Britain’s youngest parents

Baby

A 12-year-old girl has given birth to her 13-year-old boyfriend’s baby, making them Britain’s youngest parents.

The girl, at 12 years, three months, is the UK’s youngest mother, after giving birth to a 7lb baby girl last weekend.  She fell pregnant at 11, while still at primary school, shortly after starting a relationship with a boy who lives near her family home in north London, The Sun reports.

The parents, who cannot be identified due to legal reasons, have the lowest combined age of any British parents in history.

A source close to the family said the pair, who have been in a relationship for over a year, were ‘totally in love’ and plan to bring up their newborn daughter together.  They told The Sun:

“Both sets of grandparents are incredibly supportive. It’s a very difficult situation because the parents are both so young – but their families are right behind them.  The baby’s mum and dad have been in a relationship for more than year, so this isn’t a fleeting romance. They intend to stick together and bring their daughter up together.”

The young mother’s father later confirmed both sets of grandparents have been ‘very supportive’ of the young parents.  The baby’s grandfather broke his silence to radio station LBC, admitting that both families only discovered the news when the unnamed girl was eight months pregnant:

“Before people judge they should find out what’s happened.  All we can do is be supportive, which is what we’re doing.  It is heartbreaking, of course it is. For any man to find out their daughter has become pregnant. It is but you can’t turn back time, you can only go forwards.”

The man, who is separated from his daughter’s mother, said they had not allowed the sexual relationship but said he could not watch his daughter 24/7.  As a business owner he hit out at accusations the family were dependent on benefits and said: ‘We’re not scroungers. I will support this baby as much as I can with my own money.’

He described the new father as a ‘great kid’ and claimed he would prefer this situation to discovering his daughter had been taking drugs.  When asked whether he was ashamed, he told LBC ‘shame doesn’t come into it’ and said he still felt ‘proud’ of his daughter.  He added: ‘She’s brought something beautiful into the world and we’re going to stand by her.’

The proud parents posted a picture of them posing with their baby daughter online.  The young mother, who lives with her mother, hopes to return to school in September.  At 27, her mother is one of the UK’s youngest ever grandmothers.

As a youth worker there are so many context questions I want to ask about this news story, but it does make me come back to the importance of the church leading on SRE for our children and young people.

Portraits of Reconciliation from Rwanda

20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, reconciliation still happens one encounter at a time.  Check out these fab photos and article in The New York Times, via Lyndhurst Deanery:

Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.

The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organization. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of offerings, usually food and sorghum or banana beer. The accord is sealed with song and dance.

The photographs on the following pages are a small selection of a larger body on display — outdoors, in large format — starting this month in The Hague. The series was commissioned by Creative Court, an arts organization based there, as part of “Rwanda 20 Years,” a program exploring the theme of forgiveness. The images will eventually be shown at memorials and churches in Rwanda.

At the photo shoots, Hugo said, the relationships between the victims and the perpetrators varied widely. Some pairs showed up and sat easily together, chatting about village gossip. Others arrived willing to be photographed but unable to go much further. “There’s clearly different degrees of forgiveness,” Hugo said. “In the photographs, the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate.”

In interviews conducted by AMI and Creative Court for the project, the subjects spoke of the pardoning process as an important step toward improving their lives. “These people can’t go anywhere else — they have to make peace,” Hugo explained. “Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence. It’s more out of a survival instinct.” Yet the practical necessity of reconciliation does not detract from the emotional strength required of these Rwandans to forge it — or to be photographed, for that matter, side by side.

Here’s a few of the photos:

Rwanda Reconciliation 2

Jean Pierre Karenzi - Perpetrator (left)

Viviane Nyiramana - Survivor

KARENZI: “My conscience was not quiet, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained about unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I shook her hand. So far, we are on good terms.”

NYIRAMANA: “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”

Rwanda Reconciliation 3

Godefroid Mudaheranwa - Perpetrator (left)

Evasta Mukanyandwi - Survivor

MUDAHERANWA: “I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then AMI started to provide us with trainings. I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”

MUKANYANDWI: “I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.”

Rwanda Reconciliation 4

Juvenal Nzabamwita - Perpetrator (right)

Cansilde Kampundu - Survivor

NZABAMWITA: “I damaged and looted her property. I spent nine and a half years in jail. I had been educated to know good from evil before being released. And when I came home, I thought it would be good to approach the person to whom I did evil deeds and ask for her forgiveness. I told her that I would stand by her, with all the means at my disposal. My own father was involved in killing her children. When I learned that my parent had behaved wickedly, for that I profoundly begged her pardon, too.”

KAMPUNDU: “My husband was hiding, and men hunted him down and killed him on a Tuesday. The following Tuesday, they came back and killed my two sons. I was hoping that my daughters would be saved, but then they took them to my husband’s village and killed them and threw them in the latrine. I was not able to remove them from that hole. I knelt down and prayed for them, along with my younger brother, and covered the latrine with dirt. The reason I granted pardon is because I realized that I would never get back the beloved ones I had lost. I could not live a lonely life — I wondered, if I was ill, who was going to stay by my bedside, and if I was in trouble and cried for help, who was going to rescue me? I preferred to grant pardon.”

Funny headlines from around the world

Some of the more random headlines from the BBC News website over the last week or so:

Mark Driscoll Posts an Open Letter of Apology

Mark Driscoll

The ongoing saga of pastor Mark Driscoll’s public image has been the source of headlines. The frequently controversial leader of Seattle’s Mars Hill church has been accused of everything from plagiarism to gaming his way onto the New York Times Bestseller list. There have been troubling stories from inside the church, and a few tweets that might be described, at best, as “ill-advised” have made the rounds.

Sunday, Driscoll posted an open letter of apology in Mars Hills’ online social network The City, saying he has been “deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over” and acknowledging “that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution.” Driscoll also outlined plans for a new team of pastors to hold him accountable.

It’s worth noting that Driscoll issued a similar apology back in 2007.  Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Mars Hill Church,

Thank you.

I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.

For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.

As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.

In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.

In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.

However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.

To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.

I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.

Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don’t want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.

To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.

I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.

Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the Father’s affection,

–Pastor Mark Driscoll

Here’s a Map to Help Us Understand America’s Share of Global Wealth

Here’s a map from Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute that breaks down the U.S. share of the global economy by renaming states according to their matching GDP’s of other countries.

For example, one million residents of Rhode Island have as much money as the 15 million citizens of Guatemala. Illinois’ 12 million have as much wealth as Saudi Arabia’s 28 million. And so on …

USA Map

Funny headlines from around the world

Some of the more random headlines from the BBC News website over the last week or so:

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two months into an uprising that has claimed at least two lives and brought thousands to the streets, Ukraine’s political crisis still seems far from any resolution. President Yanukovych has refused to declare a state of emergency, though by all accounts the protests are escalating.

Amidst burned buses, tear gas and barricades, however, there is another sight that stands out on the frontline: The strong numbers of Orthodox priests who have turned out, not to protest, but rather to pray.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protests, but even that didn’t keep the priests from showing up with their robes and crosses and holy books.

As one priest said about the proposed ban, “It is illegal. It is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray.”

Check out these incredible photos: