Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The hiddenness of suburban poverty

Charity Singleton just tipped me off to a news story on this morning's Morning Edition NPR broadcast about poverty in suburban Des Moines and the implications on social services. Here's Charity's summary:

According to the census bureau, for the first time, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in cities.

Today on Morning Edition, reporter Rachel Jones interviewed a poor woman in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, who was having trouble getting ahead because of problems with her "new" car, which a friend sold to her for $75. Public transportation was nearly non-existent between her suburb and downtown Des Moines, where she could access social services. Like most suburbs, her home and her job were miles apart, which no sidewalks for walking and no local bus service. And the $75 car had already cost her more than $800 for insurance and registration, which she really couldn't afford.

According to Jones, poor individuals are not the only ones struggling to deal with this new demographic. The suburban town and city governments are struggling to come up with the services their "new" constituents need. And though many of us have extensive networks of friends, family and resources that we can rely on in hard times, this is not true for everyone. A lot of Americans are just a divorce, hospitalization, or job loss away from really hard times. And many of those people now live in the suburbs.

As I just said in the comments to my previous post, when I was researching my suburbs book, I came across the statistic that 46% of people living below the poverty line live in the suburbs. And that figure is a few years old, so it doesn't surprise me that it's higher now. (I looked around the Census Bureau's site to see if I could find the report or news release about suburban poverty now being higher than urban poverty, but I couldn't find it offhand. Update: see here.) As Bob Lupton said in his book Renewing the City, "Poverty is suburbanizing."

Compounding the problem of poverty in the suburbs is the dynamic of the hiddenness of poverty in the suburbs - all the surrounding wealth and affluence masks the socioeconomic realities. It's in each local suburb's commercial interest to hide or minimize any poverty issues, since it's bad for business and new investment. But as new suburbs become new cities, old suburbs become old cities, with all the same challenges of infrastructure and poverty, compounded by the spread-out commuter culture.

There's nothing new under the sun. The biblical call to care for the orphan and widow, the poor and oppressed, the alien and the stranger certainly still applies to the modern suburban context. I live in the western suburbs of Chicago, and the county I live in, DuPage County, ranks as one of the most affluent in the country. But it also has a significant homeless population, many of whom are not immediately visible. I'm encouraged by organizations like DuPage PADS, which enlists an extensive network of churches and volunteers to provide shelter and meals. It's a great example of how the nonprofit sector and local churches can partner to minister to a community and seek the welfare of the suburbs.

And one more additional thought - this NPR article was yet another reminder of how car-dependent suburbia is, and as a corollary, how practical and essential car-based ministries can be for suburban churches. My wife and I have donated two of our previous cars to Willow Creek's cars ministry, which restores them and makes them available to single moms and others in need of transportation.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Prism magazine review of The Suburban Christian

Jenell Paris's blog tipped me off to the fact that the Jan/Feb 07 issue of Prism magazine (published by Evangelicals for Social Action) ran a review of The Suburban Christian, so I tracked down a copy from a colleague. The review is by Connally Gilliam, who contributes to the Common Grounds Online blog and whom I met briefly at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver last summer. She had stopped by the IVP booth for Common Grounds compatriot Kelly Monroe Kullberg's booksigning for Finding God Beyond Harvard, which I was project editor for. I later ran into a publicist I know at Tyndale who handed me a copy of Connally's excellent new book, Revelations of a Single Woman. Yes, everything is connected by just one or two degrees of separation these days. Anyway, here's Connally's review:

The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty is part apologetic on behalf of believers living in the suburbs and part prophetic call to these same suburban believers to live differently. The book defends and challenges the same set of people with informed humility. In the course of 10 chapters, author Albert Hsu communicates that the suburbs are more than the sum of their stereotypes. They are neither bastions of isolated, whirlwind, commuting consumers disconnected from God and others nor Leave It to Beaver promised lands free of relational pitfalls, hidden seductions, and spiritual dangers. Rather, the suburbs and exurbs are, first and foremost, where over half of all Americans (of many ethnic backgrounds) live. And where people are, God is in fact showing up, redeeming, and transforming.

Hsu lays out a historic overview of the suburbs--their promise and their delivery (for good and for ill). He assesses the relative merits and demerits of everything from the rise in prominence (and size) of the single-family home to the emergence of the auto-dependent community, from the effects of "branding" on the choices we make to the contextualization of the suburban church. And he offers plentiful and practical advice to individuals, groups of friends, and churches on how to navigate the suburban jungle with an eye to God's kingdom.

Hsu's navigation principles are lodged in practicing the spiritual disciplines while developing (individually and as a worshipping community) an increasingly clear sense of vocation or calling. The unbounded nature of the suburbs--lacking both geographic center and strong sense of communal identity, while emphasizing both personal autonomy and material expansion--must be countered by a mindfulness of God's presence and a clear sense of intentionality, says Hsu. Suburbanites must deliberately choose how they will live (practicing hospitality, learning interdependence, intentionally limiting consumption), because--to put it in the vernacular--the best defense is a good offense.

In short, I liked this book. I wish it addressed more fully how the suburbanite who is committed primarily to the community around her can also be meaningfully involved with the visibly absent poor (my struggle). But on the whole, the book is a well-written reminder that neither country life nor city life is necessarily nobler. Rather, the noblest thing is to seek the welfare of the neighbors, community, metropolitan region, and global church God has placed around you, even if your place is in the suburbs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

$100 project becomes a challenge and an experiment

I just noticed that my invitation for others to join us in the $100 project has been picked up by several other places. Catherine Claire at BreakPoint's The Point blog invited their readers to join "The $100 Challenge" and suggest ideas for how $100 could be used creatively and productively for the kingdom. Several other BreakPoint bloggers have also given follow-up suggestions, some about various aspects of global justice and mission. And then Boundless Line, the blog for Focus on the Family's Boundless.org, picked up on it, calling it "The $100 Experiment."

For those of you joining in, let me just say that the idea has been circulating for some time and has been known as "The Kingdom Assignment" or other Christian versions of "paying it forward." And of course it all goes back to the parable of the talents. So it's nothing new, but I'm happy that a bunch of folks are giving the idea new life.

And by the way, if you're deterred by not having $100 available to invest, you might be surprised - several of my Calvin seminar participants "just happened" to get amounts of $100 after we found out that our official funding for the project wasn't available. So God may well provide you with the opportunity and the funds to do this.

Another way of looking at this: a blogger tagged her friends with the question, "What would you do with $100 to do the most good?" I'm no good at tagging people, since I never have any idea if anybody actually reads this blog, but let's see . . . how about Lisa and/or Dave at Strangely Dim (or Dave can post at his Loud Time), Mark Goodyear, L.L. Barkat, Craver, Margaret Feinberg. Go ahead, tag all your friends with some form of this question. Besides your usual giving or tithing, how would you use $100 for the sake of the kingdom, especially in ways that multiply its impact?

Monday, January 22, 2007

What we learn from Paul's acknowledgments

My vision is extremely blurry today (more on that later), so I'm not in good shape to write much, so let me just excerpt an article I wrote that just went live over at TheHighCalling.org. Mark Goodyear is my editor over there, and if you haven't visited his blog yet, check it out to find out how he and his wife met as Ahab and Jezebel and got their first kiss captured on video. Anyway, here's part of my article:

I like reading the acknowledgments page in a book. I enjoy seeing the names of friends, family members, mentors, and others who comprise the community surrounding the author. There's a romantic myth of the author as solitary genius, the hermit who goes into a cave and throws out a masterpiece. Not so. Every book is the product of collaboration, and the acknowledgments are a window into each author's community.

We see this in Scripture as well, especially at the end of Paul's letters. Romans 16 is an example of his "acknowledgments." There Paul greets twenty-nine individuals by name, from Priscilla and Aquila to Tryphena and Tryphosa, as well as many others included in general terms like "the church," "the household," "the other brothers and sisters," and "all the believers with them." He describes the recipients as his "coworkers" and "dear friends" who "work hard in the Lord."

Paul also mentions his immediate companions and coworkers—Tertius, who wrote the letter down. Phoebe, who delivered the letter to the Romans. Gaius, who hosted Paul. And other coworkers like Timothy and Sosipater. In other words, Paul is no lone ranger in his work. He is not an isolated individual. He is part of a particular community (probably in Corinth at the time of the writing), and he writes to another like-minded community (in Rome).

As E. Randolph Richards has pointed out in his book Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, ancient letter writing was not a solitary activity. Paul did not write letters in isolation, like we send off e-mails from our laptops or Blackberries today. Nor was he merely dictating letters to a secretary. In the first century, letters such as Paul's were often written in a communal setting, such as a patron's living room or workshop. Several people probably worked in the room together, interacting with the material as it was composed. Because of the expense of writing supplies, Paul and his coworkers would have bounced ideas off each other, honing and clarifying the concepts before carefully setting pen to paper.

For the rest, click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

$100 project: One example, and an invitation to join us!

A few months ago, I posted about the $100 project that my Calvin seminar is doing, where each of us has to find something meaningful and interesting to do with a hundred bucks and write about it. Got a lot of good ideas and suggestions. I liked Helen's idea of using the money to facilitate a community garage sale, but alas, it's not exactly garage sale season with winter in Illinois. Stacey sent a link to her church's website, where they reported on what folks did in a similar project with $10 bills. It was great to read about all the creative ways that people used their money and multiplied it for kingdom purposes; I was particularly amazed by the person who bought an old, antique Eveready flashlight for $10 and sold it on eBay for $1500. I never knew that there were such serious flashlight collectors out there.

Alas, my $100 is still sitting in an envelope on my dresser. I haven't done anything with it yet. Which means that functionally, I'm no better than the lazy servant that buried his talents in the backyard (an experience that one of my fellow Calvin participants is replicating). I suppose that that's a lesson in itself. It's convicting to realize that my inaction and procrastination puts me in the same company as the wicked and lazy servant that should have at least put the money in the bank. I am feeling more sympathetic to that third servant, and I'm wondering if he started to panic when his master's return approached. (The deadline for our project is supposed to be June 1, 2007.)

Anyway, we just got one $100 report from Deb Rienstra, the convener of our seminar. She's an English prof at Calvin and the author of So Much More and Great With Child, which is the most thoughtful, meditative, literary and spiritually profound book I've ever encountered on the topic of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting a newborn - if you're expecting or have a new baby, you simply must read this book! Here's an excerpt from Deb's blog post about her $100:
Here's what I did: I obliged my class of poetry-writing students to come up with an idea for how to spend the money. The first suggestions pretty much missed the spirit of the deal: "Let's throw the money at a homeless person. The sheer waste of it would be so poignant." "Let's build a zipline on campus." That's about when I shut down the class discussion and asked people to think about it and e-mail me later.

The next week, two women in the class independently came up with the same idea: to do a poetry workshop at a local elementary school. Now THAT, I thought, could be good.

So I worked with the Service-Learning Center at Calvin and contacted a teacher at the Montessori public school downtown: multi-ethnic student body, good share of at-risk kids, lower socio-economic profile, and not much funding for the arts. My students and I visited the school for two one-hour sessions on separate days. Each of my students worked with two or three fifth-graders. We had lesson plans and everything. After the two sessions, we took the "manuscripts" back to Calvin and turned them into a pretty nifty chapbook. We used the hundred bucks to make plenty of copies for everyone. The copy bill came to $106.25.

Her blog post also has some examples of the poetry that her project created. I'm very impressed with how concrete Deb's project was and the potential impact on young students. I still remember my first published work as a first-grader that appeared in my school district's "literary magazine," a poem that read, "Red is fire. Red is chalk. Red is like a finger talk." This was then followed by my third-grade contribution, when I was aspiring to be an astronaut:
In the solar system there are nine
Planets born at the same time.
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, still far from the stars.
Uranus, Neptune, Pluto is last,
These are the planets, moving fast.
Of course, now Pluto is being demoted from planethood and other objects are now understood to be part of our system . . . but I find it significant that I still remember these poems, and somehow I've followed my vocational calling into Christian publishing. Anyway, kudos to Deb and her Calvin students for their initiative, and I hope they continue the effort in the future! And I'm still looking for something creative and missional to do with my $100. Any more ideas out there?

Actually, would anybody else be interested in doing this along with me? I was realizing that one simple way that many of the people at Stacey's church multiplied their money was to enlist friends and family members to join them in their effort. I didn't offer an invitation on my last post about this, so let me do that here, with every eye closed, every head bowed - if you, dear blog reader, feel the call of the Holy Spirit to use $100 strategically and intentionally for the sake of the kingdom, take the plunge and join the movement! Take this up as a new year's resolution or challenge. Let me know that you're going to do something along these lines in the next six months or so, and blog about it on your own blog. And invite others to do the same. Let's see what happens!

Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK Day: Same Kind of Different as Me

I was going to post on a different topic, but in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, let me mention a book I read yesterday, Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. One of my colleagues read this and recommended it, and my local library had a copy, so I picked it up. It's the true story of the unlikely friendship between a homeless African American man and a wealthy white art dealer, told in both of their first-person voices. While the book is a little uneven and random at times, there are a few interesting nuggets worth lifting out.

Denver, during his youth in the mid-20th century South, stops to help a white woman who has a flat tire, and three white guys come and beat him up and nearly kill him, Emmett Till-style, because of it. Even though we've heard many of these stories at this point in history, each new story is a sobering reminder of how many untold incidents like this were never reported.

Ron the art dealer meets Denver while volunteering at a local urban mission, and eventually they come to a point where Denver asks Ron what he wants from him, and Ron says, "I just want to be your friend." Denver responds by saying that when white folks go fishing, they usually catch the fish and then throw it back, while black folks catch the fish, take it home, show all their friends, and eat it and are sustained by it. Denver tells Ron that he's not interested in a "catch-and-release" friendship. But if he wants a real friendship, he'll be friends forever.

Ron has an affair with an artist during business trips. He eventually confesses to his wife, Debbie, who after much anger and tears, tells Ron, "I want to call her." She calls the other woman, tells her that she forgives her, and that she hopes she (the artist) finds someone who will honor her and have a good life with her. And Debbie says something to the effect that she's recommitting herself to Ron and their marriage so that he will have no reason to go back to the artist. Ron is so chastened by all this that he never strays again.

During a meal, Ron tosses his keychain on the table between him and Denver, and Denver asks what the keys are for. Ron owns multiple houses, luxury cars, etc. And Denver asks, "So do you own them or do they own you?" (That made me think through the keys on my keychain and the various commitments each represents.)

At any rate, this isn't the most significant book ever written on racial reconciliation (in my way of thinking about books, it's a skimmer and a check-out-from-the-library book, not a purchase-at-full-price, read-every-word-and-keep-forever kind of book). And many folks could criticize the book as being too simplistic - it's mostly about personal relationship in racial rec, and not as much about systemic issues (why doesn't the art dealer convince all his multibillionaire clients to use their wealth more justly?). But it's still a good narrative reminder of the racial history and challenges in the United States, and the long-term commitments needed to make progress, whether in systemic justice or personal friendships. (And let me plug another book, featured as a book of the day at Urbana - The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change, by Urbana speaker Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Global warming and creation care

Front page of yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times: "2006 was nation's warmest year." The National Climatic Data Center reports that 2006 was the warmest ever recorded in the U.S. As highlighted in the film An Inconvenient Truth, the warmest years on record have all been in the last decade. Today's news report bears that out, as the world's six warmest years since the 1890s were 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Creation care was highlighted at Urbana 06 as one key dimension of Christian discipleship and mission. One video segment, "All Things," built off of the convention exposition of the book of Ephesians to spell out the implications of bringing to unity "all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (Eph 1:10). Another verse it referenced that jumped out in a way I had never noticed before was Ezekiel 34:18: "Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clean water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?"

Environmental stewardship is a key responsibility for all Christians. What's perhaps most exciting is how Christians with particular vocations in global relief and development and in public policy are able to work toward sound environmental policies and practices that preserve ecological systems and help both humans and the environment to thrive. It's very encouraging that polluted rivers and waterways that were polluted and toxic a century ago are now much cleaner. We have a long way to go, of course, and global warming in particular is extremely daunting, but we have reason for hope.

I'm encouraged that creation care is now far more normative a value for Christians to embrace. I remember the commemoration of Earth Day 1990 during my senior year of high school, and it struck me that my church mentioned nothing about it whatsoever. I asked my pastor about it later, and he said something along the lines of it being a secular event, not a Christian one, not a priority for Christians. That seemed to me to be an example of where Christians have abdicated their responsibility of environmental stewardship and ceded it to the pantheists and New Agers. If anyone should be reclaiming the emphasis on creation care, it should be evangelical Christians. After all, to put it in terms more familiar to evangelicals, creation care is a pro-life issue. Bad environmental stewardship is harmful to millions of humans around the world, not to mention all the supporting ecosystems. Care for the earth is care for people, especially those in developing nations who are most vulnerable to diseases caused by lack of access to clean water supply.

Creation care is both a personal and systemic issue. If systems aren't in place, it's difficult for individuals and communities to practice good stewardship. I notice this whenever I'm at conference centers that don't have recycling bins. We're very diligent at home about recycling because the systems and bins are in place. But while traveling, it's so much easier to be wasteful. I remember one year at a staff conference that didn't have recycling, one of my colleagues very carefully packed up all of her empty plastic water bottles in her suitcase to take home to recycle. I was encouraged that many Urbana delegates put their recyclables on top of garbage cans rather than tossing them in a message to the convention center - please recycle!

For suburban Christians in particular, I think one of the most significant issues is suburban commuter culture. The physical geography of suburbia is designed for cars, and we often have no choice but to drive everywhere. So one of the best things we can do from a stewardship perspective is to do what we can to consolidate our lives as much as possible so that we live, work, shop and worship all in the same local community, whether that's a three-mile radius or a five-mile radius or whatever of our home. Not only will that cut down on fuel use, it also helps anchor us in local neighborhoods instead of being fragmented across a metro area. And there are many things we can do to counter the environmental waste of our consumer culture; my wife and I recently began bringing reusable canvas tote bags to the grocery store.

If you're not yet convinced of the significance of the issue or were not persuaded by An Inconvenient Truth, take a look at any number of good Christian resources on the topic, from Edward Brown's new Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation to older books like Redeeming Creation, The Care of Creation and For the Beauty of the Earth. The Evangelical Environmental Network issued this declaration last year spelling out the significance of the issue, and it's gratifying to see so many evangelical leaders signing it (and a little annoying to see others pooh-pooh it). At any rate, let's do what we can to be good stewards of God's good creation. And let the earth rejoice!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reading biblical texts of terror with our children

This past weekend I read Not the End of the World, a teen novel by British writer Geraldine McCaughrean retelling the story of Noah’s ark and the flood from the perspective of Noah’s daughter Timna. (No, she’s not a biblical character, but could have been; as she says pointedly in the narrative, the only ones that are remembered are the sons.) The book won Britain’s Whitbread Award a few years ago. A very compelling story, more interesting and less predictable than many American Christian novels. And very sobering to consider the realities of the deaths of those who perished in the flood.

Then the other night when reading bedtime Bible stories to our kids, we read a children’s Bible version of the angel of death killing the firstborns of Egypt. A challenging narrative to explain to a five-year-old! Josiah asked, “Was it a good angel or a bad angel?” And we said something like, “Well, he was a good angel, and his job was to do a very sad thing because the bad king was not listening to God.”

We had also recently read about Herod’s killing of babies in Bethlehem, and we could tell Josiah was thinking hard about all this. Josiah asked, “Is there an angel in our room? Will he come take Elijah away?” We didn't point out to him that actually, he's the firstborn, not Elijah. The best we could say was that he shouldn't be afraid of an angel taking his brother away because we’re not like the bad king of Egypt. But in retrospect, of course, that’s just a temporary stopgap answer. Soon enough he'll be old enough to really start wrestling with the “Why, God?” questions of theodicy and whether God causes innocent death.

These biblical “texts of terror,” as some commentators call them, are always disturbing, as they probably should be. It's tricky reading the full scope of Scripture with our kids because of developmental issues. We don't want our kids to end up like former fundamentalists who walked away from a picture of the faith that only seemed to emphasize the harsh aspects of God. But the flip side is that children’s Bibles are often sanitized clean of the dark side of the biblical narrative, which probably reinforces our cultural Christian aversion to anything unpleasant or discomfiting. It's easier to talk about Noah's ark as a floating zoo and look at pleasant pictures of cute pairs of animals than to try to work through all the implications of global genocide.

But the global reality, and the majority of human history, is one where suffering and death are the default. I'm also in the midst of reading Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill, who reminds us that back then the average life expectancy was around 25, and rampant disease and death were normative. An NPR story a few weeks ago mentioned that just a few hundred years ago, pregnancy after age 30 was almost a certain death sentence. And still is, in many places today. I was also skimming through David McCullough's 1776, and it seems like the lessons of history are that every era pretty much was awful, in terms of war, disease, famine, death and all the rest. As conflicted and messy as the world is today, we're still far better off than most people throughout the ages.

Well, I've been rambling. Maybe the lessons of the biblical narratives, modern history and international news is that we must always be aware of suffering and injustice in the world and look for ways to alleviate it. Gratitude that things are not as bad as they could be and have been, and hopeful activism to minister to a hurting world.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Justice and AIDS at Urbana 06

Happy new year! I'm now home from Urbana 06, and I'm still recovering from fatigue and sore feet. We were extremely busy, so I wasn't able to blog much. But it was an excellent week and tremendously invigorating. A few more highlights:

Sharon Cohn from International Justice Mission gave a powerful testimony regarding God's concern for the poor, the forgotten, the last, the least, the lost and the littlest. 27 million people today are enslaved, and Sharon shared the story of Elizabeth, a Christian girl who was forced into sexual slavery. A Westerner paid $500 to rape her of her virginity. An IJM investigator and local authorities were eventually able to rescue her from the brothel. On the wall of the room where she had been sexually assaulted daily, she had written Psalm 27: "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?" Sharon challenged delegates to be the enemies of injustice. We are called to courage, she said; "We are called to be a little bit braver tomorrow than we are today." She concluded by saying that she asked Elizabeth to read Psalm 27 to her once, but she wouldn't. Elizabeth said that Psalm 27 was what she read while she was in the brothel. But now she looks to Psalm 34: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."

Then there was a special extended session focusing on AIDS, and one of the high points for many was a video message from Bono taped specifically for Urbana. (Unfortunately, this is one of the few segments that is not available online. Call it the "Urbono" session. :-) In it he highlighted some of the themes that he has been championing for the past few years - he said that AIDS and poverty are the issues that future generations will look back at our generation for, like slavery in the 18th-19th centuries. This is our abolition movement, our civil rights movement. He challenged delegates to join the ONE Campaign to make poverty history.

Something that struck me once again was how holistic Urbana's approach to mission was. Evangelicals are often caricatured as only being concerned about "saving souls" and neglecting the larger societal implications of the gospel. But as someone said from the platform, proclamation of the gospel and demonstration of the gospel go hand in hand. This isn't particularly new, as I'm sure this has been said since the early Urbanas when John Stott was on the program as the main expositor, but I'm grateful that Urbana and InterVarsity have continued this emphasis on global justice and are bringing sound missiology to bear on the crucial issues of our day.

So how can we get involved? First, if you've not yet read Good News About Injustice by IJM founder Gary Haugen, start there. It's an excellent introduction to what's going on in the world and how Christians can participate in God's work for justice. Another example is one that I highlighted in my book - a high school of suburban teens started a student network to fight AIDS in Africa. And join the ONE Campaign. Even though I've heard about ONE for some time, I'd never gotten around to signing on. But the day after Bono's message, I stopped by a World Vision booth, signed up and got a wristband. I'm not sure yet what other steps I might take, but one baby step is that I just figured out how to add the banner to the coding of this blog.

As Sharon Cohn said in her testimony, when power is threatened, it is students that are feared and schools and universities that are shut down. Totalitarian dictators most fear college students that start reform movements, end apartheid, bring injustice to light and change the world. I am encouraged that the thousands of students who were at Urbana 06 are being mobilized to a life and a calling far greater than mere consumerism, and that all of us can join them in God's work around the world. (P.S. Here's a blog entry by a student who was at Urbana - just one example of why I am so encouraged by and hopeful about this generation.)