25 March 2010

Not A Wall Runner Througher

Recently I posted an update that asked, "When you come up against something big in life do you tend to face it or run? I tend to run." 

I based this question out of Romans7:15, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."

As I have spent time lately in prayer, meditation, and study of the Bible I have come to some harsh realities in my own life. One is my response to the above question. I tend to run. It isn't pretty, but if I am going to be honest, it's the truth. When I come up against a wall, I tend to run the other way. I am not a wall climber, runner througher, or knocker downer. It just doesn't come natural to me. I just don't seem to have the tendency or ability. 

I have some things in my life that are head on issues that I need to face. We all have them, for that matter. But what we don't all have is the desire to avoid them. I have an uncanny ability, on a somewhat consistent basis, to work around the big stuff. I have learned to function in life without dealing with these things head on. It needs to change, and here is why- I have a strong desire to do amazing things for God. I want to succeed at this ministry thing. I want to run my course with success! 

A big misconception I have had is that if I'm called into ministry, God will automatically make me a success. I was told many times that if it's God's will, He'll make it work, despite my actions. This is simply just not true and I am learning this more and more each day.

I have seen many truly successful people, and one thing they all have in common is the ability to face problems and tough situations head on. They have a natural ability programmed in their DNA that allows them the bust through any wall that they may come up against. They can look at a problem and see it as an opportunity to succeed. I see it as an opportunity to fail. Call it pessimism, negativity, or what have you. I call it a core root issue. I see it as a huge problem and the main reason why I cannot do more in ministry. I see it as a major barrier to becoming a huge success.

Don't get me wrong, I do face the problems in my life quite frequently.  I am not saying I don't, but merely pointed out my natural tendency to avoid them. Let's put it this way, if I can, in any way, avoid the problem, I will. Through this I have missed God, struggled way too long with things, and just plain made life difficult.

With so much coming for myself and Right Side Up Ministries in the future, I felt a need to get this out, to make it public. By doing so I hope to put my life on the accountability platform. The Bible tells us that if we make light of our sins we bring them out of darkness and are able to be cleansed. Change is possible, even in the most impossible, life proven habits. We can break through the toughest issues if we are willing to get it out and let it go. 

If you have the same tendency I do I want you to know that God is able to help. He is able to get you through this struggle. The first step is to let it out into the light and then start making a conscience decision to go another way. That is, after all, the true definition of repentance. Repent of not facing your giants today and let God form you into a warrior worthy of your calling.

What are your biggest struggles in life? Are they things that you are willing to share with others?

11 March 2010

Haiti: Expenses and Explanations

It has been just over a week since our return form Haiti. My mind has had some time to process what we experienced during our week, but I am still not able to process everything that I would like to.However, I am able to more clearly communicate some ideas of what our future will look like in Haiti.

I am currently planning a second trip to Haiti. I hope to leave on March 22nd. The plan is to stay in Haiti for four weeks. During this four week time I will be assisting in the requisition and distribution of temporary housing, i.e. tarps and tents. I will also assist in the distribution of food and supplies to remote and virtually unassisted villages in Haiti. I am also working on acquiring contacts for shoes and clothing which I will distribute to a number of the fourteen orphanages we visited on our last trip. All I need to do is find the stuff I need so I can get it out to those who need it.

The key to working in Haiti is to find out who has what and working my way into the system so I can start gaining access to  the large amount of supplies that are already in country. I know it sounds easy, but in reality, it can prove to be quite difficult. Many governments and organizations have supplies in country, but for fear of finding items on the black market, they keep tight reigns on what they have. It's there, I just need to get my hands on it.

This next trip is going to be much more expensive than the last. $6,000.00 expensive.  To put it into perspective, it cost three of us around $3,000.00 to go on the first trip, minus personal expenses for travel food, immunizations, etc. So here is a basic breakdown of the expenses needed to make this trip happen.

- Personal expenses while gone:     $500.00/m
- Safe place to stay in Haiti:            $400.00/m
- Interpreter                                   $560.00/m
- Transportation                             $2,240.00/m
- Airfare                                        $800.00    
Total                                            $4,500.00

- Extra/ emergency funds               $900.00
- tithe to local Haiti church             $600.00   
Total                                            $1,500.00

Grand Total                                $6,000.00

One great lesson that Tim Williams taught me on our first trip was that putting money into the local economy was important. This is why we purchased many of our supplies that we gave out to the orphanages. It filled a need and put money into the local economy.

I recently read an article about the upcoming rebuild/ reconstruction phase of Haiti. In the article they talk about the need to restrict the involvement of organizational/ volunteer work in Haiti. At first glance I was offended. "How dare they not want organizational/ volunteer workers? Don't they know how much money we will save them?" Then it hit me, volunteer work takes away from paid work for the locals, and money that would otherwise go into the local economy. I realized the importance of the local economy having a shot in the arm with locals making a regular wage. With unemployment so high before the earthquake, Haiti could really use the economic boost that this rebuild effort can bring.

This is why I have so much going into interpreters and transportation. I don't just want to go to Haiti, do what I do, and leave as cheaply as possible. I want to be a blessing to Haiti and right now one way to bless them would be to employ everybody that I can. These are real needs that I have while I am there that I may be able to get around if I worked really hard at it, but I want to help in a real way. This means hiring locals for interpreter and transportation needs. If you add it up, it is only $20/day for an interpreter and $80/day for transportation. All in all, not very expensive, but a big boost for those that I hire.

I have been contacted by three different people we worked with while in Haiti acquiring about my return so they can have work. I know that I cannot hire all three at once, but the plan is to hire all three of them periodically while I'm there. I have interpreter and transportation needs while there and I know these people are the best for what I need. This is the best way that Right Side Up Ministries can have the biggest impact in Haiti. To give people a handout will help them for the moment, but to employ them will help them in the long term.

I have come to realize that the biggest mistake of nonprofit organizations and volunteers in the long term recovery is to rely solely on volunteer work rather than to hire locals. Sure it costs more to hire the locals than to work with volunteers, but the goal of Right Side Up Ministries it to have a  long term impact in Haiti. We want to help people get back on their feet. All three of the people we worked with daily in Haiti had real jobs that no longer exist. They will remain unemployed until there are some serious rebuilding efforts put into action.

So, in conclusion, this is what it will cost for me to return to Haiti for a one month stay. This is what it will cost for each additional month that I return. I know that it is a large amount, but as you can see, it is money well spent.

If you would like to help this next phase of RSUM in Haiti simply click the "DONATE" button below or visit the RSUM web page for more info.

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For more info or for a tax deductible donation please visit the RSUM page.

03 March 2010

Some Post Thoughts on Haiti

I read a blog by Anne Jackson called "Unfinishedness" that has opened a floodgate of emotions about Haiti. I still have not had time to fully digest all that I experienced there. My heart and mind are having a hard time lining up. My heart breaks for those I left behind, the ones who are working so hard for a better life. I never met people so strong and resilient. It seems that no matter what they come up against, they fight and move on. Extreme poverty is nothing new to Haiti. They have been poor for as long as anyone knows. Missionaries have been there for decades helping ease the pains of a badly dealt hand of cards. I have had two of my new friends contact me since I  have been home and as I think of them and their situation it becomes increasingly difficult to choke back the tears that my heart longs to get out.

If I were asked to put my experience in one word, that word would be pathetic. Not for the Haitian people, but rather for those of us who have lived so close and have done so little. I once read an article about why people of other nations seem to have a hatred for the U.S. and it concluded that it was based on our wealth to giving ratio. In the eyes of other countries we have so much wealth but do so little to change the plight of so many in the world. I won't say if I agree with this or not, but I will say that perception IS reality for those on the outside, which means we could probably be doing a whole bunch more.

I know some may say, "What about all those in the U.S. that are going hungry and living in poverty? Why don't you do something about that first, then go help another nation?" My responding question is this, "Why don't you?" I am no expert, but I have seen a pattern that disturbs me. Most people that I know who complain about any given topic and their dislike of any given situation are DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO CHANGE THE SITUATION! I'm not writing this to start an argument or enrage people, but instead, I write this as a plea for Americans to think outside of our borders. I know that times are difficult. I know that we have our own needs in this country, but what I saw in Haiti is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for me to live so close to a people who are hurting so much without doing everything I can to make a difference.

I talked to people who lost everything. They lost their home, their job, their car, their family, and their sense of stability. I was there when a 4.4 aftershock killed another 200 people. It seemed so slight that I managed to sleep through it. It shows the instability of life in Haiti. It shows the uncertainty of the future of Haiti. Yet, through all of this, I heard people worshiping God in the middle of such destruction. I heard people praising God that He was still with Haiti. I saw a woman who had a stroke praising God, not because she was healed,  but because she had less pain than before we came. I saw a man jumping up and down with such joy yelling, "Praise Jesus!" in creole because we brought him some tarps so they could have some protection from the weather. I held the had of little children who had no parents to hold them, and though we couldn't communicate with words, we did through physical contact. I saw the joy on a kids face when he received a bicycle from an American who saw a need and did something. This same child sat with his right foot bandaged, unable to use the bike at this time because he had to have two of his toes amputated. I saw a child with scabies so  bad that he had dozens of open, oozing sores all over his body and all he could do was sit there and cry and scratch because there was no medical treatment. Say what you want about our health care system, but at least a child like this could have a chance at treatment here. I saw things that I never expected to see and it moved my heart to make a difference.

Like Anne Jackson, I too cannot sign off on Haiti as completed in my life. I cannot stop thinking about Haiti, feeling for Haiti, and hurting for Haiti. I will be returning by the end of the month to spend at least four weeks there. I don't know if this will create the conclusion that I am seeking. I don't know if I will have a huge impact on Haiti, but I can be assured that I will impact those who God has brought into my path. I can do everything I possibly can to make a small change in a country with seemingly no direction and a people with little hope for a better future.

02 March 2010

Haiti Concluded

Made it back home. I don't really know how I feel about being back in the U.S. I can tell you that I do feel guilty every time I spend money on things I don't really need, like coffee or junk food. We ate at Panera Bread today after getting a Venti coffee at Starbucks. I didn't think about it until we were in the car on our way down the road about my friends in Haiti who will be sleeping in the streets tonight. If I'm not careful the guilt will become overwhelming. I realize there is only so much that we can do, but until I am finished with my part I can't stop thinking about the little things. The things like good coffee, good food, clean water, a roof over my head, and a hot shower. They have a name for this kind of guilt, I don't know what it is, but I have it. I'm tired and ready to go to bed. I am glad to be home, but can't wait to get back to Haiti. There is so much to be done there. There are tents to acquire, food to distribute, shoes to put on kids feet, and people to pray with and for. I have much to do the next two weeks. I have tents to find, tickets to buy, supplies to gather, and money to raise. It's all worth it when I think about all those beautiful smiling faces on all those children we saw. Each one deserves to live better. Each one deserves to have the basics of survival. I know that we can't help them all, but the ones we can help will be helped. That is my commitment to God, and to Haiti.

Our last two days in Haiti were busy. We went to Pastor Fermin's church in the morning. We all had a chance to speak, and of course, I took advantage of the opportunity and preached. It was only fifteen minutes, so I was respectful of time. After that we set up for our third and final clinic. We saw around 200 people in five ours. Once again I took my interpreter, Jasmine, and we went hut to hut and spoke to as many as would listen. We had dozens of people ask us to pray for them for strength, provision, and healing. We prayed for some to accept Jesus for the first time or for their hearts to be rededicated. The time we spent in the hot sun was well worth it.

Yesterday morning we went back to the orphanage where the lady with the stroke was. We had a couple hundred pounds of food for them, along with some tarps, water, and laundry soap. When the pastor saw us coming with our hands full of supplies he started jumping up and down with his hands raised up yelling "Thank you Jesus" in creole. It was hard to choke back the tears. the little girl on the right in the pink dress came up to me and grabbed my hand and held it the entire time we were there. She made it so hard to leave. Now, when I think about my last moments in Haiti I see this beautiful little girls face and wish that I had the means to adopt her and give her a better life. One thing I learned on this trip to Haiti is that it takes no time at all for you to fall in love with every child you come across. They are all so amazing and cute. I miss them the most of all.

Alan and I came back last night. We drove all night to get to Mississippi by this afternoon and he took off again to drive to Indianapolis. David stayed behind. He will be there until the 15th of March. I am currently planning another trip to Haiti that will leave in two or three weeks. I plan to stay in Haiti for an entire month. This will be the biggest step of faith yet for me and Right Side Up Ministries, but I know God wants this. I know in a couple days I will start to think straight and be able to put things in a clearer perspective, but until then, this is the best that I have to offer. I will digest the past week and put some things down in words and hopefully be able to put it into a synopsis of sorts. Until then, God Bless and thank you for all your support during our trip to Haiti.

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