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In which her kingdom calling grew with every sentence :: a guest post by Tamara Rice

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 10: Kingdom Come

How can you take part in the redemptive movement of God for women around the world? What hurt are you drawn to heal in even the smallest way?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Tamara Rice is responding to our question.

Trigger warning: child sexual abuse.

***

As a female Bible major at a conservative Christian college, my ministry dreams were limited. If I didn’t want to work with kids, women’s ministry was mine by default, so I took the class—the class where we learned this ministry was about putting on retreats and planning teas, neither of which was complete without a proper Bible lesson. So my kingdom calling seemed obvious …

Teach her. Teach her.

But I was young. This proved difficult. I had not yet earned the right to be heard by the women around me. I lacked seasons of serving and seasons of suffering. (Oh, thank God, no one let me be a teacher.)

Then, by the time my babies came, my faith surroundings had changed. The women of our new church embraced a variety of roles out in the world, but they shared one commonality: they knew how to love. A few of them taught, sure. But mostly they loved, with hands and feet. They knew how to roll other people’s socks, rock other people’s babies, and put dinner on other people’s tables. It was beautiful, this kind of love, and suddenly I felt my kingdom calling shifting …

Love her. Love her.

Repeatedly, however, life put me on the receiving end of love instead, no matter how I aspired to give it away. The days of my psych ward stay I know by heart, the number of chemo rounds comes quickly to my lips, but the number of my surgeries by age 35 … I have to stop and count every time. I can never quite wrap my brain around the sheer depth of my need for the hands-and-feet love of others in that decade.

And then three years ago, the events of my childhood on a Baptist mission field in Bangladesh began to surface. An American missionary physician had had a thing for girls young enough to be his daughters … then his granddaughters. My childhood friend had exposed his evil in 1989, and for her 14-year-old courage she’d been forced by the mission board to sign a confession of adultery, while he was simply sent back to his home state where he continued to practice medicine.

“Don’t talk about it,” her family had been told. “It’s gossip,” others had been warned.

Justice is underrated, and the need for it doesn’t always fade with time. Twenty-plus years of injustice takes its toll, just ask my precious friend. And three years ago it became clear the man’s victims on that mission field had been many, and a proper investigation—and end to his medical career—was long overdue. My kingdom calling began to shift without warning …

Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.

And working toward justice was the only thing I could offer her from 2000 miles away, but how? American victims of other American citizens on foreign soil prior to the Protect Act of 2003 have no legal recourse in the US. Options for victims are extremely limited, and the mission board that knew of this man’s guilt refused to expose him, no matter how many adult female MKs (missionary kids) came forward.

As their stories began to emerge first over the phone, then through a blog one victim started, missing puzzle pieces were revealed. My own encounters with this man, who was my childhood pediatrician, began to make awful sense. My 20-year struggle with anxiety and depression began to make awful sense. Slowly, I realized that in attempting to bind the lifelong wounds of my friend and other women, I was actually binding my own.

But the frustration of fighting injustice within the Church has often gotten the better of me. Though we eventually succeeded in preventing our abuser from practicing medicine, the hopelessness of trying to elicit sincere change in this mission board overwhelms me and has left new scars.

But I’m not alone. To date, the advocacy group MK Safety Net reports that dozens of American and Canadian mission boards and boarding schools for MKs have mishandled cases of child abuse abroad during the last 50 years, with the horrific details of the abuses, the number of abusers, and the subsequent mishandling—lack of investigations, lack of reporting, lack of accountability—often staggering.

And when I started writing more recently, on my own blog, about this struggle for justice, I was startled by the overwhelming response of those who’ve been fighting abuse in Christian environments, like local churches, much longer. Men and women alike, Catholics and Protestants, and those who’ve left the Church, resonated with my laments and my hopes. This was much more than “women’s ministry,” much more than pretty teas and retreats. In finding my voice, my kingdom calling grew with every sentence …

Bind their wounds. Bind their wounds.

While those abused outside the Church have sometimes found healing within its walls, those whose abusers have been among the holy have too often found the Church itself to be the wall—a wall of injustice that cannot be penetrated.

But I beg you to see that these beloveds from whom the Church has too often knowingly withheld justice are a bleeding artery in the Bride of Christ. If you are the Church, every tear shed against that wall of injustice is blood leaving your veins, and I beg you to reach with me for the bandages. You have the power to unleash healing in the body.

Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.

 

Tamara Rice Tamara Rice is a lover of words and Jesus and family, though perhaps not in that order. She is a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for mental health and for victims of sexual abuse. She was a contributor to The Way Bible (Tyndale) and did dabble for a time in women’s retreats–but the best part was always the remarkable women, not the retreats. Tamara blogs now at HopeFullyKnown.com.

Continue Reading · Guest Post, social justice, women · 25

In which the women of Haiti make me stand straight

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A woman passed me on the sidewalk with an entire table on her head. It looked like she had put everything she wanted for her journey onto a table, crawled underneath it, and then stood up. She moved down the street with her neck straight, her eyes forward, because carrying the burden takes focus. Nobody seemed to think she was remarkable.

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Little girls balance bags of rice, women twice my age carry full washtubs, men carry bananas in baskets. The movement of goods happens on the streets, resting just a head above us.

Everywhere we go, I have found the women of Haiti to have incredibly straight posture. They move with dignity and steadiness. Perhaps it’s because they have spent their lives achieving the balance required to transport their lives on their brow, and this is no metaphor. Blessed is the woman who carries the burden.

The women of Haiti are straightening my spine.

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A young woman stood at the pulpit at church. Beautiful in her white suit, she lead us in worship, singing strong like Exodus’ Miriam. No whispering, no false shyness, her back was straight, her face was forward, the microphone was on, and she sang the roof off that church. We followed behind her, straight into the throne room of God.

The front two rows were taken up with the women’s choir, all in black business suits. When they got up to sing, they moved easily through their steps, singing Hosanna for Palm Sunday. I sat in the wooden pew and tears filled my eyes. Erika leaned over to me and said, “I bet the angels wish they were here for this.” But I’m not convinced they weren’t there. Blessed are the women who sing.

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The rows of the school are filled with boys and girls. Together. Same classroom, same opportunity. The blue satin hair ribbons, one after another, crowded onto benches, just about laid me out on the dirt with their beauty and determination.

These girls are getting an education. These girls will be able to read a deed to make sure they aren’t getting swindled. Their backs are straight on those tiny benches. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask. Nurses. Teachers, Singers. One dream after another. These girls will lift Haiti, I think.

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These two women cook for 150 children every single day. Think about that for a hot second. For many of the kids in Drouin, it’s their only meal of the day. The conditions are primitive to my eyes – water must be fetched and carried and then boiled before use. The tin cooking pots are four times the size of my kitchen sink. There is no light and no fan, just a cook stove and the women.

But those fresh beans and rice, straight off the stove and ladled into a tin plate were the best meal of the week. She grinned at me, her sinewy arms stirring, her headscarf a gleaming white. I thought of Proverbs 31 – she rises while it’s still dark to provide for her children, this virtuous woman. Blessed is the woman who provides for another woman’s child.

 

 

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Rosna grew up in a girls’ orphanage herself and then she went on to become a nurse. She got married and her husband planted a church in the same town where she grew up. And now she is the director of Ferrier Village. The first “family style” orphanage in the area, there are five homes filled with 26 children, all of them rescued from trafficking, under her care. Each home has a mother and four or five children. Their mother makes sure they are clean, they are fed, they sleep well, they are seen, known, loved here. Rosna is three years younger than me. Her back was straight, her floors were swept, her work is done well, and her children are healthy.

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When the children first arrive from their rescue, they are often malnourished, their black hair the colour of dried orange straw. But give Rosna a bit of time, because look – this rescued baby’s roots are coming in dark. She’s going to be well because Rosna is a high-capacity leader with hustle and peace for days. Blessed is the woman who leads.

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Wherever I go, children burrow into my mama-belly. It’s a bit soft, never recovered after those three babies in four years, but when I’m around children, I’m thankful for my softness. We mamas from the north, we stood around with their children in our arms, toddlers balanced on our hips. The sway of a mother’s axis crosses cultures, it seems. We met eyes over whiny toddlers who won’t cooperate and shrugged with a grin – we’ve all been there, we’re mothers.

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When we gathered around the women to express our thanks for the meal. “Thank you for cooking for us,” Amber said with a smile. “We have a lot of children and we’re mothers and nobody ever cooks for us!” They laughed and said they understood that.

One woman after another, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the pulpit, sometimes in a home, sometimes singing a song, sometimes on the street with her stand of mangoes to sell, sometimes at the blackboard wearing a blue uniform, sometimes sitting in the classroom.

What a privilege to witness these women work. What a privilege to talk in their kitchens, hold their babies, hear their stories. What an honour to learn from their leadership.

Blessed are the women who remain unbowed.

 

***

You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.

Want to help?

We need to sign up 100 child sponsors in Drouin whose kids are vulnerable to trafficking and 100 hosts for a Garage Sale for Orphans to build a preschool for children who have been rescued from trafficking while we’re here on the ground. And as always, pray for us, pray for our families – and help spread the word by sharing our posts on social media.

All these photos were taken by Scott Wade.

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice, women · 13

In which nobody loves Drouin

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It seems nobody loves Drouin.

This struggling tiny community of rice farmers never seems to capture anyone’s imagination. It’s just not an easy community to love because this isn’t an easy community in which to live. It’s not even easy to GET here.

Drouin is far out in the country, four hours from Port-au-Prince, then another hour down a treacherous, bumpy, rocky road. It’s hot. Even our Haitian translators complained bitterly about how “it’s always hotter here.” It’s dusty. It’s isolated. Their sole income is rice farming.

Even before the earthquake, the rice subsidies of the world caused trouble here. After the earthquake, the world dropped tons of free rice into Haiti. But those “gifts” put these farmers out of work and they began to starve. (Remember to look behind the beautiful facade.)

Then cholera broke out because of dirty water. Locals tell us that a UN-affiliated team from Nepal dumped sewage into the water far up the mountain and when it came down to their canal, where they bathe and eat and drink, well, people were dead within a day. The bodies piled up here.

The children began to starve. Their parents were dying.

But Pastor Jean-Alix remembered Drouin.

Pastor Jean-Alix had planted a church there years ago. Despite his best efforts to advocate for Drouin as a focus for an org or a church, nobody loved Drouin.

Finally he convinced Chris Marlow, the founder of Help One Now, to visit Drouin. After a bone-rattling drive out to the middle-of-nowhere-Haiti, they toured the small cement school filled with brown-eyed hungry children. The children were able to go to school for free – unlike the rest of Haiti – because of Jean-Alix’s work already.

But every kid was frighteningly malnourished. A child collapsed to the floor and when Chris gathered her into his arms, he was told that she was hungry. Just hungry. It wasn’t her day to eat, you see. Tomorrow would be her day to eat.

At the time, Chris had a very clear idea of the mission of the org: they were going to focus on double-orphans only. Yep, that’s it. That’s our differentiator as an organization, only and ever serving double-orphans.

And these starving kids were not orphans. They had out-of-work destitute parents. It’s sad but it’s not our problem.

According to the white board back in Raleigh, these kids were not a priority.

When Chris tried to explain that strategic decision to Jean-Alix, the pastor said, “Okay, fine.”

They walked in silence for a while. Then he stopped and looked Chris right in the face.

“And next year when you come back, THEN you will be able to support this community, right? because by then, all of these children will be double-orphans. You’ll show up when it’s time for the orphanage but you won’t be here to make sure that orphanage never needs to be built.

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Orphanages have their place, absolutely. Praise God for homes and safety, food and families. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of institutional care for children and prefer family-based or foster-parent model situations like Ferrier Village.)

But at what point do we enhance the conversation about orphan care with a conversation about orphan prevention?

This point.

Yes, right at this point, right here on the map, this is where the conversation became focused on orphan prevention for Help One Now.

Chris dropped the strategy and embraced the Spirit.

“We will love Drouin,” he said.

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(I wish I were a poet – I’d write about the women of Haiti I have met. Right now, I’m still carrying the teachers, the cooks, the house-mamas, the caregivers, the worship leaders, all of them right in my heart. There aren’t words for the mighty women I have met here.)

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Help One Now set up the sponsorship program for Drouin.

With the $40 USD/ month, a child receives an education, a good meal each day, medical care as needed, and – just as important – Jean-Alix administers funds to improve infrastructure, finance farming, build homes, and even a church.

Orphan prevention is part of orphan care. 

Now the children are eating one good healthy meal a day at school. No little girls collapse in the back room of hunger in Drouin.

Now the teachers are paid a small salary. So they can stay and teach instead of leaving.

Now there is childcare for the children so their parents can try to find work.

Maybe the rural areas, the forgotten roads, the ignored villages, can rise.

Now the community development fund has improved the road. They are building homes, they are financing farming initiatives.

Now there is a reason to stay in Drouin.

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The rest of the world doesn’t know about Drouin. But now we all know about Drouin.

Now I’ve held her children in my arms, I’ve shared a meal, I’ve heard their stories, I’ve stood in her classrooms. Hope is rising in Drouin.

100 sponsorships will support 250 kids plus community development.

Once upon a time, nobody loved Drouin.

But that story isn’t true anymore.

***

You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.

All photos provided by Scott Wade.

*this post has been edited to reflect a bit more education. A reader named Ruth corrected my timeline on the rice issues in Drouin to include the subsidies which had a negative impact even before the earthquake.

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice · 21

In which I fall for the beautiful facade

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Oh, how pretty! Look over there! All the houses are painted the most wonderful colours!

So, we the tourists, we pull over and take pictures of the lovely little houses on the hill. Purple, orange, apple green, sky blue, look at all the colours. What a wonderful public art project, I say.

I wonder why the other houses aren’t painted? It’s almost like a line, straight down the hill. Perhaps it’s an ongoing project, who knows. But it’s so pretty! Quick, take a picture and put it on Instagram! Oh, I want to frame that and put it on my wall, I think.

***

And then the truth comes out: it’s Jalousie.

A slum.

A shanty town for the poor and destitute.

There is no running water, no sewage system, no electricity except what is illegally tapped into off the grid.

But the government made sure to paint the exterior walls of their homes bright colours.

Critics say that the homes of Jalousie were painted because their slum faces the rich part of town, the place where people like me come and stay in the lovely hotels.

Quick, paint the buildings so people will want to take photos! To the tune of $1.4 million dollars and a PR campaign, it is so lovely.

(After all, everybody knows the rich folks don’t want to look at ugly grey cinder block shanties. It sort of ruins supper.)

***

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This entire story is pretty much a metaphor for my experiences in developing nations. 

I’m inept and ignorant. I don’t know what I’m doing. This is because I fly in and out, I don’t stay here, I don’t live here, I only know the stories I’m told, and I long for a quick-fix happy-ending.

When I heard the truth of the beautiful painted houses of Jalousie from our translators and then from my friends Tara and Troy Livesay, my stomach sank. Because I’d fallen for a facade. Again.

Haiti keeps me humble. These moments – and this is not the only time I’ve been wrong or ill-informed or just plain ignorant – they remind me to keep my mouth shut, to listen, to dig a bit deeper than the facades, to look past the shiny bright exterior into the home, into the streets, into the truth.

This goes for the bright ice-cream coloured hillside, the organizations that serve, the churches, the people, in every corner of my life. But especially when we are talking about the vulnerable and oppressed.

***

It’s easy to fall for the bright colours because we want so badly to believe in a good story for once.

Spend any amount of time in the orphan prevention and anti-trafficking conversations, and you learn to become a bit distrustful of the shiny pretty buildings.

You become a bit suspicious of the facades.  You learn to peek behind the story and poke with a stick. You learn to ask real questions of the real people, not the PR team. You grow tired of another pop-up well-meaning orphanage in lieu of preventative measures of community and economic development. It’s hard to settle for more dingy half-peeling-off band-aids when you’re longing for a full healing.

There isn’t much room for romanticism in the real world of orphan prevention and community development.

This world needs open eyes, this conversation needs hard questions, these are real people. Real people. Real homes. Real families.

They deserve our open eyes, our respect, and we need to honour them by hearing the truth.

***

We were in Drouin today. They are the rice farmers of the country. After the earthquake, NGOs and international governments dropped tons and tons of free rice here. That grand gesture was meant to help. And now this region is starving and out of work because all the rice is free and they no longer make a living. Their children were sick and starving to death. I met parents today who had to decide which child gets to eat on which day. Because of free rice.

Again, the well-meaning facade.

***

The funny thing is that just when I start getting mad at the facade, I peek behind it and guess what I find?

The Church.

The people of God are already there, among the poor, serving the poor, loving the ones behind the beautiful colourful lies. They’ve just been waiting for the rest of us.

I’ll tell you more about Drouin and the Church behind the facade tomorrow. It’s a precious and good story, a real one.

***

I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve thrown my heart into Help One Now: they’re terrifyingly transparent with me. They embrace the complexity. They aren’t out to save the world by next Saturday. They welcome constructive criticism and the perspective of outsiders. They value and honour the local leadership, seeking only to serve them. I’ve peeked behind the facade of Help One Now, and I feel pretty good so far.

I think there’s a way to be a critical thinker without having a critical spirit. I think there’s a way to help without hurting.

The truth will set us – us, all of us – free.

***

You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.

Want to help?

We want to sign up 100 child sponsors in Drouin whose kids are vulnerable to trafficking and 100 hosts for a Garage Sale for Orphans to build a preschool for children who have been rescued from trafficking while we’re here on the ground. And as always, pray for us, pray for our families – and help spread the word by sharing our posts on social media.

 

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice · 28