education

I live in a place where parents are faced with the indignity of giving their kids to a children’s home so they can go to school, or keep their child with their family at the perilous cost of not gaining an education. I cannot fathom having to make that decision, but in Haiti and other majority world countries around the world…it is a reality.

Is education always the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty and injustice? No, there are too many factors in play for it to be as easy as one answer. However, it has been proven to give kids more options to break into the dreams of their future.

The GO Project Pathways program exists to train young Haitians in trades when their level of education is expensive or not on par with their age. Many of the kids who are 18 are at a 5th or 6th grade in school. When they are 18 and are not allowed to be in the home with the other kids, their grade level is not high enough for them to continue regular school. The Pathways program stands in that gap and says that the sustainable future of these kids matter. I know several of these young adults. I know their smiles. I know how they tease. I know they need encouragement. And I know that they are grateful for a place to belong and skills to have the opportunity to provide for themselves.

IMG_3764The Pathways program is very similar to Russia’s tech school system. Russia’s tech schools are government run, and have so many in regions that it is hard to keep track of what tech school teaches what, but Russia has the same problem as Haiti. Kids come into the orphanage at a much younger grade level than their age would put them, and when they are no longer allowed to be in the orphanage at age 16 they are not at a grade level to send them to go to college or university.

After 6 years of traveling to Kurlovo orphanage in the Vladimir region, there was one young lady that went on to university out of all the kids that passed through the orphanage. One. Many went on to tech school, some to extended family, and Russian statistics show many kids at age 16 are left on the streets to be prey to sex traffickers, prostitution, drugs and suicide. When Kurlovo closed and our community went through the painful process of praying and discerning what next there were a lot of questions up in the air. Every piece of who you are individually and as a community is thrown into long-term relationships with a group of kids, and when you are told it is finished long before you imagined it would be, there is a lot of logic in not wanting to do it again

But by the grace and orchestration of God, we were drawn as a community to be an even larger community with a group of kids in Velikoretskoye. There were many reasons we were drawn to this unique place in the middle of nowhere. Really, it is in the middle of nowhere, but many come to this destination because one of the Russian Orthodox icons of St. Nicholas was found on the river banks.

One of the biggest draws was that the orphanage director was also the school principal and was already sending kids to university or college instead of learning a trade at a tech school. Tech school is a great option for learning construction, mechanics, interior decorating, cooking, working in a business and tourist trades for hotels and trains. However, colleges and university provide education for professions that would pay more for your knowledge.

Clearly, his dedication was something we connected with and wanted to support him. After our first year traveling, he had a young lady go to medical college and a young man go to design college. There have been kids that have gone on to succeed at tech schools, and some of the guys who gained education in construction are making an incredible living as Georgyi told me when we were there in November.

IMG_5606

Nastya is one of the graduates that came back to visit while the team was at Velikoretskoye this year. She is at university to become a teacher. Her situation was one that Georgyi championed when she expressed the desire to go to university, but her grade level was not to her age. Ignoring Russian laws, he kept her at the orphanage beyond age 16 so she could graduate high school in order to continue her education in university.

Georgyi graduated seven kids out of the orphanage last year, and last September had all seven kids in college or university. *Collective cheer!* I talked about this a little in my massive post I put up a few days ago about the trip this year.

God has grown me to the point where I hate seeing things sent or donated somewhere they are not needed. The locals on the ground need to verbalize a need before I can make sense of sending a plethora of clothes, shoes, toiletries and a myriad of other things to their location. When you send things they don’t need, all it does it inundate them with things they don’t have space for and in some extreme cases will sell it for the money. Not the original intent.

This year, Georgyi has verbalized a need for tutors for all of the kids. Last year, we talked with him about help for the kids that were graduating and several of us within our community raised money for that need. In that spirit, Lindsay Evans and I asked our friends and family to forgo a ‘traditional’ Christmas gift for ourselves and instead give money toward tutors for the kids. What better gift that to know that the kids we know and love will succeed in higher education AND provide income for local tutors? This year, to get tutors for all of the kids, it is going to be a bit more than what a few people might be able to generate and will end up being about $4,200.

In honor of a silly named day, ‘Giving Tuesday,’ (Shouldn’t it be ‘Giving Every Day’?!?!) I am putting up this post with links in it to support the future of kids in Haiti and Russia.

Go to ‘Change Their Story’ on the Children’s Hopechest page to support tutors at Velikoretskoye. You can do it a couple of different ways. Simply support our team, or if you want you could even become a team member and send folks to contribute on your page for the team. Here’s to ALL of the Velikoretskoye graduates going on to college or university from this point forward, friends!

Go to Global Orphan Project’s page to contribute to the Pathways program. If you have spent any time reading this blog, then you know how much I love getting to know some of these kids. Their smiles tell it all, friends. You couldn’t possibly make a better investment…

Do Christmas different and let it be about how we are impacting the future of kids told they are not worth anything, instead of the more socially accepted purchasing of things we don’t really need. I welcome and enthusiastically cheer on anyone willing to support the future of some pretty incredible Russians and Haitians.

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wisdom

When was the last time you had no clue as to what to say to someone? No words. No answers. No problem solving. No wisdom. Just legitimate loss for what to say.

I was having this conversation with a friend tonight when afterward I got into my car and the lyrics playing as soon as the sound came on were: “When you don’t know what to say…just say Jesus.”

Just pause for a second and let that sink into your thoughts.

Sometimes wisdom does come into play. Out of all the things God felt we needed to pass on in a written form from one generation to the next…there are books in the Bible completely focused on wisdom.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” [1 Kings 3:5-9]

First we have to acknowledge that Solomon was asleep. In a unconscious, dream state…and not only is he mature and articulate, but he is asking for wisdom and discernment.

In a dream. Where he refers to himself as a child.

God does not very often show up and give the opportunity for us to ask for anything we want, then provide it based on the fact we are ah-mazing. Many of us wish that more than anything…but then again, would we be smart enough to ask for wisdom? Or would it be something frivolous?

I know several people that would ask for a car, iPad or vacation. But I also know several teens that would ask for food for the hungry, homes for the homeless and release of the oppressed.

However, my favorite part of that scripture is that Solomon wanted a ‘discerning heart’ to ‘distinguish between right and wrong.’ That is either an incredibly wise thing to ask for…or experience talking. Discernment goes beyond wisdom. It is knowing what is of God and what is not of God. We should all be asking God for more discernment based on the world we live in.

Wisdom is not about knowing everything. No one likes a no-it-all. It’s about knowing where you end, and God begins and the difference between the two. It is also about prayer and presence. Wisdom is one thing, but it is not a replacement for talking with God and having a community around you to affirm discernment.

And when you really don’t know what to say…just say Jesus.

dream

Sometimes I feel like Christianity is taking a nap…a super long, hibernation-type nap. And those of us that are not involved in hibernation are misunderstood by all of the extreme views that make it in the media, while our good stuff of helping the down and out goes on without notice. Think about how excited you get when you see a news story on that is a ‘feel good’ story. You get excited because you don’t see it very often!

Mar 19 - dream

Wake up, wake up all you sleepers

Imagine if every believer ‘woke up’ to the mission Jesus began in our world. Imagine if every believer started following what the Jesus actually said in the Gospels. Imagine if we were all moving in the same direction instead of arguing. Imagine if every believers’ eyes opened to how God sees this world, and were ignited to being more for him.

Stand up, stand up all you dreamers

We have lost our imagination for the ways we can participate in God’s Kingdom. Folks have gotten themselves trapped into a corner of what ‘church’ is and how ‘service’ should look. The only picture God paints through scripture is that we are supposed to be pouring into the orphans and widows, the poor, the naked, the hungry…the list goes on. But the point is we need to dream again. I think some need to feel like they have permission to dream God’s dreams for this world. Then they would find that their eyes could burst with life and color and purpose again.

Hands up, hands up, all believers

Take up your cross and carry it on

When Jesus talked about taking up your cross and carrying it, do you think he was foreshadowing his own suffering and resurrection? Or was he literally telling us to pick up a cross and follow him? Does it even matter? We should be living each day as though Jesus was resurrected. When Jesus was prophesied, then fulfilled that prophecy…no one imagined he would actually come back to life. But he did. We follow a God that has woven so intricately his story into the story of the world. Our lives are still being woven into the story of the world, but will you be a believer that stands up? Or will you  be a believer that just thinks about it?

Here we stand, our hearts are yours

Not our will, but yours be done

My heart is firmly planted in the hands of God…my life…is his. Every day I need the reminder to rise up and act as though Jesus was really resurrected, because it is getting harder and harder for people in this world to actually believe it happened. Here’s to us living as followers of the resurrected Son, hands raised high, dreaming God-sized dreams to do Kingdom work and waking up all the sleepers we come across.

[Song lyrics from All Sons & Daughters’ ‘Wake Up’]

vision

Everyone has dreams. Even those that are told they are not allowed to dream…secretly, they have dreams for themselves.

What I love about a dream is the amount of passion that is behind it. Whether you are driven by love, soul or God…the passion that can ignite a dream to fulfillment is beautiful and sometimes intoxicating…even magnetic.

For most, that dream turns into a vision for the future…a preferred future. For others, it is a calling by God to be something or someone for Him.

In that vision, what is your heart most longing for?

If you hang around me long enough you’ll hear a couple different things…at least I hope you do, because it feels like I have myself on an auto loop repeating everything over and over. *Yes, I know I get annoying.*

Maybe there should be a test for my conversations. The first question will be ‘Please circle the words that you heard the most in our conversation: God’s Kingdom, mission, Kingdom work, iced tea, Isaiah 58, Acts 1:8, coffee, Duke basketball…’ The list could go on, but the point is what are you talking about and what do others hear? How is your vision for you or your surroundings being articulated to those around you?

My calling is to live sent. Be the church. Be a missionary in a lot of different contexts. For me specifically that means discerning God’s will, going where he leads and pulling others along for the ride. This also means…all of my vision folds into living sent and guiding others through those steps.

That creates problems when you run across people who don’t speak your same language or understand how a calling looks and feels. For them…that vision is ugly, uncomfortable, scary and confusing.

Whereas, what you see is beautiful…enticing…fulfilling…adventurous…

Once you capture vision, you get the opportunity to make choices based on that end game. At times those choices will be hard, but because it feeds the vision, you have reasoning to point to while deciding. Could make life decisions easier…

Because when your life falls under a vision everything points back to that one dream with crystal clarity. But if you lack vision…what direction are you really going in? What are you drawing others to? Where is your passion? How do others see your heart?

Frosty Vision

And it’s not always the vision for your life…sometimes it is a vision for those around you. I truly hope that the things I am a part of, the people I meet and those who actually listen to what comes out of my mouth, understand that I believe that all of us are called to live a life of sentness. That they will see mission isn’t a scary thing…or something else to add on to everything else. That mission is about community and being in relationships with others. That mission is a shift in the way you see the world…your family…your church. That they have a mission impulse that was embedded in them from creation.


This morning when I got in my car to come to church…there was frost on the window. Normally, an annoying thing, but this morning I found it as a thing of beauty. There were several ways to look at it…of course, annoying. But there were four different layers. The frost on the window, the dirty window, the tree behind the frosty window and the sun shining through it all.

Vision is a lot like that window. You can focus on what is right in front of you…or you can focus on the dirty aspects of your life. You can focus on what comes next. Or you can ultimately focus on what is shining through it all.

Here’s to being able to point back to radically living for God and finding vision, even when the frost is annoying.