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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 · 43

In which women are people, too :: a guest post by Sarah Schwartz

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 1:

Does it seem radical to you that God thinks women are people,too?

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, Sarah Schwartz is responding to our question.

****

It is radical, in a world where 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime.[1]

It is radical, in a world where the worst thing you can call a man is a girl.

It is radical, in a world where women are half the world’s population, do half of the world’s work, earn one tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one percent of the world’s property. [2]

It is radical, in a world where domestic violence causes more death and disability in women ages 16-44 than traffic accidents or cancer. [3]

It is radical, because the abuse and deprivation of women, as former President Jimmy Carter has so aptly stated, is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation in the world.

With so much around us shouting that women are disposable, it is radical that our God believes women are people, too.

But isn’t that just like Him? Isn’t that just like the kind of Abba we’ve read about in the worn pages of Scripture? Isn’t that the kind God we’ve known Him to be?

Because this whole story He’s writing, Genesis to Revelation to now, isn’t the whole thing truly and deeply radical?

Enemies become friends, God becomes man, the dead sit up and talk. The last are first, the poor are blessed, the person who gives everything away gains it all in the end. Kings wash feet and the only way to live is to die. It’s nothing if not revolutionary.

Of course, of course, He calls us up from the margins, us, the unlikely and the left out. We’ve got His breath in our lungs, His image on our souls, and try as they might to tell us we’re less, He comes roaring in to remind us we’re more.

And some would try to tell us that yes, we’re people, but not to get any crazy ideas. You’re people, but you’re a certain kind of person who should know your place and understand your role. Don’t take this personhood thing too far. Fold your hands and bow your head, take up as little space as you can. Your kind is supposed to follow, not lead. You’re here to support, not dream your own dreams.

But we’ll just smile, and shake our heads, because we know this is no tale of partial redemption, or half restoration. We know this a story where all of us, men and women alike, get to be our child-of-God-selves in fullness.

We know the Kingdom needs all of us; it needs our boldness, leadership, and vision as much as it needs our teamwork, humility, and kindness. This is not an either/or scenario where we only get to participate if we can fit into the mold of what they tell us women are supposed to be like. There will be no fragmenting of personhood here, no narrow definitions or burying of talents.

What there will be is freedom. Freedom to live and move and have our being in the One who fashioned us as whole, complete people.

We’ve tasted too much of the good news to believe it’s not good for us, too.

SarahSchwartzSarah grew up on a little farm in Oregon that her Mama’s family has called home for over a century. While her heart belongs to the northwest, these days you can find her in southern California trying to finish seminary, love a few people really well, and make her therapist laugh. She’s captivated by the idea of resurrection, and a God who brings dead things back to life. She writes because (to borrow from Biedma) most days she wants to be a poet, but deep down, what she really wants is to be a poem. Follow Sarah on twitter @SarahSchwartz, and on her blog.

 


[1] George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005

[2] Barber Conable, former President of World Bank

[3] “Violence against Women.” - Gender Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist, women · 36

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 · 14

In which streams run uphill :: guest post by Mihee Kim-Kort

I’m honoured to welcome my friend, Mihee Kim-Kort to this little corner of the Internet today. You’ll see why I love Mihee as you read her important essay below – she’s brave, she’s honest, she’s smart and so on – but beyond all of that, there is a realness and authenticity to her that is so needed in the Church. I love to listen to her, to learn from her, to walk alongside of her even from far away.

And as a sidenote, this book project of hers below is a must-read. Mihee is a pilgrim pastor for many reasons – race, age, gender, politics, stage of life, among other reasons – and she is forging a path for many other women to follow. 

Me and Anna on FB

la vida es la lucha

Coined by our mujerista theologians it literally means, “life is struggle,” or even more simply “to live is to struggle.” Conversely, the flip is true, too – to struggle is to live. The book Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Young Clergywomen of Color was first inspired by an African proverb that echoes the sentiment above.

Where streams run uphill, there a woman rules.

The original subtitle was “The Pastoral Identity and Ministry of the Other Clergywomen.” The word other is significant. It conjures up orientalism, exoticism, colonialism, and those felt effects still present today even in the more liberal disciplines and vocations. The history of feminism especially in North America has mostly been narrow and has excluded women of color until fairly recently. But, this isn’t unusual. Much of majority culture has often marginalized groups based on gender, race, economics, orientation, and ability. Still, especially in the church, there continues to be an urgency in working towards reconciliation at all levels, and at the vey least it means making sure there is a space for all voices and experiences.

It is the dynamic but unexpected harmony of streams that “run uphill” that compels me the most. There is struggle in an uphill endeavor, but miracle in its very existence. There is an irrationality about it, as well as a subversive, kingdom-shaking quality. There is something off-putting and hard to swallow but undeniably compelling about it. So, too, it is with the “other” clergywomen and our work and ministry, their calling and community relationships, their voices and their perspectives.

I find myself often being the only one. On most committees or organizations, I am usually the only one. The only woman. The only young person. The only racial “minority.” The only liberal. And most recently, the only mother with young children. It was something I grew accustomed to rather quickly, this being the token fill-in-the-blank. 

One of my favorite novels, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, speaks of the struggle of this phenomenon. There’s a telling scene between Samuel and Lee, the Chinese servant who is with the family, about Lee’s (exaggerated) Chinese accent: 

Lee looked at him and the brown eyes under their rounded upper lids seemed to 

open and deepen until they weren’t foreign any more, but man’s eyes, warm with understanding. Lee chuckled. “It’s more than a convenience,” he said. “It’s even more than self-protection. Mostly we have to use it to be understood at all.” 

Samuel showed no sign of having observed any change. “I can understand the first two,” he said thoughtfully, “but the third escapes me.”  

Lee said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but it has happened so often to me and to my friends that we take it for granted. If I should go up to a lady or a gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn’t be understood.” 

“Why not?” 

“Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they’ll listen to. But English from me they don’t listen to, and so they don’t understand it.”

“Can that be possible? How do I understand you?” 

“That’s why I’m talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”

Before reading this Steinbeck piece, I could never put my finger on that slow chipping away at my dignity and humanity I often felt each time someone introduced him or herself, and met my response with surprise. “You’re English is so good!” or “How long have you been in this country? You have no accent!” Even the most educated would ask, “Is English your first or second language?” I still struggle with simply glossing over those comments with a smile and nod as if I just received a complimented somehow.

Not everyone has these experiences. And thankfully, I didn’t have only these experiences. But they’re out there and real.  

I let myself savor the stories in these pages like a glass of fine water turned into wine from that wedding at Cana. I celebrate, I give thanks, and I am deeply humbled by all the sacrifices and risks made by these writers. These clergywomen were vulnerable. They were transparent. They were genuine. And they were and are trustworthy. These are only glimpses into much more complicated histories and larger narratives. Yet, even these small windows allow us to see the possibilities for real connection and community, a little taste of the kingdom of God and how we experience that in the midst of struggle and surrender, in those places where reconciliation with God, neighbor, and self is rooted in embracing the other.

Being the other is not only a philosophical, social, political, or literary concept. It is a theological image. It speaks of a God of the margins, a God for the oppressed, a God who loves and pursues the stranger. And despite the history behind it and how it traditionally is a negative phenomenon, being the other does not have to be associated with colonial and imperialistic movements or a tool of oppressors or a burden of those who internalize what it means for the oppressed. The language of the other is redeemable but also an instrument for redemption. It speaks of the extreme and miraculous routes God forges to connect to us. It is the other that helps us to see God’s love for us even more. It is when we see and recognize the other in ourselves that we begin to fathom the depths of God’s love for us.

Join us in the struggle not only for voice and validation but for the sake of all lives that are created with dignity and love.

Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained Presbyterian minister and mom to 3 under 3 (twins Desmond and Anna, and Oswald now 13 months old). Her current ministry is UKIRK (www.iukirk.com) to college students at Indiana University through the two PCUSA churches in town and collaborating with others on ecumenical community at Fringe Christianity (www.btownfringe.org). She graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a BA in English and Religion, Princeton Theological Seminary with her MDiv and ThM (Religion and Society). She is author of Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology and blogs at Deeper Story, 8asians, Fidelia’s Sisters, and First Day Walking (www.miheekimkort.com).

Continue Reading · Guest Post, women, work · 13