What Matters to Me

I put that as part of the “tag line” of the blog…..

My Life

My Story

What Matters to Me

So, what matters to me? You’ll find out more as we go along, but I want to share a few things that will frame a lot of what I do on here.

My faith – I’ll tell you more about how that has grown and changed over the last 16 years, but you need to know this. I have always believed that Jesus Christ has died for my sins and that because of Him, when my time here on this earth is done, I know where I’m going.

It doesn’t get more basic than that. It’s the foundation that everything else is built on. What I do, what I say, how I do it, all of it is based on that core basic belief. That reminds me of the story of the Mennonite church….. (I’ll put that on the list to tell you later).

There, it’s on the list. So, when I think about my faith, I think about a question that a lot of people have asked, though very few times has anyone actually asked me this question.

So what?

You believe that Jesus died for your sins. So what?

Well, obviously, it makes a difference in terms of what happens after you are no longer here on this world. I mean, honestly, there are really three choices of what happens when you die. When you are no longer on this earth, either you are no longer, period, or you go to heaven or you go to hell. They might be called different names by different belief systems, but let’s be honest, that’s pretty much the basics.

Now I can already hear you saying, “Wait a minute, are you saying that a Muslim can go to heaven while believing in Allah?” That is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that when you break it down to the basics, each and every religion has their own “places” that they believe you go when you die. For the record, I believe that where Muslims and the religion of Islam says you will go when you die is not the same as Christians and that devout Muslims who deny Jesus as their Savior will not end up in Heaven.

Are we clear on that? Okay, good.

Let’s move back to the question of “so what?” And instead of talking about it in terms of after you leave this world, let’s talk about what this means here and now.

Today – while you’re at work.

Today – when your child comes home from school with a note from the teacher that they are in trouble. Again.

Today – when you watch the news and there’s another report of violence against people of color who are in the custody of the police.

Today – when reports of violence against Syrian refugees are in the paper.

Today – when someone you know posts something on social media that is very deragotry towards people who weren’t born in this country.

What does your belief mean to today?

What does my beliefs mean for me today?

That’s a good part of what I plan on exploring.

Not just in vague generalities.

Or in nice platitudes…..

The time for nice platitudes is gone.

Oh wait, was there a time for those?

I hope you’ll join me.

Tom

Ted Cruz’s Protect Kids and Parents Act 

This is another example of how our government is failing us, all of us.  Even if only half of what this says is true, we have a Senator who was formerly a Presidential candidate proposing an act that appears to be good on face value, but when you look at the behind the scenes realities, it’s more of the same.   Empty promises that don’t do anything or worse.

And if all you read are the headlines, it seems like the government is moving forward to solve this problem, when in reality, it’s not.  Because the people who want asylum are the wrong color.

Oh, and ask yourself, isn’t the executive order that the President signed yesterday sort of like a little kid who broke the window and then bends over backwards to be the one to clean it up?   Think about it and read the article please…..

 

The practical effect of Cruz’s bill would be a system where families are detained, held in deplorable conditions that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year to maintain, and deported after they are unable to develop robust asylum cases in a mere 14 days. Of course, his 14-day processing deadline doesn’t account for the nearly 300,000 pending asylum cases that have yet to be adjudicated. Cruz’s bill does propose doubling the number of immigration judges to 750 but fails to explain how these

Source: Ted Cruz’s Protect Kids and Parents Act is a cynical ploy.

Trump and the Separation of Families

This first statement comes from an Immigrant Justice organization in Montana.  I’ve been told (by someone whose word I trust) that there are a number of reputable immigration attorneys in this organization.

Even if you apply the Vanderwell Rule of 50% and only take half of what they say as true, then the Order that President Trump signed today is not anywhere near close to an end to the problem.

This quote is from a friend of mine who has WAY more adopted kids than I do.   She is passionate about social justice and is very well read and well connected on these issues……

This last article comes from the Atlantic Magazine.   It references two very disturbing quotes that the President said.   In one of them, he refers to humans as animals.   In the other, he refers to the people on the southern border who are fleeing bad situations in their home country and says they are infesting our country.   People don’t infest, insects do.

I don’t have a video of it, but I heard that former President Obama, who pledged to stay quiet and not speak out about politics and government unless our core values are at stake, released a statement today.   I do not know what it said, but if he released a statement, that means he is concerned about the core values in America.

I’m concerned about them too.  I can’t make this stuff up.  

Stand up for what’s right – before it’s too late.

Tom

200 Colored Buttons and 4 Cans of Diet Coke

So, I live on the west side of Michigan – about 30 minutes from Lake Michigan. There’s a school on the other side of the state where an adoptive mom teaches – she has two children from Haiti and I consider her a friend.

When I was working for the orphanage, she asked me if I would come to their school and talk to their kids about Haiti and what it is like as part of their multi-cultural week. Obviously, I was very happy to – not only was it what I did for a living, but it was and is a passion of mine.

The day came, and I showed up with a small cooler and with 4 bags of various colored buttons. The teacher had 6 kids make sure that each of the approximately 160 students picked a button out of one of the bags before they sat down in the auditorium.

After introductions, I told them they were going to be participating and asked them all to stand up.

“If you have a black button, I need you to sit down. Right now.”

“Those of you who did not sit down, take a look around at your friends who are sitting down.”

“They died.”

“Before kindergarten. They never went to school.”

“You never got to play with them on the play ground. That many of the children in Haiti never live to the age of 5.”

Stunned silence…….

“Okay, moving on. If you have a blue button, please sit down.”

“You are alive, and most of you live until adulthood, but you never got more than a 5th grade education. You never got to learn the things that it really takes to hold down a steady job. You missed out on the “high school” years because you were hauling water or working in the fields and trying to figure out how to make enough of a living to put food on the table. Tonight. You aren’t worried about next week, you’re worried about tonight. Oh and you might have learned how to write your name, you might not have learned that skill.

“If you have a yellow button – please sit down. Congratulations, you “graduated” from middle school, but never any farther. Minimal wage manual labor jobs are in your future.”

At this point, approximately 80% of the students are sitting down. The students who are standing up are looking around at all of their friends who are sitting down and starting to feel uncomfortable. Why are they still standing?

“If you have a green button, please sit down. Yep, you guessed it. You got to go to high school, but you didn’t make it through. Graduation was not in your vocabulary and any time you apply for a job, you won’t be able to say you have a high school diploma.”

At this point, I asked them all to take a look around the auditorium. A minute (well, maybe 30 seconds) of silence as they all looked around and it sunk in that of the approximately 160 students who came into the auditorium, there were 4 still standing.

They had the red buttons.

That’s right four.

One over there.

One in the back.

One right in the middle of a really long row of friends.

and one sitting off to the side.

“If I did it right, all four of you have red buttons, correct?”

They all say yes or nod. Obviously feeling uncomfortable being the only four still standing in the auditorium.

“Come down front please.”

They slowly and reluctantly come down to the front and I meet them at the front edge of the stage. I hand them the small cooler that has been sitting next to the podium.

“Here, this is for you. You four are the entire graduating class. That’s right, out of all of these fellow students, out of all of those who died before they could even attend school, you achieved the statistically unachievable. You graduated from high school.”

“In some of the worst schools in America, it would be considered a tragedy if half of the students didn’t graduate. Less than 4% graduate on average in Haiti.”

“Open up, the cooler is for you. While I’m talking more about Haiti, have a seat right here in the front row, enjoy the Cokes, enjoy the candy bars. You earned it.”

Awkward silence…….

“Mr. Vanderwell, can we take these home instead? We feel really awkward eating these in front of our friends who have nothing.”

“And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the point of my time here and a little glimpse of what life is like in Haiti.”

I told them more about Haiti and about the orphanage, but I could have (and probably should have) ended it right there.

At that point, less than 4% of the students graduate from high school and the United States is a very short plane trip away and it doesn’t seem to bother us. What’s up with that?

I don’t know whether it bothered them more or bothered me more.

But I know I won’t forget the time I spent with those high schoolers. It’s been 6 years and the statistics might have changed a little bit, but very very little.

However, according to the current US administration, Haiti is doing very well and able to absorb an additional 60,000 people who would have to go back if the Temporary Protection Status is lifted.

Stay tuned – how does Gilligan fit into this?

Tom


Christian Reformed Church Statement on Forced Separation Policy

“We call on the U.S. administration to immediately end these unjust practices, and to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the values of family unity, humane treatment, and refuge for persons being persecuted. We also call on Congress to immediately act to reform our immigration system so that there are more, not fewer, opportunities for legal status and permanent protection for vulnerable immigrants. Finally, we encourage members of the CRCNA in the U.S. to keep this situation in their prayers, to educate themselves about issues facing immigrants, and to urge their lawmakers to enact laws that honor the blessings that immigrants bring to our country.

Speak up for families at the border today.

In Christ,

Steven Timmermans, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Colin P. Watson, Director of Ministries and Administration, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Carol Bremer-Bennett, Director, World Renew – United States, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Reginald Smith, Offices of Race Relations and Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Kurt Selles, Director, Back to God Ministries International, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Zachary King, Director, Resonate Global Mission, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Jul Medenblik, President, Calvin Theological Seminary, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Source: CRCNA Statement on Forced Separation Policy | Article | Christian Reformed Church