Tuesday, September 20, 2011

before you pack ...

We receive emails semi regularly asking for our ideas or direction about where to serve or find volunteer work  or paid employment in Haiti.  We kind of stink at getting back to those emails. We're posting this as a way to have a permanent link to point to for future reference.  

When it comes to the more spiritual question of "How do I know for certain I'm hearing God on this?"  Truthfully?  We couldn't ever know how to begin to help with that part of the question - it is intensely personal and we can only speak about our experiences. We don't assume everyone will take the same or even a similar path. We don't know how God will speak into your hearts, we only know how He moved in ours.  Keep praying and asking and risking  -  you'll get your answer.

Lots of people visit here and feel a heaviness over what they see and feel a burden to help more and are open to exploring what that might look like.  The best way we've heard it put was by a guy at our church, he said: "Almost everyone that visits will be burdened by it, but most are not called to move here because being burdened for a place and being called to live there -  are two entirely different things."

The questions we frequently receive come from both families and individuals.  I don't know a ton about the best way into a salaried job here, I can only share about more missions-type positions.  In full disclosure, smaller, grass-roots organizations always get our vote simply because they generally spend less on staff and travel and overhead and more of the money they raise makes it to actual people and programs on the ground. I also like the way people working with smaller organizations can make decisions and make things happen faster.  After the earthquake we could easily spring to action and make decisions without seeking layers of approval. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. You've got to do your homework and choose with caution and wisdom.

If you feel that you would like to work with an  organization and/or faith-based ministry as a "volunteer" (self-supported) for the long term we suggest you look at these things ... the decision becomes bigger if you're going to be moving an entire family:

1.  Does the organization have a lot of turnover?  For example, if there is a history of missionaries/workers staying for a shorter time than committed? Do new people come in every year or two?  Worse yet, do people stay just a matter of months? Constant turn-over speaks volumes. Don't ignore it. A constantly changing staff means something.

2.  Think about your convictions and philosophy.  Maybe you don't have that figured out yet.  If that is true, read and research and listen to varying opinions and begin to decide those things before you sign up to work with any organization. If you are uncomfortable with something you'll be asked to do as part of your work (even a small part) you need to figure out if that can be changed, or you need to keep looking. For example, even though we believed in some of the programs at the ministry we started at years ago, we struggled with the habitual hand-outs (mass distribution of goods during non-emergency time) and the chaos and fallout that habitual handouts cause.  While doing the handouts was only a small part of the whole, those days felt so wrong to us that we couldn't easily ignore that part of the job. Additionally, coming here or going to any country with great need and saying "We'll just see what the needs are when we get there" is probably going to backfire.  It is better to come with an idea of which need you're hoping to help with and then to tweak it as you learn more.  Coming without any idea what you'll do could be very overwhelming and discouraging.  The needs are endless, we cannot meet even a fraction of them, narrowing it down drastically is an important step. Doing one thing well is far more wise than trying to do a whole bunch of things at once and doing all of them poorly.

3.  If possible, come for a six to twelve week "test the waters" period before you decide to pull up stakes and sell all your possessions. That is a wise way to be sure you will match up well with the organization you choose and confirm that you're ready to take on a totally different lifestyle for the long haul.

4.  We were told early on that having the trust and support of your counterparts in the USA is very important. Even if they cannot understand everything shared with them, there needs to be mutual trust. If all decisions are made from the main office in the USA (or elsewhere) and are not made by people who live the reality of Haiti (or wherever) every day, it could get very frustrating. (But all of us need accontability and the person/people in the USA or elsewhere need to be that for you.)  We all need accountability at the same time we are trusted and empowered to act.  When a serious problem presents itself in Haiti and a call to someone else is required in order to act, it becomes a sticking point after a short time. For example - when a little boy was found abandoned in the street, no one had to get permission from a USA boss-person to pick him up and take him in, we have the leverage to make day to day decisions ourselves.  If you're thinking about going to work for someone, try to figure out how much decision making power you'll have in Haiti.

5.  Take it or leave it, but our advice is never to move abroad underfunded and think that the money will show up once you're there.  The intensity of learning the new culture and language is enough stress, you won't want to add the stress of not enough money.  You'll want to have enough personal support to easily pay your bills. On the flip side, be sure the organization you're coming to work for and represent is also financially stable and able to fund the things you'll be overseeing.

6.  Read this book.  Think on it. Pray on it.
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If you've emailed us in the last few months and we didn't answer .... We are sorry!  Troy is uber awful at keeping up with email. I'm only slightly less underwhelming than Troy.

Bondye  te bay nou anpil petit men pa anpil tan.  (God gave us a lot of children but not a lot of time.)

Bird house translation:  
Do all the good you are able to -
Any time you are able
Every way you are able
Every where you are able
For every one you can...
Until you are able to again.