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Archive for the ‘Haiti’ Category

The first core value in appointing pastors in the United Methodist Church is all about mission. The bishop states, “the primary factor in making an appointment is the mission field.”

When the DS called to tell me that I would be appointed to Fleming Island, she ended the call by saying that if there was a missional reason for not accepting the appointment, I needed to let her know in the next few days.

In my last blog, I conveyed a sense of excitement about this new chapter in my life and ministry. As I am in touch with some of the church members, that excitement is growing.

The chair of the missions team is Russ Kamradt, who was given a red VW from OPRAH as one of her favorite volunteers!! Having Russ heading up the missions team is as exciting as it would be to find out that my new tech person was Bill Gates or the hospitality chair was Rachel Ray!

He sent me a copy of his book, Treasures of a Servant, which I thought I would read a chapter at a time, when I found the time. It was so engaging that I sat down and read it all in one night.  Let me highly recommend this book for you, which is available on Amazon for $4.99.  All of the proceeds go to charity. Just a warning, when you finish the book you will most likely ask yourself, “What have I been doing with my life?” Then you will want to get in your car and drive to Fleming Island to be part of the awesome work that Russ is doing with this church and community!

Russ spent several months building concrete floors for poor families in the Dominican Republic, took 3 trips to Haiti to help rebuild after the earthquake, and in addition to several other mission trips, he has been hugely involved with making lives better for people in his community, through the Red Cross, Toys for Tots, and tons of other organizations. His work as a volunteer draws on his gifts for logistics and problem solving that he acquired in his successful career in a fortune 500 company. He heads up many different projects, coordinating people and resources to meet the needs of whatever people he is serving.

Each opportunity to serve finds him in God’s perfect timing.  I truly believe that this is what happens when your ear is attuned to God.  You start hearing whispers and nudges, then more like shouts of ways that you can serve. The more you act on these nudges, the more your heart glows with a sense of rightness. Russ is such an amazing example of that.

Russ has found what churches everywhere are searching for – the reason why we exist: serving God by serving others. While we fear this, thinking it will be drudgery, it is in this that we find true joy and fulfillment.

Learning about his story has left me inspired and excited about the adventures that lie ahead!

 

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Where is God?

As we see pictures from the earthquake in Haiti, we are overwhelmed by the suffering that we witness. Whenever we experience tragedy, the inevitable question of faith arises, “If our God is a loving God and also a powerful God, why does he let us experience tragedy?”

Before we can answer these questions, we have to understand two things.  First, the eternal world has a different set of rules than the earthly world.  In our material world, we want to be healthy, affluent, and happy.  When this doesn’t happen, we feel that something has gone wrong.  In the eternal world, the main thing is what is in a person’s heart.  We grow more compassionate from the hard times in our lives than we do from times of comfort.  Grief, pain, loss, and sadness are all things we experience in our human condition.  Frequently, great fulfillment is preceded by pain.  I grieved for my loss when my brother died, but I have never felt closer to God in the time following his death.  When I had my first child, I was completely unprepared for the amount of pain I experienced.  But it was all forgotten when I held my sweet little baby in my arms.  Then, less than two years later, I went through the whole experience again.  The joy of my children erased the pain of childbirth.

When Jesus was crucified, it was probably the worst way that someone could suffer and die.  But three days later, he rose from the dead and we are able to celebrate the joy of his resurrection. When we experience pain, grief, and tragedy, it affects us more deeply than when everything is going along okay.  We sometimes get whiny, greedy, and selfish when we have too much good fortune.  In the Old Testament, King Solomon is a great example of that.  He started out seeking wisdom, but he had so many blessings, he got carried away with his greed and lust.  Even though no one wants to suffer, if we have God in our heart, we grow or help others grow when we experience hard times.  Without God in our heart, we become angry and bitter.

The second thing we need to understand is that it sometimes takes extreme sorrow to get us to care.

My friend Tony posted this on Facebook:

So it takes an earthquake for other nations to bring relief to Haiti? About 60% of the population lives in abject poverty. Fewer than 75% attend school and 40% do not have access to primary healthcare. That was before the earthquake…

Most of us have been aware of the poverty in Haiti.  When I went on a Western Caribbean cruise a few years ago, I was uncomfortable with our affluence in contrast to the people on those islands who were living off of whatever crumbs we happened to throw to them.  But, I didn’t do anything about my discomfort.  It didn’t propel me into action to get involved in an organization that would help ease their pain or increase my charitable giving.  No, unfortunately, we sometimes we need something bigger to happen to shake us from our comfy little place in the world.

Why doesn’t God just take away everyone’s pain?  I believe that it is because the ultimate goal is for all people to be connected in love to each other and to God.  God wants us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in love, through prayer, sharing of our treasures, and giving our time. He knows that in using us to provide help and healing, we also grow in love and our eternal hearts become more God-like than they were before the crisis.

So, where is God in all of this?  I believe that God is the warm blanket of love hovering over the innocent people who have died, carrying them to Heaven where they will be happy, well cared for, and living peacefully in His kingdom.  He is also holding each one who is suffering in His loving arms, whether they are aware of it or not, and staying with them through their pain.  I believe God is in the heart of every person who has felt compassion for those who have suffered and that they are inspired by the Holy Spirit to want to help their fellow man.

One way to help is through the United Methodist Committee On Relief http://www.umcor.org.  They say to do the following:  Pray, give financial contributions, plan to help when the time is right, and prepare supply kits that will be needed.  If God has touched your heart with the needs of the Earthquake victims, don’t just sit there and feel bad – do something.

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