Tag Archives: faith

Out of Chaos, Light

haiti sunset1

cha·os  noun  /ˈkāäs/

complete confusion and disorder : a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything

Confusion and disorder were some of the many words coming to mind this past week as I read the tragic headlines coming out of Nairobi, Kenya.  The Westgate shopping mall was sieged by militants from the radical group al-Shabaab, resulting in dozens of deaths and leaving at least 170 injured.  The firsthand accounts that have emerged are absolutely chilling and paint a picture of utter chaos.  As the attack finally comes to end, the process of grieving will undoubtedly begin.

Following such an evil act, I find myself looking for answers to make sense of it all.  Why?  What was the motivation?  How can this happen despite all the technology and surveillance and security measures available to us in the 21st century?  Was this preventable?  Although I was not affected personally by the attack, it is heart wrenching to see such senseless violence carried out against innocent people.

Thankfully there have been no mass shootings in Haiti recently on par with what happened in Nairobi this past week.  However even this week, I have asked some of these same difficult questions as I learned of tragedies here related to sickness, injustice and spiritual warfare.  It seems that both at a collective (macro) and personal (micro) level, chaos is very present.

So how can we deal with and respond to and overcome tragedy and pain and confusion and unanswered questions and heartache and darkness in our world?

The natural solution to darkness is light and I love how God uses this imagery throughout His redemptive story, beginning with creation.

The first two verses of the book of Genesis read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Our pastor in Haiti has been teaching on this theme of light and explained recently that the Hebrew word translated as formless in this passage actually means chaos.  In the beginning the earth was in chaos.

And what was God’s answer to chaos?  Light.

Verses three and four say, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

Light brought form and stability and hope and goodness into a previously dark and chaotic place.

And this light and its life giving nature is available to us today through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said himself, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

So how can we deal with and respond to and overcome the difficulties and darkness in our world?  By turning to the author of life, the only one who can bring light to chaos.

Do questions and uncertainties remain?  Yes.

Does pain and grief disappear immediately?  No.

Honestly I still struggle with trying to understand tragedies like Westgate and also the everyday tragedies that we hear of in Haiti.  However I take comfort in knowing that there is an answer to all the chaos.

Note:  I should say that thankfully, all World Concern staff members in Nairobi have been accounted for and are safe.  This is certainly a difficult time for many people in Nairobi, but as our friend and colleague Kelly Ranck who is based in Nairobi recently wrote in a beautiful blog post, “Kenya will rise again!”  I encourage you to read more by clicking here.  

Becoming a doormat

The man himself; probably thinking up his next punchline.

The man himself; probably thinking up his next punchline.

Like many others, I really enjoy reading Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest.” This book filled with short daily devotions challenge and convicts me.  I remember first being introduced to it by my wife Martha while we were working together in Holland, before we were even dating.  After picking it up, I immediately noticed that this book had so much more meat and substance than any other book on spiritual growth I had read before.  Honestly, some days I find it too “meaty” and I have no idea what he is talking about but most of the time the words on the page speak volumes.  The latter happened recently while reading the entry on February 25.  It is entitled The Delight of Sacrifice (you should probably just read the whole thing–the link will take you there).  I love the titles he gives each entry because you know you are about to be blown away.  His writing style is so unapologetic and to the point and I think that is partly why I am so attracted to it.  I, and we, at times need to be told flatly “wake up!” and Chambers’ does that well.

Do you ever find it hard or unnatural to always do what you know you should do with joy?  Before I go farther I should throw in a disclaimer and say I am not at all sad or unhappy.  I simply want to serve with more joy and thought of sharing with you what I am learning.  Anyway, have you ever answered yes to this question?  I have and I must not be alone because Chambers hits this question right on the head.

The first line of this entry reads, “Once ‘the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit,’ we deliberately begin to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ’s interests and purposes in others’ lives (Romans 5:5).”  Okay, I am supposed to align myself with Christ and His interests in people; heard that one before.

Wasting no time at all Chambers continues, “And Jesus has an interest in every individual person. We have no right in Christian service to be guided by our own interests and desires. In fact, this is one of the greatest tests of our relationship with Jesus Christ.”  No right?  Zero, zilch?  He is quickly going deeper and touching something inside of me that I didn’t necessarily want to touch!    Why don’t I want to hear these words?  Self-interest and preservation; that bit of human innateness which tugs at each of us and sounds really nice and even looks really good but also has the ability to destroy relationships and even ourselves.

I wonder how many of us, myself included, want to follow Jesus but on our own terms with our desires leading the charge.

Chambers continues to drive in his point.  “Many of us are interested only in our own goals, and Jesus cannot help Himself to our lives. But if we are totally surrendered to Him, we have no goals of our own to serve. Paul said that he knew how to be a ‘doormat’ without resenting it, because the motivation of his life was devotion to Jesus.”

Am I a doormat?  Am I finding delight in laying myself down for others?  These questions continue to ring in my head and the more I examine my heart, I think I have some room to grow.

I enjoy what I have chosen to do with my life.  I believe in the cause of global development.  I am excited to be a part of what World Concern is doing in Haiti (a little plug).  I try my best to be kind to colleagues and neighbors.  I look for opportunities to encourage others.  But these things are not enough on their own.  In order to experience success in my work and complete joy in my service I must become more like a doormat.  Simply, Chambers says this can be achieved when one is in love.

“Freedom was not Paul’s motive at all. In fact, he stated, ‘I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren . . .’ (Romans 9:3). Had Paul lost his ability to reason? Not at all! For someone who is in love, this is not an overstatement. And Paul was in love with Jesus Christ.”

If I start with love and focus on serving Jesus first, then what seems like an unnatural act—always doing what I do with joy—will eventually start to feel more natural.  This process will make me healthier spiritually, and allow me to bless others so much more than if I tried to do it on my own.

Are you a doormat today?

Thanks

Just a few reflections on thanksgiving as we have gotten more settled this week.

I’m thankful for Michelle (not real name), who each day faithfully cleans our office along with the rest of the building.  Thanks to her, my desk will never be dusty.  We do not always understand each other but she has a big smile that is contagious.  She is a diligent worker and reminds me of the kind of servant employee I would like to become.

I’m thankful for electricity.  In Port-au-Prince, the city’s grid gives on average 10 hours of power a day; more on some days and less on others.  When the city electricity suddenly goes out at home, the lights may flicker but remain lit thanks to battery invertors that are connected to our apartment.  Sensing that the grid has temporarily “given up”, they automatically kick on.  We can always tell when this happens because a heavy, monotonous buzzing sound accompanies the invertors.  Relying on candles, cell phone backlights, or perhaps a flashlight after dusk is common for many in Haiti including many in our neighborhood.  To learn more about electricity in Haiti read this really interesting article.

I’m thankful for community.  Martha and I are a long ways from many friends and family who make up our community, but we are reminded often of those strong relationships.  Even while in Haiti, because of the wide world web (what an amazing invention!), we are able to receive words of encouragement and truth from people all over the world.  This morning actually the first email I read was from a friend reminding me about hope from the book of Ephesians.  “..I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you..”  Our community is getting larger as we build new relationships even in these first few weeks in Haiti, and for that I’m also thankful.

I’m thankful for the World Concern Haiti family.  They have welcomed with us open arms and have shown great patience as we struggle through language and learning about a new place.  I’m also thankful for them because I have seen how they exhibit the same amount of grace and love to those we walk alongside and serve.  It is encouraging to see how they take great care of these people who have endured so much.  There is both meekness and power in how they minister.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

Better than gold

Martha and I have been planning, preparing, and praying for Haiti and our role there for nearly a year now.  At times I have wished more than anything to just be in Haiti; sweating, working hard, learning new things, meeting great people, and loving every minute.  The question, “Is it possible to have too much time for preparation?” has entered my mind a few times this past year.

The philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

Reading this today was all I needed in order to reflect this past year on the rich conversations, fellowship, and community I have experienced with old and new friends precisely because we had not left for Haiti yet.

The past three weeks alone have been unique and encouraging.  Martha and I have been church hopping a bit lately.  We found ourselves recently at Bethany First Church, Central First Church, and Core Church at Aspen Creek.  These communities have welcomed us warmly and have been generous by allowing us to share our story and about our work in Haiti.  For me, it has been refreshing seeing faces that I haven’t seen in a long time; and amazing for Martha to meet new faces and see how much support we have just in this small pocket of the States.

In hindsight, we as humans see our missteps, victories, and blessings.  For me, I am thankful today for twelve months of crying, laughing, praying, meditating, dreaming, and growing with some of the most incredible and generous people on the planet.  It is not necessarily what I would have chosen for Martha and I, but that goes to show that perhaps I don’t always know what is best.  I am still eager to arrive in Haiti and began our work there (expecting to be perplexed and amazed even more at how God uses others to bless us!).  However, I am arguably more ready and energized for what lies ahead now because of the many hours dear friends have poured into me this year.

Just one question.  Who have you blessed today?!

 

 

Faith of a farmer

I must say, it is nice to be home.  As you may know, Martha and I are fresh off a four week traveling adventure throughout the midwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, but there is something comforting about being home.  As we have been settling in and doing lots of laundry, I have been doing some reflecting on our travels.  I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but I wanted to share something I learned while Martha and I were visiting her grandfather’s farm in southwestern Iowa.

I learned that farmers have a lot of faith.  Don’t worry, this was not the first time I had this realization, it just stuck for some reason on this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun being with Martha’s family as they told stories about farm life.  As a city kid, I find the farm a foreign but intriguing place.  The open spaces just scream adventure to me.  I heard that as a farmer you have to be diligent and hard working, but at the end of the day there are some things you can’t control.  How much rain and sun come at any given time is not up to you.  You are forced to focus on the work you can accomplish and give the rest to God.  What an awesome life lesson.

As our discussion about farm life continued, I couldn’t help but think of the farmers we’ve met in Haiti and the kind of faith they too must possess.  They also are hard working and diligent but in a similar way there are things in their life that cannot be controlled.  I mulled on this for a bit, and then thought about how honored I am to be a part of an organization that walks alongside farmers in Haiti.

As an organization we try to partner with farmers to achieve success in the areas they can control, while encouraging them along the way when they face challenges in areas of life they cannot control.  What does this look like?  In southwestern Haiti World Concern operates an agricultural training center where we teach area farmers about developing a quality seed and increasing yield.  At another community in the south, we helped rebuild a water canal which now provides steady irrigation to local farmers.  Our desire is to provide the resources and encouragement individuals and communities need to thrive, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, Martha and I have recently made the decision to quit our day jobs and focus on preparing for service in Haiti full time.  So this lesson of faith made me think about our brothers and sisters in Haiti but also about this season of life we find ourselves in.  There are certain things Martha and I can be doing now that will prepare us well for our time in Haiti.  However, there are some things that are simply out of our hands!  We have to trust that God is in control and that He will provide for all our needs.  Haiti is such a beautiful place with so much going for it.  We see lots of potential for growth and lasting change, and we can’t wait to return.