Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stepping over the poor to get to the poorest

While in San Diego about a month ago I got the chance to hear Bob Goth, author of Love Does, speak. One of the most impactful things I heard him say is that sometimes as we're trying to get to "the poorest of these" we're overlooking the poor that are right in front of us. And we REALLY want to get to Africa or India to get to the poorest, but sometimes it's just not what God is calling us to do. Sometimes God is calling us to serve here in our own backyard. So what are some of the benefits of a mission trip within the United States?

1. Mission trips within the United States are needed:
I've been asked countless times why I go to Jamaica while there are so many needs here. That's simple...God's called me to Jamaica. But there are people being called to serve here at home as well. We're not all called to go overseas. There are so many needs here within our own boundaries. Sometimes we just need to open our eyes.

2. Mission trips within the United States are healthy:
When I say healthy I'm also saying cheap. :) I talk to church after church that want to go off to a strange foreign land...but they can't afford it. So they just don't do anything. Or they're saving up to go somewhere "big" next year. I understand that it can be a strain on the church and their community to have to raise $1,500 for 20 people every year. God blesses those efforts time after time, but is it necessarily healthy? What if you can save for that big trip AND do a mission trip? Mission trips within the U.S. are a great way to do that.

3. Mission trips within the United States are fun:
They may not seem fun on the drive there, but when you look back at your week you'll have countless memories and strong friendships. How could you not with 18 hours in a church van with 12 people? Not only that but you often get to see a side of the U.S. or even your own community that you'd never experienced before. Driving to Tucson from Minneapolis WILL be will. Besides, everyone loves a road trip.

4. Mission trips within the United States are a precursor:
Often times a local/domestic mission trip gets people hungry to do more! You work with a Jamaican church and community in Miami and then you want to go see the real Jamaica. (Do all Jamaicans really say "mon"? YES!) You've gotten a taste of the food and the accent and the culture and now you're more prepared to go serve in the place where it all began. This is awesome!

We don't have to step over the poor to get to the poorest. And when I say poor I don't just mean "financially" poor. There are so many opportunities to use your life and your voice and your experiences to touch someone's life forever...right in your own backyard. And by doing so you're still fulfilling the Great Commision! Being God's hand and feet right here at home.

Monday, October 7, 2013


As I sit in the Denver airport with a LONG layover getting back home from a convention in San Diego, I reflect on some of the words and conversations I've had over this past long weekend.

The convention was the National Youth Workers Convention which is held twice a on the west coast and one in the mid-west. This is a place where youth workers can come each year to refresh and gather resources for their ministry for the upcoming year. Our job is to talk about PPM and, as accurately as possible, explain to leaders why they should be taking trips with us instead of with one of hundreds, if not thousands, of other short-term missions providers. I'm sure many of these other ministries are great and have a lasting impact, but we, along with many of our past groups, believe that PPM is different in some way.

Before the convention there was some talk with a fellow staff member about a "re-branding" of PPM. Getting back to the roots of what PPM is all about. Because there are so many others that do mission trips that are seemingly the same. As I was thinking about all of this this past weekend I was slammed in the face with this question:

What would happen if we stopped trying to convert people and just loved them? 

Bob Goff wrote the book Love Does and during "big room" one night this weekend he asked something along the lines of the question above. And as we spoke with leaders and explained PPM to them it hit me...PPM is just there to love people! Truly and genuinely love people. We're not there to build something...we're not there to do a VBS for the kids...we're not there to "convert the heathens"...we're there to show people authentic love and point them towards the local church and show them Jesus' love through our words and actions...period! I believe we are doing what Jesus called us to do and letting the Holy Spirit do His work in people's hearts and lives through these genuine relationships and through the consistent work of the local church.

On top of that, PPM staff is genuinely invested in the countries, churches, teams and individuals with which we serve. We push ourselves to the edge of everything we are and give everything that we have physically, spiritually, and emotionally to show God's love and point towards Christ and His Church. THAT is unique! THAT is different! THAT is what PPM is all about!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ain't it funny? (part 3 of 3)

"Well hello there, my it's been a long, long time"
I had planned on writing this back in February with the other two "parts". Life has surely been busy since then! I've been so blessed to have some amazing groups to serve with this spring! The work that these teams did can't be measured against the amount of joy they brought into so many lives! There were great things built and good things done, but they don't compare to the relationships that were made! I was back "home" to the US for about 3 weeks and it felt weird. Interesting...

"How's your new love? I hope he's doing fine"
In the first part of this three-part series I talked about my broken heart. God has surely brought me through this time and showed me His will. At this point I still don't know what the future holds but I have a trust that God has His timing. The comforting part about this whole journey is really that I have committed myself to it and I've accepted it. It's not like times past where I've been trying to live two separate lives. Whether it be good or bad, I've basically committed to just my life here (in Jamaica). Of course I miss friends and family, but it's not like I saw them much in years past during this time of year anyways. Mentally it's been good. Emotionally it's been good. In the long run I trust it will be good!

"Well I got to go now, and I guess I'll see you 'round"
"Pelican summer" for almost 800 people starts here in Jamaica next weekend! Up to a year or more of planning all comes to fruition starting May 30. There's definitely not enough time in the day to prepare for everything that will go on in the next almost 3 months, but the reassuring part is that God is in control of what will happen. I've said it multiple times, but I know that God is in control and there's only so much I can prepare for. He will handle the details. That's comforting to know at this point!
"Sittin' at the dock of the bay..."
So for the next almost three months pray for the 9 teams that I'll be leading! I have put plans in place but only God knows what is truly in store for them. For some of them it will be their first time out of the country...for some their first time to Jamaica...for some they will REALLY hear God speak to them for the first time...for ALL it will be a life-changing experience! Pray that I get out of the way and let God work!

"Ain't it funny?"
I started this 6 month journey a little over 3 months ago. So I'm about half-way through and I'm still listening to what God wants to tell me. Knowing the way God works in me, in August I'll look back over the past six months and really start to comprehend what He's been trying to teach me. The people I've met, the places I've been, the amazing experiences I've had! Whatever it is, I know I'll look back and wonder how the time slipped away...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spoiled! (part 2 of 3)

And here I sit in Montego Bay, Jamaica feeling like a king! I read/hear about snow storms and biting cold and all I can do is feel sorry for those folks. My version of bad weather is when it rained for 2 days this weekend and since we were up in the hills a bit it got chilly (maybe mid-60s) at night and all I had was a sheet. LUCKILY the rain cleared out and the sun came out in time for our day at the beach. I can sit outside drinking Blue Mountain coffee and watching a hummingbird buzz around in the mornings. I drive past the sea every day and sometimes forget to look. . . FORGET TO LOOK!? I mean, COME ON! Who can say things like that!? Me! That's who!

Somehow, somewhere I did something that got me to this place. . . a place where I can just feel God's presence shining down on me. . . oh! wait! did I really do anything? Is it my doing, my actions that got me here? God surely knows it was NOT my doing! God has made it clear in no quiet fashion that He is in control and I'm just along for the ride! Who gets to say these things!? Me!

I get to serve with some of the most amazing people, and although they're only in my world for a short week usually, they forever impact my life. I mean, just this past week I met a kid who can solve a Rubik's cube in under a minute (that's impressive!), but he can also have 100 kids laughing and chasing after him in the same amount of time. . . a blind girl who has absolutely nothing but has one of the most amazing voices I've ever heard. . . a man who has been bed-ridden for nine years who wants nothing more than to speak truth into the lives of others and bless them through his faith in God. . . a lady who has opened her small home to the destitute children of Jamaica. . . and the list could go on and on. Who has the right to meet these people!? Certainly not me! But I do.

Not only do I get to meet new people nearly every day, but I get to visit old friends. I have a "wife" at the St. James infirmary (even though she wears a Pittsburgh Steelers hat) who will hold my hand the entire time I'm there and just laugh and smile. I have a friend at the St. Ann infirmary who is confined to a wheelchair; mentally and physically disabled but she sure laughs and smiles every time she sees me. There are children in a community close to me that will climb on me and just want to be near me when I'm around. Why do I get to have these people in my life?
I surely don't say these things to brag, but I say these because I still don't believe it and I am so humbled at the life I live. I thank God that he has given me this opportunity and put Jamaica on my heart. I get up early, sometimes have to work late, sometimes have to make emergency trips to the airport in the middle of the night (which I would do a million times over again, Dan!). And I LOVE it! I am surely spoiled rotten! I can't say I don't like it though. :)

Confirmed (Part 1 of 3)

Sunday, December 30, 2012 - Hopewell Baptist Church, Hopewell, Hanover, Jamaica. I have two teams totaling 9 people and we're wrapping up a week of building a chicken coop. Although the coop is significant in this story, it's not the main point. It benefits this family by giving them food, an income and stability. However there is something more going on here.

Rewind to December 5(ish), 2012 - I have just proposed to Praying Pelican Missions that I would like to spend a good amount of time in Jamaica this year. I proposed that when I came here to Jamaica in December that I would stay through August and spend time reinforcing our partnerships with churches and ministries here as well as assisting in the day-to-day operations of setting up and leading trips. It was just a proposal. . . they liked it and ran with it. I was nervous, unsure, questioning my thoughts that I had put into words. I had just spent the past 6 months fighting against spending so much time in Jamaica! A girl broke up with me over 6 months ago because I was gone too much. . . I wasn't over it. . . I loved her. I wanted to find a way to settle down and find a nice girl and. . . the American dream. What was I thinking!?

Back to the future - Dec. 30 - I'm sitting in church listening to Pastor Oniel Brown preach a Christmas sermon. He's fired up as most Jamaican pastors are when they're preaching. He's talking about Mary's role in the Christmas story. Protestants don't talk much about Mary unlike the Catholics. We don't have anything against her, we just don't focus on her so much. 

Mary, however, has an interesting perspective in the Christmas story. Pastor Brown talked about how much Mary had to lose. A young woman, maybe 15 or so, engaged to be married, a virgin. . . pregnant. Unlike today, this was not a common story. She had absolutely everything to lose! Legally she could have been put to death. Joseph could have divorced her and had her killed for being pregnant. Virgins, after all, don't get pregnant. In Luke, the angel tells Mary that her life is about to be turned upside down. Mary's answer is simply, "I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." What!? Really!? That's it? No arguing? No questioning? Just, "yeah, sure, ok"? Wow. . . that's faith!
When Pastor Brown was talking about Mary and how she trusted even though she had EVERYTHING to lose, I felt like he was speaking to me. I was nervous about my decision, but what did I really have to lose? In my mind I was losing the opportunity to find "that special person" and settle down. But God was telling me to trust him and He'd take care of it. God was using Pastor Brown to tell me that it was all going to be OK. 

And. . .