Friday, August 24, 2012

SunMin's Song!!

It’s time for my long overdue update on my trip to Haiti!  I have talked to some people in person, which has been fun, but many of you may still be curious.  Just to give some context (and list my excuses) for my delay, I landed in San Diego on Sunday morning, July 29th.  I then left for Denver three days later for a wedding.  Came back to SD for 5 days, and then flew to the East Coast to see some college buddies and family.  And in between, I have been trying to catch up on all my work!  I am definitely still processing through my Haiti experience in the midst of this busyness, but wanted to at least start sharing my thoughts.  Since I’m heading out of town for one more weekend trip, I’m going to start with a few notes, and a video for you to enjoy.

One-word Summary
I was asked if I had to summarize the trip with one word, what would I pick.  I said, “Successful.”  That was the overall feeling I had when I returned.  Although efficiency is not something you can fully expect when you are serving in a foreign country with a language barrier, we had a great sense of accomplishment as we left.  I had the privilege of co-leading an amazing group of men.  Everyone filled in when needed, took on roles even when stretching, and laughed well together.  We felt united throughout the trip, which was a huge answer to prayer. 

Backup Word
The other word that almost won was “exhausted.”  Since we went to Haiti during the hottest part of the year and stayed in a house with no air-conditioning, we sweated even in our sleep.  There was also an extremely proactive rooster warning us of impending daylight from 11:30pm till the sunlight broke.  Overall, none of us slept much throughout the week.  Praise God He sustained us, and I was not afraid to drink some hot coffee each morning while sweating!

We had around 400 kids come each day to the combined VBS and Soccer Camp.  We got into a pretty good rhythm, and God seemed to do some amazing things through the language barrier.  One of the highlights of the week was a song that a team member, SunMin, wrote for VBS.  The kids loved singing it with all the hand motions, and so “SunMin’s Song” became a daily hit.  The VBS guys decided the soccer guys needed to learn it, so here is a video of all of us singing the song on the roof of the house we stayed at!

More highlights, learnings, and invitations to come in the next few weeks!  Thank you so much for journeying with me through your finances, prayers, and general interest.  I cannot be more grateful for the community and support that God has surrounded me with!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Haiti. It's Here.

I can’t believe I will be leaving on a jet plane to Haiti in two days!  It has been quite the ride in preparing, and I’m really excited to get there and see what God has in store.  First off, thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, whether it be financially, through encouraging words, or through prayer!  Not only did I reach my financial goal, but went way above it.  Your generosity was overwhelming, and I am so grateful for who God has put around me in life as I take on these adventures.  Please know that the extra money will be going towards supplies that COTN needs in establishing themselves within the country. 

I have not really updated you since my original post about Haiti, and I apologize.  The projects we would be tackling did not really take shape until about 3 weeks ago, so it has been a scramble at the end to organize everything we need.  Although drastically different, the vision for the trip has shifted a bit. 

COTN has been working hard to lay a foundation in Haiti, but things seem to take longer there than in most countries.  They realized their greatest need at this juncture was not for us to do any construction, since they are still nailing down a home base, but to focus on building relationships.  Here are the main tasks we will be tackling this next week:

1.    VBS & Soccer Camp. 

One of our main goals was to meet the kids within Haiti, and be father figures for these kids through the gift of presence.  We will be splitting our team between the two and running both simultaneously.  The younger kids will be going to VBS, and the older kids will take part in the soccer camp.  Another team from Seattle did the same thing last month, and by the end of the week, had almost 500 kids coming out.  We have no clue what to expect, but we are prepared to handle that much and more.  Since we are the second team, word may have spread!  We have a VBS guru on our team, and a few guys with soccer experience, so it should be good.  Although every team member may not be a natural with kids, I know God is going to use us in great ways to encourage these kids. 

2.    Leadership Conference
The COTN staff in Haiti really desired to offer this to the leaders in the community, as it is an area of need within the long-term restoration the country is facing.  We are expecting around 30 or so people coming to this, and pray that God is going to work through the language barrier!  Many of us will be writing our talks on the flights there (at least I will….), as we learned of this late, but we trust God is going to use our experience and knowledge to make a difference.  

3.    Beach Day with the Sponsored Kids
Our church took part in Hope for Haiti two years ago after the earthquake, and a large portion of our money went to support 12 children and their families.  Although the devastation was widespread, COTN decided to start somewhere.  Our church heard the stories of these kids, and they became the face of what COTN was doing in Haiti.  We have the privilege of taking those kids to the beach for the day to get to know them better, and hopefully create a fun and encouraging day for them. 

4.    Meals and Hygiene Packs

One of our main goals as a team was to help distribute the contents of the container that our church shipped over to Haiti this summer.  Flood came together and packaged over 150,000 meals on a Sunday, and also put together many hygiene packs.  We will be using those meals to feed kids for a few lunches, and if we have enough hygiene packs, will be handing them out, with explanation, to the kids at the VBS.  Although the container had to be emptied upon arrival, we get the privilege of seeing people blessed by contents.  

The VBS and Soccer will be happening in the morning from Monday through Thursday, and the Leadership Conference is slated for the afternoon on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Beach day with the kids will be Friday. 

Prayer Requests:
Let’s get some obvious ones out of the way:
1.    Team unity.  We have 15 guys going, and there are some established relationships, but it’s a lot of personalities in one house with insane heat. 
2.    Safety and Health.  A lot of traveling and a lot of foreign food.  Enough said. 

Main Prayer:
There are many aid organizations that have come and gone within Haiti, mainly giving a handout and moving on.  Many people in Haiti have grown accustomed to merely asking, “What are you giving me?”.  COTN is continually building trust and respect there, hoping that the people realize that the ministry is there to stay.  We are representing COTN this next week, and our prayer is that God uses us, through our last-minute and imperfect plans for the week, through the language barrier, and through our general brokenness, to draw people to God’s love for them, specifically expressed through COTN.  Although we may not see results directly, we trust that God is using us to draw His children into His loving embrace. 

Personal Prayer Requests:

1.    I have had a really busy month, with a lot of organizing, planning, and delegating.  I have been in task mode for a few weeks.  Although I objectively know what I am stepping into, I have had a hard time connecting with the reality on a heart level.  I pray that God gives me space on the plane to slow down and prepare.  I pray that I will be able to be present and aware of what God is doing in Haiti, as well as in my own heart. 
2.    I have been on a long journey of growing in compassion, mainly through connecting my heart with my mind.  I really hope that God uses this trip to stretch me in this area, even if its shocking or hard. 
3.    I pray that I could lead the team well, giving support and encouragement when needed, but also giving myself space as well. 
4.    I want to be Inspired.  Shocked.  Broken.  I want my heart engaged.  I will most likely regret this prayer request.
5.    Pray for my re-entry.  My mind often goes extreme, especially within the area of money.  I pray that I can process in a healthy way.

Our team will send an update, and I’m sure I will send a few updates to Tatum.  I’ll let her pass along how I am doing.  Be back in a week!

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Haiti Adventure

My life is extremely fulfilling.  I have an amazing wife and two beautiful daughters, who all bring an insane amount of joy into my daily life.  I’m excited every time I enter my house.  And although I would love to spend more time with my family, I also have excitement when I leave the house.  I have an engaging job that lines up extremely well with my heart and passions.  So no complaints on my daily routine whatsoever. 

Yet I knew deep down that I could not pass up an opportunity that was presented to me a few months ago.  “Would you be willing to recruit a team from the Men’s ministry to go to Haiti this summer?”  I was very willing to do that, as I have wanted to see more men engaged in the church, both locally and globally.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might need to recruit myself.  When I brought up the idea to Tatum, it was a short response.  “I don’t even need to pray about it.  You should go.”  Great, now I have no excuses, unless I can convince myself that God does NOT want me to go.  Uphill climb, there.  Then she added, “I think this is exactly what our marriage needs!”  Me leaving for a week?!  Possibly.  But I knew exactly what she was referring to.

Tatum and I love being parents.  Would not trade it for anything.  Yet it comes with loss for us.  We are both driven and passionate people (one of us expresses that a bit more outwardly than the other…), and the freedom in our schedule is quite limited in this life stage.  In the midst of changing diapers and 7pm bed times, its easy to turn inward and have part of your heart become numb.  We start thinking about what school system is the best, and the meal schedule for the week, and when can we justify replacing that piece of furniture.  Nothing inherently wrong, but thoughts disconnected from what is going on in the world around us.  Tatum and I have been longing to have our hearts engaged again.  For our hearts to be broken for those that are in need.  For our perspective to be shattered and rebuilt!  We can objectively know things, but sometimes our hearts and eyes need to see it first hand.  Although Tatum cannot realistically go on a trip right now, a week trip to Haiti seemed to be the perfect answer with a feasible time frame. 

So from July 21st through 28th, I will be co-leading a team of 15 men to Haiti to come alongside a great organization that our church has joined forces with throughout the past few years:  Children of the Nations (COTN).  They are in multiple countries, including the Dominican Republic, which gave them a great opportunity to aid the country after the earthquake.  They are now trying to establish a ministry within Haiti, and our team is going to help them in any way that we can.  This will include:

1.    Container
Flood packaged a shipping container with 150,000 meals and other crucial resources to send to Haiti.  Our team will be helping to distribute those resources to those who need them.
2.    Children
There are many children without father figures, so hopefully the gift of presence will be a huge blessing.
3.    Construction
We are hoping to have some hands-on projects there as well to utilize our biceps.
4.    Casting Vision (needed the “c”)
Hopefully our team of leaders will be able to dream of ways to come alongside of Haiti and COTN in future endeavors.

I have loved the opportunity to invite other men onto this team and to see who God has brought together for this adventure.  A lot of key leaders within our church!  I truly believe we will be a huge blessing to COTN and Haiti, but then also in our church when we return.  If you know me, one of my main passions in life is to see more men engaged in the church.  I think this could be a catalyst to see that happen!

Prayer requests:
1.    Haiti and COTN
2.    The men on the trip, and the men of our church
3.    My heart
4.    My family while I am gone

I will keep you updated.  I cherish all prayers for this trip.  You can also visit my fundraising page if you feel so inclined to give financially.  The cost of the trip is $2235, and I need to raise that by June 20th.  Thanks for considering!

Fundraising Page:
•    100% of the donation goes toward the trip
•    Page has details for credit card, paypal, or check