Disaster Response in Missions: Do No Harm

firemanThe last few months have been rough around the world, maybe it’s always like this, but it seems as though there are different natural disasters every week. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, etc. It can be overwhelming. What are we called to do? How can we be as effective as possible? How can we avoid unintentionally adding to the disaster?

We all have (or should have) a natural response to help when we see people in need. Today, more than at any time in history, we can see people in need in real time. We can watch the water rising during a flood on CNN, can watch trees and houses being blown apart during a hurricane on network news, before the dust settles after an earthquake we can watch people huddled in the streets waiting for aftershocks. It’s natural to want to help; it’s part of our collective humanity to reach out in times of crisis. Please do it in the best way possible.

The people and items showing up about two weeks after any major disaster are referred to by the RedCross as the “second wave” of the disaster. People underprepared or undertrained adding to the confusion and not helping anyone. The truckloads of well-intentioned items that are sent that are not really needed, and actually take a tremendous amount of staff-hours and resources to manage. I remember hearing how, after seeing the dogs searching the rubble on 9/11, people sent semi-loads of dog food: a) dogs don’t need that much food. b) the dogs have a special diet. All of that dog food needed to be sorted, stored, managed, and redistributed. After Katrina, there were several large warehouses and thousands of staff-hours required to sort the truckloads of items sent to New Orleans. The sheer volume of used wedding dresses, old TVs, and other items of questionable urgency was overwhelming.

Right after the earthquake in Haiti several years ago, there were hundreds of people landing at the airport to “help” without the infrastructure to manage them. Many people jumped on a plane thinking they could get a hotel and then travel out to help during the day. The hotels were rubble. The transportation they were expecting didn’t exist, many of these well-meaning people just added to the crowds, confusion, and lack of food and drinking water. What was needed was first response teams with their own support, supplies, and the know-how to make a difference. I have two close friends that each hit the road to help with disasters in the last year, one to help with the volcano relief in Guatemala, one to help with the flooding in Texas and then the hurricane in Puerta Rico. They were both only effective because they went with a plan, with the needed supplies, and most importantly they partnered with on-the-ground leaders who knew how to direct them. They were a help, not a burden; they were not people that got in the way, or stretched supplies even thinner.

So what should we do in the face of natural disaster?

1) Almost all relief organizations will tell you, the best thing you can do is send funds. People often feel better offering items but if the items are not exactly what is needed it can add to the problem. Also, I know at our orphanage, we get offered items we can use all the time – if we can pick them up. Often the needed items can cost more to pick up than it would cost to purchase them locally. We appreciate the help, but funding for transportation is a huge need also. I met with one major food relief organization who told me that getting enough food donated is never a problem, the cost of the transportation and distribution is always the biggest challenge.

When you do send funds, send wisely. Do your due diligence and give to established organizations who have a solid track record of good management and effective programs. One thing that isn’t talked about with funding in disasters is: give beyond what you normally give, don’t just shift funding. It surprises most people when I tell them 9/11 almost put our orphanage out of business. We still had children to feed, medicines to purchase, etc. but almost ALL donations for about 90 days went to NewYork.

Along with the crippling drop in donations, most mission groups who make our work possible canceled their trips. We were cut off. Give generously, but continue to donate to your church, your cause, or wherever you give on a regular basis: they need you more than you might realize.

2) If you want to physically go and serve right away, go with a plan. Partnerships matter, in short-term missions, and in disaster relief. Without an on-the-ground host or hosting organization, your effort will not help, you will add to the problems. Find a church, a food bank, or some other established organization who knows the area, knows the people, and most importantly knows what the real needs are. Communicate your willingness to help, what resources you can bring to the area, and any special skills you or your team might have.

3) Plan a trip to serve a few months after the disaster. All the same rules apply about finding an on-the-ground host, but you can now address re-building needs long after the national attention has faded.

We are called to serve, we are called to be the good Samaritan in world affairs, but please do so wisely, with a plan, and partnering with people who know how to lead you to be as effective as possible.

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Phil Steiner, my co-author, has a great blog also. This week, Phil also writes on the correct response to disasters and short-term missions. Check it out: philsteiner.net

No Unimportant Jobs

cathedralSeveral years ago, three workers building a cathedral in Europe were interviewed about their jobs. A skilled mason shared that he was responsible for adding bricks to a large wall. A painter was asked about his part, and he explained that by adding paint to the project he was protecting the masonry work from wear. The third gentleman was responsible for sweeping up and hauling away the construction rubble. This man became very excited when asked about his job and responded with great pride, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God that will be a beacon in the community and last for generations.” “This glorious, solid, timeless church will someday give a tiny sample of the astounding beauty and eternal strength that is our Lord.” There are no unimportant jobs, just small perspectives.

At our ministry, we frequently have groups come down to help on projects. This is how we do what we do; this is how buildings go up and are maintained, this is how our many children are fed. We always make it a point to share, with great detail, why the project the group is working on is vital to the bigger picture. If we tell them they need to dig a trench, they will dig, and the job will get done. If we share with them that the ditch is to be a footing for a new infant care building, that this building will mean the difference between life and death for tiny newborns, the trench gets dug faster, better, and with joy. Same people, same hard dirt and rock, same shovels, but when the bigger picture is exposed it changes everything.

Not everyone is called to preach from the front, not everyone is called to lead worship, but we are all called to do something. That “something” matters more in the eternal picture than we can understand from our perspective. God sees the bigger picture; God sees the efforts we put forth in the eternal perspective. Whether you’re the sound guy at your church, the lady who sets up the coffee, or part of the team handling infant care, it’s import to realize: you are building something eternal.

Most orphan care (our ministry) is either profoundly boring, frustrating, or mundane, but we know it matters significantly in the bigger picture. Each meal served is not a big deal unto itself, the extra trip to the store to buy poster-board for homework is not a grand sacrifice, but each act of service accumulates to create a safe, loving home for our many children. A safe, loving home, with all of the details and minutia that a home requires, creates healthy young adults as the years pass by.

One of our older boys, now ready to graduate from college, has been with us for most of his life. He recently became the poster boy (quite literally) for the college he attends where he is finishing his degree in forensic science. He is featured in the school’s promotional videos, and his face is on a 15-foot tall billboard advertising the school on a major intersection. He has worked very hard over the years, but he’s also had countless people help in his care for more than a decade. Sponsors who helped cover the bills, groups that came down to provide meals, the many volunteers on our staff who are there for him, have all had a part in his success. He did the work, but it was a group effort going on behind him.

We all have something to do for the Kingdom. You might be doing it already and doing a great job with it; you might still be finding your place in the grand plan that God has laid out. But please know, you matter, you are essential, you play a critical part of God’s expansive, timeless plan.

We frequently have donors apologize to us for not being able to give more. We explain to them that we appreciate any effort to bless our kids. That there is no such thing as a “small donation”, each dime that comes in is appreciated, and the cumulative effort of everyone doing their part is changing the world. The same thing applies to our acts of service, they might not seem important to us, but we have no idea the rippling impact each sacrificial act has on others. God loves us, and He rejoices when He sees us stepping out to play a seemingly small part in the body of believers, and the work going on all around us.

Bless someone today, serve a stranger today, give deeply today. Over time, these small, simple acts can change the world, and us, into something better. Go and build a cathedral, one brick at a time.

“I’d Rather Help Kids in America.”

colorchildIt doesn’t happen often, but now and then, people have an odd reaction when they hear that I work at an orphanage in Mexico. They say, “I’d rather help kids in America.” This statement brings up so many uncomfortable and unhealthy issues. The snarky side of me really wants to say, “Great, what are you doing for kids in America?” I can almost guarantee they aren’t doing anything for anybody.

The idea that we should only help people in our own country goes against everything Jesus taught. We are called to help wherever there is a need. The fact that mankind has set up arbitrary lines and fences across land masses doesn’t change the fact that there are needs everywhere. When I get asked, “Why Mexico?” my response is, “This is where my feeble efforts can have more of an impact.” In much of the US, children in need have a variety of safety nets, both private and government run. In most of the world, kids fall through the cracks. The other reason I like serving here is “return on investment,” a small donation in the US can help, the same amount used in poorer countries can dramatically change lives. We need to be helping wherever we feel called, and where we can have the most significant impact.

The bigger question about where and who to serve is, in-spite of our first reaction, what’s the difference? More and more, it’s becoming a little “gray” as to what nationality is. I don’t want to go down the road of the current immigration debate, but it’s not always clear where a child should be. Questions of nationality are not always easily figured out.

Although our children’s home operates in Mexico, we sometimes find that a child in our care is, in reality, a legal American citizen who wound up in Mexico. It’s always interesting to see the reaction to that, both from the child and from others who find out. It shifts identity, expectations, and entitlement. We are in large part defined by our history; it’s who we are. Our heritage also identifies us, it’s where we come from. But sometimes it’s hard to pin down. A child born in the US to someone undocumented is legally a US citizen; it’s in our constitution. If the parent winds up back in Mexico for whatever reason, what should that child’s nationality be considered? They are legal US citizens with all of the rights and privileges that brings; they are also Mexican by blood. But why should that matter if the child is in need?

Years ago, we received a cute little blond-haired, blue-eyed, little boy. Wow, the drama that caused. He was an American, born outside of Chicago, abandoned by a parent on drugs with a neighbor here in Baja. It was interesting to see and listen to the reactions people had. We had a few American children in our home at the time but because this one child was “white” people went crazy. Someone called Child Protective Serves in the US, a network news crew showed up, it was a big deal. We kept asking ourselves, “Why is this child more deserving of attention just because of his skin tone?” “Why is everyone stepping over other needy children to get to this one with blue eyes?” We know the answers, but it’s still frustrating. Because of the attention this one child received, within 30 days he was placed with a family in Southern California. A child going back to the US almost never happens, and never quickly. This little boy just happened to win the genetic lottery. Why are the other children not deserving of a healthy loving home?

Ultimately, we are all the same family. The plot of dirt we happen to be born on should not impact whether or not we’re deserving of help, opportunities, and people who care for us. I’m not blind to the differences between countries, but if we share one Heavenly Father, aren’t we all by definition one family? If we have the right perspective, if we see the bigger picture, we need to be working to balance the scales. We need to raise children up, wherever they’re from, with opportunities to grow, learn, and become all that God has laid out for them to be.

Should we be helping kids in America? Sure. We should also be helping wherever there is a child in need, wherever there is an injustice, wherever God is looking down and asking, “Who will help this child of mine?”

Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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Baptism in Mud

Screen Shot 2018-09-010.jpgI really love baptisms. Every Easter our local church, along with a few other ministries, hold a community baptism. BEST DAY OF THE YEAR. Some people live for Christmas; some people count the days to Thanksgiving. But Easter is the reason our faith exists; it celebrates the day Jesus broke death and rose from the tomb. Combine the profound depth of Easter, with the power of people making the commitment of Baptism, and it doesn’t get better. I look forward to Easter all year.

Although I’m involved in a lot of ministry, the high point of my year is helping the local pastor baptize people. Standing in the water and leaning people back as the water washes over them, marking them as clean before GOD, ushering in that new beginning is monumental. My feeble scribblings do not give justice to this act that has been going on since John the Baptist stood in the River Jordan.

One year, the baptisms didn’t go the way I thought they would. The crowd had gathered at our local lagoon, a wide spot in the local river that even looked biblical that day. The reeds were tall and softly waving in the wind, the sun was bouncing off the grass around the edges of the water. The brown hills framed all this in the background, it felt and looked like John the Baptist himself might wander out to join in the proceedings. The perfect day.

As we got started, our pastor helped one of the other missionaries in the area baptize about six people from another ministry. I stood by the edge assisting people into the soft mud as they walked into the water, afterword I was handing them towels as they came out. I was expectantly waiting for my cue to join our pastor to baptize the people from our church and the children from our orphanage who were taking this step of faith. As the transition was supposed to happen something went wrong, the other missionary stayed out there, and the people from our church started to wander out to be baptized. The transition wasn’t happening for me to go out to help in the water. I soon came to the realization that it was not going to happen.

First I was frustrated, then I was angry. For a few minutes I thought about just wandering out into the water, but I knew it would be awkward. So I just stood in the mud smiling stupidly as I held the hand of each person walking into the lagoon for their life-altering event. I continued to hand them their towels as I was battling my frustration on the inside. “But wait, I’m supposed to be out there!” This was not going as I had envisioned. My Easter was ruined. (I’m a little dense.)

Over the next thirty minutes or so nothing changed on the outside, I was just standing in the mud helping people in and out of the water, but something changed for me on the inside. God knew I needed to spend some time in the mud, and He had planned this day long before I was born. As I watched each person receive this joy into their lives, I started to receive it also. As God was moving through that day, I had to repent of my own enormous pride. Why did I need to be out there in the water? Why did I need to be the person dunking? I told myself it was about the act, but I started to realize it was a little (or a lot) about me, and me being the one doing it. (Once again, I’m a little dense.) I realized my place that day was not the baptizer, I was called to be the one serving the ones being baptized by standing in the mud. I was just there to back up the pastor and help the people being baptized. It changed me.

Many people want to go into ministry. They want to teach, they want to lead worship, they want to be the one up front leading people into a deeper walk with God. There is nothing wrong with that if that is where you’re called. But some people are called to stand in the mud.

Not a lot of people have the dream of someday becoming the sound man. People usually aren’t fighting to handle day-care sign-ins, putting together the bulletin is not an “in demand” position. If you look at what Jesus taught, the “lower” positions in the church should have a long line of people fighting for those jobs. We are called to serve. We are called to do the jobs no one wants, we are called to foot washing. Jesus spoke directly against the leaders of the day exalting in their important positions. It’s easy to think, “Well, those Pharisees were jerks, didn’t they see what they were doing?” How many of us are modern day Pharisees working in ministry for the wrong motivations?

Wherever we stand in the Family of God, it’s important to examine our hearts, our attitudes, our entitlement. We need to daily ask ourselves if we’re being shaped into the example Jesus gave of humble service to others. We need to find and maintain that elusive servant’s heart. Sometimes we need to be baptized in mud.

Orphan Identity: Victim or Victor?

pexels-photo-346796-e1535913334664.jpegWe all have an identity. We are more than just going through life; we are someone. It’s part of our human experience that we identify as more than just a person; we label ourselves as a way of distinguishing ourselves from the many people around us. We might be an athlete, a vegan, or a foodie. We might be a cancer survivor or recovering alcoholic. We’re German American, ginger, or a Buckeyes fan. Even within our faith, we define ourselves: Southern Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc. Sometimes we’re born into an identity, sometimes we choose the identity, sometimes society lays an identity on us, but it’s part of who we are. It helps define us. There is a reason the many DNA testing businesses out there are doing so well, people want to know their history, they want to define who they are in some way. “I’m 59% German, 33% Irish, but I have 8% Indian in me.”

For an orphan, identity can be complicated. By definition, a child in an orphanage usually has no history. They frequently don’t know where they came from; they are often brought in with no birthday, no birth certificate, nothing to mark their existence other than they’re alive and breathing. Starting from zero is hard.

A big part of orphan care is helping children shape their identity from scratch. Caregivers tend to focus on the basics: food, shelter, medical care, maybe education. The basics are essential (that’s why they’re called the basics) but there is a deeper level that needs to be addressed once the basics are met. We need to build, or in some cases re-build a child’s identity. To help them see themselves, and identify as, someone of value.

The very word “orphan” brings up all kinds of reactions from people, usually not good. Pity is usually the first reaction, in some cultures contempt: “no one wanted you.” The reaction to being labeled orphan is almost never a positive force. It’s our job to change that.

In many orphan or foster care situations the child embraces the pity reaction, and their identity becomes “victim.” They define themselves by what’s been done to them by their families, and by society. Living in victimhood is a tough road, it means you’re always a little less than others, and it also means you feel entitled to the pity that comes your way. Less is expected of you. When less is expected, that usually results in, something less. If great things are expected, great things can happen.

In some ways, we’re all orphans. We’ve all been hurt, we’ve all been abandoned, and we’ve all been victims of the world. How do we redefine ourselves and build a healthy identity that was intended for us? The first step is to realize we are not orphans, our Heavenly Father has adopted us into the greatest family of all. This is no small thing; it marks us, it sets us apart, it gives us an inheritance beyond words or understanding.

John 14: 18-20 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

To get this across to a young child is a challenge, but if we treat them as the royal children they are, and not as victims, they will begin to see themselves as worthy of love, worthy of belonging. They will take on the identity we place on them, they will see themselves as we see them: as special, precious children in God’s sight and ours.

Shifting identity starts with small details: attentively listening to a child, giving them the attention they desire, having a special cake on their birthday (even if it’s a made-up date). Letting them know they are special goes a long way in moving them from victim to victor.

Another profoundly powerful way to move someone from victimhood is to show them the joy of serving others. Along with the obvious blessing of being part of a family, comes the responsibilities of being part of a family. Jesus came to serve others, and we are asked to do the same. As a child might “help” their parent to fix the car or prepare dinner, being allowed to help in our own feeble way builds a healthy pride, pride of being part of the family, part of something bigger than us. There is something profoundly healing for us as we reach out to help others. By showing someone, even a young child, that they have the power to influence positive change in someone else’s life is profound. It gives them power, and it brings joy, it’s deeply healing. Service moves people from someone to be pitied, to someone representing God. This is a big deal. This creates an identity that is larger than anything the world might place on us.

Our identity defines us. Who are you? And who do you encourage those around you to be? Expect and encourage people to live in the identity of our Heavenly Father. There is no greater label, identity, or way of looking at life.

You Are Going To Die

graveYou might have hours left. You might be around for several more decades. But you will die. You will kick the bucket, go toes up, become worm food, start pushing up daisies. You will reach room temperature, give up the ghost, etc.. There are lots of ways to say it, but one way or another we all give up the fight, our heart will cease to beat, and our life on this world will end. When that happens (and you live in the US) the people in your life will arrange to have you put in a box, a week or so later people will put on dark clothes (weird) and will gather. Someone will say a few words by your grave, and people you’ve never met will stick you in the ground. Following this little ritual, people will get together somewhere, eat potato salad, and talk about you. Our life comes down to a plastic bucket of potato salad from Costco. (and maybe a nice sandwich platter.)

In Mexico, funerals are handled differently. When someone dies everything snaps into action in time-honored rituals. The body is placed in a box and positioned in either the home or a public location for the wake to start, all within a few hours of someone passing on. The wake is not a polite, reserved affair. People are up all night hanging out, crying, sharing, talking, eating, maybe sharing a few beers, but it goes on ALL NIGHT. It’s quite the send-off. What goes on in the background is something else. Friends and some family are out digging the hole. Digging a grave is much harder than it looks like on TV or in the movies, it takes many back-breaking hours. Once the wake is winding down, everyone loads the casket into a truck and heads to the grave site. Once again, very different than in the US: in Mexico, to “bury your loved one” actually means that. You, your friends, and the family use some rope and lower the casket into the ground. Then you grab the shovels. It takes a LONG time to bury someone. People are crying, maybe some wailing, and it takes hours. But when it’s done, there is a real sense of closure, everyone has said “goodbye,” and people start to move on. One of the many upsides to this time-honored tradition is it makes death very real to everyone involved. This is a good thing; we should all face death from time to time. We need to be reminded that our time here is a temporary gig. There is something genuine about “burying your loved one.” The sweat and dirt and blood of broken knuckles as you dig through the hard ground to make a hole to place the body is not to be taken lightly. It’s real. It makes the line between life and death very clear – there is an end.

It’s important to be reminded from time to time that there might not be a tomorrow for us. The reason I wrote the 500 or so words on funerals you just read is to remind you that you will be the center of one of these rituals eventually. What are you going to do between now and then? How will you use this precious and limited time you have?

Too many people go through the motions of life, without living life in line with the tremendous calling we each have. We need to be living our lives to the fullest, living in such a way that we will hear upon our arrival in heaven, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” We should slide into heaven out of breath, worn out from seeking to share with others, give to others, and be representing our Father well. I’m not sure who said it, but I love the quote “It’s sad to reach the end of one’s life and realize you’ve never lived.”

I work with a lot of young adults from the US who visit our ministry. Sadly, I know most of them will follow the tedious path that society lays out for them. They will attend college while they figure out what to do, they will leave college with too much debt, they will marry too young, and spend much of their lives paying back student loans. I’m not sure this is what God intended for us.

At whatever stage of life you find yourself, young adult, old fart, or somewhere in between; take a risk. Do something out of your comfort zone. I know one older female retired doctor (80ish) who still drives herself to Mexico every week to volunteer at various clinics. I know a young family that is currently looking for property to open a new orphanage. I have a friend who just got back from Guatemala where he helped with volcano relief. These are people who are actively working to bless others but are also growing in ways that are hard to imagine. They are sucking everything they can out of the time they have on this earth.

I know not everyone is called to serve internationally, but we are all called to serve. Don’t let fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, or any other fear keep you from trying something out of your norm. You might find a calling that will change your life, you might learn about the people in your community, it might shape you in ways you could never envision.

Take a chance, do something great with your life. Always remember: In the end, no one gets out alive.

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Embrace the Storms

treeThis last week at our ministry we had to have some incredibly difficult meetings. One of our larger donors is having their own financial issues, and it’s trickled down to us, cutting our ministry income dramatically. The cuts we’ve had to make are difficult and painful, but they are cuts that need to be made for the ministry to survive and move forward. I know the pain we’re going through is ultimately a good thing. The idea that this is a positive season took some convincing for the other people in the meetings, but we know God will use this.

It’s easy to spout the platitudes that God can use all things, that all things work together for good, etc. It’s very different when you’re going through trials, attacks, and challenges many people never anticipate. It helps to look through the lens of history to see trials and tribulations that are not only survived, but cause a ministry or individual to strengthen and to flourish. We do need the storms in our lives to toughen us, to grow us, and to cause us to depend on God once again.

Several years ago there was an experiment in Arizona where scientists created a biosphere (not Bio-Dome, the horrible 90s movie with Pauly Shore, but the same idea). A biosphere is a complete ecosystem within an enclosed space. It’s helpful in research due to the ability of the people running it to control all the variables. Scientists built a HUGE biosphere with everything needed for the plants, animals, etc. to survive. After a while something started to happen, the trees were growing well but had very little bark. Soon all the trees began to topple over, one by one, under their own weight. No one could figure out why. They had good soil, the right amount of water, the temperature was right, there was no disease or pests, but the trees were dying anyway. It took a while, but they finally figured it out. There was no wind. A typical tree from a young age is buffeted by breezes, winds, and storms. A tree bends back and forth, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly, but a tree is almost always in motion. The action of the wind makes the tree stronger; it causes bark to grow to protect the tree, it causes roots to dig down deep to build a solid foundation. The daily struggles against and with the wind prepare the tree for the storms that inevitably come. Without wind, a tree withers and dies.

Many years ago, our home cared for several young men with spinal cord injuries. One young man in his late teens was paraplegic, but it never got him down. Carlos was very bright, friendly, and had become fully bilingual while in our home. Over time the other children in our care, the staff, and many of the visitors came to love Carlos and the way he carried himself. He was a powerful example and an encouragement to everyone he encountered. One day, while he was preparing to leave for two weeks of treatments at a medical center in California, he made a point to say a real “goodbye” to a lot of the kids and staff – I think he somehow knew he would not be back. In route to the hospital, he had an adverse reaction to some prescription meds and passed away. Carlos’s death was obviously a very difficult time for our large family. We spent a great deal of time with the kids in our care to help them through the grieving process, while we were also grieving.

A few months after Carlos passed we were talking about the experience and what came of it. Carlos was now waking in heaven, he died too soon in our eyes, but there is nothing we can do. It sounds odd, but children in an orphanage never deal with actual death. They aren’t around grandparents who die. Most of the children in our care, if they remember parents at all, they remember them as alive and younger – most of our kids are with us do to abandonment or abuse, very few from the death of parents. Death just doesn’t come up too often in an orphanage. Carlos was the first death in our big family in over ten years. Along with many other lessons learned from the passing of Carlos, it opened the doors to some great conversations with our many children about how fragile life is, about the need to use the time we do have here well, about appreciating those around us while we can. It also opened up the conversation about preparing for eternity into sharp focus. Don’t get me wrong, Carlos’s death was tragic, but it caused huge growth in our children, our staff, and the ministry as a whole. Would I want to go through that again? Of course not, but it did bring many hidden blessing only seen in hindsight.

No one goes looking for trials and hardship. No one enjoys suffering loss or being hurt by others. We don’t need to look for difficult times because life tends to bring them to our door. Difficult times are part of the fallen world we live in. It’s so important to realize that as believers, our Heavenly Father is more powerful than any trials or hardships that come into our lives. He can take the pain and cause growth; He can use the winds of this world to make us stronger, to build us up to be mighty oaks against the powerful storms that, with time, come into everyone’s life.

Embrace the storms in your life, dare to spread your arms and catch the brunt of the winds that blow against you. God will not only keep you upright; He’ll use it to make you stronger if you allow Him.

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