Tag: creative

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

My adventure with Haiti has been spread over many years, most of them before I ever bothered to visit the country itself. When he was in first grade, my son Hunter raised money on his own to support the Church of God orphanage, the House of Blessing, in Petionville, Haiti. This was the start of my friendship with the nation and people of Haiti. Along the way I have learned some important lessons and I am sure I will continue to learn with each trip (by the way, this is one of the most important reasons for short-term mission trips: learning!). Here are a few lessons that came to my attention as I prepared our Haitian dinner last night at church.

First, God will send you helpers of all kinds. Welcome them, accept anything they can do. Then celebrate with them the accomplishments. As I began cooking yesterday, one of my wife’s teacher friends asked if she could help. All afternoon her and my wife helped me cook, chop peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and then get all the food to the church and the tables setup for dinner. Stephanie is a young teacher who made friends with my wife last year at the school where they both taught. She has come to be as close to me as a sister and although I did not expect her help yesterday, I think God sent her to be there when the work would have probably overwhelmed me. When I visited Haiti several weeks ago, I met some people who had simply been available at the right time when Yvan Pierre needed them. In any ministry, but especially in mission work, the ability to build a team from those who are available rather than those who are qualified is essential!

Second, real ministry is a relational and community event, not the work of just one person. Even when one person is the visionary and the leader of what happens, they are powerless to create anything meaningful. Partners are essential! Not just workers and far more than mere supporters. Partners capture the vision of what is going on and can discern their own contribution to that larger vision. The shared contributions of many people make the ministry or mission far more successful than one-man shows or single focus programs.

Third, sometimes the discernment of a call is not a single datable event, like God calling Samuel, but more of a progressive unfolding of God’s will for you. I think God usually has to work this second route with me! If he had showed me at 16 what I know now, I would have probably run like Jonah!Instead, God has led me step by step into my current ministry. My current ministry activity is thrilling in both the emotional and spiritual sense, it is challenging in so many ways! Only my life experience has prepared me for these challenges. So I have learned to be faithful wherever I find myself in ministry and not only perform well in that position, but also look for what God might be trying to teach me through the phases of my life.

On my most recent visit to Haiti, I spent a lot of mornings and evenings in prayer. One thing God revealed to me is that my essential calling is still to be a pastor. Although now I am more of a pastor to pastors, the nature of what I am and what I do is unchanged from my initial calling. With this in mind, I am learning to not only submit to God’s leading but also to submit to the human leaders he places in my life. God has sent me “Apostles” who can expose me to new pastoral opportunities and help me discern specific tasks. Just as I trust God, I must trust that in placing me under the authority of these individuals, he is placing me right where I need to be to accomplish his will through me.

Missions and Partners

From the very first time I spoke with Yvan Pierre about International Christian Development Missions, he talked about “partnering with ICDM.” I thought I understood his idea until I began working more closely with him in the mission. Having just returned from eight days in Bayonnais, I think I am finally understanding what Yvan really means. On this most recent trip, I got to sit down and talk with Yvan about his history and the vision God gave him. To see the way God used Yvan and spoke to him through the years is itself a wonderful experience. However, the things that come through almost every sentence he shared with me are the names of people who “partnered” with him and made the present mission possible. What was special about this narrative was the fact that this was not so much about partners and supporters here in the USA, but about the people of Haiti who helped him, guided him as he planned and worked, and opened doors when they needed to be opened. Yvan even spoke of the many people he had met across Haiti who helped him accomplish what God had called him to do in Bayonnais.

I even got to meet one of these early partners, Francois! This distinguished man was one of the first if not the first person to whom Yvan shared his dream and vision. Because of the influence God had given Francois in the community, the Institute Henri Christophe, our primary school, was able to open its doors to the children of Bayonnais. Francois himself has a wonderful testimony of how God led him to faith. As we sat and he shared his story with me, hos humility and graciousness were clear. He was so amazed at all God had done through the years without bragging the least about how God had used him, Francois, to make it all happen.

We also had a big visiting team there the first few days. Business men and women, housewives, and even some teen ladies. There partnership was profound both in terms of the contribution they made to our projects but also what they experienced on this trip. But they also became my friend!

What I learned from all this is that missions is not about one person or group traveling to another country and doing something for or to others. Rather, real missions is about building relationships with people and working together to bring to life a vision that is bigger than all of us could imagine. When we get to know people and when we see in them the gifts and calling of God, we can then work with them in creative and powerful ways. Partnership means relationship, and Christian missions must first of all be relational!

A Man, a Ministry, a Mission

A Man, a Ministry, a Mission

The church is often hesitant to focus on a person or personality out of fear that by doing so we diminish the emphasis on Jesus the Christ. It is at least partially true that we should fear this tendency, but at the same time, the history of the church is replete with persons and personalities that have shaped, renewed, or revolutionized the life of the church. From Paul the Apostle in the book of Acts, to folks like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Teresa and so many more. These men and and women are significant for what they did, but more importantly for who they were.

I write a lot about ICDM, the mission group I work with, but this mission is the dream and work of a very profound young man. This post is about him. I do not want to make him into a hero, but rather to highlight how much God can do through one person when we dare to listen and respond to God’s call.

Yvan Pierre is a trim, even small, man physically. At my height and size, I often feel like I am towering over him. But in his spirit, Yvan is a giant! Growing up in a Christian home in Bayonnais, Haiti, Yvan was taught early to seek God and to follow his leading at all costs. Almost three decades ago, Yvan had a vision of educating, equipping, and empowering the people of his community and his nation. Out of his vision has emerged the Institute Henri Christophe, the Portable Bible School, the School of Evangelism, a Pure Water project, ongoing programs to support pastors and their families,and even classes in Permaculture that help local farmers get the most out of their farms and resources. Now we have an emerging medical clinic and we are even working toward a trade school.

Why is Yvan so important to all these projects and programs? First, because Yvan let God use him to dream and imagine impossible things. There is nothing more powerful than someone who dares the impossible trusting God to provide and guide! My brother Yvan is just such a person!

Second, Yvan dares all of those who work for him to be just as visionary and just as trusting in God’s goodness to succeed. In my own life, I am working and living way beyond where I ever imagined because Yvan dared me to trust God to provide and dream big for the future.

Beyond vision, Yvan also is an encourager and cheerleader. In any venture that is moving this fast and growing this big there are many setbacks that discourage and dismay us. But at the very lowest times in our work, Yvan comes in with encouragement, hope, and a reminder that the outcome is in God’s hands, not ours.

Finally, Yvan is an awesome mentor and director to me because he does not seek or ask for the credit for what has happened. In fact, Yvan will probably be disturbed by what I am writing here. To him, all the glory and credit go to the Lord Jesus Christ! This alone makes him a man worthy of my loyalty.

I invite you all to come and meet my brother in Christ, Yvan Pierre. But more than meeting him, I invite you to come and see all that God has done through him and his team! You will be amazed, people will be blessed, and God will be glorified!

Answer the Call

Answer the Call

For almost as long as I have know him, my friend, Yvan Pierre, has tried to teach  me that when God calls, God provides. Being the hard-headed learner I am, I nod my head but really don’t get it. However, Yvan’s teaching is very biblical and is certainly the directions God gives to his followers. When Jesus sent out the disciples (Matthew 10:5014):

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts–no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. (Mat 10:5-14 NIV)

This lesson does not come easy to me or to many others it seems. As a pastor and leader, I have often been in the position of sharing a Godly vision only to be asked by church leaders, “How will we pay for it?” When I find myself asking the same question in response to God’s call and direction on my own life, I have to share a guilty smile! You see, this is fundamentally the wrong question! We should not be asking, ‘How will I/we pay for it?” but rather, “How can I best answer this call and trust God in my response?”

I a previous post I discussed the provision of a lens set for the Optometrist in Haiti. I was so busy trying to provide for this need, I missed the very real fact that God was providing. My job was to ask, seek, and knock until the door opened. I did not need to raise the money, make the purchase, or even shop for what was needed. Through Marie Claude’s request, God had called me to present the need. Even though I had to ask many times, seek in several places, and knock on as many doors, so to speak, God was providing in his own way and his perfect timing.

This leaves us with the clear direction to simply answer God’s call. Rather than worry about the funding or the supply, we need to just move forward. It is interesting to read the response of the Twelve when the returned from their assignment. They were amazed that people were healed and that even the demons withdrew at their command. They were provided for along the way, as they went, and as they answered the call and command of their Lord. This is a matter of trust! Since I struggle with this, I want to end this post with a prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to simply respond when you call; to answer when you lead; and to move when you direct. Let my heart trust in you even as my feet, hands and voice work at your command. I ask it all in your precious name, Amen!

Missions and Money

There are two myths about missions and money. The first is typical of people who live fairly prosperous lives and do not themselves do charity or mission work. This myth is that we can throw money at a problem and this will fix it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti literally billions of dollars were spent (or at least were claimed to be spent) in helping Haiti. But none of this money actually trickled into the local economy and many of the times when donations did reach the affected communities, the fact that food and supplies were handed out free wrecked the local businesses and left people in worst shape than before the “aid” was supplied. Some of the organizations providing “aid” required that supplies and equipment be purchased in the home country rather than in Haiti. This also deprived the local economy and businesses from taking part in their own recovery. I do not want to describe all the ways that throwing money at a problem does not work. If you want to see how that did not work in Haiti, I suggest Jonathan Katz’s book: The Big Truck That Went By.

Another myth about missions and money is that the church is the only organization we need to support missions. Many folks and churches think that by simply giving to missions they have met the demands of the Gospel and have no further responsibility. The problem is that there are far more needs than there are dollars and people to meet them. For the missionary, this means they have to seek funding to do the things they do among people who may already feel (correctly or mistakenly) that they are doing enough.

One answer for both missionaries and the churches that support them is to engage their communities in helping. The team  I worked with in Cape May Court House, NJ started an annual golf tournament as a fundraiser. Although it attracted some players from the church, most of the participants were not active church members. They got donors and sponsors from local businesses who donated door prizes and hole prizes. They even have two car dealers donate a car for two “hole-in-one” holes. If you get a hole in one on that hole, you win a car. This team has raise $20,000-30,000 each year since starting this tournament.

I would like to hear from some of my readers/followers about what you have done to support the work of short-term or full-time missionaries. What are some creative ways we can engage our communities and allow bigger projects to happen that feed, clothe, and support those in need as well as spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ?