Tag Archives: ministry

A Vet Clinic to Remember a Giant

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

There are some people who seem larger than life itself.  Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several.  Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments.  For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith.  He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people.  I wish I had.  However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.

Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern.  CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond.  Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.

Hold on!  Cows don't like shots either.

Hold on! Cows don’t like shots either.

This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death.  To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him.  Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic.  Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic. Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince.  This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti.  Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day.  Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith.  One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990.  He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses.  Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.

julien with animals1

It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’.  After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

Wiltherne, a godchild of Dr. Keith and vet agent, doing great work!

Wiltherne, a vet agent trained by Dr. Keith, doing great work!

Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional.  It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background.  Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.


A Grateful Heart

Martha and I are wrapping up our cross-cultural training here at Mission Training International (MTI) in Colorado.  The past three weeks have been a huge blessing.  God has given us many new friends and has challenged us to consider how grow as we get ready to enter a new culture.  We have learned many things; however one that stands out is the importance of being thankful and having a grateful heart.  One of our assignments has been to list joys and thanksgivings at the end of each day.  What a cool exercise.  I have missed some days but all in all it has been a really refreshing experience.

There is an old prayer that says something like, “O God, you have given me so much.  I ask for one more thing: a grateful heart.”

Why is a grateful heart so important to our spiritual health?  The MTI notebook, which has guided us on our journey these three weeks, puts it this way:

“Remembering your joys, helps you cultivate a hopeful attitude; expecting God’s goodness and faithfulness to be manifest whether in the best of times or the worst of times…as well as a great coping mechanism in managing daily stress.”

An excellent reminder for all of us as we continue to pursue a healthy relationship with our Creator.  I especially want to carry on this habit of remembering my joys as we prepare to move to Haiti.  In a new culture, with a new language, and new stresses, it will be important to lean on God more and more.  This is one practical discipline that will help me to endure even when it gets hard.

It would be a shame if I did all this talking about joys and thanksgivings but did not share with you some of mine from the past three weeks!  So here are some of the things I have been thankful for recently…

  • Affirmation from other men
  • Reading in the sun
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Generous partners who care just as much about Haiti as we do
  • Long conversations over morning coffee
  • Fun and laughing really hard and joy
  • Family who is behind our decision to serve in Haiti 100%
  • Time with just Martha
  • Basketball and lighted outdoor courts
  • Grace and reconciliation
  • New ‘surprise’ ministry partners
  • Opportunity to live in community for a short time
  • New friends!

I could go on and on.  Martha and I face many challenges and uncertainties during this season.  We rarely doubt our call to serve in Haiti, however the support raising process and transition to life in a new culture can be overwhelming.  It is precisely because of these difficulties that it is so important for us to remain joyful!  I am learning how to have a grateful heart.

Here are some verses from scripture that have been helpful for me to meditate on as I learn more about what it means to have a grateful heart.  I hope they serve as an encouragement to you as well.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  Psalm 126:3

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10

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.”


Philippines & future ministry

Martha and I recently returned from the Philippines and wanted to share with you about our trip.  As many of you know, Martha’s parents serve as faculty members at Baptist Theological College (BTC) in Cebu City.  We had the opportunity to help lead a group of 16 Americans who came to work with and encourage students at BTC.  We spent the week painting on campus, practicing English with the students, serving in local ministries, and worshiping together.  This was a very rewarding experience for the team of Americans, the students, and us.  Another big reason for the trip to the Philippines was to simply spend time with Martha’s folks!  It was great to have some good family time in their home.  We got to spend a few days together on beautiful Bantayan Island enjoying creation, playing games, and resting.  We are thankful for old relationships rekindled and new friendships made during our three weeks in the Philippines.  It was refreshing for Martha to be ‘home’ and for me to see for the first time where she grew up.  We couldn’t help but wonder what similarities, if any, exist between the Philippines and our future home of Haiti.  The tropical weather perhaps?  We are eager to find out.

We came back to Seattle excited about what lies ahead for us with World Concern!  Thank you for your notes and emails following our first prayer letter in January.

The past couple weeks, the Country Directors and other personnel from World Concern’s international offices have been here in Seattle.  It was a great time of fellowship and collaboration for the organization’s leadership.  We had the opportunity to meet with Christon Domond the Haiti Country Director and Pierre Uwimana the Deputy Country Director.  It was a privilege to hear directly from them about the work going on in Haiti.   We were also encouraged to hear from Christon and Pierre about how our roles will help the Haiti team impact more lives in the years ahead.

In our roles, we will have the opportunity to work closely with the local staff and beneficiaries.  Specifically, I (Austin) will be assisting local staff in preparing project reports and grants.  Additionally, I will help collect and write stories from the field.  Martha naturally has a creative eye and will be using that to capture World Concern’s work in Haiti using photography and video.  We all recognize the power of a story.  Our work will produce powerful stories that will hopefully inspire people to act on behalf of the Haitian people.

Why are we going?  We are going because we are passionate about the people and we want to contribute to the life changing work already happening in Haiti!  This position fits our skills well and allows us to help the World Concern Haiti team meet their communication needs.  Martha and I have long agreed that serving internationally and within the development field was something that we wanted.  We feel humbled to have the opportunity to work alongside Haitian brothers and sisters and believe that hope and change can continue to be carried out there.

We feel 100% that the Lord has provided this opportunity for us at just the right time.  He has undoubtedly been preparing us for a mission like this and we believe we have been carefully and intentionally led in this direction.  The process with World Concern has been very smooth and affirming which is why we are confident that God is behind it.

Please pray for safety in travel for Christon and Pierre as they return to Haiti.  Following the earthquake in 2010, the World Concern Haiti team grew from around 85 staff to close to 160.  Therefore, the need for prayer is great!  Pray that they will receive all the strength, wisdom, and courage they need to lead the Haiti team well.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  There is no way we can, by ourselves, reach our goal of serving in Haiti for two years.  Please consider how God may be leading you to contribute to our ministry in Haiti.  We are eager to arrive in Haiti and join the team as they continue to transform lives.  We are grateful for your partnership and financial support.

Martha and I are available to talk with you and would truly enjoy it!  Feel free to contact us through email or phone.  We hope to talk to you soon.


Austin and Martha Snowbarger

A copy of World Concern’s disclosure statement is available by clicking here

Austin’s cell – 206.719.7031
Martha’s cell – 206.707.1058

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