If you want something done right, do it yourself

 

Sou showing us how dragonfruit cutting is done

Sou showing us how dragonfruit cutting is done

Ok, let me first caveat this with your way isn’t always the only way and your way isn’t always the right way. Also, what works isn’t always right either, it’s just enough.

So this past week has been slightly frustrating. Incredibly rewarding but frustrating nonetheless. I have been on the phone with at least eight different countries and many parties were involved in this whole shindig. We were setting up for a large international conference and there were so many odds and ends details that needed to be settled when it came down to the wire. I was working with the hotel, the tour agency, the church organization and the organization I was working with.

Many moments, it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen and at the same time, it felt like not enough. Information was sporadic and held in too many places making it incredibly difficult to find out what I actually needed to know or even know what I needed to know. It’s amazing and an utter miracle that we pulled this off in such a short amount of time. The event went seamless and no one even noticed the little mishaps. However, I find that when you are working in a spirit of excellence and doing all you can, there’s an incredible grace to cover those mistakes.

Anyway, back to the subject. Many times, we either had a lack of information, misinformation or miscommunication. In the end, what I found is that even if I delegated the job, it wouldn’t have been done right simply from lack of training or an inability to communicate accurately how it needs to be done. This is where that funky title comes from.

You can’t ask someone to do something that they have never seen before or you are a sure winner of disappointment. Just like children grow up learning from their environment, everyone is the same even when older. Life is a learning process. We are continuously learning. We need our environments and the people around us to teach us the way things are done and done right. There are levels of right and of excellence so make sure we are all growing in that as well with the people around us that know more and have experienced more.

So that brings me back to the point, if you want things done the right way that you know others have not experienced, make sure you’re the first to try it out. Show others what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Demonstrate the fruit of the results. Make it a replicable process but also one that allows growth in another by allowing them to input their creativity to make what you have given them even better. This is where I have trouble with internships. Many people need an extra hand that they don’t want to pay full price for or even at all, not an intern. An intern means that you know how to do their job better than the interns do. You have to be a teacher, demonstrating all that needs to be done. An intern means you have learning that is valuable for them to get from you! So let’s get real. Don’t be frustrated that someone isn’t doing something right or better, simply show them the higher road!

“let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” Proverbs 1:5

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Reporting from the front lines

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Sou praying a blessing over her kids, grown up from the homes, who visited her on a family holiday

It’s been a learning experience to work with an NGO, especially one that actually helps people. I’ve observed many throughout the years and I was dumbfounded by the amount of inefficiency and bureaucracy it involved to help someone. As a consultant, it drove me crazy. What made it worse was that it was accepted as the way of life. I’m sure this is a generalized statement that doesn’t affect every NGO but the many that I observed hadn’t quite differentiated themselves from this observation.

I feel as though I have seen many ups and downs while I’ve been here. Funding has been quite the topic, which I presume to be a headline for most NGOs. There are so many people to help and not enough money to go around. I think about my days in America, I considered helping but hadn’t always taken that extra step to do something about it. However, how was I really to judge whether or not to do it without any sort of investment in checking them out?

I love the heart of the leaders here because that’s exactly what they want you to do. The first place they took me after getting off the plane was their training center/church/orphan home/medical clinic/factory women’s dorm/etc. It’s a place for many things. Here, we not only got to see some of the coolest projects they are working on to step towards self-sufficiency but we got to meet some of these darn cute kids. I was surprised even on that day just how healthy they were, in all facets! I could see exactly where my money would go if I were to help and I wouldn’t have given a second look before I did it. Each day, I am more and more convinced of the legitimacy of this place.

Anyway, in a place like America, where our comforts are so convenient, it’s so easy to lose sight of the important things like helping the poor, weak and hopeless. Perhaps, we might go to a soup kitchen or something like that every once in a while. Here, on the front lines, I feel and sense the urgency of it all. It’s not just some kid thousands of miles away. It’s a kid that I’ve met and have gotten to know. It’s his/her life and care that depends on me to do my job to the best of my abilities. The sense of purpose is so much greater here than I’ve ever experienced before.

I realized the quality of a leader is often confirmed by his/her subordinates when trials occur. Recently, Ted has been on a trip to the states and Sou, his wife and co-leader, has been in charge of all the affairs here. A few days ago, Sou got sick and I realized just what kind of woman she is. I remember the days of being under a bad leader. A sick leader meant freedom and breathing room. Here, everyone congregated to their leader in a time of her trial. While on her sickbed unable to decipher what’s before her nose, I saw the boys who grew up in her homes standing watch on the porch in concern and intercession for Sou. People have prayed and visited. Two of her kids from the homes (who are now married and have 3 children, pictured above) even visited her on this holiday that celebrates families with gifts appropriate for a mother. This is all in a span of 24 hours or so… and I could tell you even more stories. The level of concern and care is truly family. It’s inspiring and gives you a new sense and value of family.

It’s one thing to “put your heart into the work” as Andrew Carnegie would say. But it’s completely something else putting your life into it. I have heard and seen their resolution to give up everything that has any value in the world, and they have, but especially sentimentally so that their children and their staff can be cared for. Such abandon!?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8

The secret to the happiest kids on earth

I have been privileged for the last week and will be for the next few months to be working with FCOP International (web redesign in the works). I’m astounded for all the things that are happening through this organization. Right now, they care for 3000 orphans and 600 local Cambodian staff. Talk about large-scale! They’ve had over 15,000 children come through their homes (there’s 106 of them)! Almost all of them are passionately following Jesus and are productive members of society restoring health and wealth back into the Cambodian nation. I love their model and desire to see each person healed in body, soul and spirit. Their love is absolutely extravagant and incredible.

What really surprised me was how they married the secular with the Christian. Oftentimes, there’s too much of one or the other. But really, when we consider “let Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we have to remember that heaven is supposed to appear on earth. There are what seems like a million micro-enterprises and some greater enterprises (many in the works). I love how Paul recommends to the Thessalonians to be laborers and be a light to society. This is what they’re doing here. Each home has micro-enterprises that help sustain them when we don’t have enough donations come through. It’s a large scale operation that needs a lot of money. There are projects that need to happen to bring self-sustaining to be a reality here. We have large scale operations in the works that can produce enough revenue when up and running to support every home and not depend on a single donor barring any natural disasters.

I came here thinking, I have so much to give and I want to give it all. Yesterday, we visited some homes in the river (yes, in the river). I got to play with many children, and seriously, they are the happiest kids on earth. I have yet to visit a home that I haven’t felt that way about. Sure, you can tell which ones are newer. They’re a little bit shyer and perhaps a bit more aggressive. However, you look at the other kids and you know their fate. They will be so full of love that those things will not last in their hearts. I left the houses realizing that I came here to give but really, they have so much more to give than I do.

I was surprised at the authority and respect that the kids give to the organization leaders. They affectionately call the leaders, Ted and Sou, Big Pa and Big Grandma or Big Ma (I guess that depends on the age of the children). I have yet to see children in tattered clothing or famished beyond recognition. They are treated like normal kids but according to Cambodian standards, they are treated even better than that. They run each home like a real family having a caretaker for every five children. These caretakers are often widows who have nowhere else to go. Yesterday, we were handing out the apples but lovingly, Sou would correct the children as she desired each of her (yes, she considers them her own) children to have manners and respect their elders. They joyfully and lovingly accepted the correction. Wow, how many kids have we seen do that on the first try!

The impossibilities are a reality here and I get to live in that reality everyday. What a joy that is! What a joy to even participate in what they are doing here. Family really makes it a difference. Our hearts make a difference. Sometimes we focus too much on the objective that we lose sight of the people before us. But really, it’s the people before us that gives us parameters for the goals that we set and in the midst of pursuing their health, welfare and wealth, our goals become a reality.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Ventures into Cambodia

It’s crazy that I’ve only been here three days. I feel like I’ve seen so much and experienced even more.

Daily Catch

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As I’m getting ready to leave Tanzania, I thought it a great idea to climb up Kilimanjaro (part-way) and take a trip to Zanzibar, two of the world’s most stunning places. I spent about four days in Zanzibar. It was a great little escape from the desolation and the poverty that strikes pretty much across the whole of Tanzania. When I was standing at the beautiful beaches, watching and hearing the waves crashing again and again, seeing the beautiful blue waters and feeling the soft grains of sand against my feet (when the shells aren’t being nature’s legos), I almost forgot what I’ve been privy to for the past month and a half.

There’s a beauty in natural creation that is often hard to find where the people are. We often misuse and abuse what’s around us by the very things we create. When we were at the village, I was heartbroken by the garbage that laid waste upon the same land that the children were playing. Many children did not even wear shoes. I watched as one child tried to take a nail that had dug through her worn out flip flops. She couldn’t pull it with her hand so she started to use her teeth to remove an old nail out of her shoe!

Anyway, I went out to the beach early one morning, completed captivated by the view and the surround sound of heaven. In that hour, there was also a boat full of men ready to grab their catch for the day. It struck me in that moment, I may be enjoying that beautiful scene but there are people in that very moment looking for their means of survival. I thought about how many opportunities to see glorious things I had missed due to being so focused on what I needed to do. It sometimes requires us to step out of something to really recognize the true beauty around us. I saw that happening all week as my eyes were opened to the things I had really seen in my time here in Africa. In the midst of the challenges and the hardships and what looks like impossible situations for others, there is a marvelous wonder that we can catch. Just like the men on the boat, we may miss what is beautiful for what is necessary. It may require us to stop for a moment so we can see, hear and feel what is truly spectacular.

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:2

Communities that inspire

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Today, I would like to feature my friend, Colleen. We’ve really been through a lot together. So much that when you look back, it’s as if it was the normal. Our journey began a little over a year ago in Brazil and now we’re here together in Tanzania. Who really would have thunk?

I felt like I’ve been on a journey for the past three years learning what community really meant. I went from hiding from everyone to finding a few safe friends and now I get the freedom and joy to say I have relationships founded upon truth and love.

So, this friend of mine, let me share with you just how inspiring she is. She also reminds me of another good friend, Rona. They both have this firy passion that is completely untamed. You’ll even find similar histories and desires to jump out of planes from thousands… did I mention thousands of feet in the air. Anyway, today, it hit me. I only have about two more weeks here in Tanzania with this friend. Throughout this trip, we literally have written chapters in our friendship history. I never had a sister but it’s always been a desire. I feel as though God is honoring that request of mine.

Through Colleen, I feel like I’m really learning what God means when he says, love one another. There aren’t many friends who would find compassion on you when you walk in sick into her room at 2:30 in the morning. Knowing her, she was probably off in a wonderful dreamland. I also have seen her consider me more highly than herself on so many days even disregarding her own needs to take care of mine like missing out on ministry to read 16 books of the bible while I lay sick in bed because I couldn’t do anything but listen. She’s utterly considerate even in the smallest things like letting me take my showers first knowing that she’s probably in for another cold shower. She’s willing to share everything of hers simply because she counts me more valuable than what she owns.

It’s absolutely inspiring to be on the other end of that much love. It changes you because you realize the gaps between you and what real community is all about. When you think you have nothing left to give and you see someone giving still in the midst of their need, you see how much you still have. You start to understand even more how asking doesn’t make you weak but solidifies and strengthens your community. Being vulnerable allows others to be ok in front of you in times of need. Being in community, you understand you don’t need to be perfect in every way but you can support each other to make a stronger picture of perfection together.

“A friend loves at all times but a brother is born for adversity” Proverbs 17:17

Discovering the unknown

Arts and crafts with the children in Digo Digo, Sonjo, Tanzania

Arts and crafts with the children in Digo Digo, Sonjo, Tanzania

In the midst of hundreds of black faces, I was tagged along with the other “white” folk. As an Asian, I tried my hardest to tell them I was different. However, my slightly tinted skin was hardly the measure for being different. I tried with my hair as well and while the children were intrigued, they really could care less about my explanations. Really, we were different and they just simply had never seen anyone like us before. Perhaps one day they’ll understand but really it wasn’t my purpose to be there anyway. It did give me a great talking point to get to know them though.

I should explain, the last week, I spent some time in two remote villages of the Sonjo Tanzanian tribes. What I wanted to share was irrelevant because they were simply terrified of what looked like human beings that had some sort of white on them. Yes, they did try to rub off our skin color. Sharing and community is such a vital part of who we are as people but we often neglect how to actually do such things.

At first, the children would simply run away from us. I would have thought they thought the bubbles were bullets by the way they bolted away from it. We simply had to give them a chance to get to know us and a chance to let down their walls from us. It was a really beautiful thing when the children shouted our names and couldn’t help but climb all over us and our things.

What really surprised me was this one little boy, let’s call him Finnigan. He showed up with his nose running and shirt tattered. Unlike the other kids, he was the first to approach me and he didn’t run away except for the fact he wanted me to chase him. He would bring other kids to me to show them that I was harmless. Once that was all cleared up, the chasing game was a big hit. Obviously, this kid was a leader, simply a little rough around the edges.

I love how in the small situations that the real you, the you that is often overshadowed by life, automatically comes out. This child was a bit outcasted from what I could see. He didn’t seem to be very liked by the other children but he influenced so many that day. It was just a moment and it was just a decision. He chose to be unafraid and everyone saw how great a leader he was leading others to be fearless too. I’m excited to see where this kid will go. It’s already in the works to get him in through the proper channels to give him a chance.

It always broke my heart to see how talent, opportunity and resources were so unmatched. I find myself feeling blessed and grateful often when I think of how they were so aligned as I grew up. But I also know that I have yet to discover all of my hidden talents. I wonder what they are. Have you discovered yours?

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27