Monday, April 4, 2011

Built on the Backs of Slaves

What does the phrase "built on the backs of slaves" conjure up in your mind? Egypt and the Israelites? Stone temples in far east jungles? I'm sure most of us don't think of our country as such, but it was, and sadly, is. History tells us that we gained great wealth in the slave trade in the United States. This wasn't a north vs. south issue as it is often painted in the history books. The north gained as much as, or possibly more than the south financially from the slave trade. I have just learned that some of the biggest slave traders were northerners who sold the slaves to plantation owners in the south. And, after the abolition of slavery, slavers just kept slaves in places like Cuba where the laws weren't restricting the trade.

There were interesting parallels between the slavery then and the slavery and near slavery that goes on today. I learned that when slaves were kept in Cuba, producing America's and Europe's sugar cane, loads of fish and bread were being transported from northern states to the West Indies. This, I learned, was because the slaves were too busy producing sugar and had to be shipped food rather than fish for themselves. Today, farmers in impoverished countries producing for large corporations which import fruit, vegetables, coffee and chocolate to northern countries (U.S., Canada, European countries) export more than they themselves consume. The difference is, we don't send them any food (or pay them decent wages)to keep them alive in return. So, it's still the south feeding the north at their own expense and with no recourse. Our food, our clothing, our electronics, our toys, our cookware, our dishes....the list of imports made by people who are making rich corporations richer is unending. We got a lot of cheap stuff out of the deal, a better quality of life perhaps? All on the backs of slaves.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can I live without chocolate and coconut?

Today I took Lissette shopping for her birthday party coming up. We bought balloons and paper plates, baby blue and red sprinkles, streamers and plastic-ware. As we were driving home we sipped on our vitamin waters...they cost about $1.15 each. I began thinking what a luxury item a vitamin water would be in Africa where they can barely find a clean glass of drinking water in some places and where $1 could be a whole day's wages. We've decided that it might be a fun endeavor to eat rice and beans one day per week and send the savings, which might be about $6.00 that night for a family of eight (including our two foster kids), to an organization like Blood Water Mission. Blood Water Mission is an organization dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS and the water crisis in Africa, and in the name of Jesus. So, now about chocolate and coconut. Should I indulge in things I know are imported luxuries from poverty stricken nations? I am determined not to. Fair-trade is good...especially when you can really verify that something is fair-trade, which I haven't found to be an easy task, but then I'm spending five bucks on a candy bar! Really? Is it worth it? I have to say, no. It's amazing how difficult it is to live without my usual indulgences, but if I am tempted, I can put that five bucks in my Blood Water jar and think how it is some kid's week's wages and feel better and a bit stupid at the same time. I am realizing the depth of my depravity the deeper we go into this project. So, so long brownies, mocha lattes, coconut butter and chocolate covered coffee beans. I'll miss you, but not that much.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why you shouldn't buy your grapes from Chile or your pineapples from Costa Rica

We just finished watching two documentaries, The End of Poverty? (watch free on hulu: and Darwin's Nightmare, which we picked up at our local library. I'm sure some of the information in these documentaries is very controversial, and facts need to be checked, but on the whole, this is what they reveal: People who live in poverty in countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Tanzania and countless others, are forced into servitude by land-owners and corporation owners who export their natural resources to rich white folks. The poorest people are being exploited, living on one meal per day, making one dollar per day, even experiencing famine as they harvest delicious foods for the richest in the world to consume. They make a minuscule amount of money, so we are not supporting the people of these countries when we purchase products from them. We are making rich people richer.

What can we do? I felt so hopeless when I finished each of these documentaries. I sat and cried. I prayed. It is clear in scriptures that it is our responsibility to help the poor...the poor will always be with us...we are to bear oneanother's burdens....and love our neighbors as ourselves. We can say NO to slavery by not purchasing from these huge companies. I also feel that the Lord is revealing to me how spiritual this issue is, after all, we do not battle against flesh and blood. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I could help some with their physical needs, but if I war in the Spirit, I can help so many more. I take for granted our most precious and profitable resource...prayer. We will continue to buy locally, to avoid slave-produced products and produce, but I am even more determined to find out God's heart in this matter and how He wants me to pray. Let's move some mountains!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Such sadness...

The Lord weeps more than all of us for those lost in the sea and on the land this past week. This passage so poignantly reminds me of my need for a savior and His unimaginable mercy.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 12:54- 13:5

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Today, I am discouraged. Why do we do it? What will it help? How can we impact a society so wrapped up in comforting and entertaining itself that it doesn’t notice the impact it is having on the rest of the world. I once had a friend tell me, “But I don’t live in Thailand.” Wow. Are we really that sheltered? Yes. I think so. I think I’ve decided today to start a fund. I want to take our kids when they are 16, 14, 11 and 8 to a third world country. I want them to see what life is for the rest of us. What’s important, and what’s not. I’ve spent days just trying to find the perfect color to paint the kitchen walls or to find the dishes that would best accent the dining room table….what good homemaker hasn’t? Life looks much different now. Maybe not as polished, maybe not as proper. Maybe that’s part of my discouragement. I want to have a reason to quit so that I can go back to my old ways. It was more fun in ways. I’m so visual. I like my space to look like a magazine shoot. God doesn’t. He is constantly reminding me that these things are futile. “Bear one another’s burdens,” He says. Okay, Lord. So, we’ll be the example…the standard. The counter-cultural. He will use it. I’m sure He will. Besides, what’s the use of having a conviction if you don’t live it?

Keepin' up with the Joneses

Why does it embarrass me so much? So my kids’ shoes don’t match all of their clothes. So they wear the same dresses every other Sunday to church. Have you ever walked into a house built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s? These homes have clothes closets the size of broom closets! Back when clothes cost what they should cost for how much work goes into them, people had their daily work clothes and their Sunday best clothes….and I’m told they were lucky to have more than one pair of shoes. Simpler times. I long for them. I guess what I really long for is that heart change that needs to happen in order for people to spend less on themselves. Mommies would stay home with their babies, people would save for a rainy day and put their credit cards to rest. Neighbors would help eachother out when times got tough…because they’d actually know one another. Instead we’re off to work, shuttling kids to soccer, heading home to spend that hour of quality time in front of the T.V. before sending the little ones off to bed to begin it all again tomorrow, never having the time to build lasting relationships with neighbors…I guess I don’t really need to keep up with the Joneses if I’ve never met them.

Pretty for Ugly

So many pretty things. Over the years, I have been gifted or have purchased so many pretty little things. Pretty little things do catch my eye…Jewels and such; little nothings that don’t cost a fortune, but that bring me a moments happiness. I’d say I’m known for wearing little pretties on my ears and around my neck…nothing too expensive. Base metals mostly. I only have one such pretty left (besides my wedding ring). I wear a pewter cuff engraved with chrysanthemums on my right arm, and I don’t ever take it off. It was given me by a dear friend, and it was the only piece of jewelry I could be sure was created by an artisan, and not made by the hands of those whom could never think of owning such a luxury as these we take for granted, day after day.

This process is such a refining process. I just opened my cupboard to reach for a cup for my little one. She is cutting home-made play dough into little round circles with the rim of a plastic cup we purchased. It’s one of those so commonly seen at pizza parlors, etc…not my idea of pretty, but it was made here in the U.S. It will more than likely adorn our Thanksgiving day table (I cringe at the thought). I really have to get over myself…my need for pretty things. All it really takes is some deep contemplation. Do I really want to live better than 99.9% of the world? Would a child in India or Africa care if she had an ugly plastic cup…and would she even know what play dough is? No. Thank you, God for ugly plastic cups.

Glitter and Singing Reindeer

Really? What must they think of us? Those in third world countries building electronic reindeer heads that sing Christmas carols? Some of us in these backwoods parts think they’re the cat’s meow, but man, what must those just striving to survive think as they wire and assemble these monstrosities we invent? I do enjoy and, I must admit, depend upon some really unnecessary objects in this life I lead. I have had to purge so many of my wonderful little sparkly Christmas ornaments. I guess we will be happy with our little clay and paper creations…an old fashioned Christmas, with popcorn on a string! But can’t we just get a little sparkle? A little glitter to catch the lights? So unnecessary, I know, in the whole scheme of things. I search and search the shelves. “Do Chinese kids use glitter?” I wonder as I pull yet another brand of Chinese made sparkly red from the shelf. I wish for a life like my distant cousin Laura Ingalls back on the prairie, but I don’t think I could live without tampons. Hmmm

Another Green Day

Yes, I’ll admit it. I shop at Walmart. I don’t like it, but it’s a thirty minute drive to any other store that might have everything I need at this very moment. As I walk the aisles, I notice the word green written on a tag hanging from a pair of flip-flops on a rack. Since the word is obviously not describing the color of these little shoes, I imagine maybe, just maybe I’ve stumbled upon a treasure! An American made shoe, could it be??? Wishful thinking on my part, I know. Finding a pair of shoes made in the U.S. could be compared with finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. I take the label in my hand and read of this wonderful sandal’s eco-friendly attributes. Recycled, sustainable. And, as I feared, sure enough, China. I’m not sure how green shipping sandals half-way around the world is. Good try though. I go home to search the internet and let a few green companies know what I think about their greenness…am I being bitchy? I don’t know. I just think using things like helping our environment as a pitch to sell things that aren’t really making any impact at all (or maybe a very small impact) is dishonest. It is dishonest, isn’t it? Jerking at people’s heart-strings like that. Naughty. I guess true tree-huggers will see through their schemes.