Just…Serve.

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Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

We all want justice in our world.  We want people treated fairly.  Where I work, at Paz y Esperanza, we have a passion for justice.

Today I want to talk about one of the most important ways that you, as an individual, can help to build a culture of justice. That is through service.  When you learn how to truly serve others, justice will be served.

Do you know how to serve others?

When I was a youth, my family lived in Africa.  My African friends told many stories about animals.  One story went like this:

Once there was monkey who lived by a river.  One day he looked down from his tree and saw a fish struggling in that river.  The fish was working hard:  he was jumping high out of the water.  The monkey had compassion.  He wanted to help.  And so, the monkey reached down from his branch and grabbed the fish.  He then threw the fish onto the bank of the river. 

The monkey was very proud of himself.  He thought that he had helped the fish.  The fish looked happy…it was flopping on the ground.  In fact, after a while, the fish calmed down and it did not move at all:  it was very peaceful.  The monkey was very proud…

Did the monkey serve the fish?  No!  The monkey killed the fish!

Do you understand the moral of the story?  Sometimes we want to serve others but we do not help them.  We think we know what is best for them but we may not know the right answer.  First, we need to listen to their needs.

To serve best, we must listen first.  Is this difficult for you?  It is difficult for me.  I often think I know best and sometimes I act before listening.

For both justice and service, we must listen first.  This is true for individuals.  This is true for organizations.  This is true for churches.  This is true for governments.  Listen.  And then fulfill needs.

How does this proper service relate to justice?  It relates by helping to raise people’s dignity. Cultures that do not work to raise people’s dignity usually have trouble providing justice for all of their people.

My father once said,  “One serves best when one fulfills the needs of others in order to raise their dignity so they can also glorify God.”

What exactly is dignity?  Dignity is proper respect.  It is based on the idea that every person deserves to be treated equally well.  And why should all people be treated well?  It is because you and I, and all people, were created in the image of God.  We are all made to glorify Him.  Universal human dignity is a difficult idea to accept if one does not believe in God.

Even for people who believe in God, some other people can be difficult to serve.  Some people are bad people.  But they still deserve human dignity.  Maybe they do not know that God created them.  Maybe that difficult person does not know the purpose of his or her own life.  Serve them, and they may come to know their own purpose through your service.

Sometimes we can only do small things to help.  Of course, Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

Serve the poor. Serve widows and orphans.  Serve victims of violence and abuse. Even serve people in prison. Serve and raise someone’s dignity.  Justice will be served.

I’m Leon Smith.

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Just…Read.

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Greetings my English speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

How can we teach freedom and justice?

James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States once said, “Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be maintained.”

Former Prime Minister of England Benjamin Disraeli agreed.  He said, “Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends.”

When asked how much educated men were superior to those uneducated, the philosopher Aristotle answered, “As much as the living are to the dead.”

What is a good education?  In the English speaking world, it is said that there are three “R’s” to good education:  Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

The first and most important “R” in that list is reading.  To read is the base of a solid education. Reading helps you to learn other subjects. Reading opens you to a world of new ideas.  As the famous author C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.”

People tell me that here in Huánuco, Peru children can finish their primary education without ever reading a complete book.  If that is true, we have a big problem.  Schools here need to change. Reading needs to be the number one priority in education.  It needs to be a priority for our region.

In English, there is a word that describes people who read.  Such people are called “literate.”  For example, a person is literate if they have the ability to understand and use printed information.  Literature is printed information:  books, magazines, newspapers.  And a person who uses literature is literate.  A literacy rate tells how many people are literate.

One can study literacy rates.  Here in Huánuco, Peru there is a problem with our literacy rate.  While there are worse literacy rates in the world, there is a gap in the literacy rate here between men and women.  Sixteen point six percent of adults from Huánuco cannot read.  But 23.8 percent of women cannot read as compared to 9.5 percent of men.  (See: http://www.globalissues.org).

To develop our region we need to help ALL citizens to read:  BOTH men and women. And if we want better leaders we need better literacy.  It has been said, Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

There is an important connection between literacy and justice. To develop a love for justice, we need to develop a love for reading.

The facts are in. Research tells us:  raise the literacy rates in a community and it will help reduce crime and repeat offenders.

    • Criminals have lower average literacy levels than other citizens.
    • Neighborhoods with lower literacy rates have higher crime rates.
    • Literate people are less likely to be accidentally put in jail.
    • Even literacy programs in prisons have good outcomes (such as being able to help ex-convicts find and maintain jobs) and reduce rates of repeat offenders.

The former slave Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” So, reading is an important way to keep freedom and justice in society.

Don’t be alone.  Seek freedom.  Seek justice. Learn to read.  Teach to read.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…God’s Plan.

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Greetings my English speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Last week I talked about a difficult theme. Our topic was what went wrong with the world: sin and the result, death. This week, I want to fill you with peace and hope.

There are problems with our world. But as we read in the Bible, God is not only just. We don’t only have to fear Him. Also, God is love. (I John 4:8). And God has a plan for us.

Our problem is that we are not perfect. You might say, we are slaves to sin. Our relationship with God is broken because of sin. We are guilty. And yet we try to reach God. For all of history, people have made sacrifices to try to make God happy. But the sacrifices aren’t perfect. And God wants perfect justice.

Never fear, God has a plan.

God’s plan can be found in the Bible. “God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus, God’s son, was the chosen one: the Christ. He filled both justice and love.

In Paul’s letter to the people in Ephesus, we read, “But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.) God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Brothers and sisters, we can have peace and hope in Jesus. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Are you guilty from sin? Do you fear the justice of God? The time has come. Change the way you think and act. Believe the Good News about Jesus. God who is faithful and just will forgive your sins. He will clean you from every evil.

You might say that you do not deserve this. True. None of us deserve God’s love. But you are of great value to God. He created you. He cares for you. And he has paid the price for your sin.

The problems of this world are not forever. People live on this planet for a small time, no more than 120 years. Life on earth is short. However, life with God can be forever. You can have eternal life. In Jesus, God has a plan for you.

I’m Leon Smith


Just…a Place to Begin.

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Greetings my English Speaking Friends and those wanting to learn! Welcome to Just English.

It is said that, “every journey begins with one step.” Everything has a beginning—including this radio segment. So, if we are going to talk about justice, we must start at the beginning.

We cannot speak about justice, fairness under the law, unless there is a reason for justice.  That reason is what we call human rights.  But why do we have human rights?

Do people have human rights just because a government makes a law or an excellent human rights organization like Paz y Esperanza says you have rights?  How might a person or group come to the conclusion that another person or group needs to be treated with equal value?

For example, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution does not help us to understand human rights.  In fact, it leads us away from human rights by the idea that “only the strong shall survive.”

To fully understand and value human rights, we have to understand that we humans are not here by chance.  A God creates us and gives us value.  We reflect that God.

The Bible, in the book of Genesis, says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  He then created humans in His image. Male and female he created them.  Tall and short, South American, North American, European, Asian, Latino, Quechua, African, Red, yellow, black, white…whether we are a governor or a person who works in a garbage dump, we are all created by God.  We are not trash.  No person should live in trash or be treated like trash. We are all of great value.

Even if you are a baby growing inside your mother’s womb, or a person nearing death, you are of great value—to God if nobody else.  Each of us has God-given human rights, starting with life itself.

King David, from the Bible, understood this topic. In Psalm 139 he wrote about how God created each of us.

David wrote,

Oh yes [God], …
      you formed me in my mother’s womb….
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I’d even lived one day.  (Psalm 139:13-16 from The Message)

David knew that in order to go about life, in order to have purpose, in order to have justice, we must first understand that we each have value because God made us and prepared our days.

Also in the Bible we read that God even knows the number of hairs upon your head.  You are valuable to God.  So then, because of this, you can treat others with respect, honor, and fairness…with justice.  We are empowered by God to do to others as we would have them do to us!

You, your neighbor, even your enemy is of great value as a created human being – made a person by God.  Life, each life is valuable.  Each life is precious.  This is where justice begins.