The Last 15
½ of my life.
A blink of an eye.
2007 marks 15 years of purposeful humanitarian efforts on my behalf towards the continent of Africa. Sure some years were rather bleak, and some years I did even more, but in all my heart has been here, or rather there, where my home is.
I’ve never been a big fan of new years resolutions, they always seemed rather insincere to me, to resolve to better ones self because of the flipping of the calendar. But I do spend a bit of time processing the past years and my progress in this journey called life during this season. So it was rather ironic to me as I stood on the balcony of my hotel in the middle of Ethiopia watching the fireworks from over the hill at midnight on new years eve that I was suddenly struck with the fact that I have just passed the point where I have spent half of my life labor for the land that I so dearly love. I don’t know what made me think of that small piece of trivia, but I do know I felt the smile of an awesome Father God as I stood there looking over His creation, remembering the first time, 15 years ago, that I stood on this soil looking over His creation, wondering where I would be in the next 15 years.
Turning 30 wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I’m much like Randy Stonehill in my detesting of that number, but as the calendar flipped over to 2007 it sparked a small light somewhere in the back of my head of just how blessed I have been to even be able to be where I was, in the continent that I am in love with, where I have labored in love for half of my life and will continue to labor for in the rest of my life. Hopefully spending more, and longer stints of time with hands on, inside of Africa where the majority of my efforts over the last 15 years have existed here in the states. It’s no secret that my dream is to eventually move to the African Horn, but it’s also no secret to me that that time is a future destination and that for now God has me where he has me for His purpose. As I smiled on that balcony and kissed my wife for the first time in the new year I began to think of the beginning of this journey, and the path it has led me on.
For me it all started on a missions trip to Kisumu, Kenya with Teen World Outreach (apparently 2003 was the final year for this program, but I highly support Teen Mania if you are looking to send your teen on a short term missions program) at the age of 15. My head was far from being screwed on straight when I left on that trip, but the few short months I spent laboring in the rocky fields laying the foundation for the new school would forever change my life, and would forever aim my heart. Over the last 15 years I have been party to starting schools, refugee camps, churches, drilling wells, hygiene education, AIDS education, food drives, clothing drives, finance seminars, job creation, missionary reformations, and countless other projects. And the funny thing is I was always in the backstage area, and honestly that is where I prefer to be, and I have probably forgotten more of the projects I have involved myself in than I can remember. From South Africa to Libya, from Ghana to Somalia my sweat and tears can be found in the labors of love. And more often than not I have seen those around me find joy and zeal in continuing to find new ways to continue the good fight when life has led me on down the road. Just ask my wife, once the program is off the ground and running smoothly I am looking for someone to take over my role and sustain the program, as my eye has already caught something in the future that I am ready to get working on.
There have been many good programs that I have seen come and go, and some programs that I was just glad to see go, but it has been such a blessing to be able to walk hand in hand with all of the ministries and efforts that I have had the opportunity to link hands with over the 15 years. Over the years I have been blessed to help other start aid programs and organization, organized aid efforts and drives, I’ve spoken up for the plight of the extreme poor and HIV/AIDS victims of Africa more times than I can remember, in schools, in churches, and to anyone who seems to have an open ear. I don’t speak much in the public forum anymore, not with the frequency that I had in High School and College anyways, but I do have this blog now, and for some crazy reason a lot of people come out here to read what is going on in my head. For that reason I would like to highlight just a few of the programs I have come to really love over the years that have proven themselves to be tremendous assets to Africa.
The ONE.org has become one of the most vocal advocates for justice in the problem of extreme poverty. They are a wonderful organization I highly recommend placing yourself on their mailing list. The sister organization of Make Poverty History is just as good of an organization, but with a more global perspective where as ONE.org focuses on the political aid and reformation here in the US. I can’t imagine that you read my blog and haven’t ever made it over to ONE.org, but if you haven’t please go give them a gander.
30 Hour Famine, is a program designed for teens to group participate in raising money and awareness for the plight of the extreme poor. When possible I have worked with local youth groups in the participation of this program. I did it for the first time when I was a youth group leader in high school, and have seen the program continually better itself in the interaction and participation of the groups. They have developed an amazing “game” called TRIBE that is worth doing the program for alone. The basics of 30 Hour Famine is the teens are given sponsor sheets where they find sponsor to pay them not to eat for 30 hours (like a walkathon) Now if you have teens or work with teens you know just how hard it is for some of these kids to fast for 30 minutes, much less 30 hours. Now during the 30 hours they all participate in the Tribe Game together, and many groups will also incorporate a local ministry project as well. At the end of the 30 hours there is a dinner party where the group celebrates their accomplishment and they debrief about the lessons they learned about the extreme poor and themselves over the last 30 Hours. If you have teens, or if your church has an youth group I encourage you to head over to 30 Hour Famine.
We have all seen the commercials where you can sponsor a kid for just pennies a day, saving the kids life and providing a future. We have also heard of the horror stories of programs that spend less than 20% of the funds they raise on actually humanitarian aid, and the horror stories of the villages that the aid is hijacked by guerillas before it reaches those it was intended for. It’s very important to keep a close eye on the programs you choose to support to make sure the effort you make is actually aiding the people you are intending. Not only do you want to watch for the percentage of funds being used for the actual aid, but I know that in the past there have been terrible stories of well intended programs that have given aid to only portions of family units creating a terrible divide in the family unit. Specifically I remember the horror stories of mothers and fathers who have had to make the terrible decision to abandon their children in order for the kids to receive the aid from the programs. I do implore you that regardless of what program you choose to work with to ask the hard questions, and to find out the heart of the organization for the family unit. Although it’s easier to raise money for the wide eyed orphan, God’s heart is for the family. The simple fact that is when a family unit is living off less than $1 a day every member of the family unit needs the aid and care, not just the children. There are so many good programs out there that there is no way I could name them all, but I would like to highlight 3 that I support. Compassion in Jesus Name, the love child of Rebecca St James, if you go to her concert you will hear about it. World Vision, very similar in function to Compassion, with an exception percentage of the funds raised actually going to the people in need. And 5 Loaves and 2 Small Fish, a much smaller organization, but one that focuses on Ethiopia and the plight of the orphans there in this beautiful country.
Blood Water Mission was founded by Jars of Clay to bring clean water to those who are dying of thirst, and HIV-AIDS education to a land that carries a tremendous stigma to even say the word “AIDS.” Learning from the mistakes of others from the past Blood Water Mission works within the local community to dig the wells and uses the local labor force for the entire project. Ownership, pride, and self accomplishment go a long way in making sure that the well remains in working order for generations to come. They also sell some of the coolest t-shirts around. They are currently outgrowing their own infrastructure, and have just hired new staff to undertake the massive expansion they have encountered. That is a really good thing, as the bigger they are, they more people they can help, and the more lives can be saved. With AIDS being so rampant and on the rise in Africa one has to be a fool to not address it, yet the social stigma associated with it has hindered education for years. By working with indigenous programs they have found ways to work inside the social stigma and hopefully educate and help in the prevention of HIV-AIDS. There site is very well done and worth checking out if you have never been there before.
Of course my biggest program that I want to push is YOU. No, you won’t find this program on the web, but you will see it if you look in a mirror. I can continue with listing programs that do tremendous things for the peoples of Africa, but unless YOU become involved they will eventually shrivel and blow away. The news media continues, and will forever continue to sensationalize the hate crimes of the world, but the even bigger crimes are those of apathy. Unfortunately the US and especially the church has become very apathetic to the plight of the poor, and according to the Bible I read, regardless of the translation you use, God detest those that are apathetic to the orphan, the widow, the poor, the downtrodden, the sick and afflicted. Honestly I could care less how you decide to get involved, to join hands with a program I’ve listed, to find one that suits your own fancy (many of my biker friend work with programs supplying motorcycles to developing nations) Even if you want to start your own organization and blaze a new trail for a need you see that isn’t currently being met, I say go for it. The important thing is that YOU become INVOLVED.
The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. It’s apathy that we are at war with, it’s apathy that has been my biggest enemy over the last 15 years.
Well this is as close to a “New Years Resolution” that you are going to get from me. I’, glad to be back, and will be journaling my most recent trip to Ethiopia over the next few post, but I’m also switching formats on my blog. The Monday through Friday posting was becoming tedious to me, and honestly I was struggling at times to have anything to say that was worth reading (and sometimes I posted stuff not worth reading anyways) So I am Switching to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday format, but don’t be alarmed if you see me missing a post here and there, or occasionally posting on an “off day” I tried taking this blog seriously, and it got boring, so I am going back to just using it to have fun, hopefully you will stick around.
Thank you all for your prayers on my most recent journey to Ethiopia, they were most definitely felt, and the short time I had with Yosef and Mihret was such a blessing to Heather and I.
I will leave you with this though, the dry season doesn’t have the same “goaty” smell the rainy season does!!!!!!