Saturday, December 31, 2011

Synergy—2012 & Beyond!

Synergy is a game changer!

And after 7 powerful national conferences and a growing network of gifted women and men leaders—we're only getting started.

Never before have more ezer-warriors (women and girls) felt the stirrings of God's call to action. Never before have we been more aware of the desperate needs of our world. Never before have we possessed more resources and powerful technologies to do the job God is calling us to do. Never before has there been a greater urgency for God's sons and daughters work together for the sake of God's kingdom. 
Before us stands a breathtaking window of unprecedented opportunity. Synergy wants to make the most of it.

To read more about Synergy and what we're planning for Synergy's Phase 2, go here.  Then join us in this strategic kingdom effort!

To make a secure tax-deductible donation online, go here

Or mail your check (postmarked December 31 for year-end giving) to:

          Synergy Women's Network
          c/o Missionwell Service Center
          466 E. Foothill Blvd., #358
          La Canada, CA 91011

Trusting God for a game-changing future together!

Synergy President

Friday, December 30, 2011

Conversations with Haddon & Alice

Brian Hettinga, Haddon Robinson, Alice Mathews, Mart De Haan
Some of the most intriguing conversations I've had recently have been with Alice Mathews over lunch or with Haddon Robinson at a Gordon-Conwell faculty gathering.

All this week on Discover the Word, I am in conversation with them both at once. We're discussing Half the Church and exploring the significance of this book for women and for men.
Here's what Alice wrote after reading Half the Church:

"With the care of an experienced scout, Carolyn James has lined the fire pit with stones, then assembled the kindling and logs, and in the final chapters of this remarkable book has struck the match to ignite a blaze for God and his kingdom. No thoughtful Christian woman can walk away from this book unchallenged or unmoved, as she senses the glory of her ezer-warrior calling. Nor can any thoughtful Christian man remain unmoved by the vision of the Blessed Alliance so skillfully sketched in these pages. The challenge of Half the Church is to the whole church to fulfill God's purpose in creating all of us as iconoclastic bearers of the divine image in a broken world."

 If you miss the radio broadcast of any of these five conversations, the full MP3 recordings are available online:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finding Treasure in India

If there's one lesson to be learned from all the people who suffer poverty, abuse, and injustice, it is this: the world is impoverished so long as they remain captive and enriched when they're set free and empowered to cultivate and use their God-given gifts.  

That's the not-so-subtle message of the Chinese saying, "Women hold up half the sky." So guess what is falling and who else pays a price when women are trafficked, raped, denied an education, and marginalized?

That's a sobering question to ponder!

It's a message I read in Scripture. Who would believe a powerless trafficked Egyptian girl named Hagar would become the prophetic voice to reveal the intimate side of the Creator God as the one "who sees me."

Would anyone expect a trafficked Israelite slave being held unjustly in an Egyptian prison to catapult overnight to become Pharaoh's second in command or of developing a strategy to preserve the entire nation during a prolonged famine?

Who would believe God would summon a young barren Jordanian widow and her bereft Jewish mother-in-law out of the margins to fight for the next generation and ultimately rescue the line of Christ?  Only think what the world would be missing, if any of them had been forgotten and left to languish in the margins!

That same message keeps sounding through the stories of the people I meet.

Several months ago, I encountered a bright young twenty-something woman from Ivory Coast. She was born to a vegetable vendor who had five sons and no use for a daughter. So her mother gave her to an American family. How differently her story is playing out.  Instead of remaining illiterate, being married off (or trafficked) at an early age, suffering an early pregnancy and possibly fistula, my young friend is a Wellesley graduate, now with a masters degree from Harvard. I shudder to think of the treasures the world has thrown away by failing to see and empower the undeveloped human potential that God has implanted in his image bearers.

This past week in India, I saw it again. Yes, I saw overwhelming poverty. I heard disturbing stories of injustice that have left me aching. I doubt I'll ever shake the appalling images of the unbearable mistreatment of the Dalit people. One pays a terrible price for being born into the lowest caste.

But I also witnessed the flip side—where poverty and oppression are rendered powerless against the strength of the gospel to release the human treasure that God intends should flourish.

We visited the Good Shepherd School—one of Operation Mobilization's network of schools in India that is currently educating 25,000 Dalit children. 600 children are enrolled at this particular school.

At these schools, no one is willing for little ezers to get left behind.  If a family sends their son to school, leaving his sisters behind, the school won't take him until his sisters come too.

The students welcomed us with garlands, sang and danced, made speeches, celebrated birthdays, and shared their birthday candy with us. Their joy was infectious.

Students who will graduate this year and move on to college told us their goals—to be a teacher, an engineer, a scientist, a policemen. These aspirations wouldn't have occurred to them apart from the education and affirmation they're getting here. OM stays with them to ensure they reach their goals.

If a student is not able to go to college, they have other options. We visited silk screen printing and sewing classes to get a sample of the training OM offers. All those smart looking uniforms are handmade by seamstresses trained on site. Microfinance loans are helping these graduates and others in the community launch new businesses. 

There's more good news, for as these young people learn and flourish, escape poverty and become the promise of India's future, they are also hearing the Gospel and God is changing hearts. 

Before I left for India, I was told my heart would get broken again. It did.  You can't listen to the stories of injustice I heard and not have it break your heart. But what surprised me most of all was the undercurrent of hope that permeated the Justice Forum to defy these grim realities. The trip to India was an unexpected reminder that God is on the move. His people are at work. Lives are changing. Buried treasure is being unearthed. Darkness is no match for the light. 

 For further information:  Dalit Freedom Network

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Ground in India

Traveling and spending time with Dr. Ana Steele in the heart of India, means it is inevitable that I will learn about one of the most severe and deep-seated humanitarian crisesthe plight of the Dalit people. The movie Slumdog Millionaire offered a glimpse into the degrading injustice of that world.

At Lausanne 2010 in Capetown, Dr. Joseph D'Souza, President of International Dalit Freedom Network, addressed the plenary session about this horrific and widespread crisis. We had dinner with him last night, with his son, Josh D'Souza, and Scott and Jill Bollinder (Scott is President of Biblica).

Joseph is hosting this Forum with Biblica and will be speaking this morning. Already what I've heard about him from others and from Ana, about how incredible it is to work with him (they are a Blessed Alliance), enough to make me curious to learn more about him and his passion for justice in India.

Below are two videos that hopefully will interest you:  the first is Dr. D'Souza's message from Capetown and the second video I found online is of research some skeptical young Indian students conducted on the Dalit population in India and the shocking reality they discovered.

The Justice Bible Forum begins officially this morning. Dr. D'Souza will bring devotions. We'll hear about the vision of this project and the plan for the Forum, then we'll listen as each participant tells their story, wrap up by talking about the potential audience of the Justice Bible. We're going to watch the 58: The Film on global poverty after dinner. See the trailer below:

58: THE FILM Trailer from LIVE58NOW on Vimeo.

I am actually posting this on Monday 6:00 AM Hyderabad time, but it comes up Sunday ET. At the moment, your day is winding down, while mine is just beginning—earlier than I wanted (I've been awake since 4am), but that's the price of jet lag.

Waking Up in Hyderabad

L to R: Dr. Ana Aspras Steele, President, Dalit Freedom Network, 
Dr. Sagar Kamarthi, Assoc. Prof., Northeastern University, CCJ, 
LaReau Anderson, Biblica

How ironic to travel half way around the world and end up meeting someone who lives in Boston.  That's what happened en route to India.  Sandwiched in between Ana and me on the flight from London to Hyderabad was an interesting young professor from Northeastern University in Boston. Conversations with him were a cultural education worth the trip!

He was equally interested what we do, in the purpose of our trip, and in justice issues relating to women. The firstborn in his family, he has been a strong advocate for his three younger sisters to get education, even at personal sacrifice. It was heartening to hear his story.

During the flight that we discovered LaReau Anderson was on boardpart of the Biblica team with a heart for children and youth.

So much for my fears of traveling to India alone. I was in great company!

Haven't done much since my arrival but sleep.  I think I broke the record for sleep duration on Saturday. I'm not telling how many hours.

Conversations have already beguninformallyabout the Justice Bible. The passion everyone I've met so far for this project is pretty intense. I'm convinced this project is vital.  How will the church sustain a heart for justice and our current focus on the suffering around the world become something more than a passing trend if we don't see clearly and plainly from scripture that God's heart beats for justice and that, as his image bearers, our heartbeat should echo his?

Looking out my hotel window this morning, I saw a hazy view of Hyderabad, a cemetery just below, and people going out to get water.

When you turn on the faucet at home today, give thanks for God's blessings!