18 Years - Not 18 Days
Here at Mission of Hope International we all know that as soon as school is out for the summer, it's time to get ready for the annual conference in Thozin. This conference is steeped in MOHI history and has consistently been a community builder within our church. Sure, there's great preaching, practical workshops, great times of worship, and fellowship, but for the MOHI family it's a great time of working together to serve others.
This is our 18th year of inviting churches from near and far to come partake of the feast. Preparations are extensive. The classrooms are scrubbed and silk flowers are washed. Walls are painted and benches are repaired. Menus are planned and ingredients are purchased. Fans are put into place and decorations hung in the church building. Many in the MOHI churches set aside a little money each month, all year long, in order to give it towards the conference.
In those early years, if the mission didn't bring in enough funds, our guests wouldn't eat very well. This was very disturbing to the church. They feel that when you invite people to your church, it's the same as inviting them to your home. They would never invite someone to their home and not go all out to not only feed them, but to provide the very best food possible. Each year we'd have a very minimal budget and most of that was provided by the mission.
Over the years things changed. People in the church began learning to give. Next thing we knew, people were being blessed in their businesses and new jobs were also opening up in the area. I'll never forget the first time the church was able to purchase a cow for the conference - without the mission's help! They felt so good about themselves and took great pleasure preparing the food and heaping it onto the plates of their guests. They felt really good about honoring their guests with what THEY worked for and what THEY chose to give. And we all gave glory to God for causing the increase.
A few years ago, a church member who had moved to the US came back for a visit, as he regularly does. He said to my husband, "Pastor Lex, you're doing a great job! Usually everyone hunts me down when I come back, asking for financial assistance. This year I'm almost lonely. Everyone's busy working. They all have jobs!"
"Sustainability" is the big word in missions these days - and with good reason. It's not good to give hand-outs all the time. People become dependent on them and it erodes their self-respect. On the other hand, it's not good to see someone in need and do nothing. There needs to be a balance. At MOHI, we continue to help people with immediate needs while teaching, training, and empowering them to become more self-sufficient and of even greater value to their families and society at large.
Balance is never easy to maintain. Life is not an easily maintained, paved road. It takes lots of work. That's why we hold regular meetings with our staff. We consider alternatives and seek godly advice. We ask the Lord for His wisdom and make adjustments along the way to maintain or re-establish balance.
Thursday, our guests began arriving. Little mattresses and pieces of carpets were put in the classrooms for them to sleep on. They carry with them their bedding and toiletries. The church provides security, drinking water, water for bathing, and meals in addition to days and nights full of God's presence, information and edification.
This is the first time that Lex has not been in Haiti for the conference. I know he's greatly missed, because EVERYONE asks me for him. Hey, I miss him, too! I'm so pleased, however, to see what a wonderful job our staff has done leading this mission here in Haiti and the way the people in the church have come together to put on such a wonderful event. God has been so good to us all!
I have the privilege of representing Pastor Lex from time to time, in his absence. This week that involved preaching at the conference. Those of you who know me already KNOW that I'm not afraid of public speaking, but I admittedly struggle with being succinct. When given the opportunity to speak (which is usually only once or twice a year, in Haiti), I sometimes just can't figure out what to include and what to cut. And seriously, what does 30-45 minutes look like on paper in an outline form???
The presentation itself brings other issues into play. I like to engage the congregation - aka forcing them to pay attention. Sometimes I ask questions and they give answers that cause me to turn down a path I hadn't anticipated.
Or Pastor Hakine sings a song and I know I have to make the congregation THINK about the words coming out their mouths. ("Jesus paid it. My debts have been paid.") Next thing you know, the five pages of notes are abandoned and I'm flying by the seat of my pants with Jesus.
Or, the least desirable scenario... I find myself talking about someone's new bride's "not so cute" habits that show up AFTER the wedding and wonder if I may have been indiscreet, talking about morning breath and flatulence. Well once the words have escaped I can't put them back in my mouth again. But, at least I got reactions and knew they were actually listening. Right?
In case you couldn't tell from what I've told you thus far, my messages were about being a follower of Christ and transforming the way you think and see the world around you, because you were crucified with Him - it's no longer you who lives, but Christ in you - so we need to stop looking at life as if we were dead, but rather as someone alive unto God - HIS child! Succinct?
This week, Lisa McCloy from Bless Back Worldwide, joined Angie I here in Haiti. She was a trooper as she went on the outreach clinic in Paillant, inventoried all our medicines and medical supplies, and held meetings with our staff - all without dropping from heat exhaustion! Thank you Lisa, for helping to keep things coordinated! Now we're looking forward to Bless Back Worldwide's team's arrival at the end of the week. Next week? The women's health fair!!!
Thank you to everyone donating to help feed the disabled in our community.
Soulfest is quickly approaching. We need your help!!! (I'm being succinct here!) We REALLY need your help! Please sign up here to volunteer at our tent. Or give us a call at 978.410.9101. Or send us an email at email@example.com Thank you!