All posts in "Justice"

Refugee Status



Tibetan Refugees in India, Documentary Photographer Paula Watts

 

“Being clear about what we’re doing and why is the first step in doing it better. If you’re not happy about the honest answer to this question, make substantial changes until you are.” Seth Godin. Jan 15, 2013

Not a day goes by when I don’t have the extreme privilege of hearing stories of young Tibetans fleeing the Chinese government’s occupation of their land. The stories are shocking, filled with bravery, a fight for freedom and many times, end in tragedy.  Just today, a friend of mine told me his story of crossing the Himalayan Mountains (as they all do in order to get to India). He told me of being captured by the Chinese government the first 3 times he tried to escape, put in prison and then returned him to his home. The fourth and final time, he travelled for multiple weeks over the mountains, with some dying along the way. Food runs out, the temperatures are freezing, there are unmarked paths with dangerous cliffs. One young man fell to his death during their journey.

I want to help. I can’t just stand by. I serve a God who came to earth and died for justice, for us, un-deserving, but with Him, we have a hope for a future. He asks the same of us, to humble ourselves, to serve, and to fight for justice. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

This has inspired me to start a documentary project of these young adults, coming from Tibet, as refugees, holding on to their culture, learning for the first time about their country’s history (as it is mostly banned in Tibet to learn of their own history), all the while trying to embrace their new surroundings in India, separated from their families and from the way of life they’re accustomed to. A beautiful mixture of tradition and modern appeals. Starting a new life…. with “Refugee Status”.

This is the first image of the series.

(Sengye, shown above, is a young Tibetan man from the Amdo region of Tibet. He wears a traditional fur hat and necklace, identifying him as Amdo. He was raised in a nomadic family (as most are in that region), breeding yaks, sheeps and goats. He fled Tibet on the same night of his father’s return from being imprisoned by the Chinese government for 14 years. They didn’t see each other.)

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts, input and comments.

 

 

Well Watered Gardens



Our return to Redhill was a much-anticipated reunion. Three years ago marked a very pivotal time in our young, American, newly married lives: deciding to move into a little shack in a South African township to work amongst the Xhosa people. Life changing, really. Probably more for us than them. We had little inklings of what it’d be like, but had no idea it’d shape our lives and decisions from then on in such a large way. Not to mention the real love and bond with the people of Redhill, specifically with our neighbors David and Daisy.

So, you can imagine, the emotions that come into play, when you drive up the road, in anticipation to seeing them again, revisiting the little shack that kept us cold at night and warm in the day. (and no, that was not a mistake)

My heart felt heavy from the start of the day, wondering if they’d still be there, fearing they wouldn’t share in our excitement of returning, but mostly just out-of-my-skin thrilled for the opportunity to see everyone again. Liana, our roommate in this shack three years ago, and I both admitted feeling a little nervous just as we parked.

So we head up to our old stomping grounds, reminiscing and noticing changes in the once burnt grounds of a fire stricken land, now with flourishing gardens and natural landscape.  We see David and Daisy. Tears start flowing and Daisy immediately embraces us and reminds me that I am crying the same as the day I left. David came around the corner and got his same old toothless grin on his face. One that looks like he’s trying to hold back his real emotions. “We often talked of you guys, wondering when you’d come back. Took you long enough” he said, in his almost cowboy-like abruptness. Soon came the little kids that once knew us so well, playing in our yard, and sitting on our laps. I saw Artule, a little boy whose photographs graced the pages of magazine stories of Redhill and my gallery in Portland. I had a photo of him hanging on my office wall at home, and would recognize his eyes from a mile away. He was happy to accompany us for the remaining tour of Redhill that day. Hand in hand, we went.

I was reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us while working in Redhill. Isaiah 58, a well quoted chapter of God’s heart for justice, and yet, for us, almost a prophetic inscription of what to expect from the Lord in our sun-scorched land.

“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called the Repairer of Broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58: 10-12

Redhill Township South Africa Photography

All Nations Africa Documentary Photographer

Africa Documentary Photographer South Africa

Missions All Nations Africa Redhill

Walter Brueggemann: What is Justice?



I was just watching this short vimeo video from The Justice Conference where Walter Brueggemann is discussing what biblical Justice is and the challenge for those who follow Yahweh to work towards the alleviation of injustices.

I am encouraged how Brueggemann is bringing much needed attention to the often separated notions of our “declared love for God” and our “social activities”. I also appreciated how he highlights the truth that there can be systemic conditions within communities that lend to the oppression of people.

Watch this video below and lets discuss what he is saying here. Is it helpful to you?

One of the misfortunes in the long history of the church is that we have mistakenly separated love of God from love of neighbor and always they are held together in prophetic poetry.

Covenant members who practice justice and righteousness are to be active advocates for the vulnerable and the marginal and the people without resources and that then becomes the way to act out and exhibit one’s love of God.

So love of God gets translated into love of vulnerable neighbors. And the doing of Justice is the prophetic invitation to do what needs to be done to enable the poor and the disadvantaged and the neglected to participate in the resources and the wealth of the community.

And injustice is the outcome of having skewed neighborly processes so some are put at an unbearable disadvantage.

And the gospel invitation is that people intervene in that to correct those mistaken arrangements.”     -Walter Brueggemann

I have read his book about the both the vocation and influence of the Prophets within the scriptures titled, “The Prophetic Imagination”. It was very interesting and quite stimulating to say the least.

I do recommend it if you are interested to study about the prophetic literature within the Bible. It is only 150 pages but full of prophetic challenge for the faith.

To hear more about what I have been reading and being encouraged by, visit readingtheology.com

Queen



documentary photographer zambia africa widow

african photography poverty widow village

Queen, a recent widow and newfound friend of mine: at first impression, she is seemingly shy and reserved. Take another look and you’ll find she is spunky and a fighter. She wears the scarf of one who has lost her husband. She is grieving. He was the sole provider of their family; now leaving her the sole provider of her eight grandchildren. She is burdened. Zambian law gives rights to her husband’s family, not including his widow. She is being told that their land is no longer hers, because it belongs to his family. She is alone.

I would like to say we have easy answers and a quick fix for Queen. We don’t. The issues that Queen is up against are complicated, cultural, and multi-dimensional, and if we want to help create an atmosphere of empowerment for Queen, more and more, we are finding that being encouragers and a support is where our role should be. It’s hard. It’s messy.

I am reminded of a song that Dan wrote… (Abridged version)

Take my love to the Nations…
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there

Take my light to the dark places of this world
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there

Watch their faces turn bright when they turn on that light
And they see that I care
and they know that I’m there

Take my healing to the broken hearted orphan child
Show him I’m there
Show her I care

In her darkest night
I will work for her with all my might
Show her I’m there
Show him I care

Cause if you don’t go
How then will they know?
That I still care
That I’m really

You’re my hands and my feet
You’re my message to this world
To show them I’m there
To show them I care

We ask for prayer and wisdom in finding ways to partner with Queen and her family… for provision and long-term solutions to take care of her and her grandchildren.

zambia photographer rural village documentary

Poverty



“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning.” When Helping Hurts

Zambian documentary photographer

I have told many people about this book that I’m reading, When Helping Hurts. It’s a book serving to identify what true poverty looks like, from all aspects, in order to be able to discern the best way to help alleviate it. Poverty is not just lack of material possessions. It’s not just about lacking food or shelter or shoes to walk to school. There’s definitely a lot of that kind of poverty here in Zambia and it’s an easy thing to recognize, that’s for sure. But what this book is distinguishing between is the material poverty and the kind of poverty that goes deeper. It goes into the very fiber of who we are and who we were created to be. It’s poverty that keeps us from being able to have compassion on others, or that keeps us broken inside, or that keeps us distant from our Maker.

Living in Africa, it’s very tempting to want to help in visibly large ways! I want to be able to say, “I fed 1,000 people today!” I want those 1,000 people to have food. It’s not a bad thing to want, I believe. But what happens when tomorrow, those same 1,000 people don’t have food again? Do they come together as a community to figure out creative ways to get food, or do they come to us, the “makuah” for the handout? (makuah is white person). My heart would be the former, and not the latter. They are wonderfully intelligent, hard working, and compassionate people. But if we only see the immediate need of giving the handouts as the answer, we are stunting their ability to be whole people, to have the dignity of working and to be creative beings to solve problems and see it through. I am challenged and encouraged by the concepts in this book, and it’s helping me form relationships with the people in the village that is not on a “giver and receiver” basis. Instead, it gives us the ability to have relationships with mutual encouragement, helping each other reach our full potential as loved human beings, created for great things, restored for His glory!

Monde.



It’s so easy to think on the life changes we have seen by coming here to Zambia. I often times recall all the things we left behind or the people we miss. That’s not a bad thing. I would like to think it’s actually quite normal and healthy. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I miss my mommy. I’m a momma’s girl for sure. We used to talk on the phone everyday. About everything. I miss that.

Our life has changed dramatically. Too true. We went from a comfortable life in the Pacific Northwest, where we had friends and family, great jobs, and community with our church; we went on dates to our local pub, we ran on the river trail by our house, we volunteered at the local community center, we knew our postman.

These days, we still have community. We have a group of people that all love serving the poor, who serve Jesus first and foremost, and who are passionate about seeing people’s lives improved, both by seeing life in Jesus, but also by tangible things like clean water, orphan care and empowerment. We are a multi-cultural group, which I love. We are friends. We have partnered with some of the most salt-of-the-earth kind of people, who we share life with. We watch movies here, we talk about life and dream together.

Life is much simpler here– simpler than the fast-paced-United-States, sense of the word. We walk a lot. We hang our laundry on a line, we make most of our meals… yes, even I cook. And yet, we are faced with more challenging scenarios and situations than I have ever been faced with before. A woman’s son beats her, a woman’s husband beats her, a woman has just been diagnosed with AIDS,  a father must pass down his demon spirits to his son because it’s tradition… the list goes on. Alcoholism, rape, abuse, AIDS, oppression, fear, poverty… How do we handle it? How does one Jesus-loving group tackle these things?

Here’s my hope… Monde. A little girl, once vulnerable, once abandoned, once left without food or care. Now, living in a safe, loving environment. Once unable to walk because of neglect, now walking. Once only knowing tears and crying, now laughs.

Monde, Vulnerable Children, Children's Home, Zambia, Africa, Love's Door, All-Nations

 

For all the things we don’t know, or for all the things we don’t feel equipped to handle, we have been commanded as Christians to care for the poor and the widow, to show justice and mercy, and to be love, as Jesus loved us. So we press on. We ask for wisdom and grace. We ask for support from you, family and friends. And we ask for prayer to continue to seek what’s right and advocate on behalf of those who can’t.

World Change is How We Roll



World Change is How I Roll….

I received this slogan on a sticker from a company called Sevenly after purchasing a t-shirt that donates funds to people in need of clean water.

I loved the sticker almost as much as the shirt.

How cool would this world be if everyone lived by that little catchy phrase? World Change.

What does it even mean? How can we even do this?

For some people, maybe they can’t go to far off distant lands and work with the poor and broken. Maybe some don’t even want to. Maybe others don’t have any extra money to give or resources to spare.

We know a man here in Zambia in one of the villages we serve in who is constantly telling us about all the needs we should help with. This woman’s thatch roof is falling down, or this family has no food.

He desperately wants to help, but doesn’t feel like he has anything to give.

So he tells the “white man”, who of course, has all the keys to save the world and all the money in the world to do it. Or maybe that’s what they’ve been told or maybe that’s what they’ve learned. (a different subject entirely)

But instead, I want to challenge our friend in the village to give what he does have.

Compassion, time, a worker’s strong hand, prayer, love.

If we think on these things, we all have SO much to give. Some things are intangible, but equally, if not more, moving to another human.

I offer my hand to help, but also, I offer my heart.

Jesus taught me this. He showed us first what it’s like to lay down our lives for others. I have been moved by this and in turn, want to show this love to others. It’s a start. It’s a goal.

And thus, I offer my two cents and challenge you to go ahead… change the world.