I’ve never thought that I am very brave. Bold maybe, but in my mind that is different than brave. “Brave” to me carries words like “courageous, fearless, and dauntless.” It makes me think about someone who runs towards a risk or a scary thing with an almost reckless abandon…unconcerned for what it may cost them in the end.
So, by that definition, I’m not brave. Because I count the costs…to myself…and to others. And there are always costs to being brave.
Lately though, I’ve been thinking that maybe bravery isn’t so much a fearless pursuit of something, but rather more of a curious uncovering. Maybe learning to be curious after the things of God in my life suddenly turns me out to be braver in the end. My curiosity for experiencing the presence of God suddenly outweighs my fear of what lies ahead.
Maybe bravery isn’t about what we are chasing so much as what we are overcoming.
So when my friend Don said the word “Kilimanjaro” and asked what I thought about it, I told him that I didn’t. I didn’t think about it. At. All. Because it’s a ginormous mountain in Africa and I don’t really exercise.
But then he said something about standing in the gap for women who are victims of war violence around the globe, and suddenly I sensed a stirring in my heart towards overcoming something big on behalf of those women. Suddenly I started to feel brave. Because just for me…I could care less about a crap ton of exercise to feel like I am going to beast my way up a humongous land mass. There is a hill in my neighborhood that is pretty big…and according to my fitbit, it gets my heartrate up after just about 2/10ths of a mile. No way do I sit around thinking about climbing mountains. I mean really…what on earth for?
Later that day Don sent me an early couple of chapters of a book-in-process called One Million Thumbprints. I cried my way through it, called him and said “I’m in”…just tell me what to do. A day later I became friends with Belinda Bauman…the heart behind the movement.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a woman. It is the rape capital of the world and when a woman named Esperance , who never had the chance to learn to read or write, shared her story of survival with Belinda and Lynn Hybels, it left a mark forever etched in their hearts. Esperance stamped her thumbprint—her signature, her mark, her identity—on a piece of paper, and said, “Tell the world.”
Thumbprints are small, but powerful identifiers. So, our story…now part of MY story and maybe part of YOUR story… begins with one woman’s thumbprint, and ends with a million.
Her thumbprint is our mandate to put an end to violence against women who experience the devastating affects of war.
Violence against her is violence against us.
With news of the Syrian Refugee Crisis swirling all around us, the continuing tension in Iraq and the Sudan, and the millions…MILLIONS of women who are suffering in war torn areas around the globe who are victims of violent crimes, I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
Violence against women is present in every single war zone in the world. Hundreds of women are raped every day on the frontlines of conflict.
When you break the heart, you break the community. Women invest scarce resources into their families—food, education and basic healthcare for their children. The physical and psychological damage, fear and stigma resulting from sexual violence destroys families and pulls women away from participating in their communities.
Ending violence against women in conflict includes changing community perceptions about sexual violence, putting an end to stigma so that survivors can receive adequate care and restoration.
I’m a lucky one. I’ve never been raped or treated violently. I don’t live my life in fear…looking over my shoulder, cowering in corners trying to protect my children. I’m not that BRAVE. I’m not that kind of a survivor. I haven’t had to overcome like this. But what I do have in this western world I live in is a voice and a curiosity to figure out how I can help.
Esperance didn’t have a voice. She just had a thumbprint to give permission to someone else to be her voice. She gave her thumbprint…I give my voice. And if I don’t use the luxury of voice on behalf of thumbprints like Esperance, then I have to wonder why I have a voice in the first place.
I’m curious about how I can live and matter to women like her.
So there is this climb…of Mount Kilimanjaro…to go first to hear stories in the Congo of women like Esperance and then to overcome something ourselves to stand with them. We want to use our voices to give voice to their thumbprints and to collect your thumbprints to voice back to them that they are not alone. We are going to tell their stories and make them part of our own.
A million thumbprints are a million voices.
We have two singular goals: (1) to raise a million thumbprints to advocate for policy change at the UN, US and other governments to help stop violence against women experiencing the devastation of war, and (2) to raise a million dollars to implement peace building programs to stem the tide of violence against women in some of the world’s worst conflict zones.
I’m climbing for them. I’m climbing for my voice and your voice and their voices. I’m part of an online campaign called a Thunderclap to raise awareness of violence against women being used as a weapon of war. You can learn more about this campaign at www.onemillionthumbprints.org.
** There is going to be so much more to say about this, but for now…this is just the beginning. Also, presently, World Relief is one of the primary implementing partners of the program, but this isn’t a program about a singular partner, this is a goal to expand beyond what any one organization can do. One Million Thumbprints is a grassroots organization that will be working with MANY organizations, NGO’s and Government organizations to implement the programs needed to stop the violence against women around the world.