be the change (giveaway: the locust effect).

Michal Conger:

“The Locust Effect is not for the faint of heart– but it is for the hopeful of heart.” Reblogging these beautiful words from a fellow Locust Effect launch team member. Thank you, Cara!

Originally posted on be, mama. be (cara meredith):

I’ve perused my fair share of required texts in my lifetime: an English major in college (and later English teacher in life), and then a theology major in grad school, let’s just say I never lacked for want of a book to read.  And now that school isn’t a part of my everyday, when I pick up a book, I don’t necessarily want my brain to hurt.  I want my eyes to relax in wonder at the words before them, and I want to give my imagination time and space to soar.  

So, for the most part, I delight in the fancies of fiction; I become enveloped in the stories of that delightful Anne of Green Gables, and I wonder bemusedly at the lives of Sue Monk Kidd’s created characters in The Invention of Wings.  My fingers leap over the pages of various memoir writers, and I…

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The Locust Effect– and a Giveaway!

This is a little longer than usual, but bear with me– I promise it’s worth it. And there’s a giveaway at the end!

At a rock quarry near Chennai, India a few years ago, a man named Gopinath and his wife spent long days breaking boulders into gravel, working desperately to pay off a “debt” to the owner of the quarry. But no matter how hard they worked, they could never earn enough back from him to pay off their debt. Most of their money went to buying food from him, and they weren’t allowed to leave the quarry– not to get food, not to make more money. Gopinath and his wife eventually learned they were, in fact, actual modern-day slaves.

Nearby was a subsidized school where Gopinath’s children were never allowed to go, and a hospital set up to treat poor families like his, that he and his wife weren’t allowed to go to. As for going to the police, another rock quarry slave put it this way:

“We don’t have to go to the police. The owner pays the police to come to us– to beat us.”

I don’t write much about work, so you may not know that I’ve written pretty often about international aid. Our government pours billions of dollars each year into every kind of program imaginable– schools, wells, crop programs, trainings for farmers, even programs to increase citizen involvement in local and regional government. All really good ideas. And so often, they don’t work.

I don’t mean that as a political statement. I really wish that money worked the way it was intended to. But report after report and anecdote after anecdote shows much of the time, there’s a hitch in the program. The story of the slaves in India is just one example of this, but it is a powerful illustration of why our aid money is not getting at the root of the problem of poverty and injustice. As I cover stories like these, it breaks my heart.

You probably do know my love for International Justice Mission and their work of bringing rescue, justice and restoration to the oppressed and enslaved– often the very people these aid programs are supposed to help.

A new book (it came out today!!) by IJM President Gary Haugen and federal prosecutor Victor Boutros so powerfully addresses this gap between aid money and actual change that has been weighing on my heart since I first started writing about the topic.

The book is called The Locust Effect, named after the biggest plague of locusts in American history, which in 1875 destroyed the livelihoods of the families who had settled the midwest. They ate all the crops– even ate the wool off of sheep as they went. The “plague of everyday violence,” Haugen and Boutros argue, is much like that swarm of locusts: no matter how hard a family has worked or how much aid has been poured into their village, it can’t stop the violence that takes all of that away, often irreparably.

Much of the book is heartbreaking. The bottom line: Justice systems in the developing world are paid by the rich to protect the rich and ignore the poor. Protection by police and judges costs more than the poor have. As a result, bonded labor (modern slavery), police brutality, unjust imprisonment, land seizure, sex trafficking and sexual violence rob them of their livelihoods without anyone to answer a 9-1-1 phone call. And 4 billion people in the world live under these broken and corrupt justice systems.

These are heavy stories. They can be crushing. In so many, there is no happy ending. It’s not an easy read.

But near the end, hope comes in. They talk about how it is possible to build better justice systems that protect their people instead of oppressing them — and it has been done. One example is in Cebu, Philippines, where after four years of IJM partnering with local law enforcement to fix a broken justice system, the availability of children sold for sex dropped 79%. That is real hope.

If this tugs at your heart in any way, I so encourage you to read the book. It needs to get out there. We need to change how we do aid and justice so that we get at the root of the problem and actually save the poor from their poverty.

The giveaway: The awesome part of that? IJM has allowed me to give a copy of the book away to one commenter at random. Leave a comment below and at the end of the week, I will choose someone to receive a copy of The Locust Effect. No strings attached; you don’t have to write about it or anything, although I’d love if you chose to. Just read it and allow these stories to stir your soul.

During this week, the book’s launch week, a generous friend of IJM will give $20 to IJM for every copy of the book sold. So spending $20 on the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is equivalent to giving $20 directly to IJM to help fight violence against the poor.

This would fund eight IJM rescue operations and rescue hundreds.

All author royalties go to IJM’s work as well.

Amazon is already temporarily sold out (wohoo!), so try Barnes and Noble. They are carrying the book in many of their actual stores, so if you’re near one, you can get it there or online.

As long as this blog post is, I only just gave you a snippet of the book. There’s more here.

Posted in Books, Human Trafficking, News, Slavery | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Growing like weeds

These days, everything in the Conger household is growing. In case you hadn’t heard, our family is growing by two come spring. With a June 1 due date, the twins will probably be here around May 1 if they’re patient.

I’m growing (no really, the belly gets bigger overnight); the girls are growing (they’re carrot-sized this week!); and soon, our home will be growing!

We’re moving in a few weeks into a two-bedroom apartment to make room for our growing family. I’m so excited to actually have a nursery and start planning for the arrival of our little girls. I’m daydreaming in grey and yellow, cheery and calming. Now to practice self-control while browsing Pottery Barn Kids.

Nursery daydreaming also brings me to more practical planning. With two on the way, I could easily let myself think we need two of everything, but with a little research I’m learning that’s not necessary.

I’d love some input from been there, done that moms– especially those with small spaces or multiple children. We won’t have a lot of storage space, and I don’t want half our things sitting unused once we discover Baby Girl A only wants to be in the bouncer and Baby Girl B only sits in the swing. So, before we register and start filling our nursery, what do we need to know?

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Rachel Goble: Saving children from a life of slavery

I‘m delighted to share a story I wrote for Verily Magazine about Rachel Goble, president of The SOLD Project, which rescues children from a life of slavery by focusing on prevention.

Rachel spoke with me over Skype from Thailand to talk about how she went from being ignorant of human trafficking to doing something to stop it.

27 million: That’s how man slaves are trapped in injustice today. Many of us, when we hear about human trafficking, are overwhelmed, torn between the desire to help and feeling unable to make any lasting impact. I know that’s where I was for a long time.

I love Rachel’s story because it’s an answer to the persistent question of what in the world one person can do. You go. You serve where you are, walking boldly through open doors, with the gifts God gives.

You can read Rachel’s story here. And if you’ve never read Verily, stick around and read some of their other wonderful articles. They’ve got everything from relationship advice to cultural commentary to fitness, and it’s all good! Verily is a refreshing countercultural read that has what most women’s magazines are missing, and I love it.

p.s. If you’re getting this in your inbox, please excuse the formatting snafus. WordPress’s email-to-post function seems to have a few html bugs that I haven’t quite figured out how to prevent. 

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Women don’t want the “top jobs” — and that’s ok

With Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In came a fresh round of debate over women in leadership, and it seems the louder voices have been in favor of women climbing the corporate ladder regardless of how they choose to prioritize family. So I was interested when a study came out recently showing that just 15 percent of young women aspire to the top jobs.

Most of the 21-to-33 year old women surveyed by the Zeno Group said they didn’t want the No. 1 job at a large organization. They don’t want to be Cheryl Sandberg, as much as they might respect her. The women said the job wouldn’t be worth giving up personal goals like children, with more than half saying they felt the sacrifices made by women leaders aren’t worth it.

That part was interesting enough, but what really caught my attention was the way these results were treated. The story by BusinessNewsDaily went on to quote Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel, who addressed young women’s reluctance to sacrifice personal goals as a failure of recruiters.

“We need to think about doing things differently when helping millennial women develop their careers and weigh the sacrifices that may or may not be required,” Siegel said. “We do not want to risk losing this talented generation of professionals.”

Let me be clear. I don’t have a problem with women choosing to pursue a career. I don’t think moms working while their kids are little is a bad thing. It’s an individual choice, and I’m not about to say all women should be stay at home moms.

What I do have a problem with is a culture that discourages motherhood and family to the point that a woman’s desire to give up career goals for personal ones is considered a problem for job recruiters to fix.

Much of our culture has lost the idea that motherhood is even a vocation. Stay at home moms are viewed as antiquated or prudish, while working women are viewed as liberated and modern. We celebrate the achievments of women with desk jobs, and sneer at the food stains and ponytail of the mother of toddlers, thinking how nice it would be “not to work.”

But motherhood is a vocation — an absolutely essential one. A mother may not spend her day running companies or negotiating deals in the board room. It’s not usually so sexy. But whether she’s cleaning up spilled juice or reading fairy stories, a woman who spends her day with her children is shaping human souls.

Previous generations had a firmer grasp on the value of motherhood. Author G.K. Chesterton described it as the duty of enlightenment — explaining the whole world to a new human being.

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe?” he wrote in What’s Wrong With the World. “How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

Posted in Culture, Journalism, News | Tagged , , | 10 Comments