Category Archives: Global Reflections

Let justice roll

I never tire of visiting Niagara Falls.  I’ve gone countless times since we moved to CNY and each time I visit I find myself pulled to the same viewing point. It’s not the panoramic view of the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls in full array. Though that is an amazing sight.  It’s not the overhead view from the tower where you can hardly see through the mist that sprays up from the cascading water below. Though that is a spectacular view.  And it is not the view from the front of the Maid of the Mist where the sound of the falls is deafening as it thunders in front of you. Though that is an awe-inspiring experience.  No, I find myself drawn to the top of the falls just before the water drops over the edge.  That’s the view that captures me.  There it is not a falls but a river. A river that is quiet, determined and unable to be stopped.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:24
The picture that this scripture paints of justice reminds me of the water that flows over the edge of Niagara Falls.  It is endless, flowing winter, summer, year after year.  It is determined and defies anyone who would think to stop it.  It is powerful, unrelenting in its push forward.  Let justice roll down like waters.
I am just days away from embarking on an initiative of justice with my community.  May it be endless, determined, powerful and unrelenting as well.

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Look who I discovered in Ghana

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Enjoy two boys I never spoke with but feel I know after watching them play on a warm June day in Ghana.

A pail.  And so the adventure begins…

Click here to watch the “silent movie”

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Sharing the extraordinary ordinary

Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15

There are many emotions that fall between happy and crying.  Most of our days are spent somewhere between the two, in the ordinary routine of life. That is where most of life is lived.  And that is where I have found myself in the last year with a group of young moms in my community.  Certainly crying together over the sad times and celebrating together the happy times, but it seems we have formed great friendships in sharing the routine everyday life of a mother that many times is neither happy nor is it sad.  It just is.

This week I find myself an ocean away from my home spending time with friends in Ghana, West Africa.  This week is different and yet it is the same.  I sat next to my friend Olivia a beautiful young woman from Ghana whom I first met when she was engaged to be married. Now 4 years later she is a wife, school teacher and mother of a 2-year-old.  It is where many of my new friends at home live, in the beginning stage of understanding what life as a mother can be.

As we talked for hours about nursing, naps, toilet training woes, sleepless nights, the demands of home and work, personal time and the dreams we had of ourselves that we now find buried amidst all the demands of motherhood the world seemed like a very small place.  More similar than different.  She is living many of her days in the routine, the day that just is, wondering how to still see those dreams for herself fulfilled.  My visit was an encouragement to her.  Maybe it brings hope that there is life to be lived when our children are older.  Perhaps it is in the camaraderie of hearing stories that are familiar the world over.  And it might just be that I was not weeping with her nor was I happy with her, but I was sharing the mundane routine “just is” with her as well.

I find these young woman at home and here so very far away.  I don’t think it’s that I am some great mom expert.  It’s that they are just starting and I am years on down the road, willing to sit down with them in the ordinary days and remind them how normal it is, how they will survive and just how extraordinary being a mom is.

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The story behind the picture

The joy that is depicted in this photo was 4 years in the making.  Maybe that’s why I love this picture, because it tells a story of hope, disappointment, perseverance, pain and ultimately joy.  The purest joy that wells up uncontrollably from deep within us perhaps indicates how hard it was to come by.

Kudzagbakope is a small village sitting on a long dusty dirt road in rural Ghana.  It was on the list of 5 villages in 2007 to receive a borehole, as wells are called in Ghana, that would provide clean water through a partnership with Rotary Club branches in Chittenango, New York and Ho, Ghana.  The money was raised locally and matched by Rotary International.  At the time that seemed like the hardest part.  Four of the wells were successful, hitting clear, clean water.  But in Kudzagbakope the well came up dry.  And the money had run out for any further drilling.

10 months later the people in our church gave money to our Advent Conspiracy Fund. They chose to spend less on gifts at Christmas in order to give more so others could have the gift of clean water.  Kudzagbakope was on the top of the list of 4 villages to receive a borehole.  But again, the well came up dry. The remaining 3 boreholes were successful in providing clean water.  Once again, the people of Kudzabgakope would not have clean water.

The question began to be discussed on our side of the partnership, how many times will we continue to drill before we say enough is enough?  Will we continue to spend precious dollars in an area that does not seem conducive or look elsewhere near other villages with more promise?  We decided to give it one more attempt.  The local Ghanian drilling company ran several more advanced tests in a location further from the village center.  They were now donating a portion of their labor costs to help in this effort to bring clean water to Kudzagbakope.

In the early part of  2010 the borehole drilling was successful.  Clean water had been found.  But now there was a new problem.  The money reserved for the pump had been used for another purpose.  This brought about a delay that involved many difficult conversations with the leadership, accountability practices and restitution by all those involved with the handling of the money.  This would delay the delivery of the water until the funds were replenished. The water was found, but not accessible until the pump could be installed.  Another period of waiting for the people of Kudzagbakope.

January of 2011, just 5 days before this picture was taken, the pump was installed and water began to flow.  Waiting 48 months from the initial realization that water was coming until it was actually available.  As a leader of the village this must have been a hard thing to lead the people through.  I can not imagine the thoughts, conversations, perhaps arguments and disappointment this chief has endured with this people over the past 4 years.  His smile is a picture of the joy that comes when you have truly experienced the realization of a precious gift.

There was dancing, singing, celebrating by the entire village.  The chief wore his finest  Kente cloth robe and obviously his fanciest head-piece, but what he wore that dazzled us all that day, was his smile.

Other pictures from that day:

My daughter Courtney joining in the celebration.




Two little guys who danced all day long.




Daniel, our partner who helped see the project through beginning to end.




A gift from the chief to our team at the end of the day.




Clean, clear, plentiful water.



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Teaching an old dog new tricks

I got a nudge from my daughter last week to learn something new.  Teaching an old dog a new trick can be hard.  But the best way to learn is to dive in.  I don’t like to dive, bad experience on the high dive as a kid, so I jumped.  Picked a story that I wanted to tell, chose a few pictures and invested a little time.  Ok, maybe more than a little time.

Peaked your interest?

Prezi – Take a look

(just click the arrow to watch manually or go to “more” and autoplay)

What do you think?

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Small drops of water joined together over time can cause the most fortified dams to burst.

Individual warriors fighting together as one army can penetrate the mightiest of fortresses.

Single voices united in solidarity can overthrow the most entrenched dictator or regime.

It doesn’t happen all at once.  It takes time and perseverance.  But when momentum takes hold, the single efforts begin to synchronize and the efforts of the individual become greater because they are now a whole, you can feel it.  Today, I can feel it.

Modern day slavery has met its match in the individual voices that have begun to speak out and act, Pam Cope and Bob Goff are great examples.  These voices have infected small grass root organizations like PACODEP and Restore International as they work on the front lines of rescue and rehabilitation. Larger organizations have begun to tackle legislation, enforcement and prosecution, such as World Vision and International Justice Mission. And the media, CNN, is turning its powerful eye towards the fight.  Yes, the momentum is building.

All of this is fueled by the voice of the individual.  And today you can use your voice.  Sign International Justice Mission’s letter to President Obama.  25,000 voices asking him to join this movement to end modern-day slavery.  Can you feel it?

Sign the letter here.  And pass it along.

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Macro vs. Micro

A picture speaks louder than words.

We’ve all heard it, and yesterday I saw it.  These two pictures tell a story about my visit to Haiti that speak to the magnitude of the issues and the current abilities and methods to address them.

An enormous problem being addressed with tools and resources inadequate for the task.  A situation that appears hopeless.  Many would only sit by and give up, relinquishing their future to the current condition.  But a few will take what little resource they have and begin to take steps forward.

I met two of the few that are taking steps toward the future, Magnus and Edlyne.  They are two bright spots shining in a remote area of rural Haiti leading the way forward.  They are managing a development program working with cooperative groups of 3-12 people who have a plan, drive and determination to create opportunities for themselves, their families and their community.  The IF-Foundation.  They are not the biggest, the oldest or the most well-recognized NGO working in Haiti.  But they are a few who are undaunted by the scope of the problems and the patterns of history that have stepped up to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem in the larger picture.

I am often paralyzed when I look at the challenge at hand, frozen by the size, scope and amount of effort it will take to make a small impact.  It is hard to see the first small step forward.  This comes when I am faced with a difficult conversation, a decision that I know will cause sacrifice or pain rather than comfort in my life or a choice that will ultimately eliminate other options.  I was encouraged this week by Magnus and Edlyn.  Encouraged to step up, when it is far easier to sit and watch, even if the situation is larger than I can imagine a solution to.

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