Down but not out — A ReDISCOVERNING LENT devotional

•March 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This week I had the great joy of refecting on Philippians 3:7-14 for World Relief.  I love this devotional series… simple, hopeful, real– the scritpures and thoughts of all those involved are like deep calling to deep.  If you are interested in “rediscovering Lent” and taking a deeper journey toward this Easter season, I highly recommend the thoughts found here:  Journey toward Easter

Easter lent

“You can do better than this! Come on!!”

This is the voice in my head most days. Mistakes dog my steps, attitudes pull me down, sin wants to define me. But my good Midwestern “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mindset kicks in like clockwork.

“Just forget about it…”

Ah, but forgetting what is done is hard. Really hard.The past marks us.

Victim.

Failure.

Illegitimate.

Rebel.

Enemy.

Pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps is not forgetting. Bootstrapping is a way of hiding. Forgetting is actually turning away and moving forward, moving toward what is worth remembering. But moving beyond the past can be a herculean task. Like a prize fighter dancing in the corner and shouting to the watching world, our past taunts us.

Make no mistake, the past has a wicked left hook.

You take it on the chin, feeling your body go limp as the gravity of the former things pulls you down to the mat, the blood at the corner of your mouth tasting like defeat. The crowd hushes and the count begins. The tears are real. The pain is real. The loss, the sin, the regret are all real.

Giving up is real.

Five. Six…

Come on now, get up.

Seven. Eight… Get up off the mat!

Nine…Press on!

You are not counted out yet. When you muster the courage to forget the past, turning your eyes away from the former things, you will glimpse something new, something beautiful. The prize is very real.

Jesus fought and won this fight for us long ago. He took home an unbelievably valuable purse: Peace that passes understanding. Forgiveness of every wrong. Light in the dark. Unspeakable joy. Freedom from the past and the promise of a future.

If we strain to let go of the weight of the old life, the fear of failure, the pain of the punch, Jesus himself will raise us up, endowing us with the power to defeat not only our past, but the very spirit of death itself.

All this will be ours if we keep our eyes on the prize and muster the courage to pick ourselves up off the mat.

Make it happen: International Woman’s Day through the eyes of a 15 year old boy

•March 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Change the world

Make it Happen is the hallmark banner of tomorrow’s 2015 International Women’s Day.  There is nothing so motivating to an advocate than the thought of “getting it done”.  At the roots, the idea of “making it happen” breathes life into those who believe there is another real and true, cross your heart and hope to die, way to live in this world.  One that sees men and women of any and all ages living to encourage, uphold and if needs be, sacrifice for the dignity, equality and support of each other.

But who are the ones to do the hard work of making change happen?  Are we, as advocates for women, overlooking one of the brightest and boldest places to find friends?  Brave friends, who when informed and empowered, will neither dumb down nor shrink away from complexity or set back?

I have spent the last years of my life traveling to areas of the world and interviewing international women who are doing just that–working hard to make it happen in a world where the social, political and economic achievement of women are often overlooked, if not all together thwarted.  And though women are a critical key to inspiration and change, I wonder if our friends are numerous in a camp that is too often left untapped, untrained and un-empowered.  What if one of the keys to making it finally happen– groundswell, grassroots, genuine change– was found in the hands of, oh say, 15 year old boys?

It just so happens that I have one of those in my house. Last year, my son Joshua and I partnered together to write about inspiring change for the 2014 International Women’s Day.  Joshua, to his credit, has grown much over the last 365 days.  He has bravely read, prayed and spoke to his peers about his friends who are girls and women.  Our conversation that began last year is as relevant today as it was then, and we have decided to post it here again with a few after-thoughts that reflect our growth as advocates, and even more, our dedication to being devoted friends to the great cause of justice for women worldwide.

  As the mother of adolescent sons, our family is working hard to create a culture of respect and honor for women and girls. We want our boys to be among those who protect, promote and applaud girls; to have girls as friends, teammates and equals.   I deeply want girls to do the same for them. Empathy between sexes is not easy, but as influencers, we can do everything possible to make this a reality. I will block any images or words that hinder my sons from seeing women in any other way than the subject of their story… not the object. My husband and I have made sacrifices to take our boys to meet international-woman- heroes on the ground in countries like Burundi, Rwanda and Cambodia. On our most recent trip to Africa, my oldest son Joshua and I were walking back to our tent listening to the sleepy grunts of hippos, when he stopped dead in his tracks and looked up at the canopy of stars above us.  “Do you ever feel stuck to the ground?”   His question was deeper than he guessed and touched off a rush of emotion in both of us. Yes, I did feel stuck, along with so many of my sisters.  Stuck in so many ways it was hard to describe. 

 

But what surprised me was so did he. He wanted to fly, to help, to do something big to heal the hurts in this world.  “I can feel something in me. Something I am supposed to do”, he said with a maturity that was beyond his years.  “A way I am supposed to be”.  From that night on, we have discussed often what it means to live life for the common good, taking on the real problems of this world and working hard for the answers that last.  Each time we have encountered political, social or economic issues of injustice surrounding women he has stunned me with his thoughts.

 

When I asked Joshua what advice he would give this generation of boys he said without hesitation, “There is a mind and a heart in women’s bodies. A soul to be remembered and treated with respect”.  He stopped and lowered his voice a bit. “She is not an object, she is a human being. She is the center of her story, and her story is important not just to her.  But it is important for me, too.” 

Then without being prompted he went on. “The more you think of woman as objects the more they become objects. The more you think of woman as important to the whole story, the more women will become important to your story.  If my generation can believe this, when boys become men, we won’t want stand in the way anymore, Mom.  We will want to actually help to clear the way.” 

What if these thoughts are not just Joshua?  He seems to believe pretty strongly that there are other boys who might think this way.  What if his generation feels “stuck to the ground” as their culture dictates the acceptable way for men to view women?  What if they want to break free from hurtful practices that hinder the common good of everyone, despite gender? 

What if we, who have influence in the lives of our sons, our nephews, our students, our brothers, our friends, stopped seeing these adolescent boys as part of the problem and began to invest in them–really invest in them– as a powerful part of the solution?  What if this generation, who is considered one of the most narcissistic and self-centered to ever exist, actually just felt stuck? 

Women who have so much practice in inspiring change in each other, what if we work hard to inspire change in both girls AND boys?  What if this next generation is one of “girl rising” and “boy rising” together?

Since working on this piece a year ago, Joshua has continued his education and consideration of difficult problems that plague women and girls.  He is determined to be a good friend, one dedicated to working toward a solution, and not dumbing down the issues to complex problems such as gender based violence, slavery, economic disparity, equal representation before the law, and keeping mom’s and children safe and healthy. These are tough places to understand for anyone.  It will take time and teaching to raise up a generation of 15 year old boys who do not feel stuck, but educated and empowered.  Is that not our responsibility to them?

It is time to raise the bar for young men with abundant energy entrusted to make their part of the solution a reality.   At a time when we think we can use all the Face Book or Twitter friends we can get–

maybe, just maybe, these young men are the kind of friends we need to finally  make it happen.

2015: A year in which I pledge to #WagePeace

•January 20, 2015 • 1 Comment

Peace

This, my friends, has been a long, long year.

I know many had them.  A year filled with fevered pitch, pressing issues, and in some cases clear-cut pain.  And for those who had a good year, one filled with favor and growth– I know you empathise with the heart break of those who did not.  It has been a little under a year since I wrote here.  I know why– and I regret letting the dissruption of pain and confusion stop me from the hope writing brings to my life.  Stop me from sharing life with those I love to share life with.  I did not have peace of mind or heart for much of 2014– my heart hurt, my mind was on overdirve, my will most certainly less than certain.

It doesn’t matter why, really.  I didn’t have peace, that was all that mattered.  Maybe you didn’t either.  The absence of personal, intimate, make-you-get-off-the-matt kind of peace is a hard place to live.  It is hard work to stand up when the left hook so strategically and powerfully connected.  The taste of blood in the corner of your mouth tells you that all wisdom lies in staying on the mat. If you get up, you may get hit again…and nobody wants that.

“Peace is costly”, says the wisdom of the African elders, “but worth the expense”.  Peace in heart and mind and will are just as important as peace in this world.  For me, I tried it the other way around for a bit.  Fight for peace in the world, and personal peace will arrive on command.  No, it takes hard work to midwife peace in any form.  Personal peace of heart. A strong presence of mind.  And the will to take risks–to dare greatly for the hope of peace.

Oh, and the most important part of peace is the most unexpected– giving up.Letting go.  Surrendering not to the mat, or to the left hook, or to the pain, or to the overwhelming statistics, soldiers, casualties–but to the Prince of Peace himself. God was the still small voice of peace amidst the noise. And oh, 2014 was so very noisy. I longed for the quiet harmony that only He could give me.

And so, on to 2015–

wage peace child

This year, I am , in the words of my poet-husband, “relentlessly persuing peace”.  Peace in my heart. Peace in my home. Peace in the world.  I pledge to #WagePeace.  This means change in both big and small habits in my life.  This means sacrifice in both big and small places in my life.

This means committment to both the big and small moments of peace–  I have prayers to pray.  I have apologies to make.  I have moments to catch up on.  I have words to write, stories to tell and thoughts to think. I have praise for my God, and thanks to sing over my children, my love, my devoted friends who were left more than a little confused.

I have a mountain to climb. For real.

But for now, it feels good to confess. To connect. To commit to #WagePeace with all of me.

And how about you?  Are you ready to wage peace with yourself? With the world?

In our home, we have committed the daily offices from the Northumbria Community to memory– a beautiful series of prayers that can anchor your day in peace.  If you are on this journey, determined not to turn back,  may I have the honor of praying the morning prayer over you?  It is a new day– and the sun is rising on peace in this world:

A blessing for those who #WagePeace here and abroad–

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

Amen and Amen and happiest of years to you and all you love.

Oscar Night in the DRC…

•March 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Tears.  No sobs. Yep, I will own that.

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Getty Images

I sobbed when Lupita Nyong’o took the stage and accepted an oscar for portraying in her words, “so much pain in someone elses life”. Pure and unadulterated empathy. She took on the pain of Patsy and anyone who saw 12 Years A Slave felt it.  Lupita acted for all the world as a conduit, a translator, and may I go so far as to say, an intercessor. She placed a hand on us, and a hand on pain and helped us understand and feel the humanity of her character.  I, as a human community member, was made better for her contribution.

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But it was her final words that threatened to undo me. She spoke of the validity of dreams. As she spoke, my mind raced to my TEN for Congo sisters here and in the DRC. . I remembered the dreams they shared and the way they felt beautiful as Christine Anderson took their photos, as if it was Oscar night  in the DRC.

I sobbed then too.  When these brave and beautiful women took “the stage” on a dusty cement floor in Rutshuru, portraying their own story of pain. So unhindered in their ability to accept the ache in the stories of the sisters around them.  Pure and unadulterated empathy.  They helped me understand and feel the torture of war, of rape, of hunger and unending spirals of violence against their children’s children. I as a human community member was made better through the privilege of seeing the beauty of their lives as survivors.

What conspired to make Lupita and my TEN for Congo sisters so beautifully connect last night?  The beauty of dreams.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Well, I believe my eyes were full of beauty, overflowing onto my cheeks, my chin, my couch,my computer.  The beauty of dreams.  As I watched Lupita, the words of my Congolese sisters came back to me as if I were there again.  Each of them had not given up their right to dream. Dream of a hope and a future. Dreams my dear friend Lynne Hybels says,” of the beauty of babies with full bellies, and the beauty of mothers with hope”. Beautiful dreams of peace in their lifetimes.

I believe Lupita glowed brightest as she finished her acceptance speech.  And there was that last undoing word…

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid….”

Ah, yes… so very valid. And so very beautiful both here and there.

We are not alone, even in a war zone.

•March 1, 2014 • 3 Comments

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Originally written for Today’s Christian Woman

http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2014/january/to-see-and-be-seen.html 

            She was haggard and beautiful, pulling her sweater close as the rain clouds threatened.   Fifty year-old Uwimana Marie spoke first when I asked how she and her sisters came to the refugee camp. When you are a refugee you lose everything,” she said, her hands perpetually moving as she spoke. “But the most painful part is losing your right to think.  I used to think about my farm, my goats, and the education of my children. ” She lifted her head to look into my eyes hoping, somehow, I would understand. “Now, I only think about how to survive each day.”  Four others nodded in affirmation and each began to pour out their own story of loss and lament.

Losing Everything

            The Nkamira Transit Camp where these five women lived is located in Rwanda, just over the border from Congo, the poorest country in the world. To say this camp is filled to capacity is an understatement. Last month, a kind but overworked camp director arranged for me to meet with a focus group of vulnerable women between the ages 40 to 80, a demographic that makes up almost 60% of the camp population. He led me past the tarp walls and tin roofs of eleven wear-house sized living blocks. I met women and children who had fled the violence and rape that has come to characterize the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They were living out their lives here:  cooking, washing, carrying bundles of charcoal, kicking a ball made of banana leaves and trash, waiting in endless lines. Every pair of eyes I looked into seemed to plead, “Do you see me?”

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The forgotten conflict

            As a “transit camp”, refugees were meant to only stay a maximum of three days. Uwimana Marie and her four companions had been here for well over nine months.   The homes which they fled were miles away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Known as “the most dangerous place to be a women”, “the worst place to be a mother”, “rape capital of the world”, and “the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster”, the conflict in the Congo is often regarded by the international community as  intractable and frankly, hopeless. These five women literally comprise the “headline” statistics of war: 6 million dead, 2.7 million internally displaced, almost 450,000 refugees, a woman or child raped every 60 seconds, and 9 out of 10 refugee women between the ages of 3 and 72 have experienced gender based violence. In the Congo it is commonly said “rape is cheaper than bullets”.   The numbers are mindboggling, and need is urgent.  On all accounts this is an international crisis of mass proportion, yet so few people know.

God’s presence in the midst of everyday terror

 In light of these overwhelming odds, what do these women think about God?  What gives them hope? What do they fear?  Little did I know that these questions would lead to a moment of healing and hope for each of us.

            Uwimana Marie spoke again, detailing her flight from what is currently the world’s deadliest forgotten conflict. “My village was attacked at night. We stayed hiding on the farm as long as we could”.  She leaned into her companions around her for support. “When the gunfire stops, you check and hope, check and hope. But the gunfire always starts again. Then you know your family must flee alone– without your goats, or your friends or sometimes your family.” Her eyes were wet as she remembered her husband and oldest son who stayed behind to guard the farm.  She has not heard from them since.

            All five women heard gunfire through the night and screams.. They spoke of holding the hands of their smallest children, praying their husband or mother or sister are able to lead the older ones, and travelling only at night, so  the dark can hide them from those who seek to take their lives, rape them, or steal their children.

            Each woman bravely unfolded her story of suffering. When I asked what they thought about God, something astounding happened. As if by some agreed upon signal they all sat straight, squaring their shoulders and boldly said “Yego!” which means yes.  Nyira, at 76, the oldest of the group and married for “more years than she could remember”, spoke with confidence:. “God is certainly here, and listening to us as we talk right now!” she declared.  “We each reached a place of safety, and are still alive.  We have shelter and hope that our families may yet come to us. God is here because we have hope”. 

            Two women believed that God had actually blinded the eyes of soldiers and militia men that chased them, allowing them to safely cross the Rwandan border.  One of them was able to find her lost child who slipped away from her in the chaos and dark of fleeing.  All of the women were surrounded by real bullets, and none of them had a single physical injury.  The credit, they insisted, goes to a God who is there for those who suffer. 

            They even found God in the meager food supplies in the camp.  “God is in this place because the burden to feed our children is lifted, even if it is a little”.  “When you finally reach a place of safety, then you can eat”, said Kamanzi Rosa, a 59 year old mother of four.  For these brave families this meant three to five days of hunger. Keeping a hungry child quiet while pushing forward in the dark is truly an impossible task.  I tried to comprehend how God comforts with 3.5 kilos of red beans, 12 kilos of maize, and pinches of salt and oil, the amount of good given to them as they arrived  at the camp. 

Unfolding forgiveness of the forgotten

            God was present with them in another unexpected way: forgiveness.  For each of these women, forgiving those who violated their dignity, thieved their bodies or murdered their family was a sign that God was indeed real and present with them.  Each one gave testimony to the power that is found in forgiveness—God himself.  “If we forgive those who hunted or hurt us, it is not from us but from God himself,” whispered Kamanzi Rosa.  “If we were to continue to keep the bitter burden in our hearts it would destroy us. We must forgive them. We must not wish to kill them as they wished to kill us. Our lives were threatened, but we are still alive and so we must forgive.”  

What do you fear?

            To say the future of these strong women is precarious does not begin to sum up the situation.  Each day they fight against two dark and sinister enemies– hopelessness and fear. When I asked them what they feared most, the question hung in the air.  Their response came slowly:    “We fear being forgotten…there is no hope when you have been forgotten”.

            I was undone. Stinging tears came to my eyes at the answer that was a bit too close to home.  I also fear being forgotten.  This is not the kind of forgotten that leaves you off a party guest list, or misses a phone call.  This is the kind of “forgotten” that creeps along the edges of even the most crowded room to whisper, “No one sees you, and no one cares. There is no hope”.  Becoming invisible, isolated, abandoned and forgotten, even for just a moment, can sink deep into the soul leaving fear in its wake, here or half way around the world.   It was true– the world had forgotten them.  The world had ignored the death, the carnage the rape and massive destruction of Africa’s world war.

            But had God forgotten them?  No, in their stories, He was their singular hope and strength. Even though they, too, had tears in their eyes, these women believed that God had come to come to their aid.  They were not forgotten. They pointed to, of all things, my presence and all who would read my words, as witness and proof that God had, in fact, not forgotten them.

To see and be seen

            “When our eyes see those who see us, it gives us hope”, Nyria smiled through her dry lips.  “Hope is to know that others know us”.  I took her hands into my own, her wise eyes looking into mine:. “This is how we know God has not left us.”

            “If we have no peace,” Mother Theresa said, “it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”. I felt and saw the strength of women who endure the deepest of suffering and yet hope in God. They saw a woman who willingly listened to their story and would try to give voice to their pain.  In the wake of war, hope rises on the wings of one another. Somehow in a refugee camp with people forgotten by most of the world, I could see clearly: we are not alone. God had given us each other. 

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Our lives bundled together 

            Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks of the very essence of being human as Ubuntu. We cannot live fully as humans if we are isolated, alone, or forgotten.  It is to say, in Tutu’s own words, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.”

            Returning home, my best friend and husband, Stephan, reminded me to carry my new friends in my heart– “Honor them as they honored you.”  The virtue and calling of friendship lay in shouldering burdens and joys together, face to face and eye to eye, even if when across an ocean and through a war zone.  As they say in this complex, conflicted region, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable”.  I have bound myself in friendship with these brave women, for to befriend is at its root and essence different than to become a benefactor.  I pray for my friends and they pray for me, and we are not alone—this I know to be true.  I have seen it with my own eyes.

Belinda BaumanTen For Congo- a grassroots movement of individuals raising awareness and funds for women suffering from the ongoing, brutal civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  She is currently writing a series of articles on the themes of grassroots peace building and the suffering of women caught in conflict. Belinda is married to Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, a non-profit organization that empowers the local church to serve the most vulnerable around the world. Together they do life together in Baltimore MD with two energetic and imaginative sons.

If you listen… you give it away.

•February 6, 2013 • 1 Comment

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Today I listened to many things… phone alarm, birds chattering, toast popping, car motor, loud music playing, computer keys clacking.

But by far themost beautiful thing I heard was my son praying.  He asked God for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Joshua knows that on Friday, Stephan and I will have the absolute honor of “giving away” our birthdays for peace in the Congo.  You see we were born 45 years ago in the same hospital, less than 12 hours apart.  We grew up in the same, small midwestern farming community, and we fell in love when we were …gulp…15!

It has long been our desire to celebrate a significant birthday by gathering some of our favoirte people and throwing a party not in celebration of our selves, but of others. In celebration of the beauty of  Congo.  And in protest to the suffering of Congo.  This amazing and shocking place has captured our hearts.

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We had met many beautiful people there. Strong people living in a war zone, yet giving away their own lives to make sure the lives of others were saved.  There were gener based violence councellors, faithful pastors, peace committee workers, teachers, and doctors.

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Every one of them a survivor, and every one of them hoping for peace in their nation.  We listened to them, and we heard the call to give it away…

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And yes…it really was easy!  The hardest part was just making the decsion. Once  we did, we were off and running. We contacted our favorite artists, Josh Garrells and Micha Bournes, and our dear friend and speaker/ author Lynne Hybels and amazingly they all said that they would give away their gifts to help us give it away!

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Then came the free fair trade ticketing( thank you Brown Paper Ticket!), the gift of a theater (super cheap–thank you National Community Church!), the help of creating and printing signs and cards and such(thank you Melanie and Chelsie), right down to the suprise gift of free birthday cake from one of the oldest and best bakeries in Washington DC (thank you Clements!!), good coffee (charity discount at Starbucks!!) and then…

We started asking friends to come help us give it away… and they said they would!  We invited people and they invited people and others invited more.  We are overwhlemed at the response! Friends who are coming are giving “gifts” to Congo. And friends who can’t come are still giving…

Together, we will listen.  And together we will hear for the sake of  Congo… stories and songs and spoken word.  Together, we all are “giving it away”.  Still some tickets left for this Friday, February 8th … join us?

Listen and join us?  Contact Chelsie Frank at cfrank@wr.org to find out how!

Listen and give?  http://worldrelief.org/congo-crisis 

Listen and give your own birthday away for Congo?  What a beautiful thing!

If you listen, what will you hear?

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Peace on Earth… Refections on Advent in a Time of War

•December 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Advent has a very special place in the Bauman household.  We light the candles, we sing the songs, we pray the prayers each week.  The little weekly ceremonies have often helped us with that often needed “holy perspective”, giving us an map to follow as we journey to Christmas.  This Advent season has been particularly hard for us.  We find ourselves “mourning” on a number of fronts.  Stephan recently wrote of the real context of the original advent:

 Bethlehem… Oppression ruled the day. Christmas wasn’t happy yet; it was chaos.

Into this suffering and injustice, into the oppression, the palpable fear, and among the cries of unlikely people,

God pitches his tent.  (http://stephanbauman.com/)

Our good friend and coworker Justin sent this to Stephan and I yesterday.  This was meant to be the kind of private, conversational musing you have over a coffee, hoping for a friend to understand the wrestle going on in your soul– hoping if your friend can understand what you are trying to say, then you can’t be totally off base.  Stephan and I connected with his sentiments, and he bravely agreed to see if his thoughts connected with any of yours as well.  I am deeply grateful to have friends with me on the Advent journey into mourning.

 We pray that the mourning will become the miracle, just as it did on Christmas day…

Justin is a gifted writer and teacher, and he loves the mission of God in this world, and advocates for justice.  From Justin:

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I’m sipping coffee and listening to a countrified version of “Run, Run Rudolph” as I read an IRIN article entitled, “DRC: Growing humanitarian needs in Goma.” Can anyone say con-tra-diction?

 

How long must this go on? My friends, my brothers, my sisters flee for their lives, hope for a ration of food and a place to sleep for a few hours each night where they will not be threatened by a rebel militia group whose fuel is fear and intimidation.

 

Finding food, shelter, and a place to sleep are literally the last questions that arise in my mind. When I finish working today, I will go home, kiss my wife, play with my two young sons, and eat a hearty dinner, before praying together as a family and having a Bible study. Then, off to bed.

 

In Goma, a man my age, if he has not already been forcibly recruited into M23, will perhaps wonder if he will ever see his wife and/or children again. He will hope for a small ration of food and, if fortunate, he will have a place to sleep tonight. His prayers to God will include fully-embodied trust in God for the next day. He realizes that his life is fragile and that God alone has control. He lives in the tension between life and death—neither truly living nor truly dying—on a regular basis.

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I live in this same place, but I do not realize it as he does. “Run, Run Rudolph” and Caribou’s dark roast clouds my mind and my spirit. Nobody has threatened me or my family for a long while, and then, certainly not unto death.

 

Who lives the greater reality? Who has come to his senses more? Who understands raw trust in God? The one with “options” and “freedom” or the one who has no choice but to lean into his heavenly Father?

 

I have so many options—where to go to school and what for, whom to marry (already decided), how many kids to have, what kind of career to have, what kind of food I’d like to eat, what to read (forget that I already know how to read), where and how long to sleep, which family members to visit this holiday, what presents to buy and for whom, what car to buy, buying vs. renting a home, what kind of health insurance to purchase… this list, in this country, does not end.

 

In DR Congo, he trusts in God his Father, or, he despairs to his own demise.

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War does not focus our priorities. War destroys, debilitates, orphans, widows, burns, diminishes, breeds hatred, and produces more war.  No; our priorities are truly focused when we see what is against what could be—the current state of our world versus God’s design for this earth. Our priorities are truly focused when we are able to see clearly—that we coffee-sippers and “Run, Run Rudolph” listeners are just as fragile and weak as our brother, as our sister, in DR Congo, whose eyes and lives have been illuminated to the true state of affairs both in the heavenlies and on earth.

 

Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. This was declared prophetically in anticipation of His advent. It seems that, this season, our focus should be on peace, shalom, rather than on the Americanized ideal of “Christmas.” Real Christmas is about “Peace on earth.”

 

Lord Christ, awaken me

to my fragility.

In you I trust.

In you I must

find myself.

Do not let the cloud of commercialization

that plagues our nation,

descend upon my mind—

deliver me from this evil—

that does not let me see

what Christmas—and life—is meant be.

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Justin Kaufman  serves at World Relief as the Executive Assistant to the President/CEO, Stephan Bauman. He is a husband to Heidi, father to Grayson and Hudson, and leader who desires justice and peace to reign “on earth as it is in heaven,” fully expressed through the Body of Christ to all nations. He likes to write, read, and sleep when he is not working, playing with his kids, or taking his wife on a date.

 

 
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