Monthly Archives: August 2010

P.S. I can’t believe I forgot to include this!

Today is the last day to vote for Global Gardens in an local non-profit competition. We are a finalist in the local food co-op monthly Shop for Good Day. Whichever non-profit organization gets the most votes by the end of August (tomorrow!) will receive 4% of the co-op’s sales on September 23. We’re currently neck-in-neck with another organization. Help my refugee friends and vote for Global Gardens by clicking on this link: Vote for Global Gardens!

The money will go towards our refugee families who have learned enough farming/marketing skills to start farming and selling on their own. To do so, they’ll need tools, tables, coolers, etc – this small investment will set them up for years of sustainable production and income. Thanks!!

If you missed my post from earlier today, read it here, so you can understand why Global Gardens is such a noble cause!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I’ll Miss About Global Gardens

This is my last week at Global Gardens. It’s a bittersweet moment. I have loved my work this summer, and have learned so much about farming, vegetables, marketing, Somalia, Islam, and the lives of refugee families here in America.

I will miss the satisfaction of knowing that our work has helped refugee families raise over $15,000 this season. One family has eight kids and depends on welfare – so even the smallest profit is a big deal to them. I will miss the smile that come over Maka’s face when she counts the money she’s made at market that week. I will not miss the arguments that happen when one particular farmer believes we’ve cheated him out of $2 because we didn’t weight the tomatoes properly

I will miss Shamsi, Fatuma, and Sonte, three teenage girls that I work with a lot. I will miss their laughs, their girly cares about their current love interest, their hair-dos, and how much they love the latest song on the Top 40 charts. I will miss our more serious conversations about Ramadan, Islam, and trying to follow God and honor their families in this culture.

I will miss the tired but satisfied feeling of a hard day’s work at the farm. I will miss the sight of boxes and tubs of freshly-harvested produce ready to sell – the bright colors of tomatoes, peppers, and carrots, the abundant green of kale and swiss chard, the rich scent of basil and cilantro. I will not miss the tedium of washing lettuce and chopping it up for salad mix, the itchy green rash that green bean leaves give me, nor the sticky-smelly-dirty feeling that comes from layering my skin with sunscreen, bug spray, sweat, and dirt – and then repeating the layers every four hours.

I will miss Sheikh, Saladi, and Hamadi, the three youngest boys of one of our farmers (I secretly call them the Three Amigos). I will miss their huge smiles, their eagerness to “help”, and their funny little dances. I will not miss shrieking at them when they decide a dead, decomposing bird on the side of the road is a fun thing to play with. I will not miss having to drag them away from the cars of customers who have come to buy our produce at our roadside stand, lecturing them over and over that cars are not toys.

I will miss Katie and Elysia, the two devoted staff members of Global Gardens I’ve had the pleasure of working with this summer. I will miss our conversations as we share in the joy and frustration of working in an agricultural setting with refugees. I will not miss the stresses that unavoidably come with working for an under-staffed, under-financed non-profit organization (although it’s very likely I will encounter these same stresses in my work with IJM!)

I will miss our devoted customers, CSA members, and volunteers who believe so strongly in the mission of Global Gardens. I will miss the customer at the market who couldn’t believe how cheap our cucumbers are. I will not miss the customer who couldn’t believe how expensive our cucumbers are (yes, good prices are apparently relative).

I will miss being here for Eid al-Fitr, the big feast celebration at the end of Ramadan that will happen the day I fly to D.C (talk about lame timing!). I will miss the delicious sambusas (savory pastries) that Amina gives me, indicative of their big-hearted hospitality that welcomes me into their homes and lives.

Goodbye, my friends at Global Gardens. Thanks for sharing your piece of earth, your lives, your joys, your struggles with me. God be with you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Two Weeks to Go!

In two weeks I’ll be on a plane to Washington, DC, for Training Week at IJM’s headquarters, and I have a lot to accomplish before then. Take a peek at my ‘to-do’ list to get a better feel for what I’ve been busy doing these last few days.

I still have boring paperwork that I need to finish and send into IJM headquarters (donation checks, insurance info, etc). I also still have a stack of blank prayer cards that are eager to find homes on refrigerators around the world (if you have not received one, and would like one, let me know!) 🙂

On a different note, shopping continues to be a major aspect of my preparations for Uganda. It seems counter-intuitive to me to start out a year of simple living in Africa with a veritable shopping spree, but it’s sort of a necessary evil. This is my first ‘real’ job with a dress code and all, so I’m trying to make a wardrobe transition from college sweatpants to business attire that’s appropriate for a dusty African city.

There are also a number of various sundry items that just aren’t easily available in Uganda – ziploc bags, toiletries, underwear, walnuts, etc. And I’m still hunting through used book stores for a few good books to keep me company in my apartment in Kampala (Although I know of some options, I have yet to secure an apartment, which is beginning to become stressful. It’s a little bit difficult to go apartment-hunting from 9,000 miles away).

You’ve probably noticed the big lettering in the lower right corner of my to-do list: PRAY. I wrote it in big words like this, not because it’s what I do most often, but because it’s what I do least often. I have never been a huge prayer-warrior, and find it easier to focus on tangible things that I can check off a list. But I know the discipline of prayer is crucial as I prepare for Uganda and the big transition that is ahead of me, so I write myself not-so-subtle reminder notes. 😉

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Defining Justice, Part 2

As I’ve thought about this post over the last few days, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into – justice is a complex idea that is not easily boiled down into a formula. I’ve read different articles by Christian theologians, and have also read your comments with interest – thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Most of all, I’ve spent time re-reading Good News About Injustice, a book by Gary Haugen, the president of IJM. It sort of serves as the founding document for why IJM exists and what we fight for. So, much of what I have concluded while on my search for the definition of biblical justice comes from him. I highly recommend that you read his book, if this topic interests you!

First of all, I should acknowledge that there is, of course, the sort of divine justice that we refer to when we talk about God’s justice as a holy God who judges all those who rebel against him. But the type of justice that we’re concerned with at IJM refers more to justice within human relationships (which perhaps could be called social justice, although I’d really rather stay away from that terminology altogether). So, here are three statements about justice that most fully explain my understanding about this type of biblical justice and our calling to seek justice in the world today (again, these conclusions are essentially a paraphrase from what I’ve read in Good News About Injustice.)

1. In the broadest sense, justice describes what occurs when power is used in accordance with God’s standards of moral excellence.

    In the Old Testament, justice and righteousness are two concepts that are often paired together (see Psalm 89:14).  The distinction that I find most helpful between these two terms is this: while righteousness indicates personal adherence to God’s moral standards, justice is more specifically concerned with the appropriate use of power in accordance with God’s moral standards. Conversely, Gary Haugen defines injustice this way: “Injustice occurs when power is misused to take from others what God has given them, namely, their life, dignity, liberty or the fruits of their love and labor” (Good News, p. 86).

    2.  Because God is a God of love and justice, He suffers with those abused by injustice and desires to see them avenged.

    I think too often, people see God’s love and God’s justice as characteristics that counteract each other – but this is not necessarily true.  We know that God is a compassionate God, and the word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” This means that when humans suffer from injustice, when power is abused and used to hurt someone, God stands with those suffering and suffers with them. (see Psalm 12:5).  God’s compassion is where his characteristics of love and justice meet.

    3. God actively responds to injustice and rescues those abused and oppressed by calling upon His people to seek justice.

    This is perhaps the most crucial point for Christians to understand. American evangelicals have long understood the need to preach the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation, recognizing that God has given us this responsibility as His ambassadors. As Romans 10:14 says: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” The same principle also holds true for God’s cry for justice: His plan for rescuing victims of injustice involves the church. Through the prophet Isaiah, God lets His people know that the type of service and fasting He desires is this: to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free. (Isaiah 58). But in the next chapter, justice for these victims is still nowhere to be seen. “The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene.” (Isaiah 59: 15-16).

    I think this is why Jesus spends so much time berating the Pharisees who have used their power for personal gain, why he spends so much time loving the outcast lepers, healing the downtrodden women who are shunned because of their status – so that His disciples would know and understand that their God is a God of love and justice who calls His followers to continue on with this active pursuit of justice for the most abused and vulnerable within society.

    So, there you have it. In summary: As a God of love, compassion, and justice, God is concerned with justice as a right exercise of power according to his righteous moral standard, he suffers with those abused by injustice, and he calls the church to respond and fight against injustice.

    I have not presented a comprehensive view of Biblical justice, by any means, but hopefully it’s given you further understanding into why IJM does what it does, and why I believe so strongly in the mission of IJM. And if I’ve piqued your interest at all, please, pick up a copy of Good News about Injustice so you can continue learning more!

    3 Comments

    Filed under Uncategorized

    Defining Justice

    A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon on Luke 18:1-8, one of Jesus’ many parables. The story he tells his disciples, in brief, goes like this: A widow goes to a judge in order to get justice from her adversary. Unfortunately, the judge is a cranky, perhaps corrupt, old guy who doesn’t respect God or men, and he could really care less whether she actually gets justice or not. Despite his apathy, she keeps persevering, and is eventually granted justice by the judge just because he had gotten sick of her perpetual nagging.  Jesus concludes the story by reminding his disciples that if a widow can get justice from an uncaring judge, how much more is God our Father ready and willing to answer His children’s cries for justice on the earth!

    Well, needless to say, I was excited when the pastor finished reading this passage: “Wow, this is so great! A passage on the importance of persistently seeking justice, and God’s faithfulness in answering our prayers! Now the pastor will tell us all about God’s heart for justice and remind us what role the church has in seeking justice on earth!”

    My enthusiasm was short-lived.

    The pastor continued his sermon with an acknowledgement that our lives are tough, and sometimes things don’t work out like we’d like them to. He told us of the troubles he’s had as the owner of two homes, trying to keep up with the mortgage payments on the one here in Idaho while being unable to sell the first one in Michigan because of the economy. He concluded that although these things are tough, if we just keep asking God to help us, it’ll be better soon.

    By this time, I was fuming internally. “I can’t believe it! He just took this inspiring, call-to-arms passage about  courage, justice, passion, and God’s faithfulness and reduced it to a mere reminder to pray more often for what we want. How consumerist, how completely short-sighted, how American!” Granted, in hindsight, I was probably too harsh on the pastor. As my parents gently reminded me on the way home, pastors preach on what their congregation needs to hear, and for all I know, maybe this particular group of Christians does need to hear again that God is big enough to answer their prayers and supply their needs/wants.

    But, this brief internal burst of frustration did remind me again of the importance of definitions. If you’re familiar with my generation, you know that we have a certain penchant for the phrase ‘social justice.’ We throw it around a LOT, and use it to describe all sorts of things. I could spend a whole blog post talking about the nuances in our ideas of social justice, but my point right now, is this: I don’t think the American church at-large knows how to define the Biblical concept of justice.

    Too often in our minds, justice is simply what happens when the world works like we think it should – which can include things as big as bringing freedom to the 27 million people enslaved around the world today, and things as little as getting our money’s worth for a meal at a restaurant. And so our understanding of justice is too-often cheapened, diminished, and easily dismissed. As long as the American church keeps operating with a haphazard, generic definition for justice, it’s not surprising that we hear sermons which reduce justice to mere fulfillment-of-what-you want.

    So, my fellow Christians, Americans, young 20-somethings, justice-seekers, whatever you are: figure out what you mean by justice. Leave a comment on my blog if you wish to share (I know you all have good things to say, and I promise I’ll be more gracious with you than with I was with the pastor!)  😉  Later this week I’ll post a blog on my understanding of Biblical justice – I figured you should know what I mean when I talk about justice, since I’ll probably be throwing that word around a lot for the next 12 months.  🙂

    5 Comments

    Filed under Uncategorized

    Life on the Farm

    [warning: this blog post doesn’t exactly have anything to do with my year with IJM in Uganda. But if you’re interested in hearing about my summer job working with African refugee families on an organic farm, read on!]

    This summer I’ve been working as an Americorps member with Global Gardens, a subset of the Idaho Office of Refugees. Our tiny team of four women (me included) works with about 30 refugee families, mostly from Somalia, but also from Kenya, Burundi, and Congo. We tend eight different community farms around the Boise area, and in the process we train the refugees in appropriate farming techniques and marketing skills. Our goal is to improve their knowledge of American business practices and provide them with fresh vegetables and a source of additional income.

    Three months ago, I would have associated these words with the above paragraph: “Glamorous. Life-changing. Sustainable. Healthy. Really-cool-organic-people. Community Development.” I was excited to develop a whole new skill set of practical gardening knowledge, revolutionize the lives of refugees all over Boise, and garner the overwhelming support of local communities in welcoming these newcomers to life in America.

    But that was before I started the job. I’ve been forced to change the job description since then.

    It is true, many parts of my job have been a ton of fun. I have met a lot of really-cool-organic-people. I’ve learned more about the thriving local-foods movement that is here in Boise. And, true to my idealistic nature, I’ve had moments when I walk down the garden rows with a basket of tomatoes on my head (carrying them like the African mamas do), and think “Wow. I feel cool.” I’ve had great conversations with refugees, and have learned so much about the hard life they’ve lived.

    Maka is one of the Somali refugees I’ve gotten to spend time with. She’s 55, and has borne 12 kids. Six of them died in Somalia, and six live here in the States now. She knows very little English, but has the biggest laugh and is the hardest worker I’ve seen on the farm.

    Today I was helping her sell her produce at the farmer’s market. It was the first time she’d been to the market. (And let me tell you, there are some CRAZY personalities that appear at the Boise farmers’ markets. 60-year-old ladies bellydancing in the street…bluegrass banjo players on the sidewalk. But I digress…) We had the greatest time wandering around the market during a short break. In Maka’s limited English, all pronouns are “she”. Referring to herself: “She is very tired.” Referring to the sample honey we tried: “Mm, she very sweet.” Referring to the pine nuts we tried: “She is good oil.” Even the young male banjo musician: “She is very nice.”  It was so fun to be part of this totally new cultural experience for Maka, knowing that she would have never come to the market by herself.

    I would be lying, though, if I just painted you the glamorous picture of my job this summer. Since starting the job two months ago, I have added these words to my job description: “Long hours. Frustration. Weeds. Mosquitos. Bug-eaten cabbage. Miscommunication. Male domination.”  Imagine my shock when I discovered that when you farm organically, there are TONS more weeds and bugs in the garden, and they tend to wreak havoc on both the farmer and the produce!

    I also didn’t fully appreciate the cross-cultural differences we’d encounter working with refugees from Somalia. As is typical in many tribal societies, the men tend to think they run the world, and so it’s been difficult to assert any sort of authority as young American women. They also hold an innate sense of distrust when doing business dealings, so trying to explain appropriate customer service protocol is sometimes difficult. I’ve also had difficult conversations with some of the Somali Muslim men who told me very clearly that our “American Bible” has been changed, commercialized, and is now sold as a business rather than as actual Holy Scriptures. (The worst part is that I was half-inclined to agree with them!)

    It definitely hasn’t been an easy job. Sometimes it’s rewarding (like when Maka told us today that she felt rich now because of how much she was able to sell this morning at market!), sometimes it’s not rewarding at all (like when you spend six hours weeding a patch of pumpkins, come back a week later, and find the weeds twice as high as they were before).  But I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the chance to work cross-culturally right here in Idaho and learn more about strangers here in our midst. And while I’m not going to be signing up for a lifetime job on an organic farm anytime soon, I do think I’ve learned some skills I could put into practice in a backyard garden plot someday. 🙂

    1 Comment

    Filed under Uncategorized