Mark 16:15

Therefore, go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation

Psalm 9:18

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

Psalm 10:17

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace

Psalm 62:1

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Where to from here?

Over the past year I have had the amazing opportunity to work full time with LiveBeyond/MMDR overseeing our international missions, and during that time I have seen things that will forever stick with me.  I have seen such terrible levels of poverty and oppression through serving in Haiti that I know I have matured into a better man in the process.  Growing up in Brentwood you can be shielded from seeing some of the realities of life that might be a little upsetting for people.  For me, though, seeing these levels of poverty has just been like a lightbulb turning on inside my head showing me what I am meant to do with my life*.  I see it as a gift from God that I know what I am meant to do while so many friends are finding themselves in the twenty-something predicament of having to act like adults without having any idea what they are doing in life.

* I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing in life and am constantly shocked that people treat me like an adult when all I want to do is go home and watch Cartoon Network.

With that said, I feel like it is time to share with all of you what Liz and I have been talking and praying about for the next stage in our life.  We are looking to make a drastic change of sorts and move away from the city that we have both grown up in.
-Primarily, we see this as a time when we have very little tying us to one particular place, and we want to take advantage of that freedom.  It is not often in life that you are able to just up and go wherever the Lord sends you without having to deal with countless complications.  Right now, though, our only major complication would be selling a house and packing up our belongings.  That seems like a small price to pay to move onward in this great adventure of life.
-Another reason that we are looking to move forward to the next stage in life is because I am really uncomfortable living off of the generosity of others.  Living off of donations for the past year has been incredibly humbling and I am continually blown away by how generous friends and family can be when they are struggling financially themselves.  I feel, though, that it is time to remove the burden that we have placed on them and move to a new position.

Liz and I have been praying at length about where God would lead us in this search.  It is entirely possible that God will show us that we are meant to stay here in Nashville, but I wanted to let everyone know that part of this change might be a move from the city that we both love so much.  Right now, the organizations that I am looking at working with are all on the west coast, and we both realize that if I were to receive a position at one of these organizations it would be with a lot of prayer that I would accept it.  We have also given some thought to looking at other positions here in the Nashville area, but have not been shown any openings here that we feel like God is calling me to.

What I am writing all of this to tell you, though, is that we are asking for prayer.  Our friends and family have been the ones to support us financially over the past year, and now we are asking that you all continue to support us through prayer.  I feel that I am following God's direction (even if I feel that I am doing it blindly) to the best of my ability, and I am reassured of this every time I feel deep joy through serving those in poverty.  I am not, however, perfect at understanding God's will and I ask that you all keep Liz and me in your prayers so that we would hear clearly where God wants us.  If that means moving across the country, then that is what we will gladly do.  If that means moving halfway across the world, then we will also do that with great joy.  If that means merely changing jobs here in the Nashville area, then that can also be the next step.  Please just keep praying that we will be shown what the next step in our life is to be.

Thank you all so much!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pale Blue Dot

With all the arguing over gay marriage and whether or not Christians should support the marriage equality act, I have been considering whether or not this is even something worth arguing about.  It seems like a lot of people get really bent out of shape about whether or not gay couples should be able to marry even though it has (as far as I can tell) zero impact on their own lives.  I guess I personally think that my religion shouldn't be the deciding factor in what someone else can do.  Somehow, people here in America can get bent out of shape thinking Christianity should be to impact the lives of others (in this case homosexual couples that want to get married) but then rightfully think religions shouldn't be able to control the laws in middle eastern countries where women have to stay out of the public eye or serve their husbands in a slave-like fashion.  How can religion controlling the laws be wrong in one country but right in another country?  Can't we all just get along?

To go along with all of that I give you the best bit of writing put to video that I have had the joy of coming across while I peruse the interwebs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clinics in Haiti

So, I am a little behind on posting about this last trip down to Haiti. My last post sidetracked me into writing more about what was going on here than what was happening in Haiti. Anywho, here we go.

This last trip definitely comes in as one of my favorites so far. Before we headed down, there was some concern at the office about medical staff, since we didn't have very many coming with us and it was unclear whether or not those that signed up would actually be coming on the trip.  It can be tricky taking a group of people into an impoverished country if they have never been in that type of scenario before.  It takes a special type of person to wake up with the sunrise and work till past sunset in 90+ degree weather seeing hundreds of patients each day, and not everyone that signs up is always ready for this type of work.  This particular trip, though, everyone showed up ready to work 110% and it was so awesome getting to see them do the Lord's work.  One of the medical staff, in particular, comes to mind when I think of how amazing everyone on the trip was.  I wont put her name in the blog just because I haven't talked with her about writing this and would hate to be telling stories about her without her permission, but if she happens to see this post on facebook and wants me to tag her name to it I will be happy to.

The primary reason she comes to mind is because of how she responded when a small boy came into our clinic this past week.  The boy couldn't have been more than 10 years old, and walked into the clinic with his left hand severed from the top of his middle finger all the way to the bottom of his palm.  This was definitely an emergency room type of scenario if he had been back here in the states.  In a rural area of the poorest nation on earth, though, our group of doctors crammed into a hot church building would have to be his operating room.

The boy was ushered through the line of patients to the back, where we had tables with medical equipment set up.  Because of the severity of the cut, we put together a small work station where several people could help out and not be in the way of the rest of the clinic, while the doctor in question got together her surgery tools and needed equipment.  Comforting the boy by simply being there to offer him some candy and to hold him, I watched as the doctor proceeded to numb the area with local anesthetic, clean out the wound, and then stitch the boys entire hand together.  All this time, the young boy merely looked on with occasional grimaces of pain, probably more annoyed with how much I was squirming at the sight of his open hand.  I went ahead and left out the graphic pictures for those who doesn't want to see the gore (trust me, his hand was basically cut in half).

After the surgery on the boy's hand was completed, our doctor ensured that the staff in Haiti would be able to check up on the boy in the coming week to make sure that his hand did not get infected.  They were informed that if the hand were to start looking infected, fast action would be necessary to avoid the boy losing the hand, or having much more severe medical complications.  She even gave a short crash course in how to safely remove stitches without re-opening the wound or causing other problems.

What is so amazing about this small story, is that the boy had cut his hand on a rusty knife earlier that day.  Without Live Beyond (MMDR) this area would probably have a doctor come to see them once every couple of years if any come at all, and with how easily the cut would have gotten infected without immediate treatment, I know that only God could have orchestrated us being there with medical assistance the very morning that this boy was to get his hand cut.  It truly makes me wonder how many other lives have been saved in the past few years by these chance encounters with our medical clinics and how many will be impacted by those that have been saved.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What God cares about

As you might know, I just returned from Thomazeau, Haiti this past weekend and the time down there was absolutely amazing. We had an awesome team of medical staff, and the non-medical members of the team handled the clinics beautifully.  We were able to see several hundred patients in our short time there and probably saved numerous lives.  I want to write about the clinics, but first, something that happened back here at home has me intrigued.

This weekend, Liz and I were able to have a number of friends over to our house for a few drinks and some good conversation.  As the evening went on, the topic of discussion turned to politics and religion.  More specifically, it turned to a discussion about how so many in our area are able to turn their political beliefs into a statement about their religious beliefs, and belittle others for not seeing things in the same way.

While the idea that religion should influence the way you look at the world and the way you vote is not a new one, nor is it a wrong one in my opinion, the thought that one specific political party is the perfect answer for Christianity is another thing altogether.   I think that it is important to realize that if we are to call ourselves christians, then our political leanings should not really matter much in how we view the world. Everything suddenly becomes part of God's dominion and not "so-and-so ruining this country".

What would Jesus think, for instance, of a nation of christians that polarize themselves over a fast food restaurant that serves fried chicken.  Not only that, but christians who then look to embarass others by spending more and more money on fried chicken in an effort to prove they are right.  Somehow, I think when Jesus talked about loving your enemy and giving to the poor he didn't have 'purchasing fried chicken to show how much you disagree with others' in mind.

Or, do we really think that Jesus would be on the front lines of an argument about what percentage of our income should be taxed to be sure that others can see a doctor and get health insurance.  Would Jesus really be part of the argument that discusses who deserves to get health care and who doesn't?  I like to think that Jesus would be leading the charge asking for the rich to give freely to the poor so that they might be as healthy and comfortable as we are.

It is strange to think that the thing that so many of us spend the majority of our lives chasing was the main thing that Jesus said did not matter while He was here on earth.  People spend their entire lives worrying about who deserves to have and have not in our economies and how they can be one of the "haves" that we forget about the things that truly matter.  We neglect caring for the poor, sheltering the oppressed, feeding the starving... loving our neighbor.

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve to masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, "watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Figured I'd add a picture of a cute kid too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Year in Review

Hello Everyone,

I started to write the letter that I will be sending out to all of my financial supporters later this week, and decided that I should post a lot of the information to my blog so everyone can have an update about the work being done in Haiti.  The letter going out to those who have so generously supported the work I am doing will probably have a little bit more information in it, but I wanted everyone to have this overview.  Hope its not too long of a read.

    First off, I want to thank you again so much for the support that you have shown me.  The decision to leave my job to spread the gospel to Haiti was not an easy one when I made it, but it has been an amazing change in both mine and Liz’s life.  I’m writing you to give an update on the work being done in Haiti both through me and MMDR as a whole.  It has been an amazing 7 months for me so far, and I feel so blessed that I am able to wake up in the morning and work to spread the gospel to those in Haiti.

Hopefully you have heard from me a little, or seen the pictures I have posted about the work in Haiti, but if you haven’t I have put together a little snapshot of just how amazing and productive the last few months have been in Haiti.

    We have completed 4 clean water well projects, effectively providing clean water for roughly 8000 people.  Our goal is to have provided clean water for the entire 180,000 people living in Thomazeau in the next two years.  Our Live Beyond… Thirst campaign has raised the funds needed for the project, and now it is merely a matter of the man-hours and elbow grease.
    We have also just started a perinatal program where pregnant women are reached out to in the community.  We work with them through their pregnancy to ensure that they are well nourished and are able to live to take care of their babies.   In Haiti, this is a time when many mothers can expect to not live through the birth of their child.  The impacts of this maternal mortality are huge and the entire community suffers as a result.  Haiti is currently one of the worst countries in the world for maternal mortality, having roughly 600 mothers die during pregnancy per 100,000 (compared to 17 in America).
    In addition to the water projects and community outreach, we have operated over 30 Mobile clinics throughout the region, with each clinic seeing around 200-250 patients.  The level of sickness that is regularly seen in such clinics is so severe that many of those patients would not still be with us if not for the clinics.  I have seen countless patients in the clinics by now, but a few stick out in my head as representative of the population as a whole:

One was a man that some of the Haitian staff found lying in the middle of the road in Thomazeau.  Upon closer investigation, it was found that he had passed out in his own vomit and urine and, after speaking with several of the neighbors in the area, it became clear that John had been suffering from epileptic seizures the entire day.  He was dehydrated to the point that his body had simply started to shut down. LiveBeyond’s mobile clinics can not currently hold patients long term, so we had to lift him into one of our trucks and drive him to a clinic that is run by several Cuban doctors.  He was put on an IV of rehydration fluids so that he could be rehydrated as fast as possible, but after he was conscious and able to speak, he had to leave the clinic.  Sadly, they are not willing to take on patients for long periods of time especially when those patients have no way of paying for their stay.  These are the types of situations that really get the team motivated to get our hospital constructed, so that no one has to leave a clinic the same day that they were inches from death.

Fabian is another case that springs to mind when I think of the destitution and oppression that is prevalent throughout Haiti.  Fabian is a young woman who is probably as tall as I am (6’2”) yet she weighs just over 70 pounds.  Clothes hang off of her shoulders the same way they would hang off of hangers in our department stores.  One could hardly imagine how a person could exist with so little.   Unfortunately, a large part of the population lives in this state of starvation where if they were to go only a few days without substantial food intake, they would die.  Part of the way that we are fighting back against this form of oppression is to distribute bags of rice, beans, and fish to those who are dealing with starvation.  We are able to spend just over $6 to feed these people for a month, and even that amount of money is out of the question for large numbers of the patients that we see. Now that Live Beyond has found Fabian, we are sure to visit her monthly to check on her.   Sadly, there are so many more that are starving that we have yet to reach.

    It is possible to talk with any of the hundreds of patients we see in a week and find stories of family and friends who have died from diseases that we wouldn’t think twice about here in the states.  It has become a regular occurrence to see children who can’t remember the last time they ate, kids who are two years old only weighing in at 10 pounds, families of 9 that sleep in one room, and children who will never go to school.  These are merely facts of life for these people.  It is simply part of their oppression.

 What has touched me the most, though, about Haiti is the lack of the gospel throughout the country.  Some statistics state that 95% of the population practice voodoo to one extent or another.  What makes this number so difficult to combat is how active voodoo priests are in the community.  It is not an odd site to see a voodoo priest curse someone in public and then have that person shortly thereafter. Voodoo priests, who are very knowledgeable about the poisons that can be created from local ingredients, will often plan a curse on someone and then slip poison into that persons food or drink.  This is why, in everything we do, we work to spread the gospel and show the love of Christ through our actions.
    This belief in voodoo throughout the country has really touched my heart over the past few months, because with the current gap between those who have and those who have-not, billions throughout the world are resigned to have no hope in this world.  If they believe in Jesus Christ, though, they will at least have hope in heaven.  It is the people who practice voodoo who are truly hopeless in this world and the next.  This harsh reality is what leads me to make everything I do with LiveBeyond a concerted effort to spread the gospel wherever we work.

I do not relay all of this information to you to get you disheartened about the work that is being done in Haiti. It is merely to show how much work there is to be done.  With the completion of the hospital, LiveBeyond will be able to provide constant medical care to the entire population of Thomazeau, Haiti, a region holding roughly 180,000 people.  With each patient seen, the gospel will be shared further and there will be fewer followers of voodoo.  I write all of this to thank you.  It is through your generous support that I am able to be a part of bringing the gospel to Haiti.  With your generosity, people are being led to the Lord in massive numbers.  Thank you so much! 

Serving Him,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointer me to proclaim the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” Luke 4:18