Beholding Poverty to Become Whole

The questions I’ve been asking lately are: how can we even recognize the need for justice unless we pay attention enough to really listen? Are we truly hearing the heart-song of those around us? Do we really see poverty for what it is?

Recently I led a vision trip to Rwanda and, as per usual, participants were eager to bring busloads of soccer balls, one thousand pencils, and used clothing to help the poor in this starving African country. We are so quick to band-aid the pain we see, not so much to seek solutions but to ease our own consciences. “We have so much and they have so little!” is a common phrase I hear when we consider those who are economically disadvantaged – until we begin to really see and hear their stories.

While in Rwanda, our team had the privilege of visiting the Azizi Life Village where we spent the day engaging with a collective of artisan women. These women have joined forces and are using their skills to earn an income and support one another in their community.

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Every Girl Is My Daughter

I woke up in the middle of the night the other night – something that’s not unusual for me, particularly when my body is still trying to adjust its clock from a trip overseas. After not being able to get back to sleep for a few minutes my typical course of action is to reach for a book, so that’s what I did. I’m in the middle of reading a wonderful book called, “The Hate U Give,” which tells a story of racism in the US through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl after injustice touches her life in a tragic way. The book has me thinking a lot about systemic racism in the United States, particularly in the law enforcement and justice systems, but also in the smaller, everyday places, like within and between neighbourhoods and friends.

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From the Archives: The Danger of “Other”

Almost two years ago now, Kara Cheng wrote a timely blog post that captured the heart of JustUs, and the heart of God, when it comes to how we react to the events that take place in this world, and how we feel about the people we share it with.  Unfortunately, her sentiments are just as relevant today as they were then.  While the tragedies that plague our world have changed slightly in those two years, the fear in our hearts and our reactions caused by it have not, so we’re pulling this one from the archives to remind us of God’s heart for every single person on this planet, and how we, as His followers, should love them.  

Every morning when I wake up the first thing I do is check my phone. Nearly every morning my screen is flooded with BBC News alerts informing me of two things 1) an act of terror that has occurred and 2) Donald Trump. What a way to wake up…

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Do the Thing in Front of You

As we come into 2018, I’m thinking of three things.

  1. What are my New Year’s resolutions?
  2. How can I avoid the endless sense of crisis and darkness I see every time I look at the news or open Twitter?
  3. How can I be a tiny part of making the world a better place?

Well in order:

  1. I don’t have any, they don’t work. I break them all by January the 3rd anyway, so what’s the point?
  2. It’s all around me and its almost impossible to avoid. I don’t have to dwell on it though or believe that it defines my existence. I just have to find a way to be part of turning the tide.

Which brings me to number three: How can I be a tiny part of making the world a better place?

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Merry Christmas, from the JustUs Team

  1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
    born to set thy people free;
    from our fears and sins release us,
    let us find our rest in thee.
    Israel’s strength and consolation,
    hope of all the earth thou art;
    dear desire of every nation,
    joy of every longing heart.
  2. Born thy people to deliver,
    born a child and yet a King,
    born to reign in us forever,
    now thy gracious kingdom bring.
    By thine own eternal spirit
    rule in all our hearts alone;
    by thine all sufficient merit,
    raise us to thy glorious throne.

This hymn by Charles Wesley expresses the hopeful longing of the Advent and Christmas seasons. We know that Christ was born, lived, died and was resurrected. We know that Immanuel, ‘God with us’, is with us – goes before us, and is at our side, even now. Yet still we long for the day when God’s kingdom is fully realized. Our hearts are touched by the poverty and injustices we see in the world and cry, “thy gracious kingdom bring!” – the day when all things will be reconciled, made new. In a world that often seems full of pain and darkness, the hope and the longing sit, almost paradoxically, side by side with the joy of this time of celebration.

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Dear Justice Advocates: You Aren’t Helping by Sarah Holden-Pizieux

 In our connected world, so focused on social media, it’s easy to become lazy about doing justice, or to use social justice issues to make ourselves look good.  This is a problem.  Here are the thoughts of Sarah Holden-Pizieux, Development Support Coordinator at International Justice Mission Canada, on the issue.

We have a problem.  It may have started generations ago, but in our fast-paced, selfie-driven world, it’s gotten exponentially worse.  And since Facebook has extended our ability to quickly react beyond a simple “like,” it is hard to see how we could turn back.

Man arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. “☹️

Children sold into sexual slavery. “How could anyone allow this?😡 ”

Terrorist attack in France? I’ll just superimpose a flag over my profile picture to demonstrate how much I care.   

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Evangelical: I don’t think this word means what you think it means.

Am I alone in wondering what it means to be an evangelical who stands for justice in today’s culture?

It’s been obvious for a long time that the centre of gravity in much of evangelical Christianity has shifted far to the right and has strayed a long way from the original intent of what the word evangelical meant. Those of us who believe in a truly biblically-based Gospel that is good news for everyone including the poor, used to use the word evangelical to describe ourselves with a sense of honour. So much wonderful justice-based work around the world has flowed from the compassionate heart of evangelicals who have talked about the true Jesus and then lived it out, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Faith in action has fed the hungry, comforted the afflicted, protected the vulnerable, and spoken words of truth and eternal life that have been imbued with power because of the actions and lifestyle that back them up. Yet in recent years and particularly in the last few months, that word has been so devalued and distorted that it has come to represent something entirely different from its original meaning.

Like many others, I have been appalled at how the word evangelical has been misused by those who equate the profoundly beautiful truths Jesus embodied with a far right political philosophy that seems to endorse the pursuit of money, power and racial division.  In its latest deeply distressing iteration, this has extended to the minimalizing of sexual harassment and violent behaviour towards women and even children. Some days it seems that the good news of Jesus Christ has been supplanted by a divisive and dangerous agenda as espoused by those who have the biggest mouths and most clogged filters. Now it has gone beyond the tipping point. In light of the fact that so many so-called evangelical leaders have chosen to stand with racist, misogynist, arrogant liars as the men [and it is almost always men] they choose to lead their country, it’s clear that we have moved into deeply dangerous territory. Continue reading

Beyond #MeToo

If you’ve been anywhere near social media since October 17th, I’m sure you’ve seen the literally millions of #metoo tweets and statuses. A flood of women sharing that they too have experienced sexual assault or harassment after yet another very public story of gender violence and abuse of power in Hollywood.

I have long thought of myself as a bit of a feminist, but despite these feminist leanings, I did not participate in the #metoo campaign. And not because I haven’t experienced sexual harassment or don’t think it’s a problem. I didn’t participate because I’m tired.

I’m tired because I don’t understand why people should have to continue to “out” themselves as victims again and again to try and see change. #Metoo is not the first campaign of its kind, and it’s not the first time a public story of sexual violence has provoked a flood of new voices that have bravely said, “me too.” I applaud those who have been courageous enough to share their truth, but another “victim count” will not create the change we are looking for. We need to move beyond framing the story around the overwhelming number of people who have experienced this injustice and towards how we, as a society, continue to enable these types of injustices to happen in the first place.

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Two words to start an economic revolution

People often laugh when I tell them that I start my Christmas shopping in July. The way I see it, there is wisdom in strategically evading the raging December rush. What unfolds is a madness that can make even the most passionate shoppers cringe. While the central point of the season is celebration, we often get distracted by a society that screams at us to spend.

This shopping frenzy merely reveals an excessive culture of consumption. We consume more thinking it will somehow make our lives worth more.  We fill rooms, garages, and self-storage units. We tell tales of idyllic travel and waste hours finding that online deal. We fill our days but empty our hearts.

Somehow we know there’s a better way to live. We realize we get caught up in a culture that tells us we need more to make up for the things we lack. But as we consume more, we feel emptier which leads to consuming even more. It is time to live differently. We need to consume less, because we know it steals our joy. More than that, our consumption impacts the environment, climate, and the lives of people just like us working in horrendous factory conditions. To change our consumption habits, we must not only retrain our minds, but also uncover our hearts.

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You Better Believe It

Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.

The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.

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