See…the Suffering: Drug Addiction–a Virtual Mission Encounter

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Based on 2013 statistics, illicit drug use in the United States has been increasing. In that year, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older had used an illicit drug in the past month, an increase from 2012 statistics. Although most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers, and is highest among people in their late teens or twenties, illicit drug use is increasing among people in their fifties and sixties. Although most who use illicit drugs begin with marijuana, the percentage of those who begin with prescription pain killers has increased. Despite this, there is a “treatment gap” in the U.S.: only about 2.5 million people received treatment at a specialty facility.*

There is a very high possibility that there are people in your congregation suffering with addiction or in relationship with someone suffering from addiction. As women of faith, we are called to become aware of this critical issue and understand how our congregations or women’s and girls’ ministries can more effectively minister with those in addiction.

American Baptist Women’s Ministries is sponsoring a virtual mission encounter, “See…the Suffering: Drug Addiction,” October 3-7, 2017. Registration is open now (register by September 28, 2016). Through daily activities and evening conference calls with special guests, you will explore the complex issue of drug addictions and see how our faith calls us to respond. Visit www.abwministries.org/vme for information about guest speakers and how to register.

*2013 Statistics from www.drugabuse.gove/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends, revised June 2015. Accessed December 9, 2015.

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Domestic Violence in Our Churches

By Moreen Sharp

domestic_violence-3When you picture an abuser, what image pops into your head?

Faith Trust Institute tells us, “Batterers come from all class backgrounds and races. They may be highly-paid professionals, an upstanding member of the community, and a respected member of his congregation.”

When you think of a battered woman, what do you think of?

Battered women also “come from all walks of life. She might be the vice-president of your local bank, your child’s Sunday school teacher, or your dentist.”

The majority of us would be surprised at how widespread domestic violence is among people who attend our churches.

Let me tell you Sara’s story:

I grew up being very involved in the church, attended a Baptist private school, Bible college, and went into missions work. I met a man who shared my passion for the world and ministry. He was going to Bible College to be a pastor. Within six months after we married, he was dragging me around by my hair, pinning me down, and spitting all over my face while yelling, “RESPECT ME…SUBMIT.” I always made excuses for the bruises on my face, busted lip, or finger-print bruises on my arms. I knew it was getting bad, but I felt like it was my fault.

One day, the abuse got so bad he strangled me until I passed out. After that, I found a way to leave the relationship and came out about the abuse. My (now) ex played the role of the victim well. He was currently employed as a youth pastor at a church, and that church shunned me completely.

Believing I am lying is easier for most than accepting abuse is in their community.  I can reconcile the abuse of one man, but not the rejection of an entire community. I can honestly say that the reaction by the church hurt far more, and has been more traumatic, than the three-to-four physical beatings a week over a two-year period by my husband.

Her story is eerily similar to the story a friend shared with me.

This is not “somebody else’s problem.” We need to recognize this. Victims, survivors, perpetrators, family members are sitting in our churches every week.

What CAN we do?

  • Is there a woman who attends your church because it is a place of safety, of refuge, from an abusive spouse?  Keep your eyes and ears open. Listen. Be a friend.
  • If you are a woman who is being abused, please seek help. This is NOT your fault. No one deserves to be treated in such a way. Please know that.
  • Encourage your pastor to preach on this topic
  • Find out what community resources are available in your area and give the list to your pastor so s/he knows there is help if someone comes forward.
  • If someone talks to you about it, tell them you believe them and that it is not their fault. Direct them to talk to a domestic violence expert who is trained to help someone in their situation.

Faith communities matter in addressing domestic violence! We need to bring light on the subject. Let’s talk about it!

Moreen SharpMoreen Sharp is president of the North American Baptist Women’s Union and Vice-President of the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department. 

Using the Amazon links in this post helps support American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Thank you.

Ethiopian Jewish Girls and Women: Finding Hope and a Way Out…

by Rev. Christine Smith

pic 1Isaiah 58:7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Earlier this year, my husband and I, along with 20 other delegates of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, were privileged to go on a missions/tour trip to the Holy Land, Israel. We were invited by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

In addition to the wonder of seeing all of the breath taking sights and “walking where Jesus walked,” our hearts were torn as we learned of the abject poverty, pain, and abandonment many face in Israel. Unlike America, where we have a number of government-sponsored programs and charitable organizations to assist those in poverty (yes, I realize that we still have a long way to go in this area!), there are no “official” safety net programs in Israel.

Many poor Israelis are left to beg and suffer on the streets. Among the most vulnerable are women and children in general, and Ethiopian Jewish girls and women in particular. Having traveled from their native land of Ethiopia in hopes of reconnecting with their Jewish heritage and a better life in Israel, many have been deeply disappointed. According to the Fellowship, “72 percent of Ethiopian children in Israel live below the poverty line, and the high school dropout rate is double that of the Israeli average.” As a result, many cannot find work, and thus exist in very poor conditions.

In a major effort to address these problems and to fulfill the mandate of God’s Word to “share food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless…” the Fellowship has launched several programs. Two such programs are the Home for Ethiopian Jewish Girls and the Nishmat Ethiopian Women Job/Education Training Program (NEW).

pic 2In Israel, all youth ages 18 and up are required to serve 2-3 years in the military. As an alternative, girls may choose other forms of service such as working in hospitals, elder care facilities, and community centers. The Ethiopian Jewish Girls Home prepares orphan girls for these opportunities. It provides shelter, education, warmth, compassion, and support for girls who may otherwise be left on the streets. Many of the girls in the home were abandoned by families that could no longer afford to care for them, abused and neglected. In addition to providing the basic necessities, the Home also offers them an opportunity to gain skills and form relationships that will prepare them to stand on their own, find some form of employment, and become self-sufficient in the future. You can read more about this project by clicking here.

pic 3The other project is the Nishmat Ethiopian Women Program (NEW). In 2000 the Nishmat Ethiopian Women (NEW) program was launched to give Ethiopian young women a better chance at success. The program is designed for Ethiopian girls who have finished their national or army service and find themselves at a crossroads in their lives…

The one-year NEW program enables these young women to continue studying by providing food, housing, and a monthly stipend so they can devote themselves fully to their college preparatory studies and receive an education that will allow them to break out of the cycle of poverty. The program also includes counseling, private tutoring, and weekly workshops on computer applications, family budget management, and coping with violence against women.

To read more about this program, click here.

For more information about the programs offered by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and/or to offer support, visit www.ifcj.org

Rev. Christine A. SmithRev. Christine Smith is senior pastor of the Covenant Baptist Church of Euclid, Ohio. You may find her website at www.shepastorchris.org, and subscribe to her blog.