Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Great Day At Bryan House

A special thank you to everyone who made the Bryan House auction a big success! Our prelimary total was $14,000 but there are still a few more donations trickling in, so we anticipate that the final total from the night will go up. An extra special thank you to our friend, Mark Lie, who made the incredible Bryan House cake pictured above. The cake was an exact replica of the house; complete with mailbox, wheel chair ramp, and even the fence around the dumpster. The cake was on display during the auction and then we took it over to the house to share it with the refugee families who are already living there. They were totally amazed! The kids were laughing and choosing which part of the house they wanted to eat. The little girl pictured above is a fifth grader from Congo named Nyota. She is eating her bedroom. She also did a lot of nibbling on the fence. Her Aunt Ketsia said, "Tell your friend he did a great job on the cake, but now that we have eaten our house, where will we live?" The cake brought a lot of joy and laughter to the families at Bryan House. Thanks, Mark!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eight years ago today....

Today is the eight year anniversary of my first date with Rick. On this day eight years ago Rick gave me a compilation CD of music (he was inspired to do this by the movie, "High Fidelity"). And each year since then he has given me a new CD with songs that reflect another year together. Romantic, huh?

Our first date was to the Art Institute in Chicago and then out for dinner at Indian Harvest in Naperville. It was a great day and I'm having fun remembering it. Thanks Julie Girdwood (Julie Youngs at the time) for introducing us! A lot of matches came out of that long ago small group/group of CCC friends: (David & Julie Girdwood, Mike & Karen Brown, Rick & Desiree Guzman, Jeff & Tanya DeGraff.) Good work everybody! I miss hanging out with you guys. (Bill & Rachel Carroll too, but they were already married way back then : )

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bryan House Auction

This week is too busy for blogging. Don't miss the 2nd Annual Bryan House Silent Auction this Friday 7 PM at Community Christian Church in Naperville. Over three hundred items and all the proceeds go to help refugee families in Aurora work and save their way out of poverty in a responsible and dignified way.

For more info go to www.bryanhouse.org

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A walk through Kibera

This is just a glimpse of life in Kibera. Take a walk with me through the streets of the largest slum in Africa. People live like this every single day. Even though I know people who live here and correspond with them regularly, sometimes it's hard for me to remember and believe that a place like this exists.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News from Kibera

The reason I initially started this blog a little more than a year ago was to write about and process my experiences in Africa, and particularly my experiences in Kibera, the largest slum on the continent. We have some dear friends in Kibera who run an organization called: Kibera Slums Community Development Project. They provide micro-financing for small businesses, offer help to victims of HIV/AIDS, care for orphans and vulnerable children, and seek to grow their community Spiritually. And not only that, they have a vision to reproduce and offer these services across other parts of the country and even other parts of Africa. They are people of big faith and big dreams. And their example of perseverance through hardship and struggle has encouraged and challenged me greatly in my own faith. Joseph, Evelynn, Judith, Teresa, Gabriel, and everyone at KISCODEP are my heroes! Check out their brand new website at www.kiscodep.org
Special thanks to Josh Bonifas for the donation of a digital camera that we were able to bring them this summer, making photos on their website possible!

Kibera is an unfortgetable place. It's what Bono was talking about when he said, "Africa makes a mockery of our sense of justice." Thank God for the KISCOPDEP members who are doing all they can to make a difference. They share what little they have to make life better for their neighbors. They are my ideal of what a real Christ-follower looks like.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why the Republican National Convention Scared me.

1. Because they were trying to scare me. Lots of video images of the Oklahoma City bombing, Embassy bombings in Kenya & Tanzania, and Sept. 11th, and the insinuation that with a Republican in the White House we are assured complete safety and no attack on US soil, but with a Democrat in office more attacks are inevitable. Fear is one of their political strategies, so if you weren't afraid you weren't listening closely enough.

2. Using Biblical language about God's People to refer to America alone. Continuing a tradition started by Reagan and used again by George W. Bush, they call America "the City on a Hill." This Biblical term comes from Matthew chapter five. Jesus is talking to his followers. The followers of Jesus (no matter what country they come from) are meant to be the "City on a Hill" pointing toward God. America has no claim on this title. Christians should know better. Jesus teaches us that our identity as children of God comes before national identity. "In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek. . ."

3. Hyper Patriotism that leads to blindness and arrogance. How many times did we hear "America is the greatest country in the world"? What does that mean? That we are better than everyone else? Being grateful for the blessings that come with being American is one thing, but using the language of superiority is something very different. Not a great position from which to start foreign relations. I wonder what other people watching around the world feel when they hear our leaders say things like that? How would we feel if we heard another nation's leaders say it?
"I have never not been proud to be an American" Really? Never? You're actually proud of everything America has ever done in the world? Maybe you aren't paying close enough attention. Native Americans. Slavery. Japanese internment camps. Inventing and using the atom bomb. Torture. The deaths of countless innocents. Responding with war in Iraq, but ignoring Genocide in Rwanda & Sudan...
"We don't want a President who will apologize for America." I disagree. I think a person who refuses to apologize even when we are wrong is not the right person to lead us. I think apologizing when you are wrong takes character and courage. That's what we teach our children. Why is it suddenly not true for the leader of our country?

Proverbs 11:2 "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

Embracing the Myth of Redemptive Violence. So many signs that said "Peace through strength." In other words "war and violence is the means by which we will attempt to achieve peace." And how many times did you hear words like fight, battle, war, victory? Vocabulary full of war metaphors tells you something about a person's world view. But Jesus taught us, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." And he asked Peter to put the sword away. The vision of the means of settling disputes in the Kingdom of God is very different. "Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Beat your swords into plowshares. Study war no more." War begets war, not peace.

5. Calling anyone who opposes America "evil." I think we are confusing America and God. Those who oppose God are the evil ones.

6. Not just disagreeing about policies, but belittling your opponent. "I guess being mayor of a small town is kind of like community organizing, except I had real responsibilities." -Sarah Palin. There is nothing shameful about the top law student from the top law school in the country choosing a low paying community organizing job over all the other offers he could have had. Criticizing policies is to be expected, but don't stoop to devaluing a person's work. That's just bitter and mean and not very respectable.

7. Misplaced priorities and the religion of Patriotism. "Country First." What does that mean exactly? That I should put my country above God? Above my family? Above anybody from any other country in the world? And how does giving tax breaks to the rich equal "Country first, not me first." That doesn't even make sense. The Bible says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself." And who does Jesus say our neighbor is? Everyone. There is no national boundary that keeps someone from being our neighbor. "God First, and the needs of ALL my brothers and sisters first." I refuse to worship America.

"My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It's to a King and a Kingdom." -- Derek Web

This Republican Convention really scared me. I'm sure the Democrats are using some of this language as well, but it seemed louder and more pronounced in St. Paul. There are some things more dangerous and more terrifying than terrorism.