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Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble

November 15, 2011

Being a missionary involves a steep learning curve, and sometimes the lessons are painful.

 

I know many of you will have heard this old chestnut, but just in case there are a few who have not, I am going to retell it, as it is crucial to making my point.  For those like me who have suffered through it again and again, bear with me.

 

It had been raining heavily, and as the floodwaters were rising, a man went out and sat on his porch.  A neighbour happened by in a rowboat and called to him to get in, offering to row him to safety. But the man declined the offer, declaring, “I’m waiting for God, He’ll save me.”

Soon the water rose and the man was forced to the second story of his house. A motorboat appeared with a number of people on board, and they offered to rescue him, but he told them, “I have perfect faith that God will save me.”

Soon the man had to climb to the top of his roof to escape the swirling water.  A rescue helicopter arrived and the crew lowered a line and hailed him over a megaphone, but he insisted, “I’m waiting for God. I trust that He’ll save me.”

The water continued to rise until the man finally drowned.  On his arrival in heaven he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me? I waited for you but you never came.”  God replied, “Indeed I did.  I came three times in fact.”

 

Faith in God’s provision can be tricky.  Exactly how does God provide?  In my experience He employs any number of ways, many of which I would never have imagined.  Most often those ways are not miraculous in the supernatural sense, but nevertheless they are miraculous in the sense that they are unexpected and marvelous.  But in waiting for a miracle I run the risk of overlooking the ordinary.  Do I just wait, or is it incumbent upon me to take some initiative?  I have been questioning myself on this matter.

When I decided to come to Haiti I was convinced that God had already provided all I would need to live and work here.  The way that things took shape seemed to confirm that.  But there were those among my friends who pointed out that my self-sufficiency was selfish in a way, denying others the opportunity to participate in what I was doing.  I could see their logic and relented; I would allow others to help.

This was not an easy decision for me.  I was brought up with dogged self-reliance as a core value.  It was difficult for me to put myself in God’s care, but that came gradually.  But to go to others with hat in hand, as I saw it, was humiliating.  I had seriously considered missions several years ago, but had backed away on that very point.  Raising support was repugnant to me.

I have had, and continue to have, considerable support in what I am doing.  Many of you follow what I am doing through this blog.  Some of you provide encouragement through your communication with me.  Many of you pray for me regularly.  But there has been very little monetary support.  That last statement sticks in my craw.  It feels like I am pressuring you and I hate that.

As much as the idea of marketing what I am doing makes me cringe, I am acutely aware that doing anything in this world takes money.  I am learning that it is difficult to survive and to work most effectively on the mission field without good financial support.  I am not concerned about my personal needs.  God has blessed me with a small income from pension sources and the doctors with whom I am working have seen to it that I am provided for in a number of small but significant ways.

But I have learned that living the simple life here would consume a great deal of my time and would therefore severely limit the time available to be involved with some of the things that are on my heart.  To make more time available has proved expensive.  I am managing well, but I have had to tighten my belt in some ways.  (But that has become necessary just to adjust for the weight loss that I attribute to reduced appetite due to the heat, not having food available every time I have a craving, and on a Haitian diet.  There’s another unexpected expense:  I need a whole new wardrobe.)  A case in point is that when I visit Canada at Christmas I cannot justify the cost of a trip to the Okanagan, even though I need to attend to some important business and medical matters there, and would very much love to visit with some of my dear friends.  The airlines seem to lack the Christmas spirit.  Sorry, guys.

Far more important to me is that there are needs associated with the work I am doing here that I would dearly love to find a way to meet.  I have come to believe deeply in what the COPSA nursing institute is doing.  Training nurses, pharmacists and nursing assistants who will work here will make a huge difference in the local healthcare system.  It will undoubtedly save lives.  It will also provide those who have enrolled with an opportunity to work at meaningful and financially rewarding jobs.  The doctors and others involved give generously of themselves to try to help the students realize their dreams, and to see their own come to fruition.

But we are faced with the realities of Haiti.  People here are poor.  Just attending classes means that these students cannot contribute as much to supporting themselves or their families.  There is none of the government financial assistance I received when I was studying to be a nurse.  So in order to make the course accessible to as many as possible, the doctors have set the fees very low.  But although small in Canadian terms, they are still significant in Haitian terms.  Keeping the fees manageable for our students comes at a cost.  We have little to achieve the level of training we want to provide.  The things we want to purchase cost no less in Haiti than they would in Canada.  I have not begun to actually teach because we cannot afford to equip the practice laboratory.  The doctors have also generously allowed the students to pay their fees as they are able.  That has already resulted in cash flow problems in meeting our day-to-day needs.

I am at a loss as to how to effectively ask for assistance in this.  COPSA is not by definition a charitable organization.  But in reality it operates as a nonprofit.  But with no charitable status, fundraising is difficult.  I am the only foreigner involved in the school, so in essence I am the only connection with the outside world.  The Haitians involved have neither the contacts nor the expertise to appeal for help (as if I do).  But I have promised I will try.

In my last post I admitted to knowing little about COPSA in the larger sense.  That apparently will soon change.  But I do know the nursing institute, and it is without a doubt a very worthy cause.

So as much as it pains me, I stand before you with hat in hand.  I trust God will provide, but if a boat or a helicopter presents itself, I am going to climb aboard.

 

 

 

 

 

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