Category Archives: poverty

Book: Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope

I happened upon a book in our Kindle app, Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope by Mez McConnell…
I asked Joel about it and he didn’t even recall where it was from.

It ended up being a message to my weary soul.

This book is the life story of Mez, who grew up on the European version of ‘the projects’. It’s a little rough to read about his childhood… Abuse, neglect, invisibility.

But it was a slap in the face consistent with my current Precepts bible study of Romans. When Mez was introduced to the Gospel, the church he was introduced into was Law, not Grace. And as someone constantly evaluating how to be a church leader, it was a serious reminder what it feels like to enter a church culture that expects right behavior by flesh, without waiting for the Spirit to do a work.


Judging the beggar on the corner

I’ve been confused about how to deal with the homeless person with the sign on the corner for a long time.

Last night, as I sat in my car getting organized at Ecclesia, a beggar knocked in my window. He caught me off-guard, made me feel invaded…
I had to decide (again) how to respond

I have had many conflicting inputs:

  • In my childhood memories, there are many times my mom stopped to help someone along the side of the road, giving them a ride home or to a shelter.
  • While dating, Joel & I went with The Grove Church to deliver food under Pierce Elevated in downtown Houston. We made a few friends & started taking food & stuff to them as a way to flee pre-marriage temptation. Each person had a story…and factor that lead them to life on the street.
  • When working for a large local church about 8 years ago, I was riding with several pastors. One explained to me that the corner beggars commonly make $60,000/year tax free… And who knows what they do with it.
  • I spent 2001 & 2005 working at the Star of Hope Women & Family Homeless Shelter. Lots of people were trapped in the poverty cycle & disappointed me.

Last year, I started reading Luke aloud to my kids.
I got to Luke 6:30… and the answer seemed pretty straight forward:

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

But how do we know if they will use it wisely? Or if they are making more then me by this profession?

The same questions could be asked when we ask for help…Was I a perfect steward of every dollar given to me? Did I buy a latte, get my nails done, pay for a movie, etc.?

What matters on my end is how the Lord will view my choice to help…

Matthew 25:35-40

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So last night, I made the wrong choice first: judgement. I was offended (by choice) that he knocked on my window. He should have known not to invade my space. So I spoke curtly, telling him I might help when I got out to enter the building.

And my heart ached.
I wouldn’t have spoken to Jesus that way. I wouldn’t have spoken to any of you that way.

Fortunately, I was still in that place. I could look in my rearview mirror, image he was Jesus, or even imagine I was the beggar.

Then I acted.


Sisters are something I’ve thought about a lot… Especially for someone without sisters.

I see a loyalty & connectedness in sisters that friends can’t duplicate but only imitate.

Think about it.
You maybe the “best friend forever”…bur who’s the maid-of-honor”?

Enough said.

Read about what’s being done to keep 4 sisters together in Cazale, Haiti.

The one that got away

You may be wondering, as I do several posts in a row about other people’s adoptions, how this all relates to me:

1. The obvious: Darin, my precious present, God brought us by adoption.

2. The memory: Jean-Roni, the one that got away.
Last summer in Haiti, Karen, Amanda, & I took care of Jean-Roni. He was a tiny, malnourished baby boy who came into the Real Hope for Haiti clinic while we were visiting.
We cared for him day & night for the majority of our trip.
We were told that he would not live at the size, age, and progression of his malnourishment.
And so don’t get attached.

That didn’t work.

So we dreamed & calculated how to bring him home with us.

But when we left, he stayed.
And 35 days later, while my arms still ached for him, Jean-Roni died.

We must fight everyday to save AS MANY CHILDREN AS WE CAN.
Our humanity requires this.

Adoption and child sponsorship

As you know, I love adoption. I think it is an amazing vehicle of restoration of Shalom… a way to knit back together the broken fabric of society.

But adoption is costly and complicated. You need to be ready to raise a child, with a community of support, a stable job, and more.

And there are many child around the world in need, who have parents they don’t want to leave… they still need help.

So, how can we help children in a simple way?

Child Sponsorship.
Many organization like Compassion International offer a partnership – they will do the legwork to meet the children where they are, and we can provide prayer, love, and funds.

Today I read this blog post by my beloved Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts:
A Dare to Live Fully
Right Where You Are
), being struck by this section:

When he shows us his bedroom, there are no photos of his father on the wall. Or mother or brother. Just a trio of smiles— a photo of a family, a long haired girl, a cluster of kids. It’s good to find smiling here. We brush at wet cheeks and smile too and ask who are these beautiful friends of yours, Jonathan?

I look towards our translator. She asks Jonathan and she turns to us —

“These are his Compassion sponsors.” The the only family he knows, right there, hanging over his bed, the only things hanging on the walls of this hut. Love is always our only art.

“These are the letters they write me.” A smile flickers. The scrawling script under the Compassion logo talks of snow and dogs and school. “I love Mr. Andrew and his family very much.”

He whispers it.

Love is always our only hope.

On the wall of an abandoned 15-year old in the Amazon are letters and pictures from his Compassion sponsors.

Have you sponsored a child? Do you picture your letters there?
Have you written one to hold that position of honor?

I wrote my first on-line letter today. And you can even upload pictures!

If you have a sponsored child, share your thanksgiving holiday with them by sending a letter.
If you don’t have a sponsored child, sponsor one today. Some of these kids have been waiting over 3 years for someone to spend $38/month on them.
Isn’t that just an impulse-buy of a pair of shoes? How about impulse-sponsoring a child?

Doing justice

I was listening to my 3rd* favorite sermon today, “Doing Justice” by Tim Keller.

I think you should all listen to it, but here are the points I think are very striking:
– Shalom (translated ‘peace’) represents the webbing together of humans & all creation in equity, fulfillment, and delight.
– Shalom is the fabric of God’s creation working according to God’s design, interwoven like threads of a blanket.
– Doing justice is repairing the fabric where it is breaking apart.
– Proverbs 3:27-28 instructs us “Do not withhold good from those to whom it us due, when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you.”

I was struck by this & strong wording in Luke 6:30, “Give to EVERYONE who begs from you.”

When the man holds out his hand on the corner, I am not to judge is worthiness. Just check my wallet. If it’s not empty, give.

Matthew 25:31-44
““When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

*Curious about my top 3 sermons:
1. Son of David (Kaleo Houston 2011) – Joel Burdeaux
2. The Supremacy of God in missions (Passion conference 1998) – Dr John Piper
3. Doing Justice (Resurgence conference 2006) – Dr. Timothy Keller

Cazale, Haiti: Day 1

The airport in Port-au-Prince was so simple.
We took a bus from the terminal where we landed to a warehouse-type building with the immigration, baggage claim & customs. Everything was basic, but clean and orderly. We rented 2 carts, and the guy standing with them wanted my claim tickets for the bags. I wasn’t sure I should give them to him since Lori had warned me not to, but he was really persisting. Then, as we are walking toward the baggage, we saw the guy with papers with our names on the back (and our pictures on the front) – he said to let the guy find our baggage and he gave me the phone to talk to Mr. Zachary. We found all our bags, and walked right out of Customs without answering any questions – or opening any bags. There were lots of people in plaid shirts, looking kind of official, who tried to help with our carts, but we just walked on past them to the parking lot.
Then Mr Zachary (Zach) had a Haitian man that was with him load all our bags in the back of his truck (which has a tall fence around it) and we climbed in back there, too.

We drove through Port-au-Prince for about 30 mins. It looks kind of poor, but better than I expected. People dress okay, not too much begging when we would be at a stop light, and not much attention paid to us.

Eventually, we got out of the city, and started seeing what looked like mountain-side used for grazing animals – but covered with shelter/tent-things. We were between the coast and mountains, and it was very beautiful. If I looked ahead, past the luggage and thru the windshield, I would be VERY scared because we were going fast and toward other cars… so I just looked out at the scenery and was fine. I really felt peaceful. I think we did this for like 30 mins too.

Then we turned up a road into the mountains. It was a gravel road about 3 lanes wide, and was surprisingly safe and not scary. We wound up for awhile over the first 2 foothills, then wound down toward Cazale.
A riverbed of rocks ran along the road, and the water looks very inviting. The trees are thick around the river and up the hills, mainly with banana-type trees. They even cooled the air down. We passed a cemetary where a tombstone stood right out front with Gretchen Zachary’s grave (Zach’s wife) and then arrived at the Clinic.

The clinic is right across from the river. On the other side of the road, between the river and the clinic, are little forts (roofs on sticks) that people sit under selling stuff – probably like our corner store.

The clinic compound is 2 houses with a courtyard that is fenced with gates.

  • The house on the left has storage downstairs, and we sleep upstairs – it has a bunkroom for boys, a bunkroom for girls, and a bedroom for longterm volunteers, as well as a kitchen, living room, and dining area. It is very nice – it has electricity, a computer, a freezer with ice we can use, a regular stove with oven. Almost too nice to be on a mission trip to Haiti. The downstairs was the Rescue Center prior to the earthquake. After the earthquake, the “nannies” that watch the kids were too scared to be in there, even thought the house as been inspected, so they moved it.
  • The house on the right is the clinic.
    • By the gate, there is a Water Mission purification system with huge tanks that pull water from the river and purify it once. Then there is a UV filter that a guy runs all the drinking water through and puts in in ozark-style jugs (the filter almost looks just like the one we had). There is a window in the gate, and a guy will take villagers’ containers, and fill them with the cleaned river water – and if there bucket is dirty, exchange that, too. There is also a box with about 20 plugs, and people can just hand their phone & charger through the window, and leave it to charge too.
    • Between the water & the building is a sitting area with benches & a tin roof where about 40 people can wait for the clinic.
    • The clinic is just the bottom floor of a house.

      • The front porch is the final waiting area, with a scale to weigh people on. People check in at the window to the front room of the house – where they have file cabinets with all 100,000+ files. They pay about $1 for their visit, then get assigned to a nurse who will do their visit – 2 general nurses, a nurse for wound care, and a nurse for women’s health/prenatal.
      • Each of these nurses has a small room in the house.
      • The file system is really smart. Each person gets a note card with a # the first time they come to the clinic (equivalent to their insurance card) so this number keeps track of how many people have come since 1998. The people keep this card when they leave. In the morning on Tues, Wed, Thurs, people line up outside the gate super early in the morning (there were people there when we arrived on Monday evening). At 6am, Placeholder #‘s are passed out, and File #’s are picked up – so 1st person in line is given “1” and hands over their notecard so their medical record can be pulled (if they have been there before). This way, they know how many people from around Cazale have been treated at the clinic total (104,000+), and how many they see each day (today: 375).
      • The back room of the house is the medication room, where common medicines are put in little baggies with the prescribed amount of pills, and dots to communicate to the mostly non-literate people how many times to take it (3 dots = 3x/day). SO SMART!
    • The top floor of that house (clinic) is Licia, Enoch & their 3 boys 2-bedroom apartment.
  • The Rescue Center is another building 2 buildings away.
    It is a building with:

    a small courtyard/porch for feeding kids,
    a long-skinny room for the babies, and
    a large, open room for the non-babies. In this room, there are 2 bunkbeds, that a few kids were resting on, but most of the kids hang out on 3 areas that have inter-locking squishy squares covered by a sheet probably 10′×12′. It is very basic.
    The routine over there is to feed all 60 kids in the morning, give them a bath, then hang out til lunch, feed them all again,
    bath them all again with diaper changes, hang out til dinner, feed them all again, and sleep.

    We are totally free to play with the kids, take them back to the clinic/house compound, let them eat with us, help feed them there, or whatever.
    When we got there today, within 30 secs, Karen was carrying a kid.
    Then I sat down with one, and was immediately covered with 6 kids. They don’t talk or cry, just reach up, or just climb on your lap.
    Amanda found a little guy pretty quickly who has some sort of tremor on his left side and is pretty sick, and she hasn’t put him down yet. His name is Ojean.
    When we left after this first visit, she took him with her, and Karen and I brought along a 3-year old, Rose Marie.