On today’s podcast, Kurt discusses Watts of Love’s hurricane relief efforts with Christie Dunne, including how Watts of Love is providing over 1,500 solar lights for Hurricane Harvey victims.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s a pleasure to be with you here yet again. Episode 60 and today we are in lieu of our worldview series, we are having a very relevant episode on how you can help Hurricane Harvey victims through a non-profit organization called Watts of Love, not to be confused, it’s a great play there on the word lots of love. Watts of Love. So stick with us through this episode as we’re going to be talking about that organization and the great work they are doing, not just right now, down in Texas, but also throughout the world, in 30 countries, how they are helping impoverished communities. Before we start talking about that, just a few brief announcements. Next week, we are going to be in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the Deeper Roots Conference and in fact, we’ve been working on the brochure here, the program I should say, and very excited for what we’re going to be talking about there in terms of engaging the mind for enduring faith and I will be speaking at a breakout session on the three main reasons for why we should do apologetics and why we should do evangelism and I’ll be also hosting the event. We’re going to have some great speakers there. Dr. Tim McGrew, the cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, and a host of others. There’s still a chance to sign up and join us. Just go to DefendersMedia.com and click on the Deeper Roots Conference image there and you can learn more about the details. We’re going to have lunch by Chick-Fil-A. It’s going to be a really fun time so I hope you can join us there in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Also, mark it down on your calendars that Defenders Media will be putting on a conference here in Chicagoland on November 3-4, and we don’t quite yet have all the details out for you, but the theme of the conference will be on the Reformation. We’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and so we’re going to be talking about a host of issues pertaining to that. For example, why did the Reformation happen, what are some good things to come out of it and maybe also what are some bad things to come out of it, what are some of the downsides to it if you will? We’ll be talking about Protestant/Catholic relations in addition to quite possibly Protestant and Eastern Orthodox relations. One of the speakers specializes in that area, Jim Payton. He’ll be coming all the way from Canada to speak.
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So, with that, I want to now move into talking about Watts of Love and to do that we’ve brought on our guest today. It’s Christie Dunne. Christie. Thanks for joining us on the show today.
Christie: Thank you for having me.
Kurt: Tell us a little bit about what your organization does. I’ll just throw it out there kind of broadly speaking and I’m sure we’ll get more into it and we’ve got a couple of the products that they have that we’ll be showcasing here too. Tell me about Watts of Love.
Christie: So we bring solar lights to communities and to people who do not have access to power. Typically, that means that we’re going to third world countries, to very remote locations that are really far off the grid, but in this particular case with the current events with Hurricane Harvey, our efforts are being focused in Texas.
Kurt: So are you guys right now, what you’re doing, tell me a little bit about, before the show got started you were talking about how throughout the past week you’ve been putting together a package of lights and you want to send them down there. You’ve got a team that’s actually going down there right now. Tell me a bit about that.
Christie: Sure. So our organization has been successful by partnering with other local on the ground non-profits and kind of letting them be our guides and kind of getting a good of the land for the areas we’re going into. We’ve partnered frequently with Iris Global and Iris Relief in Abilene, Texas. They are really close to the events that are happening with Hurricane Harvey and as the hurricane kind of really ramped up over the last weekend, we were in touch with them and they had on the ground operations, they were preparing a disaster relief response, and we had decided to commit with them. They’re several other non-profits that are sharing their services as well, so they’re bringing things like hygiene. They have food, water, a lot of different organizations that have really banded together to make sure that all of the community’s needs are being met in particular, Watts of Love committed to bring down solar lights and so in that time we were able to get a really huge outpouring from the Downers Grove community. People from Rotary, from the Pierce Downers School and American Heritage Girls and just people in the community who wanted to help in general came out and helped us to prepare our solar lights. We got them all unpacked. We set them out in front of our store to get a full charge of sun, because we want to make sure when they get down there they’re not running out in a couple of hours. We want them to have their full power. All in total we were able to prepare about 1,500 lights that we sent down and the response has been tremendous. We also had a pilot who volunteered to take our lights down along with some of our staff and our team to do the light distributions, but we were blessed even further. American Airlines cargo has taken our lights down and shipped them for us so we’ll be able to bring some additional team members for the response.
Kurt: Yeah. Right. I know we had originally planned to have one of the founders on the show today, but due to this awesome opportunity, he’s now, because the space was made available, he’s gone down to Texas.
Christie: He’s going down to Texas as well so it’ll be our founder Nancy Economou, our creator Kevin Kuster, and one of our board members, Diane Butler, who will be leading our efforts down south and we may have some additional people joining us, but that’s really the line-up for the moment.
Kurt: Okay. That’s great. So we’ve already got someone here who’s commented on Facebook. Ray, he writes, and I know Ray lives, I think Ray even lives in Corpus Christi. He says, “So many people down here with no power. Bless you all.” And then a heart. Ray. If you are in Corpus Christi, which I think that’s what my memory serves, then reach out to Watts of Love because they’re coming down to you and so you guys will get some power down there, some electricity and some lights, which we all take for granted so much. In addition to this, what you’re doing right now, you guys have been working for years in impoverished communities throughout the world. Tell me about the work that you’ve been doing for that.
Christie: So Watts of Love really started in the Philippines. Our founder Nancy Economou was accompanying her husband on a business trip and she went to a feeding program and when she was there she saw a young girl whose face was just horribly burned by kerosene. They’re putting toothpaste on her face and she asked why and they said, “We don’t have any medical equipment. We don’t have anything else. This is all we have.” This happens all the time. It’s just a normal time. And in a very short amount of time Nancy really felt she was called to provide a solution and in particular provide a light source that is flame free, and from that we have served the Philippines. We’ve been there the past five years. We’ve distributed a 1,000 lights upon each trip. We were one of the first responders after Typhoon Yolanda and likewise in Nepal when they had those horrible earthquakes we were on the ground within days trying to help provide some relief in the madness and I think that one of the, even for myself when I went on my first trips, I thought light really is kind of like a luxury. Don’t people need food and water and some others things that we are really trained to think is vital for survival? What I found very quickly is that light is really important for safety. When you’re using a flame, flames are so dangerous. We just don’t think about that in our modern times and especially in third world countries, you have a kerosene light or even a kindle, any kind of flame that knocks over, your house is made of bamboo. It’s made of thatch, straw, those houses can go up so quickly and kerosene is so volatile when if that kerosene lantern explodes, it really reeks a lot of havoc and causes a ton of damage so the safety of having a light source is very important. In particular for Texas. I think we all, in my home growing up we always had flashlights. We had candles. When the power goes out that’s what you go to. But when there are 300,000 people without power and the entire area in South Texas is flooded, there is a limited resources of batteries, of candles, of matches, all those things go out in short supply. Our lights are solar powered so they’re renewable and even if it’s raining the little bit of light that comes through, you can still renew your light. Our lights, our headlamps, on a full charge will run for about 17 hours and our solar lanterns will run for, on the highest setting, for about twelve hours, but on the lowest setting which is pretty bright, it will run for 120 hours, so you have days of light that you can utilize.
Kurt: Can we take, I know you brought a couple products here. Let’s take a look at those.
Christie: Absolutely. This is our head lamp.
Kurt: Okay. Here. I’ll put it over.
Kurt: Chris. For this video here. So here you’ve got the head lamp. Fits on this and so you showed me beforehand. This is what’s really neat here. Let’s see, if I do the different settings so there’s the brighter setting and the red. What do people typically use the red for?
Christie: The red is just if you want people to be able to see you so a safety feature like if you’re walking down the road….
Kurt: And then, so here’s what’s really neat. There’s the solar panel to charge the light. That’s great.
Christie: Yeah. And it’s really a simple device that’s easy to use and…
Kurt: And how much does a product like this, I know you’ve got a number of different products for sale or for even people to just purchase to donate.
Christie: We do. We sell the lights and part of the proceeds go to fund lights for additional individuals and so far our headlamps, it’s $30, and the lights have been lasting 3-5 years. I was in the Philippines in February when we went for our fifth year in a row and I was delighted to see that many of the lights were still working. They were still fully operational which I was really shocked by. They’re on a tiny little island in the South China air. They have an average of 26 hurricanes a year and they’re still in operation from five years ago.
Kurt: And then what’s this other big guy you’ve got here?
Christie: This is our solar lantern and these are great because they’re hand-held. They can light up a whole room. The beauty of the head lamp is obviously that it’s hand-free, but the beauty of this is that you can set it and it will run and charge for a whole week.
Kurt: A whole week.
Christie: Yeah. It’ll run for a 120 hours so if you’re using it just a couple hours at night it’ll last and last and last.
Kurt: Right. Nice.
Christie: And the beauty of that particular model is that there is a USB port for charging cell phones or anything that has a USB charger.
Kurt: And it’s so lightweight too.
Christie: It’s very lightweight. It’s very durable. They were really designed with quality in mind.
Kurt: I figured something like this would be a bit heavier.
Christie: No. We have a little hook on the top that is the gray hook there. You can hang it from the hook, but it’s also glow-in-the-dark.
Christie: So you can find it late at night.
Kurt: Nice. So you can find it. That’s great. Okay. So you plug the solar panel into right there. You’ve got it as well or?
Christie: Yeah. It has the solar panel as well.
Kurt: And it fits in that box there. Okay. Look at that.
Kurt: Right. Here you can see the USB port. Nice. And now, I’m not too familiar with wattage here, but we’ve got some details on the back. 1.7. That’s all you need to charge it so that’s…
Christie: That’s all you need to charge it and it charges in 6-8 hours and you’re good to go…
Kurt: So just a regular day of sun and then you’re good to go for a week.
Christie: Yep. You’ve got it.
Kurt: Wow. So even if you get some cloudy days, you just need one day basically a week where that’s going to charge it up.
Christie: Yep. You’ve got it.
Kurt: That’s great. You have other products as well.
Christie: We do. We have another lantern that’s very similar, but it also has an additional feature. It has the capability for audio so there’s a radio FM function. It’s great in third world countries because that way people in communities know if there’s an earthquake, if there’s war that’s breaking out, any kind of thing that they can be aware of and have access to news when in their communities they previously may not have. They also have a USB thumb drive and so will provide audio content from a variety of different things in their native tongue. Everything from educational to entertaining to faith-building.
Kurt: Wow. That’s great. That’s awesome. Remind us, what are some of the costs and what can some people do even right now, you guys mentioned you’re doing a fundraiser. How will that help people in Corpus Christi, Texas right now?
Christie: Absolutely. We have the lights for sell and of course I have lights at home for when our power goes out. The headlamps are $30 and can be purchased through our website which is wattsoflove.org and that’s wattsoflove.org, and then the solar lanterns are $50 and the audio models are $80 and part of your purchase goes to fund to provide lights to individuals who do not have access to power. Right now we are taking donations to help our efforts in the Corpus Christi area. There’s a lot of focus on Houston and other various different areas of Texas and Corpus Christi in particular. We just felt like that’s a community where there’s a lot of devastation, there’s a lot of need. Typically when we travel to third world countries, we have volunteers that come with us. Our staff is small. We’re very lean and we have about 40 or 50 different global travel team members who volunteer to come with us. They help us fundraise and they join us and we have a really large group of volunteers from Texas and some of them have been displaced from the hurricane. We have different supporters and people donated and contributed to our efforts throughout the years in the Corpus Christi area so it’s really something that’s hitting home for us and we’re excited to be able to give back to the community and the people in that area in particular.
Kurt: Great. So if I wanted to say, we’ve got this follower here, Ray. If I wanted to get a light to Ray, what would I have to do? Am I able to even purchase and have it shipped to him, but even then is the mail service going?
Christie: So we had American Airlines cargo bring our lights down already so we have a base that we’re operating out of in the Corpus Christi area. We have a big warehouse facility that’s holding all our stock.
Kurt: The product.
Christie: And equipment and supplies and we are ready to go and distribute them. Our team is going to be heading down either Sunday or Monday. We have a private plane. Some have donated their time and their efforts to take our team down, so we’ll be bringing additional lights down so if you’d like to donate to Ray or anyone else in the area, you can go to our website and our Hurricane Harvey campaign is on the front page. You can click on our donate button and get a light down to the people who need it most.
Kurt: Wow. That’s great. What an awesome opportunity. I want to talk about now, a lot of people think when we donate, well we should our used shoes, we should send our used shirts, why is it that we should consider taking out of our own pocket, our money, to do this as opposed to our used products like that?
Christie: So there’s a really interesting feature that CBS did and it’s linked on the front of our web page and they talk about that. It’s the fact that a lot of these people, that’s not a need that they have and in hurricane response in South Texas, they may not need our winter coats. They may not need certain things. It’s really doing some kind of research to figure out what you can do best. For example, water. You can ship water, but water’s very heavy. It’s very expensive. There’s a lot of plastic. There are filtration systems that you can set up for a fraction of the cost, so if you can find an organization that does something like that, that’s a good way to kind of go about it. I think that you just kind of have to take a look at what fits the need of the particular issue and in this case, there are 300,000 people that are displaced from their homes, that are going to be without power for the next couple of weeks and this gives them safety after the sun goes down, this will help kind of alleviate their clean-up efforts. This will help volunteers, in particular, the solar lanterns with the USB cell phone charger. It allows them to stay connected. It allows them to communicate and to do their jobs more effectively.
Kurt: Yeah. We’ve got a commenter here on the livestream, Philip. He writes, “Listening to the velvety voice of Kurt in SoCal with the power out due to the heat.” So I guess even in those cases where there’s not a great catastrophe, Philip has the power out in SoCal. It sounds like you need to go to Watts of Love to get one of those solar lanterns to make sure your phone stays charged during the power outage. Great opportunity there as well. You’ve talked a little bit about the benefit that having electricity can be for people, specifically I’m thinking for impoverished communities. When they have light at night, that allows them, I think here like of children studying, that’s something I think that we just take for granted. In some parts of the world when it becomes nighttime, it’s dark.
Christie: It’s dark. They’re trying to study by a single candlelight or a single kerosene lantern, and it is a huge detriment. The light is amazing in third world countries for a number of reasons. Really quickly, after we got started and started distributing our lights we started finding out and discovering that the light had a much bigger impact than we thought that it would. Obviously our first intention was to provide a safe flame free source of lighting, but there’s a huge economic impact. Most people in third world countries, in developing nations, spend about 30% of their household income on kerosene.
Christie: That’s like our rent. That’s like our mortgage. So when we’re providing them with a light, and the light’s lasting three to five years, that’s like someone paying off your mortgage or your rent for the next three to five years.
Kurt: For $30 or whatever.
Christie: Per $50 donation.
Kurt: That’s wild.
Christie: So the impact is amazing. When we go there, it reminds me often times of like that Oprah show where she’s like, “And you get a car and you get a car!” We’re handing out these lights. The people are just shocked by what it is. The other thing is that the light, it allows them to work longer. Once it’s dark typically, life kind of shuts down, slows down. You’re just kind of hanging out. With the light we’ve found that people will start microbusinesses and they’re doing whatever is indigenous in their area. They’ll do beading. They’ll make bamboo barbecue sticks. They will make fishing nets and some of them will go around and start mobile cell phone charging station.
Kurt: How about that?
Christie: So really really industrious, really entrepreneurial, and one of the first ladies who received our lights, Emily, she stayed a perverse…[NP2] night and made a 1,000 bamboo barbecue sticks. We couldn’t believe it. We were like “Who would’ve thunk it?”
Kurt: We couldn’t stay up that light.
Christie: We couldn’t stay up that late. We think of things making our lives easier so we can make work less. We’re looking for that work life balance. They’re looking for the opportunity to work more and so all of a sudden her household income had doubled overnight with the addition of the light.
Kurt: Wow. And now I’m sure you guys to encourage too from the savings alone, from not having to pay 30% of their relatively small miniscule household budget to invest it in other things, buy chickens or goats…
Christie: You got it. Absolutely.
Kurt: Tell me more about that.
Christie: Savings is typically a foreign concept in these areas. There are no banks. There are no savings institutions and most of these communities, they’ve never had enough money to actually need to save it, so part of what we do when we give out the lights, and people often ask “Why do you have to go there?” We go there for a number of reasons. To make sure the lights get to the right people and to also educate them on the savings models. We’ll walk them through it and tell them you need to continue to pay yourself everyday like you’re buying kerosene. Keep putting it away and we give them a backpack and there’s little pockets so they can have a place to store their money and it’s a safe place and it’s a visible place and then we’ll kind of walk them through the process and say, “Okay. How much do you spend a day on kerosene?” So in 30 days you’ll have this much. They don’t have the math literacy either so now all of a sudden we’re walking through the steps, so while they may not have the ability to carry those numbers out for 30 days, when we show them your ten pesos a day is now 300 pesos they now recognize that’s a chicken. They know that’s a chicken. They know that when we’re showing them, “And in a year you can have this much.” Then they know they can buy a pig, a goat, a cow, and that livestock really is a great investment. Those animals can have babies. That’s a self-sustaining solution in and of itself, and then they’ll never go hungry again. At least that’s the goal and the intention.
Kurt: Wow. That’s great. So Ray, he’s been listening in all this time. He said, “Y’all mentioned Iris Ministries. Love them. They have a team coming down to my church in Corpus led by Randy Skinner out of Dallas. Explain again the connection y’all have”, and maybe he’s wondering, because maybe Ray here wants a light.
Christie: So we have worked with Iris Global on a number of different projects over the years. We partnered with them in Nepal. We’ve gone to their base in Mozambique. They’ve also had a number of their missionaries travel with us on different projects. Abilene, we’re coming underneath and they’re our main lead and they’re going to be directing the project and helping us. They’re doing all the on the ground logistics and scouting and sourcing and really, they know who we are. They understand what we do and what our needs are and it’s just a natural partnership to come alongside of them and they’re identifying the needs in the community. They’re working with the local authorities and other disaster relief organizations and so we’ll be working alongside them all the way.
Kurt: Nice. We’ve got to take a short break here, but when we come back from the break, I want to learn more about how you guys are working with other organizations and also maybe how you scout out areas where you can see that there’s a real need there. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Alright. Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Today, I am here with Christie Dunne and we are talking about Watts of Love and how this non-profit organization is helping impoverished communities and also communities that are experiencing catastrophe, how they are bringing light, solar-powered lights, to those people and providing relief in that way, and how it in a number of cases can be more beneficial than simply donating your pair of shoes or a shirt or even sometimes canned goods. Sometimes there’s just so much sent it’s an overstock. This is a unique opportunity to help those that are in need. If you’re following here on the livestream you can see that I’m showcasing the headlamp here which has a couple buttons here, the different light opportunities, and then what’s really neat is, if I’m doing this the right way, I might have to take it off. You can see this really cool…there it is. It was already showing. The solar panel. It’s such a small panel. It’s great. I’ve had headlamps like this where the battery will eventually run out, the small little like nickel size battery and then you’ve got to undo it, but this, rechargeable, I take it, it’s a small lithium, is it lithium ion?
Christie: I believe it is.
Kurt: Okay. That’s the newer battery technology and so it will last, you said 3-5 years already, from observation alone, but probably has even more years than that.
Christie: For our manufacturer, the text box said 3-5 years but in the field they’ve lasted five and they’re still running so properly cared for they have a really long duration.
Kurt: It might be one of those things where they’ve got to say 3-5 years but if it ends up being seven or eight, hey.
Christie: We’re happy with that.
Kurt: That’s great. Before the break, we were talking about as well the value that it brings so the lantern like this, $50, and it will be powered for a week on 6-8 hours of solar power and so for $50, you’re paying someone’s mortgage for 3-5 years and so that savings is providing opportunity for them to have better opportunities to create wealth and not just for themselves, but their families, and even they’re thinking generationally. As they get older they’re building that wealth up and it’s a concept that is literally foreign to them, that they can save, that they can save money, period. Right? The fact that they can save months after just a few days because now they’re also earning money at night. They’re making, what were the bamboo….
Christie: Bamboo barbecue sticks. They just kind of went along down and they charge a lot for them at Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma.
Kurt: Right. Right. They’re creating a product which is beneficial to communities and then also children, it affords the opportunity to study in a safe place at an affordable rate of course, so if you’re interested in donating go to Wattsoflove.org and you can donate there and check out the various products that even you can get if you want something for an emergency situation or we’ve got someone here on the livestream. Philip. He’s got power out in SoCal so he can, if the power’s out for an extended period of time, he can recharge his phone or he’s got lights tonight. It’s just a great opportunity. So let me ask you this. You’ve talked about how for a few years now you’ve worked with Iris Ministries. What are some other organizations you guys work with and how does something like that come about if some of our listeners wanted to connect with you guys on that?
Christie: Absolutely. So we will take a look at the local non-profit organizations in the communities that we’re looking to serve so typically we’ll do our best. We want to be safe. We want to use wisdom. We want to know the people that we are working with are people that we can trust and that they’ve been vetted. We trust in them. They’re local. They know the area and they know the communities and the people and the needs and we kind of just share with them what our heart is and what our priorities are. We’ll ask to prioritize and identify communities where there are elderly. We want to take care of people who are sick, who are disabled, and that’s just kind of how we connect. When you’re out in the mission field, you meet a variety of different people, so we work with an organization in Haiti called Fonkoze, they’re a microfinancing company and they identify women in ultra-poverty. These women are having protein less than three times a week and Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. We work in the central plateau area which is one of the poorest areas in the country. These women are truly the poorest in that area and so it’s trying to find and to navigate in a country like Haiti. Where do you go? Who do you serve when everyone is poor? These are women who are on the edge. They need immediate help. So in the Philippines we work with a group of brothers who have identified different communities who’ve gone to occidnetal Mindorian, Mindorian, served the Mangyan tribes, so they’re an indigenous tribe. They are in the mountains…
Kurt: They’re like, “What is electricity?”
Christie: Absolutely. We were really shocked. This last year and it was in February. I was surprised. This is the first community that I had encountered that at nighttime, we’re like, “So what do you use? Kerosene? Candles.” They’re like, “Nothing.” When it’s dark, it is nothing. And we asked them about cell phones and none of them had cell phones. They were really truly just without, very isolated. We had to cross a river on foot to get there. The trucks couldn’t make it. It was exciting and it was one of the most incredible things, just to imagine what life is like to go from complete darkness to suddenly having this light and what it means.
Kurt: So for you, you’ve been on a number of trips I take it and what type of experience has been that for you in terms of recognizing maybe what you take for granted here in a first world economy?
Christie: So I think I’ve always been one who kind of focuses on “Things could be worse”, but it’s definitely changed my view….
Kurt: To experience it.
Christie: To experience it and to see, I just end of counting my blessings constantly. The second I start to feel sorry for myself for anything I’m like, “Remember. You have light. You have food. You know where your next meal is.” Going to the grocery store, out to a restaurant. All of a sudden it’s like, “Okay. Not only do I know where my next meal is coming. My biggest worry is what do I want to eat, because they have so much choice and there’s so much abundance.” It’s really made me grateful, it leaves me sometimes wondering why I was so fortunate to be born where I was born and why I wasn’t born in a different country. Why do I have so many opportunities? Leaves me really grateful. Leaves me just constantly wanting to do more.
Kurt: And in terms of the specifics, you might think, if you’re someone, perhaps like most of us, you might have to use the facilities in the eveningtime and when you’re there you realize, “Oh my gosh. It’s pitch dark.” It makes it a lot harder to use the facilities in the darkness.
Christie: Absolutely. Our team. The people who travel with us. They’re really a bunch of troopers. It’s not luxurious. We are there to serve the lowest 5% and sometimes we’re ready pushed outside of our comfort zones. Our team, who just went to Guatemala in June, we rode up in the mountains, all 15 of us were standing in the back of a pick-up truck two hours up into the mountains and two hours back down.
Christie: I was really surprised that none of them complained. They’re not paid to do this. They’re paying to come on the trip. They’re giving up a week of their vacation, of their time, leaving their friends and family, and they’re doing it with a smile on their face and they’re doing it to serve and happy to just pitch in wherever is needed. To me, I love seeing that there are people who catch our vision and who want to serve, who want to make the difference and an impact.
Kurt: What are some of the opportunities? Do you make trips like that available to the public?
Christie: We do.
Kurt: Okay. Tell me more about that.
Christie: So we have a trip coming up to Haiti in January. The requirements are what we ask of our team and what we’ve been successful with is we want people to be part of the solution. So we want them more than to just come along and experience it. We ask them to help us fundraise. We believe it’s a very worthy cause and we believe it makes it that much more meaningful when they can say, “I helped to get this light here into your hands.” Our global travel team members will pay for their on the ground costs and for their travel costs. They fundraise for us and they get sponsors for the lights for the trips. And we have, I believe it’s 40 or 50 people who’ve traveled us over the last five years and a lot of repeat travelers. Our trip to Haiti is January 2-9 of this year coming up. We will going back to the central plateau area and distributing lights, those women I mentioned who are in ultra poverty. In February we’ll be back in the Philippines for the 6th year and people may ask why do you keep going back because there’s a huge tremendous need. There are 1.3 billion people without power and so we’re going back to these areas in the Philippines. We’re going to different communities that we did not previously have an opportunity to visit.
Kurt: What are some of the logistics and maybe that’s not quite your area, but perhaps you know, how do you assure that you’re not giving away too many lights to one family and too many lights to another family. Do you guys have a system in place for assuring that there’s equal distribution of the goods?
Christie: That’s a great question and one that I’m proud to be able to answer confidently.
Kurt: Okay. Cool.
Christie: When we work with our local angelos[NP3] , our on the ground guides, we give them very clear expectations. We want a list, we want a list of the name of every home, not family, but home, because there’s sometimes multi-families per home. We get a calculation, we get the list, and we work off of that list. We’re there working alongside them identifying. It’s only natural. It’s human nature when somebody sees something good, you want to take care of your family and friends.
Kurt: You want multiples.
Christie: You want multiples. We always just kind of check that and if we notice that there’s somebody who’s kind of standing along the side and they haven’t received a light we will absolutely question why aren’t they on the list? Who is this person? Where do they live? Where is their light? What is their relation? It’s just keeping the local people honest. I think it’s helpful and then we go and do in home visits. So we’re not just kind of saying “Here’s light. Here’s light. Here’s light.” We actually spend some time in the community. We go to their homes. We see how they live. Often times there are requests for us to help hang the solar lantern on the roof and kind of work out those details and whenever possible when we come back we’ll do return visits to the communities.
Kurt: Okay. So if you are interested in learning more about the wonderful opportunities that Watts of Love has to offer you can go to wattsoflove.org, and they’re also on social media as well so you can follow them there, and this mission trip, do you call them mission trips or humanitarian trips?
Christie: We just call them Watts of Love trips.
Kurt: Yeah. Watts of Love trip is January 2-9.
Christie: January 2-9 and then we’ll be in the Philippines from January 31-February 12.
Kurt: Okay. So a sort of almost back to back. They’re really close in range there. But of course, there’s opportunities right now for people to help out by donating. You guys have a fundraiser going on right now. You’ve raised roughly about $7,000 just in the past few days here or week or so?
Christie: We’ve raised $7,000. I believe we started our campaigns Monday or Tuesday, and we’ve just had an incredible amount of outpouring and support to help get lights to the people in the south Texas area. We’re focusing our efforts starting in Corpus Christi and then we’ll be expanding from there and we really want to be a stopgap to provide light so people can eb safe when they’re returning to their homes. One of our friends who traveled with us, she has homes in the South Texas area and she said there was a really big concern about rattlesnakes which I didn’t even think about. After 8 o’clock they have to evacuate, they have to stop their clean-up efforts. They have to leave the area because there’s no light and it’s no longer safe so with light, I think rebuilding and healing and returning normalcy comes a little quicker.
Kurt: Yeah, and not just to the natural consequences of experiencing a catastrophe, but sadly, I think there’s even, I read there’s report of looting and things that happen so without power it’s almost not safe. You can’t stay there because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Christie: Light does a tremendous amount to keep evil intenders away. They don’t like the light. Light keeps people safe. It allows you to care for your child. It allows you, if you’re sick, if you’re injured, how do you address those things without light? I think the headlamps and lights are really important for that as well. If you’re trying to deliver a baby, if you’re trying to take care of a cut, a wound, you need light for all those things.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. Just so much motifs there too in terms of contrasting light and darkness, religious themes even for our listeners here. It’s a powerful thing, so Christie. I want to thank you for coming on the show today and for helping me understand better what Watts of Love is doing and for ways that we can help out so thank you so much.
Christie: Thank you so much for having us.
Kurt: Take care. Alright. Now it’s my great pleasure to play this tune.
Kurt: That is our mail bag little jingle and I am pleased to have a question here regarding the Nashville Statement. Some of you might be wondering what the Nashville Statement is. The Nashville Statement is a new affirmation, I don’t quite want to call it a creed, but it’s a statement by a number of theologians and pastors regarding human sexuality and let me actually get it up here. There were a few affirmations and it’s caused a lot of controversy and so Jared here has been wondering about my thoughts on are the Nashville Statement as part of a Christian sexual ethic, and he’s seen a mixed feedback from his pastor friends so he’s asked about my opinion here. Jared. Thanks for submitting that question.
The Nashville Statement has come to us from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which is largely a number of reformed pastors and while I don’t think this is exclusive to that council, there are a number of signatories here outside of that circle and even the view of the council on other issues, but I believe there are fourteen articles here, so here’s the first one.
We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman as husband and wife and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and His bride, the church.
Then there’s a denial, so there’s sort of an affirmation and denial for all fourteen articles here. Jared, to your question, I would say this. I think that the Nashville Statement is not saying anything new in terms of what the Christian belief has been for sexual ethics and as a result of it not being anything new, that means it’s the historical position of Christians, and I don’t just mean here for this specific council that put it out, and I don’t just mean here for Protestants who have been around for 500 years. I mean that this position has been seen and is accurate to the Biblical text and that Christians for 2,000 years have held to this position. What makes it interesting is that some people are criticizing this statement. I have in mind here a couple criticisms I read. One from Matthew Lee Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy. He wrote, at least his first criticism was that it failed to include issues of adultery and other positions and might be viewed as geared toward the LGBT actions and relationships. I think Anderson’s concern there, that it doesn’t say more, might be a little misguided. Why is that? Well, we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of a statement is or a creed. You might think that, say, what about the Athanasian Creed, it doesn’t condemn Nestorius for instance. I know I’m getting a little nerdy here on this, but creeds have a specific focus and intent, and so maybe Anderson’s concern to be taken validly and we say, “Well let’s also talk about those things and include those things in this statement.” It’s not quite a creed. It’s not even an ecumenical creed. It’s not universal. I wish it were. I wish that some of these Protestants had gotten together with Catholic leaders and with Eastern Orthodox leaders and made a creed. The universal church has said these things. I think that would be interesting.
One of the other criticisms that I saw was from a scholar that I highly respect, Dr. Mike Bird, Michael Bird. One of his concerns was that the statement isn’t pastoral enough. To that I would say this. I think that creeds have a specific intention and purpose and even a statement like this has an intention and purpose. This is the fine line between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Orthodoxy is right thinking or right doctrine and orthopraxy is right practice. Pastoral aspects deal with the praxy. Right? How we can love others. How we relate to them and share in their sufferings and their experiences with them. Orthodoxy is the right teaching. The right thinking and doctrine. A statement or creed is rarely if ever concerned with orthopraxy and is exclusively regarding orthodoxy, so when we evaluate it on that basis, I think concerns that it’s not pastoral enough or it doesn’t reach out to a certain people group enough. I think that’s a little misguided. I think those are concerns as to how we do want to reach people, but when we’re talking about orthodoxy, we’re really just trying to get to what the truth of the matter is. So in those respects I’ve seen a couple people on Facebook follow up with, “Well, Dr. Bird. What do you think about the content? Is it accurate insofar as it reflects Biblical teaching?”
I think those are good questions to follow up with those that are concerned about the nature of the statement. But again, I wish that the council here had reached out further to other Catholics or Eastern Orthodox because I think this could be a powerful thing in our society and when we are dealing with historical creeds, the church, and of course this is before the Protestant Reformation. This is even before the Great Schism, so when the church was unified and there was just one church, it dealt with concerns of their day and concerns regarding the teaching of Scripture and the teaching of the apostles.
So, the church came together and they debated these issues and came to the conclusion as to what the church has always believed, has believed everywhere, by all. So geographically, the unified whole, and what they’ve always believed. These are what those three prongs are called the Vincentian canon, Vincent of Lerins formulated this. He’s one of the fellows that I’m studying for my doctoral work.
This is all to say that when the church came together and had these discussions and formulated and codified their beliefs in these creeds, they were dealing with controversies of their day and sadly I think the church, at least for the past 500 years, we haven’t so much been dealing with controversies of our day. If I could give credit anywhere for dealing in a codified sense, dealing with the controversies in a codified sense, I think here of the Roman Catholic Church, which say with Vatican II dealt with issues of evolution, that was one of the many issues that they were dealing with. They were very engaging and in a formal setting wanted to bring forth the church’s teaching. Maybe this is one of the downsides to Protestantism. It’s that we have so many different denominations that we can’t get together on the same page on these things in an easy matter. Perhaps one thing here would be the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. That saw a variety of Protestant perspectives. I just wish that there was a better attempt at ecumenism. At really bringing in all Christians from a variety of perspectives and saying, “This is the formal teaching of the universal Christian church.”
We don’t see that anymore and I think that’s a big downside to where we’ve come from because the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians talks about being a unified church, so that’s one of the curses if you will for the Reformation, and I guess this is a good time to plug the Defenders Media conference, November 3-4. If you want to explore the good things about the Protestant Reformation, but also the bad things, that’s a good opportunity to learn more about that and to hear from a variety of scholars. We’ll be talking about and discussing those ideas.
Jared. I know that might be a long answer to your question, so I would say generally, I think the Nashville Statement is accurate and as far as we’re dealing with a controversy of our day as orthodoxy, we need to keep it in that respect. If I had to find one negative with the statement, let me say this. In the first article, they talk about, it reads here, the denial, let me read this here. “We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.”
If I had to nitpick, polygamous marriages used to be in existence in the Old Testament. God allowed it for that time period. Did God design that as His long-term plan? No, He didn’t. But did He design the world knowing He would allow that as a permissible thing? Yes. He did. So that’s kind of nitpicky, but I believe I recognize the intention here of the statement, that that wasn’t the case. In fact, there are all sorts of warnings even in the Old Testament about polygamous relationships. Kings shouldn’t have multiple wives for that creates a number of truces so on foreign policy issues it was ill-advised. If you read the Old Testament carefully, even though polygamous relationships were allowed, they were not encouraged. Let’s put it that way. I think as it pertains to an accurate reflection of the Biblical teaching, I think it’s a good statement.
I’ve seen some responses. I saw a response from a Catholic priest regarding how we need to be a bit more nuancing with how this is communicated to LGBT communities. I think those are valid concerns, but remember that’s orthopraxy and so hopefully this can be a good opportunity for us to talk to people that aren’t Christians and might be in support of LGBT issues and to explain what this is and how this represents orthodoxy and so it’s a good conversation starter. Hopefully, you can use it as such. I hope that it isn’t an isolating doctrine. In some senses, creeds might be viewed as such, but let’s view them as an opportunity to reach out to people who might believe differently than us and to talk to them about why we think this is a good statement or why people, ask them why they think it’s not a good statement. Hopefully, it’s a good conversation starter.
Jared. I know that’s a long-winded answer, but sometimes we need long-winded answers to navigate the murky waters. We need to make fine nuances and distinctions when we’re seeking out the truth. Jared, again. Thanks for submitting that question, and of course, you’re welcome to follow up with me and anybody, if you’re interested you can follow-up here. You can submit questions to the mailbag. There are a few ways to do that as I mentioned at the beginning of the show and also you can call in and leave a message anytime you’d like, so our call-in line is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483.
That does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, and Ratio Christi. Thank you to the tech team. Chris was manning the cameras and the mixer and thank you to our guest today, Christie Dunne, for coming in and talking about Watts of Love. Again, if you’re interested you can go to Wattsoflove.org, to learn more about the great work that they’re doing and please consider helping out and contributing to their current fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Finally I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]14:35. Unsure of first part
[NP3]Is this the word at 40:40?