One of the coolest parts of our trip was seeing Compassion International at work in the country of Haiti. They have a ton of projects in Haiti, but we only had time to visit three of them. Days two through four were spent doing just that. Along the way, we learned that almost thirty years ago, Compassion moved from doing their own thing in the community to being based in the local church. So, each project we visited was attached to a church.
It is hard to believe that a month ago, today, we were stepping off the airplane into a country that has been on my heart for many years. When I was a young boy, I remember meeting some missionaries from Haiti at church. I don’t remember much about their presentation or what exactly they were doing. All I remember is they were helping children and families, and God helped me to understand there was a huge need. Of course, I could not comprehend everything at a young age, but that was when God placed this country on my heart. My grandparents also began sponsoring children in Haiti, and I was always interested in how that worked. I would often ask my grandma about her child, and she often referred to him as her son, which I thought was great. So, as God began to prompt me to sponsor a child through Compassion International in January 2002, I immediately searched for a child from Haiti.
Just two weeks ago, my wife and I returned from a life-changing sponsor-tour trip to Haiti with Compassion International. Due to the nature of this trip, I’ll be sharing my thoughts over a series of blog posts, instead of putting it all in one gigantic post. In this first one, I wanted to share what we did and saw during the trip.
It is hard to believe that our trip to Haiti is almost here. It seems like it was just the other day when we were praying and deciding if we should do this, and now we are putting the final touches on our trip. This past weekend, we spent some shopping for gifts. We got our sponsored child a backpack, pencils, soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a jump rope, a stuffed animal, notebooks, towels, a jewelry-making kit, a Bible, and several other things. We may have went overboard, but it is hard to hold back.
As I’ve said before, this trip is sort of surreal for me. I have been sponsoring this little girl since 2002, which means it has almost been 13 years of communication through letters and photos. My wife became a co-sponsor with me once we were married in 2009, and she has fallen in love with her, too. However, this will be the first time we actually meet her in person. Up until now, she has merely been a name and a face in a photo, but very soon, she will be incredibly real to us.
To be honest, this makes me both excited and nervous at the same time. I am excited to meet her, see what she is like, and witness what Compassion does in the developing country of Haiti. In contrast, I am also nervous to meet her. I have a ton of experience working with teenagers, but for some reason, this is different. I hope I know what to say. I hope she likes us. Of course, we are praying that God will lead us, but I would be lying if I told you I was not anxious at all.
As we get ready to leave soon, I ask that you keep our trip in your prayers, too. Speaking of prayer, we thank God for all of you who are contributing to this trip – including finances, prayers, and other support. We really appreciate it! We do not know if we will be able to provide many updates while we are there (if any at all), but rest assured, I will be blogging about our experience when we get back.
Each year, my wife and I try to have fun with our pumpkin designs. Last year, I cut a Super Mushroom design in my jack-o’-lantern. This past weekend, we went to a friend’s house, who is known for her painted pumpkins. After some serious thought, we went with an 8-bit style Raccoon Mario and Peach. Our friend graciously took our ideas, drew them, and instructed us how to paint them. Here is the final product, which make me very happy, especially since I am not an artist at all. But with her help, I actually pulled it off.
A couple years ago, I went to a seminar/workshop with Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins. What they spoke about that day was based off their book, Speaking to Teenagers: How to Think About, Create, and Deliver Effective Messages. The tips and methods they use to teach teenagers will help you so much! In fact, each time I develop a lesson or message, I think back to what I learned from Doug and Duffy.
I do not plan on restating everything they mentioned. Instead, I just want to point you in their direction. These are two of my ministry mentors. I have learned so much by reading their books, listening to them speak, and watching them in ministry from afar. If you have a chance, you should get this book! In fact, at the time I’m writing this, Amazon has it on sale for only $2.99 (on Kindle)! Just to put that into perspective, it is usually $18.99.
This afternoon, I spent some time relaxing by the lake, reflecting on a question I’m often asked by adults and students about how to grow in relationship with God. Here’s a video I took while I was there.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of attending three Orange Conferences. Each time, I’ve grown in my understanding of how to do ministry even better for God’s kingdom. One of the cool things about Orange is that you can bring your entire staff. This isn’t a conference for just student ministers or children’s ministers. It’s an event for preachers, small group leaders, worship ministers, and elders too. This is especially important, because to do family ministry well, it is my belief that the entire church leadership needs to be on the same page.
If you’re free April 29 through May 1, you should definitely consider heading to Atlanta for the Orange Conference 2015. In fact, if you want to buy your ticket today, you can save $80 on your ticket! To take advantage of this, head to http://www.theorangeconference.com, and reserve your spot right away. If you miss this opportunity, I would still encourage you to consider the conference.
Want to see what this whole Orange Conference thing is all about? Check out this video recap of the 2014 conference.
Over the past 10 years, I have had my idea of student ministry shifted. It all started when I began my first ministry, which was actually closer to 11 years ago. I led the middle school and high school youth groups at a small rural church in Illinois. I spent a lot of my time with the teens. Then, I moved onto my next church through an internship that turned into a resident ministry. During that time, I saw another way of doing ministry, where my mentor spent more and more time with his adult youth leaders and a select number of student leaders.
During my internship, I also read Mark DeVries’ book, Family-Based Youth Ministry, where I learned that I needed to also communicate with parents. So, in addition to discipling teens, I tried to make it a point to include parents on what we were doing. Not too long after I started my current ministry at Rockingham Christian Church, I learned of the “Orange” philosophy of family ministry, which essentially says that the church needs to partner with parents. So, I started trying to equip parents to be the spiritual leaders for their kids. Then, our ministry came across things like Legacy Milestones, where we help parents prepare for upcoming milestones by training them along the way. Needless to say, the way I think about student ministry now is very different than it was over 10 years ago.
Hey, fellow student ministers. Are you looking for a way to communicate with your ministry leaders and small group leaders? Maybe you’re in need of a better plan to keep parents connected to your ministry. Would you like a plan presented to you each week, which makes it easy to follow along? Let me share a brand new resource with you from Orange. It’s called GoWeekly, and it’s FREE.
On top of GoWeekly, you can also access the FREE “Lead Small” smart phone app (iPhone and Android), which allows you to help your leaders be even more prepared. If you are following along with Orange’s curriculum plan (First Look, 252 Basics, or XP3), then this will be huge for you and your team. If you need to customize it, you can do that for a nominal monthly fee.
For more information about these resources, check out http://GoWeekly.com.