Monday, November 30, 2009

Haiti pt 3 (The Blues Bros. & The Coupon Yankees)

Did you ever see the original Blues Brothers movie? Specifically the scene where they strapped a huge speaker to the "Bluesmobile" and broadcast info about their upcoming concert at "The Palace Ballroom" at Lake Wasapumani? Click here for the gist if you missed it.

So Saturday CB and I headed out to do some "Blue Brothers Evangelism" in this little Bobcat pictured above. In the back we put a Peavey KB100 amplifier with a microphone. The amp is plugged into a loud chugging and glugging gasoline-powered generator. Two Haitians are in the back as well taking turns on the mic. It sounds like auctioneers YELLING in a foreign language.

I'm driving. CB (Chris Herr) is riding shotgun and Haitian Pastor Garry is riding backwards on the dash facing CB. The generator is screaming. The Haitians on the mic are also screaming. Every bump we hit causes the reverb unit in the amp to loudly, how shall I say...GA-JUUUNG!!! (And there are bumps like...everywhere.) Look at the Bobcat: right behind Chris' and my head, all hell is breaking loose at very impolite decibels.

The roads. Actually, "roads" is too nice of a term. "Creek beds" or "things poorly masquerading as roads" would be better terms. It rained before we got there. Rain and dirt makes mud. Rain, dirt, and "tap-taps" (and other Haitian vehicles) makes for what seems like impassable slime pits dotted with bits of dry ground.

For two hours the 5 of us, generator and amp-from-hell, bounced our way through what must have been 5-8 villages. How no internal organs or derrieres were damaged remains a mystery.

In the final thirty minutes or so, I took to steering with my right hand and pulling myself off the seat (to spare myself the jarring) with my left hand atop the roll bar. At each turn I would think, "Surely God, this the way back to Double Harvest--right?"

We gave little flyers announcing the crusade in Coupon, to people we'd pass on the (ahem) "roads." In the villages we'd get them into as many hands as we could, often sloshing down little side roads trying to get deeper into the villages.

At one such time, we kind of ran into a "no outlet" section and were besieged with little kids clamouring all over the over-loaded Bobcat. It wasn't fun. It was one of those moments where it felt a little "Blackhawk Down." (Not angry at all--but overwhelming.) Pastor Garry instructed us to, "GO!"

Most if the people happily smiled and reached out to receive whatever we were peddling. But as this was my first experience into Haitian villages, a couple things hit me:

The first village we road through brought me intensely close to typical living conditions. It shocked me. I felt myself starting to choke-up...felt heavy emotions welling. I pushed them back down because we were on mission--this wasn't exactly the time and place to have a good cry.

It was my observation that as I encountered older people, they seemed more serious, less quick to smile. Back in Coupon, we'd mostly seen little kids and it seems little kids are the same the world over--laughing, smiling--kids. But out in the villages that day I saw a bit of the hardness of Haitian life in the eyes and faces of people who weren't kids anymore. Sobering.

In two hours we passed out hundreds of flyers, went partially deaf and somehow missed getting stuck in the mud. I said to CB as we sat a few seconds before challenging the last nasty muddy pass, "Ok, I'll drive, you pray!" He must have prayed well.


Our band: Dave "Spiderman" Bottomley keys, Miles Heaslip bass & vocals, "Pastor" Dave Horrein accoustic guitar & worship leader and me on drums. We would open up the crusade on the four nights we were there.

We were the loudest of all the musical acts for sure, so the sound of the mighty "Coupon Yankees" ushered people from their homes to the bean field of dreams. All the guys did a great job night after night of giving it their all and playing well with our ONE monitor---and putting up with my "drums." ;-)

Arthur kindly borrowed a set of drums from another church. They showed up just hours before we started on night #1. They were...ROUGH. I taped up the huge hole in the bottom of the rack tom and removed the denim strips from the bass & floor toms. Gave them the best tune I could and hit it. The best decision? Screwing the bass drum and bass pedal down to the stage so they'd stay put! (It wasn't my first rodeo.)

When we would play, the Haitian band would be just a few feet away in the wings (behind the projection screen). Over the week they really got hooked on the song "All We Need" by Charlie Hall. It really fit the crusades theme of "one thing." And when we'd get to the place in the song where we all dropped for a few counts then slammed back in together--the Haitian band thought that was the COOLEST! The last night we were there they were going NUTS on this tune. I will never forget that sight and feeling...

(Speaking of feelings, I'm listening to that song right now picturing what I just wrote about and tearing up...God is amazing.) Here--you can listen to it too.

Every night, "Pastor" Dave H, Dave B, Miles and me got to tear it up--- because of, together with, and for God. Amen. Oh yeah, and we even let the Canadian (JB) sing back-up a couple nights ;-)


At the end of the crusades, the Haitian band would do this insanely long alter call. (No joke--like FORTY MINUTES!) I'd jump in a give it an islandy kind of groove and we'd play...and play...and play...someone would address the crowd...and we'd play...and then when someone would come forward to accept Christ, the bean field and stage would go flippin "bug nuts!"

We'd play even louder and more excitedly--and I'd look out and HUNDREDS of Haitians would be dancing their faces off, singing in worship to response of someone accepting Christ. The few white people danced...well, "white-ily" amongst the better dancers and everyone blended into one. (What? Like I can dance?! Somebody had to play drums.)

I will never forget playing with the Haitian band as a bean field of people got down and danced and sang unto God--and I got to provide the groove. God is way too kind. And we were way to fortunate.

photo album 1, photo album 2, photo album 3

Friday, November 27, 2009

"What's Haiti Like?" (pt. 2)

The days were long. We would be at devotions at 6:40am; fortunately that was only 2 minutes away. After "devo" back to the house, make breakfast, drink some good coffee and chill out til about 9am. By 9 we were on task.

Typically our Haiti teams are doing various manual labor tasks but this trip was different. Arthur Spalding, the main missionary at Double Harvest had a vision for the last two years: to put on an eight day (Sun to Sun) evangelistic crusade to draw people from surrounding villages to Christ.

Our team would construct the stage (complete with lights, sound, and video projection) and then our worship band and drama team would be part of the crusade. We would also venture out to evangelize in the villages and spread the word about the crusade during the heat of the days.

A critical part of our team was the "Canadian Connection." Albert (Jason's Braun's cousin), Len, JB's dad, Lauren (JB's 2nd cousin), and Rebecca (speaks fluent Creole and has lived in Haiti the last two years.

Albert was "The Machine." He's a builder; knows how to do it right, quick, and just sturdy enough; which is referred to as "Burt-fect." He led the building of the stage and throughout the day (and week) never seemed to lose momentum.

When we arrived Albert and Len had already erected two rows of scaffolding 32' wide. My expectation of a stage in Haiti in the middle of a bean field was a 3' unassuming bit of boards. This would be nothing close. The 6' high scaffolding would be the stage's base. WOW!

If that weren't enough, after we decked the 6' high, 32'x16' stage, we would attached an 8' wall all along the back of the stage. WOW. WOW.

Next thing I know. we're putting 4"x4" posts along the front of the stage. Why? To support 2"x12" planks that would span the top of the back wall to the front of the stage to form a roof! WOW.WOW.WOW.

It wasn't a stage--it was a BAND SHELL on steroids in the middle of a bean field at the crossroads of three villages, none of which had utilities. This wasn't a crusade--this was HAITI-STOCK, man!

And what powered this stage of sound, lights and video projection? Well a 1,500 lb industrial generator of course--what else? Yes Bert tossed the generator off the huge flatbed with the forks on a Bobcat about as easily as you or I would grab dishes off the kitchen shelf. He placed it about 50' behind the stage.

We expected to lift a compartment door on the generator to reveal a band of receptacles to plug into--that's what we're used to in the Americas. No--we're in Haiti--it must be hard wired!

Chris Herr just happened to (at the last minute) throw a voltmeter into his bag. WOW. CB and the guys are hard wiring romex from the generator to the stage--where they then wired about six electrical boxes for the stage (plug ins for guitar amps, lights, projector etc). Romex is run to the sound booth in the middle of the bean field. (The booth is housed in an open trailer.) CB really kept his cool and really rose to the occasion.

Arthur really pushed for a big light in the field so people wouldn't be in the dark. The next thing you know--somehow Len and the guys have erected a 20' tall metal light pole with industrial light atop. It looks just like any light in any parking lot in the US.

So there it is in the middle of this bean field in Haiti--the "S.S. Stage" and accompanying parking lot light. Exactly what you'd expect to see in the middle of no where in the poorest country in the world! Haitistock indeed ;-)

"What Was Haiti Like?" (pt 1)

I've wanted to answer that question with, "If you have an hour I'll try to tell you."

If I had one word to offer it would "paradox." The country is both gorgeous and ugly. The people are both beautifully approachable and some annoying and uninviting. My time there was both soul-lifting and draining.

The countryside is beautiful. It could easily host resorts that people of means would flock to. The foreground is stick and mud homes with no running water or utilities to speak of.

Some of the people are physically beautiful and warmly charming and inviting. Some of the kids begged militantly, "Give me flash!" (flashlight) "Give me dollar!"

I personally saw probably twenty people come to Christ. I also saw the house of a voodoo priest and people who seemed to care less about talking with us.


At 2:45 in the wee hours of Thurs. morning Nov 12, we arrived at Oakbrook sluggish and tired. The good people of First Presbyterian Church gave us their bus and a driver to usher us to and from the Indy airport. (Thanks, First Pres. & Tom Hearn!)

By dusk that same day, after flying to Chicago and Miami, we touched down in Port Au Prince Haiti. You do not walk from the plane onto a gangway and into a terminal. You walk down a huge set of stairs that are driven up to the plane and you walk down them in presidential fashion.

Walking across the tarmac towards the terminal, you can tell this is not your normal stateside airport.

Once in the terminal we were faced with the language barrier that we would encounter all week. As a white person in America it's a very different feeling to be a minority in a country who's language you do not know. The impact of that reality was a bigger impact on me than I would have ever thought.

The terminal was hot, old, and the worse for wear. It would be a foreshadowing of what lied beyond it. (But it would also seem modern and clean after a week in a a Haitian village.)

Once through customs we had to cling to our luggage that would be incessantly tugged at by cabbies fighting for a fair. Then it was into the parking lot to wait for our host. As we stood in the tropical heat we were twenty yards or so from the main Port Au Prince "thoroughfare" (I use the term loosely.)

The style of vehicle and style of driving was far from home. The cars and trucks were old, worn, and driven wildly. Perhaps the writer's of the "Mad Max" movies had drawn inspiration here.

Driving in Haiti is organized chaos, minus the organization. "Tap-taps" (mini-pickups turned into cabs) overflowed with Haitians, weighting down careened down the road without concern for passenger or other traffic.

As dark came upon us, it was amazingly clear that electricity was almost non-existent. The streets on both sides of us were flooded with people walking in front of businesses and hovels that were either dark or candlelit. This ride through the city pulled us out of our western comfort zone and into a culture we'd never experienced.

I will admit a certain amount of uneasiness at this point. Not fear that something would happen to us in way of attack or the like. Rather, it was the feeling of getting on a ride that, whether you like it or not, there's no getting off of for the next eight days. And whether my back (weak from recent issues) liked it or not, there's no turning back.

The roads through Port Au Prince were rough, but once we turned off toward the Village of Coupon we would learn how "good" those roads were and what in fact, rough roads really were.

It's not too much to say that some rural Haitian roads are more like driving down a dry creek bed than a road. And with the rains that came before us, it made for even more excitement. At one point, our minivan did get stuck and we all piled out to give it a shove. "Welcome to Haiti."

Our accommodations at Double Harvest were incredible--for Haiti, they were palatial. We had an upstairs--let's call it "condo" with a patio. It had two very large kitchens and it was divided into two wings; ladies on one side, men on the other. Each wing had it's washer and dryer.

Most of the rooms were like comfortable dorm rooms with its own bathroom and shower. There was a larger room in each wing that housed 5-6 beds. It was air conditioned and had a fresh water and crushed ice dispenser. The only drawback is that power, generally speaking, is available only from 7am to 7pm. Flashlights are very handy.

*** End part 1 ***

photo album 1, photo album 2, photo album 3

Simple Mentoring

I was recently talking with a 20-something about mentoring a teenage. It occurred to me that mentoring is an easy thing to over-complicate. So I put a few things together to provide him some traction, yet not overwhelm:

Mentoring Keys:

Mentoring is intentional influence. The key to influence = "time spent."

Social networking (text, FaceBook) can aid in mentoring but it can't replace being with the person. It starts here; can't mentor without it.

Our best never comes from us; it comes from God. If you want to mentor someone, pray for them.

By the way, we'll never be Godly influences on anyone without doggedly praying fro them and asking God to guide us. If you want to be an influence and useful in the KIngdom of God, keep a prayer journal and pray through it with great regularity.

Prayer also helps us realize that mentoring is asking God to use us in helping this person be who God designed them to be. The essence of mentoring is sanctification, which is spiritual--it is what God does.

Mentoring Prayers:
1) Surrender yourself to God's will.
2) Confess your sins.
3)Pray specifically for the person.
4) Pray for openness to how God wants to use you.
5) Ask God for clear direction for His will for this person; ask Him to use you to His glory, not your success.

Be mindful of the Holy Spirit when you're with the person. Not that every second is a teachable moment; but you want to be ready and alert to promptings of God.

Be ready to turn conversations towards things of substance. Few people say, "Teach and pull me into challenging conversations." But everyone wants to grow in Christ and grow beyond themselves. Be ready to turn light-hearted conversations towards things that matter to them, you and God.

Be a Learner.
If you are not actively growing and maturing in Christ, it wil be increasingly difficult to influence someone else in that way. Your growth is your responsibility. It will require that you have a mentor, but the onus is on you. Learning, growing people almost always have something to say that's worth hearing.

Your ears can be your greatest leadership tool. Listening communicates caring in huge ways. Listening first and at length; being slow to speak is evidence of wisdom.

Also listen with more than your ears. Watch their eyes and body language. Most of us are not clearly saying the words that reflect the deepest parts of us--but God designed the soul to leak hints through our body language. "Listen" for what's not being said but is being communicated nonetheless.

When responding to "vibe" or body language, state simple observations: "You seem..." Or, "Are you feeling...?"

Keep it simple, stay humble and see what God can do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Going Local

I'm picky about drumsticks--Vic Firth Dave Weckl Evolution is my "go to" tool. They carry them at a local music store, Sound of Music. They're significantly more expensive locally verses buying at a Sam Ash in Indy or online.

But that makes sense if you figure how many sticks a local store will sell in a week compared the "big box" store in Indy or national online sellers; the more you sell the more you can lower your price.

In our current economic climate I have been more convicted about supporting local businesses when I can. I think it's good for the city, the more you and I do this. But, I hate paying retail for sticks (yes, Sandra & I are frugal).

So I called up John, the owner who works every day at his downtown music store. I asked him if he'd give me a deal if I bought a box of sticks. I figured that might be a reasonable request that might be good for him and me. I'd lay out a good chunk of money but probably wouldn't buy sticks for a year.

John was super. He said, "I'd be glad to take care of you." He gave me pretty much what I would pay online and he had them for me the next day! (And of course no shipping fees when you buy local retail.) A+ service. Thanks John!

And it happened simply because I gave a local business man a shot. I didn't beat him up to give me a deal. He seemed glad that I asked and was happy to accommodate me.

Maybe we can find ways to buy locally, get a good deal for the consumer and help our local economy. If you and I don't, who will?


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Computer Desktop Pics

One of the ways I love to make my computer "personal" is by using my own pictures as the desktop. Here's a collection from the last year or so. They're freely downloadable in high resolution.