Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Different Kind of Lent: Corrie Ten Boom, Rape Survivors and FGM

On Wednesday our family went to the Catholic church  around the corner from our house (we're not Catholic, but I love the Ash Wednesday service at this church) and began our Lenten journey.

Our Lenten plans this year are a little different than in the past. My children are older now, ages 10 and 12. They are in late childhood and able to decide what they want to give up or add into their lives during this season of reflection. My son, in particular, really thought through his choices this year, and I was so encouraged to hear his decisions.

We still, however, do a few things as a whole family during Lent. We have once again become vegetarians (which is definitely a sacrifice for my husband, who grew up in Texas!). This year, we are also reading a book together. Although we frequently have family read-alouds (I have raised my children on MacDonald, Tolkien, L'Engle, Rowling and Lewis), we've never read a book specifically for and during Lent. Before I reveal to you which book we're reading, let me explain my thoughts leading up to it.

My husband has been listening to a singer/songwriter the past few months, Father John Misty, who has a song called "Bored in the USA". I have no idea if this artist has a Christian background or not, but the song is prophetic. It calls into question what values and sense of purpose in life we are teaching our children. Is consumerism the main religion that we are giving them, and if so, does the resulting boredom and emptiness lead to the depression and violence that has so afflicted the US in recent years?

We live in Germany, and while there is definitely less violent crime here than in the States, there is still a tendency to communicate to children that the most important thing in life is doing well in school and leading a nice, comfortable life. My prayer and goal has always been to raise children who are courageous  - not just my own children, but the children that I am fortunate enough to pastor at church and in school. In fact, it means much more to me when my own kids go to Serve the City events and my daughter gives a manicure to a 90-year-old nursing home resident and my son gives guitar lessons to a homeless man at a Salvation Army cafe than when they bring home good grades. School is not everything in life, and stepping outside our comfort zones is way more important.

So this year for Lent, we are reading a book that once inspired a lot of courage in me and hopefully will inspire my children as well. We are going to read The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, the extraordinary story of one ordinary woman who found courage in the midst of an impossible situation. I can only hope that we would make similar choices in the same type of situation.

As for my personal Lenten plans, I've been thinking a lot about Isaiah 58 lately, particularly the verse about how fasting can loose the chains of injustice. I have felt led to fast and pray for two topics that have been heavy on my heart the past few months. Topics that people don't readily want to talk about, because they are uncomfortable. I have been asking myself what I as an individual can do and I hope to find some answers during our Lenten fast.

1) Survivors of Rape on College Campuses - I've been aware of and concerned about how unsafe it has become for young women at universities for a while, but it recently became really personal because of the situation at Baylor University (I am a Baylor graduate) where young women have come forward with stories of having been raped and their testimonies being more or less blown off by the local authorities and the university administration. Please read Stefanie Mundhenk's story, this article at CBS sports, and this one at the Star Telegram if you would like to know more. I would really like to see Baylor respond to this problem in a transparent, constructive way that honors every young woman on campus.

2) Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - Something else that we'd rather not talk about. And most people are largely ignorant of the problem to begin with. I certainly was. While I had heard the term and knew what FGM was, I was ignorant of how widespread of a problem it is, not merely isolated to developing countries, but also practiced among immigrant communities in the western world. If you want to know more, there are some informative articles at The Guardian, an on-line newspaper with a year-long campaign to make people aware of FGM.

As a children's minister and teacher, I am all about empowering little girls to grow into strong, courageous women. So this Lenten season, I am asking these questions about what I as an individual can do to help future generations of young girls and support the young women who are already dealing with the aftermath of huge societal problems.

If you have any thoughts for me, I'd love to hear them!


  1. Love! I have never thought about reading a book like that all together. Great idea. And THAT book is such a great one. I am inspired to do this too! I need to hear that song...the transition back is proving to now be a more difficult one for me...feeling thrown to the wolves currently. Love you guys-hope we get to see you sooner than later.

  2. It's so good to hear from you! I have wondered a lot how your transition has been. Praying for you guys!