book review, Christian, social justice

Love Does: A Review (the book and the organization)

The name Bob Goff came up so frequently in the past year or so I had to check him out. I didn’t know much about him, just a mention of him by other authors, a forward in a book, or someone mentioned reading Love Does. Hearing he had a new book coming out, I made reading it a priority. I borrowed it from Hoopla, because I almost never have time to read a paper book and Hoopla fits my budget of FREE.

I’m not used to a book that immediately draws me in, but right from the get go I couldn’t stop listening. At first I was trying to reconcile a man who was a great mentor to others, a human rights lawyer who put human traffickers away, but who also thought flying out of a Jeep in an auto accident was cool. How could all be the same person? But it was.

The stories were highly entertaining, but the book had real meaning and purpose. It helped me think about some of the relationships I have. I felt like I understood love a little more. I wanted to love better.

That led me to look up the organization that Bob Goff runs that works to secure justice for the oppressed and underprivileged in Africa (Uganda, Somali) and Asia (Nepal, India, Iraq). Love Does is doing amazing work! I must say that the idea of traveling with them sounds like an amazing chance to go on an adventure, but that’s not in my budget…nor do I expect it ever will be.

The only thing even remotely negative about this book is that Bob Goff’s life seemed unattainable for me. I tend to like to think that maybe one day I could be as wild and crazy as the authors whose lives I read about. But Bob, well, I’m never going to have the funds to take my kids to visit 27 different nations, even if the the leaders of those countries invited us over. I have no desire to sail across the pacific with rudimentary navigational tools. Now, my dad on the other hand, he’d have loved it. Maybe there in lies the draw. I’m not like Bob, and I don’t have his resources, but I know and love people who are similar to him in spirit and passion and that makes Bob relatable even if he’s unattainable for me personally. I bet Bob would be an awesome person to chat with over dinner or go on an adventure with.  I loved reading every word of Love Does. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next one Everybody Always. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

So, check out the book Love Does, but more importantly, check out the organization. Support them with your resources and prayers. And if you ever get the chance to travel with them, share your pictures. I’d love to see them.

And Bob Goff, our house probably isn’t as nice as the houses of some of the world leaders you have met, but the food will be good, the conversation lively, and there is a key to our house just waiting for you. Come on by.

food, refugee, social justice

A Taste of Hope After the Long Journey


Quietly and with only the barest of necessities, a family leaves the only home they have known. They are fearful of being apprehended by authorities, so they travel at night. Moving from safe house to safe house, organized by a system of compassionate local heroes, these people sleep during the day in preparation for their nighttime journeys. When darkness falls, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters are separated as they walk in groups across the wilderness towards freedom. Mothers pray that their small children won’t cry because if they do they will need to do the unthinkable lest the safety of the numerous other travelers be endangered. It is this exact kind of collateral damage we try to push from our minds when we think about the cost of freedom, but this trek ends not in freedom, but rather in a holding camp, a purgatory of sorts. Crossing the border, leaving their homeland, leaves them once again at the mercy of strangers, but for those who make it, it may be the beginning of a new life.

History has seen this scene played out time and time again, in various continents and ages. In America, we saw the Underground Railroad carry thousands of people to freedom from the hands of slave masters. Europe saw a similar story as Jews were smuggled out of Nazi occupied lands. Today, this scene plays out in the Middle East and parts of Africa where thousands of people are seeking refuge from the atrocities of civil war in Syria or the terrorism of ISIS and Boko Haram. The setting might change, but the characters are largely the same. There are the brave yet fearful families willing to risk an uncertain future that is more secure than the known terror of their homeland. There are local heroes, risking their own security to help strangers on their way to a better life. There are receivers, who are at the end of the long journey, helping people make their way in a new and unfamiliar land.

Last weekend, my friend and I had the privilege or sitting down and hearing Aminah share her story, a story that is sadly all too common. A Syrian refuge, her and her family fled her homeland to a refuge camp in Jordan, waiting through the numerous government background checks and approvals, and was ultimately relocated to Connecticut, arriving in America the past November on election day. Through the work of Sanctuary Kitchen and hosted by Displaced Kitchens, Aminah cooked brunch for the twenty or so people attending the Refugee Food and Art Festival in New York City organized by Komeeda. While we ate Kufta and Eggs, Syrian Fettah, and Foul Madams, Aminah open her heart to us. We ate and cried with her. We were drawn into her pain and her blessings. She welcomed us with food and vulnerability. At the end we also met several people who were part of organizations that are helping her find employment and establish her family in this strange new land and were offered the chance to help her and others find employment in the food industry. We got a taste of what it is like to be a refugee in this day and age and the chance to see the face of everyday ordinary heroes. It was a satisfying meal in so many ways.

If you would like to support the work of Komeeda or Sanctuary Kitchen, please head over to their websites. You can find opportunities to join one of their delicious events or donate to the work they are doing.

social justice

Forced From Home

It was a chilly day 3 months ago. I had a warm coat, but the wind occasionally kicked up, making me wish I had one more layer on. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I was ushered into a fenced off area and told, “You have 30 seconds to decide what you’re taking. You can pick 5 things. GO!” The small group of us searched through our “possessions”. What would travel well? What was a necessity? What had value that I could sell and also conceal? Cell phone? Medication? Passports? Money? Water? Food? Blankets? Coats? I snatched up things with as much discernment that 30 seconds provided.

“Time’s up.”

It was time to flee my home and leave behind everything I wasn’t already holding. A small group of us hiked to the boat that we hoped with usher us away from danger. We’d have to pay for our passage in this crude powerboat. There goes my money. We had gas and questionable life jackets, but no pilot. Our guide just pointed across the vast emptiness. How long would we be on the water? Would my coat keep warm from the gust of wind across the open sea? What about once it got wet? The Bible is right. “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!” (Matt 24:19) We don’t even need to wait that long to have those thoughts. I am grateful our entire party consisted of adults. How much harder it would be with children. I could not imagine what kind of fear is needed to motivate a parent to bring a child on such a dangerous journey. Strike that. Yes, I do. Sometimes the unknown is better than the known.


When our boat finally reached the other side safely, there were grateful tears. We’d all heard the tales of boats who were not so fortunate. Between the elements, the patrol boats sent to turn travelers back, and the drowning, the numbers of those making it to the other side were dwindling. Where we landed was still on our side of the national borderline. Decisions needed to be made. We weren’t safe yet, but we were still citizens. Once we crossed the line, our status would officially change from internally displaced persons to refugees. On the one side we still had some legal protection, if one could trust the government to ensure those rights. But once we stepped across the line, all legal protection evaporated. We were at the mercy of hostile host nations, UN laws (if they could be enforced), and NGOs. We crossed.

The first camp we arrived at wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it wasn’t great, but there was food and water. There was some shelter, and there was rest. We’d been traveling for so long that our supplies from home had long been depleted. Here there was a market, though the prices were inflated, and we had little to bargain with. I traded away some more of my scanty possessions. We could even charge our phones, even though the chances of using them now that we crossed the boarder were minimal. It’s been a long time since we’d heard from family. The phone gave me some hope. At least it held their numbers.

It wouldn’t be long before the novelty of rest wore off. The aid workers were doing their best to help, but sanitation was remedial and the tents were so close to each other. We were crowded into shelters with strangers, packed like sardines, sleeping on mats, sharing a single pot to cook our allotted food. We prayed for dry weather to air our things out. I knew that I would likely be moved to a new camp. I wasn’t sure where that would be, but I felt the need to keep moving.

The group that I traveled with approached a more permanent camp (oxymoron, I know) with some joy. This was an MSF camp and it had doctors. Praise God! How long had it been since my medication had run out. Maybe I could get some help? There was some fear though. The camp had seen cholera. Would there be an outbreak? Would we be safe? They were providing special food for those who were malnourished and vaccines and medicine to those who needed them. It was a mix of fear and hope. I think one of the moments of real hope I found was when they told me their were people we could talk to, mental health counselors who might help us process all that we had been through from the dangers in our homeland to the struggle on our journey that had led us this far.

This far. Where were we now? Was this home? How long would we be here? Would this ever become home? How long before it would be safe to go home again? Would it ever be safe? Would this tent commune be safe? Would there be jobs or school? How many of us would never make the return trip? Should I apply for relocation? Would that be giving up on my dreams of going home again? Would I make it through the years of living this way to make it through the process? Where would I go? Would I be able to speak the language? Would the people welcome me? I have so many questions, worries, fears.

And then it was done. 60 minutes later, our group was ushered towards the exit. Our tour of “Forced From Home” was over. I got to go home to my warm house. My friend, Cat, and I walked back across Independence Plaza with Independence Hall and the Philly skyline in the background. Freedom. Safety. These are things we so often take for granted. No longer.



Learn more about what Doctors Without Boarders is doing or to donate click here.

Check the Forced From Home website to watch videos and learn more. Check back for new 2017 dates to experience this exhibit yourself. You won’t regret it.


ethically traded, social justice

The Purpose Filled Wedding

wedding-favorRecently, I went to a fabulous wedding, truly one of the best ones ever. Like all Christ-centered weddings, it was filled with praise and worship, scripture, and the deep symbolism that facilitates the embedding of Truth into our hearts. I cried. I always do. It was beautiful and joyous, and a reminder of the love and life my husband and I share together. It was simple yet profound. And then we went to the reception.

Wedding receptions are one of the few true celebrations of sacraments we still honor in our post Christian society. They are filled with food, music, and laughter. Everything at this reception was Pinterest perfect. And what did I take a picture of? The plates. I’d call them paper plates, but I’m not sure they can be called “paper” as they were made from palm leaves, completely biodegradable, and as they don’t destroy trees, they are environmentally friendly. I’d seen a video on them prior to the wedding, but I wasn’t aware they were available already. (Yes, I have already purchased some for my next family affair.)


The wedding got me thinking about previous weddings we had been to and creative ideas I have seen that could make your upcoming wedding a little more justice focused. A few years back, friends of ours decided to do away with the traditional wedding favors, and instead gave guests a choice of three different charities to choose from. They donated $1 per person to the charity they selected. Not only was this a better use of their money and a time saver, but it opened up conversation around the table as we all talked about which charity we liked best and learned a bit about them.

Here are some ideas you could use in addition to palm leaf plates and charitable donations.

  • Start with an ethically traded engagement ring and wedding bands from a company likeDo Amore.
  • Buy a fair trade wedding dress from a company like Celia Grace.
  • Invite your bridesmaids to join you for your special day with Mercy House bridesmaid invitation card and earring set.
  • Find your wedding day accessories from a fair trade organization such as Trades of Hope, Noonday Collection, or War Chest Boutique.
  • Decorate with white lights from Holiday LED and candles from Thistle Farms.
  • Serve Equal Exchange coffee, tea, and chocolate.
  • Consider getting your meal catered by an organization that is helping people such as Thistle Stop Café or Edwin’s Restaurant.
  • Donate your leftover to a local soup kitchen, rescue mission, or other organization.
  • Order your thank you notes from To the Market or  Ten Thousand Villages.
  • Consider checking out Love Gives Way, an organization that helps people find vendors who donate a portion of their profits to ending  sex trafficking.
  • Reduce the use of cheaper dollar store type items that creates a marketing demand for products that would be difficult to produce in an ethical manner.

I discovered a number of organizations devoted to ethical weddings, but they were located in the United Kingdom and Australia, so less helpful in the United States. A quick internet search will give you plenty of other ideas to chose from.

Happy planning!

Bible Study, Christian, ministry, social justice

A Mile Wide: A book review (of sorts)


Thirty years ago, I gave my life to Jesus. I was just 13 years old. Growing up in a Christian home, I had attended church and Sunday school, VBS, and sang in the choir. I had believed in Jesus my entire life, and I had faithfully done all that Christians were suppose to do. Then, in the wooded grounds of Agape Farms, surrounded by tens of thousands of other Christians, speaker Roger Cooper introduced me to a personal savior. I didn’t need a second invitation; I didn’t struggle with whether or not I wanted to surrender my life to God. I just did it. I had no idea that I was missing such an important piece of the Christian walk, until someone shared it with me.

While my walk has had its stumbles, I have never looked back. I have followed Jesus faithful, albeit imperfectly, for three decades. And after all this time, what I know is that there is more. Deep in my soul I know it. There is more than what modern American Christianity is offering. There is more than getting out of bed early in the morning for some quiet time with the Lord. There is more than Sunday morning and Wednesday night church, Friday morning women’s study, and Friday night home fellowship. There is more than twice a year service projects and a summer mission trips. I’ve done these things. These are not bad things, but there is more. There is more than growing in the Fruit of the Spirit so the church pews can become nothing more than bigger and bigger baskets of fruit that never meet the true hunger of the world. Many in the church are fermenting in the pews, and not in a meaningful way.

mile wide 1

For me, like for many, my period of greatest change came with a period of great loss. In 2010, many of those things in life which I was holding on to as my identity began to slip away. When I started to question who I was, I ran to God. More accurately you could say that I was in a wrestling match with God that could rival that of Jacob. It was in that time that I began to really look at global issues of injustice: slavery, honor killings, child brides, poverty, gender based violence, and broken justice systems. I knew I needed to do something, and that something needed to be hands-on volunteerism, not just writing a check. It began with writing a check, and I continue to do so, but the hands-on part has still eluded me. I knew I needed this, but life has been hard and time and resources are in pretty short supply. How could I find the time to meet all the commitments I had in life as well as serve others? I was worn thin, and my spiritual life was suffering. The Christian status quo wasn’t working for me.

As a teacher, the first week of summer break is reading week. I curl up and read. This summer, my book of choice was A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker. I read and cried. C.S. Lewis said that friends are made when one person says, “You too? I thought it was just me.” Brandon (I’m making us on a first name basis, because, you know, CS Lewis said we were) wrote:

“I don’t know how you interact with God or if you, like me, have been trying to force intimacy in a way that isn’t really you. But know this: he will meet you where you really are. He’s there in that simple, authentic, vulnerable place where your questions are hard and your words are unrehearsed . . . he’s waiting for you, to meet the real you among the muck and the mire.”

Yes! Yes, to all of that. I have tried to grow in my relationship with God by mimicking others who seemed to be doing it better, but whose path did not fit  my journey. For instance, the morning devotional time, sneaking out of bed before everyone else to have quiet time at “the foot of the cross.”  Not happening. I’ve tried it. I promise you, I don’t like anyone early in the morning, not even Jesus.

mile wide blog 2

So was this just another how-to-book, following another person’s 5 step plan to a deeper prayer life, a more faithful walk, and a better ministry? No. It was the answer to my question, “What am I missing?’ And while I haven’t had the chance to live out what Brandon offers as a solution, I am confident it is exactly right. The answer isn’t to learn more about living like Jesus or to be a better church goer. The answer is found in living a life like Christ and not Christians. The answer is not in more Bible studies, more prayer breakfasts, more outreach programs, or more serving the church. The answer is in less. The answer is in less of me and more of Jesus, less church programs and more relationships with “the least of these” and the nearest of these.  The answer is profound and perfect.

I know this book will change my life. I already feel the freedom.

mile wide blog 3

ethically traded, hannah more, slavery, social justice

Vote Early, Vote Often

voting 2Election season is upon us. Personally, I know I have found my blood pressure rising as I scroll through new articles and social media posts. There is much to be gained and much to be lost as we elect the leaders of our nation, state, and local communities. Often we get bogged down in the mud slinging and the corruption. Our family openly discusses politics and current events. I tell them it’s important to vote early and often.  While this quote has an uncertain origin, it arose from the corruption of early 20th century Chicago political corruption. While meant as a tongue in cheek expression, I’d like to give it a new meaning.  Personally, I vote every day. Here are ways you can as well.

Vote with your money:

Equal 2Buy ethically traded goods

  1.         Consider shopping through companies that exclusively sell ethically traded goods.  This can be food (especially the items most often connected with unfair labor practices and the use of slaves such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and sugar), clothing, jewelry, housewares, décor, and pretty much anything you can think of. Supporting these organizations is a great way to impact the global community with jobs for those most at risk.
  2.         While shopping at your local chain stores, restaurants, or online, look for ethically traded goods. Each time I go shopping I scan the same items on the grocery store shelves looking for new additions to organic items and ethically traded goods. If I purchase those items, I know the store will stock more. If you have a particular item that you love to get, let the store know and they may even consider stocking that item. Sometimes online shopping is just more practical, but if I’m searching for and purchasing items that demonstrate my commitment to fair trade practices, these companies will take note. They will see the market and if there is a demand, they will see that it’s supplied.

Buy local

  1.         Buy local. I love having a boxed farm share. Once a week I pick up a box of organically grown vegetables (no picking required, though that option is available for those more awesome than me). I know exactly where my food comes from, and who is growing it. Try your local farmer’s market or roadside stand. Whenever we travel, I try to find some local mom and pop restaurants to get a more authentic feel for the area. This is also true for when I’m home. Some of the best places to eat in town are the tiny joints that open up offering unique fare.

Buy from Small Business

  1.         I’m not anti-corporation. I shop the big stores, eat in chain restaurants, and own technology made by the same major corporations that most of the world does. However, I also see the value in the little guy. Start with gifts. Can you buy a gift certificate for lessons for someone you care about? One Christmas we bought each of our kids lessons for something that they were really interested in. Each kid loved it and three different local instructors were supported. Do you have friends who run small businesses? Ask on FB and see who sells something and consider  using them for your Christmas gift giving.


Vote with you Time


Write a review

  1.  Authors, musicians, restaurant owners, artists on Etsy and other individuals  would love you to write a review of your wonderful experience with them. These reviews can help them as they move forward in their careers.  A good review on Goodreads, Amazon, or Etsy could help an author sell more books, music, or crafts which often means either supporting them and their families, or supplementing their income. A few minutes of your time can mean all the difference for them. Word of mouth works great as well. Take a few minutes to share with someone about this great new coffee shop that opened and serves ethically sourced goods or the shop you stopped by for the first time

Have a voice

  1. Write some letters, emails, or sign a petition.  Send a letter to a company to praise their support of a charity event, suggest that they stock fair trade items, or sign a petition for something you believe in. You know how rare it is for people to go out of their way to compliment the boss of  a sales associate, a manager, a waitress? Praise goes a long way in making the world a nice place.  Most congressional members can be reached easily via email and will listen to your voice. They count up the people who are for or against issues and they assume that most people don’t call, so they consider you to be speaking for many other like minded individuals. Have a voice.


Get Started

Looking for places to buy ethically traded products?  Start here at our Ethical Shopping Guide.

Find a local farm share or a farmer’s market.

Want to get in touch with your congressional representatives? Go here.

Keep learning about issues of injustice around the world through our website and follow us on Facebook.

Christian, social justice

The Other: Our desire to separate

I am a reader. I don’t mean that each year I can check a large number of books off my laundry list of literary titles, but rather that I deeply connect with what I read. Words are deeply powerful. It is with words that God spoke the very world into existence. The right combination of words can evoke emotion, bring healing, convey knowledge, and so much more. I have been known to get sucked into a book and find myself involved with the characters of novels, traveling the world with a pair of denim jeans as it passes from one friend to another. On more than one occasion I have stepped into an art museum, hopeful I will see “The Brooklyn Crucifixion” so vividly described by Chaim Potak in My Name is Asher Lev, a book I read over 20 years ago. I momentarily forget its existence is merely fiction. Non-fiction works are no different, be it a biography or a book designed to grow me in my faith. I will ponder its words when I drive or cook or go about my day. It is not uncommon for me to think back on a poignant passage from a book for years, meditating on its implications. Such is the case with Blue Like Jazz.

The other 2

Donald Miller’s 2003 book has been one of the most influential books in my Christian walk. One part in particular has changed my entire view on humanity, my own sinful self included. Donald recounts a conversation he had with a friend regarding a news report on the war crimes being committed throughout the Congo. As he shares with his friend about the rapes and genocide, he questions how people could do such awful things; his friend answers his musing with more questions.

“Do you think you could do something like that, Don? Tony looked at me pretty seriously. I honestly couldn’t believe he was asking the question.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Are you capable of murder or rape or any of the stuff that is taking place over there?”


“So you are not capable of any of those things?” he asked again. He packed his pipe and looked at me to confirm my answer.

“No, I couldn’t,” I told him. “What are you getting at?”

“I just want to know what makes those guys over there any different from you and me. They are human. We are human. Why are we any better than them, you know?”

Tony had me on this one. If I answered his question by saying yes, I could commit those atrocities, that would make me evil, but if I answered no, it would suggest I believed I am better evolved than some of the men in the Congo. And then I would have some explaining to do.

                                                        Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller c.2003

The other 1

Honestly, Donald could have just dropped the mic right there on page 17 and not written another word, and my heart would have been forever changed. I come back to these words again and again.

Who am I that I should have been born into the richest nation in the world? That I should have grown up in a loving, intact family?  That I should be born white and healthy and whole in a world that practically idolizes all of those things?  That my nation would be at peace, my hometown safe, my family Christian? That I should have been able to attend a well-rated public school, spend summer days in the beauty of nature, and go off to college? But more importantly, who am I that I should have been chosen by God to receive His forgiveness?

This is beyond white-privilege. This is divine grace. The fact that my life was “easier” than many is something I had absolutely no control over. The worldview I have was, in part, instilled in me by the lot chosen for me in the divine lottery. I am not entirely made up by the hand dealt me, but I cannot pretend that who I am would not be vastly different if it wasn’t for the time and place of my birth. There but for the grace of God, go I.

Like I said before, I am a reader. I read the news, and I am heart-broken, angry, and numb. I read stories like those that Donald Miller mentions. The atrocities in the Congo are still going on more than a decade later. Despite international cry that a genocide, like that seen in Rwanda, would never be allowed to happen again, “not on our watch”, still they continue. In recent history alone we have seen atrocities in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, Burma, Iraq, and Syria just to name a few. While racial and/or religious discrimination is at the heart of these genocidal attacks, no one race or religion has a monopoly on the killings. The truth is that inside each of us lies a sinful soul that feeds off hate, selfishness, and fear. It is all too easy to see some other group of people as “the other” and want to separate ourselves from that which we perceive as distinctly different from ourselves.  Sometimes we commit murder with guns, but more often than not we commit those murders in the secrecy of our hearts. We hate our brothers; we call them fools. We make them “the other.”

So what do we do when we are confronted with these issues?

First: We must heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:5. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Jesus didn’t mince words. I am a hypocrite, and I need to do some soul searching. These people I see on the news are not the other; they are the same. The world got a taste of that idea in April of 2014 when 230 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria. The world rallied around them with #bringbackourgirls. We must see these people as our people. And even more, we must see the perpetrators as our people, or in the very least, people for whom Christ died.

Second: Don’t be paralyzed by a fear that tells you there is nothing you can do about such huge problems so far away.  We live in a democracy, and that means that you have direct access to your US Congressional Representatives, and those Representatives have direct access to international leaders and the United Nations, along with the power to make and pass laws that can have a direct impact on  helping stop these atrocities. That means you are only 3 degrees of separation from a Yadizi girl in Iraq that is being systematically raped and enslaved by ISIS or a  South Sudanese child suffering as a result genocidal attacks and looming famine. You have more power than you realize, so use it wisely.

Third: Endure. Believe that small changes make big impacts. It takes time to change ourselves and even longer to change a culture. Endure. The ripple effect of the things we do today may be just the thing that makes the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. Challenging people’s thinking about a prejudice they have, donating monthly to an organization helping with direct aid, educating yourself before you vote, or raising up the next generation with a greater social conscious are all important things we can do often. Endure. Don’t make one phone call to your senator and stop. Make one phone call a month about a different cause or even the same one. You wouldn’t tell you kids once to use good manners and then never address the issue again. It is with patient persistence that change happens. Be the change and endure.