Showing posts from November, 2011

What going to Haiti is all about

This photo pretty much sums it up. It was taken when we were meeting with Lena and talking about getting a house built for her and her family. After we chatted for a while, we all prayed -- our teammates, Desir (the Haitian who will be the project manager), and Lena. The joining of hands says "we are in this together," the roughness of the table suggests earthiness and simplicity, and the posture of our hands expresses that before any shovels get picked up or hammers get swung, we stop to thank God for his generosity.

A Haiti postscript -- little things do matter!

Sometimes in a place like Haiti, it is easy to think that nothing we do will ever make a difference. Two encounters happened on our way home that I believe were God's way of saying to us, "It might not appear to you that you are helping, but you are." We didn't do anything spectacular on our trip. We didn't serve thousands of people. We didn't solve wide scale problems. What we primarily did was strive to be a blessing to people. Our greatest gift was to be personally present with people and pray with them. Sometimes it feels like that kind of activity can't put a dent in the problems Haiti faces. Or maybe it helps more than we think.

On the plane going from Port-au-Prince to New York, the flight attendant who was passing out the customs forms was Haitian. Just to be nice, she asked me a couple of questions about why we were in Haiti. I replied that we have friends there, and we are working with an orphanage and a school, and generally trying to bless the…

"Stupid Friday" in Haiti

Our last day of the trip was aptly named by my teammates “Stupid Friday.” None of us wanted to leave Haiti, and we had been dreading our last day. However, while it was stupid in that sense, it was still full of the things that make Haiti great.
While I sat at the guest house writing a blog post and uploading photos, the rest of the team went to Friday chapel at the school. They came home raving about the songs performed by the girls. It seems to be common at Haitian church services for women to sing for the congregation. In the services we held after the earthquake, there were many such songs performed. At chapel they do this too. The singers are not necessarily the most talented vocalists. I have never seen men sing, only women or girls. It is an expression of worship. The songs done at the school on Friday morning really touched the hearts of my teammates.
We then went on a field trip to find some candy to take to the Ben’s for the school recess at noon. On Fridays, the kids gath…

Thursday: A Thanksgiving in Haiti

Thursday was Thanksgiving! For all of us, it was a different kind of Thanksgiving observance. Since it is an American holiday, the Haitians don't celebrate it. For us, it was a Thanksgiving to remember.

In the morning, Jim worked on a door he built for the family we had visited earlier in the week. The front of their little block hovel is just a piece of plastic hanging in the doorway. The door that Jim made should help keep out the cold at night and then some. He did a great job! Unfortunately, we had to leave before the new door could be installed. It will probably go in next week.

Also in the morning, the ladies from our team went to volunteer at the kindergarten class at MDL school. They came back with several funny stories from the classroom.

Before we ate lunch, we went over to hang out with the school kids at their lunchtime. I particularly enjoy this because this includes the kids from the Claireville Ravine. They are nice kids -- good natured and lots of fun.

Our Thanksg…

Wednesday in Haiti

Wednesday started slow, but it ended up being a great day. In the morning, Jim and I accompanied Andrea, Rose, and DeAnna as they walked to the house that hosts the Apparent Project. The Apparent Project is a business run by an American family who is employing Haitian artisans to make jewelry, purses, baskets, and other goods. Andrea, Rose, and DeAnna wanted to check into the possibility of bringing back some of the products to sell at home parties.

Jim and I waited outside the gate while the ladies went in to shop. We thought it would take a few minutes. We had accumulated three street boys along the way, so we started talking to them. I was also carrying a bag with donated items for the Maison de Lumiere school. We did our best to talk to the boys with our limited Creole. A few minutes went by. Looking for something to do, I started fishing around in the bag to see if it held anything that might interest the boys. There was a box with a puzzle inside. We went through the names of al…

Tuesday in Haiti -- visiting families and other adventures

Tuesday was a much better day than Monday. Our whole team felt like the blessings of Tuesday made up for the trials of Monday.

In the morning we interviewed Lena, a Haitian woman who lost her house in the earthquake. She is married and has four children, and they are currently living in a tent city in another part of Port-au-Prince. Her name got passed to the Manasseros, and she is at the top of the list to receive a prefab house. This is one of the things we came down here for. Funds were donated for us to hire Haitian work teams to build two houses. Lena is supposed to be the recipient of the first one. At this point we don't know whether any building will start before we leave, but at least we got to meet her. We mentioned that at different times in our lives, all of us need help from others. In other words, we didn't want Lena to feel embarrassed. We could imagine how hard it must be if you lost your house, and your husband lost his job, and most of your things had been st…

Lows and highs -- Monday in Haiti

Monday was a challenging day. We are getting more and more connected to the realities of life in the streets and tent cities, and it is difficult to deal with. 
In the morning we met with Ivens, school principal and general caretaker of many people in the neighborhood around the orphanage. We wanted to ask some specific questions about what it would take to sponsor kids in school. When kids grow up in poverty, they are likely to remain in poverty throughout their lives. They have children who live in poverty, and on the cycle goes. One of the ingredients in breaking those cycles is to get children as much education as possible. Ivens explained that even if an adult has only had a few years of primary education, they are more capable of reasoning through what it takes to make a family business run. 
In the neighborhood around us, many children don't go to school at all. There is almost no public school in Haiti. President Martelly has made it a priority to make education more widel…

Head over heels for Haiti

We're head over heels for Haiti! 

The group (Lauren Beck, Rose Adamson, Andrea Himmelberger, DeAnna Gallardo, Jim Quayle, and me) arrived yesterday after a very long travel day, highlighted by one of the roughest flights I have ever been on. The first leg of our trip was from San Francisco to Las Vegas, and we bounced our way through some pretty severe turbulence. 
We arrived at Maison de Lumiere, received our orientation briefing, and then made our way immediately to the boys' home to hang out with the kids. There were many happy reunions! I especially enjoyed watching Lauren, my daughter, reconnect with kids she loves but hasn't seen for two years. I also got to spend time with nurses Ashley and Brooke. I formed close bonds with them during the time I spent at the orphanage following the earthquake in January 2010. 
Today has been a very full day! We went to church this morning at Port-au-Prince Fellowship. We all got something out of the sermon. Following church, we went t…

How many Facebook friends is too many?

How many Facebook friends is too many? The answer may surprise you. In a post on social media, Jay Deragon says this: "According to Oxford University’s professor of evolutionary anthropology, Robin Dunbar, after you have amassed 150 friends on Facebook, any more are meaningless because the human brain can only remember 150 meaningful relationships anyway." The rule of 150 has also been documented in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.

Should you "unfriend" people until you pare your friends roster down to 150? I don't think so. However, Deragon challenges us to think about meaning and meaninglessness when it comes to social networking and how we do relationships.

Seeking God's will in big decisions, post 4

Continuing with a process for making big decisions with God. Here's the basic roadmap:

Seek God in prayer and fasting.See God in your story.Feel God's Fire in Your HeartKnow Your Strengths (and Face Your Challenges)Listen for God's VoiceDecide and Move Forward This is post #4 on knowing our strengths and facing our challenges. Under "strengths", we are talking about spiritual gifts, talents, and expertise. The bottom line is that we are looking at what we are good at and love to do. When we make a big decision, we usually don't want to head off in a direction that doesn't emphasize our strengths. I say "usually" because we don't want to limit God to working exclusively within the strengths we know we already have.

In 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, Paul essentially said that all of us are good at something. God gives everyone gifts to use for the betterment of everyone else.

In order to follow Paul's teaching that we should operate in ou…

Advice from a hospital chaplain

I attended a lunch gathering today where Susan Cosio, a friend who's a hospital chaplain in Sacramento, talked about what's important to know if you ever need to visit someone in the hospital. She deals with illness, injury, trauma, crisis, and death on a regular basis. What do you do if (or when) you need to care for someone who is facing these situations? I thought this was useful not just for pastors but for anyone. Here are my takeaways:

You can never be completely prepared for a situation of crisis. Don't even pretend that you are or can be in control of the situation. Instead, let the complexities and intense emotions drive you to depend on God.Jesus got to the hospital room long before you did. He is with the broken, hurting, sick, and broken. When you go into a situation of crisis, you are getting to hang out with Jesus.People in the hospital often wonder whether anyone really cares about them. The best place to start is to simply let them know you care.Let your wor…

Book review: The Truth about Leadership

Whether it's at home or work or church or in other contexts, we have a desire to influence others. Influence is also called leadership. We are all leaders (or want to be leaders) in one way or another. The question is, will we work on getting better at it?

If your answer is yes, I have a book recommendation: The Truth about Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. They have been researching and studying leadership issues for 30 years. They have found that although the context for leadership has changed a lot (cultural shifts to postmodernism, globalization, multiculturalism, economic downturn, etc.), the content of leadership has remained the same. In other words, what people considered important about leaders 30 years ago has remained the same through all the changes in cultural context. The primary question of the book is: what are those enduring qualities of leadership that stay the same no matter what else is happening? What is the real truth about leadership?

The result …

Missional meditation for 11/3/2011: Prayer is the source of mission

A lot of us know Mother Teresa as a social activist. She lived most of her life in the slums of Calcutta, India, forming a religious and charitable ministry to the poorest of the poor. What we might not appreciate is the depth of her prayer life and relationship with God. Here are some comments about her as she was preparing to take her final vows in 1937. She was not yet "Mother Teresa," and she was not yet in Calcutta. At this time she was "Sister Teresa," and she was teaching at a school for girls elsewhere in India. This quote is to give a window into her spiritual life that had already developed:
After nine years in Loreto, Sister Teresa was approaching a very important moment in her life -- she was about to make her profession of perpetual vows. Her superiors and her companions had by now become acquainted with her prayerfulness, compassion, charity, and zeal; they also appreciated her great sense of humor and natural talents for organization and leadership. …

Seeking God's will in big decisions, post 3

It's one thing to make big decisions. It's another thing to make big decisions with God. Here's an outline of the process we are working through at Sanctuary:

Seek God in prayer and fasting.See God in your story.Feel God's Fire in Your HeartKnow Your Strengths (and Face Your Challenges)Listen for God's VoiceDecide and Move Forward This is post #3 on feeling God's fire in our hearts. 
When Jesus called Saul (who became Paul), Saul had no idea he would one day be preaching the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles. However, some years later, Paul wrote to the Christians in the prominent Gentile city of Corinth, "I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" In other words, "If I don't preach the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles, I feel like I am going to die!"
God creates us and fashions us in just the way he wants. He crafts our inmost being and knits us together (Ps 139:13). He indwells us (1 Cor 6:19) and if we…