Justice



I read What Difference Do It Make a while back and never got around to writing a review, which is bad since I got the book for free if I wrote a review.  I’ve actually done a terrible job writing reviews this year (and blogging in general here). I actually wrote my Amazon review back in November of 2009.

What Difference Do It Make was an easy read that packs a lot of punch.  It is a follow-up to Same Kind of Different as Me (which I haven’t read) and continues the story of Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

What Difference is a very compelling book that makes you re-think some of your beliefs and perspectives. I kept thinking, I’m a nice guy – but Hall and Moore are taking it to a whole new level. This is an easy and fairly short read. I liked how they wrote in unique voices and didn’t let spelling or grammar influence them too much (as you can tell from the title)!

I would recommend this book, it talks about God and religion but doesn’t push anything at you. Hall can come across as a little full of himself – but I think he means well and it fits within the purpose of the book.  Hall is an art dealer who ended up befriending Moore, a homeless man, at the prompting of his now deceased wife.   I was compelled to rethink some of my thoughts and opinions and I’m sure you will be influenced as well.

This is a video preview of an upcoming MPR project. The stats are sad, but it is the reality of our neighbors.

Here is a link to the entire project: Civil War Kids

Larger viewI’ve really struggled with what to write about the triple homicide that occurred last week.  I knew that I wanted to  write something about it, but it seems silly to just write the cold facts or to pull all the news articles together in a list.  The other night at church it became a little more clear.

David’s message was about peace, reconciliation, and community from Ephesians 2:11-22.  The middle of the passage verses 14-18 really fit well with the week’s events.

For he [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Brief Rundown

On Wednesday night one or two men entered Seward Market & Halal Meats (a Somali owned business approximately 2 miles from our house and a few blocks from our church) with the intention of killing at least the man behind the counter.  Unfortunately, his cousin had stopped by to chat and bring him tea.  Before it was over 3 men had been shot and killed in the peaceful store.  The Somali employee (owner?), his cousin, and an Oromo shopper were all killed for no clear reason.

Seward is a fairly peaceful community with about every possible type of diversity.  A large East African population melded with a Scandinavian population with everyone else thrown together.  Much has been done to keep the neighborhood safe and prosperous.  By all accounts the Seward Market was a stable small business with an engaged owner and peaceful employees.

On Thursday night a candlelight vigil was held on the corner of the street and many (some estimate up to 300) people stopped by, standing against violence.  This was by far one of the largest gatherings I’ve attended or even heard about where Somali community members and non-Somali neighbors gathered and mingled together.  It was a time to honor the dead, build peace, and community.

The investigation continues and a memorial fund has been setup for the victims families (details).

My Thoughts

Murder is never good.  It is what we do with the murder than can change lives and hopefully prevent future murders. In the past year or so, there has been an increase in violence within the Somali community and while no one has officially said so, it is rumored to be almost all along traditional clan lines.  Most people will say that many of those clan barriers have been broken down, but it isn’t always lived out in day to day life.  Mosques and Somali markets are still segregated along clan lines and there are credible rumors that this recent murder occurred at least in part as a reaction to violence that recently occurred in Somalia.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a diverse community come together to celebrate Peace, Shalom, Nabad, or Selam.  It was goose-bumpy feeling to have people chanting for peace, in their own languages and then together in Somali, while standing at the scene of a crime.   But true peace is hard.  For peace to occur there has to be a surrender of some sort and that is never easy.  We are called to by peace makers and lovers of our neighbors.

I believe that true peace can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:7 says: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   We can pray for peace in our community and we can take action for peace (including sharing Christ’s love). But we must also not forget the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.

One way to fight for peace is to fight for justice.  We need to fight to make sure that our East African neighbors feel at home in our neighborhoods.  We need to help them learn English, we need to build bridges so we can understand their culture and they ours.  We need to provide opportunities for their children to recieve a high quality education. We need to make sure their children have safe places to play and learn.  We need to help them find gainful employment.  We need to support their small  businesses.  We need to humble our arrogant selves.  We need to befriend all of our neighbors.

This will bring about justice and peace.

By now, the Twin Cities should realize that we won’t have peace on our streets until there is peace in Somalia (and other places where our refugees come from). It is becoming increasingly clearer that to some degree that even though Somalia and the Twin Cities are thousands of miles apart, they are tightly connected.  For peace and justice on our streets there needs to be peace and justice on the streets of Mogadishu, Hargase, and all of Somalia.

I leave you with these three news articles:

This Star-Tribune article features an interview with a man from our church.

MPR does a great job of reporting, including some subtle mentions of issues in Somalia.

The MinnPost does a “Daily Glean” of news sources on major topics from the day.  Their glean from Thursday includes a Tweet and Twitpic from me at the vigil. Plus, they have the best headline: “A triple homicide becomes a story about communities.”

Update: Since I first started writing this on Saturday, two 17 year old boys have been arrested in connection to the murder.  While this is good news, so that justice may prevail.  Their ages add another layer of tragedy to the situation.  I hope that their motives will be expressed and made clear so that this doesn’t have to happen anymore.

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The Immigration Policy Center published a report entitled New Americans in the North Star State in October that looked at the economic impact of immigration on Minnesota.

The summary shows that immigrants are having a positive impact on MN:

Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for large and growing shares of the economy and population in Minnesota. Immigrants make up 6.6% of the state’s population, and 42.5% of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for 3.5% of all registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for tens of million of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians wield nearly $10 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $2.2 billion and employed more than 21,000 people at last count. At a time of economic recession, Minnesota can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.

The last line shows the organization and the reports bias, but here are some more numbers:

  • In the Twin Cities metro area, 138 immigrant-owned businesses created 386 new jobs and spent $5.6 million on payroll, rent, and supplies in 2002, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.
  • More than 1,000 Mexican-American businesses operated in Minnesota, generating an estimated $200 million in sales; while Latino workers employed in south-central agricultural industries added nearly $25 million to the local economy, according to a 2004 report by the Minneapolis Foundation.
  • More than 16,000 Asian-Indians living in Minnesota accounted for $500 million in consumer purchasing power, paid $5.2 million in real estate taxes and $2.3 million in rent, and owned 400 companies that employed more than 6,000 people, according to the same report.
  • Minnesota was home to 60,000 Hmong, whose businesses generated an estimated $100 million in revenue, according to the same report.
  • Minnesota is home to the country’s largest Somali population, which numbered roughly 15,000 people as of 2002. Somalis in Minnesota accounted for $164 million in buying power and owned 600 businesses as of 2006.

Can you read this sentence? Probably.  That is in part thanks to an educational system that you spent at least 12 years in.

What about your neighbor who is new to this country?  Many of our neighbors in Minneapolis struggle to read and write in English.  They have arrived for many reasons – but that isn’t important.  Despite stereotypes to the contrary, many are trying to learn English.  English is important for their survival and sense of well-being.  Actually a surprising number of “regular Americans” those who are native born with a multi-generational presence here struggle with literacy.

The Minnesota Literacy Council recently posted some statistics from a 2003 study.

The highly-regarded National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) study of 2003 reports nearly one third of Americans need help in reaching their literacy goals. The study broke literacy performance into four performance levels: below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient. More than half of the U.S. population tested at basic or below basic proficiency levels in quantitative literacy tasks such as balancing a checkbook or comparing item process per ounce. In written literacy,

  • 14% of the population tested at below basic proficiency, meaning they had minimal to no reading and writing skills.
  • 29% tested at a basic level, meaning that they are minimally prepared to decode information in a simple pamphlet or medicine bottle.
  • 44% of adult can perform intermediate tasks, such as determining facts from reference material.
  • 13% of the U.S. population tested as proficient, meaning they are capable of reading and comparing editorial viewpoints.

As a state, Minnesota outperforms national averages; however, many Minnesotans are still tragically left behind in reaching their literacy potentials. For example,

  • 12% of Minnesotans over the age of 25 (381,345 adults) lack high school diplomas or equivalents according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
  • 8% (254,230 individuals) of Minnesota’s adult population is at the lowest of five levels of functional literacy.

With approximately 200,000 Minnesotans needing ESL classes we are happy to be able to make a small dent in that number with our Somali neighbors.

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For 24 hours, starting at 8:00 am on November 17th, every donation made through www.GiveMN.org will be eligible to receive a portion of the $500,000 match. These funds were contributed by the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation.  Also, generous funders are defraying donation processing fees on this site, so 100% of your gift goes straight to the organization!

In addition to the matching funds, the three nonprofits that receive the most individual donations will receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first prize, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third.

Over 36,000 organizations have a profile on the site.  So I helped narrow it down for you.  Below are 21organizations that I’ve had some interaction with and would support with my own money if I had lots and lots of it.  I threw in a random 22nd for diversity’s sake!

Youth Development

  • Longfellow United for Youth and Family have played a huge role on my work here in MN.  LUYF is a coalition of community members and churches that provide a free tutoring program and strongly support the work of the Sanford Job Corps – one of my primary responsibilites at Sanford.
  • Elpis Enterprises has been another great partner for my work in MN. Elpis or Hope provides teenagers the opportunity to gain work-related skills and leadership through screen printing and other businesses.  My first encouter with Elpis was with their bird feeder program.  We bought kits and Paul brought out one of his employees and they helped my kids build 20 bird feeders in 1 hour!
  • Achieve Minneapolis is more or less a foundation that supports programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools.  They provide grants for classrooms, teacher professional development, field trips, host career fairs, and much much more.
  • Urban Ventures is a youth leadership program located in my neighborhood that provides youth opportunities that might not otherwise get.  This includes tutoring, mentoring, family support, entrepreneurship programs and much more.
  • Best Prep does a lot of things surrounding financial education, including supplying classroom volunteers to talk about their career paths. I used them to bring in entrepreneurs to talk about their businesses and ventures they supported.
  • Junior Achievement is a better known cousin of Best Prep.  JA is best known for their Biz Town program where students visit their city and apply themselves in different roles such as CEO, Mayor, barista, etc. JA also does classroom volunteering programs in partnership with corporations.
  • YWCA provides a variety of services to pretty much every population.  They focus primarily on racial justice and empowering women and girls.  In Minneapolis they also operate 3 fitness facilities.  We are a member of the YWCA.
  • YMCA also provides a variety of services and operates a lot of fitness facilities around Minneapolis and the West Metro.  Some of our friends work for the YMCA, though none of their facilities are conveniently located for us.
  • CommonBond Communities provides affordable housing and supportive services in the Twin Cities.  I put CommonBond under youth development because I volunteered with them during the summer of my Americorps*VISTA service.  I served as a program assistant in a summer program that combined fun and learning during the afternoons for children residents of the Seward Towers.  They provide many more services to their residents.
  • Cookie Cart is an innovative teen led and run business venture in North Minneapolis.  Teens make, bake, and sell the cookies out of the West Broadway store front in the midst of a tough part of the city.
  • Search Institute is a nationally recognized leader in youth development.  Most famous for its 40 Developmental Assets I worked alot with these principles while in Indiana.  They provide resources to enable every adult to have a positive impact on the youth in their lives.
  • Bolder Options is a great youth mentoring program that connects youth and mentors through running (and biking) activities.  I would highly recommend volunteering as a mentor with Bolder Options.

Refugee Services

  • World Relief helps refugees adjust to life in Minnesota and America. This is the umbrella organization for the English literacy site that Christy and I co-coordinate.  They also provide job training, initial welcoming services, housing assistance and much more to refugees as they walk off the plane and into the sometimes harsh tundra of MN.
  • Center for Victims of Torture helps refugees and other immigrants who have been tortured in their home countries or at any point in their journey. They are a great advocate of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.
  • MN Literacy Council is probably the largest provider of literacy services in the Twin Cities and around the state.  We have attended their trainings and they are excellent.  They work with refugees, immigrants, children, adults, and families.

Other

  • Books for Africa sends used books to African partners who have a need for books! My school donated a bunch of textbooks that we never used last year.
  • Minnesota Public Radio is a great news source for both local and national issues.  They also have a rocking music station that plays a lot of local bands.
  • Feed My Starving Children is a well-respected Christian organization that pre-packages food here in MN that then gets shipped to over 60 countries.
  • Second Harvest of the Heartland is a large food bank that is helping to end hunger in MN.  It is affiliated with the national Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest Network) and does some great work here in the Twin Cities.
  • Somali TV of MN is my random organization.
  • Citizens League is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that focuses on a civic action for policy change. Think League of Women Voters with a younger group and a focus on grassroots advocacy and information sharing.
  • Team USA – MN is a post-collegiate training center and group for runners to be coached and supported while they strive to fulfill their athletic goals.

A challenging story of how a successful Christian, CEO answered God’s calling reminds us that sometimes we have to do more than just sit in a pew.  Rich Stearns, is the current President of World Vision and is well respected within the international development community.  I had never heard his story before, but am amazed at how God worked in his life.

The Hole in Our Gospel, is more than just an autobiography though.  He critiques the modern church for missing a large part of the Gospel message Jesus shared.  Stearns sacrificed his lifestlye as the CEO of a chinaware company to become president of World Vision.  It is a cool story and one you should read.  But as he makes clear in this excerpt, he is not calling us to get rid of everything in our life:

However, I don’t want to also suggest that all true followers of Christ must forsake everything to bring comfort and justice to the poor. I
only propose that genuine concern for “the least of these” that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of their lives and faith. That expression might involve small but regular gifts to compassion ministries, advocating on behalf of the poor to government representatives, or regular volunteering at a soup kitchen, the local nursing home, or the Ronald McDonald House…. Even Jesus did not spend every waking hour helping the poor.  He dined with the wealthy, celebrated at weddings and feasts, taught in the synagogue, and perhaps did a bit of carpentry.  Still, there is no question that His love for the poor found consistent and concrete expression in His life and ministry.

Yes, this book contains numbers and statistics that are overwhelming, even to me.  But his focus is more on telling the story about how God redeems us and redeems our brothers and sisters around the world.  Stearns will not allow you to get bogged down in the numbers, but will help you remember that each number represents a living person that Jesus died for.

Pick it up, read it, discuss it, share it with a friend.

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