Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Operation Clothes for Haiti

Like most people in the world today, Haiti has consumed most of thoughts and even more of my prayers. A land that was already in bad shape, sadly found itself even more so after a devastating earthquake shook its foundations. So I sat, watching hour after hour of news coverage. Talking with friends and family that were just as concerned as I. Some of which were even scheduled to attend a mission trip there during the first few weeks of February. A couple are still going, many are waiting right now.
However, as I sat watching and visiting, I noticed a few people that were not involved but were very concerned.
My "kids".
When I say my "kids", I mean it in a few different ways. My own son, Isaiah, is very concerned with what is happening. He is only five but he still sees the chaos on TV and asks questions about what is going on. He may not be able to fully grasp the tragedy or the magnitude of it all but he knows that something is not right. He can see it in their faces on TV and he can hear it in the voices of those around him talking about it.
While I have Isaiah trying to figure this whole deal out, I also have another group of "kids" that I spend a great deal of time with.
My fifth grade students.

For many of them the greatest tragedy they have been witness to was September 11, and for most of them it is just a memory that comes up on the actual anniversary. So this, complete and total, destruction of Haiti is something new.

It didn't just shake Haiti. It shook these kids. It left them with questions. The who's, what's, where's and whys. Some of these are much easier to answer than others. Especially when it comes to a room of 10 or 11 year olds in a public school. I can give them most of the information they desire. But there is always the one question left open. Why?
So instead of focusing on that one question we dove in. We had daily updates about what was happening in Haiti. About how people were still be saved, ten days later. About how people from all over the world were going in droves to help out and to try to bring peace to this land.

We even talked about how I was supposed to be traveling there in February but would not be going this time around. The curiosity was endless. There minds were baffled with all of this.

Then a note passed over my computer screen. Wednesday night! The note was from a friend. It went something like this, "There will be a truck leaving for Haiti this Monday morning. Can you help load it up with Children's clothing and other misc. items".
At first I passed right over. My mind focused on the nasty storm that were were to get starting Thursday night and going into Monday morning. "Wow", I said to myself "to get a truck loaded and sent on its way by Monday was going to be an incredible feat". You can see I wasn't getting the hint. This message was sent for me, for my Kids.
On Thursday, as my students started their day with the usual updates about Haiti and other places that message came back to me. It was all I could think about. I had to say something. So, we talked. I told them of the message and a plan was set. We would do a One Day Clothing drive and hope to get a few things to send on the truck. Our goal was to get each kid in our room to bring in at least one outfit that they didn't wear anymore. Everyone has a shirt and pair of pants they don't wear. That would be easy. 30 outfits for Haiti.
Not so fast. I mentioned our little plan to my principal and Operation Clothes for Haiti was in full force. "Why not make it school wide?" was her response.
You kidding? We have one day to do this. That would require a lot of teamwork. So we went to work. My kids dispersed throughout the building and explained the Operation to rest of the student body. The mission was a GO!

We would have a few more bags than originally expected to put on the truck to Haiti.

WRONG! When I arrived at school Friday morning I was greeted by six large garbage bags full of clothes. As the day progressed the numbers multiplied. And kept multiplying. It was wild. What started as a tiny little idea blossomed into almost 5,000 articles of clothing I would imagine. Two local news stations(KELO and KSFY) did stories on the Operation and our local newspaper also sent out a report. It was wild!

By the end of the day we had over 35 industrial sized garbage bags filled with sorted clothing and around 10 large boxes with shoes and other random pieces.

When my kids and I woke up Thursday morning, we all had Haiti on our hearts. We all knew we wanted to do something to help. We just didn't know what.
When my kids and I all fell asleep on Friday night, we all had Haiti on our hearts. We all knew we HAD done something to help. We just didn't know how Incredible it would feel!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Doubting Thomas!?!

I recently finished reading a book titled, "Faith and Doubt", written by John Ortberg. I can honestly say I fall into both categories throughout my daily life, which is why I decided on this book when trying to find something to quench my thirst. It appealed to me for the simple fact that at times I feel as high as the clouds with my faith and yet other times I seem to really be low in terms of trusting that things will work out. (or maybe instead of work out, maybe work in my favor is a more honest answer)

While reading this book I started to feel a sense of peace with myself. Peace because I realized that doubt, at the right levels, is okay. It is what keeps us questioning and coming back for more. It is okay to question things, to want to dig deeper and to want to know more about a certain topic. Even if it is our faith and God. It is in our human nature to be skeptical and to not trust fully. So how do we get past our trust issues? We ask questions!

Doubting is also what makes God so great! If you think about it doubt has been at the center of almost all major stories both inside of the Bible and in our own lives as well. Take a look at Abraham. I imagine there was massive doubt about being told he would become a father at the age of 100, or that he would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. It was the doubt inside Abraham that helped to provide the questions and possibly the anticipation of waiting and seeing if what God proclaimed actually would come true.

This is just a simple example from the Bible, it is filled with hundreds more people having doubts and then having those doubts turned upside down and their faith restored or even developed.

Which brings me to today.

What are your doubts? If you said you didn't have any I would disagree.

We are a world that lives on proof. We need to see it to believe it. I need to feel it, smell it and see it if it is to be a part of my life. That's just how I am. Or better yet, how I used to be.
I am working at doubting less. Very hard some days. It's not an easy task.

Things seem to pop up constantly that make me question why or what if.

Why did Isaiah have to get so sick? has been a dark doubt cloud that hung over my head for a long time. It wouldn't go away and if eventually developed into feelings of resentment and anger. However, that question was answered during a drive home from his Aunt Sissy's house last summer. Isaiah took my doubt away from that question and helped to rebuild my faith.

Another doubt, maybe your today as well...

Why do bad things keep happening to the people of Haiti?

Here they all are, these wonderful people.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

On their way to restoring their homeland via missionaries and other aide.

Coming off of another natural disaster just a few years ago.

Trying to become an independent nation and put their horrible past behind them.

And then Wham! The ground shakes and buildings fall. As I write this they are predicting the number of casualties to reach into the hundreds of thousands. The innocence of people that were just trying to survive has been ripped away. Children are lost, left without parents. Parents are lost, left without children.

Why God, Why?

Is it because they have done something horrible and they deserve to be punished?

The doubt starts to creep in.

But then I get a message from a friend that the trip they were planning as missionaries to Haiti is still on. They will leave in two short weeks to attend to the mess and devastation. They will surely be doing a different type of work than was planned a week ago but it will all be done with the same meaning.
They will bring love, faith and God with them. That has not changed.
My doubt starts to dwindle.
I start to listen to the stories of people in my own community that are scrambling to help. Most of us do not know the people of Haiti. We have maybe heard the stories of it being a poor country, or that bad things have happened there in the past. We have treated Haiti and it's people like "the deer on the side of the road" as a friend so eloquently put it the other night.

We drive right past without giving it a second look.

Now, today, God has decided enough is enough. We need to stop our cars, get out and look at the deer! We may not be able to save the "deer on the side of the road", but we if we stop, Right Now, we can bring good news to all of the other "deer".

Our nation and our brothers and sisters are preparing a major clean up of sorts in Haiti. Both physically and spiritually. A clean up that is asking us to pray for the people of Haiti and those that are traveling to do God's work.

I don't know what God has planned next for the people of Haiti but I have a feeling that it is going to be something awesome. In my mind I doubt that they will be able to fully recover from this mess, given their starting point a few days ago.
But in my heart my doubts are wiped away and I can see and feel the flood gates of love and support opening up and pouring into the people there.

It is not always easy to admit that we have doubts but in reality we do. It's a real thing. It's in all of us. It has to be. It is what keeps us coming back for more.

You see, as John Ortberg says Doubt leads to faith.
There is a sort of "leap of faith" if you will. Briefly consider this analogy.

Your life is a trapeze act. You are the person that begins the swing. What you choose to do next is up to you. Most trapeze artists choose to let go of their swing at this point. This is where the doubt comes in. Yes, there is trust the other person will be there to catch them, but really, can they guarantee that this person will be there. Or that the other will reach out and grab them. No. But they put their trust in that person. And who better to be the "catcher" than the main man, God.
Have your doubts, that's fine.
Truly I believe it is.
However, always know that the Catcher will catch you. And just like Ortberg says, "this catcher never has sweaty hands".