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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, March 17, 2000

How to sell to a tough

ON Tuesday afternoon, did you see me standing, running and jumping around at the corner of South Street and Kapiolani Boulevard? Along with dozens of other volunteers, I was trying to sell newspapers for $1 apiece as part of "Kids Day," a promotion to benefit a nonprofit organization.

It wasn't easy. Potential drive-by customers, idling at red lights, could be divided into three distinct groups:

1) The majority, who stared straight ahead, talked on cell phones and tried their best to ignore my existence.

2) The minority, who at least made eye contact and smiled, but shook their heads to convey, "Sorry, not interested."

3) The even-smaller minority, who rolled down their windows and thrust out dollar bills for the special editions. Ah, success!

The Rev. Al Miles can relate to the challenge of pitching a reluctant audience. His just-published paperback is a must-read for the clergy; now it's merely a matter of convincing them so.

The Rev. Miles, who works for Pacific Health Ministry as coordinator of the Hospital Ministry Department at Queen's Medical Center, is the author of "Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know" (Fortress Press, 2000).

Filled with quotations from the Bible and chilling, true anecdotes about church-going victims of domestic abuse, the book discusses a topic often ignored or denied in society. This is especially true in church congregations, particularly by their leaders, because of victims' fear and/or shame and misconceptions by the clergy.

Miles effectively rebuts the four myths that pastors must overcome before being able to help parishioners:

Bullet "There are no abused women in my congregation."

Bullet "Christian survivors need only faith, prayer, a positive attitude and God to be freed from domestic violence."

Bullet "Domestic violence occurs only in certain cultural, racial and socio-economic groups and only in urban areas."

Bullet "Victims can stop the battering by changing their own behavior. This will save their marriages and families."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. "Domestic violence ranks as the number one public health problem for women in America, and yet those of the cloth prefer to look the other way," writes Catherine Clark Kroeger in the book's foreword. This is precisely why the work of Miles is so "invaluable," she attests.

WHEN it comes to the subject of domestic abuse, pastors can be divided into three distinct groups:

Bullet The majority, who are adamant that there are no abused women in their congregations.

Bullet The minority, who are at least open-minded about the possibility of having abusers and abused in their flocks but hesitant about getting involved in something so "personal."

Bullet The even-smaller minority who, with some domestic-violence training and knowledge, can competently counsel their parishioners and direct them to potentially life-saving community resources.

By the way, while hawking papers on the street, I increased sales by going up to car windows, tapping on the glass, smiling sweetly and holding up my Star-Bulletins.

In other words, the direct approach works best. So, in case a pastor doesn't have a copy of Miles' book (available at Barnes & Noble in Kahala), buy one for him/her as a gift and present it in the spirit of compassionate enlightenment.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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