All posts by Operation-GO

Impact Focus of the Month – Education

I was recently at the National Football Hall of Fame for Brett Favre’s enshrinement. (This is not about Brett, but he is simply the best!) Anyway, one of the new attractions at the Hall of Fame is the Game of Life locker room. It’s really a series of advice from different players and coaches lead by Joe Namath. Allen Page, a former member of the Vikings Purple People Eaters, talked about the value of education. He said, “Education will allow you to choose where you go.” He is now a Supreme Court Justice in Minnesota. He lived that statement! Education can make a difference in people’s lives, no doubt about it. Many in our world lack the opportunity to receive basic education or further their education to learn skills needed to start a career or make a decent living.

This month, our Impact Focus is Education. Here are some ways you can make an impact through education.

  1. Ask your local school how you can get involved. Some of our clients volunteer in the classroom, read to kids, organize book drives to give books to kids and donate supplies. I am sure they can use your help.
  2. Help us send an orphanage to school in Haiti. Each year about this time, we receive requests from our four orphanages in Haiti asking for help for school, including vocational training for older kids. On average, these requests are about $5000 per orphanage (about 30 kids per orphanage). School is not free in Haiti. This cost includes books, tuition or teachers, uniforms and supplies. We cannot provide for school on our own, as this is in addition to the monthly support we send for food and basic living. Click here to donate online or give us a call to learn more. Also, consider joining us this winter on a trip to visit these kids in Haiti.
  3. Consider giving to a scholarship fund at one of the local colleges. We have a couple clients passionate about their trades/fields who inspire to support the next generation. Giving a scholarship is a great way to do so! Go! Make an Impact!

Lord of All vs Genie in a bottle God

I have been thinking about writing this for a while, but after the series Culture Clash at Hidden Valley, I thought this was fitting.

Jesus lived a life of obedience to the Father, servanthood and surrender – words many of us don’t like to hear.

Jesus said, “The most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:27-28

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate* father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even their own life, such a person cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:26 (*Matthew 10:27 says love more than me)

“In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John16:33

Almost all of his disciples were killed for their faith. To follow Jesus meant total commitment and surrender.

Yet, many American churches and Christians seem to view God more like a genie in a bottle. We want God to bless us, make things easy, answer all our prayers…

We pick out verses that fit this view on God…

He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

“Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you…” John 15:7b

Ask and it will be given to you…” Luke

The problem, we like to pick out part of the verse the fits and not the whole verse in context.

This is the entire verse and some other verses in Psalms:

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (4) Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him and He shall bring it to pass. (5) Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him… (7)

When we just quote the second half, we thing God will give us the desires of our heart so we can be happy. We are asking God for this or that to make us happy… If I just had a relationship, a new car, this job… This is the desire of my heart God, give it to me and I will be happy. But if we are truly delighting ourselves God, we are happy with God, God alone. Than our hearts desires will be God or God centered. They could be the same desires but for God’s purpose, and our happiness is not dependent on the desires, our happiness (delight) is in God.

The same concept is true with the next verse. How often do we want to make plans and then say God will bring it to pass. But the first part says commit your way to the Lord. One definition of commit says to give in trust or charge, to consign. That would mean the we would give in trust our plans to God, He would be the one to set our plans, then we can trust Him to bring it to pass. Not here’s what I am going to do God, make it happen.

So, not only do we want to use these verse to get our desires and have God make our plans happen, we also want it done right now! God’s timing is not our timing. Verse seven tells to wait patiently for Him. We don’t want to wait for anything, yet often God asks us to wait. Abraham, the Father of Faith waited over 20 years for the promised son! So even if our desires are God’s desires, it our plans our His plans, we still may have to wait.

Here is another verse we like to quote part of but don’t always read in full context:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8

Jesus is saying that He will do whatever we wish when we remain in Him, just like delighting in Him and then it is His words (His wishes) in us. The purpose is threefold; to give God glory, to bear fruit and to show that we are His disciples.

Luke 11… Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

So He said to them, When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,[a]
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.[b]
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”[

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread[d] from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

A couple thoughts… Ask is followed up by seek. Could it be to seek God’s will on what we are asking? Then knock, if you look at the story illustrated in the previous verse, it was took knocking, waiting, persisting… Then verse 13 says He will give us the Holy Spirit. So, what we are asking for is His spirit so we can seek His will and be encouraged while we knock, wait and persist. If you look at the verses just before, it is the Lord’s Prayer which says… your will be done… give us our daily bread… just food for thought!

There are other verses we could dig into, but I think it is clear that the Bible is not giving us magic words to use to get what we want. Jesus did not teach that, He taught and modeled a life of obedience and surrender to the God, a life of servanthood. Servants do what their master says. So is God the Lord of all our Life or do we look at Him as a genie in a bottle to get what we want?

 

** As a follow up… Jesus does promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) He promises to give us abundant life (John 10:10) but this life is not always easy (Matthew 7:14). His plans for us are better have we can ask, think or imagine (Ephesians 3:18-20). He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). But to get all He has promised, the life He has promised, we have to be willing to first lose (surrender) our life. (Matthew 10:39)

Raw Christianity – Good Friday 2016

I woke up early this morning and made myself get out of bed. It is so much easier just to sleep than to get up and spend quality time with God. I wish I could say that wasn’t true, I wish I could say that I pop right out of bed at the chance to be alone with God… It’s not that I don’t enjoy time with God and feel alive, invigorated and revived when I hear from my maker, I do, but reality is I’m human and still like the easy way. This reminds me of the disciples in the garden with Jesus the night He was betrayed. Jesus asked Peter, James and John to watch and pray with Him, but they just couldn’t stay awake… So, at least I am in good company 😉 The battle between sleep and prayer was even an issue for Jesus’ closest disciples! But today I win, I am up, spending time with Jesus and writing this, something He has put on my heart for a while… I am not letting sleep win (although tomorrow will probably be another battle).

Anyway, the real focus of my writing today is Peter, one of the guys who also struggled with sleeping as I mentioned above. Peter is one of my favorite disciples. He was quick to act, to speak which meant He experienced some great things with Jesus, walking on water for one, but he also had some epic failures which is why I can really relate to him! One time as they were talking, Jesus asked who people said he was, then who they thought He was. Peter answered right away that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus praised him for his answer (Matthew 16:15-17). Then, just a couple versed later (22-23), Jesus was telling them about His upcoming betrayal, death and resurrection and Peter tries to rebuke Him so Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” Wow, from praise to strong rebuke in a couple verses… this is why I like Peter!

The story that has really challenged me and caused me to write this comes towards the end of Peter’s time with Jesus. It is the night Jesus will be betrayed and Jesus is again telling His disciples what will happen to Him and that they will all scatter. Peter says no, not him… he will die with Jesus before he denies Him. Jesus knows the truth, he tells Peter that before the rooster crows, Peter will deny Jesus three times… Skip ahead a little to after they are awoken in the garden to a group with swords and clubs coming for Jesus. Peter pulls out his sword to fight for Jesus, he cuts off the ear of one of those coming against Jesus. And what does Jesus do? He doesn’t praise him but gently rebukes him and heals the guys ear. Then, we all know what happens. Jesus goes willingly, He knows this is part of the plan, and all of his disciples flee, just as He predicted. Peter does follow, but at a distance and as you probably know, he denies even knowing Jesus three times that night just as Jesus said. (Matthew 26:31-75)

This really got me thinking… I believe Peter was 100% committed when he said he would die for Jesus (and he eventually did), but what he really meant that night was that he would fight for Jesus, he would die in battle, but what Jesus did, what He ask us to do is surrender.

How often do I want to fight for Jesus but not surrender to Him? It is easy to fight for who or what we care about. When it comes to one of the passions in my live, I can fight for them. I fight to defend them, fight to make things happen, fight to keep going… but surrendering my will to Jesus, that is a little harder to do. I think many of us are just like Peter, we want to fight, but not surrender.

The end of the story for Peter is a good ending, Jesus restores their relationship and Peter is one of the leaders of the first church. Peter learned to surrender and He was used by God in great ways!

The question for me, for us is that same… Are we willing to surrender to God’s will instead of fight for our own way?

Today, Good Friday reminds us that Jesus was the ultimate example. He surrendered to the Father’s will. He gave His life… So, when He asks us to surrender, He is not asking us to do anything different than He did.

I am often asked or hear the question, “Why should I go on a mission trip instead of just send the money?”

First, I believe in following what Jesus says. The last command He gave, known as the great commission says “GO into all the world and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

During my trip to Haiti this fall,I spent some time reading the last words Jesus shared with His disciples before he was betrayed and crucified. If I want someone to remember something important, it is usually the last thing I tell them before I go. Jesus had previously summed up the entire law saying we are to love God and love people, love our neighbor (more about that in a bit). What really struck me when I started reading the last words of Jesus was that the last parable in Matthew had to do with taking care of the least of these. Jesus said that someday He would separate His people like a shepherd who separates the sheep and the goats. To the sheep He says, “I was hungry and you feed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison (think here for a second about what that might mean, maybe just a place you are stuck in as well as a real prison) and you came to me… What you did for the least of these you did for me.” To the goats He says …”Depart from me because you have not done these things…” Notice Jesus says you visited me, you came to me… these are action words, they involve personal contact, not just sending money.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus that I think can teach us a lot about this subject is the story of the good Samaritan. In the end, the Samaritan did “give money” and went on his way coming back to check on him, but let’s look at what he did first. The first two men in this story saw the man hurt and walked on the other side of the road, however the Samaritan saw he was hurt and went to him. He bandage the man, he looked him in the eye and opened his arms to help him. I think many times it is easier to walk on the other side of the road and we do this often. We know there are problems in this world, kids starving, people sold into slavery, extreme poverty, people dying… but we choose to walk on the other side of the road, not look these people in the eye, not make it personal. You see going on a trip makes you vulnerable, you are now looking these people in the eye and opening your arms to help them. It doesn’t mean you have to stay forever, like the Samaritan you may have to give money for their care and go on your way to attend to your business but like the first two men in the story, you probably won’t give anything (or very little) until you see these problems as people and make that personal connection. I could put a picture of a malnourished baby on the street and many would walk by and not notice, not give. However if I put that same baby in your hands, your heart will be moved to help her.

In Acts 2 Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem (local), Judea (national), Samaria (cross culture) and to the ends of the earth (international).” I think it is clear, God wants us to go, He gives us His power to Go… Isaiah 6:8, I heard the voice of the Lord saying “Who will go, who should I send”… and I said, “Here I am, send me.”

Gifts for a King

What gifts should we bring before the King this Christmas? There are two stories that I believe show us how we can bring gifts before Jesus this Christmas.

The first is the story of the Wise Men. The wise men looked for Jesus, they came to Jesus. That is really the first and most important gift we can ever give to our God, to watch for Him in our lives, to search for Him, to be present with Him! However, the wise men don’t end there, they bring gifts of value to give the King.

The second story is not recorded in the Bible but passed down as a legend. True or not, we can learn from this too, the story of the drummer boy.

According to legend, there was once a young boy who was asleep in his house. A sudden sound woke him up and he was startled to find a parade taking place right outside his house. As a child, this young boy called Zach, was fascinated with parades and always wanted to be a part of it. He would often dream about dressing up and marching with others in the parade while playing the drum. Incidentally, Zach’s parents gifted him with a drum set for his birthday the previous year, and seeing the parade taking place outside his house, Zach realized that it was his only chance to get out, play the drums and be a part of the colorful gala.

He was stunned to see that the people who were parading outside were not ordinary men and women. They looked like wealthy people who were sitting on camels and were richly dressed. There were servants who led these camels, and Zach believed that this parade was headed towards Herod’s palace.

Therefore, like any other inquisitive 12 year old, Zack slipped out of his house, making sure not to awaken his parents and took his drum with him. Once he crept out of the door, he began playing the drums once he got in line with the parade; somewhere behind the last camel. He was unsure of where the big group was headed to, and he began to get carried away with his drum. He forgot that the people in Jerusalem were sleeping and all the noise that he was making, might actually awaken them. People scowled, yelled and even threw stones at poor little Zack, but he refused to stop playing. Little did Zack know that the parade was actually headed towards Bethlehem, and that he was headed towards a shed where a baby boy was born.

The people knew right away that the new born baby was special because there was a single star that shone brightly in the sky above. All the wise men on the camels and the shepherds who were part of the parade carried princely gifts with them, but little Zack had nothing with him, but his drum. Zack noticed that the poorest widow at the shed also had something to present to the newborn, and gave in everything that she required to live, to this unique child.

After all the other onlookers had left, the little drummer boy stood alone in the shed; his presence unnoticed. He was disappointed for not having brought a single gift with him. Without knowing what to do next, he began playing his drum, slow at first and then loud. Legend states, that Baby Jesus responded to the sound, turned his head towards the drummer boy and smiled; the first response to any gift presented to him on this special day. The drummer boy was no longer sad, as he believed that he presented Baby Jesus with the greatest gift of all; the gift of love.

I believe these stories illustrate the gifts we should all bring to the King. The first gift is the gift of your presence. To watch for God’s work in our lives, to seek to be near Him as the wise men and Zack, the drummer boy did. Then we should bring gifts of value (or our money/wealth) as the Wise Men did. Today that doesn’t look like expensive boxes filled with gold presented to a poor family in a stable but it is our financial gifts given to the poor of this world. The drummer boy also shows us another girt we can bring, that is our time and talents. This can be in spending time with God and also using your time and your talents to serve people. A talent doesn’t have to be something big, in Haiti holding and loving the kids is a talent and a way to love God.

 

 

February 2014 Haiti Trip – New Orphanages!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Haiti Feb 2014Haiti Trip February 2014

This trip started with an interesting plane ride. On our way to Haiti we had a connection in Fort Lauderdale. As we were coming in to land the plan e all of a sudden took off again. After flying around for about 10 minutes the pilot told us that the flaps were not working which meant the landing would be fast and hard. He was worried about us blowing a tire and they told us how to brace for impact. Then we went down to land again and again took off. This time the pilot said we were coming in too fast and he needed to lighten the load so he went and dumped fuel. When we were coming in to land for the third time, everyone was praying. My dad, Mike Bertram lead a prayer for the plane and we miraculously landed OK! (I think God had something to do with that!) There were dozens of fire and rescue truck waiting for us on the ground which just confirmed how serious our situation was. Thank God for a safe landing! He had great plans for us on this trip!

We went to Haiti supporting one orphanage with 19 kids – we came home with three orphanages to support and 80 kids total! Here’s how.

On Monday, we went to help organize medical supplies for the TB and HIV clinic that is run by American doctors. We learned Haiti doesn’t want a TB clinic because then that means they have a TB problem (I know, great reasoning). Anyway, Dr. Coffee who runs the clinic has become a source of referrals for us as she deals with sick AIDS and TB patients. We wanted to help her out and get to know her a little better as she has taken care of our kids. That was our plan, however I think God had another plan as well. While helping organize the supplies at her base camp, we meet another American girl who was there visiting a child she supports as well as local orphanages. She told us about a couple orphanages with no constant support, not even enough for food. That was enough for us to want to visit these orphanages too.

Tuesday and Wednesday we visited these orphanages in the morning and spent time with the CHOIAIDS kids in the afternoon. The first has 35 kids, most between the ages of 5 and 12 however some older and some younger. It is a spacious area with plenty of bunk beds and a big outside courtyard to play. All the kids were all dressed in matching blue shirts or dresses with tan shorts that the wife had made. This orphanage is run by a couple with really no other help other than that of their daughter. Washing clothes and bed sheets and cooking and doing school…too much for two people to do. They were out of money for food for the month and also out of gas for their stove which left them to cook the rice they had left over the open fire causing much smoke. The kids were as all kids, so cute. They took pictures for us (seems all kids like to use electronics) and danced to the music we brought (I wish I had their moves).

The second orphanage we visited had 26 kids, 20 of them were under the age of 5. This orphanage also didn’t have any continuous support which means not enough food. Most of the kids were small, a couple 18month old little boys were the size of a small 7 month old and were not able to crawl or stand even with help because of the malnourishment. All the kids were quite, they didn’t have the typical energy of toddlers which is an effect of not having the right food. They would just sit our our laps and want to be held. It seems the couple running the orphanage were nice and loving with the kids but it is like growing up in a daycare, they don’t get all the attention they need. The couple that ran the orphanage said that they could feed the kids on $300 a month, however that is a basic diet of rice and beans and cornmeal, not proper nutrition. This orphanage really captured our hearts! We paid for food for them for the month and we also bought mattress for the beds (on many of the beds they only had blankets) along with a propane stove to make cooking easier and healthy than an indoor fire for them.

On Thursday after spending time with the kids we then went to judge the business plans of the s participants in the Personal Success and Business Planning workshop lead for three days by Jim Kackley from our team along with Pastor Renes (a local Pastor we work with and stay with while we are in Haiti. This workshop was a great success! Jim is a great teacher, he helped participants learn how to think through a business plan for themselves. This is important because going to get a job in Haiti is really hard as there are not many jobs so people have to think with an entrepreneurial mind. Pastor Renes wants to start an entrepreneurial center to help people succeed – this was the first step. Pastor Renes is planning on coming to Wisconsin this spring to work with Jim to set up curriculum for this new center. We are excited about this because it is a step to help Haiti get out of poverty and preventing some of the issues that come with poverty such as people having to take their kids to orphanages.

On Friday we celebrated Valentine’s day by taking two orphanages (the CHOAIDS orphanage and the new little orphanage) to the beach. Going to the beach is a huge deal for these kids who never get to go anywhere. It is great to see the CHOAIDS kids swimming better each year we go! The little kids were also very cute. Some of them were a little cautious and just enjoyed sitting on the edge and throwing rocks in. Some however loved going out in the water with us and would get the biggest smile on their face! For lunch we made hot dogs and smores – they loved them! Each kid probably had 2 or 3 hotdogs (we cooked 150) and a couple smores (we used 5 boxes of graham crackers and 4 bags of marshmallows)! Everyone was sleepy on the way back. Saying good bye that night was hard, especially with the CHOAIDS kids as they are older and understand more so they are all crying when we have to leave.

We come home with the kids on our hearts. We cannot see kids in such need and not help. We want to support these new orphanages too. In order to do so in the right way, we will need to raise more support as it will cost about $2000 a month to properly support them and provide the food and care they need.

Why?… Why not?

 

I believe we were created by God to serve others. I also believe that if we all did what we were called to do, this world won’t be in the mess it is. The problem is illustrated in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. The first two who passed by in the tale walked on the other side of the road and, in my interpretation, pretended not to see the problem. It is easier not to see. How many times do we, as Americans do that? We pretend the problems in this world don’t exist or at least they are not our problem. We don’t want to get close, don’t want to look at those hurting in the eye… I don’t want to do that. It is a battle I fight all the time. I don’t want to sit in my comfortable house watching my big screen TV, pretending there is no problems in the world. I want to see! I want to do whatever I can to help.

My work with CHOAIDS is not all that I do service wise, but it has made the most impact in the past year both to them and to me, my team. I have attached a picture of our first trip. I think the picture says it all… I felt total despair. I cried when we left overwhelmed by the conditions (physical and emotional) these kids (and I know many others) were living in. I had been praying for a place I/we (my team and community) could partner with so we could see the changes happen. This was it.

It is hard to even describe the changes we have seen in CHOAIDS. Since we meet them, we have moved them to a new (bigger and leaner house), improved their diet, enrolled them in a new school and, most importantly, gave them a family who loves them. These kids were abandoned, some beaten or thrown out with the trash by their families because they were sick. Providing for their needs showed them we care, not just when we are there but all the time. We went to celebrate World Aids Day with them in December 2011. The put on a program for us that included singing, dancing and poetry… all in Creole so none of us understood the words, but all of us understood them. They sang and danced with pride. They were no longer abandoned… they felt the love of a family. They had American mamas and papa’s watching them along with the Haitian staff. I don’t think there was one dry eye on our team. Some of us were crying just thinking of the huge change we saw in them, others who were on their first trip cried because we were it, we are their family.

Back to the story of the Good Samaritan… there are three things he did which I think we can all learn from. One, he saw. He choose not to walk on the other side of the road but to look at the problem, see the hurt in the eyes of the victim. Two, he physically cared for him. He touched him, carried him, spoke with him, and treated him like he mattered. Three, he paid for the man’s care when he could no longer be there. I am often asked why I don’t move to Haiti and run things there. The answer is simple. It is not what I feel called to do. If I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t be able to send money there. I think it is great for those who do leave everything here to go there (wherever there might be for them) but I also know they need money to do anything. I believe God has blessed me with a good job here so I can send money. It took money to move CHOAIDS, it takes money to feed them and provide clean water. I do however believe we are all called to do all three things the Good Samaritan did- see, touch, and give. I love taking people to see, to touch. Everyone who goes comes back changed and will give with a new sense of purpose. I love to go, to touch the kids – hug them, play with them, dance with them… and then I/we come home and pay for their care in our absence.

I was once asked why I give so much to these kids; they are not all my responsibility. Really, whose responsibility are they? Who is going to care for them if I/we don’t? The same person came on the next trip with me and by the end they understood. When you look them in the eye, how can you walk away? How can you not do what is in your power to do?

My motives in helping CHOAIDS along with everything else I do in life are simple, I want to honor God and live the way He asks me to. I plan to continue with CHOAIDS forever. To see those kids grow up and help them follow their dreams. I/we are also partnering with a couple local Haiti pastors who are serving their communities. We want to see their transformations – see people be able to care for themselves, feed their kids and provide them with education. We want to be part of the transformation in Haiti. I also run a local teen center here. I want to see them get a “Good Samaritan” vision for their life.