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March 10, 2009

Imminent Catastrophe?

David Wilkerson of World Challenge has predicted a major "earth-shattering calamity" centered in New York and spreading around the world. He's urging people to stockpile at least a month's worth of food and supplies. Now, I happen to think that having a month's worth of food on the shelf is smart for a lot of reasons, but I find it unlikely that even that would be sufficient if the catastrophe is as dire as he envisions.

What -- if anything -- are we to make of Wilkerson's warning? What responsibility, if any, do you feel about "being like Joseph" and preparing for calamity so you are able to help others, not merely save your own family? Should Christians be thinking along these lines? Why or why not?

March 09, 2009

Daily roundup

March 05, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Franklin_Graham An opinion column in the New York Times by Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham has surprised many human rights and religious liberty advocates in the United States and around the world.  Responding to a then-pending arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (the warrant has since been issued), Graham intimates that for the sake of peace in the short-term, he would prefer to have Bashir remain in power in the war-ravished African nation.

"I want to see justice served, but my desire for peace in Sudan is stronger," says Graham.  "Mr. Bashir, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, is hardly an ideal peacemaker. But given all the warring factions in Sudan, there is no guarantee that his replacement would be better."

Graham goes on to say that despite his faults, Bashir has displayed a willingness to cooperate--even allowing for Samaritan's Purse to broadcast Christian television programming for Christmas and Easter. He suggests the United Nations Security Council postpone any proceedings for a year, thus allowing the peace process to be completed.

Graham's approach to the issue, while no doubt sincere, strikes me as both short-sighted and naïve. Bashir's continuing leadership will only serve to embolden Janjaweed militias intent on genocide. And the president's accommodation of Graham regarding holiday broadcasting does not discount the fact that Bashir has proven himself untrustworthy throughout the conflicts in South Sudan and Darfur.

Continue reading "Like Father, Like Son" »

March 04, 2009

Daily roundup

Crisis + Corrections = Opportunity?

In light of California's budget crunch, the Washington Post reminded us here and here that crisis can mean, well, opportunity. Though California's predicament is the most severe, it is by no means an isolated one.

To address ubiquitous budget problems, strapped states are now looking to save money through their prison systems. Indeed, corrections budgets, usually quite large, are being considered by several states for cuts. This move is not always a politically easy task, as no one when pressed is willing to sacrifice public safety by hastily chopping corrections budgets.

So what if we can save money and make our communities safer?

As Stateline.org suggests, the economic crisis is providing new political momentum to bring innovative reforms to the table that can go a long way in reducing recidivism--and keeping expensive prison beds only for people who truly need to sleep in them.

Lest the terms "cost savings" and "public safety" become sterile, let's not forget that public safety means transformed lives--individuals who are empowered to avoid the revolving door of crime and begin contributing to their communities. In the interest of not only saving money but also helping offenders turn their lives around, Justice Fellowship is one of many organizations working with policymakers in the states to make the most of this crisis-induced opportunity.

To learn more about promising criminal justice reforms, read my colleague Karen Williams's recent piece in Prison Fellowship's Inside/Out Magazine and Pat Nolan's feature at Bacon's Rebellion.

Six-Part Q&A with Mary DeMuth on ’As We Forgive’

Each Monday for the next five Mondays, author Mary DeMuth will be interviewing me at her newest blog, My Family SecretsThis six-part series will particularly focus on what the stories of reconciliation from Rwanda can mean for those struggling here with difficult things in their past.

I just finished Mary's newest book, Daisy Chain--another example of why DeMuth is gaining such a following for her work. I'll have more to say on that later, but for now here's an excerpt from what's up this week on Mary's blog (I've added the speaker tags):

DeMuth: Earlier, I reviewed the phenomenal book As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson. You can read my review here.

I contacted Catherine directly and asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation. She kindly agreed. Stay tuned for the next five Mondays where Catherine shares from her heart.

What compelled you to write this book?

Larson: I strongly felt this was a story that needed to be told. When I heard about murderers and survivors living in relative peace in the same community just fifteen years after one of the worst atrocities of the past century, I wanted to understand better what was going on in the community that was enabling this to happen. Working with Prison Fellowship which is active in Rwanda, I’d heard stories about prisoners repenting and sincerely seeking to show their remorse and victims who were coming to grasp onto forgiveness. I wanted to find out more for myself. When my friend, Laura Waters Hinson, went to film her documentary of the same name in 2006, I heard again first-hand of these miraculous stories unfolding. Inspired by her film, and the work of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, I traveled in 2007 to follow up with the people interviewed in her documentary along with several others.

DeMuth: Some readers and all posters at My Family Secrets wrestle with pain from the past and struggle to be set free. How has writing As We Forgive helped you on your own forgiveness and freedom journey?

Larson: You know, wherever evil has occurred there is a shattering of peace—or shalom. I think writing this book showed me that even though you can come to the place of being able to extend the gift of forgiveness, sometimes there’s still a lot of brokenness that needs healing. In my life, before I’d gone to Rwanda, I had been able to forgive one of the deepest wounds against me, but it didn’t mean that there wasn’t still a lot of brokenness inside of me. Writing this book, taught me something about the place for lament when peace has been shattered, about the righteous anger we feel when something beautiful is lost, and about the One who not only carried our sins, but also every one of our sorrows to the cross (Isaiah 53:4). Being able to let him carry the weight of not just my sin, but my sorrow was a pivotal point in my healing process.

Read more here.

March 03, 2009

Daily roundup

February 27, 2009

Daily roundup

February 24, 2009

Chuck Norris Is Fighting Mad

Norris Chuck Norris doesn't have too many kind words to say about the recent government bailout in this article (warning: some mild profanity). I must agree that passing the problem on to our children and grandchildren is not the solution. Here's what Chuck recommends:

We must restrain our government, and we must restrain ourselves. Feeding the money monster will not reduce its size -- it will perpetuate the problem.... We must return to a time when we put a bridle on the spending of government and of our households. We've got to simplify our lives. We've got to learn to be happier with less. We've got to get out of debt.

The apostle Paul told how he had learned to be content, regardless of his financial status. We, too, need to reject the cult of consumerism that got America into this mess and learn the wiser way of contentment, saving, and making what we have last longer and stretch further. While members of my family are fortunate in the sense that we still have jobs (and we're not in much danger of losing them at this point), we're all looking for ways to be better stewards of what God has provided. If for no other reason, we should do this so we will have extra resources to help those who have been hit hard by the economic downturn. 

Check out what your church or other compassionate ministries are doing in your city and think about how you can share what you have. Does the local foodbank need more donations? Do you have used clothing in good condition that you can donate to a homeless shelter or to the Salvation Army? Can members of your Sunday school class chip in to help pay someone's rent each month? What other ideas do you have for helping your fellow citizens weather this storm?

February 18, 2009

’A love supreme’

Johnson family Getting shot in the mouth by a teenage robber might turn some people against their fellow human beings. C. Kenneth Johnson let it inspire him to adopt eight at-risk children and foster 144 more.

And he has done it all as a single man, too busy to look for a mate, he says, figuring that the chances of finding someone willing to help raise so many troubled children would be slim to none.

"When I look back, I can see that it was a lot of work," Johnson told me. "But I didn't think about it that way. I just did it."

While in his care, none of the children was neglected or abused. They did not run away from home, skip school, commit crimes or otherwise disappear through the cracks of a dysfunctional child welfare system.

Nothing bad to report. You might even say that when it comes to adoptions and foster care, no news is good news -- except that if you want to know what it really takes to help children in need, you need to know about people like Johnson.

Go here to read more about this incredible man.

(Image © Courtland Milloy for The Washington Post)

February 17, 2009

Glimpsing Real Health Care

Wise-waiting It felt like the Third World in Wise County, Va., where thousands descended upon the state fair grounds last July, not for Ferris wheels or snow cones, but for free eye and breast exams.

Every year 800 volunteer medical professionals provide basic health care—including more complicated procedures like tooth extractions and benign tumor removals—to more than 2,500 rural Virginians, many of whom make no more than $14,000 per capita. Most of whom—like 47 million other Americans—don't have health insurance.

Some drive hours for a chance to wait in a long line outside of the campgrounds. There are no guarantees that they will receive treatment. For some, a diagnosis of diabetes or cancer is all they will walk away with.

But to finally meet someone who cares … it’s enough to hang a little hope on.

“I thank God. I pray for them people up there. It’s great what these guys are doing,” said 44-year-old David Briggs, fighting off tears. He has had most of his teeth extracted and is looking forward to a new set of dentures.

After reading this piece, I wanted to know more about the doctors, dentists, and nurses who would donate their time to do what our broken health care system does not do: care.

I wanted to know if some beautiful faith in the great Healer compelled them to reach the least of these in the richest county on earth. I have no way of knowing. But I have a sneaking suspicion He has something to do with it.

(Image © Remote Area Medical)

February 16, 2009

Daily roundup

February 13, 2009

Daily roundup

Let the circle be unbroken

Flight93memorial Mark Steyn has some sobering thoughts here about the "obtuse"ness of the designers of the Flight 93 memorial.

(Image courtesy of Atlas Shrugs)

February 11, 2009

Daily roundup

The Red Envelope Campaign

Red Envelope Facebook users may have run across an advertisement for the Red Envelope Campaign (Facebook membership may be required to view the link), a way to let our new president hear our pro-life voices. It's a simple concept: just buy (or make out of construction paper) a red envelope, seal it up (yes, empty), address it to the president, and add this note on the back of the envelope: "This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception."

You may wonder, "What good will this do?" No one but God can answer that, but the campaign reminds me of the "launcher" tactic used by William Wilberforce and others as they fought against slavery in the British Empire. It's a simple, peaceful way of drawing attention to an evil that needs to be changed. President Obama, as Chuck Colson noted in this BreakPoint commentary, is confused on this issue: he rightly believes that God does not support taking innocent life, yet he is staunchly pro-abortion.  

I bought a pack of 10 envelopes on Saturday and shared them with my Sunday school class members, who have asked for more. So, you might not only do this yourself, you may want to make it a project at your church. 

Here's the address so you don't have to look it up:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC  20500

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

Evans Manatos Young people today, of whom I am one, seem to have this focused goal of finding "the one." It makes sense, since most of our parents and grandparents were already married by our age. But I believe that sometimes the obsession can sidetrack us from really fully living. Funny too, because in that place of fully living, one is not only fulfilled, but also will meet those with common passions.

Fox 5 anchor Laura Evans met her husband, Mike Manatos, at the 2002 Make-a-Wish Foundation triathlon. A year later, they were married. Evans told the Washington Times that she recommends doing charity work as a means to romance because "you can meet like-minded people, have meaningful conversations, and it's not over a beer."

Too many singles, especially here in the city, spend their weekends clubbing, many hoping to meet someone. Dating coach Jess McCann says that's half the problem with meeting people at bars: "You don't know what to say." How do you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and how -- even more difficult -- do you luck-out on introducing yourself to someone who actually has the same calling and passions? 

It's time for young people of this generation to step out of the traditional dating box and find their purpose in a world that desperately needs their helping hands.

Continue reading "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?" »

A Lament for a Sunburnt Country

Sunburnt country

I love a sunburnt country, 
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains;
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror--
The wide brown land for me!

--“My Country,” Dorothea Mackellar

Above my mantle hangs a replica of a South Australian pastoral scene. Like cows, kangaroos graze beneath arching white trees. Muted green, the land rests peacefully in its arid beauty, beckoning me home.

I am an Australian, though I don't fully understand what that means. Born 26 years ago in a New South Wales hospital to two American parents, I have dual citizenship in a country I don’t really know, except for seven years of childish impressions. I know a bit of its temperate climate, its brogue-ish tongue, and its endearing people, but I have not lived with it through sorrow.

But when I read the headline “Australia fires toll passes 100,” something within me lurched forward in mournful identity with my second country—with the man who had to plow over burning gum trees as he watched two people incinerate in a car behind him … with another man who stifled his tears as he surveyed the rubble that stood in the place of his farm … with a woman who wailed as she recounted how her house of 25 years crumbled to the ground under its fiery weight.

I have often nourished my memory with the Southern Hemisphere’s sweet heart, its wide-swept plains, aspiring arches, crystalline beaches, and koala-perched eucalyptus trees. I had forgotten that even here evil minds plot their ways, and the land wails for her tarnished beauty.

May she find respite for her scorched lands and justice to preserve her dignity.

(Image © AP)

February 10, 2009

Joel Belz’s Bad Advice about Giving

Mail Joel Belz's January 17 World column, titled "Trash it," is factually misleading and potentially damaging to donor-funded ministries. My initial reaction was pretty incompatible with Colossians 3:12-15, so my original post draft, which I submitted to Dave the Swede for feedback, caused him to say, "Well, there's 'scathing' and then there's your post."

Anyhow, I will give Mr. Belz the benefit of the doubt regarding his intentions. But I do very much think that he is out of his depth in this matter of fundraising and donating. His recommendation -- to throw all non-profit direct mail in the trash and focus on giving to a select couple or few ministries (but not in response to direct mail) -- is problematic in two ways:

Continue reading "Joel Belz’s Bad Advice about Giving" »

February 06, 2009

’The Real Scandal of Religion’

The Pope's recent decision to revoke the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied the Holocaust happened, has opened old wounds that never truly healed. As a result of the Pope's actions, Michael Gerson wrote this article that employs a sledgehammer against Christians who stood by, or even aided the killers, during two periods of mass murder, the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.

Gerson writes, "It is difficult to understand how those who worship a man on a cross could help to drive the bloody nails themselves. But the record is clear. When religion is infected by racism, ideology or extreme nationalism, it can become a carrier of hatred instead of conscience. And when churches are concerned mainly for their institutional self-preservation, they often end up neck-deep in compromise or paralyzed by cowardice." 

It doesn't take much effort to come up with plenty of examples that back up his judgment. Nor does it take much thought to come up with examples that refute his judgment: there are many stories of Christians who did not stand idly by while the Nazis carried out their "final solution" or while the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis. (Gerson mentions only one "rare" exception during the Holocaust, which suggests that he may be woefully ignorant of the story of the more than 10,000 rescuers who have been honored by Israel as "righteous Gentiles.")

What I found most convicting, however, was a comment voiced by a reader at the end of Gerson's article. The reader first cited a favorite passage from Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place and then added, "Those whose hearts have been transformed act like Christians.... Those whose hearts have not been transformed act like pagans." Exactly. 

None of us knows what catastrophic events history may bring to our door, but we're all called to act like Christians -- transformed people, Christ-like people -- regardless. Gerson's criticism stings, and it makes me want to immediately leap to defend my faith by trotting out a list of exceptions. However, I think it's far more important that I simply live out my faith here and now.

We can't change what happened in the past. We can, however, make certain that when future generations look back on our time, they have better proof of the power and beauty of Christianity and of Christ because of how we lived. 

February 05, 2009

Daily roundup

Bishop John in the ’Washington Times’

Rucyahana Today, the Washington Times ran a wonderful profile of our very own Bishop John Rucyahana, Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda. One haunting quote:

I was speaking to prisoners at Gitarama. And I said to them, "Close your eyes. Remember yourself hacking people. Remember them lifting up their hands begging for their lives, and you hacking their hands and arms and cutting their necks."

In about 10 minutes, everyone was crying, sobbing. I said, "Open your eyes. That which makes you cry is what God wants you to repent of."

(Image © Kevin Morrow for the Washington Times)

February 02, 2009

’Not For Sale’

Wish you could find the time to curl up and read on a blustery winter afternoon? Looking for something to do during those lengthy work commutes when the weather just isn't blustery enough to stay home? How about something that feeds the soul while engaging the mind?

Each month the great folks over at ChristianAudio.com make available one of their wonderful audio books for free download. January 2009 had members fascinated and encouraged by the Oswald Chambers biography Abandoned To God.

And this month David Batstone's inspiring book on the fight against the modern-day slave trade, Not for Sale, is available. You've probably often heard us at BreakPoint addressing the issue of human trafficking (here, and here, to name a few instances). The issue is real. And disturbing. Mr. Batstone's book provides an excellent overview of just how real it is. So head on over to ChristianAudio.com and download the book for yourself! And while you're at it, check out this review.

January 30, 2009

Forgiveness: ’A Miracle to the World’

Today's BreakPoint commentary, "Love Your Enemies," discusses a man who is a hero to many of us, Bishop John Rucyahana. Bishop John was a big part of the reason I took my journey to Rwanda to write As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, which will be released on Sunday. I share a part of his story in my book. If you haven't yet read the BreakPoint commentary, read it.

Also, in this video from PFI you'll see Bishop John talk toward the end and you'll see the kinds of stories I traveled to write about.

January 26, 2009

Daily roundup

’They just care about babies’

March1 Hard to believe we've reached a point where that would be considered a bad thing, isn't it? Read more about things heard and seen at last week's March for Life in Kathryn Lopez' excellent report at NRO.

Like Kathryn, I also saw pro-choice counter-protesters in the crowd at the Supreme Court. One woman was arguing fiercely with some of the marchers: "Do you really want to pay for all those children?" I was too far away to jump into the conversation, but the first thing I would have wanted to say was, If we said yes, would you let us? The second thing was, Why is it that those who follow the supposedly tolerant and compassionate ideology are willing to wipe out children for money?

March4 I was reminded of that scene again the very next day when posting the story about the Malual quintuplets. While members of the Grace Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland, were helping care for the babies and their mother, as reported in the Washington Post article, others were busy filling the Post's comments section with derogatory and sometimes profane comments about the "disgusting thief" and her "5 little money-makers."

On which side of that argument would the pro-choicers fighting for "human rights" and disdaining those who "just care about babies" come down, do you suppose?

(Images © Gina Dalfonzo)

A Weekend to Remember

Mi dr uchyahana The weekend of January 16-18 found, I'm sure, many Americans eagerly preparing for the Inauguration of our new president. However, three members of my family (my husband, daughter, and I) were happily doing something else that weekend -- attending the Wilberforce Weekend Conference where Bishop John Rucyahana of Rwanda was honored as the recipient of the 2009 Wilberforce award: "As chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Rucyahana organized the Umuvumu Tree Project, a nationwide program to prepare perpetrators and victims of the genocide for face-to-face meetings."

It was an honor to meet a man who has led so many others to find forgiveness and redemption, not only in God's sight, but in the sight of those they have harmed. His is a powerful witness to the true power of Christ to change hearts and minds and to heal our most grievous wounds. In his acceptance speech, Bishop Rucyahana made one statement I will never forget. Christians tend to say "I accepted Christ as my Savior." But Bishop John reversed that. He said, "Christ graciously accepted me and has called me to a mission." (And all God's people said, "Amen!")

While attending the award ceremony was certainly a highlight of the weekend, it was not the only bright spot. All the conference speakers -- Chuck Colson, T.M. Moore, Mark Earley, Ken Boa, Glenn Sunshine, Robert George, Fr. Robert Sirico, Art Lindsley, as well as a host of my fellow Centurions -- brought incredible words of hope and encouragement for the dark times in which we live. 

Chuck likened these times to a "perfect storm" -- one that offers Christians great opportunities for demonstrating the goodness of God and the greatness of Christ to our friends, family, and neighbors. He reminded us that "Christians do the best of things in the worst of times," and he encouraged us to let God consume us, for "if God consumes you, there's no room for worrying about yourself." 

My family flew out of Washington, D.C., on Sunday night as many supporters of our new president were flying in. Don't get me wrong:  I'm praying for President Obama because I love my nation. But this weekend reminded me that his power -- whether he uses it for good or ill -- is minor compared to the power we have in Jesus Christ.

As circumstances in the nation continue to decline, and as more and more Americans suffer as a result, it would be easy to give in to the sin of despair. Instead, we need to see this "perfect storm" as a chance to be "the good news incarnate" as Jesus intends for us to be until He returns to establish His Kingdom. For all these reasons (and more), January 16-18, 2009 will be a weekend I will remember forever. Even more importantly, I'm praying that God will show me how to live what I learned: this is certainly no time to be a "hearer" only.

(Image courtesy of ASSIST News Service)

Leon’s Mite

090109-bolivia-water-hmed-1p.small Leon shines shoes for $3.50 a pair. From that, he still chooses to give to help others. What a great reminder in these tough economic times: If we bring God what we have, He still multiplies it.

(Image © MSNBC.com)

January 23, 2009

When you’re in Liberia feeling lonely

Christina Get to work building a community, like my friend Christina Holder did:

Jesus didn't wait for people to invite Him into their communities. He created His own communities. He asked people to join him.

From a young age, Jesus was establishing community. He went to the temple at the age of 12 and began preaching the word of God. I love the account of this in Luke. Scripture says that Jesus was “sitting in the midst of the teachers” (Luke 2:46). Jesus didn't pass by the temple and wait for someone to call Him inside. He climbed the temple steps and settled into the midst of the people with whom He wanted relationships ...

Grasping the way Jesus called people to join Him in what He was doing has changed the way I have approached community-building in Liberia. Instead of lamenting how some people haven't reached out to me, I decided to start calling people to join me in what I was doing.

In the six months I've been in Liberia, I started a dance class for women at my church. I began a writer's group for people who want to become better writers and who need encouragement to start or finish their writing projects. I organized a war art show with a group of young Liberian artists as a way to bring more awareness to the arts in Liberia and to help Liberians begin to heal from all that they have experienced during Liberia's 14-year civil war ...

In building my communities, I recognize that maybe I won't always feel included or feel like I belong. And the reality is that communities are often filled with people who don't get along. But I know I'm making the right steps as I try to follow Jesus' lead.

(Image courtesy of Christina Holder)

’God will provide’

Quints What could be harder or scarier for a young woman than "growing up in Sudan as war tore apart her homeland, discovering in the midst of it that she was pregnant, coming to this strange land of America," and then giving birth here without her husband nearby and without insurance?

How about giving birth to quintuplets?

In one day alone, the quintuplets go through 40 diapers and several bottles of formula. The biggest, Nyandeng, is now 6 pounds 5 ounces, and the smallest, Athei, is 4 pounds 7 ounces. Two need particularly close attention and are hooked up to machines that monitor their breathing. [Adwai] Malual and her mother have also struggled to find affordable transportation large enough to take all five babies to their doctor's appointments.

Volunteers from Grace Baptist Church in Bowie visit periodically to help feed the babies and to drive the family to get supplies and groceries. Relatives from Utah and Maine flew in during the first few weeks to take over feeding shifts.

In the long run, however, Malual knows that the situation is unsustainable. Her husband, who works in Tanzania as a liaison for the military in southern Sudan, has seen only pictures of the quintuplets and is unable to leave his post. Her mother, Anne Abyei, will eventually return home.

Malual, a Christian, says that when worries loom, she reminds herself, "These children are blessings from God. . . . He brought them to me, protected them through all that time. So for the future, I think I must live day by day. God will provide." Through the members of Christ's Body here on earth, He's doing just that.

If you live in or near Maryland and would like to donate food, diapers, or clothing to the Maluals, you can take them to the Clothes Box at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis (click here for the address). For those who don't live nearby but would like to help, checks can be sent to the AAMC Foundation Office at the same address. Make sure to put "For the Malual quints" in the memo portion of your check.

(Image © The Washington Post)

’Defiance’: Life is beautiful

Defiance I was out of town last weekend, so I wasn't able to see Defiance, which opened on Friday, until this week. The film is based on the lives of the Bielski brothers, who not only led a cadre of resistance fighters, but who eventually came to shelter more than 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus during World War II. 

Before I headed to the theater, I checked out this review. Though the reviewer is rather neutral on the film's value, the comments were more illuminating. One clueless fellow said, "Enough Already.  Who are these films supposed to appeal to anymore?"

Thankfully, other responses showed more wisdom: "These films, and the novels, essays, poems, and books of nonfiction on the era are all 'supposed to appeal' to thinking humans who continue to ponder the nature of humankind, what we owe one another, and how we might prevent this happening again." Another commentator simply observed, "We will have 'enough' Holocaust films after six million stories are told." I'm hoping that the wiser voices about the value of seeing Defiance will prevail.

It's not an easy film to watch, and well deserves its R-rating for violence and language. Yet, it's the very grittiness of the film that makes it so valuable. The film doesn't gloss over those moments when the Jewish survivors choose revenge over compassion, but it also shows the danger of doing so as they risk becoming as cruel as their collaborating neighbors and the Germans. The film forces viewers to repeatedly ask, "What would I have done if I had been in their shoes?" It makes us pit our ideals (often formed in peace, security and comfort) against the reality of unwanted moral choices foisted upon us by war. As Sam Thielman says over at World, "The ethical complexities of the movie make it worth chewing over." 

But Defiance does more than that. Some of the best scenes in the film are those that show these desperate, isolated survivors forming a new community: They share food, they build shelters, they nurse the sick, they protect the unborn, they fall in love and marry, and they worship together. The film most strongly reaffirms the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak, but it also reminds us that there's more to life than mere survival. 

In a simple scene near the end of the film, as the Jews flee deeper into the woods, Daniel Craig's character (Tuvia) stops for an instant to soak in the beauty of the forest.  It's a telling moment that reminds Tuvia, and us, that life -- even at its most difficult and dangerous -- is indeed beautiful.

(Image © Paramount Vantage)

Oh, you mean THAT cholera epidemic...

Mugabe2 After weeks of denying that cholera was killing his nation's people in droves, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe now says the epidemic of cholera constitutes a "national emergency." Now let's hope--and pray--that international aid groups will actually be allowed to enter the country and help the people of Zimbabwe. Given the past history of Mugabe's administration, that hope seems a bit dim.

(Image © AP)

January 21, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting may be sporadic tomorrow, as I'll be attending Blogs4Life downtown. (I believe you can watch the webcast at that link.)

January 16, 2009

The Enforcer

Gary Haugen and the International Justice Mission continue to make waves, landing 12 pages in the New Yorker with an in-depth profile, "The Enforcer," by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Samantha Power. Here's a snapshot (Gary had just returned from Rwanda after witnessing the aftermath of the genocide):

In church, his mind drifted into calculations of how long it would take a machete-wielding gang to wipe out the congregation. Although the Salvation Army, World Vision, and other Christian organizations fed the hungry and sheltered the homeless, no Christian organization that he knew of had heeded the Bible's appeals for justice ("Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out"). He resolved that Christians serving God had to do more than pray for the victims of cruelty; they had to use the law to help rescue them. "This is not a God who offers sympathy, best wishes," he later wrote. "This is a God who wants evildoers brought to account and vulnerable people protected--here and now!"

Revisiting Liberia’s Horrors

Wilson Fallah Our friend Christina Holder reported yesterday in the Washington Times about the horrors many Liberians still relive, five years after the country's 14-year civil war subsided. Just a few weeks ago, she reported on Liberians who sell water for a living.

Christina, a former Prison Fellowship employee who has spent the past six months in Liberia, has seen her fair share of suffering in the faces of those she has grown to love. She writes on her blog:

As we walk through life feeling the brokenness of a fallen world, it sometimes is hard to get a clear view of God's justice. We want our pain redeemed quickly. We want our hurts erased immediately. We want the small ways we feel that we have been wronged to be vindicated in big ways.

(Image © Christina Holder for the Washington Times)

January 15, 2009

Plane down in Hudson River

Please pray for the successful rescue of everyone aboard.

Update: Thank God, everyone made it out.

’Look what God did’

Last night, the local news here aired a story on Sifa, an orphaned Rwandan girl brought to the United States by members of my church for a badly needed operation on her jaw. I was moved and inspired by this courageous little girl when she stood before the church a couple of weeks ago to thank everyone who's been helping her. I think you will be too.

To read more about Sifa, click here.

January 14, 2009

More on forgiveness

Raising Flagg I also have a brand new copy of Catherine’s book. I’ve not yet had time to give it more than a brief skim, but Catherine is a talented writer (of course, regular readers of this site already know that) who brings the stories of people shattered by evil acts of murder and mutilation to life. 

The book, as you know, is about the Rwandan genocide and the healing of a nation. While most of us will never perpetrate acts of genocide, sin cuts through every human heart. Catherine's message is profound: It is only through forgiveness through Jesus Christ, that any kind of reconciliation can occur. 

She says that by extending forgiveness to the wrongdoer, the injured person can help toward the healing of the offender’s sin-sick heart. As one of the victims of malfeasance put it, “Forgiveness is a gift one gives to change the heart of the offender.” 

Catherine presents readers with a larger picture of forgiveness. “Forgiveness is,” she writes, “a social action with social ramifications.” 

This concept might be easier to understand on a smaller scale. In the movie Raising Flagg, Flagg Purdy (Alan Arkin) and his longtime friend Gus Falk (Austin Pendleton) get into a fight over checkers, sheep, and a water well that soon comes to a head in litigation. The whole community becomes embroiled in the affair and chooses sides. Purdy wins the lawsuit—but becomes the community pariah. 

When Purdy realizes that the whole community is against him, he experiences a crisis which leaves him depressed and convinced he’s dying. 

Fortunately, Purdy's stalwart wife, Ada (Barbara Dana), helps in reconciling the two warring friends. Even though Purdy took Gus’s property through a legal technicality, Gus makes the first move toward reconciliation. Eventually, Purdy does ask Gus to forgive him, and the two resume their friendship.

In her book, Catherine relates stories of people who have started the hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation. These are real people who have had heinous crimes committed against them or loved ones. Some of the people have had their whole family murdered, and most of them knew the perpetrators. Is forgiveness easy? No, but as shown by both the works I've mentioned, it is necessary for reconciliation--and it is through this act that what Satan meant for evil, God will use for good. 

I urge you to buy a copy of Catherine's book and read about how the Rwandans are going about the task of healing the nation fractured by evil, one person at a time.

(Image © Cinema Libre Studio)

Virtue at Its Testing Point

Main-book1 So, I'm excited to announce that I've received my very own advanced copy of my book! It was an awesome feeling to actually hold it and thumb through the pages of almost two years of work. As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda will be released by Zondervan on February 1st, just a few short weeks away. The book tells the stories of seven survivors of the 1994 genocide and their journeys to forgive the unthinkable.

Last night I was emailing with one of the Rwandans whose story I recount in my book. His name is Phanuel. He is a man of such courage. As a Hutu teenager, he took several bullets in his body rather than point out his Tutsi classmates to the rebels who invaded his high school in a 1997 post-genocide attack. When they demanded the students divide into their ethnic groups, the students in that classroom would only say, "We are all Rwandans." Any one of those students could have potentially saved themselves, by outing others. But none of them did. Several of them died because of that courage.

When I think about Phanuel, I can't help but think of what C.S. Lewis once said: "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point."

If you haven't pre-ordered your copy, I'd love for you to do so. You can get one through Amazon. If you do, I'd love for you to share your thoughts on it by posting a customer review there. Or you can wait a few weeks and get one at your local Barnes & Noble or Borders or Books-A-Million or Target. If you're on Facebook, you can also become a fan of the book and I'll send you updates from time to time. Just look for As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda by Catherine Claire Larson among the pages.

(Image © Zondervan)

January 12, 2009

Blogger roundup

Some more full-length articles from your Point bloggers . . .

January 09, 2009

Tim Tebow: Putting Football in Perspective

Tebow_philippines Both my parents graduated from the University of Florida (not to mention two uncles, two aunts, one brother, one sister-in-law, and over a half dozen cousins). When my mom's 23 chromosomes met up with my dad's and formed me, I got 100% Gator DNA. I've been a fan ever since. I love college football, but especially Gator football.

We've had our share of ruffians, but over the years it has helped to also see so many outstanding Christians among the Gator line-up. Danny Wuerffel was a particular inspiration to me when I was in high school and he was playing for the Gators and being so outspoken about his faith. His subsequent move to work with Desire Street ministries thrilled me.

Then when Tim Tebow came along, I couldn't have been happier. After accepting his Heisman Trophy last year, he traveled to the Philippines, where he had been born, to minister to orphans. I've heard a lot about him speaking in prisons. Last night on the pre-game show there were several minutes devoted to his witness. They interviewed some of the prisoners to whom he has ministered.

Imagine little old me... with my love of this ministry and sharing Christ with prisoners...and my love for the Gators. I was on cloud nine. The only thing that could have made it better was the Gators winning a National Championship! And then, they did.

Hats off to Tim Tebow for his outstanding and bold witness. I pray more of us would follow his example! (Read more here.)

I can't find the video clip from the pre-game show on line, but I recorded it and here are some quotes:

Continue reading "Tim Tebow: Putting Football in Perspective" »

January 06, 2009

Daily roundup

In the words of a confirmed atheist ...

"Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete."


January 05, 2009

Daily roundup

January 02, 2009

Never again

Zoe has an article in the Washington Times about Mark Hanis and his Genocide Intervention Network:

Four years ago, Mark Hanis "didn't know if the Janjaweed militia was a person, place or thing." Today, the bearded 26-year-old heads the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net), a savvy Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to fighting genocide, particularly in Sudan.

Although he didn't learn about the Darfur region of Sudan until his senior year at Swarthmore College, Mr. Hanis' ties to genocide run deep. Four of his grandparents are Holocaust survivors. He grew up in a Jewish enclave in Quito, Ecuador, where everyone in his synagogue was either "a Holocaust survivor or a [descendant] of a Holocaust survivor."

He even remembers those with numbers tattooed on their arms who told him, "Never, ever, let it happen again."

Click here to read more about how Hanis's website and grading system are encouraging government officials to take a stand against genocide.

December 23, 2008

Daily roundup

December 19, 2008

Room at the hospital

Imagery_christmas Bethlehem has its problems, as Zoe pointed out the other day. But one hospital, "a mere 500 yards from the traditional site of Jesus' birth . . . is committed to seeing that no expectant mother is ever told there is 'no room.'" Visit the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation, and find out how you can donate or even host a baby shower for the babies of Bethlehem.

(Image via HFHBF)

December 18, 2008

Daily roundup

Spreading the message of forgiveness

Mainbook1 Congratulations to Catherine on a great Publisher's Weekly review for her forthcoming book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda:

This isn’t an easy book to read or digest, yet its message is mandatory: “Forgiveness can push out the borders of what we believe is possible. Reconciliation can offer us a glimpse of the transfigured world to come.”

Click here and scroll down for more (via the As We Forgive blog).

(Image © Zondervan)

Giving the Gift of Freedom

Wonderfullymade "You can't make the difference for all people, but you can make all the difference for one person," said IJM president Gary Haugen at a recent benefit dinner in D.C.

Maybe you can't free every person from forced bondage in India's rock quarries. Maybe you can't drive out every child exploiter in Haiti. And maybe you can't deliver every girl from sexual slavery in southeast Asia. But maybe you can help one.

If you're still looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, consider giving the gift of freedom. Here are a few ideas:

  • Described at once as "funky and frilly," Wonderfully Made jewelry helps create sustainable jobs for victims of sex trafficking. Eye-catching necklaces, bracelets, and earrings range in price from $25 to $325.
  • Similarly, NightLight provides jobs and aftercare for women leaving the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. The jewelry includes everything from colorful pearl designs to elegant wood ensembles.

Another way you can give the gift of freedom is to make sure your stores aren't benefiting from slave labor. Before you head to the mall, send an email to your store of choice letting them know that you value freedom over their merchandise.

(Image © Wonderfully Made)