Tough on Crime is Tough on People Justice has to be more than Punishment
Missions in a post-colonial world Is it still a good idea?
Interview: Brian McConaghy Ratanak founder on how Cambodia changed his life
Shattering poverty stereotypes Canadian Publications Mail Products Sales Agreement #40038603
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not about being lazy or crazy
Welcoming the stranger Among Us Simple acts of hospitality can mean the world
WINTER 2014 | Issue 20
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WHEN EVERYONE IS CONNECTED
HOW C AN ANYONE BE OUT IN THE COLD?
It’s time to end poverty in Canada. Donate at SalvationArmy.ca
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table of contents
photography By Lee Scott
Issue 20: Winter 2014
Loving Your Neighbour
16 The Umbrella Movement
Jesus wasn’t referring to your
Showcasing innovative and original
The protest in Hong Kong is
friends; He was talking about
startups, including Dignify, JusTea,
more than a temporary battle for
loving your insufferable enemies.
and The Tourist Company.
18 Six ways to Overcome Compassion Fatigue
20 What does $1 get you around the world?
23 Justice Defined A few ideas on what it means
Because sometimes helping hurts.
Everything from a dozen eggs
to “do justice.”
to a lottery ticket.
24 Q&A with Ratanak Founder Brian McConaghy How a former police forensic specialist came to start an NGO in Cambodia.
32 Welcoming the stranger Among us
28 Shattering the Stereotypes
30 Hitting Bottom
The poor in North America are
It’s darkest before dawn, as they say.
frequently labelled as “lazy” or
A story of healing and hope from
“crazy.” But so often they are
addiction at John Volken Academy.
36 It’s Not Easy Being Green Why the real enemy of the
Inviting newcomers to participate
environmental movement is
in our lives often requires simple,
complacency, not hypocrisy.
38 Missions: Open for business Is it possible to spread the gospel internationally, while also avoiding the pitfalls of our colonial ancestors?
yet deliberate acts.
42 Tough on crime is Tough on people
48 culture Reviews on Dave Eggers’ novel
Can we say “yes” to harder prison sentencing and to the good news of Jesus?
The Circle, and Alt-J’s, John Mark
50 Fishers of men The gospel message is about so much more than “fire insurance.”
McMillan’s, and My Brightest Diamond’s new albums. CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 3
Issue 20: Winter 2014
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Ashley Chapman Brett McCracken Jenn Co Jessica Jordan Joel Bentley John Barry Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning Julia Cheung Lauren Bentley Michelle Sudduth Paula Cornell Sarah Nicolai-deKoning Steffani Cameron Contributing photographers & illustrators Carmen Bright Jennifer Ku Rob Trendiak Ross Burrough Vicky Kim
opinions expressed in converge magazine are not necessarily those of the staff, board, and contributors of converge media inc.
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
t was a Wednesday morning when Nathan Cirillo was murdered. Moments before, tourists photographed the young soldier in ceremonial garb as he was guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Standing there unarmed, he was a living symbol of the sacrifice of countless soldiers from years past who had died for Canada, for democracy. Then he was shot. Point blank. He was just 24, a single dad. His was a life unfairly cut short, tragically interrupted just as it was getting started.
Photography by MCpl Dan Pop, 4 Cdn Div Public Affairs
It doesn’t matter what you believe about the military, whether you are a pacifist or a just war theorist or the eye-for-an-eye type. Nathan Cirillo’s death was a deplorable act of injustice. We can all agree on that.
And what about those who society has cast off as “lazy and crazy;” are they taking advantage of our social programming, or as Paula Cornell challenges, are they survivors of systemic oppression?
For that’s the thing about injustice: it’s often easy to spot. We know when we or those around us have been wronged. We know when things aren’t fair. When the marginalized are exploited, when governments are corrupt, when children are harmed, when ethnic cleansing is allowed to continue. We feel it to our core.
What if, as Ashley Chapman explores in “To Green or Not to Green,” we are also a part of the problem?
We all recognize the injustice around us, but what then is justice? That’s where the difficulty lies. In our grief we ache for a punishment that will somehow make up for the harm that has been done. But often, the lines of right-ness are easily blurred. Does restoring justice mean we’re to act and think like 24’s Jack Bauer, seeking out righteous revenge on our enemies, no matter what? What happens when those who commit acts of injustice are also victims themselves?
I first heard the phrase “social justice” when I was about 20-years-old. I had just started working for a Christian non-profit that provides basic needs services to those who are homeless or street-involved. The term constantly peppered conversations, as if everyone should understand what it exactly was and what it involved.
Cirillo’s murderer was shot and killed; his act had fatal consequences. But a Christian view of justice calls for more than just consequence. It calls for caring for Cirillo’s now-fatherless son. It asks what brokenness could have motivated a man to commit this murderous act, and how he could have been cared for and restored. It demands defending the rights and well-being of our Islamic neighbours, who have been targets of violence by those with racist hatred in their hearts. So what is justice? As Sarah and Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning write in “Tough on Crime is Tough on People,” when it comes down to it, “justice is about creating space for all to flourish.”
I grew up in the evangelical church, and social justice wasn’t part of my vocabulary. My background placed greater emphasis on evangelism than that of meeting physical needs; this is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), after all. But as John Barry writes, the gospel message is about changing someone’s entire life. That includes not only empowering them with the spiritual power of Jesus, but the physical power to put food on their plate.
Leanne Janzen editor
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3: , 201 SEP 1
Time for a roof-raising It's the 20th issue of Converge Magazine, so we want to take a moment and say â&#x20AC;&#x201D; WE'RE STILL HERE! And in an age of print's demise, that's worth celebrating. So thanks to all of you who have faithfully read our little magazine, who write for it, and who advertise in it. We really couldn't do this without you.
Typography By Jennifer Ku
M AY 7, 20 14 :
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Loving Your Neighbour
Written By brett mccracken Illustrated By Kriza borromeo
“‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’” Luke 10:36-37
or many of the Jews in Jesus’ day, one of the most unexpected (and unwelcome) aspects of the message Jesus preached was how much He emphasized loving one’s enemies. After centuries of being conquered, exiled, beaten, battered, and ruled by one foreign regime after another, Jews were understandably hopeful that the promised Messiah would come with an iron rod to dash Israel’s enemies to pieces “like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9). But Jesus turned that expectation on its head by emphasizing — at least in the “now” part of the “now and not yet” kingdom — love and compassion for all people: neighbours, society’s exiles, the unlovable, the “least of these” (Matthew 25:45), and even the enemies who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The parable of the Good Samaritan is a classic example of how Jesus challenged the religious establishment and His followers to care about love as much as they care about law keeping. When Jesus tells a story where a Samaritan is the hero and a model of neighbourly love to be emulated (“go and do likewise…”), he is presenting a difficult call to His Jewish listeners because Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They hated each other.
The “go and do likewise” call at the end of the parable applies to anyone who seeks to be a disciple of Christ. Loving my neighbour as myself is tough because my “neighbour” doesn’t only include my friends, family, and the nice, attractive people who are easy to love. It also includes the difficult, smelly, insufferable people I might see as enemies. To love like Christ is to love universally and unconditionally. And that’s costly. In the particular case of the Jews and the Samaritans, it’s costly because it rebukes any hint of racism or ethnocentrism. Earlier this year at a prayer service in my church, a pastor — who also happens to be an Iraq war veteran — led the congregation in prayer for all those affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria: Christians, Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, the military forces, and anyone else being impacted by the bloodshed and terror happening there. But we also spent concentrated time praying specifically for ISIS. We prayed for them because in spite of their evil tactics — their crucifixions and rapes and beheadings of innocents — they are not beyond the bounds of the love and grace of God. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:44).
To truly follow Jesus means we must love the unlovable.
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Missions Fest 2015
January 30 – February 1, 2015
Across the Street: Around the World Plenary Speakers:
100 SEMINARS • 250 EXHIBITS • 6TH ANNUAL FILM FESTIVAL CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND
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Vancouver Convention Centre, 999 Canada Place General Admission FREE • www.missionsfestvancouver.ca
Showcasing the innovative and original, here are some of the startups that have recently come on the scene.
The Tourist company
The Tourist Company is an experimental rock sensation out of North Vancouver. The group was one of 12 bands in this year’s Peak Performance Project.
for more, visit: thetouristcompany.ca
Their latest endeavour is a charity campaign called Music For Meals. The Tourist Company recorded an acoustic EP entitled Atlantic, and each EP is priced to fully cover the costs of a meal through Union Gospel Mission’s Downtown Eastside meal programs; each EP sold equals one meal for a person in need. And you get great music in return!
For more visit: Justea.com
Kenya exports more black tea than any other country in the world – but over half a million farmers live below the global poverty line. JusTea is working to equip farmers with the tools and training to craft tea on their own farms. This is creating more jobs, higher incomes, and a totally unique tea for tea-drinkers in North America. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, JusTea connects the farmer to you, the consumer. They have a passion for sustainable and ethical business, and for great tasting tea.
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Be Prepared. OVER LUNCH A CO-WORKER ASKS YOU WHY YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. WHAT YOU SAY MAY DRAW THEM CLOSER TO CHRIST, OR PUSH THEM AWAY. WHAT WILL YOUR ANSWER BE?
THE INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS
Through the Institute for Christian Apologetics, ACTS Seminaries offers relevant training to Christians from all walks of life on how to effectively present their faith in the face of challenges. Call Liisa at 1.888.468.6898 for more details
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1.888.468.6898 email@example.com www.acts.twu.ca
Essential Training for Christian Service.
The Oregon Public House
Dignify helps people shop for what they love and feel great about buying: that which promotes dignity, empowers humanity, and champions good.
To shop for your own kantha blanket, other ethical goods, or to read dignify’s blog, visit: dignify.ca
They do this by selling goods from around the world that have been handmade by a real person, giving dignity, respect, and a sustainable livelihood to artisans from around the world. Dignify’s key product is the “kantha blanket,” a hand-stitched quilt of six layers of sari cloth, imported from Bangladesh. Child labour, human trafficking, child marriage, homelessness, and sexual exploitation are key risks for many women in Bangladesh; those who have hand-stitched these kantha blankets are no exception. But, there is hope. After a woman works through a training program with Children’s Uplift Program (CUP) or the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s Pobitra program, she is hired to sew kantha blankets, in order for the work of healing, care, and healthy employment to continue. Dignify then provides the goods online to the North American marketplace.
The Oregon Public House (OPH) is the world’s first non-profit pub. Located in Portland, it’s a family friendly restaurant where all can gather to have a pint (or burger). And change the world. for more, visit: oregonpublichouse.com
OPH was built entirely through community involvement. There is no CEO, owner or benefactor. One hundred per cent of net profits are donated directly to local charities. While the profit generated from one pint of local craft beer may be just a drop in the bucket for an organization like Habitat for Humanity, OPH believes there is something much bigger at stake. The OPH business model operates like a third party fundraising department for non-profits. OPH helps to raise money and awareness for them, so they can get back to doing what they should really be focused on: helping others. By proving this concept is sustainable, more and more people will adopt the business model. And that will change the world.
CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 13
The “Christian artist.” It’s a cringe-worthy label, teeming with negative stereotypes associated with mass marketed religious kitsch and sentimental propaganda. That’s why the Vancouver-based artist collective WeMakeStuff steers clear of the term, while trying to open up a new dialogue about what it means to be an artist and a person of faith. How? By making a piece of art — that’s neither kitsch nor propaganda. WeMakeStuff has produced a series of books, each featuring 100 artists and innovators of all stripes who offer candid insights into their creative process. Readers are introduced to people quietly pursuing excellence within the fields of filmmaking, dancing, visual art, fashion, writing, and music (among others).
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For more information on how to purchase WeMakeStuff Volume 01 and 02, visit wemakestuff.ca.
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The Umbrella Movement
photography By Ross Burrough
pro-democratic demonstration, referred to as the Umbrella Movement, has engaged thousands of people in Hong Kong in protest since late September 2014. Protestors have demanded more political freedoms from the Chinese government, specifically in voting for the Hong Kong Chief Executive in 2017. The movement began after the announcement that nominees for the next leader of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive, would not be chosen by actual citizens of Hong Kong, but by the Chinese government. Leaders from the communist party stated that the freedom to vote for a leader should be enough for Hong Kong citizens, that their demand for the right to elect nominees was out of the question. For the people of Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement is more than a temporary battle for voting rights. It is a statement to all of China that they will not allow their voices to be unheard, their democratic freedoms to be snuffed out.
Hong Kong was a colony ruled by the U.K. and was returned to the control of China in 1997.
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Six Ways to Overcome Compassion Fatigue Written By Jessica Jordan Photography By Volkan Olmez
ou feel indifference bubbling in the pit of your stomach. In your work to help others, you take in the hurt of those around you, and feel your compassion slipping away. You register the nightmare of someone else’s reality, but your eyes glaze over. You simply go through the motions to serve, but your heart’s not in it, not like it used to be. You are experiencing compassion fatigue, the ultimate burn out. Not only are you physically and emotionally exhausted, your view of the world has changed. According to Psychology Today, this happens when you’ve had long-term exposure to people in distress. Many psychologists, emergency care workers, and physicians experience this at some point, but in reality it can happen to anyone. Emotionally caring for a family member who deals with depression. Being there for a roommate who continually makes harmful choices. Treating a difficult coworker with dignity and respect when he’s socially ostracized and outcast by everyone else in the office. It can get exhausting. Here are six recommendations when you notice your heart transitioning to sandpaper. 1
You don’t want to admit that you’re growing cynical of the less fortunate, or that annoyance has replaced your compassion. You think that admittance might mean you’re heartless, but compassion fatigue actually happens after you’ve begun to care too much. Once you come to terms with the fact that your worldview has become skewed, you’ll be better able to pinpoint how to address the fatigue. Pay attention to the moments or the people provoking your emotional shut-down. Accept the fact you are struggling so that you can recognize your triggers. 2
Think about who you were before your burn out. Then, meditate on your present situation, and honestly confront what might need to change. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as diet, sleeping habits, lack of exercise, and constant stress may all be contributing to your exhaustion. Similarly, consider your emotional, social, and spiritual health. Are you in any toxic relationships? Do you have a strong support system? Have you spent much time in prayer lately? Find the root of your exhaustion, then replace it with lifegiving disciplines and behaviours.
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counsel with others
Whether it’s a mental health professional, a spiritual leader in your church, or your dear old mom, you need to find someone you trust to become your compassion confidant. Engaging in a raw conversation about your life with someone else is always selfrevealing. You are not meant to struggle through this life alone. You need someone else to talk to. You just do.
When you lose your spirit of thankfulness, you essentially put on a pair of blinders to the rest of the world. Only a grateful heart can see the brokenness of others, and experience a desire to get involved. Be thankful for the little things, like your morning cup of coffee, or a good book. Don’t focus on what or who is missing in your life, but be content in the situation that you’re in.
Honestly examine what you can and cannot do. Maybe this means saying no to something or someone, or limiting the amount of time or energy spent with the individuals you’re caring for. Or it could mean asking for help from those around you. Recognize your limits, and then be strong in sticking to them. Creating and maintaining boundaries isn’t easy, but it will allow for you to continue loving and serving others with your whole heart.
remove yourself if necessary
There does come a point when moving on to something else is the only option for your mental and emotional health. And that’s OK. The necessary change is not always in the circumstance but in the person. Sometimes the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation, and allow others to take your place.
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What Does $1 Get You Around The World?
Written By Jessica Jordan Illustration By Kriza Borromeo
St. Petersburg, Russia
One litre of gas
A dozen eggs
14 kWh of electricity (This can power a medium sized air conditioner unit for 14 hours.)
A car air freshener
A scratch-off ticket for the lottery
Hawawshy, a roasted sandwich on bread with minced lamb and onions
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©Tearfund, Eleanor Bentall
Three rolls of toilet paper
Serving the world’s most vulnerable in the Syrian crisis (Lebanon & Jordan) South Sudan, the Philippines Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and more
Work with us ... Senior Management, HR, Logistics, Finance, & Comms Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Hyderabad, India
Four pounds of tomatoes
Shelter & Infrastructure Health & Nutrition
medair.org/jobs CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 21
K I T CH E N E R
T o ro n t o
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OF THE CITY N E IG H B OU R H O O D
M AP P I N G
Equip your church to become an invaluable neighbour.
Gain practical insights, tools, and resources to understand and engage the needs of your community.
Speaker: Dr. John Fuder, urban ministry expert and author of bestseller Neighbourhood Mapping
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Justice Defined Khesed Dent, 31
Joseph Chambers, 24
Director of Internships
Justice must be defined primarily from the Creator of this world instead of from the cultures of it. When the Bible talks about justice, it is connected both to judgement and to merciful care; so for me it must be the same. It is the coming about of that which is right — both through the punishment of wrongdoing but also through the provisional care of those who need it.
Justice is the idea that something can be done to make right a wrongdoing. It is a way to punish someone fairly, staying within the moral limits. It allows consequences to exist for breaking the rules. Merciful Care
Michelle Chong, 22
Chris Pipes, 43
Graphic design student
Consequences Justice means sacrificial love and care for people who need help, like how God hears the cry of the poor and cares for them. Taking the first step to help people is not easy, but doing it for Him might change a person’s life. And sometimes just being there for a person means a lot. A little thing that we do to help matters and how God works in so many ways is amazing.
God’s Call for Justice
Scripture, specifically Luke 14:13-23, highlights many elements of social justice: breaking down barriers, the inclusion and acceptance of marginalized people in society. There is a big difference between the world’s definition of justice and God’s. The world calls for social justice to promote development and human dignity in this temporal society. But God’s call for justice is more out of His perfect, undying love for all mankind. God’s call counts for eternity.
jenny lee, 21
Catherine Scott, 29
Y T I C E H Y T T EOCFI HP OP IO ND G In my own words, justice means the rights of the law. I firmly believe justice can be used in two different ways. One being if you do good, justice will be emitted towards you in a rewarding way. The other being if you do wrong, justice and punishment will be served upon you depending on your act.
A R U M O G B D N H I O MUN RAE HPI OGP Rights of the Law
Justice is serving the correct punishment, consequences, and/or restitution for actions committed. Usually, this is in reference to a court of law where the legal ramifications of a crime are being dealt to the guilty party. Justice incorporates more than just consequences and punishment; justice always tries to make amends according to a set rule or truth that has been broken.
CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 23
Q&A With Ratanak Founder Brian McConaghy
Written By Julia Cheung Photography from Ratanak International
“I ended up on the ThaiCambodia border, getting shelled and shot at in the middle of the civil war, staying in one of the shanty towns in a little iron corrugated building.”
ormer police forensics specialist Brian McConaghy, 51, talks about what inspired him to take a flight across the Pacific to the tiny war-torn country of Cambodia 25 years ago — one that would eventually turn his life upside down. How did you land a job with the RCMP?
I didn’t apply. I was dyslexic, an academic disaster. But a byproduct of dyslexia was a good visual memory. The RCMP heard about that, and they dragged me in because I happened to know guns, too. They said, “We want you. Go get a university degree. We’ll hold the job for you.” So I did. But I never read a textbook, and had to learn other ways to absorb and regurgitate information. Then how did you start an international NGO?
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I was lonely when I moved to Vancouver in 1986. So I reached out to international students. I led a Bible study. I then travelled to Asia in 1989. Walked straight out of the airport in Bangkok — deliberately without any hotel bookings. I wanted to know what fear felt like, to walk out of the airport with no plans, so I could relate to international students. I ended up on the Thai-Cambodian border, getting shelled and shot at in the middle of the civil war, staying in one of the shanty towns in a little iron corrugated building. I had walked right into a warzone... [and] had the privilege of meeting skeletal Cambodians staggering out of the minefields, seeking aid.
1 1 Between 1990 and 1991, Brian McConaghy smuggled $100,000 worth of medical supplies into Cambodia.
Yes. God uses weakness. The week I flew home, I happened to see a documentary where this 11-month-old girl named Ratanak was dying because of a UN embargo around Cambodia. But I knew there had been massive warehouses stocked with medication back at the Thai border! [No supplies] were allowed in to the people who were starving, dying, and tortured because they were on the wrong side of the political divide. It infuriated me. In memory of Ratanak, I decided to smuggle medicine across that border. So you founded a social justice organization focused on Cambodia — named Ratanak — as your side-project for 18 years. On top of medical supplies and advocacy, you added a slew of humanitarian aid. What made you eventually quit full-time police work and move into full-time charity work?
A Canadian [Donald Bakker] had been caught molesting a prostituted woman in Vancouver. The police seized him, and confiscated his videos. I was assigned to the case because mixed in among the victims on video were little Asian children — and I had expertise in Cambodia. I had done decades of pretty gory stuff, but nothing prepared me for child predator videotapes. I came home from work that day shell-shocked. Then, I happened to watch this documentary about an IJM [International Justice Mission] raid, rescuing kids from brothels in Cambodia. I immediately recognized that door frame, that couch, the same kids.... The IJM raid had occurred in the same crime scene as the one in the evidence videos that I had just watched at work! Within 72 hours, I had GPS locations and the probable names of all the kids. This helped us to prosecute Donald Bakker.
Live the Theatre!
So the humanitarian work started because you were just a lonely 24-year-old?
Live Your Story professional theatre training in Rosebud, Alberta rosebudschoolofthearts.com 1.403.677.2350
CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 25
CHANGE the world
Help Christians as they follow in Christ’s footsteps, share Jesus with those around them, and become active disciples in Canada and around the world. Visit p2c.com/gift
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That’s CSI genius.
This is not a testament to good investigation skills, but to God saying: do what you’re supposed to do. I had agreed to watch those tapes, even though I had avoided child sex abuse stuff in Cambodia for years. When I was finally confronted with these seven little girls staring at me out of the video with their big brown eyes, God made it personal. God was saying, “Are you ready? Are you going to engage? I will do the heavy lifting. You do what’s right.”
So you engaged — full-time. That’s inspiring. What’s one thing you would you say to an ordinary millennial like me, looking for meaning in life today?
Meaning is not to be found in career. In my mid-20s, I had managed to get a dream job. But all of a sudden, it became completely eclipsed by the needs of a poor country that nobody else cared about. Then God took me even lower into the muck by introducing me to seven little girls in that evidence tape. Five were rescued. Some now know the Lord. Some refer to me as dad. There is no higher honour. That which scared me most has become the richest experience I could imagine. So for a young person? Do right. Irrespective of the costs. And what you feel called to do really doesn’t have a lot of bearing on your skills or your talents. It’s got everything to do with being willing and letting God say, “OK, I’ll take you here.” Yes, chances are, this is going to be frightening. But this is where the world starts to change.
Help us more happy and healthy children!
Your $100 gift can be matched to provide up to $500 in food.
2 1 Ratanak contributes to hope and freedom from exploitation and poverty. 2 The organization provides various prevention, rehabilitation, and reintigration programs for victims of sexual exploitation.
For more information, visit: ratanak.org
ERDO’s food programs can receive Canadian Government matched funding of up to 4:1 through our partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. These funds help us to provide emergency food, increase nutrition, and serve healthy meals once per day in classrooms in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Get involved now: • Donate online at erdo.ca/donate/food
“That which scared me the most has become the richest experience I could imagine.”
• Hold an event and raise funds. Your $1,000 in event donations can generate up to $5,000 in food. • Learn more at www.erdo.ca/food-assistance
ERDO is the humanitarian agency of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and has over 30 years of experience serving people in need.
2.8 million Cambodian people live on less than $1.25 USD per day.
ERDO – 2450 Milltower Court, Mississauga, ON L5N 5Z6 Toll Free: 1-800-779-7262 - TTY: 1-800-855-0511 Canadian Charitable Registration #87591 2701 RR0001
2014-07-22 3:46 PM
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Shattering the Stereotypes Developing Christian Leaders anyone, anywhere, anytime Written By Paula Cornell
ecently on This American Life, I heard the story of Emir, a Bosnian refugee, who fled his war-torn country to the United States as a child. With the help of an exceptional teacher who championed his potential, Emir went from living in poverty to studying at Harvard, eventually becoming a professor.
You don’t come to us— we come to you. Courses can be taken:
Individually Customized to ﬁt around your life
We love success stories like Emir’s, or like the film The Blind Side, the story about NFL football player Michael Oher, who owes much of his success to a family who took him in when he had no one. There’s just something so irresistible about seeing the underdog flourish. But though these stories are popular, they’re not nearly as recurring as the stereotypes. These ideas that we have of people who haven’t tried hard enough to pull themselves out of a bad situation, or worse yet, who have chosen to be there: criminals, addicts, alcoholics. These lost souls who are crazy and/or lazy, who are on welfare instead of working. In short: they’re not successful because it’s their own damn fault. But what if there’s more to the story than this success/failure binary?
As a Cluster With others from your community or ministry
At an RMC Site Take courses at a designated site • Certiﬁcate • Diploma • Degree • Continuing Education
Free personal consultation!
www.rmcpathways.ca firstname.lastname@example.org 403.284.5100 ext. 222 Toll Free: 1.877.YOUnRMC
Rocky Mountain College
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I could tell you countless stories of the people I’ve met who live in poverty and rely on the help provided by government programs and social agencies like the one I work for. But what might surprise you is that though I haven’t met any Michael Oher’s, I haven’t met any lazy people either. On the contrary, I have met hundreds of resilient, hardworking people who wake up every morning in tents by the river, or in run-down, over-crowded rooming houses, or even in apartment buildings like yours all over the city. People who do the best they can with what they have in order to survive another day. Like kind, quiet, helpful James, whose marriage fell apart when he got hurt on the job and couldn’t work anymore. He now survives on the little money he has left after he pays child support. James lives well below the poverty line. Or Hank, a gentle but hardened 50-something who works in the trades, who I suspect has undiagnosed autism. He loses jobs often because of his sensitivity to noise; his young colleagues often like to blast music while they work, and he just can’t handle it. He sleeps in a shelter, on a mat on the floor, with no blankets. Yet every day, he gets up and tries again to find a job he can do. Some of the people I’ve met haven’t had the opportunity to go to school. Or they haven’t grown up with parents who have taught them social skills. This often
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translates into spending hours digging through trash bins looking for empty bottles to recycle or for things they can re-sell. Or it means lining up at a temporary labour organization at 6 a.m. to see if they can get work for the day. Those who do this usually make little more than minimum wage after the agency takes a cut. For many other people, after years of working, they wake up and are unable to work because of an illness or a workplace injury. They crave purpose, but are unable to fit into conventional workplace requirements. These are just pieces of the story; and perhaps some of these pieces will never add up to “success” in the way that society deems best. Maybe there’s a lot more to achieving success than hard work. Maybe gender, race, and your position in the social hierarchy have something to do with it. But maybe the most important part of success comes down to someone taking a chance on someone else.
“Maybe there’s a lot more to achieving success than hard work. Maybe gender, race, and your position in the social hierarchy have something to do with it.”
Take stories like Emir’s or Michael Oher’s. Sure, they both had talent and worked hard, but each of them had someone who believed in them, someone who went out of their way for no reason at all. Maybe we actually owe it to those who are living in poverty, to those who are considered “unsuccessful,” to not only see beyond the imperfections and stereotypes, but to invite them into our lives. To mutually engage in the messiness of another’s experience, offering the dignity of a life shared. Even if someone’s economic or health situation never changes, this belief in someone who has lost all hope for herself, will make room for confidence, selfrespect, and the recognition that she’s worthy of love. This is true success, for everyone involved.
Poverty can shorten your life expectancy by 21 years, according to an analysis by The Hamilton Spectator.
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Written By Steffani Cameron Photography By Todd Quackenbush
ventually, for most of us, we hit bottom. Personally, professionally, spiritually, there is a point comes where defeat seems imminent. Sometimes, though, having nothing left to lose is one of the most powerful times in our lives. It’s darkest before dawn, as they say. Addiction and recovery are like that. Addiction makes seeing clearly hard to do until calamity is before us. Some can make it through recovery alone, but most need help. That “dark bottom” sometimes comes from external forces, but other times, we find it by ourselves. — For one John Volken Addiction Recovery Academy student, his bottom came in 2012. At 22, Brandon was a master manipulator, doing whatever he needed, crashing from place to place to place. With no real home and little family connection left, Brandon was trapped in an addiction cycle, constantly high, numbing himself against a life lacking meaning and permanence. Courageously, Brandon turned to his mom Judy for help, admitting defeat in addiction. Having heard about John Volken Academy (JVA) from a friend, Judy suggested the program. Brandon detoxed, then joined the academy, resolved to beat addiction. Despite the problems Brandon had caused for his parents, Judy was reluctant to send him across the country. As she cried to her husband, he said Brandon’s recovery was now a matter of life-or-death. Judy turned again to her friend who had told her about JVA. “Have faith,” her friend said. Judy clung to those words. On Mother’s Day last year, Brandon, head high and shoulders back, looked Judy in the eye and said, “Mom, this program is saving my life. I’m learning life skills to help me cope so that I don’t return to my addictions.” —
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There’s only so much JVA can do to change its students’ lives. The students must crawl through their own dark places and find whatever light they can. All the program can do is help, bringing them tools for success. The academy’s founder and benefactor John Volken had a $200-million payday from selling his successful furniture chain United Furniture Warehouse, and he wanted his money to help change lives. After nearly a decade of conducting global research, along with consulting the community and leaders about various social causes, Volken found that addiction and recovery spoke to him. Enter John Volken Academy (formerly known as Welcome Home). For a minimum of two years, the organization provides everything to its students: from residences to nutritional planning, job training and education to therapy, through to yoga and relearning how to have good clean fun. — Brandon’s graduation day soon looms, but those in his life think Brandon’s a new man. It’s a stark contrast to the boy he was two years ago. Today, Brandon accepts responsibility, is a leader, and understands life is for those who are willing to work for what they want. It’s a clean, accomplished life that Brandon seeks, crediting his family, JVA, service, hard work, and God for helping him find his way to a new day. Judy writes, “Words cannot express how grateful we are. For any parents feeling just like I did in the beginning, let me say one thing: Have faith! The journey is so worth it!” Recovery is a life-long road, a chronic treatment. Much determines if we make it through successfully, but it ultimately comes down to two things that we all need for success in life: faith and courage. — If you know someone ready to make the commitment to recovery, John Volken Addiction Recovery Academy can help them get there. Call toll-free at 1-855-592-3001. Learn more at volken.org.
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welcoming the stranger among us
Written By Jenn Co Illustrated By Carmen Bright
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.â&#x20AC;? Hebrews 13:2
85 per cent of Canada's eligible permanent residents become citizens, making it the highest rate of naturalization in the world.
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hrusted into unfamiliar surroundings — a new city, new job, new school, new role — most of us have experienced, at some point in our lives, that gut-wrenching feeling of being on the outside. For newcomers, this feeling of otherness, of awkwardness and frustration, is a daily reality. When people from all over the world flock to North America, says immigration consultant Jacquelyn Co, they’re often consumed with visions of prosperity and security, of finally making it to the land of plenty. “In the midst of starry-eyed hopes, my job is to provide a reality check. I’m not here selling the dream or illusion,” says Co. “They don’t realize upon arrival, their work has just started.”
“I felt lost at times,” says Xiao. “I could not relate with Canadians because I didn’t understand their slang or certain phrases. Because I didn’t grow up here, I had no idea the pop culture they were referring to.”
Culture & Connection
So what are some of the biggest barriers for those who have relocated to North America? Here are three of the most overwhelming adjustments for newcomers as they settle into their new lives. language
Adapting to a new language is difficult for 26 per cent of immigrants.
Seyon Kim is a community advocate for Journey Home, an organization serving refugee families by providing housing, settlement assistance, and relational support. “Without the ability to communicate, one’s sense of safety and well-being — being lost in a new city, basic needs [such as being] unable to ask for or locate food or water — is greatly impeded.” Though she’s not a refugee, 37-year old artist-educator Jill Cardwell says she has experienced this firsthand. Relocating from Northern Ireland seven years ago, she says even grocery shopping was tough for her in the beginning. “When I recognized something, I would buy it. It was less disorienting to figure out, so I ended up eating tins of soup, bread, butter, pasta, sauces for weeks.” Former HR Manager Karen Xiao, 28, says she experienced a kind of language barrier she wasn’t expecting. She remembers feeling estranged in conversations, even though she grew up in an international community in Hong Kong where English was the main language spoken.
13 per cent mentioned the challenge of adapting to new cultures and values.
Xiao and her husband have been married for a year now, and surprisingly, their biggest marital issue has been her inability to drive. Her husband grew up in North America where driving is a rite of passage. Xiao, on the other hand, says she was accustomed to Hong Kong, where people commuted or walked. Her fear of getting lost in a new city and of not being acquainted with bus routes caused her to rely heavily upon her husband to drive her places. Slowly, she says, she is adjusting her expectations; she has recently passed the first stage of the driving tests. 32-year old Eduardo Sasso also found himself having a difficult time adjusting to North American culture; he initially came to Canada from Costa Rica to complete his Masters degree. “On one hand, being a visible minority that’s historically stereotyped as lazy or less capable, I feel disadvantaged at times. It makes finding work difficult,” says Sasso. “Also, Latin American culture is warmer, more relational and family-oriented. North Americans are more intellectual and taskdriven. If you’re not from this city, it’s difficult to insert yourself in a group. But with good reason, perhaps people are accustomed to friends leaving, so they’re not willing to go too deep,” he says.
“I felt lost at times. I could not relate with Canadians because I didn't understand their slang or certain phrases. Because I didn't grow up here, I had no idea the pop culture they were referring to.”
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friendships & support Social support and interactions are another challenge for new immigrants, with 13 per cent citing the absence of support from their home country as a difficulty and seven per cent citing the lack of social interactions/new friends in Canada.
“I need friends!” wails Xiao. “It’s a big stretch to be uprooted from my networks and friendships from Hong Kong and to start from scratch. It seems that the older one is, the harder it is to break into people’s circles. You may not be welcomed.” She says her saving grace was attending school. “It put everyone on the same playing field. We were all in a similar situation of newness to one another and the program. No one felt like the only stranger.” The biggest key for Cardwell’s transition was having someone intentionally walking alongside her for a period of time — acquainting her with the transit system, grocery stores, introducing her to “normal Canadian life” — until she was able to gain confidence and independence.
SEEKING: GRITTY HONEST TRUTH
“When I moved to Canada, I was given a friend of a relative’s work address. So pretty much, a complete stranger, and told to show up and they would take care of me,” she says. And yet, the struggle continues after seven years of settling into Canada. “People are friendly because you’re a newcomer,” says Cardwell. “But I find it hard to have deeper friendships, to find those willing to put in the time, perhaps because of the transient nature of living in an urban city where people come and go constantly.” Xiao’s husband Bily says locals need to take more responsibility to get past the surface with newcomers, and to truly invite people into their inner circles. “You don’t need a lot of friends. Just a few consistent ones,” he says. “Locals need to have a heightened sense of awareness for hospitality and receiving people,” he says. “Not just saying hi, but inviting the newcomer to social events, homes, or simply explaining, ‘This is a Canadian
activity: barbecues, the beach, hockey games, hiking.’ [Locals] need to express desire in forming true friendships. Intentionality is key.” These are simple acts. Grocery shopping. Exploring bus routes. Inviting someone into your home. Having a simple conversation. Explaining cultural differences. Confiding in someone, as friends do. But admittedly, hospitality, this purposeful welcoming, is inconvenient, messy, and just plain hard. In a culture that’s increasingly isolated and self-dependent, our culture desperately needs it. Hospitality is the bonding glue that eradicates the borders between outsider and insider, alien and citizen. So as we interact with those who have recently — or not-so-recently — arrived, let us be conscious of their needs for social interaction, for inclusion, for understanding. Let us, as Sasso says, “take the risk of finding Jesus in the face of the stranger.”
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In USA: www.gcmministries.com. Call: 1 877 244-7618 CONVERGEMAGAZINE.COM | 35
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Written By Ashley Chapman Photography By Dru Oja Jay, Dominion
remember my confusion when I started an internship at an environmental policy office. It wasn’t paperless; not even close. The office lights were wired as a package deal, meaning they all stayed on until the end of the day. Take-out lunches came in crisp white Styrofoam containers, and mine were the only meatless meals around the table. Most of the staff walked, biked or carpooled to work, but that likely had more to do with finances. They worked, after all, at an environmental policy office. It seemed somehow — inconsistent. How could we challenge politicians on their environmental record when our office didn’t even have a compost bin? How could we call for energy reform when we had already booked the plane tickets to bring out-of-town board members to the annual general meeting? It didn’t take me long to realize that in the environmental world — pardon the pun — nothing is clear cut. The scope of the problem
From the command given at Mount Sinai to rest the land every seventh year to Revelation’s account of judgement for “those who destroy the earth,” God calls us to care for our natural surroundings. This is important for the sake of protecting creation itself, but also as it relates to the most vulnerable around the world. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that in less than 40 years, 200 million refugees will be forced from their homes due to environmental degradation. In the Maldives, a nation of low-lying islands, the government is investing partial tourism profits into a fund to eventually relocate their entire population to land in South Asia. In Bangladesh, where the per capita carbon footprint is 0.3 metric tonnes (compared to 18 metric tonnes per capita in Canada), unprecedented storms and floods are ravaging people’s lives, homes, and once-fertile land. The World Health Organization warns that by the year 2030, about 300,000 people will die annually from the impacts of climate change. Disproportionately, they will be people whose lifestyles have caused the least environmental damage on a world scale.
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In Canada, much of the debate centres on the oil sands in Alberta and the pipelines proposed to bring the bitumen to American, Asian, and even European markets. In British Columbia, the Northern Gateway pipeline is proving so contentious that a plebiscite on the issue was held in Kitimat, B.C., resulting in a 58 per cent “No” vote. Further south along the coast, the pipeline debate has even coloured the Vancouver mayoral race, despite the decision being outside of municipal jurisdiction. According to some polls, as many as two-thirds of B.C. residents oppose the Enbridge project. Embracing Hypocrisy
Of course, we don’t need polls to prove that two-thirds of B.C. residents would back complete independence from oil, gas and petro chemicals. While there may be a fraction who come close, most people still fly, heat their homes, use plastic products, and eat food that was either sprayed with petrol-laced pesticides or driven to the organic farmers’ market. Karri Munn-Venn, an environmental policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice and co-editor of Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis, doesn’t believe that living within the current system should stop people from speaking against the status quo. “I think it’s really important that we look at the broader systemic issues: the way our economy is structured, the way our infrastructure is built and the way industry is subsidized.”
In reality, the impact of these actions are infinitesimally small. In Living Ecological Justice, Munn-Venn and co-editor Mishka Lysack explain the disconnect between personal greening measures and the enormity of environmental issues. “The key is scale,” they explain. “The problems lie with how we have organized our economy and designed our buildings and cities, hardwiring our problems into structures that are difficult to change.” The question then becomes: should we invest our time and money primarily into individual, household, or church greening initiatives? Or should we invest our limited resources into political engagement and the movements working for regulatory change that could potentially make far more significant and measurable progress? This, I came to realize, was why my environmental policy office didn’t sweat the small stuff. The power of everyday actions
While we need to be pragmatic, we are also called to act with integrity. In the same way that we can’t switch to cloth grocery bags and think we’re saving the world, we can’t write a letter or sign a petition and think it gives us carte blanche to live wastefully. Understanding our lifestyles’ impact on the natural environment and on the world’s most vulnerable people, we need to work for change that’s both top down and bottom up. Our everyday actions, though limited by the constraints of our current system, can become a prophetic witness of new ways we’re willing to live.
As an example, she points to the difference between installing solar panels and connecting to the pre-existing power grid. While a homeowner may find some rebates to offset the cost of purchasing the equipment and installing the solar infrastructure, it’s still much easier for homeowners to simply access the existing system, using traditional energy sources. Can we be too green?
While the growing “green” emphasis in society is an encouraging shift, there is a downside. A myopic focus on green lifestyle changes — even in a genuine attempt to avoid hypocrisy — can actually confuse the environmental facts. In This Crazy Time, environmental activist Tzeporah Berman recounts some polling conducted by PowerUp Canada that confirmed the need for more robust public education on climate change. “When we asked Canadians to identify the cause of global warming,” she writes, “they were less likely to blame the tar sands than they were to say, ‘I use too many plastic bags.’” Confusion is not the only downside of the movement towards everyday greening. “Ironically, it can lead to a bit of complacency,” says Munn-Venn. “When people are active in composting and change all their light bulbs and ride bikes to work, they can kind of pat themselves on the back and go, ‘OK, I’ve done my bit.’”
Even the little things, as Munn-Venn and Lysack explain, will reduce the actual amount of carbon emissions and other pollution, slightly slowing environmental degradation and allowing more time to make the necessary deeper changes. Personal green choices also send the message to industry that customers expect sustainably produced goods, and supporting businesses already operating this way helps build the sustainable economy. Finally — and most importantly according to Munn-Venn and Lysack — our everyday choices impact the way we see our relationship with creation. “Personal greening often helps people prepare psychologically,” says Munn-Venn. “The earth needs a massive transformation in the way our systems and economy are structured, and if we begin to make smaller changes that alter the way we think about energy use, that can help us prepare for the larger changes that need to be put in place.” By the time my internship ended, I could see past the once shocking absence of a compost bin. Instead I came to value the ability to order fresh, free-range eggs from a co-worker’s friend’s farm, and the certified organic coffee grounds purchased for the coffee machine. I also saw how they were multiplying their impact by inspiring Christians across the country to engage with their elected representatives on issues of environmental justice. And I realized that when my co-workers walked, biked, or carpooled to the office, it wasn’t just a financial decision. They worked, after all, at an environmental policy office.
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Missions: Open for business
Written By John D. Barry Illustrated By Vicky Kim
“Globally, the entire model of westerners providing aid for developing world communities is critiqued: it’s often labelled as an ineffective use of funds that creates dependencies.”
nthropologists generally view missionaries as the new colonialists, bringing with them not just religion but also culture. The anthropologist says: the white man’s burden carries with it a need to change everyone who is different from him, and thus missions must stop, before we lose the languages and cultures of the world. Meanwhile, from within the Christian community, short-term mission trips are also critiqued. We ask: why spend $2,000 on a trip, when $2,000 can provide 4,000 people with access to clean water? How effective is this machine that brings wealthy white kids to the developing world for two weeks? And could it be doing more harm than good? Globally, the entire model of westerners providing aid for developing world communities is critiqued: it’s often labelled as an ineffective use of funds that creates dependencies. Therefore, sustainability — phrased as community development — is proposed as a solution. We should focus on locals doing the work, for their own communities, in the hopes that they will carry forward the work themselves. And we should be sure our answers don’t just meet today’s needs, but build tomorrow’s future. With all these critiques, we are left with major questions. Can we, as western world Christians, help spread the hope and love of Jesus, while moving beyond aid work alone, short-term thinking, and the pitfalls of our colonial ancestors? Is it possible for us to bridge the gap between community development and providing access to the gospel? — While colonialism that coloured western missionary efforts for centuries had its sights on global domination, today our goal should be global empowerment. This is what missions in the post-colonial world looks like: it considers the long-term, it focuses on relationships, and it is holistic in mindset. It was during a visit to the developing world that all this really sunk in for me. In Bihar, India — one of the most impoverished places in the world — I sat together with a group of businesswomen and listened to their stories.
Over 1.5 million U.S. Christians participate in a short term missions trip each year, costing $2 billion annually.
One of the ladies, Kari, had not just learned to be a seamstress and tailor; she had decided to teach other women how to do the same. The love of Christ inspired Kari to share her skills with hundreds of other people. A purely capitalistic approach would have told Kari to monopolize her skill
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and use it solely for her own profit, but Kari responded in a different way: she used her skill to help others. Some of the ladies with Kari now had self-sustaining businesses due to her efforts, the help of organizations such as Transformation India Movement, and, of course, due to their own tenacity. But the women explained that they were limited by the potential of their local markets. They desired to develop products, but the local market only wanted basic seamstress and tailoring work. Innovation was limited by circumstances, and likewise so was job creation.
“Today, we don't just have the power of choosing where our money goes; we have the power to bring more money to the right places. you and i have the potential to change our global economy.”
Like many developing communities, the people of Bihar also need to have their basic needs met; they need access to clean water and medical care. They know how to accomplish this effort, they just need the funds. Bihar is a test case that shows the formula for holistic ministry: creating jobs via microloans, planting churches via grants, and meeting basic needs. All in the same place, at the same time. In Bihar, empowering women in business is key to the sustainability of the church. There are over 101 million people in Bihar who have never heard the name of Jesus. Access to the gospel has the potential to change the lives of millions, but access is limited by financial realities. We can solve this by creating commerce. The world’s money runs through business. It’s business that will fund community development and it’s business — via the tithing of entrepreneurs and their workers — that will fund churches. So how can we — members of the body of Christ in the West who want to bring the good news to the ends of the earth — contribute to this work? One way is through providing access to a global marketplace — such as an online fair trade store — for sustainable growth; the other is through our pocketbooks. We live in a time very different than any other before it. Our world is more interconnected than it ever has been. We no longer have to think about the sustainability of a local church based on local assets, or even the potential of a local market. Instead, we can look to the global market as the solution for getting money to impoverished communities. The person who truly leverages the global economy — and engages the innovative and ambitious developing-world entrepreneurs to do so — will change the world. We can do what the big players cannot, or choose not to do: seek out skilled artisans wherever they might be found — in even the most humblest of places — and help take their products to market.
Hopefully, wise Christians will be the ones to rise to the occasion, because otherwise, we will once again see exploitation and the abuse of wealth. But this type of mission need not be limited to the world’s far corners. We can contribute to it with what is, literally, at hand (or, for now, in our wallets): money. The individual has much more power than we like to admit; admitting we have power is the first step toward doing something with it. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this. He saw the other side of this equation: when you boycott, you show your beliefs with your money — and hurting someone’s chequebook hurts them a lot. Today, we don’t just have the power of choosing where our money goes; we have the power to bring more money to the right places. You and I have the potential to change our global economy, with our purchases and with our business decisions. The everyperson can empower the impoverished. He or she can start by shopping well.
The location of Buddha’s enlightenment, Bodh Gaya, is in Bihar, the poorest state in India.
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The world doesn’t need colonial ideas for providing access to the gospel; it needs innovative ones. For North Americans for whom colonial concepts are an inheritance, we have two options going forward: we can continue doing what we’ve been doing, or we can let the message of our global brothers and sisters transform us.
Imagine if our global brothers and sisters started coming to visit us, to teach us how to follow Jesus boldly, no matter what. Imagine what it could do for our faith, as well as the strength and resolve of our global efforts. And then, imagine if we provided the funding necessary for microloans, church grants, and meeting basic needs in the developing world. And then add to this providing access to a global marketplace for sustainability. Finally, we can send out key trainers, such as business leaders, to the developing world, to fill the educational gaps which inhibit true empowerment. If we as Christians, everywhere, truly viewed ourselves as the global body of Christ, there is no limit to what we could do together. We all have much to offer, but also much to learn. Our world may be more interconnected than it ever has been before, but we aren’t utilizing those connections for the sake of the gospel. By the end of my lifetime, I want to see every neighbourhood have a church, and every last person have access to the gospel. I want our generation to finish the task of the great commission of Jesus. Our brothers and sisters around the world are simply waiting for us to respond, for us to act. So let’s act like Christians. — John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to renew Bihar, India — one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. Learn more at JesusEconomy.org.
Bihar is a post-colonial state, with all the pain that comes with being one. As someone with white ancestry, my appearance should make me look like the enemy, but when you’re with my Indian friends — those who lead Transformation India Movement — you’re a friend to nearly everyone in their communities. And this is because my friends are meeting the basic needs of the impoverished and developing communities through business, while simultaneously providing access to the gospel.
“i believe it’s time for us, especially those of us who are white, to set aside our arrogance, and realize that we have more to learn spiritually than we have to teach.”
My friends showed me how to explain Jesus in a post-colonial world: live Jesus’ message and speak it. In my conversations with global Christian leaders, I’ve quickly realized that the world is losing faith in what North Americans can do to help developing world Christians. I have a Nigerian friend who is training future church leaders who told me that most of the Christians he knows in Nigeria are convinced that there aren’t any real Christians left in the U.S. and Canada. They see our hypocrisy and call us what we are: people who claim we know Jesus, but act like we never met Him. It is only the stories of sustainable, empowering work that convinces my Nigerian friend that there are indeed real Christians left in the U.S. and Canada. When I hear about the booming church in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world, even under persecution, I know that we North Americans have a long way to go. I believe it’s time for western Christians, especially those of us who are white, to set aside our arrogance, and realize that we have more to learn spiritually than we have to teach.
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Tough on crime is tough on people Written By Jonathan and sarah nicolai-dekoning photography By Rob Trendiak
“Does a Tough-on-crime approach get us any closer to the vision of a world where all of us have a chance to flourish?”
n 2009, Toronto resident Leroy Smickle was caught in his cousin’s apartment posing for a selfie with a loaded gun when police coincidentally raided the home. Stupidity aside, Smickle had no criminal record, and the gun belonged to someone else in the house. Based on mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for possession of a loaded firearm, Smickle should have automatically received three years in prison. But when his case finally went to trial in 2012, the judge sentenced him to a one-year conditional term. Despite a later appeal by the federal government, the court did not sentence Smickle to further time. Its decision read in part, “[Smickle] works two jobs, is developing his own business, has a stable loving relationship with his fiancée, and a close relationship with his two children from earlier relationships. He supports both children financially…. The community is best protected if the respondent continues along the rehabilitative path that he has followed in the five years that he has been before the court.” In effect, the courts ruled that mandatory minimum sentences are constitutionally unjust. They don’t allow judges to take into account the specific circumstances and situation of each individual who comes before them. Leroy Smickle’s story, and the decision of the judge to blatantly disregard government-mandated sentencing, highlights just one of many issues around the “tough on crime” approach to justice. — Beginning in 2008, Canada’s Conservative government began to impose mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of crimes. These sentences are part of a broader attempt by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to be “tough on crime” for the sake of public safety. As Harper said in January 2013, “When it comes to keeping our streets and our communities safe, we will not rest, for there is much more work to be done.” Of course, addressing crime and harm in our communities so that we feel safe in our homes and our neighbourhoods is a worthy goal. Who doesn’t want to address crime? But is being “tough-on-crime” really the best path to community well-being and to seeing justice done?
Close to half of all inmates required mental health care in the past year.
For those of us who identify as Christians, we need to ask other important questions. Does a tough-on-crime approach get us any closer to the vision of a world where all of us have a chance to flourish? Can we say “yes” to both a tough-on-crime agenda and to the good news of Jesus?
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— In our work with marginalized communities who are entrenched in the justice system, we’ve come to know the humanity behind the “convict” label. Tim is someone we know and work with who committed a violent crime almost 30 years ago to feed the drug habits of manipulative friends. He has spent most of his adult life in jail on a life sentence, and is now making a slow journey to life on the outside. He finds joy in playing the guitar and writing music. He spends his time in prison doing community service at a local organization, worrying about how to pay for his smoking habit, and whether or not his hockey team will make the playoffs this season (odds are low). As Tim prepares for parole, the reality is that the prison system he has been a part of for most of his existence has done little to equip him for life on the outside. “Tough-on-crime” has been tough on Tim, and he now leaves prison wide-eyed, hands shaking. And we wonder why two-thirds of those released end up back in prison. — The tough-on-crime approach has included a number of recent developments: legislation that makes pardons more difficult for former inmates; mandatory minimum sentences which limit a judge’s ability to sentence creatively; expanding federal prisons (at a time when many European countries are shutting them down for lack of need); taking away opportunities in prisons such as job training or access to arts and culture; and cutting funding for a variety of reintegration support programs for former inmates.
“FOR ISAIAH, JUSTICE IS VALLEYS BEING RAISED AND MOUNTAINS BEING MADE LOW, LEVELLING THE PLAINS SO THAT EVERYONE HAS A CHANCE TO FULFILL THEIR GOD-GIVEN POTENTIAL.”
Some of these developments initially sound good. Who doesn’t want safer streets? Who doesn’t value accountability and responsibility? But a closer look at these issues puts a permanent question mark over the tough-on-crime agenda. For instance, for many small-scale crimes, offenders must pay a “victim surcharge” — a small fee that encourages accountability and helps fund programs and services for victims of crime. Judges have traditionally had the ability to waive this fee, or lessen it, for unique circumstances. So, if a youth struggling with addiction went on a shoplifting spree at 10 stores in a mall, a judge could waive the fee and instead sentence the offender to spend time in a rehab program. New legislation has made that much more difficult. Now, this same youth would likely be charged a fine for each theft. Unable to afford the fines, he would probably end up at the local jail to pay off the debt. City jails are hardly the place to heal from addictions and work toward a crime-free life. Under the new legislation, pardons have also become more expensive and more elusive. As a result, former offenders who have lived crime-free for 20, 30, or even 40 years have difficulty clearing their records. This creates one more barrier to getting a job or finding a new apartment.
The average Canadian offender has a Grade 8 level of education.
These laws are intended to make us feel safer by letting employers or landlords know who they are doing business with; but instead, they have the consequence of isolating former inmates, making their journey to healing even more difficult than it already is. Though the federal government enacted this legislation to address
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crime and to keep our streets and communities safe, the truth is that crime rates were falling long before the “tough-on-crime” approach began. Other countries that have tried this framework, the United States being the most well-known example, have actually seen a rise in crime. Ultimately, our communities do not become safer or healthier; we lose the potential of all of those would-be community members, who sit in our jails for longer or more often than necessary. Not only that, but “tough-on-crime” is an expensive experiment. It costs around $110,000 to incarcerate a man in Canada for a year, and over $200,000 for a woman. Yet despite all of this money to address crime and criminal behaviour, almost two-thirds of released offenders end up back in prison at some point after their release. Perhaps it is time to be smart on crime, rather than tough on crime. — For Christians, being smart on crime means asking if our approach to justice makes gospel-sense. At the heart of historic Christian prison reform movements lies the conviction that in Jesus, God has given us a second chance. We are now obligated to extend that second chance to others, often in very real-world, practical ways. A community of second-chance people should be skeptical about any criminal justice system that denies genuine opportunities for
second chances to offenders: whether through limiting pardons, cutting reintegration supports, or cultivating unnecessary fear about releasing inmates in our communities. Christians are also concerned about justice. This concern, at least on the surface, is something we hold in common with advocates of a toughon-crime agenda. We all want justice to be served. But Christians steeped in the visions and dreams of the biblical prophets, psalm-writers, lawmakers, and Jesus Himself are committed to a different vision of justice than the one on offer from the tough-on-crime folks. Put simply, a Christian vision of justice is about creating space for all to flourish. That means the “widows, orphans, aliens, and strangers,” as the prophets put it; we might add inmates, refugees, and those without homes to the list. The biblical symbol for justice isn’t a scale, a sword, or a blindfold — all ancient symbols for a modern justice system that values fairness, order, and consequence above all else. For the ancient prophet Amos, justice looks something like a wild river — a dynamic process that gives life to all in its path; for Isaiah, justice is valleys being raised and mountains being made low, levelling the plains so that everyone has a chance to fulfill their God-given potential. This biblical vision of justice could only happen if our legislators, police, and prisons have the freedom to focus on rehabilitation and restoration, while also addressing root causes like poverty and oppression.
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Think again of Leroy Smickle’s situation. In Smickle’s case — a non-violent, unprecedented error in judgement — would a three-year mandatory minimum sentence have fit this biblical idea of justice? Would it have contributed to personal and societal flourishing? We can safely say no. It would only have served to strain his relationships with his fiancée and children, and temporarily sever his growing connections with and contributions to his community. — True justice is achieved when broken relationships have been healed and communities have been made whole. Crime, is above all, a relationship that has been severed. That relationship may be neighbour-to-neighbour, mother to son, or individual to community. In any case, any attempt to do justice must seek to rebuild that relationship in real and practical ways: making restitution, giving back through service, addressing causes like addiction or mental health, and being honest about the many ways in which victims have been hurt. Justice is not simply done when a punishment has been meted out or time has been served; justice is done when a community can find a “new normal” after a crime has disrupted their lives. A just society will prize relational wholeness over any false sense of safety through punishment. To view justice as space for flourishing means we are invited to look at the big picture. What is the context that led to a crime being committed and a victim being hurt? And what has to happen for a community or a person to be made whole again? To answer these questions, we have to be willing to listen to the stories behind the crimes. A tough-on-crime approach has a hard time getting past the particular incident of the crime. Both the offender and the victim are defined almost entirely in relation to that one offence. We need to have the courage to look at things differently. We can look at an offender’s past and see it for all its beauty and its pain. We can see the addictions or poverty or family brokenness that may have contributed to a crime, and we can see the many gifts that a person has that can lead to a new future. Let’s have the courage to resist the voices of media or government and refuse to define someone by the worst decision they’ve ever made. Let’s look at difficult people or messy situations with redemptive eyes. Perhaps then we can respond to crimes appropriately, and give our legal system the freedom to do the same. — There is one final conviction that resists the tough-on-crime agenda, and especially its tendency to demonize those who are behind bars. It’s the basic confession that all of us are created in the image of God. To treat an image-bearer with anything less than basic human dignity — much less love — is an affront to the Christian faith. Enter many prisons in Canada, and it becomes clear that our justice system does not view most offenders as equally human to those of us on the outside.
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“JUSTICE IS NOT SIMPLy DONE WHEN A PUNISHMENT HAS BEEN METED OUT OR TIME HAS BEEN SERVED; JUSTICE IS DONE WHEN A COMMUNITY CAN FIND A ‘NEW NORMAL’ AFTER A CRIME HAS DISRUPTED THEIR LIVES.”
Confessing that we are all made in God’s image can compel us to welcome those leaving prison as potential friends and neighbours, and not merely as dangerous folk to be avoided. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, the apostle encourages a wealthy community leader Philemon to welcome back a runaway servant, Onesimus. Onesimus was, by the logic and law of the day, a criminal, deserving of time in jail and separation from the community. But Paul insisted that Philemon use a different logic, kingdom logic. So he invited Philemon to welcome Onesimus back “no longer as a slave but as a brother,” just as Jesus asks us to do, in the face of those we meet in prison (and everywhere else). Many people we’ve come to know who have served time have been victims themselves, and many have dealt with serious issues of mental health, poverty, substance-abuse, or historic injustice like the Indian Residential School system. Some of them are still violent, still committing crimes, still in need of a justice system that provides accountability as well as compassion. — Clearly the end game of “tough-on-crime” is not the same kind of community well-being envisioned by the gospel. Tough on crime is short on redemption, restoration, and grace. This is cause for advocating for change within our justice system. Perhaps then justice will truly roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. — Jonathan and Sarah Nicolai-deKoning live in Edmonton, Alberta with their daughter, Amaryah, and Jonathan’s sourdough starter, Gertie. They are both involved with marginalized communities affected by the justice system.
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A FEARFUL FUTURE
Written By joel AND LAUREN bentley
A discussion of Dave Eggers’ The Circle
ave Eggers’ novel The Circle is a fascinating and thoughtprovoking read. Set in the near future, it centres on a tech company, The Circle, that has superseded both Google and Facebook in size and in scope. As the company grows, it expands its seemingly benevolent influence across social, commercial and political spheres. The novel follows new hire Mae Holland as she starts working on The Circle’s campus, and begins with her proclaiming, “My God, it’s heaven.” It’s clear that the company is indeed attempting to create our contemporary idea of heaven on earth with epic parties, tasteful green spaces, public art, and only-the-best-for-you cafeterias.
the circle dave eggers
“The question that constantly underlines the book is, what is the price of this utopia?”
And it continues; using technology and data, it strives to eliminate poverty, child abduction and molestation, crime, and health problems. Nearly everyone working there is our generation’s version of a saint: do-gooder geniuses intent on improving the world. But the question that constantly underlines the book is, what is the price of this utopia? In this case, it’s near-total abdication of privacy and the inner life. Eggers forces us to ask whether or not it’s worth it, and how far will we go for perfection. Eggers takes a few liberties in letting his fears — that we’re trading in our humanity for incomplete, digital pictures of ourselves — run their course in this novel, but he does so to make a point. These datacollecting technologies can be dangerous if we’re not careful, even if we’re passive, as Mae tends to be throughout. Maybe these fears are a little hyperbolic, but they’re sure to inspire discussion. The characters in The Circle are also hyperconnected: they email, text, and tweet at a near-constant pace. This connectivity seems to take a toll on them, as many are portrayed as needy, overly sensitive, or flippant. In this way Eggers is shining a mirror back on our collective insecurity. He invites us to reflect on the pervasiveness of our culture’s defensive tendencies. There’s an underlying oversensitivity present in so many articles and blog posts today; if something remotely offends you, you’re now allowed — even encouraged — to complain about it. This subsequently stifles divergent voices who fear offending the status quo, ironically sabotaging diversity, North America’s virtue du jour. Passivity plays a large role in this story, as Mae continually favours the status quo. If we turn and face our humanity head on, we’re forced to confront our own weaknesses: our fear of the unknown, our lack of integrity, our inability to step out of line in order to stand up for justice. It’s so much easier to blend in and follow the crowd. It’s a rare hero who is able to give up what they know, their comfort, security, and identity in order to face the unknown terror of individuality.
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Music musings Musings
Written By joel bentley
alt-j | this is all yours
john mark mcmillan | borderland
my brightest diamond | this is my hand
Alt-J makes music in a style that’s solely its own. With vocal instrumentation, dramatic swells, intricate layering and pensive moments of calm, This Is All Yours is full of diversity that somehow reaches cohesion, thanks to the signature sound of Joe Newman’s vagabond voice. His voice is an unusual specimen. It dips down into baritone with grain and growl, but also lifts up into a sweet falsetto. Add Gus Unger-Hamilton’s delicate keys and Thom Green’s propulsive percussion and there are innumerable textures at work here. Thematically the album is just as varied as the instrumentation, with songs focusing on everything from homosexual rights (“Nara”) to Alien actor John Hurt and his famous chest-bursting scene (“The Gospel of John Hurt”). But more often than not the songs are dealing with raw emotions: from heartbreak (“Hunger of the Pine”) to lust (“Every Other Freckle”) to love (“Warm Foothills”).
John Mark McMillan is destined for a stadium. His songs are large, boisterous chorals meant to fill the rafters. His latest album, Borderland, is relentless in its ambition. From the ringing guitars of “Love at the End” to the group-sing of “Visceral,” the energy remains high. The opener “Holy Ghost,” a rare quiet moment, introduces McMillan’s keen earnestness as he sings wearily over the piano, mournful strings, and eventually a hopeful choir. It’s that earnestness that sets this album apart. While a few cliched lines sneak their way in, he manages to avoid the tropes that so often mire modern worship music, firmly believing that worship songs should reach higher. And they do — these are songs for anyone longing to see heaven breach our border.
A classically trained opera singer, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden knows a thing or two about orchestration. And this is no harp and lyre affair. Full brass, glockenspiel, dirty guitars, even a drumline all make an appearance on This Is My Hand, her fourth album. Said drumline lays the groundwork for the opener “Pressure,” a playful exposition on diamonds that could be her theme song. This diversion is contrasted by the incredibly intimate title track, where Warden describes each part and emotion she possesses as an offering of love: “Like lilac wine pouring out to thee, for thee.” But love is not the only emotion shown here. “Lover Killer” shows the human capacity for both love and violence, beginning with simple hand claps and slowly building to an explosive bridge, where she sings “I am a lover and a killer!” over a disco beat, buzz bass, and doo-wop singers.
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fishers of men
Written By michelle sudduth Illustrated By Kriza Borromeo
“GOD’S LOVE POURS FORTH LIBERATION AND HEALING FROM ALL FORMS OF OPPRESSION AND BROKENNESS.”
omeone asks you to help at a charity function or to support a local or overseas organization. You think about it, and while you know it would be a good thing to do, you let the opportunity pass by. “What could I do anyway? My small effort isn’t going to change much of anything. And how relevant is social justice to my faith in the first place?” Many of us have a deep-seated misunderstanding that being “fishers of men” means doing whatever you can to get people out of an eternity in hell — which is only accomplished by saying the sinner’s prayer. Hell happens later, after death; in the here and now, the duty of the Christian is to sell heavenly insurance for the ultimate retirement in the sky. Following this thinking leads a person to respond apathetically to injustice. If being a believer is about getting people out of an eternity in hell, there really is no urgency or vision for getting people out of the hell of their present. If today is merely a waiting game until souls get to be carefree in heaven, the present hell of an impoverished individual comes second to ensuring their eternal home. Furthermore, our current era holds separate the physical and the spiritual, making us wonder what our faith has to do with dirty drinking water, lack of nutrition, or sexual safety. A lingering mistrust and even hatred of materiality — the “flesh” — has caused us to neglect the sacredness of being embodied in a beautifully created world. Because our Christian culture has overly-focused on “personal” relationship with Christ, we don’t often see ourselves as a worldwide community with a deep attachment to our most vulnerable family members. Throughout the Old Testament, God mourns the injustice taking place in the kingdoms of the world. Isaiah 58 captures how God’s love pours forth liberation and healing from all forms of oppression and brokenness. In the New Testament, Jesus proves God’s care for the
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created, material world by coming in a human body, to a place here on earth, and miraculously healing physical diseases. Jesus’ death broke the power of darkness and injustice in every realm: physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural, political. All of these injustices are marks of oppressive kingdoms that oppose God’s righteous love. Jesus brought with him the reign of a new kingdom, one of liberation for all those in every kind of bondage. Indeed, God is interested in saving people from every kind of present hell. It’s probably safe for all of us to accept the possibility that we haven’t been equipped to engage the darkest places in our world. We can feel overwhelmed because we don’t know if and where social justice fits in our “personal relationship” with God, if getting involved really matters in the end, and how to handle the difficulties and discouragements that arise. “Justice is what love looks like in public,” Cornel West brilliantly writes. God isn’t sending you off to heal the world; instead, God is inviting you to places where the Spirit is already at work, places that require human hands and feet to unfold restorative purposes. When you accept only your part, trusting that God is at work, there is no need to be overwhelmed, even when injustice seems to be winning. Link arms with others, and ask God to give you the power and courage to follow where the Spirit is inviting you. God is faithful to give you the ability to extend yourself to those who are in need if you are open to being led. And let us all pray, the way Jesus taught us to pray: that God’s kingdom would come to earth, as it is in heaven.
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