Tag Archives: journey

Goodbyes and what we can learn from them

My parents can attest that I have always had trouble staying in one place.  As a youngster I was always on the move.  As an adult, although I’ve bid farewell to (most) of my bad fidgety habits I still have trouble staying in one place, geographically speaking.

In the past four years Martha and I have lived in three different cities, in three different countries.  Port-au-Prince is home now and while I am confident this is where God wants me to be and I absolutely love the excitement and adventure of living in such an interesting and vibrant place, I don’t enjoy the frequent goodbyes that come with living in a transient city or with moving every couple years.

Goodbyes are bittersweet.  There is a sense of excitement for the person who is leaving and beginning a new chapter and at the same time a sense of sadness knowing that your relationship with this person will look different in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Haiti is one of those places where people, namely foreigners or the Haitian diaspora or educated Haitians, come and go.  You often to have look hard to find people who have been here for longer than a couple years.  This is for a variety of reasons but the proximity to the U.S. and Canada, and the “short term contract/commitment” culture are major players.

Thankfully Martha and I have found great friends in Haiti and are slowly building a strong community here.  However recently we did have to say goodbye to one of our friends, Dr. Joanne, who was also a colleague at World Concern.  Dr. Joanne served as World Concern’s health program coordinator and was a wonderful friend to Martha and I since our first days in Haiti.  She is the kind of person that always lights up a room when they walk in.  Her godly leadership and sweet spirit will truly be missed.

Dr. Joanne will be staying in Port-au-Prince.  Haiti is her home.  So we’re happy about that and we will likely stay in touch.

Although we’re excited for her as she steps into a new ministry role with another organization, we’re also saddened by her departure.  Her leaving not only has made me think about my mixed feelings with goodbyes, it has also reminded me of the importance of being present.  Meaning, I need to make the most of the moments I do have now with the people in my sphere or office or apartment building or church.  This is something that takes practice and I am still figuring out but am seeing the importance and value of it more and more.

Here at the World Concern office in Port-au-Prince we had an awesome party for Dr. Joanne last week that honored her very well.  It had some serious moments and some hilarious ones.  There were speeches, prayers, stories, snacks, and laughs shared.  One highlight was the ‘dancing game’ that was organized beforehand but that no one knew about.  I had no idea some of our staff could move so well!!  Unfortunately there’s no video footage of the dancing but I did want to share some photos of that party with you.

What a good looking bunch!  World Concern staff surround Dr. Joanne (center, holding plaque).

What a good looking bunch! World Concern staff surround Dr. Joanne (center, holding plaque).

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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?

Question of the day…

How strong is your desire to make their language and cultural way of being yours?

This question is one of many I have been asked this past week and a half at Mission Training International (MTI) in Colorado.  Martha and I are here for a three-week cross-cultural course, which aims to provide practical skills for adjusting to life and ministry in a new culture.  We are being challenged, encouraged, and convicted.  I feel like the Lord is using this time to prune many of my branches.

I am beginning to see how my way of thinking, over eagerness, and proud heart can be an obstacle to understanding and integrating into Haitian culture.  This past week we have discussed stress, lifestyle choices, conflict, spiritual rest and vitality, and value awareness to name a few topics.  Each topic has opened my eyes to areas where I can grow and where I have strengths.  There are many things I could share with you, however as I was thinking about how to summarize our training at MTI so far, one sentence came to mind; I am learning how to die to what I want or think is best.

A good spot for reflection along a nearby trail

As I consider what it means to exit my culture and enter another, I see more and more clearly my need for God.  If He is not guiding this personal transformation, then I will eventually falter.  I may survive for a time, but I cannot thrive in my ministry if I am not willing to cling to His goodness and truth.

How strong is my desire to make the Haitian language and cultural way of being mine?  It is strong.  Martha and I have received this call to serve the poor in Haiti.  I am living into my passion! It is very strong.  However, it may not be strong enough.  That is, if I try to carry out this mission on my own.

One of our instructors this week said, “The key for successful personal relationships and ministry is to understand and accept others as having a viewpoint that is as worthy of consideration as yours.”

What a powerful statement!  This requires putting aside my own ambition.  This requires dying.

The idea of dying to oneself is not only for missionaries or cross-cultural workers.  It is for anyone who is on the journey of following Jesus.  We are reminded frequently at MTI that what you do now at home will likely carry over to our time serving overseas.  If I am struggling with anger, my anger will not magically go away as soon as I get off the plane in Haiti!  This simply shows that how we carry ourselves now truly matters and is a good indicator of where our heart is.  Therefore, I challenge you to think about how you are doing in this area of saying no to yourself and yes to the call of service and integration and mutual understanding.  We are all missionaries; we are just asked to go to different places.

Lots of eating and laughing together

I am so thankful for this place and to be challenged in these ways now.

Beautiful mountains nearby

Martha and I are having an awesome week.  Aside from the good teaching, we are having so much fun getting to know the 30 plus other participants in our course.  The fellowship is rich and genuine.  We are grateful to see how God is equipping and sending out many people to serve and love others all over the world.  Plus, we are in a beautiful place!

Pray for us this week that we will be able to process and unpack all that we are hearing.  Thank you for your generosity, prayers, and partnership.

 

Knowing Thyself and Leadership

Kind of without meaning to, I have been reading and thinking about knowing yourself this morning. I stumbled on an article by Faye Dresner which makes the connection between knowing yourself and effective leadership. This is interesting to me because as Martha and I get closer to leaving for Haiti, knowing who I am and how to lead well seem important.

David Ryback, in his book Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work, says “In the twenty-first century, the criteria for leadership will be not only knowledge and experience, but also healthy self-esteem and sensitivity to others’ feelings.” Dresner contends that understanding yourself and having a high degree of personal insight is just as if not more important.

Ryback in his book goes on to say that “The emotionally intelligent leader knows how to create instant rapport with practically anyone. She’s confident, self assured…[and these types of leaders are] adept at reading the unspoken, collective feelings of the teams they oversee.”

I agree with Ryback’s statements as well as with Dresner’s thought. As I think about past bosses, small group leaders, and mentors that I looked up to, they all possessed in one way or another confidence in themselves but also humility in how they led.

World Concern Haiti staff members

Martha and I will not necessarily be in managerial roles when we begin our ministry in Haiti, but I think the principles that Dresner’s article discusses and those that past strong leaders in my life have exhibited can serve as a great framework for us as we attempt to lead our Haitian colleagues in living lives of service that are Christ centered. The World Concern Haiti staff we have met are gracious, terribly patient, and emphathetic. We expect to learn much from our future co-workers, but also hope to encourage them and nudge them closer to Jesus.

What an amazing group. Some of the World Concern Haiti staff together in June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lance Secretan, one of the leading thinkers on leadership said, “Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”

I like that. I don’t want to sound like I know myself completely and have it all together. I have much to learn about myself and about how I can become an others-focused leader. However, today and during this time of preparation, I want to begin that journey.

If you’re interested in reading more about the topic of knowing yourself and leadership, you should first check out Faye Dresner’s article entitled “Leader: First, Know Thyself.” Then jump over to How Matters, a blog by Jennifer Lentfer, and read her adaptation of Dresner’s article called “Aid Worker: First, Know Thyself.”

 

Life renewed

As we left the southern city of Jacmel, we began climbing and making the jeep work harder than it had before.  The road quickly narrowed and remained that way as we worked our way further into the mountains.  This was day three of our short but affirming trip to Haiti in June.

It was early enough in the day where I was enjoying the adventure of the bumpy road.  Fifteen hours later, the driving was still adventurous but much less enjoyable for some reason (it turned out to be a long day)!  I learned early on in this trip that when we as an organization say we go to the hard places, it ins’t a joke.  Our group was visiting a community called Lavaneau , where World Concern had recently helped repair of water canal which had been damaged in a heavy storm four years earlier.  This canal carried water from a mountain source directly to the community and was the only source of water for the people in Lavaneau .  As we approached our destination, I noticed the dense vegetation and green landscape.  This is not a sight you expect to see in Haiti, where it is estimated that 98% of all land is deforested.  I was already feeling encouraged.

Jean Metelus describing what the canal has done for his community

We arrived in Lavaneau and were soon greeted by Jean Metelus, the President of the local community organization.  I enjoyed talking with this man.  He was serious, but welcoming.  He appeared to be well respected in the community and knew the World Concern staff members by name.  Jean explained that since the storm four years ago damaged the community’s water canal, they were forced to rely on inconsistent rainfall for all of their water needs.  This includes irrigation, cleaning, bathing, washing, cooking, drinking.  I was shocked.  Although I am new to Haiti, I know that rain is precious and not something people in rural areas see enough of.  Not having access to a consistent water source keeps a community from growing and thriving, and that is the situation people in Lavanneau found themselves in.

World Concern staff sat down with the community of Lavaneau and began discussing what needs they had.  It was clear that repairing the water canal was a main priority for many in the community.  As the project came to life, it was the people of Lavaneau who provided the input and manual labor needed to make the new water canal a reality.  World Concern provided the resources and the technical assistance, but the community owned this project.  This is how, together, we can change lives.  It was a powerful moment for me, to see how World Concern truly does operate with the community’s needs and desires in mind.

Now that the canal is finished and water is flowing in Lavaneau , life is returning.

“You may not have been here to see what it was like in our community before,” said Jean, “but now we have green land everywhere.”

“People are able to grow crops like beans and peppers, and now life is back.”

I was right to feel encouraged upon approaching Lavanneau .  The hard work and diligence of the people in Lavanneau partnered with the humility and talent of the World Concern staff resulted in a transformed community.

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Water is life.

 

 

 

 

 

I love this stuff! Learning about the canal from World Concern staff members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice Moises, a farmer in Lavaneau next to the canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiti Day 4 – “Oh the Places You’ll Go”

World Concern is an organization that seeks to serve the most vulnerable.  This means that we go to difficult places that are hard to reach and are often times not being served by another organization.  Martha and I know World Concern has this reputation, but yesterday we witnessed it firsthand!  These photos were taken on our journey from the city of Jacmel to Les Cayes. 

What an adventure. 

During the seven hour trip, our group stopped along the way to visit an agricultural project and disaster prevention projects.  It was encouraging to see how the World Concern field staff who was accompanying us were very familiar with the areas we visited.  They are deeply invested in these communities and are walking alongside them.   Although the road is rough, we go there.  Martha and I are very blessed to have the task and honor of documenting this work.  Thanks for playing an important role in making lasting change possible in rural Haiti.