Monday, November 28, 2011

Countdown to Hyderabad

Today I read yet another disturbing article online about atrocities against women happening at this very moment.  This one reported on "Why eastern DR Congo is 'rape capital of the world'." 

Africa isn't where I'm going next, but this article underscores why this next trip is so important.

Thursday I depart for Hyderabad, India. The sole purpose of this trip is to participate in a forum with 15-20 people from different countries to discuss a Justice Bible that Biblica (publisher of the NIV) is planning to publish.

I was enthusiastic the first time I heard about this Justice Bible project. It is an incredible honor to be part of this forum, and I'm looking forward to meeting the other people in the group.  I'll have a head-start on that part, since I'll be traveling with a new friend, Dr. Ana Aspras Steele, President of the Dalit Freedom Network. I've already had an amazing phone conversation with herenough to know she is a kindred spirit. I'm looking forward to making the long(!) trip with her.

At the same time, reading the article about the ongoing brutality and systematic raping of women in the DRC underscores the weighty responsibility of participating in this significant project. I know how easy it is to read the Bible and gloss over atrocities and injustices recorded there. I know because I've done it countless times myself. It wasn't until I started hearing news reports, like the one I just read, or reading books like Half the Sky (have you read it yet?) that I linked the word "trafficking" to Hagar (a slave girl) and Joseph (trafficked by his brothers) and Esther (rounded up without her consent for the king's pleasure)? Only then did I begin to notice how large a part God's passion for the poor and oppressed and his strong heart for justice occupies in the Bible's message. 

This Justice Bible could be an eye-opening read for many—spurring them on to live out their calling as God's image bearers who share God's passion for the poor and oppressed and his strong heart for justice.

Please pray for this important venturefor the leadership of Biblica, for those who participate in the Forum, for me as I try to do my part, and for the actual project as it gets under way. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why I am thankful for Boston!

“Wear that cap anywhere in this city, and you’ll be safe.”

Having just moved to Massachusetts from Florida, I was surrounded by boxes. The person speaking was the Verizon installer who, seeing the Boston Red Sox cap my husband bought me, felt compelled to inform me of the protection it afforded. As a baseball fan, I found the mention of Fenway Park enough to outweigh fearful remarks I heard about New England winters before moving here. It gave me fresh incentive to brave the move north to Boston. This new information about my cap was double good news.

I’ve been here two years now—hardly long enough to begin shedding my “outsider” status or for Boston to feel like home to me. I’m years away from weaning myself of GPS dependence. Still, even as a relative newcomer, it’s hard not to love a place like Boston. Boston is the epicenter of American history and an international hub of many of America’s finest higher educational and medical institutions. Today, the city bustles with activity, traffic jams, crazy sports fans, a rising generation of gifted students and researchers, and native Bostonians who take liberties by adding and subtracting the letta’ “R” in words.

But the promise of safety inherent in a Red Sox baseball cap reminds me that there are two sides to Boston. Alongside reasons for great pride and deep gratitude for this remarkable city, there are also and always have been reasons to need protection here.

Early Puritan settlers in Boston breathed in the fresh air of religious freedom back in 1630. But local cemeteries contain the bones of early Bostonians whose beliefs fell outside the circle of accepted doctrine and were persecuted—some of them to their graves. In 1773, the Boston Tea Party (anything but a party) was a dangerous act of resistance against the Crown and a harbinger of a royal crack-down to come. It did come. In 1775, Boston acquired the unenviable reputation of being the site where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired and both American and English blood was spilled. Boston speaks of sanctuary for some fleeing religious persecution and of unbearable persecution—literal witch hunts—for others; a place of peace and a place of bloodshed.

Old ironies live on in this New England city. Here, even beloved baseball players can land on the wrong side of their fans. But danger of a more sinister nature has held the advantage over many in Boston until this week when state legislators finally passed an anti-sex trafficking law for the governor to sign. Despite a long-established history of taking the lead when it comes to social change, Massachusetts lagged shamefully behind with two others states that still do not have a law empowering local law enforcement to go after traffickers, pimps, and johns and to treat prostitutes as victims instead of criminals.

What I love most about Boston are the people here who love Boston too. They haven’t waited for the government to act. Just since moving here, I’ve witnessed the formation of two unstoppable gatherings of Christian women who are fired up to bring hope to the hopeless and freedom to the captives. Last week people gathered to support a safe house for women recovering from trafficking. Darkness and danger may be strong, but these light-bearing ezer-warriors are filled with hope and determination. Boston will feel the impact of their efforts and many will find freedom because of their advocacy. And that makes me truly thankful to live here.

So if you’re in Boston and happen to see a GPS dependent woman driving around sporting a Boston Red Sox cap, she could be me—growing to love Boston and staying safe.

—This article was originally published by Christianity Today's This is Our City. Follow the link to read articles about what's happening in other cities.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Half the Church Audio

The audio version of Half the Church is on sale—$7.49 reduced from $13.99 (or Amazon's $16.95) at

The sale ends December 9.

Might make a great stocking stuffer for yourself and a great way to "read" the book while you commute!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Girls Allowed!

L-R: Chai Ling, Nick Smith, Brynn Harrington, Kirby Francis,
Kristin Warren, David Sweet, Carolyn James, Sharon Denney
Synergy's first EzerWatch with Chai Ling was an absolute pleasure. She is, of course, delightfully warm and ready to talk—an interviewer's dream. Her staff couldn't have been more welcoming.  And of course, the Synergy production team (Kirby, David, Nick, Brynn, and Kristin) were simply amazing—perfectly calm, professional, and generous with their talents. I love working with them!

If you haven't yet gotten your hands on a copy of Ling's book, A Heart for Freedom, here are just a few reasons why I think this is such an important book to read:

First, it is a rare and gripping student leader's on-the-ground account of events as they unfolded at the Tiananmen Square in the 1989 student protest. With multiple protests in the news today, what could be more timely than to get an insider's perspective on this early student movement for freedom and democracy in China.  

Second, it is the powerful story of an ezer stepping out and finding her voice, along with the courage to use it for the good of others. It is nothing short of miraculous that the bold young leader at Tiananmen Square is the same girl who grew up watching her grandmother hobble around on bound feet and who knew her birth was a disappointment to her father who had hoped his firstborn would be a son. Even the Chinese culture put leadership out of reach for her. Ling writes, 
"In the culture I grew up in, a woman must obey her father, and then her husband when she marries, and then her son if her husband dies. A woman is never given the chance to be her own person." 
Reading Ling's story—seeing how, against the odds, she grows and flourishes as a person and a leader and how good that is for so many—will surely help readers (both female and male) see that God can and does work in mighty ways through his daughters to bless the lives of others.  

Third, it puts before us the unvarnished truth about the unspeakable loss of life and the suffering of so many mothers in China. Here is just a sampling of the statistics:
  • 37,000,000 girls have lost their lives
  • every 2.5 seconds a baby in China is aborted
  • 86% of Chinese women have had abortions
  • more than 52% have had at least 2 abortions
  • 500 women per day commit suicide
Based on these statistics, 540 abortions and 16 suicides occurred during our 45 minute EzerWatch. Hard to fathom!

The courageous leadership Ling displayed at Tinanamen Square continues to this day. Her heart still beats strongly for China and her people. Her passion as a follower of Jesus has only intensified her commitment to address the resulting gendercide and deepened her compassion for the millions of mothers who grieve the loss of their children. I also wonder if Ling's eye-opening discussion of abortion might bring to the forefront a much needed gospel message of healing and grace (versus condemnation) to women with abortions in their past. That alone is reason enough to read this book.

Check out and find out how you can help!

EzerWatch with Chai Ling from Synergy Women's Network on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EzerWatch with Chai Ling

In case you haven't already heard, this Monday, November 21, Synergy is launching EzerWatch!—a series of webcast interviews with today's thought leaders.

Our first guest is Chai Ling, whose book, A Heart for Freedom, I reviewed back in October when it was first released. You will not want to miss this opportunity to hear from her!

Ling was the commander-in-chief of the student protest at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Her involvement placed her on China's "most wanted" list and forced her to flee to the West. Remarkably, none of that has stopped her.

She went on to earn degrees from Princeton and Harvard, started Jenzabar, a educational software company, and more recently has launched AllGirlsAllowed, a strategic human rights organization to fight girls and mothers in China whose lives are being lost or shattered under China's One-Child Policy.

This is an ezer story we need to hear!

If you're subscribed to the WhitbyForum newsletter—The Ezer Report—you'll be receiving an announcement and an invitation.  Click on {Newsletter} above to subscribe.

But above all join us on Monday, November 21, at 1:00pm/ET!

For more information about how to register for and view this FREE webcast, go here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

This Is Our City!

If you haven't done this already, check out This Is Our City—a brand-new multimedia project from Christianity Today magazine that was launched last week while I was in Zurich. This series includes "in-depth reports, documentaries, and interviews about sex trafficking in Portland, Oregon, and beyond."

I'm especially eager to promote this project because the trafficking issue has gripped my heart. My book, Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women, sets forth a vision for women that is the antithesis of sex trafficking and calls God's image bearers—both women and men—to fulfill their God-given calling to "Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows" (Isaiah 1:17).

This particular CT project comes close to home for me because I grew up in Portland. Also, I am a fan of Nate Clarke, the project's videographer. Nate produced the Synergy video shown last year at Lausanne in CapeTown, which also targets this issue:

Christianity Today has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to the modern abolitionist movement, (see two previous cover stories, “The Hidden Slavery” (2003) and “Red-Light Rescue” (2007.) The city project highlights ways Christians are increasingly going “in the trenches” to prevent trafficking before it starts. I'm excited to see that happening in Portland.

Hopefully, it will spur some of the rest of us to action.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hope is Alive!

The past couple of weeks have left me with a terrible ache inside. I've heard stories and witnessed scenes of oppression and suffering both here at home and overseas. I doubt I'll ever recover from seeing trafficked women on the streets of Zurich that have deeply impacted me. But along with those disturbing realities has been a steady stream of reminders that God is at work, mobilizing his sons and daughters to bring the double good news of Jesus' salvation and justice to those who are suffering at the hands of others. 

L to R: Abey George, Marney & Tracy Danz, CCJ,
Tammy Friesen, Soni, (Pastor) Rob, & Kristin Peterson
The International Justice Conference at Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church in Grand Rapids revealed a growing passion among church members for justice issues and their corporate determination to turn passion into action. It's hard not to hope when people are on their knees for the world and wrestling with what God wants them to do. 

In Zurich, 165 women gathered for the first of six one-day seminars conducted by Lifesprings School of Ministry. Dr. Nate Feldmeth, Fuller Theological Seminary Church History Prof, and I were the two presenters. As part of this eighteen month program, each woman will read through The Gospel of Ruth and will develop and initiate a project based on needs in her area. This school isn't just about taking in. These women will also be giving out, and I love to imagine how much good 165 ezers can do!

Lifesprings School of Ministry in Zurich
I was deeply impressed and encouraged by the ezers I met in Geneva (below) at a gathering that included women in the U.N., the World Health Organization, church ministries, and Lifesprings alumni engaged in initiatives in Africa. Some are addressing global health issues—advising nations on which medicines to purchase and which drugs are most effective against major diseases, improving sanitation issues to address one of the leading causes of disease and deaths. Others are focused on raising funds to improve education for children in poverty. These ezers are on fire for God's kingdom, and what I've described is only the tip of the iceberg. God's ezers are everywhere!

Bishop Thad Barnum

This past weekend, I was with Church of the Apostles and Living Hope Church in Connecticut, to speak on The Gospel of Ruth. I wish you could have heard the prayers of these people—asking God to show them what to do in response to the suffering around them—and Bishop Thad Barnum's impassioned urgings to become people and givers of God's hesed.

I'm still slightly jet-lagged. And that ache hasn't gone away. But I have seen strong reasons to hope. Yes, the Enemy is powerful, and the darkness is deep. But God is at work. He's raising up his people, and the light we carry cannot be extinguished!

See more photos on FaceBook!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Next Stop, Connecticut!

Just back in town from Zurich with so much to process and I'm already heading out the door again. No time for jet-lag for me!

My next stop is Connecticut where I'll be speaking on The Gospel of Ruth at a Saturday seminar hosted by the Church of the Apostles (Fairfax) at Living Hope Church in Shelton.

In the video below, Anglican Mission in America's Bishop Thad Barnum issues an invitation to this seminar, along with other Church of the Apostles events this weekend. Over the past several weeks, he has been shepherding his congregation through the Book of Ruth and leading them become hesed-givers in their community. If you're wondering what hesed means, read The Gospel of Ruth.

If you're in the area, I hope to see you there!