Out now: Junkyard Wisdom by Roy Goble

Roy Goble is someone I’ve known for ten years, since his daughter Rachel and I met in grad school and became friends. (She leads a tremendous organization called The Sold Project, which fights child exploitation in Thailand by providing education to kids.)

Anyway, Roy has a new book out called Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts. This is from the backcover:

Most of us live a life of unprecedented abundance. No matter what our income level, walls of security and distraction inevitably insulate us from the poor or anyone else who might threaten our comfortable life. Yet despite our trappings of wealth—or perhaps because of them—we continue to experience a spiritual hunger for something deeper and more meaningful.

In a surprising solution to that hunger, Jesus invites us to utilize our wealth and our talents to create Kingdom relationships, beginning right in our own communities. To tear down the walls, both literal and cultural, separating God’s children in our neighborhoods and across the globe. To experience a life of joy and fulfillment. In Junkyard Wisdom, Roy Goble shares what’s waiting for us on the other side of complacency: an abundant future we can only reach together.

I was privileged to get a preview of it beforehand and here’s my endorsement:

What does it mean to love God and to love my neighbor in the twenty-first century? Junkyard Wisdom steers clear of easy answers and empty platitudes, inviting us instead into a fuller, truer Jesus-following life by wrestling with the very real challenges of our world and our lives—and the tremendous opportunities for hope-filled, life-changing relationships that are right in front of us. I’m so grateful to Roy Goble for this much needed reminder.

There were a good few moments as I was reading the book when I felt like I’d been punched in the gut—in a good way. Sometimes we need those burrs to stir us from our complacency and comfort. If you have ever wondered how to navigated the tension of wealth and poverty, and what it looks like to steward resources well, this book is for you.

I also got to interview him (electronically!). Here are some of the questions and answers:

Q. What would you say to someone who said, “Wealth is God’s blessing in your life, and you should enjoy it?”

A. I’d say they got it half right. Anything God gives us as a blessing is to be used for God’s glory. Doesn’t matter if it is a great singing voice, the ability to throw a football, or a knack with computer code. So yes, at times, wealth can be enjoyed, just as any gift from God is enjoyed. But to think of it as something that is merely our own is to turn it into something ugly and selfcentered. We have to see the wealth as God’s, not ours, so we can utilize it in a way that honors God.

Q. What would you say to someone who said, “Wealth gets in the way of following Jesus?”

A. Again, they are half right. Wealth most certainly can get in the way of following Jesus if we misuse it, misunderstand its importance, or begin to think it is ours. But wealth can also draw us closer to God is we utilize it in accordance with His will, and if we understand it is God’s wealth, not our own.

Q. How did your upbringing shape how you understand wealth and following Jesus?

A. For the first 12-years of my life I lived in a classic American middle-class suburb. Rode my bike to school, played with the neighborhood kids, and had the whole “Leave it to Beaver” simplicity going on. On Saturdays and most summers, however, my Dad took me to the junkyard to work. It was greasy, dirty, and filled with a motley group of characters. And on Sundays we went to a dynamic church, all dressed in our finest. It was, to say the least, a broad range of experiences for a kid. Then when I was 12 we bought a cattle ranch and I moved there, which was quite different from the suburban home.

All of this brought me in contact with a wide range of people, from different backgrounds, different faith traditions, different languages and different values. It broke down those walls we talked about earlier and gave me a unique ability to feel comfortable in a wide range of places. I’ve often said that I want to feel equally comfortable at a black tie event as I do sleeping on the floor in a village hut. Truth is, I feel equally uncomfortable in those places!

Q. Why is the book called “Junkyard Wisdom”?

Because with all due respect to Robert Fulgham, all I ever really needed to know I learned in a junkyard! No, that’s not really true of course, but I learned so much working in the junkyard it seemed a good title for the book. The junkyard introduced me to what we might call the seedier side of society as it also propelled me into wealth and experiences I could’ve never imagined! So the book, in many ways, reflects the shaping of my understanding of the world, wealth, and faith, as it all stemmed from the junkyard. The wisdom part? Well, hopefully there is some of that in the book, but I’ll let the reader decide.

Thanks to Roy for the interview and the book. Junkyard Wisdom is out this week; go check it out.

Ending poverty, ending violence

Locust Effect bannerMost people don’t live under the shelter of the law, but far from the law’s protection.

– United Nations


About seven years ago, I first learned about the horrors of human trafficking one Sunday at Ecclesia Hollywood.

Nearly 30 million people are currently enslaved.

About six years ago, I first read International Justice Mission President Gary Haugen’s book Good News About Injustice, and learned of the phenomenal work his organization is doing to combat modern day slavery and systemic oppression.

4 billion people are unprotected by the law … in
fear of everyday violence like rape, forced labor, and police abuse.

About five years ago, I first interned with Oasis USA, another anti-trafficking organization, and got even more educated about the issues, even more exposed to the brutality of bonded labor and sex trafficking.

For women ages 15-44, the odds of experiencing physical harm or death due to gender-based violence is greater than cancer, motor accidents, war, and malaria combined.

About four years ago, I moved to DC to work at Sojourners, an poverty-focused advocacy organization; I immersed myself in issues of justice and poverty, including systemic injustice and trafficking, and along the way, made a lot of friends who work(ed) at IJM.

Metro Cebu in the Philippines saw a 79% reduction in the availability of children for commercial sex after 4 years of IJM and local law enforcement partnering together.

Every year, I’ve learned something new, either about the brutal realities of injustice that plague people all over the world or about the tremendous work that is going on every day to bring light into dark places.

Gary Haugen’s new book, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, is out today, and it’s a good one, delving deeper than just quick fixes or band-aids, and challenging us both with the reality of how interconnected poverty and violence are and with the opportunity to change things for the better not just on an individual level but on the systemic level.

My old boss Jim Wallis likes to use the analogy of rescuing babies from a river. If you keep seeing babies floating down the river and you keep jumping in to save them, at some point you need to head upstream and stop whoever’s throwing them in!

This is the work of justice: not just rescuing those who are currently living under threat of poverty and the violence that accompanies it but also making sure that others never have to experience that life.

So what can we do? Awareness is the first step; action is the necessary second. Donors and development institutions can help by supporting the work of building professional and accountable police, and modern, functioning prosecutors, courts, and child welfare agencies.

  1. Awareness – Buy the book. Read it. Encourage others to understand the problem by doing the same. Check out the website.
  2. Spread the word – Tell your mom, your professor, and your barista. The global conversation needs your voice.
  3. Tell world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this a priority. Start by signing the petition to the UN.
  4. DonateGive to help stop violence by donating to IJM’s life-changing work.

In short, I highly recommend Gary’s book and I strongly encourage you to go buy it.

Locust Effect badgeBONUS: If you buy your copy of The Locust Effect THIS WEEK, a generous friend of International Justice Mission will give $20 to IJM for every copy sold to help fight violence against the poor. What’s more, all the proceeds of the book’s sales will go toward the same cause.

Get educated. Get the book. Get involved.

Please.

Gary Haugen: The poor deserve equal protection by the law

From an op-ed in the Washington Post by Gary Haugen, President & CEO of International Justice Mission, author of the upcoming book The Locust Effect (out on February 3):

If you’ve been a tourist or business traveler recently in Kenya, India, Guatemala or any other developing country, you probably saw uniformed guards in the stores and offices you visited or hotels where you slept. The sight of these guards is so common that their presence most likely faded into the background. But they are emblematic of a massive social transformation that is passing unnoticed: Throughout the developing world, public justice systems are being replaced with private systems of security and dispute resolution. The implications for the world’s poorest people are devastating.

Businesses and economic elites in developing countries left frustrated by incompetent police, clogged courts and hopelessly overburdened judges and prosecutors are increasingly circumventing these systems and buying their own protection. In India in late 2010 the private security industry already employed more than 5.5 million people — roughly four times the size of the entire Indian police force. A 2009 World Bank report showed roughly the same ratio in Kenya. The largest employer in all of Africa is a private security firm, Group4Securicor, and in Guatemala, private security forces outnumber public police 7 to 1.

The repercussions extend far beyond the elites and businesses that buy safety: When protection must be purchased, the poorest are left with nothing to shield them from violence. In many developing countries, if you want to be safe, you pay to be safe. And if you can’t pay to be safe — you aren’t.

Read the full piece here.The Locust Effect

The Line: What Matters

Last night, I was privileged to be at the premiere of The Line, a documentary film by Emmy Award-winning producer Linda Midgett and Sojourners, in partnership with World Vision, Bread for the World, Oxfam America, and the Christian Community Development Association.

The ‘line’ of the title is the poverty line, which currently stands at about $23,000 per year for a family of four; and the film delves into the stories of four people faced with poverty.

It is the poor that are mentioned throughout the Bible as of unique concern–these are the vulnerable and marginalized, these are the ones often oppressed and kept down by the systems in place, these are “the least of these.”

As Aaron said a few weeks ago at The District Church, “The test of true, biblical justice is how we treat the poor.”

Please take some time to watch the film and learn the stories and faces of just a few of the almost 50 million Americans living in poverty–they are our brothers and sisters, and we are called to be their keepers, to be their neighbors.

Don’t just be aware; do something, even something as simple as raising your voice.

You can find more info and action steps that you can take at thelinemovie.com.