Sunday, February 24, 2013

Justice Conference

PhillyBloco performed! They are a Brazilian music and dance group with lots of energy and drums.  The convention center wasn't a great space for them, but they still got people dancing and enjoying the music.  I've seen them live in a smaller venue, and they are great live!

But I didn't go to the Justice Conference for the music.  I went to primarily to connect with people and secondly to hear some great speakers.  The highlight of the main conference speakers for me was a panel discussion which included Dr. John Perkins and Lisa Sharon Parker who is shown on the screen in the above picture.  Personally, I enjoyed the depth and thoughtful reflection of the discussions at the pre-conference breakout sessions more than the dynamism of the main conference speakers, but there was a lot to consider and learn throughout the whole conference.

So here for your consideration are a few thoughts presented by the speakers that I am still pondering.  Since I was scribbling notes quickly, I can't guarantee that these are direct quotes, but I'm hoping they are close or at least capture the speaker's point of view.

1. Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff - None of the current writings on justice start from the wronged.  They start from the intellectual puzzles.

2. Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff - We will get all mucked up if we start with the gray cases, so start with the easy and then get to the gray ones.

3. Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff - Justice at many points requires freedom, but freedom without justice is only for the powerful.

4. Dr. Soong Chan Rah - (In many cases) Incarnational ministry has become a way for us to become the Messiah.  We empty ourselves to go to the poor to bless them.

5. Dr. Soong Chan Rah - Lament relies on God's sovereignty and not our ability.

6. Dr. Soong Chan Rah - It is our responsibility to lament.

I haven't watched this video, but from the description it seems like it may be similar to his breakout session talk.

7. Ken Wytsma - Quoting Eugene Peterson - You can't hurry lament.

8.Gary Haugen - Do-gooders show up late and leave early.  Perseverance is necessary.

9. Gary Haugen - ...the hidden glory of a long and faithful love

10. Gary Haugen -  Love that overcomes monotony and tedium (and frustration).  This is the love our Maker sees and honors.  A long obedience in the same direction.

11. Gary Haugen - ...ordinary unglamorous work of justice

12. Gary Haugen ... prayer not as a matter of discipline but desperation

13.Gary Haugen - The book of justice is long and boring...I love it when we read it together

14. Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff - True love is never unjust.

15. Dr. John Perkins - The church lives out its call most fully when it is a community of faith with arms wrapped around a community of pain.

There were a lot of other great things to ponder, but those were just a few that I thought I would share with you.

The BEST part of the conference was the opportunity to connect with friends.  I had many great conversations between sessions and at lunch catching up on life and discussing the thing we heard from speakers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Faith and International Development Conference at Calvin College with several of my classmates.

There were two things I loved about the conference:

1. The opportunity to have candid conversations with the speakers and exhibitors after sessions and over meals.

2. Processing the things we were hearing from the speakers with my classmates.

One our professors has already stated that our cohort is more cynical (doubtful as to whether something will happen or is worthwhile) than previous cohorts especially when we process together.   We test everything we hear or read against our own experiences and the body of academic work we have already read on the subject.  We read critically, which is a good practice for grad students.  Because of this, our professors are great at leading us in always looking for the positive aspects of every theory or method even if there are significant drawbacks and flaws. 

At the conference I realized that without the direction of our wise professors, I have the tendency to not just critically analyze but to be critical especially when discussing something with my classmates.  We have honed our skills, and we are great at picking apart case studies.   But those are academic cases studies, and now we are at a conference listening to the real stories of development practitioners.   Somehow it is easy to forget to show grace.  I forget to allow for the possibility that others have been led by the Holy Spirit to pursue a different model of ministry than I would have chosen in similar circumstances.  I have made plenty of mistakes myself and I will continue to make mistakes even after studying international development and getting a degree.  There are rarely right and wrong answers when it comes to development practice, and the phrase "prayerful discernment" seems to be the answer to every difficult question that comes up in class.

So after this realization, I ask that you will pray for me (and for my classmates) to follow the lead of our professors in looking for the good in every ministry first especially outside of the classroom.  Also pray that we truly will rely on prayerful discernment and that it won't just be the answer we give in class when things are complicated.  

The Justice Conference is next week, and I'm really excited!  I will once again have the opportunity to hear speakers and learn about new ministries, so I will get another chance to analyze critically without being critical.