Tag: support

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!

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!

Mission, Ministry, and Open Eyes

Mission, Ministry, and Open Eyes

This past April marked seven years since my first trip to Haiti. As I have reflected on my journeys to Haiti, one of the biggest changes I have noticed has been in my own perceptions. This seems to be the story of my professional life, but maybe that is OK. Having our perceptions changed and our assumptions challenged is the only way we can grow spiritually, mentally, and even emotionally. So here are some things I used to believe and the things that changed my mind.

First, I grew up in a pretty middle-class, working family in the USA. Nothing wrong with this, but the heritage of our Puritan ancestors still shapes our perceptions of wealth and poverty. We tend to think that if you work hard, you will get ahead. But another belief consequent of this is that if people are not getting ahead, they must not be working. I will admit that much of my view of those in poverty was shaped, at least unconsciously, by this belief. Believing that poverty is due to laziness or a lack of effort was the first belief that was challenged when I visited Haiti.

What are the facts? Well, if you belief Haiti is poor because her people are lazy or unmotivated, you are in for a surprise. People in Haiti work hard and for much longer hours than we are used to in the US. I have heard and seen women up at 3-3:30 in the morning getting ready and going to market. They load baskets and buckets in their head that weigh 40-50 pounds and then walk miles to the market in order to sell what they have, but what they need, and then turn around and head back home in the late evening. When we poured the first floor ceiling on the Center for Hope, we watched some of the local men mix concrete by hand on a sheet of plywood and carry five-gallon buckets up a ladder to complete the pour. No trucks or mixers, just hard work in a near tropical sun from sunup that morning until after dark that night. When we were taking breaks to catch our breath, they kept right on working! See this level of motivation and hard work, I had to change my mind about what caused poverty! It is not a lac k of hard work!

Second, I expected Haiti to be an ugly country. Although there are places that are dusty and unclean by American standards, the country is actually VERY beautiful! From green and blue vistas of the Caribbean ocean to the mountains that give Haiti her name, there is scenic beauty everywhere. But more than simple seeing beauty, I found the hearts and minds of the Haitian people to be beautiful as well! They are proud of their country and though they are painfully aware of what is missing in their nation, they want you to see it for yourself and know them as people. Every time I go I awake to the view of rich green mountains and the noise of people heading out to start their day. The smells of cooking fires as women start morning meals. And above all the sounds of the children gathering for school. Smiles, laughter, singing, and the glorious scents of the blooming flowers and trees!

Finally, I believed that Haitians were very different from me. There are some unique differences, but not the ones I imagined and nothing that should keep us separated! Haitians and Americans have both fought down a European power to gain their independence so we have a common heritage of liberty and independence. That alone was, and remains, a revelation to me! You see, we fought off the British while we were a prosperous collection of colonies who were well-education and already well-armed for our own defense. The Haitians fought off French rule as slaves with no education and few of the typical weapons their oppressors possessed. This battle for liberty continues in Haiti as they seek the recognition and equality of their neighbors. However, the pride they feel in their heritage is as strong as our own and should be celebrated with them!

What am I trying to say? Don’t go with preconceived ideas about what Haiti is and what you can do for them. Go instead with open eyes and be ready to experience a nation and a people who will astound you with their strength and beauty! Be willing to listen to them, walk with them, and see for yourself that they do not need you to do anything FOR them, but they would live to do everything WITH you!

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!

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?