Showing posts from May, 2011

A sacred piece of Chiclets gum

A couple of days ago I was reading Mark 12:41-44, where Jesus talks about a poor widow dropping her last pennies into the giving box at the temple, and I flashed back to a very touching moment in Haiti. Lizyanna Senterra is one of my young friends who lives in the neighborhood near the orphanage. Her family is very poor, and she comes to the feeding program. On Friday of our trip, our final feeding program, she showed up with her sister and brothers. I decided to sit with her for a while. I was playing with her and her sister Gigi, when her hand raised up toward me holding a yellow piece of Chiclet gum in its plastic wrapper. She held it up and looked at me. I asked, "Pou mwen?" (For me?) She grinned and nodded. I took the piece of gum, but I couldn't chew it right away. I felt kind of guilty receiving something material from a girl who has nothing. She had shown up to the feeding program wearing a shirt and a pair of boys' pajama pants. Her hair is tinged with orang…

What's it like to go on a team to Haiti? (A game of "Would You Rather...")

What's it like to go on a mission team to Haiti? Play this game of "Would you rather..."

(BTW, all these things happened on our trip...)

Would you rather...
Eat a peanut M&M that had rolled across the floor of the airplane and ended up under the shoe of someone who had just spent the last several days walking around dirt roads in HaitiOr...
Eat soup that had been prepared with the head and intestines of a goat
Would you rather... Eat meat that sat outside for a few hours and had flies crawling on itOr... Eat food prepared in a kitchen that had fly paper, covered with dead and dying flies, lying on the counter
Would you rather... At the end of an extraordinarily long travel day after spending a week in Haiti… Have breath that smells so bad you can smell it yourselfOr... Have feet that smell so bad that your friends complain
Would you rather... Spend three hours on a plane that is stuck on the tarmac, seated next to a screaming baby and his crying motherOr... Lose your passport, …

A prayer for everyone who lives in precarious conditions

It's not a safe world, and sometimes we feel like not even God can protect people.  Psalm 125 was written for Jews or God-fearing Gentiles who had traveled on pilgrimage from places infested with evil to the holy city of Jerusalem. Let's say I am from Galilee, a region that was dominated by pagan culture, and I have come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I am standing in the Holy City, looking around at its wonders and rejoicing in God's holiness and majesty. I notice that the city is nestled among mountains and hills, almost like God is holding it in his hands. I think back to my hometown, and I suddenly feel like when I go back home, I will be returning to a place of great evil. I feel vulnerable. Will God be with me there as he is with Jerusalem?

This is the basic mindset of the person to whom Psalm 125 is written. As I reflect on this, I also think of our friends in Haiti. Many of them live in precarious conditions, continually dwelling under the shadow of violence, instabil…

When kids don't get to be kids

This is my friend Johnny. He is one of the Senterra kids -- the Senterras are one of the families I have committed to showing special care and attention to when I go to Haiti. I pray for this family and wonder about them when I am so far away.

The photo tells several parts of a story of a tender-hearted boy who cannot afford to be as tender-hearted as he wants to be. I would go on to say that he cannot be as tender-hearted as he is created to be. Johnny is a sweet kid, but he has to negotiate a frequently brutal world of survival and street fighting.

Looking at the boy on the right and you get a picture of the world that awaits a Haitian boy when he walks around on the street. Sure he has friends, but situations can turn ugly quickly. There is a never-ending game of dominate-or-be-dominated that runs 24 hours a day on Haitian streets. It is a situation shared by millions of boys around the world who grow up in areas gripped by poverty.

Johnny is one of those kids who has to play the g…

Visiting Mona and her kids in the Ravine

The last two days I have taken a couple of field trips that hold particular personal importance. Each time I brought along a small handful of people from our team. I didn't want to bring too many people because we were visiting families, and we didn't want to overwhelm them.

On Wednesday after the feeding program, we went to the Claireville Ravine and visited Roseline's family. I hadn't seen the Ravine yet, so I didn't know what it would look like. Last time I was there, it was a tent city. Walking in this week, I was overjoyed to see that all the tents are gone, and the small cement shanties have been rebuilt. It was tough to visit the Ravine before. It was little more than a small shanty town with tiny block structures, one built against the other. In the earthquake, about two thirds of those structures had toppled down the hillside like dominoes. That part of the Ravine area was a jumble of cement blocks and rubble. All the people had moved into makeshift "…

Hunger and love

I could hardly sit still throughout the day yesterday. Feeding program started at 3:00, and we were supposed to get there at 2:00 to help set up. Julie and I had a less-than-productive morning trying to talk our printer into cooperating with us so we could print out photos of the kids. But every time I got frustrated, I thought, "It's okay. The feeding program is coming."

The feeding program is an unforgettable charity event where about 100 local kids come to the boys' home at Maison de Lumiere every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a bowl of rice and beans, a lesson about God's love, and prayer. Once you go to the feeding program, you will never forget it. The kids are in a lot better shape than they were before the program began a few years ago, but many of them are still suffering from malnutrition and illness. When we welcome those 100-or-so children through the gate, within minutes they are screaming, laughing, and playing games. However, we have to recall …

Back in Port-au-Prince!

Today Sanctuary's first Haiti team arrived in Port-au-Prince! The team is tired, but we are holding up well. Today we woke up at 4:30 AM in a hotel in Miami (after about 2 1/2 hours of sleep) and boarded a shuttle to the airport at 5:00. Our  flight departed at 7:00 and brought us to PAP at a little after 8:00. By about 9:00, we were at Maison de Lumiere!
This is the first time I have been here since spending a few weeks here shortly after the earthquake in January 2010. I have been eagerly anticipating this trip!
Some of the highlights of the day for me were: Seeing Isguerda! Our sponsor girl came in the truck to the airport to pick us up. What a happy reunion we had! Many other very happy reunions with kids from the boys' and girls' homes, Bill and Susette Manassero, Markenson, Fritz, Marlval, Monice, Jeanette, Navi, Ashley Hapak, Matt Littles, Cindy Ahrentzon, and others.Watching my teammates from Sanctuary explore Maison de Lumiere and start meeting the kids.Joining the o…

Why it's good for Christians to have unsettling conversations

In a recent blog post, Mark Galli, senior editor of Christianity Today, makes an excellent case for having unsettling conversations within the Christian community. Rob Bell comes out with a controversial book. Why is it controversial? Because a lot of people like it or like parts of it, and a lot of other people think it's close enough to orthodoxy to attract people but in the end flat out heretical and dangerous. Bell's particular theology aside, Galli looks at the bigger issue. Christians need to be able to talk freely about our beliefs. It's good for us. Here's an excerpt from Galli's post:

... we live in a time when we must engage afresh all these permutations of orthodoxy, heterodoxy, heresy, paganism, and apostasy. I for one welcome the opportunity, and want to hear the best cases that can be made against historic Christian faith, and the best cases for alternate views. If the historic Christian faith cannot stand up to such arguments, we should abandon it as …

The money debate

By the way, today Scot McKnight generated some vigorous debate with this post on money and the church. There are strong opinions on all sides!

How often should a pastor talk about money?

Last Sunday at Sanctuary, I preached on money and the Christian life. I hadn't planned a money sermon. It was just the next parable in Luke after the parable of the Lost Sons. The sermon raised a question in my mind. How often should an American pastor talk about money? Consider the following facts:

We Americans have a lot of money. Regardless of the recent economic downturn, Americans still do extremely well on a global scale. American culture is deeply materialistic. We tend to measure success and failure in terms of financial advancement, possessions, and comfort. American evangelicals hardly ever talk about money in church. Pastors tend to preach on money once or twice a year, and that's only to check a box on the annual "necessary sermon topics" list. Either that or pastors want to move a building program forward so they preach on money. I may sound a little cynical here, but I don't think I'm too far off base. The pastors I have been around don't lik…