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Boy, this was one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written for some reason…
People have been asking, “How was the Mission Trip?” Well… Stunning… On several levels. (Note: I’ve hyperlinked many of the comments to the corresponding pictures in the photo gallery on SmugMug. Click through as you read!)
I wept. I’ll just be right up front about it. We all did actually, at different times and for different reasons.
For me, thinking back on it, I’d best describe it as an incredibly complex mixture of ….
Serving God in a Third World country is intensely personal. Some of you might say, “Well, the DR isn’t really ‘Third World’.” Well, some of the resorts like Punta Cana are up-scale. But where we were? There was electricity – a little. There was cell phone coverage – for the nationals, not for us. There were mopeds and pick-ups. There were stoves and running water. But the people we were serving generally had no cars, shared mopeds, lived in small little wood and/or cement huts, used communal waste facilities, no garbage pick-up, very little food, very little money, and almost no medical/dental/vision care. So call it what you want, but it’s a pretty unforgiving environment. As an example, if a child gets dysentery there – they die within a week. So the fresh, clean water we connected to the school definitely will save lives over time.
What did we do? The big item was spanning a river with a water line that had been washed away three months before in Hurricane Irene. It had rained 10” in 5 hours and the water level had risen 20’. So the local school and surrounding 10 homes had been without a steady supply of fresh, clean water for three months. In fact, Doug Brown on the team reported seeing a teacher dole out a drink to a student in the lid of the jug of water – that’s right, the LID. That was a simple but relatively hard project.
We also accomplished a few more things:
We slept poorly in bunks, took cold showers, got cement burns, ripped up our feet, defended ourselves against bats, shaved very little, lost weight while eating and drinking well, cursed the blasted roosters who had no sense of the actual sunrise, hung on to each other to keep from falling out of the truck on a road that in the States would be considered ‘out’, saw a rat run out of the kitchen, and left all of our clothes, shoes, and money right there. But what we walked away with was a deep sense of satisfaction, something that can only be gained by doing exactly what we did.
Here’s the key verse from the trip. Note the different spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental aspects to it.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
To my fellow PIMA members: Will you have a similar experience next year if it comes to pass? Possibly. But it bears saying again. Each person has a different response to a trip like this. Each team overcomes new obstacles. Each trip has unique weather conditions. Interpreters and construction staff will vary. So it’s impossible to say. But here’s the thing: Our expert leader, Dave McCarty, was spot on right from the very first email he sent out to the team: “No expectations.” Just ‘come and see’, go and give. And that seemed to be the key to a successful trip. So pray about it, let things happen as they will, without resisting based on expectations, and step out of your comfort zone. You will likely be extremely blessed beyond measure.
And boy did He.
A couple funny anecdotes from Doug and Cindy Brown, via email to the team following the trip, with permission. You’ll get some additional insights and smiles.
Having some issues re-acclimating…
The strangest thing happened on Sunday morning. After arriving home at 1:00 AM we dropped our luggage in the front hallway and went straight to bed, exhausted. My eyes opened at 7:00 AM Sunday morning. The first adjustment came when I realized Ed wasn’t sleeping in the bunk above me. In fact NO ONE was sleeping above me. I could see all the way to the ceiling! The next thing I noted was Cindy in bed next to me. I quickly checked to see if she was still breathing although I had decided, whatever the outcome, I would have to deal with that later. No purpling!
I laid there for only a moment taking a mental inventory. Two aching legs. Check. Two aching arms. Check. As I went through the list I determined only my hair didn’t hurt. I listened for a moment, a strange silence filling the room. Then it occurred to me, there wasn’t a single rooster crowing anywhere. I called out, “Hey guys, what happened to the roosters?” No response.
Confused I made my way to the shower. This is where things got really strange. I tapped on the door and asked if anyone was in there. Hearing nothing I grabbed the door with both hands and nearly pulled it off the hinges. I then stepped inside fully clothed. I tried lifting and pulling the door to get it mostly closed but it gave no resistance and instead, slammed shut seated perfectly in the track. As I took off my clothes I began looking around for nails and any other sharp points where I could hang them so they were partially shielded from the shower head and any fine streams of water coming from the pipes. Get this, the shower stall was dry!
As I stood there at a 30 degree angle to adjust for the slope of the floor it occurred to me, the floor was nearly flat with only a slight slope toward the middle where there was a small grated hole. I started to share this new found information with the person in the stall next to me when I realized, I was all alone. There I stood, no other men or women to share in my discoveries. In fact the next nearest shower stall was down the hallway. I felt so alone.
After fumbling around the shower head looking for the valve I noticed on the wall, two, that’s two handles. Feeling adventuresome I turned them both on full. After an initial blast of familiar cold water the water temperature began to rise, first warm and then HOT. I quickly turned off the water, lathered and rinsed, the whole process taking less than 47 seconds including when I accidently opened my mouth and a few drops of water entered. I spit out every bit of moisture from my bowels forward. I wasn’t going to die in the shower from some intestinal thing carried in by questionable water!
I grabbed a towel from the corner of the stall and used the driest part. At first I thought I had the wrong towel because it smelled like dryer sheets, not my 7th grade gym locker. I put on my damp clothes and flip flops and stepped out of the shower. That’s when it hit me! I was inside the house! I was in a bathroom with a sink, a toilet with a small pile of toilet paper on the floor next to it from sometime in the night, towel bars, and toilet paper actually hanging from the wall. No tiny stick with a duct tape handle. I took off my flip-flops and the floor was cold and smooth ceramic tile. Not a grain of sand anywhere!
Then, like Dorothy it struck me, I’m not in the D.R. anymore… I am in Kansas!
The rest of the day was mostly normal. Except when I passed a construction site and jumped out to mix concrete by hand. A policeman stopped me. “Sir, you can’t do that.” I told him oh yes I can, I’m “Meester Kansas Guy” and he insisted he was going to have to take me to the station. I told him that was fine but I would like to ride hanging on to the outside of the vehicle.
It’s good to be back. Hope your adjustment is going well. What a great experience serving God, and the people of the D.R. with you.
I too am adjusting to being back in the good ole USA. Some reflections on what I learned in the DR.
God is alive and well in the DR. He is on the move, using the 12 most unlikely saints, hand-chosen for a time such as this.
It was a joy to be in your presence, in the presence of the living KING.
Queen “Cindy” or Sheba
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I’m excited to share Part 2b of the Linkedin series on B2B promotion and the role of employees, especially leaders and stakeholders. But I feel led to go and swim in the deep end of the pool for a minute, spiritually speaking. So if you’re not into spiritual things, more to the point, Christian things, this post is not for you, but thanks for visiting anyway. Understanding I’m speaking to a business audience where the norm is to “never talk about religion and politics”, if you ARE even moderately inquisitive about the spiritual aspects of life, you might find this a good respite.
On Saturday, I’m joining a team of 12 from an industry association I’m involved in, PIMA, the Professional Insurance Marketers Association, on what’s being called the “Give Back Tour”. We are meeting up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for a week of service to the Dominican nationals through an organization known as World Servants. Our leader is Dave McCarty from AGIA. Dave and his wife have been doing this for about 10 years now, so they have the whole thing “wired”. I put that in quotes because as you might expect, when you’re walking by faith and serving the creator of the universe, you gotta kinda be open to ‘changes in plan’ if you know what I mean. Right?
Here’s the agenda:
Saturday – Travel to DR and then to San Cristobal. Dinner at camp, Group Time and go to bed.
Sunday – Cross Cultural Orientation from 9 – 3pm, Community Tour 3-5, Worship with the community, Kids Club preparation, Group Time, Small Group.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
Wednesday – “Day Off”
Why am I going? Quite candidly, I see my life as leading a team of 4 horses:
My desire is to keep these horses together and at the same pace. So as I age physically, I want to advance mentally. As I work to develop my mental IQ, I also want to develop my emotional IQ. And as all three of these grow and mature, I seek to develop the spiritual component right along with them. That way my life stays in balance. The interesting thing about the horse analogy is that horses have several speeds, right? Rest, walk, cantor, trot, gallup, etc. So it’s my job to tune into what’s happening around me, be sensitive to the needs of those I touch, etc., all common-sense stuff, and lead my horses appropriately.
As many of you know, I’ve grown a great deal mentally in the last year – not that I’m boasting, that’s just what’s happened as a result of the leap of faith in starting WebWisedom, something I didn’t really see coming, but I’m grateful for. At the same time, I’ve also started a more rigorous workout regimen involving spinning and jogging with my wife. Emotionally? Well, without going into the details, let’s just say with the separation of my son (Army) and the looming separation from my daughter (college graduation and moving on…), as well as a very difficult time of trial for my wife and her job, I’ve grown a lot emotionally.
So that leaves the spiritual side. I know, like most guys, I tend to compartmentalize things. But in reality, I’ve held the spiritual reign loosely, really all these reigns, because I know at this point in my spiritual journey, the spirit is working in and through ALL of these things, right? I’m kind of just along for the ride, trying to be obedient to the leading of the spirit, stumbling and falling to be sure, but persisting and trying to ‘walk worthy’. So when the opportunity presented itself, even though it’s a real stretch financially (and I appreciate the grace of my business partners to whom I owe small amounts of $), I said yes. (And btw, just yesterday, thanks to 6 business partners, I just billed my highest month WebWisedom-to-date. So praise God, I’ll be caught up with my obligations by the end of the month if everyone pays me on schedule…again, not boasting, just being candid and transparent as it relates to this story.)
What are my expectations? Well, I’m leading the music part of the trip. So I’m looking forward to some really good singing time – that always ministers to my soul. I know about half the guys on the team. So I’m looking forward to deepening those relationships, as well as getting to know the others. My daughter, Kelle, has gone to the DR the last five years in a row and has told me many great things. So while I’m going to a different region, I’m looking forward to walking in her footsteps a bit and then sharing with her after. And of course, I’m looking forward to serving the DR folks. But most importantly, I’m anticipating seeing the hand of God at work in a clear and unmistakeable way. (I went to the jungle of the Philippines in ’98 with a church group and saw some amazing and unforgettable things then.) And yes, I’ll have my camera and will make a video, Lord willing and by his grace.
So that’s it for now. Selfishly, I’d greatly appreciate your words of encouragement and any other Comments and thoughts that immediately come to mind. But I’ll be offline from 10/8-16. The scripture passage I’m memorizing: Col 3:12-14. Thanks for reading and good thoughts for the team. Blessings…