Can I get some encouragement?

Can I get some encouragement?

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25.

It is a special call to provoke one another to love and to do good. And considering how to encourage people is part of Spirit in Action’s legacy. There are some places – camps, retreats, church groups, support groups, etc. – where the barriers we build up in everyday life can be broken down, and we can reach out to each other. We allow ourselves to encourage and be encouraged, recognizing the light that is in each of us.

Del Anderson, the founder of Spirit in Action, was very skilled at encouraging people. He had a way of speaking or writing words of encouragement that took away doubt so that you absolutely believed what he was saying. Reading one of his letters in college could relieve my feelings of inadequacy and fill me with a greater sense of worth and purpose. I sensed that he honestly believed the truth of his words as he told me and others, “within you is the power,” and, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Del wrote many inspirational essays, which are freely available on our website. One of my favorites, which I still send out regularly, is Co-Creators with the Divine. In it, he writes:

“It is our joy, privilege and responsibility to transform God’s dream for us into a working, living reality. You are greater than you know. You are of more value to God than you believe possible.”

tanya and family and chicken; Uganda

Giving some encouragement to a SIA Small Business Fund family in Uganda and receiving a gift of gratitude (in the form of a chicken!)

Encouragement, when given honestly and humbly, can have a tremendous, lasting effect. That’s why I often highlight “encouragement” as the third leg of SIA’s programmatic stool. In addition to the Small Business Fund, and our Community Grants, we also are called to listen to and encourage one another.

And the encouragement doesn’t go unnoticed. “I am happy that you are perfectly playing your role of motivating and inspiring me every time we exchange emails,” responded one partner from Kenya. And from Zambia, “Thank you so much for mail. I really appreciate for endless support to WCI.” I receive so many emails with words like these. And I also received emails and notes from SIA supporters who encourage me.

So let us hear and answer this call to encourage each other and provoke each other to love and do good works for our neighbors and the earth.

I’ll leave you with my latest favorite words of encouragement:

“I have need to be on fire. I have icebergs to melt.” — William Lloyd Garrison

Lord, give us the audacity to live as though we believe our hands and feet are instruments of prayer. Amen. — Common Prayer (via Sojourners)

Some good news from Africa

Some good news from Africa

It’s easy to find the depressing, frustrating news about Africa. It’s more difficult to find exciting, inspiring stories about what’s going right in Africa. To sparkle up your week, here is some news to bring hope:

1. Water ATMs in Kenya

“People living in slums traditionally rely on vendors, who are expensive, or polluted sources to get drinking water. But the new system, where people use a smart card, is designed to provide cheaper and cleaner water.” (Read Article)

2. Lady Mechanics in Nigeria 

“Scroll through international news coverage of women in Nigeria and the main image that emerges is of kidnapped schoolgirls and hollow-eyed refugees, victims of Boko Haram militants. But if their plight has inspired global outrage and generated social media activism (#BringBackOurGirls) in a country with more than 85 million women, it is hardly the only storyline. And here in a humble classroom, a small group of women are literally wrenching loose gender stereotypes — one transmission replacement, oil change, or generator repair at a time.” (Read Article)

Solar panels and satellite dishes on a home in rural Malawi. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou

Solar panels and satellite dishes on a home in rural Malawi. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou

3. See a Different Side of Africa

“I got involved because growing up, I was made to feel ashamed of my homeland, with negative images that paint Africa as a desolate continent.” [Diana Salah, who helped to organize the #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou Twitter campaign] then added: “It’s so important to showcase the diversity and beauty of Africa and with the mainstream media not up for the task, social media was the perfect outlet.” Of course, war and poverty remain prescient issues for many on a continent of over 1 billion people. But that doesn’t mean that Africa isn’t home to so many other stories and images that desperately need to be shared.” (Read Article)

4. Nigeria Bans Female Genital Mutilation

“‘[International efforts to end FGM] must be centred on working with girls and their communities to ensure that they know the risks of this human rights violation,” [Tanya Barron, chief executive of the global children’s charity Plan UK] said. “What is encouraging is that we are talking more and more about FGM. This is crucial to break the taboos around the subject and to help ensure that, in future, girls can live free from the risks it brings.”

Liberia, Sudan, and Mali are some of the African countries that still have not banned FGM. (Read Article)

Quiz! Bonus: Test your knowledge of African geography! This could be either good or bad news, depending on how you do! I got 76%. How did you do? Take the Quiz

Embracing Diversity

Embracing Diversity

*In this moment of embracing diversity, I am reposting my words from March 2012, about the power of coming together in love.*

Building peace means sometimes being uncomfortable. It requires listening to the other side with respect and being civil when telling others about your beliefs. Peace often means compromise, allowing differences to exist side by side. This can be uncomfortable and it can also be freeing and expansive.

Agree with Me

City of Toronto's Coat of Arms and MottoMany proverbs tell us that it is worthwhile to come together with each our unique perspectives: “united we stand, divided we fall” (Aesop); “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” (Helen Keller); and “diversity our strength,” the motto of the City of Toronto (my home of three years now).

I was recently shaken by a discussion with someone about interdenominational Christian nonprofits. He works for a non-denominational organization but was concerned about working with Spirit in Action because I didn’t agree with his interpretation of a particular bible verse. That he wanted to limit his interactions based on beliefs, albeit sharing the foundation of our mutual Christian faith, shocked me.

I understood that for him, to “agree to disagree” on a point of faith would necessarily mean compromise and, therefore, loss; that this compromise of beliefs would make a group weaker. However, I have found that requiring everyone to agree on specific, narrow rules does not bring strength. Welcoming multiple views breeds flexibility and trust, rather than shutting conversation down with only one way to view things.

Diversity our Strength

Women from many walks of life lead the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative members in song at the beginning of our meeting. (Malawi, 2014)

Women from many walks of life lead the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative members in song at the beginning of our meeting. (Malawi, 2014)

The strength of Spirit in Action is bringing people together from many different traditions for a higher good overall rather than separating people along dogmatic lines.

In fact, our missions of compassion and social justice require us to see God in all people and to serve our neighbor as we serve God. This also frees us all to do our work of fostering prosperity, rather than spend energy forcing people to believe a specific doctrine. This openness then actively encourages personal exploration of each person’s relationship and path with the Divine.

When I visited SIA partners in Malawi in 2011, I asked about the variety of denominations represented in the group. “SIA is the one place where Catholics and Protestants come together,” was the answer I got from Canaan Gondwe, the local Small Business Fund Coordinator. This response brought a sense of pride. Inter-denominational collaboration allows each person to respond to the call to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God, rather than the call to shun those who are different.

Spirit in Action local coordinators; building peace

SIA Small Business Fund Conference, Kenya 2011

Similarly, Benoit Malenge, a former Small Business Fund Coordinator in Rwanda, reported that people of many beliefs came together, “sharing a meal, without discrimination since they are all members of Spirit in Action, who came to share the gifts.” This place of openness brought a community together, beginning to build peace after years of war in the area. 

In the words of Thomas Merton, the great Christian mystic, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” Can we embrace people who are different – who live and express themselves in different ways – and proceed as the peacemakers we were called to be?

Peace and “Soul Force”

Peace and “Soul Force”

In the swirling midst of on-going protest and the struggle for justice, I am reposting an essay I wrote for Memorial Day in 2010 about the power of nonviolent peace-building. I still believe peace is possible and worth striving for.

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I have long been intrigued by the connection between peace and prosperity. When people are safe and free I believe they are better able to participate in their local communities and economies. As they become involved, they create prosperity and security for themselves and those around them. It all starts with peace.

Del Anderson, Spirit in Action’s founder, wrote often about finding peace within oneself and sharing it with others. In 2002 Del wrote, “Being and expressing this peace and participating with God in bringing peace here on earth as it is in heaven is an activity of being a co-creator with GodBringing peace on earth is being in God’s grace activity and also brings forth a flow of health to mind and body.” In other words peace brings empowerment.

How do we begin to think about peace in a world so full of conflict? Mark Kurlansky’s book, Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea starts by exploring the concept of nonviolence – choosing to explain nonviolence as not merely opposition to violence but also as a positive action towards social change and equality. This is similar to what Martin Luther King, Jr. is advocating for when he says in his “I Have a Dream” speech“Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Oftentimes a violent person expects the victim to react with violence, however, if one can react by standing firm in love and peace it catches the aggressor off-guard, creating space for social progress.

I know this all sounds like a far-fetched dream but Kurlansky makes a great case for the possibility of nonviolent revolution. Also, The Friends Committee on National Legislation provides some great information about the effectiveness of diplomacy and development for the “peaceful prevention of deadly conflict”. Similarly, I am encouraged when I read about the work of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, which sends trained peacekeepers into conflict areas to encourage productive discussion and protect citizens. They point out that peace and diplomacy are much cheaper than war and armies.

Creating peace is a difficult and important job! At Spirit in Action we pray and act for peace with this thing Martin Luther King, Jr. calls “soul force”. We call on the spirit inside each of us to be put to action, which creates a positive force toward understanding, support, and empowerment. On this Memorial Day I hope you will join me in celebrating those brave souls who have stood up for a better world through nonviolence and the promotion of peace.

I will end with a blessing my Grandma Barbara often says: “May peace prevail on earth and in your heart.”

[Pictured above: We met this girl at a local water borehole in Kasozi Village, Uganda. She was pumping water as our group of SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators – on our tour of local SIA groups – passed by her. We paused, and Ofonime Nkoko from Nigeria helped her pump the water.]

Wisdom from Del: Co-creators with the Divine

Wisdom from Del: Co-creators with the Divine

“God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.  We are not created as puppets to be manipulated and controlled.  The Holy One does not force us to make certain decisions or to take specific actions, but honors us as co-workers and gives us free will.

We are created as junior-partners, ambassadors, and co-creators with the Almighty.  The work is not complete until we fulfill God’s divine plan and destiny in our lives by expressing and manifesting “God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.”

As we pray, listen, hear and act, we receive the abundant life; all the good our Father/Mother God has already provided (created) for us, and whose “good pleasure it is to give us the kingdom.”

Let us fulfill God’s divine plan for us. Let us pray, listen and work, resting in the Holy One, waiting confidently and expectantly, alert and doing our part. Thus we discover that we are God’s answer to the needs of humankind.

It is our joy, privilege and responsibility to transform God’s dream for us into a working, living reality.

You are greater than you know. You are of more value to God than you believe possible.

Let us believe enough to act, to start now on a holy journey of love and faith, obeying our Lord Jesus’ commands, “Feed the hungry” and “Only believe (and act as though you believe) and you shall see the glory of God” manifested in and through you.”

Ruth shows us one of the mats she's made to sell. Before the Small Business Fund grant the family was just subsistence farming, now their farm has grown so that they have enough to sell. (Uganda)

Ruth shows us one of the mats she’s made to sell. Before the Small Business Fund grant the family was just subsistence farming, now their farm has grown so that they have enough to sell. (Uganda)

For more from Del Anderson, see Del’s Writings. Join the Del Anderson Legacy Circle by becoming a monthly/quarterly SIA supporter.

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