Renewed Enthusiasm!

Okay, when I first came to Africa I pledged to blog at least once a week, which obviously hasn't come true. Here's what I've prepared in the way of excuses: We didn't get internet for the first two months; I forgot which email I used to set up with blog site; I am way too busy. Obviously the later isn't true, and in reality the reason for no blog in the last month is more from apathy than anything else. Due to sudden realization that time goes by faster if you're always busy I've decided to redouble my efforts in blogging and teaching. I've added two more classes to my schedule, outside of my normal students for Heal the World. I'll be teaching one class split into two units every Sunday, one unit focusing on grammar and basic English, and the other more abstract, focused on conversation through fun activities, from debates on international topics, to playing cards, to skits. Also, every Thursday I'll be teaching our guards Emmanuel and Jean Baptiste for an hour or two. Two of the nicest guys in the world, gave them a composition notebook and a pencil last night for our first lesson! It's going to be a big project, Emmanuel will have to learn how to write, and Jean Baptiste doesn't know much French, so crossing the language barrier is a little difficult. 
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Helping Hands

Earlier this year, Fast Company reported a surprising outcome of the economic downturn: more people were volunteering.  Perhaps this is understandable because as more people were out of work, they had greater opportunities to lend their now abundantly free time to causes that they deemed worthy. Interestingly, the category that had the highest percentage of volunteers was those who were engaged in some type of religious charitable work. More than any other option, when people chose to spend their time on helping, they choose to do so with an organization who's mission was not limited to this temporal life.

Perhaps the economic downturn was to blame for this as well. Perhaps, as times our tough, people want to invest their time in something that is of seemingly higher value. When I worked for a church curriculum publisher, we found that sales of Sunday School material went up when the economy went sour. Persummably the less people could count on money, the more willing they were to turn to God. 

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Celebrate The Day

One of my responsibilities as a blogger is to start dialogue and conversation on controversial topics.  In order to effectively set up these conversations, it is important that I remain truthful, open, and honest.  In that spirit, I have a two confessions to make.  Here’s the first:  I am a choir boy.  

 

When I was in elementary school, my music teacher, Mrs. Neidringhaus (who, coincidentally, just became my Facebook friend last week), suggested I join a local professional boys choir, The All American Boys Chorus.  Lured by the promise of international travel and missed school days, I auditioned.  I was never really a singer before that moment, but that started a new journey for me as a chorister. 

 

AABC Group Photo 

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The Sex Appeal of Social Justice (And Why Jesus’ Love Turns More Heads)

(Here is a reposting from last year. It's still important.) 

I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. If helping your fellow man is like buying a car, you have two basic options: purchasing the sexy late model edition that makes heads turn, or going with the clunky used car that few notice and even fewer covet.

Without judging this trio’s motives, Barack, Brad, and Bono belong to the first category whether they want to or not. So do the high school kids who fatten up their fancy college apps with obligatory volunteerism and the pro athletes who, through “giving back,” score twice as many endorsement deals as the ones who don’t. You could also include entire political campaigns, blood drives that get you out of work early, and your sister-in-law who uses the Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter merely as a photo-op for her family scrapbook.

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many have made a difference, but...

Many have made a difference, but...only for a moment

Many have made a difference, but...lost their own souls

Many have made a difference, but...drowned in the sea of need

Many have made a difference, but...only for themselves

For the last 25 years, I have been mentoring and been mentored by the next generation, a generation that refuses the anesthesia of excuses and seeks to choose action over sarcasm. Recently, I was asked to address a group of university students and when I began to prepare, I felt paralyzed. I literally ached as my message was rewritten that night.

Since then I've been thinking, praying, listening...and over the next several blogs, I would like to offer nine woes for this generation: nine challenges that--if ignored--have the potential of gutting our collective potential to make a difference in a world of need.

Reason for hope #2: A call for volunteering

Reason to hope #2:

In my grad school media theory class this fall, we spent a lot of time discussing the power of social networks, which are still in their infancy, and particularly the networks set in place by the Obama campaign that translated from the Internet into real action. We wondered collectively what would happen to these networks once the election was over. Would they be abandoned, since the campaign got what it wanted? Cynical, perhaps, but that's the way we've been used to being treated by political parties and people.

But then last week, I found out that the soon-to-be-president put out a call to these networks to spend today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, in service to their local community. That seems to me to be a fine way to use these grassroots networks - especially since many people have today off from work. It's also the first time in my rememberance that a president has used his influence to ask people to serve their neighbors in a very specific way. (For those who are older than I: what other times has this happened, besides the efforts during the World Wars?)

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