Monthly Archives: May 2010

Where Have I Been? The Story of a Freedom Tour

Hello, friends.

I’ve been more quiet than usual in this space of late, and I’d like to share with you why that is.

But first I want to tell you how meaningful it was to read your stories on our last post about how each of you came to care about the subject of nonviolence.

You shared stories that were so varied and thoughtful, as I expected they would be.

And yet each story spoke of how strong and brave you are.

There was such vulnerability there.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

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And now for more of the scoop on where I’ve been.

Have I told you what I do?

I am a concert producer for Storyville Live.

Storyville Live is a division of the Seattle-based coffee roaster Storyville Coffee Company that was designed to do something really unique and beautiful.

We produce private concerts all over the country in the incomparable setting of private homes, all with an aim to help end modern-day slavery in our lifetime.

And this coming Tuesday, June 1st, is the official launch of our nation-wide Freedom Tour.

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[Storyville Coffee Company’s roasting studio in Seattle, affectionately known as the Temple of the Bean. Image by Brad Ruggles]

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You might wonder, “How did the idea of marrying music and coffee in a home setting come about, all for the sake of freedom?”

That’s a great question.

And the answer holds a really great story.

Want to hear it?

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[Beautiful vintage guitar collection in a Seattle loft, location of a Storyville Live private concert in May 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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Early last year, the leadership of Storyville Coffee Company met with Gary Haugen.

Gary Haugen is the founder of International Justice Mission, a human rights agency based in Washington DC that has been rescuing children, women, and men from slavery and other forms of violent oppression for nearly 15 years.

Under Gary’s leadership, IJM operates in 17 countries around the world.

  • They rescue young girls — some as young as 5 years old — from the evils of forced prostitution.
  • They free families from the tyranny of bonded labor in brick kilns, rock quarries, salt mines, and rice mills.
  • They protect widows from the victimization of illegal land seizure.

And then they help those they rescue find healing, restoration, and dignity.

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[A view of the ivory keys in a Seattle loft at a Storyville Live private concert in May 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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Did you know slavery still exists today?

That an estimated 27 million people are literally owned by another human being on this planet?

That at least 2 million of those individuals are children?

And that this number far exceeds the number of people who were ever enslaved in over 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade?

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It’s true.

And the worst part is, these individuals will be perpetually tyrannized and brutally detained by force every single day of their lives.

That is, unless someone shows up to rescue them.

Because the truth is this:

Slavery is illegal around the world.

But enforcement against it is rare in so many places.

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[Jonathan Kingham and Ryan Shea Smith perform a Storyville Live private concert in May 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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That’s where International Justice Mission comes in.

They employ top-notch lawyers, private investigators, and social workers — nationals in their own home countries — to conduct the necessary investigations.

They gather data, interviews, and video footage, and then they present this evidence to the local governmental authorities.

Sometimes it takes a bit of time to persuade the local authorities to do the right thing.

So often their systems, too, are quite corrupt.

But IJM takes those local authorities to task on enforcing the law, on choosing what is right, on changing how things are usually done.

And then they help change happen.

People are set free to go home.

And healing then begins.

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[Legendary guitar phenom Willy Porter performs for a Storyville Live private concert in April 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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It’s dangerous work, but do you know what IJM has found?

They’ve found that truth and justice win when people are willing to stand up, show up, and bring accountability where it’s needed.

And they’ve found that when one person is held accountable, others like them in that same village often flee.

The status quo becomes unprofitable, so the problem scatters.

Slavery disappears.

Freedom wins.

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[Storyville beans, freshly roasted and blended to perfection. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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So, again, how did music and coffee come together for the sake of freedom?

Ah, yes.

Let me get back to that story.

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When the leadership of Storyville Coffee Company met with Gary Haugen last year, they learned something truly remarkable.

“There are a lot of problems in the world that nobody knows how to do anything about,” Gary acknowledged.

“But for us at IJM, slavery is not one of them. We know how to bring an end to slavery. We know how to put it out of business.”

Did he just say that — that they know how to bring an end to slavery?

That it’s a business they know how to stop?

We couldn’t help but ask, then:

“How can we help?”

Because seriously, we couldn’t imagine not doing something — anything within our power — to help.

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[Artful preparation and service of Storyville coffee at a Storyville Live private concert in May 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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With Gary’s charge that awareness and resources are key, we set out on a mission.

In May 2009, we produced a month-long series of private concerts in almost 20 locations around the country.

Exceptional artists like David Wilcox and Pierce Pettis offered private performances in beautiful homes for 50-100 people a night.

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And do you know what happened?

We raised over six figures in that one month.

And with those funds, IJM opened a new field office in Ecuador.

Do you realize what this means?

People are being freed from slavery in Ecuador today . . . simply because we shared exceptional music, the perfect cup of coffee, and the story of IJM for one month last year.

Is that insane, or what?

So, how can we not help but do it again . . . and again . . . and again?

How can we not help but do it until slavery disappears forever?

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[The incredibly talented and deeply humble Grace Pettis performs a Storyville Live private concert in May 2010. Image by Brad Ruggles.]

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Enter the nation-wide Freedom Tour.

For the last year, we’ve been putting all the necessary pieces in place to take this show on the road full time.

And this time, we’ll stay on the road for years.

We’ll share the mission and story with thousands.

Just think of that potential impact, after what one month allowed last year.

Needless to say, we’re amped to combine the best possible experience of live music with the freshest, most delectable cup of coffee on the planet so that others can come alongside and help free the world from slavery.

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So that’s the story of where I’ve been these days.

It’s the story of hope that occupies me just now.

It’s the epic opportunity we’re bringing to as many people as we can.

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If you’d like to learn how you can bring a Storyville Live private concert to 50-100 of your own friends and family in a private home setting, feel free to contact me.

I can be reached at christianne [at] journeytowardnonviolence [dot] com. Or feel free to leave a comment.

I would, of course, love to share Storyville Live with you and those you know!

[And we’ll get back to our regular pace of posting here soon . . . once the tour is officially on the road and life slows a bit more for me.]

When Did You Begin to Care about Nonviolence?

Hello, friends.

I’ve become curious to learn how each of us came to care about the subject of nonviolence that draws us together in this space.

Each person’s journey is unique, and the access points are many, I’m sure.

Wouldn’t it be fun to hear each person’s story?

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As I reflect on my own journey to getting here, I notice the story unfolding in major chapters that keep extending further and further back into my history as a person in this world.

Eventually, I land at my childhood.

I see, then, that this journey has just led me deeper into the person I have always been.

It begins to seem that my landing here was inevitable.

That pretty much blows my mind.

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Maybe you’ll find the same is true for you.

Maybe you’ll find that trying to pinpoint the moment you began caring about nonviolence only propels you further and further back into the connected layers of your own story.

Maybe you’ll find, for you, this was an inevitable landing point too.

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There will be opportunities for us to explore the deeper, interconnected layers of our stories together here.

But for today, let’s focus on our conscious recognition of this subject.

Let’s share how we became aware of the subject of nonviolence and how we made the decision to move toward it.

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For me, an initial big step was the 2008 election.

Whereas I’d never thought much about voting before — usually allowing the faith community to guide the way I cast my vote — this time I found myself caring to learn about the issues and the candidates.

What I found surprised me.

I found myself caring about things I didn’t know I cared about.

  • Things like poverty and war and health care and torture.
  • Things like international relations and the way we treat the environment.
  • Things like civil rights and education and how we each help contribute to society.

In other words, things that made the whole world bigger to me than it ever was before.

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I don’t share this part of my story to get political at all.

In truth, I’m still working out my views on all these things.

I share this because it was a huge whoa moment for me.

It was the first time I realized the greater implications of my ongoing journey.

What I mean is, over the course of many years, I had slowly become a person who cares deeply about each individual person’s journey toward living with dignity and hope and peace. My life had firmly become about these things.

Now I realized something:

Caring about those things also made me into a person who cared deeply about the workings of the greater world and all the people living in it.

That, I guess you could say, primed me for my journey toward nonviolence.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but within a year of this initial recognition, I would:

  • Sincerely ask the question, “Are we called to love Al-Qaeda?”
  • Become deeply affected by any notion of torture.
  • Consider adopting an ideology of pacifism.
  • Ask questions about the difference between charity and systemic justice.
  • Commit a year of my life to studying the great peacemakers of history.

All stories, perhaps, worth saving for another day.

But now I’d love to hear about you:

How and when did you begin to care about nonviolence?

Moment of Love Monday: May 2010

[A video for inspiration on this first Moment of Love Monday, submitted by one of our fellow tribemembers, Gigi.]

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Hello, friends.

Can I take a moment to say how honored I am to share this space with you?

Your response to our first Repentance Thursday amazed me, and I was deeply moved by your willingness to practice confession with each other in this space.

Thank you.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for being a part of this community.

Thank you for being a community worthy of each other’s trust.

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As we take the first Thursday of every month to practice our personal need for repentance, we will take the following Monday of each month to celebrate moments of love.

This second monthly ritual will be known as Moment of Love Monday.

Our first experience of it is today.

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As many of you already know, one foundational pillar of this website is our belief in the prevailing power of love.

We explored this idea as part of the JTN manifesto series when we acknowledged two things:

At the core, we are a community of people about the work of love.

As we go about our work together here, we are seeking to grow in our capacity to embody and express that love.

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Moment of Love Monday will keep us mindful of this core belief and give us regular opportunities to share stories and learn from each other in this process.

It is a place to:

  • Share how we practiced love in a difficult moment the previous month.
  • Share how an injection of love into that moment affected the circumstances (if at all).
  • Share how the choice of love in that moment affected us in the aftermath (if at all).

In some ways, I view Moment of Love Mondays as a bit of a laboratory. Together, we are testing for ourselves this idea that love has the power to transform.

In other ways, I view Moment of Love Mondays as a place of true inspiration and testimony. We will see ourselves grow in love over time, and we will teach each other how love, in all its varied and creative  forms, can look.

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Since this is our first Moment of Love Monday, I don’t expect you to have stories at the ready for sharing.

(Though if you do, feel free to share away!)

So perhaps instead . . .

Be mindful today of an opportunity to practice love.

And then, when you find that opportunity, come back here to share the story.

I’ll be joining in with my story later today.

Will you join us?

Repentance Thursday: May 2010

[A song for reflection on this Repentance Thursday, sung by me.]

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Hello, friends.

About a month and a half ago, when we were in the thick of chronicling the finer points of the JTN manifesto, we explored the need to examine the violence in our own hearts and lives in this journey toward nonviolence.

I truly believe this is essential.

  • Reckoning with our own frailties and failings keeps us in touch with our humanity.
  • It keeps us on equal footing with our common man, no better or worse than our brothers or sisters in this world.
  • It increases our capacity for compassion.

Ultimately, it reminds us that we cannot hope to be part of the solution if we aren’t willing to acknowledge our contribution to the problem.

Change begins with us.

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At the time we originally explored this, I mentioned a recurring feature coming soon to this blog called Repentance Thursdays.

Now, here it is.

What is it?

  • A safe place to acknowledge our own violences of heart and deed over the previous month.
  • A place purification begins each month anew.
  • An opportunity to receive forgiveness from God, others, or ourselves.
  • A chance to do it together.

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How does it work?

The first Thursday of every month will be deemed a Repentance Thursday.

On that day, we will be invited to reflect on our actions and the interior movements of our hearts over the previous month.

  • Into what dark mires did our hearts traverse?
  • In what ways did we bring harm to our fellow man, either in thought, word, or deed?
  • How did we sin against God?

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After reflecting on these things, we will be given an opportunity for confession.

The comments section is available for this purpose.

The public nature of this practice is rooted in the idea that confession — to both God and man — heals us:

“A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Please note that this ongoing ritual is not meant — in any way — to dispense humiliation. It is not a place for judgment, either. It’s not a place to take delight in learning each other’s dirty laundry.

It is a place for us to practice our own repentance.

It is a place to encounter the healing gifts of confession and forgiveness, as well as to discover the solidarity of our shared humanity.

To that end, any comments judging or disparaging another’s confession will not be tolerated and will be removed.

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And so now, I would invite you to reflect on the state of your heart. Feel free to listen to the song posted above in your moments of reflection.

And then, in the comments section, I would invite you to bring your confession.

Please note:

  • You are welcome to leave your confession anonymously.
  • You are welcome to make up an e-mail address (since the comment section requires you to leave one).
  • You are welcome to be as general or specific as you want.
  • You are welcome to write your confession as prayer.
  • And remember: any judging or disparaging comments of another’s confession will be removed.

It is my hope that you’ll find safety in this place to offer and regain your own humanity. Thank you for joining us.