Lynne Hybels

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Few Words of Beauty

These words are from Beauty Will Save The World: Rediscovering the allure and Mystery of Christianity, Chapter 3 "Axis of Love," by Brian Zahnd. I am loving this book. 

"Pilate was right; the cross is truth.  But not the truth of pragmatic violence; rather the cross is the truth of co-suffering love . . . Never again could the principalities and powers that enforce their will by violence claim God's endorsement.  Never again!  They had been exposed, and God had been revealed.  God is beautiful.  God is love.  God is like Jesus.  God has always been like Jesus.  We have not always known this . . . but now we do.  Jesus had said that if he was lifted up in crucifixion, he would draw all people to himself.  The event of the crucifixion gave the world a new ordering axis, a new ultimate truth, a new centering point--and it is love.  The love of God was fully displayed in Christ at the cross when he forgave the world for its sins.  If we want to know what God is like, we now point to Jesus on the cross forgiving a world that has rejected him, and we say, 'There!  That is what God is like!' And having now been vindicated in resurrection, Christ is drawing humanity into a new orbit, an orbit around himself and his redeeming love.  All of this is beautiful.  It is the beauty that saves the world." 

Enough said....

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Syrian Refugees, Wardrobe Enhancement, and 2014

Update: My friend, Matt Brown, and I raised $21,000 for Syrian refugees; funds are currently being dispersed in Jordan and Lebanon. Because of the ongoing desperation of so many Syrian refugees, I will continue this funding campaign throughout 2014. 100% of the money donated will go to grassroots Christian ministries meeting refugees' physical needs within the context of ongoing, loving relationships. For security reasons unique to the region, I cannot publicly identify these partners, but I will be providing periodic updates from them in my blog.  You can help by writing a check to "A2 Ministries," which is the Hybels Famly nonprofit; in the memo write "Syrian Refugees." Send the check to A2 Ministries, c/o Lynne Hybels, 774 Summer Isle Lane, Barrington, IL 60010.  You will receive a tax-deductible receipt and %100 of your donation will go directly to servant-heroes in Jordan and Lebanon.  For more information--read the blog!

 A year ago I started reading news reports about the humanitarian crisis faced by millions—literally—of Syrian refugees chased by ongoing civil war across the borders of their country into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.  Analysts described it as the biggest humanitarian crisis in decades, and first person reports put faces to the men, women and children suffering displacement, violence, and trauma 

I have to do something, I thought, but I didn’t.  Months later a young Christian leader I knew only via Twitter asked me to help him plan a fundraiser for Syrian refugees.  Okay, let’s do it, I thought, but we didn’t get the kinks worked out of our plan.  Last August I had hoped to donate funds from my #MaybeICan2013 kayak challenge to Syrian refugees.  Great idea, I thought, but after I donated my promised $10k to Congo, there was nothing left over for Syria.  In November I was scheduled to visit Syrian refugees in Jordan.  I’ll launch a fundraising campaign after that, I thought, but the trip was cancelled. 

So much for good intentions—until my young Christian leader Twitter acquaintance, Matt Brown, sent me an email shortly before Christmas.  “I’ve got to do the fundraiser,” Matt wrote.  “I’d appreciate your help, but with or without it, I have to do this.”  You can read the story of Matt’s passion for Syrian refugees here. 

I was impressed that a young man who, by his own admission, had never been particularly tuned in to humanitarian needs, was so determined to respond to what he believed was a call from God.  So, Matt put together a crowd-funding page and used his social networking expertise and connections to get the word out about Syrian refugees.  I used my personal relationships in the Middle East to identify grassroots Christian ministries in Jordan and Lebanon that are serving Syrian refugees.  Because of security concerns for Christian organizations operating in some places in the Middle East, these organizations can’t afford to have a media presence.

Great, I thought.  We’ve done it!  Surely we will meet our $10,000 goal in just a few days.  Once people realize that thousands of families are desperate for basic needs like food and shelter, they’ll give.  Once people discover that children are facing a record cold winter without warm clothes and shoes, they’ll give.  Once they learn that women and girls are being kidnapped into sex trafficking, they’ll give.  

But here’s the thing: people really haven’t been giving.  Not much, anyway.  And that frustrated me.  Okay, more than that.  It made me kinda mad.  I mean, what’s with people, anyway?

Then I remembered: It took almost a year—and rather insistent nudging from Matt Brown—to move me from thought to action.  I also remembered that I don’t donate to a lot of causes I know about—not because I don’t care, but simply because I can’t give to everything that comes along.  Who am I to point a finger at others?  Who am I to judge people because they haven’t given to my particular cause?  So, no more pointing fingers or judging. 

However, I'm going to issue a challenge—and I'm accepting it myself—drawn from my experience with Congo.

In December 2008 I heard an NPR radio report on the horrific civil war in Congo—about the over 5 million people who had been killed, the hundreds of thousands displaced, and the thousands of women and girls raped as a weapon of war.  I was shocked.  I knew I had to do something, and I had to do it right away before I got sidetracked. I did some research and discovered an organization through which I could sponsor a woman who had been brutally raped, so she could receive trauma counseling, medical care and job training.  Immediately I signed up for a 12-month commitment.  I was also prompted to do something that I didn’t quite understand, but I did it anyway.  I decided that for the entire year of 2009 I would buy no clothing and I would donate the money I saved to Congo—which I did. 

 Let me admit that I’m not in a profession where I have to “dress for work,” I have never spent much on clothes anyway, and I actually don’t like to shop.  So, it wasn’t like I was making a huge sacrifice.  Still, I did have a number of international trips and speaking engagements that year, which usually make me nervous enough to do whatever I think might help me feel more adequate or prepared--including "wardrobe enhancement."  But in 2009, no wardrobe enhancement.  No money spent on new clothes.  This did, in fact, give me extra funds to send to Congo. 

But here are other things that happened as a result of that little decision: Every time I thought about something I’d like to buy I thought about Congo.  Every time I watched a TV ad for clothes, I thought about Congo.  Every time I dressed for a speaking engaged and wished I had something new to wear, I thought about Congo.  Thinking about Congo naturally prompted me to pray for Congo.  Praying for Congo inspired me to do additional research into humanitarian interventions in Congo.  Research connected me with World Relief, who was doing amazing on-the-ground work in Congo.  Connecting with WR opened the door for me to travel to Congo and fall in love with Congolese people.  Falling in love with Congolese people….well, you get the idea. 

Not buying new clothes for a year was about a lot more than not buying new clothes for a year. 

So.  Syrian refugees.  I have decided that 2014 would be another good year to forego wardrobe enhancement.  And I pray to God that this little decision will prompt me to greater thought and prayer and action on behalf of Syrian refugees. 

Want to join me?  If you don’t feel a nudge to give to Syrian refugees, I understand.  And if not buying new clothes for a year doesn’t seem like the right challenge for you, fine; I get that.  But might there be something else you could do or stop doing in 2014 that would help your heart and mind be more open to God’s world?  Might there be some other cause or need that beckons you to make a sacrifice or a change so you can be more responsive to that need? 

I’d love to hear what comes to your mind as you consider these questions.  

And, if you feel so lead, I would welcome your contribution.  Write a check to "A2 Ministries," and send to:
A2 Ministries
c/o Lynne Hybels
774 Summer Isle Lane
Barrington, IL 60010


Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Prayer for the Poor in Spirit

 A prayer of Oscar Romero

"No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God--for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God."

God, help me realize how poor
I am.  Poor at loving, poor at discerning,
poor in wisdom, poor at choosing
obedience, poor in generosity,
poor in seeking You.  And so you
come to me.  To me. Emmanuel. 
With your abundance of all I need.
Thank you. Thank you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Six Things I Believe

This paper was presented to a gathering of Palestinian Christians, Israeli Messianic Jews, and American Christians and Messianic Jews on December 5, 2013.

In 2010 I spoke at the first Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem.  I gave a talk called “It’s All About Jesus: A Personal Journey.”  I chose that title because my engagement in the Holy Land was a very personal attempt to follow in the way of Jesus.  I had been spending considerable time in the region and was brokenhearted by the suffering that resulted from ongoing and often violent conflict.  I believed that what Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, needed most was to see Jesus incarnated in his followers in the Holy Land.  I came to Christ at the Checkpoint with the desire to encourage and lift up the Christians in the land.  To stand in solidarity with them.

I had learned by that time that this issue could be theologically controversial.  I was still caught off guard, after my talk, when a Messianic Jewish theologian from Israel told me he believed I had totally violated scripture by talking about the plight of the Palestinians. He reminded me that God had given the land to the Jews, and if the Palestinians were suffering it was because God’s will regarding the land was being violated. If I thought the treatment they were receiving was unjust it was because I didn’t understand God’s purposes in the world.

It was a very awkward and disturbing conversation.

Now, fast-forward two years.  In 2012 I spoke at the second Christ at the Checkpoint conference.  Again that same Messianic theologian approached me afterwards. I assumed we would again have an awkward conversation.  

But instead, he said, “Thank you for that talk.  That was a great talk.  In fact, I think you should give that talk to some of our Jewish congregations.” 

What happened during the two years separating those conversations? 

What happened in me is that a very wise friend—actually a Palestinian Christian—challenged me to spend as much time with Israelis as I had been spending with Palestinians. 

So I began doing that. In subsequent trips I met with secular mainstream Jews.  I met with people in the Israeli peace movement. I ate Shabbat meals with Orthodox families. I talked with Israeli families who’d lost children to the violence of suicide bombers.  I listened to the perspective of Messianic Jews.  Perhaps most significantly, I walked slowly through the halls of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.   

In my second talk in Bethlehem, I described those experiences.

I also said, “I will never bring a group of people to visit Israel and Palestine again, without taking them to Yad Vashem.  How can we begin to understand this place without holding the reality of Jewish history in our conscious awareness?”

So, my heart had been broken on a deeper level for the Jewish people and that came through in my talk—and made a difference to the Jewish theologian.

What also happened during those two years was that the Jewish theologian spent time with Palestinians in the West Bank, and he actually saw the reality of their daily lives.  He said to me, “I still support the State of Israel and believe the Jews have a unique role to play in God’s redemptive plan.  But the kind of injustice I’ve seen in the West Bank, and that you have described in your talk, is unconscionable. It can’t continue. But few Jews actually know what’s going on here.”

That story—of those two very different conversations—is so encouraging to me.  I’ve been similarly encouraged by many people with whom I may disagree on some points of theology, but for whom I have the deepest respect, because they manifest a level of compassion and wisdom that challenges and humbles me. Honestly, when it comes to my engagement in the Holy Land, I’ve been blessed by gracious mentors from many different directions. 

At the same time that I’ve been encouraged, however, I have also been greatly discouraged—especially recently—by the increasing number of blogs and articles and emails written about or to me that question not only my theology, but my motives, my calling, and my intelligence. 

I’ve been called a threat to the state of Israel, a subtle (and therefore extremely dangerous) anti-Semite, a spokesperson for the PLO, and a Christian Palestinianist who traffics in anti-Israel propaganda and historical misinformation. 

And I’ve been described as part of a massive effort in the heart of the evangelical church to lure its members—especially its youth—away from the pro-Israel position God commands to an uncritical and unbiblical support for Palestinians. 

I am not new to the world of criticism. Forty years ago my husband and I started a church in a movie theater where we used drums and guitars in worship.  We were immediately denounced by the evangelical establishment that called us a cult and warned its young people to stay away from us. Since then, we’ve taken plenty of other actions that many people deemed worthy of criticism. Generally we don’t respond to our critics, unless they approach us personally. If we responded to every anonymous or public criticism, we would have little time to do anything else.

But, rightly or wrongly, I feel that I need to respond to the criticism related to my involvement in Israel and Palestine.  I’m choosing to do it in this setting, not because I believe my harshest critics are here; I don’t think they are.  But the recent criticism has challenged me to strip down my message and say very clearly what I mean and what I believe about the conflict. I’m doing it here because this is supposed to be a forum where we can speak honestly, if we do so carefully.

I want to clarify that I’m not speaking on behalf of my husband, my church, the Willow Creek Association, World Vision, The Telos Group, or any other organization with which I might be associated.  I am speaking strictly as an individual.
In the next few minutes I’ll make six “This Is What I Believe” statements.  Each of these statements deserves extensive discussion, which we don’t have time for today. So this is basically an outline, which needs to be developed more fully in another setting.

1. I believe it is possible to be truly pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian at the same time.  On my first meaningful trip to the region both Israeli and Palestinian leaders said, “This is not a zero-sum conflict; in the Holy Land, nobody wins unless everybody wins.  Either Israelis and Palestinians learn to live together, or we will die together.  If you’re here to pick a side, go away.  We don’t need that kind of help.  But if you are willing to figure out how to be a common friend to Israelis and Palestinians, then we welcome you.”

With each trip I make to the region my commitment to that perspective grows.

When I say I’m pro-Israeli, I mean that I support the existence of the State of Israel as a home for the Jewish people.  I want Jews to be able to live there without the fear of rockets falling from Gaza, or suicide bombers attacking civilians, or any other kind of violence against them.  In a world in which anti-Semitism is, tragically, still alive and well, I am thankful for the State of Israel. The fact that I may disagree with some of the policies of the government of Israel doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Israel or anti-Jew, anymore than my disagreement with certain policies of the US government means that I’m anti-US or anti-American.

When I say I’m pro-Palestinian, I mean that I believe the Palestinians have an equally valid right to live in the land and should have the same civil rights that are afforded to Israeli Jewish citizens, whether that’s in one state, two states, or however many states.  I believe Palestinians should be free from military occupation.  They should be able to travel freely between their own communities, engage in commerce, and have easy access to the outside world.

2.  I believe that if we want to engage in the Holy Land as peacemakers, we must recognize that Israelis and Palestinians have very different, and often conflicting, histories and narratives, each of which must be sought out and respectfully heard.  I have been accused of trading the Jewish narrative for a false Palestinian narrative.  I have to say, I just don’t understand that accusation.  How could two groups of people on opposite sides of a violent conflict not have different experiences of what happened, and different memories? 

When you pay attention to both narratives, it’s easy to understand why the Jews would want a homeland and why they feel they have a legitimate claim to the Holy Land based on biblical promises.  And it’s easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they have an equally valid claim on the land based on centuries of residence in the land.  

Certainly, either narrative can be mythologized and distorted and used to demonize the other.  So, part of our task as people seeking peace is to listen with a discerning ear, to study well, to question what we hear, and to learn from a wide variety of people. 

About year ago in Bethlehem I had just such an opportunity.  I attended a meeting of Palestinian women, both Christian and Muslim.  There were two speakers at the meeting.  One was an Israeli Messianic Jew who traveled into Bethlehem, actually breaking the Israeli law that forbade her to go into the West Bank, because she was so determined to meet with these Palestinian women. The other speaker at the event was a Palestinian Christian woman.   Each of these women, in turn, described the typical narrative that is commonly held by her people, and then she critiqued it. 

The Jewish women said, “You won't like what I'm going to say, but this is what most Jews believe.  They believe that Jewish violence in the war of 1948 was purely defensive; Jews were simply defending themselves against Arab aggressors.  But before you get mad at me, I need to tell you that I realize that is not true.  The tragic truth is that in 1948 many Arabs were aggressively forced from their land and/or brutally killed by Jewish fighters.” She said, “Admitting this makes me pretty unpopular with some Israelis, but we must be open to self-criticism.”

The Palestinian woman described some of the hardships of the occupation, but then she said, “We Palestinians tend to think that all our problems are caused by the occupation.  But that’s not true.”  She said, “We must accept culpability for allowing a victim mentality to dominate our actions and for making many poor choices along the way that have hurt us collectively.”  That was hard for some of the Palestinian women to hear, and they discussed it at length.  But at the end of the meeting they asked to meet again so they could continue such discussions.

It was such a privilege to be able to sit in on that meeting.  How admirable, how wise, how courageous, for these women to be willing to listen to the narrative of the other and also to critique their own.  Surely, they are laying a foundation for peace, and modeling that for all of us. 

3. I believe biblical theology leaves room for Jews and Arabs to live together as neighbors and equals in the land. I recognize there are differing theologies of the land, based on differing hermeneutical approaches.  These differing theologies often appear to be at odds when it comes to the question of who rightly belongs in the land that we call holy. 

I hesitate to speak about this because I’m not a theologian, and I can’t enter theological battles.  But I so appreciate a book written by two people who will be speaking here: Salim Munayer (Palestinian Christian) and Lisa Loden (Messianc Jew).  They edited a book called The Land Cries Out, which includes essays by a wide variety of Messianic Jews, Palestinian Christians, and a few international voices.  There are many different theologies of the land presented in this book, but because most of the writers actually live in the land and deal with the complexity of reality, they speak with the careful, nuanced voices that complexity requires.

Some of the essayists make a strong case that the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948 and the ingathering of the Jews to the Holy Land is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy that’s tied to end time events and the second coming of Christ; other essayists have different ways of looking at that.  But running throughout all the chapters of the book was an image of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, living together in the land in peace. 

For some of the writers (including both Palestinian Christians and a number of Messianic Jews), that peace could conceivably be manifested, to a degree anyway, in the two-state solution that is being discussed in current peace talks.  For others, that vision of peace is for a time far in the distance, when Jesus’ Kingdom is here in fullness.

But what strikes me as critically important is that people with different theological perspectives, who are willing to look at reality honestly and think carefully, can envision Jews and Arab living peacefully and equally as brother and sisters. 

4.  I believe that the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza is a violation of human rights; as such, it deeply harms the security, freedom, and dignity of both peoples. The very fact that I use the word “occupation” has led some people to judge me as an enemy of the State of Israel; they have told me the only “occupation” is the one perpetrated by the Arabs who are occupying the land of Judea and Samaria that belongs to the Jews.

I won’t try to argue with the religious logic behind that claim, but I will say that I know many Israeli Jews who believe that the occupation is wrong; that it violates their Judaic ethic; that it breeds hostility and undermines security; and that it has to end. 

Just last week I read an op-ed by an Israeli journalist, an American Jew who moved to Israel as an adult because she loves Israel and wants to live there.  She wrote, “Why can’t ‘pro-Israel’ mean anti-occupation, support for human rights, equality, democracy for all peoples under Israel’s control?  Why should we perpetuate the conflict, by supporting Israeli government policies that perpetuate the conflict?”  She suggests, in fact, that that’s about “as anti-Israel as you can get.”

Some of my critics say that people who talk like the woman I just quoted, are left wing radicals that we as Christians should not be aligning ourselves with, or they’re self-hating Jews who should be silenced.  I can only say that I’ve met some left wing radicals who are also ardent Zionists who seem to be wise and compassionate people and who, in their words, are patriots who are fighting for the soul and security and integrity and future of their country.  I may be wrong, but I respect them and I think their voices ought to be heard in America.

5.  I believe that any violence against civilians, whether carried out militarily or through guerrilla tactics, is illegal under international law, damages prospects for peace, and should be stopped immediately. I want to state that clearly, because my critics have asked why I don’t spend more time talking about Islamic extremists and Hamas and the battle between Muslims and Christians.  Part of my reason is that I think we hear plenty about that.  I have no desire to give more airtime to the voices of violence.  

The other reason is that I’ve traveled to the Holy Land specifically in search of those who are committed to nonviolence, forgiveness and reconciliation.  Interestingly, those voices of peace have come from a variety of directions.  While I believe Jesus is the Prince of Peace whose power will ultimately unleash peace, I have met Muslims and Jews, who may or may not give any conscious consideration to Jesus, but who seem to be living out Jesus’ ethic of peacemaking.  In fact, they often challenge me to take Jesus’ way of living more seriously.  As I get to know them and become friends with them, I pray that the gentle community we create will become a space in which Jesus can do his best work of healing, redeeming, and transforming each of us in the ways we most need.  

6.  While I do pray for the peace process that’s now going on, and I hope there is some positive outcome from that, I acknowledge that our work for peace is not dependent on what happens in official, political peace talks—not because what happens politically is not important, but because what happens on the grassroots level of relationships is even more important.  And we are all positioned perfectly to make a difference there, as we build little enclaves of peaceful relationships from which peace can bubble up.

Several weeks ago, thirty American, Israeli and Palestinian women met for two days in Washington DC.  We were Christians, Muslims and Jews, religious and secular, youngish and oldish—united by our commitment to human rights in the Holy Land.

Some of the Palestinian women had been criticized by their friends in the West Bank for attending a meeting with Israelis, their oppressors.  Some of the Israeli women had been criticized by their friends for attending a meeting with Palestinians, their enemies. Some of the American women showed up at the meeting licking wounds sustained from journalists who wrongly judged our character and motives.

So, there was a rather high degree of emotional "rawness" in the gathering.  While that rawness could have pushed us all to put up protective barriers, it actually had the opposite impact.  There was an unusual level of honest communication and vulnerability, with Israeli and Palestinian women talking about the fears they have for their children and the loneliness they often feel as women committed to peace and reconciliation.  

There was a particularly profound connection between a young Palestinian woman and an older Israeli woman.  They were both psychologists, highly educated and articulate, but neither could quite contain their emotion as they spoke.  

The young Palestinian woman described what it was like to send her teenage son through a checkpoint, knowing that he would feel frustrated and humiliated; she feared that the humiliation, repeated over and over again, would turn him into an angry young man, maybe even a violent young man.  She tried to keep him away from checkpoints, but she couldn’t keep him locked in one little neighborhood.  So she feared for his future.

The older Israeli woman described what it was like knowing that her teenage grandson was an IDF soldier, standing at a checkpoint with a gun in his hand, terrified of using the power of that weapon, and yet terrified not to.  She didn’t want him to become the oppressor, but he was.  She feared what that would do to him, inside. 

The two women agreed:  “We are both victims of this conflict, this occupation, this ongoing tragedy.  We are both victims of the fear that sets our people against each other.”  

Then the Israeli woman spoke out of the wisdom of her years: “But look at us here,” she said, “in this room.  Today we talked about our fear, and instead of fear driving us apart, it has brought us together.  We need to keep talking with one another, deeply and honestly.  We need to use this fear to draw us together.”   I have to tell you there was magic in that room.  I have nothing against men, but I’m not sure that magic would have been felt in a roomful of men. 

The only thing that saddened us was knowing that, despite the wonderful connection we had in Washington DC, once the Israeli and Palestinian women went back home there would be no place for them to meet—except, one of them joked, at a checkpoint.  Interestingly, that idea of “pitching a tent of meeting at a checkpoint” became sort of a metaphor for our remaining conversations that day.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to describe our future meetings.

I'm telling you this because I left that gathering deeply moved by the potential women have to establish healing relationships, and to advocate for human rights in a profoundly personal and captivating way.

One thing we speakers were asked to do in our presentations today is to share what we believe we can do for the sake of peace.  I have concluded that one of the most valuable things I can do is to create more and more connections between Palestinian, Israeli and American women—which will be my focus in the future.

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

My goal will be to remind American and Israeli and Palestinian women that we do, in fact, belong to each another, and together we can do a work for peace that we could not do without each other. 

That is my vision for the future. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Evangelicals and Gender Equality

by Lynne and Bill Hybels

Recent twitter conversations about gender equality (or lack thereof) in evangelical churches reminded me of an article Bill and I wrote some years ago. This article first appeared as a chapter in How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals, ed. Alan Johnson, 2010. In alternate sections of writing, Bill and I highlight our respective experiences related to the role of women in life and ministry.  I hope it will add a helpful voice to the conversation.


When I dropped out of college and traded my business major for a volunteer position as a youth pastor, I was long on ministry passion and short on theological training. All I knew was that young people in the early 70s were staying away from church in droves and missing out on what I believed to be the key to life—here and in eternity. I wanted to present the gospel of Jesus in ways high school kids would listen to and understand and respond to. 

I went where God seemed to be leading—to a conservative, evangelical church in suburban Chicago—and shaped a ministry with a small group of students who were committed to reaching their friends who were far from God. The students were gifted and creative and the ministry grew rapidly. Within a few months, the intimate gathering that began in the church basement had to move upstairs into the sanctuary to accommodate the hundreds of students who were finding a spiritual home in what we called “Son City.” In order to maintain the sense of community that marked the original group, we broke the students into teams according to high school districts. Each team had two student leaders—one male, one female. We chose students who were committed Christians, respected by their peers and who exhibited clear leadership skills. Our approach to leadership was pragmatic; it seemed obvious that we needed male leaders for the guys to relate to and female leaders for the girls to relate to. In actual experience, it was easier to find high school girls who were spiritually mature and skilled in leadership than it was to find guys. From a practical standpoint, it would have been unthinkable not to allow girls to lead.

In 1975, the high school youth ministry “birthed” a church for adults called Willow Creek Community Church. Many of the original student leaders from Son City, by then college students, became the leaders in the new church. Echoing the pattern established during the student ministry years, young men and women served in every ministry throughout the church.  I have to confess that at that point I was not absolutely convinced theologically that including women in leadership was the right thing to do, but neither was I convinced that it was prohibited. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to maintain this pragmatic approach we had established in Son City.   

In the early years of our church, the Willow Creek elders and I were content to proceed on this path, with an open mind theologically and with careful observation of how the Holy Spirit seemed to be operating in our midst. However, the increasing visibility of Willow in secular and Christian media forced us to define and articulate our position. Questions began pouring in about why we “allowed” women in leadership. Did we have a rational defense for our position? In response, we commissioned our elders to do an intensive, eighteen-month scriptural study of the issue of women in leadership. I did not feel it was right to sideline the women whom God seemed to be using while we did this study, so we pursued a parallel track of study and continued observation of how God worked among us through the leadership efforts of both men and women. 

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a Wheaton College professor and Willow Creek elder, led the study. The conclusions of the study were published in 1985 in Bilezikian’s book, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family. In summary, we concluded that before the Fall, men and women related to each other as co-regents, both bearing the image of God and called to join together in caring for the world he had created. Both men and women were responsible to fulfill their ministries of service for God’s glory in the manner God had gifted them and to the degree to which they had been apportioned faith. Tragically, in the Fall, this cooperative relationship between men and women was deeply wounded. We believe God’s gracious plan for redemption is that everything that was broken through sin—including the relationship between men and women—might be restored to the beauty that existed during the first days of Creation. 

Many devout, intelligent Christians disagree with our conclusions. There will come a day when we will all find out the degree to which we have veered from God’s perfect wisdom, in this issue and many others. Until then, I hold this position humbly, yet firmly. I am willing to take the risk of encouraging women to do what I believe scriptures ask of them—to make themselves fully available to the full range of spiritual gifts. 

As a result of that eighteen-month study, we adopted non-gender-based giftedness as one of Willow’s core values.  By the time we took this stand officially, we had hired some male staff members who claimed they were willing to honor women in leadership, but in daily practice they subtly used their influence to denigrate women in leadership positions. Our elders ultimately decided that staff members who could not wholeheartedly serve under women leaders would have to find another place to minister. That decision was necessary to preserve the unity and harmony of our staff. 

Over the last three decades I have had the pleasure of standing on a church stage and introducing women teachers, knowing that the congregation was about to hear a message inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I’ve sat in elder meetings and listened while godly women brought wisdom and discernment to bear on complex issues of church discipline. I’ve bounced ideas back and forth with gifted businesswomen who provided thoughtful perspectives on the fiduciary matters of the church. I’ve listened to church members tell stories of transformation that occurred as they sat under the pastoral care of female small group leaders. I’ve watched women and men stand side by side as they served communion and collected the offering and led worship. 

I’ve seen the sparkle in the eyes of young women as they ponder the various models of godly women they see in our church: faithful wives, devoted mothers, committed friends, grandmothers, single women, businesswomen, stay-at-home moms, professional ministers, active volunteers—women of all ages, marital status and race who use their gifts of hospitality, administration, mercy, encouragement, faith, teaching, leadership—whatever. These are women who know the challenge and joy of making themselves wholly available to God. Women who take their life and their gifts seriously. Women who pray earnestly to discern God’s direction. Women who challenge themselves to learn and grow and equip themselves so they can respond faithfully to God’s calling. 

When I speak at conferences around the world, I am grieved by how often I hear women say, with tears in their eyes, “I can’t find a place to use my gifts in my church. What should I do?” Many of these women have tried for years to fit into the roles traditionally available to women, but they’ve felt frustrated and ineffective. What’s wrong with me? they wonder as they watch other women serve joyfully year after year. Eventually, women like these often give up on the church and commit themselves to volunteer leadership roles in the community or challenging positions in the marketplace. This is a massive and tragic loss to the local church and to the kingdom of God around the world. 

At this point in my life, I can’t imagine doing senior leadership in a church without the full participation of women at every level. I wouldn’t want to make important decisions without the world and life view that women offer. You learn something by being a mom that you don’t learn by being a dad. You experience something as a little girl growing up in church that you don’t experience as a little boy. As church leadership teams, we need to view the church family from the perspective of both genders. We need the cross-pollination of ideas that can shape better ideas for the future. I don’t know how we can do this unless we have both women and men serving in every area of our ministry. 


While Bill and the Willow elders were exploring the theological issues related to women in leadership and determining how best to live out non-gender-based giftedness in the daily life of the church, I was feeling quite removed from the whole issue. I had never wanted to lead or teach—in the church or anywhere else. I went to college to become a social worker, but I was happy to give up a career in social work to become a pastor’s wife. I believed then, as I do now, that Christians have the extraordinary privilege of being part of God’s plan to redeem and restore everything that’s been broken by sin in God’s beautiful world. That includes fighting for justice for the poor and freedom for the oppressed. I dreamed of being part of a church that responded to the very real problems in our community and in the world. As a young woman of twenty-three, I had no clue what my gifts and strengths were, or how I could most effectively engage in God’s redemptive plan, but I had plenty of commitment. I was willing to do whatever God asked, whatever was needed.

When we first started Willow, I participated in the music ministry, playing the flute in our band, and I loved that. I also wrote articles in church publications. I was a young mom so I started a ministry for other young moms.

But as the church grew and Bill got busier, I had to pick up virtually all of the time-consuming practicalities of keeping a home and family going, which left me little time for anything else. And there were more miscellaneous demands that began to come my way—people to see, calls to make, meetings to schedule, gatherings to plan. Eventually, my life became focused on household chores, secretarial tasks, administrative details and entertaining.

For some women, that would have been a dream life. But I increasingly found myself hating life. And I really didn’t know why. I concluded I was just a selfish, demanding person who was not willing to do what God had asked me to do. I tried to change my attitude, but I grew increasingly miserable. The more unhappy I became the more guilty I felt and the more I confessed my sin. For years I was convinced that I was a really bad Christian. Finally I went to see a Christian counselor, hoping she could help me develop a more godly attitude. 

Shortly after starting counseling, my counselor asked me why I looked at the world through Bill’s eyes. “I don’t,” I said, and then spent the next year proving that I did. For months I could not answer the counselor’s questions without voicing Bill’s perceptions, values, insights and opinions. It would have been comic if it weren’t so sad. I knew far more about Bill than I knew about myself. I knew his gifts and temperament, his strengths and weaknesses, his needs and desires, his passion and calling, his dreams, his recreational interests, his long-range goals, his preferred spiritual disciplines. But I knew none of that about myself. 

There were many reasons why that was true. Certainly, a main one was that Bill’s ministry was so demanding and so fruitful that I gradually slid into believing that my life couldn’t possibly matter as much as his did. What was important was to keep Bill going, to make his life manageable and facilitate his ministry. 

Bill didn’t ask for that, but it’s what I perceived as right. I grew up in a time and place in which the underlying attitude was that a woman’s highest calling was to support her husband. If she didn’t have a husband, there was probably some other man somewhere who needed her help or her service. 

I would never have voiced that perspective—and certainly that was not the message I heard at Willow—but I’ve since discovered that mindsets we adopt as children can impact our behavior long after our adult minds have repudiated them. While I wouldn’t have said that my life didn’t matter, I ended up living as if it didn’t. 

I want to clarify something here. It wasn’t that I wanted a full-time career or ministry outside the home. I celebrate women who are able to do that, but with Bill’s work and travel schedule, even in a best-case scenario, that wouldn’t have been realistic for us—and that was truly okay with me. However, I couldn’t shake the longing I had to discover and use my true gifts consistently in some way.

Now and then I got involved in some form of ministry I really loved. I served in our first ministry partnerships in Chicago, and went on some of our first serving trips to Latin America. I lived in an affluent suburb, but sitting in a squalid shanty town in Mexico passing out canned peaches to little barefoot kids was really where I felt most at home and most alive. 

But whenever my involvement in ministry inconvenienced Bill or the kids, or in any way kept me from living up to other people’s expectations—which it always did—then I would withdraw, back out, quit. And when I felt frustrated or angry about having to do that, I would confess my sin and my demanding spirit. 

I thought that was the right thing to do. I thought that denying my gifts and passions was part of what it meant to “die to self,” as scripture asks us to do. I didn’t realize there is a difference between dying to self-will and to sin, and dying to the self that God created and called me to be. 

It’s true we need to live according to the ebb and flow of seasons, and our movement between ministry within the home and beyond it must shift according to those seasons. I think that’s true for both men and women, both fathers and mothers. And yes, there is a necessary sacrifice—a suffering even—that is part of the life of every servant of Jesus. We need to ask for grace and strength to endure those things. 

But, if year after year our lives are consumed with what we’ve not been gifted or impassioned to do, and we never have a chance to slide into the sweet spot of giving out of true self, we will pay a higher price in ministry than God is probably asking us to pay. 

As my counselor helped me look more honestly at my natural abilities and spiritual gifts, I realized why I was so frustrated. By nature, I am not a task-oriented person; I am not good at handling details or complexity; and I do not have one shred of the gifts of administration, helps, or hospitality. So for years, in deference to the goal of supporting Bill, I had shaped a life around gifts I didn’t have and I completely neglected the ones I did have.

My true gifts are encouragement, mercy and discernment, so I would much rather deal with people than with tasks. My passion is to lift up those who are oppressed, which is why I always gravitated to Willow’s ministries with the poor. I also loved dealing with words and ideas and felt called to write, but writing requires time and solitude, neither of which I had. 

Obviously, at that point I should have made changes in my life, but I didn’t. Oh, I made half-hearted stabs at it—I talked to Bill and the kids about our need to handle responsibilities at home more equitably. I repeatedly considered getting administrative help for the church-related details that took so much of my time. But I didn’t do it. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to make the choices necessary to do that. Again, old mindsets die hard. It was years before I learned to value myself enough to believe that God’s call on my life was something I had to take seriously. It took me years to realize it wasn’t a sin to inconvenience other people—even my husband!

What’s so sad is that when women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins. 

Bill didn’t win. He married me, in part, because he saw in me a level of confidence, competence and energy for life and ministry that he resonated with and fell in love with. But decades of denying my true gifts and passions drained me of the very vitality he was initially drawn to and left me feeling incompetent and insecure—not at all the person he had hoped to share his life with. So he didn’t win. 

Our kids didn’t win. They got a devoted, conscientious mother, who picked up after them and made sure they got their homework done. They got a mother who adored them, prayed for them, always wanted the best for them. But they didn’t get a happy mother. They didn’t get a fun mother. They didn’t get to see, up close and personal, a woman fully alive in God. 

My son needed to see that. But even more, my daughter needed to see that. She needed to see me operating out of strength and passion, and I couldn’t give her that. Fortunately, there were other women in her life who modeled that for her. And I am grateful that as I have chosen to lean into my own true life, I am now able to give her something I couldn’t give her before. But if I had it to do over, I would not have waited so long. I would not have robbed her of the model of an authentically alive mother. 

I also have to say my church did not win. Yes, my church needed Bill, and his gifts and his passion. He is an extraordinary pastor, and I never wanted to hinder what he could offer to our church. But our church needed me too, not because I am anything special, but just because that’s where God put me, and he put me there for a reason. There was a perspective and a dream—there were words and influence—that I believe God wanted me to offer to my church. But I didn’t show up. I didn’t value what I had to offer enough to actually offer it. 

Most women I know are really good at giving. And we should be good at giving. We follow in the way of a Savior who gave himself for the world. But Jesus didn’t give himself indiscriminately; he didn’t give people everything they wanted. Jesus knew his calling from the Father; he knew the unique shape of the redemptive gift he was to give to the world. I believe that too many women give bits and pieces of themselves away, indiscriminately, for years and years, and never have the time or energy to discern their unique calling from God, never have the time or energy to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result is a lot of good-hearted, devout Christian women who are exhausted and depressed. 


It’s not easy for me to read Lynne’s words. There I was, committed to creating a church environment in which women were free to use their God-given gifts, and yet my own wife was frustrated to the point of despair. Obviously, Lynne had internal issues related her to old mindsets. But I certainly didn’t make it easy for her to break out of the old pattern and make new choices. Everything about my lifestyle supported the traditional model of marriage and pushed her into a subordinate role. 

Starting a church proved to be far harder than I had anticipated, so I was insanely busy, and the level of responsibility I carried at a young age produced continual and extreme stress. Anytime Lynne asked me to do even a small thing to help her, I felt burdened and impatient. The fact that I was earning an income to support our family, while her efforts at home as well as in ministry were always unpaid, contributed to devaluing her work. And, of course, because of my visible ministry, I was applauded and honored. Lynne heard again and again how powerfully God was using me. “It’s a good thing Bill has you serving him behind the scenes,” was a comment that repeatedly made her ask, What’s wrong with me? Why am I not content? 

Clearly, freeing women to live out their God-given calling means more than simply rethinking theological views of women in leadership. It means valuing the contributions of all women, whatever their gifts. And clearly, it has implications for marriage. It means that a husband and a wife each bring their dreams, their passions and their gifts to the table and say, “How can we shape a life together that will honor the calling that we each feel from God?” Doing that requires mutual respect and mutual compromise and is extremely challenging. But God will be glorified when husbands and wives work together to honor and develop each other’s gifts and callings.

I love watching my children’s generation deal with this in ways Lynne and I couldn’t even imagine when we were newly married. My daughter is a writer and my son-in-law is a musician; they are both committed to their sons, committed to ministry and committed to helping one another nurture and use their creative gifts. The negotiations that make their marriage work are complex, but the result is an authentic sense of partnership in parenthood, homemaking, personal development and ministry. 

The reality is that it’s easy to talk about this, but when it comes to execution and implementation, usually the guy just gets his way and the woman’s ministry gets squished. We men have to make arrangements and agreements in marriage to make it work for both spouses. 


I am writing this section of this chapter in a hotel room in a country in the Middle East where women, as I was told by a young man last night, “exist primarily for the amusement of men.” The Christian husband who spoke in those terms, did so as a lament, grieved by the pain his young wife experienced growing up, and by the pain pervasive in the lives of his countrywomen. I’m certainly not equating the role of women in Western evangelical churches with the plight of women in countries where they are viewed solely as objects for men’s pleasure. But being in this environment heightens my sensitivity to any situation in which women are not valued for the fullness of who they are, and are not encouraged to take seriously the full range of their potential contribution to the work of God in this desperately needy world. 

Earlier this week I sat at a long table with thirty young women who feel called to begin a ministry for poor women in the rural villages in their country. “We feel strongly that God is calling us to do this,” they said, “but we are so afraid. We’ve never been taught how to start a ministry or how to lead. But we can’t say no to God! Can you help us?” Interestingly, it was a male church leader who challenged these young women to start this ministry. “They’re such strong, godly, gifted young women,” he told me. “But we [church leaders] have never encouraged them, never challenged them, never inspired them. God has convicted me about this. We’ve been wrong. Our church needs these women. Our country needs these women. We need to empower them to lead.” 

Several days after meeting with the young women, I offered the morning message at a church in the same country. I didn’t ask to do that. Truth be told, I tried to get out of it; I agreed to do it only because of my deep respect and affection for the dear pastor of that church, who works against great odds to teach and model the love of Jesus in a very difficult situation. I decided do anything—even stand in front of his congregation and speak through an interpreter—to encourage this incredible servant of God in his ministry. I stood before him and his congregation humbly, overwhelmed by the responsibility of providing a biblical word of encouragement. 

Some time ago I attended a meeting of American church leaders gathered to discuss the decline of indigenous Christian churches in the Holy Land. I was one of few women in the room and had agreed to attend the group merely as a listener and learner. But I was not allowed to remain silent; because of recent meetings I had enjoyed with Arab Christians in Jordan, Egypt and the West Bank, my opinion was sought. Fighting the sense of intimidation I felt in a room filled with male scholars, I reminded myself of early Christian women like Junia, Priscilla, Phoebe and the unnamed women described in Romans and Philippians who labored beside Paul as missionaries for the early church. In a male-dominated culture, the gospel of Jesus freed them—and the spirit of God called them—to speak and lead and serve in order to help spread the Kingdom of God on earth. In their spirit of obedience, I sat in that gathering of men and spoke the truth of what I’d recently seen and heard, describing the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. I didn’t seek the position of leadership and influence that I have, and I certainly don’t feel adequate to it, but I believe I must be faithful and diligent in using it as God seems to be leading. 


It’s ironic that in many ways Lynne and I are reversing roles. While I am logging less miles on airplanes than at any point during my adult life, Lynne is racking up frequent flyer miles with a vengeance. While I feel increasingly called to devote the majority of my time to the Willow home front, Lynne’s opportunities are taking her well beyond the walls of Willow and beyond the borders of the US. 

Through Lynne, I’ve had the opportunity to learn two important lessons. First, that women who are freed and challenged and empowered to develop their gifts and pursue the passion planted in them by God do not become less loving wives or less devoted parents. On the contrary, they bring a greater level of joy and energy to every dimension of life. I can honestly say that now, during Lynne’s most intense and authentic ministry involvement, she is also offering her very best self as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter and friend. I only regret that I did not help her discover this way of life years ago. 

The second thing I’ve learned is that women are the greatest untapped resource in the world (to quote Lynne!). While it’s dangerous to divide men and woman into different categories of leadership based on gender differences, I do think that in the broad sweep women tend to be very good in collaboration and inclusiveness. They tend to look at leadership as a team sport and invite people into the process of shaping a vision. Women—broad strokes again—tend to breathe life into an organization through encouragement and celebration of small victories along the way. How desperately every organization on earth—from churches to schools to businesses to governments—need those qualities represented in leadership today. 

This places a heavy burden on those of us responsible for developing leaders and creating leadership teams. I want to end this chapter with four practical suggestions for how we can do that.

1. We need to be proactive about adding women to leadership teams. Generally speaking, it’s easier to find qualified men because men have been given more opportunities to develop the necessary skills and experience. More men than women have been put in the leadership development pipeline. So naturally, when it comes time to reach for an emerging leader, there will likely be ten potential men for every woman who’s been adequately prepared. This means we must be driven by values as opposed to expediency. If we just go for the quick, easy hire we’re going to perpetuate this gender inequality indefinitely. This isn’t about tokenism. This is about getting the best leadership team for the organization. Part of that means having the broader perspective that gender diversity brings. Women who are new to leadership and/or teaching may require more coaching from senior leadership, but providing this coaching is a small price to pay for the benefits godly, gifted women bring to leadership and teaching teams. 

2. We need to be very intentional in choosing the first woman (or women) we invite into significant roles. In the early days of the student ministry, we were so blessed to have extraordinary young women with stellar character, relational maturity and strong leadership gifts. They weren’t banner-wavers and they weren’t trying to shove anything into anyone’s face. All they wanted to do was serve God with the gifts that God had given them. I very carefully selected the young women I felt would be most trustworthy with additional responsibility; I observed their leadership and then I added responsibilities when it seemed appropriate. I wanted to make sure I set them up to win because I knew people were watching them very carefully. I knew they were carrying the weight of paradigm-breakers. 

I once talked with a pastor who went through a lengthy study process and became convinced that he needed to take a non-gendered view of giftedness and open the arena of leadership to women. Unfortunately, he didn’t apply the level of due diligence to his hiring process that he had applied to his study process. The first woman he chose to put in a leadership position turned out to be an unwise choice. Although she appeared to qualify in terms of giftedness and spiritual commitment, in practice she was emotionally immature, exhibited limited relational intelligence and operated with an intimidating level of aggressive behavior. While some people were quick to say, “See, that’s what happens when you put a woman in leadership,” I don’t believe it was a theological problem or a gender issue. It was a matter of character and immaturity. 

3.  When we see women who are obviously not living up to their potential, we need to challenge them.  I’ve seen many women “play small”—hold back in meetings or turn down responsibilities—because they don’t want to be perceived as ambitious or power hungry. Whether that flows from false humility, fear, or pride, it’s not right. It’s wasteful to the Kingdom. If this were just about a corporation making a little less money because women aren’t using their skills and abilities adequately, that wouldn’t upset me.  But we’re trying to change the world! In the church, anytime anyone—male or female—shrinks back from doing what God is calling them to do, the Kingdom is losing. I grieve that loss from a Kingdom perspective. Women need to be given the freedom to show up, and they need to have the courage to show up. 

4. We need to commit ourselves to diligent study on this issue. Dealing with difficult issues is a matter of integrity. It’s worth it to wrestle with these issues because so much is at stake. Many gifted women turn to the academic world, to the corporate world, to the arts world, because the church does not give them the opportunity to serve as fully as they believe God has both gifted and called them. 

If you ultimately land on a more limited view of the role of women in church life, are you at least giving women every possible opportunity within the bounds of your theological framework? To the extent that you can, are you cheering them on in their life and ministry? 


Some years ago I spoke at a conference in Germany.  For four days 180 Christian women leaders from all over Europe, many from Eastern European countries, gathered together to encourage one another in their various ministries. 

Day after day I was humbled by these women and by their stories. The week started with a pastor’s wife from Serbia telling us what it is like to minister in a setting where every night when you go to bed, you say to your husband and children, “I’ll see you in the morning, or I’ll see you in heaven.”  She said prayer takes on a whole new meaning when you’re lying in bed listening to bombs fall.  One evening two women from countries then at war with one another, publicly and personally apologized for the devastation created by their respective militaries and prayed together for their national leaders and for victims of war from both countries.   

All week long I heard similar stories from women in Rumania and Russia and Albania—inspiring stories of women pushing back the forces of evil—through heading up networks of prayer groups and neighborhood Bible studies, working in counseling centers, publishing Bibles, starting small businesses to assist single mothers. You name it, they were doing it.

The last day of the conference was an outreach event open to any women in Europe. The women who had planned this outreach had virtually no experience in conference planning; they just sensed this call from God to try to impact the women of their country. A year earlier, when they had called me to ask if I would speak at the closing event, they said, “We’re hoping for 2,000 women.” 

In the months following, they periodically sent me update faxes.  As the months went on, the conference registrations grew from 2000 to 4000 to 6000 to 8000.  They said, “We don’t know what’s going on.  We can’t figure this out.” They ultimately ended up in the largest facility in the center of the banking district of Frankfurt, with 10,000 women! 

One particularly poignant moment was when one woman from each of the 30 countries represented at the conference walked down the middle aisle of that huge conference center carrying the flag of her country. They all walked up on the stage and planted these flags around the foot of a gigantic cross, then knelt together in prayer.  

When it was my turn to speak, I began by saying that the thing I love about women is their intrinsic drive to break down barriers.  With political leaders more concerned about personal ambition than the common good, corporate leaders captive to greed, and countries across the globe at war—here were 10,000 women saying, “There is another way.  And it starts with us together at the foot of the cross.”  

I spoke that day about our need as women to break through the fears that keep us from living out the adventure that God has in mind for us, that keep us from becoming the difference-makers he intends us to be.  I ended with the story of Esther, that Old Testament heroine who literally put her life on the line to follow her call from God.  When she wavered because of her fear, a wise person challenged her with these words, “How do you know that you have not been created for such a time as this?”  

I believe that is a powerful call to women today.  This world needs us to show up with the fullness of what we have to offer.  It needs our strength. It needs our vulnerability. It needs our gifts.  It needs our compassion.  It needs our prayers.  It needs our action.  It needs our humility. It needs our leadership. 

May our churches become places where men and women alike receive the challenge, the encouragement, and the equipping necessary to be faithful agents of God’s redemptive plan.  


Saturday, October 19, 2013

One More Reason to Love (And Buy) Punjammies

For years I've been a Punjammies fan.  And yes, I've been known to wear my punjammies in public with a cute t-shirt and flip-flops.  What's not to like about bold prints, comfy styles, and supporting women who have been freed from slavery?  I just received the email update below from "The International Princess Project" that produces Punjammies.  There's bad news in this report: more people are currently enslaved than previous estimates had indicated.  But there's good news too: "International Princess" is making a difference right where the incidence of slavery is the highest.  My friend, John Richmond, quoted below, is a man of deep faith and professional expertise.  You can trust his  recommendation of "International Princess."  Hope you enjoy your pumjammies as much as I enjoy mine! 


Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime worldwide. More people each year are becoming aware of this reality, but rarely do we see such gut-wrenching evidence as in the first-ever Global Slavery Index, released by The Walk Free Foundation just this week. The Index reports: "The country with the largest estimated number of people in modern slavery is INDIA, estimated to having between 13,300,000 and 14,700,000 people enslaved." It also estimates that there are 29.8 million individuals trapped in the ravages of slavery around the world, higher than researcher Kevin Bales' widely accepted estimate of 27 million.

This means nearly half of all the girls, boys, women, and men enslaved in the world are in India, where International Princess™ Project and our partners work passionately to bring freedom to those in bondage.

We are right in the middle of the fight.

My friend, human trafficking expert, and former Director of International Justice Mission's work in India, John Richmond says, "International Princess™ Project is right at the epicenter…at ground zero" of this global atrocity."

I shudder to think of the day-to-day realities of those enslaved around the world. As clear as if it were yesterday, I remember the faces I saw as I walked through red light districts in India. Through air filled with hopelessness and despair, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet as the children of these young girls and women ran through their playground—a brothel.

Thankfully, there is another story as well. I have looked into the eyes of those whose freedom has been restored, and I have seen them sparkle. I have heard the laughter of girls and ladies whose lives have been redeemed. I have touched the faces of young children who now play in a safe community. And I have sat in the homes of families once caught in generational slavery whose freedom has ended the cycle!

To every one of you who has purchased PUNJAMMIES™: YOU have helped make this change possible. To every person who has donated to and partnered with International Princess™ Project, THANK YOU for helping to bring freedom to those once enslaved.

These new Global Slavery Index statistics only add fuel to the fire of our commitment, and we invite you to join us as we continue to fight human trafficking, end modern slavery, and bring the light of hope to those in darkness.

For Freedom,

Julie Wood

Executive Director

In partnership with the International Princess Project, we have the opportunity to:  
  • Advocate for women enslaved in prostitution. 
  • Restore their broken lives.
  • Empower them to live free.  

You can check out Punjammies here!
Or donate to International Princess Project here

Helpful Holiday Hint:  My first punjammies were a Christmas gift from my daughter!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Prayer for Syria

As I think of the tragedy of Syria, where millions of Christians and Muslims are suffering today, I feel compelled to take the action of prayer and ask others to join me.  This prayer was written by a wise and compassionate friend. 

"Living God, our world is brokenhearted by the atrocity of chemical weapons being used in Syria, killing children, women, and men indiscriminately. And our hearts grieve no less for the many tens of thousands killed and millions displaced by the civil war there. We pray for peace, God of peace: not just the cessation of conflict, but a new day of reconciliation, civility, and collaboration for the common good ... in the Middle East, and around the world.

We also pray for the United States, whose leaders are contemplating military strikes in retaliation for the atrocity, to punish those who ordered it, and to deter those who might plan similar atrocities in the future. We acknowledge that our leaders are trying to do what is needed and right, based on the understanding they have. But on this day, we ask for greater wisdom, greater understanding, greater foresight, so that we can find new, better, and non-violent ways to achieve lasting and profound peace.

We know from bitter experience that ‘our’ violence promises to end ‘their’ violence, but in the end, it only intensifies vicious cycles of offense and revenge. We also know from bitter experience that inaction and passivity also aid and abet evil. So on this day, we seek your wisdom, for a better way forward ... a new way that we do not yet see.

We Americans sense that our nation is on the verge of rethinking its role in the world. In this moment of rethinking, we also pray for guidance. Help us learn from past mistakes, and help us imagine better possibilities for the future. In this time of political tension and turmoil - not only between, but within our political parties - may your Spirit move like the wind and give us a fresh vision of what can be, so that we do not repeat old, tired, and destructive cycles of what has been. May the wisdom and ways of Jesus, upon whom your Spirit descended like a dove, guide us now - to a wise and responsible role as good neighbors in our world. Amen.’

Written by Brian McLaren