were watching O.J. Simpson” during the 97 days of killing in Rwanda, she [Alice]said. “I have a question ‘What on earth does it take for you to act?'”

As a survivor, she can be a little more forceful. It made me wonder what I did – nothing. I knew nothing about it in my little southern Ohio bubble.

We had a good time at the event. We’ve only been to one other Darfur event in Minneapolis. Both have been very good and featured some of the same ideas and calls to action. It is powerful to see the tents and read more about the other genocides – that we said we’d never let another one happen.

The main action point was to call 1-800-Genocide. It will walk you through the rest of the action. We also spotted some people wearing Team Darfur garb.

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Laura Bush Speaking

In case you missed it the Republican National Convention was in my new town this week. Before you click away, this isn’t really about the RNC. Only partly. We did our part and let a sister-in-law of a friend spend the night with us – always glad to be gracious hosts! My penchant for politics made me want to be involved someone, but Christy said if I volunteered, she would go protest. Well I’m glad I didn’t because she might have been a little anarchist (not really but did you see the news?).

Cindy McCain Speaking

Ok, now for the main point of this post: World Vision and the ONE Campaign wanted to do something productive with the thousands of people hanging out and taking part in democracy. Sp they took the opportunity to get delegates, friends of the Party, and regular people like us to spend a few hours one afternoon so that we could impact thousands of lives – thousands of miles away.

We joined a few hundred other people on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center to put together Caregiver Kits. We were standing next to a lot of delegates, somebody important from the State Department’s Eurasia division, and I’m sure other “important” people I didn’t know, like the crippled woman or students from Bethany House of Prayer. We heard from Senator Bill Frist, Laura Bush, Cindy McCain, and Princess Zulu of Zambia. I will say that of all the “celebrities” in attendance Janet Huckabee actually stayed until the end and did a lot of work putting together the kits.

Enough Hype
What did we actually do? We put together Caregiver Kits that included basic medical supplies that a trained Caregiver in a developing co

Laura Bush hugging
Princess Zulu of Zambia

untry can use to “bring dignity and comfort to those living with AIDS.” Please read more about the kits and what they can do. It was a lot of fun to be involved in something that would make a tangible difference in someone’s life. Christy and I probably made at least 40 kits out of the 2,500 total from the event. Simple items such as latex gloves, antibacterial soap, antifungal cream, washcloths, and more can help a person live a better life.

I took a video putting together a kit:

Laura Bush & Princess
Zulu making a Caregiver Kit

A very simple project that has a lasting and powerful impact. The last item placed in each kit was a handwritten note to the caregiver – offering encouragement and thanks for their hard work. The ONE Campaign has a great write-up and video’s from the event. They did this same event in Denver at the Democratic National Convention, write-up here.

Updated: ONE now has a full video of the speaking part of the event and the “celebrities” creating caregiver kits.

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