Nov 052009

Wednesday is Veteran’s day. I’d like to start celebrating veterans today, though, and keep celebrating for the next several days. One day is just not long enough.

This post is dedicated to Hugh Curtis Newton and his little girl, Kelly.

I was going through some old boxes last night and found a letter I wrote to my friend Cathy’s husband, Paul. When I was a new third grade teacher at Annandale Terrace Elementary School, Cathy was my role model. She was a dedicated teacher who spoke her mind clearly and respectfully, with a bit of a southern drawl. She loved her husband, children, country, friends, and students and didn’t waste much time talking about anything else. Cathy was tough, but also warm and very funny. I loved her. I told her all the time that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She always reminded that it was time, because in fact, I was grown up. I usually told her that I wasn’t quite ready yet, but I was taking careful notes.

Cathy moved away when her husband, Paul, was deployed to Baghdad for a year tour of duty. Paul was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 47th Forward Support Battalion. Cathy and Paul were smitten with each other. They had been married for something like 15 years, but they always acted like freshmen on their first date. When Paul came to meet us for happy hour, Cathy would sneak off to the bathroom to fix her hair and lipstick before he arrived. Her eyes would light up when Paul walked into the restaurant and he would always pat her on the bottom when he thought we weren’t watching. They’d often hold hands and flirt, teasing each other just so they could make up and kiss. They’d always leave early because they “missed their kids,” but I always suspected they were going to make out somewhere. They were magic to me. When Cathy told me that they were moving and Paul was being deployed, I told her that I was devastated for her and the kids, but really I was devastated for myself. Cathy didn’t complain. She said she was sad, but mostly proud of her husband and his soldiers. It was always clear that Paul was Cathy’s hero in more ways than one.

The Hurleys moved and the year dragged on. I lost touch with Cathy but thought of her family every night as I watched the news stories about the war. One evening I decided that my students and I would send care packages to Lieutenant Colonel Hurley’s troops, because that seemed like something Cathy would do. The Annandale Terrace student body is made up of recent immigrants, many of whom came from the Middle East. It is a school full of children who have seen much, and tend to be decades ahead of American children in terms of world wisdom. Most of my students understood war, and they understood what the soldiers were sacrificing. They wanted to say thank you, and I wanted to help them.

We ended up sending a huge package filled with phone cards, sweets, and magazines. Each of my students wrote a thank you letter to a soldier. The students from the Middle East wrote about the families they had left behind and thanked the soldiers for fighting for their grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, mothers, and fathers who couldn’t fight for themselves, The students’ letters were tear -your –heart- open beautiful. I cried as I read them one last time and placed them in the box to be mailed. Here’s the letter I wrote to accompany theirs.


Dear Lieutenant Colonel Hurley,

My name is Glennon Doyle Melton. I had the honor of teaching with your extraordinary wife, Cathy, at Annandale Terrace Elementary, and I got to know your beautiful family one afternoon when I helped with S…’s birthday party. Cathy has been a role model for me as a teacher, wife, and mother. Her strength, humor, and fierce loyalty to you and your children continue to be an inspiration to me. I also respect greatly her passion for you. It always seemed to me that you treated each other with the respect and affection of a couple falling in love. After you moved, I got married and had a little boy of my own, and I’m going to try my hardest to recreate what you two have with each other and with your children.

I am not sure how to begin to thank you and the incredible men and women with you for your bravery, honor, and sacrifices. Before September 11 and the war in Iraq, I and many other Americans believed that our lives, liberties, and happiness were God given, inalienable rights. We know better now. We know that these were never rights, but priceless gifts bestowed on us by you, our American soldiers. As we continue with our lives in the states, please know that we do so with a new awareness that we owe every peaceful moment to you. You are the reason that we are free to work and pray and hold our children. You are the reason that the families of my immigrant students came to America to find hope. You are the reason that Americans sleep in peace. Because you are there, we are here, safe and eternally grateful.

My students and I heard that you might need some phone cards to contact your families. When you call them, please thank them for us. We know that we are surrounded by warriors on the home front, and that their daily sacrifices make it possible for you to protect us. Your wives, husbands, and children are also our heroes.

I was told that you might also need some reading materials. The Maxims and FHMs were collected by my husband’s friends, not my students!I wasn’t going to send these racy magazines, but Craig demanded it. He insisted your guys would want them, and that soldiers in a strange land should be able to read whatever the hell they want. I agree.

We love you. We are proud of you. We will pray for your safety until you return in May.


Glennon Melton, Victoria Curtis, and the Annandale Terrace Third Graders

Tomorrow I’ll post the letter we received from Lieutenant Colonel Hurley and the 47th Forward Support Battalion. It’ll knock your socks off.

If you have a friend or family member who is a veteran, would you comment and post his or her name? I’d like to know about them, and keep a gratitude list of their names.

Thank you.

Nov 062009

This post is dedicated to the thirteen who fell yesterday, with desperate prayers that those left behind will find some light to see by.

If you didn’t stop by Momastery yesterday, please read this first.


Dear Glennon, Victoria, and the Annandale Terrace third graders,

Thank you, very, very much for the great box of magazines, phone cards and letters! What a morale booster! As you can probably guess, this past year has taken a toll upon our great soldiers here in Baghdad, Iraq. Your kindness and generosity make a real difference and remind us that we are loved and that there is life after our tour in Iraq.

Just so you know the impact of your kindness, I want to explain what we’ve done with your gifts. Of course the magazines are always a big hit. The men especially want to thank your husband and his friends for their excellent taste in reading material! I had people knocking on my door begging for the magazines all night so I finally surrendered and put the boxes in the hallway. The letters from the third graders will be passed out to single soldiers who don’t have anyone to receive letters from. You would not believe what an incredible impact these letters have on someone who has nobody to care for them or to write to them – and we have many within the battalion. Lastly, we distributed the phone cards to those soldiers who we’ve identified as having family issues or separation issues to ensure that they are able to make it through the end of the deployment. Your kindness, quite literally, will help some of our married soldiers stay married by offering them a chance to tell their spouses they love them when they would otherwise not have the money to do so. It will help our single parents stay in touch with the children they had to leave with other families prior to deployment. It will help our young soldiers who are having a difficult time coping with the harsh realities of war, by offering them a chance to call home and talk with loved ones. In short, you may not have realized it, but you have touched many lives in a powerful way.

Please tell the other teachers at Annandale Terrace that all of you can be proud of our young American kids. Our American kids- our soldiers – have given the Iraqi people hope through their example. These young soldiers, many of whom are so young that they could have been your students a few years ago, display everything that is right about America. Their compassion, sense of fairness, and ethnic and religious tolerance are a model of what Iraq will someday be like. As the teachers who helped mold these Americans, you can and should be proud.

Lastly, on a personal note, I would like to thank all of you for thinking of us. Your letter was both an inspiration and a blessing, I have nightly meetings with all the key leaders of the battalion and I read excerpts of the letter to all of them. Two of the women who work for me started crying and then the men started misting up – which they promptly cursed the women for. Okay, so now you have the picture…a bunch of hardened veterans after a year in combat getting misty during a meeting over your letter. We were all a little shocked. Your words clearly had an impact on all of us and for that we will forever be thankful.

Thank you also for the kind words about Cathy. She is the real hero among us. From consoling the wives and children of soldiers who didn’t make it and will never return to their families, to crying with mothers who lost one of their children during our deployment, to caring for the spouses who broke under the stress of seeing their loved ones in combat, she has done it all. She is the bravest person I know and I fall in love with her again each day.

Thanks again for being there for us,

Paul Hurley

There are many Cathys at Fort Hood today, comforting the children, spouses, and friends of those who died yesterday. I bet they’ve been up all night. Let’s pray for the Cathys today.


Nov 092009

Thank you for sharing your heroes with me. In return, I’d like to share my hero with you.

Several months ago, Sister and I both started feeling restless and aimless. We found ourselves asking God: “What next?” We promised each other we’d get quiet enough to hear His answer.

After some time, I felt God suggest that I start getting up very early in the morning to write to you. I was feeling quite disappointed and misunderstood, because I was hoping He might recommend a nice bathroom remodel or sweepy bangs. But then Sister called and said that God was suggesting that she leave her position at her law firm to accept a fellowship with the International Justice Mission. Apparently God wanted her to move to South Asia to rescue little girls being held as sex slaves and to help prosecute their tormentors.

Kaaaaaay, I said.

I can’t put into words how grateful I am that God didn’t switch-a-roo these suggestions.

Because all of a sudden getting up to write each morning felt very doable.

So I started writing and Sister pursued, won, and accepted a legal fellowship with the International Justice Mission. She leaves for South Asia in January. She is leaving everything she knows to pursue her dream of rescuing girls and securing justice for them. It’s a dangerous mission, but a worthy one to Sister. Because she remembers the quote from Edmund Burke that my dad hung on the wall in our childhood home: “The only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I bet sometimes my dad wishes he’d hung “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” instead.

Here is the letter that Sister recently sent to our family and friends.

October 30, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

It is finally feeling like fall here in Virginia – the leaves are starting to glow in yellows and crimsons, the air is cooling and crisping, and it is starting to smell of football and Thanksgiving and everything that is so comforting and hopeful about the transition of the seasons. So this may be just the right time to write to you about a transition in my own world. My newest season begins when I leave my law firm this January to embark on a one-year fellowship in South Asia with the human rights organization International Justice Mission.

I will spend the year working with IJM to secure legal protection for trafficked women and children – as young as four –who are held in the bondage of forced prostitution in the region’s infamous brothels, and to secure the conviction and sentencing of the sex traffickers who brutalize women and children for profit. In the eleven years since IJM’s founding, the organization has secured freedom for hundreds of women and children held as sex slaves in the cruel reality of human trafficking. IJM’s investigators document undercover evidence of trafficking and sexual exploitation, its lawyers secure justice against perpetrators, and its social workers provide aftercare services to heal survivors and teach them skills needed for economic independence.

For the past three years, my heart has focused unwaveringly on the work of IJM, and I have come to believe that my passion, gifts and experiences have been directed to this precise opportunity. I am embarking on this fellowship because it is my act of faith, my “Here am I, Lord; Send me;” because it is a privilege to use the power I have been given to help to defend the powerless; and because of Manna.

When Manna was fourteen years old she ran away from her home in South Asia to escape family abuse and severe poverty. A woman who saw her crying at a train station promised Manna safety and a job selling fabric. But when Manna awoke from the night with her would-be protector, she found herself imprisoned by a brothel keeper who beat her until she surrendered to the customers who had paid to rape her. Manna was forced to service 10 – 40 customers every night for two years. Then a brave girl who had been previously rescued by IJM, with the hope of freeing more girls, led IJM operatives back to the brothelwhere she had been held. She led IJM to Manna and three other girls enslaved in a soundproof dungeon in the brothel. IJM investigators and lawyers built a case against Manna’s captors, and both were convicted and imprisoned. From the peace of an aftercare home providing love, safety and schooling where Manna now thrives, she said, with a smile that fills the room like sunlight: “I came to prison, but I am not alone. God took me from that place to here. I am requesting to God that like IJM saved me they will save even more. What is impossible for men is possible for God.”

There are nearly two million children like Manna currently trapped in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF). Yet, out of 1,000 raids in one district of South Asia over the past five years to free enslaved children like Manna, only 40-50 traffickers were convicted and fined. (U.N.). Human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise, and the total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.S. Department of State; U.N.). There is no doubt that the forces perpetuating this violent oppression are strong – perpetrators have much to gain. And the scope of the crisis is so enormous that it is almost paralyzing. So it is a privilege to join an organization which believes that the prospect of saving one Manna is worth any amount of sacrifice, passion and intellect it can devote; and which believes that the arc of justice ultimately bends toward the powerless, if those with power use it to help.

I look forward to sharing next year’s adventure with you and I am honored to have you join me in this beautiful, scary, hopeful season.


I know it takes a while for the heart of a mother to accept the fact that right now there are four and five year old girls being held as sex slaves. Little girls who at this very moment are trembling and praying to God to rescue them.

And this is how I think prayer works. I believe that God hears the prayers of these little girls, and in response He taps the shoulder of somebody else’s little girl, halfway across the world. He whispers in her ear: “We’ve been preparing for this moment for decades. It’s time, Sister- Let’s Roll.” And Sister says, “All right. I’m in. Let’s roll.”

I’d like to cordially invite you to Roll With A Sister.

Sister is going to become Momastery’s field reporter. She’s going to write to us from her post across the world and tell us what she sees, hears, tastes, and feels. She’s going to tell us what she can about the crisis, about the oppressors, about the heroes. She’s going to help make the world a little smaller for us. She’s also going to tell us how her heart and life are changing. In preparation for this…..

The first official book selection of the HERMIT CRAB BOOK CLUB is “Just Courage” by Gary Haugen, the founder of the International Justice Mission. It’s a book about using your life to make an impact on the world and loving your neighbors. It’s written from a Christian perspective, but I think it will speak to anyone who yearns to make a difference and to feel more alive.

Our first discussion will be in two weeks and you can buy the book on the IJM website, you’re there, check out the amazing ways in which IJM stands for thevoiceless and powerless.) If you can’t buy the book because you’ve already spentyour monthly discretionary funds on wooden word signs and replacement sippy cups …email your address to me and I will happily send you a copy.

I hope you’ll come along on this ride, because I think some magic is going to happen. I don’t have a clue what it might be, but I can feel it. Something special is going to happen when the Culdesac and the Brothel Meet.

You In?

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