The Fly in the Eye

Where do our ideas on poverty and justice come from?

As we’ve discussed in our last few posts, addressing and engaging in a problem all begins with how we define the problem in the first place. So, when we talk about tackling poverty, we have to begin by pondering what poverty means to us and to the rest of the world. In the western world, our ideas of poverty largely stem from the media. The picture of poverty portrayed, both local and global, is often oversimplified and inaccurate. When we fail to think critically, we can easily end up with unhelpful and even damaging solutions.

I touched on this in a past blog entry, The Stories We Tell:

The perception that many people have of developing nations, especially in Africa, is extremely inaccurate, and has been for most of history. The narrative that is commonly communicated about the developing world is horribly misleading, and sometimes blatantly false. Most people are genuinely ignorant about the realities of life in developing nations, and see them only through the narrative of poverty and instability. Continue reading

The Lenses We Wear

During my time at Seminary I took quite a few courses on missions. There is a saying that “Missions is the mother of Theology”. It all starts with God’s love for us humans and his invitation to participate in his mission of reconciling the world. The questions and challenges around how to communicate the Gospel in the context of a global world excited me. How do you share the good news of the fullness of life found in Christ with business people in Manhattan? And, how do you work for justice and peace in a society that is shape by the cast system? How do we share the freedom in Christ with people who live in constant fear of being punished by evil spirits? Honestly, I learned more just as much about my own beliefs and views on the world as I learned about different worldviews. However, what I also learned is that one key to effective communication of the gospel and poverty alleviation is understanding worldviews.

Everyone Sees The World With Their Own Eyes.

So what is worldview? In our video series we talked about how worldview is like a set of glasses through which we see the world. Continue reading

It’s Okay To Treat You That Way. You Are The Other.

I used to think that as the world evolved and humans began to look at the destruction we have caused one another over the centuries, we would begin to come into line with Martin Luther King’s famous saying “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I still believe that. But it doesn’t take a seasoned look at the world today, to see that that arc is a lot longer than I at first believed.

My newsfeed is filled with images and stories of depravity and soulless cruelty from across the world. A father and child dead in a river after trying to find a better life in the USA. Children in cages being told to drink from toilets in Texas. Ships full of migrants not being allowed to dock in European ports. Ebola ridden bodies being thrown into clinics in the DRC. “Send her back” being chanted at political rallies

The Problem of Dehumanization

And of course, these are just the stories that make the news. It seems injustice and cruelty towards our fellow humans is more or less endemic to our modern society. Continue reading

Poverty Explored

How we define a problem impacts how we try to address it. Our mission at JustUs revolves around addressing the problem of poverty. Today, I’d like to take a few minutes to explore that concept.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poverty as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions or debility due to malnutrition. This is a material or physically focused definition. In fact, this is the way most people in the North America define poverty when asked. But according to a study done by the World Bank in the 1990s, if you ask people who live in low-income countries, they by and large describe their condition in psychological and social terms. While they recognize their material lack, they talk more about things like shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.1Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor … And Yourself, (Moody Publishers, 2009) p. 53 

Dimensions of Poverty

The inclusion of the psychological and social dimensions alongside the material aspects of poverty leads us to a much fuller understanding of what poverty means. Continue reading

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor … And Yourself, (Moody Publishers, 2009) p. 53

The Concept of Shalom

Poverty is the problem we are trying to address at JustUs. Basically, we are working for the opposite of poverty! We define poverty as the result of broken relationships. Therefore our focus is on being part of the restoration of broken relationships. The word shalom is a word that goes a long way in describing this concept of restored relationships. So, I’d like to focus on the Hebrew concept of shalom for this blog.

Shalom is a Hebrew word indicating a state of completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety and soundness. Furthermore it means tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony and the absence of agitation or discord.

Defining Shalom

We often think of peace when we hear the word shalom, but the English concept of peace does not quite capture what shalom encompasses. Continue reading

Diving Deeper Into the JustUs Video Series

Welcome to our new blog series: Diving deeper into the JustUs Video Series!

A few years ago we launched the JustUs Video Series “Explore Poverty & Justice”. In five short videos we introduced several concepts related to Poverty and Justice. Our goal was to strike up conversations with young people toward a better understanding of what poverty is and how it is related to justice. Furthermore, the series challenged us to think about our views on this pending issue that is visible all around us. What is our role in alleviating poverty? How can we be involved in doing justice? There are plenty of ways to be engaged in working toward justice in your community and around the world. Yet, in the series, we always come back to God and his heart for justice. He is the only one who brings true peace and justice into the world. He is doing the restoration work in the world and generously invites us to join him.

Continue reading

Chris Is Not Here. But Sunday is coming.

The world as we knew it ended at 7.32 AM December 10th 2018. That was when we got the phone call every parent dreads. Our wonderful and deeply loved son Chris had died suddenly from what we later found out was a pulmonary embolism, the result of a work place injury he had sustained just over a week before.

We had been called by his wife Karla about 45 minutes before and had jumped in the car scrambling as fast as we could to drive the hour and fifteen minutes to their home. Instead, the call came as we were stuck in a traffic jam, trying to get to him in time. I will never forget the howl of despair that escaped me as Helen wept beside me, or the desperate sadness of calling his sister Sarah to tell her. Or lying next to him on the floor an hour later, trying to summon the words to say goodbye. Knowing he had already gone. That everything was broken.

In the aftermath, trying to breathe, trying to stand, trying to comprehend, I found myself asking questions of God, asking him how this could happen, what could we have done differently, how could we carry on without Chris’s laughter and infectious joy in our lives? I wanted to find solace, to feel God wrap me in his arms like a father would for any deeply hurt child.

But all I heard was silence. Continue reading

Listening As The First Step Toward Change

Silence.
Silence? We don’t really know what to do with silence. If anything, we are intimidated by it and find it awkward. Silence could mean, that we have to listen.
Listen.
Listening? Most of us have a hard time listening to other people’s stories. Listening is challenging. We might be confronted with emotions, struggles and problems. Listening requires time, involvment and actions. However, often it involves a need for change in our own lives and hearts. Mostly we find it hard to listen because we want to be seen and heard. We want to share our stories, our opinions and views.
At JustUs and in social justice circles, a lot of emphasis is often put on speaking up. But sometimes the most important thing you can do is listen. In our loud world, the value of listening can sometimes be lost. Above all, the simple act of listening in such a context is revolutionary. 
Danielle Strickland, co-founder of the Women Speakers Collective and Amplify Peace invites us to practice listening as a first step toward change. Jump over to her blog and find out “How listening could change everything…”

Radical Hospitality

Wrestling with Hospitality

Last Sunday, I was invited to preach in a Mennonite Church about hospitality. When I first heard that I was to be a guest speaker in their series on hospitality, I was super excited. I love showing hospitality and everything involved in it. Growing up, hospitality was a high value in my family. In fact, it had such a big influence on me. Now, my personality flourishes when I get the chance to care for my guests – my friends and the new people I meet. I truly enjoy being caught up in the business of cleaning up, preparing a meal, and making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. But I don’t think that is the kind of hospitality we find in the Bible.

As I wrestled with different scriptures referencing to hospitality, the more my view of hospitality was challenged. The more research I did on biblical hospitality the more it became clear to me that the true call to hospitality exceeds our understanding and practice of hospitality. Christine Pohl writes in her book Making Room: Rediscovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition: “[We see] hospitality as a nice extra if we have the time or the resources, but we rarely view it as a spiritual obligation or as a dynamic expression of vibrant Christianity.”1Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 4 Continue reading

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 4

Hope for the New Year: How Perspective Does Change Everything

You know those embarrassing moments that you keep on file in your mind? They’re the moments you half wish you could reverse and re-do. And yet, they are moments that also make you smile and chuckle a little as you slowly shake your head and groan. I had one of those moments this Christmas.

A group of friends gathered to celebrate the season by giving gifts. One of the friends had packaged her gift to each of us in a similar style gift bag with tissue paper billowing out the top. Someone suggested we take out the tissue paper of our respective gifts on the count of three. What we didn’t realize was that: 1 – the gift was actually wrapped inside the tissue. And 2 – it was fragile. On 3, we lifted the tissue out. However, I lifted mine out with infinitely more gusto and excitement than the rest.

The tissue launched and left my fingers, flew through the air and landed on the rim of my tea mug. What followed was the ear-piercing sound of shattering glass. I looked up in horror and disbelief at the gift-giver’s face, and then we all burst into fits of laughter. I apologized profusely as I unfolded the fragment-filled tissue paper. Inside were the sad remains of a shattered Christmas ball ornament.

Continue reading