Monday, October 25, 2010

An Invitiation to Redemption

When you hear reports like this one, about young Haitian girls being sexually exploited you can't help but wonder what this world is coming to.

Between reading about child trafficking right here under my nose, and the news reports about people suffering and dying from cholera right here in Haiti, it's been a rough weekend.

Our hearts are grieving for this country.  We sat with the couple that works with us last night and made sure that Dominique and Soso know how to be safe and keep their children safe.  We sent them home with some supplies and made them swear to us that if they get sick at all they will come tell us immediately.  They admitted to being worried about cholera.  Three days before, when I asked them about it, they said they were not worried.  I was having a hard time convincing them that this cholera stuff is huge.  "You poop out liters and liters of diarrhea a day!"  This did not phase them.  Thankfully, they said the radio here has been talking a lot about cholera, so the radio successfully freaked them out about how serious this stuff can be.

Cholera, sex trafficking...all things that point to a society totally broken and ravaged by poverty.  Almost everyone who lives in a place like Haiti will admit that there are some days when the sadness is too much.  It's difficult to know that children are being exploited within walking distance.  It's difficult to know that cholera is real, not just something people die from on the Oregon Trail game.  People get diarrhea in the morning and are dead within 24 hours.  Why?  Because they don't have access to something as simple as clean water.  Oh. My. Gosh.  Rage wells up inside of me.  Makes me fighting mad.

It's easy to get discouraged.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed.  It's easy for me to sit here in Haiti and wonder why I'm here when there is no frickin' way, with needs this huge and horrible, that we're going to be able to make a dent in the devastation all around us.  And maybe you sit where you are in America hurting for the poor, and feeling like you should do something but you feel helpless too.

Well, we're not helpless.  Can I remind you of that, because really, I need to hear myself say it.  We may not be able to singlehandedly fight every evil on this earth, but we serve a big God who has graciously invited us to be a part of redeeming all things.  He has given us resources and power and asks us to steward those things well.  We can make a difference.  Maybe making a difference will look huge, like leaving the US to go serve in a foreign land where orphans and naked men walk down your street, or maybe it will look like changing the kind of chocolate you buy this Halloween.

With Halloween right around the corner, I wanted to be totally frank about a few things.

Maybe you read this blog and lots of blog like this one about people who left the comforts of the US to serve the poor, love the orphan, and advocate for the voiceless and oppressed.  I'm glad God calls people to do stuff like leave and go.  I wasn't glad yesterday when I didn't have electricity or water, but mostly I'm glad God has a way of uprooting perfectly happy people in the states and sending them to crazy, hard places to live and to love.

I hope you read this blog and leave here aware of things you maybe weren't aware of before.  I hope you leave encouraged to pray, to act, to ask God some hard questions about what it looks like to seek first His Kingdom and store up treasures there.  I'm asking God those questions, and it's nice to have you asking them with me.

What I hope never happens is that you feel like you can't do anything of value from where you sit.  I'd never want anyone to think that just because they are not living in some place like Haiti, they are powerless to live out the same convictions that brought our family to this country.  Worse, I would hate for someone to think that reading about injustice and fighting it are the same thing.  They aren't.  God wants us to be aware of what is going on in the world, to quit hiding from the truth, but I believe He wants our awareness to lead us to action.  Like get off our butts and do something kind of action.

No matter where you are, you can be a voice for the voiceless.  You can advocate for them.  You can rearrange your life, send money to ministries on the front lines, fighting injustice...organizations sharing the gospel in word and in deed.

You can make a difference.  Making a difference does not always look like selling your home, packing up your life, and moving across the ocean.  It can.  It may.  I'll be the first one to admit that a year ago I would have laughed in your face if you would have said that my family would be living in Haiti.  Maybe God has a similar plan for your family.  Maybe He doesn't.  What I think we can all agree on is that God wants to use each of us to fight injustice.  Because the Spirit of God lives in us and He yearns to redeem this planet, our hearts should likewise long to live out redemption towards this broken, devastated, world.

I love chocolate.  I love even more how the guy in the video says the word, "Chocolate."  Is it just me, or does he make it sound even more delicious and dreamy?

Here's a great post about chocolate and Halloween from the Mama Manifesto blog.

In a nutshell, most of the chocolate consumed in the States is made by African children who are trafficked and sold into slave labor.

The solution?  Buying fair trade chocolate instead.  Chocolate that is not made by children.  Chocolate that is made by adults who are paid a livable wage.  If this is the first you are hearing about child slavery and how it relates to a Snickers bar, I beg you to spend some time educating yourself about this tragedy.

Mama Manifesto lists some great companies who sell fair trade chocolate.

Remember...this goes for all chocolate.  Chocolate cookies, chocolate pudding, chocolate chips, etc.  I remember reading all about child slaves making my Hershey's chocolate chips, and standing in the grocery store realizing how many of the items in my basket had chocolate in them.  A lot.  I stood there wondering what to do with this new information.  Buy the stuff anyway, even though if I do, I know I'm participating in oppressing and abusing children, or put it away?

Do I oppress the poor, when scripture says not to?  Do I continue to buy chocolate, cause it's yummy, even though buying it results in harming children and scripture says God hears the cry of the oppressed?  He says scary things about the people doing the oppressing.

Standing in front of my grocery basket, admitting what a chocolate fatty I am, Isaiah 58 came to mind.  What if we have to fast from chocolate for awhile in order to live out the fast God is talking about when He says to live in such a way that we're loosening the chains of injustice?  What honors God?  He says to set the captive free, share our food with the poor, and break the yoke of slavery.  He desires for us to share the gospel, but He desires for us to live out the gospel in felt-board, visual, hands-on, Montessori school fashion.

Instead of thinking, "Crud.  I can't buy my favorite, cheap, child-labor chocolate anymore," let's rejoice that God is inviting us to be involved in fighting darkness, oppression, and slavery by doing something as simple as changing what kind of chocolate we buy.  Grocery shopping no longer is grocery shopping.  It's an opportunity to worship God, protect and value children, and use the resources God has given you (your money) to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the voiceless.

Rejoice!  Stand in the aisle of your favorite grocery store, laugh, smile, celebrate, and worship God as you live out the gospel towards your fellow man.  Also remind yourself that buying fair trade chocolate doesn't make God love you more.  If you belong to Him, it's finished, you're declared righteous, we are free from legalism and trying to earn favor before God.  There are times when I end up with some sort of non-fair trade chocolate in my basket.  Sometimes I have to fight to not feel condemned (because I am a recovering legalist).  Once I remind myself of the gospel, I don't feel condemned.  I feel sad.  Sad because God gave me a beautiful chance, a wonderful invitation to live out His heart, to join Him in something lovely and good, and I chose something blah, base, and second rate instead.  Good thing there's grace, right...and mercy as we learn? 

I've read a ton about Halloween lately...who is for it, who is against it.  Blogland fills up fast with posts taking sides on this issue.  Halloween is as hotly debated as predestination.  But I just wonder, if maybe Christians are totally missing the point.  Here we are arguing about whether dressing up like a cowboy is satanic when the real issue might be that Christians everywhere will be buying chocolate in mass quantities this month, and the groans and the cries of enslaved children will be filling the heavens.  God promises He hears them when they cry out.  And who has those children's blood on their hands?  Us.  We can lick the chocolate off, but the blood is still there.  God have mercy on your people, we can be so incredibly stupid.

Here's good news.  God can use you this week to advocate for children in Africa.  Buy fair trade chocolate.

He can use you to advocate for children in Africa in your churches.  If your church is having a Halloween party that is not a Halloween party because Halloween parties are of the devil, so they are having a party on Halloween instead or a fall festival (got to love Christians, right?)  maybe God wants to use you to educate your church about fair trade chocolate.  Maybe next year your Halloween party that isn't a Halloween party, it's a party on Halloween because there is a big difference, (eye roll) will have fair trade chocolate to pass out.  Maybe your church can use your fancy projector and huge auditorium to host a free viewing of The Dark Side of Chocolate for your entire community (even the lost people, what?  what?).  Who is getting excited?

You can also organize a viewing of the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate in your own home.  Get friends together, watch, and discuss.  You can order a viewing kit here.

You can spread the word.  Use your voice.  Give others an opportunity to be a part of this invitation that God gives each of us to redeem how we eat and shop.

Don't ever feel like you can't make a difference.  You can.  Ready.  Set.  Redeem.


mandi said...

Heather!!! I just posted on this! How cool!

I know lots more people read your blog than mine, so I'm so happy you wrote about it.

I was talking to my jr. high students about this yesterday. I gave them my analogy about when we all decided to boycott the tuna industry until they made it dolphin safe. And how it worked. Anyway, they were horrified at the idea about dolphins being killed for tuna...turns out, not so concerned about the same thing happening to children. I wanted to slap 'em all in the head. Instead I just called them on it. Talked about how Satan tricks us into thinking things that are horrible aren't so bad.

So yeah- Fall Festival is right around the corner. I feel like I failed in not rallying the troops soon enough to make it chocolate free or fair trade choco. But really, there is every Sunday in between now and then, because being the good Sth. Baptists that we are, we feed our children candy at 10 am every Sunday morning. Or perhaps, a chocolate covered donut. Or chocolate milk.
My jr. high class has decided to do something about it. THey want to go around and talk to classes about it!

Here's the thing that I want most to get across to people. What we do DOES matter. I hear over and over "oh yeah right, like me not buying a kit-kat is really going to change anything". That drives me crazy. Howling at the moon crazy! IT DOES MATTER!!! Every dollar we spend counts. It either votes for oppression or against it.

Now I'm all fired up.

Hendrick Family said...

Oh word to your mother, Mandi. I love you.

Go read Mandi's blog.

She's one of my favorite people to howl at the moon with.

Anonymous said...

So glad you are raising awareness about this. I did not know. Now I can be involved with shopping fair trade chocolate and sharing this info. with others. Thanks. I'll try to focus on that instead of the sting I feel from a number of the sarcastic jabs at Christians, celebrations, and church families. I know it's meant to be humorous, and I get it, but be careful - it can be a turn off, a distraction from your message.

Aydan said...

But I just wonder, if maybe Christians are totally missing the point. Here we are arguing about whether dressing up like a cowboy is satanic when the real issue might be that Christians everywhere will be buying chocolate in mass quantities this month, and the groans and the cries of enslaved children will be filling the heavens.

Mmmm, yes!

I am so glad to see a post about this. I've been trying strenuously to avoid "normal" chocolate for the past two and a half years, and while I don't regret it, it does seem odd to me that... my fellow Christians don't really care. I've even been criticized by another Christian for doing it. It's good to see the word spreading. :)

Hendrick Family said...

I laugh to keep from crying, Anonymous.

I don't know if you have been reading this blog very long, but we love the church. We served on church staff for 13 years before coming to Haiti. We believe God wants to use the church and has equipped the church to share the gospel in word and deed with this world.

We are well aware that when we say hard things about the church, or even make fun of her at times, we are pointing at ourselves.

But if we can't be honest and laugh at ourselves sometimes, I think that's a tragedy.


Kimberly said...

"I laugh to keep from crying."

ohhhhhhh. so true it hurts.

thanks for the heads up about fair trade shopping. will do.

Megan Fletcher said...

wow! I could only do a re-post of sorts. Their blood is on our hands. Thank you for not holding back and for saying it like it is. I understand Anonymous' sting, but I also know the truth hurts. We spend way too much time focusing on the lesser things. Thanks for lifting up my eyes!

Robert Heath said...

I guess I shouldn't be shocked, but I am. I will not eat "normal" chocolate again, and I have emailed many friends about this. It is one thing for "other people" to sexually exploit children. It is quite another for so many of us to eat a luxury food at the cost of the bodies and souls of thousands of children.

Sadly, though, many in the world are more concerned about the Amazon forests than they are about the Amazon Indians, and about global warming than they are about the children enslaved for our chocolate.

And now everything is suspect. How much else do we eat and use that is produced by exploited children and adults? Apparently, money has no conscience.

Thank you for posting this. I might not have known about if if you hadn't.

Kimberly said...

Thank you for sharing. I have fallen in love with your blog. This post is particularly convicting and yet appropriately grace filled. Praying for you!

Anne Dye said...

Thanks for posting this. I was unaware and will be making some changes!

Jana said...

I read Mandi's post the other day and the wheels started turning. Thanks for the info because there are so many of us who don't know these things!

Rachel said...

You had to hit me right in the chocolate didn't you? :) Thank you for bringing this to light. I really had no idea.

Love your blog, btw. I've been reading through the archives about how you came to be in Haiti and have gotten so much out of your story (and am gearing up to listen to the Radical series - a little scared where that will take me!). Thank you for being so honest. I think so often people get the idea that missionaries (kind of like adoptive parents) are some special type of person who isn't as bothered by the stuff that "normal" people care about. That is so not true and I appreciate that you talk about it. Just because God calls you to something doesn't mean it will be easy or that you'll even like it all the time (or sometimes even most of the time). God can use us if we are willing and He'll work on the attitude part of it! (at least I'm trusting Him to do that for me)!

Jennifer Bacak said...

College Station folks, I have already ordered this documentary about chocolate. Ashley Kinnard was so great to send me the info. on it, and I have been haunted by the trailer ever since. It should be coming to me in the mail, and I would love to have anyone over who would like to view it with me.
We will not be buying chocolate candy for Halloween. I don't know that we have fair trade chocolate candy in our grocery stores here. But I spent a lot of time researching it today, and I plan to appeal to Kroger to carry it. I talked to a manager of Kroger today about it. If anyone knows of any here in CS, let me know!

Jennifer D. - Canada said...

I will never eat another chocolate without thinking how a child suffered as a result.

It's about time someone put it as simply as that. You many often feel your travel and life to Haiti has gone without notice or difference ... but reading your blog and your experience there has definitely impacted my life, and my whole family's life ...your travel is not wasted. I often incorporate your blog into my conversation with my children and husband ... it's the little things that will continue to impact their lives - and eventually (hopefully sooner, rather than later) make them realize and jump to help - or make the LEAP of FAITH. I wish that for them, for me, for us as a family ... I wish it for everyone capable.

If everyone just reached out as you've done - the world would simply be so different. In a wonderful, glorious way. But, I suppose, in the mean time ... we'll ask Jesus for guidance. And hopefully one day we'll lift ourselves up and do the right thing ... just because it's the right thing.

Melda said...

Hey darling....... on this journey a little at a time, as I just got my "fair trade" coffee in the mail last week. I was very excited, and ran my finger over the label with a sense of satisfaction. (am I a dork or what?)

Now the chocolate thing...... we don't buy a lot of chocolate candy because of Zion's peanut allergy, but really, please oh please, tell me tomorrow's post will be a FAIR TRADE brownie recipe???


Tasha Via said...

I had NO idea! That is so sad. Can I please link this post to my blog???

Jessi said...

I never knew this. How did I not know this....perhaps because I didn't want to know. I know buying the chocolate is bad and thankfully we never buy candy at Halloween but we do let our kids trick or treat and allowing them to get this candy when we know where it comes from makes me sick.

Hendrick Family said...

Tasha, of course! Link away. So thankful that many of you are spreading the word and are speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So exciting.


Blake said...

"We can lick the chocolate off, but the blood is still there."

Crap. This is twice in about a week and a half that you've punched me in the stomach. And punched me hard! Thank you, m'am, may I have another?

Your thoughts/words have caused me to do quite a bit of thinking lately. The next step is what to do with those thoughts. Thanks for being faithful to the calling God has put on your family. Truly an example of Col 3:17.

Did you get the email I sent to yall last week?

Rachel said...

Thanks for the reminder Heather! I went ahead and got our Endangered Species chocolate from Amazon last night after I read you post... we'll have some really awesome chocolate pieces to give out at our block party!

Jenn (and anyone else in B/CS): I know HEB in CS carries fair trade chocolate bars (I believe Endangered Species, and maybe Dagoba). They're big, and not ideal for passing out. They used to carry Sunspire SunDrops but I haven't seen them in a while. I'm pretty sure Brazos Natural Foods carries them and similar items, and World Market might be another place that has Fair Trade chocolate bars.

Also, we'd love to come to watch the documentary!

Jamie R. said...

I really appreicate this post. My husband and I are now trying to decide what this looks like for us. It's an easy step (especially where we live) to commit to buying fair trade products. But now I've just "not done" something. I haven't positively contributed to the solution. Of course, we all have to start somewhere but how do we make it better as opposed to just not making it any worse? Just thinking it through(in your comments section...) I am constanly encouraged and challenged by you to stop building my own kingdom and work on the one I have been grafted into.

Sitesx6 said...

Hi there,

I'm brand new to your blog but I am so happy to find you.

I just returned from Haiti in Aug. (I was there for two weeks with Samaritan's Purse working on medical mobile clinics.) I was living in Leogane, Haiti.

I can't get Haiti off my mind. It was a very hard trip, I saw some really HARD THINGS. I am still in touch with two very special Hatians that I met while I was there.

I'm struggling with being caught in a place of seeing what I saw in Haiti, and living in abundant, America. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with knowing there are people who don't have clean waters, live in a tent, with living in my big house with all of my STUFF.

I can't wait to follow your family, and your time in Haiti. I hope to return to Haiti, until then, I pray daily for the beautiful people there.

Kelly in Michigan

Katie said...

I have an honest question....and maybe it will sound weird... But I'm gonna ask anyway.

I agree that it is terrible, awful, horrible for children to be abused and exploited. It is horrifying to think that they work as slaves so we can have our luxury chocolate.

My question is: What happens to those children if we all stopped eating chocolate? Does that make their life suddenly better?

As horrible as it is, it may be better than the alternative for them at this point.

Were these children taken from thriving homes where there was education, a roof over their head, and plenty to eat? If there is no longer work for them to do, do they have a healthy home to go back to? If these chocolate businesses are pushed out or forced to change their practices, what happens to those children? Are they then left in the ditch to die? Do they not at least have a fighting chance as long as they can be valuable to someone else?

I'm not trying to be argumentative in the least, I just think it deserves a look at ALL sides to determine how exactly God would have us help these children, so as not to create a bigger problem than already exists.

If I am wrong then please forgive me! I don't claim to know the right answer, these are just things I honestly wonder.

Monica said...

I think they seel fair trade chocolate at HEB but will be going up there to confirm soon!


Monica said...

OK, so I just couldn't wait to go check out HEB. I found that they have a fairly wide selection of organic chocolate bars. There are a few brands from the list on this website:
Specifically I found that the Endangered Species brand sells small individually wrapped bars. Perfect for passing out at a "party" or to trick or treaters. :) But be prepared to spend a bit more money.


Hendrick Family said...


I'm glad you feel safe asking that question here.

Obviously, I don't really know what the alternative is for most of these kids.

I do know that we can either choose to use our money in a redemptive way, or we can use our money to vote for things that are dark and directly oppose the things God says are important in the Bible.

No matter what the alternative is, no child should be trafficked into slavery and beaten.

Like I said, I don't know what the alternative is for these particular kids, but I do know that when we buy fair trade, we vote for companies employing ADULTS and paying them a fair wage.

In lots of countries children are trafficked into child labor. Those kids work for free, which means there is high unemployment for the adults nearby. Child labor and child trafficking causes detrimental outcomes in many communities because the adults are stripped of their ability to work and provide for their families. All the work is being done by vulnerable children.

If we buy fair trade, then we support companies who employ adults, which means kids are free to be kids, and adults have a way of providing for their children. Lots of times that means the adults are employed, paid a liveable wage, and they can do beautiful things like pay to send their children to school.

All I know is, I want to support companies who are committed to PAYING their workers a liveable wage. This creates jobs. It keeps children in school. It makes the market for free, child labor non-existent in many communities. This mean children are protected from trafficking.

We can't know for sure what the alternative will be for these particular children. But I do think when we support fair trade companies that we can know we are supporting things that are good for entire communities and oftentimes countries. We help the poor and we help children by using our money to vote for companies who value life and value people more than they value a profit.

I hope that answers some of your questions.


Monica said...

Hey Heather,

Me again...
My husband sent me this link to the Hershey Social Responsibility Report 2009.

If you look on pages 18-21 where it talks about "Responsible Sourcing" it talks a little about what they are working on in regards to this issue. I haven't seen the Dark Side of Chocolate video yet, and plan on seeing it, but it sounds like they at least might be trying...? I'm still not sure it would be the same as buying fair trade... but I thought it would be worth people looking into to see what the actual company says about it.

Let me know what you think.