Standing Up Against Injustice: An Interview with Lynne Hybels

Lynne Hybels

Since 1975, when Lynne & Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church, Lynne has been an active volunteer at the church. For the last fifteen years she has engaged in ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. More recently she has been involved in Willow’s Spanish-speaking congregation, Casa de Luz, and actively supports Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

In 2010 Lynne established a personal fundraising initiative, Ten For Congo, to support the thousands of women and girls brutally raped during the last decade of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In her personal ministry, she has also traveled extensively in the Middle East and actively advocates for peace with justice in the Holy Land.

KW: You’re involved in promoting for justice across a lot of different areas. What are you most active with currently?
LH: I’m currently focused on two regions of the world: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Israel/Palestine.

The DRC is engaged in a civil war that is the deadliest conflict since WW 2.  Nearly 6,000,000 people have died, millions more have been forced to flee for their lives and are living in squalid refugee camps, and thousands of women and girls have been brutally raped by soldiers and rebels who use rape as a weapon of war.

In Israel/Palestine, six decades of conflict between Jews and Arabs has left both Israelis and Palestinians feeling traumatized and fearful.  Sadly, this conflict sends ripples of hostility throughout the Middle East and world.

KW: What’s one thing you want to make sure people understand about The DRC and Israel/Palestine conflict?
LH: In the midst of the horror of Congo’s war, hope and healing are being offered as local Congolese churches live out the mandate of God’s Kingdom.  I’ve seen churches in many troubled regions of the world, but rarely have I seen pastors and church volunteers serving their communities like those in Eastern Congo are.  Despite their own material poverty and wartime losses, church leaders are caring for the physical and psychological needs of women who have been raped, creating micro-loan programs, building homes for widows, working for reconciliation between different tribal groups, and more.  In a country that is a failed state, where corruption is rampant on every level, people have nowhere to turn except to the church.  Fortunately, the churches of Eastern Congo are responding.

Regarding Israel & Palestine, while most people view this as a conflict between Jews and Arabs, or between Israeli and Palestinians, I’ve discovered that it’s really a conflict between those on either side who want peace and reconciliation and those who don’t.  I’ve met amazing people on both sides who are committed to the dignity of all the people in the Holy Land and are actively pursuing relationships and reconciliation with “the other.”  We don’t hear about these people on the news, but they’ve become my heroes.  Their steadfastness challenges me and their wisdom instructs me.   It’s an honor to stand in solidarity with them.

KW: Tell me a little bit about #MaybeICan2013.  What do you hope people will take away from that?
LH: Early this summer a friend offered me $10,000 if I would kayak along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan from South Haven to Saugatuck and back again—a round trip of 36 nautical miles.  I had just begun kayaking again after a hiatus of many years, so immediately I said, “No way. I haven’t kayaked in years. I’m totally out of shape.  There’s no way I could do that.”

But I couldn’t shake the challenge.  I found myself thinking, maybe I can.  Eventually I decided to accept the challenge and wrote a blog about it. I knew I needed the accountability of “going public” with my goal.

This little phrase, maybe I can, caught on and other people started taking on physical challenges in order to raise money for issues they cared about.  So while I was on the lake paddling for Congo, there were other people training to run marathons for clean water in Africa or to rescue teenagers from sex trafficking.  We used the hashtag #MaybeICan2013 to cheer each other on.

All summer I trained and on August 26 at 6:45am I paddled out of the South Haven harbor and headed for Saugatuck.  Fifteen hours later—under a moonless sky—the  challenge ended.

It was a profound experience.  I discovered how empowering it is to push beyond the limits of what you think you can do.  I also learned that acting in solidarity—as I was doing with my friends in Congo as I paddled—can be deeply transformational.  The determination it took to face the waves of Lake Michigan on a windy day fueled my determination to be a more effective advocate for Congo.

I’ve discovered that the little phrase maybe I can is very powerful.  I think that too often we give up on goals—whether they’re related to personal growth or global advocacy—prematurely.  We tell ourselves it’s impossible so we don’t even try.  Or we consider a worthy cause—like ending human trafficking or building peace—but we feel hopeless against the enormity of the challenge.  But maybe the small part we can play will encourage someone else to add their small effort and then someone else and someone else….and together maybe we can make a difference.  That’s what I would like people to take away from #MaybeICan2013.

KW: Your website has a “Creed for Dangerous Women” and you wrote a book, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World.  That seems like a theme!  What is on your heart about women in the church?
LH: Too many churches are filled with really good and competent women who have become convinced that their needs, desires, gifts and dreams are not important.  They end up living nice, proper, acceptable lives.  They go through the motions that keep other people happy, but they never discover the passion and calling that could energize them.  The result is that they remain silent when they could be shouting words of encouragement to their sisters across the globe.  They stay seated when they could be standing up against injustice.  I think this is a great tragedy.

KW: What can an average person (man or woman) do to change the world?
LH: Open your ears to hear the cries of the suffering.  Let your heart be broken.  Hang out with other people who are letting their hearts be broken. Remember that you can’t do everything, but you can do something.  Pray, “God, what is mine to do?”  Carry that prayer with you until you find an answer.  Then do it.



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