My Haiti Support Letter

Help support our trip to Haiti

This is a letter I am sharing with others, asking for support for our mission trip to Haiti in January:

Last April I went on an adventure of discovery to Haiti. Haiti is often recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The situation for many people is dire. While I was in Haiti I happened upon the Timoun se Espwa Demen Orphanage in Port au Prince. This was an orphanage of 28 children. They lived in a three room house (not three bedrooms, but three rooms). There were no beds and they slept on the floor. The kids did not attend school and barely have enough food to survive.

I am thankful because 28 families from our church stepped forward to sponsor these children for $30/month. Such a little thing has made an incredible difference. We may not be able to help all the orphans in the world, but we can make a difference with these 28.

In January, I will be going back to Haiti with a team of 18 people representing 3 churches in New Jersey and Illinois. Our team will be doing construction and medical work. We will also be spending time with the kids, teaching them about Jesus. It is so exciting to see so many people responding to help. This is where you come in. Each team member is responsible for raising the funds for their trip. I would be honored if you would consider sponsoring me to help lead this team to Haiti. Your sponsorship would help cover airfare, lodging, transportation expenses in Haiti, and translation (the native languages are French and Haitian Creole). We also will have expenses for construction supplies, medicine, and hiring local labor. We have a website set up at gs4nj.org/haititeam where you can sponsor members of the team through a donation. Because donations are going through Good Shepherd, they are tax-deductible. I am asking each sponsor to consider a $100 donation, but I would be grateful for whatever you might be able to contribute. It is my prayer you would find joy in doing this knowing that it will be for a good cause!

Upon my return I will make sure to share with you an incredible story through pictures and video about what God did while we were there. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.

Radical Book Thoughts (Chapter 9)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Here are some reflections on Radical, Chapter 9: The Radical Experiment.

The radical experiment is a one-year challenge proposed by David Platt. This is a big commitment. It is not an eight week or 12 week commitment, it is an entire year. We live in a culture that pursues short-term commitment with long-term gain. But something that I like to say is that the more you put in, the more you will get out. I believe that is the point here. If we sow sparingly then we will also reap sparingly.

There are five parts to the radical experiment. They are:

  • Pray for the entire world;
  • read through the entire Word;
  • sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  • spend your time in another context;
  • commit your life to multiplying community.

On the surface these challenges may seem simplistic. This is especially true of the first three – pray, read the Bible, and given offering. But as we look across the landscape of Christianity in America we see feeble prayers. In my time as a pastor I have encountered numerous Christians who are uncomfortable with prayer. Biblical illiteracy is alarming. We are ignorant of some of the most basic stories and concepts in the Scripture. If the statistics be true about our giving the number of Christians in America who actually give a 10% tithe are a very small minority.

Imagine if we did not live so hypocritical. Imagine if we had the same passion for prayer that we had for things like football and reality TV. Imagine if we actually engaged transformative power of God’s Word. Imagine the incredible good we could do if we lived sacrificial and generous lives.

Last two challenges here hit close to home. In January of Haiti mission team will be on its way to Haiti. This is something that brings me great joy. It is not only for what we will accomplish in that place, but to also see the impact upon those who will go. They cannot help but be affected. There lives will be changed. They will be stepping out of their comfort zones but at the same time that is where the magic happens. I am excited to see what they will do in Haiti, but also what they will do when they return home.

The last challenge is to commit to multiplying community. This is all about the local church. This is all about making disciples. Our vision a good Shepherd is to KNOW Jesus, GROW as his followers, and GO out as missionaries into the world. Central to this vision statement is growing as a follower of Jesus Christ. For us as a church this involves being a part of growth groups where we come together to encourage one another and to support one another as we seek to learn what it means to follow Jesus and then implement it into our lives.

While we may not explicitly use the Radical Experiment at Good Shepherd, these challenges are incorporated into our message and mission. Check out this video below. And come and join us on Wednesday evenings on Saturday mornings. We would love to have you join us on the journey.

Radical Book Thoughts (Chapter 8)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Here are some reflections on Radical, chapter 8: Living When Dying is Gain.

“He who is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot

The calling of God is one that involves sacrifice and suffering. Jesus says that to follow him means bearing up our own cross. In this chapter David points out the significance of the “icthus” commonly referred to as the “Jesus fish.” While it was a mark used by persecuted Christians in the early church today it has become more of a status symbol we put on our luxury cars. Catch the irony?

Suffering is something that is lost on us for the most part. Setting aside instant gratification for delayed gratification is more and more rare. It was not always this way in America. If we were able to visualize the future reward we could do without and make the necessary sacrifices. But more and more we are living in the moment.

What is the prize? That is the question we ask ourselves. What is our hope? What is our dream? Are we living for a heaven on earth? Or are we looking forward to the real deal? Are we willing to look beyond our present to forego the trappings of the American dream?

God’s word tells us to count the cost. In other words – look at the big picture. The contrast between the joys of this world and the joys of heaven is beyond comprehension. As we think about Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and the many thousands who would follow in his footsteps, we may consider it tragic how they prematurely lost their lives. But what they lost – their life – is nothing compared to what they gained. It may be tragic for us looking forward, but for those who are looking back all they see is reward.

Do we really understand what it means to store up treasures in heaven? If we did, the landscape of Christianity in America might look very different. If I really understood what it meant, my life would look very different. There is nothing I could lose in this life that will be of any value in the next. The question begs to be asked: what do we have to lose? If the answer is nothing, then what is holding us back?

Why A Comfort Dog

Why a Comfort Dog

This past weekend our church welcomed Lily the Comfort Dog at Good Shepherd. This is the second time now I have added a Comfort Dog to the staff of a church. The Comfort Dog ministry is a ministry of Lutheran Church Charities. You can visit the Comfort Dogs website at k9comfort.org.

You may be wondering what a Comfort Dog is. This is a video I made which I believe captures the essence of the ministry.

What you are able to see in the video is people interacting with others in a nursing home and Walmart. The dog is used to create a bridge to others. The Comfort Dogs seem to open up conversations that never would have happened without the dog. The dogs help people open up. They help people share. They help people get help for whatever may be affecting them. As you heard in the video, it is not about the dog, but the about people in need of hope and healing.

If you would like Lily to come and visit your church, school, or organization make sure to email her at . If you would like to help financially support this ministry you can donate on our church website at gs4nj.org/secure-donation. We also covet your prayers that God would bless and prosper this ministry to bring comfort to many people.

Radical Book Thoughts (Chapter 7)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David PlattHere are some reflections on Radical, chapter 7: There is no plan B. In this chapter, David outlines 7 different “truths” revealed in the book of Romans.

  1. All people have knowledge of God.
  2. All people reject God.
  3. All people are guilty before God.
  4. All people are condemned before God.
  5. God has made a way of salvation for the lost.
  6. People cannot come to God apart from Christ.
  7. Christ commanded the church to make the Gospel known to all people.

The point is that Jesus is “the Way” and he has commissioned the church to make “the Way” known to the world. There is no other way. There is no other option. God has given us an important role in his plan of salvation.

Maybe the most striking part of this chapter came at the end. Here David pointed us to many Christians in America asking the question: “what is God’s will for my life?” All the while billions die without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The world does not have time for us to ask what is God’s will for my life. The calling is clear. It’s time to “GO!”

Why I Am Declining the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

So I have been nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you have not seen this challenge then you have been living under a rock. It has been a great thing for raising funds and awareness for ALS research.

Certainly this challenge has meet it’s objectives. People are asking questions and talking more than ever about ALS. More than $15 million as been raised through this campaign and I am sure this number is rising. ALS is now at the forefront of people’s minds.

With all that said, I am going to decline the challenge. On so many levels I think it is a really great thing. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has long been known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The ALS Association website has a lot of great information. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain. A person with ALS loses the ability to control their muscles and essentially become entombed in their own body. Approximately 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed with the disease each year with an estimated 30,000 Americans currently living with it. There is no cure for ALS. There are treatments that help people maintain independence for a prolonged period of time. But the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with ALS is typically 2–5 years from the time of diagnosis. There is no doubt that it would be great to find a cure.

So why am I declining the challenge? The first question to be asked is: “what exactly are we supporting?” The ALS website provides information on where the money goes. Only 27% of funds received goes into research. So recognize that most of the money you send does not go towards finding a cure. And when it does come to the research, recognize that embryonic stem cells are used in that research. This may make some of you uncomfortable.

For the 15 million raised, another question to pose is: “will we get any closer to a cure?” According to my calculations, this campaign has helped the ALS Association raise more than half of their budget from last year. Even with all the money raised, there is no guarantee. We may never find a cure even if hundreds of millions were raised.

A third question I ask is: “what about other charities?” The funding for ALS research seems to be doing well right now. But there are many many other charities out there that do not have an ice bucket challenge and are in need of funding just as much and even more. Check out this Wall Street Journal Article about other charities looking for their own ice bucket challenge. I wonder if the ice bucket challenge is having a negative or positive impact upon these other charities.

Another question to think about is: “what is the human impact?” ALS is considered a rare disease. It is not nearly as widespread as something like cancer. You may not know anyone personally affected by ALS, but I imagine you know someone affected by cancer. So for what I want to support first, I want to be able to support something that will ultimately affect more people.

Another great need in the world today is water. There is an irony in this that while we as Americans dump water over our heads in the name of charity there are 3,000 children who die each day because of contaminated water and poor sanitation. We should not feel guilty that we can dump water over our heads. It is not like we can send our water to other places that lack adequate water. But let’s recognize there are many people in this world who are in great need of something we take for granted. The world water problem has a solution. There is a cure. There is tangible results. The more money that is donated the more wells that can be built.

The truth is that when you say yes to one thing you are ultimately saying no to a thousand others. Americans donate billions to charity every year. This is a good thing. Many of us have the good fortune to donate to many different things. But when we choose to donate, let’s make sure we know what we are donating to. If ALS research is on your heart then go for it.

For me right now my heart goes out to 28 children in Haiti. Our church is sponsoring the Timoun se Espwa Demen Orphanage by helping to supply food, housing, and schooling to these children. In January I will be leading a mission team to Port au Prince. One of our objectives will to help supply a solar power and a water filtration system to a well that can be used by a number of different orphanages.

So while I may decline the ALS ice bucket challenge, I am going to take some extra money to give to the Haiti Mission Work. I encourage you to be generous, but not out of guilt. Be generous in the way God leads and you cannot go wrong. If you would like to help bring potable drinking water to the children of Haiti, we welcome your support.