Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is to Come...

Hi Friends :)
I am so very excited to share that I am planning a trip for this summer. YOU are invited to be a part of it. You can support, pray, or.... you can COME.

We are partnering with Haiti Outreach Ministries July 30 - August 8, bringing hope to the people who continue to struggle there.

Let me know if you would like to know more. You might begin by watching the video David and I made ^^ ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Morning Will be On the Other Side

I finished and posted my two paintings for January.
Prints can be purchased here.

"Do You See Me?"

"The Morning Will Be On the Other Side"

90% of the proceeds from these pieces will go to the care of orphans worldwide.

Happy Birthday Dr. King

Today we celebrate and remember a man who has lived past his own lifetime. Although his voice was silenced over 40 years ago, he continues to speak today. Dr. Martin Luther King stood for something profound and groundbreaking, not only for the rights and dignity of the African American people, but for global peace and economic justice. Whether it was through was nonviolent direct action campaigns or civil disobedience, King believed that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
He led a movement led by love and justice, and retained a deep sense of dignity despite innumerable atrocities committed against him. Indeed, a spirit of love and hope is characteristic of any of his speeches and writings. He refused to sink to the level of the segregationalists, repaying hate with hate, for nothing would be accomplished by this.
We all have much to learn from Dr. King. With each passing year since his death, a little more of his passion and indignant love is forgotten. Less of his urgent and pressing words are remembered. If we stop to remember him today, let us also open our ears to the message that he gave his life for.

Some Quotes:

A man can't ride your back unless it's bent.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

I want to be the white man's brother, not his brother-in-law.

If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

We have guided missiles and misguided men.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

If those words don't make you burn on the inside, I don't know what will..

As I look at pages dedicated to the memory of Dr. King, there are still responses left by people today filled with the most awful, grotesque, and foolish hate. I'm sad for those people, for they will never experience the most beautiful kind of love that Dr. King stood for. It seems like misguided people are more likely to stop and leave negative responses than the true and good people are to pause and respond in thankfulness and love. I want to challenge you today to do just that, in honor of Dr. King.

"On March 22, 1956, King celebrates his conviction. He believed it was right to disobey unjust laws. Explaining his buoyant mood, he said, "Ordinarily a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him would wear a solemn face. But I left with a smile. I knew that I was a convicted criminal, but I was proud of my crime."
From LIFE: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Biggest Story

As we continue to take time this month to bring attention to orphaned children around the world, I want to take time to share just why this specific topic is so very important to me. As I have said before, it is what started it all... this journey towards who I am and the purpose I've found in my life.

I'm still amazed when I think about it.

Here's the story..
When I was a very young teenager, preteen, actually.. I went to a big concert. At least it was for me, in those days. It was a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, and he had just founded Shaohannah's Hope (Now "Show Hope," the organization I have featured this month.)
There was a time during the concert when the lights went down, and they showed a video similar to the one in my last blog post, about little girls being abandoned in China. I remember, as a little girl, feeling like something inside me was exploding.. The world as I had come to know it all came crumbling down, as I looked around the stadium in which I was standing. I thought... What are we doing here?
Then, this man, Mr. Chapman, came walking back out onto the stage, holding a little girl. He proceeded to tell the story of how his teenage daughter had learned about these little girls, and had come to her parents, telling them that they  were going to adopt one. At first, they laughed and commended her big heart, telling her that it wouldn't be possible for them. Still, she continued. For several years, she hinted to her parents about it, leaving notes, never giving up. Eventually, it all came together, and after an adoption process, they traveled to China, and returned with a baby. They named her Shaohannah.
After that day, all I can say is that that story basically became my story as I took on the same strategy as that teenage girl. I knew we were going to adopt a baby girl from China. No doubt. I just had to help my parents realize it. From that time until I was about 15 years old, it was hard. So hard.. I wanted to bring that abandoned baby girl home more than anything. Anything. Little did I know that she wasn't even born yet.. Not until the year I turned 15.  
Everything came together so beautifully. In 2006, my parents flew to China and brought Hannah Kate Yang Rui home. My girl.

Two years later, I flew with my mom to Ethiopia after a 2nd adoption process, and we brought home Abebech (Abi) and Mamo (Adam)

They've grown up a bit since then.. :)

There's a video where I tell the story here
(I don't know if it will work if you're not my friend on fb. If you're not though, just request ;) )

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Show Hope

My featured organization for January's topic of Orphans/Orphan care is Show Hope.
(Originally Shaohannah's Hope)

This organization was founded by musician Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife as a result of their experience adopting three girls from China and seeing the desperate need of orphans around the world.
Show Hope is a ministry that enables individuals and communities to change the world for orphans by not only addressing a child’s need for food, shelter, care, and spiritual nourishment, but by also addressing the root issue for an orphan: the lack of a family.
I'll provide more information about this organization and the impact that they have had on my family later. What I want to share today is some facts about orphans worldwide:


What is the need?
* Over 130 million children have lost one or both parents.1
* Every 18 seconds another child becomes an orphan, without a mother or father.2
* At least 16.2 million children worldwide have lost both parents.3
* Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent due to AIDS.4
* Conflict has orphaned or separated 1 million children from their families in the 1990s.5

Where are they?
* 43.4 million orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa, 87.6 million orphans live in Asia, and 12.4 million orphans live in Latin America and the Caribbean.6
* 1.5 million children live in public care in Central and Eastern Europe alone.7
* At any given point there are over 500,000 children in the U.S. Foster Care system.8
* In some countries, children are abandoned at alarming rates, due to poverty, restrictive population control policies, disabilities or perceived disabilities, and cultural traditions that value boys more than girls.9

What about AIDS?
* More than 14 million children under the age of 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.10
* By 2010, the number of children orphaned by AIDS globally is expected to exceed 25 million.11
* AIDS is more likely than other cause of death to result in children losing both parents.12
* As the infection spreads, the number of children who have lost parents to AIDS is beginning to grow in other regions as well, including Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.13

What happens to the children?
* Children are profoundly affected as their parents fall sick and die, setting them on a long trail of painful experiences often characterized by: economic hardship, lack of love, attention and affection, withdrawal from school, psychological distress, loss of inheritance, increased physical and sexual abuse and risk of HIV infection, malnutrition and illness, stigma, discrimination, exploitation, trafficking, and isolation.14
* Orphaned children are much more likely than non-orphans to be working in commercial agriculture, as street vendors, in domestic service and in the sex trade.15
* Unaccompanied boys are at high risk of forced or 'voluntary' participation in violence and armed conflict.16
* Orphanages, children's villages, or other group residential facilities generally fail to meet young people's emotional and psychological needs.17

What about foster care?
* On average, children stay in foster care for 30 months, or 2.5 years.18
* 118,000 children were waiting to be adopted on September 30, 2004.19
* On average, those children waiting for adoption have been in foster care for 43.8 months, almost 4 years.20
* Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Of those who aged out of foster care:21
Earned a high school diploma: 54%
Obtained a Bachelor's degree or higher: 2%
Were unemployed: 51%
Had no health insurance: 30%
Had been homeless: 25% 23
Were receiving public assistance: 30%

Is there any hope?
* Yes. There is One who infinitely loves each orphan and calls His people to join Him in caring for the fatherless. Each one of us can Show Hope to an orphan.
* If only 7% of the 2 billion Christians in the world would show hope to a single orphan, looking after the child in their distress, there would effectively be no more orphans. We can each do something.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Year Ago, Today

January 12, 2010: 
A catastrophic 7 point magnitude earthquake hit Port Au Prince, Haiti.
By January 24, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded.
An estimated three million people were affected by the quake; the Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. They also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
We all saw, didn't we. The world turned its head when CNN rolled the cameras in, and saw chaos unimaginable. We all heard of the panicked relief efforts, and watched celebrities campaign to raise money. We all heard when the money never made it to the people struggling to survive.
Today marks one year since the unimaginable happened to what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Most of the cameramen have returned.. most of the attention has moved on the the next segment of breaking news.
I want to challenge anyone who reads this, whether it is today or a year from today, to not think of the earthquake as something that happened, but is over now. The implications of this disaster will affect generations. It shook the very foundation of this little country. I want to challenge you to not think of Haiti as just a country, but a collection of individual faces, individual human beings. I want you to find their stories and to listen to them, then find a way that you can lend yourself - your time and your voice beyond the obvious giving of money (which is so important, yet makes the heart distant..) Even though the cameras have rolled on, I challenge you to accept your daily opportunity to embody hope.

Yahoo News reports the remembrance that is going on in Haiti today:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The normally traffic-clogged streets of the Haitian capital turned quiet Wednesday as businesses closed and people walked in solemn processions to prayer services marking the anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the nation's history...
..."It is a grand day for us that we are able to give thanks to God that we are still here," one of the marchers, 54-year-old Acsonne Frederique, said as a preacher exhorted him and others in the cheering crowd to pray. "Others are here to repair our country. We are here to repair our souls."
Read the full article here
View Samaritan's Purse's 1 year post-quake photos here
Give @ World Vision

I spent a lot of time last year, between the time the earthquake hit, and I left for Africa, confused. I was in a 6.7 magnitude earthquake almost exactly 17 years ago. The Northridge Quakes of S California.. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of 1994. What makes my life any more precious? Nothing, because it is not.

This is my piece that will go to benefit Haiti. Purchase a print here
It is featured at A Beautiful Idea: A group of artists who have committed to giving the proceeds from a piece of their art towards World Vision's relief efforts in Haiti.

Even though the cameras have rolled on, I challenge you to accept your daily opportunity to embody hope.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

And The Idea Is...

The whole concept of blogging is to put your thoughts out there, so that they might be heard... right?

In fact.. a blog could be pretty much anything that you want it to be. Some quotes about blogging:

A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation - Andrew Sullivan

Blogging is the new poetry  - Unknown

A blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list. -Unknown

A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. - Blogger

One of my goals for this new year was to establish an insightful, and artistic blog which aims to provide people with an awareness of the many injustices that exist in our world, and to provide them with the opportunity to take their place in the effort to combat these injustices.

SO, my goal for this blog is to take each month and focus on a specific issue, such as clean water or hunger. During that month, I will try to provide:

  • Facts
  • Stories of real people, so that issues can be connected with real faces. 
  • Recommendations of books that provide further information
  • Highlights of organizations and individuals who are working in the featured area
  • Ways that you can be involved
  • One or two new original pieces of art/photography: The proceeds via my Etsy shop from which will go directly to the featured cause.
Even though I am getting to a little bit of a late start, I have a topic for January picked out, and I am excited to begin working on it. 

In addition to this project, I have joined the B.E.S.T. team on Etsy, and will begin to have weekly highlights of other team member's items, hopefully starting next week!

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I had the beautiful opportunity to go to Passion in Atlanta, GA with my very good friend, Sierra:

I've always had my thoughts and doubts about the authenticity of pop Christianity's big productions. I wonder if the lights and stadiums really mean that much to God, if at all. After all, He speaks through the prophet Amos in one of my favorite verses, saying:  

I hate all your show and pretense—
      the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
      I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
      I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
      an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24)

Needless to say, I was simply curious as I rode on that bus through the new year.
Here I am now, on the other side of things, recollecting the impact that Passion 2011 had on me.

Simply stated, I think it was beautiful to see 22,000 people my age come together from all over the world, hoping to experience God in a new way, and then to try to express the surrender of their lives to Him. People my age need to be empowered. To be implored to use what we have been given for the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom isn't distant; it's here. And this conference, minus the big production, may have been a small glimpse of that.

In his article "Re-imagining Heaven" in Relevant Magazine, Jeff Cook says:
"When we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless, and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are lived, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life - the life of God's future connected to Hom and to one another."

One of the most incredible things I observed at Passion, was the way in which they married worship and justice. As demonstrated in the verse from Amos, this is the heart of God, and it's something that I've been looking for in the heart of those who follow Him for a long time.
They had set up a village, of sorts, in which people could come and learn about things that the majority of our world are up against; things that break the heart of God. Things like lack of clean water, hunger, human trafficking, HIV... It was amazingly informative and artistic, and provided people with a way to respond to what God was doing in their lives by investing money in organizations that are on the ground, working against these things. As I entered, my heart was in my throat. I'd been waiting to see something like this for a long time.

(Sorry some images are sideways - - ??)
Within 4 days, a stadium of broke college kids was able double the goal they were given, and raise over 1.1 MILLION dollars. 

The conflict within me lies here: I was talking to a girl from another group, and she said that they had encountered a homeless man on their way back to their hotel. He said that for 4 days, he had watched thousands upon thousands of college students pass him by, not even stopping to talk with him.
I thought.. Oh no. We have missed the point.
For God never told us to give our money to World Vision and let them care for the oppressed, sick, and poor. He told us to do that. And if donating money is an easy way out of our responsibilities that God has given us in His kingdom, an easy way to feel good about ourselves, and to justify going out and buying that $100 pair of jeans, then God forbid..
Still, I have to quiet the cynic in me, and believe the slogan that they displayed: That together we are a force for good. That when people are informed of the things that exist in this world, and given a tangible opportunity to be a force for good in that, in God's name, they will. And they will do twice as much as was expected of them.

I have a lot of thoughts for the year that has just arrived, and a lot of them have to do with this blog that I suspect nobody reads. I hope to get those up in the next day or so... if for nothing but my own personal satisfaction. 

PS... Sierra made a cool video, you should check it out: