(Writer’s Block) To see and love the wounded

This article originally ran in issue 78:11 of the Moody Standard, on May 1, 2013 as an installment of the author’s bi-monthly column, “Writer’s Block.”

It’s overwhelming.

I just walked down to the Houghton 3 lounge to give my mind a rest from writing the article on self-harm and from transcribing a student’s interview on her cutting experiences. Awhile before that I was reading some of our former columns telling stories of students’ pain. And my mind kept interrupting my writing and research; I kept thinking about the pain those closest to me are going through right now.

Then in the lounge, because of what I’ve been reading and transcribing and struggling to write, I looked up at the ceiling, imagining the floors and rooms and spaces above me filled with women who are hurting. The amount of pain and suffering contained in this building — it’s overwhelming.

There’s often an aversion to pain in Christian culture, but we’ve been doing better at Moody these past few years, haven’t we? David Ulrich’s Sackcloth and Tea column opened eyes to what’s beneath the surface of many peers’ smiles. The “Can You Relate” campus events have helped some see that others are dealing with the same issues they are. Efforts have been made, and as one of our articles pointed out, openness to vulnerability is trending.

I’ve seen it outside the Moody bubble as well. I’ve been reading more blogs these days, and have come across a few by Christians who desperately want to reveal how often pain gets pushed aside. “Letters to the Wounded {#2}” on aholyexperience.com was one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. I recommend it in a heartbeat, if you’re prepared for the likelihood of tears.

I may have fooled myself, though, and been lulled to contentment with the progress I’ve seen, both in and out of Moody, to see and address people’s pain. Just because we’ve made progress doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t still there, and the problem is that people are still walking around this campus shoving intense pain deep inside, sadly, to hide it from the rest of you.

So this new openness could easily be and stay just a trend. Because many of you don’t know who David Ulrich was, and certainly don’t remember his stories. The “Can You Relate” events only served to enlighten those who attended, and the rest of us had to rely on the few who ignored the request that the stories told there were not to be shared. The blogs as well are only a tiny fraction within the fraction of Christians who write and interact with blogs.

This is my last column, and I was going to write about how scared I am about my future — and I am. Desperately. And that’s something we need to talk about too, how scared we all are of the future even when we slap on happy faces and say we’ll figure it out as we go.

But this is more important right now.

You are more important right now. The people around you are more important right now — your pain and their pain, seeing it, addressing it, sharing it, loving each other in and through it, instead of despite it.

So I’m using this, my last opportunity, to tell you that it’s on you now. Look around you and realize that someone is reliving abuse right now; someone is feeling like she just can’t do it anymore; someone just started medication for severe anxiety, and all it’s done is make her nauseated; someone was emotionally abused last night; and someone has scars on his skin from last week’s razor blade.

Stop ignoring it. Stop being shocked. Start seeing it and acknowledging it.

(Article) Adoption makes God’s plan clearer for alumni

This article originally ran in issue 78:10 of the Moody Standard, on April 17, 2013.

photo courtesy the Ebenhacks

Jarod and Jennifer Ebenhack didn’t expect to spend their first three years of married life living in a men’s dorm. They also never expected their international adoption of two Haitian boys to last eight years, or that they would eventually leave Haiti with five children instead of two.

The couple met at Moody when Jarod was the RA of Jennifer’s brother floor; they were married a year after his graduation. Jarod accepted Moody’s job offer to become an RS, and they spent the next three years living in an apartment on Dryer 1. As an applied linguistics major, Jarod felt he had a clear calling to a life of international ministry — specifically in Papua New Guinea — and Jennifer was prepared to go with him. But that plan began to change when, a year into their marriage, Jarod expressed an interest in pursuing adoption. Jennifer said, “I was quick to agree that while having our own biological children would be a welcome blessing, we as believers had an incredible opportunity to reach children for Christ through the ministry of adoption.” With both of their degrees completed, the Ebenhacks began the process of submitting paperwork, having home studies done and making plans for a trip to Haiti for August 2002.

The plan was to take one to two years to complete the adoption before heading to the mission field. The couple chose Haiti specifically because the length, expenses and age restrictions of the adoption process were easier than in other countries. However, when the pros of adoption in Haiti turned into empty promises, it was clear that God had used them to bring the couple to a place they otherwise would not have gone.

Finally accepting the long road between them and finalized adoption paperwork, Jennifer and Jarod made their home with their two boys, Justin and Jaden, in Haiti, waiting for the birth of their first daughter, Dora. During the ensuing eight years, the couple found a way to live out their love for international missions. Seeing a need in the adoption organization for in-country administration, they began to understand that God was turning their focus and “call” from Papua New Guinea to Haiti. “We realized that the best hope for the future of Haiti’s church was in the next generation,” Jennifer said. Over the next six years, they were led to serve with Kids Alive International, which specializes in childrens’ homes and ministry to at-risk kids across the world, and to partner with a Canadian family to establish three childrens’ homes and a school in Cap Haitien. Those years also saw the birth of their son, Brendan, and the adoption of their daughter, Daphne.

Their time in Haiti culminated in the Port-au-Prince earthquake of 2012. Sure that this was the end of any chance of completing the adoptions, the Ebenhacks were surprised when the U.S. said otherwise — orphans already chosen for adoption would be welcomed in, regardless of paperwork status. “I had only a 24-hour window of time to travel with my kids to Port-au-Prince, take the flight to Miami and claim the humanitarian parole visas the U.S. had granted,” Jennifer said. “While Jarod helped instigate critical relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I had the privilege of seeing God answer nine years of prayer — our Haitian children were able to enter the U.S. for the first time.”

Jarod, Jennifer, Jaden, Justin, Daphne and Dora now live in Pompano Beach, Florida, where God led them when they learned returning to Haiti could jeopardize their adoptions. The family now ministers among the Haitian population of South Florida, while Jarod teaches fifth grade at Highlands Christian Academy and Jennifer blogs at jenniferebenhack.com.

(Writer’s Block) There’s a problem here, and it’s not the feminists

This article originally ran in issue 78:9 of the Moody Standard, on March 6, 2013 as an installment of the author’s bi-monthly column, “Writer’s Block.”

I am not a feminist. Or, at least, I don’t think I am. I’ve even been guilty, in the past, of rolling my eyes at the concept.

My reaction was, in part, one I’d learned from the people around me: actually, from many of you. If I had to generalize the reactions of Moody students toward feminism, it would be ridicule, eye rolling, sarcasm, even disgust. Yes, that’s a stereotype, but it’s an overwhelmingly accurate one, as those were the immediate reactions I received upon telling people I was writing an article on the Feminisms blogging event.

Such reactions may be understandable — if they come from people who know the ins and outs of what they’re reacting to. If that’s you, if you’ve explored and read and researched feminism (specifically, here, Christian feminism), and you still believe strongly against it, then ok. I’m not addressing you. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s mostly not the case here. If I were to continue to generalize the atmosphere at Moody in regards to feminism, I would add ignorance — and I would include myself in that.

Why wouldn’t I call myself a feminist? It’s not because I don’t believe in the tenets of feminism, think it’s a gross movement or don’t want to be associated with the word. No, it’s because I haven’t spent enough time researching the arguments for and against it to say if I am. Do I believe that women and men are of equal value and worth as human beings? Yes. And do I believe that women should be treated as having value and worth and that our current culture doesn’t always do so? Yes again. The label of feminist, at its simplest, doesn’t seem to require much else.  

But how many of you think of feminism in terms of man-hating, equal-everything-demanding, angrily-protesting women? How often do Moodies laugh scornfully when they overhear a girl say she is a feminist? Or when she says she’s been made to feel subpar here for being a girl? How often is “feminist” used as a derogatory term, an easy insult of a strong-willed female peer?

There’s a problem here, and it’s not the feminists.

The problem is the guys who say men just don’t find feminism attractive. It’s the women who act as if feminists are an insult to their gender. It’s even me, who feels nervous writing this because part of me doesn’t want to be associated with something held in such low regard by my peers.

There are women at Moody who are passionate about feminism. There are men, both current students and alumni, who have no shame in calling themselves feminists. There are girls who don’t call themselves feminists, because they aren’t ready to take on the connotations — but they care deeply about women’s rights and wish the words “women’s rights” didn’t also receive ridicule.

And their peers mock the passion, shame the label, disregard the efforts of learning. Belittling the passions of a brother or sister in Christ is not a small issue. Making a mockery of someone’s deeply held beliefs is not a joke. And scoffing at others’ journeys to decide for themselves what they think about feminism is not our right, no matter how ridiculous one may think feminism is.

How are these actions loving? How are they excellent or praiseworthy? How are they, in any way, being used to encourage? If you want to engage in the conversation, if you still strongly disagree with the philosophy, then by all means, dialogue. But first, approach it with love, not scorn. Second, spend some time learning why these men and women, your peers, believe what they do. Their blogs, especially with Feminisms Fest having just happened, might be a great place to start. Third, talk to them instead of about them.

And if you don’t have the time, the energy or the desire to put that effort in, there’s one easy solution: don’t say anything.

(Article) Students, alumni explore personal journeys with feminism through blogs

This article originally ran in issue 78:9 of the Moody Standard, on March 6, 2013.

Feminisms Fest badge

On Feb. 26, tweets began appearing from Moody students and alumni with the hashtag #femfest. Feminisms Fest was a three day series of linkups (where one blogger hosts links to all participants’ posts) with dozens of bloggers  taking part. The blogging event was hosted by three Christian feminists on their blogs with the purpose of exploring feminism and its importance.

Each day and its topic was hosted by a different site. Day 1, hosted on J.R. Goudeau’s blogloveiswhatyoudo.com, was “Feminism and Me” and asked bloggers to write their experiences and stories and definitions of feminism.

In a post titled “Not sure (Or the scariest thing I’ve ever written),” Alyssa Hobson, sophomore pre-counseling major, explained her current journey to understanding feminism. She wrote, “I’m not sure if I’m a feminist or not. I’ve done some research, but I don’t have time to fully immerse myself in the study. There are still some things I can’t reconcile, some questions that haven’t been answered, and some implications that I’m not fully comfortable with … There are a lot of things I am sure of, though: I am sure that Jesus does not think less of me, as a woman, than he does of men.”

Kristen Mathson, 2012 alumna, in her post “Tipping My Hat to Feminism,” wrote, “[F]eminism was like a breath of fresh air … I was invited to imagine a world in which the relationships between men and women were healed, their voices restored and their purpose realized (worship!).”

In her post “Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person,” Emily Joy Allison, 2012 alumna, wrote about her journey in discovering Christian feminism. “To me, feminism was a soothing balm to a heart that had been battered and rejected by Christian culture for simply not looking like what they thought it should. Where the prevailing culture said you are wrong, you are dangerous, you are unsubmissive, you are undesirable, you are not enough, you are too much, feminism said you are a person.”

Day 2, Feb. 27, addressed “Why It Matters,” and on her blog, fromtwotoone.com, Christian feminist Danielle Vermeer asked participants to write why feminism is important and what is at stake.

Morgan Sutter, 2012 alumna, in a post on her blog, wrote, “I think that feminism is important because I’ve talked to far too many Christian women who’ve said the only place they’ve felt inferior as a woman was in the church.”

Eli Turrell, senior Biblical Studies major, has a different perspective on feminism’s importance — one of a man working in pediatrics. In “The Other Side of the Coin,” he wrote, “Feminism is important to me because it puts men and women into an equal playing ground … The other side of the coin is that people are just as uncomfortable with a guy in a traditionally female role. That’s not ok.”

The final day, hosted by Preston Yancey at seeprestonblog.com, prompted the topic “What You Learned.”

Rachel Rogers, 2012 alumna, finished her Feminisms Fest posts on her blog by listing what she’d learned: “I have learned that even talking about the idea of feminism really seems to make some Christians uncomfortable … that I don’t have to agree with every movement of feminism to agree with it as a whole. … But, ultimately I have learned that as a Christian, I don’t need to be afraid of the word feminism.”

Hobson (@ahobson92) summed up her experience with a single tweet: “Turns out, the community I once thought would be hard-hearted and rude is the most loving group of people I’ve ever encountered.”


Want more? Read more from a few #femfest participants:

Alyssa Hobson, sophomore pre-counseling major:
Not Sure (Or, The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Written)

Kristen Mathson, class of 2012:
Tipping My Hat to Feminism (You’re Welcome, Emily Allison)

Rachel Rogers, class of 2012:
I am a strong, independent woman
Feminism held in submission
A remedy

Emily Joy Allison, class of 2012:
Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person
Why It Matters: Feminism is for my little sisters
What I Learned: Like a fish needs a bicycle

Elijah Turrell, senior biblical studies major:
The Other Side of the Coin
What I Learned From #FemFest
On Being Christian, Complementarian, and Feminist

Morgan Sutter, class of 2012: