Beautiful Survivor

ChristineUwase

Working in broadcast media for many years I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. I met personal heroes, like Australian cyclist Cadel Evans, and various other celebrities from around the world. A lot of the people I met were inspiring but none have been as inspiring as those I have met since beginning to work for Compassion.

One of the most remarkable people I’ve had the chance to meet is Christine, a young woman I met in Rwanda in 2014. Christine faced unimaginable tragedy at the age of four when she lost her family to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

The last memory I have of my mother is watching her be shot dead before my eyes as she pleaded for both her life and mine to be spared. I was only four years old and didn’t know the implications of her dying prematurely. I wish she was still alive to see me grow into the lady I have become.

How do you come back from something like that? How do you find hope in such a dark situation?

Christine is in Western Australia for a short time to tell her story and the amazing transformation that has happened in her life. While living with an aunty she was registered with Compassion and life started to turn around.

I joined Compassion when I was five years old, just after my parents were killed. Compassion picked me alongside other children and provided us with education, meals and other basic supplies, which I was able to share with my siblings. The Compassion project became my next home and a place where I was assured of joy.

Through Compassion, I came to know Christ and my faith was strengthened. I was previously very quiet and wouldn’t smile, but the longer I attended the program and met friends to play with, the more my confidence grew. Through Compassion, I started to gain hope for life where I was hopeless.

My sponsor taught me about giving and impacting others through what I have. The fact that they helped me without even knowing who I am impressed me a lot and pushes me to do the same to others, in order to make our world a better place. My sponsors used to tell me how much they love me and how I am so special. It was the first time I was told that and now I am passionate about sharing that love with others.

God has used Compassion to make me who I am today.

MelCrothers
If you’re in Perth you can hear Christine tell her story on Sunday night, the 26th of June, at The Rocks in Cannington.

The evening will also feature one of my very favourite singer/songwriters, Mel Crothers.

Entry to the event is free but you’ll need to register. You can find out more and register by clicking this link.

I really want you to have the opportunity to be inspired by this incredible evening. Why not grab a few friends or family members and head along? You will be so glad you took the time.

You can see Christine telling some of her story in the video below.

Christine’s story is one of hope and transformation. If you can, I really hope you’ll make it a priority to hear from her while she’s in Perth.

My life is true confirmation that God has a plan for each one of us and has mysterious ways to fulfil the plan. All we need to do is let Him work in us. The way God used sponsors through Compassion to transform my life is one of those mysteries.

Christine is a truly inspiring lady. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet her.

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Going Ape Online

gorilla

When I first entered the courtroom I had no idea of the events that were about to unfold. I didn’t know I’d be there for around six weeks, listening to dozens of people being questioned by prosecution and defence lawyers.

It was several years ago and I’d been chosen to serve on the jury of a criminal case. The case was estimated to run for a couple of weeks but one and a half months later we finally ‘retired to consider a verdict’.

It was only after all the twists and turns of the evidence, direction from the judge, copious legal arguments and much more along the way that we were ready to consider all that we’d seen and heard and then deliver a verdict on each of the charges. It still took the twelve of us many hours to finally agree. That process involved reviewing the case, including expert evidence, and discussing various points together to ensure justice for everyone involved in the case.

What fascinated me at the time was the media reporting. I had no doubt that people would have been making up their own minds on the case based on the occasional 90 second television reports and the two or three hundred word reports in the paper. We had heard countless hours of in depth evidence, they had seen a 90 second report. How could they make a solid decision on such a small amount of evidence? Quite obviously they couldn’t.

Everyone’s Going Ape

Over the past week we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people making grand statements online and in the media about the sad case of Harambe the gorilla and the four year old child who found his way into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.

Since Harambe was shot dead and the child was rescued we’ve heard and seen endless commentary about everything from bad parenting to inadequate infrastructure at the zoo. We’ve been told who’s at fault and even had people suggesting that the gorilla’s life was more important than the child’s. All this from people who weren’t there and only had brief media reports to rely upon when forming their opinion.

I won’t say who I think was at fault because I really don’t have enough evidence to know, but that obviously hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, being quite convinced they know enough to confidently assert their opinion and that their opinion should be the final word on the matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against developing a conversation and seeking the facts to understand more about what happened but that’s a million miles away from taking on the job of judge, jury and executioner based on media reports.

Whether it’s a major news story or simply a fun YouTube video, our unlimited access to various forms of social media has given us unprecedented opportunity to share our opinions and the fact that most of those opinions aren’t supported by the facts doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. This isn’t just about Harambe’s story, this is about every single thing that finds it’s way online. This is about people using social media to constantly tear down others rather than building them up and offering help in times of need.

Whenever someone publishes anything online you can almost guarantee a barrage of comments that range between sycophantic worship and death threats. Where’s the middle ground? Where’s the reasoned discussion?

We’ve lost the ability to display compassion and empathy.

Many seem to forget that those involved in the stories they pronounce their opinions on are real people who are very likely to read those comments and suffer from the words of those who don’t know or care to understand the wider story.

When we cross the line, when we mess up and get it wrong, we hope that others will take into account what brought us to that point, not to excuse our behaviour but to understand it, and then that they’ll offer forgiveness. Why are we so unprepared to offer that to others? Why are we so quick to pass judgement on those we don’t even know? Why do we feel such a strong desire to vilify others publicly without knowing their story?

Sadly, as well as causing untold damage to those who are targeted, those making comments can end up looking foolish and uninformed. It would be better for many to simply remain silent.

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. – Proverbs 17:28

Social media has given us an incredible platform to share our stories and our humanness but we shouldn’t take it lightly and we shouldn’t simply use it as an opportunity to bring others down. None of us ever know what lies around the corner for us but whatever it is, I hope that there’ll still be people ready to offer words that heal rather than words that tear down.

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There Will Be Hills

Road

When was the last time you went for a bike ride? Were there hills along the way?

I lead a ride from Albany to Perth every year and I’ve become known for announcing at the start of the day, “There will be hills”.

I don’t say that to discourage anyone. I simply want people to be ready. I want them to have the right expectation because if they think that it’ll be all flat with a roaring tailwind they’ll be disappointed.

Of course, if they know there’ll be hills, they’ll prepare for them. They still might not enjoy them but they’ll know they’re coming.

Where did that hill come from?

I did a ride on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria two years in a row. The first year we climbed a very big hill called Lavers Hill. Many of us thought it was all downhill from there. No one warned us about the next big hill, so when we had to start climbing again it was tough. The second hill wasn’t as big but it still had some very steep sections. We had all been warned about Lavers Hill and so while it was a real work out, we managed to reach the top reasonably well. That second hill came without warning, after our bodies had already clocked off, expecting a downhill roll for the rest of the day.

The following year, I knew the second climb was coming. I worked hard to climb Lavers Hill but I knew that wouldn’t be the final climb for the day. When I reached the second hill I got over it surprisingly well. In fact I thought to myself, “Is that it?” Being prepared made all the difference.

Beaten before the climb begins.

On a ride across Australia many years ago there was a young, fit, eighteen year old who hated hills. Even though we cycled for five weeks, with an average day being around 160 kilometres and several days topping 200 kilometres, he still couldn’t handle the hills. I watched him a few times when we would see a hill in the distance. Even though we’d still be on a flat section, riding along really well, the hill would defeat him as soon as it came into view. His shoulders would slump and he was already beaten. From there he would just struggle. He had fitness and youth on his side but mentally he would crumble.

I wonder if some of life’s struggles defeat us because we’re expecting life to be flat with a tailwind.

When we recognise and understand that hills are a part of life, we live differently. We don’t just slump our shoulders and give up. We know we’re on a bumpy road and so we face challenges differently. The hills can still be hard, extraordinarily hard at times, but if we know they’re on the horizon it changes the way we approach them.

I certainly don’t want to downplay some of the big struggles and disappointments in life or pretend that they don’t matter. There are some things we face that we can’t just soar above but being able to face the many, and sometimes daily, hills along the journey helps prepare us for those bigger trials.

For those of us who have faith in Jesus, we know that struggles will come but we also have someone to walk, or even ride, alongside us in those times.

We can expect difficulties throughout our lives but we should also expect great things from God. When Jesus was talking to his followers about the kind of troubles and persecution that we may never face, he reminded them, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Remember no matter where we are in life, there will be hills, but there is a God who loves us and wants to give us his strength for the journey.

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Soundtrack of My Life – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Soundtrack of my LifeThis is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life.

You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. You’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too.

You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn turned 71 yesterday so I figured I should highlight one of his songs today. I enjoy a lot of Cockburn’s music, much of it about human rights, environmental issues, politics and spirituality.

This song is a favourite, mainly for one line. “Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”. In some very small way I believe that’s the opportunity I have working with Compassion. There’s still a lot of darkness out there so I’m going to keep kicking.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This vibrant skin — this hair like lace
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime —
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
And we’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

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Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss

Do you reckon you could disguise yourself so well that people wouldn’t recognise you?

Have you ever watched the TV show Undercover Boss? It’s been a successful worldwide television franchise with local versions in over a dozen countries.

The idea is that the CEO of a company puts on a disguise, and they’re usually pretty dodgy disguises, then spends time undercover finding out what’s going on behind the scenes within their company.

Each episode features a high-ranking executive or the owner of a corporation going undercover as an entry-level employee in his or her own company. The executives alter their appearance and assume an alias and fictional back-story. The fictitious explanation given for the accompanying camera crew is that the executives are being filmed as part of a documentary about entry-level workers in a particular industry, or a competition with another individual with the winner getting a job with the company. They spend approximately one to two weeks undercover (one week being the norm in some editions, such as the U.S. version, and two weeks in some other versions, such as the Australian edition), working in various areas of their company’s operations, with different parts and in most cases a different location each day. They are exposed to a series of predicaments with amusing results, and invariably spend time getting to know the people who work in the company, learning about their professional and personal challenges.

At the end of their time undercover, the executives return to their true identity and request the employees they worked with individually to travel to a central location—often corporate headquarters. The bosses reveal their identity, and reward hard-working employees through promotion, or financial rewards; while other employees are given training, better working conditions, or, in extreme cases, termination. – Wiki

I’ve wondered why those programs draw us in. I think it’s because we recognise something inside ourselves in the people of the show. We see someone who has battled to keep going, facing all kinds of struggles, who is finally recognised. Finally someone understands their pain. The boss gives them a big hug and says I see what’s happening for you and I want to make things right.

Most of us aren’t just looking for recognition but when someone does see what’s really happening in our lives we feel somehow validated.

The interesting thing is the way that before the workers on Undercover Boss find out they’re working alongside the CEO they have all kinds of ideas about their management not caring, but once they actually meet them, they see something completely different.

I wonder if we truly realise that there is someone who sees us and who knows the struggles we’re facing. I wonder if we understand that this boss is actually the creator of everything yet he still cares deeply for us, so much so that he sacrificed everything to restore relationship with us.

This creator, in the person of Jesus says to us in the Bible, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Whatever you’ve thought of this ‘boss’ up to this point, let me encourage you to get to know the one who knows you and wants to provide rest for you; deep rest that refreshes your soul.

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