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Posts Tagged ‘Justice Conference’

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Our awesome volunteer team!

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Not even two months after serving with Land of a Thousand Hills at the Justice conference in Philadelphia, I found myself once again volunteering with this amazing ministry. This time they set up camp at Catalyst West Coast at Mariners church in Irvine, California. Catalyst is a leadership conference that gathers influencers who are seeking to see change in this generation by passionately pursuing God. Land of a Thousand Hills has always had a presence at this conference by giving out coffee to the attendees as they walk in and out of the worship center. I met up with Bryan Farrar, the community relationship coordinator for Thousand Hills and he got our team ready for a fun day of serving and connecting with people about the story of community trade coffee.

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A few of us having a blast! (Photo from Catalyst photo stream)

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Serving coffee to the Catalyst crowd

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Bryan making sure everything is running smoothly

Bryan making sure everything is running smoothly

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What a great team of volunteers we had!! It was a fun few days of getting to know each other and working together as a team. It was amazing to see how easily we bonded together. Bryan did a great job of making sure we had everything we needed so our days went smoothly. The people of Catalyst loved having their morning coffee as well as hearing the story of Land of a Thousand Hills and what they are all about. I feel so blessed every time to play a small role in the getting the word out about Thousand Hills and how they are making a difference in the Rwandan and Haitian communities. I had a blast and I look forward to serving with Thousand Hills again someday. DRINK COFFEE, DO GOOD!

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Another solid time volunteering with the Thousand Hills team

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The Justice Conference had some pre-conference breakout sessions you can choose from. I was pretty overwhelmed with all the choices, so I looked for ones that fit with what God was doing in my own life. I bumped into my friend Seth Wells and the staff from The Grove church here in Phoenix. I was encouraged by seeing some familiar faces here taking a part in justice.

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The first session I attended was Paul Metzger’s Sustaining a Justice Movement: How did John M Perkins, Mother Theresa, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer do it? Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins – a catalyst for cultivating a community of people brought together around a shared vision of bearing witness to Christ in contemporary culture. 

He started the session off by showing this video from Dr. Martin Luther King’s A Knock at Midnight. While pursuing justice, we will get discouraged because it isn’t easy . I loved this video and found it very encouraging.

Take comfort from the stories of those who have gone before us. Solidarity is key – Paul Metzger

Paul spoke on behalf of those who pursued justice first and by Jesus and his example to pursue justice. A justice movement is sustained by knowing that Jesus alone can and will sustain it. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). He mentioned Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and Dietrich’s example of how he reacted to his enemies. We in America like to say “lets take back America”, but Jesus laid down his life for His enemies.

– Philippians 2:1-11 – Believe in the suffering God (cultural engagement, not disengagement). Believe in the Resurrected God (This is the end – for me the beginning of life – Bonhoeffer)

– See Jesus in relation to the poor (ex:Mother Theresa)

– Sense your own poverty in relation to the poor (don’t look at others like we have so much and they have so little)

– Lay down you life for your friends (we can’t do it alone)

– Invest in people (ex: John Perkins, Jesus and the woman at the well)

– Invite people to partner with you (relational structures)

– Don’t operate out of a sense of entitlement (the gospel frees people)

– Be creative in your sufferings (it’s not an obstacle)

– Focus on integrity and faithfulness, not success (ex: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James 1:27)

– Focus on Christ’s identity (Bonhoeffer’s poem: Who Am I?)

Who am I? They often tell me
I step out from my cell
calm and cheerful and poised,
like a squire from his manor.

Who am I? They often tell me
I speak with my guards
freely, friendly and clear,
as though I were the one in charge.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bear days of calamity
serenely, smiling and proud,
like accustomed to victory.

Am I really what others say of me?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
Restless, yearning, sick, like a caged bird,
struggling for life breath, as if I were being strangled,
starving for colors, for flowers, for birdsong,
thirsting for kind words, human closeness,
shaking with rage at power lust and pettiest insult,
tossed about, waiting for great things to happen,
helplessly fearing for friends so far away,
too tired and empty to pray, to think, to work,
weary and ready to take my leave of it all?

Who am I? This one or the other?
Am I this one today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite
and in my own eyes a pitiful, whimpering weakling?
Or is what remains in me like a defeated army,
Fleeing in disarray from victory already won?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest me; O God, I am thine!

Don’t operate out of a sense of entitlement, but a debt of gratitude – Paul Metzger

Paul Metzger

Paul Metzger

The next breakout session I went to was on social media and was hosted by Lindsey Nobels. I have followed Lindsey’s blog since her days at Project 7. She is now Director of Speakers and Strategic Partnerships for Food for the Hungry and it was a blessing to finally meet her. She interviewed Alli Worthington – blogger and founder of Blissfully Domestic on Social Media for the activist: How to build and empower online communities to serve your cause.

Lindsey Nobles and Alli Worthington

Lindsey Nobles and Alli Worthington

I’m a big fan of starting things before you’re ready. Do all the work you can while you have the time – Alli Worthington

Highlights:

– Do 2 or 3 social media sites and do them well

– Send status updates here and there that link to your site

– Twitter is the best (I agree with her). YouTube is good because people love videos. Google+ is on the rise

– The more human you can be, the better. Companies that don’t do well don’t engage with people well. Plan a strategy and be honest with people

– It’s ok to fail. Try different social media outlets. No correlations between followers and the amount of ‘likes’

– Ok to get negative feedback. If you aren’t, you are not doing a good job. Not everyone will like your cause

– Work on who you are before you get started

– Focus on email marketing more than anything with links to Facebook and twitter. Be visual and engaging.

– Safety is important

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My first stop at the Justice Conference was in the exhibit room where I was volunteering at the Land of a Thousand Hills booth. I have been a long-time advocate for Thousand Hills and was excited to put some faces to names and also have the opportunity to serve their community-trade coffee that I have been promoting at churches for years. I also frequently visit 8th Day Coffee & Culture – a local coffee shop here in Phoenix that serves up Thousand Hills coffee and have enjoyed the friendships and community that I have made there. Before I left for Philly, Jono Moehlig called me to give me all the details of what I would be doing. Jono is a manager of one of the Thousand Hills coffee shops in Georgia. He gave me the quick low-down of how things would run and the whole brewing process. I have a couple of years under my belt as a barista at a church cafe, so a few things came back to me. I also met Dimitri Iliadis, the ministry relationship coordinator for Land of a Thousand Hills. Both Jono and Dimitri were great guys with a passion for this organization. Dimitri was big on me talking with the guests about what Thousand Hills is all about and why I wanted to be here to serve with them. Land of Thousand Hills was giving out free coffee throughout the Justice Conference during the breaks. If fact, I first heard about Thousand Hills when they gave out coffee at a Catalyst conference I attended years back.

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Dimitri talking with one of Justice Conference exhibit volunteers before we open up

I had a blast! I loved meeting the different people at the conference and telling them about Land of a Thousand Hills. I ran into tons of friends from Phoenix and people that I have met at other conferences over the years being in ministry. I also loved working alongside some of the other volunteers and hearing their story of how they got connected with Thousand Hills. This is a great organization and I’m blessed to be a part of it. They are doing some amazing things in Rwanda, Thailand and Haiti and I just love the videos they put out every once in awhile. I enjoyed briefly meeting Jonathan Golden, the founder of Thousand Hills too. I look forward to visiting the coffee fields in Rwanda some day and partnering with these guys again. Drink Coffee, Do Good!

Land of a Thousand Hills posted a story about my experiences on their blog site here. Love these guys!

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Serving up some coffee!

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The amazing volunteers of Land of a Thousand Hills

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Drink Coffee, Do Good!

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Today is, according to the United Nations, Social Justice Day.

For me, this is cool.

I like the phrase ‘social justice.’

We started The Justice Conference, which is coming up this weekend in Portland and is one of the largest international gatherings around biblical and social justice, so maybe it’s pretty obvious I like social justice and see it as a part of the outworking of my Christian faith and biblical justice.

Other folks share my excitement for social justice.

Here is World Vision from their blog today:

“Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. From a scriptural point of view, “justice” means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character and nature of God. As God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love.”

Eugene Cho also tackles this subject on his blog today with this intro, “Today is World Day of Social Justice. Those two words, “Social Justice” can be very polarizing. For me, it matters because the Gospel matters. If you truly believe in the Gospel, then you have to believe that it matters not just for your personal salvation but God’s pursuit of restoration, redemption, & reconciliation for the entire world. I believe in this Gospel. I live for this Gospel.”

On the other end of the spectrum, I received this e-mail thread from a wise, older trusted friend and mentor this morning.

“By the way, I listen to MacArthur on my way to early morning workouts just to remind myself of how good it is to be free from all that crap. He’s in a series proving that the social justice movement isn’t biblical. So, brace yourself for the attacks.”

So why would some Christians be so excited about social justice while other Christians would be so hostile as to try and prove it to be unbiblical?

I think the biggest problem lies in the use of language.

What is the definition of Biblical Justice? This one is pretty easy. It is a definition that refers to justice referred to or promoted in the bible or scripture. There is an authority source (the Bible) and the question references this definitive source in seeking its answer.

What, however, is the definition of social justice? This one speaks to a category or sphere of justice. It doesn’t have in its name, though, the definitive source for it’s definition.

Thus the problem. Social justice can be defined or interpreted in a myriad of different ways.

If someone is mentored by Glen Beck (who made headlines a year ago for calling people to leave churches if “Social Justice” was talked about or espoused) they will define it as “Democratic socialist politics aimed at the forced redistribution of wealth.”

If someone follows a very legalistic Christian leader they will find it defined as “that liberal social gospel agenda whereby we try to make earth into heaven and distract people from the centrality of the cross and salvation.”

The more straightforward definition, however, is that social justice describes a sphere in which justice works – namely ‘the social sphere’ where issues of racism and poverty reside, where orphans, widows and foreigners face injustice, oppression and vulnerability and where huge issues like trafficking, HIV/Aids, famine and natural disaster relief fall into or overlap.

What other category of justice – criminal, business law, political law, international justice etc. – is large enough to include every aspect of the issues above?

If we drew this as a pie graph (see image below), social justice would be a slice, a sphere, in which justice operates.

Therefore, if God cares about the issues that would fall in that sphere, orphans, widows and foreigners, then it logically follows that social justice (as a category) harmonizes with Biblical Justice.

Here is the caveat.

Social justice, if it is a sphere of justice in the social arena, doesn’t necessarily settle the question on how best to enact justice for the poor, oppressed or vulnerable. It leaves the question of method, means, efficiency and effectiveness up for discussion.

This is another part of the problem with peoples’ understanding of social justice… believing there should be justice in the social sectors doesn’t pre-commit you to a certain political party or theory of enacting social justice.

Wealth redistribution and other hot buttons can be argued about, both sides can present cases as to why their view is the most effective or efficient, without attacking the idea of social justice itself.

We would be far better off realizing God cares for and wants justice for the marginalized while arguing means than denigrating social justice itself.

Unlike Glen Beck, I don’t find the term (historically or otherwise) as necessarily being defined as socialist politics. Additionally, if God is a God of justice and commands justice then I don’t find it helpful, like many legalistic pastors, to pit God against mercy, compassion or justice. As if God would be happy with us if we kept ourselves pure by avoiding social justice and walking to the other side of the road.

Wasn’t the parable of the Good Samaritan aimed at just this point? That legalistic or pietistic religion can often lead to a counter-intuitive ignoring of love of neighbor (the Priest and Levite) and that often it is the least religious who empathizes or understands love of neighbor best (the Samaritan). See Luke chapter 10 verses 30 and following.

Maybe being against social justice is a white middle-class issue.

I know this sounds inflammatory, but most folks I know who have a lot of animosity toward the phrase itself tend to be white middle-class. However, all of my Christian friends in the relief and international development world, those who work in urban contexts, those who have taken vows of poverty or service or those who are or live in minority communities seem to take the phrase at face value and almost as a given – there should be justice in the social sectors… God, scripture and much of Christian history stand with and for the vulnerable and oppressed!

Theologian John Stott once called the movement away from justice issues by the church in recent times, “the Great Reversal.” He meant to imply that this was a departure from Christian history where Christians where often at the forefront of social issues, justice issues, charities, hospital building and so much more.

I find this whole question, “Is Social Justice Biblical,” to be the sort of silly game that Paul warned about when he said to avoid petty arguments.

People matter to God and therefore they should matter to us – every bit of them from the salvation of their souls to the meeting of material needs (see 1 John 4:20-21).

Justice is rooted in the character of God, commanded in his Holy Scriptures and exemplified in the life of Christ and the history of the church.

Justice is the right ordering of our relationships with God and neighbor.

Justice, in all spheres and slices of life and especially in the social sectors, is biblical, God-honoring and right. Politics, theories or political platforms, however, are open to dispute and disagreement.

Let’s keep the means and ends from being confused on this one.

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