A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out an email account that I rarely use. Most of the emails were spam and I was deleting entire pages of junk when one message caught my eye. I can’t really tell you why I didn’t delete it with the rest. It was from someone I didn’t know, had an attachment, and the heading wasn’t something that I knew anything about. There was just a gentle nudge on my heart to check it out.
It was from a man named Robert Swenson representing a group called Freedom 58. He had seen my profile on a website I’d completely forgotten about. I had been invited to this group about ten years ago or so and I posted my contact info but never completed a page. Sort of like my LinkedIn or Google Plus profiles. Imagine my surprise when someone actually contacted me from this site (www.christiansinportraiture.com).
Mr. Swenson introduced himself and the ministry he and his wife are heading and asked if I’d be willing to donate a painting to help end human trafficking. I asked my husband if he’d ever heard of Robert Swenson, and he asked, “The All American football player?” Yes, that would be him. A former professional player for the Broncos was contacting me about portraiture for a ministry to work against human slavery. This was getting interesting.
I started researching the Freedom Fifty Eight Project. Part of Freedom 58 is this call to artists to donate their time to paint a portrait of someone who was formerly enslaved. Essentially, creating dignity portraits. Photos and canvases are supplied to the portraitist. The Freedom Fifty Eight Project is looking for a significant number of artists for this project with the hope to develop exhibits to showcase the problem. The art exhibits are dedicated to raising awareness about modern day slavery and other forms of violent oppression. The secondary purpose of the exhibits is to drive people to the web site www.Feedom58project.com for more information, resources and opportunities for action.
Once I realized this was a legitimate organization and request (as opposed to the “Dear Beloved, help me move money out of this country/ministry” scam), I contacted Mr. Swenson to ask more questions. He was very helpful and soon I found myself volunteering to paint not one, but two portraits.
Here are some things you may not know about modern day slavery…
There are 30 million slaves today
Human Trafficking is a $32 Billion Industry
2 million women and children are trafficked annually
Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world
Children as young as 6 years old are being trafficked
A large box containing photo reference materials, return postage labels, and canvases arrived this past weekend and Tuesday I laid in the first layer on one of the portraits. As I was painting this lovely young woman who radiates dignity, I found I was praying over her. It had been a lovely day.
This is a unique opportunity for artists to give the violently oppressed the first taste of dignity, beauty and hope through their own God given gifts and passion - in the form of a painting. To participate and to get more detailed information on the vision and opportunity please email Bob Swenson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Freedodm Fifty Eight Project, go to http://www.freedom58project.com/about-us/purpose/
I hope you’ll join me in supporting this cause, and I hope you’ll share this information with others.
Another Mother’s Day is past, thankfully. While I enjoyed celebrating my mother-in-law and spending the day together, I’m just not a fan of that particular holiday. It stirs up a lot inside that I’d rather ignore. It’s better than it was in my youth, but reading all the schmaltzy posts on Facebook about how great mothers are gets tiring.
Author Anne Lamott wrote a piece for Salon in 2010 on Mother’s Day which really nailed it for me. (You can read the entire piece at: http://www.salon.com/2010/05/08/hate_mothers_day_anne_lamott/) She wrote: “But Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering.”
If you’ve read much of my blog, you know my mother did not parent well. That’s just the way it is. She wasn’t even a “good enough” parent. She just couldn’t do it. In a rare moment of honesty she told me that she thought that since Grandma had been such a good mother, she’d naturally be one, too, and was surprised at how those maternal instincts never kicked in.
But lest the reader thinks my mother was the personification of evil, I should set the record straight. Mom was damaged by her own home life and her marriage, and just couldn’t recover. I was collateral damage, but it wasn’t intentional. She did her best to provide for me by working full time at Sears in the bookkeeping department and she was also very aware of the potential of sexual child abuse. Paranoid about it, actually. I only met one man she dated when I was in my teens. The rest she kept away. The one I met was a peach, but I think he knew that mom was not marriage material and moved on. I remember him fondly.
Our relationship broke down so much that for over ten years mom didn’t even speak to me. Our story is not dissimilar to the story Jesus told about the prodigal son, except she’s the one who left and I’m the one who forgave and welcomed her back. It took Alzheimer’s to get her to the place to ask for forgiveness. Not a small thing for her to do.
While I try to be absolutely honest in my recollections about my life, here’s something I don’t want you to miss. While my mother was a deeply flawed person, she did ask for forgiveness and I did forgive her. Through forgiveness, I learned much more about faith, life and love. I’m still on a journey of healing, but caring for mom through Alzheimer’s took me much further down that road than if I had hardened myself to her and refused to let her back into my life.
If there is someone in your life who has failed you in a major way, do not hang on to unforgiveness. It only hurts yourself. Jesus pointed out when He was teaching the disciples to pray that we are in God’s debt and need to forgive as freely as He did. We like to skip over the part of the disciple’s prayer (aka the Lord’s Prayer) that says “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We love being forgiven…it’s just letting other people off the hook that’s so hard.
But remember...it’s a biblical principle that we will be treated as we treat others.
Note: If you have been abandoned by a parent, you may want to pick up Leslie Leyland Fields’ book Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. It’s about finding freedom from hurt and hate and written with Dr. Jill Hubbard.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.