Ever had something come out of your mouth that you thought was a simple mistake but actually revealed an uncomfortable truth about yourself? Something that says more about you than the subject you are talking about?
I was recently teaching the JustUs Poverty and Justice Workshop to a group of young emerging leaders, when I made an offhanded joke. As current sensibilities have grown around some key issues, this joke (too embarrassing to write here but to do with certain disability issues) was not an appropriate one. As soon as I said it, I inwardly cringed, knowing that I had reverted back to something I didn’t like about my former self. My friend, who was co-teaching with me that week, picked up on it and we talked afterwards. She knows that’s not my heart, and was surprised that it came out of my mouth.
So why did I do that?
Has anything made you think that the world seems to be getting darker lately? Have you noticed that? Yeah me too.
It was the lady in the Chewbacca mask (link to video) that did it for me.
A woman in a Star Wars character mask laughing her head off, who got over 140,000,000 views of her video in a few days, thus becoming the most famous person in the history of the universe. More famous even than the kid with the finger that Charlie bit (link to video). 140,000,000 views! That’s as many stars as there are in a galaxy far, far away. Chewie would be proud.
It’s not that I thought that she was dark and malignant. No, quite the opposite. I found her laugh was infectious and joyful. And I enjoyed her many appearances on talk shows and web interviews that followed. The carpool karaoke was brilliant! I found myself wanting to be her friend.
So why does Chewbacca Mom make me think the world is getting darker?
Last Tuesday night, my wife and I sat around our kitchen table with a group of young adults, talking about life in general and in particular, the pressures of living in a modern age. We had just been talking about house prices, and a couple had expressed how they felt that though they both had good careers, they would probably never be able to afford a house and would likely rent for the rest of their lives. The group nodded their heads and we talked a little more about student debt and a number of other issues.
As we chatted, it struck me how tough it is to be coming of age in a time like this. And I’m not the only one who thinks that.
Sociologists have recently termed a phrase for this new generation. It’s Generation K, with the K standing for Katniss Everdeen. They believe that if you were born between 1995 and 2002, there are many parallels between the world of The Hunger Games and the one that young people are growing up in today.
I’m sure that like me, many people around the world are watching the American election with a sense of
unbelief and incredulity. After all, the primary elections that will eventually lead to the inauguration of arguably the most powerful person in the world, appear to have degenerated into the worst kind of playground name calling and childlike fighting imaginable. Normally, we would laugh at all this from afar, knowing that in the end, sense would prevail.
But not this time. This isn’t funny anymore.
It appears that this election cycle has brought out the worst in almost everyone, particularly on the Republican side. And the worst of the lot is, of course, Donald Trump. I say that not to make a political point or the get across an electoral preference, as I believe that what we are seeing has gone way beyond politics. Rather, I say it as someone who lived through two years of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia and who works in Rwanda, a country that was riven by a devastating genocide just two decades ago. The ugly scenes at rallies and speeches remind me of the kind of racism and bigotry that eventually led to that level of human devastation and hatred. It’s set my head spinning and got me wondering how this can be happening in modern day America.
This morning I sat in a coffee shop in Kigali Rwanda, with a young friend called David [not his real name]. David has known a lot of hardship in his twenty two years. He grew up on the streets as a child in the aftermath of the traumatic genocide that ripped through the country in 1994. Left abandoned and alone, he had to survive for himself in an environment that was often brutal and uncaring and he carries the emotional scars to prove it.
I first met David just over five years ago when I and some friends brought out a team of young Canadians to work with the discipleship group he had become part of at Rwanda Youth For Christ. He was a quiet guy who lacked confidence and clearly struggled with his sense of self worth, but who had a heart of gold. Unlike much of he West, Rwandans have a deep sense of community and he had managed to survive with the help of some older people who had taken in him for part of his childhood, yet his sense of abandonment was so clear to see. When the year finished, he had nowhere to go and some caring friends of mine took him in and gave him a job as a guard at their house. They looked after him and for the first time, he felt like he had a family. Over a number of visits, I watched him thrive and grow and I remember so well the day he turned up at our office in Kigali with a bundle of handmade cards he gave to me to take back for all his friends in Canada. They were full of beautiful personalized encouragements and mine almost moved me to tears. You see, David is a servant-hearted man, who has a deep gift of encouragement.
UPDATE: FIFA President Sepp Blatter is forced to resign. Now its time to bring justice and dignity back to the beautiful game.
“What are you talking about?” you may ask. Well, dear FIFA, it’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood. The sun is shining and all seems right with the world. I think I might go and kick a soccer ball about. I mean the beautiful game you lead is always a pure and harmless form of entertainment, isn’t it?
Well, it appears not, according to the recent arrests of a number of your senior officials, who help you govern world soccer. Not only have vast sums of money been pocketed, but also tournaments have been awarded on the basis of backdoor deals and bribery. It’s led to massive crime and endemic human abuse in places like Qatar, (the venue of the 2022 World Cup) where The International Trade Union Confederation has estimated 1,200 migrant workers have died so far, with up to 4,000 additional deaths expected by 2022 in the building of World Cup infrastructure.1 Continue reading
As I write this, our aircraft has just accelerated down the bumpy runway of Bujumbura airport, capital of Burundi, and lifted off into the night sky. We are heading for “New York”. That’s what people in Burundi call Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
It might be hard to believe that you would compare the capital of a country that has a per capita income of $650 a year per person to the shining lights of the Big Apple, but it gives you an idea of the depth of material poverty there is in this nation. It’s a beautiful country, full of natural resources and fertile land, but it’s also one of the poorest places in the world. Yesterday we passed villages and homes, many of them seemingly cobbled together from whatever was available, where it was plain the people were clinging on to the very edge of existence. Continue reading
Not long ago I stood in a room. Not just any room. It was in a dorm, in a school, in an impoverished village in Burundi, the second poorest country in the world. A room designed for 15 young women who would live there for five years as they studied in secondary school. Not a big room and not a big dorm. The building seemed pretty packed for the 80 young women who would stay there. That is until we found out that they would actually be cramming 50 in that one room. 320 in that building. 4 to a bunk. 100 to a classroom. 5 to a desk.
It sickened me.
The night before, some friends and I shared a meal with Josh and Nadine, a young married couple from Edmonton building a medical clinic for the desperately poor in a town nearby. They didn’t have much, yet it was one of the richest meals I have had for a long time. They loved God with all their hearts, minds and souls and were living on the edge of existence in order to serve the poor.
Why would they do that? And why should we care about 320 girls crammed into a place that could easily become hell on earth for them?
Because Jesus tells us to. Continue reading