Thursday, May 20, 2010

Helping Haitians Help Themselves

Two different events coming are supporting the Cabois community school in rural Haiti.

This is a school that emphasizes teachers' ability to listen to their students, students' ability to learn through active participation. It helps student gain confidence that they can both help their community and make a better life for themselves. Attached is a picture of the school's teachers. We need your help to make sure these teachers get paid for their awesome work.

And you can support this just by coming out to a bowling night or a movie night!

Bowling: 5pm to 8pm, Tomorrow, Friday the 21st

909 North 2nd Street (North Bowl) (come any time between 5 and 8pm)

Movies: 8pm, Saturday May 29,

2009 Frankford Ave (Circle of Hope)

We'll have an old-timey film projector and movies by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

I will be giving a short talk about the Cabois community school at 6:30 tomorrow at the bowling event. Come on out!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Christa's Angels

As many of you know, I was in Haiti during the disastrous 1/12/2010 earthquake.

One of the amazing things about it is Haitians resilience in the face of losing almost everything they had. They are working so hard not only to ensure their own survival, but to care for the safety of everyone around them as well. It's critical that we support the Haitians who are already in action providing for the needs of their communities at this difficult time. To learn more, visit my sister's web site thanking the Haitian people who saved her life and continue to work to save more lives: Christa's Angels.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do No Harm? Bring Love into the World?

Some of us, striving for ways to solve problems such as the ecological problems in Haiti, look for root causes. And there's almost always something humans did - people we could blame, if we like.

One way of looking at the world is to say that people should avoid doing harm to others. A quite different way is to ask people to create as much love around them as they can.

I don't think the "do no harm" philosophy is a bad one, but I think in many ways what we humans want out of our lives is not just to avoid hurting people, but to have deep and caring relationships with people.

As we consider how to accomplish things in Haiti or in the United States, taking "do no harm" as our motto has the potential to degenerate into blame and political bickering over who's doing harm and who's not. It has the potential to become a conversation wherein one side says "this is what's wrong with you" and the other side becomes defensive and responds with the same attitude.

There are a great many of us who have great hopes for Haiti and willing to put our energy behind those hopes. As we do this, I'd like us to think always about how we can accomplish the very most, how we can create friendship and love and concrete gains through our work, and to avoid feeding conflict by focusing on who we can blame, who we dislike, who we can pick a fight with. We'll always be capable of picking a fight, but at the same time, we'll always be capable of feeding hunger without feeding hate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Unequally Yoked with Unbelievers

I was reading the book "Three Cups of Tea," about Greg Mortenson's work in Pakistan and Afghanistan, after having discussed with a friend the idea of being "unequally yoked with unbelievers".

The "unequally yoked" phrase, as I interpret it, refers to the fact that you can cooperate with someone who believes differently from you, and they may take advantage of the effort you put in, and take their energy elsewhere to accoplish their own goals which may have nothing to do with your own.

I've been considering what that means in terms of the message of Jesus Christ as we see it in the New Testament. Jesus claims that the greatest commandment is to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) So what kind of "unbelievers" do we mean when we say unequally yoked with unbelievers?

Greg's work among Muslims in Afghanistan shows us a great many people who love their neighbors as much as themselves. The amount of energy they put into making education possible for young girls, not just their own families but their whole villages and their neighbors' villages and a neighboring country's villages... really has no explanation I can think of except love. I'd venture to say it looks like the kind of love for god and neighbor which Jesus said was the most important commandment.

Consider, then, if Greg were instead in a church in the United States, and thinking to himself about being unequally yoked with unbelievers. He knows he has the option to build schools in Afghanistan, providing much-needed education for young Muslims in a way that has a powerful potential to prevent wars and terrorism. And to empower people in some of the poorest areas of the world to lift themselves out of poverty, too. (see Luke 18:22) Or he could instead put his money and his time into supporting a mega-church, where church resources build grand buildings, hire employees who'll put their resources into nice cars, nice restaurants, movies, maybe a McMansion here and there, and generally do things that are nice, and pretty. So, maybe, not everyone who says "Lord Lord," (Matthew 7:21) or says they're a Christian, is really a believer in the message of Christ? Who are the unbelievers, and in which situation might Greg be unequally yoked?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Miracles of Plenty in Haiti

I was thinking about the miracle of "the loaves and the fishes", whereby Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves of bread and a couple fish. (John 6)

I was thinking about the miracle that makes it possible for one of us in Philadelphia to, for what we earn in about one hour of work, to make it possible for a teacher in Haiti to work for a whole week! And a week of work in a Philadelphia office can earn you enough to fund a school for 72 children for a month!

I was thinking about the trust it takes, to leave the work of teaching these schools to someone else and to participate in it mainly just behind-the-scenes in a supporting role.

I was thinking about the miracle that the teachers at countless rural Haitian schools care enough about their communities, the community of their family and closest friends, to work for free for years on end to make reading and writing a possibility for elementary school students.

One of these teachers, whose photo I've attached here, is named "Cheri Miracle" or "Beloved Miracle".

The real miracle comes with the way teachers like these have inspired a great many other people to give an hour of their time, to give a box of chalk, to make some other contribution to the community. How this gift of inspiration is one that can repeat and repeat, and maybe never run out.

It's a joy to be able to support the work of teachers like these.

The Power of Water

These photos give a little bit of a view of the incredible power of the river Momas. In these photos it's higher than it usually was while I was there, but it's nowhere near the water level it reaches when a hurricane comes. In the photo above, you can see a dark brown spot where the river has rapidly eaten away at the gravel wall put up as a temporary erosion control measure. In the bottom photo, you can see the force as the river falls six feet over a concrete barrier and hits the bottom of the barrier, and creates an eddy and wavy, disturbed water extending about 9 feet downstream.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fayet People's Coalition

Here's the roadside sign for the "Fayet People's Coalition" / "Heads Together", the group whose work I went to see while I was in Haiti. This sign hangs over the road in Fayet, next to the place where the community group meets. They meet in the yard of one of the families that has been deeply involved in the organization for many years, a family that also hosted me for a number of days when I stayed in Fayet.