Tag Archives: education

300 Million Widows

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Imagine if the entire population of the United States were made up of widows.  Women who have lost their husbands and are either alone, or left with children to raise.  Women who have either not worked outside the home or had fewer / lower paying jobs and are now unable to support their households.

The entire population of the United States.

That’s overshooting a bit, I guess.  Across the globe, there are:

300,000,000 WIDOWS.

Three hundred million.  The size of the U.S., spread across the globe, in countries with great resources or with limited resources, countries with stigmas and cultural biases that put widows at risk or without those biases, countries that don’t have social support nets in place to help them support themselves or their families or whose safety nets are inadequate.  Three hundred million.

I’m having a hard time getting my head around that number.  And figuring out what to do with that number as a Christian when the Bible tells us, from the Old Testament to the New, that God cares for widows, when Jesus himself tells us that the widow’s mite is worth more than anything we could give out of our abundance because she gave it out of her poverty.

Today, by “chance,” I had coffee with a woman who is a widow.  A mutual friend of ours connected us so that I might help her figure out how to fill her time now that she is having to reconfigure her life in the wake of her husband’s death.  She is wanting to occupy her mind, use her brain, serve others, be of use.  But she can only draw an extremely limited income or she will lose her survivor’s benefits including healthcare benefits for her three kids and tuition support for the two in college.  Isn’t that a kick in the pants?  An educated, well-spoken, well-connected, experienced woman — with children to care for — she will lose the support net if she makes even one penny over $17,000 per year.

It’s not just the women living in poverty who are at risk.

300 Million Widows.  What do we do with that??

How do we open our eyes to see the suffering of widows God so clearly loves, who Jesus so clearly values?

How do we allow widows then to suffer the indignity of not being able to support themselves and their families after the death of their husbands?  

How do we use our abundance to advocate for and represent the needs of those widows whose resources are so limited?

How do we pastor to those widows in their grief and in the midst of their enormous burdens?

I have no real answers.  There are no easy answers, are there?  Although as soon as I typed that, I thought to myself, “What could be easier than being kind to someone in need?”  A loaded question, maybe, when we all have baggage that clouds our vision at times and blocks us from seeing suffering, and when we all define “kind” so differently.

At the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, we’ll be discussing the challenge of caring for widows, among other things.  As Presiding Bishop Curry’s representatives on the delegation to the Episcopal Church, we are certainly praying about it and asking God to give us opportunities to speak truth into people who have the power to make big, systemic changes in this world.  I hope you’ll join us in prayer.

I also hope that in our daily lives, we will all intentionally seek out opportunities to be a source of kindness and caring for widows in our own communities.

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Father, we ask you to remind us all that you are indeed the Father of orphans and protector of widows, that we might follow your lead and care for them as you would have us do.  Help us to advocate for them at the institutional level and also care for them at the individual level.  We ask you to inspire the rulers of this world to look with kindness and compassion on the suffering of widows that they might commit themselves to making the changes necessary to support and uplift them in their communities all around the world.  We ask all of this with boldness and expectancy, Lord, believing that it is in accordance with your will.  In the precious name of your son we pray.  Amen.

Father of orphans and protector of widows
    is God in his holy habitation.

                                     Psalm 68:5

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If you would like to support my trip to the United Nations in March 2019, I am still a little short.  You can find the GoFundMe campaign here.  Thank you for any penny you might offer!  Every little bit helps and I am grateful for your support.

Elevator Speech

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Where do you see yourself – your life experiences, passions, interests, concerns – connecting with the UNCSW priority theme and the three priorities lifted up in our Presiding Bishop’s written statement? What about the concerns of your church? Local community? Our wider Church? What personal illustrations might you draw upon to emphasize these priorities when you share this statement with stakeholders at the UN?

screen shot 2019-01-01 at 12.42.28 pmThat’s what we were asked to be ready to speak to for our most recent delegation meeting in preparation for the upcoming U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019.  Bishop Curry has submitted his written statement on this year’s Priority Theme outlining three main points, and what each one means to us as Episcopalians and followers of Christ.  His points are:

  1. Implement gender-responsive solutions to gaps in social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure;
  2. Prioritize marginalized groups of women and girls in extending social protections, public services and sustainable infrastructure;
  3. Promote gender equality education and practices and eradicate gender-based violence.

Our task for this last meeting was to place ourselves in the theme and written statement, so to speak.  So, I read both, jotted down some cryptic notes, and joined the web conference.  And then silently panicked a little bit when we were asked to share our thoughts in the form of a 2-3 minute “elevator speech.”

Fortunately, we all seemed to be in the same boat.  And 3 minutes is SO short!! But we’ve all got such a variety of experience, that it was really powerful to hear each other’s stories! And, as we were reminded, the stories are compelling and will help influence the wording of policies that will be developed at the Commission on the Status of Women.

Our task, now, is to focus on those stories, refine our thoughts, and start to prepare to  explain and defend the Bishop’s written statement at the U.N. in March.  *Gulp*  It’s a little intimidating, to be honest!  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, though, a little overview of some of the stories I hope to share, with fake names, of course:

  • Sara, whose husband refused her access to any money and occasionally roughed her up, stayed for years until she finally escaped with her two daughters;
  • Yvonne, deported at age 13 and dumped in Mexico, a country she didn’t remember, without an adult with her, sold her young body for cash to survive as she walked across the desert to get back to her parents in Texas, years later to become pregnant and homeless, giving birth at 23 weeks gestation to Baby Marco who will have significant developmental delays and physical disabilities for the rest of his life;
  • Gulf War Veteran with no legs and no wheel chair, living in tent city, self-medicating with heroin, craving a glass of cold milk and in need of tampons;
    tent city
    Tent City, Dallas, Texas
  • Farah, a refugee from the Middle East whose husband became addicted to meth while they were in a refugee camp and then began beating her until she finally left with her small son and lived in women’s shelters for months worrying about how she would support them without an education or a social network;
  • Grace, who recently transitioned socially to being a woman, lost her job, and was making ends meet by tending bar while spending all her free time advocating for other young trans people who often lose their jobs, their families, and are at high risk for physical and sexual assault; and,
  • Alicia, a senior citizen living in public housing and unable to work since cancer ravaged her body, raised her two small grandchildren for 3 years while her daughter did time for a drug charge, then took emergency custody of a cousin’s baby to remove the her from the home of a registered pedophile.

So.  How about that list?  Those stories are about women we’ve served through our Hands & Feet Ministry at St. Andrew’s!  I just love that I get to carry our ministry with me to the United Nations, to tell the stories of women we are personally connected to, and urge those in power to improve the lives of women by prioritizing and empowering them through social protection systems, public services, and sustainable infrastructure.

As you might have caught, there are some themes and patterns in the stories:

  • The need for education and financial independence;
  • The plight of refugees and immigrants;
  • Gender discrimination in the workplace;
  • Sexual assault and violence against women;
  • The challenges of those with illnesses, special needs and disabilities.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be picking through those themes, writing and rehearsing my “elevator speeches.” If you have questions, comments or insight to share, please do!  I’d love to hear from you and take your thoughts into consideration as I write.  Thanks in advance for your help!

Please pray with me:

Lord, we lift these women to you and ask that you keep us ever mindful that they are so much more than their stories, that they are real people, created in your image, loved deeply by you. Break the hearts of those of us who have any little bit of influence, that we might truly see the challenges women face and be stirred by the Holy Spirit to always fight for justice in our own communities and around the world. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

If you’d like to contribute to the GoFundMe we set up to help me fund the $5,600 trip to Manhattan for two weeks, click here.  I appreciate every penny!Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 11.50.43 PM.png

Dreaming of the United Nations

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img_6649Dear Friends,

When I was 19, I spent a semester abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico. One of my first and most powerful experiences was in a crowded downtown plaza.  A young girl of certain privilege and inexperience, I sat with my roommate eating popcorn when a little waif of a girl with dirt on her face appeared in front of me, squeezing through the sea of legs to reach her hand out to me, pointing to the popcorn. I tried to gulp down the giant lump in my throat as I held out the bag to her, and then nearly died of heartbreak when she reached in and took one little piece – just one piece! – and disappeared back into the crowd. I, of course, had meant for her to take the whole bag! In that moment, though I didn’t recognize it till much later, serving women and girls on the margins sort of grabbed hold of my heart, and it hasn’t let go.  At one point, I even dreamed of serving at the United Nations to promote the empowerment of women around the globe!

dana mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico

With great excitement, I can tell you that dream is finally coming true!  I have been invited by Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to represent him at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It is a huge honor and I am so humbled!  I am thrilled to participate in such an event, to help make decisions about how best to empower women and promote gender equality around the world. I believe the work of empowering women is of the utmost importance, that this is a fantastic opportunity for our church to lead the way in building God’s kingdom here on earth by working for the well-being of women and girls, and that this is work that I have been called to since a young age.

To serve, I need to be in Manhattan at the United Nations for two weeks in March

dana haiti 12.33.55 pm

Ouanaminthe, Haiti

2019 (3/8-3/22) and have been told to expect my expenses to total approximately $5,600, to include airfare, housing, meals and other program-related expenses.

Most importantly, I hope you’ll pray for me, for the other 9 delegates of the Episcopal Church, for the Presiding Bishop and his staff, and for the Commission on the Status of Women.

Will you also help me make my service as a delegate possible?

Thank you for any size gift you might offer to help my dream come true and to make my service on the delegation possible.  I will be happy to report back to you after the event if you’d like to hear about the Commission’s work. I will keep you updated as I prepare for and then serve at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and I know you will join me there in spirit.

Yours in Christ,

Dana

 

babynoah

Dallas, Texas

Read a letter of support from the Episcopal Church here:
Episcopal Church Support Letter

Read more about the Commission here:
UN Commission on the Status of Women  

This is the link to the GoFundMe page embedded above: https://www.gofundme.com/trip-to-un-for-commission-on-status-of-women&rcid=r01-154743669287-92cc04ad0720458f&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w