Stories continue…an update on Jason

Early last year I made this video about a little guy we met in a squatter village near Manila. There’s now more to the story…

Update time…

If you saw the video, you know he was living in very difficult circumstances. The people I know in his country are good people who love and care for their children, even if they lack necessities. However, Jason was in a particularly abusive situation and the government decided to get him to a safe place…

In this safer place, he gained physical strength and is now full of hope and faith. Our team returned a year later to visit him. He was strong, full of joy, loved to pray and smiled a lot. Mary Beth, the team leader, shared much more on our interns blog at cohinterns.org.

We met Jason through the Convoy of Hope’s Children Feeding Initiative. His belly if full, mind is learning, heart is full of faith, and he loves life and people.

Some reasons I believe this story is turning out well…

1. People are praying.

2. Our local partner in the area is incredible. He’s a very humble pastor, who sacrifices much for his community. He could work in another place making really good money, but he follows God’s call and is there. He’s very invested in this story and has spent tremendous time praying for and working towards the right solution.

3. The Children’s Feeding Initiative is about much more than feeding stomachs. It’s been an answer to the prayers of the pastor and his family, and a key tool for them to use in reaching their community.

4. People are following God’s plan for their lives…donors, our interns and intern staff, local missionaries who are helping the pastor, the pastor and volunteers from his church, our Convoy of Hope staff that gets food and more to this village, representatives of the Filipino government, those who run (and donate to) a nearby children’s home, and people who pray!

Thank you for caring for little guys like him. I look forward to sharing another update about his life someday.

Our version of Kids with Cameras

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During intern training, our team watched the movie, Born Into Brothels. In the Oscar winning documentary, kids from Calcutta’s Red Light District are given cameras and taught to use them. Out of the project, an organization called Kids with Cameras was born. We liked the idea.

 

Here’s how we used it: after school, 12 girls from Bangladsh go to Uttam’s Place, an oasis they can see from their home in the slums. There, they study, learn, play, laugh, eat, shower, wash their clothing and smile a lot.  Now, they’re kids with cameras who love to take pictures.

 

A key lesson they’re learning? There’s no one on earth like them…they’re unique, special, and there’s a pretty fantastic plan in the works for their lives. They’re learning some other key things too…

 

 

banglrOur interns spent last week with them. We played, did crafts, shared songs and stories, ate and got to know them.

 

Getting to know the girls was insightful. One told me how her father is crippled. Another talked about her uncle recently dying. They’re all have their stories. They’re unique and they’re beautiful. They’re learning and having a blast at this special place.

 

Last week, they learned about photography and how like photos, each of them is unique and special. Smiles, laughter, interest, concentration, and joy infected each of these special girls. They took many, many photos and look forward to learning more.

 

The most frustrating part of the week? The stomach flu all 10 of us got. We’re better now, but not done with Uttam’s Place! The team goes back the next week…and even next month. I’ll post some of their photos when I get them.

 

We’ve taught the basics of taking pictures…and just started with a few details before getting sick.  Anything you think we should include in our future lessons? banglcamera

 

Note: Many thanks Fred & friends at Lawrence Photo in Springfield, Mo.  They donated/gave great deals on cameras we took to the center that helps the girls.

Thank you Mr. President (& my sister)

A few months ago, with our Convoy of Hope interns, I spent time in the home of a woman who sold her daughter to gypsies in order to pay for food for her younger children. The team and I were profoundly affected.

Human slavery.

Slumdog Millionaire helped bring the issue to the attention of millions of people.  The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture last year.  In the film, beautiful children were enslaved by evil men.  In portions of the movie, their enslavement meant they begged on the streets for money they couldn’t keep. At other times, it meant allowing others to gain pleasure at the expense of the innocent. 

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Kids should be free and safe and nutured…they should fly kites and enjoy life. And of course, no adult should be subjected to slavery of any form.

But slavery exists today all over the world…sexual slavery, slave labor and more.  It exists in my country and on every continent.

Today, our President proclaimed January 2010 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Thank you Mr. President. Seriously. Great job on this proclamation.

I used to think that slavery and human trafficking were confined to the largest cities in lands far away. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere. A few months ago, I was in the midwest sharing about various things including human trafficking.  A woman spoke up about the trafficking she was beginning to witness in a town down the road from her…here in the United States. As she got to know the poverty stricken area better and better, she saw it more and more clearly.

I’m thankful for organizations like Project Rescue. Their Homes of Hope around the world provide a place of hope for women and their children who’ve been victims of sexual slavery.  They also have other places that reach out to those who’ve escaped slavery. 

I’m thankful for f.r.e.e. international where Michael and the gang are helping victims here in the USA. 

I’m thankful for Elizabeth.  Her compassionate heart, combined with various connections combined with a visit to Project Rescue as part of our Convoy of Hope Internship program.  She now helps with the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. She’s passionate about the cause and has done a ton to raise awareness where she lives in Columbia, Mo.  I love that.

What a great awareness raising proclamation. May we realize a bit of what’s happening. May we do something about it!

My sister is doing something about it.  She wrote and produced a kid’s worship CD/DVD.  It’s called “One Life.”  The kids at her church, Hammond (IN) First Assembly sing with her.  What’s cool is that 25% of the proceeds will go to help Project Rescue.  She and these kids (and those who purchase the project) are a part of helping victims of human trafficking. I think that’s pretty cool.

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May God help the victims of human trafficking and slavery tonight…

People existing on the margins of survival

I came across this story today. Heartbreaking.  It’s about the people of Peru who raise alpacas high in the Andes Mountains. The weather is getting colder each winter and they’re having to make tough decisions about their animals, their farms and their families.

I’m skeptical about the reasons behind climate change (not sure man’s behind it) but I’m not skeptical that the climate does change and has for years. I also know it affects people.

People like those in these highlands are affected. The article refers to them as “people existing on the margins of survival”.

I was in the highlands a few years ago on a OneHope trip and met this little guy.  I won’t forget him.

Peruvian highlands

I won’t forget his hands or his cheeks. We were about 10,000 feet elevation when I took this photo. His hands were very, very, very dry as were his cheeks. Everyone’s were.  It hurts them just like it would hurt us…affecting sleep, comfort level and more. More is at stake though as the elements take their tole on those exisiting on the margins of survival. A few miles from this photo we met people walking their alpacas.

The article linked above mentioned that people are now debating whether or not to use their meager resources to save their children or their animals! I cannot imagine.

I don’t know the solution.

“They should move!  Why would anyone live that high!!”  Except many generations have lived in the same area and it’s all they know…

“Why wouldn’t they save their kids…they’re humans!”  I AGREE…except they understand that with no animals there’s no food so there’s starvation for all.

What’s the solution? I don’t know. I like to use this site to raise awareness sometimes…and to help us remember to pray for those exisiting on the margins of survival. God is creative and He gives great ideas to those who listen. May these hurting people and those who influence them hear from Him.  May they find new life in Him!

Here’s a closer shot of his hands, with encouragement to pray for him and those affected, and with a challenge to be a part of the solution for those on the margins.

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Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration

hopelivesbookSince joining the Convoy of Hope team, I’ve been amazed at the surprises I’ve encountered in the scriptures regarding God’s heart for the poor.  I’ve grown up in the church, but missed some pretty important lessons from the 2000+ verses where He shares how He feels about those in need.

Our interns and I discuss His heart for the poor and our passions to help them during each training session.  We talk, watch videos, hear from great people and read.  The most engaging book we’ve read on compassion and His heart is Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration by Amber Van Schooneveld. 

 


The book challenges without sending anyone on guilt trips, and encourages without letting anyone off the hook. I especially appreciate the ways Amber connects life in our own context with ways we can help others in need around the world.   It’s a book for those who drink Starbucks, update their facebooks, don’t necessarily feel called to live in the jungle but who care deeply about Jesus and others.

I got in touch with Amber and she was gracious enough to share via Skype with our fall team on the last day of the term.  It was fun.
I thought I’d pass on my thoughts on this great book.  There is companion curriculum for small groups (or youth groups). 

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Some thoughts from this side of the world

Yesterday I left the world’s densest country* to head to the world’s highest.  It’s been a wild ride full of wonder, intense poverty, beautiful people, and opportunities to serve.

 

I’m here strategizing the work our interns will do during the spring ’10 Convoy of Hope internship term.  So many places with so much need.  Opportunity.  Impact?

opportunity(1)

We’ll work with little girls who live in the slums but who are finding a way out with help from people who love them.

opportunity (2)

We’ll work in a very special orphanage where the lives of children are changed forever.**

opportunity (3)

We’ll connect with churches that are making a difference and do our best to encourage with a sweet partnership.

I’m actually pretty overwhelmed by this trip…and excited by the opportunity.  More thoughts from here a bit later…

 

 

*For those keeping score, it’s the densest except for city states like Vatican City, etc. 

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How to react to the man holding the tin cup

The first time I really remember people asking me for money was on my second trip overseas.  It was 1994 and we were in Calcutta, India, one of the world’s poorest cities.  Everywhere we went people were begging…the children in front of our hotel (they would do cartwheels and pop up holding out their hands for $), people on virtually every street corner and in front of shops.  I won’t forget the man on the sidewalk leaning back in a makeshift seat with a tin cup around his neck.  He hand no arms and no legs.  He was in desperate need.

Since then, I’ve been approached in virtually every country I’ve visited…and in my own.  People around the world are poor.  What can be done to help them? 

tin11Relevant Magazine just posted a great article on the problem.  It’s found here

I don’t think the proper response is to give money every time someone asks…have you seen Slumdog Millionaire?  Not all of that money will get to the people in need.  Even if it does, it’ll help create dependency and can in fact keep people from finding the right help. 

I wish I knew exactly how Jesus would’ve responded to that man I saw in Calcutta…or the children I see in Ecuador…or the family by the side of the road in Papua New Guinea.  All beautiful places with great churches, leaders and futures…but all places with people in need.  If Jesus helped one by handing out money, then he would be mobbed everywhere He went.  He was mobbed, but that’s not why.

tin2I like what my friends Joe and Mishael do.  When they’re overseas, they always carry bags of fruit with them in their vehicles…they hand them out to all who ask until the bag is empty.  I like what my brother-in-law does when he goes to downtown Chicago…he likes to bring McDonald’s gift certificates knowing the money he’s giving will be spent on food and not something else.  I traveled with Chris who would regularly take his leftovers and give them to people in front of the restaurant asking for food.  My wife has handed out breakfast bars to the  vet on the corner when we exit the highway by our home.  I’ve had fun playing with kids and then taking them for an ice cream cone or “Magnum” bar (they’re really good) in plenty of countries overseas.

These things help…but just for a moment.  While that’s what some people need in that moment, there’s got to be a bigger/better response.

I love being a part of Convoy of Hope.  In all honestly, we ask that people don’t give money to those who ask from the side of the road in foreign countries (or our own).  However, we work with churches to help find long-term solutions.  Convoy of Hope has helped start a cafe in Eurasia, a bakery in Central America and other micro-enterprises in places where people are in need.  We provide seeds to families so they can grow food and even sell some to help make ends meet.  We help people build water filters…that they can build inexpensively with items from their own communities. Our interns are working with schools to help the children plant gardens and then use seeds from those gardens to give to others so the food can spread.  I could go on…

1994-07-india091I don’t have many photos of people who ask for money.  It doesn’t seem right to take them.  However, I won’t forget those kids on the street in Calcutta.  They saw Allen, another friend and I get off the riksha and came over and asked us to take their “pic! pic! pic!”  They wanted their photo taken.  We took their photo.  They then looked at each other and each went for a different water bottle.  They stole water bottles from our hands and ran across the street laughing.  I suppose if  it made them smile, I was fine with losing that water bottle.  A fun moment…

 

God give you people wisdom about what to do to best help those in need!

 

What do you do?

 

 

200tincup

I’ve been pondering the ascension…

In the mid-late 90’s, I shared with the Park Crest college group from Philip Yancey’s book, “The Jesus I Never Knew.” Great book. I’ll confess I’d forgotten his thoughts on the ascension. I revisited the book and his thoughts a few months ago, and have pondered them since. Without getting too theological, or footnoted, etc. here are my conclusions. These are simple thoughts, but a new perspective for me.

If Jesus were here today, there would be two really big things happening:

1. People would do everything they could to get near him to ask Him to help them, heal them, pray for them, etc. It would be like this, but 1000 times over. He would help the poor.

2. People who loved Jesus would be clamoring to find ways to serve Him…can I get you some tea? Can I wash your feet? Here, have the comfortable seat, etc. It would be like Mary and Martha but 1000 times over. People would serve Him.

Jesus isn’t here (at least physically). He ascended. He’s not back yet. But…

1. People still need help. Since He’s gone, we can be stand in for Him and do our best to help those in need. As Audio Adrenaline sang a long time ago, we can be “His hands, His feet.” We can help the poor.

2. We can serve Him as we would if He were present in the “Can I get you some tea or wash your feet” sense. We do so when we serve others. In fact, that’s the point of much of Matthew 25, which says, “When you do this unto the least of these, you do this unto me”. We can serve Him.

Anyways…as you can see, #1 and #2 happen simultaneously when we serve others in His name.

These are some of the thoughts I’ve been pondering since mid-December. Our interns leave for Haiti on Monday to do just that. I’ll join them in the Caribbean soon. My friend Travis just left for Honduras to do just that, you can read more here.

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Meet Maria

On Monday, the team and I went to a village church about 30 minutes from Sarata Galbena. Many of the homes in the village were abandoned as people had no money and left for other places. We worked with local Christians to share food with some gypsy families, the elderly, and some very poor people. Few times have I seen poverty on this scale.

Here, Claire gives us a bit of a tour and her thoughts…


Then, we went back to the small church building (it’s actually more of a home) where they fed us and we had a service for about 25 kids. What a wonderful time. There’s a family from the main church in Sarata that’s sees this village as their mission…we loved partnering with them for this day. (We also provided a lot of groceries for the church and food for the ministry.)

While there, I met Maria (not her real name…). We were sitting down, and there were balloons on the floor and we, not knowing each other’s language, got in a mild balloon fight. Fun. We palled around for the rest of the afternoon.

I then learned her story. She’s 10-years-old and has a little sister. Her father has been gone for years and her mother left last year as well. She’s taken care of her little sister for months now. This church found her, and has been helping her. In fact, the couple pastoring the church are letting Maria and her sister move in with them. She’s now well fed, warm and has some adults who love her and are telling her about Jesus.

The larger church is working towards perhaps starting an orphanage to help children such as Maria and her sister.

Great girl, fun afternoon, honor for Convoy of Hope and our interns to partner with churches like this.

At Lena and Dani’s house…

I've been a lot of places, but few of them are like the home of Andre, Lena and Dani. These three siblings don't know where their father is and their mother has gone to another country for work. She left some money at the local market for her kids to have food. That was last summer and she hasn't returned.

There are older siblings who help watch them but they're in the fields all day. The kids stay home…when it's hot and when it's cold.

We got their information from the mayor. He said they were in desperate need.

Igor is a local pastor's son. He and his wife went with us to their home yesterday and today. Igor said he didn't know poverty like this existed in his village. They were moved.

More photos and video later…