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Blog – Renita

  • The Opposite of Poverty is not Wealth. The Opposite of Poverty is Justice.

    I hastened to write this quote from Bryan Stevenson about two weeks ago, while watching the movie, Just Mercy, based on the true story of a black lawyer helping those on death row who have been convicted without a fair and just trial.
    I later watched Thirteenth, a documentary (on Netflix) about the 13th amendment showing how the US moved from slavery to imprisoning African-Americans.  The US has 5% of the world population but 25% of the world's prison population.  37% of the US male prison population are African-American while African-Americans only make up approximately16% of the total population.
    I then watched When They See Us, a miniseries (on Netflix) based on the conviction of five innocent black teenagers for the Central Park jogger case.
    Horrific. Heartbreaking.  Heavy.  Helpless.
    And at the same time as I am watching this on TV, it is happening in real life around me. 
    I'm another white woman writing about this issue.  I have no idea what it is like to fear for my life just by going about my business.  I have no idea what it is like to fear for my children's lives while going about their business.  I have no idea.
    I lived in a predominantly African-American neighborhood for seven years.  My children went to a school where they were the only white kids.  I saw racism and the effects of racism on my neighbors, to the point where I felt sick to my stomach.
    And I still have no idea.  And I can never have any idea.  
    But I do have feelings and emotions about it.  And there are things I can do to understand and to hear, but I have to be intentional about it.
    The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice.  Much of the poverty of African-Americans in the US has come as a result of racism.  As Christians, we have a calling to both justice and righteousness (Amos 5:24, Proverbs 21:3, Jeremiah 22:3, Isaiah 56:1-12, Psalm 33:5).  Justice is the lesser of the two - meaning that it is simply meeting the requirements of the law - righteousness calls us to go above and beyond the law to care for the person.  
    We haven't even reached the first level.  Bob's favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr was this:
    “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time.”My daughter, Hannah, wrote a paper on the correlation between COVID-19 and racism.  To read it, click here.
    Below is a post that I took from Facebook from an African-American college professor, who describes an encounter he had with the police and how it affected him, as an educated man.  
    I encourage you to read the post below, Hannah's paper, and to watch the movies/shows/documentary that I mention above.  Additionally, there is a very moving piece called "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed Man," a haunting and moving classical piece of music written with the last words of unarmed black men who have been killed which you can watch here.  
    As white people, we need to force ourselves into this world of injustice that is around us, if we ever want to get to the point to be able to move for justice, and go beyond, to righteousness. 
    Tray JohnDecember 17, 2018

    This is a professor, who has the tools to articulate how this encounter affected him. He also has the age and wisdom that allowed for him to maintain his composure and not lose his life. Now, imagine a YOUNG Black person, who is not equip with either.

    Steve Locke wrote:
    "This is what I wore to work today.

    On my way to get a burrito before work, I was detained by the police.

    I noticed the police car in the public lot behind Centre Street. As I was walking away from my car, the cruiser followed me. I walked down Centre Street and was about to cross over to the burrito place and the officer got out of the car.

    “Hey my man,” he said.

    He unsnapped the holster of his gun.

    I took my hands out of my pockets.

    “Yes?” I said.

    “Where you coming from?”

    “Home.”

    Where’s home?”

    “Dedham.”

    How’d you get here?”

    “I drove.”

    He was next to me now. Two other police cars pulled up. I was standing in from of the bank across the street from the burrito place. I was going to get lunch before I taught my 1:30 class. There were cops all around me.

    I said nothing. I looked at the officer who addressed me. He was white, stocky, bearded.

    “You weren’t over there, were you?” He pointed down Centre Street toward Hyde Square.

    “No. I came from Dedham.”

    “What’s your address?”

    I told him.

    “We had someone matching your description just try to break into a woman’s house.”

    A second police officer stood next to me; white, tall, bearded. Two police cruisers passed and would continue to circle the block for the 35 minutes I was standing across the street from the burrito place.

    “You fit the description,” the officer said. “Black male, knit hat, puffy coat. Do you have identification.”

    “It’s in my wallet. May I reach into my pocket and get my wallet?”

    “Yeah.”

    I handed him my license. I told him it did not have my current address. He walked over to a police car. The other cop, taller, wearing sunglasses, told me that I fit the description of someone who broke into a woman’s house. Right down to the knit cap.

    Barbara Sullivan made a knit cap for me. She knitted it in pinks and browns and blues and oranges and lime green. No one has a hat like this. It doesn’t fit any description that anyone would have. I looked at the second cop. I clasped my hands in front of me to stop them from shaking.

    “For the record,” I said to the second cop, “I’m not a criminal. I’m a college professor.” I was wearing my faculty ID around my neck, clearly visible with my photo.

    “You fit the description so we just have to check it out.” The first cop returned and handed me my license.

    “We have the victim and we need her to take a look at you to see if you are the person.”

    It was at this moment that I knew that I was probably going to die. I am not being dramatic when I say this. I was not going to get into a police car. I was not going to present myself to some victim. I was not going let someone tell the cops that I was not guilty when I already told them that I had nothing to do with any robbery. I was not going to let them take me anywhere because if they did, the chance I was going to be accused of something I did not do rose exponentially. I knew this in my heart. I was not going anywhere with these cops and I was not going to let some white woman decide whether or not I was a criminal, especially after I told them that I was not a criminal. This meant that I was going to resist arrest. This meant that I was not going to let the police put their hands on me.

    If you are wondering why people don’t go with the police, I hope this explains it for you.

    Something weird happens when you are on the street being detained by the police. People look at you like you are a criminal. The police are detaining you so clearly you must have done something, otherwise they wouldn’t have you. No one made eye contact with me. I was hoping that someone I knew would walk down the street or come out of one of the shops or get off the 39 bus or come out of JP Licks and say to these cops, “That’s Steve Locke. What the F*CK are you detaining him for?”

    The cops decided that they would bring the victim to come view me on the street. The asked me to wait. I said nothing. I stood still.

    “Thanks for cooperating,” the second cop said. “This is probably nothing, but it’s our job and you do fit the description. 5′ 11″, black male. One-hundred-and-sixty pounds, but you’re a little more than that. Knit hat.”

    A little more than 160. Thanks for that, I thought.

    An older white woman walked behind me and up to the second cop. She turned and looked at me and then back at him. “You guys sure are busy today.”

    I noticed a black woman further down the block. She was small and concerned. She was watching what was going on. I focused on her red coat. I slowed my breathing. I looked at her from time to time.

    I thought: Don’t leave, sister. Please don’t leave.

    The first cop said, “Where do you teach?”

    “Massachusetts College of Art and Design.” I tugged at the lanyard that had my ID.

    “How long you been teaching there?”

    “Thirteen years.”

    We stood in silence for about 10 more minutes.

    An unmarked police car pulled up. The first cop went over to talk to the driver. The driver kept looking at me as the cop spoke to him. I looked directly at the driver. He got out of the car.

    “I’m Detective Cardoza. I appreciate your cooperation.”

    I said nothing.

    “I’m sure these officers told you what is going on?”

    “They did.”

    “Where are you coming from?”

    “From my home in Dedham.”

    “How did you get here?”

    “I drove.”

    “Where is your car?”

    “It’s in the lot behind Bukhara.” I pointed up Centre Street.

    “Okay,” the detective said. “We’re going to let you go. Do you have a car key you can show me?”

    “Yes,” I said. “I’m going to reach into my pocket and pull out my car key.”

    “Okay.”

    I showed him the key to my car.

    The cops thanked me for my cooperation. I nodded and turned to go.

    “Sorry for screwing up your lunch break,” the second cop said.

    I walked back toward my car, away from the burrito place. I saw the woman in red.

    “Thank you,” I said to her. “Thank you for staying.”

    “Are you ok?” She said. Her small beautiful face was lined with concern.

    “Not really. I’m really shook up. And I have to get to work.”

    “I knew something was wrong. I was watching the whole thing. The way they are treating us now, you have to watch them. ”

    “I’m so grateful you were there. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t leave, sister.’ May I give you a hug?”

    “Yes,” she said. She held me as I shook. “Are you sure you are ok?”

    “No I’m not. I’m going to have a good cry in my car. I have to go teach.”

    “You’re at MassArt. My friend is at MassArt.”

    “What’s your name?” She told me. I realized we were Facebook friends. I told her this.

    “I’ll check in with you on Facebook,” she said.

    I put my head down and walked to my car.

    My colleague was in our shared office and she was able to calm me down. I had about 45 minutes until my class began and I had to teach. I forgot the lesson I had planned. I forget the schedule. I couldn’t think about how to do my job. I thought about the fact my word counted for nothing, they didn’t believe that I wasn’t a criminal. They had to find out. My word was not enough for them. My ID was not enough for them. My handmade one-of-a-kind knit hat was an object of suspicion. My Ralph Lauren quilted blazer was only a “puffy coat.” That white woman could just walk up to a cop and talk about me like I was an object for regard. I wanted to go back and spit in their faces. The cops were probably deeply satisfied with how they handled the interaction, how they didn’t escalate the situation, how they were respectful and polite.

    I imagined sitting in the back of a police car while a white woman decides if I am a criminal or not. If I looked guilty being detained by the cops imagine how vile I become sitting in a cruiser? I knew I could not let that happen to me. I knew if that were to happen, I would be dead.

    Nothing I am, nothing I do, nothing I have means anything because I fit the description.

    I had to confess to my students that I was a bit out of it today and I asked them to bear with me. I had to teach.

    After class I was supposed to go to the openings for First Friday. I went home."

    ~Steve Locke

    Edited to add the link to the original story

    https://www.stevelocke.com/blog/i-fit-the-description…

  • Act II in the story of Job

    This is an amazing paraphrase of Job 1, by Anton Van Reenen, shared with me by a Nigerian colleague.  As we have begun praying daily together as an African and North American team, we have been so blessed and have been growing in praising God, confessing together, and even singing together (through Zoom, which really equals more of a joyful noise than a beautiful harmony).  We bear witness to what this person has re-written in a current version of how the story of Job might sound given COVID-19.

    "There was a day that Satan came before the Lord, and the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my church, how they gather every Sunday, and praise and worship My Holy Name. They do this year in and year out, every Sunday morning, all over the world. From the time the sun rises in the east until the sun sets in the west, My Name gets glorified, like a wave washing over all the earth.”Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Have you not blessed them with health, wealth and prosperity, with which they have built beautiful church buildings, and filled it with amazing technology? Have You not blessed them with all manner of talents that they bring together in these beautiful churches they built and worship You with beautiful music that appeals to their senses?“But if You stretch out Your hand, and take all that from them, strike them down with a plague or even just the fear of a plague, they will go quiet and worship You no more. This wave of worship, running from the east of the earth to the west, every Sunday morning and evening, will stop, and all will go quiet. Who will worship You then? Who will still make Your Name great?”And the Lord said to Satan, “They are in your hand.”So, Satan unleashed a deadly virus upon the earth, and soon churches closed all over the world. Everyone, Christians and Gentiles hunkered down in their homes, and everything went quiet and Satan was standing there, watching, waiting. All the angels were standing in heaven, watching, waiting. God was standing there, watching, waiting, as a great silence fell over all the heavens and all the earth.Suddenly one angel called out; “Listen!” Another called out; “I hear it too, it’s coming from the East”. In a small living room, in a locked up house, came the sound of a piano being played, and a voice singing;“Holy, holy, holy,
    Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in power, in love, and purity!”And another angel called out “Listen, over there, in the West!” The sound of a guitar, coming from a bedroom could be heard with a voice singing;
    “All hail King Jesus, All hail Emmanuel!
    King of kings, Lord of lords, Bright Morning Star!
    And for all eternity, I’ll sing Your praises,
    And will reign with You, throughout eternity”Slowly, from all directions on the earth, the sound of instruments and voices could be heard, louder and louder, until it became a symphony of worship, rising up to heaven. A cacophony of song, praising God, declaring His greatness, thanking Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness. Songs of dedication and declaration, songs of encouragement, songs filled with the joy and peace that can only come from God, sung by thousands of men and women, young and old, wherever they were, accompanied by whatever means they had.


    And God turned to Satan and said; “Did you notice, today is Friday, but My people, having been freed from all the business that filled their lives, worship Me every day of the week, for they still know that "I Am!" The wave of worship that runs from Sunrise in the East until Sunset in the West now circles the earth, every day, as the earth circles the sun.”
    And all of heaven fell down on their faces and worshipped God, calling out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His Glory!”
    And Satan turned and walked away, defeated as he has been since the day of Calvary.
    I want to encourage you today, in this unprecedented time in the history of man, to not let your voice go quiet. To not pack your instrument away. All of creation and all of heaven is standing still right at this moment, waiting, watching. Now is the time to make your voice heard throughout the heavens, now is the time to pour out your heart before God.

    Our churches might be empty. Our musical instruments silent. Our high tech gadgets useless, but it cannot compare to the instrument God gave you, your VOICE to worship Him. He is not looking for the crowds, just an audience of one. Seek Him in this time. Draw near to Him through worship. If you have never done this before, discover the beauty and blessings that come with intimate, personal worship of God. Your intimate worship of God is all heaven desires to hear! Satan tried to shut us up, but he just released a whole new sound and wave of worship of the church! A church called "YOU"!
  • Made on Purpose and for Purpose!

    A recurring theme throughout our teaching is that we each have been made ON purpose (Psalm 139) and we also have been made FOR purpose (Ephesians 2:10).  Many of us, who are not involved in a formal (institutional) church ministry, sometimes wonder whether or not we are doing something that matters or whether it matters to God when we use our gifts for making things, cooking things, building things, serving people, and so on. 

    So we try to remind people over and over that the call in Genesis 2:15 to work and care for the land is a good and holy thing! We are the Church Scattered!

    While I'm stuck in Grand Rapids and not able to get out to be with the people I love in so many parts of Africa, I like to look in the eyes of those who have accepted the call to be a Minister in the Marketplace.  So the other week, I made this video to the music of Stephen Curtis Chapman's song, Meant To Be.  The words are below and it beautifully captures these Biblical thoughts.  Some of our team have suggested that this song could be a theme song for DML!

    Please watch this, be encouraged for yourself in whatever it is you do, but also look at the eyes of the beautiful business owners in these pictures and say a prayer of protection for them!




    Long before you drew your first breath
    A dream was coming true
    God wanted to give a gift to the world
    So he wrapped it up in youEvery step that you've taken
    Every move that you make
    Is part of his plan
    You were meant to be touching
    The lives that you touch
    And meant to be here
    Making this world so much more
    Than it would be without you in itYou were meant to be bringing
    The gifts that you bring
    And singing the songs
    You've been given to singYou are perfectly, wonderfully,
    Beautifully meant to be, yeah
    You were meant to be
    Long before you took your first fall
    You stumbled to the ground
    God started telling the story of you, to the angels gathered around
    Every failure and victory
    Everything in between
    Its all in his hand
    (Steven Curtis Chapman, Meant to Be - used with permission)
  • Do You See Grapes or Giants?

    The book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, tells the story of the leaders of the tribe of Israel who were sent to scout the Promised Land and report back to the Israelites as to what they saw.

    Remember that just prior to this, the Israelites had witnessed God in action many times as He brought them out of Egypt with miracles and plagues.  They had also just walked through the Red Sea on dry land. 
    Remember that those selected to scout out Canaan were leaders, probably because they were men of vision and standing.
    Yet, of the twelve men that returned, ten reported that the people were giants and that the Israelites would not survive if they went up against them.  The people joined this chorus, wishing that they had never left Egypt, and developing a plan to return.
    Except for Joshua and Caleb.  Whereas the other ten saw the giants, Joshua and Caleb saw the grapes.  
    These were grapes so big that it took two men to carry back one cluster on a log between them.  
    In these grapes, Joshua and Caleb saw the provision that God had for them.  They saw the grapes as the promises and blessings of God.  And given what they had just witnessed with God's power, provision and protection, it seemed easy and obvious to see.
    Joshua and Caleb begged the people not to focus on the giants: the enemies and adversaries to the promises and provisions of God.  But unfortunately, they were the only two that could look at the environment in Canaan and apply what they had just witnessed to this new environment.  And unfortunately for them, they had to wait forty years with the rest of the Israelites, wandering in the desert.
    If all we see is giants, we will be ineffective.  Many of us are held captive by a "giant" mentality, in which we see negativity everywhere we look.  We are slaves in a "giant" prison.
    But some of us are trying to break out.  We want to go for the grapes.  
    We need to think grapes, walk grapes, and talk grapes.  When we close our eyes, we should see grapes.
    Once you taste those grapes, the giants don't matter.  
    The giants are on OUR property with OUR grapes.  The grapes are the reward for standing on the word of God.
    In this time of the pandemic, do we see grapes or giants?  At this time in our lives, what are the grapes and what are the giants?  
    What is God calling us to do as individuals, communities, ministries, or the Global Church?  Which do we focus on - the grapes or giants?
    The DML team has been praying together daily about this and we believe that God is calling us to a time of repentance and revival.  We believe that some of the giants are traditional church and some of the grapes are the people released from the building.
    One of our partner pastors in Burkina Faso wrote this to us in this past week:Never have I felt ashamed of myself and for the Church like I do at this time.  We are so powerless to show the move of the Good Samaritan in a hungry world.  I think that the day Jesus asked the disciples to feed the mob themselves in the desert, the disciples gave a better answer than most churches could give today.  They said in Mark 8:4-5, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"  "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked.  "Seven," they replied."  Rather, our untold answer would have been, "Lord, what do we have to do with feeding people's stomachs? Have you not come to feed people's soul?" No empty stomach will stand and listen to a talking man.NEVER THAT AGAIN! Our better answer should be, "Lord, with you on our side, we are ready to care about all that you care about that is human:  missionally, socially, economically, and environmentally.To tell you the truth, the experience of COVID-19 has opened our eyes!  We need to be fully Christian and to fully disciple every congregant, by taking into account all that God has for humanity. I don't know what your grapes and giants are.  But together, as the body of Christ, may we see grapes rather than giants in this coming week!
  • Desperate Needs in the Global Church

    Africa is 20-30 days behind North America as it relates to COVID-19 cases.  This virus started in
    Asia, moved to Europe, then to North America, and now Africa.  The WHO predicts 3 million cases in Africa with 300,000 deaths.

    I spent two full days this past week, with Zoom call after Zoom call, listening to our partners in Africa and how the COVID-19 virus was affecting them personally, as well as their community, city, and nation.

    To say that those conversations were heavy and difficult would be an understatement.  They were disturbing and discouraging, despite how delightful and beautiful our partners are.  [Our partners are so positive - seeing what God is doing to the Church, to people's faith, and seeing how He is bringing good despite the pain!  I love each and every one of these dear brothers and sisters.]

    We heard stories of food insecurity, significant increases in prices, police brutality in enforcing the lockdown, corruption in the distribution of food by governments, lack of water, and danger to our own teams who were distributing food by those desperate for food.  There is a lack of testing, lack of ventilators, lack of ICU beds, and a lack of resources to flatten the curve and keep the virus from spreading.  Many believe that the reported numbers are a fraction of what is truly occurring. Our teams tell us that people continue to say that they would rather risk dying from COVID-19 than dying of hunger.  And amidst these challenges, other challenges don't stop.  The son of one of our partners was kidnapped this past week and threatened with death, and three church members of one family in one of our partner churches were raped.  Our heart aches for the on-going trauma that people have to survive, day after day.

    We are encouraged by the number of churches and organizations who have signed on to our Coalition for Action: COVID 19 in Africa, and this week we tried to raise the bar further by requesting all those in the coalition to work towards having all of their church members wear masks outside of their homes.
    This is a global health crisis with a global economic crisis on top of it, and the latter crisis may cost more lives than the former in the poorest nations.

    And this is unlike other times, because we are being called to remember the poor while dealing with our own crisis.  This is a time of real treasure-testing for us.  We are reminded in Matthew 6:19-21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

    This is the time to remember the poor and the most vulnerable.  We can't let ourselves be shut down because of how overwhelming it is and escape in Netflix, while they parish.

    Dr. Sudi, son of Caroline Sudi, our partner in Kenya.Government officials in Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Malawi have voted to forego their April salaries to combat COVID-19.

    I have decided to join them and put my April salary toward the continued fight of COVID-19 as well. Michael, my husband, and I have chosen to put our stimulus funds towards helping people in Africa purchase food and sanitation supplies in order to stay home.

    We understand that everyone is at a different place in terms of their ability to give.  We would like to challenge you, our brothers and sisters in North America, to prayerfully consider what God would have you do during this unprecedented time.  Join with us in helping African families have a choice to stay home and wait out the crisis as directed.  All donations until the end of April will be given to help the fight against COVID-19 in Africa.

    For more information, as well as some excellent resources about COVID-19 in Africa, please go here.
  • The Global Church: Building a Coalition to respond to COVID-19 in Africa

    "The government is recommending..."

    "The government has announced..."

    "The government is not..."

    These words fill our world these days, as we watch what governments are doing to address COVID-19 around the world.  Some of these reports make us happy, some make us angry, some make us concerned.

    While the voice of government and the health community, it is also important for the Global Church to play a role at this important time.  The DML team spent time this week researching for a message from the Global Church as it relates to the response of COVID-19.  We searched but sadly we did not find much.  We found announcements of prayer and fasting days, we found denominational recommendations for not gathering in church buildings, but little else.

    What has happened to the voice of the Global Church?  When did we lose our voice and shift our attention only to the government for recommendations and procedures?

    When did our prayers become pleas of provision and mercy, and then stop at "Amen," rather than prayer urging us into action, as the body of Christ - the hands and feet of Christ - in a world that desperately needs the "called out ones" to act?

    As I spent time on my knees before God last week, feeling sick to my stomach about COVID-19 in Africa and feeling judgmental about the Global Church, I felt God's nudge in my spirit. The conversation went something like this: 

    (Disclaimer:  God can sometimes sound a bit snarky with me - more of my influence on how He speaks to me than how He probably really speaks.)

    Renita:  God, where is your church in response to COVID-19 - 2.2 billion people on earth who claim to be Christian?  What has happened to the Global Church's voice?  We keep praying and asking you for things, but where is the action?

    God:  Good questions.  But let me turn it toward you.  What are you doing to mobilize the Global Church?

    Renita:  Me?  Well, I shouldn't be surprised at your question.  When I ask things of you, you tend to turn the conversation back to me and ask what I will do on your behalf.  Well, the DML team called on Christians to donate money to give food.  And then our good brother and sisters who partner with us delivered it.  But that's not enough!  There needs to be an urgent and proactive response by your people to come against what will need to be a reactive response to a catastrophe if we don't do something!

    God:  So why don't you do something then?

    Renita:  C'mon.  I'm a little person in Michigan working in a tiny organization.  I have NO authority and no connections to address the Global Church.

    God:  Really?  Are you sure about that?  (Pauses as those words sink in.)  I could have sworn that you have given testimony to how I have opened doors for DML to work with many denominations, who have many members in at least ten countries in Africa.  Are you saying you don't have a network in which you can do some mobilization?  It may be that you have these networks and connections for such a time as this.

    The light bulb came on for me.  For such a time as this.  I suddenly realized that we work with denominations that make up more than 30,000 churches and 12 million members.  I realize that we have good relationships with organizations in North America that work with even more churches and organizations in other places.

    Maybe we can invite them into a coalition that speaks with one voice for the Global Church as it relates to COVID-19.  This idea began to grow.  Not just one day of prayer and fasting, but every taking turns to do this every day for the next month, spread out throughout our network.  We are asking every partner to endorse a statement of action relating to COVID-19.

    And so that is what we are doing.  This is Phase II of DML's work to address COVID-19 and to do our best to create a unified voice of action for the Church.  There is too much misinformation going on in Africa, along with a lot of inaction.  We need not wait for government to make efforts.  We can do this as the Church.  And as we do this, we will continue to hear of more challenges and difficulties for our brothers and sisters in Africa.  But that is what happens in the body of Christ - when one part is in pain, we come together to address the challenge.

    In 1527, the great reformer Martin Luther, wrote a letter concerning a plague that hit his town of Wittenberg.  He said this:
    I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.  Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.  See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.To read his whole letter, go here.  It is a very good read, for such a time as this.

    If you are interested in joining this coalition as a church or a ministry, please email me and let me know!  If you would like to know more, please read our working document, Coalition for Action: COVID-19.

    Stay safe, my friends!
  • The Luxury of "Shelter in Place"

    I know that the past few weeks have been a hardship for many of us, as we have been confined to our home.  It's been difficult to change the routine of our lives in the light of the threat of COVID-19.

    But as I watch what has been unfolding in Europe and the US, I can't help but imagine what the same unfolding will look like in Africa.  For most of us in North America, our "shelter in place" is really a luxury, comparatively speaking.

    Most people in the countries where we work in Africa can't work from home as the technology infrastructure is not there.

    Most people that we work with in Africa are working each day for their daily bread.  They don't have savings built up for emergencies.  They are often not on salary where they can get enough pay to stock up on items.

    As the markets are shut down, many do not have any source of income and a limited supply of food.  Many are saying that "we will die of starvation before COVID-19."

    There is no unemployment insurance.
    There is no aid package going out to help each citizen financially.
    There are no food banks.

    And then we look at the medical infrastructure in many African countries.  Mali has one ventilator for every one million people, for a total of twenty in the entire nation.  Kenya, a country of 50 million people, has a total of 550 ICU beds.  Many nations in Africa have no isolation wards.  And this says nothing about the ability to even give the COVID-19 tests.

    In general, African nations have much fewer weapons at their disposal for fighting this virus.

    Many countries, like Burkina Faso and Cameroon, have hundreds of thousands of people in Internally Displaced Persons camps where there is no opportunity for "shelter in place."  [The pictures in this blog are from homes where our DML teams have already delivered food.  You can see that the shelters are not ones that are secure from a virus.

    Many African nations have gone into lock-down.  In Uganda, we hear of the police "caning" some people into compliance.  In Kenya, police are clubbing people into compliance, as well as using tear gas and other violent measures.  In some countries, there are reports of people being shot for not complying.  One journalist wrote that "it is evident that COVID-19 will be spread more by the actions of the police than by those who have contravened the curfew."

    The reality is that people need food, water, and sanitation.  Maybe they will stay indoors for the first day or two, but then as hunger sets in, they will move out.

    It is reported that China waited too long to act.  It certainly seems that the US waited too long to act.  We don't want to make that same mistake in Africa.  Africa has been the victim of way too many crisis.  We need to be proactive and help people get the food they need, while they are unable to work, so that they can stay safely in their home.  This disease knows no boundaries.  And we can't believe that this is "someone else's problem, somewhere else."

    Please join us to help with this.  I know that there are many places you could help in other parts of the world, but the focus of DML is Africa.  Since Wednesday of last week, we have raised $15,000 toward the $30,000 match drive.  We have already given $10,000 to our partners in Africa and, in faith, we plan to send another $50,000 early this week.  We simply can't wait for all the funding to arrive. Some of the errors in Europe and the US were not acting quick enough.  Africa can't afford that mistake.  To give, please click here.  You will find instructions there for how to give online or by check.

    And if you are not financially affected by "shelter in place" - if your salary remains the same or you are able to collect unemployment insurance - please prayerfully consider donating the federal funds from the stimulus package to families in Africa.  It may save lives.  Many lives.

    Let me end with the words from one of our partners who just sent me this message:
    We know that COVID-19 is a global pandemic and we are praying about it all the time.  However, third world countries like ours are facing the gravest trial of their time.  Whether we have complete or partial lock down, life is not the same anymore.  Over 80% of our work force is in the informal sector, what we call "jua kali."  Jua kali literally means "hot sun."  In reality, the work in the hot sun with minimal shelter at times.  These jua kali people are usually causal workers, which means they d not have job protection, social security and sustainable regular income.  Most of these get paid on a daily or weekly basis.  With the directive to stay at home, it means many families have no food and other essential supplies.  We don't have food pantries to rely on.  Those who are owners of micro and small businesses, who sell in small shops, kiosks, and open markets, can no longer sell.  It only means they too have tough times in feeding their families.  It is so difficult for too many people who live hand to mouth every single day.  Those who have formal jobs are few, and many companies are laying them off as they cannot afford to pay people who are not working as these companies shut down.DML has many people in all of these categories and some may die, not of the virus, but of hunger and stress.  If this virus takes off in our population, it will be terrible because some residences don't even have running water to wash their hands...not to mention no soap!  And how about our ill equipped health facilities?  Last one person suspected that he had COVID-19 and went to a nearby hospital and all the medical personnel ran away literally since they didn't have the simple protective gear to come close to the suspect.Please, please pray for the virus to die in Africa and other parts of the world.A few more pictures of the food that we have started giving away.  Please help us get to the $30,000 match this week!

  • United Church of Zambia

    It seems strange to write about anything other than Covid-19, but my guess is that we are all seeing enough news about that to satisfy our need for information.  So let me go back to what we were doing before this turned most of us into home-bound people.

    Our last stop on this past visit was in Zambia.  We were invited by the United Church of Zambia, after meeting them through a visit in Malawi last year with World Renew.  The United Church of Zambia (UCZ) is the largest Protestant church in Zambia, with churches in all ten provinces throughout the country.  It was formed in 1965 through the combination of a number of different churches, mainly Presbyterian and Methodist.  There are just over 1000 UCZ churches with 3 million members across the country.

    Zambia is a country of about 18 million people.  It achieved independence from the UK in 1964, and the first president was a socialist who held his position until 1991. At that time, Zambia became a multi-party country and moved toward democracy.  Zambia is officially a Christian nation, as declared in their constitution in 1996.  Approximately 75% of the population is Protestant and 20% is Catholic.

    Compared to the geographic size of Burundi, where we had just come from, Zambia is 27 times larger than Burundi, but the population is not even double the population of Burundi (11 million).  (To contrast, Zambia is 5 times larger than Michigan.) There is much land that is unused and lots of space for growth.

    We were privileged to meet with the Synod Bishop of the UCZ, as well as two of the bishops from two provinces.  They seemed to resonate with the message of DML and the need for this in their denomination.  Our workshop was done at the denomination's Agricultural College, where we had a number of students in attendance.  It was good to have youth present and wrestle with the call to view farming as a good and holy thing, as it continues to be the thing to do when you have "failed" at getting the government or other "white-collar" jobs.

    About twelve of the students sang for us each time a break was over and it was amazing the sound and volume that they produced with twelve of them and no microphones.  The UCZ service that we attended in Lusaka (of about 2000 members) had six choirs that involved hundreds of men, women, youth, and children.  It was beautiful, fun, lively, and interactive.

    We pray that the seeds that were sown on our visit there will not be lost in the Covid-19 pandemic, but we also trust that God remains on the throne and is working in and through His people!  We continue to watch Africa, which seems to be much more proactive with much fewer cases so far.  We pray that the governments and people continue to be wise, and that the number of cases may stay lower.  They are heading toward their "winter" now so that may also cause more cases to emerge.

    Please enjoy this song from the small choir which blessed us each day.

  • Ten Years Later: Missing Bob

    The background on my laptop is this picture:


    This was taken at the Grand Canyon last June, 2019.  On the left is Hannah, now 26, in the middle is Noah, now 25, and on the right is Noah's girlfriend, Hannah.  
    How I love these faces.  How they make me smile each time I look at this picture.  Their personality shines through.  
    It was ten years ago this week, on March 20, 2010, when Hannah was 16 and Noah was 15, that our husband and father, Robert Allen Reed, was taken from us so suddenly.  I relive that day often.
    How much he has missed in seeing his children grow and mature.

    How much they have missed in having the words of wisdom, love, and encouragement from their earthly father.  
    What would he say to each of us today if he could?  What we would each say to him?  
    There is not a day that goes by that he is not mentioned or missed.  Not a single day.  And there is so much more to come...so much more that will be missed by him.  And that continues to be heart-breaking.

    While death can lose some of it's sting with time, the hole made by that person's premature departure is never filled.  
    I still talk with him in my mind.  I get angry with him now and then for leaving too soon.  Every now and then, I tell him that he better be advocating on behalf of his children to God - that he better not be enjoying heaven so much that he forgets about us down here.  I miss his quick retorts, the mischievous look in his eye, his passion for justice, and his love of God.
    Update on Hannah:  Hannah is living in Grand Rapids and has been working with a very effective program in treating children with autism.  However, now that she has her MSW she is looking for opportunities that will allow her to become a licensed social worker, which requires 4000 hours of supervision.  She has been interviewing and we are praying that she will find additional work that is a satisfying as the work she has been doing, fitting within her gifting and calling.  She has also been dating a young man, Matt Koster, from Grand Rapids for a short time as well, who seems to be a very good fit for her!  (What would Bob ask Matt as the protective father he was of his little girl?  I've tried to play that role but could never do it like Bob!)  We are thankful to God for the blessings in Hannah's life.
    Update on Noah:  Noah is still working as a background investigator in Washington DC.  He has been promoted a few times and is completing his fourth year there.  He has been dating his girlfriend Hannah Birmingham for five years.  (What would Bob ask Hannah as he sought to get to know his son's girlfriend?)  Hannah works with International Justice Ministries in DC as well.  They are considering going for their Masters together at some point.  They are also a very good fit for each other and we are thankful to God for her as well!

    I told my kids when they were young that they "weren't allowed" to get married until they were 27 (like I could really stop them!).  I said that so that they would really know themselves and know whom to choose for a lifetime partner.  I'm thankful that so far they have listened!  (Even though they remind me that I was 21 when I married their dad!  That's when "do what I say and not what I do" comes in handy!)

    As for me, I made it home on Saturday after a busy three weeks in Cameroon, Burundi, and Zambia.  Due to the international travel (including a 17 hour flight from Addis to Chicago with a few hundred people from all over the world where social distancing is impossible), I am self-isolating for 14 days.  I'm assuming it is nothing but want to err on the side of caution.  The BAM conference in Thailand at the end of April has been cancelled, as well as a workshop we were to do in Germany.  The next trip to Africa is also up in the air depending on how things go regarding the virus in the US and Africa.  So far Africa seems to be fairing the best of any continent, but that could change. 

    What would Bob say about this virus?  I don't know, but I believe he would agree with what C.S. Lewis wrote:


  • Burundi: The Switzerland of Africa

    It was my first time in Burundi.  We had been invited by ICM Burundi a number of times over the
    years but had resisted due to political instability and the high level of poverty.  The combination of those two scenarios make it very difficult for a business to succeed.  But the invitations continued to come and with several years of more political stability, we agreed to go.

    I found out quickly why Burundi is called the Switzerland of Africa.  It is a small but beautiful mountainous country.  The pictures (of course) cannot capture it.  The climate is perfect (60s at night, 70s during the days).  And it is lush with green everywhere, and a long rainy season that allows for a long agricultural season.

    And the eleven million people make good use of the land.  It was amazing how much farming is being done, up and down hillsides and moutainsides, in a great variety of crops and a great variety of size plots (everyone seems to own a farm).  Burundi may have a per capita income of only $290/year but they are food sufficient and produce large amounts of food (they are cash poor, however).  It was beautiful to see.  Only 13% of the population lives in urban areas, so when we drove to Ngozi (from Bujumbura, about 1.5 hours by car) we passed through beautiful village after beautiful village.

    There are a few unique things that we saw while here:
    • In the US, steering wheels are on the left and we drive on the right.  In Kenya, steering wheels are on the right and they drive on the left.  In Burundi, steering wheels are on the right and theydrive on the right.  This was confusing for us as it seems unsafe - for example, when you want to pass on a two-lane road, you can't see until you are fully in the other lane.  The reason that we were given was that cars with the steering wheels on the right are MUCH less expensive.  To quote one Burundian, "If we had to buy cars with steering wheels on the left, there would be very few cars on the road."
    • We left for the airport at 6 am on Saturday morning.  We expected the streets to be quiet.  And there were very few cars on the road...but that was because there were hundreds of people jogging.  That is the day that most people go running for exercise (including the president!) and businesses are not to open before 10 am.  On every road, both sides, people running alone, in small groups, and in big groups.  Our driver told us, "It's the only day they don't have to be at work early."  My comment was that in the US, we would use that time to sleep in, not get up at 5:30 am to run!  Very impressive to see.
    • In most rural parts of Africa that I have seen, the number of motorcycle taxis continues to increase, making it difficult to cross a street or turn onto a side street.  But in Burundi, the bicycles significantly out numbered the motorcycles.  People hauling incredibly heavy loads on bicycles and having to go up and down the mountainous terrain.  
    But there is no doubt that there is a lot of poverty here.  It's been a long time since I've seen so many adults and children walking without shoes.  If the per capita income is $25/month, you can imagine that this becomes a luxury as well as so many other things.
    Our host, the director of ICM Burundi, stayed in a refugee camp for fourteen years (from the age of 12-26) in Tanzania before being able to move back to Burundi.  When he returned he set up a ministry of evangelism (based on what he learned from ICM Tanzania) which he determined would be self-sufficient.  He ran a tailoring shop and several of his colleagues who also went to Bible school also set up businesses, which then funded the evangelism work that they did each weekend.  He told us, "I don't want to be an employee on earth.  If I am fully paid on earth, then I am not depositing anything in heaven."  He volunetters for ICM Burundi, and his family is supported by the small shop that his wife runs.  Unfortunately, the shop was closed while we were there, as his wife was having their third child.
    We had a very good time with about 50 pastors and church leaders and were able to take our time over three full days to really delve into scriptures and debate the call to work and God's view of wealth and poverty.  We left with an agreement to work in Burundi as we saw great potential - the population is set to double in the next thirty years and the climate to grow and expand from small farms to agribusiness and other businesses are immense.
    A beautiful country.  A beautiful people.  A beautiful faith of the people we met.  An amazing God.
    This man found a creative way to take his heavy load up the mountain!Every now and then I need to put a picture of me in to let you know I was really there!