Friday, October 28, 2011

From Zurich

You won't find more beautiful cities anywhere in the world than Zurich, Switzerland.

I walked my legs off today trying to absorb the beauty—along the Limmet River, down the narrow cobblestone streets, into the historic churches, and all over the Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum). What topped the day off for me was when in two out of three Protestant churches I visited, the organist was practicing. As a former pipe organ student, I have to say that was a special pleasure for me.

But like any 21st century city, Zurich has an ugly underbelly. Today was filled with sobering evidence. Memorials of martyrs executed because of tensions between Catholics and Protestants and between Protestants and Protestants. A major section of the museum displayed all sorts of lethal weapons—guns and sharp instruments soldiers use on one another. Pornography abounds, not in an isolated area, but mingled in with the cafes and shops. The day ended with a drive through a red light district that left us all desperate to know even how to pray, much less what to do.

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of teaching Half the Church to a gathering of 125 Christian women who are coming from around Europe and North America. These women are hungry to go deeper and will, as part of this program, become involved in ministries to those who are suffering. I am reminded once again of the enormous potential that resides in half the Church.  Those of us who are here are praying that God will awaken and mobilize his daughters to be blazing lights in a very dark world and bearers of good news to the oppressed and forsaken.

As one woman told me recently, "I don't feel guilty that I haven't acted in the past. I didn't know what was happening to women and girls. Now I know, and I'll feel guilty if I don't do anything now."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On to Grand Rapids!

 In the morning, I'll be back at Boston-Logan, heading out to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the International Justice Conference at Thornapple Covenant Church.

In addition to speaking Saturday night, I'm leading a conference "Prayer Room" both evenings to focus on justice issues in the United States. That should bring the whole crisis closer to home. I'm also very interested in hearing from the other main speaker, IJM's Abraham "Abbey" George.

Grand Rapids also gives me the opportunity to spend time with other people who mean a lot to me: Custis relatives who migrated from Oregon to Michigan and friends from Biblica who have invited me to participate in their Justice Bible Forum in Hyderabad, India this December. (I'll have more to say about that later.) And of course, it wouldn't feel like I'd been to Grand Rapids if I didn't stop by Zondervan to see what my editor Katya Covrett and company are up to. 

If you live in the Grand Rapids area, I hope I'll see you at the conference this weekend. If you don't live in the area, at least visit Thornapple's website to see how one church is responding to this horrific global crisis. Might give you some ideas for your own church. Personally, I find it deeply heartening for Thornapple to be focusing on justice issues. It would be a welcome sign if these kinds of conferences started multiplying to other churches.
“Justice is the calling of all who follow Jesus—no matter who you are or where you live. It is fundamental to the heartbeat of God's passion for the world.”
Bethany Hoang, IJM

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Synergy Ramps Up!

If you think Synergy is in a holding pattern, think again!

The very name "Synergy" implies activity. Even when we "pause" to assess where we've been and gear up for where we're going, Synergy momentum can’t be stopped!

So let me catch you up on what is happening as we ramp up from Phase I to Phase II.

First, many thanks for your strong response to our board’s decision to press the “pause” button temporarily after Synergy2011 to seek God’s guidance and build a strong foundation for what comes next. Your enthusiastic support for this decision and for Synergy's next phase is a reminder of the importance of our network and just how much we need each other.

Here’s what’s been happening since our June announcement.

1)   We’re currently in the middle of moving forward with the four major strategies we defined:
  • Synergy Board: Our new board chair, Susie Lipps, is doing an excellent job of leading the charge for board expansion and development.
  • Fund Raising: We have our work cut out for us, but Sharon Denney and I, along with our board, are focused on fund raising and leaving no stone unturned. The photo above was taken recently when Sharon was in Boston from NYC for some face-to-face fund raising planning with me and strategic meetings in the Lexington area. The location of our meeting and Sharon's insatiable desire to explore during gaps in the schedule (people who know her will understand) explain why we happen to be at the Minute Man National Park.
  • Regionals: Even though we’ve temporary postponed booking regionals, initial conversations are already taking place for regional conferences in Los Angeles, Portland, and Boston.
  • Phase II Infrastructure: We’ve taken a major step towards building an appropriate infrastructure by outsourcing our accounting and business operations to Mission Well in California.
2)   Small groups are piloting new ideas and developing strategies and resources that we believe Synergy can multiply nationally as we build a stronger more active network, facilitate strategic new initiatives, and mobilize more women for the Kingdom.
    •  In Massachusetts, the Gathering for Hope was launched a year ago by Brooke Sulahian for women to educate themselves about justice issues and organizations and wrestle with the question: What can I do? This past Monday, a second Gathering for Hope was formed.
    • Across several states, a cohort of women in similar ministry situations are fleshing out how to build bridges and move toward a Blessed Alliance in their churches.
    3)  We are shortly to announce a new national initiative to engage the Synergy Network in stimulating conversations with significant thought leaders, such as Chai Ling, Andy Crouch, and others.

    We can't do any of this without God's help and without your support.  Please keep us in your prayers. Consider becoming a regular Synergy supporter.  And definitely stay tuned for more details! (That’s one more reason to “LIKE” the Synergy FaceBook Page!)

    Moving forward together,

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Just out! A Heart for Freedom

    Prospective readers of A Heart for Freedom (Synergy's Book of the Month) should probably be forewarned that reading Chai Ling’s story runs the risk of being swept up in her passion for freedom and unable to sidestep your own responsibility to do something about what is wrong in our world. It’s amazing what one person can do, once she makes up her mind to act. I hope her book has that impact on all of us.

    Chai Ling offers a rare intimate behind-the-scenes look at the Tiananmen Square student protest and the tragic aftermath as Ling recounts those history changing days—not as a journalist, but as a key leader of the student movement. With the growing significance of China in today’s world, her remarkable story gives us vital insight into this significant moment in China’s history and to the suffering, courage, and sheer determination that characterized the students in that movement.

    I loved observing how Ling, herself, evolves and grows from start to end of this book and how her story bridges the old world of her foot-bound grandmother and the twenty-first century high tech world of Jenzabar. Born in China, Ling is a disappointment to her father for not being a son. Conditioned to defer to the men in her life (and her father heads the list) and to derive her meaning and value from their approval, Ling awakens to her own deep sense of calling in the Tiananmen Square protests and to her responsibility to do something about the suffering and injustice in the world—a responsibility that is reinforced and galvanized years later when she embraces faith in Christ.

    She doesn’t airbrush her story, but is unflinchingly truthful about her own flaws and failings. Every situations she faces pushes her outside of her comfort zone—Tiananmen Square, life on the run, starting over on her own in a foreign country, launching a business, and her efforts today on behalf of China’s daughters under the government’s One-Child Policy. Ling doesn’t hold back. The results are seen, not only her achievements and the benefits that come to others, but also in her flourishing as a human being. I’d like to think her story will awaken that same sense of calling and urgency, the same refusal to hold back, in every woman who reads Ling’s story.

    But perhaps the most unexpected message of this book centers on the subject of the One-Child Policy and abortion in particular. The statistics for China are not only alarming, but difficult to absorb—not just that every 2.5 seconds a baby is aborted, that 86% of Chinese women have had abortions (multiple abortions for 52% of women ages 20-35), or that abortions exceed live births 101 to 100, but that in the wake of all those government mandated abortions, every day 500 women in China commit suicide.

    China is losing her daughters—both the little ones and the grown ones—at appalling rates. When you realize how much good one of China’s daughters is accomplishing, the loss of all the others is incalculable. Ling’s poignant discussion of the complex subject of abortion points us all (especially Evangelical Christians, of which she is one) to a more compassionately thoughtful and redemptive approach to this complex subject. For that, we owe her a great debt.

    So read her story, if you dare!