Tag: Haitian

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.

Adventure Continues

On September 23, I will again be traveling to Bayonnais, Haiti. This trip was originally scheduled for earlier this month but was cancelled by Hurricane Irma. This is an unusual trip for me because I do not know what all I am going to be doing. Some of the people I was supposed to meet are not available now because of my altered schedule. Other efforts have been delayed and may be impossible this time. Someone asked me this morning, “then why are you going?” Because I need to go!

Only a portion of short term missions is about the nation and people we are visiting. Certainly that is the main motive and reason for going. However, Haiti does things to me and in me that can happen no where else! These include physical, mental, and spiritual changes.

Physically, I am more active in Haiti. That may not seem like much to some, but for me it is both challenging and healthy. Being on my feet, in the heat, and without the need to sit behind this computer all day, I actually lose weight when I am there (in spite of Marie Claude’s awesome cooking!). I get exercise and breath fresh air. This in itself is small, but is certainly an asset to me.

Mentally, my visits to Haiti clear my mind. Forced to leave behind the worries and anxieties of life here, not to mention the mere pace of life in the US, I am able to focus more on what is important in my mind and thoughts. I am free to think about my family, my work, my friends, and all the tasks to which I am too close when I am stateside. Haiti gives me mental perspective, inspiration, and opens my mind to imagine and create new possibilities.

Spiritually, Haiti simply transforms me! I feel closer to God, more excited about what God is doing, and less distracted in my prayers. Living more simply in Haiti allows me more time with God alone, even while I am engaging others more actively. My devotions seem sweeter, my prayers more effective, and my soul is refreshed and made whole when I visit my second country!

Yes, my main goal is to work with Haitians to educate, equip, and empower them. However, I always feel like I get as much from them as they receive from me! Haiti, from the Taino word, ayiti, which means “mountainous place,” is for me a place of rest!

Putting the “GO” in the Great Commission

Putting the “GO” in the Great Commission

Having made trips to China, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and now Haiti, I am often asked, “Do these short term trips really accomplish anything?” Or I am asked, “It costs so much for you to take a team to Haiti (or wherever). Why not just raise the money you raise and then send that to Haiti?” I want to try and answer these two questions because I think they actually miss the point about why we do this.

First of all, yes, these trips do accomplish a great deal. The team that Tony Geinotta takes from Cape May county in New Jersey have made seven trips and are scheduled to be there again this coming October. Each time they complete a measurable task in terms of building. On my last trip with them in 2012, we completed the framework for the forms that allowed the next team to pour the entire ceiling for the first floor of the Center of Hope. This is how the teams work: One group may dig and pour only the foundations; The next assembles the walls using concrete block. Another team like ours, sets the forms and the last team pours the ceiling, which then  becomes the floor for the next level. Some might protest that it would be cheaper to just send the money and pay Haitians to do the work! This is true, but it would not accomplish the full task of these teams.

You see, the goal is not just to build a building or clear new farm land or even teach pastors and church leaders (something I usually do). This is only a part of the task and often not even the most important one. On all of these trips, we work right alongside Haitians. We get to know them, share some meals with them, even laugh and play with them (I learned on my first visit not to challenge the Haitians to a Dominoes tournament!). A team traveling to Bayonnais, where ICDM has their main campus, is likely to meet and play games with students from Institute Henri Christophe. We will meet and sometimes even help the teachers there. Our cooks are all Haitian as well. What happens by the end of one of these trips is that we have made friends with many of the Haitians. When the team returns home their vision of the world is changed because they now see these people as real, as human, and as friends. Although their attitude on the first trip may be, “I am going to do something for Haiti,” after their first trip it usually becomes, “I am going to do something with Haitians!” This may seem like a subtle difference in attitude, but it is an important difference. Now that they know these people, the reasons behind their work all change. Even the reasons for fund-raising will change. I remember the first trip with Tony’s team, we saw fund raising as primarily to pay for our trip. After that first trip, fund-raising was more about what was going to be done and who we were going to help on our next trip. The actual going leads to people coming home like the disciples after Jesus sent them out: Praising God and proclaiming, ‘even the demons obey our word.’ This goal of making friends and partners in Haiti is easily more important then the work we actually accomplish, although both are the result. However, there is still another reason to go.

When I took this team from New Jersey, there were numerous complaints by church leaders. Some thought we should be working directly on a United Methodist project and ICDM holds no denominational affiliation. Others felt that our fund raising would diminish the money given for current mission projects of the church. Still others thought that we needed to work at home before we went overseas to do missions. Here is why I still say we should go: 1) ICDM does not hold a denominational affiliation and this has given them the ability to work across many denominational and theological boundaries. In fact it allows them to work with (that “with” word again) other mission organizations and churches with far more flexibility and influence; 2) Instead of diminishing church funding for missions, this group actually increased the giving for missions supported by the church. This happened two ways. First, the persons who had gone on the trip found themselves more sensitive to and responsive to mission needs, whether local or overseas. Second, the group shifted their fund-raising to the community rather then from the church and then tithed all they raised to the church’s mission fund; 3) When Jesus said “go” it was to the whole world. Whether you read the Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:18-20 or Acts 1:4-8, the command is to go to the whole world, not in some sequential steps (home first, then the nations next door, and then the ends of the earth), but rather to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth, all at the same time.

In conclusion, I think every leader, particularly every pastor, should go on at least one foreign mission trip. We need to see the world through a wider lens and make friends with those whom we would help. My first trip to Haiti changed the direction of my life. Once I saw these people as God’s children, abused by their neighbors, ignored by the world, and yet joyful in their existence, I could not accept the idea that I could do nothing. So I keep going and taking new people with me. They come back transformed and as often as not lead transformation in their church back home. So who will go? Will you?

Answer the Call

Answer the Call

For almost as long as I have know him, my friend, Yvan Pierre, has tried to teach ┬áme 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!

How God Provides!

How God Provides!

I learned a lesson today in how God works behind the scenes to provide everything we need! One of the dearest ladies I know in Haiti, Marie Claude, asked me several years ago to find her a lens set for finding eyeglass prescriptions. I had no idea what one of these sets cost, but God had laid her request on my heart and I have worked ever since to respond. Several times people promised me a set, but then failed to deliver. I simply kept asking and kept hoping.

Two weeks ago, I had my annual eye exam with Dr. Schmidt. I mentioned the need and he said he would look into it. Due to the fact that my eyes had already been dilated, he could not get an accurate refraction so I had to go back today and see him again. After checking my eyes and writing my lens prescription, he said, “Wait here a minute and I will get you checked out.” A moment later he came into the exam room carrying a small suitcase size aluminum case. It was a brand new lens set with everything Marie Claude needs! He had mentioned my request to his wife, who is also an Optometrist, and she said, “Let’s just buy a set and give it to him.”

This made my day! I was disappointed that no one had met this need before and was discouraged that I would ever be able to provide for Marie Claude’s needs. You see, she too is an Optometrist and she cares for the eyes of all the children in the ICDM school as well as trying to do eye care in the community where she lives. With this set, she can determine accurate eyeglass prescriptions, plus it is portable enough for her to carry it anywhere and use. All the time I was waiting, God was working! When I was discouraged and ready to give up, he had the right person, the right tools, and the right timing to bring it all together. What a great God we serve!

Good Economics of Mission Giving

Good Economics of Mission Giving

I was originally going to post something about the need to give and support missions, which I think is critically important. Then while researching some other issues, I figured out that giving to missions actually makes sound economic sense. I live in Jacksonville, FL a city consolidated with Duval County to the point where the two are virtually one municipality. The cost of educating one public school student in this county is approximately $9,089. At ICDM’s Ecole Henri Christophe in Bayonnais, Haiti, we can educate a single child for about $480. What is more, this $480 includes not only the cost of their teachers and school, but also their uniforms, materials, and a daily meal. For this modest cost, the elementary school student will learn reading and writing (in French and English), math, science, and history. What is more, all of the their education is rooted in strong Christian teaching and discipleship.

Although there is probably much that could be improved in our educational systems here in the US, that is not my point. What I am trying to say is that our donations and giving dollars can accomplish much in a place like Haiti! Even more important is that fact there is no public school system in Haiti and without the mission schools and private schools, their would be little if any elementary or secondary education. Haiti is trying to build a strong educational system, but for now, these schools are an essential tool in educating, equipping, and empowering new generations of leaders and workers.

If you would like to sponsor a child, check out http://www.icdm.us and click on the “Sponsorship” link!

Leadership and Loyalty

Leadership and Loyalty

One of the most disappointing experiences I have had as a pastor is the disloyalty of folks who have at first spoken their commitment to my leadership, but then turn against me when the personal cost of discipleship becomes too great for them. So here are a few of my thoughts on leadership and loyalty.

First, loyalty begins in the life of the leader. Whether a pastor or CEO, the leader must be loyal to the institution or organization and especially to the folks who he or she expects to work with them in the organization. For a pastor or missionary, this means they must first of all be committed to the people they are called to serve and to any organization through which they are called to work. For me this is why I choose to work for and through International Christian Development Missions. This is not the only good organization that is working in Haiti and they care certainly not the only one I could work with. However, their vision and mission matches very closely with what I have discerned as God’s call on my life. What is more, I know the leaders in ICDM and am comfortable submitting to their guidance and direction for all that I do.

Second, loyalty is centered around human relationships. If I do not know people and allow them to know me, then my leadership will by default fail! If you are a pastor or missionary, this is even more critical as you cannot serve and love people you do not know and share life with. It is not enough for me (personally) to just visit Haiti on a regular basis. I must also know people who live there, work there, and have their families there. In spite of numerous trips to Haiti, I first began to sense my relational connection this past January. I met folks like Marcdala, Jean Noel, Abraham, Verlen, Gina, and Djimsy. Knowing these people and staying in contact with them when I am here in the states, is a key loyalty builder for me. The more I know them and love them, the more drawn to Haiti I become. And through them, I have the potential to meet and know even more people. With each expansion of my relationships comes an expansion of my loyalty to and love for the Haitian people.

Third, loyalty develops when people see that you are not going to walk out on them in the hard times. I have watched many congregations of the church who were on the verge of great growth simply disintegrate because a leader became overwhelmed and walked out too early. Again, this is loyalty of the leader for the people, but without it, there can be no expectation that others will follow and stick to the task. My prayer is that I am never guilty of this in my work in Haiti. My hope is that God has called me to this task for the remainder of my earthly life. There are challenges ahead and obstacles that I must overcome, but this is the journey and mission God has called me to. What can I do except follow?