Tag Archives: development

Everybody’s Normal

Everybody’s Normal (Till You Get To Know Them) by John Ortberg

I chose this book to read because of a friend’s recommendation, and I thought it would be a fun/easy read.  It is both of those and more.  It is also a book I wish I would have taken notes on as I read.  It’s that good.

The theme of the book is the challenge of personal relationships.  It’s chapters cover being honest, empathetic, and standing up for yourself.  It encourages us to forgive, include, and be thankful for our friends.  There’s more chapters than that, but you get the gist of the theme – real issues.  Having close friends isn’t easy, but it is critical.

Honestly, I like his self-abasing humor.  A couple of times I saw myself in his stories, and I had to laugh.  Other times, when I saw myself in his teachings, I had to plead “guilty as charged”.  It was a wonderful read, engaging my mind, emotions, and soul.  Now if I can just get it to engage my actions!

I’ll probably reread this book – taking notes and as part of a group for discussion.  I encourage you to try it, but have some paper and a pen beside you.

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Making Your Partnership Work

 by Daniel Rickett

Making bad decisions happens to everyone.  Learning from them seems to be optional.

This book works hard to let you learn from others mistakes.  If you are considering creating a partnership between a group in the USA and a group in a developing country, buy this book.  A partnership is like a living body.  At times, some parts require more attention than others do, but a lack of attention to any part can prove fatal to the entire body.   Statements such as this, provide one-liners worth remembering.  However, the book’s greatest value is in clear and concise explanations about topics such as: ground rules, trust, shared vision, and documentation.  Additionally it has several pages of sample forms that will easy the process.  

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” located in the left side-bar of this blog.

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Ghana 11.10

Three of us (Michelle, Mary, and myself), all attendees of Ginghamsburg Church, traveled to a small village in Ghana, West Africa called Noka.  This was the year that the CHE* program would officially begin, under the leadership of fellow Ghanaians.  Here’s our story of those seven days.  Italics are personal commentary – just for a little flavor.

Friday 26 November & Saturday 27 November – After passing through four airports in about twenty hours, we stood outside the Accra airport.  From there we rode to Ocheman Palace Hotel where we’d eat and sleep the next several days.  It sure wasn’t a palace, but it was clean, had running water, and on the occasions when electricity was working we even had AC, TV, and lights.  At lunch time, we met with Dai Hwan, Ema, and Reverend Gibson to discuss the schedule for the week.  All lived in Ghana, and they were the people I prayed would take the reins of directing CHE in the village of Noka.  Dai Hwan is in charge of developing a CHE internship in Ghana, Ema is the CHE director for all of Ghana, and Reverend Gibson is the pastor of the church in Noka.  Reverend Gibson had a well prepared schedule for the week so there was little to discuss.  They knew we were sleepy, so they left us early in the afternoon.   I fought the sandman until 4pm.  I woke up at 10pm, worked on my talk for church tomorrow, read, and then went back to sleep.

Sunday 28 November – Lots of children, several women, but not one man from the village attended church service.  We sang, prayed, and danced (not me) before I gave the sermon.  The ladies each gave a lesson to the children, and I talked about Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls.  At eleven, we took a short taxi ride to Reverend Gibson’s village to visit the church there.  The church was having a fund raising effort, and they pulled us into the program.   They invited us to pop a couple balloons, after which they explained we needed to give a donation for popping them.  I wasn’t real keen on that approach.  That evening the three of us debriefed on the past couple days.  The CHE concept was new to both ladies, so the concept of development versus relief was a primary discussion item.  All of us had inclinations to “fix” things for the people in Noka, an action that would have negative impact on the long-term progress of the village.

Monday 29 November – After breakfast and group devotions, we headed to Noka.  We immediately went to the home of the chief to request a meeting with the village council.  The chief wasn’t feeling well.  He said that he had “the fever”, malaria, but he would still try to gather the council members that afternoon.  From there we walked through the village to invite people to the village meeting tomorrow.  In our walk, we observed, asked questions, and basically tried to learn about the people of Noka.  We also met a man who made baskets, and we placed an order for seven.  Additionally, we placed an order for some wooden spoons from the village spoon maker.  After a lunch of bread, we met with the council regarding CHE.  Development, helping yourself, is a hard sell after people become used to handouts.  Several comments in the meeting insinuated that someone would have to give the village money in order for them to make any improvements.  We were back at the “palace” in time to have our debrief session before dinner.  One of the discussion points was the village’s great need for fresh water.  It is a hard thing to not “fix” what seems so obviously broken, but development emphasizes the development of people more than real estate.  We needed to let them take ownership for what they wanted to improve and how they would accomplish that improvement.

Tuesday 30 November – Today was the village meeting for Noka.  We planned to be there by 9:30am and start the meeting by 10:00am.  We didn’t get there until 9:50am and the meeting didn’t start until 11am!  About thirty people attended, plus most of the council including the Councilman – the person who represents Noka at the district council.  It was an excellent mix – men & women, young & old, well-dressed & not so well-dressed.  They formed a circle for better discussion.  The ladies entertained the children under a couple trees a short distance away.  I sat on the outside of the circle.  All discussion was in their tribal language, Twi, so I tried to stay alert by watching nonverbal language.  Ema led the discussion, using questions, skits and diagrams, keeping everyone involved.  He focused on two main topics: relief versus development and identification of the main problems in the village.  Out of several possible problems, the overwhelming favorite was to reopen the primary school.  It had been closed because the people in Noka had stopped paying the teacher’s salary.  The council confessed their poor leadership, and promised to improve.  One man voiced that he had moved into the village years ago, and was disappointed by the disconnection of the people from each other.  Those listening responded with concern and consideration.  Ema was encouraged by the honesty and humility shown by all the participants, especially the leaders.  Reverend Gibson was relieved.  He was concerned that people would label him as a failure if CHE did not go well, and he felt it was a great success today.  Back at the hotel, we had our debrief time.  Both ladies sensed great accomplishment in the meeting.  Out of habit, we lapsed into attitudes of “what they need to do is…”.  However, we at least caught ourselves doing it.

Wednesday 1 December – Isaac, a young man from Noka, joined us for breakfast this morning.  I asked him to pray for our meal.  His prayer was not what I expected, and it reminded me of the difference between our two worlds.  Isaac prayed that Jesus’ blood would purify the food from all harmful things and bring good health to our bodies – not disease.  I’ve never even thought of praying like that for any meal – ever.  I asked him what his mother had to say about the village meeting yesterday, and he replied, “She said that if a good thing comes to your house why would you not invite it in?”  After breakfast, we headed to three villages in the north.  They have been exposed to CHE for some time, and we wanted to see what those villages looked like.  The first village was like a poster child for the potential of CHE.  When CHE was started the school was a bunch of kids sitting under a tree.  They now have a cement block building with a metal roof.  Members of the village built thatch-roofed building first.  Then a church paid for bags of cement to be used for construction of the school building.  The village made all the blocks and built the school building.  Before CHE, students did not eat during school.  Now each child receives a free lunch.  The village rented a portion of farm land and planted a community farm.  Members of the village sow, cultivate, and harvest the crops.  The proceeds are used to pay for the children’s lunch.  Students are taught the basics as well as three languages: their tribal language, English, and French.  The second village had no school.  They did have a still to make palm wine.  The chief of this village is not ready to support CHE.  He is waiting for someone to give them money to start their development.  The third village is a bit separated from the road.  We had a thirty minute hike through the brush.  We had a warm welcome, and we were amazed at the quiet, attentive conduct of the children.  This is the school where I had my CTC/NHS photo taken.  We had a long bumpy ride home, but it was an excellent, educational day.  In our debrief time, we realized that we saw the results to accepting or rejecting CHE.  We also gave high praises to Dai Hwan and Ema for their dedication and wisdom.

Thursday 2 December – The head pastor, Apostle Odai, came to the hotel this morning.  Four others were with him, one of them being a girl from the UK.  She was going to give a lesson to the children in the village where we were going this morning.  Reverend Gibson wanted us to have a CHE meeting in a village near Noka.  He felt they would be an excellent match for CHE.  On the way to the village, Gibson, Ema, Dai Hwan and I discussed what the next step should be for Noka.  Gibson felt we should get money donated and build a school building.  Ema and I encouraged him to develop the people before developing the real estate.  The “gotta have money” mindset is tough to change.  We see that in the USA!  The meeting had several people in attendance and went well.  We drove back to Accra from there and stayed in the guest house of the church.  We ate supper at a resort on the ocean beach.  It makes the best pizza!  I think it’s because the chef makes the crust fresh for each pizza.  At our debrief it became apparent that the CHE concept was taking hold in our minds even though our hearts still wanted to “fix” stuff for them.  The disparity between the village and the city of Accra (just two hours drive) was enormous!  Each of us wondered what impact this trip would have on us once we returned to our normal routine in the USA.

Friday 3 December – Today we drove to the market.  Actually, I drove part way.  The clutch was giving Valerie, the Apostle’s wife, some trouble.  I was looking forward to meeting some of the people in the market that I had come to know over the years.  However, I was very disappointed with one of them, he calls himself Colin Powell.  He was different – rude, pushy, and wanting money.  The ladies surprised me by how quickly they finished their shopping.  We headed back to the guest house, but had more car trouble.  Valerie got so frustrated that she just turned off the car right in the road.  I jumped out and pushed her off to the side.  Odai took me to meet a missionary who is connected with the United Methodist Church.  On the way, he voiced his opinion about CHE and the need for money to have development.  I agreed, but I felt the money should follow action by the community, not precede it.  The missionary and her husband were wonderful to meet.  They were quite familiar with CHE, and even gave me contact in the USA that can help me find my way in the UM Church foreign missions hierarchy.  We headed back to the guest house where we showered, packed, and headed to the airport.  Our flight departed at 12:30am Saturday 4 December, and we arrived in Dayton at 12:30pm of that same day.  We crossed five time zones to accomplish that feat!

I consider this a near-perfect mission trip.  I am so elated to see the CHE process in excellent hands – Ghanaian hands.  Ema and Dai Hwan can visit Noka easily, offer insights, and be excellent resources.  I am eager to return next year and see the progress.

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Haiti 10.10

I went to Haiti to share the CHE concept with a couple communities.  (CHE focuses on enabling local communities to use local resources to solve current problems.)  We were located in a rural area among the mountains north of Port au Prince.  About a dozen people attended the “vision seminar”, and I felt the people had mixed responses.  Some were attentive, inquisitive, and engaged.  On the other extreme, one man fell asleep.  They were to respond to the local contact by February if they felt this process could be right for their communities and they wanted further information and help; I fully expect two or three people to respond.  My plans to present the material in another area of Haiti did not materialize because the pending hurricane prompted us to leave early.  I felt like the trip was worth the investment of time, energy, and money.

Those who suffer from insomnia or curiosity may want to keep reading for a more detailed account of the adventure.  I will attempt to report just facts.  But I added commentary in italics for just a little flavor.

Saturday 30 October – Departing Dayton’s airport at 3am and arriving at the Port au Prince (PaP) airport after dark made for a long day.  Collecting bags and getting through Haiti customs went surprisingly well, and we were quickly on our way to our “home” for the next several days.  We stayed in the guest house of an orphanage called “All God’s Children”.   Some of us rode there in the back of a truck which allowed us to experience the wonderful breeze as well as the not-so-wonderful rain.  The entrance into the orphanage required us to ascend an incline comparable to Mount Everest.  Maybe a little less.  The truck took two tries to reach the “summit”.  We quickly claimed our sleeping spots for a good night’s rest.  It was a nice place.  We had bunk beds, electric, and intermittent running water.  Some of the ladies had further amenities, but I’ll withhold my comments.  And as far as a good night’s rest, Haitian roosters do not wait for dawn to start crowing.

Sunday 31 October – The group went to two different places for church services.  I attended a church on the far side of a major river.  This was my first experience riding in a dugout canoe.  The river was filthy; our hosts warned us not to not touch the water.  However, it appeared that some of the local people did not seem as bothered about the water purity.  They were swimming, washing, and playing in the water.  I learned that the church building also served as a school building, thus allowing the children to attend a school without needing to cross the river.  We used the afternoon to relax, get to know each other, and even take a walk.  We had a wonderful meal, and finished the night with some entertainment.  The meal included meat, rice, and plenty of it.  That night we had fireworks.  I’m talking industrial-size stuff.  The highlight came when one misfired, made a u-turn back to earth, and crashed into the roof of the dorm.  Sparks landed around my feet.  It was awesome.

Monday 1 November – This was our first work day, so everybody had a specialized job.  I already explained what I did.  Others worked with the children, health care, construction, or running errands.  The evening offered more opportunity for getting to know each other.  One team member told several stories from their days as a student in my classroom and as an athlete when I was their coach.  Their memory recalled specifics that I could not recall…or didn’t want to recall.

Tuesday 2 November – Our team devotion time included a prayer request regarding the approaching hurricane.  If we planned to leave before the hurricane, it would have to be in the next day or two.  If we stayed, we may not get out of Haiti until next week.  Most of us had mixed feelings.  Factors we had to consider was safety, the completion of our mission, responsibilities at home, etc.  Most of us thought an early departure was the best action.  After breakfast, I gave another CHE training.  One young man thought the training was scheduled for Tuesday – a day late.  I was able to complete that training by noon.  I spent the afternoon basically looking for work to do.  I took some pictures, too.  That evening we went to visit a nearby community.  The group went in two cars, and our car didn’t depart in time to reach the community until after dark.  We never got out of the car.  However, the trip leader made sure we got to visit the community;  we went Wednesday afternoon.  It was an incredible visit.  The center of the community was an abandoned piece of equipment used in construction of a nearby dam.  It was kind of like walking on the set of the movie Mad Max.  I found it so interesting that the children seemed to be natural photo models.  Point a camera at them and they suddenly posed for you.  Of course they loved to see their picture afterward.

Wednesday 3 November – Several of us worked together on the same project.  We prepared and applied cement to some interior walls for a stucco look.  It was hot, dirty, and tiring.  And I was absolutely no good at applying the material to the wall.  Actually, I was pathetic.  I admire the ability of the Haitians to do hard physical labor in such conditions.  By lunch time, I was tired.  I took a little siesta during the heat of the day.  During the afternoon, we learned that our flights were changed to a Thursday morning departure in an effort to miss the hurricane.  The evening was spent getting packed and organized for the trip home.

Thursday 4 November – Actually, the departure from Haiti was pretty good.  We made all our connections and arrived home safely.  It was a short trip but a good experience.

Post Trip – We are still making efforts to follow-up on the training.  It has been difficult to communicate with those in Haiti, but we have no plans to give up.

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When Helping Hurts

by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

This book is causing quite a stir among Christians involved with supporting or participating in short-term missions (STM).  Corbett, the main author, proposes that STM is often more focused on the USA participants feeling good than on the long-term good of the people being served.  His explanation of the causes and the processes of healing are thought-provoking.   I recommend this book be read and discussed in a group setting.  Corbett steps on some toes, and most will need to vent from the pain.   Although it repeats information from other books (two being The Great Omission by Saint and Multiplying Light and Truth by Rowland), it has a broader stroke than any other single book.  It provides clear background, documentation, and reasoning for why STM needs a major overhaul, and then he offers ideas of how to change. 

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” located in the left side-bar of this blog.

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