The Common Good

Heroes Turn Small Steps into Grand Leaps

Sojomail - July 6, 2006

Quote of the Week : 'Our city's economy would be a shell of itself'
Batteries Not Included : David Batstone: Heroes turn small steps into grand leaps
Multimedia : Pentecost 2006 streaming media
Sojourners in the News : This week's media round-up
Boomerang : Readers write
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Left Behind?
The Facts behind the Fiction
LeAnn Snow Flesher

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'Our city's economy would be a shell of itself'

"Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders ... our city's economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it would collapse if they were deported, the same holds true for the nation."

- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking to a Senate committee. Source: CNN

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Changing the Face of Hunger

As a member of Congress, Tony Hall was reluctant to wear his faith on his sleeve. But if he was to be true to his faith, he had to find a way to bring God into his political world.

He found his answer in Ethiopia. After visiting, he realized he would travel among the hungry and bring their needs to the attention of Washington.

In Changing the Face of Hunger Tony shares his travels and the issue of hunger worldwide. From the dark corners of a political prison in Romania to barren, famine-stricken Africa, people are suffering and we can help.


Heroes turn small steps into grand leaps
by David Batstone

We often look at saints and heroes and think, "I so admire who they are, but I could never do what they do."

Yet a legacy begins with a humble act. A simple invitation opens the portal into a new universe. God makes those invitations to us all of the time. Whether we choose to walk through that portal determines our destiny.

Lucy Borja cracked open that door in 1992. Lucy today serves as the executive director of Generación, a project aiding street kids and women rescued from exploitation in the sex trade in Lima, Peru. Generación offers creative options to help the victims to put their lives back together. I came to know Lucy via her son, Kique Bazan, who has been my administrative assistant at Sojourners for the past two years.

One day back in 1992 Lucy simply felt compassion for two boys - neither older than twelve 12 - who feared to spend the night on the rugged streets of Lima. Lucy only recently had learned of the existence of a subculture of street kids in Lima. Parents sometimes abandon these children - in some cases selling them into servitude - while other young boys and girls flee severe abuse at home.

At the time, Lucy headed up an HIV/AIDS prevention program for youth in Lima. Her team organized awareness programs in the schools as well as in detention centers for young offenders. It was at juvenile hall that she first learned about the plight of kids in the streets. The children recounted tales of rape and brutality, even at the hands of the police.

So when Lucy encountered two young boys who expressed a deep fear for passing the night on the streets, she invited them to use her office as a safe haven. She told them to extend the invitation to any other child who shared their concerns. Since Lucy already had plans to attend a family party that evening, she informed the office custodian to give entry to any child who arrived in search of refuge.

After the party, Lucy decided to check in with her young guests. She hoped that the custodian, upon meeting the ragged vagrants, had not balked at her instructions. She half expected to find the boys sitting on the curb in front of her office, locked out.

Street kids suffer a double curse in nearly every urban corner of the world. Tragic events tore them from their family in the first place. Then, once displaced, they become vulnerable to predators of every stripe. Pimps set traps to ensnare them, the police treat them like outlaws, and so-called decent folk consider them dangerous. The stigma of rejection brands their tiny bodies.

Lucy had a puzzle awaiting her that evening at the office. The key unlocked the front door but, try as she might, she could not shove it open. It felt like someone had lodged a rolled-up carpet behind the door to block the entry. With the help of her sons, Lucy finally moved the door to create enough space to squeeze through and pass inside the building.

As she reached blindly in the dark in search of the light switch, Lucy tripped over the "carpet roll." She caught her balance and leaned her body against the wall. Holding her pose, her fingers continued to work the wall until they eventually found the light switch and flicked it upward.

Lucy initially looked down at her feet and discovered several young kids curled up on the floor, sleeping, their bodies jammed against the door. She then cast her vision around the room, though it was hard to register at first what she saw. Every nook and cranny of the office was covered with sleeping children. "I even found young kids snuggled tightly inside the cupboards where we stored our office supplies," Lucy said.

Lucy counted more than 600 children who slept in her office that night. The word had passed like wildfire on the streets of Lima. Found: a shelter from the storm.

At that moment, Lucy did not know all the details that caused these boys and girls to run scared. But she clearly sensed that her life would never be the same. "Those children, stacked one against the other asleep on the floor of my office, looked so defenseless and vulnerable," Lucy said in a slow, soft voice. "They had no one to be their advocate, to defend their rights," she added. "I knew then what path I had to take."

Making a personal stand against injustice usually demands making some painful choices. Lucy did not have to wait long; she quickly found herself at one of those crossroads. The kids of Lima kept coming back to the office each night for sanctuary. Lucy's staff at the HIV/AIDS center could not tolerate this ongoing invasion. "It's either us or the kids," they collectively laid out an ultimatum to Lucy.

"Ok, then, it's the kids," Lucy recalled calmly answering.

The rest of a story is a legacy. Lucy Borja is one of the great heroes resisting the enslavement of children in the 21st century.

What portal has God opened for you at this moment? Your destiny awaits.

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  • "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." - Dom Helder Camara
  • "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" - Gandhi
  • God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions!
  • God wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts
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  • The Death Penalty is a Hate Crime
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Pentecost 2006 streaming media

Listen to streaming audio of Jim Wallis' speech:

+ Windows Media
+ RealPlayer

Listen to streaming audio of Sen. Barack Obama's speech on religion and politics:

+ Windows Media
+ RealPlayer

Sen. Sam Brownback (left, R-KS) and Jim Wallis listen as Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) speaks. (photo by Ryan Beiler) has made streaming video of the Pentecost 2006 Capitol Hill reception guest speeches available via streaming video. NOTE: As these segments are hosted by an outside Web site, each segement is preceded by an advertisement.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) Windows Media / QuickTime

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Windows Media / QuickTime

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Windows Media / QuickTime

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Windows Media / QuickTime

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Windows Media / QuickTime

Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) Windows Media / QuickTime

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) Windows Media / QuickTime

Pentecost 2006 speeches and workshop available on CD and DVD

Want to re-live Pentecost 2006? Missed an event? All major speeches and workshops were recorded by our friends at Conference Recording Services.

+ Click here to order

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This week's media round-up

Top story:

Veteran Activist Jim Wallis Recruits Evangelicals for Poverty Fight Religion News Service
Solving the problem of poverty in America requires the cooperation of leaders and activists from across the theological and political spectrum, organizers of a conference said here this week. Organized by Call to Renewal and Sojourners, two Washington-based social justice groups co-founded by the Rev. Jim Wallis, the "Pentecost Conference" drew about 600 social activists to the nation's capital to meet with politicians, network and unveil a new "covenant" that lays out a blueprint for eradicating poverty.

More Sojourners in the news:

Obama: Dems Must Court the Faithful Associated Press

Obama Speaks on Politics, Religion Scripps Howard News Service

Democrat Obama Urges Response to Religious Right Reuters

Efforts to get the Word out can be tricky The Chicago Tribune

In Good Faith: The Real Meaning of Barack Obama's speech on religion and politics Slate

Leaders Make Push for 'Values Voters' St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Sen. Obama Dissects Dilemmas Facing Christian Politicians Christian Post

Obama: Democrats Must Court Evangelicals Associated Press

Don't Be Afraid of Evangelicals, Obama Tells Other Progressives Associated Baptist Press

Obama Urges Democrats to Embrace Faith The Chicago Tribune

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners/Call to Rewewal in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

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Readers write

Larry Wiener writes from Alhambra, California:

I agree with Jim that poverty is not a family value ["Poverty is not a family value," SojoMail 6/29/2006]. Unfortunately, many officeholders who don't share our concerns were able to get large numbers of votes from evangelicals because they said they were against abortion. One voter of that ilk even told me that he would be willing to pay an extra dollar for gasoline to have a president who stood up against abortion and gay marriage. That brother told me that he preferred allowing the immorality of the oil companies if that's what it took to stop the immorality of abortion and gay marriage.

Of course for many of us, this is a Hobson's choice. We want morality in both the bedroom and the board room. On election day, however, we had to choose.

I hope the electorate starts demanding candidates who believe in the consistent life ethic and in quality of life for people in all circumstances. I hope voters of faith make it clear that we don't want to choose between one set of biblical values and another.


Jack Kelly writes from Wheaton, Illinois:

I thank God and Sojourners for your ministry and your commitment to social justice and peace. I heartily agree and join with you in hope in a "Covenant for a New America" as described in your article. My prayer and my encouragement to you is that the phrases "those who are unable to work," "the least of these," "liberty and justice for all," and "all of God's children" would also seamlessly apply, in all that you think and do, to the yet to be born child.


Want to make your voice heard? Click here to respond to SojoMail articles Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views, though we reserve the right to edit published responses for length and clarity.

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Following Aslan - A Book of Devotions for Children

Following Aslan - A Book of Devotions for Children guides young readers through the fantastic world of Narnia, clearly illustrating the many ways lessons from Narnia can be applied to everyday life. Thoughtfully written, yet simple and easy to understand, the book is a wonderful way to initiate discussions with children about their own spiritual beliefs and values. We wholeheartedly recommend Following Aslan for use in Sunday School classes, Vacation Bible Schools, book discussion groups, young-teen groups, and of course, for the reading pleasure of Christian families in their homes.

To purchase your copy visit, Barnes & Noble, or

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