Feb 14 2014

From Love to Love

Published by under India Trip 6

The sun is setting on my time in India. It’s almost time to go back home.

A setting sun is an interesting study. You never really notice how fast the sun moves until you watch it rise and set. It flies. But look at the sun in a photo and it hangs in the same spot forever.

MOMENTS AND MOVEMENTS
99.9999% of the time, we don’t notice the sun. But there’s the 0.0001% of the time, we look up (typically directly into the sun) and exclaim something ridiculous like, “GOSH! THAT’S BRIGHT!” as though we were expecting something different. We take a split second to make a judgment and accurately assess the sun is bright. That’s all it takes.

But it’s different with our hearts. If we examine our heart in any given moment, it can give wildly different results. Some times great, some times… less than great.

Or think about this question: “How would you describe your heart?” A little more wobbly than immediately describing the sun as bright, huh? When it comes to our hearts, we have to track its movement over time.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more…
_Philippians 1:9

I’m leaving India tomorrow afternoon, but that doesn’t mean the story is over. It doesn’t mean the love is done. It’s only just beginning. It’s that way at the end of each trip. Love abounds more and more.

HOW LOVE ABOUNDS
People sometimes wonder what difference Jesus actually makes. Yes, he removes sin from us. But that makes some people uncomfortable. And I understand that. Looking at his life is inspiring though. Deeply so. Even if you don’t believe in the bible, think of the story that’s told. A perfect man, Jesus, decides to sacrifice himself for a bunch of poor paupers who have nothing to offer him. And that’s what we’re commanded to do with the poor in our world.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
_Proverbs 31:8

So how can we love the poor? And how can that love abound more and more? To pray for it is a start. But Paul says something else…

Christ’s love compels us…
_2 Corinthians 5:14

Thinking about Jesus and his love for us will COMPEL us into the worlds of the poor. He’s the example of one who speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves – who speaks up for the rights of all who are destitute.

May more and more of us get set on fire to love the poor so that we might “shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:15)

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Feb 13 2014

How to Actually Love a Slum – Lights

Published by under India Trip 6

This series is all about real-world experience in doing slum work. The goal is to help people better understand the realities of slum life and how we can solve the problems that keep people in poverty.

Imagine it’s wintertime. It’s 5:30pm. It’s dark and you live in a slum. You have kids and you want to make some food. But it’s pitch black in your shanty. What do you do?

Maybe you light a candle. Maybe you light a kerosene lamp. But, another problem… You don’t have enough money to buy candles and a kerosene lamp could catch your stick-and-tarp shanty on fire. Sounds pretty melodramatic, but it’s the reality for the 1,000+ people who live in Khalpar – the slum we do work in.

So what can you do? The most logical thing: get Calcutta to run power into the slum. Who do you talk to about that kind of thing? The mayor of Salt Lake – the area of Calcutta where Khalpar is located. And our partner here, SEED Society, did just that. The mayor was nice, but he explained that, because the residents of this slum don’t pay taxes, he was unable to help with either water and electricity.

After some discussion, we decided the best option would be to provide solar lamps to each of the families in the slum. If Pizza Hut can do personal pan pizzas, we figured personal pan lights made sense, too. Here’s Pushpo – one of the mothers in our tailoring unit with a light…

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The great people of Cross Point in Nashville, Tennessee fronted the money for all the lights in addition to all of the Christmas programs we conducted across all five of the communities where we work.

JUST DO WATCH IT!
YouTube videos in the middle of a blog post are like kryptonite. You feel something inside you say, “No way! I’m not watching that.” But if you have time, this video will deliver. It shows SEED’s Director of Women and Children, Jaiashree Francis, talking about the lights and showing one in action inside one of the shanties.

 

LIGHTS UP
To be certain, one little light doesn’t get someone out of poverty. But it’s equally true that you can’t get out of poverty without light!

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. First things first, though. You gotta have a fishing pole before you head to the riverside! These lights are a foundational tool.

Thanks again to Cross Point for lighting up Khalpar! TO THE MOON!

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Feb 12 2014

Now That You’re Home From Your Trip (or How to Love the People You’ve Left)

Published by under India Trip 6

If you’ve just returned back from a trip where you’ve worked with the poor, chances are you may get home and feel stuck. Possibly discouraged. Maybe even angry. Most likely a bit confused.

Nobody knows why your heart is broken
Nobody cries while your prayers are going up
But Love does.
_Brandon Heath

What do you do next?

My quick story. Almost exactly three years ago, I left the United States for the first time. I had an empty passport and a plane ticket to Calcutta. That trip really and truly changed my life. Not like Taco-Bell-Doritos-Locos-Tacos changed my life but significantly changed the trajectory of my path. I changed from mostly being AGAINST world travel to helping start a non-profit that does work in Calcutta. But it didn’t happen overnight and it hasn’t happened without struggle. So I wanted to give a few suggestions from my experience on how to stay engaged with the people you met.

Think critically about wealth. When people return to the US,  many get disillusioned because of our wealth and waste. It’s understandable. Don’t get bogged down in it, though. Look at your position in the US as something positive. When God first talked to Abraham, he said…

I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
_Genesis 12:2

What we have in the US is a platform to do great good around the world. We’re surrounded by wealth and influence. And we can use that wealth and influence for good. When we return to the US, the problem isn’t that we’re wealthy. It’s that the wealth is often unfocused or inwardly focused. To turn that wealth outward to the poor – to take God’s blessing and bless other people – is to enter into the divine actions of love and provision and it’s awesome!

Tip 1. Money is amoral – neither good nor bad. What we do with money determines its goodness. Don’t get drained by lamenting the excesses of the United States. God has given us a platform from which we can bless people!

Fight for feet, not miles. What I mean is this… Sometimes I can barely change my clothes in a day. You’re not going to change a whole country in overnight. The first step is just that… a step. And it’s first. So there’s one of them.

Tip 2. When you get back, do at least one small thing every day that keeps you connected to the place you’ve returned from. Some suggestions…

  • Go back through your pictures and look at all of them
  • Go back through your pictures a second time and start writing down stories about what you remember of the people and the place. Examine the pictures and come up with ideas about what could be different in that place.
  • Consolidate all your ideas into a list and then email or call someone who you think would enjoy talking about the trip with you.
  • Email or call someone at the organization you went with and see if they’ll talk with you about what you saw.
  • Read news articles about the place you visited.
  • Read Wikipedia articles about the place you visited.
  • Watch films or documentaries about the place you visited.
  • Give money to the organization you traveled with. If you believe in the work they do, I can promise you one thing – they need more cash to execute their vision. Love the place you visited by giving money to help build an environment where the people’s lives can rise.

Just do something every day to keep the people you visited at the front of your mind. Even though most of us swear we won’t forget these experiences, many of us do. You only stay physically fit by working out regularly. You’ll only make a change in that place you visited if you regularly engage your mind. Do not let your normal life consume all your time. The poor and hurting need a few minutes of your day!

Don’t be mad at people. You can come back home and be angry at people because they don’t get it. But don’t. It’ll eat up all your energy. Remember that, up until recently, you may have acted and thought just like your friends/family/acquaintances. Show them some grace.

Tip 3. Not everyone will really care. Don’t be mad at them. At one point, you didn’t care either.

Don’t be silent. When asked by others how a trip went, the common refrain of so many who visit the poor is, “I’m still processing it.” In too many cases, that basically means, “I haven’t processed it.” And the trip often goes unprocessed.

Tip 4. Find something to say. Preferably, find three deep and insightful things to say about the trip. “It was good,” isn’t good enough. Use the plane ride home or the first day of return to sort through your high-level thoughts. Say something compelling to people about what you saw and experienced. If you have these starter thoughts, every conversation you have will hone those insights until they become pretty profound.

Have hope. When we get overwhelmed with a situation, many of us kind of stop thinking. We’re like a sad kid, slowly walking along with hands in pockets, and kicking a can down the street. We focus on the bad-ness. But the truth is that poverty and hurt are problems. And problems have solutions. Sometimes the solutions aren’t easy and sometimes they require great effort. To envision an alternate, positive future reality is exciting. It’s hopeful.

Tip 5. Feel deeply with your heart. But think critically with your mind. All is not lost. There’s hope. You’re not Atlas. The world isn’t on your shoulders! But you can do SOME type of lifting to be a solution to the problems facing the place you just left.

Be patient. Truth be told, my best friend and I didn’t even want to go to India the first time. But after visiting, we felt like we should go back later in the year. So we did. That trip was when it clicked that we should start a non-profit. It was months of waiting and not knowing what to do.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…
_Psalm 37:7

If you follow tip 2, you’ll be doing a little work every day. And, eventually, it’s like the scale tips and God shows you what to do. Like all waiting, it can feel frustrating at times, but it’s one more way he lets us know that he’s the one in control.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
_Proverbs 25:2

Tip 6. Don’t you dare give up. Be patient. The cry of the poor goes up to God every day! The work of the wealthy should go up each day, too.

Ask God one simple thing. Most of us are lost little puppies when we come back from a trip. We don’t know what to do. We need to ask God to guide us.

Show me the way I should go…
_Psalm 143:8

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows where to go and what to do. We just need to ask that he helps us tangibly love the people we just left!

…lead me in the way everlasting.
_Psalm 139:24

Tip 7. Ask God to be God and light the path you should walk on. He will!

You don’t need to get everything right. You just need to get on the right road.

This world needs more love! Let’s get to it!

I’m helping to raise money for a commercial-grade generator for a slum I do work in here in Calcutta (I’ll be here until February 16). If you’re interested, check out the campaign on the right. The work is 100% great! PEACE! Online fundraising for Khalpar Slum Generator Campaign

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Feb 11 2014

Love is Always a Good Thing: India Trip 6 Day 8

Published by under India

I’m in a village about 90 minutes west of downtown Calcutta right now. It’s 12:44am and I’m looking at my suitcase. A group of wild dogs in the village begins howling in unison every hour or so, creating regular performances of The Canine Symphony. The great crew I traveled over here with left this afternoon and I’m laying here thinking about the last week and how this place has shaped me as a person.

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This is the sixth trip my suitcase has made to India. It’s been rolled, dragged, dropped, pushed, and pulled all over this country.

It’s a nice bag, so it still looks pretty good and functions well. But there’s dirt on it, a couple nicks on the edges, and scratches on the plastic. It’s no problem though. That’s what a bag is made to do – protect the stuff inside from the stuff outside. It’s a dirty world!

Here’s the question: How often do we pack up our hearts in a suitcase and put it in a corner – so that our hearts AND our suitcase are never used, never nicked?

How often do we insulate ourselves from the world outside? From the “scary” world?

…this is for real. Life is happening. And it means everything.
_David Crowder Band – The Lark Ascending

Most especially it means things that involve the messy work of tangibly loving other people – whether that means the brotherhood and sisterhood of loving the poor or the closeness of a romantic relationship.

We guard our hearts from evil getting in. But we volunteer our hearts for love getting out. Don’t quiet your heart if you feel it raising its hand today. You may fear the unknown but don’t fuss with that. Love is always a good thing. That IS known. Walk in that way.

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