Mission


Sara made it back safely from Nicaragua over the weekend.  Between the two of us, this makes seven trips to Nicaragua in the past four years.  They had a good trip – it was a very good group and she didn’t have to pull any all-nighters this time around. 

Her team saw over 900 patients and even had time to visit a Nicaraguan carnvial.  She respectfully delicined a ride on the Ferris wheel AKA the Wheel of Death.  I’ll post some photos once I get them downloaded off her phone.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get down there again sometime.  While it is a life-changing event, it only takes a few months back home to lose perspective.

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Usually around this time of year I take a Christmas carol and write my own lyrics in a somewhat witty fashion. That was my plan for a post this week, but my heart just isn’t in it. The tragedy that occurred last Friday hit me hard. I have two daughters – one in first grade and one in pre-K. I can’t help but imagine the pain of loss endured by the parents, siblings, extended family, and friends of those who were lost last week.

I find myself replaying the events in my mind… the last moments of terror experienced by those children… the upcoming pain of Christmas presents with no one to open them… the survivors who have been stripped of their innocence at far too tender of an age. We’ve experienced several tragedies in the past few years… far too many. But this one seems to hurt more. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were personally impacted by this event. I’ve experienced my share of hardship in life and I know that time heals wounds… but even healed wounds leave scars.

I had a pretty popular post on Facebook the day after the shootings and would like to expand on it a little here…

We were all devastated by what happened on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut. The thought of so many innocent lives lost is heartbreaking. Twenty young children went to school that day just like any other day, but never came home. I think what makes this so difficult for me is how young the victims were and how many were lost in one day.

Now I’ll pose a question. What if I told you that a tragedy was going to happen again tomorrow? You’d do everything in your power to prevent it wouldn’t you? What if I told you twice as many children would be lost… or even ten times as many? The sense of urgency would be even greater, right?

Here’s the truth… 1,500 times as many children will die tomorrow due to preventable causes. That’s right… 30,000 children will die today, tomorrow, the next day, and EVERY DAY around the world. The causes vary – malnutrition, lack of shelter, diseases such as malaria, and a lack of clean drinking water are among the most frequent. The one thing they have in common is that they can be prevented, but only if people like you help.

Why is it that we ignore the death of 30,000 people a day? Maybe it’s because most of them live in other countries. They look different, talk different, have different cultures, and the media chooses not to bring their stories into our living rooms. But despite their differences, every one of the 30,000 lives lost is just as precious as those lost here in the United States. Perhaps my perspective is a bit different. I’ve personally witnessed two children who live in a Nicaraguan dump fighting off dogs and vultures for trash to eat. I’ve seen levels of poverty that most people in the U.S. cannot comprehend and that changes your perspective.

So how can you help? I know not everyone can travel to a third world country… but if you’re reading this, you have a computer and an internet connection which tells me you have the means to make a difference. During my last trip to Nicaragua, I got to work directly with World Vision and Opportunity International. I can tell you that the money that goes to those charities is NOT wasted. They do amazing things with very little resources. There are other worthwhile causes, like Samaritan’s Purse that focus on helping children in need around the globe.

There is also one other organization I would like to mention, Highlands Mission Cooperative http://highlandsmission.com. Full disclosure: I am a board member for this non-profit and if you go to the website, my wife is the one holding the baby. So yes, I have a personal interest in this organization. No, we don’t get paid to work with this organization and again, I can assure you that the money is put to good use. This organization has less waste than any nonprofit I have dealt with – and I’ve worked with a LOT of nonprofits. Highlands Mission Cooperative is doing some amazing things and I encourage you to go to the website and check it out. But don’t just look… get involved. Consider taking a trip… make a donation… do whatever you can because lives – young lives – are literally at stake. You can chose to ignore the death of 30,000 children daily or you can make difference.

Update to this post: the web designer is making some changes to the Highlands Mission website today, so if you run into issues with links, please come back later!

 

Here is a the video I showed Sunday morning at my church recapping our Nicaragua trip.  This was a wonderful experience.  Most of you know that I have been to Nicaragua a couple of other times on mission trips with faith-based groups.  This trip was actually through my work.

I worked with Opportunity International, World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, and the Free Wheelchair Mission.  Going in a corporate capacity gave me the opportunity to meet with Executive Directors, National Directors, Directors of Corporate Engagement, etc.  It is truly fascinating how everything is coming together and the work we were already doing in Nicaragua dovetails in with the work that can be supported by these large nonprofits.

In case you’re wondering… the music is by The Head and The Heart.  We saw them in Athens, GA and they are one of our favorite groups.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhYtVdvpjnI&feature=plcp

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If you have been reading for a while, you know that my wife and I have taken a few trips to Nicaragua to provide medical aid, clean water, and in my case – to move rocks.  We have been doing this through a group called Highlands Mission Cooperative (www.highlandsmission.com).  What you may not know is prior to accepting my position with the company for which I work; I was seriously considering doing some sort of medium to long term work in Nicaragua.  I was planning keeping my residence here in the States, but spending a fair amount of time in Nicaragua.

Here’s where it got tricky… I really felt led to work in Nicaragua, but I also felt led to accept the position at my company here in Georgia.  I wasn’t sure exactly how that would work out because I thought those two things were mutually exclusive, but I took a leap of faith by accepting the position here while looking for opportunities in Nicaragua. 

In my initial week with my new company, I was asked to be the chairperson of our Charitable Foundation.  It wasn’t Nicaragua, but I did have the opportunity to become involved with several nonprofit organizations and encourage associates to give their time, treasure, and talent to charitable causes.

While doing this, I still had the opportunity to go to Nicaragua outside of work and participate in the growing relief efforts there.  Things were starting to make sense.  I had a job where I could network with nonprofits, encourage charitable work, and make some money so I could be self-funded on my international trips.

A few weeks ago, it really started to make sense.  Our national foundation announced its Global Giving campaign.  A small group of associates from all over the country could apply for an international trip where they will assemble and distribute wheelchairs, work with World Vision on humanitarian efforts, and participate in a construction project.  Guess where this team is going… Nicaragua!  I applied for one of the slots and was selected.

I will be going to Nicaragua in August and our Foundation is paying my way.  In addition, I am expected to “share the story” when I return.  I will be asked to write blogs, do some YouTube videos, and speak to associates about our experience – which is precisely what I do with my other trips to Nicaragua.  I now see that there was plan all along, and I almost got in the way because I was tempted to place more weigh on my judgment than what I felt led to do.

I guess that’s the lesson learned here.  Sometimes the right thing doesn’t make the most sense logically.  I am very logical person and that’s hard for me to say, but my experience teaches me that it is true.  Rewards come to those who step out on faith.  It doesn’t take much faith to be logical.