I Own 44 Slaves

According to a survey by the Fair Trade Fund, I have 44 slaves working for me.

I took the survey on a website called Slavery Footprint. I answered a total of 11 questions regarding items I have around the house and the type of food I have waiting to be devoured in my fridge. Based on my answers, I own 44 slaves.  That means that 44 individuals in various parts of the world worked by force and without compensation to make, build, develop, farm, etc. a number of ‘things’ and food that are right now sitting around my house.

Of course there is no way for the site to calculate the exact number given the fact they have no idea when and where I made the purchases I did to obtain the food and items that I have. But that isn’t the point is it?

The point is that we live in a global world of global trades and consumerism. Shoes, clothes, that new pair of jeans that fit oh-so-well, chocolate, coffee, light bulbs and just about any and all electronic devices could very well be tied to modern day slavery. The bricks holding up that building on the corner you pass everyday may have come from a brick kiln in India and made by the hands of slaves; many of who are just children and all of who do not deserve to be there. The delicious grilled fish had for dinner the other night may have been fished by young slave boys off the coast of South America or Africa.

The answer is not to stop building with brick or to stop eating tilapia. It’s not to stop buying light bulbs or a pair of jeans. Boycotting is not the answer. In fact, boycotts can cause significant damage to areas where our purchases are what’s keeping an economy active. However, we can become more aware, more creative and more proactive with our purchases in a way that sends a clear message against enslaving people.

I do think however, that as consumers, we must be aware of the global market we live in. When we purchase a dark chocolate-salted-caramel chocolate bar (my new favorite) or any other chocolate for that matter, we should know where that chocolate came from. Unfortunately cocoa fields in Ivory Coast (a West African country where a vast majority of the world’s chocolate hails from, is also home to thousands of child slaves working the cocoa fields. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love a good piece of chocolate, I’ll pass on it any day if it means ending the demand and therefore the need to enslave children to satisfy a craving. 

Fortunately modern day slavery has caught significantly growing media attention and is no longer an issue largely ignored. Actually, it’s quit the opposite. Ten years ago it was difficult to find products not made on the backs on the slaves. Today that is not the case. There are many places to which we can buy products and be confident no children, woman or man was enslaved for it.

Here are a few things we can do to make sure what we are buying is legit and not made by slaves:

1. Read the Bible and Pray. The most important thing we can do, those of who are Christ followers, is seek God and learn what his stand is on justice and injustice. Check out the Justice Journey Handbook for some study help.  "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you." -Ps. 89:14 And read Is. 58. It will knock your socks off.
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Uganda Trip Highlights

Thank you Community Fellowship Church in Staunton, VA and all of my ministry friends who sponsored my Ugandan trip with my father and Larry Barrett. We left on December 12. The previous two weeks were some the busiest of the year as I wrote four papers for three graduate courses I was taking at University of Dallas, as well as grading dozens of short papers from online students at Liberty University. We connected in Washington D.C. and then London and finally to Uganda.

When we arrived, it took us hours to get settled, because our original hotel room was overbooked. We only received a couple hours of rest, before we showed up to Back to the Bible Institute in Kampala. Honestly, I had no idea how I was going to stay awake. Our driver who took on what felt like a crazy excursion through Kampala of dodging of people, random obstacles in the street, motorcycles sometimes with up to three people on the back, cows, and children. This however, did not keep me from wanting to fall asleep. However, when we arrived, I looked in the building, the orphanage, then looked at the faces of five hundred African young adults in their twenties who cheering and giving us the warmest welcome. Their friendly and enthusiasm woke me up immediately and automatically I felt an adrenaline rush.  They were the reason we were on this trip. Then the leader of Back to Bible Institute, Alex Mitala, who is currently leading about 20,000 born again churches stood up to welcome us. Alex spoke in English with his translator speaking fervently in the native Lugandan language. 

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That Important...but Invisible Line

A good friend of mine is the top dog in an outfit that does incredibly good things for the poor wo try to survive in the dusty folds just across our borders. He lives very modestly and drives a used four-wheel drive SUV as is apt for a mission ministry that survives off of the generosity and sacrifice of others.

A life long bachelor, he has given his years to God’s service and the needs of the poor, and as such, has deeply inspired many. So much so that one day a wealthy supporter pulled him aside and handed him the keys to fancy sports car.

“This is for you” he said, “If anyone deserves it, you do”.

For several months my friend drove this gift around, marveling at its speed, handling and luxury.

But the whole time there was a queasy feeling in his gut.

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Hope, Peace, Eek the Cat and Christmas

It’s funny how memories or experiences past find their way into present thoughts. Lately I’ve been thinking about a particular moment in my past that I have had difficulties putting reason to.

On a fall day in 2003, I found myself at a Mother Theresa hospice and orphanage called House of Peace located just outside the city walls of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. I was with a team from my local church at the time and we were there to visit with the children at the orphanage and to sit with and visit those spending their final days at the hospice. All of who had AIDS.

*

When we walked into the hospice, there were a few ill men lying on the springs of beds without mattresses.

What Can a Free $1,000 Do? Lots if You Use It.

What Can a Free $1,000 Do? Lots if You Use It.

No joke.  This post is about you and your friends giving away thousands of dollars of someone else’s money - $10 at a time.  I can’t tell you how many “thousands” (legal details blah blah blah) but its lots. 

What:

$10 free that you can invest in a humanitarian project of your choice.  Take our spare change and your spare time (its only 10 minutes) and give hope.  No strings attached.  No gimmicks. Just $10 free for you to invest in the world. No assembly required and its safe for kids.

Why:

 

About the time I started writing Humanitarian Jesus I also helped found The Glue Network – a new way of empowering people to impact need by finding new sources of funding like brands and companies to supply the money. 

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Giving Christmas Away

I cannot believe this Friday is Black Friday! Can you? This is an old post from a couple years ago that I thought I'd share again. I added a new option for gifts below and am wondering what you might add to the list.

Black Friday has begun and the flood gates of Christmas shopping are open. Last Christmas, I remember my husband and I walking through Target looking for “the perfect gifts” for our family members. We walked in, looked around for a bit and walked out empty handed.  Every year it seems like a struggle to find gifts that fit for the people we care about. Companies compete with one another by conveying messages of all of the things that our friends and family NEED this season. Commercials bombard our homes with elves busy at Sears, singing BestBuy employees and Old Navy manikins wearing the latest Christmas sweaters.

Before you get cut off in parking lots this Black Friday or wander the isles of Target in search of the perfect gift, I thought I’d offer some suggestions on ways to give, yet in a more less traditional way.

We all want to give. We were created with that desire. We were made by the hands that designed the very nature of giving. When we understand this awesome truth it becomes inevitable that we give. Who better to explain this than singing vegetables wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.


If you’ve had enough with crowded parking lots and lines, consider this Christmas season the gift of hope, freedom, food, a new start or empowerment. Giving breeds giving. Here are a few places where you can do just that.

Heifer International – Gifts of animals for breeding, farming, food purposes
IJM – Purchase a freedom package for individuals upon their rescue from slavery
Gospel for Asia – Gifts for outreach, missionaries, compassion gifts and much more
Samaritan’s Purse – Gifts for children around the world

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A Story of Forgiveness

Earlier this week I read an article on CNN's belief blog that threw me into a stewing pot of thoughts. At the core is one simple word that seems so complex to live out, even in the shallowest of circumstances.

Forgiveness.

Celebrity Portrait Photographer Jeremy Cowart set out on a mission with filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson (As We Forgive) to produce a photo series project called "Voices of Reconciliation." Cowart and Hinson went to Rwanda. They wanted to give Rwandans the opportunity to make their own statements to the world about the 1994 mass killings and uprooting that took place in their backyards.

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45 Things I Want in a Presidential Candidate


A year from now we will (very possibly) have a new president-elect in the U.S. As a registered voter in California, I will have zero influence in deciding the election. But that doesn’t keep me from having opinions about what kind of candidate I’d like to see succeed in becoming America’s 45th president. If I did happen to live in a state like Iowa, New Hampshire, or one of the other “primary” battlegrounds where my vote might feasibly matter, I would be looking to cast a vote for a presidential candidate who fit the following qualifications. Are there any good candidates out there?

We Have to Occupy Something

What exactly is the purpose of Occupy Wall Street? Apart from a vague sense of it  being the liberal progressives’ counterpart to the Tea Party, and a coalition of unionists, anti-capitalists and mad-as-hell twentysomethings angry about the rising cost of Netflix and Facebook’s infuriating shape-shifting, it’s sort of unclear.

As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organized grassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger, frustration, and antagonism against the “haves”–a suspiciously narrow (1%), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial success and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99% of us have-nots who are being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.

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Water Like Gold (only much more valuable!)

Peter Ole Kukan is a long-time Maasai friend of ours.  He sat on our porch yesterday morning and, in the process of chewing the news, let us know that women in his village are walking 2 hours each direction for water these days.  They fill jerry cans on the backs of donkeys then begin the 2 hour journey home again. Over the next couple of days, the water is doled out like the precious commodity it is.  Not a drop is wasted.  

Have you ever seen how dirty your hands get milking a cow?  Or handling a goat?  Or just living life in a place where water doesn't flow out of taps on-demand?  

I wonder how many times I wash my hands in the course of a day...

I'd like to think I'm pretty careful with water.  I consider myself aware.  I'd like to believe I'm good about electricity, as well.  We don't leave lights on that don't actually need to be on.  We've changed most of our bulbs to energy-savers.  
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