2012 Resolution, Part 4

Livermore’s third strategy for making a global difference right now is, work it into work.

This can be very challenging, especially for those jobs that seem to have little to do with the wide world.  Livermore writes, for example, “Some people working in manufacturing jobs might find little satisfaction in their work because they have a hard time seeing how the widget they produce fulfills their priestly calling.”  Global difference aside, many of us find it difficult to make even an immediate difference in our jobs.  A friend of mine in property management once wrote:

My job is basically to serve the wealthier (or as we have found out in the last couple of years, those with access to a bank or lender’s wealth) and help them make more money off of those who are less wealthy. It’s a passive system of oppression and I’m not unaware that most of our owners are white and most of our tenants are black. Nothing that I do in my job gives me the opportunity to relate to people. They want me to fix their problems or affirm their feelings. Nothing more. Also everyone in my office is a believer.

This might represent opportunity to work for reform, or it might be an intractable situation.  But assuming the best case scenario, even Livermore’s advice has a very local orientation.

There are countless other ways Christians can live out Christ’s presence in the world through the work they do. There are lawyers doing pro bono defense work for those unable to afford it, politicians working for legislation that brings about redemptive change in cities and nations, and pilots safely transporting people from one side of the world to the other. There are third-shift factory workers who make parts of gadgets that make our lives safer, and while they work, they relate graciously with their immigrant coworkers. There are retail associates dealing with cantankerous customers in ways that embody the grace of Jesus, and baristas who serve people with a smile and use their coffee shop as a platform for advocacy. Construction workers are taking into account how they care for the environment and fixing the homes of people in need. Military personnel, police officers, and firefighters are protecting us, farmers are feeding us, and truck drivers are getting goods to people near and far. Meanwhile many stay-at-home parents are working for love, sometimes only for love. Look around you for creative ways to connect your global concerns with your work!

That last sentence seems disconnected from much of what the rest of the paragraph mentions.  How does pro bono legal defense, kindness to customers, or stay-at-home parenting relate to global issues?  All of those things are good and necessary, but how does Livermore make the leap from local to global in such scenarios?  If I’m doing something thoroughly local, the advice to look for creative ways to connect my global concern to that work can be a little frustrating.

To be fair to Livermore, a number of the subsequent chapters aim to make suggestions for specific fields of work.  Yet, the real issue is about perspective.  We need a global perspective on our local work in order to see the importance of doing that local work rightly.  The connection between the global and the local generated one of those bizarre new words that is utilitarian rather than elegant: glocal (from global-local).  This word is the symbol of the realization that the world is more powerfully integrated than ever before.  I’ve written about this here if you are interested in further explanation.

The point being, the first step of working it into work is to change your outlook on your local impact. There may be overt ways to make a global difference from your job, but even if not, the opposite of overt is not imaginary but covert—hidden.  We need to begin discerning the truth about our glocal lives.  When we do, we see how our connection to the rest of the world means that doing our work excellently and righteously reverberates globally.  As an individual, that may realistically be the tiniest of tremors, but as an intentional Christian community, those collective tremors build momentum.  In addition to discerning the glocal aspect of your life, therefore, I also think refusing to see your work individualistically is indispensable.  Every one of us needs a community with a missional outlook.

Some might have the impression that my job as a cross-cultural missionary is easier when it comes to working it into work.  Foreign mission work appears to be “making a global difference” by definition.  Yet, the reality is that we are as focused locally as the next church.  Sure, as an American I’m attempting to make an impact in Peru.  But as a minister, I’m trying to disciple and serve those around me.  It’s very easy to keep my head down and fail to look up at the global horizon.  For me, working it into work means fostering a glocal perspective and making sure that the Christian community understands how “spurring each other on” is about the world rather than just the individual.  Hopefully that will result in the Peruvian church sending missionaries out as well, but just as importantly, is should result in every Christian looking for those creative ways to make a tremor.

2012 Resolution, Part 4

Resolution in Practice: Angola

I’m a big fan of the Angola Mission Team.  Those guys rock.

When I look at the hunger map, there is one section that screams at me.  It is actually a stunning pattern, when you step back from it, that strip of maroon running right down the middle of Africa.

Right there in the mix is Angola.  Read the short history to understand why.  Forty years of war is hard to fathom.

Pray for them.

Resolution in Practice: Angola

2012 Resolution, Part 3

Livermore’s second strategy for making a global difference right now is, inform and recruit.

In other words, you are not being aware just for awareness’s sake.  Getting the word out can make a global difference.  But let’s say that in a bolder way: getting the word out can change the world.

The question is, how do you want to change it?  From this point on, Livermore’s strategies assume one important thing: that you have chosen your battles.  Causes are not supposed to be social bling for your Facebook page.  Being aware is about becoming an advocate and activist.  Your resources are limited (if they are not, contact me—I have some ideas), so you must pick where you will invest them.  There are too many issues to tackle at once, so you must use your time selectively.

Livermore suggests working your chosen issues into your daily interactions.  This should be fairly natural if you actually care about them.

Social media has made it clear that concerned people can make an international impact.  Nothing has both explained and demonstrated this as emphatically as Kony 2012:

There are some parts of this that make me very uncomfortable.  So here is the disclaimer: be aware means really be aware.  Advocating in ignorance can be dangerous.  Read these articles and look for others: ‘Kony 2012’ viral video by Invisible Children stirs debate and Ugandans Pelt ‘KONY 2012’ Leaders With Rocks, But White House Door Is Open.  Anything this big gets politicized, becomes the focus of conspiracy theory, and rightly raises questions of financial accountability.  Anything that results in the deployment of US troops is questionable to say the least.  Anything that is criticized by the very people it is supposed to help must be carefully examined.  I don’t know what is good information at this point.  If I were interested in making this one of my causes, my next step would be to contact missionaries in Uganda to get some local perspective.  For me personally, I would probably be unable to support something that resulted military action or even resentment and retaliation from the local population.  I would rather promote a reconciliation initiative.

The video is still an inform-and-recruit masterpiece.  It is important to read the subtext of the phenomenon, rather than be intimidated by the professional grade of the particular example (there is a multi-million dollar budget behind it, not to mention special interests).  The subtext reads: inform-and-recruit works when relationships generate conviction.  If you are convicted, you do have the power to become contagious.  But do not be deceived.  It is far more important for you to be contagiously convicted than than for your video or blog post to become viral.

2012 Resolution, Part 3

2012 Resolution, Part 2

Now that it’s April, I come to that critical juncture. Given that I’ve done absolutely nothing so far, will I persevere in the resolution, or will it become a forgotten intention? And really, who has time for resolutions anyway? Much less blogging about them. In fact, resolving to blog about a resolution—that’s just asking for it.  What was I thinking?  I resolve not to do this next year.  This year, however, I’m unfortunately trapped by my keen sense of obligation and my deep psychological aversion to incomplete undertakings.  Moving on then . . .

Livermore’s first strategy for making a global difference right now is, Be aware.

The idea here is to realize how wrapped up we are in the personal, local, familiar stuff around us and make an effort to broaden our horizons.  Most of us wouldn’t even pass a high school world geography exam, forget being conversant on child trafficking in Myanmar or political unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Confession: just last night I was trying to sort out the difference between Suiza (Switzerland) and Suecia (Sweden) in Spanish.  I was having quite a difficult time of it, because I kind of forgot about there being such a thing as Sweden.  Apologies to my Nordic readers.

Some practical steps toward awareness

Livermore lists some suggestions, a couple of which I tweak and add to below:

1. “Consume a variety of news sources to see how the ‘same’ events get reported differently.”  This alone can make a huge difference in your perspective.  There is no such thing as unbiased media.  If you only watch one network because of political views, which seems to have become normal in the US, then repent.  You shouldn’t be listening to hear what you want, you should be listening to get informed.  The only option we have to offset journalistic bias is to diversify and compare with a vengeance.

2. I broaden another of Livermore’s suggestions a bit: take full advantage of the internet’s news collating potential.  He lists http://worldpress.org as a source of info., which is great.  But don’t overlook über powerful tools like Google News.  When you are logged into your Google account, you can customize your Google news feed to your interests.

3. Focus your prayer.  Rather than making awareness about the drudgery of homework, make your awareness-building an act of prayer.  Use something like the World Food Programme’s Hunger Map.  Pray for one of the hungriest countries each day.  You can compliment this with information on that country from a site like the Joshua Project.  I’m not an advocate of their rubric for determining what is an unreached people, but they have a phenomenally systematized database.  A variety of different vantage points are available on the site’s Discover page.  There is an overwhelming amount of information here, so don’t get bogged down or discouraged by lack of time to absorb it all.  Just pick a country or people cluster, for example, pay attention to where it is, learn a bit about it, and take a few minutes to pray for it.

2012 Resolution, Part 2

2012 Resolution, Part 1

My resolution is to be a better global citizen. To do that, I am going to experiment with David Livermore’s “seven strategies each of us can begin practicing right now to speak up on behalf of our global neighbors,” from his book What Can I Do?: Making a Global Difference Right Where You Are. They are:

  1. Be aware
  2. Inform and recruit others
  3. Work it into work
  4. Give
  5. Shop responsibly
  6. Invest/divest
  7. Influence government and media

Even though this is supposed to be something like “Personal Globalization Ethics for Dummies,” I have to say, each of these looks daunting in its own way. I’m going to blog through my experiment in case anyone else finds these things difficult to do and needs the encouragement of hearing from another mediocre global citizen. I’ll add for good measure that I don’t expect this experiment to make me look especially good, so let’s start with sufficiently low expectations. My resolution is just to do better by trying to follow practical advise, and my goal is to find out what I can actually do from with the limitations of my day-to-day existence.

2012 Resolution, Part 1