Nervous Energy

Nervous energy. I think that’s a good description for the weirdness of a travel day for every short-term mission team, especially high schoolers.

I woke up this morning thinking of the youth leaders and their checklists. At this point, the day they fly, there isn’t much left to do. Count heads, reassure parents, and check stuff off the list.

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.
San Diego Living Travel

Mexico isn’t Scary

Not-so-scary street tacos and real Coke

I spent yesterday with some folks from Amor Ministries in Tijuana.

The point of our trip was to visit some recent Amor houses built in a colonia to create a video inviting NYWC participants to spend a day of convention there building a house. The houses we saw were anywhere from 3 days old to 10 months old. If you aren’t familiar with how it works, essentially Amor acts as an agent of blessing for a local group of pastors. Individuals from the community request help from their local church, and the pastor asks Amor to build a starter-house for a family. They intentionally don’t do everything because they want the family to come in and make it their own.

You aren't afraid of a place where children buy neon colored baby chicks, are you?

Here’s the reality for Amor (and YWAM, whom I visited last year): Fear of gang violence has lead to tons of people from the States stopping their annual trips down. Conversely, the downward dip in the economy has meant people already poor in TJ are now much poorer.

All Amor is trying to do is help the local pastor answer the question, “How can the church be Good News so that the community will hear and receive Good News?

Let me just say this: Forget what you’ve heard on the news. Yes, there are problems. Yes, drug cartel violence is horrible and deadly. But is Jesus always asking you to do the safest thing? 

But TJ is still TJ. It’s a border town. And a border town is a border town. (No one ever claimed that Sarnia or Windsor Ontario were the hallmarks of Canada, did they?) If anything it’s much more developed than it was when I first went there 10 years ago. And I don’t think there is anything there to be afraid of for you or I.

Now, if you’re buying or selling drugs. Or at a club until 2 AM. TJ might be dangerous for you. But so is Carlsbad.

Church Leadership Culture

St. Patrick’s Day Prayer for the American Church

Green beer, revelry, parades, and dyeing the river green.

These are the things we think about to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

However, when I think of Saint Patrick, I think of one of the greatest missionaries to have ever walked the planet. Born in Wales, trafficked as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland. Patrick miraculously escaped six years later, then after a time of preparation felt called back to the island of his captivity as a missionary. During his lifetime, despite early persecutions, he was instrumental to the success of Christianity on the island. By the time of his death he had planted nearly 500 churches.

In honor of Patrick’s service, this is my St. Patrick’s Day Prayer for the American Church:

Loving Father, Creator and Sustainer of our land. You are our Compass, our Standard, our Protector, and sole Provider.

We are lost without you. In our own power we chose to make the Gospel about us. We are so busy being religious that we forget that it’s not only about us, it’s also about the lost.

We are lost without you. We cannot sustain ourselves. We cannot rule ourselves. We cannot protect ourselves. We cannot provide for our people alone. We need you.

Break our hearts, Lord. Help us to order our lives in ways that respect your Word.

We are thankful, God, for Patrick’s ministry in Ireland. You called him from bondage to reach his captors. Instead of resentment you, you filled his heart with love. Instead of a life filled with nightmares from his past, he fulfilled his dreams day by day in the light of day.

Raise up among us a new Patrick in our nation. A person to renew the heart of our nation for you. Millions among us have never heard Your Name nor felt Your presence nor tasted Your Grace.

Prepare a young man or woman set free by your Spirit, who knows no fear, who will escape their present bondage and yet return to reach their captors.

Awaken that person today, Lord. Echo Your calling in their ear. Begin in them an earnest desire to be filled with Your knowledge. Give them wisdom and understanding to penetrate to the marrow of our culture. Help them to cast out of our country far more dangerous realities than snakes.

Give them boundless energy and laser-like focus.

Open our ears, eyes, and heart to this new Patrick. Help us accept this person as Your servant among us.

Refresh us, Lord. Awaken us, Lord. Remind us, Lord. Expand us, Lord.

We need you now more than ever. Save us from modern day druids, from those who make us serfs, and from those who force us to acknowledge their power over Yours.


See also:


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.


Make new friends, but keep the old

One of the joys of this trip is getting to know new people. I suppose it is odd to some that this team is assembled of people somehow related to me. Obviously, some are old friends while others are brand new to me. Though that may seem odd, it’s how my life works. As Kristen says, “that’s how we roll.”

It’s the same with Haiti. This trip is entirely different from my first one… The experiences bear almost no resemblance yet feel strikingly similar. It’s like buying a replacement for your favorite shirt. It’s the same but different in a way you kind of like and kind of don’t.

I’m happy to see our team push past discomfort today. The pain/annoyance of traveling here is now nostalgia while the heat feels a little less oppressive every hour. Though, in both cases, it is probably not actually easier, just that we are used to it.

Erin finally made it tonight. She was delayed in South Florida by a day. Her arrival brightened Kristen and my spirits. She is such a great friend to us… And her arriving was an awesome pick-me-up bouquet of joy.

A rainstorm came to put a period on our day. Just as Mark, Jeffrey, and I were tiring of a long game of keep away with a soccer ball and about 10 boys, drizzle turned to downpour. We lumbered inside and made our way to the balcony just as sheets of heavy rain arrived. Secure and dry my heart sank knowing that many in the city were bracing for a night of misery while we rejoiced in the cool breezes the storm brought.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We plan on doing some stuff to help construct a church roof, some sort of VBS thing for a local church, as well as visit the Sons of God orphanage.

We all know that this just means I will take pictures and tweet about people doing the actual work, right?


The prayers of the people ring out

Right now I hear a congregation praying in the first floor of the building I am trying to sleep in. I hear crickets and look out of the balcony and see returnless lightning in the distance. The night is filled with stilled activity under the oppressive humidity of the Carribean.

Moments ago the congregation sang Blessed Assurance. ( apparently 10:45 pm is a great time to worship) Maybe imagined it, too? You never fully know. But as they sang my heart sang as tears filled my eyes. I don’t speak Creole yet I know the song well enough to sing along.

Blessed assurance. That is the only hope for Haiti, right? We can serve the physical needs of the people, but the difference here between joy and misery comes from the spiritual realm.

It’s been a long day. A trip to Haiti is about working past the physical discomfort to find joy in the journey and knowledge of what God is doing.

And today was physically uncomfortable. We arrived at the airport at 2:20 PM and yet we didn’t make it to our host home in Carffuer until about 6:15. (10ish miles) The harsh roads pounded our weary body and reminded us that we didn’t have any water. Likewise, the shock of the beggars at the airport dehydrated any hopes that things are significantly better here. Two team members didn’t make it to our flight. One will come in the morning and the other went home. One team members baggage got lost… So we all shared to try to make him comfortable while hoping it arrives in the morning.

It’s been a long day. I pray we each find sleep.

And so we rest. We rest tonight not just under the cool breezes of the Haitian sky, we rest in the blessed assurance that no matter what, God’s people can praise their Savior!


Haiti Pre-trip trip

The next week on my blog is going to be a smudge different. I’ll be posting updates and photos as much as I can, but it’s not possible to know what our cell reception will be like. I had hoped to have my new iPhone 4 before we left so that I could post videos and such, too. But I guess that wasn’t to be.

Right at the last minute, I decided it would be better to leave my MacBook at home… So, anything I post will come from my iPhone. ( I have my camera, so lots of pictures will come later.)

Kristen and I flew to Ft. Lauderdale yesterday. With flights and time changes it wasn’t going to be possible to get to Port-au-Prince without doing a red eye… So we opted to come to South Florida a day early.

Today, we slept in. Then we walked to a cool breakfast spot on the beach. Than walked along the ocean back to our hotel. The heat zapped us! So we lounged a bit before headed back to the beach to swim. After that, to the pool, then a nap. Then we jumped on the water taxis and went all over. Phew. The evening culminated with a romantic riverside dinner overlooking houses we will never be invited to even visit!

In a way, we feel silly for this little luxury. But at the same time we get alone time so rarely that we needed to take advantage of this opportunity.

So, next stop is Haiti. our flight arrives there about 2:30 PM.

Thanks to all who are praying and have given.


Haiti Expectations and Fears

Last night, Kristen and I collapsed into bed. We have finally finished the physical preparations for our trip to Haiti. And now, as we laid in bed, our hearts began to sink into the reality that we are doing our first missions trip together as a couple. (Well, not including co-leading youth group trips)

I’m kind of a mish-mash of emotions and thoughts.


  • I’m expecting to see some progress. Recent reports of debris clearing. And even just that people are burning the garbage… good signs.
  • I’m expecting to be in awe of the machine that Adventures in Missions has put together. My first trip in February, AIM had only been on site for a few days and they had already started work on setting things up to bring in teams to help with relief efforts. It’s a miracle, in my opinion, that they can host trips so soon… much less the 50+ people who will be on site next week. This thing is going to be like an iceberg, we’re only going to see the part above the water.
  • I’m expecting to see pockets of despair. Back in February, it was all joy and hope. But 5 months later– and not a significant change in things–and I’m expecting people are going to be very impatient. Based on Phil’s reports… tensions are right below the surface. Fortunately, it seems as though we’ll be doing most of our work in the same neighborhood day after day. That will go a long way from us being a target.
  • I’m expecting God to open my eyes to new things. I’m hardly an expert at relief work. And I’m definitely not an expert at all things Haiti. Let’s be honest… I’m a dude with a keyboard and a camera who tells stories.
  • I’m expecting to serve and work. Last time was kind of a survey deal where we saw a lot, met a lot of people, and helped out in spots. This isn’t the same type of trip. I’m hoping to grunt it out.
  • I’m expecting to see Kristen in her element. A missionary kid with a degree in international missions on a short-term missions trip.
  • I’m expecting for this trip to feel out of control. Not in a dangerous way. Just in an uncomfortable way.
  • I’m expecting to have my worldview rocked… some more. Earlier this week I shared in a Facebook message that at some point this Spring I had to “turn off Haiti” so I could get back to life. I don’t know what God has in store for me this time. But I’m getting ready.
  • I’m expecting our team to be fun. It’s kind of nuts that most of these people have never met. All along I just kind of depended on God to orchestrate who would go. Let me tell you, I was not able to talk anyone into this trip! The people who are going all want to go… bad!


It was one thing to walk into the last trip completely blind. This time I have some sense of what I’m walking into… that brought about a lot of fear.

  • I’m afraid of the heat. The only other time I can think of being in this type of heat was the summer of 1995 in Chicago. I tend to dehydrate easily, so I’ll be drinking water and Gatorade constantly. (Daily heat index to hover at 115 F)
  • I’m afraid of leading this team. It’s one thing for me to go with a group. I’m super nervous about having put this group together. If it sucks it feels like its on me.
  • I’m afraid of feeling so helpless… again. The issues in Haiti are so big that they are overwhelming. I know logically I need to just look at what we are doing and not think about the bigger picture. But you can’t help seeing the bigger picture and not feeling compelled to do something.
  • I’m afraid I’m going to feel like some sort of sick tourist. It was a little different last time as I was going to tell stories. I still want to capture stories. I just have to figure out a way to do it without sensationalizing anything.
  • For some reason, I’m freaked out to have Kristen on this trip. I wouldn’t label this trip as “risk taking.” But it is definitely not risk aversion.
  • I’m afraid I’ll lose my patience. When I get tired I get cranky. Gosh, I hope I can keep it together.

Let’s face it. I’ve got a lot of fears and a lot of expectations.

In fact, a big thing I’m thinking about over the next 2 days is… lower your expectations.

My prayer for the week has been… Lord, allow us to step into your river of mercy and be the hands and feet of Jesus.


3 Reasons I’m Going Back to Haiti

On July 19th I will return to Port-au-Prince.

In some ways I can’t wait to go back and see how things are progressing. And in other ways I am scared to go back because I think things are a lot worse.

I’ve heard mixed reports.

I’m not going alone.

As our team van lumbered out of Port-au-Prince last February I challenged myself to return in 2010… and to bring others who might catch a vision for how to help the church in Haiti rebuild both spiritually and physically a collapsed nation.

Thankfully, 19 others said yes to my appeal to go with me. It’s a full trip. I was completely shocked and amazed to see who joined the team. It’s an amazing hodgepodge of people from my life. And I cannot wait to see how God uses their service to be both blessed and do some form of blessing.

Without overloading you with information, I want to give you 3 quick reasons I’m returning to Haiti.

  1. While the cameras and celebrities (and the money they bring) have left Haiti, millions remain homeless. 2/3rd of the cities residents still sleep on the ground. Can you imagine “camping” for 6 months, sleeping on the bare dirt, trying to find food every day? The hard work of rebuilding has not begun. This is still very much a relief effort.
  2. The local church is still the primary instrument of relief. My entire adult life I’ve listened to pastors say, “We just need to move the church back to Acts 2.” Well, it is happening in Haiti! And I want to support them however I can. I don’t want to sound judgmental, but I openly wonder where those church leaders are who claim they want to see Acts 2 in their communities. If they were serious they would be in Haiti.
  3. The situation for the orphans and widows is dire. Last week the New York Times published a beautiful piece about a young girl named Daphne. You should read it. Its a story of hope and despair. As you read it ask yourself what I have been asking myself, “Why aren’t believers telling these stories to churches?” I hope to meet some Daphne’s and tell you their stories.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Three ways you can get involved

  1. Pray. Commit to praying for our team. 20 people, most of whom have never met, will come together for a common purpose… to serve the Haitian church. Pray for our unity, our physical health, and that God would take our efforts and multiply their effectiveness supernaturally.
  2. Give. Kristen, Erin, and I have raised about $800 of the $2400 we need to fund our travel. We are thankful to those who have given already. Here’s how you can give to help our travel costs. Additionally, if you live locally and would like to contribute something for Kristen and I to take… we would like to fill our bags with this stuff to donate.
  3. Go. Just like last time– you will be able to follow my trip online as I post photos, videos, and blog posts. Will you commit to considering a trip to Haiti in the next 12 months? All I am asking is that you consider it.

It would greatly encourage Kristen and I if you’d simply let us know which of those 3 things you can commit to. Leave us a comment. It can be as simple as your name and which of the three options you can commit to as a way to get involved.