Monday, June 29, 2020

Integrity and Finance: A door opens

This past Friday, DML completed it's first Integrity and Finance Zoom class, with 56 students from six different African countries participating.  This was our first foray into an online class and has been a positive outgrowth of our travel limitations due to COVID-19.  This was a class that was supposed to be held in Nigeria but because of Zoom we could have many more participants at only the cost of internet!  Because much of the team has been gathering together for prayer regularly on Zoom, it made the transition easier from in-person to doing things online.

In addition, it was my first foray into Google Classrooms as a facilitator - and for most of the students it was their first time using it as well - and overall it was a success!  It is a great format for assignments, feedback, and a central place for materials.  

Additionally, the team learned more about Zoom, and because a number of our students had intermittent problems with internet, we were able to record each class session in both audio and video, so if someone missed a segment, they could catch up later.  And now I have a fully recorded class that could be used in the future as well.

Google Classroom is free.  Zoom subscriptions are very affordable.  We did not have to fly ourselves to Nigeria (which is where we had planned to teach this class in May).  We did not have to fly all of our partners in West Africa to Nigeria, which is what we had planned to do. What a blessing!

Of course, teaching through Zoom is not the same as being there in person.  There is a lot that is missed doing this from a distance, but as a venue it was pretty good.  People turned their videos on and laughed and joked at the beginning and end of class.  As the classes went on, participants learned to use the chat more and more, which was fun to see.  They were helping each other, teasing each other, sharing with each other through chat (yes, even while I was teaching).  And one of the best parts was the breakout rooms.  Often when teaching in person, you ask people to get into small groups for a brief discussion and it might take ten minutes for them to get themselves arranged and starting to discuss.  Then getting them back to the full group often takes a number of announcements and prodding.  But now, with a touch of a button, they are sent to their breakout rooms, and with another touch of a button they are brought back - whether they are finished or not!  Much more efficient.  

And so now the door is opening for us to do more with this.  The Training of Trainers that we were to do in Cameroon in April will now be done for our Francophone partners in August (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Burundi).  The Training of Trainers that we were to do in Ethiopia in August will now be done through Zoom in August.  

And we are getting more requests like this.  

The creativity of humankind to find a way when there seems to be no way.  

Imago Dei. 

We bear the image of God and because of that we have responsibilities toward God, others, and creation.  I am thankful for those who have used their time and talent to create these pathways for us to connect globally.  Whether or not they understand that they bear the imprint of the Most High God, I benefit from their efforts.  And in turn, I attempt to do the same for others.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

"It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see."

This haunting quote comes from the movie, The Hate U Give:  "It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see."  Painful.  Disturbing.  Deep.

Are you getting tired yet of this conversation?  Me too.  Want to talk about happier things?  Me too.

Except.  

If I choose to move on and opt out of this conversation because I am tired, that is a privilege.   
Many more people are exhausted in the fight against racism, but cannot move on or opt out.  Their skin color forces the conversation on them whether they choose it or not, because interactions with others and the systems are built to perpetuate injustice around them.  

Imagine generations facing that exhaustion, from  great-grandparents down through great-grandchildren.  Forced to continue in the fight for justice, not because they choose to but because they cannot escape the racism that provokes the conversation again and again and again.

So while I can admit my own tiredness, I don't get to use that tiredness as an excuse to disengage if I am serious about entering this discussion.  There is something very important at stake.

I was reminded this week that rather than shaking my head at what I see from white police officers, I should remember that the same racist structures that they were raised in, I was also raised in.  The fact that I can't "see" or identify what is racist in me, should make me shudder.  Because it's impossible to be unscathed as a white person living in the US.

We resist being called "racist" and yet we benefit from a racist system.  I benefit every day.  Going out without fear, owning a house where I want, good education, children who are healthy, educated, with jobs, and no record of arrests or conviction.  While I could argue that these are markers of my own hard work, or my children's hard work, or general lack of criminal activity, I would be blind if I could not see how my skin color has contributed to my success or that of my family.  I do not fear for my life when pulled over by a police officer.  I am confident that I can enter almost any business establishment without being profiled, followed, or searched, as can my children.  I know that if anyone in my family were engaged in substance use, I could choose treatment before getting the police involved, thus avoiding any criminal charges.  Good education with good scholarships came for my children in part because their parents were well-educated and benefitted from social capital that has been built up while people of color had little or no access to that same social capital.

I benefit every day.  I benefit from systems that I did not ask for but impact my life every day.

I cannot opt out of this conversation.
I should not opt out of this conversation.

I shouldn't "opt" out because of this warning in Isaiah 10: 1-2

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

This should keep me up at night.  And find me looking for ways to stay in the conversation.

Think of the depth of those words:  It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see.  

We listen.  We learn. We lament.
We stay engaged.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Unintended Consequences

Unintended consequences can be good or bad.  We often hear more about the bad than the good.  Too often, in giving things to help people, the unintended consequence can be dependency.

But this week, I saw two aspects of unintended consequences that were actually good!

The first includes many of you!  Over the last three months, DML was able to raise nearly $90,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts in Africa, thanks to you and your generosity!  But because we, and our partners, are so cautious about relief causing damage, we discussed how to give in a way that was affirming.  We also discussed how to work through our spheres of influence, allowing us to partner with other leaders from other organizations, including government officials.

The stories that we heard back showed us some unintended consequences as our partners applied out-of-the-box thinking and planning:
  • Some gave funds to church pastors and encouraged them to look beyond their members and see their community as their parish and help nonchurch members.  This was a great surprise and testimony to the witness of the church in those areas!  It also communicated a release of control from DML to the churches to trust them to do the right thing.
  • Some helped unreached people, predominantly Muslims, in communities where there is significant poverty.  As a result, they were able to witness and pray with people as they distributed the food.
  • Some approached the local governments to ask how they could help  people stay safe.  This was unprecedented as most people make demands of the government, not offer to help!  They found open doors and new relationships formed.
  • Some approached businesses, offering help to produce more products that keep people safe: from handwashing stations, to soap, to masks, to sanitizers, and so on.
  • Some planted farms for widows, and others gave goats with the promise that the firstborn goat would be given away to help others.
I could go on and on.  This week I heard partner after partner sharing that God is expanding their sphere of influence.  People tell them that the ministry of DML has gone deeper, moving from theory to practice (i.e. living out the church scattered, the quadruple bottom line, etc).  

That was not what we intended - our goal was to help people stay safe from COVID-19 - but our God is able to bring about good in ways that are unintended!

The second unintended consequence has to do with being grounded in the US because of COVID-19 and finding some unexpected open doors to work with a global organization doing discipleship and church planting.  How does that work, you may wonder?  There are many organizations who work to plant churches throughout the world.  Often those church planters are expected to do some sort of business to raise their own support.  We have been encouraging these organizations (through the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication - GACX) to go a step further and plant churches that address the whole person, equipping people to do business as an act of worship and to the glory of God.  More doors are opening for DML - one in Germany, one in North Caroline primarily working in Asia, one in Texas who works around the world, and a ministry that has opened 52 village schools and two colleges in East Africa.  We did not find them, they found us.  Who would have thought of this connection?  

Only God.

We are thankful for these unintended consequences.  Join us in praying for wisdom, that God would show us each step of the way, as we seek His directions for such a time as this!

Monday, June 1, 2020

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 John

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…

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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"!

Monday, May 18, 2020

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 you
Every 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 it
You were meant to be bringing
The gifts that you bring
And singing the songs
You've been given to sing
You 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)