Sunday, June 29, 2008


While we Americans are fixated on choosing our next president, there is a real danger of ignoring the plight of the world around us, such as in Zimbabwe where the oppression of international food aid, government-sanctioned murder of opposition groups, and the sham election of an oppressive leader happens with little uproar. 

We have to be properly engaged both as citizens and especially as Christians if we genuinely believe in a meaningful holistic Gospel of truth that speaks to all of God's children, here and abroad.

And we need to come to a steadfast trust in the power of prayer, even with huge complex world events like this.


Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out — have lost access to food and other basic humanitarian assistance as their government has clamped down on international aid groups it says are backing the political opposition, relief agencies say.

This weekend, Zimbabweans voted in a presidential runoff that has been widely denounced by Western leaders because of state-sponsored violence and efforts to intimidate voters with threats of beatings if they failed to cast their ballots for Robert Mugabe, the sole candidate. Dozens of opposition supporters were killed in the weeks leading to the runoff. 

The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, dropped out of the race, citing continuing attacks against his supporters, and he later sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy. 


Patson Chipiro, a democracy activist, wasn’t home when Robert Mugabe’s thugs showed up looking for him.

So they grabbed his wife, Dadirai, and tormented her by chopping off one of her hands and both of her feet. Finally, they threw her into a hut, locked the door and burned it to the ground.

That has been the pattern lately: with opposition figures in hiding, Mr. Mugabe’s goons kill loved ones to send a message of intimidation. Even the wife of the mayor-elect of Harare, the capital, was kidnapped and beaten to death.

From Nicholas Kristof's latest column on Zimbabwe


From --

CARE, one of the largest nonprofit groups working in the country, has been ordered by the Zimbabwean government to suspend all its operations, which help 500,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people. This month alone, CARE would have fed more than 110,000 people in schools, orphanages, old-age homes and in various programs, it said.

But the aid restrictions go far beyond any one group. Muktar Farah, deputy head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Zimbabwe, said Tuesday that millions of people had lost assistance because of what he called “the shrinking of humanitarian space.”


Aid workers and human rights groups say the restrictions are meant to prevent them from witnessing attacks on opposition supporters, often in nighttime raids, amid the government’s increasingly violent and deadly crackdown on those it sees as a threat to its hold on power.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said Monday that 10,000 children had been displaced by the violence, scores had been beaten and some schools had been taken over by pro-government forces and turned into centers of torture. In a statement, it expressed worry about the welfare of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and orphaned children, given how many aid groups have restricted their operations “due to threats, requests to do so by authorities or general ‘concern at current uncertainties.’ ”

Zimbabwean political analysts and civic leaders say that Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF, his governing party, are themselves seeking to use food as a political weapon in a country, once the region’s bread basket, where hunger now afflicts millions. The government recently bought 600,000 tons of corn. By barring NGOs from giving out food in some areas, the governing party controls food distribution and can use it as an inducement to win support. 


With many aid groups forced, my honest answer is that from a single-person standpoint, I'm not sure. Prayer is our strongest weapon, and I don't just mean that in the abstract. I mean, literally, practically, as Christians, we are called to have faith in the true power of prayer to the living Lord.

We can also support the political sanctions our government has recently called for. Perhaps letter campaigns, calling your representatives, writing to newspapers, websites, TV, radio, etc etc and making it an issue to be concerned about is needed.

If you think those methods work, the fact that Darfur is a household name says a lot to the grassroots work of non-profits, Christian and other religious organizations, and others. 


Saturday, June 21, 2008

DONATE: American Red Cross for Flooding in Central U.S.


With an estimated cost of at least $15 million for the relief efforts in the Central United States, the American Red Cross continues to seek donations for its Disaster Relief Fund. The relief organization is extremely grateful for the approximately $8 million that has been pledged and received for disaster relief to date from generous donors across the country. This update comes one week after the Red Cross announced that the fund had been depleted. The challenges with the Disaster Relief Fund have not adversely affected the level of service that is being provided.

In response to the extreme weather and flooding, the Red Cross has opened more than 100 shelters and deployed an estimated 3,000 volunteers to help serve nearly 500,000 meals and snacks, and distribute the thousands of clean-up kits to families returning to their flood ravaged homes. As flooding continues along the Mississippi River, the Red Cross encourages those who may be affected by the swelling waters to review the flooding preparedness tips that can be found on

The Disaster Relief Fund allows the Red Cross to provide desperately needed immediate emergency assistance to victims of all disasters, small and large. The fund provides for free assistance not only to victims of major disasters like the recent floods, but also to smaller local disasters, like house fires. Since the American Red Cross is not a government agency, it relies on the donations of private individuals and organizations to provide assistance to those affected by disasters.

The best way to help the Red Cross continue to provide food, shelter, counseling and other assistance to victims of disasters is to make a financial contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund. For example, a $25 donation can provide five blankets at an emergency shelter; a $350 donation can provide emergency food and shelter for up to 25 people for one day.

Donors can contribute via the internet at , by phone at 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or by mail: American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

DISCUSSION: Author of "The Irresistible Revolution," on social justice and Jesus

(Excerpt from Relevant Magazine)

By Shane Claiborne, author of "The Irresistible Revolution" and founder of the Simple Way Community, a New Monastic community in Philadelphia

When I look at Jesus, [evangelism and dealing with injustice] are inseparable in His life. People are hungry for a Gospel that embodies a social, political alternative to the patterns of our world.

To me, that is the very essence of what spread within the early Church - they were caring for the poor, preaching another Kingdom and another emperor other than Caesar. It was absolutely magnetic because the faith people had placed in Rome was at an all-time low, so when they were saying, "We've got another Kingdom," people were like, "Yes, we're ready, because the world as we've experienced it is not working."

The beautiful thing is, people are saying the same thing now.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

SERVE: Want to Deliver Bread from Panera to Food Banks? Here's the number to call! (Schedule below)

Jim and Lelia Armstrong from Grace Christian Church have organized a team that takes bread that would have been thrown away in businesses like Panera and Manhattan Bagel, wrap it, and give it to local food banks and soup kitchens in Monmouth County, such as Lunch Break in Red Bank!

But with their operation growing, they need ORB's help! I think it would be awesome if some of us could help out.

INTERESTED IN HELPING OUT?Jim Armstrong said he is willing to take volunteers right away! He just wants everyone to call him to adjust to your schedules!Please give him a call or e-mail if you want to deliver bread.

Jim Armstrong
from Grace Christian Church

Let me know if you got in contact with them!

MONDAY: Pick up at Manhattan Bagel, 8:00 p.m. & package.
Pick up at Panera at 9:15 p.m. & package.
Delivery on Tuesday morning to: Salvation Army, Asbury Park; The Center, Asbury Park.
(possible delivery to Lunch Break, Red Bank, if quantity of products received permits)
SATURDAY: Pick up at Manhattan Bagel, 6:00 p.m. & package.
Pick up at Panera at 9:15 p.m. & package.
Delivery on Sunday to Long Branch Church of God, Long Branch; St. Augustine's Episcopal Church. Delivery to by between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
OTHER: (1) Additional pick ups/packaging at Manhattan Bagel, 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday & Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SERVE: Volunteer at Aslan Youth Ministry Summer Daycamp!

Aslan Youth Ministries services urban youth in Red Bank, Long Branch, and Asbury Park During the summer months of July and August, Aslan operates summer day camps for each area program. For several hours each day, children are treated to sports activities, music and arts & crafts. The local summer programs also include numerous field trips to the beach and to special programs provided through the Monmouth County Park system.

We will have a meeting with Kathryn Eagles, one of the people who runs the day camp, on SUNDAY, JUNE 15TH AFTER SERVICE AT ORB. 


There you will get the details and all of that jazz. Whether you're a definite or if you just want to get more details, come to check it out!

Volunteers can do these things:. 
1. They can be food makers
2. They can volunteer as a teacher
3. They can volunteer as a leader of a class

Ideally, it would be great if they do teacher or leader that they at least give a full day. A full day is about from 9:30 to 2. Although the Red Bank camp, we are trying to push for a full day so it would go till 4. We do have field trips planned and some activities being brought to the daycamp, so if they can't be there all the time, then we could work something out. 

My number is 732-766-1943, or email

Here's a schedule of all their day camps. I'm jsut trying to get a short list of who at least has some interest. More info on how many hours you would give, etc, coming in future event updates. Let me know if you're interested, I know it's hard because you have summer jobs and all of that with short notice. 

Day Camp Asbury Park July 7-11
Day Camp Asbury Park July 14-18
Long branch Day camp July 21-25
Long Branch day camp July 28 August 1
Red Bank Day camp Aug 4-8
Red Bank Day camp 11-15

For more information on Aslan Youth Ministries, go to

Thursday, June 5, 2008

AWARENESS: Poverty and Gang Violence in Red Bank? A Profile, by Beth Purdy

By Beth Purdy

(For one of Beth’s social work classes, she and a group of peers analyzed the problems in Red Bank through interviews and personal tours of the town. These are some of her notes.)

A few blocks away from the glitzy stores and lavish restaurants lies an simmering but all too real problem in Red Bank. There is a serious division between the town, one being the east side or the upper middle class side, and the other being the west side or the more run down, lower class side.

While it would seem that the most Red Bank police have to deal with are upper class twentysomethings stumbling out of bars, a world of gang violence (bloods, crips, ms13, CTS), a culture of drugs and prostitution secretly grows on the other side of the train tracks.

Originally the east side was pushed out to be mostly upper middle class, pushing those into the west side or neighboring towns. Now it seems that the west side is going to be pushed out as well, pushing out lower class residents and those that cannot afford a higher cost of living.

Those who have lived in Red Bank all of their lives and do not have much money may be forced to move out of their home town due to development of ritzier areas. Furthermore, even though many people on the east side are wealthy, even they don’t seem to be rich enough anymore. Shops that surround the area increasingly cater towards very wealthy people. It seems as if Red Bank is trying to adapt to a wealthier life style and push out everyone else in the process.


When going to the west side, it was like going from day to night. The road that the Lunch Break soup kitchen was placed also had a bunch of boarded, abandoned houses along with many houses with what looked like eviction notices on doors. As two of my group members were driving around the residential area of the west side, they were tailed by a police officer for four blocks, as if they were up to something suspicious.

Whereas the east side had fancy and upbeat restaurants and bistros for sit down meals, the west side had a large amount of fast food chain restaurants. The one thing that was very noticeably was the vast amount of liquor stores on the west side.

Additionally, there are a lot of Laundromats; we noticed that many people were walking with bags of clothing, probably bringing them to be cleaned. We also saw a lot of diverse groups walking in big groups and gathered on street corners.

Surprisingly, there were some women walking with baby strollers, even though there was snow on the ground from the snow storm the day before. Compared to the east side, there was a lot of garbage laying around and overflowing dumpsters.

We also picked up a magazine in Red Bank called “Red Bank Red Hot.” Many of the ads in it were very ritzy almost aiming more towards the east side. At the end of the magazine there was a Red Bank town map, and looking at it closely, only the east side was put in, as if the west side was not even part of Red Bank.

It is as if the east side of Red Bank is ashamed of the west side and does not want to be included or associated with them.



- Red Bank’s mayor is Pasquale Menna.

- Ethnic groups: a lot of different ethnicities live around the train station, especially Hispanic. They live in Red Bank, but take the train to commute south to work in restaurants. Eastside: mostly white.

- Housing: there are a lot of high rise apartments on the eastside (Maple Ave is the divider for eastside and Westside), some going for $10,000 a month, and houses, mostly on Front Street and behind the business district. The Westside has housing projects (on Locust Ave).

- Many people are moving to Westside or Tinton Falls, or their houses are being passed on through their family.

Problems seen in Red Bank:

There are two sides to Red Bank:

Eastside, A lot of people coming from the bars at night being drunk and disorderly. Sometimes the town can get very over crowded, because of its location (between NYC and Atlantic City), for example, there are 100,000 people who come for 4th of July fireworks.

Westside: Mostly Hispanic and African American population, a lot of drugs and violence.


Westside: prostitution, gangs (bloods, crips, ms13, CTS) generally keep a low profile, drugs. Eastside: underage drinking in bars, bar fights in streets. Want to try to keep problems away from business district because businesses will get unhappy and take their business somewhere else.


Very diverse, in the past it was mostly African American, but then the business district, on the eastside, started to develop and become more upper-class, white families started to move it, because it was good from commuting to the city (train station, buses, parkway entrance), so the lower class African American families got pushed over to the Westside and into other towns, like Tinton Falls and Eatontown. Now the eastside is mostly White and the Westside a mix of white, African American and Hispanic.

Issues people in town are talking/concerned about:

Once a month the town board meets. Anyone can go to meetings, voicing their concerns and issues. Most of the time people complain about the bars and drunken people, loud music, disorderly conduct, kids getting into bars underage and then getting into fights on the streets. West side is underrepresented.


DYFS has many programs, there is the Salvation Army on Navesink River Road, the police department held a charity drive during Thanksgiving, collecting food for local families, if a homeless person comes to the station and their most recent address was in Red Bank, they will take them over to Fort Monmouth to a homeless shelter there, and they work with Animal Control and will also help other townships with animal control problems, learning centers, YMCA, and Social Services

How did Red Bank get this way? Do you agree? What can we do about it? Think! Disagree! Discuss! Care!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

AWARENESS: Dropping Third World Debt - A summary by N.T. Wright

By N.T. Wright

The Caricature

The picture painted of, say, African governments, by critics of Jubilee frequently demonstrates a woeful ignorance of this complex and varied continent. There are indeed “tyrants and bullies”, but in contrast to the situation which applied thirty years ago, they are in a minority. And no one is asking for debt relief for them. Or rather, “Give them debt relief, Lord, but not yet!”.

As for the suggestion (made by one of my critics, tipping his hand after some fine-sounding phrases) that Africans are basically lazy . . . well, it’s hard to think of anything kind to say about that idea. No doubt some are, no doubt some aren’t, just like the rest of us. That is not the problem.

Incidentally, this is not to say that standards of governance in Africa are good – they are rarely so in impoverished countries. As the great economist Jeffrey Sachs has pointed out, corruption is a consequence of severe poverty as well as being one of its major causes. What is beyond debate is that governance has changed for the better, and markedly so, in many African countries.

The Responsibility

Poor country debt is often thought of as if the debtors had withdrawn a large amount of money from a cash machine, whereas international debts are actually incurred as a result of agreements between powerful elites. In other words, for every debtor there is a creditor, who bears part of the responsibility for the situation that results.

In the 1970s, for example, Western financial institutions loaned the best part of a billion dollars to Idi Amin of Uganda – a vicious psychopath and known to be such. By doing so, they not only saddled that impoverished country with a millstone of debt, but financed the dictator’s reign of terror. These actions were both financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. After Amin’s fall, the debts were inflated by massive rates of compound interest (up to 20% p.a.!) resulting mainly from economic policies pursued by the developed world, not least as long-term results of the Bretton Woods agreement. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the market for Uganda’s main exports.

With reference to Liberia, the ‘neocon’ Paul Wolfowitz, when President of the World Bank, stated that: “It’s really unfortunate when you get a government with this kind of commitment and energy, ready to do important things and having absolutely zero responsibility for the debts, that they have to spend so much time and energy dealing with the creditors – who have a responsibility for having made loans [to corrupt dictators] in the first place.”

Note that Liberia, which now has the first democratically elected woman president in Africa, has “absolutely zero responsibility for the debts”! And that its situation is “really unfortunate”, which must be the understatement of the year!

The idea that we had any right to demand the money back from Uganda or Liberia, both of which have made real progress towards democracy, most of whose people were either children or as yet unborn at the time the debts were incurred, is an outrage to any sense of what is reasonable and right. But demand it back we did from Uganda, for twenty five long years, and we are still doing the same to Liberia (although it received interim debt relief in March). (We perhaps need to remind ourselves that if an individual gets too heavily in unpayable debt, they can declare bankruptcy, wipe the slate clean, and start over. A country, it seems, can’t do that.)

The Impacts

Only modest amounts of debt relief have been made available by the international financial community (the poorest countries still pay $100 million each day to the rich), and the financial benefits of that have been spread very thinly indeed. It would take a thousand years before the cost of current debt relief programmes equalled the cost of the Iraq war! However, it is already clear that it is a very effective method of development financing and this has been acknowledged by international institutions. The suggestion of one of my critics that to drop the debt is to condemn poor people to even worse conditions is straightforwardly contradicted by the evidence.

Here in North East England, Christian Aid received an unsolicited email from Dr Simon Challand, when he was working in southern Uganda with the Church Mission Society. He wrote that: “Debt relief means money stays in the country instead of pouring out to Europe and the US and there have been huge improvements in health and education… The Ministry of Health has just increased the grant to all the health centres by 85%... four years ago they got nothing. Many health centres are able to provide immunisation, growth monitoring, health education and antenatal care to remote rural areas… Everywhere you go you can see new classrooms going up to support the Universal Primary Education programme which gives every child 7 years of free schooling.” [Uganda used its first tranche of debt relief to improve basic medical provision and to abolish fees for primary school.]

Speaking in London on 17th October 2007 (UN World Poverty Day), Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy UN Secretary General, stated that, "My own country Tanzania would not have been able to send hundreds of thousands* of children to school and fund health services if not for the cancellation of debts and big aid increases in recent years. We cannot forget that the debt cancellation would not have happened if citizens and faith leaders in the UK and elsewhere had not awakened the conscience of their leaders through the Jubilee campaign". [*It's actually closer to two million children in Tanzania and, according to a recent report in leading British medical journal, The Lancet, the country is also on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds.]

Mozambique has used part of its relief to introduce universal vaccination against the common childhood diseases. And so on.

Conditions for Debt Relief

There must indeed be conditions for debt relief, but the crucial ones are those involving transparency and accountability. The problem with the current conditionality regime is that it is both undemocratic and damaging. Conditions are imposed on indebted countries, often in the face of opposition from their governments, parliaments and people. They are all too often used to prise open poor country markets for the benefit of rich country corporations. And there is no right whatever of appeal to independent adjudication.

General Points

Christians frequently question whether we can expect fair and compassionate behaviour from unbelievers. Whether or not we should ‘expect’ it, all human beings everywhere still have this responsibility and are worthy of blame when they fail to live according to this pattern. The prophet Amos’ condemnation of Edom, not a member of the covenant community, for “stifling all compassion” (Amos 1, v. 11) is a case in point.

No one is saying Old Testament regulations can be applied in a simplistic manner to contemporary situations, but underlying moral principles have a universal relevance. The main one from the jubilee laws is that debt should not be allowed to cascade down the generations, consigning people to ever deepening misery and despair. Another, from the same source and from Nehemiah 5, vs. 1-13, is that it is never legitimate to enforce debt repayment at the cost of the essentials of life.

Just Imagine . . .

As a tail-piece, pause and ponder this (from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, ‘Make Poverty History’):

Just imagine that, when your uncle died, you discovered your family had inherited his debts...
Just imagine that the banks seized your home and much of your parents’ wages, forcing you all to live on a rubbish tip...
Just imagine that you were turned away from school, because the money had been used for debt repayments...
Just imagine that when your sister went to hospital to have her baby, they turned her away too...
Just imagine that, having only polluted stream water to drink, several of your brothers and sisters sickened and died...
Just imagine that you see your parents worn out by work and worry, and you know that you will inherit the debt...

This isn’t imagination! This is the tragic reality of the lives of hundreds of millions of young people in the poorer countries.

End this Madness - Drop the Debt!