We see the hope and potential in every young person

Preparation for the Global Day of Prayer

The Global Day of Prayer began in 2005, growing out of a vision in 2000 for a South African national call to unite on Pentecost Sunday for repentance and prayer. From South Africa it grew to a vision for Africa so that in 2003, 27 African countries used Pentecost Sunday to join in repentance and prayer. In 2005 the International Prayer Council meeting in Malaysia took up the cause of making this call a global one. To read more about the Global Day of Prayer, go to their website

The Global Day of Prayer is June 12, 2011. The organizers have invited people to spend 10 days in preparation, following the lead of the early Church, for there were 10 days between Jesus’ ascension to heaven and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These were the days spent in prayer (Acts 1:14, 2:1) as they waited for the Spirit, “the gift promised by the Father.” Let us prepare our hearts as the apostles did, that we might receive the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. The 10 Days of Prayer are June 2 to June 12.

Along with the 10 Days of Prayer before Pentecost, the organizers of the Global Day of Prayer are encouraging 90 Days of prayer focused on allowing God to use us as His answer to the prayers of the Church. The 90 Days of Prayer are June 13 to September 10.

Locally, YFC/Youth Unlimited would like to invite Woodstock’s churches to embrace this season of prayer. We would encourage Christians to turn their hearts to a more deliberate, constant attitude of prayer during this time. Get the 10 Day Global Day of Prayer Guide and use it to unite with Christians all over the world in seeking God’s heart. Families with youth or children can open the youth or children versions of the guide.
Find them here:
Regular guide
Youth guide
Childrens guide

During this time, if people want to use the Praying COW at 405 Dundas St., they can sign up for a time slot of prayer at The Praying COW.

Approaching Pentecost Sunday, we would like to invite Christians across Woodstock to help us fill the Praying COW with 24/7 prayer for 48 hours: Friday, June 10, 8:00 p.m. to Sunday, June 12, 8:00 p.m. Again, you can sign up at The Praying COW.

For those who would like to meet together in prayer at the Praying COW, we will set aside a morning and an evening time of collective prayer: Pentecost Sunday, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. People may come to either or to both gatherings to pray with Christians across all denominational lines.

If you have any questions, contact Dave Steenburg (519-537-8080).

Understanding Fair Trade Certification

We touch the Third World every day. The clothes we wear. Much of our hot drinks and exotic fruits. So, how can we touch them more kindly, more justly, more respectful of their dignity?

The easiest answer is buying Fair Trade Certified products whenever we buy coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, bananas and other fresh fruit, honey, cotton, wine, chocolate, flowers and gold.

Take a look at the impact it has on producers:

Santiago’s story
Fair Trade Cotton in Cameroon
Paul Rice: Impact of Fair Trade
Paul Rice: Uncommon Hero

Fair Trade is a development strategy to address poverty among producers by helping them build sustainable businesses and communities. The funding for development comes from producers receiving a fair price for their goods, rather than from government handouts or foreign charity. Where producers have struggled against poverty because they have been impoverished by the unfair advantages exporters and developed nations have in the trade relationships between North and South, Fair Trade uses the free market system for the benefit of those producers.

Fair Trade has become organized as a certifying (= labelling) system. As a certifying system, Fair Trade is made up of:

  • the international standards-setting body called FLO [Fairtrade Labeling Organizations] International,
  • the international auditing organization called FLO-CERT that works in developing countries to certify the export products, and
  • the national auditing bodies that oversee importing, licensing and selling certified goods. In Canada the national certifying organization is Fairtrade Canada.

While many of the principles of Fair Trade have been in operation since the 1940s, the certification or labelling organizations began to emerge in the late 1980s and became organized in the late 1990s. Fairtrade USA, for example, only emerged in 1998, ten years after the European organizations began. So Fair Trade is very well known in Europe, with Britain being the country most aware of and committed to it. It is still not well understood in much of Canada.

FLO International standards cover fair wages, safe working conditions, democratic empowerment of all (including women), and ecologically sound agricultural practices. FLO does research to determine commodity-specific price floors that ensure the costs of production and costs of living are covered by the Fair Trade price paid to the farmer. Along with determining a fair selling price, FLO also sets a “social premium,” a small amount of money that goes to the producer co-op to use in community development projects such as building schools, medical clinics or roads, creating scholarships, developing export enterprises, etc. Coffee, for example, currently has a Fair Trade price of $1.40/lb. and the social premium is $0.20/lb. So the importer will pay $1.60/lb. to the producer co-op. That extra $0.20 can have a huge impact. In East Timor a coffee co-op used its premiums to build a medical clinic and so has become the primary provider for health care in their region.

FLO-CERT audits producers to ensure the international Fair Trade standards are met — labourers are paid fair wages, there is democratic involvement, protection of the environment, etc. FLO-CERT also audits exporters to ensure they are paying the appropriate prices. If prices on the world markets rise above the price floor, the Fair Trade price also rises, but regardless of how low the market price falls, the Fair Trade price floor guarantees the livelihood of the producer. Most producers sell whatever they can into the Fair Trade system, but until market demand for Fair Trade products increases, they must sell most of their goods on the world markets, even if they get less than the cost of production. (That’s why we are encouraging people to buy Fair Trade: if we don’t buy it, they can’t benefit from it.)

Fairtrade Canada monitors the importing, licensing and sale of all Fair Trade goods to Canada to ensure that all goods sold as certified can be traced, and that none is being sold as certified that has not come through Fair Trade channels. In this way, buying Fair Trade is the best guarantee that what we buy is having a direct and positive impact on the well-being of producers, their families and communities in the global South. Fairtrade Canada also promotes public awareness to grow the market for Fair Trade goods, which in turn increases the number of producers able to benefit from Fair Trade. The Fair Trade Town campaign is one of the strategies for increasing community awareness and commitment to Fair Trade.

Is Fair Trade a perfect system? No. There are no perfect systems in this world. If you would like to see some of the criticism of the Fair Trade system, read Colleen Haight’s “The Problem with Fair Trade”, but I suggest you read the responses, which are very good and show the weaknesses of the article. To be fair, also read Paul Rice’s response. In my opinion, the power of the Fair Trade model has been its capacity to organize and develop co-ops that have empowered millions of small producers, and its capacity to promote trade justice as a focused social movement.

Three chains for change

The All’s Fair Wear-athon celebrates the way something as simple as shopping can change the world when we do it wisely.   The word  sweatshop needs to be seen for what it is: not simply low-paying work, but often a form of oppression that takes advantage of the poor and can even be a form of slavery.  The AFW seeks to grow a community that knows their buying power is a force for change, a community that respects and works for the dignity of the people in the global South who grow our food and make our clothes.

“How can my shopping make a difference?”

Be a ethical consumer. Buy things that actually help others as well as meeting our own needs. If economics is all about supply and demand, an ethical consumer creates a demand for goods that help the poor, the community and the environment. Ethical consumers  support the best supply chains.

A supply chain is how things get from where they are made or grown to where we buy them. So the farmer grows coffee, sells to an exporter, who sells to an importer, who sells to a roaster, who sells it to a grocery store, who sells it to you. You, the consumer, are the end of the supply chain. This is what gives you the power to make change. Some supply chains are indifferent to the suffering of the poor in developing nations, but others were built for the purpose of creating a more just relationship between the global North and South. Ethical consumers choose products and brands that support the better supply chains.

There are three supply chains worth knowing about, two of which focus on Fair Trade and the third focuses on fair labour practices.

  1. Fairtrade Certified products
  2. Fair Trade goods
  3. Fair Labor Association-affiliated companies

I will go into more detail on each of these supply chains in later postings.  Generally Fair Trade is a supply chain developed to help communities is the global South by partnering with them to make a living from what they grow or make.  It helps them build sustainable businesses and communities, where the funding for development comes from producers receiving a fair price for their goods, rather than government handouts or foreign charity.

Fairtrade Certified products
Fair Trade Certified products come from developing countries: coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, bananas and other fresh fruit, honey, cotton, wine, chocolate, flowers and gold. Depending on where you live, you can find Fairtrade Certified products in grocery stores or specialty shops.

These goods are identified by the Fairtrade label, which certifies they have come through a rigorously audited supply chain that guarantees the farmers and labourers in the producing countries received a fair price for their goods. Fairtrade establishes a fair price based the cost of production, the cost of living and the cost of certification. So if the world market for coffee falls, Fair Trade farmers will still get a fair price.  Fairtrade farmers belong to co-operatives, which allows them to work better as a community.  For every pound of coffee the co-op sells into the Fairtrade supply chain, the co-op also receives a “premium,” a small amount of money to be used on community projects, such as building schools or medical clinics, creating their own export companies, establishing scholarships, etc.

So when you buy Fair Trade Certified products, even though they are a bit more expensive, you know you are investing in whole producer communities in the global South. Action item: Buy Fair Trade Certified goods instead of the cheaper products, and ask your favourite retailers to stock Fair Trade items that are not yet available locally. To find out what is available locally, check out Fairtrade Canada’s Fair Trade Finder page.

Fair Trade Goods
There is another Fair Trade network where the focus is not on certifying specific products but on the reputation of the whole company that sells the goods. You can find Fairtrade certified coffee in any grocery store, but the store itself is not Fair Trade. But Ten Thousand Villages is a store where everything is Fair Trade, even though there is no certification process. The company, which was developed solely for the purpose of giving Third World artisans more direct access to First World markets, has a reputation that guarantees the supply chain is working for the well-being of producers. Typically the producers are marginal communities in the Third World, and their involvement in Fair Trade reflects development projects by missions or agencies working to alleviate poverty.

The organization behind this network of producers and retailers is the World Fair Trade Organization, and one of the key WFTO bodies in North America is the Fair Trade Federation. Occasionally you can find goods imported by the Fair Trade Federation sold in local independent retailers. Action item: Patronize Ten Thousand Villages (a great place for buying exotic gifts) and stores you find carrying FTF goods, and invite your favourite local independent store to consider carrying FTF goods. They can find sources at the Fair Trade Federation site.

Fair Labor Association-affiliated companies
The Fair Labor Association provides regular clothing companies with a way of exercising greater control over factories in the global South where their goods are made. In the past, companies tried to avoid blame by saying they do not own the factories that make their goods, so they cannot control the labour conditions. But now, instead of avoiding responsibility, companies can make fair labour standards part of the production contract — if a factory wants to keep their contract with Nike, for example, they must meet the labour standards required by the contract. FLA-affiliated companies give the FLA the addresses of all the factories manufacturing for them. The FLA does random surprise audits of the factories, identifies any failure to meet the standards, and sets up a plan for the factory to improve its working conditions and keep the contract with the company.

You can support this effort to improve Third World working conditions by rewarding FLA-affiliated companies for doing the right thing. Get to know the labels and brands of these companies: Gildan, American Eagle, Nike, Adidas, etc. (If you think Nike is one of the bad guys, you have probably seen videos from 2004 — which hurt their sales so much that they straightened up their act.) You can learn more about the FLA at the Fair Labor Association website. To see the companies and brands affiliated with the FLA, see their Participating Companies. Action item: Get to know these labels and buy them whenever possible, and maybe even let them know that is why you buy their products.

Conclusion
When enough people buy through these three supply chains, companies will recognize there is a culture shift towards treating the global South right. When one British chain, the Co-op, went strictly to Fairtrade bananas, Dole lost $20 million in annual sales, prompting Dole to look for a source of Fair Trade bananas so that they could compete. In Europe, such pressure has forced companies with histories of labour abuse to seek some kind of ethical certification. When consumers care, companies care.

40 Days of Prayer

“I have been driven … to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” Abraham Lincoln

YFC/Youth Unlimited is hosting 40 Days of Prayer in our prayer room, affectionately dubbed “The Praying COW”, at 405 Dundas St. The purpose of this is to invite the churches of Woodstock to pray in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We pray that the power of God against death and hell would again be known in Woodstock. How we need such power today as we tackle the darkness woven deep into our community.

This in NOT about praying for YFC. It is about praying for Woodstock, and so it is for all our ministries — every church and every outreach work. In Christ we need to stand together in love for one another and uphold each other, lest the Enemy win. And together we need to pray against the darkness in Woodstock.

The theme of the 40 Days is “Tear Down the Walls.” What walls need to come down for God’s Spirit to flow through our lives and our churches into our community? Walls between ourselves and God, between husbands and wives, parents and children, between believers, between churches, between the church and the lost.

“This life is Yours and hope is rising as Your glory floods our hearts.
Let love TEAR DOWN THESE WALLS that all creation would come back to You.
It’s all for You. …
Oh, for all the sons and daughters who are walking in the darkness
You are calling us to lead them back to You.
We will see Your spirit rising as the lost come out of hiding.
Every heart will see this hope we have in You.” Tear Down the Walls, Hillsong United

Let this be our theme and passion as we prepare ourselves for a year of outreach and redemption.

How will it work?
The call is going out through radio and e-mail to the churches of Woodstock, for every church has its dedicated few who are passionate for prayer. Some see prayer as the relish we add once the hot dog is made; others recognize prayer is the bun and without it there is no hot dog — without it we are just wieners. So our first appeal is to attract people who are eager for the opportunity to pray, the people for whom this project resonates immediately and would want to pray throughout the 40 Days. I will call them the “early adopters.”

Early Adopters
If you are one of these early adopters, please go to the on-line Praying COW sign-up schedule and sign up for as many time slots as you would like over the 40 days. Share this page with as many friends as you can. If they do not have computers, help them by signing them up for the slots they want. Perhaps we can fill the whole 40 Days with early adopters.

Note: The on-line sign-up schedule is ONLY for those coming to the prayer room. The elderly may prefer midnight time slots but are unable to get to the prayer room. Soon I will outline what we can do to accommodate this, but for now just note that the schedule is only for those coming to pray in The Praying COW at 405 Dundas.

Church congregations
Churches are encouraged to take a block of time when they are committed to seeing their people fill out the prayer room schedule. Depending on the church size and willingness, a church may choose to take half a day, or a day, or a few days, a weekend or a week. The choice is theirs. Some of the early adopters may already be praying in some (or even many) of the time slots in the block chosen by the church. The church would be responsible to fill in just the empty time slots.

If you are a pastor and would like your congregation to take part, this is how to proceed. First, check out the on-line Praying COW schedule. Each church taking a block will have its name written in the empty time slots of the time block it has chosen. Choose a block of time that is not already taken by another church, and put the name of your church in the empty time slots. Then you can either invite your congregants to go to the schedule and add their name to a time slot that has your church’s name in it, or you can set up a flip chart at your church and get people to write their names in it. Then someone at your church can add those names into the on-line Praying COW schedule.

Pastors might do well to assign a trusted person to be the official “badger” — someone who would encourage people within the congregation to sign up for a time slot.

Churches are encouraged to take as many days as they want, but to break it up over different weeks so that they get to experience the prayer room at the beginning, middle and end of the 40 Days. Also, that way if they have only 12 people willing to pray, they may find that the same 12 people would be willing to do it over again a couple of weeks later, so that the same small group might cover 3 or 4 days because the days are spread out over the 40 days of the prayer room.

Note: people who could not pray for 10 minutes normally come out of the prayer room saying that one hour is too short. The room evokes prayer and time flies by.

Both for early adopters and for church blocks, each person signing up should provide contact information on the sign-up schedule. It has a spot for e-mail, but please provide a phone number, preferably a cell number. That way, if someone is late or forgets, someone can give them a call and rouse them to their duty.

Feel free to post your questions in the Comments area, or for a quicker response, send them to dave.s@swoyfc.com. Or feel free to call me at the office (519-537-8080) or on my cell (226-228-1603).

24/7 Prayer: An Introduction

24/7 prayer is cropping up in many places from different sources. Some know it from Kansas City’s International House of Prayer (IHOP) led by Mike Bickle, where it takes on the flavour of charismatic and prophetic prayer. Some know it from Lou Engle’s TheCall, massive gatherings for fasting and prayer. Some know it from the British 24/7 Prayer movement spearheaded by Peter Grieg. All of it reflects a hunger for the God who meets us in the intimacy of prayer, and a hunger to see God act powerfully in our time. For encouragement, watch the Campus America video, about the project to cover U.S. campuses in prayer through 2010. Look past the focus on America and on campuses, and see the heart for prayer in the generation we are called to nurture. Join us, and pray it into being.

What is 24/7 prayer?
As the idea suggests, it is praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In some places it is also 365 days a year. (IHOP has been praying non-stop for over a decade.) In different movements this is done in different ways. The approach Woodstock YFC/Youth Unlimited is championing is that of the 24/7 Prayer movement, which divides the day up into 1-hour shifts and people sign up for a block of time that fits their schedule. So an individual might sign up for 1 or 2 hours to be alone with God in the prayer room, or a group might sign up together for an evening of prayer. In this way, filling the day with prayer or a week with prayer is a project that a group, a church, or a community of churches takes on together in a spirit of shared mission.

For prayer is a mission. Indeed, it is the most foundational task of the church — to wait upon God for power and direction. Without it, we degenerate into mere religion — human programs done in our own strength, accomplishing only what we are capable of. Mere religion misses the presence of God, because it does need the presence of God. Prayer is how we relinquish what we can do in our own strength, handing the reins over to our Father, inviting and begging Him to do what He alone is capable of.

24/7 prayer is a new culture of prayer, which comes naturally to younger people (or younger at heart). Unlike traditional prayer of sitting with head bowed, talking to God, 24/7 prayer has a larger palette to pray with. It may be listening prayer, or “divine reading” (reading Scripture meditatively), or writing prayer as a poem, painting it as a picture, singing it as a song. It is artistic, creative, intimate, expressive. It is about whatever opens your heart wide to God so that you speak your heart more truly and hear God’s heart more readily. Try watching What is 24/7 Prayer?

Central to the project of 24/7 prayer is that there is a single prayer room where the praying community goes to bring this project to life. In Woodstock, Youth for Christ has built this prayer room at 405 Dundas St. If you drive by, it looks decrepit and abandoned. There is no sign above the door and For Sale signs in the window. But when it is open, if you walk to the very back of the building, there is a homey room being transformed into a refuge for prayer.

Why a Central Prayer Room?
Why not just have people take turns praying in the comfort of their own home? The prayer room is a key strength of the 24/7 prayer project. A space can become sacred, rich in God’s felt presence, evoking passion, creativity, joy, intimacy. As days go by in the prayer room, people are adding their encouragement, prayers, insights, and art on the chalkboard that makes up the one wall. People are adding their God stories to the storybook on the coffee table. As a church community, one by one we will find that sharing each other’s prayers, encouragement, and God stories will start weaving one story of the work of God in Woodstock. In this way a shared location will give a sense of being one community, one body of Christ, with one heart for God and one mission we are called to — to shine the light of our Father’s glory for all to see.

Furthermore, there is accountability in needing to show up to receive the baton from the previous prayer shift, and this helps clarify that the 24/7 project is a mission, like watchmen standing in the gap to own the task of prayer on behalf of the body of Christ. This is the true front line in the trench warfare against the darkness that expresses itself in Woodstock’s drug addictions, teen pregnancies, welfare rates, and so on.

Finally, having a sacred space in the secular city provides a place where people who have come to hate God can find Him again. There are stories of lapsed Christians coming to the prayer room to have it out with God, only to be broken and to fall in love with Him.

We invite you, we challenge you to take up this project of prayer with us. And then watch as God draws a fresh light into Woodstock through the prayers of His people.

OXFORD STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE (OS4J)

Heart — Challenge — Clarity

Our Heart

We are dedicated to fighting poverty in the global South by changing how our community shops.

The Challenge

We will promote Fair Trade in our family, friendships, school and community until Fair Trade is so well known and supported that our community is formally recognized as a “Fair Trade Town.”

Clarity

  • We believe the human heart was created for justice and love. This is what we need, and what we need to offer others.
  • We believe fighting poverty is one of the most profound ways of living for justice and love.
  • We believe poverty is truly defeated when people’s work gives them dignity and enables them to care for the well-being of their family and community.
  • We believe promoting Fair Trade changes whole communities in the global South by paying a fair price for what they make, recognizing the worth of their labour and allowing them to build a future for themselves.