25 July, 2008

The world has gone mad!

I was at breakfast program at the high school, reading the paper as I do every Tuesday and Thursday. There are two things the students expect each week. One is that at 8.30, we will attempt the super quiz. I am not sure anyone has ever scored over 3 points but the tradition goes on and the kids insist that it does. The second thing they expect is that at some point I will read something in the paper that fires me up and sends me into some kind of human rights, socialist rant that usually lasts about two minutes. The students find it very entertaining though they usually have little idea of what I am talking about. They just smile and nod in agreement and then the conversation turns back to cars or sport or how it can be humanly possible to consume a massive tin ofmilo every week (wait, that might be me again!)

Well, the article that sent me bonkers this week (sorry, I can't work the archive section properly so I can't attach the link) told of the dilemma of cheap clothes in Australia. It asserted that the multitude of $10 clothing items mean that females have an enormous excess of clothing and are buying more each week. The problem? Well the environment of course! It has become a landfill issue! We can't dispose of all of the clothes that are being thrown out! We have so many clothes we don't have enough room to bury them all! We are being buried by own own excess!

Oh my! Has the world gone completely mad! How do people not stop to see the plethora of 'real' issues attached to the problem posed. Let's ask some real questions...why are people wasting money on clothes they don't need while people around the world are dying?! How could any article of clothing, especially one not made in Australia, cost $10 without someone along the line having their rights abused?! Where do people think these clothes come from? Who do they think make them? And how much money could that person possibly be earning? Why do we continue to sit by and do nothing?!!! When will people wake up from their greed and gluttony???!!!

It's at that point the kids smile, say 'it's going to be allright Gen' and then we all go back to our usual movements for the day. I guess that's the challenge isn't it? It's not seeing injustice, it's not being informed about injustice, it's not even ranting about injustice. It's about changing injustice. How are we going to do that today?

I will pick up the theme of my last blog another time.

Have a great week,
Genevieve

23 July, 2008

Faith on Film Festival

Hi everyone,

My name is Sarah Brinkley, I'm a 21 year old soldier from Adelaide, and this is my first blog!

I went to see the new Batman movie at Hoyts with my brother last night, which by the way is well worth seeing, but I was interested by an ad that was shown before the movie started. It showed several clips from popular movies with quotes from famous actors etc. over the top: know the one? There was a fasinating quote from Marilyn Monroe: "It's all make believe, isn't it?".

Then as I walked out of the cinema I grabbed a flyer about the 'Faith on Film Festival' currently running at selected Hoyts cinemas. Movies showing include many christian movies and documentaries with several focusing on social justice issues. For more information head to:
http://hoyts.ninemsn.com.au/corporate/faithfestival.asp

I couldn't stop this quote running through my head as a glanced at all the movies available about poverty, sex trafficking, exploitation and despair. It would be nice if these movies were all make believe as much as Batman was. But they're not. So let's keep fighting the good fight until they are.

19 July, 2008

Sweeping under the carpet

I spent this week at university at an intensive. Basically you can get one whole subject competed in a week instead of a semester. There were very few options so I chose a subject called 'The New Punitiveness?' I had no idea what it would be about, but I really wanted to get the credit points so I thought, why not...how bad can it be? Well, it turns out it was the greatest week! I was shocked and appalled at some of the things I learnt about incarceration rates and their direct connection with low socio-economic status and race. The subject took me well beyond my knowledge of the justice system (previously gained from many episodes of 'The Bill' and 'Law and Order') and open my eyes to a world of injustice and sadness and down right persecution and neglect.

Did you know that one in nine African Americans between the ages of 20 and 34 years are currently incarcerated? Did you know that the figures are approximately the same for Indigenous Australians? Now a simple minded correlation can be made to explain this statistic. You could say, 'The reason for this high rate of is due to at least 1 in 9 African Americans/Indigenous Australians committing crimes which leads to their incarceration.' Well done, this is true. I am not suggesting that certain race groups are being placed in prison and are innocent of their crime. I am suggesting that we have a problem within society at large, and particularly our social welfare system, that could enable one race to fall into lifestyles that lead directly to crime. The bulk of the convictions are related to drug possession and the crimes related to drug use including crimes such as theft, or crimes that result from heavy intoxication.

Surely if we see a trend as prominent as the statistic above it is the obligation of society through government to work to rectify this injustice. I call it injustice because, while yes, crimes are being committed I believe that many are restricted in their capacity to make better choices, and are therefore being set up to fail in life. I also say injustice as the statistics show that crime rates have consistently gone down while incarceration rates have gone up! How? More of those convicted are now sent to prison rather that receiving various other options of rehabilitation and they're sent to jail for longer periods of time. In some states of the US, your third conviction of possession of Crack Cocaine will supply you with a LIFETIME sentence! Powdered cocaine on the other hand... the drug of the rich and famous??? Hmmm...

Our indigenous population have health/education/poverty/abuse/neglect statistics so high that I would guess that if they collectively got on a boat and sought asylum in another nation, that nation would be compelled to take them! And yet our response to their plight is to lock them up and not take ownership of the problem! Our solution is to blame 'them'! Statistics as high as 1 in 9 come awfully close to...well...lets just say segregation and suppression of a particular race group within a country. We must act! And I don't think throwing people in jail is the answer! Why? Because unfortunately we like to see prisons as houses of punishment and not of rehabilitation and as such, the individual is largely not helped by the experience of prison. We need to find ways to prevent the incarceration of minorities and the poor. We need to find ways to prevent them from needing to break the law. We need to start rectifying the injustice within society. We need to stop making simple conclusions of guilt and punishment. We need to find ways to lobby for the protection of high risk groups. We need to find better rehab alternatives for those who are both convicted and incarcerated. We have a lot of work to do!
I am going to leave it there for the week and discuss this issue at much greater length next week. I think I am too fired up with all this new information to make any logical analysis at this point. But I would love for you to think it over and start making solutions of your own.

Have a great week!

Genevieve

16 July, 2008

Compassion Fatigue in Ministry

Recently I attended a workshop on Compassion Fatigue. During this time we did a Compassion Fatigue test that helped us to identify our levels of burn out, job satisfaction and compassion fatigue. When completing the test my results indicated that I should stay in my job but learn to cope with the emotional toll it takes.

When I was reflecting on this, I realised that as a Christian, living with a soft heart makes us compassionate and to desire mercy. Because of this we may often feel as if we can’t go on caring, as if this world hurts to much as we are attuned to the suffering that takes place and mourn those whom suffer because of fixable problems, such as hunger and colds.

Matthew 25:40 and 45 tell us what Jesus expects of us “I assume you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers, you did for me…..I assume you that whatever you did not do to the humblest of my brothers, you failed to do for me.” This may not be the verse that others would use, but it reminded me that Jesus lived with a soft heart, one that continued to care and one that took refuge in his father. Jesus was perfect and I know we never can be, but if we are walking with God, taking refuge in him, he will provide the strength to keep going, even when our compassion fatigue is high.

Many workers, ministers, prophets, evangelists experience burn out and fatigue. It has become a common job hazard in the church and helping professions, but I wonder if we were as aligned with God as we think we are, would Compassion Fatigue be so high in our field. I am not judging anyone who has left, experienced depression or fatigue, I know they are very real illness’ but what type of environment is being created if this type of fatigue and mental stress is on the rise.

God placed us here not to use and abuse us but to love us so we can love others and in that he gave us Grace and Mercy, something we often forget when we are dealing with certain clients or staff or congregation members. Our agenda and our needs get in the way as we expect them to be fulfilled by what we do, not what God is doing for us and through us.

We talk about taking care of ourselves so we can take care of others, but are we letting God take care of us? So, we can be who he needs us to be and provide all our strength. We need to be an outworking of God, not imploding because of the devastation and brokenness we see.

Many of us work in passioante environments, whether you are in ministry or not, there is always something driving people to do what they do. When this passion is ministry or for people we need to ask where God is placed, as often we forget about God because we are to busy doing and too busy being there for everyone else. This can be were things go down hill.

We are reminded, that we are weak and it is God who makes us strong and able to do the things. When we forget this we are at greater risk of burn out, compassion fatigue and other things that are thrown our way. Don’t be at risk, be with God so when your compassion is high you know God is feeling it to, but the great thing is that he has it all worked out, but needs you to keep doing your part.

Thanks for reading

Robyn

10 July, 2008

Respecting children - Part two

Ok, buckle up! It will be worth the ride…

Last week I raised a question of what it means to respect a child and sought reflections on the implications of really doing so. This week, I want to reflect on some writings by the founder, William Booth from his work ‘The Training of Children’. Why? Because I have been involved in children’s ministry for a little while now, and I am constantly amazed by a child’s capacity to not only grasp the truth of God, but to both apply and propagate all that comes from that truth. And yet, I still get the impression that children are seen as ‘not yets’ or worse ‘invisible’, or worse still ‘cute’. It is so condescending. Jesus said "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3). And yet we shelve them until they are old enough to become like us. People! We are supposed to become like them, and not get them to become like us! Let me give you a recent example from my ministry.

I enrolled a Soldier last month. Firstly let me say how excited she was to make a covenant with God. She was counting down the days and could not be distracted. Since her enrollment, she has read God’s word like it is her daily bread and prayed as though it was second nature. She reads her covenant every night before bed and has committed to learning the eleven doctrines by heart. When told harshly she could no longer evangelise to her mother, she obediently locked herself in her bedroom, and then sang songs of Jesus. She is desperate to take her Bible to school and she is working on bringing her friends to the Army so they too have the opportunity to become a Soldier. She has a genuine awe and love of God and she is hungry to partake in her mission. She is an inspiration. Oh…and she is nine years old. That every soldier would have her faith, this is my prayer.

Her story is not uncommon. And yet, what is the greatest responsibility we give children in our Corps? Taking up the offering? Singing a song? Perhaps thanking a special guest? And the greatest responsibility children have in bringing about justice? Maybe drawing a picture in class, or possibly finding sponsors for the read-a-thon! Stop underestimating them! Please!

In my opinion, respecting a child means respecting both the mission God has for their life now, as well as respecting the capacity God gives them to complete this mission for His glory. Respecting a child means teaching and training them to be real soldiers in a real war that is happing in real time.

But what can children really do? This was asked of William Booth, and he replied; “They can do for the little world in which they move as much as adults can for their big world. They can live holy lives. They can testify to the Power of God to save. They can sing the songs of Salvation so sweetly, that often proud, hard-hearted, grown-up people will be compelled to listen, and made to feel, and weep. They can pray-not, perhaps, with much oratorical glitter, or the ability to convey any great amount of information to the Almighty; but none the less they can intercede for souls, and pray the fervent effectual prayer which avails as much in a little child as in a man, when that prayer is wrought by the Holy Spirit…We see how they can often find entrance where the doors are closed against their elders; and that in life and in death their words have frequently a power on those who love them, which no Minister, Deacon, or Salvation Army Officer could ever hope to wield. For all these reasons we say, teach, train, watch over, and care for the children.”

So what should our response be? William goes on to say;

“You must make the children understand that God expects them to do their share of the fighting, and encourage them to do it. Beget within them the conviction that soul-saving is going to be their life-work, and get them fired with the ambition to go to their post and die there before they are brought into contact with cold, freezing, unbelieving, half-hearted professors.” You know, it is sad. It seems today I meet many more parents who would prefer for their children to please these professors and excel in all that they stand for rather than to get caught up in corps work or worse still, Officership! In fact, it breaks my heart. We can’t pass on a conviction for soul-saving if what we really want for them is cash-saving.

I cannot word my sentiment any stronger than Catherine Booth who says; “Some parents are continually putting before their children future aggrandisement and fortune, as a stimulus to industry and effort, thus holding up to their young minds this world's prosperity and applause as the great aim and object of life. To get to be more learned, more genteel, more wealthy than men of their own class, so that they may be received into higher circles of worldly society.” I can feel her disdain coming through the screen of my laptop!

So, where to from here?
1. We need to start respecting the child’s capacity
2. We need to train them well and equip them for battle
3. We need to readjust our hopes and dreams for their lives and realign them
with God’s
4. We need to give them real opportunities to complete their mission
5. We need to start resourcing Corps to deal with this kind of paradigm shift

For me, this is what it means to respect a child.

Ah, it feels good to get that out.
Genevieve

05 July, 2008

Show some respect!

Truly…this week will be really short!!!

I was in Adelaide last weekend at an awesome children’s day. The theme came from 1 Timothy 4:12 which begins with ‘don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young’. For children, this verse inspires courage despite age and encourages great action regardless of the lack of faith shown by those older and possibly wiser. But what does this mean for us adults? Does it mean we treat children as independents who are left to think for themselves and deal with ramifications? That could get messy.

For me, it means that we treat children with respect. But, what does it mean to respect a child? It is a huge concept and one that is often overlooked. And yet, if we (parents, teachers, politicians etc) respect children fully, how will this effect the education/healthcare/welfare etc systems we create? Or looking globally, if we really respect a child, how will this effect the type of aid we produce within a third world context. The question needs to be explored and we need to move beyond typical values associated with the care of children. So, think about it this week and feel free to comment and I shall explore the justice components in response next week.

Have a great week!

Gen