Fighting for Truth

With IJM's help, Sauda and her family now have their property rights restored.

We asked where she found the courage to pursue this case for so long—in asking I said 20 years, but she quickly corrected that it was more. I smiled and asked again, then met her quick response: “Amazima.”

I remembered the word from a bygone era when Uganda was my home: amazima means truth. Hearing this tiny, elderly woman speak it so clearly and authoritatively gave me a literal shiver down my back.

“I’m fighting for the truth,” Sauda said. “This is rightfully mine.”

With that, her steely resolution melted again into a broad smile and she laughed. More than twenty years of fear and anxiety were wrapped up now in pure and present joy, thanks to a favorable court decision earlier that day. Finally, Sauda was safe in her home. Continue reading

The Unfamiliar Problem of Violence

Boy in Uganda

The poorest people in our world suffer from a lot of familiar problems. They suffer from hunger, homelessness, illiteracy and sickness. And in response, all over the world, people of goodwill bring to bear familiar forms of assistance: we bring food and shelter and education and medicine.

But at the root of much of this suffering is actually a different problem–a less familiar problem–namely, violence. Many times the widow’s children are hungry because bullies have stolen her land and she can no longer grow her own food. The street child is homeless because sexual abuse in the home has forced her onto the streets. The young boy is illiterate because he is held as a slave in a brick factory and can’t go to school. The teenage girl has AIDS because she has been forcibly infected with the disease while held captive in a brothel.

In such cases we can’t meet the root cause of suffering with the familiar remedies of food, shelter, schools or medicine. It simply doesn’t meet the need. In fact, we can give all manner of goods and services to the poor, but if we do not restrain the hands of the bullies from taking it away, we will be disappointed in the long-term outcome of our efforts. As the rock-star activist Bono has learned from his work with the poor in Africa, caring for the poor is “not a matter of charity; it’s a matter of justice.”

This then is one of the things that makes IJM’s calling to the church so different. We are calling Christians to address the distinctive problem of violence that lies beneath so much of the suffering of the poor–the suffering that tenaciously keeps so many of the poor in poverty.

To be clear, among the global poor, hunger, homelessness, education and medical care are massive needs worthy of our urgent attention. But the traditional remedies for these problems simply don’t address the underlying problems of aggressive violence.

Violence is just different. Violence is intentional. Violence is scary. And violence causes deep scars. Accordingly, to deal with violence, Christians must be different.

From Just Courage by Gary Haugen

Kevin (pictured) and his mother were nearly thrown from their home by more powerful relatives – leaving their poor family’s future in jeopardy. Now safe and their rights restored, they can look forward to a brighter future.

Wowza. Let’s move the goal!

I have the best friends in the world.

In less than 24 hours, I had my Big Birthday Wish goal nearly wrapped up. So what then? Do we hang it up, bask in the warmth of small successes? No! We go even bigger.

With encouragement from pals here at IJM, I’m moving my birthday goal to $2700 – about half the cost of one rescue operation to free people from slavery and sex trafficking. One operation can free one person or hundreds.

Let’s do this!

The Big 2-7.

Honestly, I had completely forgotten my birthday is next week.

It can’t be due to age just yet – I’m not that old – but I think the busyness of this year threw me off. But it’s here. On May 23, I turn 27.

And there’s not much significant about the number 27 in life. I guess I’m officially moving into my “late twenties.” But working at International Justice Mission, 27 is a pretty big deal.

There are 27 million slaves in the world today. I’ve spit out that number so many times since I first joined up with IJM more than three years ago, but this year I took real pause. Just try to picture 27 million people. That’s everyone you know, everyone you’ve met, everyone you’ve loved – times a thousand. It’s the great travesty of our current world, and we’ve got to take more action to end slavery today.

So with just a week to my birthday, I want you to help me take a stand: I’m raising $270 in my IJM Big Birthday Wish campaign to help fund rescue and restoration around the world. Help me meet the goal, and together we’ll bring freedom to those in desperate need.

Check it out!

Welcome to 2013

I did it. I bought a smart phone. I’ve been on my basic $35/month Virgin Mobile plan for years, but it was time to join the future.

But my momma ain’t raise no fool. I did my research.

I sat down one Saturday afternoon and scoured the web for all the resources out there. As it turns out, any article about “how to buy a smart phone” was likely written in 2007 – back when everyone else first made that choice. Now, they’re too ubiquitous. Everyone knows the advantages. Most places and most people just assumed I’d get an iPhone and be done with it.

So I started that direction. User surveys and friends agreed that getting an iPhone with Verizon was the best option: coverage, ease of use, customer service, everything. But even when I played around with Verizon’s site, even with the cheapest plan I could get, I was still paying $90 a month – plus being locked in to a 2 year contract. (And contracts make me feel icky.)

I looked at other major carriers. I looked at simpler, no-contract plans, like Straight Talk. I looked at buying an unlocked phone, but that seemed sketchy.

When it came down to it, I had to evaluate what I really wanted:

  • Maps
  • Email access
  • A decent camera (i.e. Instagram)
  • No contract
  • Not much more than I was paying already

I debated for a long time about how important coverage was. On Virgin, I get great coverage most places, but then none anywhere somewhat rural (like my parents’ house). But I’ve been getting along fine with that. I spend most of my time in DC and coverage here is great. When I’m at my parents, I’m doing other things, so a phone’s less important.

I ended up back where I started – with Virgin Mobile. I could have gotten an iPhone there, but it’d be $350 and locked to Virgin. They have lots of other smart phone options now, though, so I compared and read reviews and compared again until landing here (ba ba ba baaaa) the HTC One V. It got great reviews everywhere I looked and has all the features I needed. It was $120 on Virgin’s site, but a quick Amazon search got me the same phone for $109 (the price has since risen). Done. Then I cruised around for cases – nothing fancy yet – and got an OtterBox.

 HTC One V

I don’t care much about Android versus iOS or Windows or whatever (this one runs on Android). I still just need it to do those basic things. And I don’t want to become one of those folks who cannot sit in stillness without fiddling with a phone, so not having anything fancy gives me boundaries.

And how have these last two weeks been? Fine. I’m sure I’m not getting the most out of this machine, but I know how to work Instagram (mostly) and check my email. I downloaded a word search game and a Mint app. I’m good on that.

But best of all? I’m still only paying $35 a month – unlimited data, text, everything. Who’s smart now? #winner

Resolution #4

Here’s my reading list for the year:

Stack of books I plan on reading in 2013

Welcome to five years’ worth of impulse book-buying. After doing a big clear-out in July, I’ve got 21 books on my shelf that I’ve bought but never read.

These guys either came home with me from some budget book store or were given by caring friends. Lots of others have been read and shared, but for whatever reason these have just waited on the shelf – reminders of perfectly good intentions but very little initiative.

We’ve got quite a lot of Africa focus, some reflections on faith, a few practical ones, and a random selection of fiction. That blue fatty – Adam Levin’s The Instructions – I bought from McSweeney’s for the sheer challenge of it: 1030 pages covering just 4 days of a little Jewish boy’s life. Dang.

So this year, I’m excited to prioritize reading what I own, to curb my impulse buying, and maybe to discover some gems that have been on my shelf all along. Let’s do this!

The Year of Scott

I’ve never been good at setting goals, but really respect how thoughtful folks here are about casting vision. A lot of my new friends in DC set themes for the year, taking time to really plan who they’d like to be by December 31. I dig it. So here’s how I’m living 2013:

The Year of Scott: Honesty, Simplicity, Authenticity: Get a Smart Phone

Pretty good, eh? In a way, it’s all about building on my momentum from Uganda in this new context of DC.

  • The Year of Scott: Be bold. Feel confident. Make things happen.
  • Honesty, Simplicity, Authenticity: This has a lot to do with identity. I changed a lot in Africa – as cliché as that sounds – and I want to keep up the good stuff. These are the values I’ve learned to live by and I want to keep them in the forefront this year.
  • Get a Smart Phone: I loved my little Nokia, but dangit if I don’t feel out of the loop. I’m cautious about the dependency I’m sure to develop, but excited for maps, group texting, and Instagram.

Along with the overarching, three-part theme, I came up with five tangible goals that will make me happy in 2013:

  1. Build something: I got a drill for Christmas. Let’s get super manly and create something useful.
  2. Rut at least a 10K: Totally doable, but still will require some training.
  3. Pay off my student loans: Debt-free by December, baby.
  4. Read all the books I own: I’ve impulse-bought an awful lot, so it’s time to work through the untouched stack.
  5. Write something great: I’m learning a ton in my new job, so I want to get to a place sometime this year where it all clicks and I produce a piece that honors our work and sounds pretty, too.

Maybe this is a lot to ask of 2013, but with one month down it’s actually going pretty well, especially being intentional about honesty and authenticity. Here’s hoping I can keep pace for the rest of the year!