Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day nine: Cry for freedom

In 1992, I took a small short-term outreach team to Cambodia (I work for an interdenominational mission agency, Youth With A Mission). We worked at an orphanage and in a home that housed people just returning from spending years in refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. I had done my research into Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and the brutal regime that killed millions and drove away millions more. The refugees, I knew, had been the lucky ones. Because they survived. The reality of all this did not hit me until I was sharing dishwashing duty with one of the recently returned Khmer refugees, a woman in her late 20’s. She had spent the past 12 years in a refugee camp. Her parents and her siblings all died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. And here she was, back in her home country, the country she fled when she was a teenager. Doing dishes. No idea where she could go, how to pick up the pieces of her life – and were there even pieces left to pick up?
I have seldom felt so humbled, coming from a life of such comfort – only because of the place I was born.

34 million displaced by war, including 8.4 million refugees. Sudan. Afghanistan. Myanmar. Iraq.

These trends deal with poverty. With sickness. But more than anything else: they deal with injustice. People being displaced because other people are fighting. Yet another expression of our sin, and the fallen nature of this world.

I had the hardest time narrowing down causes and organizations for today. When you close your eyes to it and live your life (and it is remarkable how easy that is), it seems like the needs are far away. But when you open them, even just slightly, suddenly the needs are there, they are clear, and they break your heart.

Think about injustice. It is no surprise that so many of our causes in this fast focus on children. Because children are often the innocent victims of the things adults screw up.

I read a story today of six teenage girls kidnapped off the street and forced into prostitution in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Modern-day slavery. National Geographic Magazine in 2004 reported the mind-blowing statistical reality that “…there are more slaves today than were trafficked in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.” Injustice in a modern society.

According to UNICEF in the last decade 10 million children were traumatized by war. In the last three years in Africa around 120,000 children were forced to participate in fighting.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

After the tsunami in South Asia in December 2004 I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster for days - observing, praying, considering ways to help. And then, on day four, I realized at night that I had not thought about, or prayed for, the tsunami victims at all. I had already "forgotten", and I felt deeply ashamed. As a result, we wrote a song called Cry for Freedom - about our response to the "sorrow of this world". That, to me, is what this fast is all about: how do we respond? How do I respond? "When will this devastation get underneath my skin?"

My first organization for today: The International Justice Mission, an organization stands in the gap for victims when they are left without an advocate – child prostitution, widows whose homes get taken away, people sold into slavery to repay small debts. And the second one: War Child, a Dutch non-profit (I am originally from the Netherlands) network of independent organizations, working across the world to help children affected by war.
And finally, the Christian Children’s Fund, an organization similar to World Vision and Compassion International, headquartered here in Richmond VA (where I live). All three organizations do excellent work and they all could use all the help we can give them. Mostly, thought, they need us to open our eyes.

Today I will be fasting and praying for children affected by injustice – war, slavery, oppression. Throughout the day I will be blogging more – thoughts and prayers that come into my mind. I hope you will join me.

Day nine: mid-day update

12:30 pm - I have decided to spent some time today really reading some of the other blogs that are part of or associated with the 40 day fast - and continue building my prayer list with topics I want to start praying for on a regular basis.
I found a great blog this way, Amicus Dei, that just featured a post about "Why are we putting children in prison" about children asylum seekers and their families who are being detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention facility.

From the Amicus Dei blog:

Here's what we are doing to these little children:

1. Children are forced to wear prison uniforms.
2. Children over 5-years of age are kept in prison cells separated from their mothers.
3. Children are allowed recreation only 1-hour per day, and often are not allowed outside at all.
4. Children are being treated like prisoners in violation of federal law.
5. Children are being denied access to education, healthcare, and their families in violation of federal and international human rights laws and treaties.

Amnesty International issued this statement at the protest in Texas --

"The T. Don Hutto detention facility is a former prison for hardened criminals, now run by a for-profit corporation to detain child asylum seekers, migrants and their families. On any given day, Hutto holds up to 400 of these vulnerable individuals, as young as five months, who are looking to the United States for asylum or other protection from the full, awful range of human rights violations abroad."

It's almost 12:30, and I was starting to really get hungry. And then I read this post and realized, again, why we are doing this.

"Who will apologize to the hundreds of children held prisoner, here in the land of the free? We can do better than this as Americans. We must do better than this as followers of Jesus Christ. "

As for what we can do - besides pray of course? Ask your congressman, your senators, and demand that we stop this practice at once, is one thing, I also wonder, with all the prison ministries out there, is there a way to reach out to these people? That just moved to my list-of-things-to-do.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Day eight: blood:water mission

Today's blog is Stephen's, and he highlights Blood:Water Mission, an organization started by the members of Jars of Clay.

Blood:Water Mission exists to promote clean blood and clean water efforts in Africa, tangibly reducing the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic while addressing the underlying issues of poverty, injustice and oppression. Blood:Water Mission is building clean water wells, supporting medical facilities, and focusing on community and worldview transformation, both here in America and in Africa.

From Stephen's post:

In an interview Derek did recently with The Washington Times, while talking about what he is rebelling against and his involvement with Blood:Water Mision, he said “A mother and her children who have to walk 15 miles a day every day to get dirty water to put into their bodies with a broken immune system that will eventually kill them is the right thing to rebel against.”

Day seven: something must have happened

I am behind..... yesterday's blogger was Stephanie - and wow, what a post. Stephanie's cause was children and sexual abuse. Read her blog, please. It may very well save someone's life.

A few quotes:

"Three million children need us to pay attention, to ask uncomfortable questions and speak up when we think something is wrong. And 39 million adults need to talk."

"How easily I trust others, how naively I assume the best because I have never endured the worst of humanity. How often I have sensed that something was wrong, but chosen to believe otherwise."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day six: from callousness to healing

Today's blogger is The Chaotic Hammer. He, too, is fasting and praying for and highlighting Compassion International, and specifically HIV/AIDS.

This is actually one of the causes I am considering for Saturday, and it is near to my heart - so this post impacted me greatly. Please take the time to read it. Here are some statistics he starts his post out with:

"1. Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

2. More than 12 million African children and 15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

3. By 2010, it's projected that more than 25 million children worldwide will be orphaned by AIDS.

4. Nine out of 10 children living with AIDS are African.

5.Every minute a child under 15 dies of an AIDS-related illness.

6. Each month, more people die from AIDS than were killed in the Southeast Asia tsunami that shocked the world in late 2004."

Seriously. Read this post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day five: love is a ripple effect

Today's blogger: Kristin.

"Knowing is the first step, and the breaking of heart must come before change can begin."
"Real change takes time, and takes a lot of people."
"There are so many needs of this world, but there are also so many of us."

All quotes from today's blog..... read it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Day four: going one step further

Today's blogger: Shaun Groves. An excellent post about Compassion International, and about going one (or two) step(s) further than sponsoring a child. Shawn, great post, and again, challenging - and I'm praying for you and for Compassion's work today.

And a quote from Kat's blog today:
"If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
-Mother Teresa

That is for everyone who says that our small efforts do not make a difference. They do.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day three: this world is not a fair place

Today's blogger for the 40 day fast is Sam.

"That ours can be the hearts of love that change the world - "by God's grace & in God's strength." This world is not a fair place to live in - greed, glory & gold being our motto, as a whole. So, we, individually, have to be the ones to help change things."

Another perspective, another challenge - there is no way that this fast is NOT going to change things, because it already is changing us.

Also.... check out World Vision. Another excellent organization that gives practical ways all of us can be involved in making a difference.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The thin wall between mercy and darkness

Today Brant Hansen is taking his turn in the fast, and he, like Kat yesterday, highlights Compassion International.

Please visit Brant's blog today - it is a soul-searching post; at least it was for me.

I can't describe it any better (or come even close to) than Brant, so I'd like to close with a quote from his post:

"The wall is very, very thin. The wall divides a bloody temple from Mother Teresa's home for the sick and dying, and it's a very thin wall. For the children I've met in central America, Africa, Asia -- the wall between hope and hopelessness, between smiling young engineer and disfigured beggar, is a very thin wall.

And, borrowing from Solzhenitsyn, that wall runs through me, and my checkbook, separating life and death, mercy and darkness."

Friday, June 22, 2007

The beginning

Today, then, is the beginning of the 40 day fast. Kat started us off today - her cause: child hunger, her organization: Compassion International.

A few - hard-hitting - points:

Did You Know?
Almost 6.5 million children under five die every year from hunger-related diseases. In fact, hunger-related illnesses kill 12 children every minute of every day.

Did you know that the Western world has all the resources needed to defeat child hunger? Consider this:

The basic nutritional needs of the world’s poorest children could be met for $19 billion a year.

We spend $18 billion annually on makeup alone.
We spend $17 billion on pet food.
We spend $11 billion on ice cream.
We spend $35 billion on bottled water.

I already realize that this will be a humbling 40 days. My husband and I decided to adopt a Compassion child today.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The fast

The forty-day fast, where 40 bloggers each fast one day and highlight a need and an organization that tries to meet that need that day, starts tomorrow. I started working on listing links to my fellow-fasting-bloggers today, and researching organizations on the web, and looked at this post once again - the post and the picture that inspired the 40-day-fast.

And at that point, there really is not a lot more to say, except thank you to Kat, who took this fantastic initiative. I look forward to the coming 40 days, to being outward-focused, to being overwhelmed, and to seeing some of the amazing ways people are responding to needs that are bigger than at least I can comprehend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

IM and good causes

A tagline in a friend's email caught my attention today: "Make every IM count. Download Messenger and join the i’m Initiative now." After a little checking I found the following:

"i’m is a new initiative from Windows Live™ Messenger. Every time you start a conversation using i’m, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective organizations dedicated to social causes." To check it out, click here. The downside? it currently does not work on a Mac - which I use.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The 40 Day Fast

I have discovered several blogs lately that I read daily (or at least whenever the writers blog). Two are written by the same person, Kat - she writes a music business blog and a personal blog. On her personal blog she just came up with a great initiative - the 40 day fast. The purpose behind it is to give people an opportunity to:
1. Experience a bit of need
2. Learn about the need in the world
3. Do something about it

She is trying to find 39 bloggers (I just signed up) who would be willing to fast for one day and blog about their experience. On their specified day, the fasting blogger also highlights an area of need in the world (either a cause or a country) and an organization that strives to meet that need. On the other 39 days (the days a blogger is not fasting) each blogger writes a short post with a link to the blogger who is fasting that day. The idea behind this is to introduce a lot of different people to many different causes or nations and reinforce the idea that there is need by putting it in front of our readers on a daily basis for 40 days.

Finally, the readers of all the blogs involved are encouraged to join us in fasting on the 40th day, July 31. So.... anyone here want to jump in with the 40 day fast? Either to take a day in the project (if you don't have a blog you can guest blog on Kat's on your day), or by joining us on July 31.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vibefest 2007

The Positive Vibe Cafe is a Richmond restaurant that trains people with disabilities for work in the restaurant world. During the past three years, more than 150 people have been trained in this fantastic place. The food is amazing, the service is wonderful, and the atmosphere is intimate and festive at the same time. Our band plays there every second Sunday of the month - which we love - but last Sunday we had the privilege of opening up Vibefest 2007 - the Cafe's annual celebration/fundraiser with 14 bands playing, area chefs cooking and serving lots of great food, and hundreds of people enjoying both the music and the food in the parking lot outside of the Positive Vibe Cafe.

Besides opening the festival as a band we also helped with sound for one of the stages throughout the day, and it was a fantastic event with amazing music, but more than that, an amazing purpose. The Cafe is expanding later this year, and if you are in Richmond, you should check it out!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Spread the sharing

I came across a cool initiative today: Spread the sharing. The idea is this - you share a story about a time you shared with someone or someone shared with you. For every story you share, Country Crock will donate a meal to a family in need through America’s Second Harvest.

Yep.... of course it brings attention to Country Crock. But hey, according to the site, so far they have donated 113,958 meals. That's a lot of meals, and that's a lot of needs met. I submitted a story..... and I encourage you to as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Heard in Starbucks today:
"Some things just make life better, and whipped cream is one of them"

Square pegs

This is so cool..... some of my absolute favorite writers.... all together - if this does not come close to the essence of music, I don't know what does. Check out the Square Peg Alliance.

From their own site: "The Square Peg Alliance is a group of singer/songwriters who really like each other. We have all been doing music on our own but have decided to join forces like the wonder twins - except there are 13 of us instead of 2. There is no guy in a suit putting all of us together. We really just believe in each other's art and want to support it.
We don't write music so we can be the next big thing (or if we do, it hasn't worked for us). We believe that there are folks out there who like music even if it isn't played every three minutes on the radio, even if it isn't on a big label, even if it isn't accompanied by a music video, even if the shows aren't flashy or even if the records don't go platinum (or gold, or silver, or aluminum foil, etc.).
That is why we are the Square Peg Alliance. Thirteen artists who might not fit perfectly into the traditional mold of the music business, but have found a home with each other."


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

National Hunger Awareness Day

Speaking with the Central Virginia Food Bank yesterday (our band is hosting a food drive for them this Summer) - I found out that today is National Hunger Awareness Day. It is mind-boggling to me that there are still so many people affected by hunger in the US. The Central Virginia Food Bank has some excellent suggestions on their site on things you can do to help fight hunger.

And while you're at it, if you live in Richmond, VA, mark Wednesday July 25 and Saturday July 28 on your calendars. It's our band's "Christmas in July" food drive. I'll post more as time gets closer.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I like fruit, especially fresh fruit, and I especially love it in summertime. Nowadays you can pretty much get any type of fruit fresh at any time of the year - and oh boy I am going to date myself here :) - but when I was growing up in Holland (where I was born and raised) there were certain fruits you could only get fresh in summer. Like strawberries. My birthday is in July, and that was often the first time I would get fresh strawberries in the year. Maybe that's why I have always associated strawberries with celebrating. I love strawberries, especially if they are nice and sweet. It makes me feel like summer, and it makes me feel happy.

What is your favorite fruit? Do you like fruit?