Sunday, October 10, 2010
I didn't expect it to be a whole year break, but I really needed to understand my purpose here. Writing takes time, time from my life, my family and the other things that are important to me. And there are so many things that are IMPORTANT to me.
Following Jesus has to be at the top of the list and that relationship drives all the others on the list. Many of you know my lovely wife Suzanne. Wow, what a blessing she is in my life! Then, there is of course, 7, count em, 7 children Matt, Justin, Caleb, Daniel, Catie, Alex, Jessica and now a grandson, Daniel jr. My wonderful 86 year old mother, Ilabelle, my brother Ron and sister Jana. How can I spend any time away from them, but of course, I do.
My great job at Video Resources where I get to exercise my creativity on a daily basis. A great boss, Brad Hagen, who gives me the freedom and encouragement to try change the world, one video, one post, one speech, one trip, one day at a time.
My church, Fountain Valley United Methodist Church, that prays for me, loves me, supports me, trusts me and sends me out as a missionary within our denomination, as well as out into the world.
To Africa, with Bud Potter, my friend and leader in Go and Do Likewise along with Pastor Kiefa from GAD Kenya, who both let me visit my home away from home in Rionchogu, Kenya and experiment and dream of new ways to lift up the poorest of the poor.
Well, so much has happened in the last year, it will take time to catch up and look forward. In the meantime, may God bless you all.
Monday, October 5, 2009
In times of despair and hopelessness, where do we find hope?
At age 14, a boy in the country of Malawi (in Africa), named William Kamkwamba, living during a desperate time of poverty and famine, found hope. He found it, in a library.
Forced to dropout of school because his family could not afford the fees, William sought a place to learn in an attempt to keep up with his peers, who were still able to attend school. What he found was not just book knowledge, but hope for his family and village.
Reading a book on science, he learned how it was possible to use the wind to generate electricity and then actually set about trying to build what he saw in the book. Using a tractor fan, shock absorbers, PVC pipes, a bicycle frame and other things he found in a scrapyard, he made a simple, yet functioning windmill. When local villagers saw him attaching the contraption to the top of a 16 foot wooden tower he built with the help of friends, they gathered around to see if he had actually succeeded. He did and he went from being a "crazy" person to a local hero.
Now he is a worldwide hero.
I have just about finished reading a book he cowrote with author Bryan Mealer called "the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind". I have never read a more accurate, yet inspiring account of daily life in the poorer parts of Africa. In my travels to Kenya for Go and Do Likewise, I have seen the same despair mixed with the same wonderful ingenuity, passion and hard work.
William's account has re-inspired me to continue with renewed vigor, the hard work of raising funds for the organization I serve with, Go and Do Likewise, and it's sister organization in Kenya, GAD Kenya. There is hope for the people in Africa, in Kenya. This world can be changed or in the case of William, a family and a village can be changed.
In this case, the change occurred because someone or some organization, helped build and supply a library. The library where William spent hours upon hours reading, learning and dreaming. I want to do the same thing for the village of Rionchogu, Kenya. Build and supply a library. Perhaps you'd like to help. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's talk. I'll be traveling there in March of 2010, with a few others with the same passion to make a difference, one boy or one book at a time.
I hope you will pick up a copy of William's book. If you live near me, I'll loan you my copy. Or, take a few minutes and watch one of the 2 videos below, that tell a little about his wonderful story.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I have worked for years in the same type of ministry as Craig Gross, helping people addicted to pornography (I produced a video for and mentored with SettingCaptivesFree). I was curious what he would have to say. Never one to shy away from being controversial and challenging the status quo or “religious Christians,” I was not at all surprised by the chapter headings. I doubt too many people will get upset over these chapters: "Jesus loves the Bitter and Betrayed," "Jesus Loves the Outcast," "Jesus Loves the Broken" and "Jesus Loves the Disconnected." However, more than a few eyebrows are likely to be raised with "Jesus Loves the Crook," "Jesus Loves the Skeptic," and of course "Jesus Loves Porn Stars."
Now Craig has run ministries for years helping people with addiction to pornography, including well-known xxxchurch.com. But, he also has been helping those within the pornography industry to find their way out of it and into new lives. Most recently he founded a new church in Las Vegas called Strip Church, which expands on that ministry.
Recently, Craig toured the country debating famous porn star Ron Jeremy about the dangers of porn and, unlikely as it may seem, became good friends with Ron. On the stage they were vehemently disagreeing, but off stage they shared dinner and honest friendship. Now before you think that is way too weird, I recall a book I have in my library about Clarence True Wilson, a Methodist minister and one of the leading advocates for the passage of Prohibition in the 1920’s in the US. He also toured the country debating the dangers of alcohol and his debate partner was none other than Clarence Darrow, famous attorney from the Scopes Monkey trial. Again vehemently disagreeing onstage, then having a quiet dinner and traveling together afterwards.
I am sure if I picked apart every word Craig and Jason have to say in the book I could find something with which I would disagree. However, the fact is throughout the book I was saying to myself, "Right on guys, that is something Jesus would have said himself."
So what is the fundamental message of the book? It’s pretty simple. It’s in the title: Jesus Loves you, this I know. That simple message that many of us learned as a child cuts through all the complex religious views we often bring to our faith. While it is clear God is dead set against sin in our lives (after all he did kick Satan out of heaven), we must never forget that the sacrifice of His Son on the cross was an act of love not judgment.
In my years of lay counseling, I have learned the difficulties of speaking truth into a persons life if you have no relationship with them. Jesus spoke harshly at times to his disciples because he knew them and was teaching them for a time when he would be gone.
However, when faced with people with whom he did not have relationship, such as the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well or the various other tax collectors and prostitutes, he spoke to them of truth coupled with God’s grace. A verse from the Bible that I like to remember for myself is James 2:13 which says: …judgment without mercy, will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
There are inspiring stories in this book of mercy, triumphant over judgment. I hope you will pick up a copy and read this book and even if there are things with which you might disagree, I believe it will challenge you to examine your own heart. Condemnation, I feel, inevitably creeps into our hearts over time and this is something for which we must be repentant. I believe this book can help guide us in that process. God bless.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Here is Carly's letter that she sent to me today, and asked me to pass on to my readers:
Hi. My name is Carly Fleischmann and , you can see a small glimpse of how I live with on abc’s 20/20. But this is not the real story. The real story is that 20/20 is doing a story on autism. A lot of people in the media feel that autism is not a story that people want to hear about. But I was once told that ignorance is caused by not having knowledge on the subject. So if you think about it that way shouldn’t the media show more stories about autism? There are so many stories out there of people and families living with autism that really need to be told.
If this Friday we can show 20/20 that people will watch these stories, maybe they’ll want to put more of them on the air. If after watching 20/20 this Friday night, you feel you need to do something, email 20/20 at http://abcnews.go.com/2020 and tell them what you think of the story and that you would like to see more stories done.
I am asking for your help right now. I would like you to email this note to all your friends telling them to watch 20/20 . Also I would love it if you could post this note with my Carly 20/20 badge on your webpage, blog or even facebook page. If you have a twitter account you can even change your profile picture to my badge to show your support.
You can get your Carly badge at: http://carlysvoice.com/?page_id=183
I would like to throw out a challenge to Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, Barbra Walters, , 60 Minutes and any other talk show or to start talking about autism.
Someone once said to me that if you bend one Popsicle stick it will break but if you try to bend a hundred Popsicle sticks together they won’t. Well I am only one Popsicle stick asking you to join me to become many.
Your autistic girl who tells it like it is,
Sunday, July 26, 2009
In my last post I became a fan of a 13 year old girl with autism, named Carly, who has touched so many with her story. And lets not forget Ryan Hreljac who I blogged about in May, who was in the first grade when he first started helping others by raising funds to help build wells for safe water in Uganda. Well, now I've become a fan of a little 5 year old girl named Pheobe.
There seems to be a pattern here, doesn't there. Is it the innocence of a child who hasn't yet learned their limits? Doesn't know what "can" and "can't" be done. Hasn't taken on the judgements and biases we adults have? Take a few minutes and watch this video about Phoebe, produced by another extraordinary person named Toan Lam, who I will blog about in the future.
Toan brought this to mine and the world's attention, so I want to give him the credit. Here is some of his blog about Phoebe in the Huffington Post, which hopefully will inspire many of us to be more like her.
5 Year Old Girl Feeds Nearly 18,000 Hungry San Franciscans; What Can You Do?
by Toan Lam for The Huffington Post
"Little Phoebe, from San Francisco, California has a big heart. That's an understatement. Actually, her kindness and compassion is bigger than most grown ups I've crossed paths with while reporting TV news for nearly a decade.
It started off with a simple question by Phoebe, an adorable little girl with long brown locks, peach-colored cheeks and big doe eyes, like a character straight out of a Disney after-school special. After seeing a person holding a cardboard sign begging for food, Phoebe wondered, "Why does that man look so sad, and why is he holding a sign in the street?"
That question to her parents, during her daily ride to daycare, sparked an idea that has helped feed nearly 18,000 hungry San Franciscans.
A grown up conversation ensued. "What can we do to help?" asked Phoebe. Her parents told her about one possible place the hungry could go for help; The food bank.
Phoebe also asked Kathleen Albert, her teacher at "With Care Day Care," about the hunger problem. Albert explained that some people fall on hard times and don't have the basics like food and clothes. Phoebe replied, "I want to raise money for the San Francisco Food Bank to feed hungry people then," she said. Her ambitious goal was to raise $1,000, in two months. Why $1,000? No one knows; Phoebe couldn't even count denominations of money before the project.
"Phoebe focused on the smaller picture, and what she could do," her teacher explained. She decided to collect cans as a project to complete her mission. Phoebe knew that she could raise money by recycling cans, because her dad would bring her and her sister to trade cans for cash on the weekends.
Albert, a spunky, grey-haired woman, with big Coke-bottle round, purple rimmed glasses, who resembles a jovial, energetic, Sunday strip comic book caricature, admits, "Although, I immediately supported Phoebe's lofty goal, I thought, 'Caaaaans?' I didn't think a 5-year-old could possibly raise that much money in just two months time." And as adults sometimes are...She was wrong.
With a little bit of guidance from Albert and a whole lot of support from classmates, Phoebe wrote letters to 150 family, friends, alumni and neighbors. She received 50 responses. Word got around about the 5-year-old girl who wrote, "Dear Family and Friends... My charity project is to raise lots of money for the S.F. Food Bank. They need money. I am collecting soda cans. Would you please give me your soda cans and bring them to With Care... "Donations started pouring in... Friends, family and even anonymous donors dropped off cans, checks and cash at the colorful storybook-looking Victorian in a San Francisco neighborhood which houses Phoebe's day care. Phoebe's project, which had started with small donations of $5, $10, then $20 bills, grew exponentially. As, word spread, people started matching donations dollar for dollar. "I was getting cash in the mail, and I thought this is great, I'm getting money in my mailbox," Albert recalls. Albert's loud, one-two-three eyes-on-me classroom voice softens as she admits, "Does she understand it [the hunger problem] like you and I, no, but she understood something needed to be done. I learned something from her. And when you learn something from children, it's great!"
Phoebe responded personally to every donation, no matter how large or small. She would skip recess, instead counting money and writing thank-you notes to all who gave. "Little Phoebe was determined and never once complained," says Albert, "They looked at it as, 'it doesn't have to be big.' We talked about it in terms of Barack Obama...and how it was the little money and the little donations. So when people came to the door with one or two cans, people we didn't even know, she would say, oh, that's five cents, that's ten cents, that's fifteen cents. She understood, that you start off small, and you can make it bigger, bigger, bigger."
Fast forward two months.
Last June, all of the students at With Care, got dressed to the nines for a big celebration, complete with a ceiling full of colorful balloons, decorations and cake. Phoebe handed over the money and checks she collected in a handmade and hand-colored pencil box with flowers and stickers and colorful stars, to Paul Ash, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Food Bank. Phoebe's grand total: $3,736.30. How many hungry people will that amount feed? Just ask Phoebe, she'll tell you "Seventeen-thousand something." The exact amount, according to Ash, 17,800 hungry people will be fed, thanks to Phoebe's kindness, compassion and determination.
I thought, great, she raised more than what she had anticipated, so I was shocked, proud and inspired when I heard she raised nearly $4,000! Some people I shared this story with cried. Others told me they're moved to look within themselves to think about what they can do to better someone else's life or their community. While Phoebe does not fully comprehend the complicated problems of world hunger, she did know that seeing hungry people made her sad. So she did what she could, and the rest, well.... Oprah, are you listening?
Little Phoebe didn't just inspire the people whom she literally looks up to, she also inspires her fellow little eye-level friends, who also broke open their piggy banks and shared their allowance money to support their phenomenal little playmate.
I too, learned from Phoebe's story, I learned that you never can be too young or too old to make a difference. But if you're too apathetic or scared, no matter what age, you'll never create change or improve your life or the life of others.
The simple question I pose to you is, if a 5-year-old girl can feed thousands, WHAT CAN YOU DO? "Anything is possible" is a cliché. Except when it isn't."
Ok, readers. Let me start hearing about the things you're doing. They needn't be big. In fact I'd rather they be small. Helping a sick neighbor. Changing a flat tire for a stranger. Donating to a good cause. Because its the small things that we can do every day that make the biggest difference in those around us. Jesus said to love your neighbor. Lets get out and do it! Comment here or email me at email@example.com
In fact, lets start our own little Five Talents movement and I'll help us all celebrate the wonderful things we do!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Autism Breakthrough: Girl's Writings Explain Her Behavior and Feelings
Doctors Amazed by Carly Fleischmann's Ability to Describe the Disorder From the Inside
By JOHN MCKENZIE – ABC NEWS
Feb. 19, 2008
Carly Fleischmann has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But thanks to years of expensive and intensive therapy, this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough.Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice.
"All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn't realize she had all these words," said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. "It was one of those moments in my career that I'll never forget."
Then Carly began opening up, describing what it was like to have autism and why she makes odd noises or why she hits herself.
"It feels like my legs are on fire and a million ants are crawling up my arms," Carly said through the computer. Carly writes about her frustrations with her siblings, how she understands their jokes and asks when can she go on a date.
"We were stunned," Carly's father Arthur Fleischmann said. "We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met. This was unbelievable because it opened up a whole new way of looking at her." This is what Carly wants people to know about autism.
"It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them." "Laypeople would have assumed she was mentally retarded or cognitively impaired. Even professionals labelled her as moderately to severely cognitively impaired. In the old days you would say mentally retarded, which means low IQ and low promise and low potential," Arthur Fleischman said. Therapists say the key lesson from Carly's story is for families to never give up and to be ever creative in helping children with autism find their voice.
"If we had done what so many people told us to do years ago, we wouldn't have the child we have today. We would have written her off. We would have assumed the worst. We would have never seen how she could write these things, how articulate she is, how intelligent she is," the grateful father added.
"I asked Carly to come to my work to talk to speech pathologists and other therapists about autism," said Nash. "What would you like to tell them? She wrote, 'I would tell them never to give up on the children that they work with.' That kind of summed it up."
Carly had another message for people who don't understand autism."Autism is hard because you want to act one way, but you can't always do that. It's sad that sometimes people don't know that sometimes I can't stop myself and they get mad at me. If I could tell people one thing about autism it would be that I don't want to be this way. But I am, so don't be mad. Be understanding."
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Postcard: Tojinbo Cliffs
By Coco Masters in Time Magazine, June 22, 2009
They come on sunny days, when the sky is bright and clear above the Tojinbo cliffs along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Yukio Shige says they don't look at the view. "They don't carry a camera or souvenir gifts," he says. "They don't have anything. They hang their heads and stare at the ground."
For five years, Shige, 65, has approached such people at the cliffs' edge with a simple "Hello" and a smile. He might ask how they came there and at what inn they were staying. Sometimes after a light touch to the shoulder, Shige says, they burst into tears, and he begins to console them. "You've had a hard time up until now," he says, "haven't you?"
The basalt cliffs in Fukui prefecture, north of Kyoto on the western coast of Japan, are a well-known site for suicide in a country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world; at 23.8 per 100,000, Japan's rate is significantly higher than that of the U.S., for example, where the rate is 11 per 100,000. One in 5 Japanese men and women has seriously considered taking his or her life, according to a recent government survey; each year over the past decade, more than 30,000 people have killed themselves. And as the economic downturn has pushed rates of unemployment and bankruptcy higher, the number of suicides has risen. From January through April, 11,236 people killed themselves, up 4.5% from the same period in 2008. "I think there will be many more suicides this year," says Shige.
The retired detective from nearby Fukui City has patrolled the cliffs two or three times a day since 2004, wearing white gloves and a floppy sun hat, carrying binoculars to focus on three spots on the cliffs where suicides are most common. He has set up a nonprofit foundation to aid the work and says he has helped prevent 188 potential suicides. After he's talked them off the cliffs, Shige--a trained counselor--takes them to his small office, where two gas heaters keep a kettle boiling, ready to make the tea that accompanies his counseling sessions. For men, Shige says, the biggest problems are debt and unemployment; most of the women are there because of depression or health issues. "If it's a case of sexual harassment, I'll go with her to the office and confront her boss," says Shige. "If a child has issues with his father, I tell the parent that he is driving his child to suicide and get them to write a promise to change. They hang it on the wall."
There's no rush in Shige's office. He offers those who go there oroshi-mochi, a dish of pounded sticky rice served with grated radish. Traditionally the food is prepared to celebrate the New Year, with each family taking its own rice to be mixed with that of its neighbors. "When people come here and eat mochi, they remember their childhood--father, mother, siblings, hometown. They remember they're not alone," Shige says.
So far, Shige has funded his operation, including office rent of $800 a month and occasional support for those trying to get back on their feet, with his retirement savings and donations. But in April, the Japanese government committed to supporting Shige's and similar efforts with about 10 billion yen ($100 million) over the next three years. "It's taken five years to get the support," says Shige. "But we also need the kind of policies that keep people from becoming depressed in the first place"--particularly by bolstering the safety net for people with mental disorders and those who have hit hard times.
In April, on the fifth anniversary of starting his operation, Shige sat reading a three-page, handwritten letter he had received that day from a Shizuoka man, one of many he gets from those he has helped. The letter concluded by thanking Shige for providing the man with an awareness of the love that surrounded him. As Shige finished reading, the melody of "Amazing Grace" rose from his cell phone. "I want Tojinbo to be the most challenging place," he says. "Not where life ends, but where it begins."
Wow, what a great story! What a great statement of life and a great statement of purpose from a pretty simple man. So, the challenge lies before you friends. You could be 10 years old or 90 years old, perfectly healthy or strapped in a wheelchair and still be a caring voice, a gentle hand, a cup of tea, a walk with compassion and actually save a life. You may never know that you did, and it may not be as dramatic as keeping someone from the cliffs. But, you might just encourage someone to live a life to its fullest, that they had already given up on.