The 27 Million Song

You might be a fan of Matt Redman. Or, you might not know who I’m talking about. If you’ve heard a proper British accent singing a worship song that you’ve also heard lots of other Christian artists cover, you’re probably listening to Matt Redman. Anywho. Matt Redman & LZ7 collaborated to create an inspiring song called 27 Million. The song was created to raise awareness of the twenty-seven MILLION (read that number again for me, please) modern day slaves around the world right now.

Perhaps you saw Liam Neeson in the movie Taken and applauded the former Obi Wan Kenobi for kicking butt and taking names in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter from sex traffickers. Or maybe you saw the episode of CSI where Horatio rescued all those girls from Eastern Europe who’d been promised jobs in the US but were really being sold into slavery in the sex industry.

Maybe, like me, you thought of this as a problem ‘over there’ and not here until you heard a news story about a woman who’d been taken from a party in Raleigh, North Carolina, and brought to eastern North Carolina with the promise of a job. She was being held hostage in a trailer off a lesser-travelled highway, and given poker chips to pay for her food and personal necessities, in exchange for performing acts that I don’t want to mention here because I want to keep this blog G-Rated.

We can’t afford to be ignorant to what’s going on around us. And maybe we can’t do everything to solve this problem, but here’s a chance to do something today.

This is the official music video introducing the 27 Million Song. After you get inspired, you can buy it on iTunes — $1.29 on US iTunes here, it’s £0.99 on  UK iTunes here. Proceeds will go to the A21 Campaign, a non-profit engaged in the abolishment of injustice in the 21st Century. They’re making a difference and you can help!

Sure we can’t do everything, but what might be possible if we decided to do something, together?

Staring into the Ravine

We take the same route to church and to the the doctor’s office for my prenatal checkups. Depending on whether it’s a weekend or a weekday, the sights might be slightly different, but it always seems like there’s something to tug at my heartstrings.


Turning out of our neighbourhood, we’re on a fairly busy stretch of highway. Mr. Potato Head grumbles in the direction of the nearby Steenbras mountains, and then we turn and start heading in the direction of the Hottentots Holland mountains, further in the distance. We cross over the busy N2, up a hill and in a moment we’re whisked into Sir Lowry’s Pass village.

Until you come face to face with the reality of poverty, it is still just images on a TV screen or website, or in a brochure you received in the mail. But the reality is so much bigger — more complex, more colourful, more hopeful, more distressing.

We grumbled along for a prenatal appointment a couple weeks ago, and my heart rode the up and down roller coaster it usually rides on the journey. We pass the big dumpster where three or four goats are usually grazing on a pile of trash, and we come to the one little roundabout with a small food store on one corner, shacks on another, a freestanding house opposite the store. The rundown wall behind the goats closes out the circle. It’s a school day and the streets are full of life.

Children in uniforms are dispersing in every direction, and one little girl is giggling and scurrying away from an older sibling, or perhaps her mother. They are both laughing and seem so joyful I wish we could stop to ask what’s so funny.

A tall gentleman with a checkered shirt, a baseball cap and nice shoes struts across the street on the other side of the roundabout. A smaller guy with long dreadlocks and a red t-shirt hops up the curb on a little trick bike.

Outside a shack built entirely of what looks like found or recycled pieces of wood, a dog and a cat stand beside one another, staring in, as if something important is happening and they’re waiting to get inside. Children, some with shoes and some barefoot, are walking or sitting in the shade of the occasional, small trees that line the road. They’re eating their lunch and enjoying treats they’ve just gotten at the food store.

Life seems to be joyful for a moment.

A little further along we pass a little boy, gray-sweatered and green-trousered, still in his school uniform. Like children often do, he has taken off his school shoes to preserve them, and is walking barefoot and alone, a backpack on his back and his big black shoes in his arms. He steps normally with his right leg, but with each step he has to drag his left leg around in a circle, as if the leg cannot be bent at the knee. Watching him struggle under the weight of disability and the load he is carrying, my face is flush and I begin forcing back tears.

My mind begins to marvel that my heart hasn’t grown cold. I thought after a year or so these scenes would become familiar…that I’d struggle to find emotion…that I’d eventually begin to feel sorry that I didn’t feel sorry.

We pass a woman who is pregnant, but not as far along as I am. The difference in opportunity for the life growing inside her and the one in me…I almost want to shuck the thought away instead of letting it sink in. Who’s to know, really?

Sometimes Africa feels like a deep ravine set in a distant jungle. People come from miles around to find it, because everyone’s goal is to fill it. We throw in resources. Money. Food. Clothing. Bicycles. Shoes. Then we lean over to look in, and still can’t see the bottom. It’s a struggle to see progress. Hand-ups and Hand-outs start to look similar.

But I’ve seen change. I’ve seen generosity make a difference. And I’ve seen the numbers. And I’ve shared some of them with you here. We could be the generation that makes poverty history. If we grow weary in well-doing, we probably won’t. But if we continue the fight, our chances of success improve considerably.

The car grumbles on to the doctor’s office, my head and my heart like soft serve ice cream, thick with heavy thoughts. Staring down into the ravine, the hope is for something unseen. And who knows how it’s all going to come together.

I hope my part in this journey will end with a “Well done.” Sometimes I’m not sure what else to hope for.


The USA’s Robbery, Kaka and a World (Cup) of Injustice

Let’s be honest. A pretty decent number of us have not watched a soccer game since the World Cup packed the streets of Germany back in ’06. But now it’s here again…it’s big, it’s international, it’s exciting, and if nothing else, your home country’s involvement has hopefully peaked your interest.

But I think what keeps a lot of us interested, and what really provokes us to move past being a “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s kind of interesting” to a “I really care about this. This really matters. It matters to me!” kind of fan is the personal involvement that tugs at our hearts when we see things going a different way from how we think they should.

A few nights ago, Brazil played Côte d’Ivoire and won the game 3 – 1. But after the match was finished and the stadium was cleared, it wasn’t the score that people were talking about. The thing that drew folks in, that is still drawing folks in, was the second yellow card that one of Brazil’s most shining gems, Kaka received. Two yellows equal a red, and Kaka walked off the field before the clock was out, and may or may not be allowed to play in the next match. (Depending on whether FIFA decides to step in from what I understand.)

Why was Kaka’s red so controversial? Because an Ivory Coast player, Keita, ran into Kaka. Kaka lifted his arm to block the oncoming player from running straight into him in a natural, and after studying the replays I’d like to say, very reasonable manner. Keita feigned having been elbowed in the face, brought his hands to his face and fell to the ground as if he’d just been assaulted by an armed guard with a bully club. The replays make it clear he was not hit in the face, but the ref bought it and carded Kaka. It might be fair to go so far as to say Keita cheated and Kaka was punished for it.

Injustice prevailed and the world took notice.

Just a few nights before that, the USA played Slovenia. They were down 2 – zip at the half and rallied back with goals from Donovan and Bradley to level off at 2 – 2. Then the unthinkable happened: in the 86th minute, second-half sub Maurice Edu knocked in a close range shot to put the US ahead. With just minutes remaining in the game it seemed like a sure victory, until the goal was disallowed. The replay has been watched and  re-watched. There are currently at least 24,711 views on youtube, and probably enough news articles and blog posts to circle the globe twice. It seems that at present no explanation has been offered.

Once again, injustice prevailed and the world took notice. (Fortunately, beating Algeria 1-0 last night means the USA boys are still in the game — feels like a bit of justice after the officiating tragedies.)

A friend of mine said ESPN is showing the disallowed goal footage back in the US before they show any highlights from the World Cup. Why? Because it engages people. It incites people. It takes people from “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s interesting” to “I really care. This really matters. It matters to me.”

Here’s the thing. I want to know what it will take to grab hold of the average Western churchgoer and bring them from “I will do something about injustice in the world when it’s easy and convenient for me” to “I care about this. This really matters. What happens in our world matters to me.”

Because for all the injustices on the playing field, still this is just a game. At the end of the World Cup there will be a trophy, some teams will win, some teams will lose. In 50 years not very many people will be able to remember what happened.

But in our world, these injustices are a different matter. The game is still going on, and it’s more than a game. I’m not going to bombard you with stats because I think you know them, but here are two, just relating to hunger: About 1 in 7 worldwide–854 million people–do not have enough food to sustain them. Approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger or its related causes–about 9 million people per year. I won’t even get in to clean water, preventable disease…or this post will go on all day.

But here’s the thing. We literally could be the generation that ends extreme poverty. $65 billion could eliminate the most extreme poverty on the planet for more than a billion people.* Please read that again. (That’s how much America spent on Jewelry in 2008.) Less than a third of what we spent on pets in 2003 could bring clean water to most of the world’s poor.^ I could go on and on with statistics which could demonstrate the fact that making a huge impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people is within our grasp. It is even within the grasp of just the American church, if every churchgoer in America tithed.

The reason I address the church is because this mission for us is a non-negotiable, unmistakeable absolute command and as long as we fail to follow through with it, we are falling short of what we have been repeatedly instructed to do. On average we’re giving 2.2 percent of our income to the church and 2% of that is going to overseas missions of any kind.§

You probably don’t hold that $65 billion in your hands, I know. But you do have something to give. If Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish, one boy’s lunch, and fed more than 5,000, surely we all have something to give. Mother Teresa once said:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Let those drops start today (or continue to flow as I believe it is for many of you) with loving the person in front of you. Loving the neighbour God puts in your path. Make sure you’re willing to let Him stretch wide the understanding of your heart to answer that simple question: “Who is my neighbour?”

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, on or off the field, for injustice to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Keep believing you can make a difference. You can, and especially with God’s love at heart, you will.


*Sachs, Jeffrey D.  The End of Poverty, (2005) 295. via Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel, (2005).
^Stein, Joel. “
It’s a Dog’s Life.” Time Magazine, May 19, 2003.  + United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 1998. via ” ”
§Stearns, R. Hole, 2005.

Mercy Rising Giveaway

Hey guys and gals! There’s a giveaway over at the Run-a-Muck right now for a book called Mercy Rising. Perhaps in some ways akin to the Hole in our Gospel which has been rocking my socks off for the past wee while, it is an inspiring book that will help you believe you can make a difference to a world in need. It is also a unique resource boasting a multitude of ideas and features to help us get from “I wanna help but I don’t know how” to “I’m gonna help and here’s how.”

I desperately want to inspire you guys, because I am finding life and joy in the inspiration I’m receiving from my experiences here in South Africa. I hope that if you believe anything else, based on the things I write and share and point toward in this space, you’ll believe ::

1. That Jesus is who He says He is, the One who lived and died for your sin and mine and offers grace and forgiveness at His own expense and

2. That you can make a difference in the world, following the example He set and obeying the things He taught. And if we ignore everything He taught about care and concern for the poor, than we are indeed living out a holey Gospel and we are missing the social revolution Jesus set in place.

Hop on over to the Run-a-Muck to read more about this special book and how you can win a copy! I hope you’ll be inspired!


Jesus, My Rubbish Collector

I was following along with a conversation on a friend’s website about entitlement the other day. And I began to recognise something that has been changing in me without me being fuly cognizant of it: I’m becoming aware that there is more (and more) “rubbish” in my heart, and I need help taking out the trash.

What’s all this rubbish I’ve been recognizing? (You need to pronounce rubbish with a British accent to fully enjoy it.) Well, among other things, I’m specifically aware of an entitlement attitude. A mindset that makes me feel sorry for myself (Self Pity is a Dangerous Bedfellow!) when things don’t go the way I think I deserve for them to go. Let me help you out, with actual, personal examples.

I might do think to myself:

“I’ve been praying and asking for this particular thing for ages. It isn’t something that costs very much money. I haven’t been spending much on anything else — in fact, I’ve been very careful with our budget. Why don’t I have what I’ve been praying for?”

“I really wish we had just a little extra cashflow just to be able to eat out or treat ourselves a bit more every once in a while. I mean, we work so hard — don’t we deserve it?”

These are just a couple of surface examples of a deeper issue that is very ingrained in my western, rights-mentality mindset. If I can justify in my mind why I deserve it, then indeed, it is so, and I deserve it.

But here’s the issue.

I am suddenly faced with the reality of the millions of people a stone’s throw (okay a couple miles) away from me who live in poverty. And I mean dirt floor, corrugated tin wall and roof, cooking on an open fire and making about $12 for a good day’s work poverty. Suddenly, now it’s a reality and not just pictures on TV of emaciated children with distended bellies and flies all around who almost make you not want to act because you don’t see any hope in it. Now I see these relatively healthy adults, mothers my age with children the Bear’s age, caught in a web where lack of education, disease, hunger and a number of other circumstances combine to keep advancement and hope for the future just out of reach. And now some new questions come to mind when this entitlement mentality rears its ugly head.

Do you deserve? But wouldn’t that mean they deserve too?

Have you earned it? Or have the opportunities and privileges of your life made it possible?

It would just make things easier? Think about all the things you take for granted that would make it “easier” for someone else. (Like owning a car…a home in a secure area…even a dishwasher!)

Eventually I find myself aware that once again, there is rubbish in my heart. There are attitudes that need correction. There is trash that needs collection.

And the gracious God who has indeed blessed me exceeding and abundantly is willing to look in, forgive me, and even help me take out the trash.

I suddenly see that the biggest gift I’ve received so far in looking to the eyes of people who have so little is the realisation that I already have so, so much.

Much more than I need.

Much, much more than I deserve.

I am undeserving of the free grace, the free gift of Jesus. I’m undeserving of all that I have in addition.

And that realisation is leading me to a mentality of thankfulness — and Lord knows, that’s where I want to stay.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: If we can see all that we have as a gift of grace, we are better able to handle it when life as we know it isn’t our cup of tea. We might even realise instead that it’s not the exact flavour tea we were looking for, but it’s tea nonetheless. And any tea’s better than no tea at all!