Book Reviews: When Helping Hurts and Orphan Justice

whenhelpinghurtsWhen Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without the Poor…and Yourself

by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

From first-hand experience, I always knew that I had to be careful how I served the poor, but I didn’t know just how important it was until I read this book. Corbett and Fikkert do a wonderful job explaining the biblical principles behind Christian service. This book has revolutionized the way I think about missions and short-term missions trips. It also made me re-evaluate my giving–am I being a good steward of my finances? I highly recommend this thought-provoking book! Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kids’ soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world’s inhabitants struggle just to eat every day. And in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream North America. We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.”

Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adoptingorphanjustice

by Johnny Carr

I have a special place in my heart for orphans. Right now I am not in the position to adopt or foster children, but I still want to help. Perhaps you’re in a similiar boat. Well, the good news is Johnny Carr provides many, many ideas on how we can come around and love orphans/foster kids and the families that are caring for them. We don’t have to wait to adopt a child to make a difference, there are countless things we can do NOW! Grab Johnny’s book for a look into the heart of an adoptive father (he’s adopted two kids) and inspiration for your journey into orphan justice (this book inspired some of my recent articles: Getting Uncomfortable and 8 Ways to Help the Poor and Forgotten)

4 Lies Culture Tells Us About Living Together Before Marriage

“So…are you engaged yet?” the hairstylist asked her client with a smile.

Sitting in the chair across the way, my ears perked up. This should be an interesting conversation to eavesdrop on (yes, I confess I am an eavesdropper).

“No,” the athletic blonde man replied.

“What? How long have you been together now?”

“Four years,” he casually replied.

That’s a pretty long time, I thought to myself.

“Has your girlfriend asked about it?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, come on man, you’re not getting any younger,” she teased.

“I know. I know. I was twenty-eight when we met, now I’m thirty-two.”

Okay, mister, you’re no spring chicken. Why are you taking so long? And why in the world is she still with you?

“Well, I’m gonna keep pestering you until you propose. So when are you going to pop the question?”

Good, Ms. Hairstylist! Keep encouraging him. He needs to make a commitment or move on!

“I’m not sure…” he said awkwardly.

What? You’re not sure after four years?

Sensing his discomfort, the hairstylist immediately switched to a more comforting tone. “I’m sorry, I know it’s not that simple. It’s a big decision, and you have to think about it seriously. I’m just giving you a hard time.”

Well, he needs someone to give him a hard time!

“Yeah, well…we did just get a puppy!” When he said that, his tone changed, as though sharing a dog with his girlfriend made him more committed to the relationship.

Okay, The furthest his commitment goes at this point is joint custody of a puppy. This is so backwards. Run away, girlfriend. RUN AWAY from this guy!

“Really! Aw, I’m proud of you!” Ms. Hairstylist exclaimed.

Click here to continue reading 4 Lies Culture Tells Us About Living Together Before Marriage on Crosswalk

Guest Post: A Story of Obedience and A Boy

I met Kim Harms at a conference two years ago and I’m delighted to have this wonderful Christian woman share with you!
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Hait_2 “He lives right over there. Do you want me to go get him?”

My heart leapt to my throat as I thought, “Really Lord? Is this for real?”

As I watched the Mission to Haiti employee walk off the mission grounds to find Jean Jacques, I was overwhelmed by this God, who not only provided for me to stand again on Haitian soil, but who loved me so much he would allow me to meet my grown up sponsor child.

Corey and I were working with a team on a short-term mission trip in Haiti. He was putting a roof on a house. I was teaching sewing classes. This trip brought to fruition a long time desire of mine to return to the country, and it was the culmination of walking through a lot of doors God opened for us.

When mom and I obeyed a little tug I felt to start sewing dresses for Haitians a few years ago, I began to see clearly that as I followed God in a little step of obedience, he showed me the next thing he had in store. And this weeklong trip to Haiti was one of those next things.

In his book The 10-Second Rule, Clare DeGraf says that character is shaped less by our big dramatic decisions than by the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of obedience. Those small acts shape our character and prepare our hearts to accept more bold assignments from God. They are building blocks for a life that God blesses.

This trip to Haiti was a bold assignment. And God chose to go over the top with blessings during that week.

As I stood in the shade of the mission office building waiting for Jean Jaqcues to walk through the gate, I thought of our first meeting many years ago.

It was 1997. He was an adorable timid face on a sponsor card, and I was a 21-year-old college student worlds away from home. I met little Jean Jacques and his family at his two-room block house with the tin roof and the flowing curtain in the door. From that moment I loved him, and for years I looked forward to the letters and photos I regularly received from him.

But now it was 2013. He was 20-something and I hadn’t heard a word about him in 3 years. I wasn’t sure this was really happening until I saw him walk through the gate.

Soon Corey and I were talking with a much-taller-than-me-grown-up Jean Jacques in the shade of the office building. Jean Jacques shared with Corey that everyone calls his father “Papa” and he often does construction work with the short-term Mission to Haiti teams when they visit.

“Papa?” Corey asked. “The Papa I’ve been working with this week?” I can’t even type those words without tears.

How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us.

Of all the men in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, one of the small handful of Haitian guys Corey was working with was the father of the boy we have prayed for and supported since even before we were married.

All this because; one, my father in heaven adores me, and two, when I knew he was asking me to sew, even though my skills are mediocre and my passion for the craft is lacking, I chose to obey.

Hait_2I don’t always want to do the “next thing” God wants me to do, and I certainly don’t always obey, but I never regret my obedience. Ever.

Maybe God is calling you to a step of obedience. Maybe the “next thing” is right in front of you. Maybe he’s asking you to let go of your fear and trust him. Go ahead. Do the next thing and build those blocks for a life that God blesses.

You won’t regret it. Ever.

 

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If you are interested in more information about 500 Dresses, the ministry that started with sewing a few little sundresses and has blossomed into much more, head on over to our website at 500dresses.org or our facebook page at www.facebook.com/500dresses. (You don’t have to be a seamstress to be a part of our ministry. You don’t even have to like to sew.)

Are You Supporting Child Slavery With Your Chocolate Addiction?

 

Did you know that there are currently 10 to 30 million slaves in the world today? That’s more than there were during the transatlantic slave trade!

There are sex slaves in Cambodia, labor slaves in India, plantation slaves in Africa, and even domestic slaves in upscale American suburbia (like a 10-year-old girl smuggled from Egypt to work as a domestic slave for a well-to-do Orange County couple). Bottom line: Slavery is all around us—it’s just harder to see.

But here’s the worst part: We are supporting slavery with our sweet-tooth.

The Bitter Facts

Americans spend approximately 13 billion dollars on chocolate each year, and over one third of all chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast in Africa. Now here’s the shocker: Over one million children work on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations. Of these, an estimated 12,000 to 200,000 children are enslaved, forced to pick cocoa for our chocolate bars.

They work in deplorable conditions. They labor 80 to 100 hours a week and are given little food, no pay, and no access to medical care. On top of being forced to work, they are regularly beaten. “The beatings were a part of my life,” Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told reporters. “Anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.” One former child plantation slave showed a BBC reporter the scars from his beatings and the reporter shared, “There wasn’t an inch of his body which wasn’t scarred.”

Click the following link to finish reading Are You Supporting Child Slavery with Your Chocolate Addiction? and discover ways you can help end slavery.

Is Jesus Enough?

Discontentment is a struggle for many singles. Sometimes we think: “I’ll feel better once I’m married.” And we have these inflated ideas about marriage. We expect it to make us whole and happy, to bring us ultimate bliss, and to give us purpose.

But that isn’t the point of marriage. Instead, it’s meant to mold us into the image of Christ and to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church. The Bible doesn’t say anything about us being fulfilled by our mate. In fact, if we put such high expectations on our future spouse—the responsibility for completing us—we’re doomed. Because no human is capable of fulfilling us—only God is.

There are many married people in the Bible, but if you look closely, you’ll see that it isn’t their marriages that bring them fulfillment; it’s their relationships with Christ.

And, interestingly enough, those who expected their spouse to make them happy ended up disappointed. Just look at Rachel. She married her dream guy, Jacob, but she was pretty miserable. It seems she never understood this truth: only God is enough to satisfy the longings of your heart.

Corrie ten Boom says, “Marriage is not the answer to unhappiness. Happiness can only be found in a balanced relationship with Jesus Christ. When you belong to Christ, you can be happy with or without a husband, secure in Christ alone.”

Contentment in Christ is something King David eventually recognized. He had his choice of women. He married a princess and he even stole the wife of one of his warriors. But those wives didn’t satisfy him. It was his close relationship with the Lord that brought him perfect contentment. He elegantly captures this sense of fulfillment in the Psalms. Here are a few examples:

Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand

Psalm 107:8-9

Let them give thanks to the Lordfor his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

And the beautiful thing is, those who find their satisfaction in Christ are also able to be content and faithful in marriage, no matter how difficult it may be. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, had anything but the ideal marriage. Her husband was an unbeliever, yet she didn’t fade away into depression. Because of her strong faith, she found purpose. Through Christ she was able to raise a godly son.

Christ is sufficient for all, whether single or married, whether in a good relationship or a terrible one. Jesus is enough.

So don’t put your happiness on hold until your wedding day. Get your eyes off your relationship status and on to Christ. In the words of my favorite preacher, Charles Spurgeon:

Happiness lies more in the mind than it does in the circumstances in which any individual is found, and the man within has far more to do with his own joy or sorrow than anything outside of him has. There have been some who have been perfectly free in a prison, while others have been in absolute bondage with wide estates to roam over. We have known some, whose spirits have triumphed when all around has tended to depress them; and we have seen others, who were wretched and desponding when they had, apparently, all that heart could wish. It is the mind which is the main thing; it will bring thee daylight or midnight, wealth or poverty, peace or war.

I ask you, friend, if you are struggling to find satisfaction in Christ, are you focused on your circumstances or on the Lord? If Jesus is not enough for you now, will He ever be enough?

Many people simply go from a discontented single life to a discontented married life. However a single person who is content in the Lord will transition into a happy married person. Because Christ has filled them, they can focus on pouring love into their spouse rather than focusing on what they can get from the relationship. I believe the healthiest marriages are not when the partners attempt to fulfill each other. Rather it is when they point each other to Christ for fulfillment, demonstrating the love that overflows from their close walk with Him.

So rather than waiting to find your perfect “other half,” focus on finding a more intimate relationship with Christ. He is, and always will be, enough.

Review: Real Men Don’t Text

realmenTexting has really changed the dynamics of relationships in our society. I love how Michael and Ruthie Dean have tackled this subject with style in their book Real Men Don’t Text: A New Approach to Dating. I appreciate their transparency and genuine concern for the well-being of our generation—and the future marriage/families of our generation. When I first started reading the book, I picked it up with the intent of only reading the first chapter, but I couldn’t but it down!

This book has a lot of great takeaways. The first part of the book dissects texting, answering questions like: “What do men mean by their texts/lack of texts/random texts/texting phrases?” Honestly, I found it quite intriguing to get into a guy’s mind. Michael Dean just says it how it is: “Texting is a sign of laziness and passivity. It’s either a tool for players or a crutch for the timid. If a guy doesn’t really have to work for something, he won’t hesitate to discard it for something even easier. We don’t value what we haven’t earned.”

The bottom line: Texting may aid in superficial communication, but it is not the medium for starting, maintaining, or building a relationship. Don’t be afraid to place boundaries on texting. If a guy is interested in you, he will take the time to pick up the phone. You don’t have to accept lazy texts.

In addition to unraveling the texting code, the Deans address real relationship issues with straight-forward advice. Here are a few highlights:

Why are you still single?

Of course, ultimately our relationship status in the Lord’s hands. But there are some things we are responsible for. Could your woe-is-me attitude be scaring away nice guys? What about your behavior? In Chapter Eight, Michael gives some insight on which qualities attract and which do not. It’s interesting to look at to see what you may be doing right or wrong.

Are you settling/lowering your standards?

Don’t! Standards protect you and you are worthy of pursuit! In Michaels’ own words, “Setting standards will not scare the right man away, I promise, because men respect women with standards. Let him know up front what you expect and see if he’s ready for the privilege—yes, you heard me, privilege—of dating you.” (See Chapter One)

 What are red flags in a relationship?

This was one of my favorite parts of the book. Ruthie has created a thorough list (with thought-provoking explanations) and I consider it worth keeping as a reference when in a relationship. Sometimes our infatuation/desire for a relationship clouds our perspective, so this list can bring us down to earth when we evaluate it honestly. (Check out Chapter Seven)

Be Careful Whom You Marry!

Don’t settle. Don’t excuse his behavior to yourself or to others. Listen to the insight of your family/friends (they see things you may not!). And consider Ruthie and Michael’s words:

Bad guys don’t turn into prince charming … Marriage doesn’t change, fix, or heal people —whatever red flag you see in your significant other will only be magnified in marriage. Maybe it’s not verbal abuse, but a character deficit in other areas. Maybe he doesn’t want your kids raised in church and you do. May you have the courage to stop making excuses and walk away —for both yourself and future generations. Don’t settle for crumbs when you were made for more. So much more.

What a Concentration Camp Taught Me about Relationships

I pushed open the massive iron gate, pausing to read the German words “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes free”). Although I’d read those infamous words in World War II books, I couldn’t believe I was actually here, walking into a former concentration camp.

 

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Dachau had a distinct odor. Maybe it’s the smell of death, I thought. I mean, over 30,000 people died here!

Walking into one of the sixty-nine barracks, I imagined the many narrow wooden bunks, which were crammed in from floor to ceiling, filled with emaciated prisoners. I passed into the lavatory, where rows and rows of toilets were lined up side by side. No doors; no privacy.

Could you even imagine living in these conditions?

Hidden in the corner of the camp was the crematorium. I stood in the rooms where prisoners were ordered to remove all their clothes, where they took “showers.”

What would it have been like to stand here, knowing I was about to be poisoned by deadly gas? I couldn’t even imagine the experience.

Exiting the gas chambers, I saw the crematorium ovens. I knew the history, but being there made it all too real. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood there—frozen in sadness.

Although this camp was liberated over seventy years ago, a cloud of sorrow still hung over the camp. As I made my way back to the entrance, a large memorial sign in front of the main building caught my eye: “Never again.”

I just stared at the words and silently agreed. We must remember this atrocity and NEVER let it happen again.

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What a horrible place! A country might understandably prefer to destroy these concentration camps and forget the atrocity altogether. Instead, Germany has made memorials of these sites, and every elementary school child has to visit them as part of their education. Why? So they won’t forget, so they won’t repeat the mistakes of a previous generation.

Germans recognize that history repeats, and they are doing their best to keep their students—and the world—accountable. If a story isn’t retold and remembered, we humans tend to rewrite it, committing the same errors.

Memorials are important, not only in history, but in our personal lives as well. They help us remember our past—both the good and the bad—and remind us of the lessons we learned. As Christians, we need to build memorials to keep from repeating sins and to remember God’s deliverance.

“Faith keeps the soul from sinking under heavy trials, by bringing in former experiences of the power, mercy, and faithfulness of God to the afflicted soul” (John Wilson).

When something big happens in your life, don’t forget what you learned from it. Sometimes we need to forgive and forget certain details, but we must never forget the lessons we learned.

Similarly, it’s wise to recall our past relationships. Whether we had a positive or negative experience, reflecting on what we’ve learned helps us become wiser people.

This isn’t necessarily easy. I know I’d sometimes rather forget the mistakes I’ve made in my relationships. And I’d also rather forget the times I was wronged by a significant other. But I need to look back, not in bitterness, but in genuine interest. Where was I wrong? Where was he wrong? How can I learn from my mistakes? And what safe guards can I put in place to avoid such negative relationships in the future?

A bad relationship is bad enough. But learning nothing from it is even worse! Then you’re sure to repeat it all over again.

Achieving the right combination of remembering and forgetting is a tricky balancing act. You must remember to make better choices in the future, but you cannot allow bad memories to take over your life and define your future. For example, does the average German historian go into a depression whenever he thinks of the Holocaust? Doubtful. Rather, he must say something like, “Wow. We really messed up. Let’s remember this tragic event in our history so we won’t do it again. Then we can move forward in pursuit of peace.”

Similarly, we need reminders of our past relationship mistakes; otherwise we can get into a cycle of bad relationships, moving from one emotionally abusive relationship to another.

So, don’t be afraid of your past. Don’t be defined by your past. Don’t be bitter about your past. But please DON’T completely forget your past. Learn from it. Learn and make better choices in your next relationship.