Friday, July 22, 2011

Fort Collins

Time to pack again!

This time I'm going to Ft. Collins, Colorado for the Campus Crusade for Christ 2011 U.S. National Staff Conference on the Colorado State University campus. It's a breathtakingly beautiful part of the country.   

Monday morning, I'll be part of a line-up of four speakers, including Dan Allender, Amena Brown, and Blair Burns.  In the afternoon, we'll all be conducting some of the 2-hour Super Seminars. I'm excited to be doing mine on the Blessed Alliance, but am also going to wish I could attend theirs.

Afterwards, I am really looking forward to spending time with old friends and hope to make some new ones. Lots of Synergy friends will be there, which is a plus for me!

For those who haven't yet heard, CCCI just announced a name change of their USA ministries to CRU—a name already used on many campuses.  To read their announcement, go here.  For the Huffington Post's report on the name change, go here.  

Here's hoping the weather is cooler in Colorado than it is here in Boston.  After days of incredibly pleasant summer weather, the heat wave has finally come to us.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Ezer Moment?

CNN reported it as "the slap ... heard around the world: Wendi Deng Murdoch putting herself between her husband Rupert Murdoch and a protester armed with a shaving cream pie."

In a nanosecond the Internet was abuzz over Murdoch's third wife—a championship volleyball player—whose latest spike was timed perfectly to protect her husband from a heckler. Previously criticized as a gold-digger for her marriage to the media mogul, Wendi's recent actions have cast her in a new light, as a woman who loves her husband, takes responsibility for what's happening, and moves instinctively (faster than the police) to defend him against an assailant.

And while all the world is talking, unless I missed something (and please correct me if I'm wrong), Christian blogs are strangely silent. We're not talking about a woman who protects her man—especially in such a public and physically combative way.  But we need to talk about this because the issue is important and the stakes go much higher than a humiliating face full of shaving cream.

I wrote about this issue in Half the Church after telling the stories of twelve-year-old Reem Al Numery of Yemen and an Indian Muslim girl, Meena, whose story appears in Half the Sky.

Reem literally fought her way out of the marriage her father arranged with a thirty-year-old cousin who beat and raped her to consummate the "marriage." Not only did Reem secure a divorce, her actions resulted in an international outcry that is changing things for other child brides in Yemen.

At the age of eight or nine and five months before her first period, Meena was sold to traffickers. But Meena was a fighter too. "Her distinguishing characteristic is obstinacy. She can be dogged and mulish.... She breaches the pattern of femininity in rural India by talking back—and fighting back" (HTS, 7). Her mulishness resulted in her freedom and ultimately the freedom of the children she bore during her captivity who were also being trafficked.

Here's what I wrote in HTC:

"Are Reem and Meena allowable exceptions given their extreme circumstances, but for the rest of us, their kind of behavior is out of line? Are we definining a 'wartime ethic' for women where, in certain situations (life and death, for example, or in the event the men are absent) heavy lifting, strong leadership, and assertiveness are permissible, but are otherwise unnecessary, unnatural, and unacceptable? If Reem and Meena became Christians, would they be in for a major overhaul to eliminate their stubborn tendencies, or would we celebrate them as exemplary ezers, hold them up to our daughters for inspiration, and talk about them to our sons as the kind of courageous woman they should seek for a wife?"
Half the Church, pp,122-123

So ... will we remain silent, treat the Deng episode as an "allowable exception," or can we find it in ourselves to praise a woman's bold actions to protect a man as a courageous ezer-warrior moment?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let Freedom Ring!

Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."
—Luke 4:18-19

Maybe a good way to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy this July 4th holiday is to get behind our Christian sisters and brothers who are making freedom possible for others.  See the list of Strategic Resources to the right, and feel free to suggest more in your comments. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Going Camping!

Lucky me!  Sunday morning I'm bound for Michigan's Upper Peninsula and InterVarsity's beautiful Cedar Campus . . . for a week!

That's not even the best part.

I'm going for InterVarsity's Leadership Institute, where I'll be speaking every evening to a gathering of young future leaders about their callings as God's Image Bearers, ezer-warriors, and members of the Blessed Alliance, how these callings come to life in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, and what are the implications for us today. I expect this will lead to some interesting discussions.

And while "camp" is not usually my cup of tea, if this week goes anything like the last time I went (in 2009), I'll come home more encouraged than ever because of what God is doing in the lives of today's young people and filled with fresh hope for the future!

Casa Roca Children's Homes

Can't say they didn't warn us. Still, we were not prepared for what we experienced when we visited two of Casa Roca's 11 Children's Homes in Colombia. Esther Lucia de Silva-Silva, wife of Pastor Dario Silva-Silva, is the visionary and driving force behind these homes.

Little did we know we were about to enter a sacred place, where the gospel is being lavishly lived and young lives are being nourished with all that love can give and rising up to give back in many ways.

Esther told us "Our children are extraordinary," that "We are family, and this is homenot an orphanage."

The children come from rough backgrounds. Some were born to women who have been trafficked. Here they find the love of family and advocates who prize them and believe they are children of promise. Home parents are committed for the duration, and "The children can stay as long as they want."

Esther was emphatic. "We don't give second best to our children. We give them the best!" New clothes. New toys, and whatever they need to put their young lives on solid footing. Beyond the four walls of an orthodontist's office, I've never seen so many teeth in braces ("brackets") all in one place. The children receive the best education and, come summer, a fun vacation at the beach!

First stop was the girls home.The facilities were charming! The children were loving and friendly. You couldn't walk far without a small hand slipping into yours, defying any language barrier.

Frank & CCJ with the girls' parents.

Sarah (our translator) often volunteers at the
girls' home, and they adore her!
School House for the little girls.

The eye-opener for me was realizing that, just like any healthy family, the Casa Roca family is launching theit children. Loved and nurtured, they are flourishing spiritually, intellectually, professionally, and personally. They are becoming serious Christians and Colombia's future leaders. Which exposes the fact that to think of investing in the lives of forgotten, at risk children as rescue or charity completely misses the point. Completely! The potential that lies buried in these precious young lives—that can so easily be squandered by neglect and lack of opportunity—can bless the world. Instead of benefactors, those with resources are beneficiaries of the gifts and contributions these young people are capable of offering. We heard the stories of three great examples.

L to R:  CCJ, Eli Johana Henao, Yesid David Bernal, Kelly Santamaria, FJ
Eli Johana Henao (also with Frank on the right) joined the family as a young girl after early years of terrible suffering. The stubborn love of family, Esther Lucia de Silva-Silva's relentless pursuit, and the power of the gospel softened her heart and changed her life. She is a glorious miracle. Having graduated from university, she has a career in media as a photographer and a producer of the Dario Silva-Silva's television ministry. Eli is soon to be married to a young pastor.

Yesid David Bernal is a rising star in the world of Colombia journalism. A university graduate with a degree in journalism, David writes for La República, Colombia's version of the Wall Street Journal. While we were there, Pastor Dario handed us a recent issue containing an article David wrote on a Microsoft Research Faculty Summit.

Kelly Santamaria, along with Eli, attended the women's conference where I spoke. This high schooler was drawn to teaching on the ezer, embraced it for herself, and spoke with incredible warmth of how Esther is an ezer for her and the other children in the homes.

The original plan was for us to visit the girls' home only and for the boys to come over to meet us and have cake and hot chocolate mixed with melted cheese, which they did. But the boys wanted us to see their house too. So before heading back to the hotel, we made a second stop at the boys' home where they gave us a tour of their home. I'll let Frank tell you about our visit there.

Hot Chocolate & Cheese?

Football anyone?

Barak Obama of Bogotá

Carolyn and I did not think we were going to be able to visit the boy’s home. We spent so much time with the girls that it was getting dark and we thought we were headed back to the hotel.

We had already met a number of the young men at the dessert for the visitors, where the young journalist we met, Yesid David, spoke to the assembled group. After telling his story and expressing his appreciation for Casa Roca, he made a quiet plea to us—“Please come to see the boys home.”

So we decided to make one more stop and were glad we did.

Our guide was the son of the house parents, and his pride was very evident. In American parlance he was “house proud.” He took us to his family quarters, the study room they created from the garage, and then to the boy's bedrooms on the second and third floors. The third floor rooms had an exquisite view of the flickering lights of the town.

The boys are proud of their house and keep it spotless like this all the time.  Amazing!
They wanted us to see the "happy room" containing
bicycles & anything else that puts a boy on wheels.
The parade continued outdoors to the back garden, where the boys were determined that we should see the “happy room.” Once we saw the contents of that room, no one need to explain to us why it was called the happy room. The room was stocked with bikes, athletic equipment, and toys.

But the best was saved for last. Our young guide took us to the great room where many of the boys were watching television. As we made our way to the great room, our guide turned to me and said: “I want you to meet Barak Obama.”

Initially I thought we were having a translation problem, but I turned the corner and there sat Barak Obama. Not Barak Obama, President of the United States, but Barak Obama of Bogotá. This Barak Obama was a 12-year-old boy from the Caribbean coast of Columbia who was sitting in a wheelchair. It was easy to see why—his legs were severely bent. But there he sat with a marvelous smile beaming from his dark face. He was always smiling we were told. His many brothers were clustered around as if forming a protective barrier. Our guide explained that Barak had undergone many surgeries, and that the latest would allow him to walk once he healed.

I was a bit perplexed. All the bedrooms were upstairs and there was no elevator. How did Barak get to his bedroom each night? Answer: his brothers carried him up and down the stairs on their backs. These young men, who had come from appallingly difficult circumstances, had learned how to love their neighbors as themselves. It is one thing to read this in the Bible; it is another to see it lived out in the lives of Barak Obama of Bogotá and the brothers of Casa Roca.