Tag Archive | United States

I think I’ve been given a glimpse of Heaven …

UCUMC Fall colors 011These last few months have been really hard.  There have been times that I’ve just wanted to crawl under a blanket and never go out of the door again.

Some very painful things have happened.  A very precious friend died years before her time.  Someone I trusted with my life betrayed the confidences I had shared.  I discovered that other friends were bigoted against certain people groups, and refused to even consider looking at these dear people in a different way.  Another friend cut off relationship with me completely when they found that  I chose to vote differently in the last election than they did.    I have been grieving for the different kinds of losses that these each represent … that of the loss of community.

Sometimes remaining anonymous, sitting in the back row of a new church or ignoring people at the grocery store, is the easy way to go.   And sometimes it is necessary because smiling & chatting with strangers – and even more so with people you know – can be absolutely draining when you are experiencing grief.   It takes SO MUCH ENERGY to put on a happy face and look relatively normal.   It takes everything you have to reach out to others and offer hospitality or assistance.  Sometimes it feels like you do all the giving.

So, it was with utter delight when precious new friends reached out to us and invited my husband and I on an adventure, and what a delight it was.    They took us to their favorite place of worship, a small (as these glorious works of architecture go) but beautiful cathedral in Cleveland named University Circle United Methodist Church, lovingly known as “the church of the holy oil can” because of it’s spire.   I’ve lived overseas and have seen many cathedrals, but this one was unique to any I had visited before.

The first difference was that in every single entrance stood a young person, probably around college age, welcoming us.  There was life here!  Within seconds of entering the beautiful building, it was pretty obvious that this was a colorful venue … every single hue of the human race was represented, and it was glorious.   Different ethic groups were wearing gorgeous garments, there were babies & children, lots of white heads & loads of young people, well dressed individuals and many people from the other end of the social scale, all equally represented.  I saw people in wheelchairs, or with walkers, and some who had mental disorders, and caring people around them, making sure that every one of their needs was met.

And I was welcomed, perhaps like I have never felt welcomed as a stranger in a church for a long, long time.  There may have been one or two people who didn’t give me eye contact, or reach out and take my hand and give me a glorious smile, but I didn’t see them.   It didn’t matter my color, my age, my social standing, how I was dressed, my sexual orientation … I was welcome.   In fact, the sign outside the church said it all:  “where all are welcome, all the time.” They weren’t kidding.

There was the bit at the beginning of the service where I normally cringe.   You know, the bit where you are asked to greet your neighbor … oh joy … but this time was different.   These people really meant it.  They came from all over the church to welcome us, not just from the surrounding pews.  Even a lady in a wheelchair made an effort to give me eye contact and beckoned me over to offer welcome.

There was glorious singing by the choir & the people.   Some of it was in foreign languages with translation provided, some was relatively new to me, some was of the dear old hymn variety.   There were liturgical dancers, and both women & men took part in the service.

The pastor modeled sensitivity and grace from the get go.   As the men and women who were to serve communion gathered around the table to receive their communion first, the pastor went to each one, calling them by name and offering blessing.   A young woman, obviously new to the church and a little confused, walked to the front and joined the others around the table, oblivious to the fact that she had gone up with the servers.   She stood next to them and the pastor, without blinking, moved to her and blessed her, calling her “my sister.”   She wasn’t known by him, but she was welcome at the table.

There was a very elderly couple in one of the pews ahead of us, and the woman was struggling with getting up and participating in communion.  There was a strong sense that she had Alzheimer’s and her doting, loving & distraught spouse couldn’t get her to move.   No matter … the pastor brought communion to her, and to all the others who were unable to walk to the table.  And.there.was.gluten.free.communion for Celiac types like me.   Wow.  I FELT WELCOME!

The sermon was on Luke 17:5-10, having faith “like a mustard seed,” which I had heard a hundred or more times before.   But this interpretation was different.  On too many occasions, believers have been erroneously told by perhaps well meaning people that their faith “wasn’t strong enough” or their cancer would be cured, that they wouldn’t be in financial crisis, that their child wouldn’t use drugs, or whatever.   If they just believed it would all magically go away!  This passage isn’t about magic, it’s about the promise of God’s presence when we are in the pain.  God can transform our attitude, our view of life, if we just have a tiny bit of faith to trust him, not that the cancer will go away but that he will be with us when we or cured of it or if it takes us.  The pastor said, “No matter how small you evaluate yourself, in God’s eyes, you are enough.”

When the service was eventually done, and the people were slowly leaving, I noticed that the two enormous flower arrangements up front were being taken apart, little by little, and the flowers shared with children, the elderly and, perhaps, the ones who don’t have loved ones to give them flowers.

I whispered to my friend sitting next to me, “I think I have been given a glimpse of Heaven today.”   Surely that is what it will be like when we get there …. people of every shape & size, color & hue, sexuality & political persuasion – because NONE of it will matter any more!  All running to greet one another, give eye contact and glorious smiles and making everyone feel welcome as we gather together to worship our LORD.   Praise be to God.


never forget!

I was very honored to receive a request from CBE to publish one of my past blogs.   This was posted by them this evening:


Never Forget!

Morven R. Baker (DMin) is a licensed clinical counselor in Ohio with a private practice specializing for over twenty years in women’s issues, particularly sexual abuse and domestic violence. She has given workshops on these topics in the US and abroad, and has contributed to The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused and More Light on the Path: Daily Scripture Readings in Hebrew and Greek. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Baker has lived in Canada, the US, Great Britain, and South Africa. She can pack in her sleep.

This week’s column first appeared on morvensblog.wordpress.com.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I will never forget the first time I voted. I was 18, and nervously walked into that polling booth with my parents. I was in awe that “my vote” might actually make a difference in choosing the leader of our country. It was an honor and privilege I have never taken lightly.

I lived in South Africa during the beginning of the fall of apartheid. Some months after my family had left that beautiful country, I sat weeping as I watched the news and saw an aerial photograph of thousands of black South Africans, who had never before been given the opportunity to vote, lined up for miles, eager to let the world know their opinion!

Then I watched “Iron Jawed Angels,” the story of how the ‘right of women to vote’ came to be in this country. “Aghast” doesn’t describe it well enough. I was angry! Brave and incredibly courageous women suffered torture and death so that I can vote today. These women from the 1900′s were ground breakers, standing up to an obnoxious Woodrow Wilson, and in 1920, they WON. But at such terrible cost.

There weren’t very many of them, just a handful of 33 women who stood defenseless in front of the White House, carrying signs asking for the right to vote. This protest was first seen by the men who passed by as humorous, but when these men realized that the women were serious—that they truly wanted equality in the election booth—that laughter turned to outrage and the women were carted off to spend their first night in detention. By the end of that first night—the infamous “Night of Terror” of November 15, 1917 at the Occoquana workhouse in Virginia—a few of those women were barely alive. With their prison warden’s blessing, forty prison guards wielding clubs took out their frustrations on the 33 women who had been wrongly convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic.

Alice Paul led the suffrage movement. She was placed in solitary confinement, and when she went on a hunger strike, she was held down, tied to a chair, and force fed for three weeks using tubes shoved down into her stomach while she struggled. I can’t imagine how much pain she felt.

After they beat Lucy Burns, they chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and broken.

Dora Lewis received some of the most brutal treatment at the hands of wardens. During the  “Night of Terror,” Lewis was hurled bodily into her cell. She was knocked unconscious and feared dead when she collided headfirst against her iron bed frame. Lewis and Lucy Burns were initial leaders of the hunger strike in Occoquan; both grew so weak that they were also held down by attendants and force-fed through a tube.

Additional recorded statements from other prisoners describe the guards as brutally choking, pinching, kicking the women, twisting their arms behind their backs. Sexual abuse can only be assumed, but considering sexual abuse is all about the abuse of power and not the act of sex, it is more than likely that these women were victimized in this way as well. There is no other way to describe it: these women, and others, were tortured.

As you have read the papers over these past months, and have listened to the debates and now criticize the banter, never forget.
If you suffered the inconvenience of getting out of bed early to vote, or returned home late after standing in a long line, remember the sufferings of those who gave you a voice this week. Never forget them!

If you had the inconvenience and cost of finding a babysitter for an hour in order to vote, remember those women tortured in Oocoquan. Never forget them.

If you are behind in your work, or are a bit tired from watching all the political ads on TV, remember the sacrifice of the women who were forced fed, and never forget their sufferinLives were sacrificed so that WE WOMEN could participate in choosing the leadership of this country. Never forget them. Never, never forget.

don’t just let this one pass you by: we have 7 days left: your tweet or phone call can save a child

 Ruse spent three years in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued.

Commentary: Urge U.S. Congress to action via your tweets

Editor’s note: Richard Stearns is the author of “The Hole in Our Gospel” and president of the U.S. office of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Follow Stearns on Twitter @RichStearns. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard Stearns.

By Richard Stearns, special to CNN

This February, I visited Cambodia, where my heart was broken by the evils of the sex trade in that country. Too often there is an acceptance of prostitution that leads to a male culture that believes sex with virgins improves health has created an epidemic of young girls and boys trafficked into the cities. Roughly 30,000 young women and men in that country (some estimates are as high as 100,000) are trapped in slavery. When imprisoned in the brothels, these young women and men serve roughly 700 people every year.

I interviewed a young woman named Ruse (not her real name) who had spent three years in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued and sent to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Center in Phnom Penh.

Ruse’s story was heartbreaking. Her family was extremely poor, and when she was just 13, her mother became very ill and needed medical attention. Her father had left, and she had two smaller siblings as well. The family desperately needed money. Ruse told me, “My virginity was the most valuable possession my family had.”

The life Ruse led for the next three years defies all sense of human dignity. She was originally sold for $400 and then found herself captive in a brothel. Ultimately, a police raid set her free, and World Vision was able to help her with psychological recovery and job training. Today Ruse has a small apartment and a job as a nanny.

The suffering of Ruse and tens of thousands like her needs to end. However, the U.S. Congress is stalling on a bill that would go a long way toward locking up those who buy and sell human beings as well as preventing trafficking and providing treatment to its victims.

The centerpiece of American action opposing modern day slavery is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The bill helps and encourages governments like Cambodia’s to toughen laws against traffickers — including prosecuting here in the United States any American citizen who sexually exploits a child overseas. An innovative feature of the Senate version of the bill is that it allows the U.S. to partner with NGOs and foreign governments to achieve the greatest possible impact. World Vision works in Cambodian villages were trafficking is a huge problem, and we educate parents, teachers and children on the dangers of this trade in human beings and how they can prevent it.

This important bill must be renewed every few years to respond to the changing ways of traffickers. It has always been bipartisan and has always passed Congress unanimously. However, the law has been allowed to expire in Congress, and efforts to pass it have been bogged down by partisan games. With the failure of Congress to prioritize the fight against modern-day slavery, millions of children around the world, just like Ruse, and even children here in the U.S., are without the protection that has traditionally been offered by our government.

The bickering began last fall when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pulled funding from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had been contracted to provide services to victims of trafficking here in the United States. The resulting argument about access of faith-based organizations to government funding is an important one. But Congress’s inability to solve that debate should not mean that we look the other way while human beings, like Ruse, are bought and sold as commodities.

In conjunction with the International Justice Mission (IJM), the Polaris Project and Safe Horizons, World Vision is asking supporters in the U.S. to join a social media campaign against human trafficking and help move this legislation forward.

From now until the end of April, we urge people to call their senators or use Twitter with the hashtag #endslavery to get more senators to sponsor the bill.  For my younger friends, try tweeting Congress to voice support for a bipartisan TVPA bill, everyone can play a part in fighting modern slavery.

For those of us who don’t tweet but CAN still use a cell phone, here’s a helpful list:

Call and Tweet these Senators.
Ask them to Co-Sponsor the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA, S. 1301)

50 Senators to Stop Slavery.  If we can get 50 co-sponsors by the end of April, we can tip the balance from inaction and indifference to action and momentum. Our leaders need to know that this is too important for them not to act. Your leaders are listening but we need to be clear with them: Enough Already. It’s time to rise above slavery.

Help by tweeting the following message to these Senators:

Co-sponsor the bi-partisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, S.1301 http://blog.worldvisionacts.org/2012/04/breaking-trafficking via @worldvisionacts

Or call with the following message:

Hi, my name is ________ and I’m from __________.  I want to ask the Senator to co-sponsor S.1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, S. 1301. This is a bipartisan bill and we need to put politics aside to fight slavery. Thank you.

State Senator Phone Twitter
AK Mark Begich (D) (202) 224-3004 https://twitter.com/SenatorBegich
AK Lisa Murkowski (R) (202) 224-6665 https://twitter.com/lisamurkowski
AL Jeff Sessions (R) (202)224-4124 https://twitter.com/senatorsessions
AL Richard C Shelby (R) (202)224-5744 https://twitter.com/SenShelbyPress
AR John Boozman (R) (202) 224-4843 https://twitter.com/JohnBoozman
AZ Jon Kyl (R) (202) 224-4521 https://twitter.com/senjonkyl
AZ John McCain (R) (202) 224-2235 https://twitter.com/senjohnmccain
DE Thomas Carper (D) (202) 224-2441 https://twitter.com/senatorcarper
HI Daniel K Inouye (D) (202) 224-3934 https://twitter.com/Daniel_Inouye
IA Chuck Grassley (R) (202) 224-3744 https://twitter.com/chuckgrassley
IA Tom Harkin (D) (202) 224-3254 https://twitter.com/SenatorHarkin
ID Mike Crapo (R) (202) 224-6142 none
ID James E Risch (R) (202) 224-2752 none
IL Mark Kirk (R) (202) 224-2854 https://twitter.com/senatorkirk
IN Daniel Coats (R) (202) 224-5623 https://twitter.com/SenDanCoats
IN Richard G Lugar (R) (202) 224-4814 https://twitter.com/senatorlugar
KS Jerry Moran (R) (202) 224-6521 https://twitter.com/jerrymoran
KS Pat Roberts (R) (202) 224-4774 https://twitter.com/senpatroberts
KY Mitch McConnell (R) (202) 224-2541 https://twitter.com/McConnellPress
KY Rand Paul (R) (202) 224-4343 https://twitter.com/SenRandPaul
LA David Vitter (R) (202) 224-4623 https://twitter.com/davidvitter
ME Olympia J Snowe (R) (202) 224-5344 https://twitter.com/senatorsnowe
ME Susan M Collins (R) (202) 224-2523 https://twitter.com/senatorcollins
MI Carl Levin (D) (202) 224-6221 https://twitter.com/sencarllevin
MO Roy Blunt (R) (202) 224-5721 https://twitter.com/RoyBlunt
MO Claire McCaskill (D) (202) 224-6154 https://twitter.com/clairecmc
MS Roger F Wicker (R) (202) 224-6253 https://twitter.com/SenatorWicker
MT Max Baucus (D) (202) 224-2651 https://twitter.com/MaxBaucus
ND Kent Conrad (D) (202) 224-2043 none
ND John Hoeven (R) (202) 224-2551 https://twitter.com/hoeven4senate
NE Mike Johanns (R) (202) 224-4224 https://twitter.com/Mike_Johanns
NE Ben Nelson (D) (202) 224-6551 https://twitter.com/senbennelson
NH Kelly Ayotte (R) (202) 224-3324 https://twitter.com/AyotteNH
NH Jeanne Shaheen (D) (202) 224-2841 https://twitter.com/jeanneshaheen
NJ Frank R Lautenberg (D) (202) 224-3224 https://twitter.com/franklautenberg
NM Jeff Bingaman (D) (202) 224-5521 none
NM Tom Udall (D) (202) 224-6621 https://twitter.com/SenatorTomUdall
NV Harry Reid (D) (202) 224-3542 https://twitter.com/SenatorReid
OK Tom Coburn (R) (202) 224-5754 https://twitter.com/TomCoburn
OK James M Inhofe (R) (202) 224-4721 https://twitter.com/InhofePress
PA Patrick J Toomey (R) (202) 224-4254 https://twitter.com/sentoomey
RI Jack Reed (D) (202) 224-4642 none
RI Sheldon Whitehouse (D) (202) 224-2921 https://twitter.com/senwhitehouse
SC Jim DeMint (R) (202) 224-6121 https://twitter.com/JIMDEMINT
SC Lindsey Graham (R) (202) 224-5972 https://twitter.com/GrahamBlog
SD Tim Johnson (D) (202) 224-5842 https://twitter.com/SenJohnsonSD
SD John Thune (R) (202) 224-2321 https://twitter.com/SenJohnThune
TN Lamar Alexander (R) (202) 224-4944 https://twitter.com/senalexander
TN Bob Corker (R) (202) 224-3344 https://twitter.com/SenBobCorker
TX John Cornyn (R) (202) 224-2934 https://twitter.com/JohnCornyn
TX Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) (202) 224-5922 https://twitter.com/kaybaileyhutch
UT Orrin G Hatch (R) (202) 224-5251 https://twitter.com/SenOrrinHatch
UT Mike Lee (R) (202) 224-5444 https://twitter.com/SenMikeLee
VA Mark R Warner (D) (202) 224-2023 https://twitter.com/MarkWarner
VA Jim Webb (D) (202) 224-4024 none
WI Ron Johnson (R) (202) 224-5323 https://twitter.com/SenRonJohnson
WI Herb Kohl (D) (202) 224-5653 none
WV Joe Manchin III (D) (202) 224-3954 https://twitter.com/Sen_JoeManchin
WV John D Rockefeller, IV (D) (202) 224-6472 https://twitter.com/SenRockefeller
WY John Barrasso (R) (202) 224-6441 https://twitter.com/senjohnbarrasso
WY Michael B Enzi (R) (202) 224-3424 none