The Crux of the matter is… The Heart

I’m just barely getting this in on time… its the last day of the month.  February almost went by without a post. UGH.  I feel like I should have done better, done more, and yet if I look back at what I have accomplished this month, its nothing to sneeze at.  In the last six weeks I have:

  • moved to a new town
  • set up house in my new apartment
  • started a new job
  • organized two fairly sizable events for said job
  • joined a weekly tweetchat to help organizations get social media exposure
  • agreed to be on the board for a new not-for-profit
  • found a local Jesus community
  • re-connected with old friends
  • started meeting new people… and
  • most recently I’ve started a new business endeavor with Pampered Chef.

Whew – ok, I’m not the slacker my inner “Do-More” tells me I am.

photo credit

So why do I still have that inner diatribe yelling at me?  What is it that isn’t satisfied? Because in all that busy-ness I wonder if I really am making a difference.  February is Heart-health awareness month – especially for women.  Fitting seeing as the middle of the month is Valentine’s Day and its practically decorated to the hilt with hearts.  And all of this leads to my introspection of my emotional heart health… Why do we do what we do?  What is this thing that drives us?  I believe it’s because we want to see a better world around us.

This shows up every week in the tweetchat.  We worked with an 11 year old girl who wanted to give soldiers a piece of home to show them that we appreciate their sacrifices.  Who knew it would blow up into a viral social media showdown, but her point was always the same.  To honor those who sacrifice for our freedom.  That’s the heart.

Health issues be it for women, those reconciling with scars from treatments, the late-term effects from cancer treatments, or Alzheimer’s and dementia are filling the twitter feed. Why do people care about it? Because it has impacted them and trying to help people either avoid unnecessary trauma (emotional, mental, or physical) is the goal.  To help and give support and encourage. That’s the heart.

Did you know that a real feminist is a wonderful person to be around?  She acknowledges the right of every woman to make her own choices – and we don’t all have to look the same.  Whether you choose to work or stay at home with your kids or to not have children at all.  We are not better than men, men are not better than women.  True equality is in acknowledge and celebrating differences rather than being defensive about them and tearing down others.  Why is this important? Because as the quote says, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.  And I believe that if that is true, then logically  acceptance of one’s identity in Christ is the source of joy. To know, believe in, and own your true identity.  That’s the heart.

Unless we truly know our heart behind all the things we “do” we will continue being redundant, and run in circles like the proverbial rodent in a wheel, always busy but never accomplishing anything.  A recent twitter follower, when questioned about why he chose to follow referred to my bio and said “I think it was the wanna be world changer – I think the world can be changed, but it takes focus”  And he’s right.  It DOES take focus, knowing the heart.

What is the heart behind your actions? I hope you take some time to know your heart today.

Life matters…

Our relationship with this world is a strange paradox. The same can be said for our relationship with social media.  It can bring friends from around the world into one place – as small as the palm of your hand. Sharing stories, major life events, participating with peers in all of the up and downs that life dishes out. Celebrating the victories with a retweet or like, bemoaning a crisis through a comment.  We have distilled life into bite-sized pieces of 140 characters or less.

distorted magnified imageYet, the frailties of our humanity are magnified. A headline from the Toronto Star on Saturday decried “Death by Social Media.” As a social media person, I read these stories with an avid interest, searching my own motives and agendas about being online.  This, unfortunately, is not the first tragedy of its kind.  A friend recently posted about a similar situation on his blog, reminding us that we need to remember to humanize our social media.

Every post is a person.  Behind those avatars, profile pictures, and cover shots is a real live breathing human person with a soul and a story.  Each post, tweet, blog, and instagram is the reflection of a moment of life. And every life matters.  They matter to God, and as a Christian, they should matter to me.  Whether it is a life barely begun in the womb of a woman, a life that is malnourished because of poverty, one that is at risk of being trafficked as a slave or sex-object, or one that just somehow fell through the cracks of nets that government and society have set up – they are important.

God sees them. Even if we don’t.  He invites us to participate in His Kingdom by “hollowing out a great space in the hearts of those who will risk this loving and compassionate life-style.”  To extravagantly love others is to risk hurt, rejection, and pain. To experience the sufferings of Christ. As I search myself, I hope I find a soul hollowed out to be filled with love, rather than one fits “the world’s mold that will leave us misshapen in our souls.”

**italicized quotes from “Tent Revival Homecoming” presented by Bill Gaither © 2011

the Whys among us

cassette age test

picture via Pinterest & TheChive

Do you realize just how quickly the world around us is changing?  It was brought to my attention as I was online and saw a picture of a cassette tape & a pen.  Do you know how those two things are related?  I do!  Too many episodes of spooling the tape back into the cassette for me… Yet, I’m pretty sure my younger brother has no idea.

Music formats are just the tip of the iceberg.  I can remember when the internet was new (I was in high school).  Now, we’re on the cutting edge of technology – The era of the ‘zettabyte’ is forecasted to be here in just three years according to this infographic.  Wow, how far and how fast we have come.

As the communications liaison (one of my several hats) for DOVE Africa, its my job to be ‘on top of’ this stuff.  Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, Buffer, HootSuite, the blogosphere… have all become part of my daily lexicon; all in the effort to stay connected to the world around me.  Yet I have to wonder, am I really engaging the world or am I just adding to the ‘noise’ around me?

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.” I Cor 13:1 I realize that even in all I do, I must offer the truth of the love that compels me to action.  Its all about the “Why” of my story.

Why did I think that news article was important to share?  Why did I write that blogpost? Why is that picture worth posting?  When we connect in social media it should be about the reason for engaging, not just the content.  I’m called to be a thought leader and a witness to what I believe.

The world is changing and we must respond to that, yet we cannot sacrifice the truth of His unchanging message of grace and forgiveness on the altar of relevance.  Just like money is a tool used to expand the Kingdom of God, so too is social media.  It is simply a tool.  However, also like money let us not love social media for itself, or we may have paid too high a price.

Doing my part

I live in a borrowed land.  It is a land where the values of life are not weighed easily.  The mundane choices of each day cannot be simplified into “Do have a latte or a cappuccino?”  “Do I wear the brown shoes or the black ones?”

Instead the daily decisions of life here for many include questions like “How much must I sell myself for to buy food for the week?”  “Do I pay rent or buy something for dinner?”  And for some the question has been “Do I take the healthy children and find food & shelter leaving the sick behind, or do we all stay here and die together?”

No parent or person should have to make choices like this.  I believe that we all have innate value given to us by our Creator.  He desires more for us than this. And to that end. so that none will lack, He put us in community with one another.  We were meant to live in relationship with one another, passing on the blessings we have received so that others too may share in the joy of abundant life.

But we don’t, and we all have our reasons and excuses.  I cannot blame others for faults that I have myself.  Yet I hear statistics like “…22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” (source) and I realize, I MUST be part of the solution.  But how?  It seems so large a problem, my little bit that I can do is not enough.

Then I am reminded of the story that the late Wangari Maathai told about the hummingbird.  It’s not about how much you do, its whether or not you did your part.  So I’m doing mine.  You can do your part by participating in the “Africa Response”.  If you text “ACTNOW” to 48510, you can donate $10.  Get 5 friends to join you and collectively you have fed a family for a month.

We use social media to invite people to a party, or share a funny story.  Let’s also use it to make a difference, and actively be the change we want to see.

The HISG hat

Sorry for the two week skip – I’ve been wearing another one of my hats, as the administrative assistant, event planning guru for HISG Kenya.  HISG is a great group of people who focus on connecting needs with resources, I highly encourage you to check out what they are doing around the world.
Well last week, the area director and some associates were in town to meet with people, and we did a half-day forum with some of the Springs of Africa Micro-Finance Clients and other DBSP Graduates (check out the sites for more info on both groups).  After the meeting I got to tag along with the guys as they went to check out a factory that makes “JikoPoa” which literally translated means “cool fire.”  Its a really great invention that uses less wood, produces less smoke, and cooks faster than the coal fire jikos that are widely used here in Kenya.  In fact, Baba Michael we now have one here at the Compound.  
The factory tour was very interesting, and so was the drive there.  Poor Bouvince had to deal with my frustrations at the typical Kenyan way of giving directions – get to a certain spot, call again, get info to the next landmark, call again… Definitely not efficient, definitely not my favorite way to get directions.  After we did get there, and I realized I’d be walking around a metal-work factory in my wedge heels and cream colored pants (natch), I felt like I was in an episode of “How its made.”  There were machines and workers for each separate part of the stove, and it wasn’t until near the very end that you could tell what it would look like.  We got to see the whole process from sheet metal to packaging.
Now this weekend I’m helping to arrange for a quick 3 day visit from some more HISG guys.  The primary reason for this visit is the one-day Social Media seminar on Monday the 5th.  Gunnar Simonsen, is HISG’s SoMe guru, and does a fabulous job at showing people how they can use these tools to spread how and what they do to a larger audience.  Whether they are a non-profit, an NGO, or a for-profit business the language of Social Media can have a huge impact.  I can’t wait to have some time to pick his brain about how to increase the message of DOVE Africa and how His Kingdom is growing in this part of the world.
It was funny, I thought with Diane being out of the country for a few weeks, I’d be a little less busy, rather I’m finding myself busier than ever as I do her small errands as well as my own.  Well that’s the life of an assistant isn’t it.  Plus God is opening up some new doors and opportunities as well that I hope I’ll be able to share about soon.
One thing I can definitely say, life on the mission field is rarely boring!

Welcome to the 21st Century

So dear readers, here is an honest to goodness blog post. Some of you know what I do, but I probably a lot of you don’t. Mostly that’s because even I’m not always sure what I’m doing on a day to day basis. But, under the advisement of my mom some smart people I’ve decided to start a series based on some of the aspects of my job. This one is about the role of social media and how it affects what we are doing in light of eternity. To that end, part of my job is help DOVE Africa engage in social media. I’ve redesigned and launched our new websites – doveafrica.com and springsofafrica.com, plus DOVE Africa also has a FaceBook page. (you can “like” us here)

Culture and society are changing at an ever-faster pace. Thanks to the advent of the internet and cellular/smart phones people are becoming more and more ‘connected’. Email has been a great tool in deseminating information across a large distance in moments. But it is very quickly being overtaken by the social media networks.

The coming generations are learning to communicate in new and different ways than those of their predecessors. For them it is about having a dialogue, not listening to a monologue. Social media and networking are the keys to reach them and get them interested in the future of Kenya. We need to reach them at their level.

In February 2004 college student Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates started a network for Harvard students, in just seven years Facebook has grown to over 600 million users (I’m one of them, wanna be my friend?). That is 10% of the earth’s population. Twitter, a micro-blogging tool, has grown to 175 million users since its launch in 2006, and is adding an average of 370,000 per day (you can follow me here). We’ve even added new words to our daily lexicon because of social media, i.e. going viral- to describe the sudden growth of a post on a social network, ‘friending’ someone, ‘tweeting’, etc.

Social media is playing a role in politics. In the revolt against the most recent elections in Iran, the Western media would have had little to report had it not been for YouTube videos that were being posted by people on the ground. Facebook has also been credited in inciting the groundswell of support for the revolutions throughout North Africa and the Middle East during the “Arab Spring”. And who can forget the trouble that some American politicians have found themselves in for inappropriate uses of social networks.

It is a rarity in Kenya to have a land-line telephone, instead most everyone has a mobile phone. The social media networks have seen the trend and made allowances for it, thus the ever prevalent ‘app’. You can Facebook, Tweet, and check your professional associates on LinkedIn from the palm of your hand. You don’t have to wait for the evening news or the morning paper to know what is happening in the world, information is immediately available on your phone.

All of this feeds the desire of the coming generations for transparency and genuineness. They will no longer stand for platitudes and patronizing speech. They may not agree with what you stand for, but if you are willing to hold to your stance with reasoning behind it, they’ll respect you. Social justice issues and causes are very popular with Generation Y and the Millennials. They want to know that they are making a difference in the world and are using the social media networks to partner together to do that.

Unless we are willing to speak to those who will be the next leaders in the language and context that they understand, they will see us only as archaic and out of touch. We will no longer be given a place to teach them or empower them. If they do not learn from our mistakes then they will be doomed to repeat our history. And that, Kenya cannot afford.