Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I just couldn't stay in my chair.. she needed me.

I had just prayed with the girls before they went to bed and came out of their room to pick up around the house.  I came back to my laptop to do some work and heard pages turning in the girls' room.  If it wasn't already way past the time she needed to sleep I would have let her read some more, but I walked in and asked for Kenni's flashlight and told her to put her book away.  I wasn't harsh and spoke softly, but I was direct and I guess that combined with her feeling ashamed for being "caught" (good grief, it was only reading, right?... I supposed I should be glad she was trying to get in another chapter before her eyes fell shut.)  Anyway... she put her book in between the mattress and bed frame and hung her head.  I consoled her again... told her I loved her and said that she needed to get to sleep. 

Not five minutes later I was at my desk doing some work and heard her crying... it wasn't just weepy tears... it was that sobbing sound down in her gut.  For just a moment i thought... I'll talk to her in the morning... she'll be ok.  I knew she was tired and I knew we'd talk about it later... I sat at my desk thinking she'll be ok...  but I just couldn't stay in my chair.  I went back in her room... I didn't need to say anymore than I already did, but just hugged her while she sobbed... she was embarrassed and tired... I knew she didn't want to disappoint me... I just needed her to know that I love her and that I will love and protect her with all my heart no matter what.

Dads: I'm not perfect either... but there's too much at stake in our little girls lives for us not to storm the gates for them every day.  If we don't love and lead them well... they will look in futility for some other guy to fill that role... Guys: no other guy can do your job as, DAD.  YOU have to do it.  If you don't do ANYTHING else in life... do that job right. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Aiming for Extraordinary

In light of the state of our nation, our status with the rest of the world, the priorities our culture deems as most important, in the midst of a culture that encourages thoughtless debt, our increasingly litigious society in a country filled with unethical businesses and politicians (on both sides of the isle) -- all being watched by generation of adolescents that will bear the weight of the choices that the "mature" make today... I'd like to encourage fellow parents with the following thoughts:

If you are self motivated and pursued significant steps in your career or just with life in general -train your kids... challenge them to do the same. They won't learn it by spectating. Don't allow them to sit on the couch for hours at a time while you "provide the life you've always wanted for them." If you aren't intentional, if you don't hold them accountable, they won't get it... it's harder, but it's worth it.

I do not believe I have all the answers...and I don't believe that the specific direction that my wife and I are leading our family will achieve perfect results. I'm terribly flawed and am incredibly appreciative of the wisdom shared by those that help to refine my life. However, after seeing so much potential be wasted... I refuse to take the easy route.

Our previous generations have had the best intentions to provide "a better life" for their children.. the only problem is that we've created a generation of those who don't understand the value of dollar, the hard work that goes into it, and the struggle that is required to achieve the goals and milestones to gain the wisdom and maturity to know how valuable that process its. don't settle for what everyone else claims is acceptable... the last I checked... Status Quo didn't achieve extraordinary.

What changes do you need to make personally?
What changes will you make with your family time? 
What are the goals you're pursuing with your kids? 
What will achieving those goals produce... really?
We're on a relentless pursuit... and we'd love to learn from you... how are you leading your kids to be exceptional?

What are you willing to change to pursue extraordinary?  

Are you with us?

(See: Dt. 6:6-9, Joshua 24:15, Rom. 12:1-2, Heb. 4:12, 1Cor. 9:24-25, Heb. 12:1-2,)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coffee with The Lord

I am always refreshed by my time alone with God.  It's often difficult for me to clear my mind and not feel pressed to work on something else- but I am always refreshed by my time with him.
Reading today: Acts 13-16

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Miraculous Mission, by way of the Dungeon

Acts 12:1-11 shares the account of what Peter believed would be his final day. Peter must have been certain of His death. He may have had a certain confidence about it... but even though he was convinced of God's faithfulness, he had to have been anxious too.  Who'd blame him?! Herod had just executed James - one of Peter's closest friends and the reaction of the Jews was so great that Herod decided to capitalize on another popularity boost. Knowing something of Peter's personality, he probably prayed and shared The Gospel with his guards, believing that this time would be his last opportunity to preach the Word.

1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen." 

The rest of the story shares how Peter found himself alone on the city street after the Angel left him.  (Almost as if to say, "Ok you're free, don't just stand there... you've got more work to do!")  So Peter strolls over to a friends house and knocks on the door. (this next part is a riot....)  Peter knocks on the door of the home where all his friends are praying for his release.  When the servant girl answers the door and sees him, then she runs back -leaving Peter still outside the gate - and interrupts the prayer time to tell everyone that their friend is standing at the door - but they don't believe her!  Incensed, they all probably return to their knees to continue with their prayer.  However, they had a very different reaction when moments later, Peter is standing next to the servant girl in their living room.

All his friends were "astonished".  Peter quieted them, and "described how the Lord had brought him out of prison".  When he was done, he asked them to pass his words on to James (1/2 brother of Jesus) and he left... "for another place" and continued another 25 years of incredible ministry!

We have to trust that while we're in the Dungeon, God still has a Miraculous Mission ahead.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A funeral for a 2yr old friend

The last several days my heart has been heavy... Some close friends of mine have a little boy that just lost a long hard battle to Neuroblastoma Brain cancer.

He was diagnosed at 9months old and endured 9 arduous months of the most aggressive chemotherapy treatments available.  My initial contact with them was through my work with a local mentoring program supported through our community YMCA.  So the 12yr old brother and I have been able to spend some time together talking about life and how to navigate through it well.  The Mom has also become a dear friend and Amy and all my kids have grown to love this family too.  

The last week and a half has been the most difficult... I can't imagine the anguish that 'Mom' is feeling right now, but this little one was wrapped around my heart too.  In fact he reminded me a lot of TK when he was about 2yrs old too.  Crazy... 

It has been a blessing to be a part of this family's life and was honored to attend his memorial service as well.  It was held at a Mosque about 30mins from me.  I have never attended a Muslim funeral before but it was a powerful service, even as brief as it was.  The leader stood on a stage next to my 2year old little friend, who was carefully wrapped in brilliant white.  He laid on a metal framed stretcher placed next to his Daddy, who was standing - praying beside him.  

The gentleman leading the prayer service conducted what seemed to be a type of 'call and response' prayer. He faced an audience consisting of about 40 men and older boys standing shoulder to shoulder in 3 evenly distributed lines.  I sat in back and prayed on my own.  

The mother and her lady friends were with the children and girls in an adjacent room. When the prayer service was over there were 6 men who gently picked up the stretcher with this precious little boy and carried him gently out to a waiting van to take him to the burial site about 20 minutes north of where we were.

I have wrestled with this ordeal for a long time... it doesn't seem fair.
However, I know that God is in control of this entire situation and I am certain that He will continue to work powerfully through it.  

I am honored to be a part of this family's life and I look forward to the ensuing journey together with them.

Earlier today I listened to a podcast while I was running... it could not have been more specifically directed to my heart from The Lord.  This teaching on God's Miraculous Mercy given on 5/12/12  by Dr David Platt shares the heart of God for little children.  It was incredibly moving especially in this time of grief... but was immensely refreshing as well.

Later I'll write some of the insights that resonated with me most.  Meanwhile, I'd strongly encourage you to listen to it.  It will help you understand not only God's heart for young children, but for all of us.  It is one of the finest and clearest examples of the most foundational teaching of Jesus and why we need him so desperately.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Messy life

There's a lot going on these days.  Honestly, it's not that we've intentionally taken on too much or said "Yes" too often.  In fact, we've had to really make some tough decisions about where and with whom we spend our time.

I am well aware that if I spend too much time investing in others, then my studies suffer and ultimately my family suffers because I lose time and money and momentum if I don't focus on my studies.  So, I must say "NO" to many "good things".  I'm ok with that most of the time because I recognize that my family is no one else's responsibility.  No one else will be held accountable for them.  I will.

I'm certainly not perfect and when I find myself with an unhealthy attitude or doing something selfish, I snap out of it and get back in the game.

Amy is working hard.  She is a great nurse and loves her job.  She is challenged and loves the environment "most" of the time.  ;)  There is no one I would rather be on this adventure with, leading our four beautiful kids on this ridiculous route.  She works long shifts and needs to sleep so the weekends get hectic sometimes because it's hard for her to sleep if we're all home.  Maybe if our bedroom was further from the kitchen it might help, but... arghh...

Normally, my weekdays begin with breakfast, devotions with the kids, taking the kids to school, do my daily workout, then study, then pick up the kids after school, have dinner and either hang out with Amy before she leaves for work or I study some more.

Amy just began her 3days/week schedule so we're really excited about that.  She'll work about 4hrs less a week but it will make a huge difference in being able to be together as a family and the two of us since she'll now work 3 nights instead of 4.  We cherish that time together and that time is such a commodity these days.

So our frustration sets in when we're trying to "do life like Jesus" in the experiences and relationship interactions we have.  We're ok with interruptions and see them as Divinely Orchestrated teachable moments to process.  However, those interactions are messy.  They just are... life is messy.  Those messy things add to the schedule and shift our plan around.  We're trying hard to help our kids see the moments where God shows up and how we steward them well.  We don't do it right all the time, but frankly... as much as we value those moments and know that Jesus would respond to them too... we are having a hard time.  We have scaled back alot to focus on the most important things, but when push comes to shove in trying to work through the messy things extra support is needed.  We're beginning to think that we may need some extra support.  We don't know what that looks like yet... we just know that our families are not nearby and this time for us is difficult without them.

We feel called to this area of the country and don't feel called away, but we're wondering if what we're trying to accomplish is not doable without additional family support.  Praying for Wisdom and direction.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Running into oncoming traffic

It’s a long time runners’ protocol but while out exercising today I thought about the significance of running -on the shoulder - toward oncoming traffic.  While in college I met and began training regularly with pals Shannon Campbell, Troy Champney and Will Dorsett.  Our committed gaggle of friends comprised of those guys and other ragamuffins learning and practicing various martial art disciplines such as Filipino Kali, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Jujitsu to name a few.  I miss those times, but mostly miss the guys that made those experiences so rich. It wasn't all that well organized (like it is today) but we learned a lot from each other in the process.

Getting back to oncoming traffic…one of the most important lessons I learned in our training together is to move just slightly aside but toward the punch. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how close the oncoming right-cross comes to your head, if you bob, weave and “pass the strike” right past your nose you don’t get hit.  The problem arises when you panic and attempt to just back away because as you do so you remain in the direct path of the strike – thus you still end up with a broken nose.

While running today, I was not thinking about how close I could get to the oncoming cars (I don’t have a death-wish). However, if I run on the other side of the road I don’t have the same awareness if the cars are coming from behind me.  If a distracted driver came toward me from behind, it would be impossible to react quickly enough to avoid being hit.  The same is true in the ring – if a punch comes toward my head and I’m not fully engaged with what’s in front of me, I’m in trouble.  I have to know what dangers lie ahead–so I can respond accordingly.

In Acts 2 the followers of Jesus were gathered together from all over the region for Pentecost.   Suddenly the Holy Spirit rushed through their presence and they were miraculously able to communicate clearly with each other and they experienced a sense of community that they had not experienced before then.

As it happens still today, there were many who scoffed at them questioning their message and integrity.

However, the Apostles kept looking ahead, paying attention, and they engaged effectively.
Acts 2:14-40 records Peter’s response to the “oncoming traffic” and that message gives us the following things to remember when we encounter a situation like this.

1.       Keep your eyes and heart focused ahead – Be aware of where you need to engage. Don’t pass off your responsibility 

2.       Pay attention – Even though you may be looking in the right direction, doesn't always mean you’re paying close enough attention. We must be proactive. Many don’t realize that God has our best interest in mind and that passionately following Him puts us in the best place possible but it requires being proactive.  It’s hardly ever easy, but it’s best.  

3.       Engage – Peter communicates directly communicates the message and love and freedom through the exclusive work of Jesus Christ… and he communicates it even to those who pose a threat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heroes, My boys and Character.

I just saw The Amazing Spider Man with my boys tonight.  I was hoping for a good film and it exceeded my expectations.  Ash made it through about 2/3 of the film before he crawled up in my lap for a better view - then subsequently fell asleep.  However, TK was captivated by the entire experience.  If he had a real web-slinger, everyone sitting around us would have been tripping over lines of web all over the theater as they attempted to exit.  

I enjoyed the previous Spider Man series, but this one added another dimension of character (and dare I say a tad bit more credibility)... ok... I know... but for a superhero movie - they did a good job (even though there are no such things as giant lizards ripping apart NY Taxi Cabs).   

What's more, I appreciated the level of integrity that was portrayed in this film.  It's rare to have heroes that take seriously the attitude that goes with the line, "... with great power comes great responsibility."  

So, I guess it was ok that the boys hit their pillows tonight still loosely curling their ring and middle fingers against their palms, ready to fire off a line of web to rescue someone in need. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Breathe Deep

I recently saw this segment from 60 Minutes on Michael Phelps.

I love to swim, and I'm so glad my kids love to swim too. (It's been so great to coach Kenni in learning to swim the freestyle stroke recently. She's all excited to pass the swim test at camp next week so she can swim out to the deeper part of the lake with her friends.) I swam competitively in High School but was not good enough to go beyond that.  However, knowing something of the sport and the training required at the highest levels, I have a certain appreciation for the sport and it's competitors.

When I watched this piece, there were two significant elements that resonated with me greatly:

First, during the interview they talk about the specialized enclosure where Michael sleeps.  It's a transparent box-like enclosure that surrounds his bed in his room.  When inside, it simulates being in an environment with the same oxygen level at ~9000ft elevation.  So for the average person, being in that chamber would make it more difficult to breathe.  (ie get oxygen to your lungs, brain, muscles etc.) For Michael however, it conditions his body to acclimate to that oxygen level, so when he competes in an environment that is more oxygen rich - he has a greater advantage.

Second, in the teaser to the interview Anderson Cooper shares that the last few years has been the most difficult times of Phelps career.  *WHAT! Are you kidding?!*  He won more gold medals than any other swimmer in a single Olympics - IN HISTORY!  That's incredible!  However, as Michael talks about his life and experiences we begin to see that even as one of the greatest athletes in the world; arguably the best swimmers that has ever competed - cannot fulfill himself.

This makes me think about the Psalmist words...

For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  (Ps. 33:4-11)

Verse 6 basically says that God put life into our universe with His breath.  In other parts of Scripture the Holy Spirit is described as Breath or Wind...(ie Jn. 20:22)

It also makes me think about spending time with God more intentionally as well.  When I spend time with God I need to be in a space and time that I am alert and completely undistracted. 

(Mt. 6:6 says, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.)

I should have some kind of "enclosure" or "special place" or room where I am able to breathe in the enriched Breath of God, so when I find myself needing to be on my best game... that I will have a greater advantage to compete against temptation and sin that tries to bring me down.

How's your spiritual-breathing?    
Do you have a time and a place where you go to inhale the fresh life-giving breath of God and His Word?I really hope Michael comes to a point in his life where he realizes his significance in Christ as well. I'm stoked to watch him compete at the London Games, but.. then what?
If you don't currently have one, make a plan today to carve out regular time to "breathe in God" - deeply. He's the only one that can provide us significance, fulfillment and success beyond ourselves.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Updates on Go-Haiti

The following posts will provide you with some insight to our experiences together in our last several days in Haiti last summer.

I've intended to write earlier, but have had to put it on the back burner until now.  
However, since I've connected with Dr Franco over the last few weeks - I just had to share the exciting things that God has been doing with Go Haiti in Port Au Prince the last few months.  

I plan to write here more often from now on, so I look forward to our interaction together in the days to come.  That said, let me first share some quick updates and for additional details check:  

Recent Achievements at Go-Haiti: 

I will list more updates as I have them.  

The accounts of the ministry projects from last year are recorded in earlier posts, but the second week is when it all came together - at least most of the time.  So, the following posts are "snapshots" of those experiences and holy moments we were privileged to be a part of....

Hurricane Irene, Kaliko, and The Hike (Tuesday Aug 30, 2011)

There were just a handful of us left with the staff and the children on Tuesday morning.I believe the hiking team began their ridiculous 10-12mile hike up to an area in the mountains where Dr Franco was born.  I originally had planned to go with them and take Kendalyn with me, but Amy and I decided that it might be best for us as a family to spend some time together just being together.  

As you may know, Amy had just completed her BSN at Southern CT State University with 29 other students (four of whom were with us).  The program they graduated from was a full BSN crammed into one grueling year.  So, Amy had spent the previous two years in pre-requisite courses that she needed to be accepted to the nursing program in the first place.
When we arrived at Kaliko we were the ONLY ones in the entire resort.  As you may recall, there weren’t any sane travelers headed to Haiti during that week because Hurricane Irene was off the coast of Haiti and the weather was uncertain at best.  When the weather got better later that week (because Irene came to New England instead – how ironic!) more people came to Kaliko to swim and relax so our kids met several other children from Europe, different parts of the US and Haiti. 

Meanwhile, while we were relaxing at Kaliko, the Hiking Team lead by the fearless Jon Cooke.  They made it, but from what I heard later… there were several points that some on the trip wanted to quit because the rain was so terrible from the Hurricane’s peripheral storms, but each of them shared how meaningful the trip was and how blessed they were to meet so many people and to be able to teach God’s word to so many.  I’ve recently heard that Jon’s planning another hike and apparently this one might be twice as difficult.  If you’re interested, I’m sure you can get the details from him. 
We arrived back later that week in enough time to wash some more clothes and pack up to get ready for home.  However, what we learned was that because of all the cancelled flights due to the hurricane the earlier in the week, the entire air travel system in Haiti was now backed up so much that hundreds of people were waiting outside the airport for hours at a time just hoping to get on a flight back to the states.
To make a very long story short, the ten of us that had tickets to go home were able to finally get on our flight as originally scheduled, however, it took us 8 hours to travel about 100’ (no exaggeration) – navigating through all the lines and paperwork. 

All in all, it was probably the craziest thing we’ve done so far… but we’re already dreaming up more adventures to come in the next several months.  We don’t know when or where we're headed yet, but stay tuned.

The trip was incredibly valuable for our family for a few reasons –

First, Haiti is a wonderful place in many ways… and it is a hurting place in so many other ways.  We are so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve with the team we were with and to get a little bit better understanding of Haitian culture, expectations and how Haiti “works” in general.  That said, I am not going to go into any detail here, but as “in-need” as Haiti is… we are trying to discern how best to help.  We’re not sure what that looks like exactly yet.  We know that Dr Franco and GO Haiti have been woven into our lives through Divine orchestration, but we’re excited to see how God may help us refine what we do and how we serve while stewarding our time and resources in the best way possible.

Second, this was a great reconnaissance trip for us.  Amy and Sasha got the distinct privilege to go first in Jan. 2011, but I had never been.  So as we prepared to go all together in August there were so many things that a video presentation can’t tell you.  Haiti is unique and you can’t really grasp the experience, people, daily obstacles, daily victories, and needs until you spend time there.  So this was a great way to help us assess what our next steps to help, may be.

Third, I don’t know if we realized how powerful this trip would be for our whole family.  We have been “kicking around” the idea of serving together as a family for some time now… but until this opportunity surfaced we weren’t exactly sure what that might look like.  Honestly, we had several people –including close friends and even some family – discourage us from the thought of taking all of our kids and going to Haiti to serve together.  I know for sure that our friends and family want the best for us and want us to be safe and healthy – I know that what was shared came from the best of intentions.  However, Amy and I have come to a couple conclusions that are the biggest factors in leading our famly together. 
  1. What are the most important things to protect our kids from?  Why?
  2. What kind of people do we want our kids to be… Really?

I’ll write more on those two thoughts later… but our American culture (even The Church) spends a lot of time protecting our kids from a lot of things while managing their lives to go to just the right school with just the right academic record with just the right sports accolades… and look at the results.  In our minds, generally speaking they’re not all that great.  We’ve become an extremely “P.C.” and self-absorbed society, anxious for a bailout and stepping on others to get whatever we can for free. 

We want our kids to do great things… and while we will never “cattle chute” their every move… we will do everything in our power to give them opportunities that will stretch and challenge their bodies, minds and hearts to love, honor and serve God – and make a huge impact on their world – whatever that looks like and wherever that may take them. 

We don’t do it right all the time as parents…and there are dangers in life… but think about it… would you rather die after protecting yourself from the worlds’ greatest adventures… or die in the middle of one?  Until next time… 

Time To Process... (Mon. Aug 29, 2011)

Monday morning about 20 more people left in waves to head back to the airport to go home.  After everyone had packed up and gone, a few of us did some more cleaning up.  It was good to have some time alone by then… and I continued processing the experience.  

Another Great Worship Experience! (Sunday Aug 28, 2011)

The ride to and from church was pretty similar except we got another flat tire on a different bus – but then finally got to Church.  The worship was as powerful as we had experienced the week before and a huge lunch was waiting for us when we returned from Church.  The rest of the day was spent sharing stories and playing games together.

Kaliko, Bus and a walk to the Police Station (Sat. Aug. 27, 2011)

On Saturday morning over 30 of us piled in a bus and headed off to get some refreshment at the Kaliko Resort, about a two hour drive away.  Some of us were initially a bit reluctant to go to Kaliko because we wanted to focus all of our efforts on serving there at GO Haiti… We hadn’t come to Haiti to sit around the beach.  However, we recognized it would be good for us to relax and reflect on our experiences together. It was so good not only to rest our bodies, but to relax our minds and debrief our experiences together.  

We also got a chance to see more of the countryside and other gorgeous parts of Haiti that the western world has been so attracted to for the last several hundred years.
Later that day we piled back in the bus to make the trek back to the compound, and while I was half asleep sitting with Tariku on my lap, I felt what sounded like chunks of the road hitting the underside of the bus.  I didn’t think much of it at first but then realized that within minutes it was the back tire splitting apart.  Almost as soon as that thought came to me the driver pulled over to the side of the road.  We were still about a half an hour away and it was getting dark.

Since this was the end of the week and we had already experienced a myriad of obstacles like this throughout the week… we all laughed a lot… and started walking down the road toward the rural police station where we waited for another bus. 

Miraculously, the replacement bus came in record time and took us all back to our bunks.  I don’t think the screeching frogs bothered anyone that night.  

Finishing up and capturing memories (Fri Aug 26, 2011)

On Friday we began to finish up our projects and get in a few games of Ultimate Frisbee and soccer. 
Additionally, by Friday these three video segments were finalized and broadcast by our friend Sarah French and broadcast on CT FOX Channel 3.  She and our friend and Videographer, Dustin Schultz did a tremendous job telling the story of the GO Haiti ministry and communicating some of the areas’ greatest needs and how to help. 

Brute Wheelbarrow (Thur Aug. 25, 2011)

While the other projects had adequate support, I stumbled on another need.  They only had one wheelbarrow and it seemed to me that a second one would be helpful.  So I started looking around for some scrap wood to build one.  Since most of the wood was cut to build the remaining pieces of the bunk beds, I pieced together enough scraps to build a second wheel barrow.

The finished product however looks like something you might find in the middle ages.  It looks like a device Robin Hood might have used to cart around dead goats or fire wood.  It’s a little harder to push around than I had hoped, but it will definitely last. 

Earlier Thursday morning, several more helpers arrived to assist in the meal we would provide later that evening.  By dinner time, when we started bringing out the tables and pots of food, there were lots of people waiting outside the gate.  By the time we were ready to eat, there must have been 250 men women and children that came through the food line.  That meal together was one of the most memorable times for me – I think we all had a sense of reward and accomplishment that night… it was kind of a culmination of what we had been doing all week together, but in the middle of the meal it struck me that as great as we felt about providing food to those in need… there were many who may have only had that single meal all day… and maybe that single meal was going to last them for the next day or two.  

It was  a privilege to be a part of, but what hit me hardest was that in a matter of days we were going to be able to go home to clean water in our sinks and fresh food in our refrigerators.  It’s not fair.  That experience and  memory is branded on my mind and my heart forever, and I'll continue to consider ways to help and serve in a sustainable way … that doesn’t just enable people… or to propel me or other Americans toward “Superman-Complex”.  There has to be a better way for long term sustainable help… more on that later…

A Hospital with No Doctors or Nurses… and more farming. (Wed Aug. 24, 2011)

Several people including the Nurses and a few others went with Dr Franco to the Port Au Prince Hospital in the morning.  Sarah French and Dustin Schultz also went to capture video and as many pictures as possible. 

When they returned later that day they all were having a very difficult time putting words to what they’d seen- the conditions were unconscionable - but it was therapeutic to talk.  I don’t think they knew exactly how many patients were there, but they talked about maybe 10 or 12 individuals they’d met.  When they first arrived at the hospital, they learned that all the Doctors and Nurses were on strike and all the medical staff had left the hospital two months earlier after not being paid by the Haitian Government for months.

There were several patients who had been there since before the hospital staff went on strike – still lying in the hospital bed hoping for some attention.  At least some patients had family members bringing them food and water, but little help beyond that.  It was a very difficult experience for our entire team – so when they were able to provide some medical attention with some of the supplies they brought they did, but the needs were so great and a few patients required care beyond what they could provide at the time so they just made them as comfortable as possible.  I know that Dr. Franco has been back to that hospital since, but I don’t know if the conditions there have changed much or not. 

While Dr Franco and the others were visiting the hospital that day, the rest of us continued the farming projects and finishing the bunk beds. Amy’s sister, Michelle was a huge help on this trip.  Under her guidance, we were able to begin some fruit and vegetable plots next to the house.  Michelle shared her expertise she learned while farming similar soil types in Honduras. 

That garden had some tough soil, but Michelle’s help really paid off.  From my conversation with Dr Franco on 1/24/12, there are now many maturing fruits and vegetable plants that will help to independently sustain the children and staff at the orphanage! 

While the Clinic and VBS continued, Jerry, David, Jim and I finished 7 Bunk Bed sets and now almost all the kids have their own beds!

Preparations, Clinics, VBS, and Ultimate Frisbee! (Tues Aug 23, 2011)

The two or three days prior, some of the locals began hearing about the free clinics that would be offered … so by the time we finished breakfast, there were already 50-75 people gathered outside the gate – most of whom were mothers, children and the elderly.  The medical team was led by Dr Barnett (Nursing School Professor at Southern CT State Univ.) and Dr Franco supported by Graduate Nurses including Amy, Jon Kim, Ted and others. 

The Clinic and Vacation Bible School were able to begin simultaneously because many of the children who had come with their families to receive medical attention, also wanted to participate in VBS.  Kimberly Dominy and Terri Felgate did a phenomenal job with the VBS.  What a blessing to so many kids and their families! I have no idea how many kids participated, but it grew from 25 or so the first day to maybe close to 50 by the end of the week. 

What a beautiful thing to bring physical and spiritual healing to hundreds of lives that week!  While the VBS and Clinic work continued, the rest of us began to clear the farming plots with hand tools and cut down the weeds in another large area to create a playing field. 

We all worked hard the rest of the week but by the following day we had a full sized soccer field that later included soccer goals made of tree branches and volleyball netting.  We wrapped up the day playing the most competitive game of Ultimate Frisbee ever played in a thunderstorm!

In a Sauna attached to an Elephant with a Limp (Monday Aug 22, 2011)

Those of us that arrived the prior week spent a lot of it setting up the home to provide adequate space for beds and personal items for the team of 22 people that would arrive that day (8/22).  We had been stocking up on drinking water, cases of coke and fanta, and rigging up up mosquito nets.  We also rearranged 25 or 30 barrels of donated items that were stacked in the store room, and put them under a rigged up tent outside. 
The first few people arrived earlier in the day, but then an entire wave of people came in.  If you read my earlier post about coming in to the Port Au Prince Airport you’ll have a better mental picture of what kind of surprises we all encountered, but everyone arrived safely.  Once everyone was outside in the parking area, it was another entire expedition just getting the crew and the luggage to the bus parked ¼ mile away. 
The bus trip was like riding in an enclosed sauna loosely attached to the back of a slow moving elephant with a limp.  I can’t believe no one got sick… but really, it’s just another treasured memory of the whole experience.  I’m just glad we didn’t have to try to load 25 or so people with all 50 suitcases and additional 40+ personal bags into the tap taps.  We would have needed a convoy of those little trucks and we might still be waiting for people to arrive at the compound! 

Nonetheless..after everyone got unpacked and settled we went gathered together to discuss the desired plans for the week ahead.  As I vaguely recall, we titled the orientation classes something like:

Toilet Flushing 101
Drinking Water Rationing 101
Tips for Mealtimes 200, Finding Your Laundry 201 and
Hopeful Projects of the week 301

None of the rest of us were seasoned veterans by any means… however, I think we had several initially “shell-shocked noobs”… but they all adjusted quickly – they didn’t have any other choice. 

We also gave a class on how to near-miss the 4:50am crowing Rooster.  But no one passed that class – it wasn’t such a big deal though because it was already bright and sunny and in the Sticky mid-80’s by 5am anyhow, so everyone got up.  We started work as early as we could too, because by the time early afternoon rolled around, it was too hot to work much outside… we had to wait till the sun started to go down again.

Church:What a ride! (Sunday Aug 21, 2011)

Haitian roads have been in rough shape for a long time, but are in even worse condition after the Jan 2010 earthquake.  From my best guess, the church we attended is about 5-10 miles away, but the ride can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour (sometimes more depending on traffic jams or car trouble.)  Since everyone has to deal with the same spontaneous road hazards like overturned buses or trucks, broken down “Tap-Taps” (Haitian Taxis made of compact Isuzu pickup trucks) in the middle of the road, freight trucks parked to unload fruits and vegetables or just dodging the potholes… So, church just starts about the time everyone arrives.

Honestly, the worship environment there is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced here in the U.S.  It is an incredible experience to worship God especially with those in the developing world.  The passion and atmosphere is set by the powerful Brooklyn Tabernacle Church leadership team that planted the church, but is further attributed to the Haitian Pastoral team that has taken the church to the next level.
There is something that happens deep in your soul when you truly recognize that you are desperate for God.  Here in the States, we have so many things that cloud our vision and prevent us from such a submissive and humble posture – although Haiti has their own selfishness – many of the distractions we have here in the US are not as prevalent there and permit your heart to experience God’s greatness and express it back to Him!    

Ps. 103:1-5 says,
Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Regardless of my location or circumstance, I pray that I will always retain the sense of desperation and dependence on God that I experienced while worshipping with such a precious community of people there.  By the time we all made it back from Church in an assortment of TapTaps and a borrowed SUV, we ate lunch, and rested the rest of the day.  It was hot… but peaceful.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Colt, in the Mosaic

Over the last year, I have been reading chronologically through The Word and I have been enjoying the new lessons and applications I’ve been gleaning. I read Mark 11 today and I was really struck by this passage as it pertains to my place in life and studies right now. I hope you will be encouraged by this passage as much as I have been.

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples,2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'"4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it,5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?"6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.” (Mark 11:1-6) NIV

I don’t know about you, but while I have great expectations for how The Lord will use my Seminary Studies in the future, I’m not exactly sure what that will look like.  I am open to a few different types of opportunities due to where my strengths and passions lie, but I don’t exactly know what kind of role that will be.  So, as I have been thinking and praying and seeking the wisdom of seasoned veterans, I was encouraged by the following observations in this somewhat strange passage:
1. Jesus sees gifts in us that may not recognize yet (v.2-3)
2. Jesus does not give us all the reasons why he makes a specific request, but he always reveals that in his time. (v2-3
3. Jesus knows that we might not feel prepared to use those gifts when we’re called upon to do so. (v 3)
4. Jesus still wants to use what we have for his purpose anyway, so be obedient. (v4)
5. Outsiders may question and even contest the mission that Jesus has given us, but don’t quit. (v5-6)

I wonder if the disciples had to explain the reason for the seemingly strange request.  Or, I wonder how the owner of the colt felt when he learned that his colt was gone and  I wonder if he realized how important his “offering” was and what such a significant role it would play in the kingdom?  
God doesn’t reveal it all at once to us.  He gives us a few pieces at a time for us to steward, but in time we begin to see the beautiful mosaic he’s creating.

Coming soon...

I still have some remaining posts to publish about our final week of Haiti last summer.  I just have been unable to allocate time to writing here.  However, I plan to do more this summer and look forward to your feedback, thoughts, critique and reflections.  more soon...