Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections of Haiti - Part Three

In God’s Hands in Haiti

I continue to emphasize the power of prayer, especially in the context of international missions. Over and over, we who travel overseas to deliver the Good News experience the hand of Almighty God touching lives, moving obstacles, and intervening as only He can do. He is always busy revealing His power and glory to anyone willing to see. In Haiti, we saw God work in the lives of the people we met and in the connections we made. We went with a plan and a schedule and it worked out about half of the day! After that, our plan disintegrated and we experienced what it meant to be carried by the Holy Spirit as Phillip experienced in Acts 8. We connected with people and ministries that we did not know existed the week before. We traveled to places that in our own understanding did not make sense. But this is “normal” on most mission trips. It is the evidence of the power of prayer, and it results in divine appointments and being in God’s supernatural care.

If you have led an Urbancrest mission team or even gone with us as a volunteer, you know that we make plans and try to be aware of every detail. By making sure our mission projects are well-planned, we hope to eliminate foreseeable problems that the enemy can use to make our witness less effective. This allows God to work His plan.

Our Haiti trip was to be no different. Our travel, lodging, and food arrangements were made before we left Lebanon. Appointments were set and we knew the containers were at the Mission Lifeline compound. As a practice of due diligence for every trip, we require every team going out from Urbancrest to have accident insurance on every volunteer. We also require that every team be registered with the US State Department before they leave the country. The reason for the accident insurance is obvious. The reason for registering with the US State Department is so that the team can get updates if there is danger, or if there is something that US citizens need to know about.

Such was the case with this Haiti team. As leader of this team, it was my responsibility to make sure all was completed. But the week before, I was very busy with Mission Leader Mentoring (MLM) preparations and caring for visiting missionaries. By the time I had taught the MLM all day on Saturday, I had lost all ability to think of anything other than packing a few things for the trip. Diane reminded me of the need to register the team with the US State Department, and she went ahead and enrolled the team in the insurance program for me. I told her I would register the team with the State Department on Sunday evening since we would be staying in Ft. Lauderdale Sunday night before flying to Port au Prince early Monday morning. Well, I forgot. I was on the plane and arriving in Port au Prince before I thought about it again. At that point, I decided to just let it go. We had an experienced team and usually have no problems anyway.

As the week in Haiti moved along we were very busy and heard little news. From day break to dark and beyond we were working, either meeting people or loading and unloading food and supplies. We had made reservations and pre-paid to stay the night at the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) guest house on Thursday night, but when we tried to contact their Florida phone number to get directions to the guest house in Haiti no one there seemed to be aware of our reservations. They informed us that they didn’t currently have anyone working in Haiti. We were hoping to stay there because of the proximity to the airport and because we knew we would be traveling to Port au Prince on Thursday. At that point it seemed best just to stay one more night at the Lifeline guest house, so we adjusted our plans.

On Thursday, we traveled back to Port au Prince and met with Dr. Bernard at the Bethel Guest House. This is where our team stayed in August. It is also where Dr. Bernard has the orphanages and the crèche. Larry Bergeron had not been there and I was excited that the two of them would meet. After we toured the crèche and were preparing to leave, I received a text message from Diane who had forwarded part of the following message from my email account:

On-Going Demonstrations in Port-au-Prince
U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on November 18, 2010:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to alert U.S. citizens that there are reports of demonstrations in downtown Port Au Prince on the Champ-de-Mars, and in Nazon and Lalue. Roads are being blocked, tires set on fire, and rocks are being thrown at passing vehicles. The Haitian National Police have deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd several times. The crowd continues to move in this area and regroup. All travel to this area should be avoided.

U.S. citizens are advised to maintain an increased level of vigilance when traveling in and around Port-au-Prince. They should be aware of their surroundings at all times and are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy.

After receiving the text message, I made sure our driver was aware of the location of the riots so that he didn’t drive us through them. It was difficult for him to keep us away from the rioting because our location required us to drive right near there as we made our way back to the Lifeline guest house. We would go down side streets and then move back to the main street, only to detour again. At one point we followed a UN squad in full riot gear for several blocks (see picture below). That seemed pretty safe! I later learned that the rioting was due to the fact that the UN had been accused of causing the cholera outbreak, as well as the unrest due to the upcoming presidential elections.

I feel that the Lord really protected us in that situation. If we hadn’t changed our lodging plans at the last minute, which allowed us to stay at Lifeline rather than at the FBC guest house, we would have had to spend the night in the middle of the riot zone. It is clear to me that God intervened and moved us out of harm’s way. Secondly, I was thankful that we had received the very timely State Department warning which saved us a lot of trouble and also kept us out of a very dangerous situation. I figured that Diane must have registered our team with the State Department while we were gone.

After we were home a few days, Diane commented on the fact that it was a good thing I had registered the team with the State Department so that we were able to get the warning when we did. The fact is, neither one of us registered the team!

It is still a mystery to me how I came to receive a message from the US Embassy without registering the team. The airline tickets were in Larry’s name and he did not receive the message. There is not a good explanation other than God acted on your prayers and intervened for the safety of the mission team. Thank you again for your faithful prayers for this Haiti team. God loves to glorify His name as we lift it up to the nations!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give Your Best Gift to Jesus

Ahhh, Christmas! What a wonderful time of year! It is a time for family and friends. Christmas seems to bring out the best in most of us. If you have lived around Southern Ohio as long as I have, it is hard to imagine Christmas without a little bite in the outside air temperature and the hope for a “white Christmas.” Yet, even with all of these enjoyable experiences, there are a few things that I dislike about the Christmas season. I hate the commercialization of the holiday. I really don’t like to shop at all. I love to give gifts to my family and friends, but I really don’t like the fact that in our culture Christmas is more about the money than the caring or the worship of the Savior.

Christmas, at its heart, is about Jesus. We give the gifts to people we love or care about to celebrate the greatest gift ever given. The arrival of a babe lying in a manger, announced by angels, was the gift of a Savior given to the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent to give His life to die for our sins and not ours only but for the sins of the whole world. The gift of eternal life is given to those who believe. That has to be celebrated! Giving is the best expression of gratitude. So giving to those we love is very natural.

I believe giving should go beyond those we love to those He loves and gave His life for. There are 1.6 billion people in the world who have not heard the Good News, and 6,424 people groups in the world that have no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not glorify Him or worship Him. How can we say we love Him and not care about those He loves?

One of the ways that Linda and I demonstrate our love for Jesus is to give our best Christmas gift to the Combined Mission Offering at Urbancrest Baptist Church. The Combined Mission Offering goes to the heart of lostness. 10% goes to reach the state of Ohio, 10% goes to World Hunger, 40% goes to reach North America through the North America Mission Board, and 40% goes to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering of the International Mission Board. Over 10,000 missionaries are serving literally all over the world sharing Jesus with those who have never heard about our Savior. These are some of God’s choicest servants who work in some of the most difficult places in the world.

Urbancrest’s Combined Mission Offering goal this year is $50,000.00. That is the highest goal we have ever set. Each week we are getting closer to accomplishing it, but we still have quite a ways to go. People are waiting to go tell those who have never heard, but the funds are lacking to send them. What a great gift we can give our Lord by sending workers to those who have never heard!

This year, give your best gift to Jesus. After all, it is His birthday! But even more importantly, if we are faithful to give, there will be souls in heaven rejoicing and worshiping Jesus with us for eternity!