Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ultimate Comeback!

There's an Olympic story we'd be hearing more about if a medal was part of it. Before the London Olympics ended, The Guardian projected, "If the mountain biker Adrien Niyonshuti's considerable legs push him to Olympic glory on Sunday, it will surely be the most inspirational story of the Games."

He didn't win a medal. But it's to our loss if we mainly focus on the winners (who deserve our attention) and lose sight of other heroes who crossed the finish line against all odds, albeit not in the first three spots.

Adrien Niyonshuti, the lone Rwandan biker at the 2012 Olympics, is one of those inspiring stories. Medal or not, we need to hear his story.

Last April, when I was in Colorado Springs for the Generous Giving conference, I was blown away by a preview of Rising From Ashes, the documentary about Team Rwanda—a remarkable group of Rwandan youths who survived the genocide, but not without the catastrophic loss of family members and neighbors. Yet, instead of caving in to the traumas that have permanently scarred their young lives, these young men turned their energies to mountain biking. This is a powerfully redemptive story, not just for the young Rwandans, but also for the men who entered their lives as advocates, mentors, and sponsors.

Here's the trailer:

Rising From Ashes from T.C. Johnstone on Vimeo.

Twenty-five year old Adrien Niyonshuti was the only one who qualified for the Olympics.

I'm usually trumpeting efforts to empower women and girls to rise from the ashes of suffering, trafficking, poverty, and oppression to lead productive flourishing lives and to discover God's love for them when Christians are actively involved on their behalf. Experts document the difference now being made in their lives and how benefits to them change the lives of their children, their communities, and beyond. I intend to continue sounding the alarm and to highlight efforts to change things for women—for us to spread Jesus' gospel in all of its fullness. 

Team Rwanda is a powerful reminder that boys and men, both here and abroad, need that same kind of advocacy too and that the benefits multiply when they are empowered to flourish. The Olympics may be over. But the ripple effect of Team Rwanda continues—giving Rwandans a renewed sense of national pride and hope for the future.

Here are before and after accounts of Adrien's Olympic effort:
If you have trouble viewing the trailer above, go here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Something to ponder ...

"By naming us as his image bearers, God has made a relationship with himself the strategic center of his purpose for humanity and for the world. Knowing God is as vital to us as the air we breathe. The image bearer's relationship with God is our north star, the reference point from which we begin to understand everything else—including ourselves.

[This] places us at the center of what God is doing in the world—not as spectators, but as kingdom agents and as leaders with responsibility for what is happening around us. ... Suddenly our mundane and often behind-the- scenes lives are invested with cosmic significance, for we are God's eyes and ears, his hands and feet, his voice in this world."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why Virginity is Not the Gospel

Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones has been in the news a lot lately for reasons other than her high profile role as a 2010 Team USA track and field competitor in the London Olympics. Her public statements about being a virgin at 29 (now 30), which she connects to her Christian faith, are at the center of this media storm.

Here's the interview that caused a lot of the ruckus:

My article on today's Huffington Post Religion Blog takes on the deeper issues surrounding the connection between Christianity and virginity and "Why Virginity is Not the Gospel."

Check it out and add your comments!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Where is God?

© teejayfaust 2009 Flickr
I was mid-way through a weekend speaking engagement at Morning Star Church in Kansas last January when I got the call that my father's battle with cancer had escalated. He was in the hospital with pneumonia and wasn't expected to make it through the weekend. The Morning Star folks were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to go. I'll never forget it! So I dropped everything and caught the next flight out to Portland.

It's in desperate times like these that we long for God to show up in some powerful way.
I know that's what I was praying somewhere in the skies between Kansas City and Portland. Then it dawned on me that the way he most often shows up is through his Image Bearers. No lightening bolt or voice from heaven. No glorious shining epiphany. No miraculous healing. Just the simple and ordinary loving acts of God's children who arrive on the scene to do whatever they can think of to help in the agonizingly brutal battle against cancer. As his child I have the potential of being at least one way he shows up.

And yet, we are mistaken to think that in the silent darkness of our struggles we are ever all alone.

That's the timely subject (at least for me in the aftermath of my father's death) of the guest blog Rachel Held Evans posted on her blog today. "Just a Mediocre Miracle" by blogger Neely Stansell-Simpson is the story of three-generations of ezers—her mother battling cancer, her three-year old daughter Sophie, and Neely herself caught in the middle.

I hope you'll take the time to read it.

Neely ends with this fitting and much needed reminder that it is actually in these black-out places, where we feel utterly alone and there are no hints of God's presence, that he is most present and doing some of his best and deepest work in us: 
It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. That child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. “In great humility.” There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread . . . The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain. The lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often (italics mine).
Frederick Buechner