Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Social Justice

I (Lauren) recently made a decision to volunteer at a store called Ten Thousand Villages (Dix Mille Villages here in Quebec) in an English area here in Montreal. These stores are all over the U.S. and Canada and sell only fair trade goods: everything from household goods to clothes and jewelry to edibles such as chocolate, coffee, teas, and spices. Not only is it a retail store, but it's also a great community where I will be able to learn about fair trade through people, books, and workshops that they put on quite often.
For some time now, I've been interested in the HUGE topic of social justice and more specifically, women's issues (domestic violence, prostitution, etc.). I tried to get involved with an organization called Women Aware but, unfortunately, I have only done online research for the org. and haven't even gone in to work at all. I was hoping to learn a great deal of information that way and it just hasn't worked out. During my time here I have become increasingly aware of and interested in our economic system and the link between environmental issues and social justice. In other words, I've been really into living as "all naturally" as possible but have just recently discovered the link between the lifestyle choices I make and the direct effect it has on many, many poor people and countries. It has actually been a real source of joy discovering this, as it's such an obvious way to reconcile my desire to be a full-time momma as well as concerned with global and local social justice issues. Every purchase I do or don't make contributes to the well-being or the suffering in workers all over world.
This last week our speaker was Dave Skeen, founder of an organization called Global Youth Network (sending university students to third-world countries to teach practically on social justice issues), and his topic was on social justice. To my surprise and delight, the first three days were really all about the environment and our lifestyle choices, fair trade, etc. He spoke about making it a value and priority to buy less and buy local. He talked about making community more important than our individuality, both locally and globally: to do what is best for community and not just our own convenience. This topic touched me so much and really affirmed my decision to volunteer at Dix Mille Villages and to learn more about this subject, while doing all I can here and now.
In fact, he showed us a short video called "The Story of Stuff" that I would recommend to all of you. It was such a concise, informative video concerning these ideas and really drove the point home about our consumer culture. Just type in www.storyofstuff.com and the video will come up. I hope you can all check it out and enjoy it.
We are loving our new home and have been entertaining often while still enjoying having space and privacy. We're so excited about all we're learning here and really appreciate all your comments, support, and encouragement!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It's February now and that means we're halfway through our school. As Lauren explained in the previous blog, our biggest change of late has been the amazing house we were asked to live in for the next four months. We've now been in the house for four days, and are taking full advantage of the privacy, tranquility, and intimacy that it provides. Dennis is sleeping better and Lauren and I are staring into each other's eyes more often. It's great!
As far as the school goes, there's much going on. For my volunteering, I was recently paired up with an 83-year-old man named Emile Pirro. I've met with him twice in his apartment, and am thrilled with the man. He's got quite a personality and seems to really enjoy company. I'm really looking forward to getting to know him over the next four months. Essentially, I meet with him once a week for 2 or 3 hours simply to talk or go through old boxes of stuff.
Also, I recently had two articles published in a local newspaper in Montreal called the Catholic Times. I covered two faith-oriented events and wrote articles for each. I'm planning on doing a couple more for this month as well. Another thing required of us in the school is to do a two-month study of a spiritual movement outside Christianity. I chose to study Zen Buddhism because of its emphasis on prayer through "emptying" and "turning off the mind." I attended an orientation meeting at a Zen Center in the city and also attended one of the prayer times, which is referred to as "zazen". It basically consisted of sitting in silence for three twenty-minute periods, each one broken up by walking around the "zendo" for five minutes. During the sitting periods, all noises and movements are strongly discouraged. I never realized how much I swallow and how loud it can be when sitting in a silent room full of people! Nonetheless, I'm very excited for what it might teach me in learning to quiet myself and just listen for the still, small voice.
A few other things that are in the works include a visit to a local monastery to have lunch with a community of monks and "monkesses", a few different interviews with Islamic, Jewish, Evangelical, and Sikh faith leaders, and hosting our home church's Sunday meetings a few times (now that we have the space to do so!).
Of course, there are many more things that have happened and will happen out here that are too many to tell; nonetheless, I can say with the utmost conviction that our first four months in Montreal have gone way beyond our expectations. A whole new world has opened up to us, and we are eating and soaking it up. The infinite opportunities and experiences within the urban context that is Montreal have revealed God's breadth and depth to me in fresh, new ways I had never considered. In the most anti-religious of North American cities, it's amazing to see God's presence in such creative ways.