Fellows Blog Weeks 3 & 4

From Caroline Mutsago

My project which I am working on during this fellowship is developing and compiling pastoral resources to use on Ending Child Marriages, Human Trafficking, HIV and AIDS, Maternal and Reproductive Health, Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence. As I was working on the content of the pastoral resources, we came to realize the need to actually come up with a campaign project to raise awareness in various methods.

Normalization perpetuates violence

The realities of child marriages, domestic violence, sexual violence and human tracking are not known to many.  Society has normalized most of these injustices. 

Song of Solomon 2: 11-12 “For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” Here are many blessings, that each new spring brings you can see it bloom about. With winters bleakness over, and brighter days ahead comes promises of new life springtime loves to spread.  

As I reflected on this over the weekend it connected more with the project I have been working on especially in this spring it just came at the right time. I needed the learning experience. The days ahead are promising as I will be working on the project that will be use back home.

As I think the season of Lent

Adding to my everyday 

When God established his covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, he communicated with great clarity what was expected of His people.  While these stipulations (laws) seem stale to many, they actually reveal much about the heart of God and what He values. Lev 19:9-10 “when you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.  I am the Lord your God.”

The idea here is that the people of God should care about one another by caring about the needs of others.  

What am I giving up this lent season? It’s the question I have been asking myself until I saw an article on Facebook where the pope was quotes saying instead of giving up something this lent let us try to give or add something to our lives, we are asked to take action.  Reading Lev 19:9-10 challenges us to care for those outside of our normal relational sphere.  This should show up in our lives in very practical ways.  God expected and still does expect His people to limit their own consumption in order to provide for the needs of others.

From Maria Penrod

7 Easy Ways to be an Activist

1. Call your local, state, and national government officials, especially the elected ones. Remember that government officials work for you. Say your name, zip code, and if there is a personal connection you have to the official (I saw you at this event, we went to the same college, etc.) Ask to speak with a staff member who specializes in your issue. If they are not available, go ahead and politely tell the person on the phone what you have to say. You can start by asking what the elected official’s stance is on a certain issue. Then you can say how you feel about it. If you have a connection to the issue, be sure to bring that up. When I call about healthcare, I bring up at my mom is a voter in their district and that she has a chronic health condition that requires an expensive prescription. The more local the government, the bigger impact a phone call has. If your state representative, city council member, or school board member gets 3 calls on an issue, that is a lot. If you are nervous about talking on the phone, you can call after hours and leave a message.

2. Go to a town hall or other event. Or invite your elected officials to an event. Many elected officials brag about how often they go to events in their district, so this is a win for everyone! You can come with questions or just show up to listen. Being in the room will show politicians that you are watching and holding them accountable. Feel free to respectfully disagree or debate with politicians. They signed up for this. Jesus frequently challenged the ideas and thought processes of those in power (Mark 7, Mark 12, Matthew 21)

3. Get involved with a local advocacy group. This will give strength in numbers to your cause. You can organize campaigns, protests and other events together. Joining an organization will also help you to share resources, educate others, and support one another. Many advocacy groups work together to achieve their goals. GBCS is a great example of this. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how we can use all of our spiritual gifts to work together as the body of Christ. As different people have different strengths, different groups also have different strengths. Some groups are better at organizing, some groups have more connections to specific leaders, and some have more people involved. We are stronger when we work together.

4. Be conscientious about where you shop. Ah, consumer activism. Sometimes you need to hit people where it hurts: the pocketbook. Do you think companies should pay their workers more? Only shop at retailers that pay over minimum wage. Is the CEO of a company attached to a politician you dislike? Don’t use that company. Is a company using unsustainable environmental practices? Take your money somewhere else. Many clothing manufacturers use cheap labor from overseas where there are fewer labors laws regulating an industry. Several brands have been exposed for using sweatshop and child labor. Don’t buy these brands. It can been difficult to know if a company uses unfair labor practices overseas. You are usually safe when buying second hand, fair trade or American-made products. You can also read company policies, or check out rankabrand.org, free2work.org, GoodGuide and Ethical Consumer to see where your favorite brands ranks on the issues important to you. Recently, people have been withdrawing their money from banks invested in the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. Call your bank, see what they are invested in.

5. Educate and organize at your church. The body of Christ is called to be active and engaged in making a more equitable and fair society for all (Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:35-40, Amos 5:24, Isaiah 30:18, Psalms 33:5). You can use networks and resources provided by GBCS to see how to get involved. You can see what other churches in your area are doing. Identify what is needed in your community. Are certain areas of town lacking access to public transportation? Is a local river being polluted? Are your public schools in good shape? Pray, research and see what issues in your community your church is positioned and gifted to address.

6. Protest. This has been a popular one lately. The first amendment to the United States constitution grants us freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. Protests can give exposure and attention to an issue. They are also a show of solidarity among like-minded people. When there are rallies and protests for issues a marginalized group of people, that group feels like they are supported and not alone. Make sure you have proper permits for your protest. Get the word for your protest out on social media. Social media has been integral in most 21st century protests, from the Arab Spring to the Women’s March. Contact local media outlets to give attention for your protest, and prepare organizers and leaders to be interviewed. 

7. VOTE. This seems like a no brainer. But over 90 million Americans or 40 percent of those eligible to vote failed to do so in the 2016 elections on November 8. That is abysmal. It is a right and a privilege to vote. Vote early and often. National elections get a lot of attention, but school, city, local elections matter too! Their policies often affect you more directly than national policies. In my state representative race in 2012, the winner was decided by 21 votes! Yes, 21! Don’t let anyone tell you that your vote is obsolete. The more voters, the more our representative democracy will accurately represent the needs of the people. My mom loves to say “If you didn’t vote, you don’t get to complain later.” As always, she is right.

Week 4 reflection

Have you ever seen something that just made you go ugh?

That’s disgust. I never really thought about disgust until the classic 2015 film, Inside Out. While bawling my eyes out, I thought about how every emotion, even the ones that don’t feel so great, have a purpose. God allows us to feel such a wide range of feelings for a reason.

But what’s the reason for anger? Or sadness? Or disgust?

I can’t speak for all people or all situations, but I think that in some cases, God gives us disgust, sadness, and anger to spark action. The sadness you feel when a dead toddler has washed up on the shores of Greece because he fell out of the boat he was fleeing Syria in, or the anger you feel when indigenous people continue to have their rights trampled by their colonizers, or the disgust you feel when a rapist only spends 3 months in prison when the recommended time was 6 years, those feelings are there to motivate us. They are there to tell us that things are not right.

Sadness, anger, and disgust are all important. God can use them to point us toward the injustices happening around us. These emotions break our hearts for what breaks God’s heart. They are there to motivate us to strive for a more equitable world, to make God’s kingdom come, and will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.