Monday, July 9, 2012

One Sole at a Time

CEDARVILLE UNIVERSITY - Press Release - CEDARVILLE, OHIO – On June 2, Cedarville University students and faculty returned from a trip to Liberia, a trip that radically changed their lives.
Jon Purple, dean for student life programs, traveled with four Cedarville students to Liberia to distribute thousands of shoes with a group led by Palmer Chinchen, pastor of The Grove Bible Church in Chandler, Arizona. The group consisted of a medical team that included two Cedarville nursing students, an orphanage team that Cedarville students also participated in, a construction team, and a motorbike team, which Purple was on. The group stayed at African Bible College University (ABCU) in Yekepa, Liberia, and ABCU students also served with the team.
Cedarville’s involvement in the trip began on September 8, 2011, when Cedarville University students held a Barefoot Thursday on the campus in order to collect shoes to send to Liberia with Chinchen and his team. On that date Chinchen came and spoke at Cedarville and invited students to join him and his church on the trip to Liberia to distribute the thousands of shoes, and a few students joined him in this incredible opportunity to serve. “The trip was amazing in many ways,” Purple said. “It was hard to see the poverty but so encouraging to see the desire of African believers to share the Gospel in their country, the receptivity and friendliness of the Liberian people, and their thankfulness for the gift of these shoes.” One of the highlights for Purple was having a chance to serve and worship alongside fellow African believers. “It was a blessing to experience Christianity from a non-white, non-western, non-middle class perspective and to see people who have so little materially, but yet are filled with such joy,” Purple said. “It was a blessing to serve with them as well. It’s their country, and they know the culture. We were blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus there, led by our African brothers and sisters in Christ.” Erica Graham, a sophomore student at Cedarville, said that the trip revealed to her so much about the power of God and the power of faith and prayer. “Missions trips like this show us how to be the hands-and-feet of Jesus and remind us that it is possible through prayer and the power of God to accomplish more than we could ever plan,” Graham said. “Every moment of our lives we make choices, and those choices can either further or advance the kingdom of God. This trip reminded me of how we can actively choose each day of our lives to advance the kingdom.”
Rebekah Hoesterey, a junior student at Cedarville, discovered during the trip the fulfillment that comes with serving others and how our comfortable American culture can often hinder us from a life of service. “God showed me that He doesn’t care where I serve, as long as I’m serving!” Hoesterey said. She shared that the trip also showed her the true meaning of joy. “I know for a fact that I have never been so joyful as I was in Africa, despite being hungry, sweaty, and dirty, far away from home, air conditioning, or running water to brush your teeth in. Joy is giving yourself away, and God re-lit the passion in my heart to do that full-fledged, whether it be here in America or across the world in a little orphanage in Yekepa, Liberia.” Hoesterey also shared that even though not every student at Cedarville can move to Africa, students can still keep giving themselves away in the surrounding communities. “Trips like this encourage students to pour their life into other people, and what we always find is that the more you pour out, the more you are poured into. The more you give away, the more God is faithful to give back to you, and it is truly a fulfilling experience.”

Friday, December 16, 2011


This article was originally published by THE HUFFINGTON POST Dec. 7, 2011 - by Palmer Chinchen

“Interracial Couple Ban.” (HuffPo Dec. 2, 2011) I could not believe what I was reading. An interracial couple is being banned from a Kentucky church in 2011? Unbelievable. Banned from participating in worship, banned from membership, banned from the Lord’s table.

. . .

Banned is the worst of feelings. I know just a bit of what it’s like.

The day had been one of the longest of my life, literally. I boarded a Kenyan Airways flight in Nairobi and flew west all day with the sun, to Liberia. When I landed a friend met me and we drove to my war-ravaged guesthouse on the Monrovia beach. The next day I would travel eight hours into the jungle to meet our team.

The amber African sun was dipping into the Atlantic and the sky was growing dark, “Hold on,” I shouted to my ride, as I pulled my bags out of the back of his Toyota pickup, “Let me make sure there’s food here before you leave.” I was famished and didn’t want to be stranded with no car and no food. I found Nellie, who ran the guesthouse, and she assured me dinner would be waiting for me at the NGO house just three doors down, at six o’clock.

At six I walked down the dirt road by the beach to the NGO house. It was the only one on the beach with metal fencing, razor wire around the top, and an iron gate. I knocked on the dark mahogany door until a young American answered, “How can I help you?”

“I’m here for dinner,” I smiled.

“Dinner? Who said you could have dinner here?”

“Nellie. Nellie said I should come down here at six and there would be dinner.”

Now picture this, my guesthouse looked like a grenade hit it during the civil war. The sinks were rusted out, mold covered the walls, and the rooms were stifling. As I stood outside the NGO house I could feel the chill from the air conditioners, I could see a couple of other Americans watching ESPN -- these guys even had a satellite dish! Best of all, I could see the table was set.

“Yea, I don’t know anything about that. There’s no food for you here,” he answered nonchalantly.

“No, you don’t understand. I’ve just flown all day from Kenya and my driver already left and I’m starved.” Plus, this was an aid organization that was in Africa to feed hungry people – I was in Africa and I was hungry.

“Don’t know what to tell you,” was his answer, “there’s no food for you here.”

He shut the door.

I was banned.

Walking back to my gritty guesthouse, I think the shame stung more than my hunger pangs.

There’s something in us that likes to keep people out. When we are on the inside and someone else is on the out, it almost feels good.

Maybe that’s why even churches can become places of exclusion.

Social circles are not there to keep people connected, they are there to keep people out. That’s what C.S. Lewis’ says in his classic essay, The Inner Ring. In it he describes the problem of rings that exist in every realm of society. “I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local ring and the terror of being left outside.”1

But the kingdom of God is not supposed to be that way, the kingdom of heaven came to earth to end exclusion and bring inclusion.

When Jesus arrived on the scene the religious ones were good at exclusion. Sinners were excluded, women, foreigners, immigrants, the divorced, the sick. They were all banned.

Scott McKnight2 uses the powerful metaphor of table to talk about Jewish exclusion. For religious Jews table had always been a place of segregation. Table was reserved for the pure Jew. Their table was for people who looked like them, agreed with them, dressed like them, and talked like them.

We have all seen exclusion. It’s still alive today. The high school cafeteria is a microcosm of what it looks like in practically every aspect of life. When you walk into a high school cafeteria, there may be fifty tables, but you are not free to sit at whichever table you like; because tables are where life separates. There’s the emo table, the baseball table, the surfer table, the cheerleader table, burnout table. And then there’s the table for kids who have no table. At this table high schoolers sit far apart and don’t say a word, because they theirs is not really a table at all.

Unfortunately, this kind of exclusion does not stop when you graduate from high school. Segregation, discrimination, racism, and bigotry still happen. We exclude because of income, looks, race, background, gender, marital status, ethnicity, nationality, language, and accent.

Can I pause to say, if you have ever been discriminated against in any way, I am sorry.

It’s time for that to end, and as people of God we can end it together.

When I hear people in churches talk about who is welcomed, I wonder this, What ever made us think that the kingdom of heaven is only for people like me; who talk like me, look like me, and agree with me?

It’s not.

Of all the places in the world where people gather, the church has to be a place where racial and ethnic diversity is celebrated and promoted. The church (Christians everywhere) reflects God’s best when we follow Him with people of other ethnicities, race, nationality, and color.

When Jesus appeared on the scene he turned the tables upside down.

“The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.”4

Our natural tendency is, if a person is different we move away from them and exclude them. Jesus says, go toward them, include them.

Jesus loved to compare the kingdom of God to a dinner party, and everyone was invited; a scandalously open invitation. Jesus shares a story to illustrate the inclusive nature of his kingdom: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests… the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’”5

Do you see how this kind of kingdom is for single parents, business owners and factory workers, divorced men and women, company executives and the unemployed, university faculty and high school dropouts, blended families and… mixed race couples!
. . .

Walking back into my dilapidated guesthouse by the beach, I found three former missionary kids – now in their thirty’s – sitting at a small table having dinner. They were back in the country trying to get a generator running for the mission hospital. “Palmer, why are you back already? We thought you had left for dinner.”

“Yea, so did I,” I laughed. “They said they had no food for me.”

“Hey, well come sit down and eat with us,” one of them offered. I tried to decline, because I could see their serving dishes were already empty. But they insisted, and each of them took food off their plates – pieces of chicken, rice, collard greens – until my plate was full.

As we ate together that night, laughing about memories of growing up in Liberia, I don’t think it was the food that felt so good, it was the invitation to sit at their table.

1. C.S. Lewis.
2. Scott McKnight. The Jesus Creed. Brewster: Paraclete Press. 2004. 33-35.
3. Revelation 5:9-10
4. Matthew 14:12, The Message
5. Luke 14:16-23

Friday, November 18, 2011


This article was originally published by IDENTITY
Nov. 15, 2011
by Palmer Chinchen

One man cannot lift a house. That’s what Malawians say when they are ready to build a new nyumba (home) for their family. They rally the people of they village to come together to make mud bricks. The clay (dothi) is dug from a damp pit near the swamp and carried in brick-shaped wooden hoppers from the pit to the home site, where the clay will dry before being stacked into a kiln and fired. The hoppers are toted with a jog, so the mud will settle and form a solid brick. It’s back breaking, exhausting. One man can make a few dozen mud bricks, but thousands are needed. It would take him weeks, on his own. Physically he is unable, One man cannot lift a house. But when the community responds, they will do it in a day.

And everyone knows, when it’s time to build their home, they will remind him, one man cannot lift a house. And he will come, he will carry mud for them too.

I’ve spent about half my life in Africa, and that’s one of my favorite things Malawians do. They never leave a man to build his home alone, but together -- out of the mire and clay -- they lift a house.

On this side of the Atlantic we don’t think much about needing the village, because we try to do it alone.
. . .

One of my great passions is to see an end to extreme poverty. It sounds audacious, but I think it was Jeffry Sachs’ writing that first convinced me it can be done.

Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University (The End of Poverty), says by the year 2025 we can end extreme poverty. Some call Sachs the smartest man in the world – I think they’re right. He has used his “shock economics” to turn fledging economies around.1 And he‘s convinced that if affluent nations and people pool their resources -- and it only takes one percent of our wealth -- we can end the plight of the poorest of the poor.

The effort, however, must be massive and concentrated.
. . .

As we talk about ending extreme poverty, I would advocate that we point our attention toward Africa, and here’s the reason.

Bono has famously said, “There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames. When the history books are written this generation will be known for the Internet, the war on terror and what we did—or did not do—to put the fire out in Africa. We must engage as individuals and communities to confront these issues.”2

Bono is right, the world’s landscape is peppered with dire places and people, but the most desperate are in Africa.

I was doing an interview with a radio station in Ohio when the host opened it up to callers. As soon as he did a man phoned in and said, “I’m calling to say I disagree with you Palmer. I don’t think people need to go to places like Africa to meet the needs of this world, we have enough problems right here in Ohio.”

“Really?” I asked, with skepticisms heavy in my voice. “In Ohio are women chain to trees and sold into slavery, because that’s what happening in Sudan? In Ohio do starving parents trade their toddlers for a bag of maize in the dry season, because that’s what’s happening in Malawi? In Ohio are eight-year-old boys forced to carry guns and kill their own families, because that’s what’s happening in Uganda? In Ohio do babies die every thirty seconds from malaria, because that’s what happening across the continent of Africa?

The fires are burning in Africa, that’s the reason our passions, abilities, and resources must be poured out there.

I believe the reason we have been unable to put out the fires in Africa is because we haven’t fought them with enough fire hoses. If your house is burning, one hose will not put the fire out. But what if you doused the flames with a hundred hoses?

That’s why we must collaborate, and make our efforts massive and concentrated.

And we don’t have to give or do enough to make poor countries or poor people rich; we simply have to do enough to help them get their foot on the first rung of the economic ladder. When countries get their foot on the ladder of development they generally are able to climb upwards. But if a country or person is trapped below the ladder and the first rung is too high off the ground, they can’t even get started.
. . .

And here’s where it begins, with individuals giving their their lives away to change what’s broken in this world. It starts with one farmer in Ohio show a farmer in Malawi how to irrigate more effectively. It starts with churches, and circle-of-friends, and communities adopting one village to give them clean water. It starts with countries caring about other countries and putting medical facilities in every region.

It starts with one person.

That one person is you.

My challenge to the church – Christians everywhere – is to collaborate and share. When we begin to pool our resources, and abilities, and passion we can make right what is wrong in this world.

Share Everything
In Robert Fulghum’s memorable essay, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, he makes a list of all the life-long lessons he learned in kindergarten. My favorite lesson on his list is, Share Everything.

In the Bible, Luke writes of a moment when a frustrated man approaches Jesus and pleads, “Jesus, tell my bother to share with me!” 4 In response Jesus tells this story: A man has a huge harvest, more than he will ever be able to eat. In fact, he probably has enough to last the rest of his life. But instead of sharing, he builds bigger barns. He doesn’t need it and still he won’t share it! And then something highly unexpected happens… he dies.

Jesus’ point is, share! Share everything. It’s just stuff.

I don’t know what it is for you that God is telling you to share, but you know. We all know.

Share What You do Best
God gifts each of us with unique and beautiful passions and abilities. Use them for God.

I was recently in Malawi with Steve, a US Airways pilot from my church. He led our team that spent two weeks loving orphans of AIDS. Steve brought stacks of Xerox paper. In every village where they cared for children, Steve spent his time teaching kids how to build and fly paper airplanes. Share what you do best.

Dustin is twenty-four and repairs motorcycles for a living. So when I was recruiting dirt-bikers to ride the jungle trails of Liberia to give away 2,000 pairs of shoes -- that people of The Grove left behind on our Barefoot Sunday -- I called Dustin first. He said yes in a heartbeat. Last summer Dustin and nine others, spent two weeks sloshing down muddy trails on dirt-bikes, in the middle of rainy season, to give shoes away to people recovering from a devastating civil war. Share what you do best.

Jack is an architect in Phoenix. Sometimes he draws churches. When I told Jack I was heading to Haiti with a team to rebuild a pastor’s house and church, after the earthquake, he said, “I’ll draw the building plans for you.” “Ah, that would be great Jack,” I answered, “but I’m sorry to say we don’t have money to pay an architect.”

“No Palmer, I’m not asking to be paid, I want to make my drawings a gift to the people of Haiti,” Jack explained. But Jack didn’t want to draw the buildings in Phoenix, he said he needed to meet the Pastor and hear from his people. So Jack flew to Haiti with us and sat under tarps on Bellevue de Montagne listening to the dreams of a people hoping to put their country back together again. Now, with Jack’s drawings in hand, we start building their dreams this Christmas. Share what you do best.

I think your life shines brightest when you are sharing what you do best.

Share Your Life
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower… take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” 5

That’s the really hard one, sharing your life. But that’s the call of the Christ follower. He wants more than “belief,” more than a “decision.” He wants more than your money – sometimes giving money gets us off the hook -- or your things… He wants your life.

On this side of the Atlantic, we are a blessed people. Like the man who built barns, we have a lot, we know a lot, we can do a lot. And when that’s the case, the God of the Bible says, Turn your blessing into a blessing for others. That’s how he said it Abraham, “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing… and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” 6

God said that to Abraham, now he says that to you… because one man cannot lift a house.

1. Jeffery Sachs The End of Poverty. New York. Penguin Press. 2005.
2. Bono, quoted by Scott Morrison (speech, Parliament, London, England, February 14, 2008).
3. Mark 2:1-12
4. Luke 12
5. Matthew 16:24-26
6. Genesis 12:2-3

Thursday, October 6, 2011


This article was originally published in CATALYSTSPACE Aug. 11, 2011
by Palmer Chinchen


If I’m honest, that was my very first thought when I watched the matatu (Kenyan passenger minivan) crammed with seventeen or eighteen people get hit, flip, and roll onto its roof, which collapsed.

Sociologists call it the phenomenon of noninvolvement. Researchers have found that bystanders often have this odd tendency not to respond to someone in dire need. Sometimes it’s out of fear, sometimes it’s simply stage fright—the worst is when people do nothing because they think it’s somebody else’s problem.

We can spend a lifetime living that way.


When I saw the matatu flip, that was my second thought: Palmer, you keep telling people that what they do matters!

Too often we think what we do or how we live doesn’t matter. We think it doesn’t matter when we spend $348 on True Religion designer jeans. We think it doesn’t matter when a church in Dallas is spending 115 million dollars on their new building.

It matters…

…because the way you live every day is a picture of your soul.

So I urgently yelled to my Nairobi taxi driver, “Stop!”

He jumped out with me and ran to the crumpled van and began easing people over the shattered glass. Within just a few minutes everyone was out, and miraculously no one appeared seriously injured.

Just when I started to think, “Bravo, Palmer—see, good thing you stopped,” my driver shouted, “They’re killing the other driver!” I spun around to see an angry mob stoning and beating the driver who had hit the matatu … to death.

SOMETIMES YOU MUST ACT in order to stop the very worst things from happening.”

That was the heart of my message in twenty-three cities last fall, when I was the speaker on the Hungry for Love tour with Sanctus Real, Leeland, and The Afters. “You must act!” We keep thinking somebody else will, but Christ left this work of the kingdom to you!

There’s two lives to be lived. One is the life you live every day. The life that many times ends up becoming a tired rut sapping you of every last ounce of creative passion. But then there’s the life you dream of living. That’s the second life. For many it’s the life-unlived.

So I write this today to inspire you, to challenge you to abandon your comfortable routine and discover the exhilarating life God has waiting for you.

Back to Kenya: Without thinking, I sprinted toward the mob. They call it mob justice in east Africa. But it’s not just; it’s sick vigilantism. I knew without a doubt they would kill him if I didn’t act.

When the matatu flips, you must act.


After visiting dozens of churches on the Hungry for Love Tour I came home discouraged. Generation-excess has moved into the suburban church.

In one large church the pastor proudly stated, “We just spent a million dollars on this sound system!”

I about choked. What in the world are we doing spending a million dollars on a sound system? And why do so many churches need I-Mag (Image Magnification). That’s the awesome technology that projects a really big picture of your preacher on a screen.

Here’s the simple truth we miss: just because we can … doesn’t mean we should.

I say all this because the church’s focus must turn out. We’ve focus far too much of our effort and resource inward.

How will we ever rebuild countries like Haiti, or stop the spread of malaria in Africa, or free girls from sex-slavery in Thailand if we keep building kingdoms on street corners in the suburbs – instead of taking the Kingdom of God to the world.

The matatu’s flipped.


Forcing my way to the middle of the raging mob, I dropped to my hands and knees over the man’s head, thinking, At least they’ll have to hit me first.

“Stop, stop! Please stop!” I yelled.

“Get out of the way—we want to kill him!” the angry young men shouted back.

“No,” I answered loudly but calmly as I looked up. “Nobody’s going to die here today.”

As they slowly dropped their stones and backed away, I helped the beaten man sit up, then carefully pulled him to his feet and brought him to the rear bumper of his van, where we sat until the mob was gone.

What I’m not saying is that Palmer Chinchen is a hero. I’m not. I simply try to live the way I tell others that Jesus told us to live—like your life matters. What you do matters.

So let’s stop being so self-indulgent and stop growing inwardly focused churches, and realize that God can use your life—your church—to change what is messed up out there.

You see, if I wait, if I don’t act—if you wait, if you don’t act—the man on the side of the road dies … literally.

Monday, August 8, 2011


This article was originally published in NEXT-WAVE, July 18, 2011.
by Palmer Chinchen

I have a name for this generation.

No one’s been quite sure what to call the emerging generation. Some call them the Millennials, or Generation Next (that’s makes no sense, every generation is the next), Generation Y, Generation 13, Generation I, Generation Digital Natives… but none of these labels say what this generation is most about… Justice. They are. And that’s why we need to start calling this generation of 18 to 28 year-olds by a new name, Generation Justice.

I know this is true because I’ve watched how they live. They are most about pursuing justice for the marginalized and being a voice for the silenced and oppressed. They want to repair this world and make it beautiful like Eden. They live out the mercy of God.

The contrast to prior generations is striking. I went through college with the Yuppie Generation. We were a self-indulgent lot. Everyone wanted to drive a Beemer, wearing a Member’s Only jacket — with the collar popped on their pastel Izod.

Not this generation. They wear Tom’s shoes because Tom puts shoes on bare feet in places like Bolivia. They’ve made scooters cool again because you can ride a hundred miles on a gallon of gas. They embrace simplicity because they want to share more with people who have less. That’s the heartbeat of Generation Justice.

I say that with confidence because of twenty-something year-olds like Jennifer Preyss. Jennifer is a young, energetic reporter for the Victoria Advocate; Texas’ oldest newspaper. Last year Jennifer traveled to Malawi, Africa and spent several weeks loving and caring for orphans.

In October — still bothered by the extreme poverty and the lack of simple basic needs like shoes — Jennifer read about The Grove’s Barefoot Sunday. She was captivated, compelled, and certain God wanted her to hold a Barefoot Sunday in Victoria, Texas — then send the shoes to children in Malawi. Jennifer says she “stalked” me on Facebook until I answered. Her urgent plea read something like, “Palmer, I want to hold a Barefoot Sunday for the entire city of Victoria! Can you help me?”

It sounded audacious. I told her I would do my best. But her plans seemed lofty, and South Texas was a long way from Chandler, Arizona. I was a skeptic.

Jennifer kept working. Her passion was infectious. Three more reporters in their early twenties joined her cause. A date was set, February 27th. A goal was established, 1,000 pairs of shoes.

When I showed up in Victoria, the night of their Barefoot Sunday, I saw how Jennifer had inspired a city. She and her team had rallied participation from 20 churches, 4 schools, 2 colleges, and a Synagogue. An entire class of second graders insisted on going barefoot when they took their shoes off for Africa. The reporters drove around the city picking up piles of shoes in newspaper delivery trucks… after their deliveries.

On Barefoot Sunday Jennifer ended up with a mountain of more than 5,000 pairs of shoes to send to Africa.

Right now Generation Justice is flooding the U.S. Government office for Nonprofits with applications. Their aim is not to grow massive aid or charity organizations. They are far more organic than that. They are simply living their passions. They are responding to the needs of desperate people that grip their heart. A recent report on volunteering in America reveals that this generation has fueled a national spike in volunteers, “Led by teens and young adults accounting for almost half the increase, about a million more people volunteered last year.”1

Every time I visit my son at college I’m reminded of the pervasive mercy spirit of Generation Justice. The walls of every hallway are littered with posters promoting the students’ causes. Students recently held a Live on a dollar a day week. They erected cardboard shacks in the middle of campus and slept there for a week to champion the need to end extreme poverty. The last time I was there it was Barefoot Friday, because students were giving their shoes away. A sophomore named Christian has founded Beacon of Light. On Wednesdays at 5 o’clock her student volunteers crowd into her cramped dormitory kitchen to make piles of pb&j sandwiches. Then load into cars, drive downtown, and give the sandwiches away to men and women who live hungry on the streets of San Diego.

Something very spiritual is happening.

Generation Justice has taken to heart Jesus’ kingdom-cry to feed the hungry, give clean water to the thirsty, put clothes on the naked (and shoes on the barefeet), and care for the sick — and end the pandemics.

Salad Days

Developmental psychologists refer to these years (18-28) as the critical years. Because The most important things we do with our lives are often determined by the choices we make, the values we form, the decisions we follow, the affections we develop, the allegiances we create during the critical years.

Shakespeare, Saturday Night Live writers, and Wheaton College students call them the Salad Days. These are the best days; the days in which we grow and flourish and thrive.

In the critical years you hold life by the tail. The world is yours for the taking. The doors are all open. You may live in any city you choose. You can take any career path you like. You can marry whoever you like… well, not really – but you get my point.

So much of who we you are is defined in those few developmentally important years. Think about your parents for a moment and the music they listen to. I can bet cash money it’s not Lil-Wayne or Usher. Your mom is still playing her Michael Bolton cassettes and your dad’s waiting for Kiss’s reunion tour.

In her seminal work on this formative life-stage, The Critical Years, Sharon Parks writes about the motion of faith. She argues that this period is a unique and identifiable developmental stage. Parks writes, “A Central strength of the young adult is the capacity to respond to visions of the world as it might become. This is the time in every generation for renewal of the human vision.”2

While at Harvard, Lawrence Kohlberg (considered the preeminent thinker on moral development) once taught a course on moral choice. Ethicists, who studied the effect the course had on students moral reasoning, reported that these young adults sense “a deep obligation to relieve human misery and suffering if possible.”3

This is why Jason Russel, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole founded Invisible Children. These three aspiring film-makers, in their early twenties, traveled to northern Uganda because they were disturbed by the atrocities taking place in Dufar, Sudan.

While looking for a way across the border they found themselves in the middle of a human tragedy. Thousands of children who feared being abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to fight as child soldiers, were walking miles and miles every night from their rural villages to seek refuge in the towns of Gulu and Lira. The concrete floors of bus depots and hospital basements became their beds.

The three friends couldn’t believe what they were witnessing; literally, a flood of children filling the towns every night. Why hadn’t anyone told them? Why was the world silent?

They began to film the atrocity, produced a documentary, founded an organization, met with government officials, and called the world’s attention to the tragedy in northern Uganda. People, churches, schools, and governments have responded. The tide has turned. Kony is on the run. Children near Gulu are again sleeping in their own beds at night.

Do you see why I say it’s Generation Justice that is leading the charge to rescue children in places like Uganda — places like hell on earth?

The Rest of the Gospel

From my vantage, the Americanized version of the gospel is incomplete. We’ve focused our attention on an intellectual relationship with God, and for the most part we’ve neglected his call to live out this gospel of the kingdom – show mercy, pursue justice, love the marginalized, and free the oppressed.

I fully realize that it is good and necessary to have a mind after God. I have a PhD, I get it. But simply knowing your systematic theology doesn’t do it. Jesus flat out told the Pharisees they had no clothes. He was fed up with their pseudo-religious intellectual piety.

I think it’s the trophy hunters in Africa that got me.

I’ve spent about half my life in Africa and I can’t tell you how disenchanted I’ve become with the trophy hunting preachers. They come from churches and mission organizations to preach in villages and ask for a raising of the hands. Then they return to their country exclaiming a count of how many souls were saved.


They’ve missed it. They’ve missed the rest of the gospel! They miss the part when Jesus says, “care for them, feed them, love them, free them.” They never ask about the babies dying of malaria, why the stomachs of the malnourished swell, or who will care for the toddlers orphaned by aids.

They came to take a trophy, not to bring a kingdom.

But Generation Justice has heard the cry of the ancients like Micah and Amos and Isaiah, and they’ve started to live out the words of Jesus.

And they have begun to bring Christ’s kingdom to earth, just as it is in heaven.

That’s why as I type this sentence, eighteen year-old Allie Cestmat is in Malawi going village to village, with our team from The Grove, putting 8,000 pairs of shoes — from places like Victoria — on bare feet in Africa.


1. Mark Hrywna, Young Adults Fueled Spike in Volunteers. Non Profit Times, July 29, 2009. Accessed at

2. Sharon Parks, The Critical Years (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 30.

3. Carol Gilligan, Moral Development: In the Modern American College. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981), 139, as quoted in Parks, 105.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


(This article was first featured on the front page of the HuffPost on 7/11/11)
By: Palmer Chinchen, PhD

It’s all about shame.

That’s the motivation behind the Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona) Sheriff announcing that he will assign his chain-gang to weed duty outside Chase Field during the 2011 All-Star Game.

You read correctly, his chain-gang.

The first time I passed the sheriff’s chain-gang, when I moved to Arizona, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Women in prison-striped uniforms hoeing weeds … chained at the ankles, with shotgun-toting deputies standing watch. I was shocked. It looked like a scene from 1950s rural America.

My soul ached to the gut. Yes, these women may have committed crimes that deserve incarceration—but not this dehumanizing humiliation. I hurt for them. I wanted to cry for them. My thought was, “Palmer, you must do something …” So I hung a U and got out. I approached the deputy and asked if he would give a message to the sheriff. He listened patiently as I said, “Please tell your sheriff that in Chandler, we do not want women humiliated. In Chandler, we believe that every person should be treated with dignity and respect. In Chandler, we want this practice stopped.” He was kind enough to say he would pass my message along.

Starting with the opening pages of Genesis the Bible explains that all people inherently carry the Imago Dei (Latin for, Image of God). “So God created human being in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Because of this central theological truth every person has great value and dignity.

I think this is one of the reasons Jesus stopped the mob of men from stoning the adulterous woman, this is why he insisted the woman “famous for her sins,” be allowed to come near to him. This is why he focused much of his attention on the lame, the outcaste, the least, the sinners, the marginalized, and the despised. And this is why he insisted that those in his kingdom care for prisoners (Matt. 25:36).

You see, all human beings have great worth. Regardless of race, gender, ability, wealth, religion, or nationality, all people deserve dignity and respect. This is not simply a Christian theological argument, this is a moral position. To publicly humiliate and shame anyone is immoral and unjust. It’s wrong at every level.

Who among us would stand idly by while a person maliciously scarred da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with graffiti? We would scream NO! Stop!—we would take action because this painting is deemed beautiful and priceless. How much more beautiful and priceless is the life of a woman—even one in chains!

Why are we silent?

Maybe our silence is the greatest crime here.

It’s time to speak up. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, you and I are called to be a voice for the silenced; yes, even the ones in chains.

The King of wisdom Solomon writes, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all” (Prov. 31:8) He says, “Because we are precious in his sight” (Psalms 72:14). Then Solomon writes theses stinging words, “Don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know – someone not impressed with weak excuses” (Prov. 24:11-12 msg).

We point back in history, to another continent, and chivalrously boast, “I would not have been silent when that happened to millions of prisoners.”

Then why are we silent today?

We wait for our local or state or even federal government to do something while we say nothing.

Last week it was 117 degrees here in Phoenix. Our sheriff finds some twisted pleasure in keeping his inmates in stifling, unairconditioned tents. The women said it was cooler outside than in their tents. I don’t leave my dog outside this time of year, literally. But we said nothing.

He shames men by dressing them in pink underwear and pink slippers and we say nothing.

If you are on your way to the All-Star Game, would you stop and say something? Would you tell the women in striped jumpsuits and chained at the ankles that we are sorry, and they are beautiful. And tell them they are loved, if by no one else, by God himself. Then give them a bottle of cold water or a ballpark frank -- and give them dignity.

The women in the tents say it’s so hot at night they can’t sleep. God can’t sleep. I hope you can’t either.

It’s a sham and a shame, an All-Star shame.