Education Confronts Injustice

My family is in the middle of packing for our move, so I haven’t been blogging, but I do have a piece that went live on Master Teaching today. Master Teaching is a website run by LEAPAsia “for teachers who follow the Master Teacher” and is currently hosting a series on “Education as Justice.” Through my connections at World Relief, I was asked a couple months ago if I would like to contribute a piece to the series, and, as this is a subject near and dear to me, I said I would love to.

My piece is titled “Education Confronts Injustice” and is specifically about refugee education. Click on the title to read the piece. I also highly suggest another piece in the series titled “Education as a Wealth-building Strategy is Bankrupt.” It’s got great wisdom for everyone, not just those in the education field. Following each piece are questions for reflection and articles for further reading.

Thanks for reading!

Jen

 

 

Suggested Read

My sister just sent me a commentary on Matthew 6 that she found on Bible Gateway. She
called it “challenging.” She wasn’t kidding! It’s incredible–and, in my view, very, very necessary for American Christians. PLEASE read! It’s titled “Do Not Value Possessions Enough to Seek Them.”

max looking out to sea

I think the way of living described in the commentary might feel like a lonely choice AT FIRST. So I picked this picture to go with the post. But Max–the guy standing out on the rock while I stayed on the dry ground and took the picture–would have no regrets about his choice to venture out.

 

Annual Gifts-that-Give-Back post

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link takes you to a Youtube video that explains why Giving Tuesday was created to follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post my annual “gifts that give back” post. 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.

FOR THE TEENS/PRETEENS IN YOUR LIFE–OH, AND FOR EVERYONE ELSE, TOO!

Check out www.mudlove.com, Bel Kai, and Belove.

MudLOVE, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets, necklaces, mugs, and more. 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 11, 15, 16, and 18) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

Bel Kai, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, is another company that gives-back, and when the creator of MudLOVE married the creator BelKai, Belove was created. Great story (check it out at the Bel Kai link above) and just as great products!

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.

SIX 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.

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.

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.”

Sseko (what a cool name) Designs was started by Liz Bohannon. Read this great article about her and her business at Relevant Magazine–and shop here, too! Their tie sandals are awesome, but they’ve now branched out to bags, clothing items, scarves, etc.

Noonday Collection and Trades of Hope both offer beautiful fair trade items (primarily jewelry, scarves, bags, etc.) made by women artisans in developing countries. Great businesses, great products, great stories. I have friends involved in both of these businesses, and they are passionate about their work and what it is providing for other women around the globe. I encourage you to check out their websites.

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.

I Have a Bean “was created for a purpose–to positively impact the lives of post-prison men and women, their families, and the communities in which we live.” This business employs post-prison men and women. If you’re in the Wheaton area, drop in their store on Fridays for free coffee and a chat with their awesome staff!

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton (if you’re not, you can visit them virtually) and pick up a few bags of their direct-trade blends, which River City Roasters roasts themselves. Sometimes they also have 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.) Speaking of Venture, you can visit its website and support its ministries through buying beautiful Ugandan necklaces. Just click on the “enter the venture” link above.

LOOKING FOR HANDCRAFTED CROCHETED ITEMS–AND MORE?

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. They’ve also branched out and now offer several ethically-made clothing and accessory items as well.

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 or Open Doors USA or International Justice Mission (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). The first two have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells–and goats! Open Doors has items that are specific to the needs of the persecuted church worldwide, and IJM allows you to pay for trauma counseling or legal representation for those suffering injustice. 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. Feel free to share this list with others.

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

The good work of refugee care

World Relief poster“(God) creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesian 2:9, The Message

I believe with all my heart that refugee care is good work. A few weeks ago I posted the news that the ESL classes at my local World Relief (WR) office are in jeopardy because they have not received federal funding. Last Tuesday I sat in a meeting with other WR volunteers and listened as the ESL director outlined a plan that will provide as many refugees and immigrants with regular classes while still cutting costs (and staff) dramatically. Despite the great stress she was under, Sue smiled at us and reminded us that God is at work. He will provide. He so clearly cares for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the oppressed, and the foreigner. She said something like this: The decreased government funding gives the church a chance to step up and in with their money and their time. It pushes us to be more generous and creative.

Hear, Hear!

poster backAt the bottom of this post, I have links to both the national and local (western suburbs of Chicago) World Relief websites as well as specific ways to support WR DuPage/Aurora.

But before I get to that, I have links to four articles: the first three specifically related to refugees, the third about cultivating a generous heart toward all those in need.

The first is a Q&A with World Relief DuPage’s Executive Director Emily Gray. PLEASE read this article. Emily is informed and wise and above all, seeking to be likeminded with Christ.

5 Objects to Fuel Your Prayers,” is a great article about concrete ways to remember those in need. It’s specifically about refugees, but you could use the same techniques to remind you to pray for the poor, the persecuted church, victims of sex trafficking, those suffering from mental illness, orphans, etc.)

WR fundraisingGrowing in generosity with the Believing Poor” is by Elizabeth Drury. It challenges our views of generosity that do not extend past our wallets, that don’t impact our comfort levels.

What Refugees in Your Neighborhood Need from You” gives a bit of an inside look at how difficult it is to be uprooted and transplanted (often several times) and how the body of Christ can step into that difficulty.

~~~

For those outside Chicago’s western suburbs: visit the international home page of World Relief and click on the “Get Involved” tab to see if WR has a location in your area.

For those IN Chicago’s western suburbs: The ESL arm of WR DuPage needs volunteers. If you have some morning hours free beginning in January or would like to tutor a refugee one-on-one, email me at jenunderwood0629@gmail.com and I can get you connected with the volunteer coordinator. You don’t need any experience or qualifications other than the ability to speak English, and it is truly a blessing.

If you’ll take a look at the poster I have pictured above, you’ll find information about items needed for Good Neighbor kits. The back side (with items needed) is the second picture. One of WR’s dropoff locations is at K’Tizo–my favorite tea/coffee shop. You can drop off items and get a yummy drink!

The third picture (sorry it’s so small) is a “Quick Guide to Fundraising for World Relief DuPage/Aurora.” If you live in another location but have a WR nearby, I’m sure you could use all the same techniques to fundraise for your area location.

 

 

A family, a people

Small Carolina town

Throwback general store

Both my boys looking at the comics

Side by side

Yet the sharp “What’chu doin’, boy?”

Is not directed at the two,

Just the one,

My child with dark skin.

Years before,

Sitting in a crowded Ugandan church

Watching his tiny self

Dance in the aisles,

I wondered,

What are we doing—

Giving him a family

But displacing him from a people?

When he was small, our conversations about race

Were easy.

He called himself chocolate,

The rest of us vanilla,

In high summer, I became

Milky coffee.

Now, though, they are harder.

How to explain to him,

To his sisters and brother,

That the odds facing them

Are not exactly equal?

That what we’ve told them—

Human is human. Period.—

Is not a reality out there

And King’s dream

Is still a dream.

And underneath all this,

Even now,

the question haunts me:

We’ve become a family

But what about his people?

~~~~

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

Our fourth child was born in Uganda. His mother died of AIDS; his father was estranged and never met him till we began the adoption process. In many miraculous ways God made it very clear that we were to adopt our son. But even as I worked in Africa to get legal guardianship, I wondered about the issues he would face growing up as an African child in a white family, in a predominately white area, in a country where the color of your skin still determines a lot. Racial reconciliation takes on a whole new level of importance when you have a child who is a different race. When I read about the horrifically high numbers of African American men in prison; when I learn that five times the number of African American babies are aborted compared to white babies; when I hear that an African American college professor in the town just two over from mine has been stopped by police more than 20 times in the last couple years just so they could “see what

I couldn't resist posting this one, too!

I couldn’t resist posting this one, too!

he was up to”… I think, “This is what’s facing my son,” and I ask God how I am meant to draw attention to this injustice, how I am meant to fight it—both for my own son and the sons and daughters of other women.

And under all this, I still fear the effects on my son of growing up without a community that looks like him.

“Just like me”–seeking greater understanding, unity, and love

Sometimes you've got to get really close to see the beauty.

Up close, you get to see incredible beauty.

Someone recently told me about a young member of our military who shared with his mother some of the trauma he’d experienced on deployment. One time he was told to clear a building. He entered a room and discovered a man with a gun. The man moved to shoot, but the soldier was faster, and the man was killed. “We found his wife and children hiding in another room,” the young soldier told his mother.

She saw his distress and tried to reassure him, “Sweetheart, you didn’t want to kill him. It was kill or be killed. You’re not at fault.”
But he didn’t want to debate fault. “Mom, he was just like me. His wife and kids, just like me. They’re not any different.”
I don’t share that story to make any judgment on our armed forces or its members. (I’m not even making a statement on our police forces and their members, other than to say this: all our police need to have the same attitude as that young man; it should rank as a requirement well above a person’s ability to handle a weapon. I’m very thankful for the many police officers who DO have that attitude, who treat people—no matter the color of their skin or their background—with dignity and respect, but we cannot excuse those who do not).
I share that story to make this personal: I need that attitude. I need it with those in my neighborhood who look different than I or parent differently or work different kinds of jobs; I need it with the wealthy moms at my kids’ private school; I need it with the members of my own household.
But I need it, too, with those whose lives or perspectives seem so different as to be polar opposite mine.
butterflyI work with an organization that reaches out to women involved in the adult entertainment industry. Some of these women have been trafficked, but not all. The leader of our organization is adamant that we don’t make a distinction. Here’s her point: We know—through both statistics and stories—that the vast majority of the women we reach out to have really good reasons for doing what they do. When we look at their backgrounds, we think, “Yes, I can see why this looks like a viable option to them—or their only option.”
But what if that’s not the issue? What if a woman is simply involved in adult entertainment because she makes more at it than she would at another job? Does that mean I’m allowed to say, “That’s some messed-up, sinful thinking!” and write that woman off?
I don’t think so. In fact, I’m beginning to see that it’s not my right to know why a woman is in the life; it’s her decision to tell me or not, and if she does, it’s not my business to form any sort of judgment based on what she tells me. I can’t even say, “But for the grace of God, that could be me” because that still sets me apart. It makes me different. It implies they didn’t receive grace; that there was some reason I “got grace” and they didn’t. It sets up and subtly reinforces a difference between us.
I need to see and know—deep, deep down—that woman is just like me in all the ways that really matter. I’m human; she’s human. I’m broken and bent by sin; so is she. I need a Savior; she does, too.
When I talk and text with women who are in a life that looks so very different from mine, this is what I want to remember. This is what I want them to know: you and me, we’re alike in all the ways that matter.
I’ve found it interesting that the more I work with the issue of adult entertainment, the less inclined I am to write about it. Every statistic, every story, every generalization is becoming more personal for me. The women our team members talk with, text with, hang out with, pray with, eat with—they’re not statistics; they’re women.
I rarely write in-depth about my family members on this blog, and when I do, I generally don’t use their names. I don’t want them to become an example or a generalization or even simply a character. I want to protect them; I want to maintain their dignity. I want them to own the rights to their own stories.
That’s how I’m beginning to feel—and not just think—about the women I meet who are in the industry. I need to maintain their dignity as people, and they need to tell their own stories.
I’m winding through several points in this blog post to get to a final one: though I don’t write much here on the impact of the adult entertainment industry on women and on our culture or on the issue of racial reconciliation (one that is very personal for my family), that doesn’t mean I don’t care passionately about them. I’ve felt convicted of late that I don’t share this passion enough through my blog. So, even though right now I don’t plan to do more personal writing on these issues, I would like each week or so to share something I’ve encountered about these and/or other issues. The perspectives of the authors/speakers may be very different than mine or yours, but I am praying that as we read and listen, we will be able to let go of our fears of “different”; that we will empathize and step into the shoes of others; that we will be drawn into greater understanding, greater unity, and greater love.

Charleston

As we grieve the nine men and women who were killed–and grieve so much else as well–I have a few links to share. They’re not directly related to this horrific hate crime, but our reaction to this shouldn’t be only a reaction to THIS but to a much bigger issue.

The first two links are to articles by Christena Cleveland. The first is an easier read. The second is to an excerpt from her book Disunity in Christ and is a more academic read. Both are excellent.

“Three Reasons Why I Hate Diversity”

“How Divisions Are Killing Us and Why We Should Care”

This link is to an article by a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Jenny Rae Armstrong. It’s titled “I’m Stupid about Racism. Are You?”

And here’s one more by another fellow Redbud, Bronwyn Lea. It’s titled “A Letter from a White South African to White Americans.”