America: We Can Choose Better

American Flag (Kevin Morris)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current personal, national and now global discourse about our nation. About our future. About our families. About us as unique individuals. Sadly, the “discussion” phase buckled under the weight of disrespect, mistrust, hatred, violence and eventual anarchy. Tidal wave after tidal wave of blame. I suppose it’s nothing new to the human race. But it’s ugly and messy and us not at our best. We can choose better.

People are fighting for what they say they believe in for the whole. But in so much of the activity, it is not. It is for themselves. When our soldiers fight for our nation, they check their political party and personal beliefs at the door. Why? Not because these things aren’t worthy. Because they believe in something much greater than their own personal preferences and opinions. They are fighting together to secure and strengthen something that transcends the individual struggles. And importantly, they know that unity matters. There is power in unity. The same goes with families. Healthy families choose to go higher. They choose the greater good. When we step outside of our personal protective walls, we can see a world much bigger than ourselves. Humanity seems to trip on “self” a lot.

Unfortunately, we have come to a place in history where we can’t even agree on the definition of “greater good”. Therein lies the rub. A nation divided against itself. Sounds cannibalistic. And because of our collective intolerance, pride and catering to self-interest, we’re about to lose much more than an eye. I would like to see a nation fighting together, not AGAINST itself, fighting FOR its common good. But then again, we can’t seem to agree on what “common” means anymore either.

Sounds dismal. And it is, if you believe that’s the end. But it’s not. We still have the freedom to dream, create, build, speak, worship and to “become”. To become smarter, braver, kinder, more reasonable, giving, thoughtful, compassionate, prayerful, wiser, loving and discerning than we were before. But it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. Who do you want to become?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Are You In?

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.

God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both of their lives.

God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war.

God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and

God is with us if we are with them.

Bono, Lead Singer, U2

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Wherever Human Beings Endure Suffering

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –Elie Wiesel

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10 Quotes about Forgiveness

Unforgiveness morphs people. It can literally alter the prism through which we view life, people, circumstances, and truth. It has the power to twist reality and make things or people appear to be different than they actually are. It stunts our creativity and dreams. It robs us of our joy and peace. It can restrict our thinking, harden hearts, ruin relationships, and diminish opportunities; all of which serve to punish us.

Chronic anger, resentment and unforgiveness cripple a person. They place us in mental and emotional strangleholds that keep us in neutral, disabling us from moving forward. We can become fixated with the past instead of living in the present and thinking about the future.

So, why would anyone intentionally hold on to something so destructive?  Many people are afraid to let go and forgive because they feel it might somehow erase the wrong that was done to them. If they forgive, they fear it will somehow diminish the wrong, or condone the hurtful behavior. It’s as if to say they are giving a pass to the perpetrator.

But that’s not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is more about the wounded than the one who wounded. It is possible for us to choose to forgive wrongs even when the perpetrator doesn’t take responsibility and acknowledge their wrongdoing, or worse, isn’t even sorry. So how does that work?

It comes down to choice–something we do have control over. We choose to live our own life free from the bondage of unforgiveness. We choose to not allow the truth of the past (what happened to us), sabotage the truth about our future (the good things that lie ahead). We choose to free ourselves from the power of the one who wounded us. We choose to live in the face of reality. As if to say, “I’m going to live, and love, and move forward, despite what you did to me.

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. -Corrie Ten Boom

We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate — thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising. -Maya Angelou

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. -Mother Teresa

Put anger aside. It is not a solution. Patience and love is a solution. With compassion and action, together we can end slavery. -Somaly Mam

No one can tell you how long to mourn a death or rage over a rape. But you can’t move forward until you break that chain -Leymah Gbowee

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. -Marianne Williamson

We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all. -Dorothy Day

Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated. -Coretta King Scott

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass. -George Herbert

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. -Louis Smedes

Among those quoted are women who learned—who chose—to forgive the people that severely oppressed them and kept them in bondage. Whether shamelessly abused through sexual slavery, oppressed simply because of their gender or skin color, or as a concentration camp victim-survivor, they overcame because they forgave.

What have you found to be helpful in your own journey to forgive, and to set yourself free?

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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The Just Church: An Interview with Author and Abolitionist Jim Martin

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Jim Martin is the author of IJM’s new book, The Just Church.  As vice president of church mobilization his firsthand experience helps equip and enable churches to understand justice issues and learn how to take action against violence and oppression worldwide.  

“Why is it that the glaring global justice issues of our day—issues such as sex trafficking, modern slavery, illegal property seizure and sexual assault—are so seldom addressed in our churches?” -Jim Martin

Join me as we discuss The Just Church with author and abolitionist, Jim Martin:

Would you please share what prompted you to write The Just Church, and what your main objective was in writing the book at this time?

One day I had the realization that it was just a matter of time before I walked in to a bookstore and saw a book with the words “Justice” and “Church” in the title. Having been in ministry for eighteen years—ten of those as a pastor at a church passionate about justice, I realized I had a pretty specific perspective about what kind of book would be most helpful. I wanted to be sure that any book that encouraged churches to engage in justice in a hands-on way would make a strong connection between justice and discipleship rather than simply justice and mission. A few nanoseconds later I realized that, given IJM’s experience with churches over the last decade, we should write that book. I was just at the right place at the right time.

Although the church is clearly called to defend the oppressed, it hasn’t always been actively engaged in issues of violent oppression.  Why do you think that is?

Violence is simply different from most other challenges the church confronts. As IJM’s founder Gary Haugen says, “Victims of violence aren’t suffering from bad luck or bad weather,” nor are they suffering because they don’t have a healthy church they can attend. They are suffering because of the intentional abuse of someone else. As Ecclesiastes 4:1 puts it, the oppressed have “no one to comfort them.”  But “on the side of their oppressors, [is] power.” Confronting violent power is challenging. It produces feelings (such as fear) that can be uncomfortable.

If a church could do just one thing to begin an intentional process of moving toward being a more “just church” today, what would that be?

Reverse the spiral of isolation. That is to say, so many churches in the US (and in other more “developed” parts of the world) struggle with isolation. If we are isolated enough as to be largely unaware of injustice-related suffering altogether, then this lack of awareness will actually affect how they read the Scriptures. Because we don’t see this kind of suffering in the world, we don’t notice when we are reading about it in the Scriptures. Not noticing it in the Scriptures, we are not compelled to see it in the world. And the spiral accelerates. We need to reverse the spiral by taking a careful look at the Scriptures for their call to engage injustice in the world. And we need to take a hard look at the world to see the kind of suffering experienced by our neighbors. Having done that, I have little doubt that the God of justice will move us to action.

What have you found to be most effective in moving people from the sidelines of awareness, to the field, so-to-speak–from apathy to action?

One word: Hope. Hope is like a secret weapon. The easiest mistake to make is to simply pound people with statistics and horror stories. But the harsh truth of the problem alone usually serves to produce anger or despair. Anger may produce short bursts of activity, but is not effective fuel for a long journey. Even worse, despair is like inertia—making it even harder for us to take action. But hope is different. Hope motivates, hope increases momentum. At IJM we talk about a ratio of 10 to 1. For every one part stark reality of oppression, you need to inject 10 parts of rescue, restoration and transformation-based hope.

What challenge would you issue to the church in terms of its impact in actually alleviating this kind of suffering in the first place?

Stories of rescue are both inspiring and hopeful. And rescue is utterly life-changing for survivors who are touched by that miracle. But isn’t our real hope that these children, women and men would never be victimized in the first place? As the global church awakens to this massive tragedy being perpetrated on our watch, its 2.2 billion members should form a transformational army that works to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable in the first place. 

In the book you say, “If we are risk averse, we will be faith poor.” What do you mean?

One of the central points in the first half of the book is the idea that faith is made up of two things: Belief and Trust. Most churches I’ve known are great at teaching belief. There are all kinds of resources out there that help us hone our understanding of what we believe about God. But most churches, including churches I’ve led, are not very good at teaching trust—simply because this is much more difficult to teach—and learn. Learning trust always involves risk. This is true in human relationships and it’s true in our relationship with God. As I have taken on appropriate risk and experienced God as faithful and sufficient in it, my trust has grown. Simply put the equation is Faith = Belief + Trust. If we are risk averse, we will be faith poor.

As you’ve engaged with churches, what have you found to be the biggest misconception about how justice and discipleship relate to each other?

I think the extent to which many believers think about justice at all, they think of it as a mission of the church—something that we ought to do for those poor vulnerable people out there who are victimized by others. I do think there’s some truth to that. But what I’ve found over a couple of decades of engagement, is that there simply is no better place for me to be stretched, no better place for me to be forced to rely on the miraculous goodness and grace of God, than in the work of justice. There are so few places where my faith is really tested, where my trust in God is so stretched. This is why the work of justice is some of the richest soil for discipleship I’ve ever known.

You speak about a type of maturity that has a “missional purpose.” Can you expound on this idea?

Sometimes in the church we think of spiritual maturity as simply an end in itself. But the scriptures are clear that God’s work to rescue and redeem us is not only because he loves us, but also because he has a purpose for our lives! We are invited, adopted into, the family of God so that we can join the family business—that is so that we can join God on his mission to planet earth. Our spiritual maturity is for this missional purpose.

You talk about the relevance of “failure points”. Would you describe this concept for people or churches that are passionate about the battle for justice in our time?

For me, this is one of the keys to growing faith. In the book I make the comparison to weight training. In order to strengthen muscles, many schools of weight training encourage us to push our muscles to the failure point—the point at which our muscles cease to function. This was something of an “aha!” for me. For a long time I’d been looking for a way to describe what happens when we faithfully follow God into difficult situations, especially those outside our normal experience. Sometimes in those situations I’ve had the experience of coming to the end of my faith—the place where I was no longer sure that God was actually sovereign. This was especially true the first several times I encountered victims of sexual violence and heard their stories. The stark reality of that kind of suffering was challenging to contemplate, not just emotionally, but theologically. It forced all kinds of questions about God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness. It was again and again in those places, that counter-intuitively that God would actually prove to be both sovereign and good. These experienced deepened my faith perhaps more than any others in my life.  

What if churches were more collaborative in the area of justice, in what ways might that immediately and positively impact communities?

One of the strategies we present in the second half of the book is the idea of churches doing a thorough “Community Justice Assessment.” (IJM has a tool, a guide for this that is available for free.) One excellent collaborative strategy is for several churches in the same area to work together on conducting this assessment. Together they become the experts on issues of violence in their communities as well as the gaps in service/opportunities for ministry that exist.  

The term “social justice” has become a common expression. Do you believe there is a difference between social justice and biblical justice?  Please Explain.

For those of us who take the scriptures seriously, there can be no doubt that God cares about justice. To quote scholar Christopher Wright (in his endorsement of The Just Church): Justice, “is something that every biblical genre talks about somewhere – in the law, the narratives, the prophets, the Psalms and wisdom literature, the gospels and epistles.” When people use the term “social justice,” they are generally referring to people acting justly in their interactions with each other and the world.  We can pursue social justice for a variety of different reasons, including as a response to God’s call to justice. The distinctive of biblical justice, perhaps, has to do with motivation. We engage in justice not merely because we are kind people wanting to alleviate the suffering of others, but because we are disciples of a just God who hears the cries of the vulnerable and longs to mobilize his body to bring rescue. God calls us to this mission, but God also underwrites the mission. God meets us in this mission and God transforms us through this mission.

Have you experienced any personal “aha moments” of revelation or discovery while in the process of writing The Just Church?

The wonderful experience of getting to write this book was that it was the summary of about 10 years of work with my former church, The River (to whom the book is dedicated) and here at IJM. It was the opportunity to finally put into words some things I’d been learning on this journey with God and some good friends into the work of biblical justice.

People often say that they are “only one person,” and they don’t know how they can make a difference. What advice would you give them about stepping out and getting started?

According to the CIA Fact Book, there are 2.2 Billion Christians in the world. In the US alone, there are over 300,000 churches. Together we are more than a quorum. We are the hands and feet of the God of justice. And we are waking from our slumber. Let’s work to rouse the particular limb to which we are attached and shake off the cobwebs. This body is on a mission.

What key takeaway do you hope will make the biggest imprint on the mind and heart of the reader?

IJM learned early on that getting churches riled up about slavery, sex trafficking and other forms of violent oppression was not difficult. The hard part is coaching those churches to meaningful, enduring action. It’s not that churches lack the desire to act. What we’ve found over the years is that most churches simply lack a proven strategy to get them through the complexity, pain and darkness involved in engaging violent oppression. This book offers that proven strategy based on more than a decade of experience with churches who’ve found deep and lasting engagement.

Author, Jim Martin

Learn more about how your church can partner with IJM on the frontlines and in your community. Purchase Copies of The Just Church, visit www.ijm.org, or follow IJM on Twitter @IJMHQ.  Click Here to invite Jim Martin or another IJM expert to speak at your church or event.

 

If you’ve read this book and it’s made an impact on you, or you’re working to promote justice in your church or group, leave a comment below and share with others on the same journey! 

Related Articles:

New Book by International Justice Mission: The Just Church

When We Call Evil Good

International Justice Mission: Making Public Justice Systems Work for Victims of Oppression 

Bay area churches called ‘justice-seekers’ in book from anti-trafficking leader 

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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New Book by International Justice Mission: The Just Church

 

Millions of people around the world are living in the grip of injustice today. Who will be their voice?  Who will see and hear them? Who will help bring them to a place of wholeness? Who will defend their cause?

International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Although the concept of political advocacy can be a challenge for many churches, IJM takes the scriptures offer as a clear call for the church to become a voice for those living in the grip of oppression and injustice.

“Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -Proverbs 31:8-9

The fact is that child victims of rape, slaves, and widows whose land has been stolen from them need others to advocate for them. IJM believes that churches, Christian leaders, pastors, and congregations can—and should—play a vital role in advocating for the voiceless.  While you may agree, you (or your church) may not know how to engage. 

Here’s the good news! Today, IJM released “The Just Church: Becoming a risk-taking, justice-seeking, disciple-making congregation” by Jim Martin.  Finally, a “roadmap” filled with practical and relevant insights and information applicable and critical for any church’s justice mission. The author asks and answers: “Why is it that the glaring global justice issues of our day—issues such as sex trafficking, modern slavery, illegal property seizure and sexual assault—are so seldom addressed in our churches? Why is it that the widows, orphans, aliens, and strangers so often mentioned in the Scriptures are so seldom mentioned (or present) in our churches?”

Author Jim Martin

Jim Martin is the VP of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He has been on the front lines of the battle for justice in the world’s darkest and most dangerous places.

He (along with IJM) has “been there and done that”. They don’t just talk about the issues, they live the issues. The Just Church will challenge and equip any individual or church committed to justice!

Donations enable IJM to bring rescue and restoration to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. 100% of author royalties will support the work of IJM.

What have you found to be the biggest obstacle or fear when engaging in justice in your church or community?  Are you ready to be a voice for the voiceless by becoming a risk-taking, justice-seeking church? 

Related Articles:

When We Call Evil Good

International Justice Mission: Making Public Justice Systems Work for Victims of Oppression 

Bay area churches called ‘justice-seekers’ in book from anti-trafficking leader 

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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NOT FOR SALE: Moving From Awareness To Action Against Modern-Day Slavery

“No longer can we stand by while 30 million people are enslaved”. Thinking about positive change is a beginning—like the planting of a seed. Talking about positive change is taking that idea to the next step, like watering it. But it is not enough to make a lasting difference.  Good ideas, like knowledge and awareness, will never affect true transformation. Like the seed that is planted and watered, without the light of truth and effective nurturing, it cannot thrive and gain the momentum of progressive evolution toward a solution. Not For Sale believes it’s time to shift gears by marrying movement with intelligent action.

So what is Not For Sale’s commitment to breaking the cycle of vulnerability and creating change at the root level of human trafficking and slavery? It is to provide a platform and issue a collective challenge for modern-day abolitionists to rise up and stand with those who are enslaved. To educate, inspire and invite people to move from the awareness phase to the action phase. They join forces to equip abolitionists in their quest to empower those who are enslaved to realize their freedom. That is success—remarkable, measurable success.

“We cannot act solo if we want to make an impact” -David Batstone

What does that collective challenge look like on the ground? Not for Sale combines technology, intellectual capital, abolitionist groups and a growing network of individuals working together for one purpose: to bring an end to human trafficking and modern-day slavery. To creatively, intelligently and strategically work together to literally set captives free.

We are living in a moment in time where the world’s interest and conscience are piqued by the topics of human rights and modern-day slavery. That’s why we cannot allow the sheer breadth and depth of its ugly and enormous reality cause us to become paralyzed to the point of inaction. It will take many moving parts working toward the same goal.

As Not For Sale rightly points out, “We live in a time and place where people are restless to do something”. Their approach promotes a holistic response that will best serve that collective goal. That’s why NFS presents us with opportunities that will bring students/universities, athletes, musicians, artists, communities of faith, justice, technology and business minds together. In order to bridge knowledge to action, they understand that, “The greatest of challenges demand the boldest and most creative initiatives.”

“Ending slavery in our lifetime depends on open-source activism” –David Batstone

Do you consider yourself a modern-day abolitionist? Do you and/or your peers want to learn more about human trafficking or find creative ways to “activate your activism”? Check out the Free2Work, Free2Play, and Free2Walk initiatives. Download the app to find out if the food you eat and the goods you buy are produced by slaves.  If you’re not sure how to apply your interests and skills in the movement, NFS has created an easy online tool to help point you in the right direction.  Consider taking an educational and life changing Immersion Trip, or sign up for The Academy, an abolitionist think-tank where NFS “incubates ideas to create solutions”.   

Hear the heart and journey of David Batstone, banking investor, educator, journalist and President/Co-Founder of Not For Sale in his own words.  

We cannot live in our present time and space and not be aware that human trafficking and modern-day slavery exists to some degree. Neither can we afford to live with our own conscience now awakened, yet stuck in the place of awareness… and do nothing.

How are you moving from awareness to action as an individual, organization or community?

Related Article: The Top Ten Rules for the Lifelong Effort to Become a Smart Activist

Buy the Book: “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It” by David Batstone

Connect with Not For Sale on Facebook, online, by email, or follow @NFS on Twitter

Join me on Twitter: @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”
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Violence Against Women: The Last Word

Violence has long been used as a weapon to punish, marginalize and silence women, and to control their behavior, attitudes and actions. In the case of war crimes, it is used to inflict such terror that it causes those who observe it to become paralyzed by fear and ultimately heed the control. The actions of the men who devise, commit and insight others to violence will be considered successful if the violence–and the damage left in it’s destructive path–is allowed the last word.

According to a recent report, Afghanistan’s president Karzai supported a decree by a group of government-sponsored religious leaders that stated women are worth less than men, should not leave their home without a male escort, or mix with men at school or in the workplace. Very young girls can be given as wives to men many years older; and, if raped, forced to marry their rapist. Girls in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and other countries have long been subject to sexual harassment, violence and arranged marriages. In Indonesia, women are being asked not to provoke sexual violence. Though we are aware of specific cultures whose laws and ways are deeply rooted in belief systems unfavorable to women, we still find stories of gender-based violence rocking parts of Latin America, Africa and western nations as well. 

Choose Life, Choose Power

How do victims do more than just “stay alive” after the violence? Is it possible to go back to really “living” , to being whole again, when the loss and torment linger?  Are there women who not only survive, but thrive in the aftermath of such physical pain and emotional terror?  Yes, but how?  They choose to get up in the morning and not give up on their life–family, career, dreams… themselves–because of what happened to them. They choose to move forward.  But it’s easier said than done… In fact, how is it even possible?

By choosing what we think, what we dwell on, and not allowing an act, feeling, circumstance or experience to define us.

There’s the key: “Define”. Does it negate reality? No, but we give power to the things we choose to dwell on. If women who’ve suffered violence make a conscious decision to invoke negative memories, to relive the details of the things that caused them great pain and suffering,  and to keep their abuser at the forefront of their thoughts, they are, in essence, choosing to live there (or at least hang out there), instead of in the present.  In contrast, to think on the equal reality of who they are and their God-given destinies–that they were born into this world for a reason and that their unique life has a purpose that is good–they choose life, they choose freedom…  They choose POWER.

The Experience Does Not Define Her

The pain and fear is excrutiatingly real, but it is only a part of her story. It is not the definition of her life. The violence and marginalization of her personhood are things she experienced, yes; but she musn’t give the experience permission to dictate the rest of her story. She was victimized and had an experience that cannot be erased. Thankfully, it is also true that she has a future and hope. She lived through it for a reason, and that is to live–really LIVE.

While covering the Egyptian uprisings in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, American journalist Lara Logan, found herself surrounded by an angry mob of men and spirited away from her CBS film crew. She was viciously stripped and suffered a “brutal and sustained” sexual assault.  In her testimony, she spoke of learning to live with the triggers of trauma, unwelome flashbacks, incapacitating anxiety and, nightmares and/or fears, joining many other women who have suffered violence.  She pointed out how difficult the healing process can be even when trying to maintain a positive attitude.

What keeps her going?  Like so many others, it is the people she’s met along the way. She thinks about the strength it has taken for others to go on after their families have been massacred, or, those who live in countries where women can’t speak out at all.

The Last Word

She recalled one woman in Africa who was raped and disemboweled, who said she “had to live” because she wasn’t going to give her attackers everything. Lara Logan knows in part, how that woman felt. She had her own brutal experience. She has her own memories and emotions to deal with.  That’s part of what drives her today.  She chose to take back her power, believe in her own destiny, and refuses to be defined by the attack. So, STAND–even if it takes everything in you, because the last word is yours, and you are worth it!

Maybe you (or someone you care about) has been a victim of violence. How have you been able to take back your power by not allowing the incident to define you, or your tomorrow? 

Related Reading: Lara Logan: Life is Not About Dwelling on the Bad, Women in the World Summit, Congo Women: Women of War, Women of Courage

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is confidential, free and available in more than 170 languages. 800-799-SAFE (7233).

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”
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A Book about Life & Love: Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer

Promise Me is a book written by Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Founder and CEO, Nancy G. Brinker, the strongest advocate for breast cancer in the world, and Susan’s sister. There’s a special bond between sisters that no other relationship can compare to on earth. Isadora James said, “A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.”

“Almost every candid photograph I have of Suzy seems to have been snapped just as she’s bubbling up to giggle, that precise moment when you can see the laughter in her eyes and feel the active upturn of her mouth, but the not-quite sound of it is forever suspended in the air, teasing like the unplayed eighth note of a full octave. Even in the dream, I ache for the unfinished music of her life.” –Nancy G. Brinker

Suzy and Nancy Goodman were more than sisters. They were best friends, confidantes, and partners in the grand adventure of life. For three decades, nothing could separate them. Not college, not marriage, not miles. Then Suzy got sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977; three agonizing years later, at thirty-six, she died.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Goodman girls were raised in postwar Peoria, Illinois, by parents who believed that small acts of charity could change the world. Suzy was the big sister—the homecoming queen with an infectious enthusiasm and a generous heart. Nancy was the little sister—the tomboy with an outsized sense of justice who wanted to right all wrongs. The sisters shared makeup tips, dating secrets, plans for glamorous fantasy careers. They spent one memorable summer in Europe discovering a big world far from Peoria. They imagined a long life together—one in which they’d grow old together surrounded by children and grandchildren. Suzy’s diagnosis shattered that dream.

In 1977, breast cancer was still shrouded in stigma and shame. Nobody talked about early detection and mammograms. Nobody could even say the words “breast” and “cancer” together in polite company, let alone on television news broadcasts. With Nancy at her side, Suzy endured the many indignities of cancer treatment, from the grim, soul-killing waiting rooms to the mistakes of well-meaning but misinformed doctors. That’s when Suzy began to ask Nancy to promise. To promise to end the silence. To promise to raise money for scientific research. To promise to one day cure breast cancer for good. Big, shoot-for-the-moon promises that Nancy never dreamed she could fulfill. But she promised because this was her beloved sister.

“I promise, Suzy. . . .  Even if it takes the rest of my life.”

Suzy’s death—both shocking and senseless—created a deep pain in Nancy that never fully went away. But she soon found a useful outlet for her grief and outrage. Armed only with a shoebox filled with the names of potential donors, Nancy put her formidable fund-raising talents to work and quickly discovered a groundswell of grassroots support. She was aided in her mission by the loving tutelage of her husband, restaurant magnate Norman Brinker, whose dynamic approach to entrepreneurship became Nancy’s model for running her foundation. Her account of how she and Norman met, fell in love, and managed to achieve the elusive “true marriage of equals” is one of the great grown-up love stories among recent memoirs. 

“When Suzy died, my life’s work was born.  Her meaning became my mission”

Nancy’s mission to change the way the world talked about and treated breast cancer took on added urgency when she was herself diagnosed with the disease in 1984, a terrifying chapter in her life that she had long feared. Unlike her sister, Nancy survived and went on to make Susan G. Komen for the Cure into the most influential health charity in the country and arguably the world. A pioneering force in cause-related marketing, SGK turned the pink ribbon into a symbol of hope everywhere. Each year, millions of people worldwide take part in SGK Race for the Cure events. And thanks to the more than $1.5 billion spent by SGK for cutting-edge research and community programs, a breast cancer diagnosis today is no longer a death sentence. In fact, in the time since Suzy’s death, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer has risen from 74 percent to 98 percent.

Promise Me emotionally and elegantly chronicles how sisterly love changed the course of modern medicine by catalyzing women around the world to battle breast cancer.” —Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Promise Me is a deeply moving story of family and sisterhood, the dramatic “30,000-foot view” of the democratization of a disease, and a soaring affirmative to the question: Can one person truly make a difference?

View Video Now: “Straight Talk from the Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder & CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®”

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

 

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The IJM Freedom Tour: Cycling for Freedom

Are you or someone you know a Cycling Enthusiast?  Are you looking for a way to partner with other abolitionists in raising awareness and funds to help prevent Violence, Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking?  Consider joining (IJM) International Justice Mission‘s Cycling for Freedom Bike Tour and help the wheels of justice turn a little bit faster!

IJM’s Freedom Tour – Cincinnati, OH to Washington, DC

Mark your calendar: July 12-23, 2012 (Application date: March 1st)

International Justice Mission

IJM is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.

The IJM Freedom Tour – Cycling for Freedom

The IJM Freedom Tour 2012 will take the team on from Cincinnati, OH to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. In addition to cycling, the team will have the opportunity to connect with churches and communities along the route, educating them about the realities of modern-day slavery and sharing tangible steps they can take in their own lives to bring an end to this horrible reality.  What’s included? Experienced leaders, safety training, cycling instruction, food, accommodations, en route transportation, support vehicle, team apparel, and trip setup are all provided. 

Raising Awareness & Funds for Justice

A fun way to get involved is to have your friends, co-workers and family support you for each mile of the ride. Not a Biker? Maybe you want to get involved in raising awareness and funds to support IJM’s mission to stop violence, slavery and human trafficking, but you’re not a biker.  Other abolitionists have hosted runs/walks, paddle/row events, climbs/hikes and motorcycle rides on behalf of justice. Choose a significant goal related to your activity, or organize a tournament, music or food-related event and have the entry fees benefit IJM. Competitions and creative events are always a great way to raise awareness!

What are YOU doing to help promote justice?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photo courtesy of Veritas Communications)

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