Friday, June 28, 2013

4theVoiceless Has a New Home

4theVoiceless has moved to Wordpress.  All of the content from this site and new posts beginning June 28, 2013, can be found here.  Come on over as we continue to advocate for the voiceless.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jamaica 2013: Little Blue Houses and Beaming for Buckets

Little Blue Houses

Little 10'x14' houses dotting the landscape of Steertown, Jamaica.  Painted a brilliant blue.  Providing a permanent home for those living under piles of scrap material, out in the open, in old chicken coops (let that one sink in for a minute).  This has been the mission of Colonial Hills Church through IsleGO Missions for the better part of the last seven years or so.  Teams from our church have built over 40 houses during that time, but teams from around the U.S. have joined in the effort so that the number of "little blue houses" in Steertown is an estimated 94 by the end of the year.

A team of 33 from CHC spent last week in Jamaica, where they joined forces with a team of 16 from Sherman, Texas, to build four more little blue houses.  You can click on the CHC Missions Facebook page to see some little blue houses from start to finish. 

More Than Little Blue Houses

I first mentioned our church's involvement with St. Christopher's School for the deaf in a post entitled "The Numbers DO Lie."   While many teams that go to Jamaica build little blue houses, not many visit St. Christopher's.  I invite you to visit the school today through the eyes of Andrea Jackson.  She and her husband were among the first-timers on this year's Jamaica trip:

Brad and I had a fabulous time in Jamaica. The deaf school is one of the main reason we WILL be going back next year.

From the moment we arrived at the school, I was amazed at the children that recognized the CHC faces from last year.  They asked about people who were there last year who were unable to make this years trip.  They were excited beyond belief to see that our group had not forgotten about them and was back to see them once again.  It was as if they have waited all year just for the moment our group returned. This was more than just a visit from strangers for them.  These were their friends coming back to see and love on them.  From what I understand, we are the only group that comes to visit these precious children.  Many of their parents are unable to even come visit because of the lack of funds.  Unfortunately, we (Brad and I) were not a familiar face to them, but they instantly began to hug and love on us and we on them.

Beaming for Buckets

On the second day we were there, we passed out buckets for each child.  It was Christmas in June for these children.  Each child received their own children's Bible in honor of Julie, Brad's sister that passed.  The boys also got dinosaurs, capes, masks, race cars, kites, etc., in their buckets, and the girls each got their own baby doll, lip gloss, hair bows, bracelets, etc.  I saw one little boy go sit down on the lawn with his bucket, and his legs just bounced off the ground the entire time he sat going thru his bucket.  The smiles, oh, the smiles of these children, were unreal. They beamed!! Their poor mouths had to almost be sore.  They were all so grateful.

See the beautiful smiling faces of all 43 of the children at St. Christopher's here.

I must admit I wondered how many children I could cram in my suitcase and bring home with me.  I never knew I could love children not my own SO much and SO fast.  I could go on all day about the things I took away from this portion of the trip.  I will end with this: I was most in awe that despite the communication barriers, we all understood the common language of love.  No matter the age, color, or county of origin, we all need the love of Christ and the love of one another.  Can't wait for Jamaica 2014 :)

Andrea Jackson

Nothing beats the look of joy on a child's face.  Or the look of hope.  Thanks, Andrea, for taking us there.

Thanks for reading.


SHOUT OUT to my friends Jeff and Brandy Witt, whose goal is for all of their CHC small group to go to Jamaica on mission.  This year, they had enough group members (including Brad & Andrea Jackson) to actually have a couple of small group meetings in Jamaica -- now that's "discipleship together"!

Friday, June 21, 2013

That's Not Fair!

Photo courtesy of Pink Sherbert Photography


A Little "That's Not Fair" Experiment

During my 13 years as a high school teacher and coach, there was a particular phrase that I heard fairly often from my students: "That's not fair."  Sometimes it was mumbled under a student's breath as test papers were returned.  Other times it was more vocal when one student was given an opportunity that another desired.  I decided to confront all the high drama, gross unfairness that occurred in my classroom with a different kind of lesson.  (If you have taught middle and high school students, you know that this was at the risk of valuable instructional time; kids have a way of using the least little distraction to carve out large chunks of "unproductiveness.")

The last eight years of my teaching career were spent at a Christian school where most students had their Bibles handy for my little experiment.  When a student would play the "that's not fair" card, I would instruct him or (usually) her turn to 3 Hezekiah 3:4 "where God tells us that life is fair."  Usually, after some thumbing through the Bible and a quick trip to the table of contents just to be sure, the object of my unfairness would announce, "There is no 3 Hezekiah 3:4!"  To which I would calmly respond, "That's right. And life is not fair."  And class would proceed.

Your "That's Not Fair" Button

What rouses your inner "that's not fair" button?  How much does it take for your inner sense of justice to kick in?  In thinking back over the last 13 months of my writing this blog, that sense of inequitable fairness has fueled a number of posts of varying topics and degrees of righteous indignation:

Tornadoes and school shootings

Being the last to be chosen in kickball

 Rejection as a foster family

The Boston bombing and a lost baby

The grisly story of Kermit Gosnell

And so many more throughout the months.  You don't have to look far in this world to realize that things are grossly unfair.

Flipping "That's Not Fair"

Have you ever noticed that we rarely take into account that life is sometimes not fair in our favor?  I can think of several ways just off the top of my head in which my life is not fair:
  • I was born into the top 2% of the world's wealth simply by being born in America?  How is that fair to the other 98%?  
  • I have clean water, abundant food supply, and expensive but available medical care.  How is that fair to the kids walking several miles each way every day to fill up a nasty plastic container with filthy water that may ultimately kill them?
  • I was born to loving parents who will have been married to one another for 48 years this July, who brought me home to a house (albeit with several additions) where they still live?  How is that kind of stable foundation fair to kids who have grown up with no parents, one parent, abusive parents, etc.?
  • I have been part of a great body of believers at Colonial Hills Church for almost 23 years; I have learned the Word of God and how to apply it to my life and take it to others around the world?  How is that fair to those who live in places unreached and/or unengaged with the gospel?
I could go on and on with what I have that I don't deserve: a steady income; three healthy, fairly well-balanced children; four fairly reliable vehicles; and so many other blessings that I would lose you if I tried to list them all.  Though your examples my be different from mine, I'm sure that you can think of many ways in which the scales of justice in this world tip in your favor, too.

The Truth Behind "That's Not Fair"

Here's the truth behind this whole train of thought: Life is incredibly unfair.  But unfairness, by its very nature, is determined by comparison.  We think circumstances are unfair based on our predetermined yet ever-changing ideas of "how it ought to be."  If you want to complain about how unfair any part of life is, though, consider this:  "He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21, HCSB).  

Jesus, perfection in the flesh, suffered a brutal death on the cross; yes, that was horribly unfair, the false accusation and resulting punishment from the Jews and, ultimately, the Romans.  Consider, however, the greater injustice: the cup of God's wrath for all the sins of all the people of all time was poured out on the innocent Christ, who willingly took it on our behalf.  Why?  Because "God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, HCSB).  

Terribly unfair.  On our behalf.  Remind me of that next time I play the "that's not fair" card, would you?

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two Fathers and Learning to Be a Son

The Father's Day That Was

God in His holy dwelling is
a father of the fatherless
and a champion of widows.
Psalm 68:5 (HCSB)

Father's Day.  Two days ago.  A day when fathers were celebrated.  A day many pastors and orphan care advocates used to point to God as our Heavenly Father.  

It was also a day when bitterness welled up in many who resent their fathers, many of whom really were not in their lives at all.  It was a day -- along with its reminders -- that couldn't pass quickly enough.

Not Me

Many people who advocate for a particular cause do so because of some type of negative experience or suffering that they don't want others to go through.  It's the principle of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: "Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 

Not me, though.  I advocate for the orphan because of what I do have in my life.  I do have a strong father who taught me right from wrong, taught me the value of simply being there, taught me how to walk on my own two feet.  Our view of God as our Heavenly Father begins with our view of our own fathers.  I can see why so many people that I talk to about God have such a hard time believing He is who He claims to be.  I, on the other hand, had a terrific head start.

Just hanging out on the back porch with with dad.
 Not a day goes by that I don't think of my dad.  Oftentimes, it's one of those sayings that is unique to him (or his father before him), including my all-time favorite, "You thought like Parker's dog."  (Ask me sometime; I'll explain it to you.)  

Sometimes, it's something he did or is in the process of doing, like when I'm working in my really small garden and thinking of his working in his much bigger garden.  

My favorite photo: 3 generations & a mess of fish!
Every once and a while, not nearly as often as I would like, I will just sit down on the couch and peacefully doze off, like my dad can do like a champ.  I think of him then, too.

Transferring What I've Learned

Not a day goes by that I don't think of my Heavenly Father, either.  Oftentimes, it's one of those sayings that is unique to Him, something in His Word or in a Scripture that I have heard so often that I know it by heart.  Something like James 1:17: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  Or Psalm 67:7: "God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Welcome to one of my conversations with God -- always better when He does most of the speaking.
Sometimes, it's what He's doing or in the process of doing.  Like conforming me into the image of His Son.  Like allowing me to come alongside others while they do the same.  Like causing my heart to melt over 13 Haitian children and the ones who are spending their lives caring for them.

Sometimes, it's just in the quiet, peaceful moments that I get to spend with my Heavenly Father.  Moments when He doesn't have to say or do anything, just be there.

I'd say I got quite a head start knowing and loving God, my Heavenly Father, because of the example of my earthly father.  Thanks, Dad.  You have not only prepared me to be a father but a son to my Heavenly Father, as well.  As far as I'm concerned, every day is Father's Day.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Exciting Photos from Haiti

This first-time Saturday post is the result of some exciting new photos from Haiti, courtesy of Dusty Cooper. The new House of Abraham needs about $2,000 more to complete this first phase. Enjoy the photos. 

I will post more updates as I get them. Thanks for reading. 


Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Little Bits: Around the World in 3 Minutes

4theVoiceless is spanning the globe today in four quick updates:

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday is the first Sunday in November each year, November 3 this year.  This is a time for churches worldwide to focus on some aspect of orphan care in response to the consistent commands of God in His Word to care for orphans.  Orphan Sunday originated in a small church in Zambia, Africa,  and has grown exponentially in the years afterward.

I am one of a couple of the Christian Alliance for Orphans' (CAFO) Orphan Sunday coordinators in Mississippi.  The coordinators were introduced to some of the resources that we have available for this year at the Summit conference in Nashville last month, and more resources are being made available as we move closer to November.  If you would like any information about Orphan Sunday for your church (no matter the denomination), please contact me; you do not have to have a full-fledged orphan care ministry to do something for Orphan Sunday.

Click here to read how I spent an unforgettable Orphan Sunday in 2012.

House of Abraham

One of the new HoA bedrooms as I last saw it in March.
I communicated back and forth with Fenel last week, and they are about a week now from moving out of the current home of House of Abraham.  The new house is not completely ready, but he is trying to get a couple of the rooms completed and the security wall finished so that move-in can begin.  Please make it a matter of prayer over the coming days that the new house will be prepared (enough) and that the transition from the old house would go smoothly.

And speaking of Haiti . . .

These kids would love to meet you or see you again!

Haiti 2014

Colonial Hills Church will be headed back to Jacmel, Haiti, to serve the House of Abraham and various other discipleship programs in early 2014.  The dates are either February 7-14 or 8-15, depending on the cost of airline tickets.  This team will be limited to a maximum of 24 people.  We will be planning a meeting on both CHC campuses in the next couple of months to give you more information on this mission trip, but if you are interested in being part of this team, contact me and I will get your name on the list of those who have already let me know they wanted to go.   If you do not attend CHC but would like to go on the trip with us, you can contact me, as well.

And finally . . .

Jamaica 2013

A past "little blue house" dedication.
The CHC Jamaica team leaves tomorrow morning.  There are 33 from our church who will meet up with 16 more from Fairview Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas, to build four houses as a continuing part of our "Little Blue House Project" and to also serve at the deaf school there.  This is where two of our teams built a playground last year.  Pray for our team as they build houses and relationships in Jamaica this week.

Jeff Witt & a child from the deaf school.

Check out the CHC Missions Facebook page to know how to pray for the team and also for updates throughout the trip.

 There you have it: Africa, Nashville, Haiti, Mississippi, Texas, and Jamaica -- around at least a considerable part of the world in three minutes or so.  Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Month in the Big Apple

The purpose of this blog is mainly to advocate for the orphan, it is not my style to do that by constantly railing on things that are broken and need to be fixed or wrong and need to be made right.  Though there is certainly a place for that, I find that many people will wake up and do something about the needs that exist all around them by bringing to light those things that they take for granted.  That is the purpose of today’s post.

Gone to the Big Apple

My wife and daughter have been away in New York City for about a month now.  Okay, four days.  Four days with just me and the boys.  And when Mom’s away, the guys will play.  Oh yeah!

When Loretta – along with her mother and aunt – left on Friday to take Ashton on her senior trip to the Big Apple, she didn’t seem too worried about our being able to take care of ourselves.  That was unusual, but I had taken a couple of days off, and Loretta seemed to be content that I could handle it. 

She didn’t remind me of things over and over again or hand me the dreaded list.  She just told me we were out of stamps and asked me to mail a couple of letters. I had to check on driver education for Garrett and take Ashton's car to the shop.  That's all.  No list.

She didn’t cook and freeze a bunch of food and give us instructions on how to prepare it.  She knew there was a lot of deer meat in the freezer from Garrett’s first kill last year, meat that needed to be eaten by anyone else but her.  As a matter of fact, she just let me know where she had left an envelope of cash in case we needed any groceries and that was it.  Sweet!

She didn’t tell me to get the boys in bed by a particular time or remind me when to get them up for church or remind me of anywhere they had to be.  This was going to be a good long weekend.

So How’d We Do?

Well, I had the letters mailed by noon on Friday – and that’s after the boys and I spent some quality time at Holiday Deli.  Well, actually, I wrote Friday’s blog post (great place to blog), Garrett enjoyed their super-fast wifi, and Drew doctored his coffee to try to get it right.  School was checked on, and Ashton's car was in the shop, to be repaired and home by that afternoon.

The food has been outstanding, if I do say so myself.  I’m not usually one to post photos of my food – mostly because I rarely cook – but here are a few of my culinary masterpieces.  Oh, and there was the spaghetti from Friday night that somehow escaped being digitally captured, but it was gooood!

Deer steak, rice, peas, cajun cheese toast -- a well-balanced, delicious meal.

Crock pot deer roast, potatoes, and carrots -- filling and nutritious but could have used a bit more salt.

Bacon!!! Okay, I confess that the biscuits came from KFC.

My friend Jerry had the audacity to question our survival capabilities Sunday morning at church (where we all arrived on time).  He asked how we had been making it with the girls gone, and I pulled out my phone to show him the photo of the steak dinner from Friday night.  He immediately responded, "Wow! Who invited y'all over to eat?!?"  Ouch.  No, Jerry, we are doing just fine.

Actually, we were doing better than fine.  There have been a couple of projects that I have been meaning to do, but I haven't had time.  With a couple of days off and both boys home to help, though, we have cleaned out and weeded the flower beds, made an additional raised bed for the garden, gotten the back of the place weedeaten, and even cleaned out the garage.

But then...

I have written on a number of occasions (See links below.) about God's design for children in a family -- a mom and a dad who are married to each other and raising their children by the principles that the Lord has given us -- and the fallout when anything less than that becomes a reality.  It's always harder when there is just one parent raising children and exponentially harder when both parents are disengaged or not present for whatever reason.  

During this last month (er, four days), I have actually been getting a crash course in Wife Appreciation 101.  A couple of those days, the boys just almost refused to get along; nothing seemed to work, but at least by bedtime, they were spending the night in one another's rooms.  I'm not sure how trainable they are about picking up after themselves, either, but it's not because I haven't tried.

I have done well about not watching too much TV.  Not so much because I am so self-disciplined but because I don't have time -- too many dishes to wash after supper.  And picking up after the stupid dog who is trying to chew up everything in sight. 

But I was keeping up okay, holding my own.  Then, yesterday afternoon, as I was cooking supper (while Garrett went to Wal-Mart for grits and to KFC for biscuits), it occurred to me that I had not checked the mail in three days.  That opened up a whole new avenue of what Loretta does -- paying bills mostly on time -- that I take for granted.  

I felt pretty good about remembering the mail.  Then -- seemingly out of the blue -- another thought struck me: "Oh crap, the little fella has baseball camp tomorrow morning!"  (Sorry for the crude language, but that's how I thought it.)  I could have easily forgotten, and it certainly wasn't on Drew's radar either.  I'm writing now as he is enjoying camp, having been successfully transported to and checked in by Garrett and me.  I can be pretty hard on Loretta for all the stuff she forgets, but I'm beginning to understand . . .

I haven't even touched washing clothes, vacuuming, cleaning the filthy back door (Dog digs, then presses nose on door, wanting in -- repeatedly.), preparing a grocery list yet, or chores like that yet.  And those are just the things I can think of.  There's no telling how many chores that need to be done that haven't even come to mind yet.

I know one thing: I'm glad Loretta is getting home tonight.  A month in New York is enough!

(Disclaimer: I love my wife for much more than just what she does around the house -- she's awesome!  And I'm glad she got to go and have a great time, letting others do the cooking and cleaning for a few days.)

Thanks for reading.  Show your appreciation today for something you normally take for granted.  There are many more than you would imagine in this world who don't even have one person to care for them.  Appreciation for what you have is a step toward those who don't.


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