Mothers Wonder if Any of it Sticks

Posted by on Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

We took them to an unsafe country. It was just after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Hunter was 15, Hampton 13 and Madison was 11 (picture above). We took them to Yei Sudan (which is now South Sudan). No running water. No electricity. No comfort. No roof on the house. Not easy. But my kids loved it. We took our kids because we wanted them to see a global God – not just a  wealthy, white suburban God – but a God who cares deeply for the whole world, especially the poor and marginalized. Our prayer? That they would “catch” God’s heart and make it their own. Then teenage years came and went- I wasn’t sure any of that exposure matter. You know how that happens? You work so hard to instill certain things in your kids and as they grow older you wonder if any of it stuck? Shortly after our trip in 2005 Steve founded Water is Basic (empowering locals in South Sudan in the fight for clean water.) For the next seven years -while my kids were in junior high, high school and college – their dad traveled to Africa serving the poor and marginalized. I wondered if they noticed. Now Water is Basic is one of the most successful water companies in South Sudan – over 500 wells – thousands and thousands of kids, moms and dads kept alive because of clean water. My kids never saw any of it. It’s 2014 –  all our kids are in their early twenties. Steve and I felt like it was time – time for them to go back – they needed to go back, to be reminded, to be re-exposed. Every parents decides how they will spend their money – private school, college, cars, clothing, vacations – we all make decisions. For us, taking our kids would be a huge financial investment – but that’s just how we saw it – an investment. Not one that would produce monetary dividends but dividends none the less – in their heart, mind and soul. Our hope – the re-exposure would remind them of their responsibility to give their lives to those in need. We took Hunter and his girlfriend last November. (Yes, girlfriend. I’ve often thought geeh, once our kids get married we will have to bring their spouses – after all they will benefit from knowing where and how their partners heart developed for the marginalized.) It wasn’t his first time back since 2005 – he had gone again in 2006  to work on a documentary about women’s empowerment and again when he was 17 to build internet cafes in Rwanda and Uganda but it was time...

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Cheeseburgers & Hobby Lobby

Posted by on Monday, Jun 23, 2014 in Blog | 7 comments

In a few weeks we will celebrate Independence Day. On the 4th of July, we watch parades and fireworks and have family barbeques by the pool. Rarely while eating a cheeseburger or drinking ice-cold coke do I contemplate the 50,0000 men and women who paid a price for my independence. It’s just too far away – they are too far gone in the distance. Now, mention 9/11 and immediately violent emotions are evoked as well as images of those planes slamming into the World Trade Center. Distance from an event can move us from somber reflection to eating cheeseburgers. Truth be told, I’m eating cheeseburgers when it comes to next week’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The court case raises the question of whether a corporation has the legal right to refuse to comply with provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which would require it to provide contraceptive health insurance for its female employees. Hobby Lobby argues that it should be granted exemption from the law because it conflicts with the corporation’s religious beliefs. There are many nuances to the case and my point here is not to present or argue them, but rather to remind us that perhaps we should at least pay attention. I grew up in a time when having a choice over our body was normative, especially in the area of contraceptives. I’ve been taking contraceptives for decades without any consideration of how we got to the point where it was a non-issue. Cheeseburgers. That’s why when I or other women I know hear about the Hobby Lobby court case, we yawn. “Are we really still talking about contraceptives?” It’s so passé’ At least that’s how I used to think…until I spent a summer in East Africa. News in the village that summer morning of 2013 was that a woman had spent the night in jail because she told her husband he could not take another wife. Polygamy is normative in some countries like South Sudan. For instance, just this past month Kenya legalized polygamy. Although some women’s groups applauded the decision because the long fixed tradition now legitimized all marriages including customary marriages, they also acknowledge the law gives men the ability to marry other women without the consent of the first wife. Why anyone would want more than one wife is beyond me. Don’t those men know that women living together end up on the same menstrual cycle! Anyways, the woman in Yei, South Sudan was arrested because she violated her husband’s right to multiple wives. Now, hang in there, because this does have implications to the Hobby Lobby case. Unlike us American women, women in places like South Sudan...

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Hello Goodbye

Posted by on Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014 in Blog | 8 comments

Steve was fired on a Sunday. That Wednesday my son called to inform me he was leaving college mid-semester. Twenty thousand dollars down the drain – no credits to show for it. I felt overwhelmed, so I decided to go to Wal-Mart to get some canning supplies to can spicy cauliflower (sometimes going back to my roots is all I know to do). In the middle of Wal-Mart, I collapsed on the floor and began crying hysterically. I lost perception of time, space and place. Basically, I had a breakdown. (Not a very flattering picture, is it?) My son, Hunter, came to get me up and take me home. Looking back now, I realize how freaked out he must have been. He called my friend Krista. She immediately came over, fed me, and then gave me some drug that knocked me out cold. I slept off my hysteria. Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times, and a sister is born for adversity.” Proverbs 18:24 reiterates the sentiment: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a sister.” We see this played out in David and Jonathan’s relationship. When Jonathan stood beside David during difficulty (like the king trying to kill him kind of difficulty), David started to refer to Jonathan as “brother.” Authentic friendships are built when a friend sticks by during tough times. That’s Krista. It took a while before I caught my balance and started dreaming again. Krista dreamed with me. In 2012, we birthed The Marcella Project, an organization committed to improving the view of women through the Scriptures. As Executive Director, Krista oversaw the organization (she saved me again!) so that I could focus on teaching, writing, speaking and shepherding women. This winter Krista opened her home to a foster child, a two-year-old curly blonde boy named Christian. As her responsibilities as mother and wife increased, her time for Marcella waned. We both knew our time as the dynamic duo was coming to an end. She officially stepped down as Executive Director in March. I’m grateful for the time, energy, and talent she gave to the ministry. I’m thankful she continues on our board and as my dear friend. I am better because of her. It’s scary to be on your own. I don’t know how to do a lot of things: QuickBooks, strategic planning, marketing, Constant Contact, computers. Actually, if I’m honest I pretty much stink at most things – even turning on the TV can be difficult for me. So you can imagine my fear and anxt at running Marcella by myself – like NOT a good idea. I’m so thankful I don’t journey these times alone – Jesus is present....

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We Can Free Them By Radio

Posted by on Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014 in Blog |

My husband spends much of his time in South Sudan working with Water is Basic. That’s his “job” but he always manages to do more than. He’s brought others to South Sudan to work with the locals on farming, technology, micro finance, education and yes, even radio. Mike Gwartney, our friend and fellow brother in Christ, is starting an organization to bring radio and television stations to South Sudan. (EPC Lainya County Radio and Television of South Sudan) Starting a business is never easy but it’s particularly difficult in South Sudan. Mike’s also on The Marcella Project board and has invited us to participate in developing radio material to be broadcast to women of all ages in South Sudan. The training of women in Yei, South Sudan has afforded me a window into their lives. I’ve listened to story after story of women who have no voice or choice. Whether it be domestic abuse, martial infidelity (taking several wives), or sexual exploitation, women are oppressed – many times that oppression is sanctioned by the teachings of the Christian church. As many of you know I’ve been seeking the answers to whether or not our version of the Gospel is anemic for the millions of shattered women and girls around the globe. Is it for women universal – encompassing the full spectrum of every woman – or does it represent “a tiny segment of the the female population – a narrow, prosperous, protected, well-educated female demographic located in the comfortable midsection of human society?” (Custis, 36) I’m not the only one asking these questions. In her book Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James so beautifully pens it this way, “What if a soul is completely ravaged – brutalized and dehumanized until there is nothing left but an empty shell? Does the Gospel offer such a woman salvation, or does it also establish her as a participant in the Grand Story that God is weaving for the world? Are God’s purposes for his daughters indestructible, or do they collapse under the weight of the world’s evils? (Custis, 35) When I read James’ words my soul cries out, “YES, that’s the question we MUST answer!” Mike is offering us the opportunity to preach God’s message for women. The Gospel Truth for women universal – encompassing the full spectrum of every woman – even those who have to bear up under the weight of the world’s evil. That message says Jesus is not okay with his daughters being beaten, raped, sold, or exploited. It’s a message of value. Image bearers who share in part of his Grand Story. God’s message for women broadcast over radio can change the lives of women in South Sudan (and ultimately the...

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Life Is In The Blood

Posted by on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013 in Blog |

“According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9: 22 Holman Christian Standard Bible) There’s life in the blood. Literally, figuratively, spiritually. Christ gave his blood so we could live. It makes sense we would do the same. Literally, figuratively, spiritually. We gave our blood, while in South Sudan. We gave so women and their babies could have a chance at life. Giving blood is a big deal in this tribal area. One doesn’t give their blood because it might be given to a person from another tribe. Or giving blood might expose one’s body to demons.   Or it might actually save the life of one’s wife. The blood at His House of Hope Hospital is given to women who have complications during childbirth. Some husband’s resist giving their blood because they prefer that their wife die. It makes taking another more financially feasible.  So they don’t give. And she dies.  So we gave our blood. I’m thankful for the blood. Today sits between the first and second week of Advent where we celebrate salvation which came through the shedding of Christ’s blood. Without it we wouldn’t be alive. Thankful for the blood. Mine, yours, hers but mostly His....

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