Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Confession Time

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” 
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring




I have a confession to make.


Last night we (Jason and Andrea Schmick) about lost it. This isn't the first time it has happened either. 
Hopelessness set in and a sense that just packing it up and going home would be the easiest and maybe best course of action. Things aren't going as we envisioned. Ministry, as we think about it, has been nearly non-existent. It feels like many days we are just wandering around Haiti taking up space and resources. A clear vision hasn't been cast. Relationships we had high-hopes for aren't what we thought they would be.  Like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee said to each other, "We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started."


Our ideas, hopes, and goals have been slow to start. Feeling useless is a consistently nagging enemy. Lack of vision and direction have been frustrating aspects of our first four months here. A desire to present the best ministry experiences, especially to those who are sacrificially giving, causes fear of man.  We want to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us through His church. In the grocery business we called it ROI, return on investment.  We ask ourselves, almost daily, are the people who are sending us here getting a good ROI? Most days we feel less productive than we would like. All this crouches at the door waiting for an opportunity to strike. When you find yourself in a situation like that it's easy to get down and seriously consider going home.*


This exchange between Frodo and Sam fits well with where we find ourselves:


Frodo: I can't do this, Sam. 
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. 
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam? 
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.


Neither of us thinks God is releasing us to quit. There are needs all around. The Bible still says the same thing as it did four months ago. We just have to do a bit a re-aligning of our thinking. We also feel the obligation to be honest with people. 


This morning I woke up thinking about a book on missions we read before coming here. In it, the author writes about a ministry "success story". It's a ministry that by all standards is very productive and successful. He approached the leadership to discover their secret formula. What he found was astonishing and not at all flashy. They said for the first two years they simply "hung-out" with people. 
What!? 
Yes, you heard that right. The only goals at the inception of the ministry was living with people, loving people and spending time with people. It was a solely relational ministry for more than the first 24 months of existence. They didn't do anything else! Now I know it's hard to raise money by asking supporters to give to something like this, but we've heard this over and over and over again. We just don't want to hear it! We want projects and teaching ministries and business creation ministries and saving-starving-children ministries and on and on. But this wisdom has been repeated to us by more than a dozen different people who know a lot more than we do about this stuff. In fact, we had two different missionaries say essential the same thing this week alone. So, this morning we are re-aligning how we think about productivity and missions in Haiti.


Will you pray with us? We have a bunch of decisions to make in the next 90 days. Our lease ends in our current home at the end of May and we need to find a new place to live in. With a new place we will need to purchase some stuff to make it livable (generator, inverter, batteries, appliances, etc.) Pray for provision for that. We also have a large rent payment to make soon. Rent in Haiti is paid annually.
We need to know that He wants us to stay in Haiti. It seems that is the direction God is now leading but we waffle and doubt.
We need wisdom and perseverance in pursuing relationships. 
We also need to hope in God's plan for us here.


That's it for now I think. 


Jason

*In all of it God's grace has been abundant, friends and senders have been encouraging, and in many ways it's been a road full of blessing. Relatively speaking, it's been an easy road. We realize that many who have gone before us have had it much harder. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CWO Leadership Training Conference

The 2012 CWO leadership conference was a success! It was held in a smaller city in Haiti named Pignon. CWO annually hosts a leadership training conference for the 8 churches within the mission network and this was the second one that I was able to attend. I was happy to be able to be a part of it.

In the days to come I hope to update this blog with various aspects of the conference but for now I'll give a quick overview.

Pastor Rigaud and Pastor Joel, along with Pastor Elino and Pastor Ischaar, coordinated, lead, and managed the conference. There is a lot of work and planning that goes into a conference like this and these guys did a great job. It was especially encouraging to see their leadership in focussing the Haitian churches to pull together to meet one another's needs. They emphasized, through their classes, the importance of relationships within the churches and within their respective communities. There is a push, lead by the local leadership, to move away from dependency on foreign help and to rely more on each other and use their local resources to further the kingdom of God in Haiti.

Pastor Harlan Betz from Castle Rock, CO joined CWO this year and he taught the pastors and leaders. It was good for me to spend time with a older man of God who has served faithfully for many years. He has a pastoral heart and is a gifted teacher. He jumped in with both feet and fell in love with the Haitian people this week. I appreciated his leadership and heart for the people.

Megan Isaacson, also from Colorado, joined us in Haiti to teach classes on worship. Megan was an asset to the conference. She was able to use her God-given gifts to bless her class as well as the entire group. It's apparent that she has a heart for Jesus. The Haitians especially enjoyed the songs that she translated into Creole. By the end of the week we could hear them joyfully singing the newly-learned songs!

Greg Yoder, from CWO, taught children's ministry workers this week. I enjoyed getting to know Greg better and we were able to have many good conversations about ministry in Haiti and what CWO is doing in this country. His heart for Haiti, for many years now, is admirable.

I was also able to be a part of this year's conference. I taught on the importance of the gospel influencing our daily lives. The gospel should influence us, not only at the point of conversion, but it should fuel our service and obedience on a daily basis. Obedience to God is a result of love for God. Obedience ought to be an overflow of a heart that loves Jesus. Obedience that does not flow from that source inevitably slips into legalism.

Relationship-building was also a big part of the week for me. As I get to know people in Haiti my love for them and the country grows. More to come soon on that and other topics from the conference...

Here's a few pictures from the week:
The whole group! These people are the leadership teams at the 8 CWO churches.

Local kids playing soccer.

Haitians love this game.

Greg Yoder, VP of CWO, taking pictures.

Object lesson: using the resources available to accomplish goals together.

Every event always has kids around. 


Pastor Betz teaching the leaders and pastors with the translating help of Pastor Joel.

Amos and Hebel. The more I get to know these guys the more I like being around them.

Transportation home for three of the church groups.

They used lots of means of getting themselves home.

And they're off!

Our protein source for the week. 

Our sleeping area. Mosquito nets for everyone.

MAF flew us there and back. They land on a dirt field.

View of the Haitian mountains.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bougainvillea

A popular vine in Haiti that provides both beauty, privacy on fence-lines
and thorny protection.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sky Blue

Watch With Us
Looking through the Citadel window in Cap Haitian.


Off the coast of Wahoo Bay in Haiti.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Updates, updates, updates...

Makayla and Ethan jumped right in! These particular kids lived in a tougher situation. They didn't let the sights and smells faze them. God is working in their hearts.
photos by Audrey Oostland

We have been really bad about blogging as of late. So to remedy that problem here is a quick list of family, travel and ministry updates over the last 2 or 3 weeks:

- Took a quick trip to Florida. Haitian law says that foreigners without a long-term visa must leave every 90 days. We flew to Florida in order to obey that law with the proof of fresh stamps on our passports. We're going to start the process on a long-term visa soon.












- In Florida we stayed with some of our favorite peeps in the world - the McDaniels family.
- Started working on a "business-as-mission" proposal for the CWO board. Jobs, jobs, jobs as well as discipleship is where our focus is turning.
- Along those lines I spoke with Pastor Joel about business creation. He was very encouraging and supportive of the idea.
-  Myrt and Glenn (Andrea's mom and step-dad) came down here to visit us! So glad to have them here.
- Visited 2 orphanages this week. A first for all of us. It's truly a heart-wrenching experience to see so many children in such challenging circumstances. Our family is planning to visit a few more places like this soon. We want to serve on consistent, weekly basis to love on kiddos. Pray with us on how to best plug-in and help in this way.
- Adoption is also a topic of conversation around our home lately. Pray with us there too. For wisdom and Gospel-centered thinking.
- We visited an area of the city where Haitians make some pretty amazing tin artwork. It was encouraging to see lots of hard-work and ingenuity and talent. All Haitian owned and operated to boot. Good, good stuff.
- The annual CWO leadership training conference is coming up soon. I'm teaching for three, two-hour sessions. Six hours! Not sure if I'll be able to fill that much time but I've been studying for it.

- For the conference my topic is how the Gospel should affect us everyday. It's been an eye opening experience. It's funny that when you start studying to teach someone else you end up being the one who learns. Some of my material is going to come from a book by J.D. Greear called Gospel. You can buy it here. It's well worth the money.
Andrea has her hands full here. By the time we left she had two of the kids sleeping in her arms.

I got a good "beard-rub". They started chanting "Papa Noel". I guess a bit a facial hair qualifies you as Santa Claus.

Myrt and Glenn were able to enjoy this time with us.

Friday, February 3, 2012