Half the Sky: A Book Review

One of my favorite words in the Hebrew language is Shalom.  I love this word because it means so much more than peace.  It encompasses an entire ideal: universal flourishing, the way things ought to be.  When you hear the term universal flourishing, what do you think of?  For me, I think of someone who is thriving in every aspect of life - mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

In the New Testament, when Jesus healed, it always brought shalom to the person being healed.  If someone was blind, he gave them physical healing, but their eyes were also opened to who he is, the Son of God.  Jesus met them in the peak of their brokenness, and his physical and or emotional healing brought forgiveness and freedom, which in turn led to spiritual transformation, and thus, universal flourishing. 

As an organization, the goal of Women for Oppressed Women is to help oppressed women flourish in every aspect of their lives.  Often times, provision of their most obvious physical need brings them shalom, as they recognize their need for spiritual restoration in Christ.  When we seek to help women in oppression, our goal ought to be one of shalom, giving them a hand up to flourish in every aspect of life.  Many organizations focus on helping women improve their lives in a specific aspect, such as spiritually, educationally, physically (health-care), or economically (microenterprise).  Many are making a significant impact, yet sometimes it is overwhelming to know where to begin or how to help, especially when we hear of such widespread abuse or injustices.  That is where the book Half the Sky can help. 

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Since beginning my journey of gaining awareness and becoming active in the plight of oppressed women around the world, I have read many books on the subject. By far, the most comprehensive book on the topic has been Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity, by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.   This book, written in 2009, was birthed out of Sheryl’s own personal story as a Chinese American who went on a mission to discover more about her father’s heritage and family lineage in China.  What she discovered nearly unraveled everything she knew in her life to be true.  Her father left a wife and two daughters in China to move to America, and he then married and birthed two more daughters here.  Sheryl was one of the American daughters, and her father had never mentioned that he had abandoned a wife and two daughters in China. 

When she discovered this truth (and met her two half-sisters), she set out on a journey that led her around the globe, researching and reporting on women and girls in widespread forms of oppression.  She and Kristoff compiled the stories of the women Sheryl met, into Half the Sky. The best-selling book later was made into a documentary featuring interviews with many of the women whose stories she shared.

Half the Sky is a very difficult read, and many of the stories will make you sick to your stomach knowing they are true and occurring every day.  However, awareness is certainly the first step in making a difference.  Authors WuDunn and Kristoff do an amazing job gently documenting the sometimes brutal, violent, and devastating realities of these women’s lives.   They unpack the worldwide spread of sex trafficking and highlight several organizations who have experienced varying degrees of success in rescuing and rehabilitating girls from this slavery.  The authors also expose honor killings, rapes and mass rapes as weapons of war. These horrific practices frequently lead to fistulas (holes in women’s genitalia that cause feces to leak out continuously), maternal mortality (99 percent of those deaths occur in poor countries), and inequality of education in many parts of the world.   

The book doesn’t stop at just the bad news. Half the Sky gives many examples of organizations making strides to “turn oppression into opportunity.” Lastly, they offer readers four steps they can do in the next ten minutes to make a difference.  While one single person may not be able to solve the problem of global oppression, certainly awareness, advocacy, and action in small steps by many people will help. Then, we can begin the process of lifting one woman at a time toward healing and the opportunity to flourish. 

-- Heather Weisel © September 2017

 

The Compassion of Christ

Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” 2 Kings 9:13 (ESV)
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The first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, is one that conjurs up the images of palm branches and cloaks that lined the street as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Many of us have childhood memories of Palm Sundays past when we would receive a handful of palm leaves. We would wave them and then weave them into configurations that looked like a cross. In our youth and simplicity of heart we enjoyed the excitement of welcoming the King of Kings as they did long ago. It was hard for us to comprehend that this same crowd waving palm branches in the Bible story would call for his death just a few short days later.  

The people were excited and cheering and praising God.  The Gospel of Luke says that they were shouting  "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)  The crowds were lining up in the streets to welcome this blessed one -- but this upset the Pharisees! They knew this phrase referred to the long-awaited Messiah of God, as declared in Psalm 118:26 – “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!”.

The Pharisees actually told Jesus to stop the people. "Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’  ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’” (Luke 19:39-40) Of course, Jesus was, is and always will be the Messiah, and this was a problem for most of the crowd that day in many ways.

The people wanted a Messiah, but they wanted the Messiah on their terms -- to come against Rome and demand freedom, even if by force. They wanted their salvation and the Romans gone by any means.  What they got, however, was something far different than anyone could imagine.
The sounds of the cheering crowd would later be betrayed by the sounds of their stony hearts. “Blessed is he!” would soon become “crucify him!” We may look back now and say we would never have felt the same way as the Israelites of Jesus’ day. But, do we really understand our sinful hearts with complete certainty? Yet, despite all that Jesus saw in man – indeed, because of it! -- he was moved to sacrifice himself to ridicule, pain, suffering and death on a cross for our needs.  

Do we recognize how Jesus had compassion and moved toward us in our need:  lost, sinful, broken bodies with the misery of eternal separation from our Father God? Do we look at the pain and suffering around us and in the world as Christ did? Regardless of man's sin, foolishness, and self-centeredness, are we compelled to compassion?  May we ask God to help us move tenderly toward that pain. As we know, Christ came not to save the righteous, but sinners -- sinners like us.  
-- Lorraine Pruitt, © March 2018

 

WOW - Women for Oppressed Women Celebrates seven years of God's goodness to the poor and oppressed!

Seven years ago this month, several women from The Chapel in Akron and Green who had been involved in mission to Mozambique united their hearts for the women of that country. Several women quickly became many women, all with a desire to serve the Mozambican women more powerfully. The group of like-minded ladies quickly took on a name: WOW - Women for Oppressed Women.

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God had pierced the hearts of WOW with the plight of the people of Mozambique. Centuries of oppression by foreign governments and decades of civil war had destroyed Mozambique's infrastructure, leaving few viable job opportunities for Mozambicans close to home. Burdened by the needs and emboldened by the opportunities for women in that African country, WOW began dreaming and planning for its first ever Very Special Purse Party.

The goal was daunting: raise $60,000 in five months! Mindful of our African friends' sufferings, however, WOW prayed, dreamt, planned and worked, and by the grace of God, held its first purse party on October 15, 2011, raising $60,000!

God gave life and livelihood to the people of Mozambique! But there were more unmet needs around the globe. The women of WOW, along with our families and friends, continued to seek God with hands open to receive whatever assignments He had for us. And throughout the last six years, each time WOW has accepted an assignment, God has provided the means.

Since our founding, God has:

  • Superintended over three more Very Special Purse Parties.
  • Sowed a sewing microenterprise in Chaimite, Mozambique.
  • Provided clean water for the Mozambican village of Macalawane.
  • Planted a second agriculture field in the Mozambican village of Chegwe.
  • Secured the final $50,000 needed to open a safe house in Northeast Ohio for adult cvictims of human trafficking.
  • Established a new church in Macalwane.
  • Built a home and provided Christian parents and siblings for 25 orphans in Cambodia.
  • Provided $25,000 to Broken Chains Ministry in order to open Lydia's Home, a haven of life skill and vocational training for women coming out of prison or addiction.

Wow responded to these needs, but we konw that God was the Provider. As we prepare for hte Very Special Purse Party V in the fall of 2018 we will continue to do all things in His Name and for His glory.

"Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives, as well." 1 Thessalonians 2:8

 

The Master Weaver Uses Baseball to Open Ministry Doors in San Marcos

The Chapel team that was recently in the Yucatan Peninsula (YP) came back with exciting news about the doors that God opened while they were in the village of San Marcos (about a 20-minute drive from Ichmul, Mission House’s base in the jungle of the YP).

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One of the things the team did not have planned was what God used to open a new door to the Mayan men in that jungle village.  While the team was doing facilities work and ministry in the classrooms at the school.  Donny, one of the team members who was very unsure of how God planned to use him, was out in a field playing baseball with some boys.  He was acting sort of goofy with them using exaggerated “big league moves” to pitch the ball.

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An aspect of the ministry that is difficult in the YP is that it is very hard to connect with the Mayan men.  Traditionally during home visits Mayan men will make themselves scarce and they are generally harder to reach.  As a whole, the Mayan men can be absent in the homes both because they physically leave the villages to find work and also emotionally because there is a very high rate of alcoholism among the men.  

On this day some older teens and Mayan men were watching Donny play baseball with the boys and soon they came over and asked him about playing baseball.  The Mission House staff were able to take that opportunity to invite the men to come back and play a game of baseball for adults at a later time.  The mission team went back to Ichmul to gather more players and eventually the whole village of San Marcos came out to watch the exciting game!  In the end, the San Marcos team soundly defeated the mission team, but many positive connections were made and those fluent in Spanish and Mayan engaged in great conversations with the men.
 

At the San Marcos School Room, the mission team had been greeted eagerly by a male teacher who told them how badly the young middle school boys (ages 11-14 yrs. old) in his class needed God.  Those boys got a chance to interact with the team and further experienced God’s love as they watched the mission team play the men of their village in baseball.  Hopefully this will open future doors for the Gospel!

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Later in the week at a church service in the yard of a palapa in San Marcos, Marsha, one of the Chapel team members, was asked to speak because she has much professional and personal family experience with alcoholism.  Many of the Mayan men of the village did not directly join the service, but because of the prior connections made through the baseball game, they stood with interest in earshot of the microphone and were able to hear Marsha’s testimony and the message of the Gospel.

WOW’s goal this year is to raise funds for Water Purification Systems for as many of the villages, such as San Marcos, where Mission House is ministering in the YP as possible.   Clean water is uncommon in the YP and much soda and other unhealthy beverages are consumed leading to serious health problems.  We hope that the physical health that the clean water brings will be surpassed only by the spiritual health that the water given in the name of Christ will give.

 

 

A great time to think about Love

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

The liturgical season of Lent is observed every year by Christians around the world and in many different denominations. It is based off of Jesus' time in the desert, in which for 40 days He fasted and prayed and was tempted by the devil.  

As a young girl, my family lived in the upstairs flat of my grandparent's home in a Detroit suburb in Michigan.  My father and his family were born in Bagnoli del Trigno, Italy and immigrated to the United States in the 1940's. We followed the Catholic tradition of Lent for many years. Known as Quaresima, or the 40th day, in Italian, Lent is the word used to describe the fast before Easter.  The word comes from quaranta (forty), the traditional number used since biblical times for a period of penitence or cleansing. The word quarantena (quarantine) also comes from the same root.

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Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season Lent. We attended church that day and had ashes placed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross. Ashes have a long history in Jewish and Christian worship and traditionally represented sorrow for our sins. On Ash Wednesday, and for every Friday until Easter arrived, we refrained from eating any sort of meat. It was a season of fasting and prayer, repentance and reflection on Jesus' sacrifice.  

Having three generations living together and sharing meals and life together was a special experience for me and I treasure that time as a gift from the Lord.  When I turned 16 we moved into our own home.  As our family grew and changed over many years that tradition faded and then stopped.  I have to admit that I miss those days.  Our family was closely looking at Jesus probably more during Lent than any other time of the year. I recall it being a very special, holy time.

We talked about what he endured for us and how he came to serve and die.  It was overwhelming to really understand that kind of love when I was a youngster.  Now as a mother of four and grandmother, that kind of love still overwhelms me, amazes me, and fills my heart with abundant gratitude.

This year Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14--Valentine's Day.

Approximately one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year in the United States alone. This is second only to the number of Christmas cards sent. Most of us enjoy "spoiling" a loved one on Valentine's Day. Sending gifts and cards conveys love, affection, and friendship. I still remember all the valentines cards we got in elementary school and giggled wildly with my friends when that special boy sent an "I Love You" card!  In a way that is what the Lenten season says to us -- Jesus is saying "I Love You!"  

The Apostle John tells us: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

Although there is no specific mention of Lent in the bible, there is a great deal of teaching on the importance of fasting and self-examination. For me the season of lent is a time of focusing on all Jesus did for us, a time of examination and humble repentance in light of the cross. A time that also looks forward to celebrating His glorious resurrection on Easter and the resurrection he promises us as followers of Christ .

 

 

Winterest!

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Please join WOW at Winterest, a fun afternoon of crafting presented by the Women’s Ministry team at The Chapel in Akron. The event will be held Saturday, February 10, from 1:30-5 p.m. in The Chapel Dining Room in Akron. You will have the opportunity to create some utterly beautiful crafts that can be used to share God’s love and care with others. WOW also will be sharing how God has used women’s individual gifts of hospitality to help the poor and oppressed around the world! Come! You will be glad you did! Follow the link for more information: http://devoted.thechapel.life/artistry.html

Ministry to the Mayan People

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 18 – 20

Though most of the Chapel Mission Team currently in Ichmul, Mexico is relatively “inexperienced” on mission trips, they can be confident that God has gone before them.  He gives them the authority to reach the Mayan people in His name.  May God be praised as they seek to share His love with the children and adults in the jungle villages of the Yucatan Peninsula!

God is weaving of His Master tapestry and He uses people and organizations as He wishes to make disciples.  God has currently arranged for WOW to be involved in this people group as well by allowing us to raise money for a water purification and treatment system for them.  Pray with us that as the Mayan people eventually come to draw clean water from this system that they will be able to understand the love that compels WOW and our friends in Northeastern Ohio to help them.  We do this not only because we want them to enjoy health from fresh water, but because we want them to know Christ and the Eternal Health that He gives!

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Chapel Ministry to the Mayan People This Week!

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The team from the Chapel left this weekend for Mexico to serve alongside Mission House International Ministries in the jungle villages of the Yucatan Peninsula.  They have some very specific requests that they would love for all of us to pray about:

  1. This is the first mission trip that many of them have ever been on.  They are excitedly trusting God to go before them on this adventure!
  2. Three of them are leaving behind young families and they would really appreciate your prayers for those left behind as well.
  3. Marsha’s husband, Scott, just had knee surgery and she’s asking for prayer for him as he recovers without her around to help him.
  4. They want to be flexible as they adjust to the new culture.
  5. They plan to do some improvement projects in the school building in Ichmul and they are asking for prayer that they are able to complete some meaningful projects there.  They also want the children and teachers to see their love and realize that God wants to show them love through the team.
  6. The team will be running a VBS program in the afternoons after school lets out.  Pray that it would attract children and that the children would understand the meaning of heart and how Jesus knows our hearts and gives salvation.
  7. They want to be bold as they visit with the villagers they meet, so they can engage them and share Jesus.

Tune in later this week to see how WOW is involved with the Mayan people as well!

How God Used Journals to Bless Lydia’s Home Through WOW: From Beginning to End

In February of this year, Chris Uhl, a WOW sister, brought the needs of Lydia’s Home (Broken Chains) to our attention. Lydia’s Home is a place where women coming out of incarceration and/or addiction will live while receiving mentoring, advocacy, work force development and spiritual encouragement. Our goal was to raise $25,000 to help furnish this home.

We sought the Lord for ideas and we came up with a plan to sell Gini’s Journals. As women purchased them, however, they began to express their desire to learn more about journaling; and WOW was given a new means to encourage women! We began to develop home-based classes to help people learn how to deepen their relationship with Christ through journaling. We held our first Journal, Jam and Java (JJJ) on July 23rd, and explored journaling together with our guests. We also offered the opportunity to buy journals and/or give directly to Lydia’s Home. At each JJJ we have offered our guests the opportunity to host her own journaling class  for her friends. On November 18, one guest from our first JJJ, Andrea Galehouse, had hosted such an event!  (See photos below.)

Andrea’s JJJ was our ninth this year, and hers marked the last journaling event that will benefit Lydia’s Home (Broken Chains). Our ever-faithful God allowed WOW to exceed our goal of raising $25,000 to benefit Lydia’s Home through the sale of journals and related gifts given directly to Broken Chains. Guests have been enthusiastic both about enriching their relationship with Christ and others through journaling AND the mission of Lydia’s Home!

WOW does have JJJ’s scheduled in the future; however, the gifts from those will now be directed toward our international project for 2018: pure water for the Mayan People of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. As an outreach of the Chapel, we are working in partnership with Mission House which has established a ministry there in Ichmul and the surrounding jungle villages.

WOW is so grateful for each woman who has supported a JJJ event thus far, and we look forward to exploring journaling with more of you in the future! Stay tuned for more information about upcoming JJJ’s and the 2018 Purse Party!

-- Shelly Mountjoy © November 2017

 This is Andrea (left) who hosted our last JJJ that will benefit Lydia’s Home.  She was a wonderful hostess!

This is Andrea (left) who hosted our last JJJ that will benefit Lydia’s Home.  She was a wonderful hostess!

 WOW sister, Linda Maynard, invites teacher Pat Inman to share her favorite parts of journaling.

WOW sister, Linda Maynard, invites teacher Pat Inman to share her favorite parts of journaling.

 From humor journals to Christmas journals, Pat Inman captivated JJJ attendees with wonderful ways to incorporate journaling into their lives.

From humor journals to Christmas journals, Pat Inman captivated JJJ attendees with wonderful ways to incorporate journaling into their lives.

 Just a few of the great guests who attended Andrea Galehouse’s JJJ.

Just a few of the great guests who attended Andrea Galehouse’s JJJ.

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The Business of Blessing: How Inspiration from Entrepreneurs on Mission Led to Mary Kay for the Mayan Women

Since February 2011, I have had the overwhelming privilege to be part of WOW – Women for Oppressed Women. Not only have I been able to participate in four purse parties, three OpportuniTeas and countless other endeavors on behalf of the poor and oppressed, but I also have enjoyed writing about much of WOW’s mission.

Yet, a part of me wanted to do more.

  • I saw Mozambican women hand-knitting purses and sewing clothes to provide for their children, despite all of their other responsibilities.
  • I watched a sister’s love of sewing and passion for journaling ignite a fundraising spark that has attracted additional sewers and has been fanned into an inferno of support for the oppressed in Asia and now Greater Akron.
  • I witnessed teen and adolescent girls organize pizza and bake sales to provide a safe haven for victims of human trafficking.
  • And I saw much, much more.

I wondered what I could do, but I struggled for an answer.

That answer was right under my nose – literally. In the form of lipstick...and other cosmetics.

You see, for years Mary Kay has not only been my skin care product of choice, but it also has been a part-time business. Throughout my years in WOW, however, it had become very part-time. I jokingly called myself a “stealth” consultant, flying under the radar. I just couldn’t figure out why I should work on it when there were so many other important activities to pursue – like raising awareness and funds for the poor and oppressed around the globe.

The Chapel’s mission to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico changed my perspective.

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Last spring, I heard about the Mayan women of the Yucatan’s hand-woven hammocks. I discovered that they weave these hammocks and sell them at market to provide for their families. Store owners pay them pennies on the dollar, though, leaving them little profit. I asked if WOW could purchase several of these hammocks and re-sell them in the United States. We call these unique creations Hand-Up Hammocks, and we launched their sales through a family hiking event in September. People caught the vision, and our first round of hammock sales took off quickly. With each sale, I could not get the Mayan women’s enterprising efforts out of my mind. That’s when I realized why I should work harder on my Mary Kay business. Through Mary Kay sales, I could match the Mayan women’s hammock sales dollar for dollar. And so, last Sunday, November 12, I launched “Mary Kay for the Mayan Women of Mexico.”

Through October 31, 2018, I am pledging to donate all of my profit from each Mary Kay product I sell to current customers or individuals who do not have a Mary Kay consultant. All of these proceeds will go to the seed fund for the Mayan women of Mexico. My goal is to raise at least $3200 (the equivalent of WOW’s Hand-Up Hammock sales) by the end of October. The Chapel’s ministry partner in the Yucatan has determined that the best way to help the Mayan people is to provide their villages with clean water. Therefore, WOW is focusing all of our efforts in 2018 on providing water stations to eight villages. What a joy it is to personally support those efforts!

I am so inspired by the enterprising women of WOW, as well as the other industrious souls I have met in Greater Akron and around the globe. I am certain there are even more entrepreneurial women reading this article. How might you join the business of blessing and utilize your skills to serve the poor and oppressed? I pray that you will discover new inspiration and that, as we submit to our Savior, Jesus Christ, all of our motives will be as pure as the water WOW desires to provide to the Yucatan Peninsula.

-- Linda Maynard © November 2017