for goodness' sake

Friday, April 27, 2007

Blessings From Heaven

I was just reading Mark 12:41-44 the other day, the story of the widow who gave so much of her small amount of money, pretty much all she had (and widows in those times had it really rough).

Here it is from The Message: "Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, 'The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all.' "

Those verses really touched my heart, and then I found this inspiring story about a member of Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Porsche Ward went forward to give $20 of her last $40, even though she was out of a job and had a sick child, and the church collected over $8,000 for her!

Faithfulness is rewarded.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Germans Volunteer to Help Ease Holocaust Pain

Many young people from Germany are serving abroad in Israel - helping out in nursing homes, libraries, and other public places to help make reparations for what Nazis did decades ago. Of course these kids did not even exist so many generations back, but they're full of heart and hope to bridge any leftover divides.

Read the full story here. It's an amazing one.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Empty Bowls

This is a way-cool organization!

Here's the scoop: Local artists and college students make really beautiful pottery bowls. They host an event where they donate the bowls, the public comes, buys a bowl, gets it filled with some really good soup, and the proceeds go to soup kitchens and other organizations to help feed hungry people in need of some sustenance.

Check it out here. Maybe there will be an event near you. Buy a bowl. Support someone who needs it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Clean Air Act

Ireland has banned smoking from its pubs since 2004, and a new study shows that lung function in pub employees has vastly improved since then.

Now, if Japan would only do the same. Even in restaurants here, the "non-smoking" section is directly next to smoking tables, so there is absolutely no smoke-free place in any public area whatsoever.

I'm hoping to report some good news on this front, but I think until the government gets rid of Japan Tobacco and its vested interests in promoting tobacco use (through public advertising on TV, billboards, etc.), no change is on the horizon.

Hooray for Ireland! I hope the Japanese government can learn from this. In fact, I'm going to e-mail JT right now. Please excuse me.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Green Batteries

NEC (electronics maker) and Nissan have teamed up to produce a lithium-ion battery for hybrid cars. Now that's one way to help the environment to keep going, and going, and going...

Ski Bums at the Altar

Matt Dodd and Ashley Hegseth are not known to be too serious, and they love the slopes, so naturally their wedding took place on skis and a snowboard in Big Sky, Montana.

I'm most impressed, though, with their minister. He skied backwards with a pulpit and helmet cam. What a good sport!


The ONE Campaign is fighting AIDS and poverty around the world. Click here to find out more and to join the cause.

Frasier's Back in the Building

One of my favorite TV shows of all times, "Frasier", could be back, but this time, on the stage. I hope they break a leg in Japan so I can go see it!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Conjoined Twins Successfully Separated

After a first-ever successful operation to separate twins joined at the heart and liver, eight-month-old Thai girls Pantawan and Panwad are free at last. They're still sticking close together, though --I guess it's a hard habit to break.

(The article also has a sweet picture of the girls and their gorgeous smiles!)

Award-Winning Man

I know the slave trade is still in full force in the world today, and the insidiousness of it means that it permeates every country, everywhere. I suppose America is such a melting pot that unless you know what you're looking for, you could easily miss it and go on about your daily business, blissfully unaware. I did.

Then I moved to Japan. I was surprised to find out that the small "snack bars" you see absolutely everywhere can be a den of slavery. Girls, mostly foreign, are told by the Japanese mafia (yakuza) that they can come on an "entertainer" visa and work in bars. Some of them even naively think they are coming to be nannies, house maids, or wives for Japanese men. Their families desperately need the money, so they sign on.

When they arrive in the country, the yakuza slap a huge debt on them that they have to "work" off, and probably can never pay back. They end up prisoners in apartments above these snack bars, with sensors on the door and virtually no way to ever get home to see their families again. The "love hotels" (where you can rent by the hour) perpetuate this cruelty, and the girls are stuck.

These women/girls have no access to health care, no one to call an ally. The communities turn a blind eye.

I have met several of these girls (and they looked like they were in their late teens or early, early twenties) when I was at the city hall getting some paperwork done in the foreigner's section. There was a group of Filipino women with a burly man who was holding all their passports. They were waiting, and the women looked crestfallen. I sat down next to one of them, smiled, and started chatting. The muscle man said he was her husband and started laughing at his own cruel joke. I knew who they were and what they were there for. She managed a smile, though when I was leaving and I shook her hand, looked right in her eyes, and said, "God bless you," she started crying.

I felt powerless. I wanted to help, but I didn't know what to do or where to start. My first thought had been to throw her in my car and speed away, but I knew I was no match for that guy holding her passport. (Besides, I found out later that these poor women are scared to death because their families back home are threatened if the girls try to escape.)

So I started researching. The Human Rights Watch Web site was a good source. I wrote a senator, Sam Brownback, a guy known for his tenacity in fighting for the dignity of those caught up in forces beyond their control. I've also been talking to a group in Tokyo, The Asia Foundation, to figure out how one little mommy in Nishinomiya can help wage the war against this monstrous system.

Just this morning I received a newsletter from International Justice Mission. Gary Haugen, the director of this outstanding organization, has received the 2007 William Wilberforce Award for his work fighting modern-day slavery.

Like Wilberforce 200 years ago, Haugen is one man doing extraordinary things.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sir (?) Bono

U2's lead singer, Paul Hewson (aka Bono), has received an honorary British knighthood for his humanitarian work (which includes debt-relief campaigning for some African countries).

His response? '' 'You have permission to call me anything you want— except sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that'll do.' ''

Bueno work, Bono.

Love Bridges the Gap

Whatever your opinion on the Falklands War (between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982), Sebastian and Phoebe are proof that love knows no sides. They live in Port Stanley in the Falklands, a place where battle was waged over territorial disputes. That was twenty-five years ago, and the couple were both small children at the time, but they are ambassadors for unity on an island where people do remember the war.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mama G's Got EnerG

Wow. What a feisty mama. Rose Gilbert, 88, is probably one of the oldest teaching teachers in the US (and most likely one of the richest - her husband left her millions), and she's stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllll going.

I think my favorite anecdote from the article describes "Mama G" (as her students lovingly call her) teaching about Freudian slips while wearing a slip over her clothes. I doubt anyone sleeps in her class!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Dash

Yes, it's cheesy. And yes, it has a good message. Time is short. But I think three minutes watching "The Dash" movie is a good investment. (And just the photography itself is well worth the visit.)