Women’s Global Issues: Challenges for Women in Developing Nations
*This message was transcribed from Carolyn McCulley's True Woman '10--Chattanooga message.
Carolyn McCulley: My name is Carolyn McCulley, and this afternoon’s message is called Women’s Global Issues: Challenges for Women in Developing Nations.
Now you all are going to be guinea pigs with me. This is the first time I’ve given this message, and as much as I adored Show and Tell when I was in kindergarten, I’ve never incorporated Show and Tell into any of my messages before. Though I am professionally a film maker, I have studiously avoided using Power Point while I speak because it’s kind of like chewing gum and walking. I can only do one thing at a time. (Laughter)
So if you want me to stand on the platform, not fall off, and talk, that’s all I’m going to do. But today we’re going to zoom right past that and we’re going to not only just use projection equipment, we’re going to look at about six different film clips in different formats, etc. So I will ask you in advance for your patience as I’m up here fumbling, and if we have any technical difficulties, I can assure you it’s my fault and not our wonderful technical team who has been serving us today.
Well, I became interested in this topic for two reasons: One, because I didn’t become a Christian until I was 30. I obtained my degrees in journalism and in women’s studies, and in that time, while I was a practicing feminist, I had a real chip on my shoulder about female abuse. I personally have never been abused. My father is a loving father. My friends have been great, but I very much had this chip on my shoulder, this offense about women being oppressed and abused.
It wasn’t until I had the privilege of starting to travel outside this country that I began to realize, though there is real abuse and oppression here—and I am not minimizing it in our nation at all—but what I have seen in traveling to developing nations makes me want to come back and kiss the ground in our nation.
After a number of years, I was privileged to be able to write two books—the first one on singleness and the second one was the book I wanted to have as a new believer. It was a book that explained to me the history of the feminist movement, in broad terms, in our nation specifically, and then how in the world do you reconcile that with the message of biblical womanhood.
As I was working on it, as I was testing little paragraphs, etc. and putting it up on my blog, as the book’s been published, and as I’ve gone on to speak, I will routinely receive one criticism, which is that I am promoting and condoning abuse of women by promoting the biblical concept of submission.
Just for the record, not only did I include a statement about abuse in the back of Radical Womanhood, I would be the first one to haul out of a situation if I knew you were being abused, and I’d be the first one to get in the man’s face and confront him. I do not condone or tolerate abuse. It is sin, and that’s where we have great hope in the gospel.
But what I want to talk about today, in setting that record straight, is also for us to understand what’s happening to women around the world. While we do, like I said earlier, face some issues just due to the fact that we live in a sinful and fallen world in this nation, it is nothing like what some of our sisters in the Lord and other women around the world experience.
So I went on to develop a career in documentary filmmaking. I launched my own company last year, so here, today, I get to do this marriage of my interests in women’s ministry and in films. Part of the reason why I wanted to do this is because there was this book that was published last Fall. If you all are familiar with it, it’s called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
Now, if you have an outline, you’ll see that listed there and all the materials, ministries, books, and films I’m referencing are there. So that should be helpful for you.
I read this book with great fascination because this is a book by a husband and wife couple, Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, who have spent years documenting abuse of women around the world. It’s not written from a particularly Christian perspective, but I believe it’s also fair, as far as I know, in its representation of the issues and is fair to the work Christians are doing around the world.
I recommend this to you because I think one of the things we have to be aware of in the fullness of the biblical womanhood message is the fact that Proverbs 31 tells us we have to reach out our hands to the poor and needy, and we have to serve them. I think that when you realize how Americans in particular, no slant to any of our Canadian friends who might be here with us today, but Americans in particular are viewed as walking banks when we come into other nations because of our wealth and our privilege.
When you realize how much we have taken for granted simply because it’s our norm—this is our normal—and then you go to another nation, you realize, “Wow. People are really working with very little.” It makes me aware that one day I’m going to stand before the Lord and give an account for the money He gave to me.
It’s kind of funny when we look into passages that reference the rich in Scripture how we always think of other people as being the really wealthy people. But statistically, we are the rich in the world. I can’t remember the statistics off the top of my head, but it was something along the lines of . . . I heard somebody say once that if you go to bed without being hungry, if you’ve had enough food during the day, you’re in the top 10% of the world’s wealthy. If you have a job, you’re in the top 7%; if you have a roof over your head that you own or at least own in conjunction with your bank, you’re in the top 5%; if you own a car, etc.
I can remember, now, like I said, I’m doing this off the top of my head, and I’m sure those numbers are a little bit off. But when I heard that in a sermon, I remember when I bought my house, I thought, “I am now in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people,” and yet I don’t particularly feel very wealthy. In my county where I live right outside Washington, D.C., I am below the median in income. I always qualify for those low-income housing things, and I always think, “How? I’m fine. I have everything I need.”
But that makes me pay attention because those verses are for me. I’m going to accountable with the privilege, the wealth, the access, the influence—everything that God’s given to me. And I’m not talking to you from a sense of trying to guilt you or promote a social gospel or anything. I’m really talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I think when it comes in the arena of biblical womanhood, we have to be very clear, as we talk to people both inside and outside of the camp, where we begin.
Now we’ve heard this message, but just for the sake of being clear here, there is fundamental equality between men and women found in Scripture, and it starts on the first page. It starts with Genesis 1:27 where it’s clear that we are made equally to be image bearers of God. It says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
We also find another form of equality in Genesis 3 and again in Romans 3, talking about being equal in sharing in the fall of man and equal, as Romans 3:22-25 says, we’re equally sinful and equally in need of a Savior. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.”
So we are equally image bearers; we are equally in need of a Savior, and because of our Savior’s work on the cross, we are equally co-heirs in the fact that Romans 8:17 says, “We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” So in the grace of life, we receive equally from Jesus as well.
But the issue is we don’t often start with the gospel when talking to women about the issues of roles because apart from understanding the gospel, when you start talking to women in particular about the issues of roles, we sound like we’re from another planet or from another century or whatever slam people want to give you.
If you don’t understand that the gospel fundamentally changes all the rules, it’s no longer about you but about the fact that you are His, the fact that He has the authority to assign you a role to play in His agenda to advance the gospel and the kingdom of Christ, it doesn’t make any sense. But often we speak to the culture, bypassing the gospel message, and so we do sound like we’re throwbacks.
I just want to be clear in that sense that I understand, and I understand it from the perspective of looking in at us before I was a Christian, and being inside the camp. There are times when it seems like we can promote a role without remembering to promote the message of equality first.
So in starting there, what I want to talk about here is the fact that roles aren’t to be confused with worth. Our culture does this all the time. You are your role, but Scripture tells us that we’re to be like our Master who was a servant to all and commanded us to be servants.
In fact, sometimes even that servant language can be so off-putting. I have a friend who is an African-American, and she’s been living with a white family for a number of years, just really close, been with the family for, like 20 years, just kind of like their first adopted child. Sometimes the Christian lingo can be so funny.
One day her aunt called and the mother in the household answered and said, “Oh, we just love having Theresa live with us. She is such a servant.” It’s like—blah. (Laughter) Can you imagine? Her aunt was like, “Huh? Is that why you have her living with you?”
So I’m aware of the fact that not only do we have ideas that sometimes seem so difficult to bridge into the culture, sometimes our own lingo can shoot us down.
The reason why I wanted to start there is because we’re going to look at some issues where women suffer around the world—women and girls alike—simply for being female. That contradicts Scripture. What I really want to urge you to do is to consider how important it is for us to be activists and the best possible gospel-soaked, local-church-based sense of the word, to be activists for the women who are oppressed simply for being made women in the image of God. That is a general grace that is given to all of us whether we’re believers or not. As we talk about biblical womanhood, I think it’s very important that this be part of our platform.
Now, in going back to this book, Half the Sky which was published in September, it’s already in its 20th printing. It’s a blockbuster seller, and, as an author, I’m like, “Wow! That must be great to see your book printed so many times like that.” It’s very influential, and deservedly so, in a lot of cases. I don’t have any quibble with this book. I recommend it to you for information. But what I want to do today is stand on the work that these authors have done and then expand our vision a little bit.
What they’re looking at is something called the girl effect. What they write is,
The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years precisely because they were girls than men were killed in all of the wars of the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gender side in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all of the genocides of the 20th century.
Now, the title comes from a Chinese proverb that says “women hold up half the sky.” That’s where that comes from. It introduces readers to many women around the world with hopeful anecdotes—women who have suffered terribly but have stood up to injustice. So, while it could seem like a grim book, it’s actually rather hopeful.
They believe that this cause, the cause of helping oppressed women around the world, is going to be the preeminent cause of the 21st century. It offers a solution as well. It says, “The best way to fight poverty is to empower women and girls in developing nations through micro-finance and social entrepreneurial programs, etc.” They believe that by investing women and girls, that’s the way to eradicate long-term poverty in nations around the world.
Now, I think it is important to work hard to eradicate poverty, but I also think our Savior, our Master gave us a good perspective because He said, “You’re always going to have the poor with you.” Why? Because we live in a fallen world.
So the goal of eradicating poverty may not be possible in our strength simply due to the fact that we live in a fallen world. It is entirely possible in His strength, but I think when it’s done, it will be done because He has returned and remade the world in His glorious image.
That doesn’t mean we should ever stop serving our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate, though. I’m just offering that perspective. It’s a biblical perspective on where do we set our hopes. I think it is good to fight poverty, but I think we also need to fight poverty with a biblical perspective.
So, as they talk about the girl effect, this is what they write:
There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank, to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, to aid organizations like C.A.R.E., that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women.
The world is awakening to a powerful truth. Women and girls aren’t the problem; they are the solution. Why do micro-finance organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular paychecks? One reason involves a dirty little secret of global poverty. Some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes, but also by unwise spending by the poor, especially by men.
Surprisingly, frequently we come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar spending $5 each week.
Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately ten times as much, almost 20% of their incomes on average, on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks, and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children, which is only 20%. If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries.
Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries. Moreover, one way to reallocate family expenditures in this way is to put more money in the hands of women. A series of studies has found that when women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine, and housing, and consequently, children are healthier.
Now, I don’t dispute the facts of their finding, but I will tell you something I learned that was very important as I was writing my book Radical Womanhood. That is the fact that God has given all of us the ability to observe situations, and more often than not, people of any kind of motivations or backgrounds can accurately observe a situation, but it’s your worldview that determines how you interpret what you see in front of you. And your worldview and your interpretation is what then motivates your solution to the issue.
So here we have well-meaning people who are walking in on some very grim situations. They see greed; they see selfishness; they see lust; they see an unbiblical worldview, and they say, “Oh, these men are the problem. Give the money to the women.”
Now this was a very similar situation 200 years ago in our own nation. In fact, many of the issues we’ll look at today were problems in 19th century America in particular, and they have been overcome in large measure. Let me be clear, too, though the feminist movement has, in a broad sense, moved us very much away from a biblical theology into a pagan theology, there were some helpful side benefits along the way.
We need to be intellectually honest here. I’m personally glad I can vote and own property and be paid the same wage and have protections over rape and everything else. So I’m not saying, “Throw the baby out with the bath water.” I’m just saying, again, in the same situation, you can walk in and see where it appears that women are oppressed, and you only blame one party without seeing it in a biblical sense, which is everyone in this situation needs the gospel.
So my one critique of this book is, and the movement that’s come out of it, is, if you go into these nations where men have historically oppressed women, and you say, “You men are not worthy. You are not reliable. We are now going to take all of the aid and push it over here toward the women,” you’re not fundamentally solving the problem. You are helping people who do need help, but you are exacerbating an ongoing issue.
There is no reconciliation and repentance going on there. You’re not pushing men to repent of their abuse, to change their ways. You’re simply allocating resources differently, and I think that will set up some of the same path and problems that we’ve experienced in our nation.
So, what I want to do is stir you all up today to think about the Half the Sky movement concept and reshaping it in a biblical grid because some of the examples they used here, or the most successful social
entrepreneurs are those who go in to a culture, and they live among the people that they are working with. They get to know their cultures; they speak to them. They are missionaries, in a sense.
What we need to understand is embodying Christ through His structure of the local church into some of these cultures and helping the churches who are there to be in their communities to help solve situations is the way that we can bring a gospel-based system to helping oppressed women around the world.
Jumping ahead of myself, I’m never really good at following my own outlines, but in the back of the room, you’re going to find a number of brochures for ministries I recommend who have some ties to the issues we’re going to look at today. Please take them. Take them all. Distribute them to your friends, be involved, become informed. Look at what these agencies are doing. Support them. I don’t have any more room on my carry-on bag, so don’t send them back with me. Okay? I appreciate that. My bag already got taken away from me on the way down here because it was so heavy. (Laughter)
So I want us, as we’re interpreting some of these situations, to be careful not to blame shift, in the classic Garden of Eden style of: “What’s the problem here? It’s that man You put next to me, God.”
We don’t want to make that same accusation, but what we want to say is, “Lord, due to our indwelling sinfulness, look at the brokenness of this world. How can I be used by You to bring care, relief, and help to women who suffer in these situations?”
So, it’s not an either/or argument. It’s a both/and. This is good, and we have something even better to offer.
So economic parody can’t be the answer to this. We will share some of the same concerns, but our solutions will be a little different because the end goal to what we seek to see happen is going to be a little different, too.
We have to help men change in these situations by preaching Ephesians 5 to them and modeling to them what this looks like. Now, that’s not necessarily our role, but we can support the men who are out there doing it.
I have a good friend, a British pastor by the name of Pete Greasley. He was telling me a story about how he brought this bear with the men of a church in Uganda. Now, in general, across Africa the issues that dominate them would be more of chauvinism and less of feminism. Aid workers today are very concerned about growing malnourishment of women there because they’re the ones charged with getting up early, finding the food, finding the firewood to cook the food, making the food.
They labor all day long to feed people, and culturally, in a lot of these nations . . . Now, I’m speaking of one continent as though it’s monolithic, but I don’t have time to list off every country. But culturally, generally, and especially across Central Africa, women will eat last. The men eat first, and then the children, and if there’s anything left over, they get it. Aid workers are really concerned that they’re wasting away.
In fact, there’s a phrase that I learned when I was in Uganda in September that “the men there really love the shade of trees.” That was why another pastor brought to their attention, “I don’t see you working as hard as I see the women working. You really love the shade of trees.”
When these men like Pete Greasley are able to get in front of them and say, “This practice of yours of you sitting in the chair and your wife sitting in the mud on the floor next to you, and this practice of you taking all the food and leaving her the leftovers, that’s not biblical. You must change.”
Pete told me there was a strong resistance. They’re like, “No. No, no. We don’t do that here. The other men will laugh at us.” Then he said, “Well, who do you fear? Do you fear God, or do you fear other African men?” The next day they were sitting on the ground and letting their wives eat first.
That kind of change comes through a local church. That local church is there in Uganda. They’re seeking to be gospel oriented. They’re getting help from ministries and churches around the world. They’re bringing in pastors from other places to help equip them, and they’re in there for the long run, the long haul.
So when we have this message, often there are women who will oppose it and say, “You never tell the men what to do.” Well, it’s like, “That’s not my role, but I certainly can recommend a few men who are really good at taking names and kicking tail.” (Laughter) I’m glad they’re out there doing that because the issue, again, is not what men have to do or what women have to do. It’s the issue of what we have to do to conform ourselves in repentance to the image of Christ and to help other churches change.
So you may be wondering as I’ve been speaking, “What are some of these issues?” If you’re not aware, the authors of this book would not blame you because as long-term, Pulitzer Prize journalists, working for the New York Times, they see where the media is complicit in not helping get the message out.
They were both reporters in China when the Tiananmen Square massacre happened in 1989. Between 400 and 800 democracy activists died then. What they realized as they lived among people in China was that nobody was writing about the 39,000 baby girls who were dying annually in China at the time.
About this silence and the media’s tensions, they wrote,
When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article. When 100,000 girls were routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news. Partly that is because we journalists tend to be good at covering events that happen on a particular day, but we slip at covering events that happen every day, such as the clitorian cruelties inflicted on women and girls.
In normal circumstances, women live longer than men. So there are more females than males in much of the world. Even poor regions, like most of Latin America and much of Africa, have more females than males. Yet in places where girls have a deeply unequal status, they vanish.
There are estimates that due to abortion, sex selection—in countries like China and India—due to families’ preferences for sons over daughters, there’s infanticide, there’s neglect of medical care for daughters. There’s such a lopsided balance now that families in India and China are concerned that their sons will have nobody to marry. I’m kind of wondering, “Like, why didn’t you think of this earlier when you were taking care of the girls?”
There are actually many cultural sayings that you can always replace a daughter, but a cow’s more difficult, or a son brings more honor, or you can replace a wife, etc. I can’t even quote some of these accurately, but there is imbedded in their cultures this idea that women are less than men.
Now, where there is good news and hope is that is not the case where the gospel comes in to these cultures, and I know and have worked with pastors in India and in China, and in other places in Africa, who are committed to living out a biblical world view of these areas. But they need our help. They need our support. They need our investment. Sometimes they need our time. They need us to come and invest in their efforts for a week or two.
I cannot more highly recommend international travel, especially for young adults. I think that we live in a very privileged world, and it’s easy to take for granted that this is the norm until you travel and learn that the rest of the world is not like us. In fact, I can remember spending about two weeks in rural Bolivia. We were lucky when we had a hotel. Sometimes we were camping in dirt buildings, etc. and concerned about Chaugust disease??, which is a flesh-eating bug that comes out at night, quite unattractive.
So here’s Princess camping—when I normally consider camping a 3-star hotel instead of a 5-star. (Laughter) So there I was. I’m looking at these families, and I’m looking at these women and these children, and I realize there’s something missing. Do you know what it is? It’s the, "Me-me-me-me-me . . . Mommy! He’s breathing on me! Me-me-me-me-me.”
As soon as we landed in Miami, that sound came back, that sound of discontent and whining. You know what? Children don’t just pick that up, well, theoretically, they will, because we’re all suffering from indwelling sin, but culturally, they pick things up, too, because of what we model for them, our own complaining and impatience and lack of gratitude just goes with the children who are a little less practiced at hiding it the way that we can as adults.
But I realized, people are always talking about, when we travel internationally, there’s such joy in these people and there’s always that sense of being in a zoo, like, “Look, these people don’t have much, but how happy they are.” I’m sure they’re looking back at us, like, “Do you know how much you have? And you’re always complaining.”
So, anyway, I could riff on, but I’m not going to because we have to be short today. Oh, my gosh, we really have to be short. Okay. I have a number of film clips that I’m going to show you. They are just partial film clips, and I recommend them on your outline to support these documentary filmmakers who are there. They are not necessarily writing or producing from a Christian perspective, but I think they’re still bringing some valuable things for us to consider, and filmmakers these days only recoup their money when you buy a DVD from them. You can get stuff from NetFlix, but if you want to support any of the filmmakers here who have graciously allowed me to show these clips, I recommend buying it from the filmmakers and those sites that are there.
We’re getting ready, I have just a few more minutes. If you all don’t mind looking at me in the dark, that’s fine. I was almost ready.
The first one we’re going to look at is from a film called A Walk too Beautiful. It’s about fistula. Who here’s familiar with that term? Okay, just a smattering of hands. That’s been my experience as I travel. A lot of people aren’t familiar with a fistula, especially obstetric fistula. It is something that used to be very common in our nation. In fact, I found recently that where the ritzy Waldorf Astoria Hotel is in Manhattan, that used to be a fistula hospital.
Fistula happens through prolonged labor, and it eventually causes either death of tissue or a tear in the tissue between the vagina and the bladder or the vagina and the rectum. So what happens is you leak your waste constantly. In nations where they don’t have maternal health care, this is happening on such a frequent basis, and it’s very scary.
What changed for us here is that we obtained the right to vote in 1920. Suddenly politicians had a reason to be paying attention to the things that we were interested in as women, and new laws came into effect, new funding came into effect for maternal health. Within the first year, there was a major bill that was introduced, and the maternal death rate and the infant mortality rate changed phenomenally within the 20th century.
So fistula is not common any longer here because if you’re having problems, you get your prenatal care. But for women in these rural areas who are often married very young, before they’ve finished developing even in their pelvic areas. They’re married as young teenagers. They’re malnourished. They don’t have the capacity to bear children, and they don’t have anybody around them to help them when they go into long, prolonged and obstructive labor.
When fistulas happen to them, they’re rejected, often made to live by themselves in a hut behind the house or in another place altogether, and at 14 or 15, their lives are effectively over. They smell bad, and flies follow them, and they often die early due to sepsis or some other kind of infection.
What we’re going to see here is A Walk too Beautiful. This is a walk to a hospital in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I’ve been there three times. There is a hospital there that was founded in 1975 by a Christian couple who saw the need, and they went to do what is not a difficult surgery to do but which most surgeons are unfamiliar anymore. They offer free surgery repairs to these women who can get there. The issue is it can be very difficult. I read an account where one woman sat and begged at a bus stop for something like six months to get something like $5 to be able to get to the city for her repairs.
This is where they’re going for these life-changing surgeries. We’re going to watch the first few minutes about one woman who is featured, and then I’m going to take you to an informational video about fistula and the issues worldwide.
(documentary clip is shown – a fistula is a hole that develops between the rectum and vagina)
Unfortunately, obstetric issues are not the only reason for fistula. Fistulas also happen as a result of violent rape, and women in the Congo in particular are experiencing the highest level of rape in the world today.
If you remember the genocide from Rwanda, those militia groups, many of them disappeared into the woods of the Congo. Rather than assault each other, they assault and terrify the civilian population, which means the women. They can be traumatically assaulted and endure fistulas that are worse than what you can experience in obstetric issues. Sometimes they can’t be repaired.
But there is one place that is living in the Antarctic lawlessness of Eastern Congo, in Goma, a major city. It’s called Heal Africa. Again, it is run by Christians, where they, too, offer a hospital for people, for women to be able to come and to be repaired and to be restored emotionally.
There’s a good documentary. I didn’t have the permission to show that to you all, but it’s a good one to understand. The issue’s called Lumo. It’s on your outline. As I understand the story, the filmmakers had actually gone to video tape the process of fistula surgery to train other surgeons to make this more prevalent around the world. It’s just not something a lot of doctors are familiar with.
While they were there, they realized they had a great documentary on their hands, so they produced this one and followed the story of one girl named Lumo, and what she had endured, and what she went through to be healed. That’s where that name comes from, and you can learn more about what they do at http://www.HealAfrica.org, which is on your list.
I would really appeal to you all to intercede for this region. It is evil personified. It is lawlessness. There are people who won’t even go. When the Secretary of State Clinton showed up in that region, I think it was last year, people were shocked because it was so risky for her to go. But she went as a statement that this kind of evil was not going to be tolerated by the United States. I applaud her for doing that. But please pray because it is so far gone there that it is only God’s restraining hand in my belief that is going to make a difference. So please pray for the Christians who are bold, who are there.
They profile one girl in Half the Sky, a young girl 20-something who went there because her congregation had formed a relationship with Heal Africa, and she wanted to go after college. She’s been there for a number of years now, just bravely living in that area.
Now I want to show you a clip from a documentary that International Justice Mission has produced. Is anybody here familiar with International Justice Mission? Good. This one is called At the End of Slavery, and they’re looking at both economic issues of slavery, just good old-fashioned holding people in bondage for money, as well as the issues of sex trafficking and what that means in terms of slavery.
It’s not a comprehensive piece, but it’s a good introduction.
(documentary clip is shown)
Sobering, isn’t it? The International Justice Mission does some good work on this topic. They’re a Christian organization. I have several friends who work for them and one young man in my church. It’s definitely worthy of your support as they work on several of these issues around the world.
One of the issues about trafficking is the fact that it’s not just something that happens elsewhere. It is something that happens within our own borders. There’s an organization called Shared Hope International that I support. If anybody has ever bought my first book, the ominously titled Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? book on singleness, part of those proceeds goes to help Shared Hope.
They did a study on domestic trafficking. They fully expected to find that it was primarily an issue of foreign nationals. It is an issue of foreign nationals being trafficked into our nation, without a doubt, but what shocked them, and this is a ministry that has been involved in trafficking for years, was to find out that far more of those who are trafficked in this nation are Americans, and the foster care system is one of the greatest feeders of this.
Now, this not in any way meant to cast any aspersions on the people who are heroically doing work in foster care, but as we all know, there are those who do get involved for nefarious reasons. As they do, and as they involve these children in child pornography and other forms of abuse, when they run away, it seems like freedom. The average age of a young woman entering prostitution in this nation is twelve.
On my blog, I linked this week to a piece that Texas Monthly Magazine ran about the issues of trafficking in Houston. It’s sobering to read this because we can get so involved at the idea of, “Let’s go rescue these girls.” But that’s only part of the problem.
After you’ve been abused like this, you have some major work that needs to be done to help you think rightly and process facts correctly, just normal thinking, normal decision making, much less gospel-based thinking and decision making.
This is where the long-term commitment of the local church is invaluable. We can’t just ask para-church ministries to jump in and go, “Let’s give you money. Go rescue these girls from brothels, rescue them from the houses.” We can’t just get them and then don’t do anything to help them transform their lives.
That kind of effect on a woman’s psyche of being abused and abused and abused and abused over and over again means we have some major work that needs to be done to help them think rightly about sexuality, to think rightly about men, to think rightly about trust, to think rightly about God, to think rightly about sin, and it takes a long commitment.
It’s happening right in our borders. Disneyland is one of the major destinations for trafficking; Las Vegas, one of the major markets for trafficking; truck stops, one of the major connecting points for trafficking. If you think of those areas, or you’re near those areas, please pray. Pray for God’s hand to intervene.
Well, we only have a little bit of time left, so I’m going to whip you through some more clips here real fast.
Now I’m going to move you on to—isn’t this a fun day? (Laughter) You all feeling really uplifted here? I’m going to move us on now to not just fistula, but to times when women are intentionally cut. Is anybody familiar with the issues of female genital mutilation, circumcision, cutting, however it’s called?
For the sake of everybody’s sensitivities, I’m not going to go into great detail here. Okay? I understand that talking about some of these things, people have different levels, different thresholds of processing information. I want to be sensitive to that.
But I will say this: There are several levels of this practice happening from simply excising the clitoris to completely removing all external organs and stitching a girl up with just a little bit of slot left for menstrual blood until she’s married, when she is unstitched. Now this currently happens in about 28 countries across Africa and the Middle East, and the idea behind it is to enforce female virtue, female chastity.
Many western agencies have found the difficulty in trying to eradicate this because we come in with this mentality of individualism, just like any great American movie where we come running in on our horse, and we defy expectations for the heroes, and we win, and we institute new laws, and we don’t understand the cultural issues.
We don’t understand that women who aren’t cut, girls who aren’t cut in these cultures won’t be marriageable. So you have to work to transform their thinking, renewing the mind in order to understand how you can change the practice. You can’t just come in and say, “That’s bad,” because then these girls are stigmatized because they’re seen as not being clean.
One woman who’s profiled in Half the Sky was just stunned. She came in as an American. She’s working, I think in Somalia or maybe Mali, I’ve forgotten now, and she married a national. They had a child, and she never expected her daughter would ever come to her and ask to be cut, but because so many others in the culture were, and she didn’t quite know what she was asking for, it was kind of like, “Mommy, can I pierce my ears?” until her mother sat her down and explained to her what was going to happen. Then she said, “Um, not so much.”
But this woman, living and working in this culture, realized that she had to transform entire villages of thinking. She had to go from village to village and get everybody in agreement. Like, “Are you the village that marry among each other? Then we all have to agree to change this practice because you can’t just ostracize some of the girls.”
So what I’m going to show you here is three minutes of a ceremony in Mali. It’s not as bad as you might think. The filmmakers were discreet when they did this. It’s from a film called Mrs. Gundo’s Daughter. It’s about a woman who’s from Mali who came here and petitioned for asylum so that she wouldn’t have to go back and take her young daughter back to a place where this excision would be required of her.
The film tracks that story line. But they did go to Mali, and they showed the women with what they do with these girls. It’s just three minutes, but you don’t see anything bad.
(documentary clip is shown)
Okay. This is an issue I believe of not just cultural context, but the gospel contexts because female modesty and female virtue and female chastity are good things when they are motivated by the Spirit of God and for His purposes and not enforced from outside circumstances and in such a brutal way and in such an unhygienic way. The same instrument was used on all 62 girls, as the filmmakers pointed out, and there was no appearance of it ever being cleaned in between.
That’s the difference between the law and the gospel. The goal is maybe the same, but how they come about and what the results are, are very different when it’s motivated by the Spirit of God. As our culture becomes increasingly raunchy due to the impact of Third-Wave Feminism, which I do explain in my book Radical Womanhood, as we are in the midst of this and our media is exported around the world, those who don’t share this value of hyper-aggressive female sexuality are appalled by us. Then we come in and announce to them that their culture is wrong, too, and it becomes pitting one culture against another.
I do have some sympathy in a small way, don’t misunderstand me, for those in other cultures who are appalled by what we accept as normal. The face of the American women is Hollywood. That’s what gets exported out.
This is where you need to go in, and you need to offer help and hope, but you need to offer help and hope beyond, “You don’t need to be cut like this, but there’s a Savior who bled for you and for this whole wrong culture and the lie that you live under.”
Now, we’re running a little short of time. I tried to time this out last night, trying to figure out how I’m going to do this. I’m going to skip one of the films because I gave you the URL in your handout. It’s a film about the trials that young girls in Pakistan are going through as the Taliban is moving in and shutting down their education. It was done by the New York Times, and they very graciously allowed me to show this to you all. But they also have it posted online, and the link is there, because I suspected that I might run out of time, knowing me. I like to talk.
I would highly encourage you to look at it, and not only that, but show it to every young girl you know who’s like, “I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to do my homework.” They don’t even know that there are young girls around this world who are held back, prevented from receiving education and who are literally risking their lives by showing up for school.
So this is a documentary about girls on the last day of school before the Taliban shut down their school in the Wwat district of Pakistan.
Now, the reason why I’m interested in all of this is because there’s a big movement, especially among young adults, to produce documentaries and what they call social purpose, or socially aware or socially conscious films. They use a term called filmanthropy, which is a marriage of film and philanthropy, using the powerful imagery to motivate a direct response from people to say, “This is how you should vote, how you should get involved, how you should change, what you should support, what you should finance.”
As I go to these filmmaking conferences, I recognize that this is a really, really big deal, and Christians aren’t represented. In fact, it’s not only sometimes unbiblical topics, they’re anti-biblical topics. So I wanted to, while I’m very grateful for Christian media, and I’m the product of Christian media in a lot of ways, my books were published by Christian media, I also carry a burden that we don’t lose our voice in mainstream media.
So my company, City Gate Films, is starting to produce documentaries about social justice and our rich 2000 year legacy of social reform for the mainstream market.
Now, I say we have this history, and we do have a history of social reform, and we have a spotty, uneven history of applying it as well. Christians have done it well, and Christians have done it poorly over the years.
One of the things that really got me in this book was the fact that they site the work of William Wilberforce, the abolitionist in the U.K., and his efforts to end slavery as being the preeminent model that we need to follow. What they wrote was, “The ideal model for a new movement is one we evoked earlier. The British drive to end the slave trade at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. That is the singular shining example of a people who accepted a substantial sustained sacrifice of blood and treasure to improve the lives of fellow human beings living far away.”
Winston Churchill suggested that the British people’s finest hour was their resistance to the Nazis in the 1940s, but at least as noble an hour was the moral quickening in Britain that led to the abolition of slavery.”
Well, it was a lot more than moral quickening. If you know anything about William Wilberforce, you will know that this was a man who was motivated by the jewel of justification, who loved the gospel, and who wanted other Christians to be founded upon that rich doctrine and motivated and moved by it to respond to their Savior and to change their culture. He and another group of like-minded Evangelical Christians were the ones leading the charge here. So this wasn’t just moral reform. This was the work of the Holy Spirit.
That should be our model, too, for the same reasons. The same love of Christ, the same love of the gospel should motivate us to go out and deal with injustices around the world because we serve a God who is so wonderful just that He does not allow sin to go unpunished in this world. For every fault that you can think of in your life, in ways you’ve been cheated, you’ve been sinned against, etc., they’ve been absorbed in the cross and forgiveness has been granted to you for your sins, and to those who have also received it from the Lord Jesus Christ and repented before Him.
So sin doesn’t go unpunished. There’s no lack of justice in this universe. It went to the Sinless One, and when you know that, that motivates you to go out and deal with injustice around the world.
So we need this kind of world-changing influence in our generation. We need to be fueled by the same passion, and the Half the Sky movement is a wonderful idea. I’m glad there are people who are responding to need around the world, but you know what? This isn’t a new idea.
My ancestors were missionaries to India in the 19th century, and they went there to plant churches and to teach Hindu women who were widows, cast off by their culture, expected to burn themselves in their husbands’ funeral fires. They said to these downcast women, “We’re going to teach you how to read, and we’re going to teach you the Word of God, and we’re going to help you live.”
That’s my heritage, and I didn’t even know this until I became a Christian and started reading this. I’m like, “Wow! I had three generations of missionaries.” I want to commend that example to you because this isn’t anything new, and this is the reason why I’m motivated to make these films.
But, in the issue of biblical womanhood, this perspective needs to be as loud and clear as we talk about the other practical applications. The world needs to know that we do sincerely value women and that we will sincerely work where women are oppressed simply for being made female in the image of God.
I was going to show you a clip about HIV-AIDS and the issue of orphans in Africa because I’m working on a film called A Note of Hope, which explores the intersection of music and social justice with the benefit of drawing attention to AIDS orphans, but we don’t have time for that. If you want to look at a trailer, I’ve given you the website. You can go and look at it online.
I was doing this with editorial access of a ministry called Covenant Mercies. They’re dealing with the crisis of HIV-AIDS around the world, specifically with those who are left parentless by this. Just last month, I think it was, it was announced that HIV-AIDS is the leading cause of death among reproductive-age women.
It’s a crisis for children who are affected by this because there are more than 15 million children under 18 around the world who have been orphaned as a result of AIDS and 11.6 million of these children live in Sub-Saharan, Africa. I was there. I saw it. There’s an entire generation that’s missing. You see elderly people working very hard to care for their young charges.
In the film clip that I have online, you see the story of a little girl named Rosalyn who was born to a mother who passed along congenitally many diseases to her and eventually died of AIDS herself. She’s being raised by her grandmother. This little girl contracted syphilis in the birth canal, and she had these scabs all over her head that just stunk to high heavens. It took $4 worth of antibodies to heal her, to keep her from being ostracized as well.
She’s being raised by her 60-something-year-old grandmother, and if you see the film clip, you’ll look at it and just be shocked because life is hard for older women in Africa. She looks a lot older than that, and she’s praying and asking God to live long enough for her daughter Rosalyn, who is now 13, to make it to see that Rosalyn gets to be an adult because there isn’t anybody else in this area to care.
This ministry, Covenant Mercies, allows you to be connected with orphans and to get to know and support and sponsor these children. I sponsor them as well. Let me see if I have a picture of my little girl up here. Here she is. Let me see if this works. Do you see her? That’s Immabet, my little girl in Ethiopia. She’s in Addis Ababa. I met her when I was doing a film shoot a couple of years ago. She was dancing, and she was just so joyful. I just fell in love with her. She stole my heart. So now I’m her sponsor, and this is when we were filming in Africa this past September.
So the issue of being able to educate and make a difference in the lives of these young girls simply because you’re going to give up maybe four lattes or cups of coffee a month, and she’s able to be educated, to pay her school fees, to have food, and to have a difference. Her mother and her grandmother are wonderful. I got to meet them—here’s a picture of her grandmother—who also lives with her and helps her. She’s illiterate, and so is her mom, as near as I can figure out. I could tell this because they had to sign the talent releases for the film, and yet they are so grateful for the cycle of poverty that could be broken with the work of this ministry. They have great hopes for their daughters.
I want to encourage you, please, pick up the materials. Please support these ministries. Please share this message. Before we go, I just want to end in a word of prayer.
Father, thank You that You have made us female in Your image, and there is something of that that is unique to us and that we are to manifest to the watching world. I pray for strength, conviction. I pray for finances. I pray for time and abilities to be able to meet this need, Lord. But I also pray that You would protect any woman in here who’s feeling condemned and guilty and like, “How in the world am I going to get all this done?”
Lord, You’re the One who gives us the burden. You’re the One who gives us the grace. We can only respond to one thing at a time. So I pray against any condemnation that comes in from the enemy, but I do pray for any sweet conviction that comes from Your Spirit that says, “My daughter, this is what I want you to be involved in.”
I pray for the time and the resources to do this, and I pray that this glorious message of biblical womanhood will go forth from this and will also be heard as a message of really caring for those in need. I pray a blessing upon my sisters here, in Jesus’ mighty and wonderful name, amen.
Leslie: The message you just heard was presented at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman ’10 conference in Chattanooga. You can hear any of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.truewoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of.
True Woman ‘10 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.