Saturday, October 4, 2014

"I Walk with Lucy"

Today is a special day for me. I have been aiming to check this one off my list for quite a while now... Since I graduated college about 3 years ago. Today I am flying with a bit of enthusiasm and anticipation to the beautiful country of Nicaragua. I look forward to sharing the photographs of the landscape, the smiles with the local residents, and the moments of Godly provision as two cultures and two perspectives collide into a beautiful dance. (Wireless will be spotty, but I aim to providing updates here where I can. you can also follow the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/liquidwatercom)

But those stories are still to come. Before I even leave here, I already have a story for you, about the organization I will be representing over this next week. Our flights into Managua, Nicaragua were connecting through Houston which just so happens to be the home and headquarters of Living Water International. Coincidentally, last night they held their annual fundraising gala in the beautiful Hilton Americas in the center of Houston so I flew down a day early I order to attend, to hear the stories, to meet some of the people, and to partake in a yummy meal. In regards to the meal, there was a moment of pause for me as I surveyed how clean water was involved in everything that was prepared that evening. The most obvious was the water glass, clear as a window right next to a glass of brown unsweetened iced tea. While this drink was not clear, I could still trust the water source as I have almost never had to question it. The leaves on the opening salad were rinsed in what I trust to be clean water. Same with the boiled green beans which came out with such vivid color. And finally but more subtly, the white table cloth and even the silverware were all pristinely clean. 



There was a story told by one of the night's speakers about how the women in many of these partnership communities carry 40 pounds of water multiple times per week, maybe even per day... Which only equates to 5 gallons for the whole family. Because the water immediately available to the village is of lesser quality, there is often a need to travel distances of 1-3 miles to find the better water, which would still never pass our strict certification standards. Remember my comments about the water that was used to clean the silverware and tablecloths? If you only had 5 gallons of water per day, how would you use it? I would venture to guess that it would be strictly for drinking, eating, and hygiene. In these communities then, this often means they are left with the more convenient yet dirtier water to clean their facilities. The school floors and desks would lose what color it had and sometimes the disease that was inherent to the water simply got spread around by the local mop. While this takes a long time to explain, these were all a few thoughts that only took seconds, to which I came to the conclusion that cleanliness is a luxury and a comfort and a great blessing. It means a lot to me in my daily life, but I realize how much of this is made possible through clean water. 



The night's central theme was about "Celebrating the Woman" with a constantly reiterated tagline "I Walk With Lucy". Lucy is a 13-year-old girl growing up in a rural community who aspires to become a newscaster. Lucy represents all women and field with the dreams around the world, but dreams that are difficult to obtain due to the amount of time and resource that goes into obtaining access to water (clean or not). If 2-6 hours are spent in a day fetching water, then that leads to lost days in school, lost productivity, depressed economic development, and even greater risks of becoming victims of violence. Attendees at the gala were encouraged to let this reality touch our hearts and to make a commitment that we would "Walk with Lucy".

I give Living Water International a lot of praise for "Walking with Lucy". First, I for one have been numbed by the numbers: 780+ million people without access to clean water, ~2.5 billion people without adequate latrine systems. Numbers are numbing. Living Water put a face to the fight. And she even joined us on stage playing the role of her dream: a newscaster. Putting her face to the cause made it personal and put the connection back into the numbers so that we could understand what was trying to be achieved on this night. 

Also, I acknowledge that the preposition "with" has a lot of power. It packs a lot of meaning in the present rather than the past, which provides the hope that we can partner to fight the mortality that is associated with dirty water often due to disease. Furthermore, I respect the word "with" because it does not imply that the "rich, powerful Americans" are wielding their supremacy and pride in "doing good". "With" implies partnership and understanding that there is a commonality and humanity in which we share and an acknowledgement that we learn and teach each other, representing the body of Christ that has many parts (Romans 12:4-5). 

There was much blessing in the event yesterday. I made a few new friends and I heard many impactful stories. One local woman was to join us from Liberia but was not allowed due to the travel restrictions surrounding the Ebola outbreak. Instead, she shared her story with us in part rap and part preaching and part inspirational message that told us to consider the futures and dreams of the women on the world which could be made more easily accessible with the deliverance and provision of clean water. 

Prayers:
There is a great "ripple effect" from this event and transformative change in the Kingdom is achieved
That these partnerships produce clean water as well as the true life-giving water described in John 4:10-14

Next post will hopefully be in-country. Cross fingers that the internet connection remains solid. 

Living Water International: http://water.cc
Trip Updates from Team: https://www.facebook.com/liquidwatercom

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On this 25th day of the month...


Conviction Notice…

I love the month of December. I like Christmas especially in the Northeast as I get to snuggle into more clothes, sporting additional fashion.  The dry indoors are accompanied by sweaters. The short days can be a drag, but it is such a treat to drive through neighborhoods and see different people’s interpretations of the joyous holiday season.

At the top of my list of favorites from Christmas is the cheer. Outside of the general rush that is felt by some due to the pressures of the holidays, people are generally more pleasant. I notice more mingling among strangers. I notice Christmas cookies showing up on a whim in the office. I notice Salvation Army bells ringing throughout cities. I notice clothes drives, and missions trips, and all-in-all a great sense of camaraderie.

Josh Wilson, however, reminds us that Christmas is “more than once a year”.

While his song refers to the general acts that surround the holiday, similar to what I have already mentioned, I believe that his message is much more profound.

Christmas is more than once a year.
Love is more than once a year.
Christ is more than once (maybe twice counting Easter) a year.

Christmas is indeed a special time as the recent birth of the royal British baby gives a small snapshot into the hullabaloo that surrounds the birth of a king. Celebration and cheer is necessary, even liberating.

But Christmas is a small microcosm of the greater story, of the greater sacrifice, of the greater redemption, of the greater calling.

So I ask myself, do I live like Christmas is more than once a year? I think that answer may be similar to the question “are you satisfied with your prayer life?” which hardly concludes in a satisfactory response.

It is these reminders where I am thankful that no matter how many steps away I may be from God, I only have to take one in the right direction for He has made up the rest of the distance to meet me.

So I think it would be appropriate to say on this 25th day of the month…

Merry Christmas :) 
The Ripple Effect
Image courtesy of https://wiki.ucfilespace.uc.edu/

“…to fix our broken systems, we need to accelerate the number of changemakers in the world, and ultimately get to a world in which everyone is a changemaker.” –Bill Drayton

Often, change starts with a vision, an ability to see a different set of circumstances at another point in the future. The path to that endpoint does not necessarily have to be clear, but the endpoint often does.

I saw this personally during my trip to Haiti last month. The leader and changemaker that I was working with received his vision for a better Haiti while he was educating himself in the United States. He saw what it was like to have stable infrastructure, to have efficient systems, to have an orderly and honest administration. Therefore, after he completed his education, he moved back to Haiti in pursuit of this vision.

Of course, change is hard. One of his greatest obstacles is that the environment within Haiti often mutes peoples dreams and passions. There are constant influences and experiences that give their citizens the illusion that they can’t have an impact and they cannot change.

Therefore, this returned leader spends much of his time convincing others to be changemakers. This often meand inspiring passion and inspiring a vision, and giving these changemakers the hope that this dreams can become reality.

If we have the gift to be changemakers with a vision, I feel that we do have a duty to share that with anyone who will listen. To accelerate change, we need to accelerate the number of changemakers.

We have to work on the ripple effect of our individual drop.

This is post #3 of 10 in reaction to ideas posted on fastcoexist.com through Mark Cheng from Ashoka, an organization that provides venture capital to social entrepreneurs around the world. His ideas originate from his attendance at the Skoll World Forum in April 2013 and are entitled "10 Ideas Driving the Future of Social Entrepreneurship". 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Change is Accelerating

Want to see good art? And want to be inspired? Take the 8 minutes and learn from a variety of influential voices and how they perceive change going forward in the world.



"...never before have we had so many ideas and tools to help us cope with this change."


Collisions and connections are happening at such an incredible rate, and I think this video essentially captures two of the greatest pursuits of man: relationships and purpose.

We have so many tools that are driving innovation, and the latest software/hardware developments are making the world smaller. Collaboration is growing. Change is replicated at great rates.

I love that they start the video with a tight-lipped and baffled reaction to the question "What will the world be like in 50 years?"  The fact that so many contorted and sighed and shook their heads means that they have a vision that the next 50 years of improvement can grow beyond our perceptions. We can't wrap our minds around it. The networking is fantastic. As one voice in the video, Geoffrey West, stated that it is "almost spiritual".

I think we are just beginning to grasp the potential of the collective minds around the world and the systems/tools that can assist in getting us there.

And God has known all along.

WOW!

This is post #2 of 10 in reaction to ideas posted on fastcoexist.com through Mark Cheng from Ashoka, an organization that provides venture capital to social entrepreneurs around the world. His ideas originate from his attendance at the Skoll World Forum in April 2013. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's About Changing the System

“Broadcaster Ray Suarez expressed it eloquently when he said, ‘Nobody ever comes out and says they are in favor of starving children, or inadequate sanitation, or war and conflict. And yet they persist. So how is it that if no one is for these things, and everyone is against them, these problems continue?’”

I have to remind myself that many of the issues that exist within the world are systemic with stubborn persistence.  Tying back to the introductory post in this series, the hunger for solutions must be just as persistent, without undermining the complexity of the original issue.

Many societal problems are multi-dimensional, often requiring attention to multiple aspects. For example, providing clean water to rural communities in third world countries is simply a result of a combination of a lack of resources, education, collaboration, or even simply vision.  In another example, corruption within governments persists due to the nature of political competitions and campaigns, economic requirements from foreign partners, and a strained dependency on essential needs for the general populace. This complexity must be acknowledged to impart sustainability.

Due to its complexity, systemic change is also difficult to measure in numbers.  Therefore, it can be more effective to measure in stories.
Prove that clean water enables children to go to school. 
Prove that giving a businesswoman a small loan enables her son to train to become a local doctor.
Systems are complex, but the persistence in recognizing these complexities is continuing to provide progress.

Also, despite the complexity, God somehow knows and understands how all our lives are intertwined within each other and also knows the ways in which we interact with His world.  Therefore, we should bring our sufferings before him in prayer and allow Him to partner with us in fixing these systems. With the greatest Systems Engineer on our side, we should have full confidence in redemption.

This is post #1 of 10 in reaction to ideas posted on fastcoexist.com through Mark Cheng from Ashoka, an organization that provides venture capital to social entrepreneurs around the world. His ideas originate from his attendance at the Skoll World Forum in April 2013. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship (def.):

(This is the first post in a 10-part series on social entrepreneurship. To receive updates on the remaining posts, I encourage you to subscribe via email... once I convince you it will be a good idea in my below message). :P

I like to use visual aids to explain concepts, often using pictures and videos. You can scroll through my past blog posts to see this style exemplified.

I opened my browser to a Youtube home page and typed in "what is a social entrepreneur". There was only one video that answered the question most directly and most succinctly, although there were some excellent references to one of the grandfathers of social entrepreneurship as well as thoughts posted from the leader in the global discussion on social entrepreneurship.  Anyway, here be the winner, created by a social network provider for social entrepreneurs (see if you can guess the country of origin):



Social entrepreneurship is an attractive term.  It sounds good, for no one argues with the "sexiness" of entrepreneurship. And if you are an extrovert, putting the world "social" on the front makes it nearly irresistible! Discussions on social entrepreneurship has a way of making people talk in sweeping generalities with fantastic ideas at wide-sweeping change, embracing the idea of CHANGE with as much fervor as a 5-year-old near an ice cream truck.

I poke fun because I actually do believe in the discussion. I do believe in the zeal. I do believe in the passion. But social change is difficult. But social change requires long commitments. But the pursuit of social change can at times be... well... "unsexy".

Still, as it may be, I think the discussion is necessary... for it is often over dinner, at the local bar, or even during the church coffee hour that these big ideas turn into tangible efforts. These discussions provide the soil from which good fruit can grow. We will stand and praise the fruit and will present its pretty colors at the grocery stores, but the shoppers may never know about the time your tractor broke, or the time the seeds washed away in a torrential downpour, or the time that you got a flat tire while bringing the fruit to market. These discussions often focus on the shiny fruit, but forget to remember the toil that is involved in bringing its shine. But even still, I believe in the discussion, for it is the beauty and dream of bringing shiny and tasty fruit to the marketplace that will see us through the difficulties.

This is my hope, that the one "drop in the sea" that is my blog, has a ripple effect of discussions as I embark on this series. While I welcome the interaction in my comments section, the discussion is more likely to happen internally with yourself and then re-awakened at another time, where a further discussion among friends and acquaintances will bring forth the ideas and the commitments.

I encourage you to subscribe to my next series of posts which will be reactions to ideas that have already been posted through fastcoexist.com by Mark Cheng from Ashoka, an organization that provides venture capital to social entrepreneurs around the world. His ideas were inspired by this past year's event hosted by the Skoll World Forum in April 2013.

By entering your email address in the blog's left-hand menu, you will have the opportunity to listen/join the discussion on the 10 Ideas Driving the Future of Social Entrepreneurship.

Did I spark your interest? I would be honored to have you on-board!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Final Days and Final Thoughts
Every empty space is simply an opportunity :)


Haiti – final days and post-trip thoughts

After culture shock and business seminars and a few mosquito bites, I rounded out my time in Haiti with a trip to dream of more business as well as a snapshot of passionate worship.

First, we took a trip through Martissant and on the way passed on of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America. In Haiti, there are few retail opportunities, so imagine all the goods sold inside of a Walmart or Target instead being sold by individual vendors only inches apart from each other. They pack a lot of people into the equivalent of a city block. There are not really “aisles”, but more of a mentality where “an empty place is a place to sell”. Vendors of all ages, men and women, bus in from various parts of the city as well as the countryside to sell plantains, mangoes, sugarcane, clothes, and pieces of art.  If it gets really crowded, some vendors will set up in the street, blocking 1 lane of traffic, thus slowing down progression of vehicles. This slowdown then prompts additional vendors to come by to all the drivers to offer various goods and “concessions”, similar to a baseball game. Here you can see the “free market” at work, and it is quite a competitive atmosphere.

After passing through this part of Port-au-Prince, we proceeded to one of the micro-business incubators in Martesant. Here we got to see more small businesses that are successful at employing individuals and helping the families of the business owners. The business incubators give training and resources to these owners so that their businesses can have successful impact within their communities.

Beyond that, there is greater vision in Haiti to grow larger businesses, ones that can employ 10’s to 100’s of people. One such example was the solar panel business I described earlier in the week. By bringing in manufacturing business, these greater employment opportunities would have potential to transform whole communities, similar to what the car businesses first did for communities when they moved in to Michigan. There would be potential to require other supporting businesses to surround these manufacturers, both in raw materials as well as services. Restaurants would be established. Pharmacies would sell more conveniences. Print shops and financial firms would also provide support. HPCD (Haitian Partners for Christian Development) hopes to inspire business owners to dream a bit bigger and to ask investors and grant organizations to consider these development projects. It is a compelling argument to say that one decision to develop business in a given area can indeed provide hope and transform a community that once scared away all business due to political unrest within the past 10 years. With security being restored to Haiti, the tide may indeed be turning.

After doing a little bit more work for a growing hospitality business (and a few accompanying milkshakes), Drew decided to organize a leadership seminar/event for the youth within the local church. Drew asked all the Americans (interns and visitors) to give a statement, to share what was on their heart, and to inspire and encourage these young minds. Each of us had a different impact on the community, some as friends, some as mentors, some as advisors, others as demonstrators. We hope that we were able to bless them, but even this would only be a small gift compared to what they could share with us through their worship. There is passionate worship in contemporary rock settings. There is passionate worship in gospel settings. If you take those two setting and fuse them with beautiful voices and passion, you get a sound that is so beautiful to the world. The sounds spills out of the walls, into the streets that need a message of hope and inspiration, to carry forward what has already been done. My pictures are simply visual snapshot of an experience that was ultra-sensory. Hallelujah!

To summarize my experience, I will flatly say that we do not give the country of Haiti enough credit. I was told that their resources were depleted and there was little value that this little country could offer. I have found this to not be true as I see great opportunities in agriculture, fishing, and salt mining. They have an internationally recognized beer and rum (popular souvenirs for travelers). They have a few widely developed cell phone networks that have taken their influence and used it for advancement. And they have a readily available, hungry, and willing workforce.

Our viewpoint that Haiti is weak has hurt the country tremendously. Yes, they needed aid in times after natural disasters. Yes, they needed some international assistance during past political unrest. But the continued existence of organizations that pour in charitable donations is hurting the nation. We are not transitioning the country to self-sufficeincy but rather to further dependency, which goes against all models of sustainability.


The final point is the fact that Haiti is a beautiful country. It resides in the Carribean as an island, sharing land with the Dominican Republic. As such, it literally is just a mountain range that sticks out of the Atlantic Ocean. The mountains are beautiful, the sun shines constantly, and the ocean is very inviting. There is a hopeful spirit among the people, and with effective collaboration, Haiti can be the pearl of Latin America that it was once known for in its history.

For final photos: Gallery