amy courts: en route


I Have a Family I’ve Never Met

I have brothers and sisters in Gulu, Uganda whom I’ve never met but have come to love more than I love my own life.

Brothers and sisters who’ve experienced more grief, loss, disappointment, terror, fear, and hopelessness than I could ever begin to imagine from my cozy little townhouse in South Nashville.

villageofhopeThey’ve all lost family members. Some to AIDS and malaria, some to murder, some to the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Rebel force of Gulu, Uganda.

Some have been forced to kill their own brothers and sisters, parents and cousins.

My sisters and brothers have been forced by fire out of their homes that burned to the ground as they ran. Many of them were captured and made to be young wives who bear the children of rebel soldiers, or young boy soldiers-in-training, donning their enemy’s uniform in an effort just to survive.

But these sisters and brothers know a God I’ve never dared to ponder.

A God who is able to keep some of their bodies clean of disease, despite having been born to a family suffering of AIDS and malaria.

A God who is able to rescue and renew and revive even the bleakest of lives.

A God who restores hope and life, who provides all needs in abundance.

A God who is always present, in rain or drought, war or peacetime.

Most of my brothers and sisters have never known peacetime, outside of the presence of this great and mighty God.

Last night, I heard a story of one young man who boldly walked into a Rebel camp with two of his brothers to teach soldiers about the love and peace of Christ. They were captured and forced to choose between giving their own lives or taking life from a young, 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old recent captive. The first chose Christ, peace, and ultimately death, and his captor, a Rebel commander, willingly complied. The second chose the same, and a bullet found him dead seconds later. The third echoed his brothers saying, “no, I will not kill. I’ve come with the Peace of Christ’s gospel. I am here for Him and will go to Him.”

But when shot, the gun misfired. And a second time…and a third time…the gun misfired. Shot blanks.

And finally, another Rebel soldier told his commander they’d better leave, because these guys were tapped into Something they didn’t want to mess with.

Certainly his is a God much more powerful than my North American God of wealth and prosperity.

That man was freed and went on to become the leader of Men’s Ministry at the Child Mothers’ Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.

He went on to help rescue my brothers and sisters from sexual and spiritual slavery, and lead them into freedom. And now they are leading even more displaced brothers and sisters into similar freedom, carrying the torch of Christ’s love and mercy, the promise of medicine and education and HOPE to their neighbors into the surrounding IDP camps.

These brothers and sisters…They’ve started a revolution.

Most of you know that over the past few years, God has planted and watered what has become a rather consuming passion in me for those living in the aftermath of war in Gulu, Uganda. What began as a tearful response to hearing about night commuters – the nightly groups of 30,000+ children who were forced to leave their home villages and travel in the dark to refugee camps, in an effort to avoid abduction – has grown into an uncontrollable love for people I’ve never met face to face.

I don’t know any other way to describe it, but to say that I feel a connection to those people unlike any I’ve known outside of my biological sisters and to my husband and step-son. It’s as if I’m tied to them, and they to me. And this not being able to share my life with them, to touch and hold and love and be next to them, is a burden I can sometimes hardly bear.

But over the past six to ten months, God has whittled down my passion from a desire to simply “GO GO GO! It doesn’t matter where or who with!” to a place of patiently waiting for and seeking out the right opportunity with the right group of people.

As I’ve prayed and considered my options, there seemed only one left: to travel to Gulu, Uganda, to the Child Mothers’ Vilalge of Hope – the project I’ve been supporting and rallying support for through my involvement with Mocha Club – without the cameras that inevitably accompany artists on the job, but on my own, for the sake of learning the lay of the land and establishing relationships to be watered and nurtured in the years to come.

And finally, over the past two days, it seems this overwhelming and at times all-consuming dream of meeting my family in Uganda is beginning to find form.

I met with Jerry and Candis Bingham, the lead Missionaries at the Village of Hope, and was able to share with them my heart and my desire. And – amazingly enough – they were as overjoyed as I about the prospects of me spending the whole of next October with them and the Child Mothers in Gulu.

And so now, the planning begins. I don’t know how I’ll raise all the money. I don’t know exactly how my time will look. I’m scared to death of being away from my husband for a month, in a foreign land, and of living in conditions I can scarcely fathom, much less describe.

But I’m finally going to meet my family.

And that’s all that really matters.

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Was Jesus a Socialist: The Discussion Continues…

A point of clarification I’m allowed to make 30-comments-in, just because I’m the blog owner (and I get to do what I want): While I believe the Christian values of caring for the needy, and the least being treated as the greatest are reflected in socialism, I don’t believe Jesus was an *actual* socialist, or that He would – were He walking among us today – endorse any of the various forms of government. In fact, I believe that since the Devil is currently in charge of the world’s governments (according to Matt. 4:8-10, when the Devil offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world [which Jesus turned down, obviously] which implies they were the Devil’s to offer), none will ever earn the endorsement of Christ. I ought to have said that from the start instead of saying “Jesus sanctioned socialism.” I was dumb to have said that…or at very least, not paying attention. But, you live and read comments and learn and amend. Moving along…

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I won’t lie: I’m a little frustrated right now. My brother-in-law, who is a pastor in McCook, NE and blogs on theology, apologetics, culture, and more as part of his church’s ministry, responded in his own blog to my post-election thoughts. But that’s not what’s making me nuts. What’s driving me crazy is the fact that I can’t log in to respond to his blog on his blog.

So I’m left with one option: to move his blog over here and continue the discussion. I certainly don’t mind – but in fact, find immense joy – in the conversation.

I just hate technology sometimes.

Anyway, I’d like to respond point-by-point to his responsive blog entitled “Jesus Institued Socialism?” (which I’ll only quote here in red, to save space, but can be found in full here):

[Quoted from my previous blog: What we see happening in Acts 2 is exactly that: socialism, if not communism, even. The equal distribution and sharing of all wealth, goods, and property among all people so that no one is richer and thus more significant, or poorer and thus less significant.]

First, one will notice that Jesus is not even present.

Really!? Jesus wasn’t present with the early Church!?

Forgive the sarcasm. I think it should be obvious that while Jesus may not have been <i>physically</i> present with the early Church, He was most certainly present in their hearts, at the forefront of their thoughts, His principles, values, and teachings foremost in their consideration of how to “set up shop.” To assert otherwise is just plain silly. His promised Holy Spirit was among them, reminding them of Christ’s Way. So while Jesus may not have explicitly said, “This is how I want you to live in community with one another, by sharing everything,” His daily teachings and the way in which He continually engaged with His twelve closest disciples and hundreds of other followers is certainly reflected in their “share all things; have everything in common” lifestyle. They were, indeed, continuing His work in His Way. Whether sanctioned by explicit word or implied by deed, their way was Christ’s Way.

Second, we must consider that the church, not the government, is the primary subject here. There are distinct roles given to church and distinct roles given to government. What is the right and responsibility of one is not necessarily the right and responsibility of the other.

Indeed, the Church IS the primary subject here. However, while it’s not our government’s responsibility to obey Scripture, it is arguably every American Christian’s right and responsibility to vote for the candidate we believe most fully (though will never completely) reflects our Biblical values and makes Christian priorities National priorities (or abstain from voting if participating violates one’s conscience). This doesn’t mean seeking, electing, or promoting a “Christian” President, but supporting a platform that reflects Christ’s heart for people. (And, inevitably, we will often disagree about who’s platform best reflects Christian values.)


Third, Acts is written as historical narrative. It is not didactic in nature so what we find there is a record of what happened, but not necessarily what should be. A good example of this is the life of the patriarchs described in Genesis. Many were polygamists. We cannot make the leap that just because something is recorded that it therefore has God’s sanction. We must go elsewhere for our doctrine of marriage. In Acts we see that people are doing something (sharing their things), but that in no way makes it normative.

First, that Acts is written in historical narrative does not negate its usefulness as a model for the current day Church. In this instance, I believe the early Church is a model for the Church today and forever. Why? Because they lived, breathed, ate, and drank the life and teachings of Christ. Having been born of His death, resurrection, and ascension, and being the only examples we have of people who knew Christ in person as close friend, Savior, and God, it seems obvious by extention that their fellowship without His physical presence would model the fellowship they shared with Him. Theirs are the nearest hearts to (and thus, I’d say, the most reflective of) Christ’s heart for His established Church, all people worldwide, and future of His Kingdom that we can see modeled in action. They were living and setting up shop in the wake of the single most defining moment in the history of the God-human relationship. No doubt they did everything with deliberation in light of all Christ did and taught, explicitly and implicitly.

Second, I find the example of the patriarchs and their polygamy ill-fitting to the context, since polygamy was expressly condemned numerous times throughout the Mosaic Law (most notably in the Ten Commandments). We find no such condemnation – implicit or otherwise – of the Way of the early Church. His endorsement of their Way, though not explicit, I believe is inferred simply by their doing it.

Third, while its record in Acts doesn’t make the sharing of all things normative, the more-than 2,000 commands in Scripture to care for the orphan and widow, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise treat the least as the greatest certainly support their communistic fellowship as “standard behavior” for Christians. Certainly Christ’s explicit warning in Matthew 25:31-46 in which He describes exactly how He will separate the sheep from the goats – i.e. by whether or not we have fed the hungry, quenched the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the prisoner, and welcomed the stranger – serves as ample evidence that this is the Kingdom Way: to give selflessly from every possible reserve, whether financial, time, or goods.


Should Christians be gracious? Yes. Compassionate? Yes. But here is the catch: grace cannot be mandated. For grace to be grace it cannot be a requirement. If it is required (such as a wage) it is justice, not grace. The church can therefore encourage its members to live out these virtues, but not even the church can put it into ecclesiastical law.

While I agree that giving and service to the church ought to be a matter of graciousness and selflessness – the deliberate decision of a cheerful giver (which God loves) – the mandate to care for the fatherless and the widow is, again, not optional. I don’t know how to make this more clear than to italicize and embold: True Christ-followers will be known, defined, and separated based on how they actively respond to the greatest commandment to Love the Lord their God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 23:37-39, 1 John 2:3) Christ’s example, His teaching, and the teaching of His nearest discipes make abundantly and irrefutably clear that ours is a family, a nation, marked by love made evident in service, that the world may come to know the glory and salvation of Christ. We will be known (and judged, eternally) by our love and how its expressed in our selflessness (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16).

This is born out a few chapters later in chapter 5 when Ananias and Sapphira sell their goods and give it to the church (as we saw in ch 2). Their problem was that they lied. Peter makes it quite clear (v4) that they had no obligation to give it to the church. It was their money to do with as they pleased.

The difference here is that we’re not talking about tithing to the church or selling their stuff to give to the church.

We’re talking about the Biblical mandate, seen both explicitly and implictly throughout the entirety of Scripture and laid out in detail by Christ Himself, to care and provide for those in need, both physically and spiritually. This is not a matter of finances, but of how the true Gospel is spread and disciples are made.

If not even the church, as God’s ordained institution for effecting his will on earth, can make such demands on people, how can we legitimately make the leap to the government doing it?

Here we part ways. I believe God has commanded His people to care for and plead on behalf of the poor, impoverished, and desperately-in-need. And I believe my vote for Obama, whose policies reflect the Christian values and obligation to care for the least of these, is as justified by Scripture (I’d even argue more justified) as the votes of so many Believers who voted for McCain “on behalf of the unborn.”



Unto the Least of These

In the midst of the current political climate as we all explore the foreign and economic issues that will inevitably (and have already, in so many ways, proven to) define a generation of a nation, it’s often difficult to pull out the lens and widen the perspective. To remember to look at things in terms of morality and individual responsibility, and bring the health and progress of our country – and our world – back to our own level, taking it into our own hands.

But then there are times we hear or read encouraging clips reminding us that ultimately, we have the power to change and rearrange the way things are. In fact, it is the calling for which we’ve been especially enabled.

Over the past couple days, I’ve stumbled across some incredibly engaging and empowering stories of people like you and me refusing to leave our world and its care – especially that of the least of these – in the hands of politicians, or really, anyone else. These people refuse to assume anyone else will do what must be done and choose to use their voices to empower the weak and provide for the orphan and widow.

Yesterday, I read Relevant magazine’s review of the Art*Music*Justice tour with Sara Groves, Drek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Brandon Heath, and Charlie Peacock. And while the article certainly highlighted the sickening ability of the artists to weave melodies and lyrics in such a beautiful way, the focus of the article was on emphasizing the purpose of these artists whose mission is to use song, video, and prose to engage and empower listeners, driving them to action on behalf of worldwide victims of injustice. And as an artist and singer-songwriter, I have to say how righteously jealous I am of these artist’s ability to tell a story of injustice and hope in song. It is such a struggle for me to get out of my own head and thoughts and write about issues more important than me, especially because I feel so inexperienced in the writing. But they inspire me…to go, see, experience, and bring it back as fuel for the engine that will drive us to the end of poverty, sex trafficing, genocide, and all worldwide injustice.

And it all leads me to one inevitable conclusion. If we, who even in the midst of economic crisis, are still among one of the wealthiest nations on earth, then certainly we have the means to act on behalf of those Christ loves. No longer is it simply an opportunity, or even an obligation or responsibility (though I do believe, given the commands of Christ and the sheer volume of Scripture’s references to making the care of orphan and widow our primary concern, as they are His dearest).

Instead, it is our greatest honor.

That we humans who so often find thousands of reasons to avoid others and focus on ourselves have been not only commissioned with the care of the victims and impoverished, but entrusted with their care tells us that not only does God want this from us and for them, but that He believes we can do it because He – the Almighty God of the univerise – has equipped us to accomplish it.

Besides the fact that our God is so passionate for the fatherless and the widow that He has embedded in each of us a similar passion (that only needs to be uncovered), it is the greatest hope to realize He has chosen and specifically equipped we who love Him and love what and who He loves to accomplish His will among the least of these.

My heart bursts with fiery passion that you would know the deep riches of the love of Christ, and to pour this same love on those He so desperately loves and longs to see us serve. There is no such great hope, nothing so exciting or empowering among politicians, no matter who we each believe ought to be the next President of the United States.

Ultimately, beloved ones, we are the ones with the tools to change the world. We have been entrusted with the care of the victim, with stewardship of the Created earth, with the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual development of our children, and most importantly, with the love of Christ going into the world. We are His ambassadors whose fight is for justice and peace around the world.

This is our charge; this is our responsibility; this is our honor.

Let us not sit idly by waiting for someone else to do what is only ours to do!

GET INVOLVED THROUGH ANY OF THESE (AND SO MANY MORE) ORGANIZATIONS:

ONE-TIME INVOLVEMENT
(Give a one-time gift to any of these organizations and watch it go for miles):

Freedom’s Promise (rescuing victims of sex trafficing and restoring hope through freedom)
Blood:Water Mission (digging wells and providing medicine to meet the two greatest needs of Africans today: clean water and clean blood)
Charity:Water (100% of donations taken in are applied to clean water projects throughout Africa)
ONE (Eliminating poverty worldwide)
Food for the Hungry (FHI provides the basic physical needs of children worldwide while developing programs for education, spiritual development, and international advocacy.)

MONTHLY INVOLVEMENT
(Make a monthly committment to supporting individual children and village projects with as little as $7
per month)

Mocha Club (This organization, with which I’m an artist sponsor, takes $7 per month – the cost of two mochas – and funds the development of orphanages, rescue villages, universities, medical facilities, and more throughout the continent of Africa. Bonus: If you join my team supporting the Child Mothers Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda, you get FREE downloads of BOTH my CDs!)
Compassion International (Through Compassion, we can sponsor children from almost everywhere in the world, and with just $32 per month provide for their education, medical care, clothing, food, and future hope.)
World Vision (Similar to Compassion, one person with about $30 per month can become a child’s sponsor and watch their growth and development over the course of their youth.)

USE YOUR HANDS (Donate Your Time)
(Call your local organization headquarters and get involved on the ground either in your own hometown or around the globe through any of these organizations.)

Habitat for Humanity
(HH not only builds houses for lower-income families, but offers financial and lifestyle coaching for all its receipients while giving everyday people an almost weekly opportunity to serve our neighbors.)
Youth for Christ (Contact your local branch and find out how you can serve the youth in your community by either coaching a group or hosting a party, etc.)
Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, etc. (Locate your nearest store and ask the manager how you can volunteer.)
Mercy Ships (Join a Mercy Ships crew for a minimum of one year and be part of saving lives through providing FREE major medical operations and basic health care for the impoverished in Africa and the region.)
American Peace Corps (Similar to Mercy Ships, you can join for a year and travel the globe meeting basic needs of people in thousands of impoverished or developing areas.)
Contact Your Local Homeless Shelter, Domestic Violence Shelter, or Teen Shelter and find out how you can help, whether by volunteering your time (or gathering a group to serve), or gathering goods for their use.