Lyn Lusi

In research for an article today, I stumbled on the Heal Africa website and “met” Lyn Lusi, who left her native England to go to Congo in 1971 to teach. She married Congolese Dr. “Jo” Lusi, an orthopedic surgeon, and the two created HEAL Africa, a hospital which became famous for treating nearly 5,000 women with genital fistulas, the vast majority of which were caused by rape by militiamen.

The Economist ran a beautiful obituary on Lyn Lusi after she died in 2012 from cancer. It’s worth reading. I would also strongly suggest this video on the HEAL Africa site of Lyn accepting the Opus Prize in November 2011, just a few months before her death. She calls all listening to rise from “low living” and step into the calling God has for each of us.

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#Giving Tuesday

It’s “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link is to a cute Youtube video about this day that follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post what I hope to make an annual tradition on this blog: the “gifts that give back” post. I wrestle a lot with our consumer society in general and our “I have to buy everyone a gift” attitude toward Christmas, BUT more and more we have the opportunity to give gifts that give twice: to the recipient AND to a ministry that practices Biblical generosity. If you have already completed all your Christmas shopping, then this post isn’t for you, but if you’re just starting to think about it (I’m in this camp!), then I hope to give you some good ideas in this post.

GENERAL GIVING

You can use Amazon.com’s Smile program and choose a charity to receive a portion of your purchase price. (Mine is locked in at Compassion International currently, but there are thousands on Amazon’s list.) The link above gives more info, and this program is not just for the holiday season but operates all year.

IF YOU’RE SHOPPING FOR PRETEENS/TEENS

Check out www.mudlove.com. This company, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets and necklaces. The most popular version is stamped with a word or phrase, and you can even custom order a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you. Twenty percent of each purchase goes to provide clean water in Africa, and $5 spent provides an African with clean drinking water for a year. My girls (ages 10, 14, 15, and 17) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

BIG-TICKET BEAUTY

Hand and Cloth sells gorgeous, one-of-a-kind blankets made from used saris by women rescued from the slave trade in Bangladesh. I’ve featured this ministry before on my blog (https://journeytojen.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/blankets-handmade-by-women-women-handmade-by-god/).  These are perfect buys for the person who appreciates beautiful, handmade artisan items (hmm—maybe that describes you yourself!). They start at $98 dollars and go up to around $200. Check out the blankets at the website—which itself is beautiful—and read their story while you are there. “Blankets handmade by women. Women handmade by God.” Wonderful work! (They also have stockings–each one unique! So cool!)

Renew Project is an incredible ministry. Based in my area (Chicago’s western suburbs), it trains and employs refugee women to make beautiful items from recycled textiles. Bags, baby items, tablecloths, etc., and their work is incredible (these women are artisans!). Best of all, each purchase helps a refugee woman thrive in her new home.

THREE FOR WOMEN AT RISK

If you want something other than blankets made by women rescued from the slave trade, visit WAR International. The acronym WAR, standing for Women at Risk, was started in 2006. You can find jewelry, accessories, home décor, and children’s items made by women in 13 countries, including the United States. AND, during the month of December, if you shop either online or at the Naperville, IL, store and mention New Name as you’re checking out, then 10% of your purchase supports New Name (the link takes you to a past post about New Name).

Narimon employs women rescued out of the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. the woman make beautiful jewelry, handbags, and some clothing at The Well, where the women not only work but are ministered to. Narimon is the products division of Servantworks. Seriously, their work is beautiful (I just bought a pair of Treble clef earrings for my daughter’s piano teacher from Narimon).

www.stoptraffickfashion.com has t-shirts, jewelry, and totes/bags made from recycled materials. Many of their t-shirts express the heart of the women who run this website. One with a barcode also has the logo “People are not products” and several sport the logo “free.loved.radiant.”

LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Need to shop for kids, men, women—want to spend a little for this one, more for that one? Go to www.tenthousandvillages.com. Gorgeous jewelry, decorative items, and woven/knitted items for women; toys and games for children; even things like chess sets, bookends, and bicycle-chain frames for men. Their website is very easy to navigate and has some very helpful tools. If you click on the “gift ideas” tab at the top of the page, you can shop for holiday items, for men, women, or children, or by type of item.  You can spend a little (items as low as $4) or a lot. They also have shops (there is one in Glen Ellyn, IL) across the U.S. You can find a shop locater on the website.

FOR THE COFFEE LOVERS

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has “Drink Coffee. Do Good” as its motto. It started with farmers in Rwanda (the founder saw the effects of the genocide and had to do SOMETHING) and now works with farmers in Haiti and Thailand as well. They sell 100% Arabica, fairly traded, fresh roasted coffee. They sell ground, whole bean, and decaf, teas, and coffee accessories.

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton and pick up a few bags of their Venture blend, which supports Venture Corp (www.entertheventure.com), a small nonprofit started by some young friends of ours. Each bag purchased helps support two wonderful ministries in Africa. (I am privileged to have met both Mary and Ronnie, the leaders of the two ministries Venture supports.)

LOOKING FOR HANDCRAFTED CROCHETED ITEMS?

My husband just told me about this one, and I checked it out and love their website. What a great story! A group of high school guys learned to crochet simply because they wanted unique ski hats on the local slopes. Others dubbed them the Krochet Kids. Long story short (if you want to know the whole thing, visit the website), they taught these skills to women in northern Africa and then Peru, and they sell these handmade items at www.krochetkids.org. Each item carries with it the signature of the woman who crocheted it, and you can visit the website to learn her story.

AND, FINALLY, FOR THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Buy them a goat—bet they don’t have that. Seriously, go to World Vision or Compassion (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). They have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells. You can honor someone with your gift, and that person will receive a card telling about your gift and what it will accomplish. If you want to keep the idea of giving in front of you this season, request that a print gift catalog from either World Vision or Compassion be sent to you. It’s a fantastic tool to use with kids during this season when they are constantly faced with advertisements that fool them into thinking that their “wants” are actually “needs.”

ANY OTHER IDEAS???

If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear and share other opportunities to give gifts that give back.

Thanks for reading! I sure enjoyed pulling the list together.

Morning Prayer for the Congo

I get up early to work on an article I’m writing about two brothers who lived as young children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I simply google the country name to make certain I am using it accurately.

Of course, a Wikipedia article on the DRC is at the top of Google’s search results.

But a news piece on sexual slavery in the Congo is just below it.

“Sexual Slavery Rife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, says MSF” (Médicins sans Frontières [Doctors without Borders])

Reading it is not an encouraging way to start the day.

But after a moment of wondering about my privilege in this very moment: good work to do, hot chai steaming in a mug at my side, my children safe in their beds on the floor above me…

When so many others are suffering such terrible abuse…

I set my questions aside and pray.

Please join me.

Dear Father, I am overwhelmed by what I just read. I know that right now, this very minute, people are committing horrific acts against others in every nation in the world, in my very own community, and I feel helpless. But You, Lord, are not helpless. You know all, You see all, and You care. You revealed the depth of Your compassion on the cross, and it has not lessened. Your mercies never, ever cease.

I pray that Your will may be done today on earth–as it is in heaven, where right is always done, where goodness reigns. I pray for strength for those who fight this battle on the front lines. I pray for the doctors, nurses, and psychologists who work with Doctors without Borders. I pray for the International Justice Mission and the many, many others who fight this evil in Your Name, in Your justice. 

I pray for those of us who are in places of relative safety. Deepen our passion for justice. Enlarge our hearts for those who suffer. Move us to pray and grieve. Push us to care more about the needs of others than about our own comfort so that we seek out and embrace opportunities to help. Mobilize us to engage in the battle against the powers of darkness.

I pray this, trusting in Your goodness and in Your power.

I pray this in the name of Christ Jesus, who conquered the powers of sin and darkness.

Amen 

In honor of my son on St. Patrick’s Day

Patrick and Maddie chasing down a ball during a fierce game of soccer at my sister's house last fall.

Patrick and Maddie chasing down a ball during a fierce game of soccer at my sister’s house last fall.

St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Chicagoland–but that’s not why Patrick, our son, was named that. He was tiny, nameless, and very sick when he was rescued by Mercy Childcare in the spring of 2007 (the link takes you to the webpage, but on the page is a link to Mercy’s Facebook page, which is updated often with great pics). In a phone conversation between the dear people at Mercy and Sarah, one of their staunchest supporters here in west Chicagoland, Sarah’s daughter suggested they name him “Patrick” after of one of her friends at school.

Wilfred Rugumba, the vibrant young director of Mercy Childcare, with his wonderful wife, Vena, and their two sons. They're still rescuing!

Wilfred Rugumba, the vibrant young director of Mercy Childcare, with his wonderful wife, Vena, and their two sons. They’re still rescuing!

Not quite two years later Patrick officially became an Underwood–though he was in our hearts long before that. We pray that he, like the saint he shares a name with, will love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind and will use his incredible talents and gifts to love his neighbors as himself.

So, in honor of both Patricks, I share this prayer of the bold Englishman who returned to the land where he once lived as a slave to share the power and love of Christ.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 

Praying for Sudan today

This past weekend Dave and I watched most of the documentary God Grew Tired of Us about the Lost Boys of Sudan who left their homes during the long, drawn-out war between north Sudan and south Sudan (as of 2011 a separate country). Thousands upon thousands of South Sudanese were displaced by the conflict, among them 20,000 boys who trekked their way to Ethiopia, finding relief (those who didn’t die on the long journey) of a sort in refugee camps there. Violence forced them to move again, and those who survived eventually settled in camps in Kenya. They were dubbed the “lost boys of Sudan,” and the documentary tells the story of a few who were eventually relocated in the United States (you can watch it free on Hulu). It isn’t short, so if you are interested, you’ll need to set aside a couple hours to watch it. Warning: there’s footage and pictures of boys close to death from starvation, so not one to watch with small children. There is another film (which I have not seen) on this story titled, appropriately, Lost Boys of Sudan.

This is a popular topic, made so by the films and books written on it and by the involvement of the actor George Clooney. Due to the publicity, many of the lost boys who settled in the U.S. were able to begin relief work in their country and to advocate for their country’s separation from northern Sudan. When South Sudan gained its independence, many of them returned to celebrate. However, violence has broken out in Sudan again. John Bul Dau explains the conflict well in an article by National Geographic. Here’s another article about it at the New York Times. South Sudanese are being displaced once again.

I know this is only one of hundreds of conflicts in our world today, one of hundreds of issues that grieve God’s heart, but it’s the particular one I prayed for this morning. I was reading Isaiah 63, and this verse jumped out at me: “I (God) was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm, and my wrath sustained me” (verse 5). The “oppressed” who came to my mind when I read that were the South Sudanese. I did some quick research, read about the current conflict, and wanted to share.

ADDITION: World Vision, of course, is already in the area and taking donations for their efforts. Here’s the link if you want to read more/donate: World Vision.

Marathon Meanderings

First sight of him at mile 17.

First sight of him at mile 17.

He did it.

My husband, Dave, along with 45,000 others, ran the Chicago Marathon Sunday. He finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, well behind the speedy wheelchair racers and the first-placing Kenyan runner—who broke the Chicago Marathon record and nearly broke the world one—and well ahead of those persevering souls who finished after marathon officials took down the barricades along the roads and picked up the timing mats at the finish line. (To read about the final finisher, Maickel Melamed, who took 17 hours to complete the course, follow this link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-final-marathon-finish-20131015,0,3488441.story.)

And here's when Em saw him!

And here’s when Em saw him!

The kids and I, along with some friends, took the blue line down to mile 17 on the course and camped out at the spot where I’d told Dave we would be. We were ahead of schedule, but that didn’t keep us from scanning the crowd for his orange-and-white World Vision jersey. We cheered for every other World Vision runner we saw as well as those who ran for Ronald McDonald and A Cure for Cancer and Leukemia and Autism Awareness and…

Our boys got tired of holding the “Go Dad” and “Go Undy” signs we’d made, so I told them to stand on the curb and hold out their hands. As soon as they did, runners began veering by them to slap their palms.

And he was off again.

And he was off again.

PJ turned to me. “Why do they do that?” he asked.

“For one second they know they will be thinking about the joy of connecting with a little boy—of putting a smile on your face—and in that moment, they won’t be thinking about their feet or their legs or all the other parts of them that hurt.”

“I can do that for them?”

“Yes, you can.”

When we saw runners who’d printed their names on their shirts, we personalized our cheering. “Nice work, Carlos!” If they wore anything distinctive, we referenced that as well. “You rock, Superman!” “You can do this, Lady with a Tiara!”

People smiled, gave thumbs-up, got a little perk in their step, made it round the corner a little easier.

It was fun.

But the entire time, we were looking for Dave.

And here he is after the finish.

And here he is after the finish.

Somehow I missed him until he was almost upon us. I had the camera perched on my left palm and was scanning the crowd to the right, wondering if he hadn’t received the text that told him which side of the road we would be on. Then, suddenly, he was there, just a couple steps in front of me. I jerked my camera up and fired off a couple fuzzy shots, but I failed to capture the brilliant smile that jumped onto his face when he first caught sight of us.

He came around the barrier and joined us for a minute, telling us he was feeling “good, just sore in one calf.” We gave him a hard candy to suck on and handed him the roller massage tool to work on his calf, and then he was off to finish the final nine miles.

We waited for a break in the flow of runners, hopscotched our way across the street, and cut straight across to the finish line. We stopped for ice cream, knowing that several blocks south of us, runners were slogging it out, and we still made it in time to find a shady waiting spot beneath a tree at the reunite area.

I got a text from the Chicago Marathon telling me that Dave’s microchip had crossed the finish line (presumably with him attached to it), and then another shiny smile when he came down the steps (oh, the cruelty of having marathon finishers walk DOWN steps) and saw us.

So many great memories from the day! Emily, our 13-year-old, gave me one when she said, “Mom, it’s really cool watching people push themselves to accomplish something really hard. It’s inspiring.”

One man, running for cancer research, gave me another when I looked at his back and saw he’d pinned a couple dozen ribbons on his back, each one in memory of a person.

But I have to say the best ones have to do with my husband. The moments of seeing him at mile 17 and just after the finish are memories that sparkle.

Great job, Babe! You did it!

You can still donate to World Vision on Dave’s personal page. Proceeds fund clean water initiatives. Here’s the link: http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120

Thanks for reading!

Jen

A big reason to run

Fourteen years ago I ran my one and only marathon. My husband, Dave, ran his first that day as well. It was November, and we were living in Okinawa, Japan. The course was incredibly hilly, and the weather was unnaturally hot for that time of year. With the constant high humidity, the effects were brutal. More people dropped out of that race than finished it, and several were rushed off in ambulances due to heat stroke.

I finished well beyond my expected time and thought, “That’s it. I’m done.”

I’ve never run another since.

Dave however, ran several in the next few years.

Then he had an eight-year gap.

This summer, he decided to try it again. But he needed a really good reason, one bigger than his desire to drop a few pounds and increase his endurance.

So he decided to run for World Vision.

I offered to do some of his training runs with him. One weekend, I even ran a 14-miler (he says it was only 13, but I’m adding the distance between the end of the trail and the parking lot–and padding it a bit.)

School started then, with all its weekend activities, so the next weekend, when he ran 16, I ran only 8 of it with him. The next week, only 6. The last couple weekends, a friend of his ran the first half or so with him.

But after his friend or I called it quits, Dave would grab his iPod and head back to the trail, slogging out more miles.

 

He tells me that when his hips ache, when his knees burn, he remembers two little girls from our last trip to Uganda. The first is little Comfort, abandoned in the Katanga Slum by her mother and father, placed in Dave’s arms by neighbors who didn’t want to watch her die of starvation. In recent pictures we’ve seen of her, her eyes are still somber, but her cheeks are full, and her arms have the plump roundness they should have at 10 months of age. In every picture, she’s cuddled in the arms of the nurse at Mercy Children’s Home, who looks pretty darn proud of her progress.

The second little girl is Scovia. She’s six but about the size of a four year old. She was born with damaged legs; her mother died; and her father left her locked in their shack for days at a time while he looked for work. When she was rescued by Mercy Children’s Home, she had pressure sores, malnutrition, and severe developmental delays. Now she walks pushing a wheeled contraption, she babbles happily, and she has unending, overflowing JOY.

Comfort and Scovia are healthy today because of child sponsorship, because people who are not worried where their next meal is coming from have concerned themselves with those who do have to worry about such basic needs.

Mercy Children’s Home and hundreds of other orphanages around the world benefit from child sponsorship. Two of the largest sponsoring agencies are Compassion International and World Vision.

So even though Dave is running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday specifically for World Vision, in a way he’s running it for all the orphanages in the world, for all the children who need a safe place and someone to love them. He’s ultimately running it for Jesus, who welcomes children and holds them in His arms.

If you would like to sponsor Dave, please visit this link:

http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120

All proceeds go directly to World Vision.

Thanks,
Jen

 

 

Guest writer: Anna Lindus

Anna and Shawme

Anna and Shawme

Anna Lindus is a junior at Wheaton Academy. She was part of the team that went to Kenya and Uganda with us this past July. When we were in the Katanga slum in Kampala, Uganda, a little girl came up to Anna. Anna picked her up and carried her as we trekked all over the slum, visiting homes and praying with people. At one point, Anna whispered to me, “Is this okay? Won’t someone be worried about her?”

“News travels fast,” I told her. “Whoever cares for her knows she is with us, and they know we can be trusted because we have come with Pastor Wilfred. You are showing love to this little girl–and by doing that, you are showing love to others here.”

Not long ago, Anna gave me a poem she wrote about Shawme, that little girl. I think it is beautiful, just like Anna and Shawme are, and I wanted to share it here.

“Shawme” by Anna Lindus

Little hands wrap around my neck

and sweet eyes peer into mine.

Just three years old, her life is a wreck.

So young and small, she’s all alone,

having to face the world on her own.

She says no words, but speaks with actions and her gentle touch.

Abandoned, helpless, and oh so young,

In order to survive,

Anna and Shawme

Anna and Shawme

she must push her innocence to the side,

tattered and torn, it’s not just her clothes that are worn.

Her eyes say it all to me: she is as tired as could be.

But there is no nap time for her

Because time is precious, can’t I see?

Food is scarce and she is hungry.

Fighting hard to survive and belly expanding each day,

Little Shawme’s life is astray.

Little hands wrap around my neck

and sweet eyes peer into mine

as she tells me her story.

Mercy Childcare Video

This is Angel, whom I've known for nearly six years now. Angel was also rescued by MCCM. She is now studying to help communities fight poverty and its effects on children. You go, Angel! I'm so proud of her.

This is Angel, whom I’ve known for nearly six years now. Angel was also rescued by MCCM. She is now studying to help communities fight poverty and its effects on children. You go, Angel! I’m so proud of her.

I have written much about Mercy Childcare Ministries (MCCM) here on my blog. MCCM rescued our son, Patrick, and worked with us as we adopted him. Dave and I and our oldest child, Emily, along with a team of 15 other people, visited MCCM this past July and had a wonderful, God-blessed time there.

The director of MCCM, Wilfred Rugumba, just posted a link to a video about MCCM, and I wanted to pass it on.

Thanks for reading,

Jen