Purnaa: Fashion for Change (Kickstarter Opportunity for Social Enterprise in Nepal)

Before Michael and I went to Nepal last summer, we were told about a family from our area who are living in Kathmandu, starting a social enterprise called “Purnaa,” (a Nepali word meaning “whole, complete, or perfect”). The purpose of this social enterprise is to create jobs for survivors of exploitation – those who have experienced human trafficking, bonded labor, and discrimination because of caste, religion, or disease. In addition to creating job opportunities for those escaping exploitative situations in Nepal, Purnaa also seeks to prevent future exploitation by employing those whose marginalized status in society hinders them from finding work elsewhere. Women in Nepal are especially vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. They are often treated as second-rate human beings, particularly when widowed, suffering certain illnesses, or when they are members of some castes or religious groups. Purnaa offers training and jobs that provide dignity and a hopeful future for those existing on the fringes of Nepali society. Nepal is ranked #5 of 178 nations on the global slavery index for highest incidence of modern slavery. 1 in 10 Nepalis have already left their country in search of work elsewhere, and the unemployment rate is over 40%. As you can see, the need is great, and Purnaa can make a difference.

While in Kathmandu, Michael and I had the great pleasure of meeting one of the couples behind Purnaa, and we got to hear a bit about their vision for this social enterprise, and the progress they were making as they navigated beginning their business in Nepal. Only last week they began a Kickstarter campaign to create even more jobs in Kathmandu. They have already raised their goal of $7000 through Kickstarter, and are currently hoping to reach some “stretch” goals that will enable them to start scholarships for their employees’ children ($25 K), provide childcare for their employees ($40 K), and launch Purnaa’s online store ($50 K). Most importantly, they are creating work opportunities for more employees at Purnaa.

b4ade99376fb682d2fed83e66bf6d74d_largeFor a pledge of $10 or more, you will receive a thank you note on traditional handmade Nepali paper, posted form Nepal. For a pledge of $20 or more, you will receive the reversible “Rajkumar cap,” available in black or grey. With a pledge of $30 or more, you will receive the beautiful “Lamxi braided organic cotton/bamboo scarf” – an infinity scarf crafted from braids of up-cycled sari material, and an organic bamboo cotton body (these are my fave!). For a pledge of $35 or more, you can choose between the men’s “Dadhi t-shirt” or the women’s “Pawana t-shirt,” both made from organic bamboo cotton, and available in blue, green, rust, or blush. For a pledge of $55 or more, you’ll receive the “Anita canvas leather bag,” made from cotton canvas, leather, and recycled traditional Nepali sari fabric, with a choice of colour family of blue, green, rust, or blush (pictured above). There are five more levels of pledges that can be made, offering a combination of the previously described Purnaa products. Estimated delivery is October 2014, and there are additional shipping costs for those living outside of Canada, the USA, or Sweden. Each product includes a quote from an individual that championed social action (see Kickstarter campaign for more details). Products that include up-cycled sari material are one-of-a-kind.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.36.27 AMPurnaa typically manufactures products for designers and brands who insist on slave-free and ethical manufacturing, but this Kickstarter campaign is a unique opportunity to purchase Purnaa-brand items, while creating job-opportunities in Nepal.

We are so excited for Purnaa, and for what this Kickstarter campaign will do for those on the fringes of Nepali society. To learn more about Purnaa, check out their website, and to learn more about their Kickstarter campaign, click on any of the pictures above. Congratulations on the launch of your campaign, Purnaa!

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Book Review: The Autobiography of George Müller

“If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened” (George Müller).

It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I don’t know if I (Michael) can say that in the past I have desired my faith to be strengthened. It seems, however, that God desired that for me, so now I find myself living a life more and more dependent on faith with each passing season. When Helen and I came on staff with YWAM Turner Valley almost two years ago, my desire was to teach students how to know the truths of the Bible for themselves; the part that terrified me was that we would be doing this on a support-raising income model. At the time I worried mostly of how we were going to make monthly expenses, but now I look back, and not only has God provided for our month-to-month needs, He has also allowed for us to travel to Thailand and Nepal to teach the Bible and love others. In addition to this, our life here has been abundant in experiences, even though our financial situation is conservative. Much of what Helen and I have dreamed of doing, God has made a way for us to enjoy. In the midst of this growing of my faith came the reading of George Müller’s autobiography. We were reading it as a staff here at YWAM Turner Valley, so though it was not a book I had chosen to read, the timing could not have been more perfect.

book_r382For those of you who aren’t familiar with George Müller, this man was a missionary from Germany to England in the 1800s. God radically changed Müller’s life and called him to minister to orphans in Bristol, England. One of the things that makes his work so unique is that Müller felt called to living entirely by faith. What I mean by this is he did not take a salary for his work, and did not fund-raise for his ministry, not even letting others know his financial needs or the financial needs of the work he was doing. He simply prayed and waited for God to provide. Now, let me be the first to say that this sounded crazy to me when I first started reading this book. Actually, in many ways it seemed irresponsible. But for Müller, this was about testimony. He longed for people living in the midst of the industrial revolution, to know that God was their Provider, and not the increased economic opportunities of the day. He wanted those around him to see that his needs, and the needs of his ministry, were not met by man, but by the hand of God working through man. Müller wanted others to know that God is faithful and provides abundantly (I say that with the whole of Müller’s ministry in view; to read about how God provided for his ministry, check out this article). When reading this autobiography, you see that Müller and those who worked with him had their faith built over many trials, but in the end, God provided for five orphanages to be built that are still standing today, orphanages that cared for thousands of children, their needs also provided for by the Lord.

What struck me most about Müller’s life was his expectant heart in prayer. When he felt God had promised him something, he acted in expectant obedience. Then when that promise was fulfilled or prayer answered, there was no doubt in his mind that God had come through and out of that, his faith grew. I have been practicing this more in my own prayer life lately – trusting in the promises of God, expecting a miracle, and giving credit where credit is due. It is amazing how faith is built by expectant obedience as I see God fulfill His promises.

George Müller’s autobiography came to Helen and I at a time when we really are waiting expectantly for this next season of ministry God is calling us into, and I am grateful for its encouragement.

You’re Invited to YWAM Turner Valley’s Missions Night!

Michael and I would love to see you on June 17th at 7:30pm, when YWAM Turner Valley will be hosting a Missions Night. At this fundraiser for YWAM TV, you’ll have the opportunity to hear former student and staff-member, Ha Nguyen, share about his ministry in Vietnam, and how his time at YWAM Turner Valley has helped train him for his work in the mission field. The evening will include a free-will offering and desserts (made by yours truly, and friends!) and fellowship.

16e74870-f1db-4d24-9ee9-c662c68285b9We look forward to seeing you here!

Micah: Loving Your Neighbour, Doing Justice

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

When pressed by someone looking to test Him, Jesus confirmed that the whole of the Law could be summed up in love God and love your neighbour. When pressured to explain who was one’s neighbour, Jesus tells one of the most famous parables in the Bible – one that has led to the word “Samaritan” being associated with compassion and mercy, instead of the socially unacceptable ethnic class that it referred to in Jesus’ day. The parable shows that “your  neighbour” is anyone in need of mercy and compassion. Studying Deuteronomy, for example, will reveal that the Law really can be summed up in the commandments of love God and love neighbour. The loving your neighbour statutes might look a little different than we would expect today, but at the time they moved the people of God into a place of better understanding of how to have compassion and mercy on those around them.

Micah is one of my favourite prophetic books because it does such a great job of showing God’s sorrow when we do not love our neighbour as we should. Many of the prophets speak of the wrath of God that is coming because His people did not love Him well, but in books like Amos, Isaiah and Micah, we see God explain the reason for His impending judgement as coming because of the social injustices committed by the people of God. Micah shows his readers that God takes seriously how we treat those who bear His image. Most of the judgements described in Micah are coming against Judah and Jerusalem because the leaders are breaking the covenant laws that were to protect the disadvantaged from those who had the power to oppress them for their own gain.

Even though it can sound like two commandments, loving God and loving people are closely connected. To show love to others, you are acknowledging the image of God in them. Thus, acting unjustly towards someone is to ignore the image of God in them. Really no matter how you are taking advantage of another, it is only possible to treat another human being unjustly if, at the very least, you see them as less than yourself, or at the extreme, you see them as not human. To kidnap 200+ girls to sell them to men is only possible if you see those girls as property to be bought and sold, and not as people who bear the image of God. When we look at social injustice in this way, it can be easy to see why God would get as angry over it as He did, when His people rejected and rebelled against His love.

Micah’s solution for social injustice is not centered around a social program or polite agenda, but around God. Throughout the book, God is described as both the source of true justice and of true restoration and peace. In the past I (Michael) have been overwhelmed by the effort it takes to live a “just life.” As I look even in the last month at the injustices in the world that need addressing, even as close as my own backyard, I can become apathetic because it is all too big for me to help. If I approach justice as instead trusting that God will bring justice in this age and the age to come, I can move from apathy to asking God what part He desires me to play in His work of justice in the world. Then instead of becoming overwhelmed, I simply walk in obedience to the role God has called me to play. For some that piece is going to be leading organizations that incarnate the justice of God. For others it may be something that seems smaller, but if done in obedience to God’s call, will have eternal impact. This is why Micah 6:8 is such an encouragement to me,

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

If I walk humbly with God, He will show me how to do the justice He wants to see in this world.

The Hosea Love Story (But Not That Kind of Love Story)

I (Helen) came across a beautifully made video series, called The Hosea Love Story, put together by Irving Bible Church in Texas. No, it doesn’t make Hosea and Gomer’s story into a fairytale romance; it portrays God’s faithful heart for His unfaithful people – the main idea of the book of Hosea. While at first the series seems Hosea and Gomer-ish, as you progress through the videos, you’ll see that more is going on here than what is covered in Hosea 1-3; this is the big picture of God’s heart for His people, and the restoration He offers to those who turn to Him.

I’ve attached the first video of the six-part series below; to watch the remaining five videos (they are each under four minutes), look for youtube’s link to the next part as each video comes to an end.

1 & 2 Chronicles: Seeking After God

The word “seek” shows up in Chronicles around 24 times. In almost every instance it appears, “seek” is used in relationship to God. The focus for the Chronicler (the author of Chronicles) in using this word is that the success of the kings of Judah was directly related to whether or not they sought after God in their lives and leadership.

Although the Chronicler sees Israel’s disasters as God’s judgment for Israel’s unfaithfulness, he describes that unfaithfulness differently than the author of Kings. Kings describes Israel’s unfaithfulness as acts of idolatry, and the failure to keep God’s statutes. The Chronicler’s explanation probes more deeply and clarifies Israel’s unfaithfulness as “forsaking Yahweh,” or not properly “seeking Yahweh” (IVP D.O.T Historical Books p. 171-172).

The Hebrew word translated as “seek” or “inquire” in English includes the idea of seeking God as worship to God. It indicates a trust in God that comes from how He has revealed Himself. In the case of Israel, it is how He has revealed himself through the covenant. For the Chronicler, there is a direct connection between seeking after God and receiving the blessings God promised His people. Likewise, if a king forsakes God, there is a direct connection between his abandonment of God and the disaster that came upon both him and the people. With this framework as the filter through which kings are judged, it makes sense that David’s sin with Bathsheba is left out of Chronicles, because in every other part of David’s life he was faithful to seek God. Likewise, Solomon is held in a positive light because he sought the Lord for wisdom, though in Kings he is the archetype for the kind of idolatry that leads Judah into Exile. In many cases, the reader of Chronicles sees a greater explanation surrounding events simply listed in Kings; the Chronicler ties these explanations to whether the king was seeking God or not. For example one reads of the long reign of Manasseh in Kings; this lengthy time on the throne seems curious because of his great sin. In Chronicles, however, one reads that Manasseh repented and sought the Lord; perhaps this explains his long reign.

When one looks at the worldview of those under the Old Covenant, it can seem at odds with the covenant of grace we find ourselves in through Christ, but we serve the same God today as is described in the Old Testament. So much of the worldview of those under the Old Covenant was shaped by their understanding of the covenant blessings and curses of Deuteronomy, yet Paul makes it clear in Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us, so this equation does not apply to us under Christ’s blood. Chronicles shows us that the more one seeks God, the more His blessings are poured out upon them. Conversely, if one forsakes God, then, as it is often repeated in the text, “God will forsake them.” In Christ, we have the promise (found in John’s Gospel) that Christ will not let go of those who have been given to Him. If we forsake Jesus, and ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, however, this promise doesn’t release us of the consequences. We see in both Chronicles and John’s Gospel that seeking God is a timeless principle that is to be at the center of our relationship with God.

Seeking God really comes back to the idea of identity. The Israelites’ identity was to be found in their seeking God. They had been called to seek him and their relationship with God was what defined them as a people. This identity is still true of us today, though we are not seeking God in the context of the Mosiac Law, but in the context of the New Covenant. Jesus has revealed Himself to us in such a specific way and we know now even more clearly how we can seek Him in our lives. We have access to the Holy Spirit – when we seek God He is so very near to us and is able to speak into every situation we find ourselves in.

The idea of “seeking” has become very practical for me lately. God has been surrounding me with the truth of my need to seek Him more completely. From the books I (Michael) teach, to the books I read, to the experiences of my life, I have been forced to see how much I need to seek God in all things in my life, and how blessing and good comes from that. Recently I was discussing this revelation with Helen and we were in the midst of deciding what to do that night. Totally inconsequential decision, but I felt like it was a great opportunity to practice what I felt God wanted more of in my life. So we prayed a simple, “God what should we do tonight?” I joke that part of my hesitation in praying such a prayer is that I feared God was going to call us to do something really difficult, like go to the nearest mosque and share the Gospel with the people there. If God did say that I now believe that it would have been a really beautiful and good thing. Instead, God’s instructions led to a beautiful night of going on a date and still having time to hang out with good friends. It all would seem mundane if I described it to you but I truly enjoyed the whole night and would have never come up with all of it on my own. Most importantly, it built my faith both in my ability to hear God and that what I hear will be good if I obey.

So test it out for yourself. My suggestion is that you start by tearing down your sense of sacred and secular/common. Think like people who serve a God who longs to restore goodness to all things, if we would only bring all before Him in seeking after Him.