February 15, 2011

Hope in a Hopeless World

Today on Valentine's Day most of my heart is with my sweeties here at home, but part of it is where I left it last year—in Haiti.

We all know the story of the earthquake…the worst natural disaster to cripple any single country…At least a quarter million Haitians died…Entire families were killed in moments…Over a million people became homeless. 

We remember how the world responded with compassion and pledged donations. Relief workers flooded the country. Medical treatment, food and necessities were given to those most in need. Hope started to spring out of the  dusty, shaken earth.

But today, a year later, little has changed in Haiti. Only a small percentage of the earthquake debris has been removed. 1.5 million Haitians still live in tents. Basics like food, water and medical care are in short supply. The government is a mess. Donated supplies are held up in red tape. Peace is tenuous. Even a never-before-experienced cholera epidemic has ravaged the fragile population.

Haiti is broken. Many say it's so broken that lasting change is hopeless.

Last month marked the one year anniversary of the earthquake and little was said of it. What was continuing front page news a year ago has been forgotten. Excitement and emotions have settled down. Our thought are on Tucson, Eqypt, Washington DC, Hollywood and what's in our own backyards. Far from the quagmire of Haiti.

The need remains overwhelming. But many charitable groups still work faithfully in Haiti—away from the spotlight—delivering food, clean water, medical care and education. Their efforts unreported and their successes rarely front page stories.

At the end of the month I'm going back to Haiti and the area our mission groups worked last year. Reception from others toward this year's trip has been less enthusiastic. Some people ask, "Why?" Others say, "It's too dangerous" and "it won't do any good." Much is left unspoken.

So, why am I going back?
Because last year when I went to Haiti, weeks after the earthquake, the trip changed me. I didn't experience Haiti "the country"—devastated and hopeless. I experienced Haiti "the people"—struck down but now destroyed. Shattered but persevering. Filled with sorrow, but choosing joy. Praising God, not cursing Him.

We worked and laughed and prayed together. We played soccer and colored and worshipped together.  Through incredible brokenness God revealed His unbreakable Spirit. He opened my heart and eyes to the people in Haiti. God seemed to do this with everyone who went there.

Yes, the big picture of Haiti is dismal and discouraging. But look closer and you'll see the faces of men and women, sons and daughter. Real people with names and dignity and hope for the future. People not that different from you and me. Jesus asked us to be His hands and feet: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

God showed me the "least of these" in Haiti.

In ten days a group of 15 of us will travel to Haiti to work, once again, with the Foundation for Peace. (Click the link to read about the wonderful things FFP has been doing ever since the earthquake.)

We'll work away from the devastation of Port-au-Prince in Fond Parisien, near the Dominican border. We'll start building a school on land donated by the local government. We'll visit Camp Hope (where our mission teams worked last year). We'll conduct vacation Bible schools for the children. We'll deliver aqua-tabs for cholera prevention. We'll worship, recreate and build relationships. Most of all we'll experience the abundant blessings our almighty and awesome God. 

With the unrest surrounding Haiti, I wasn't sure that this trip would happen. But now things look good and I'm finally allowing myself to get excited

Fundraising has been a big part of all our family's mission trips. This time I got creative and have been offering digital photography and computer training which has been a lot of fun. (I'll keep this up throughout the year, so if you're local and need help, let me know.) I've also received a few donations. But, I haven't reached my goal yet. If you feel led to donate to this trip I certainly appreciate it. Click the button to make a donation.

God is bigger than earthquakes, bigger than disease, bigger than poverty and bigger than our expectations. He doesn't need us to do the work for Him, but He wants to involve us in the process.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'" (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Here's the school at Camp Hope in Fond Parisien that money from our church helped to build.

February 3, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

“One year, 365 photos.”

The headline caught my attention. The article featured a teenage girl who made—and kept—her 2010 resolution to take one picture every day and post it on Facebook. I wanted to see what she had to “say” through her photos and what she discovered along the way.

Her pictures were interesting. They explored lighting and experimented with technique. Then I noticed something odd. The photographer featured herself in every picture. Every one.

I nudged my husband, who was lost in the sports section, “Look at this. She’s the topic of every photo. In one year you’d think she would’ve looked past herself to view the world around her? That’s what’s wrong with this generation! They’re so in love with themselves!”

In reality teenagers have long been self-absorbed and narcissistic (recall the poster child, Narcissus). Psychologists say it’s developmental. But in the “good old days” us teens wrote in our diaries, expressed ourselves on our bedroom walls and talked on the phone with our best friends for hours. Our self-absorption just wasn’t available for public consumption.

Now in the age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and such, navel gazing (omphaloskepsis as it’s formally called) has gone digital. A ready audience—literally the entire world—awaits, and no thought is too personal or too mundane to share.

And it’s not just young people. Forty-five percent of Facebook’s 45 million active users in the U.S. is 26 years old or older; women over 55 represent one of its fastest growing segments. In 2009 there were over 200,000,000 blogs (yes, million), and there are even more today. The number of Twitter users is growing exponentially.

“Look at me!” we proclaim loudly and frequently. (Yes, I know I've done plenty of navel-gazing on these very pages.)

Yet, in this status-updating, tweeting, blogging, posting, wall-writing frenzy has our quest for self-expression/-exploration/-promotion/-adoration rebirthed our inner teenager? Have we become a culture of attention-seekers in love with our reflection? 

As if reading my thoughts, on Sunday our pastor preached, “One of Satan’s greatest tricks is not only to put up a wall between you and God, but to put a mirror on your side of the wall—to get you to look at yourself.” Wow! We've been making the enemy's job really easy!

Our pastor continued, “Humility means smashing that mirror and looking to the One you’re following—which is Jesus.”

Humility? Now there’s an outdated concept. In our culture it’s hard to even know what humility means…or looks like. Yet, as Jesus-followers our ongoing challenge is to live in the world, but not of the world. So we need to figure it out.

In the end, I can read the papers, observe the world and offer commentary on it all, but it really comes down to me and God—and my own mirror. Will I proudly gaze with fondness on my own glory or will I humbly turn the mirror to magnify His?

At the end of the year, will it be 365 Days of Me? Or 365 Days of Thee?

What’s your choice?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” (Romans 12:1-3)

February 1, 2011


Today I'm writing at Internet Cafe Devotions. Won't you grab a cup of coffee and join me there?

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (Matthew 13:13,16)

For most of my adult life I had an approach-avoidance relationship with Jesus. Nine years ago my husband and I took a course at the church we casually attended— a 10-week introduction to Christianity called Alpha. At the beginning of Alpha I was a skeptical seeker. By the end of the course I was an on-fire Christian who finally “got it.” To say Alpha launched my faith life (and my husband’s too) is an understatement.

Now I help to run Alpha at my church and have made many friends who have had similar experiences. Alpha answered our questions, ignited our faith and connected us to other believers in lasting relationships.

We’re organizing this year’s course which begins in a few weeks. But, interest is not as robust as we hoped. Believe me it’s not for our lack of trying. I scratch my head and ask, “Why?” Why aren’t folks registering in droves—when we believe so passionately in this program? Why don’t those with doubts and questions want to explore answers? Why don’t others want to commit ten Sunday evenings to a program that could likely change their lives?

My most thoughtful and fully-formed answer is, “I don’t know.”

I’ve been asking questions like these for a while. And not just with Alpha—but with all the ministries I'm involved with. I’m impatient to see results. I expect my efforts will bear fruit and I feel frustrated when they don’t. I wonder, “Why?”

  • Why do some have ears that “hear,” but others appear deaf?
  • Why does the word of God inspire some to respond radically, but leaves many indifferent, defiant or even hostile?
  • Why do some Christians visibly grow spiritually while others seem to remain the same?