Episodes and anecdotal support for a unique and meaningful life.
This blog, just posted to the Partners Relief & Development blog by one of our staff members, puts into narrative form what our core ethos is all about.
I missed him the first time, on the railway platform at Brahmanbaria in Bangladesh. A kid of about 12, dragging himself along on his stomach, legs so badly twisted back up behind him that his feet touched his lower spine. He tugged at my trouser leg and I looked down in pity but with little respect or understanding. I asked a local staff member “What do we do in these kinds of situations.” “Give him a couple of Taka” was the reply. I reached into my pocket and ‘generously’ gave the kid 10 whole Taka. About 50 cents. His eyes and his incomprehensible words spoke gratitude. I felt sick inside though, and the Spirit gently tapped my shoulder “If you’d sat down and looked him in the eye you would have seen and talked with Jesus” He said. I’d missed my chance.
God is gracious. A couple of days ago and some 20 years later, I was in the concentration camps of Rakine (Arakan) State in Burma (Myanmar). We’d been visiting for a couple of days as I looked at what my friends in Partners Relief & Development had been up to, providing food, shelter, medicine and compassion to some very desperate people. We’d stopped to get a pair of crutches remodeled at a motorbike repair shop – as you do. This is for a kid whose leg was broken in a riot, the ends of the bones sticking out. Our friends had got him to a hospital where staff, doing nothing about the break at all, had sown up the flesh in the most careless, dismissive way.
All of that is another story for another time, but here we are in a bike repair tin shed and I see this kid come to watch. He moves by using his arms as crutches and his butt as a third leg. He’s 10, his legs are folded beneath him and clearly he is unable to straighten them. I’m not going to miss a second chance to meet Jesus! I get down and sit in the dirt, cross my legs as best a stiff overweight old man can, and look at this child.
Someone rushes over with a piece of flat polystyrene for me to sit on. A chair is bought. I get them to put the child on the chair and I hold his feet. We can get his legs to about 90 degrees before the pain is too obvious. I have no language and our translator is gone – we were on our way home – but with signs we figure out he’s been like this since about 2 or 3. I hold his knees, I pray silently pleading with God for healing and some insight, I look in his face and say “God loves you” and I get a glorious smile back. I do not give money but instead I look intently at his face. I don’t want to forget what Jesus looks like. We part with a handshake and my promise to do something to help.
I need to find an orthopaedic surgeon (I think) who wants to meet Jesus in a concentration camp in Burma. If you’re a medical person and can put me right in what I think I need that would be fine too. But I want to introduce you to my little friends. Two of them at least. One of them looks very like I imagine Jesus to look. If you’re that person please email me at email@example.com
Written by a Partners relief team leader .
People keep wanting to fix our logo. “It’s crooked, let me right it,” they say. Others helpfully point out what appears to be an obvious mistake, “Hey, someone in the design department made a mistake, your logo is messed up.” For you who have said nothing and wonder why the thing is not on a straight horizontal line, an editorial I wrote about 10 years ago explains why. Here is is:
Partners has a new logo. It may seem like a trivial change to you but to us at Partners it has been the stuff of warfare. Sides were formed and trenches dug. Positions were taken. It’s okay, there were no casualties and in the end we signed a peace treaty. Here are the terms of peace.
The new logo should be slightly off center, like us. Really. It should say that we are committed to the core to our normal-is-over ethos. When people say that we can’t help certain refugees because of politics or find a way to navigate to newly displaced people in a dangerous area, we want to give it a try. God belongs in scary places.
We also recognize that our greatest acts of faith are mingled with the tainted motives and sin that our humanity implies. Okay, so we aren’t perfect but we are in the arena fighting for God’s right to rule and reign. The logo had to be bent like us.
Prayer and action had to be visually represented. Hands are a symbol of people praying. More than that, two hands in an embrace suggest action and partnership. That’s us. While the hands may seem obscure in the logo, the red one joined with a white one (again, slightly tilted) represents our value of dynamic partnership with suffering people.
The logo is framed by four corners. The idea here is that it is a stamp. We want to make our mark on the world for God. We want to do it now, with a sense of urgency, not later when we can afford it or when it is safe.
I led the attack on our old logo. I was the General. I never liked the similarity it shared with the Nike swoosh and always stumbled around trying to explain to people why we chose it and what it meant.
So our team stormed the hill, tore the flag down, and raised this new standard. We hope that you like it as much as we do.
In this issue of Partners World you will find a lot to get your blood boiling. On a recent trip to visit displaced people in Burma my blood did just that. On my second day I met two 11 year olds who were raped by Burma Army soldiers and another who was brutally molested when she was just nine years old.
When you read this month’s articles, please try to keep in mind that the people on the other end of the text are people of value and substance, like your own loved ones. In the reports, updates, interviews, and accounts penned in this issue there are all the elements of our new logo: hands gripped in action and clasped in prayer, heart felt questions asked from our off center position, movement into new areas of Burma where we hope to make our mark for God, and yes, the rhythm of following a God who delights in keeping us on our toes in partnership.
Staying on our toes,
Last weekend I drove Elise, my oldest daughter, seven hours to where she will start going to college. It makes me feel old, not to mention very nostalgic and reflective. My little girl…how can it be that she is not little any more? I try not to worry, but to trust that she will make right choices as she ventures into a life on her own.
As I reflect, I can’t help but ask myself if I have made all the right decisions. Did I teach her the right values? Did I establish healthy boundaries? Have I raised her in a way that has equipped her to make it on her own in the adult world? Have I showed her that what matters most is love, courage, faith, forgiveness, generosity, and honesty? Will she live according to these values, or will she be led by the world that tells her that what matters the most is your looks, your clothes, your income, and your fame?
Following these thoughts, I remember Manha, a girl I met in West Burma last May who was approximately the same age as Elise. She caught my eye as she served sweet, milky coffee and fried pastries at a teashop near a refugee population. A refugee herself and with few prospects, she carried herself with dignity. She took care of herself, made the best of her circumstances, and she was beautiful; she did not look like a victim.
But she is. She lives surrounded by barbed wire. Her loved ones have been violently abused, even killed, and state authorities deny her the opportunity to attend school. She is extremely vulnerable to human traffickers who prey on kids like her.
With this letter and my personal reflections, I am inviting you to help children like Manha. I invite you like Jesus invites us all when He says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matt 7:12)
My daughter starts college in a free country this week. She can choose to study anything she wants. She has grown up knowing she is loved and appreciated. She has lived a life in luxury compared to most girls in the world her age. I hope that along with my love I have also given her a sense of responsibility to care for others, in less privileged parts of the world, such as Burma.
I hope that rather than just talking about fashion and boys, she will share with her friends what she has been a part of her whole life:
Partners Relief & Development supports more than 9000 teachers who instruct 137,000 children in school each day, runs clinics and mobile medical programs treating thousands of children each year, and organizes maternal health care programs for expecting mothers. We fully fund 16 homes in refugee camps for 900 children who have either lost their parents or have no other secure access to education. These are just the first few vital programs that come to mind.
As I am sending Elise off to the next chapter of her life, I would like to send thousands of other girls off to a life a more hopeful than the one they are living now. I want girls like Manha to attend school in a safe environment, be able to get medical help when needed, to live in their own village without the fear of violence, and to be able to pursue their dreams, just like my daughter, Elise.
If you have children you know exactly what I mean. And if you don’t, I’m sure these words resonate with you just the same. A child should not be raised on a battlefield, in a prison, or as a second-class citizen.
Would you help me please? Join me to give Manha and boys and girls like her the chance to thrive this year.
There are two things I hope everyone who reads these words will do:
Partners for Change are people who commit to a monthly contribution of $30. USD This simple act of generosity is how Partners Relief & Development was started and how we continue to this day. Note that $30. is enough to install 3 toilets, fund two teachers for a year, feed a refugee family for two weeks; it is more than what we need to fully support an orphaned child with everything they need each month (The cost for that is $19.25) Please, join today.
Partners Advocates are our local representatives in the United States. We empower them to speak and host events on behalf of the children we reach out to. Learn more about this program and join today.
If you would like more information, please click here.
Elise will be sharpening her mind and her social skills. I hope she continues to cultivate a deep sense of responsibility to the world we live in and to God who keeps it humming along. I hope this for Manha too. Where she is today, with what she has received, my prayer is that God will bless her and lead her into His kingdom that has come, in part, through us.
Oddny’s thoughts as Elise moves out. Every mom can identify. Every dad can wish she was still 5 years old, learning to ride a bicycle.
This morning I looked through an old album of photos of when you were little and thought about how fast time has passed. All mothers do this. When our children leave home, we get all sentimental and miss those years when our kids still needed us to tie their shoes and put on Bandaids on bruised knees.
We miss the times together on the bed or on the sofa reading The Rainbow Fish, the Wizard of Oz or other classics. I think back on the first time you sat by yourself, walked by yourself, rode a bicycle by yourself, went to school by yourself, swam by yourself, spoke in front of a crowd by yourself, played the piano, sang solo, spelled your name, took the school bus by yourself, had your first sleepover, went on a school social, had your first test, got your first tooth and when you lost our first…
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I’m halfway through with a Masters Degree in vocational practice. The degree, offered by Tabor University, has enhanced my understanding of the issues our team wrestles with as we seek freedom and fulness for children affected by conflict and oppression. This quote from the paper I am reading this morning is one of many that confronts my extreme individualism and lack of a strong social theology. My praxis has been weak and even arrogant because my belief system has been found wanting.
“A church without social ethics rooted in the moral vision of Scripture with its emphasis on justice, mercy, and humility before God is in no condition to avoid irrelevance in relation to the great problems that affect humankind. At best it will concentrate on empty ritualism and private morality but will remain indifferent to the plight of the poor and the rape.of God’s creation. At worst it will fail to recognize its own captivity in the culture-ideology of consumerism and will be used by the powerful to provide religious legitimization to their unjust socioeconomic and political system and even to war.”
The Biblical Basis for Social Ethics, by C. René Padilla
It’s kindergarten stuff really. We should share with those less fortunate than ourselves and help them achieve the dream of security, a roof over their head, and food on the table. I don’t know how I missed this stuff in the bible. I read the thing seven times and memorized long passages of it yet still, I missed the point in significant ways.
I’m digging out of my individualistic arrogance inch by inch and with the effort, a growing sense of fortitude grows in me to do the work my team has dedicated itself to. We are following a good leader who announced his own mission with these words in Lukes account of his life:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
My blog died. I didn’t. Actually I’ve been dealing with diabetes type 1 (adult onset), trying to find the funds to pay for the lifeline our team has become to tens of thousands of abused and marginalized people in Burma, and in between, being dad to three girls who are smarter than me. It’s tough.
To resurrect my poor blog, I wanted to write a long post about the Greek word for justice that is so often translated righteousness in the (NT) English bible. (But that would take all day and I only have ten minutes. So this is it.) I will write the long version later. You will love it. Or hate it.
But I love it and it changes everything when you read the beatitudes and see: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice (in the world), for they shall be filled”. Because instead of personal righteousness, which is what I have thought the sermon said for the past 24 years, you get an invitation that is gutsy, transcendent and so seemingly impossible that it requires faith.
I am promised for my efforts to be filled and satisfied. So I’ll keep working with you for a more just world where kids aren’t abused, sold into slavery or prostitution, and where villages are homes for families rather than bon-fires and training grounds for new military recruits. It’s worth it people. Justice is worth our effort, worth our prayers.
To finish this incredibly short resurrection, I’ll quote the man who speaks for me today with sharp and timeless words: “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”―William Wilberforce
Jeana is one of our staff. She’s one of the people who make me proud to belong to Partners Relief & Development. Press on Jeana.
My blog died.
It appears to have happened somewhere around the New Year.
The good new is, I didn’t – I’ve just been busy.
2014 started with a challenge – asking for money. I created an IndieGoGo online fundraiser to support my final months with Partners Relief and Development in Thailand (Hey, Midwest, I’m coming back to you – July 2014). It was wildly successful and I’m forever grateful. Because of your generosity – I was able to get so. much. done. In the last five months I:
Went to Burma. My days were spent wondering the city, admiring textiles and reading in teashops. My evenings staying up late at sidewalk cafes eating barbecued pork and drinking Myanmar beer with my friend Ah Fu. Talking about Burma. And America. About opportunities and barriers. About the things that have changed. And the things that haven’t.
I was promoted in the Social…
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I am going to convince some 40 youth that missions is cool. Before that I am also going to convince my family to do the house cleaning for me. I am not sure which challenge is bigger. It is possible that I will wake up tomorrow feeling like both my undertakings failed.
In preparing to talk to the youth I have asked myself what I think about mission myself. I was once a missionary, you know. So I better know what it is and why it is important. The first important thing to realize is that the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about mission or missionary.
The second thing to understand is that the meaning of mission or missionary is not to go to another country and tell the people there that they will go to hell unless they change their religion, their culture, their diet and their friends. There…
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We may possess a small light, but may we uncover it, and let it shine.
May we use it to bring more light and understanding
to the hearts and minds of men and women.
May we give them not hell but hope and courage.
May we preach, and practice, the kindness and everlasting love of God.
(I found this in my drafts and loved it, so posted it tonight. I think it comes from a Wild Geese publication. Awesome, Isn’t it?)