Thursday, May 2, 2013
Advocating for a cause can be so rewarding, yet exhausting. I have learned that advocating for the materially poor is one of the toughest jobs out there. The poor, especially children are the most vulnerable and at risk people in the world. They need advocates because most of the time they are voiceless and powerless. However, the spiritual warfare can be strong at times, making it very complicated and difficult to push through the barriers to reach the most vulnerable.
We partner with Kids Against Hunger (KAH). They provide all the food we need to feed 20 families in the area that we work. These families rely on us for food. Without it, some of these family members would be dead today from starvation! The Kids Against Hunger food is saving lives!
I should mention here too that we are not just giving out free food and walking away. We are well aware that feeding people does not resolve the problem. God has given us 20 families to feed and we are assessing each of these families one by one, building a relationship with them and searching for a better understanding of their needs and how we can come alongside them for the LONG haul. We have launched a program called our Strong Family Program. Each of the families in this program will be mentored and discipled. We will provide education for their children and literacy classes for the parents. In addition, we will offer vocational training and support for each family so that they may start their own business or find work that will place them on the path of becoming self sustaining.
We are doing all of this through the help of the local church and it's church members. Right now we have begun bringing 4 of these 20 families beyond feeding them. As God provides funds, we will continue to do more with each of the remaining 20 families.
I will write more about this program as it progresses, but just wanted clarify our goal here. We are not in Haiti to feed people or even to cure children of malnutrition. We are in Haiti to come along side the local church to disciple and share the Gospel. We are reaching them spiritually by intervening into their physical lives.
Now back to the KAH food and advocating:
Getting the KAH food to our ministry has been one of the toughest jobs for our team. We are grateful for our local community that comes together to package the food that will be set aside for our ministry. Packaging the food is the easiest part.
Getting it to our ministry is very complicated. Once the food is packaged, we need to take it to KAH warehouse where it is labeled for our ministry and then sent to a military base on the coast to be flown to Haiti. Once at the military base, it needs to pass an inspection first and then it will wait its turn to be loaded on an aircraft travelling to Haiti.
Once in Haiti, we have to line up an NGO to check it through customs and we need to rent a forklift to unload the pallets. We pay the NGO 10% of our boxes and the remaining boxes are ours!
Up until this point, there are a lot of email and phone call exchanges between all the parties involved to make sure we are still on track.
When our first shipment passed inspection, I was told that ours was the NEXT food that would travel to Haiti. This was great news until we learned that through a government budget cut, our food would not leave the U.S. until the budget restraints were lifted. We rallied our followers and wrote to Senators and members of Congress.
Three weeks later, still no word and we begin to run out of food. We borrowed food from another ministry and agreed to pay them back when our food arrives in Haiti.
When Steve traveled to Haiti last week, they visited the ministry that checks our food in for us. Mickey asked me to check on our food because while visiting this ministry, they learned that ban had been lifted and the military is transporting food once again. This ministry had already received a shipment. Feeling bad that our food had not arrived yet, they loaned us enough to get us through another week.
Hmmm...I had a hunch that the food this ministry received was actually OUR food! Kind of comical to think that they were loaning us 'our' food! Mickey had no way of knowing at the time, so she didn't question anything.
I started making phone calls, shooting off emails, even writing FB messages to all involved in the U.S. side suggesting that this ministry unknowingly has our food!
I was told that it wasn't our food and that ours had not left the port yet. Yet, I knew deep down inside that this had to be our food because I was told that our food was the next in line to go just before the ban. I just had this gut feeling!
I pushed back! I sent a flurry of more emails and FB messages. We are once again running out of food!
Days went by and no one responded to me. I continued to not let this rest, making more phones calls and demanding a response.
Then someone finally responded stating that our food would most likely be on a flight May 18th! This was not going to work for us! That would mean another 3 weeks without food!
I suggested over and over again that maybe the food that our ministry partner received WAS our food. I asked them to please check again and confirm.
Then, earlier this week, I was copied on an email to the ministry from our contacts in the U.S. The email stated that after further investigation, indeed that is our food they have in their warehouse! They were asked to make arrangements to get us our food ASAP!
I forwarded the email to our team in Haiti and they attempted to make contact with the ministry, which is not always an easy task. Still unsuccessful with making contact, I woke up to an email yesterday morning that our food will be in PAP in one hour and we were suppose to come pick it up!
This is how things work in Haiti! I forwarded the email to Mickey who finally connected with this group. More than an hour had passed since I received the email, so there was no way we could rent a truck and be there within the time limit they gave us. Crazy! This is the kind of stuff we deal with all the time in Haiti!
We made other arrangements and we will have our food early next week.
My reason for sharing this story is not to complain about my work. But I share this story as an example of the extra miles you sometimes have to go in order to effectively advocate for something. Advocating is not as effective when you just simply share with others the cause and wait to see what happens. Advocating means to be actively working towards your goal.
Advocating takes perseverance, continuous follow up and no rest until the issue is resolved. In this case, it takes going with your gut and pushing through the barriers what ever it takes, even if it exhausts the heck out of you and makes you grow weary. Advocating sometimes makes you look like a crazy person.
But when it comes to a matter of life or death, you better believe that I will do whatever it takes to push through the spiritual warfare that could keep us from going forward with our work for His Kingdom.
So, when someone asks me, "What do you do for the ministry?" My answer most often is I advocate! I manage a lot of tasks and do a lot of busy work but overall my role is to Advocate for this ministry and the people in Haiti. It's the most rewarding, complicated and exhausting job, next to raising my four children, that I have every had in my life! I love my job!!