Jun 162014
 

So, I’ve been watching a fair amount of World Cup this past weekend.   

And while watching it, I learned something about making a difference.  Actually I learned more than one thing.    And they apply to life and they apply to missions, to helping the poor, to helping the orphans of the world.

Straight Lines rarely work.   Watch the ball in one of the soccer games.   Rarely does it go in a straight line.    Many times it goes backwards before it can go forward.   Many times a team needs to send the ball backwards before it can go forward.    Many times the other team takes the ball and sends it in a direction you don’t want it to go.

Think about it…..

  • How often do the plans that a non-profit makes go in a straight line?    Rarely.    There’s a lot of detours, plans that have to change, reassessment of what works and what doesn’t.
  • How often do obstacles make an organization have to back up and take a 2nd (or third or fourth) look at the way to proceed?

If you are going to be successful as a soccer team, you have to be flexible, you have to be willing to work, to revise plans and to adjust to the realities of what is happening on the field.

If you are going to be successful as a __________, (repeat above)

 

The Main Thing need to always be the Main Thing – even in light of constant evaluations, reevaluations, adjustments and back tracking, it’s important, no actually, it’s crucial to keep the main thing the main thing.

What’s the main thing in soccer?   Score more goals and stop your opponent.

What’s the main thing?

Do no harm and leave the world in a better way than when you found it.   Use the resources you’ve been entrusted with to impact the lives of those who  need help.

 

Straight Lines rarely work, but always keep the main thing the main thing.

The World Cup and non-profit work – who would have thought…….

Tom

Jun 122014
 

We’ve all heard the phrase and probably even told other people it.    Especially when facing a very large and daunting task.   “Don’t just stand there, do something!”

The thinking is that something is better than nothing.   If you have a yard full of maple trees and a lot of leaves that have fallen, don’t just stand there, do something.    It doesn’t matter what, where or how you do it, but start tackling the problem.” 

If you have 57,000 diapers that need to be loaded on a container, “don’t just stand there, do something” applies very well.

There are many other situations where doing “anything” is better than doing nothing.

But I would like to bring up an alternative theory.   What if “Don’t just stand there, do something!” is backwards?

What if doing something is actually worse than doing nothing?

What if rushing in causes more harm than good?

What if “do something” causes the problem to continue and has no long term positive results?

Instead, I think the saying should be, “Don’t do something, just stand there…….”

Just stand there and read about the culture.  And realize that unless you are working in your own neighborhood, you don’t know the culture, you don’t know the background and it would be presumptuous to assume that you do.

Just stand there and learn from the experienced people (note, I didn’t call them experts, just experienced).

Just stand there and ask some hard questions about the organization that you want to support, their goals, their financial information, their transparency and their experience levels.

Just stand there and think about how you would feel if someone from another country came and “did that” in your neighborhood.

Just stand there and pray about what God wants you to do.

Just stand there and think about why you want to do “this.”   Is it for your personal reasons?   Or is it what God has called you to?   Or is it………

Just stand there and look for God and try to see what He is up to.

 

And once you’ve stood there and thought, read, prayed, learned, analyzed and looked, then decide what God wants you to do and how to make a difference.

That’s when it’s time to “Do Something.”

Tom
tom@thevulnerableproject.org

May 212014
 

In the last week in Haiti, there have been 4 incidents of horrific violence that have impacted friends of mine.   While they are physically unharmed, they have lost friends and they have seen and felt things that are so big and so ugly that it is truly heartbreaking.

You can read her recounting of one of the stories at http://www.haitifoundationagainstpoverty.blogspot.com/2014/05/we-cannot-unsee.html.   Warning – make sure you read her disclaimer at the top of the post.

Two other of my friends are currently in Haiti.   They are training mental health professionals (Haitians) on the impacts of trauma on children and the long term destruction (her word, not mine, but I agree) of the lives of children and its impact on the future of Haiti.   Sobering to say the least, heart wrenching to more accurately describe it.

You can read her “Short Sermon” at http://sahzu.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/a-short-sermon/.

So, if you read both of those posts, you’ll know a good part of the reason that I was up until after 1:00 this morning.  Heavy, heavy stuff.

This morning, as I’m driving back from bringing my daughter to school, this phrase from “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss popped into my mind:

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”

― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

No, I’m not suggesting giving up.    God doesn’t give up on us, so we don’t give up on fellow man, especially on the vulnerable women and children who are the ones most in need (Read Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect – it will scare you).

Instead, I’m suggesting, proposing that we take an additional approach to fighting this battle.

Continue with the physical aid that is being offered to those who are in need of help.   But ramp it up on the spiritual side.

Acknowledge more openly that we are fighting the devil and fight back with a concerted effort at more and more focused prayer on behalf of those who are being impacted by poverty, by disease, by violence and by the devil’s efforts to make it harder for the good to triumph in this world.

What is this prayer effort going to look like?    Frankly, I don’t know.

I just know that God says that He will win the war but He wants us to be his prayer warriors.

If you have ideas or want to be part of whatever “it” might be, leave a note in the comments or e-mail me at thomas.vanderwell@gmail.com.

This mess is so big that we can’t pick it up all by our selves.

But I know someone who can and will.   The question is when and how.

Tom

Apr 222014
 

Why would someone consider voluntarily relinquishing their child and putting them up for adoption?   A horribly difficult decision and one that too many parents face too often. It almost always comes down to resources – but not always the resources that you might think. Economic Resources – there are some who bring their child(ren) to an orphanage for strictly economic reasons.   They don’t have the ability to provide food and the basic necessities of life for their child.   Now a couple of questions that come with that:

  • Is their inability to provide the economic necessities of life a long term situation or is it because of a short term event?    Short term event – like a drought or a hurricane wiping out their crops?   Or the death of a parent?   Or the loss of a job?   Is it something where relatively short term assistance could help them get back on their feet?
  • Or is the inability to provide a bigger issue?   Like a lack of industry?   A lack of the ability to read?   A lack of job training?  The unaffordability of decent housing (decent according to that country’s standards?

The answer to those questions determine, in many ways, the appropriate way to help.    If it’s a short term “thing,” then helping with short term assistance of food etc. might be appropriate.   If it’s a bigger issue, then job training, education, housing assistance might be the way to help. Emotional Resources – lets face it, being a parent is hard work.    And living in a place like Haiti or Uganda or the Congo is hard work.    So when you are a parent in one of these countries, it’s doubly hard.    Now throw in the fact that many of these parents are single parents due to a wide variety of reasons and it’s even harder. Many times biological parents need emotional support.   They need to know they aren’t in this alone.   They need to know that there are people and ways they can get help when they need it.   Just knowing that provides them with the support they need to keep going. Medical Resources – in places like Haiti, 20% of the children don’t live to celebrate their 5th birthday.   Unfortunately many of them die from diseases that could be prevented or cured in the first world.    So many biological parents are forced to bring their children to an orphanage if they get seriously ill.    If there were more hospitals and more access to affordable health care in the 3rd world, more children could be cured medically AND be able to stay with their birth family. Safety Resources – consider the impact of homelessness on safety.   Consider the impact of living under a tarp in a “tent city” that is “ruled” by gangs.    Consider not having the ability to keep your young daughters safe from sexual violence?   That’s another one of the resources that causes birth parents to bring their children to an orphanage.    They don’t feel like they can keep them safe, so they bring them to someone who they feel/hope/think can keep them safe. Each of these categories of need can be addressed. But it’s messy.    And hard. We’ll talk more about that coming up in the future. Tom