Monday, January 26, 2009

Melinda Chisholm Brings Her Indian Story Back to IUSB

I've had the privilege of traveling to India with Melinda twice in the last year. Last summer I had a blog post on how well she adapted and even excelled on the first trip. Her second trip revealed even more of her heart for the poor.

One of the things we try to ask our team members to do is not to leave their experience in India or put it away once they come home.

Melinda took that step last week when asked to tell her story that would be published in IUSB's Preface. Here it is. Enjoy. Be encouraged.

Student builds houses and hope in India
Shaun Christensen

Small in stature at 5'3", Melinda Chisholm is not the largest person attending IU South Bend, but she has travelled large distances to make big differences in the lives of others.

Chisholm, who will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in psychology, has travelled to Tamil Nadu, India twice in the past year on mission trips through the Granger Community Church (GCC).

"My first trip to India was in July 2008, and I taught conversational English in both government and private schools." Chisholm said, "I had an amazing experience the first time, so I decided to sign up for another trip if the chance came up."

Chisholm was confronted by the opportunity to return to India when she read about an Indian mission trip in a GCC bulletin. She was eager to sign up for the trip, and was able to cover its expenses through fund raising.

In December 2008, Chisholm joined the GCC construction team on their trip to Tamil Nadu to help them accomplish their goal of knocking down and rebuilding as many faulty houses as possible.

"The houses that we rebuilt were government houses that were built with an inferior mortar consisting of too much sand and not enough concrete," Chisholm explained. "The houses were crumbling and needed a lot of attention. So, we had to get the right mixture and rebuild the houses from scratch."

The Construction Team of six members worked tirelessly for four days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with only primitive tools. They succeeded in tearing down four houses and rebuilding three.

The locals were grateful to the team, and welcomed them in their village while they worked. They even hung up plaques with the team members' names on the houses they built.

The trip, which lasted from December 27 to January 6, was not all work though, as the team got to spend their free time being tourists and soaking up Indian culture.

"The trip was great! I slept in tents, ate wonderfully made Indian food, interacted with the villagers, swam in a well, got bit by mosquitoes, held and ate a rat, dressed up in a saree, and got henna tattoos," Chisholm said excitedly. "But the most important part of the trip was serving God and the people of India, and I cannot wait to go back!"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

When I grow up I want to be more like Dr. Ted Bryant!

Ted has become a good friend and I have had the privilege of getting to know him even better on our recent trip to India (28 hour plane rides have a tendency to do that!). I am so excited that we get to partner with Ted and greenLockers not only through our own 501(c)3 here and in India.

Today, the Tribune ran an article on greenLockers and Ted. Here it is;

Charity wants old recycling bins
Nonprofit putting bins, excess school supplies to use.

Tribune Staff Writer

St. Joseph County residents stuck with old recycling bins can get rid of them and help needy children at the same time.

Ted Bryant wants as many of the 18-gallon bins as he can collect for greenlockers, a nonprofit he founded that distributes school supplies and used clothing to children here and abroad. He is asking people to drop off the bins at one of five local Martin's Super Markets on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The group will have tables and banners set up outside the stores.

So far, Bryant has partnered with student groups such as Five Star, National Honor Society and student council, who have organized the school supplies collection by placing cardboard boxes or trash cans in hallways on the final chaotic day of classes. Traditionally, students have just tossed the contents from their lockers into trash cans.

But Bryant says those lockers contain plenty of excess school supplies and clothing.

Bryant, a 30-year-old Bethel College psychology professor, said he conceived the idea in 2006 on a Granger Community Church high school youth group trip to orphanages in Mexico. Those making the trip were required to fill 40 suitcases with school supplies.

He thought back to his own school days, and how much stuff kids threw away on the last day of school.

"When I gave a half-used crayon to a kid in Mexico and saw genuine excitement like it was Christmas morning, I knew there was something here," Bryant said. "One of the things I've found around the world is that education is a doorway out of the grip of poverty, and education cannot happen, from what I've seen, for a lot of these kids, without basic school supplies."

He started the program as "Trash to Treasure" in 2006 at Clay High School and Discovery Middle School. In 2007 he dropped Clay and decided to focus only on middle schools, taking it to Discovery, Schmucker and Grissom in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp., and Pierre Moran and Mary Beck middle schools in Elkhart.

Without any kind of advertising or promotion, he collected 7,000 pounds of materials from those five schools.

The items ended up in the hands of children in South Bend, Chicago and Mexico.

"People right here need this stuff," he said. "I'm not trying to send it all to Mexico, especially during these hard times."

Good sorting is important, he said, noting that the condition of the materials might help determine their destination. Children locally are more choosy about the condition of their school supplies than are children in poorer countries, he said.

Last year a family matter took Bryant out of town, causing a hiatus in the program.

Upon his recent return from a mission trip to India, he felt a new sense of purpose to aggressively grow it.

He legally incorporated as "greenlockers" and earlier this month launched a new Web site at

He plans to collect from at least a dozen area schools this spring.

Bryant said it has become tougher to gather cardboard boxes from supermarkets because so many stores quickly break down and compact them for recycling. They also don't hold up well when kids toss pop cans into them, despite being urged not to do so.

When Bryant saw a recent Tribune article reporting that the county solid waste management district would not be picking up bins that have become obsolete under the new curbside recycling program, an idea struck him.

"These recycling bins are the perfect size, and they could basically survive nuclear warfare," he said. "It takes a lot of containers because kids do not want to walk more than four feet from their lockers."

Like any new organization, greenlockers hit some bumps at the beginning. For instance, Clay High custodians initially grew angry when they saw the mess left in the hallways, but they cooled down once they saw Bryant cleaning up the debris himself, Bryant recalled.

These days, he isn't having much trouble inspiring enthusiasm for the cause.

He finds donations to rent trucks and buy gasoline needed to haul the materials. Granger Community Church volunteers do the sorting.

Five Star is letting him store the bins at its Elkhart warehouse.

Bethel College business students have come on board, hoping to do good while acquiring real-world experience in logistics and marketing.

Bryant would like to one day go national, but doesn't want to grow too quickly.

He has heard interest from as far away as California, he said.

"A lot of people know things need to be done," he said, "but they don't think they can do anything about it. They can."

Staff writer Jeff Parrott:
(574) 235-6320

Saturday, January 24, 2009

LeRoy King's Words on Tuesday's Historical Event

Our friend, brother in Christ, father, husband, leader at The Gathering and MC3 recently wrote this words on his Facebook page. They are inspiring. They are moving. I'm so looking forward to sharing the journey with LeRoy, with others as we walk together into a better American... a more hopeful Monroe Circle.

Read and enjoy.

My Inauguration by LeRoy King.

Its approximately 12:04PM with camera set in its appropriate place... click!.., I also grabbed my black leather bond bible and laid it respectfully on my lap. As he approached his place in history, I placed my left hand on the bible with my right hand raised. It..., history..., a new day’s dawn..., any minute now... click!.., anticipating..., here WE go..., “I... solemnly swear...” or more appropriately, “We... solemnly swear...” Yes, this is as much my inaugural as it is President Barak H. Obama’s inaugural.

Let me!

When Africans were snatched from their native land and country, families divided and sold on auction blocks, women raped, and men whipped to near death, it happened to we, to us. Shortly after the “emancipation proclamation,” the establishment of “Jim Crow Laws” institutionalized racism and created a system that was design to keep the Negro in his place through fear and intimidation... “separate, but” never “equal.” These atrocities were done to we, to us. When the parents of my white friends would not allow their children to play with me because I am black, this too was done to we, to us. “Play your fiddle, dance a jig, make us laugh... run fast... jump high like the gazelle”... you say. But lead...? But think...? But discover...? Not in your DNA... so we, so us been told. Ode to the injustice done to we, to us. When a gang of white boys would, with venom, SCREAMED!... that one word that causes... we, us... to cringe . You know the word I speak of... This word cuts so deep, deep,... here it comes... like many times before and many times since... “NIGGER!” Maybe the blow to my essence would be minimized if you begin that word by saying “MY” in front of...? Or maybe by replacing “...ER” with “A” followed by “please...” it wouldn’t hurt so bad... to we. to us? ...still it hurts, still so deep. Walking my sister home from school... harassed, kicked, and called names, not true... not me... not us. Why?... Racism happened for no other reason than this, I am black, in a community of Black, Colored, Negro, African American... we, us... click!

News flashed across the TV screen, images of dogs attacking we, us, white police officers with club in hand beating, we, us. Why? So that... we, us... can vote? Church bombed, little girls... we, us... somebody’s daughter, sister, and friend... died... groan. Young black men, black boys lynched... shhh... whispered... not talked about but heard about... we, about... us.

Fear... uncertainty... inadequate I feel... I am... informing my, we, us psyche... re-writing my, we, us very soul.

Dreams? Difficult to... almost impossible to... But, dream... we, us... did. Dreams, too dangerous to entertain... some were, are killed for this very act of insurrection. Yes, dream... we, us... did, still. Martin Luther King, was not the architect of The Dream... Dr. King gave voice to the dream already formed, already embraced, already... From the time the first slave ships left the harbors of West Africa... already... the dream... hid in we, in us... in the face of horror..., victories along the way..., to we, to us. Yes, dreams... possible... expected... because I am black, in a community of Black, Colored, Negro, African American... we, us.

Some have suggested, “let this inaugural of the 44th President be not about race.” I...we, us... respond by saying, “Too late.” Race was placed on the table by others over 400 years ago when the first slave ships docked, when black men, the victims of greed and of power hungry men, were legally declared to be three-fifths of a man. It is too late to remove race issues from the table. Yes, the Economy. Yes, Health Care, Yes, National Security. Yes, Foreign Affairs. But let this too... be about race. For race not to be included would strip this monumental event of its historicity. It is only in the historical context of America’s race relationship, strained relationship, that makes this particular inauguration significant, indeed remarkable, that a Black Man... White Man, oh the irony of it all, would be placed in the highest and most powerful office in the land by the people...

So allow me, we, us to sit here and simmer a bit... we, how us... got here...simmer some more...

And then maybe, after a bit.., it will not need to be about race... no longer.

But for now... I will allow this inauguration..., Barak Obama’s inauguration..., my inauguration, de-constructing... re-constructing... create in me, we, us..., to replace the tears of struggle with the tears of joy, healing the wounds of rejection, recapturing the very essence of who I was meant to be... who I am, redeeming what was lost but now is found... Could it be that the world will come to see... we, us... dif-fer-ent-ly? And maybe I will see me...

And what about reparations?... I got mine... Thank you... we, us...AMERICANS... click!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Celebrating Martin Luther King

This morning I had the privilege of attending the Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast at the Century Center. Today is also on the eve of our country being lead by a person of color. It is a good day for all Americans. It is a good day for us to demonstrate to the world that as Martin Luther King said "we should not judge a person by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

However, we still have some work to be done. Because, even today we have teachers, policeman and business people prejudging the content of someone's character because they are black. But I also see the discrimination of young black kids against someone who is from a biracial family. This all occurring on the heals of their excitement of our first African American president that has a similar family history. How can we hold up one as a shining example and not celebrate the other? How can we be so quick to prejudge someone's character just by the color (or lack of color) in their skin?

I see signs of hope. Their names are Peewee, Demond and Roy. I see signs of encouragement and opportunity and their names are Dan, Brian and Coop. Dawn is coming and it is going to be a new and better day.

My prayer is that in 2009 our country, our community, our Monroe Circle will become more of a reality and less of a dream in order to honor Martin Luther King. My prayer is that what is happening at Monroe Circle Community Center would make Dr. King proud and make him smile.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Servants' Hearts - Dave & Nancy Leist

Last week Dave and Nancy Leist were with me in India building houses for people that did not have a home. They worked all day along side their new India friends in 85 degree weather.

Today, I drove by Monroe Circle and who did I see? Dave and Nancy clearing the snow away so our guests next week would have easier access to the community center. They serve not to earn any additional points with Jesus but because they just want to be more like Jesus. Most of us could learn a lot by just hanging around them.

Thanks, Dave and Nancy. You are an inspiration to me and many others!