Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thoughts on our 28th Anniversary

Today is our 28th Anniversary! 28th on the 28th. It's hard to imagine life without her - without us. We've been blessed with three children, all of whom are or are becoming contributing members of society rather than requiring societal resources. That's worthy of a celebration!

It's not all been easy. There were years raising teens, especially girls, when I thought I would lose my mind and my marriage was rattled. Raising our son was far easier. Just look at him and say: "Never even think about doing that again" and he wouldn't argue and typically wouldn't do it. The girls would often respond: "Why not? That's dumb." Those were years that tested our resolve.

2004 St. Augustine, FL
We've been living in an empty nest for almost a year. Yes, some have returned for a season and there's something to say about that too, but we highly recommend the empty nest years and look forward to what's next.

I share some thoughts at what is really the beginning of this season not because we're perfect, but because we're committed to learning and we have some history on which to look back.

1. DATING. We found fairly quickly that we left our consistent dating routine behind. It was just us and we loved it being just us again. But we realized we had stopped scheduling those weekly lunches - 11:30 on Wednesdays. We missed them. Throw in a movie night (at home or out), a dinner or a walk around the neighborhood and you've got the makings of a great routine that will keep you connected. Even in the empty nest we've found that life will help separate you if you're not diligient to staying connected.

2. ELECTRONICS. Put them away. Create boundaries. We're not very good at this. We've talked about it and are making progress but far too often we've found ourselves with screens open rather than holding hands while watching TV or better yet taking a walk and spending time just the two of us.

2011 Alaska Cruise
3. VACATIONS. My hobby is in the world of swim officiating for USA Swimming. I'm privileged to be at a place where it is taking me to places both nationally and globally. And now with the kids gone, there's more time for local meets as well as doing some traveling. We realized, however, that while I was traveling, we weren't vacationing together. With the freedom to pursue a hobby comes the need for boundaries on what's really important.

4. INVEST. It's not just about money. The best return for our dollar has been investing in our marriage with both time and money. Investing for the best return takes planning and planning takes communication. We decided early on that while we wanted to make retirement planning a priority, we weren't going to wait to spend time together. We've spent some dollars now - every 5th anniversary is a cruise (and can I just say the 25th to Alaska was incredible!). I took a sabbatical in 2012 and it was one of the best choices we've ever made. We've attended multiple marriage conferences. We've also made it a priority to save for retirement (a 1st world privilege) with an eye toward serving during that time. Our commitment to tithing and saving are our two biggest expenditures in our budget.

2012 Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs Marriage Weekend
5. PLAN. Without planning we wouldn't be where we are today as a couple, spiritually or financially. Our planning hasn't just been about retirement. It's been about investing in people, using our gifts and talents to serve God's Kingdom in the coming years. So we've made sure to stay out of debt which gives us enormous flexibility with the present and the future. When we had the privilege of buying a house last year, we didn't spend all the bank said they would lend us.

For instance, God has given me a gift to teach. It would be a waste of His talent for me to not teach throughout my life, as long as I'm able to speak, think and write. So we're talking about how to do that - combining it with some traveling as well as what it looks like from our home base, wherever that is at the time.

6. #SIXSECONDS. A few months ago my friend Dr. Baker told a group of us about a study that proved kissing for 6 seconds changes the brain chemistry in an incredibly positive way. Taking time out for a 6 second kiss each day - for a 30 second hug each day - for a few moments to say "I love you" are some of the daily investments that have made for a great marriage for us. I've recently begun using #sixseconds in my marriage ceremony teaching. It's been quite a hit, especially when I say "You may kiss the bride." Wedding parties and congregations have begun counting out loud!

Do the little things each and every day. The things that say "I love you" without a word being spoken.

We've got so much more to learn. Hopefully we've got so far to go.

Where would you suggest we take our 30th Cruise? We've been to the Bahamas, Mexico, Greece & Turkey and Alaska (our 5th was a trip to Gatlinburg).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Feedback: How do you receive it?

The very thing we need the most we seem to often fight the most. God's grace, for instance - free, un-earnable, un-repayable...yet we seem to fight it, wanting to do life on our own.

Feedback is essential to our growth - as leaders, Christ-followers, marriage partners, and human beings in general. We are much too myopic to be able to traverse life by ourselves, without the input of others, unless we want to settle for mediocrity, never achieving our potential. But nobody likes to be told they're not good at something. We have a natural tendency to fight feedback.

Even if the feedback is delivered in a poor, irrational and unfocused manner there are things to hear. I've learned a few things about receiving feedback as I've looked back at the poor ways I've handled it in the past.

1. Have no ego. This is tough in a man-eating world where climbing to the top permeates the atmosphere of a company. It's our ego that gets bruised when we react negatively to feedback. The person who can remove their own protective filters in order to listen to others perceptions or factual data will grow personally as well as in the eyes of his or her superiors. People who know they don't know it all are people who will know more in the long run.

I wrote a blog about this a couple of years ago that goes into some more detail - "Ego: Friend of Foe"

In fact, a great response to feedback is a simple, "Thank you."

2. Write to keep quiet. One of my mistaking in missing the truth of feedback is talking too much, becoming defensive. I have found if I'll type out some notes about what I'm hearing, it not only helps me focus but keeps my mouth shut! I'm also able to learn more both during a feedback session and afterwards.

3. Ask questions. Avoid "why" questions, which will simply put everyone on the defensive. I've learned that "what" and "how" questions work well. "What do I do that comes across that way?" or "How would you suggest I change that."

Good feedback will involve specific examples. Questions can help bring them out if they're missing. Questions can also help clarify cloudiness and define uncertainties. I also think asking for time is helpful, time to respond. A period of introspection will reveal truth where the emotion of the moment may obscure it.

4. Ask for feedback consistently. In my hobby of swim officiating, I am evaluated every year or two officially. But I ask for feedback at most meets during the year. I want to stay on top of my game. In business it's appropriate for regular feedback to be shared, not dumped once a year in a performance review.

What have you learned about receiving feedback? What about giving feedback.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1st World Moments Missed

It was father's day, after worship and after lunch (@ Skyline of course). Stephanie and I stopped by the grocery to get two small things for dinner that night. We chose a line and o, the line we chose. A father with his two children were in front of us, just about done when he began complaining about the price of the apples. They weren't discounted as he thought they should be, which is what happens when you put 5 apples in the same clear bag but they are 5 different kinds of apples. (men and their shopping habits)

He proceeded to shame the cashier, calling her incompetent. It obviously rattled her. I asked Stephanie if I we should pay the $1.00 difference for him. I'm all for getting the right price but there's a right way to get that right price. This was not that way.

Stephanie looked at me: "1st world problem I think we're dealing with."
How right she was.

The manager came over, straightened everything out and we stepped up with our two small items. "Take a deep breathe," we said to the cashier. She quickly shared that she had a stroke 10 years ago and doesn't do well when people throw numbers at her like he did.

I learned a few things in those moments:

1. I love going through life with my wife. It's awesome when you have someone with whom you agree about the big stuff. It "cost" us a few extra minutes to let him have his tirade. We didn't mind really. It was inconvenient and disturbing but was really nothing in the big picture.

Having just returned from Haiti was definitely helpful to that perspective. It was a privilege to stand in line at a grocery full of food, with the dollars to purchase what we did.

2. Asking a question would have been helpful. Knowing what the cashier's circumstances were shed a whole new light on the situation. It's one of the 7 habits of highly effective people - "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

3. Every moment is a teachable moment. This dad missed it. I've missed my share to be sure. He had a chance to help his kids learn something positive and all they learned was something negative. Chances are they'll treat other people the same way.

"1st World Problem" might be my new phrase for a while. It's one of the most transforming pieces of going to the 3rd world on mission. But we can be On Mission at home too. Every day. Each moment.

How will you be On Mission today?

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

It's time for re-entry, the most perilous procedure of space travel…..and mission work. There is the chance that the new life birthed could be snuffed out in a moment, upon contact with the familiar and comfortable of the previous life. It is a previous life because life can never be the same again. You can try to put behind you the experiences and temporary inconveniences, the trouble and assault on the sense, but you can never do it completely. The Spirit's work in the hearts of those who "go" will always linger. The impact might lessen, if we let it. The memories might fade, if we aren't diligent.

I read Eugene Peterson's book by this blog title's name many years ago. At the moment it's tucked away in a box, stacked in my garage - box upon box - because there is no room for most in our present circumstances. Without going back to it, I'm not certain if he would appreciate my use of his title in this way.

Both the book and this post are about discipleship in an instant gratification culture. We can't hope to microwave a heart change in a week and do nothing in response upon return. When a clay pot is fired for the second time, the purpose is to mature the glaze and the clay, "meaning the stoneware is brought to a temperature at which it is no longer porous and the glaze achieves a glasslike finish." This is the work after re-entry from a trip. Choosing opportunities to help God's work in the heart create a glasslike finish so that when He looks at our lives we reflect only Him.

Here's the key I think I've discovered from my dozens of trips. FINISH.

A short-term trip is not about saying "I went" but rather "what I do now is because I went." The cycle of mission is incomplete without doing back home what you did while you were away. We began to discuss this on Sunday night in our devotional time. Ideas were floated - serve here - do this. We will serve. We will find ways to do here what we did there. Consider what any short-term team does:

  • they made time to serve
  • they spent money for the privilege of serving
  • they had fun all along the way
  • it wasn't so much about the work but more about the relationships and conversations
  • there were many inconveniences (to a 1st world life)
Plan now for times to serve or life will fill up your schedule with good fun that won't mature the glaze.

It's a long obedience in the same direction. Choose to keep life headed where the trip turned your attention.

Perhaps you have gone before but find yourself off the path. Choose to step back on. Do it today. It will probably be inconvenient and maybe uncomfortable but I've never met a discipleship path that isn't.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

3rd World Revelations

Going to Haiti brings an all out assault on the sense. Reinforced by my multiple returns, it was the smells of 1979 that I remember even to this day. It is the utter poverty staring you in the face and you wonder, often aloud: "How do people live this way?"

That question changed over the week with The Park Church team. "Why does the government allow people to live this way?"

It became a real question, perhaps THE question, when the team saw the new Olympic training center on the way to build the house. It makes one wonder about priorities. (I did a little research and found the center is one of several being built in developing countries, a project of the IOC, not Haiti).

But the area in which we are buiding, Bon Repos, is where the government has moved a large number of earthquake refugees, out away from the city. They are now the poorest of the poor in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

It begs the question about your own priorities when your senses are assaulted and your eyes are forced to view the imbalance day after day.

So often the team has asked: "Where do you start?" And that is the question.

In 2003 I started something called The Live Simply Project, a way to help more people in the 1st world make a difference in the 3rd world. It's a practical way to provide some detachment from our 1st world frustrations and impact the 3rd world in significant ways. The concept is simple: Live More Simply So Others Might Simply Live. In everyday terms, at Christmas, spend less on yourself than before and give that portion to the poor of our world. Cut it in half. Go even further if you dare, touching the core of God's blessing to the truly generous.

Something I said at the beginning of Live Simply applies to this Haiti trip. "We can't solve all the problems of the world, but we can make a difference in one piece of the world and in that way we'll be changing our world." Change a life and you change a family and a community and a region, then a nation and finally touching the world. It works. I've seen it first hand.

It's not unlike making changes in our personal lives, you know, getting rid of habits that aren't helpful - reducing debt - practicing spiritual disciplines - spending more time with family. The way those changes happen is one at a time. Most people don't make the changes because they focus on the big picture. What I've learned is that if I'll change just one thing in one area, focusing on a smaller area, then it impacts my whole life. Pick just one.

Let me say it another way: When you ask, "Where do I start?" The answer is: "Choose something and start there." For Haiti: "Choose to do something personally, in one area, in one place and you'll make a difference in your world."

The government is corrupt - maybe not every individual but as a whole. We can't change that. We can change the life of a child.

Haven't been immersed in the 3rd world for a week or more? Try this to get an idea of the application of 3rd world revelations. It works for all of us:
  • track how many times you eat out and reduce is by 50% over the next month, give the rest to a mission in the 3rd world
  • cut your Christmas spending on yourself in half and send the rest to Haiti or some other country of your choice
  • send friends and family a note at Christmas and birthdays that reads something like: "This year I made a donation to ________ in your honor." Make the donation at least as much as you would have normally spent anyway.
  • take a mission vacation - take the dollars you would spend on a family vacation and divide it - go on the vacation and spend half your time and dollars serving somewhere during that same timeframe
  • eliminate your indebtedness so that you can have the flexibility to give and serve in greater ways
There are a hundred things you could do. The point is, do something. The assault of the 3rd world - even to someone who has been there 8 times as I have - can be overwhelming. The key is to choose something and concentrate there. Change a life and you change the world.

If you want my recommendation for a mission agency to donate through, take a look at One Mission Society. You can sponsor a child through Starfish Kids - or sponsor a Seminary Student @ Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Cap Haitien. Or choose some other project in the dozens of countries they serve around the world. Of course, here at home there is great need as well and I would never dissuade someone from doing what Jesus would do, whether here or around the world.

Want to go on a trip to Haiti or somewhere else God lays on your heart? Contact my friend Bill Evans @ OMS - 317-888-3333. You can hop on an already planned trip or create your own. The key is: DO SOMETHING.

If you're in the Maineville - Lebanon - Morrow area around Cincinnati and don't have a church home - come to The Park United Methodist Church this week to hear a few stories from some of the team. God has changed lives both there and here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Random Haiti

Random is a great word for Haiti. There's rich and poor next to each other. There's dirt and mud underneath pristine white dresses on Sundays. There are working cars and motorcycles passing broken cars and motorcycles. Driving is definitely random.

The main market, which has been the main market for decades would compare to us going to a Walmart. It's where you would find everything from food to clothing. It's the same market I visited with a team in 1979 but much has changed. The market area was flattened by the earthquake and now it's replaced, as was so much of the Capital, especially the Petionville area.

Quite a difference. Of course, I can't be certain of the exact location of each but I'm assured by life-long residents it is the same market location.

One of the things unique to the Caribbean (probably tropics) are falling fruit that can knock you out! On the Villa compound are both mango and bread fruit trees. They are around the pool area so you have to be careful where you put a chair or choose to stand for a conversation. On Tuesday morning while Robyn and I were waiting for our departure, I set up two chairs, carefully looking up to make sure the bread fruit wasn't going to transport me to the twilight zone. I went to get water from one of the coolers set up and hear the large leaves rustling with a fruit falling. BOOM! It lands on my chair! I moved again (smart guy that I am) and a few moment later while sitting down, another came crashing through the leaves, bouncing to a stop within arms reach.

The final piece of randomness came through this young man, Gregory Joseph. He met us at the Cap Haitien compound in 2007, spending a great deal of time with his friends, talking with the teens on the trip that year. One was my daughter, Kathryn. Long story short, Tuesday morning required a search for my passport as we couldn't locate it in the safe. It was found, having slipped inside one of the newer, thicker passports - mine being 8 years old. Gregory works in the office a few days each month. He recognized the name during the search. He has completed his high school education and is into business school. Gregory credited the conversation with that group of teens (long conversations each evening) as the catalyst to pursue his education. You just never know what random encounters God will use to grow people.
I'm excited to hear news from today's work. The team is back at the compound, no doubt enjoying a dip in the pool before dinner @ 6.

Always Only Good - #Haiti2014

Life is always full of potential possibilities for detours, delays and getting drafted to things you didn't expect (or sometimes sign up for). I've experienced my share of these on mission trips:
  • electricity that doesn't work
  • plumbing that plugs up
  • injuries that happen (I think every time I've been involved in a construction trip, I've hurt myself somehow, whether just some scratches or a nail through a boot into my foot)
  • sickness that occurs
  • projects planned that detour to a more pressing need
  • delayed planes
  • cancelled flight with a team of 26 headed home from Mexico
  • forgotten passports or birth certificates (in the old days)
Most of the complaints are related to 1st world conveniences - some expose a hidden selfishness or self-centeredness, or perhaps a need for control when things don't go as planned creating uncertainty in a heart that isn't settled on Who is in control.

Some are totally out of our control like cancelled or delayed flights or the sickness that comes along.

I once heard a speaker refer to the fact that some of the best and most pleasurable things in life happen when we're out of control. He listed a few and I had to agree. It was helpful in opening my eyes to the possibilities of the unknown when things don't go as I planned. I'm reminded of a quote: "If you want to see God laugh, tell Him your plans."

I'm writing on the plane from Port-au-Prince (PAP) to Miami and then onto Columbus. Robyn is not well and we're getting her home. She didn't like that I came along but OMS protocol says no one leaves unaccompanied and I couldn't agree more. "God will do something great with this," I said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

Many times I've mentioned my highly scientifict, deeply theological method for understanding God's will for my life. Are you sitting down? Pay Attention! That's it. We're just travelers on a journey through this life with someone else at the helm. Pay attention to the people you come in touch with and the circumstances that surround you, to the gifts and talents you're given and to the experiences of your life.

Jumla was our driver to the airport, also picking us up on our arrival. He is a believer and so we had a chance to talk as he wove in between cars, and drove like any other Haitian, basically without regard to road markings. He was laughing and praising God when I asked if his home was crushed in the earthquake. "No," he said. "But every other home around me was." He gave thanks to God for the circumstances (while in no way saying God was with Him more than his neighbors). I was encouraged by his faith.

In the PAP airport we sat at a table with 4 men from New Brunswick, Canada. One has been 14 times to Haiti, to one of two orphanages supported by his church. He's 79 years old and when I thanked him for what he's doing with what he's given he teared up, visibly moved, a humble man who obviously loves The Lord.

Two of the men were from that church and two from two others. As we shared our connections and experiences to Haiti and beyond, I mentioned Estonia. Terry has a connection with a man who runs a mission in Estonia. We exchanged that information. Then Athletes in Action came up and Terry knows a guy in New Brunswick who connects with AIA through his own ministry. I got that information, saying, "I don't believe in chance meetings. This is a God thing." I was paying attention.

On the plane we were surrounded by people from the states - a young lady heading home to Minneapolis after 5 weeks in a place I'd never heard of. She chose it and the organization because there are only 2 agencies serving the village. She is on her way to medical school in the Fall and wanted to take this summer to serve, planning to return.

5 college age students from Mt. Carmel in Cincinnati and a team from Mansfield, OH. All of them with that bug for missions, for serving outside the comfort zone. One young man obviously enthralled with a young lady (and she with him) was on his first trip - she on her 5th. Whatever it takes, The Lord will use!!!

God never wastes an experience. God always redeems what He allows. Part of the fun in life is watching for just how He will do those things. I don't do that perfectly well by any means. I can get easily frustrated by unwanted and unexpected situations.

If your plans have been derailed by sickness, keep an eye out. God will do something with it.

Ever been betrayed? God has for some reason allowed it. It could be the most fun of your life to be part of His redemptive process.

Found yourself in unfamiliar surroundings? Look for signs that He is working, because He is.

Keep an eye out, God is working.

When circumstances put us on a detour, an unplanned delay of some sort, we're presented with a choice of obsessing on the event, frustrated by the change - or focused on God who "works in all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

The detour could be a whole new path in life. It could bring about new relationships with new endings. The unexpected could come about by the selfish acts of sinful man or through personal mistakes and unwise choices. It doesn't matter how - it does matter Who is in control.

I don't know why God allows everything. I don't know why God causes some things. I don't know why God doesn't stop some things. And I guess that's the foundation of how to follows Romans 8:28 - I don't know it all, I can't see the big picture but I can trust the heart of God.

So whether sinful man or stupid choices on my part or stuff just happens because I live in an imperfect world populated by imperfect humans, I can believe in good things coming from it because of His heart and character. He is always good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's Another Haiti

The workday has begun again for the team - most of the team. One member is still sick so two are flying out today with the prayers of The Park Church, OMS and the team remaining here.

The first day on the job site is summed up with these words: adorable kids, wonderful breeze, sunburn even with sunscreen, new nickname for Joe Dooley (Lobster Boy). Seems that most everyone missed the right nail at least once while
assembling trusses. But something makes you forget the pain - cute kids with big smiles loving the attention and enjoying the enveloping arms of visitors, who are taken aback by the little surrounding them that leads to happiness.

Coming to Haiti isn't about going home full of guilt about what you have. It's different for everyone but at some level it's about...

- realizing stuff doesn't make you happy
- understanding most of your complaints in life are about 1st world problems (like standing in line at a grocery store full of good)
- deciding that it's not about what you have but what you'll do with what you have that brings meaning and a smile to life

Last night we read in Colossians 3 about what to put off and what to put on, what to put to death (crucified life) and what to make sure lives in our lives. I asked the team a question: "what is the one thing that you could get rid of - stop doing - that would make a difference in your life?" There was a loud thinking silence. God is speaking. We are listening.

Short-term missions can be a not so good thing sometimes but mostly when we think the mission experience ends when we leave. For me the mission is complete only when we do back home
what we did here - sacrificial service that is inconvenient, perhaps unconventional, and isn't necessarily comfortable. I'm not suggesting flagulation mind you. I'm suggesting that discipleship isn't always comfortable or convenient or conventional.

We talked for a bit about what we could do back home. A few ideas were tossed around. We'll see when we meet for a wrap up time after returning. It's a chance for team to change a church (not that it's not already a really good church but spiritual growth and impact is God's goal). And in changing a church we will transform families and therefore neighborhoods and places of business, eventually touching a community and then our world.

I can't tell you how proud I am to be called Pastor @ The Park Church. A team of 16 from a church that saw more than half it's attendance go off to start a different church on their own. It says something when people are learning, attendance is growing, per capita giving has increased and total giving is creeping toward record highs; when gaps are filled by willing servants and people want to know "Where are we going to serve next?"

There is a video of the team's departure this morning posted on the church website "" - lots of photos can be seen in Joseph Dooley's Facebook page.

Thank you to each of you who helped us get here, have prayed for us along the way and are anticipating our arrival home. The stories will transform you as they are shared from a transformed heart.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Divide

There's a divide here in Haiti and it can easily be missed. Well, in some places in can be. Today I'm sitting at the Villa while the team is out working. I'm not feeling great (first experience in 35+ mission trips) and hope after a restful day to regain some energy, I'll join in the work for the next days - although it will be less work than normal with lots of breaks.

This is my view for the day and it's deceptive. I've sat here in previous days but for moments. It could be mistaken for a caribbean paradise if you don't look closely. That big tree to the right of the umbrella is full of delicious mangos. The water in the pool is refreshing. The tropical flowers and especially, just on the left edge of the photo, is a beautiful bougainvellia (I think). Under the blue canopy is a drink cooler with refreshing coke, sprite and a local flavor. Water coolers surround us with refreshing, cold water. Palm trees speak of a tropical paradise.

But look closely, just above the blue canopy, and you'll see the divide. We're surrounded by it on all sides. It's there to keep what's out out. This morning we were treated to a plume of smoke from burning trash, just over that blue canopy - on the outside. It's a brutal world outside these walls.

I'd like to be here, sitting beside this pool, with a rum & coke. I'd prefer a little umbrella in my drink and a clear view of the Caribbean blue waters.

Last night we talked about discipleship - if we're truly crucified with Christ and it is Christ living in us and no longer we for ourselves, then what are the practical implications? It ultimately comes down to choices - will I serve me and what I want or will I serve Him and follow His call? And I've heard it all over this quarter century of church leadership.

"It used to be this way and that's what we need to do again."

"I want to pick and choose what I do here and I don't like doing that thing."

"I just didn't feel like getting up today."

"Another church had something better today so I went there."

Discipleship is about serving others and not ourselves. What we find, I said last night, is that when we give up that which we don't want to for the thing we know God is calling us to, we discover that what we gain is far better than what we feared giving up.

We're called to cross the divide rather than stay where we want, feeding our own desires in exchange for His call. Leadership, for instance, is all about the ones we serve, not about us. My life is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3) - my past is hidden away - my present is about serving Him - my future has an already promised destination. My position is as if I'm already seated with Him. In my present condition, God asks me to trust Him to grow my heart and life, bringing my position and condition closer together. That requires discipleship. Saying yes to Him which means saying no to some other things. In discipleship we can't have it both ways. But, I'll say it again, that which we gain is far greater than that which we feared giving up.

Are you a ship enjoying the harbor rather than the open seas you were designed for? What is the name of the tropical pool you would like to lounge by rather than crossing the divide into discipleship? What step will you take to begin today?

Here's to another day tomorrow, an opportunity to grow the condition of my heart to match the position of my eternity.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday June 8

Another day in Haiti means another day of learning - seeing - listening - experiencing - connecting - serving. From church this morning which was long and hot with marvelous singing, cute kids, and a difficult to hear translation that, well, made for a long morning BUT (by the way "but" is the most powerful word in Scripture when followed by "God") GOD showed up. The Pastor was engaging to the congregation so I know they were learning. God showed up in that we got to appreciate worshipping the same God who transcends culture. God showed up in the conversations it created. And of course I was pleased to hear that people would never again complain about the length of my prayers!

A wonderful lunch buffet where we met a medical team from NY followed our worship. The country is full of missionaries. There is so much need.

Most of the team traveled up some of the hill behind the Villa to an orphanage. That's where hearts are stolen and you leave a piece of yourself in Haiti. There are photos being posted on FB pages and certainly many to see when we return. Children are so free with their love. They are unashamed - not worrying about how they look or present themselves. They simply love you and enjoy life.

Tonight we begin to look at the opening verses of Colossians 3. Following our discussion of grace last night it's appropriate to talk about our lives being "hidden with Christ." So much of our lives are spent trying to impress others - to present ourselves as someone we are not (like when we say we're "good" when we're really not). We are not in need of masks because our lives are hidden with Christ. He presents us blameless - righteous - clean. We have no need to present ourselves otherwise.

Continue praying for the team. One of the adults is feeling 100% better, having not gone to church with us today. And now I am not 100% and probably will not join the team tomorrow. Better to rest and be ready for the next days. Bon Repos is only 7 miles away which translates to 90 minutes or more in the truck. Not a place to get sick. Everyone else is physically well and coming together as a team. The sharing goes deeper and deeper as we move through our days together. These coming days are when teams really learn and grow. This is the life change stuff. Keep the prayers coming.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Learning Day

Today was a learning day, a day spend putting a context to the circumstances surrounding us. From the pictures it could look similar to some vacations but let me assure you that it's anything but.

Today was about understanding the people we at here to serve. "Where do you begin," was one question asked. Those in the conversation soon realized that because the basic needs for everyday have to be met each and every day that there's no room for thinking or acting beyond.

It's one big reason I love partnering with OMS. They are working on meeting those needs through their network of churches. Through Starfish Kids they're trying to change a generation that can lead later and lead from a spiritual foundation. They're building homes and meeting some basic needs in order to provide the margin to hear the Gospel. That's what we're doing here and it became very clear today.

The Park Church can be proud of the teens you helped send here. The questions have been deep and thoughtful already. They are thinking and considering "What does this mean for my life?"

Tonight we consider this scripture: "If righteousness could be gained through the law then Christ died for nothing." Galatians 2:21. Jesus died for nothing if we can earn our way to a right relationship with God by being good and doing good things. But if we can't earn it and we need Jesus, what are the implications for our everyday lives? What about our work here? What about our relationship with the Haitians we meet and the family whose home we will build?

Grace is a wonderful and terribly troubling thing all at once. For people who have nothing to give back we get to pour on some grace this week.

Sunday we head to church (probably 2 hours long), enjoy a wonderful lunch and then prepare for a difficult, exhausting and awesome week of work.

Thanks for your prayers. 

Saturday morning June 7th

 It's Saturday morning - we've finished breakfast and are sitting by the pool. Yes, there is a pool. For some reason I can't get the blog post I wrote to copy over to Blogger. Still working on it for yesterday's.

Today we're off to a Baptist Mission in the hills - up a mountain - where we'll get to spend time with some orphans, learn about the culture and see some amazing views.

Seems that everyone slept well last night. The older guys (that would include me) were the last ones up. I forgot that Haiti doesn't follow daylight savings so there was an hour difference - BUT - OMS follows U.S. time so teams don't have to figure it out. OOPS! 

Some highlights:
- A long day of delays with lots of conversation, card playing and sleeping on planes
- craziness in the airport with getting all our bags and finding our way out
- quiet vans on the hour long drive here - that's what it does to you your first time here
- good food waiting for us when we finally arrived
- great devotional time last night
- meeting the team leaving Sunday morning (from West Chester)
- meeting Tony and his granddaughter Taylor who are joining our group for the week
- finally getting to sleep after a long, hot, hard day

More soon I hope

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Back to Haiti

This week marks a new era, a new chapter, full of new possibilities in my life. First is I get to introduce a new church to what I consider my 2nd country, Haiti. A team of 16 of us is about to head off for a week of work for a family still displaced by the horrendous 2010 earthquake. We'll be in a place I've never been, doing work I've never done there, with a team of people made up of 14 who have never been out of the country on a mission trip. That all creates for an exciting time full of unanticipated wonder and grace, the gaps filled in by God's Spirit.

Short-term mission trips, I believe, are a crucial central piece to any effective discipleship strategy. 

1 - Creates Unbalance - just as our physical bodies benefit from off-balance exercise using exercise balls, a variety of core work lifting legs and arms to create greater strength; so our spiritual lives benefit from being thrown off balance. Both physically and spiritually it's something we have to deliberately choose. Spiritually it strengthens us.

2. Opens us to a new perspective - sometimes people complain that there is so much to do right here so why go so far away? What I find is that it is often necessary to get out of our comfort zone, into unfamiliar territory, that opens our eyes to the things right in front of us back home. Missions is also not complete until you do at home what you did while you were away.

3. Fulfills the call of Jesus - in Acts 1:8 Jesus gave the disciples then and us now a clear map of where we were to be His hands and feet - Jerusalem (at home) - Judea (surrounding region) - Samaria (a place we wouldn't normally go) - ends of the earth (just in case we were confused about how far). It's never an either or but rather a both and answer to should I stay or should I go. YES!
One Mission Society has had a footprint in Haiti for some 65 years now, but this work of Homes 4 Haiti is new, vibrant and doing some practical work with immediate results. I haven't been to Port-au-Prince (except through the airport once) since 1979. There have been dramatic changes, not the least of which is the 2010 earthquake.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates (which I hope are daily).