Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Go, Send, or Disobey"

Of the 55 least evangelized countries, 97% of their population lives within the "Ten-Forty Window" illustrated above.
In the United States there are an estimated 156 million unsaved fellow citizens. As overwhelmingly huge as that number is, this is only 3.4% of the world's unsaved population that are living here in the US. Yes, right here in the United States where in my home town we have at least 5 Christian radio stations and Bible book stores with multiple volumes of books on how to be a Christian. We have a church on nearly every other block to deliver whatever flavor of Christianity you desire. We have people standing on street corners crying out for people to hear the word of God and posting cards on the windshields of parked cars with church addresses and service times, promising free deli sandwiches and pizza to any who are willing to attend. We have revivals, outreaches and best of all, the freedom to take part in all of these things. Superficially, we seem to have all of the ingredients to have the quintessential healthy, vibrant Christian experience. It is at our finger tips!

According to the CIA World Factbook, which is where most of my data come from, the world's population estimate by July 2011 is 6,928,198,253. Of that, two-thirds, that is 4,618,798,835, are non-Christians (that estimate excludes all Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans). Of those, the International Mission Board estimates that somewhere around 50% of those non-Christians come from the "unreached" classification. This means that they have not had any exposure or heard the gospel message. Rounding down, that brings the number of unsaved AND unreached people to 2.3 BILLION!

Say that aloud to yourself. (don't worry, no one's paying attention to you right now) -- "2.3 billion people on this planet today stand condemned in their own sin without ever hearing the gospel."

2.3 billion people is more than 7 times the total population of the United States! How can we justify this to ourselves? Grappling with numbers this size requires some significant mental acrobatics.

Why you? Right? Why would I be addressing this to you? The reason is that we need our hearts to be broken. You need your heart to be broken for what breaks God's heart. It's part of being a disciple, a Christian, a Jesus follower and part of "the church".

One of my favorite verses of all time is John 14:27: 
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
Jesus said this to the disciples, comforting them after telling them that He would be leaving soon and promising the Holy Spirit. This verse has brought me great comfort in times of distress in my life.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
 This is another one of those comfort verses that I hear people quote when comforting others. These beautiful words of Jesus are to be cherished and loved and held close to our hearts and the tips of our tongues in times of trial and distress.

What about Jesus teaching us about anxiety and trusting God?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
(Matthew 6:26 & 30)
I believe, with all my heart, that his words are meant for us. I also believe that we can take His word quite literally. How literally do we take this one though?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
 So if I read this correctly, this means that we all have been "called" to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..."

As a matter of fact, Charles H. Spurgeon once expounded, "It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world."

So what are we doing? Where is that sense of urgency? Did you know that the United States sends out fewer foreign missionaries each year than South Korea. That's right, South Korea, population 48 million, sends out more missionaries than the United States of America, population 313 million!!!

We need that sense of urgency back!

Look at it this way: You are on a sinking ship. People are falling overboard and drowning all around you. They just suddenly get sucked under without even a moments warning. You, well, you knew the ship was sinking. You were well aware of the calamity that was soon to follow. You happen to also be one of the people whom God has entrusted with the life-preservers, a bottomless cache of life-rings that will surely save every life on this boat if they would just accept them.

What's your plan hero? 
You gonna keep them all to yourself, even though you already have your own?
You gonna just sit there quietly because "life-preservers are a personal matter"?
You gonna just leave them in the cache because God didn't specifically tell you that it was your calling to dispense the life-saving devices?
You gonna let someone else dispense the life-rings because you feel unequipped to toss them out to your dying shipmates?

Or, are you going to take this great commission we have literally and do something? 

As John Piper so astutely put it in the video, our options are to go, send or disobey.

*10-40 Window Illustration courtesy of
** All quoted Biblical text courtesy of and the ESV Study Bible

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Community College Volunteers Preparing for Haiti Trip

Watertown Daily Times | JCC volunteers preparing for Haiti trip

Here we go! This is great right? College kids giving up their spring break to go and make a difference. I love it. I love the idea behind it. I wish everyone shared the same compassion.

Please take a minute and read into the context of this article.

Some quotes that I'd like to call attention to in the article:

"We've talked about this being a life-changing experience," said Gail W. Miller, executive director of outreach at the college. "When you leave the ivory tower, so to speak, and you're doing something different in a community, it's a tremendous opportunity to learn. I don't think we will have the same thinking when we come back."
"I want to get down there and connect with the Haitian people and let them know they're not alone and they haven't been deserted," said student Barbara E. Roberts. "I want to do what I can to help brighten someone's day in a country that's so unstable."
"I'm not sure what to expect," Mr. Dobransky said. "I'm not sure we can brace ourselves for what we're going to see there."
No you probably can't brace yourself for what you are going to see there. There is absolutely no way to brace yourself. In a single day you can drive through one of the world's worst ghettos rife with crime, drug and human trafficking and unparalleled poverty then suddenly find yourself in one of the most beautiful tropical forests you have ever seen. Then suddenly, you turn a corner and beach front mansions spread out in front of you. There are filthy disease infested tent cities, clean and well organized tent cities. Ghettos with streets covered in refuse and neighborhoods like any you might see in any other Caribbean nation.

It is amazing to me to consider what it was like to see and experience it for the first time. On one hand it is far better than anyone probably realizes and on the other far worse. Probably the hardest question in the world to answer when you return home is, "So how was it?"

"Umm... eye-opening, heart-breaking, awe-inspiring, depressing, rewarding, stressful, edifying, humbling..." 

I want to describe for you the Haiti experience so that you can be inspired to step out of he comfort zone and serve the entire world. That's really not as easy as it sounds.

Right now my heart is certainly in Haiti. This undoubtedly because of the recent devastation and people that I met there. God wants us to have a heart for every corner of the planet though. As you consider your support for our mission, please also be in prayer about what God would have you do for (or inother parts of the world as well.

Take a minute and let your heart break for a moment. Its good for you. 

Pitfalls in the Short Term Medical Missions

I have had some questions about the wisdom in doing these short term 7-10 day missions in Haiti. There are those who astutely raise concerns about how much good versus harm we are doing in these communities. Haiti has been absolutely inundated with short term mission teams since the earthquake.

This link will take you to a blog that lists some of the harmful outcomes of the short term missions. In the interest of full disclosure to those who may be on the fence as to whether or not they should support this mission, I want to address some of the issues raised here and provide you with examples of the learning process.

The front of the Hospital located on the Baptist Haiti Mission campus.
The organization that I traveled with in November and December of 2010 is International Healthcare Ministries, a ministry of ABWE. ABWE and IHM both have long histories of ethically and successfully run and managed medical mission teams. Dr. Sorg, our team leader, spent 25 years in the Amazon basin as a medical missionary and travels all over the world providing high quality, low cost and and culturally conscientious medical clinics. Prior to his arrival in any one village, there is a preparation process that last weeks if not months in which liaisons are acquired and cursory surveys of the needs are done.

The IHM mission is based out of the well-established Baptist Haiti Mission and primarily functions in villages where satellite churches have already been established. This is crucial in the success and in avoiding common pitfalls in short term medical missions.

How it works:
Patient intake and pre-registration.

We travel in a team of five to six medically trained personnel with about as many native translators. We set up shop in already established medical clinics, churches or mission planted schools. The pastors in the area are tasked with informing the locals that we will be there. We usually spend two full days in each village. We set up an initial intake station where blood pressures are taken and medical complaints are recorded with some basic patient demographics.

Hassan, my friend, translator and soon-to-be medical student
discusses a patient's medical history and shares the gospel with
 a willing listener.
The pt then is called back to discuss there complaints at length and a medical history is obtained by a mission staff member and a translator. In my experience, since our native Haitian Creole speakers are amazingly adept at evangelism, I usually let them do the talking when asking a patient about their salvation. However, we instruct the translators to first tell the patient that it does not matter whether they are saved or hate our faith, they will be treated exactly the same and we will use utmost diligence in seeing to their needs. Very few, in our last visit, came to accept Christ, but we were able to present the plan of salvation to several voodoo practitioners.

After this brief interview, the patient waits to see the doctor who completes the assessment and addresses the medical needs that they can with particularly diligent focus on preventative medicine and investigating the sources of medical complaints common to the population we're serving. Our focus is on long term benefit and not just acute complaints (which were very rare).
Locals wait patiently to be called in to the the doctor in
a peaceful and dignified waiting area.

The name and address of any patient who was interested in the gospel message or accepted Christ was was forwarded on to the local Haitian pastor, who would then follow-up on these souls. We accept that we aren't going to change the world, country, village or even necessarily a single life of a patient in our short stay there, but the lasting results were tangible in that anyone interested was connected with the local church for a relationship to be built and discipling to begin, should they choose.

Dr. Sorg meets with a patient and Tee, an IHM RN,
in a church based clinic.
We did hit bumps in the road. Once, during the second day of a clinic, after having seen around 200 patients in two days, a small fight broke out between mothers who wanted their babies to be seen. We made every effort to see each and every person with a legitimate medical complaint but were unable to see them all. This is a very unfortunate circumstance that can be attributed to the very desperate situation Haiti has found itself in. We had extra worm pills and children's vitamins that we handed out to these mothers (those are the two greatest pediatric needs in the areas we were serving). This averted what would have otherwise been a crisis, but the Haitian pastors we associated with and our very experienced team with extensive backgrounds in developing country medicine were well equipped for handling these small issues with a great deal of compassion and respect.

The most heartening aspect of this mission is that IHM is very invested in these missions and visits these same towns and villages every couple of months. The follow through pays dividends too. A mutual respect has been developed through these repeated trips into the rural towns and villages and the locals are aware that we have a long term interest in seeing to their needs through the repeated visits.

Most of our team and our superb paid translators.
This is why each and every IHM medical mission to Haiti is of vital importance. It is through the devotion shown to the people that trust is obtained and the issues discussed in the blog that I linked to are avoided.

I should also mention that I am not just interested in drumming up support for our trip coming up in November 2011, but also in creating an awareness and long term dedication through our partners in the US and abroad for this important and special ministry. It is of vital importance that you should consider carefully to whom you are donating the Lord's money too. Choose well established, responsible mission organizations with reputable track records.

Above all else, remember the mission teams and especially those they serve in your prayers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How I'm Moved

Haiti Mission 2010 362
Dr. Sorg walks along the line of the patients who are desperate to be seen in the IHM clinic.
(Quicroix, Haiti. November 2010)

This seems strange to people when I try to explain it, so I usually don't. It is difficult to understand without first hand experience, so what you read here may not live up to your expectations.

I am in love with Jesus and I am in love with serving him.  Haiti was a taste of what a life in foreign ministries is like. As far as the Haitians, they were an unlikely lot to be put on my heart, but God doesn't care about that. You see, I heard stories when I was in the Coast Guard from other Coasties who had been on missions in Haiti and interdicted Haitian emigrants. I can still remember in vivid detail the atrocities and the inhumanity they described. I can also vividly recall the pain and the disgust that they harbored following their exposure to the incidents that they had to cope with. At about 21 years old I vowed to never, ever step foot on the nation's soil.

I repeated these stories a few times over the next 8 or 9 years to people if Haiti ever came up. I was convinced that the nation was a lost cause. The question was, why did I care so much about a place that I thought I hated?

As time went by, I began to feel quite sorrowful for the Haitians. God was softening my heart. Then, the day after my daughter was born, on January 10th, I woke up, after having been up all night with a weight on my shoulders and an urge to turn on the news. What I saw sent chills down my spine as I saw mothers holding their dead limp children screaming with agony and crumbled buildings with bodies on the street lined up in neat rows and covered with blankets and tarps.

I had somehow been tricked into caring more for these people than I ever thought I could for someone I had never met. I had chills every time I thought about it from then on. I had prayed and offered myself to God for whatever purpose he had in mind for me whatever the cost long before and I had a suspicion that my unlikely heart for the Haitians was the Holy Spirit's doing.

Five months went by and a pastor from church mentioned that he had been receiving emails asking him to travel to Haiti on a ministry team and that he thought I should look into it.

Why? I hadn't told him about what God had been doing.

I went home that evening and did a quick Internet search and found ABWE, and Baptist missionary organization I had once researched a being a possible future ministry for my family and me. They had a link for a medical team traveling to Haiti for the next November.

Before I knew it, all of my references had been turned in, my application had been approved, my interview with the board had been successful and my church was behind me 110%. It happened fast. Donations rained down and, before I knew it, all of the medications had already been purchased with donated funds. I had been saving up for just such a mission and had spent every last penny I had on plane tickets and bills (since I was going to be out of work without pay for two weeks, thanks to a generous boss who graciously allowed me a rare leave of absence. All things said and done, every last expense was covered and our checking account may have sat at a $2 balance for a week or two, but we always had exactly what we needed, never more and never less.

Now, I look back at my journal entries from the mission, watch the videos, look at photos and think about how much these people touched my life. I learned a sort of respect for their desperation that can't be described. God is sending me back now with an invitation from the mission leader and jubilant encouragements from members from the team. I will be setting up multiple opportunities to donate and fundraise or otherwise get involved in any way you wish. I encourage you to subscribe to this blog and check back often. Please remember Haiti in your prayers.

Where it starts...

Until now my other blog, Zach thinks deep., is the place where I routinely chronicle events of my life and how God has been working in it. This blog will have a more refined focus on the missional aspect that has been mentioned from time to time in ZTD. The reason for the deviation from the previous blog is that this is going to be a public window for my financial and spiritual supporters as I prepare for my next Hait mission... and beyond.

I will be posting updates on donations, fundraisers, the mission itself and giving insight and sharing stories from my trip to Haiti in November 2010.

Please pray for me, Abigail Proctor, my church (OABC) and the ministry that I will be traveling with, International Healtcare Ministries.