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Social Justice Challenge March 2010: Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

I should have had this post up closer to the beginning of the month, but here I am, over half way through March (can you believe that?)  and I am just now getting to it.

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse are subjects that tear me to my very core.  I have been a Kinship Partner for 7 years now.  The Kinship program is a lot like a big brother, big sister program.  You become a mentor to a child and spend time with them weekly doing whatever – watching a movie, going to the park, working on a project, whatever….. you are just to bring the child into your life.  If you follow this blog,, you have probably heard me talk about Chance.  Chance has been our families Kinship Partner since he was 7 years old.  At the end of May he will be 15.

I mention Kinship Partners not because it has to do with the Social Topic for March, but because as a Kinship Partner you are a Mandatory Reporter.  Basically that means that if I see or hear anything unusual – I have to report it to the proper authorities here in my county.  Learning to do this, and learning what it is about, has really opened my eyes to things I do see not only in my own community, but so much of it in Honduras when we are working with kids there.

I find this to be such an important topic that I went a bit wild with the books that were listed at The Social Justice Challenge Website and checked out several that I hope to be able to read and review yet this month:

I hadn’t Meant To Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson (this one I have read and reviewed)

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes Courter

Ghost Girl by Torey Hayden

Another Place At The Table by Kathy Harrison

I Am Missing Or Dead by Janine Latus

I am ending this post with a link I found to 10 Signs of Child Abuse.

I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson

Twelve-year-old Marie is one of the popular girls in the prosperous black suburb. She’s not looking for a friend when Lena Bright, a white girl, appears in school. But the two girls are drawn to each other. You see, both Lena and Marie have lost their mothers. On top of that, Marie soon learns that Lena has a terrifying secret. Marie wants to help, but is it better to keep Lena’s secret, or to tell it? Their friendship—and Lena’s survival— may depend on her decision.

I read this book as part of the March Social Justice Challenge.  I have heard wonderful things about Jacqueline Woodson and I was glad to have the opportunity to read one of her books.

I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This is the story of Lena, a new white girl in a school that’s population is mostly black.  Marie, who is an upper class African-American becomes the unlikely friend to Lena, who usually looks dirty and unkempt next to the fashionable and popular Marie.

Right here – right with this friendship I was already liking the book.  With both families frowning on their daughters friendship with someone who is “another color” .  I appreciated that this book was in contrast to many others I have read, and it is Marie’s family that had the money and the nice home was the African-American family, and it is Lena’s home that is in the bad neighborhood.

This book gets deep when Lena confides in her friend Marie that her father is touching her inappropriately.   Marie, who has never been around such a think has a hard time wrapping her mind around this, even accusing Lena of  lying for attention.  This subject in the book, as well as Marie’s reaction to it, seems very well written…. I can picture it happening.

Lena makes Marie promise not to tell anyone and this is another part of the book where you watch Marie try to help without being able to.   All she can do is  look out for Lena when she can.

I don’t want to give too much away about this book, however I did find that when it ended I was left with many questions.  I didn’t feel the closure this book needed and was concerned where this left younger readers who may be searching for answers within this book.  I was pleased to go on-line and find out a sequel to the book had been written called Lena – and it continues the story from where this one left off.

This book touches on sexual abuse by a parent.  It is a quick read and the book is very clean, never explicit in details.

While the cover above is the one on the book that I read, I really prefer this cover here:

Jacqueline Woodson is the recipient of the 2006 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her outstanding lifetime contribution to writing for teens. Woodson’s sensitive and lyrical books reveal and give a voice to outsiders often invisible to mainstream America. The award was announced January 23 at the 2006 Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in San Antonio

“I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This,” and its sequel, “Lena,” (reprint available in fall 2006), both from G. P. Putnam Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, tell a story of interracial friendship with no pat solutions to the problems of race, class, abandonment and abuse, while a compassionate community offers hope and support. A young boy records his fears that his mother’s new lesbian relationship will change their family bond in “From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun,” published by The Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic.

My Amazon Rating

I received my copy of this book from our local Library

February Social Justice Challenge: Water

Welcome to the second month of the 2010 Social Justice Challenge! This month’s focus is Water.  Throughout each month we are encouraged to read or use other media sources to not only learn more about the months topic, but if you feel called , to take action steps towards making a difference.

What, if any, exposure have you personally had to a water shortage?

For me, my experience comes from my time in Honduras.  These trips have been such an eye opener to me.  I have never been in situations before where water was not readily available.  If you could not get it directly from the tap, you surely could go to the local convenience store to pick up a cold and refreshing bottle.

Where we stay, in the town on Talanga Honduras, water is not a given.  Some times you have it – some times you do not.  When we go there we each receive a large bottle of water which we are told to hang on to for the trip and refill as we can.  I had no idea that first time how important that bottle of water would become.

While there we seen many small streams where people gathered to not only wash themselves and livestock, but this same water was where they went to the bathroom – and gathered water for cooking and drinking.  I seen it with my own eyes.  What we would not even think of drinking, they did so happily.

The first time I went to Honduras our team of Americans went walking a mile or more up a hill led by a pastor.  Where he took us, was to a small shack – no larger than an outhouse, where a grandmother lived with her three grandchildren.  The childrens parents had both been murdered.  Outside in the dirt was a small circle of stones where they would build a fire for cooking.  One of the children kept looking hungrily at my water bottle.  We were told never to give up our water but I had to.  I handed over the bottle and all three children grabbed at it, drinking it down thirstily.  I later learned that for them to get water, the grandmother had to go down this hill and carry the water up in a small bucket as that is all she could carry in her arthritic hands.

Water is such an important resource.  This month as I look into resources about water, I will be looking for a way that I can make a difference.

I took this picture on February 9th, 2009 in Choluteca Honduras. I don't think this boy had ever seen a camera before. We brought with us food and water to hand out. It was 115 degrees out and it was my birthday. Doing this made it the best birthday of my life.

The Mercy Seller by Brenda Ruchman Vantrease

In the fifteenth century, with religious intolerance spreading like wildfire across Europe, Englishwoman Anna Bookman and her grandfather, Finn, earn a living in Prague by illuminating precious books–including forbidden translations of the Bible. As their secret trade grows ever more hazardous, Finn urges Anna to seek sanctuary in England. Her passage abroad, however, will be anything but easy.

Meanwhile, a priest in London, Brother Gabriel, dutifully obeys church doctrine by granting pardons . . . for a small fee. But when he is sent to France in disguise to find the source of the banned manuscripts finding their way to England, he meets Anna, who has set up a temporary stall as a bookseller. She has no way of knowing that the rich merchant frequenting her stall is actually a priest–just as he does not know that he has met the woman for whom he will renounce his church.

It is only in England, which is far from the safe harbor once imagined, that their dangerous secrets will be revealed.


As I read this book I thought it is funny how often I take things at face value and don’t dig deeper.  As this book is about the attempts to be rid of the Wycliffe Bible (the Wycliffe Bible is the translation of the Bible into different languages so the whole world can have access to God’s word in their own language).  While I have known about the Wycliffe Bibles for years, supported their cause, and been to their benefits to raise funds when they have been in our area, I had no idea there was such controversy over the Bibles.

And at this point I really ask myself why did I not see that?  Of course there had to be controversy – and if at this point you are thinking, “but uhhh….. Sheila, wasn’t the book you read fiction”?  You would be right.

However – it gave me cause to dig.  Certainly John Wycliffe’s journey had not been without its bumps and bangs?  And with very little digging at all I found this:

The conspiracy theorists who believe that [Wycliffe] is a simple front for the CIA will find little support for their views […] It is true, however, that [Wycliffe] has influential ties to capitalist enterprise, politicians, and military figures in the United States and in the developing countries in which it works. [Wycliffe] is not an “empire” per se, but foreign missions such as [Wycliffe] are part of the larger political process in which powerful nations export political, economic, social, and ideological patterns to the relatively weaker and poorer regions of the world. Today, people in many developing countries are debating whether some aspects of this process should be limited or controlled.

I digress.   Set in 1410, the book is filled with wonderfully vivid images and characters that are thrust deep into the book and into me.  They are colorful and real.  Anna is hit left and right in this book with the reality of what happens to those who go against the laws.  Her belief in the Bible puts her in real danger.  Then we have Friar Gabriel who is set upon a mission to disguise himself in order to search out the Bibles that are considered unlawful. It is interesting to find myself in the center of this religious intolerance of the Roman Church of the 15th century.

As Anna and Gabriel find themselves entwined in the depth of this book, Gabriel is put through what I would call his own crisis of faith. Their story is really – the story and what pulls all the pieces of The Mercy Seller together.

In the beginning the book is heavy with details bringing us up to the story.  I at times felt a bit overloaded with data.  Yet as the pages turn Brenda Rickman Vantrease sorts through the background and pulls us into the real heart of what I would describe as an adventure I am glad I embarked on.

Wycliffe Bible Translators is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making a translation of the Bible in every living language in the world, especially for cultures with little existing Christian influence. Wycliffe was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. There are currently branches in over 50 countries.[1] The organization is named after John Wycliffe, who was responsible for the first complete English translation of the whole Bible into Middle English.[2]

Wycliffe bases its philosophy on Townsend’s Protestantism which regards the intercultural and multilinguistic spread of Christianity as a divine command. This type of Protestantism adheres to the principle of sola scriptura and regards Biblical texts as the authoritative and infallible word of God.

In a Wycliffe mission, Wycliffe senior workers first request permission from the government in charge of a region. After the organization receives permission to operate, several small teams research a region’s linguistic populations. Based on this data, teams are sent to each linguistic group.

The team introduces itself to a group, usually with the aid of bilingual helpers. The team lives on site, and attempts to speak the language. Formal recordings, word lists and grammars are kept, usually on computers, backed up periodically to the national mission.

When the phonology is understood, the team develops a scientific writing system similar to those in use by related, regional, or national languages, or according to standards set by the government. At some point, the team begins to translate short portions of the Bible into the native language. The translation is tested and corrected with native speakers, as well as the existing lexicographies and grammars. Once the Bible is translated, printings are arranged, often through one of the United Bible Societies. The length of the entire process varies depending on the portion of the Bible being translated; it can take longer than twenty years.

My Amazon review

I read this book as part of the Social Justice Challenge.  January’s theme was Religious Freedom.  Looking through the books that were suggested for this challenge there were several that I had read before:

In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham (memoir–Christian)  (Pre Blogging)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A book I am still hoping to read was special ordered for me by our library but as of this date is not in yet:

Between Two Tigers:  Testimonies of Vietnamese Christians by Tom White

As part of the Social Justice Challenge we are encouraged, as we feel called to, to take action steps towards these issues.  While we do not have to take these steps for each of the months, January’s theme of Religious Freedom spoke to me.  If you would like, here are a list of action steps one can take.  I am looking into writing letters to prisoners and am working on this yet this afternoon.