Families are getting together again.  They’re driving, flying, taking the train…whatever it takes to be together for Christmas.  Many families spend vast amounts of money to be together on Christmas day to be present with one another.  But, has the Christmas holiday become more about presents than presence?

According to American Research Group the average person is planning on spending $646 on gifts for Christmas. People are buying video games, clothes, jewelry, and a new Lexus (because it’s a December to Remember, right?).  The ironic thing to me is that the presents that we receive often remove us from the presence of one another.

The kids will take their toys and play with them until they are too tired and bored.  The adults will try on their new clothes and eat until they’re stuffed full while watching movies, sports, or TV shows.  We’ll all be together, but on Christmas day will we really be present? Will we create memories beyond the annual opening of packages or will we settle for the idea that time together means we have been present?  Being present is very different than being together.

My eyes have just been opened to this idea.  Being together and doing our own thing is easy, being present takes work and effort.  We have to listen to one another and share the time we have without all the distractions of our presents.  It is good to give and receive, but when the presents get in the way of our presence we need to take a step back and evaluate what is happening to us.

Here are some ideas I have for making sure that our family experiences the presence:

  • Turn off the TV.  If all our attention is focused on a screen we really are not being present with one another.  Simply turning off the TV invites presence.
  • Play a game.  I have fond memories from my childhood of games that the wholefamily was involved in and I will cherish those my entire life.  Find something the whole family can play and invite everyone who is willing.
  • Some assembly required.  If you have kids they will probably open a toy that requires assembly.  Whether it is placing stickers, building legos, or assembling a new doll-house, work needs to be done.  Sit down and spend time with the kids putting them together.  I have never forgotten the help I received and neither will they.

Most families will open presents on Christmas day.  Experiencing presence requires planning and work.  Presents will fade and break but Presence is something that lasts a lifetime.

Images of Easter

Posted: April 3, 2010 in Personal
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I did a search on google images for the word “easter.”  All over the page you see colored eggs and bunnies.  Sure there were a couple of crosses and some sunshine but it is clear the image we have of Easter is pastel colors, furry animals, and eggs.

Easter is not about candy, eggs, bunnies, or pastel colors. It isn’t about making ourselves feel good or eating so much sugar that we make ourselves feel bad. It’s not about plastic smiles or tired grins. It’s not even about dressing up and going out (even if it is to church). Easter is so much more than all the shallow stuff we see.

Easter is about the power that God has over death. It is about the defeat of Satan, sin, and death. It is about the true God who loves us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours, only to take it up again in a final defeat of death. It is about the passion that God has for his creation. But we have cheapened it.

The images that we see of Easter when we shop cheapen the enormous impact of what Easter is really all about.  Take time to think about what Easter really means, let it effect you, let God’s action impact your life.  Easter was never meant to change your waistline, it was meant to change the world, one heart at a time.

Final Post From Haiti

Posted: February 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

There is so much that I could post about before we leave this morning. However, since it rained last night and we didn’t have the internet I think I’ll tell you what happened that caused a ton of excitement (at least for me).

I went out to find the “Yung Goddies” after a short break and found one of the guys by the basketball hoop. This is the point where, if you know me well, you begin to worry. I sat next to him and just watched as 6 guys played ball in the street. One of them had to go so they invited me to play and I just can’t say no to a good game of basketball, and the big guys from the other day were no where to be found. So I jumped in and played a good 30 or 45 minutes with these guys. We were all sweaty and tired and I was about done when the ball came off the side of the rim. The guy in front of me grabbed the rebound and jumped straight up for the shot. And in that moment lies the issue. I am taller than he is and I was right behind him. So as he jumped his head came straight into my face and forced my lower lip into my upper teeth. It split about an inch and a half long just under my lower lip.

I knew it was bad right away so I told them I was all finished and ran back to the compound. Laura took a good look at it, Pete offered to stitch it up, and it was decided that I would need to go to the hospital to see a “Doctor.” I am really glad that right now some of the world’s best doctors are in Haiti offering their skills and gifts.

I met Les, an EMT from New York, who took my vitals and got me all ready. Dr. “Bob” from Texas put 5 stitches in my lip and got it all back together. It’s all fat now and I look nothing like my passport picture but it is what it is. Things happen, but we get to choose how we respond. So my face might look a little different from now on, but it’s definitely not the worst that can happen.

I am so blessed to be able to come and serve with my hands, feet, and even my face. My prayer is that as we served the people of Haiti this week they saw Jesus in us and will see how he is working in our lives. This is an amazing area with some great stories of perseverance and triumph.

Now it is time to worship before we leave. We are gathering together to sing His praises and lift up His name as we prepare to leave. I pray you will do the same.

– Jared

It’s Saturday…Oh, Shoot (Jake)

Posted: February 27, 2010 in Ministry

I cannot believe we are going home tomorrow. At least our plan is to head home, but as our trip has panned out we have learned that things are only certain when they happen. We have tickets on flights from Port-au-Prince to Miami, a couple hour layover then a flight to Denver. I woke up this morning thinking that we were leaving today and quickly realized that the time has flown by and while we still have work to do we are headed home really soon. I am certain that we will all have many stories and pictures to share with friends and family back home and we will not understand the full weight of the situation here. Our memories and perceptions will change as we have time to reflect and there is no way any one of us will be the same after this experience. But what have we done with our final day? Well let me tell you…

Coy, Steve, Pete, Jake, Laura, and Jessie build a shelter for the bathroom at the “Yung Goddies” house. It’s a simple two sided shelter but it is sturdy and will serve them well for privacy and protection. While they were doing that Karl, Larry, and I went to the house that we started “restoring” yesterday and continued our “restoration.” We ended yesterday with a discussion about how we should proceed with the “restoration” of the roof and decided that we would try to smash as much as possible while it was still up. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is far easier to swing the sledgehammer straight down and break more up. Second, once a large chunk of concrete is on the ground it is really hard to manuever around it or break it up. And third, we felt that if one piece of re-bar could hold the whole piece that we had smashed up then we should be safe on the roof to do whatever we needed to do. WE WERE WRONG! We began punching holes on the other side of a reinforced section when after Larry’s 4th or 5th stroke the support behind him started to give way and a whole half of the roof dropped about 8 inches. We scrambled, thought about what we were doing and changed everything. While it may be easier to crush concrete by swinging straight down, it is a whole lot safer to not be on the roof when it is falling down.

After a short break, Pete, Jake, Laura, and Jessie got in on the sledgehammer action! They came up with us and each of them got into it. Both the girls thought that swinging the sledgehammer was a lot of fun. We have some video that we will post after we get home so you can see the girls at work. After the pillars started coming down and we realized that we need to get as much concrete on the ground as possible we started pounding holes out and dropping as much as we could. By the time we stopped we had dropped more than half of the roof, a good start for a few people with sledgehammers.

We will be headed back up in a little bit to see what else we can do and to take some final pictures of the house but for the evening I think we plan on spending time together as a team and resting before we travel tomorrow.

Please pray for safe travels and especially that our plane will take off, with us on board, tomorrow!

– Jared

Friday Night Update

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

As I type this one of the girls is in the building playing the guitar and singing worship songs. Worship has been a constant companion here. We have had a couple of nights that were really powerful, singing and praying together. It is never planned out and programmed to the hilt, instead it comes from being together and finding that we all crave a chance to express our worship of God through song and prayer. Those times have been great time for our team to focus and bond together through our common desire to serve the living God.

There is not a lot of room to build in Haiti so when people wanted to add on to their houses they would build up, not out. In fact the vast majority of the roofs here are flat and have re-bar sticking out of them so that they are ready to build another level. Most of the roofs are poured concrete and cinder blocks, which makes them very heavy. The houses are basically designed as tables with pillars for support and a flat top as the roof. When the quake hit the weight of the roofs caused them to shake and with only vertical pillars for support many of them collapsed. Today we (the restoration group…in other words the non-medical, swing the sledgehammer, clear the rubble guys) began the demolition, actually restoration, of a house very close to the compound we have been staying at. It is the house Sandra, the woman who has cooked for us all week. The house is completely unstable and each time an aftershock hits it sinks a little bit more. Well, it sank a little more.

We have only just begun and the house is going to take many hours and swings of the sledgehammer to clear but it was a valiant beginning. After the house was clear of their belongings and people we went up to the roof and started swinging. After we punched the first whole through chunks of concrete and cinder block began falling everywhere with each stroke. We took turns, swinging the sledgehammer is exhausting (especially in this heat), and chipped away until we had a good portion of the roof reduced to rubble.

The family is glad to have us help them. If we did not do it they would have to hire a lot of guys to come in and take care of it. They have taken a lot of pictures of us on the roof swinging the sledge and carrying things and are always smiling. Even after all the destruction, death, and pain they are still smiling and their smiles are enough to melt your heart. For many of the people I have met there is real joy there. It may be covered with dirt, grime, and sweat but it is there behind their eyes.

I am so glad for all my friends who have supported me coming on this trip and for the comments I have received with prayer and encouragement. We have another day and a half to work hard and pour ourselves out. Please continue to pray for us and for wisdom to minister the grace of God with the gifts we have been given. I anticipate a difficult departure when do we leave but we know there is real joy and real hope here in Haiti.

– Jared

Medical Update

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Uncategorized
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We had a request for an update on what the medical team is doing so here for your reading pleasure is the…medical update!
The medical team from our group consists of our Nurses Laura and Jessie, and EMTs Jake and Pete. The four of us have been split between three primary functions; The Home Clinic, The Mobile Clinics, and working in the Dikini Hospital.

The Home Clinic
Haiti family runs a clinic just up from the compound everyday M-F, a morning and afternoon session. We have been seeing many people with routine illnesses, including backaches, headaches, cough, fever, and diaherrea. This operations sonsists of about 3 stations set-up around an awning that houses the medical equipment and pharmacy in a suitcase. This clinic sees approx. 100-150 patients in hours.

The Mobile Clinics
We have been to a few locations away from home to bring medical care to those that can’t make it a clinic or hospital. These sites vary but are always interesting. A few days ago we went up a hill just outside of our area in a densley populated area. Jake and Pete treated 30+ cases of scabies, while the nurses saw everything from coughs to dehydration. This clinic sees approx. 150-250 patients in 5 hours.

Dikini Hospital
Our first night here Jake and Pete worked an overnight in the hospital, although the timing was bad after two days of traveling, the experience was great. Last night all 4 of our medical team worked in the hospital from 4pm – midnight. Laura and Jessie worked all 8 hours in the 2 bed ICU with 2 very intensive patients. The boys spent their time in the ED supply room organizing and sifting through all the donated equipment in the facility.

Pete has been able to suture one individual’s arm that was cut by a mirror. Laura changed a dressing on an amputee today as well as treated several badly infected wounds. Jesse took care of one child this AM that she immediatley sent to the hospital for further treatment for dehydration. Jake has been jumping in wherever he can at cllinic. Jake’s specialty is scabies treatment – he can do one very quick treatment!

Overall we have treated some wounds and re-dressed some others. We have handed out hundreds of Tylenol and Ibuprofen tablets and applied tube after tube of scabies medication. It has been rewarding and interesting, basically practicing medicine to the best of our ability.

Keeping My Distance

Posted: February 25, 2010 in Ministry
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As American’s we are used to keeping our distance. We watch the news to see what’s happening but rarely do we know what’s going on with our neighbors. Maybe you’re better than me and you are great friends with your neighbors. However, the majority of us barely know or associate with the people who are in close proximity to us. We keep our distance. I have noticed this at church as well. We put on a smile and even if we had the worst week imaginable we act as if everything is great and it’s all good. We keep others at a distance when they ask us how things are going.

I’m not throwing any stones, I’m good at this too, even though it bothers me, but I am saying that we are good at keeping people and situations at a distance. I thought when I arrived in Haiti that I would jump right in and not keep things at a distance. But reality hit me tonight. I have seen more rubble than I could have possibly imagined. I have seen buildings and cars crumbled. I have seen entire properties leveled and have been a part of moving the destroyed buildings out so that we could replace it with something that will last through the rainy season.

After all that I thought I had let the situation and the stories close. I was wrong. We went out tonight with the “yung goddis” to give the money that they had collected for needy families and pray for others that we saw. Seeing the families and their situation showed me just how far I had kept the situation at a distance. At the first “house” we went to (it was in a tent city nearby) we gave the wife the donation and prayed for her. Her husband was inebriated, is deaf, and they have four children. They cannot provide for their kids and this money will help them. We prayed for her and went to the next house. At this house the father is blind, his sister has had her leg crushed by rubble during the quake and they have nothing left. We all, young men too, prayed for them and gave them the other half of the donation.

We then went back to the tent city and found a man with a severe leg wound. We prayed together for his healing and salvation and went into a tent where my heart was ripped out of my chest. Inside this tent was a father with two children, an older daughter and a three month old son. During the quake he was running with his son, lost his balance and dropped him. Since then his son has not been able to keep food down and the father is, understandably, worried about his health. The man also lost his wife in the quake and now has to raise his children by himself. He was obviously distraught and relieved to see people there who genuinely cared for him. I walked away from the tent realizing just how far I had kept the real stories from myself and knowing that there is no way I continue to keep my distance.

I saw things that I never imagined I would see and I heard heartbreaking stories of families that have been decimated by this disaster. I am done keeping my distance.

– Jared