A Global Mom’s Manifesto

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

Hi, again! I’m so happy to be back at All of Us Matter again talking about global families and raising citizens of the world! If you read my last couple of posts then you know I’m passionate about raising global kids because I believe open hearts, eyes, minds, and hands that love, see, respect, and act will make this a better worldly community for everyone.

In this post, I want to shift from talking about raising kids with a global mindset to talking about the moms who are raising those kids. From my experience, this is the most important piece to the puzzle of raising global citizens – seeing yourself as a global mom. 

For some, this might seem like a strange idea – possibly even fraudulent. For example, you might find it a little far-fetched to see yourself as a global mom if you’ve never left the country (except for that one spring break trip). If you’ve birthed little mini versions of yourself and don’t even fully know your own heritage nor have a strong tie to your cultural roots – you may think calling yourself a global mom is even absurd. Don’t despair just yet, though. Identifying as a global mom is more of a mindset than a literal proclamation. In my opinion, if you’re a mom who sees the world as a whole, the people in it as one, and are raising your children with the same ideals, then you’re a global mom. (Bonus points if you love sushi, chicken tikka masala, fattoush, pupusas, or other amazing cultural cuisine!)

I’d love to say being kind and sharing love is enough to make this world a better place and that’s all we need to model for our children, but the reality that presents itself says we have a bit more work to do than that. I’ve asked myself some pretty tough questions to help me get clear with what it means for me to be a global mom. From that, I created this… 

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

A Global Mom’s Manifesto:

  • Value and foster diverse communities

  • Seek traditional and untraditional education and sources of information

  • Acknowledge your own biases and prejudices

  • Recognize that you don’t know what it’s like to be from another social group

  • Join forces with globally-minded people in order to continue to grow

  • Respectfully and lawfully question social norms

  • Have a strong voice

  • Trust and act on what you know is right

  • Celebrate diversity and cultural differences

  • Have mutual respect for all, even outside of hierarchical order

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion are more than just buzz words


I don’t know about you, but for me some days are easier than others to pursue my purpose. I’ve had experiences that have made me question it all. You know, those moments when you wonder if one person can actually make a dent of difference. For those days, when the waters are muddy and I can’t see as clearly, it helps to have a list to reference: A manifesto that serves as my marching orders.  The above declaration continues to serve me time and time again. If I’m adhering to intentions and motives that were crafted in a clear and positive state of mind, I can’t go wrong.

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

Photo Credit: Emma Burcuse

As a global mom, I recognize that it’s my duty to model being a world citizen to my children, but it extends beyond that, too. It’s my obligation to model these values and beliefs to everyone – all the time.  That by no means says I have all the answers – quite the opposite. What it does mean, however, is that I try to always see the best in myself and the best in you.

What do you think of the idea of being a global mom (or a global dad)? Do you have a written statement that’s important to you? I’d love to continue this conversation! Join me over on at IG: www.instagram.com/xokimberlywyman.


xoKimberly

I sign my name with an X and O, for kindness and love I hope to sow. 

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Nurturing Global Kids

When I first had the notion to raise my kids as global citizens, it sounded like something to strive for, but to never truly attain. It sounded big and while I love to dream big, I’m not always one who lives big. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with all the possibilities and in turn make things complicated. Does that ever happen to you? I’m personally learning that very few tasks have to be daunting, and nurturing global kiddos is no exception. But that’s not how it started.

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I was single when I started my family. I chose to build my family through international adoption. My son was born in Guatemala and my daughter in Ethiopia. Both adoption processes took me on journeys that opened my eyes to many new experiences. I had the privilege of living in Guatemala for a year as my son’s foster mom during his adoption process. I also traveled to Ethiopia twice for extended stays during my daughter’s process. I learned so many new things and I just knew that I wanted to share all of these experiences with my children. And not just these experiences, but I wanted to expose them to many different cultural opportunities. From the first day of being a mom, I knew that I wanted my children to feel comfortable wherever they were in the world. Enter overwhelm.

How does one teach little people about all of the different cultures in the world? (Spoiler: You don’t.) There is just so much. I needed to reexamine what I wanted to really teach my kids and while learning about different cultures is important and fun, by itself it was missing the mark. As global citizens, I was really hoping they’d learn to embody the characteristics that allowed them to see themselves and others as humans who are worth loving, respecting, and standing alongside. When I defined nurturing global kids like that, the overwhelm began to melt away. 

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If I could go back ten years, I’d share this wisdom with my younger self – act as if. When you believe you already are, you more effortlessly make choices that take you there. The truth is, if you want to be a citizen of the world all you have to do is see yourself as one. If you want to raise global kids, then act as if you’re fulfilling that quest with every breath you take. When you act as if, well then, you just already are.

So now that we’re all global citizens, below are a 4 ways you can incorporate the world into your daily activities and conversations with your children.

Passports

If your child could travel anywhere in the world, where would she choose? As you’re having fun daydreaming out loud and making magical plans to befriend elephants, introduce the reality of needing a passport. Passports are fun and kids love collecting stamps, but what does a passport actually mean? This is a great opportunity to ask your child why they think we need passports. Why can’t we just come and go anywhere in the world? What are the benefits of a passport? What are the limitations? There doesn’t have to be any real answers that come from this exercise. It can just be an opportunity to have your child do some critical thinking.

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Read Labels

When you’re walking through the store, take pause to read labels with your children. A few things to look at might be clothing, furniture, food and beverages.  This can open many conversations. What do certain countries specialize in? What is import and export? How does that help the world work together? If a country doesn’t specialize in a certain item, then why do we import that item? How do lower costs impact workers? What is fair trade? Of course, this can lead to some very serious conversations, which my 11 year old is ready for, or it can be fun and light-hearted for the youngest shoppers. Oh, this can also be done at secondhand shops, too!

Use Life Around You as a Framework for Learning

The world is around us and we have opportunities to look instead of see. Look for similarities and look for differences…in people, dress, cuisine, etc. One example that personally presented itself to my children and me was in Home Depot. There was a lady dressed in a burqa – a full body cloak that covered the woman from head to toe. My daughter with innocence and excitement squealed, “Look, mom!  A ninja!” This was a great teaching moment. I was able to extend the conversation with my children over lunch at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. There truly are opportunities all around us that can open a conversation about the world and global citizenship. 

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Seek Crafts that Embody Love

Kids and crafts go hand-in-hand. When you’re looking for the next fun project to do with your kids, intentionally seek projects that focus on love. While you’re crafting, have a conversation about all the different ways we can give and receive love. How will that change the world for good? What can kindness teach inconsideration? Like many young children, my kids used to think love was something you said to your family. It wasn’t until many conversations and examples later that they started to learn love is something that you show. And, love can and should be shown to everyone. It’s an action that can bring people together, form friendships, and make people feel like they belong. If you’re looking for a project, check out www.lovenotesandtags.com. It’s something that I put together for kids and adults alike to share love.

One mistake that I used to make when having these conversations, is that I thought it was my responsibility to have all of the answers. But, it’s not. It is perfectly ok to just talk with your children and listen to their thoughts. Kids see us the experts of everything. They’ve come to expect that if they ask a question then we will have the answer. It’s ok to be honest and say something like, “I really don’t know myself. Let’s look into that together. Should we go to the library?” Or something like, “Well, I have my opinion, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the joy of you forming your own opinion.”

While I’m so passionate about nurturing global kids, I’m even more passionate about being a global citizen myself. I like to think of myself as a global mom. And, as a global mom, I’m honored to stand beside you as we raise the next generation of global leaders and world changers! 

xoKimberly

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Social Action

By: Gabriela Degen De La Cruz

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The more I read on Social Justice, the more there is to say. After much thought and reflection, I can’t help but think of how social justice movements in western societies have changed throughout time. It is clear that these movements emerge as a form of collective action in response to situations of inequality, oppression and/or unmet social, political, economic or cultural demands. Some of the most world renowned social justice movements are the Women’s Suffrage movements in the late 1800s and early 1900s in England, the nonviolent civil rights movement in the U.S. in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the resistance against the apartheid state in South Africa, also in the 1950s, among other historical social movements around the world.

Even if we scan the news and observe media reports of current and recent social movements like Black Lives Matter, Anti-Islamophobia Movements and its counter movements, #MeToo, or Anti-Human Trafficking, we see individuals coming together and forming a collective action.

The frequently referenced, Cultural Anthropologist David F. Aberle in 1966 described four types of social movements based on who a movement is trying to change and how much change a movement is advocating, Aberle identified four types of social movements: redemptive, reformative, revolutionary and alternative. Depending on how much change the movement advocated for it could either more limited or more radical in this context, and whether the movement is seeking to target a specific individual, or a larger group or an institutional system.

Without wanting to get too technical and turn this into a theoretical debate, it is obvious that different social justice movements take on different forms in different contexts. However, the common denominator in all these movements, helps us understand that social justice is about taking action and making a difference in how we experience life. Whether it’s being part of a big organised group with a global reach, or within your local community context, social justice movements calls for collective action for an intended change. Whether the intended change take shape is a different topic of conversation.

Now, before I passionately continue on writing, the voice of my well versed father chims in. His response, like many other scholars before him, would argue that while some individuals are actively and proactively participating in social justice movements, there are those who could be merely by-standards uninvolved or bothered by a commotion let's say, and/or who choose not to get involved. In fact, their decision to not be informed and/or get involved is contributing to the movement. And they could have valid reasons for choosing not to get involved. So then, maybe the opposite of social justice is not injustice, but ignoring the issue and keeping silent.

With what we have just mentioned, this leaves me thinking even more. If social justice is not just about taking action (or not) then there must be something more. In thought, my mind races through past discussions, lectures and seminars, and for some reason or another, my thoughts revolve around “social responsibility”.

While social responsibility is most commonly used in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the framework could also be used for individuals, although it’s not as widely talked about. It can be argued that as citizens we have an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. But even the slight mention of this thought can raise a flurry of questions and counter arguments that would take us back to a complex political discussion, which I won’t go into anymore.

But if we were to take a step back. If social justice is in the form of treating others with dignity and respect, as discussed in the previous post, then couldn’t that be seen as our collective, ie. social, responsibility?

References:

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-sociology/chapter/social-movements/

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/movements-social-change-apartheid-civil-rights-suf/

https://www.thoughtco.com/social-movements-history-4109227

http://www.minyanville.com/businessmarkets/articles/10-movements-that-changed-america-movements/11/4/2011/id/37721

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_social_movements

https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-social-movements-2073658

Previous Post:

https://www.allofusmatter.org/blog/2018/6/25/social-justice

 

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Why the World Needs You to Raise Global Citizens

Photo Credit: Mike Scheid

Photo Credit: Mike Scheid

My kids and I recently watched an animated film titled, “The Breadwinner.” It’s about an 11-year-old girl living in Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban. In the story, Parvana, the young girl, is unable to be out of the house – as is any female – unaccompanied by a male. She can’t buy food. She can’t fetch water. She can’t play outside. This is very problematic because her father has been unjustly arrested and it is only her mother, older sister, and infant brother. Determined to provide for the family, Parvana cuts off her hair and poses as a boy. She’s then able to find work, buy food, and have some freedoms as a boy.

After the movie, I was having a conversation with my kids. Asking them questions about what they think happened after the end of the movie, how they would feel living in an environment such as that, etc. My mother-in-law promptly chimed in saying, “That was a long, long time ago.” 

My jaw dropped. 

It wasn’t a long time ago. It’s happening today in varied parts of the world. And not just that scenario, but many social injustices and cruelties exist. There are too many to list and even if I attempted the list, there’s an inability of complete accuracy due to limited resources, censored reporting, and illegal operations. 

While my mother-in-law may be special, I don’t think she’s unique. There are so many people who don’t know what’s going on around the world, either intentionally or unintentionally. From my experience, people like easy and they definitely relish in comfort. Looking beyond into the unfamiliar is scary and really uncomfortable. I’m not judging – I’m human, too, and feel the exact same way. A small difference that helps remove me from that zone and into one of confrontation and disruption is being a self-proclaimed global citizen. 

Photo Credit: Slava Bowman

Photo Credit: Slava Bowman

With both logic and emotion, I believe identifying as global citizens will flatten geographical borders and unite us as one worldly community – ending social injustices. It starts with us as adults, but the true power is in raising our children with this ideology. But, what does that mean? I’ve asked myself that question and this is what I’ve come up with so far. When I take a close look at the characteristics of a global citizen, the four following attributes stick out the most.

4 Attributes of a Global Citizen

  1. Open HEART: Has the ability to give and receive love

  2. Open EYES: Understands and identifies with the culture of both their birth and resident countries (if different) while having the perspective to see beyond themselves and their situation

  3. Open MIND: Seeks education, cultural exploration, respects and values diversity

  4. Open HANDS: Stands for social justice and is willing to act locally and globally.

This is the reason the world needs you to raise global citizens. To have a clear understanding of what is going on in our shared world (in age appropriate ways). To fight for equality and stand for what we all know is right. To look discomfort in the eye and demand better for humanity as a whole. To challenge the commonplace and disrupt ease as we search for answers beyond what we know. And, finally, to live in the realization that we all have talents and gifts that should be used to better our own personal lives and of those we love, while at the same time bettering the lives of others we don’t personally know.

Photo Credit: Tina Floersch

Photo Credit: Tina Floersch

How do we raise our children as global citizens? That’s where the fun begins. Because your way of life can and should be fun, and this, my friend, is an awesome way of life. Looking at the four primary attributes above, think of every day moments or experiences that you can incorporate activities and conversations around open hearts, eyes, minds, and hands to love, see, respect, and act.

For example, after the kids and I watched “The Breadwinner,” we had a great conversation about equality and education. We could have discussed many, many aspects from the movie, but I let the kids lead conversation and that’s the direction it went. My daughter saw similarities between the movie and the book, “I Am Malala.” My son immediately recognized the unfairness of how girls are treated and shared his opinions of how he’d respond differently. Having these conversations is such an important foundation of a global citizen.

I’m looking forward to sharing some more of my ideas about how to incorporate activities in your everyday life that nurture global citizens with you soon.

xoKimberly

I sign my name with an X and O, for kindness and love I hope to sow.

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Social Justice

By: Gabriela Degen De La Cruz

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My name is Gabriela Degen De La Cruz. For some I’m a nomade without a place to call home, and to others I’m a wonder-filled wanderlust soul. Although I come from a broken family with separated parents, since the age of 10, I was beyond fortunate to have been privileged enough to attend private International Schools in Cambodia, and boarding school in Thailand.

Having traveled since I was 5 months old, and the first time I traveled unaccompanied was when I was 11, I quickly learned to rely on my own senses to get by. I’ve developed skills to navigate through life, think critically, and act purposefully.

Although I have the capabilities to be a catalyst for change, I don’t always deem myself as best placed to do so. It’s not whether I can or can’t do it, it’s more my own perception in my ability to do well. And if I dig a little deeper, it’s whether I want to risk potentially failing and being wrong. Yes I am human too and not immune to insecurities. But as my father taught me from the young age of 8, you either learn to fail, or fail to learn. Isn’t it interesting how we learn more from our failures than our successes? So here I am, sharing with you the lessons I’ve studied so far - from the lecture halls of my Undergraduate and Master’s studies, seasoned with life’s lessons on a plane from one country to the next.  


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SOCIAL JUSTICE
Schools of Thought on Social Justice

Undoubtedly, when you delve deep enough to study what there is to say on “social justice”, there are many perspectives, school of thoughts, and theories you come across. Luckily for us, who don’t have hard copies of encyclopedias or paperback dictionaries, with only a few clicks away we can read a summary and be satisfied that we understand what it’s all about. Until we hear something in the news or start a conversation at a neighbourhood party, should the topic arise. But before we go further let us start with the basics.   

According to the Oxford Dictionary Online, social justice, is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”. This leads us to take a closer look at the familiar term ‘justice’, which has its roots in the Latin word ‘justus’, referring to just behavior or treatment. However, an inquisitive mind like mine does not hesitate to questions “just behavior” or “just treatment”, because if there is one thing that I’ve learned from all the places I’ve been to, is that common sense is not common, and the same can be said about a “just” behavior or treatment. Different cultures understand justice differently, and therefore “just behaviors” are experienced differently by people from different backgrounds, religion, ethnic origin, gender, etc. the list can go on.

Nonetheless, if we continue delving deeper, the term ‘justus’ derives from the term ‘jus’ meaning ‘law’, ‘right’. This is where people and cultures find seemingly different applications of justice depending on their unique contexts. Hence, why we have a legal system that can enforce law and order, which nowadays can chime a strong cord with those who have lost trust in governing institutions to do so (more on this in coming posts). But it is in the legal terminology, that even the moral principles of Human Rights has evolved from. Today our human rights are widely accepted as inalienable fundamental rights to which a every person is inherently entitled to, simply because she or he is a human being. These human rights are enshrined in documents like in the Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that social justice is routinely coupled with ideas of equality -  since every individual has inherit rights merely by being human, and therefore entitled to equal access and equal opportunities. This is the bedrock of egalitarian thought. Egalitarianism, as a political doctrine that essentially advocates for everyone to have the same political, social, economic and civil rights.

From an economic perspective, egalitarianism is seen to be the driving force behind socialism and even communism. It is economic egalitarianism that seeks to remove the social barriers, due to economic inequality by means of redistribution of wealth. An obvious example of this is in social welfare programs, where progressive tax policies take proportionately more money from wealthy individuals to redistribute it to those who lack the same means, in order to raise their standard of living.

Among many criticisms, economic egalitarianism as a doctrine has two main problems. Firstly, the mistaken premise that the rich exploit the poor in order to get wealthy. Over the last 150 years most socialist literature promote this premise. This is most evident in Karl Max’s work when he wrote his “Communist Manifesto” published in 1848. Depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, you could still argue that it’s still the case today, or argue your way around this. Secondly, it has been extensively argued that socialist programs and welfare systems have the tendency to create more problems than they actually solve. For example, welfare programs that use tax revenue to supplement the income of underemployed or unemployed individuals, usually has the effect of creating a dependency relation, where recipients become dependent on the government’s support instead of being incentivised to improve their own situation. It has been observed by historians that in places where socialism or communism has been tried on a national scaled, it failed to remove the class distinctions in society. Instead, the distinction between the nobility - common man has been just replaced with the working - political class man (Kowalczyk, 2016).  

With the above snapshot, this leads me to wonder if different perspectives of ‘social justice’ simply encapsulate a specific time in history. And with time, and as society constantly changes, how we see social justice in practice also changes. Then, maybe we need a perspective that is out of time and place, to really be our standard for what ‘social justice’ should really be about.

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A Different Way of Seeing Social Justice

From all the philosophical texts and writings on social justice, I haven’t come across one that is so practical and explicit as the Bible. If you just read that and you had to gasp for air, please know what I’m about to touch on next will not be a sermon on the mount like preaching. Instead, it’s an invitation to consider an alternative perspective of social justice that is out of time and place from the assumption that God is exactly that, out of time and place. If you are quite familiar with the texts in the Bible or growing in your understanding, this will be another opportunity to compare how schools of thoughts on social justice compare to what you may already know.

What, then can we know about social justice from this alternative perspective that is out of time and place? Well, there are quite a number of things one can draw out from texts found in the Bible. One of the key findings, on which most, if not all, topics revolves around, is the source of social justice. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to discussing how this alternative perspective present social justice.     

Firstly, there is a strong emphasis to show concern and care for the plight of the poor, for those who are afflicted, and in need (Leviticus 25:35; Exodus 22:25; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 58:6–7; Zechariah 7:9-10; Jeremiah 22:3; Psalm 82:3; Proverbs 31:9; James 2:14–17), or less fortunate (Matthew 25:40). Most of these individuals are often orphans, widows, and what we nowadays call refugees and asylum seekers - individuals who do not have a support system or are able to fend for themselves within the systems of their society. The focus here, is still who society is to treatment those less privileged. Secondly, other accounts (Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:17; 27:19) also alludes to consequences if we treat vulnerable individuals unjustly, which we see nowadays when orphans are abused, widows violated, and refugees denied their right to seek safety.

Another text talks about reaching out to the homeless and loveless (James 1:27). Here too we see a reference of social justice as being a moral obligation to care for those less fortunate. Thus, these example can be said to be out of time as it shows that it’s not constrained to the moment in history in which it was written nor the context. In other words, because it is still applicable today, it’s safe to say that it’s past the “test of time”.

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Moreover, this perspective is out of time and place, as its exhortations to care for the poor are more individual than societal. Rather than delegating our responsibilities to our governments and social institutions to ensure social justice is carried out, we as individuals are encouraged to do what we can to help those in need. The notions of social justice we frequently hear of today replaces the individual with the government, who, through taxation and other welfare programmes aims to redistributes society’s wealth. Such policies very rarely foster compassion and encourage generous giving, but tends to harbor resentment in those who see their hard-earned money being given to someone who they could consider as undeserving. Thus, this alternative perspective of social justice, by focusing on our individual responsibility, surpasses the stance and political views of any government or school of thought, at any time in history, and in any particular place.

In conclusion, we’ve seen how social justice is often described as relative to a time and place. In turn, this provides an inconsistent definition, as its standard is constantly changing. A standard that is frequently evolving and flexible in its definition is not a reliable measure at all. Therefore, we looked at an alternative perspective that is out of time and place from a few references in Scripture offering a better definition of justice. This definition goes beyond social infrastructures and policies to how we treat each other on a day to day.   

Resources

Kowalczyk, H. A., (2016) Capitalism, Socialism and Communism. Huffington Post. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/henryk-a-kowalczyk/capitalism-socialism-and-_b_8523486.html


 

 

 

Appetite

Photo Credit:  Vanna Dutch Photography

Complacency is an easy thing to slip into. When life is running smoothly, with perhaps some stress and over-booking happening, but nothing worse, I can get to a place where I forget my deep need for anything more. I get into the groove of checking off lists, reading bedtime stories, making dinners, going to church, and generally feeling pretty good about myself. 

When things hit the fan, however, I am reminded once again of not only my complete inability to work good into certain areas of my life on my own, but also my deep, heavy need for God’s presence, love, grace and forgiveness in my life.  When I am lying on the bathroom floor, crying out because my own inability is pushing down on my chest, forcing the air from my lungs, it’s quite natural for me to throw my hands up, close my eyes, and cry out to God. It’s almost a reflex.

But how do I bring that reflex, that appetite for God’s presence in my life, out from the valleys and into the hill-tops? How do I easily recognize my need for Him, even when everything is going smoothly? 

The Gospel very clearly tells us that Jesus is the doer, and we are the receivers. He has rescued us, died for us, redeemed us. Literally all we can do is praise His name, accept this great gift, and allow Him to work in our life. God will do what He does regardless of our knowledge of it, but if we want to bring our appetite for Him up, we MUST decide to be active participants in His relationship with us. We can do this through three surprisingly easy, yet surprisingly difficult intentional steps.

Conversation

Just like any relationship, our relationship with God requires communication. If we learn to be still and listen, we will hear His whispers throughout our life. We must get into the habit of answering. It’s easy to clasp our hands when we are watching our children get rolled into surgery, as I recently did. But when we can get into the habit of breathing out thanks and praise as we go about our very normal and busy schedules, we will find that habit bringing forth a deep desire to keep the conversation going.

Community

God is a God of community. He himself is a triune God, and when he created us to be in His image, this was definitely part of it. It was not good for Adam to be alone, not because he wasn’t capable, but because the God-image in us was meant to be in fellowship. Being an active part of a Christian community is an absolutely necessary part of growing our appetite for God. When we intentionally surround ourselves with other Christians who are also seeking God’s whispers in their own life, it becomes easier to not only do that in our own life, but to have trusted brothers and sisters in Christ to help us discern, learn and grow.

Contemplation

Let me just say this right here. When you first start, reading the Bible will never feel as important as the things that are jumping off of your to-do list. You will have to move intentionally towards this one, seemingly sacrificing ‘more pressing matters’ to do it. But I guarantee that setting time aside to dig into your Bible will prove to grow in you a deep desire to know God more.  We have a God that knew we would be a people of stories, a people who would want to know the God who breathed life into us. When you hold your Bible, you hold a giant story of God: who He is, what He has done, who WE are in relationship to Him. From the front cover to the back cover, you see His story, our story, you see Jesus being promised before we ever set foot outside of the Garden. When you do this deep contemplation, digging into the Word with commentaries and with your Christian community, you will start to uncover this wonderful, blessed story that we are indeed a part of. You will realize that those whispers that we hear from God are echoes of what is shouted in the pages of this great book.  

When we want to uncover or reignite our appetite for our Lord, we need but ask. But we need to ask everyday. We need to ask again and again, digging in His Word for answers, digging into community to see his community-driven nature in ourselves. We need to show up, eyes open, heart open, mouth… maybe not so open. And when we can do that, hold on tight. Our God is a big God. And even when the sun is shining, the kids are playing, the bills are paid, God’s presence can bring us to our knees.

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Find Your Purpose And Pursue It Boldly

Photo Credit:  scvishnu7  via  Pixabay

Photo Credit: scvishnu7 via Pixabay

Whenever you meet someone doing what they are truly passionate about, it leaves an impression on you. They inspire you to look within yourself and ask the difficult questions. What matters to me? What is my purpose? What’s worth pursuing?

That is exactly how I felt about a man I met at the base of the Himalayas. How he found his purpose and pursued it, well, that is the extraordinary part. You could say it took a miracle… or two… but, that wasn’t the most important part of his story. What was… well, we will get to that later.

For now, let me tell you about my friend Biswa. 

A Journey Through the Himalayas

As I weaved through the Himalayan mountains, our SUV rocked form side to side. The road was a dusty path with an almost infinite number of blind turns. It shocked me to see a school bus almost hit us as it came around the bend — there were children (perhaps no older than 10) sitting on the roof!

To my right there was an endless cliff and the only thing keeping us from falling off were a few signs that said in Nepalese “Danger, sharp drop.” Heeding that warning was our trusted guide, Biswa, who was hosting us for 11 days in his country. After the bus barrelled by he looked back at me and said “don’t worry, these are the good roads.”

We were trying to get to a remote village as part of a Christian medical mission and we couldn’t have been more thankful to have him as our guide.

When we arrived — thankfully alive — the poverty we saw was astounding. Everyone from the village and surrounding area flooded to our ad hoc shelter to receive medical care.

The Limp Child

I remember one mother had carried her limp child five miles in her arms hoping that we could help her. The medical staff provided medication but it would not heal the boy. Unfortunately, he had an incurable disease and the medication would only help him cope.

As we looked into the mother’s eyes, a sense of despair crept over her. She could not save her baby and neither could we.

What do you offer a mother in this situation? Do you tell her to go away and lose hope? Or do you offer her the one thing that had changed all of our lives and could certainly change hers?

You see, we didn’t just have medicine to offer, we had Christ. All of us had deep and personal testimonies. We intimately knew how Christ had changed our lives, taking us from places of despair to places of hope and fullness. 

The Hindu Boy 

Just that morning Biswa told me a story of a Hindu woman who’s life was transformed 30 years ago. At the time she was barren and her inability to have children made her husband despise her. 

The woman was distraught and without hope. That was, until a Christian missionary doctor visited her village. The doctor did everything he could, exhausting all his medical knowledge to help her; but in the end, her situation was still hopeless.

As the Hindu woman began to cry, the missionary doctor looked her in the eyes and said, “I cannot help you, but I know someone who can, Jesus. He is my God who has delivered me from every trial and He can deliver you too.”

What happened next was remarkable. The woman put her trust in Jesus and became a Christian. Shortly after, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. It was a miracle. The impossible had become possible.

When Biswa told me this, it took me a little off guard; yet, I believed him. I could tell by looking at Biswa that he had a deep familiarity with his story. It was as though he was sharing something very personal.

Although the woman became a Christian, her Son (the miracle child) was raised as a Hindu. This was because her Husband was a Hindu priest and the boy grew up admiring his father.

The boy became very zealous in his religion and was determined to become a Hindu priest like his father.

Then tragedy struck. When the boy was a young adult a car hit him while he was riding his motorcycle in Katmandu. He was immediately transferred to a hospital in critical condition. The doctors didn’t know if he would pull through.

As his health declined, the boy began to pray to each of his Hindu gods, but he wasn’t getting any better. He didn’t know if he would survive and he was running out of options.

That’s when he remembered there was one god who he had not prayed to yet. He didn’t pray to this god because he knew that praying to this god meant that he would have to reject all other gods.

This was the God of his mother, Jesus. Grasping on to life, the boy prayed. He rejected all other gods and prayed to Jesus. Then, once again, a miracle happened — the boy recovered.

He became a Christian and in the coming years began to host medical missionaries in Nepal. That miracle child was our local guide, Biswa. The one who looked back at me and said “don’t worry, these are the good roads” as he drove us through the tumultuous mountain passes of the Himalayas.

I knew then that Biswa was an extraordinary person. It was not by chance he was hosting us as medical missionaries in his country, it had become his life’s purpose and he was pursuing it boldly.

He wanted to bring the same hope that transformed his life to those who desperately needed it.

Back to the Limp Child

So we held the limp child in our arms with the mother and prayed. We told the mother about what Christ had done for us and although we could not do anything more for her child, we serve a God who can.

The mother accepted our prayer and the medication we provided. Then, after a short time of fellowship, she carried her son back home.

I don’t know what happened to that woman, or her son, but I know that the same God who had transformed each of our lives, could heal the limp boy.

I still pray for her and the boy and I know that God will restore them at His appointed time.

Find Your Purpose

Since that day I have reflected on those questions: What matters to me? What is my purpose? What’s worth pursuing?

I realized that If you can answer these questions honestly, you will know your calling in life. And if you can act on that calling then you will also inspire others to follow you.

The most important part of Biswa’s story is that his purpose was not for him, but for others. In fact, it was through his service to others that his purpose found meaning.

By Matt Russell

Returning Home

Every week we run a dance movement therapy sessions for women from the red light area. One of the regulars is a young Nepali woman who loved to dance when she was a child growing up in the mountain villages of Nepal. For two hours, she is free to reconnect with her physical-self in a safe, non-sexualized environment. She becomes childlike and playful, as though she has been able to step back to a time of innocence and wonder, a time before she was trafficked into India and sexually exploited. The hope is that, as she experiences these small moments of freedom, she will begin to question the acceptability of the repetitive trauma that she has normalized. At this point, we can actively work with her to achieve freedom. Until this point, at the end of the session, she will hide the little girl as far from the trauma as she can. The mask returns to her face as she leaves the place of safety and walks back down the street and past the other women standing on display in the brothel doorways. She enters her room which is just big enough for a bed and a few personal possessions. She lies on the bed, looking at the familiar damp walls and peeling paintwork and waits for her next customer. She is in the place that she has become resigned to call home.

But this cannot be her home. It is unacceptable on every level. 

Over the years, the organization I am working with have helped many Indian women leave the sex trade by offering alternative employment and restorative psychosocial intervention. Sadly, we have had very limited impact on the Nepali community, who account for approximately 10% of the women working in forced prostitution. Often this is due to the higher level of control placed on Nepali women from the brothel they work for. Nepali women are highly sought after and generate a good income for the people profiting from sexual exploitation. These people are reluctant to lose their income generating property.

Photo by  Rohan Reddy  on  Unsplash

Photo by Rohan Reddy on Unsplash

More importantly, home really is where the heart is. The Nepali women long to reconnect with the place of their birth, the place where their cultural identity makes sense and they can speak freely in the language of their hearts. Even if these women could be liberated from the control of the trade and join our organization, their freedom would likely be incomplete. 

The Nepali women need to return to their true home, the place where their hearts live: Nepal.

Kolkata to Kathmandu

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Over the past year we, in collaboration with partners in Nepal, have been working to make this journey home possible. We have identified the barriers to successful return in both India and Nepal, as well as those associated with crossing international borders. 

Step 1: Kolkata

Our focus in Kolkata is on building relationships with the Nepali community and addressing their immediate health, psychological and social needs. By building a woman’s self-esteem through safe and trusting relationships, our hope is that she will begin to dream of a better future.

Step 2: To (travel)

Often Nepali women were trafficked as children and consequently, they do not have any proof of Nepali citizenship. This would limit their ability to live and work in Nepal. We are able to connect women with appropriate services to resolve this and other legal issues. Once a woman is ready to leave, we will support her travel costs and accompany her on the journey for safety and support.

Step 3: Kathmandu

We have set up a new transition home in Kathmandu, run by a Nepali family who will communicate love and acceptance. During her time in this home, she will be able to access trauma counselling, medical care and other holistic services to help her heal from the trauma. She will be able to develop her life skills, have access to education and a guaranteed job with one of the Freedom Businesses in Kathmandu. 

Our hope is that ‘home’ no longer needs to be a place of resignation for Nepali women, but rather, the place where their hearts have always belonged: Nepal.

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Me/Her: The Unknown Reality of the Unseen Woman

Photo Credit By: Jordan Bauer

Photo Credit By: Jordan Bauer

Me

The kids burst into the room, much louder than any noise should be at this hour of the morning. I groggily look at the clock. Six AM. I groan inwardly, pull the down comforter over my head, and see if I can pretend to sleep convincingly enough that they would go away.  It does not work. I give in, scooting the cover slowly down the bed, and roll in between their jumping bodies, which are happily taking advantage of my pre-coffee state. I make my way to the bathroom, and then head downstairs, where the sweet nectar that is the coffee pot is already hot and full, thanks to my husband’s early departure this morning. I fill my cup, breathe in that beautiful smell, place it down on the counter and quietly murmur, “I’ll see you when you’re cold.”  And so the day begins.

Her

He bursts into the room, which is still dark. As he makes his way to my bed, I take note that the other bodies strewn across the floor and other mismatched furniture barely move, despite his lack of concern for the quiet that filled this room before he came in. I pull my blanket up, the wool scratching at my chin and the dank smell filling my nose. This scratch and that smell have become a comfort to me, because when they are there, he is not.  He shakes me briskly, assuming I was still asleep, and tells me it’s time.  He walks out the door without looking to make sure I get up. He knows I will. I always will.  I stop in the bathroom, and do my best to make myself look consumable, trying not to touch the dirty sink in the process. When I have done the best I can, I head downstairs, the smell of beer and cigarettes wafting around me like a welcoming committee. He takes my hand and leads me to the front, which is much cleaner than our side of the house. He puts my hand in the hand of a stranger. I smile. I know the drill. The beatings have made sure of that. He leads me into one of the bedrooms, and so the day begins.

Me

I finally am done. The kids are in bed, my feet are up, and my wine glass is full. My husband sits quietly next to me, looking at something obviously incredibly interesting on his phone. I don’t mind. I am in my happy place. The kids have been pawing at me all day. There’s no chance of any more pawing happening tonight. I am pawed out. I think back to my day and wonder why I feel like I am exhausted enough to have run a marathon, when really all I did was all of the normal Mom jobs. So much laundry. So many dishes. So many fights to break up. I look at the pile of toys scattered on the floor in front of the TV and shrug. I can get that tomorrow. I choose to be done. I take a sip of wine, click play on Netflix, and settle in. My day is done.

Her

I am finally done. He is in bed, and I am back in my bed. I tear pieces off of the sandwich I have been given, and wash it down with the questionable glass of tap water. I am not sure if the water or the glass is dirtier, but it doesn’t matter. I gulp it down in a matter of seconds. I wrap my scratchy blanket around me and pull it as tightly as I can, hoping to erase the feel of the dozens of hands that pawed at me all day. I close my eyes, trying not to think of it, but still the recap comes. Him on top, me underneath, squirming with apparent delight, knowing that if I don’t endure this pain happily, a greater pain will come after. Man after man, all different but all the same. My body feels as if I have run a marathon, stretched and pulled and twisted. I think of the life that came before this one, the one where I sat next to him on a couch, my hand in his, listening to his promises. I’m not sure if he loves me anymore, though. And I’m not sure if I love him anymore either.  But this seems to be it. This seems to be just how it will be. I close my eyes, and settle in. My day is done. 

It’s easy to forget that she exists in my day-to-day. It’s easy to only see appointments and school drop-offs and that small argument I had with my husband about me spending too much at Target. It’s easy to forget the incredible privilege I have to have avoided the awful people that she happened to cross paths with.  It’s so easy to forget.

But she doesn’t forget. She is reminded countless times a day, each time her body becomes a vessel for someone else’s pleasure. She is reminded as pain and shame are wrapped around her like clothing. 

What do we do then? We remember. And we talk. Because though she can remember, she cannot talk. We learn, we see.

We See. 

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Conversations That Matter

It’s here tribe! Conversations that Matter’s first topic is ready to launch!! 

If you want to join something bigger than yourself, join this community. If you want to make a difference, join our global sisterhood. If you want to be intentional, join us for a gathering.

There are few sweet pure joys in this world and one of them is having sisters. I have two blood sisters of my own but for the last decade I have learned that blood is not the only thing that can make you a sister. 

I have learned that your sisters should lift you up, should make you stronger, iron sharpens iron, they should make you laugh and hold you while you cry. Your tribe should feel totally comfortable to tell you when you have spinach in your teeth and pray for you when they see you in a struggle. Sisters aren’t always in your life on a daily basis but when you need them they’re there. Sisterhood and relationships in general require intention and attention. 

So join us to have fun with intention and make a difference. So whether you’re missing your tribe or you have a strong base of friends, join All of Us Matter and host a gathering. 

Our launch for Intentional Living is June 2, 2018, if you are local to Tampa, FL meet us for our launch party. Find details on our Facebook book page. Or check out our link for more details. 

 

Start conversations that matter, let's be a voice to the voiceless. 

Crystal, Founder, and Visionary at All of Us Matter

 

Freedom Garden

By: Abigail Onley

Freedom Garden By: Abigail Onley

Freedom Garden By: Abigail Onley

A thousand voices morph into white noise, every color of the rainbow sprayed, dusted, and brushed over buildings, people, and windows. The wind blows the newly charred ashes of the deceased into the water of the Ganges, past worshipers bathing in the river in belief that it will cleanse them of their sins, and here we stand, looking at this beautiful broken city called Varanasi. Varanasi is said to be India’s spiritual capital: meaning there are as many religions represented there as colors on the buildings. I don’t always paint from a place of experience but of empathy. I can look, read, and imagine what it would be like to be there, experiencing a very different kind of life, and here is where this picture begins: a beautiful broken place full of broken people searching for hope.

I think that sums up our world. We need hope. Hope that a bad situation will turn around, hope that someone out there cares enough to move on our behalf, hope that we can go unseen and unhurt, hope that we can avoid brokenness, hope that we are good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, accepted, hope that we can be put back together again. There are many hopes we have but they shrink besides the mammoth hope of God, the all-encompassing hope. The Emmanuel; God with us- who promises to take our brokenness as His own and give us His wholeness in exchange. We are overcome, remade, something new. A Garden

Faith is rising up like Ivy, reaching for the light.  Hope is stirring deep inside me, making all things right, Love is lifting me from sorrow catching every tear, dispelling every lie and torment, crushing all my fears.
— Kari Jobe

This is the Freedom Garden. What if that faith took over a city and the green of that Ivy was us…them? What if our choices could bring hope…tangible hope not just to those cities far away but to our own cities? What if we started with us, stopped trying to satisfy the “gods” of our culture or the god of self, and instead became satisfied by God himself? 

The Jesus of the gospels, the God who is with us, is our Hope. 

Many people will argue about the church, but not many people can argue with Jesus. He liberated women in society, he cared for the broken and forsaken, called the poor blessed because of the hope they lived from, he valued children, he looked with compassion on our sinfulness because He knows we are sick. He called us to repentance, to a changed life, an upside down world were weakness is named as strength, dependency is honorable, kindness is the color we see, and love is who we become. He called us to be a voice for the voiceless and to see people- all those hidden people behind our lust, our clothes, our food, our deeply loved coffee and chocolate, as uniquely shaped souls worthy of love. 

When I painted this city overgrown with flowers, it pictured HOPE. Out of garbage, and chaos, and the remnant smoke of ritual fires there rises new life; that little broken seed of hope that grows and changes us from the inside out.


Inclusive For Those Excluded

Photo Credit: Saksham Gangwar

Photo Credit: Saksham Gangwar

In my city, one of the mainstream global café chains has just opened its doors and the place is packed. Given that my life currently revolves around launching The Cup, a café exclusively for the benefit of the thousands of women in my community who are trapped in the sex trade, I became curious as to how this ‘superstar’ of cafés seeks to position itself in the market. 

Initially, my speculation led me to thinking their value statement would be concerned with providing the ‘best’. The best coffee. The best environment. The best service. It would make sense considering that the clientele are usually wearing the best clothes, have the best jobs and the best access to opportunity. I was surprised when I searched online and found that their values revolved around the following:

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Not in my city. The women in my community would be excluded by the high profit margin pricing strategy, and by their involvement in the sex trade, even though their involvement is often involuntary. It is unlikely they would be respected or given a warm greeting as they exist in a system that seems reluctant to challenge social norms. 

The Cup will be different. In The Cup, we are disrupting the ‘us and them’. These women will experience respect and inclusion. They will belong, and their dignity will be upheld. The distinction between us and them will be further undermined, as our café staff will also be women from the community. Women who have experienced sexual exploitation directly or indirectly. Women who have witnessed and known great injustice will demonstrate that freedom is not an abstract concept, it is real and achievable. It is theirs for the taking. 

Photo Credit: Loren Joseph

Photo Credit: Loren Joseph

My dream would be to see The Cup become community led. Where women can give freedom a try. Do a shift in the café and experience something different. Attend a café workshop and discover their hidden talents and alternative avenues for income. Maybe even start their own micro-business… 

I have big dreams and I will not settle for less because with ‘his’ power, I can achieve infinitely more than my wildest dreams. I think I will place my confidence in the one who created the universe, parted the Red Sea, made a donkey speak (!), walked on water and fed 5,000+ with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not to forget defeating death of course. Therefore, I will dare to hope that lives and community will be transformed.

Watch this space…


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