Children

Nuns, Paddy Wagons, and the Dags Will Inherit The Earth

 via Love Makes A Way on Flickr

Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers, at Tony Abbott's Sydney office, via Love Makes A Way on Flickr.

On Monday a nun was arrested here in Australia. That’s right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest #LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centers. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.

It was a candid moment with the BBC. Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. ‘I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection’ he said. Malcolm is a team player, so he’s never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.

VIDEO: “ReMoved”

Every child deserves a home. Yet 400,000 children are being raised within the U.S. foster care system. Who will look out for them?

All in the Family” (Sojourners, June 2014), by Julienne Gage, tells the hopeful story of churches stepping up to care for these children of God. As part of the “127 movement,” churches across the country are mobilizing to provide homes and support for these foster children. Read this inspiring story.

To learn more about the foster care system, watch “ReMoved”—an award-winning, short film about a young girl’s journey as a ward of the state.

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'Daddy, why are those people sleeping in the park?'

MY 5-YEAR-OLD daughter, Zoe, is in preschool. This means, as most parents of school-age children know, that there is a birthday party to attend approximately every other weekend of the year.

On the way to one of these myriad celebrations, we stopped by the church in downtown Portland, Ore., where my wife, Amy, is the senior pastor. She had a daylong meeting, and we needed to switch cars, as hers was the one with the gift in it.

As we came down the front steps of the church and onto the South Park Blocks, a local city park, we saw at least half a dozen emergency vehicles parked in a haphazard formation along the street and on the sidewalk in front of a small public restroom. Several officers were standing together, making calls on their radios and discussing the situation at hand. At their feet was what appeared to be a lifeless body, lying on the pavement underneath a blue tarp.

“Daddy,” Zoe said, “what are those police mans doing in the park?”

“I’m not sure, honey,” I said, “but it looks like somebody needed their help.”

“Is somebody in trouble?”

“Something like that,” I sighed. “Make sure you don’t drag that gift bag on the ground. We don’t want to mess up your friend’s present before we get to the party.”

My first thought was, God, please don’t let it be Michael. Michael is a man about my age who lives outside and wrestles daily with an addiction to alcohol, among several other things. We have helped him get sober, only to see him relapse. We helped him get into supportive housing, only to watch him get into a fight and get thrown back out onto the street.

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How to Love Like a Mother

Patrick Foto/Shutterstock.com

We need something like a mother's love in our churches. Patrick Foto/Shutterstock.com

In my Santa BarbaraCalifornia neighborhood, which we sometimes call “Leave it to Beaver Land” for its seeming serenity and peace, a new practice has become evident: Children no longer walk alone to our neighborhood elementary school. Every morning, a parade of mothers and fathers accompany their children the short distance to school, dogs in tow and cellphones in hand. It looks like the practice of safety, but it’s also the practice of fear. You just never know. It could happen anywhere. It could happen here.

These parents know about something we call “school incidents.” They know the statistics about the number of American children that are shot, stabbed, and killed in our schools each year. Like the rest of us, they know about the big ones, from Columbine to Newtown to Chicago to Pittsburgh, and they know there are so many more stories that never make it to CNN.

The soundtrack for the story of childhood in America reverberates with gunfire and the sobs of stunned classmates and grieving parents. It’s the soundtrack of fear.

Fear is our newest neighbor, even in sunny “Leave it to Beaver Land.”

Survey: Most Americans Say Fighting Global Poverty Is Futile

Scott Todd of Compassion International. Photo courtesy Compassion International/RNS

Despite progress in defeating extreme global poverty, most Americans see no end in sight, according to a survey sponsored by Compassion International.

Christians who attend church at least monthly and consider religion very important in their life overwhelmingly (96 percent) expressed concern about the world’s poorest people. But they were skeptical that global poverty could be ended in the next 25 years. Only 41 percent of the group said it was possible.

And yet Scott Todd of Compassion International, the Christian nonprofit agency that sponsors 1.5 million children abroad, remains upbeat. He sees hope in the numbers of “practicing Christians” who express concern about poverty and a willingness to do more.

VIDEO: Travel with Us—A Visual Poem

Around the world, children continue to be trafficked and sold to the highest bidder in the global sex trade. In “Protecting the Innocent” (Sojourners, May 2014), Lynne Hybels features the work of The SOLD Project, an organization that seeks to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of children in Thailand.

Journey with SOLD to empower at-risk children in Thailand. Check out this visual poem about SOLD’s hopeful vision to end human trafficking—one traveler at a time.

Travel With Us :: A Short Visual Poem from The SOLD Project on Vimeo.

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Protecting the Innocent

AN UNQUENCHABLE demand for sex, coupled with an endless supply of vulnerable children, creates a seemingly endless cycle of child exploitation.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Department of Defense contracted with the Thai government to provide “recreation and relaxation” for U.S. soldiers. Sex tourism was organized and expanded into a major industry. Today, sex tourism is a huge source of income for Thailand: The country remains a hub for tourists who can get anything they want at a very low price. Many children are trafficked into Thailand from surrounding countries or are fleeing military genocide. Others are pressured by their own family members to contribute to the household income. Uneducated and hopeless, these desperately poor boys and girls help feed the sex trade industry’s insatiable hunger for children.

A friend of mine recently traveled to Thailand. “I’d read books and watched documentaries about the sex industry in Thailand,” says Jennifer Laine VanBeek. “But nothing prepared me for Bangkok. Even beyond the red light districts, the sex trade is impossible to ignore. I was defeated by the sheer volume, the visible presence, the young ages of the exploited girls and boys, and how engrained it seemed to be in Thai culture.”

Jennifer visited Thailand—often called “Disneyland for Pedophiles”—with her Westmont College friend Rachel Goble, president of The SOLD Project, an organization that works to prevent child exploitation. Early in 2008, Rachel moved to Thailand’s Chiang Rai region, whose lush landscape and laughing children belie the harsh reality: Generations of women from this village have been and continue to be exploited by Thailand’s sex trade.

Young men in desperately poor families such as those in Chiang Rai can bring honor to their families by becoming monks, but girls are expected to provide financially. Traffickers understand this vulnerability, prey on it, and easily lure girls into life in the brothel.

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Time To Stop The Train: Keeping Our Young Brothers Of Color

I have a vivid memory of my first visit to Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Some young inmates were reading my book, The Soul of Politics, as part of a seminary program in the infamous prison, and they invited me to come discuss it with them. The warden gave me and about 50 young men several hours together, and I will never forget the comment one of them made: "Jim, most of us here are from just five or six neighborhoods in New York City. It's like a train that starts in my neighborhood, and you get on when you are 9 or 10 years old.

How To Help Your Child Launch Rockets

In 2014, we have an opportunity to raise our children with a sense of wonder, encouragement, and fulfillment that works for our times. No longer do we have to strongly encourage them to think along the lines of working for a good company, or being ready to have few ambitions beyond being a housekeeper. An interview I heard this week with a human rights advocate named Jim Wallis (@jimwallis) suggested that at one time, there was an unwritten "social charter" that ensured while most working families would never get rich or have a great deal of disposable income, there was always enough. If that is no longer the case, then our children will benefit from our encouragement to dream and think BIG, which requires developing a healthy, dependable connection with them based in love.

How Not to Raise a Daughter

The author's daughter. Photo by Brandon Hook

The author's daughter. Photo by Brandon Hook

I became a mom for the first time in November. Insert here all of the cliché observances about life-changing experiences and never knowing love before and having a better understanding of God and whatnot. Of course, they’re all true, but so are most clichés.

There are also things no one tells you, instead using above clichés to paper over the less desirable realities of parenthood. No one told me about that feeling — the feeling that the word “overwhelming” doesn’t even begin to describe. No one told me that feeling that makes you weep inconsolably and go off the rails at the thought of leaving the house is actually what it means to love your child. That size of love is truly overwhelming.

While I was pregnant, I tried really hard to avoid all of the parenting books — how to raise well-behaved children, the countless “methods” for getting your child to sleep, how to master breastfeeding (“the most natural thing in the world!” ugh, wrong) — in favor of being a “go-with-the-flow” type parent. In fact, the only book I really read and still lives in a stack by my nightstand is The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year.

And being the future mother of a girl, I had grand ideas about “protecting” her from human-made gender norms. I ordered the “Forget Princess; Call Me President” onesie. I shunned head-to-toe pink (for about a week). I created a collage wall in her nursery of black-and-white photos of all of the badass women in her family she has to look up to.

And then this week I caught myself doing something that has the potential to harm my daughter more than being drenched in pink and purple for the next 18 years ever could.

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