How Can A Short-term Mission Team Help?

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Our 2015 mission team on Taino beach with Haitian vendors.

When I went on my first short-term mission trip with The Hands & Feet Project to Haiti three years ago, I had a pretty limited, naive notion of what I was going there to do. Honestly, I had no idea. I had, however, decided that whatever I was asked to do, I would take on as a task worth doing as a small step in helping the mission to develop and progress in caring for orphans, regardless of how big or small. To this day, I think that is a pretty solid perspective to go with.

That said, my family and I are now in the process of preparing a second team to go with the Hands & Feet Project to Haiti, and I feel like I’ve developed a clearer understanding of how we can be most helpful:

  1. Serve and honor the American missionaries who are there full-time and the Haitian staff of The Hands & Feet Project (this could mean anything from delivering needed supplies and comfort foods from home to tackling to-do list items listed by mission staff) while making a concerted effort to not add extra burdens to their load while we’re there
  2. Engage in a kind and respectful manner with all we come into contact with, whether locals in the community (a great opportunity to share the gospel) or kids at the Children’s Village
  3. Honor the long-term livelihood of those in the local community by engaging in dignified business transactions and, in doing so, directly confront the number one reason that children are orphaned in Haiti: lack of employment and the resources to care for a growing family.

As the blog post (from the Christian Alliance For Orphans) attached below explains, it is very rare that a short-term team of missionaries is going to change lives or conditions in a dramatic fashion over the course of one or two weeks. But, support given to full-time missionaries to meet their needs and refresh their spirits, while also engaging in dignified exchanges with local people, can have a very positive long-term impact on all involved.

It’s mid-summer in the US, and that means hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians are departing and returning from short-term missions around the world. Many of these teams visit orphans in developing nations, conduct Vacation Bible Schools, assist with building projects, and share the love of Christ with everyone they come to meet. For many…

via Building Local Capacity through Short Term Missions — Christian Alliance for Orphans

Our family has been saving for this trip to go serve, support, and encourage missionaries, the kids and staff of the Hands & Feet Project, and the local community of Grand Goave  for months and will continue to do so. But, with plane tickets, alone, likely to cost over $3500 for the four of us, we are praying that God will lead others to help us get there by donating directly to our family mission trip fundraising page. Can you help us get there?

Learn more about the work of The Hands & Feet Project.

Learn more about The Hands & Feet Project’s Haiti Made job creation initiative.

Self-preservation vs. Self-sacrifice

I remember watching a commercial on television around the time that my first child was born. It showed a couple of new parents playing with their newborn baby and it made a simple point: having a baby changes everything. I remember it, I think, because I realized then and there how true it was! As a newborn, our daughter was fully dependent upon us: diapers, feeding, clothing, changing crib linens, bathing, administering medicines, doctor check-ups, etc. Having a third person in our house that was so vulnerable and needed us so much changed everything. But, the fact that everything changed and that we had to establish a completely new way of living each day was a very worthwhile sacrifice for us because we loved our newborn little girl.

Not every newborn child is born into such welcoming families, though. I was born March 7th 1976 to a mother who, I am told, was mentally unfit to care for a child. Just like any other newborn, I was completely dependent and vulnerable. I would need a mother and a father to feed, clothe, bathe, and care for me. But, my biological mother would not be able to do that. For her, my birth didn’t quite change everything.

But, it did for Lorie Naylor. She knew my biological mother and took upon herself the responsibility of temporarily providing the twenty-four hour a day care that I needed as a newborn. For the next several weeks in Mrs. Naylor’s life, everything changed. My arrival, surely, wasn’t convenient for her, but, the preservation of her own comfort was not her top priority.

Finally, in June of 1976, I was permanently adopted by the couple that raised me. Mrs. Naylor, who became my Aunt Lorie, wasn’t able to keep me permanently, but, she was willing to stand in the gap until somebody could and it was her love and self-sacrifice that led to my placement with James and Cecilia Rockwell, sister of Lorie Naylor. Surely, the adoption process, the cost, and my dependency upon Jim and Ceil, my Mom and Dad, to meet all of my typical three-month-old needs were not convenient. But, the preservation of their own comfort and convenience was not their top priority and now, forty years later, I’m extremely grateful for the life they’ve enabled me to have.

Not every child’s story works out so well, though, because not every parent is willing, or sometimes even able, to sacrifice their own priorities and needs for the sake of others. Sometimes their own battle for survival, or at least, there own preference for self-preservation traps them and keeps them from being what the child that they brought into the world needs.

So what happens to those kids who are not cared for? Some do not survive. Some are abandoned. Some grow up just enough to be sold as child slaves into domestic servitude or into sex-trafficking. Some grow up in orphanages that may or may not provide the care that they need and others may end up in foster care. But, because adults have failed to recognize the needs of vulnerable children, or have simply found the prospect of contributing to their care to be too inconvenient or too much of  a threat to their own comfortable lifestyle, many unwanted children are never given the chance they deserve to live and reach their full potential.

The question is: Why in a world with so many Christians are there so many children without families? Why are their so many kids who don’t have adequate care — whether confined to poor-quality orphanages, trapped in abusive circumstances, or simply not ever being able to enjoy and benefit from the blessings of a loving, forever family by the time their childhood years have slipped away?

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A few of the beautiful kids that live at the Grand Goave Children’s Village of The Hands & Feet Project in Haiti

Wasn’t it Jesus, himself, who put forth the notion in Galatians 5:14 that we should love our neighbors as ourselves? In Matthew 25, Jesus highlighted multiple caring gestures born out of concern for those in need that touch God’s heart when he said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ God’s desire that we, as Christians, ditch self-preservation in favor of self-sacrifice is affirmed again in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

In far too many parts of scripture to share with you here, the bible states again and again that we should seek out and serve the vulnerable among us. This means the elderly who can’t care for themselves anymore. This means the hungry and the homeless that you see stuck outside with their meager belongings on a cold winter day. This means the kids that walk into public school classrooms each day who come from rough homes with empty stomachs, dirty clothes, and the mental burden of having only broken homes to return to. This means the refugees that enter our country, having lost everything in their war-torn home-countries, hoping and praying for the chance for a new start. This means the children in your home county whose parents have been locked up due to drug deals and use happening in their own living rooms. This also means the orphans that have been abandoned in Haiti because their parents couldn’t afford to feed them.

God, our Father, is their Father, too, and the consistent thread running through his Word is that we need to turn to Him, humbly accept His grace and love, and extend it to others — whether it compromises the preservation of our own possessions , lifestyle, and convenience or not. Which vulnerable God-created person or people in need are you going to step forward and lend a helping hand to?

For more information on how you can help those who are most vulnerable please contact your local church, homeless shelter, department of social services, or one of the following organizations that serve the needs of the orphaned and abandoned:

Christian Alliance For Orphans
The Hands & Feet Project
Show Hope
I’m Me

Orphan Sunday 2016 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Play Fantasy Football and Help Orphans in Haiti

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There’s just a few hours left to register for a season’s worth of fun playing fantasy football while simultaneously supporting such a critical and worthwhile organization in their mission to care for the orphaned and abandoned children of Haiti and keep more Haitian families together. For a $50 donation to the Hands & Feet Project you can either join the BIG BIG YARD Fantasy Football league hosted by rapper KJ-52 or the BIG BIG YARD Fantasy Football league hosted by Sidewalk Prophets lead singer David Frey.

Over the course of the season you’ll get to participate in a live online draft and compete in weekly head-to-head match-ups with the artists and other fans. At season’s end, the best-finishing non-artist team owner in each league will win VIP meet-n-greet tickets to one of the artist’s upcoming concerts and a custom, hand-crafted Haiti Made coach’s gift kit! But, don’t wait because there are just a few spots left and the registration deadline for the KJ-52 league is midnight  ET tonight! Registration for the Sidewalk Prophets league will close midnight Monday.

JOIN US and register right now!

Who Are You?

It is common to hear people say, “Oh, just be yourself.” But, if somebody tells you to do that, do you know what really means? Who are you?

I battle daily to keep my thoughts, actions, and words in line with each other. I want what I’m thinking to sync up with what I’m saying, what I’m doing, and how others see me. That said, it all starts with what I’m thinking. The battle begins with what I devote my attention to.

Naturally, my attention shifts depending on where I am. At school, my attention is divided between the different roles I have as a teacher. At home my attention is divided between my wife, my kids, my responsibilities in the house, and my personal interests. At church my attention varies depending on whether I’m helping my wife teach Sunday school, catching up with another church member, or participating in worship.

But, in each of those places, and many different places in between, I must constantly battle the temptation to put myself first. It’s natural. It takes no effort at all to do what comes by default: view my moment-by-moment life experience in terms of what is most fun, comfortable, beneficial, and gratifying for me.

But, over the course of forty years I’ve learned that when I go the easy route, I always end up at the end of a dead-end street with nothing left to do, but, to be humbled by yet another reminder of my brokenness and kneel down to ask my Father for forgiveness for walking away from who He created me to be: my real identity – in Him.

I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one who struggles in this area. Each of us fight a battle daily against competing demands for our attention – some worthwhile and some not. But, our true identity – the one that we need to turn and walk toward again at the beginning of each day – is the eternal identity that God has designed for each of us in Him. We just have to turn, look to Him and say yes.

For me, that means starting each day by prayerfully reading His Word for a few minutes, closing each day in prayer, and turning back to Him mentally and spiritually in each small moment that I can remember to do so throughout each day. When I do, I never regret it and always come away with a new handful of hope to hold close as I walk forward. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. He is always faithful to give us what we need.

“When I’m with you, I feel the real me breaking through.” – Citizen Way


Do you play fantasy football? Do you want to help orphans in the poorest country in the western hemisphere? Join Citizen Way, KJ-52, Sidewalk Prophets, and Audio Adrenaline for a season of fun competition in the BIG BIG YARD FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE in support of The Hands & Feet Project‘s critical battle against the orphan crisis in Haiti. Prizes for league winners include VIP meet-n-greet concert tickets and Haiti Made football gift kits.

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Register to be a part of Big Big Yard Fantasy Football:
https://handsandfeetproject.webconnex.com/fantasyfootball

For more information about The Hands & Feet Project visit:
http://www.handsandfeetproject.org

Big Big Yard Fantasy Football Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/bigyardHAFff/

Reaction (a stream of consciousness poem)

The focus of our time
That which steals the purpose
The substance that could be our reaction
To something divine
Outside our realm of understanding
But fully capable
With infinite potential
To create beyond the scope of our conception
Life abundant
Through grace incomprehensible
Prompting us
If we will let It
To overflow with foolishness
For that is what it is in comparison
To the scales – the units of measure
By which humanity has limited itself
Irrational
God and everything outside of ourselves
Outside of self
Our attention focused on the other
Our attention and time and energy
Spent outside of ourselves
Is equivalent I believe
To Love
To God
To worship God is to let our attention
Let our limitations
Let our reactions and our fear
Loose
Free to run away
and in doing so
Freeing us to trust and place
Our hope
Our time
Our hands
Our feet
Directly on the path that He has drawn out
To reveal His glory through
To love others
To serve others
To focus your attention outside
Of ourselves
Is to love God
To worship God
To touch the heart of Jesus
And to remove ourselves
From our own grip
With which we cling so tightly
To sin and the death
The absence of life
That it brings
Lord teach me in each moment
Of each day going forward to
Look outside of myself
To let go of myself
To release my fear
And grab Your hand
As it is extended out to me
Each day in need
Empty my hands
Oh Lord
So that I am free to react
To focus my attention
To spend my time
Outside of myself
Outside of sin
But, in You
In Love

JesusFreak20: Colored People

I’d like to draw my readers’ collective attention to the following post from the decentchristiantalk blog:

JesusFreak20: Colored People.

It thoughtfully recognizes the song “Colored People,” from dcTalk’s legendary album JESUS FREAK (now 20 years old!)  with the merit it deserves within the historical context of the mid-90’s. It’s worth the read.

Breakfast Is Served!

I’m reflecting this morning on the end of the gospel of John and a few key points seem particularly relevant to me today:

1-Jesus met the disciples where they were and in their then-present circumstances (he knew where to find them and what they’d be doing: out to sea fishing);
2-Jesus provided for them (a catch of fish too large to haul back into the boat);
3-Jesus prepared for and served them (cooked a meal of fish and bread and gave it to them).

Then, after doing so, He said, “Follow me.” The bible seems to indicate that He was just speaking to Peter, but, John got up and followed Him, too. Martin Luther, in his commentary, indicates that there are two lessons to learn here. First, even Peter, one of the greatest apostles, immediately after having been engaged in conversation with and called by Jesus, lost his focus. He took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with what those around him were doing. Second, Jesus may have different plans for each one of us. In essence, Jesus responded to Peter’s question by letting him know that it was none of his business what His plans were for John.

So, what do I get out of this? First, I was reminded that Jesus loves me personally, where I am, right now. He knows what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. He knows what is swirling around in my head from one moment to the next. Second, He is more than capable of providing for my needs in my present circumstances. Third, what He has in mind for me is far greater than anything I can come up with on my own. I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but, if prepared and served by Jesus Himself, it would be far better than anything that I could pull out of the pantry or refrigerator to make for myself in the morning. Finally, we are not all called to live out the same story or to serve in the same mission or ministry in our lives. We shouldn’t model ourselves after other people that we think are good. We should model ourselves after Jesus. This is His story and He knows where we fit into it.

Have a great day!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33