More than a “missions experience”

Late tomorrow night I board an overnight flight for Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Once there I’ll spend the next four days with a dozen pastors and youth pastors from across the United States who are coming to explore bringing a team to Haiti with Praying Pelican Missions.

I have a confession to make: Going to Haiti doesn’t make me nervous anymore.

My first trip in 2010 I was really, really nervous. Just a few weeks after the devastating earthquakes that brought Port-au-Prince to it’s knees I nudged against Ian Robertson at the San Diego airport and said, “What in the world are we doing going there right now?” In preparation, I’d stared at the endless devastation on CNN for hours, read and watched everything I could take in, and been warned by a travel doctor of every possible ailment I could contract.

Going to Haiti in 2010 felt death-defying and harrowing and a little ridiculous. Something you survived.

But… I’ve made six trips since then. And a lot has happened in 64 months there.

I’m not nervous about my trip at all. I’m just excited.

The Value of a Missions Experience

I do, indeed, think that one important aspect of youth ministry– one indelible opportunity for every student involved in a youth group— is a missions experience. Living in the United States is incredibly ethnocentric. And adolescence is a crucial time to shape a worldview that is bigger than the United States.

Part of our job as a youth worker is to help teenagers understand that the Kingdom of God is bigger, stronger, more connected, and better than the place that we live. Jesus followers are citizens of the Kingdom… to discover that you have to get out of your culture. You have to be in other places, worshipping with different people, eat different foods, explore different cultures, and fall in love with something outside of what you know.

Whether it’s across town, across the country, or across an ocean I believe a healthy youth ministry includes a healthy dose of missions experiences. It’s good praxis. It’s good theology. It’s good sociology and anthropology.

More than a “Missions Experience”

Jim Noreen & Sister Mona at Good Shepherd Orphanage
Jim Noreen & Sister Mona at Good Shepherd Orphanage

But I’m 38, not 15.

Frankly, I don’t need another missions experience. I love exploring and visiting new places and meeting new people as much as the next person. But I am at the point in life where I want more than a one-off experience.

I want real relationships. I want to know what I’m doing is sustainable. I want to build partnerships. I want to lift up the local church and strengthen ministries in the things that I do. And I want to make sure that what I’m do is helping and not hurting.

That’s why I’m excited and not nervous about my trip this weekend. I’m going on a vision trip with a dozen folks from around the United States and we’ll spend 4 days with people in Haiti that I know– Eric and Bethany, (get to know Bethany a bit in this post) Cassie and Almando, Rudy, Sister Mona, Pastor Valcourt are people I’ve built relationships with, and have seen how these long-term partnerships lead to sustainable ministry through the local church in Haiti.

To get the opportunity to introduce people to that kind of health? There’s no room for nerves, only excitement.


Want to learn more about PPM’s work in Haiti? Fill out the form below and we’ll talk your ear off.

haiti youth ministry

Go to Haiti with Me April 6-9

Go to Haiti with me this April 6-9
All the cool kids are going to Haiti this April. Join me.

Nearly 3 years ago the world watched in shared disbelief as a devastating earthquake flattened much of Port au Prince, Haiti.

That night, as I tried to gather my thoughts, I summarized it into three things: Pray. Give. Go. 

  • I committed to pray for people effected, people I’d likely never meet, and those who responded. I committed to pray for both immediate relief, for systemic change to a country devastated by decades of exploitation, and that somehow– mysteriously and amazingly– the earthquake could be used for God’s glory.
  • I committed to give appropriately and generously. As time went on that got messier and messier, but I committed to that.
  • I committed that if there was a way I could go and actually help people… I’d go.
Christian Living haiti

Redemption Song

Good Friday reminds me of this song and this moment for two reasons.

  1. May we sing songs of freedom this weekend. Jesus came to set captives free. May we celebrate and remember as ones freed from bondage.
  2. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, let’s remember that Jesus didn’t die just to redeem you. He died that His people might live as children of the light. (Ephesians 5:8) May we continue to have compassion on the Rudy’s of the world in the name of the one who had great compassion on us.
haiti Social Action

What have you done for me lately?

A year ago the earth shook and the world changed.

Billions were given.

Tens of thousands have gone to help.

Yet not much has changed.

  • The poor suffered.
  • The rich got richer.
  • More people died needlessly.
  • The UN has effectively lied, spending money studying and asking questions while accomplishing little.
  • And America sleeps in their comfy beds tonight feeling like they did something because they texted a donation to the Red Cross.

We’re left now with more questions than answers.

  1. If the international aid organizations aren’t going to do something, who is?
  2. People are stealing aid given while government pockets are filled with bribes, who will prosecute perpetrators when the government is the worst offender?
  3. How can we help this country get back on its feet while at the same time lessening dependencies on the outside world?
  4. When will the colonial view on international missions be put away and replaced with working alongside of Haitians to build housing for people in tent cities, advocates standing for justice, and training of teachers, city planners, and tradespeople begin?
  5. Where is the army of Sean Penn-like camp managers?
  6. Who will hold accountable those who make empty promises?

The answer to all of these questions is you. The cameras will shine on Haiti today. And you will feel sorry for what is going on.


Our Haitian brothers and sisters don’t ask for your pity today.

But they are asking for you to help them in ways that answer the questions I’ve posed above.

Know that the media elite will leave tomorrow; having satisfied their ratings and your curiosity, they will board private jets tomorrow and go back to New York, while children still sleep on muddy cardboard beds.

1.5 million people are asking the question, “Who is helping us?

The answer is you.

Turn off the TV and do something.

haiti Photo Social Action

My favorite pictures of 2010



I have thousands of pictures from 2010. Work events, family life, our garden, and two mission trips. But both of my favorite pictures of the year came from the same day in the same location. The Sons of God Orphanage in Carrefour, Haiti.

The first picture is of Kristen. She’s with a little boy who latched himself to her and promptly fell asleep. He sensed her mom-ness and found rest. And she carried him around in the 100+ degree heat with this smile on her face for more than an hour. She and I were thinking the same thing, knowing it was impossible.

The second picture is of me. Walking around the small courtyard snapping pictures of the 60 or so children playing and interacting with our team I decided to let a boy take some pictures of his own. Placing the strap around his neck he grabbed the camera like a pro. He started fiddling through my Nikon settings and changing things to his liking. About that time another boy snagged Mandy’s sunglasses and told his friend to start shooting. I was shocked by the quality of shots this young man took, including this one. I love the composition and the juxtaposition of my smile against the backdrop of a the orphanage. Likewise, the subjects serious face mixed with the silliness of his sudden discovery of style captures the fullness of the moment. Despite the hardship these were kids having fun.

More pictures from Haiti

Give $10 to the Sons of God orphanage. (They run the entire thing on $30,000 per year.)


Sarah Palin in Haiti and Me

The other day I got connected to Emily Troutman, a reporter working for AOL News in Port-a-Prince, Haiti. She was looking for Americans who had travelled to Haiti since the earthquake and I fit that description. After a quick exchange of emails, she told me she was just looking for a couple of quotes about an article covering Sarah Palin’s visit last week. I was happy to comply.

I thought it would be interesting to share the final essay she published and also share my full responses to her questions.

First, her essay:

“Haiti has been a country that has suffered in the past and is going to continue to suffer until some fundamental changes are being made here,” said Palin, who was accompanying the Rev. Franklin Graham, director of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical charitable organization operating in Haiti.

If Sarah Palin wants change for Haiti, though, I hope she will first be changed by Haiti.

Tuesday night, a roving gang, setting fire to a car, aimed rocks at my head when I attempted to take a photo. I just threw my hands in the air, in surrender. By today, I was catching photos of Palin’s cheerful, determined grin. And again, I was tempted to throw my hands in the air. The country was catapulted further into crisis this past week, after many felt the presidential election, mired in fraud, failed to reflect the democratic vote of the people. For three days, Port-au-Prince was shuttered and innocent bystanders sprinted through the streets to find safety.

Read the rest

My name never really appears in the article. Which is fine… I knew that going in. If you read the whole essay though, you’ll see some themes that I brought up appearing scattered throughout. I thought it was pretty cool.

Here are my answers to her questions:

Happy to help. And I didn’t know Sarah was coming to PaP. Very cool of her. I hope her heart is changed the same way mine was.

Feel free to use my name or not. It’d be cool if you could send me back a link if you publish something. (Even if you don’t use my stuff.)

Adam McLane
San Diego, CA

Why did you come to Haiti?
I came immediately following the January earthquake to minister to survivors in tent cities and evaluate what further opportunities there could be for American college students and young adults to serve those displaced.

Did you choose Haiti over another impoverished place? If so, why? Or was it always just Haiti that you wanted to visit? Why?
No, I responded to a specific invitation from an NGO to come to Haiti after the earthquake. Such a trip had never been on my mind before the invitation.

How did you feel when you were here?
I had a lot of fear in coming to Haiti. My whole adult life I’d only heard terrible things. I’d heard it was a place of violence. I’d heard horror stories of those who practiced the Voodoo religion. What shocked me was that my experience was the exact opposite. From my arrival (driving in from the Dominican Republic) until the time I left, I had never been to a place more friendly, and more hospitable. We were greeted everywhere with warm, generous smiles. Surely, when we encountered tent cities who had nothing to eat or drink there was desperation. But we never felt in danger, never saw expressions of anger, and were warmly received. (Whether we came just to help people process what they were going through, praying with them, participating in worship services, or coming to deliver aid, we were treated the same.) As I left in February I cried because my time had ended too quickly. I vowed that I’d be back to serve again. (And fulfilled that vow in July)

I expected Haiti to be a nation heavy with mourning and instead found it a place of hope!

Did anything surprise you?
Lots of things! I didn’t expect to enjoy the food so much. From fresh fruit bought on the street to amazing meals of rice, beans, and goat.

On my return trip in July, what surprised me was how little progress had been made. The tent cities were filled with the same people and the rubble was in the same place. Likewise, the people in the tent cities were frustrated by the big NGOs promises to help. They knew billions of dollars had been given in aid but only a few things had happened. (I wasn’t there with Oxfam, but in several of the camps we worked in we were impressed by the sanitation/water systems installed by Oxfam.)

How did you feel when you went home?
On both trips I was sad to leave Port-au-Prince. I feel strangely alive while I’m there. It’s hard to explain how amazing of a community it is, even amidst the great disaster. I had a hard time explaining to people what I’d experienced. Their minds were filled with the horror stories portrayed on the news while I wanted to share stories of the great hope for rebuilding the nation we felt as we met with people in tent cities, pastors, and various community leaders.

Did you feel different? Culture-shocked? Grateful? Tired? How long did it take for that feeling to subside, or did it?
Coming back, first there were the silly things. On both trips I was overcome with emotion in the airport upon coming back to the States. On my first trip, our team sat down for lunch and collectively felt guilty. We had each just spent $10 on lunch… enough money to feed a family for 10 days. On my second trip, it just didn’t make any sense to me that a short two-hour flight from Port-au-Prince took me a world away. It was trivial, but after going through customs and checking in to my homeward flight, I cried in the bathroom. It was just too clean and unused to make any sense. That was definitely reverse culture shock.

Did it subside? Of course. But I’ve been changed forever.

Will you come back? Why or why not?
I will come back. Why? There is too much work to be done. And for anything I’ve given it’s been returned to me ten times in blessing.

I originally had plans to return after Christmas but they’ve since fallen through. I’m currently looking for an opportunity to come back with an NGO to continue working in the tent cities. I would love to be a camp manager.

Are you glad you went to Haiti?
Absolutely. Haiti is a place that intrigues you with its paradox. It has a rich, proud history of being the first free black nation. It’s people speak a beautiful language and love to learn. But it’s also defined by a history of corruption and deep poverty. That paradox sets it apart and calls me back!

Here’s the deal: Haiti still needs help. It still needs people like you. If God is calling you there and you aren’t quite sure why. Let me know.

Christian Living hmm... thoughts


That’s what 2010 has been about.

My life was turned upside down multiple times in the past 12 months. All of which I’m entirely grateful for.

Haiti – On January 12th, as news flooded in that much of Port-au-Prince had crumbled in an earthquake, I prayed a crazy prayer. I asked God to comfort those who were dying, bring emergency help if possible for those who survived, and if He wanted I was willing to go.

Little did I know that 5 weeks later I’d be standing amidst the rubble. We helped where we could. We prayed with people and met plenty of pastors looking for aid. But the thing that rattled me more than anything was to feel a nation suddenly turn their heart towards God. An emotion leapt out of every person that sang in the streets, “I’m alive, so I can celebrate! I’m alive because of Jesus! I will celebrate even though I have nothing!” The only way I can describe that is that it felt like I’d been given the opportunity to dip my toe in a river of God’s benevolence. It’s was more powerful than anything I’d ever experienced.

My perspective was changed when people who slept in tents on the rocky bare ground asked if they could pray for me. That re-defined what it means to be poor.

Baby – One Sunday in late June the game was changed. “I’m pregnant.” Two words that I’ve wanted to hear for a long time but never really thought I’d hear again. Over the next few months we’ve had to wrap our minds around what it’ll mean to have a baby in the house again. Unlike with our first baby the question we’ve been asking ourselves is, “How little stuff do we think we can get away with acquiring?” There are, of course, bigger questions to be answered. How will this baby change our family? How will we handle child care? Will this baby finally have curly hair like Kristen?

My perspective was changed when the reality set in that this is an opportunity to apply what we learned with Megan and Paul. In many ways we’re brand new parents.

Openness – For some reason I’d kept a muzzle on myself. I suppose I had a fear that if I really opened up and said what was on my mind– instead of what I thought people wanted me to say– that people would like me less. And I certainly felt the sphincter effect on my creativity as more and more people began reading my blog after Marko left YS.

Then, late last year I woke up and realized something. “I just don’t care. I need to be 100% me 100% of the time. This is who God made me and I need to be gaudy in that. Let the chips fall where they may.” It’s been interesting to see the results in 2010. I’ve written things in 2010 that I literally done with fear and trembling… and time and again those things have been affirmed as not just OK… but words that people needed to read. More good things have happened as a result of trying to be true to myself than I ever would have thought possible.

My perspective was changed when I internalized that the world has enough pretenders. Sometimes you need to do things that are counter-intuitive to break through a barrier.

All of this has given me new ears to listen. New levels of obedience. And an overwhelming excitement for days to come.


Go to Haiti this December

As the video says, I’m looking to gauge the interest of a trip to Haiti this December 27th or 28th, 2010 – January 1st or 2nd, 2011. I’m specifically interested in leading a team of church/youth/college leaders who are exploring the possibility of a trip in 2011 or 2012. (Yes, this would be my 3rd trip in 2010… I know, crazy.)

Also, if your church is considering a church partnership with a Haitian church, this would be a great way to see how the partnership works and meet some pastors who are in the program already.

So, we’ll do ministry and meet practical needs with an eye on seeking the Lord’s desire for us to bring a team at a later time. The trip would be run by Adventures in Missions, obviously I don’t work for them but you’ll have the chance to see how they work, ask questions, and really figure out if the trip is the right fit for your ministry. (I love being the connector– that’s all I get out of it!)

If you are interested, please let me know soon. For the trip to work I need 10-15 people to commit in September. Feel free to use the contact page, send me a Facebook message, Twitter direct message, or email me with questions.

I have a lot more information for those interested. And looking for more information is absolutely not committing you to anything.

UPDATE: The trip dates changed by a couple of days. But the intent and everything else is exactly the same. Let me know ASAP if you are interested.

haiti Social Action

Help Haiti: Education

This is Pastor Wilnord. We got to know Wilnard and his ministry while in Carrefour last month.

If you are interested in helping fund the school in Wilnard’s church or perhaps your church (Or a group of Christian educators, or any combination) is interested in adopting this school to help pay the teachers, provide uniforms and shoes, or even feed the students, please let me know.

If you’d like, we can plan a trip together and I can introduce you to Pastor Wilnord myself.

The needs in Haiti are still real. The opportunity is still huge. Please don’t forget.


Piggy Banks

Jeffrey and Joel were visiting with the people of a tent city in the town of Carrefour, Haiti when they heard periodic banging. Used to the sound of big diesel engines and definitely used to the sound of kids laughing and playing games, metal on metal banging was distinctive pang and piqued their curiosity.

Under a tree, away from the main tent area, they met Daniel. Daniel is a mason by trade. But right now there are way more masons than opportunities to do masonry so he began to improvise. With all of the aid flowing into the tent camp there was plenty of garbage generated. One thing that seemed like it was useful for something was all of the one gallon aluminum cans which brought foods like beans.

After some messing around and possibly scouting out what was selling in the city, Daniel started cutting open the cans and making flat sheets of aluminum. Then, using only a large square chunk of steel and a smaller, shorter chunk of steel, he began shaping the aluminum into little boxes and punching a hole in them.

Bam. Instant piggy bank made from recycled cans.

Next, he began selling them to street vendors to sell up the hill in Carrefour. He sold them at 3 for 25 gouds. (3 for about 75 cents in US dollars) Each one took him about 2 minutes to make. So, in theory, Daniel could earn about 75 cents per hour. Remember, the average Haitian family earns less than $1 per day.

Jeffrey and Daniel bought about 6 piggy banks. (They paid him a little more than he was asking.)

Later that night as our team debriefed the day Joel brought up this story. And as the conversation morphed our team decided that we wanted to buy as many piggy banks as Daniel could make. Maybe, if we could get enough, we could use them to raise money for something like the Sons of God Orphanage?

The next day we went back to the tent city and found Daniel under his tree, banging away. We told him our plan and he liked it.

We will buy as many banks as you can make by noon tomorrow.

He thought he could make about 50. We said, no matter how many he makes… we’ll buy them all.

The next day, we were all a little apprehensive and hopeful. We had a feeling he’d have the 50 piggy banks. But we joked that we’d also walk into the camp and see tons of little kids with band-aids on their fingers from making these things all night long!

Daniel looked like a smart businessman. Maybe he’d hired the whole neighborhood to turn garbage into cash? Wouldn’t that be hilarious? I’d hoped we had enough money.

When we found Daniel under his tree it was clear that he was exhausted. He hadn’t slept. The interpreter tried to nice it up by saying that he thought Daniel had a fever. But it was OK, he had worked all night and we had come to buy what he had. His hard work was a good sign that he cared for his family.

He had 44 piggy banks. We counted them. We examined them. We made a big deal over how cool they were and well they were constructed. And then we talked about price.

You could tell he was nervous about that part. I don’t speak Creole but I could read his body language. Were the Americans going to try to offer him a bad price? And what would he do if we did?

The same price came up… 3 for 25 gouds. We told him no. We told him that he had worked all night and that we had rushed him. We told him that we didn’t feel right about paying him so little. We asked him if he thought it was fair if we paid him 25 gouds each. (It took a couple rounds of interpreting to get what we were saying.) He looked kind of confused by our proposition. I doubt anyone had ever told him they should pay him MORE because he had worked hard.

So, we counted them up and paid him just over 1000 gouds. (About $25 US) We shook hands, gave him the money, and walked away.

I don’t know what justice looks like. I can define justice. I can talk about it. But I don’t have a clue what it actually looks like.

I honestly don’t know if that was justice in action or just some silly Americans buying souvenirs thing. I just don’t know because I live in a world where basic justices are a given. But I do know business. I know that  on that day, under that tree, that act of business felt like an act of justice.

I pray that more Daniel’s find more ways to recycle things. Turning garbage into money is good in any longitude or latitude.