Tuesday, August 31, 2010

international host program

Our family has made good friends across the world through this program. If you're interested, contact me and I can give you further details or contact Pramod at her number below.

The Host Family Program at UNI still needs 5 or 6 more families to befriend an international student at UNI.

The responsibility is to be a friend to an international student-not to have them live with you. The relationship varies with the student, but they have requested to meet an American family. Sponsors are introduced at UNI. There is a sponsored Thanksgiving potluck one Sunday evening in Nov, and we are encouraged to have a few other contacts during the year with the student. Some students are so busy, they have not had time to do things with our family. Others have participated in several activities. Most really like to visit to an American home. Many foreign students never get that opportunity.

Pramod Sarin
International Friendship Family Program Committee

trade as one- just one

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

update with partners in Haiti

"There is one body. There is one Spirit. You were appointed to one hope when you were chosen. There is none Lord. There is one faith and one baptism. There is one God and Father of all. He is over everything. He through everything. He is in everything." Eph. 4:4-6

We desire to keep you all 'in the loop' of what is going on here in Haiti. We need your prayers. It is the prayers of the faithful ones such as you that keep this ministry going.

We had an incredible youth day last Friday. We have really enjoyed working with our local youth, even though there are many challenges. Many of the pastors in JeanJean's classes have been sharing with him about how they struggle to get their youth interested in being active in their community and church. When JeanJean told about how we've centered our youth group around Bible, Service, and Fun, many wanted to hear more. We decided to have a youth day and invited the 20 churches represented in JeanJean's class to bring their youth groups. We never imagined the interest this would generate. We thought that since many of these men walk 4, 5, and 11 hours to get to class, they wouldn't be able to take all their youth. Oh no, the man from close to the D.R. border brought 18 youth with him. It took them 13 hours and they stayed overnight in our dorm 2 nights, but they came. The man that comes 6 hours had originally told JeanJean that he wouldn't be able to come. Then he shows up on Friday with 10 kids. We said, "Pastor Jezula, we didn't think you were coming." He puts his hands in the air and tells us, "The kids made me come and they nagged me so much about it that we had to come." We ended up with 351 kids altogether. Our prayer for the worship center has always been for God to fill it up with people who want to know Him more. He answered that prayer. It was a great day of worshipping Him and learning more about His word. JeanJean really encouraged the youth to realize that the church will soon be in their hands--they need to be leaders now for Christ. JeanJean took his message from II Cor. 6: 14-18, and had the kids repeat, "We will not mix!" That is the prayer for us all; we cannot mix the godly with the ungodly.

It was also a great day where our youth took on a lot of responsibility to make the day go well. They cleaned and decorated the worship center, they organized skits and songs, they planned games, the helped with the food and water, they made name tags for all the kids and directed the other kids where to sit, and they gave an encouraging talk about what UCI's youth group is based on. It was great to see these kids, most of whom were not going to church a couple of years ago, talking about how the gospel changed their lives. They encouraged the other youth groups to take their Bible study seriously and to serve others in different ways. We ended the day with the promise that we will turn this one-day event into a real youth camp that will last 4 or 5 days. We got tremendous applause and cheers with that announcement. Pray for 2011 UCI youth camp!

Kristie, along with Martha Rankin and Debbie Nutzmann, participated in a 5-day women's conference last weekend. The theme was 'A life of abundance.' One hundred and fifty ladies were blessed by good, sound Biblical teaching. There were testimonies and crafts. The singing was amazing! There was even a lot of dancing for Jesus! Each of the women received a Bible in Kreyol and a hymnal. When they realized that they would each get a Bible and hymnal, there was a spontaneous dance that we coined, 'The Happy dance.' It includes a lot of hugging and kissing and ladies dancing and rejoicing together. Every night we had a wonderful 2-4 hour service led by a Haitian lady named Erlvie. Many friendships were made. What a blessing it is to encourage our fellow women.

The school roof is poured! We have found that pouring a cement floor in Haiti is a amazing feat that involves a lot of coordination. We enlisted the help of a professional group from Hinche. These 40 men came to our place at 4:30 AM (they would have gotten there at 3AM but their truck broke down in the muddy road!) and they worked hard until noon. The boss was a very knowledgeable man that was able to make sure everything went according to plan. It is a beautiful sight to see the 4 rooms completed. The rest will be finished next week. We have started the registration process. There has been a tremendous interest! We have had to close the registration for the preschool classes as we have reached our maximum of 35/class. We didn't even want to have that many kids but the need is so great. We are going to have 2 teachers per class. One will be a university-trained teacher and the other may not have a college education but they have experience teaching in primary schools. In Haiti, it is not required for a primary school teacher to even have a high-school diploma, but we desire to have strong Christian teachers. It is our hope that they will be able to train other teachers that have not had the opportunity to go to college. School opens Oct. 3, decreed by the Haitian Ministry of Education. Please pray that we are able to order all the books needed and make all the benches before year begins.

Well, we have even more to report but this update is getting long. There are more cement floors and houses built, the irrigation pumps are working, Saul has a new helper to assist him with the gardens and training, the kids in the centers have recently been weighed and their photos have been taken for the Christmas gift give-away. Price gave a wonderful testimony in church...yikes, I put it all in another newsletter.

Kristie, JeanJean, Tana, and Kerri Mompremier

Sunday, August 22, 2010

nehemiah 6

If you dig in the summer archives, you'll notice that I've posted a few thoughts on my reading through the book of Nehemiah. I'm not exactly strategic about when I throw another Nehemiah thought out onto the blog, but I thought today might be as good as any for a Nehemiah 6 thought.

Nehemiah faced opposition all the way through his call. He was intimidated by his enemies as they tried to lure him and steer him off track. I love how he persevered. I love his courage. I love his focus on God for the task he was called to.

It's quite evident if you read Nehemiah 6, that prayer is of the highest value for Nehemiah, for it's in conversation with God...both speaking and listening....that Nehemiah received discernment and direction, strength, confidence, and stick-to-it-ness to go forward.

What is threatening to take you down today? I hope that prayer will be your first turn and my first turn and that God will faithfully provide for us what is needed to move forward with His heart and in His will.

classic Saturday

Yep, classic Saturday on Sunday again. Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) is this week's featured devotional author and the topic addressed is "temptation" from the classic The Imitation of Christ.

"As long as we live in the world we cannot escape temptations and tribulations. As it is written in Job, 'Our life on this earth is warfare.'"

"Temptations can be useful to us even though they seem to cause us nothing but pain. They are useful because they can make us humble, they can cleanse us, and they can teach us. All of the saints passed through times of temptation and tribulation, and they used them to make progress in the spiritual life. Those who did not deal with temptations successfully fell to the wayside."

"If we merely turn away from temptation outwardly and do not strike at the root, we will make very little progress. In fact, you will find that the temptations will return more quickly and powerfully, and you will feel even worse. Little by little, through patient endurance of spirit (with the help of God), you will win a better victory than by your own determination."

"I want to teach you the way of peace and true liberty. There are four things you must do. First, strive to do another's will rather than your own. Second, choose always to have less than more. Third, seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important. Fourth, always and in everything, desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you. The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest."

Friday, August 20, 2010

more summit thoughts

I love to hear how Willow's Global Leadership Summit impacted and stirred people who went. Here are some last thoughts that are sticking with me. Comment with your own feedback if you were there!

-Our very essence is to be active and engaged. Self-direction leads to engagement. People are motivated by Autonomy-Mastery-Purpose (AMP). The single largest motivator discovered in a study was when people felt they were making progress. Leaders help people see the progress. Rewards/punishment system works for simple tasks, but with complex problems, the solution demands creativity. -Daniel Pink

- In light of Pink's research, I had trouble reconciling some of what leader Jack Welch talked about in his talk. Welch, who led GM for 41 years...led it from a 13 billion dollar industry to 400 billion. Led 300,000 people in that time span. He talked about a reward hierarchy for his staff....naming people in the top 20%, middle 70%, and last 10% and compensating them according to their status. He said, "I can't think of a better way to build a team." So, here's this really respected, successful leader who used a reward/punishment system and believes it to be the most effective system. Just interesting to hear two speakers on the same day with such different perspectives.

- Blake Mycoskie is STICKY! The founder of TOMS shoes has tapped into what the Heath brothers write about in their two books Make it Stick and Switch. He uses simple and sticky language...GIVE and One for One. He builds identity. He makes it easy for people to act. He has successfully tapped into the next generation's passion to make a difference and be about justice. His "One Day Without Shoes" campaign is appealing to a broad audience and had 250,000 participants the first year. He's successfully using technology and the powers behind tech companies to reach people.

- Christine Caine is a passionate speaker. Listen to her on You Tube. (I posted one of her talks a few months back). Caine spoke about hope and captivated her listeners with story and inspiration. She was able to successfully get people's focus directly on JESUS.

- "Are we listening to God or are we following some script for our lives?" - B. Hybels

- Regulate reach and growth. Resist growth until key people are in place. Get the seats filled with people who can execute. (Packard's Law) - J. Collins

- Ask the right questions. Double questions to statements. - J. Collins

- "Transformation with the cross." - Peter Xiao

- "Anything good in life began with a conversation." -Daniel Pink

- Jeff Manion did a brilliant job talking about desert time in life. He was funny. He made Scripture come alive. He brought the audience in deeply and tenderly as he spoke about the desert being prime and fertile ground for 1. complaint 2. emotional meltdown 3. God's provision 4. God's discipline. The desert...the "land between"....is pregnant with opportunity to trust God, to experience transformation, and to learn to pray. This has been so true in my life. It's been God's best strategy in my life to get my full and utter attention. I believe Manion has a book called The Land Between.

- W.L. Gore and Associates (a multi-billion dollar enterprise...you know, Gore-tex material) runs their company in a style and with a culture that I would connect well with, I believe. The interview with CEO Terri Kelly identified some of their culture at Gore....live by core values, lattice system as opposed to ladder system, power of small teams and collaboration, autonomy, peer-based system, divide and multiply. I really liked this interview.

- T.D. Jakes talked about builders and bankers. Builders start up something, bankers keep them going. I'm more of a builder than a banker.

- Adam Hamilton did a brave and important job of speaking about fallen leadership by way of marital infidelity and sexual sin. It seemed like such a narrow corner to turn in a summit filled with broad leadership conversations. Goes to show how prevalent and tempting this problem must be in the Church as well as in mainstream society.

- "How many times do you wish you'd have waited longer to act? Not very often. Get going. Get self-confidence in your gut." -Jack Welch

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the concept of social justice

A friend of mine offered me a study on social justice to look through. I'm not all the way through the study, but I really liked how they rethink social justice in the first few lessons.

"Social justice is often understood to mean equal distribution of income. A different, more holistic view of social justice defines true justice as being about more than government and economics. Justice is about right relationships. "

You can learn more about this study at seeksocialjustice.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

sixteen hours one summer

Oh, how God has blessed me over eight Wednesday evenings this summer in the Walnut Neighborhood. On June 30, I started to meet kids in the local park of the Walnut Neighborhood in Waterloo. The park is a gathering spot, and so I invited some friends, and each week, a group of folks from Harvest and Orchard Hill went to hang out with kids. Below are some of tonight's highlights from our time together as we close out the eight weeks in the park and look ahead to consider what God might have for the future:

- Brion and Judy, both talented in the drawing field, made unique chalk tracings of each of the kids on the dead end stretch of Walnut St. tonight. It was a gallery of masterpieces by the end of the evening!

- We gathered toward the end of the evening, and I shared with the kids how Jesus's love for me, for the other friends from Harvest and OHC, and his love for each of them has compelled us to come to the park this summer. Jayda, a regular over the past eight weeks, piped up and said, "Ya, we didn't even know you were coming. You just popped up one day when we were already here!" We also talked about their chalk masterpieces and how God has made each one of them a masterpiece as well.

- Brion shared about being a kid who got into drugs and stealing and fighting and whose life was changed when he met Jesus. Several of the kids connected with being in fights, and so Brion called up one of the boys who admitted to fighting, and Brion did an amazing job using fighting as one example to share God's design for us, the sin trouble we are in, and the answer in Jesus. When Brion talked about being washed clean of our sin by the blood of Jesus, one boy raised his hand to ask if baptism washes your sin away, and a great conversation about salvation and baptism followed.

- We closed in a circle tonight, held hands, prayed about school this year, and listened as Dominisha was thankful that it's God's birthday everyday, even holidays :), and Jayda summed things up by saying thanks to God for these times of playing and making new friends in the park.

These eight weeks just emphasize so clearly that relationships are the key and the bottom line. God's plan is all about reconciling relationships between us and him and us with one another through Christ. I think that might be the ballgame.

God's BIG power in a small gesture

God uses hand-written notes of encouragement in powerful ways. Notes and cards written to me over the years for various reasons have had lifechanging impact on me. I still remember a note my fourth grade teacher sent my parents praising me for the help I gave her by reading with a peer in the classroom who needed some extra practice reading. I kept that note for years. When our first child was stillborn twelve years ago, the notes and letters I received from family and friends (and even strangers)..especially those who had gone through similar loss...were used by God in powerful ways to help in the healing process. Tonight, I was reminded again of how God can work through a simple note of encouragement.

The picture in this post is of a boy named Aaron whom I met six weeks ago, just seconds after he landed wrong on a bike trick and broke his ankle badly. I stayed with him as he waited in agony for the ambulance, and I sent him a card with a note shortly after his accident. He came to the park tonight for the first time since the accident. I saw this teen's foot in a cast, looked up, and said, "Aaron?! I don't know if you remember me, but my name is Laura, and I was with you at your accident." He responded, "I keep your card on my dresser."

Upon being at the park for the past several Wednesdays, I often took pictures, and for our last night tonight, I made cards for each of the kids by taping each child's photo to cardstock and writing them a short letter to wish them well in school and remind them of who they are to God. As the kids scrambled to see their photos and carry them off to home tonight, I was so deeply reminded of how each one of us needs this very basic and very critical affirmation of our worth to God and value because we were created by Him in love.

Sometimes I brush off or procrastinate whispers from God to sit down and jot out a note to someone. And it only takes like 5 minutes to do so! After being reminded tonight of God's big work through such a small gesture, I certainly don't want to ignore those promptings in the future. Have you ever received a small note that had BIG impact?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I'm getting better about paying attention when I hear something repeatedly from different sources over a short period of time.

At the Global Leadership Summit, here are a few themes that I heard repeated from different speakers over the two day summit:

1. Where are we? Diagnostics are important. Bill Hybels talked about how leaders not only have to cast a vision, but they must help people clearly see where they are now and why staying there is unacceptable. Jim Collins talked about dealing with harsh realities and creating an inventory of brutal facts with your core team. Jack Welch talked about helping people know where they stand, and Daniel Pink talked about rich, robust feedback that differs from a traditional "stiff" performance evaluation in that it should be just real and authentic conversation.

2. Celebrate progress. Several speakers talked about the importance of celebrating along the journey. Hybels talked about how it's the middle of the journey where we need motivation to keep going. We need hope that we're getting somewhere and will make it to the destination. We need encouragement and inspiration. Celebration of small victories is important! Pink said, "Leaders help people see the progress."

3. Change practices without changing core values. Both Jim Collins and Terri Kelly talked about the importance of living out core values, but changing practices to fit contexts, cultures, and next generations.

4. Team. So many of the speakers talked about the importance of gathering fantastic people around you. People of character, competence, chemistry, and people who fit the culture of the organization. People who can execute the vision. People whose gifts compliment one another.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

global leadership summit

Orchard Hill Church is a host site to this year's Global Leadership Summit today and tomorrow. I spent 8 hours listening to the following speakers today: Bill Hybels, Jim Collins, Christine Caine, Tony Dungy interviewed by Craig Groeschel, Peter Xiao, and Andy Stanley. If you love to learn about and from great leaders, I'm sure you could google any one of the names above and find a talk they gave, a book they wrote, etc...

Some short phrases and thoughts that "stuck" with me today-

- Leaders not only need to cast a vision of a preferred future, they need to help their people see where they currently are and why remaining where they are is not acceptable. (Hybels)

- Because vision leaks so quickly, we must inspire and encourage by celebrating the progress made on the journey...especially in the middle of the journey. (Hybels)

- Humility separated the level 5 leaders from level 4 leaders studied. (Collins)

- You do what you want out of your passion. (what you have to out of obligation) - (Caine)

- Some problems should not be solved, some tensions should not be resolved. Managing well and leveraging these kinds of insistent problems/tensions can actually stimulate growth and progress in your organization. - (Stanley)

So many more thoughts behind those phrases, and so many leadership insights from the day. Looking forward to tomorrow!

what can we learn from prison?

Last Friday, I drove two children to Ft. Dodge to see their father who is incarcerated at the correctional facility there. I had not met their father before this day, yet I had the opportunity to sit around a small table for 3 hours with him and his children during this visit. We played cards, colored, ate snacks, talked about the kids' summer activities and about life in prison.

I've had so many incomplete thoughts and hard-to-process impressions after this experience. I've mostly had just a lot of jumbled pieces that I'm trying to formulate into some framework in my head....here's some of the soup mix:

Marcus has achieved the highest level of freedom and privilege at the facility. He's at "honors" level which means he has a key to his room, and he can be out of his room all day until midnight. He has a job at the prison...he is a barber, and he talked with me about all the different cuts he's learned for all the different types of people and hair he works with. He eats in a small community room with others each day. His floor operates somewhat like a dorm floor. It has tv lounges, a big shared bathroom. Marcus also has the opportunity to go to a "shop" each day to make arts, crafts, projects. He can go to the gym, library, or outside where there is a baseball field, track, soccer field. Prisoners can take classes that help them advance academically, recover from addictions, or grow personally.

I recognize that this is prison, and no one wants to be locked away from the rest of society, but look at some of the positives of this structure for a minute. Marcus has been given clear direction and defined boundaries. He has accountability and structure. He has meaningful work. He has opportunities to learn and grow in the classroom. The limit of choices can actually help a person choose more wisely.

After getting a peek into daily life, I can more than ever understand why there is such a high rate of recidivism, or return to crime and prison. This kind of structure isn't available on the outside. For a short time, there's probation and a clearly defined path, and then there's nothing but a big black hole.....and insurmountable obstacles. Getting and sustaining meaningful work is difficult because of the criminal record. Affordable housing is in short supply and is limited for those with criminal backgrounds. Healthy friendships and community to support you is also in short supply, as most of the people you're connected with face some of the similar struggles. Your environment is not favorable. Even programs offered throughout the community are somewhat disconnected and don't help with the whole picture or fold you into a new community and network of friends and support.

Marcus may be out by February 2011. hmmm. Christian community and a structure that helps a person grow on the outside of that prison....that's something I've been thinking about since I left the facility last Friday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

joining with a neighborhood

I had a great time tonight at the Walnut Neighborhood Night Out Party. Joining together for a meal, conversation, and fun were all sorts of people connected in some way to the neighborhood. A look at some of the photos gives you an idea of the fun that we shared together throughout the course of the evening!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

quotes of the day

"It's easier to make a long journey when you've got a herd around you." -Dan and Chip Heath

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." -?

Monday, August 2, 2010

perspective on danger

I've been considering something I heard last year at the CCDA conference. I went to a workshop and listened to a woman who was similar in many ways to myself: Suburban, white, married with 2 kids near the same ages as ours, and her role at her suburban church was very close to mine.

She had been spending a year in an inner-city neighborhood linking the neighborhood and her church, and she was feeling more and more called to move into the neighborhood. She and her family did move in about a year later, and she basically said this: "We prayed and we weighed...when we thought about the danger that everyone seems so concerned about, we began to ask ourselves, 'Which is more dangerous? Moving into the neighborhood or leaving our children in the suburban lifestyle we were living. We moved."

"The safest place to be is within the will of God." -Anonymous