Thursday, July 22, 2010

Neurotoxins in my shampoo. Which goes on my head. Awesome.

I'm officially freaked out. This is not directly related to Haiti, but is related to our general call to stewardship of our bodies and our home (planet).

Want to know what chemicals are in your favorite cosmetics/lotions/sunscreens/beauty products?

Want to know how your products rank in toxicity, or which of its ingredients are neurotoxins, or harm your fertility/hormones, or cause cancer?

I typed in the lotion I used not one hour ago after exiting the shower. It apparently contains two chemicals that are banned in Japan because of their ability to cause reproductive problems even at very low doses, as well as one chemical known to cause cancer even at very low doses.

My sunscreen apparently only ranks a 4 out of 10 in effectiveness, and over 70% of other sunscreens rank higher in the only thing I care about a suncreen being able to do- block the sun's rays.

My Physicians Formula bronzer, which I bought specifically because it is labeled as organic, ranks a 7 (10 is the worst) for toxic chemicals, including 5 carcinogens, 4 nervous system toxicants, 4 endocrine system toxins, and 7 toxins causing developmental/reproductive damage (see the full list of its toxic contents here).


When it is not 1 am, I am sitting down to do more research- if I can use this site to find the ugly stuff, I must be able to find something I can buy at a CVS or Walgreens that won't poison my future children and mutate my cells.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What If?

Not long ago, a spiritual mentor of mine wrote about how the most powerful question in the world is a tiny one:

What if?

He challenged us to take a minute and let your mind go wild. Write a few.

What if we lived like these powerful quotes below- literally? Literally sharing my bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless into my house, covering the naken with things from my closet?

Let it be, for the sake of your kingdom.

May we, by the power of your Spirit, truly fast as you desire: loosing the bonds of injustice, letting the oppressed go free, and breaking every yoke; sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless poor into our houses; covering the naked and satisfying the needs of the afflicted. Let it be, for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.

-Isaiah 58.

The man who sweats under his mask, whose role makes him itch with discomfort, who hates the division in himself, is already beginning to be free. But God help him if all he wants is the mask the other man is wearing, just because the other one does not seem to be sweating or itching. Maybe he is no longer human enough to itch.
— Thomas Merton

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
-Robert Kennedy

Do it. Right now. Me too.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot Off The Press

The first question many people ask us is some variation of "so how is Haiti doing now? Is rebuilding happening?" Others have written excellent answers to that question. Here are some articles that are rocking my world.

It seems to me, from reading newspaper articles, that everyone wants Haiti to rebuild, but no one actually wants to get their hands dirty with work. The finger pointing is rampant. The Haitian government thinks the international community is at fault, and the international community is waiting for the Haitian government to have a plan. Meanwhile, in the tent cities people keep living a life that is appalling. But one thing they can all agree on? Regardless of results, everyone is winning medals (by Al Jazeera, of all people!).

How can anyone rebuild or repair anything when there is no money? Lately I am fully of indignation at the reports that only 10% of the $5.3 billion in aid promised to rebuild Haiti has been dispersed. I am ashamed to learn that none of the $900 million promised by the USA has be dispersed. Where is it? Stuck in Congress. Held up because of disagreements over state aid that have nothing to do with Haiti. The World Bank has an interesting take here.

One of the reasons for the slow relief effort is Haitian Customs. Everyone knows they are the most crooked and corrupt of government agencies. And don't even get me started on Transitional Shelters. Only 5,000 of the 125,000 temporary shelters promised by the international community have been built.

For Further Reading:
This article quotes Tim Banks, a great missionary and my boss' boss. So naturally, I think he is a kind and loving man, Christlike, with strong leadership skills, a great visionary. Someone to be feared, respected and sucked up to.
This one from the BBC is good, too.
This article describes a very funny hoax by CRIME (Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti).
This one is a heartwarmer. If after all of this you need something of a feel good story, here it is.

Pray that politicans and bureaucrats get out of the way and supplies and aid to rebuild start arriving.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Youth Camp

Our two weeks of camp are now history. We're home. Laundry is done, a good night's catch-up sleep is had, and we're leaving for the camp reflection service in one hour. What amazing, action-packed weeks. This post and last contain photos taken by our favorite media gurus, and we'll post our personal photos in the next few days.

Youth camp revolves around family groups, which contain about 15 teenagers between 7th and 12th grade. This year's theme: cereals. My team, the Cheerios, was clearly the best:)
The Cheerios were so wonderful. I loved each and every one of them. We carried around yellow hula hoops, a giant Cheerio-box-lookalike banner, and orange camo bandanas. Oh, and don't forget the Cheerio necklaces. You can see me wearing about 12 of them in the top photo.
We had Bible study every morning. I loved teaching. Yep, that's a pink Silly Band on my wrist, and a Kianga bracelet straight from Nairobi. You can buy one and support AIDS widows here (plus they're really cool).

As a Baylor girl, I had lots of yellow to wear:)
I love this youth group. It's a place where everybody gets loved. I've done children's ministry camp for 8 years, but this was my first youth camp since I was a high school student. It was really neat that I had so many of these teenagers when they were 5th graders at children's camp- so neat to see them growing and maturing.
I love this little family! O was our flower girl and their parents are some of our dearest friends. They are very faithful servants to the kids and teens at our church, so of course the kiddos get to visit camp. They love golf carts, snow cones, and cheering on their dad's family group.
One of the neat parts of camp is Big/Littles.
Good clean fun.
The Supernova Relay is the final event of The Games, recreation competition for all the family groups. Spirit points are key, so teams go all out. One of my 12th grade guys went to the extreme in personal devotion to the Cheerio cause. Here he is doing the final event of the Supernova Relay- eat a banana, drink a 7-Up (actual way it works: smash a banana on your face, shake up and explode a 7-Up).
Jon and Emily leading worship.
One of the Big/Little Bro pairs from the Cheerios spent some quiet time together.
Free time.
Time with Jesus.
One of my two Cheerio senior guys paints the other. Yes, that is spray paint. Real spray paint. I brought it to paint our group sign, but it wound up on bodies. Yikes.
Spirit points make you do silly things.
Ben made sure to celebrate with the seniors who will be attending his alma mater.
The whole group. Other fun signs- Wheaties (the yellow spoon) and Count Chocula (the white I-shaped sign with the black vampire cape on it).

We loved this week so much.



 I have spent the last two weeks doing what I love to do the most. Working with students.

First with 5th grade boys, then with middle and high school students. I got to do all of this with my wife and a handful of close friends.

The first week was challenging. It confronted most of my assumptions about 11-year-olds. Part of the ministry is bringing together suburban and inner city churches. For the past 10 years this has been great, everyone plays, sings and gets along. For the first time in both groups, socioeconomic barriers are broken down and all that remains are Jesus and kids.

Last week I met kids like I never imagined. Tough. Angry. Hard-hearted. Kids who would not let anyone in and sometimes would literally try and stab you if you got too close. 3 of them made homemade shanks on Tuesday. This was a weeklong camp for 3rd - 6th graders; despite my best attempts at conversation, I never got a clear answer about why these few kids felt they needed protection. It was a tough week, needless to say.

When I had a conversation with the childrens' minister, she reminded me of the saying, " We plant trees that we will never sit under"- some times we never know the impact we have on the people we minister to.

In the middle of the week I looked around at who I was working with and realized-
I was in a forest.

One-third of our children's camp counselors were there at camp for the first time- all students who I worked with as campers at this same camp 6 or 7 years ago. Not only are they trees that I got to nurture, but now they are planting seeds of their own. I got to transition my relationship with them from campers and kids to teachers, counselors, and peers.

I realized this fully on Thursady night at camp when I sat down to eat dinner with the other counselors and realized I was the oldest one at the table, and everyone else was a former 5th grader I had worked with. They are now taking care of their own seeds, teaching them, praying for them and building lasting friendships with each other.

I was beat, completely worn out, emotionally exhausted, but my spirits jumped knowing I was one of a whole long line of people who poured into these young people so that they would be the kind of people who would give up a week of their college summers to invest in kids.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Home from Childrens' Camp!

We are home from Children's Camp, and
In the good way.
I had 23 5th grade Ladybugs (our mascot) of every shape, size, color, and sound. They are so beautiful, and I love them.

Two who are ministers' daughters.
Two from foster families.
A handful who are at the church every time the doors are open.
One with an alcoholic parent.
One who has been to "church" exactly twice- this week of camp, and the same week of camp last year.
A handful who live with grandparents.
Four who did not bring a Bible- two who forgot, and two who did not own one. They do now.
One who said she did not want to go home, because "we all love each other here".

We snow coned.
We do-si-doed.
We Alpine Towered and ziplined.
We Big Show-ed.
We sticky bunned and Ladybug headbanded (see hairstyle below).
We Taco Tuesdayed.
We counted off. A zillion times.
We Lunch Crunched.
We sang. We danced. We laughed. We complained about the heat. We begged for golf cart rides.
Two most special moments-

Speaking with S. She met Jesus this week. A quiet, intellectual, girl with no church background whatsoever who said she felt God very clearly communicating with her and inviting her into relationship. What a special, beautiful girl.

Crying with Y. The last night one of my inner-city girls said I needed to go in the bathroom to help Y because she was "on the floor". Alarmed, I headed in there. Sure enough, Y is weeping, sobbing on the bathroom floor. She's yelling "why, why did she have to die" and crying so hard she can barely breathe. She lost an aunt a week ago. I sat on that bathroom floor with her (with an adult buddy standing at the door- because of our 987,792,983 hours of child protection training, we are all on high alert against 1-on-1), no good words, just holding her hand, for a long while.

One part that is always special-

Spending time with the other counselors. Every summer I am re-amazed at how much I love, admire, and enjoy these people.
We have tonight and tomorrow to recover, re-launder, re-pack, then we leave early Sunday for Round 2 at Youth Camp. I'll be a Family Group Co-Leader for 14 teens in 7th - 12th grade, and Ben will be on the Tech Team. We'll return next Friday and blog like crazy- the pictures of these two weeks are always hysterical.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 4th!... er 5th?

Katie and I will be gone  Monday through Friday at a Children's Camp in North Texas, we will be working with suburban and inner city kids.

We used to do this camp every year and in fact it is how we started dating again so we are very excited to be going. We won't have an opportunity to update while we are out but we will post this weekend.

Happy 4th of July. Count your self blessed you were born in this country.


Saturday, July 3, 2010


Here are the last shots from the final day of Vacation Bible School. The change drive was pretty crazy.
Counting, counting, counting all the coins the kids brought.
Poured up
Dollar billz yall
It's all for TeacHaiti!
For filler time at the end, we had "Q & A with B & K". They asked great questions about Haiti.
Selling M&M tubes to fill with change.
 Final counting with the missions team.
 The teenagers on the missions team made a video where they interviewed 1-6th graders about how they share the love of Christ with others.
 The kids are so cute, sincere, and smart.
 The final day, we showed the kids a way they could show the love of Christ to kids in Haiti right now- making a coloring book to help them learn English and French. I made a coloring book with clip arts labeled in Kreyol, French and English, and the kids assembled and wrote their names on a "made by" line. I'm going to give the coloring books to Miquette for the kids of TeacHaiti. I can't wait to take pictures of them coloring the books!
 Explaining the coloring book.
 Sitting in their color groups.
 Looking through the books, checking out the Kreyol and French words.
 All done assembling.
 Each child wrote their name and age on the "made by" line.
 Such a fun week.

I have some more prayer requests:
1. We leave on Monday for children's camp. Ben and I will have 5th graders- my favorite year. Over 150 kids are coming.
2. We leave the following Monday for youth camp. Ben will be on the tech team and I am a "family group" co-leader, which means I'll have about 15 kids from 7-12th grade on my team. 159 teenagers will be a part of that week.


Thursday, July 1, 2010


Uploading pictures has been interesting. Remembering all the things we have done, people we have served with, things we have seen, there has been so much. Honestly I have forgot what a trip it has been.
  • I forgot that we spent some really special days with Jaime, Katie, Cathy, Jenn,y Abbey and Tony before most of them left. What was the alligator story? And why did we find it so funny?
  • I forgot how great it was to ride around with John, feeling useful and feeling needed.
  • I forgot about how energized Daniel and Pastor Dave were to be back in a city they loved, even if it was under unfortunate circumstance. They loved being back and working in the city.
  • I forgot how many awesome people I met in a few months. Mo, Beth, Justine, Alf, Jimmy, Major Shipley, Justin, Kynada, Tarah, Dr. Carter, and Jason, in addition to the people I mentioned earlier.
One thing I hope I never forget: I serve an awesome God.

Looking at the digital representations of my first 5 months in Haiti has added fuel to some of the feelings that had been smoldering in my gut. Specifically.

I am ready to leave.

I want to go back to Port-au-Prince asap. In June I needed a break for my sanity's sake, but I have recieved as much rest as I am going to get. I love America and the communities I am a part of here but I belong-in a very purposeful, cosmic way-in Port-au-Prince. There is work I am called to do there and I am not fully doing it here. I never understood when people would say they couldn't stand not working.  I always thought I was lazy. In reality, I never found something that I cared about.

I love to read memoirs. In high school I read a handful by soldiers who had served in Viet Nam. They wrote about how they understood how to do life in the jungle but were uncomfortable with life in the states. That is why many of them signed up for second tours.

I think I have an empathy for that perspective. Because I am ready. Only 38 days.


* side note, all of our February pictures are up on Flickr


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