Shouldn’t This Be Less Fun?

This is the fifth and final part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

I’d come to serve these poor people.  I wasn’t sure what tasks lay ahead.  I knew some people were injured — maybe I’d work in triage wrapping bandages.  I knew people were here without money and food — maybe I’d work a food line.  Maybe I’d setup cots or give out clothes or cut branches or unload supplies or clean porta-potties.  I was willing to do whatever.  It’d likely be hard and probably push me out of my comfort zone.  I didn’t know how to encourage and support people after such a terrible event.  What if I needed to help in the clinic and had to touch someone’s blood?  Oh well, I want to make a difference and I guess it will be worth it.

Little did I expect that I’d be surfing the internet, creating online web forms, using my wireless laptop, configuring simple networks, and other geeky stuff that I always enjoy doing.

God has an amazing way of using our passions to serve with.  It’s great to be willing to do whatever for the glory of God.  But since God created us intentionally he’ll generally use the passions and skills that he wired into us to bring glory to him.  That’s part of what makes serving so much fun.

How have you seen God work through the skills and passions that He’s given you?  Did that surprise you?

It’s Safer Driving from the Back Seat

This is the fourth part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

  • Wow, a hurricane.
  • Hundreds of thousands forced out of their homes.  That sucks.
  • I hope someone helps them.
  • The church down there should help them.
  • The Church should help them.
  • Our church should do something.
  • I should do something.
  • I should do something tangible.
  • This process is unorganized.
  • Why doesn’t the Red Cross have this more organized?
  • Why doesn’t that leader organize things a bit better?
  • Why aren’t we doing this or that?
  • If I were in charge, I’d do it differently.
  • Why aren’t the leaders doing a better job of leading?  This is their job!
  • Wait, these ‘leaders’ just showed up and decided to do something.
  • This isn’t organized.  If I were here for a few days I’d do something different.
  • Wait, I’m here now.  I can lead now.  I’m here for a purpose.

Be present in the moment.  Don’t criticise from the back seat.  Even if you don’t drive for long, be willing to take your turn when the opportunity presents itself.

Pray Tell What?

This is the third part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

It was the end of our first day working at the River Centre shelter.  We’d driven through the night the day before and I was now working on only about 6 hours sleep for the past 48 hours.  I was exhausted and at the end of my rope.  But, we now had a 5 year old boy latched onto us who needed some love and attention.

His mother had left the shelter that morning around 10a and he didn’t know where his mom was.  It was now about 9 hours later and we didn’t want to leave this boy alone.  I’d already sent most of our team off to find the place where we were supposed to be sleeping, but now after searching for his mom for about 90 minutes I was at the end of what I could handle.

In selfish desperation, I said a short prayer…

Lord, if there’s any way possible, it’d sure be nice if this boy’s mother could show up here in the next couple of minutes.

Literally about 90 seconds later I see 2 women walking in and this boy going to them.  It was the boy’s mother and aunt.  God had answered my simple prayer.  I couldn’t believe it.  The timing was just too weird to not have been God’s personal response to me.

So, why do I tend to only turn to God and ask for his help as a last resort?  Why do I think I have to solve things on my own and exhaust all other resources, before turning to God?  It’s either that I don’t trust him, or I’m too proud to feel like I need his help.  Either option is stupid.

Lord, help me to come to you with my daily needs.  Help me to trust and depend on you in both the little and big stuff of life.  Without you I’m not all that hot, and I need your help.

Do you have any stories of when God answered a really simple prayer of yours?  Do you have trouble asking for help with the simpler needs in your life?

A Little Less Action, and a Lot More Talk

This is the second part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

When we arrived at Baton Rouge and checked in for job assignments, my team was told that we were needed to comfort and encourage people at a medical clinic and at a shelter.  I remember thinking, “What!  I don’t know how to comfort people.  I was expecting to do real stuff like clear brush, move supplies, or repair houses.  I don’t know how to comfort people, let alone lead others in doing this.  Give me a chainsaw instead.”

Then suddenly I was put at ease.  I told my team that I was a bit anxious about this sort of work but encouraged them (and myself) that this just meant listening to people, understanding their struggles and pain, and giving plenty of hugs.  I could do that.

Over the next two days I used my skills as best I could to look up information for people on the internet.  I connected a mother to her daughter that was about to give birth in a hospital.  I looked up phone numbers for distant family members.  I sent email to people to let them know their family members were in our shelter.  I searched through the lists of missing, safely found, and confirmed dead for names of their family and friends.

But, the bigger thing I did was that I took time to listen to each person who asked for my help.  People were lonely, confused, and hurting.  They wanted a friend who cared, even if it was only for a few minutes or hours.

I heard a elderly man tell me how he got out of his house, only to discover his wife didn’t follow him out immediately and was then trapped.  He left his home absolutely helpless to save her.  I could tell several others had similar experiences, but they couldn’t work up the courage to talk about it.  Instead we’d exchange big bear hugs with understanding tears in our eyes.

Several other people told me how they had been estranged from their families in previous years and how that was so painful now when they needed them.  Besides the trauma of the hurricane, the hurricane brought their normal, every day pain to the surface and they couldn’t ignore it as easily as normal.

People need compassion and relationship more than they need their questions answered or problems fixed.  While it’s good to help people by serving them, everyone’s deepest needs are for love and relationship.

Lord, help me to see people’s need for love and relationship.  Help me not get distracted with doing good things and miss really getting to know the people around me.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?  Tell me about your experiences and struggles with this.  We can encourage each other in this area.

Techno Savior

This is the first part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

On that Monday and Tuesday I served in a temporary data center for a 6,000 person shelter that had been setup at the River Centre in Baton Rouge, LA.  As a computer guru and web application developer, I knew that a few technology tweaks could make this data processing much more useful.  It was frustrating to be there and know that something better could be done.

Then on the drive back to Illinois on Wednesday, we were listening to a Steel on Steel podcast and they were talking about how technology could possibly solve our oil shortage.  I was like, “Yeah… technology can solve any problem.”

Then, suddenly, I realized what I was saying.  I really did tend to think that technology can fix any problem.  Technology is amazing.  It can solve starvation, resource scarcity, data analysis, recovery from natural disasters, etc.  It can literally save people.  Or can it?   Can technology fix all our problems?  I sure tend to think it can if we can just wrap our minds around a solution.

I realized that much of the time I look to technology to fix us, instead of God.  The world’s core problems can only be solved by God.  My deepest problems can only be made right by God’s miraculous touch.

If I don’t watch myself, I start to worship technology, rather than the one who created order to our world and gave us the left and right parts of our brains in order to develop and apply technology to our worlds.

Lord, help me to rely only on you and realize daily that technology is something you created for us to use to glorify you.

How do you tend to worship technology?  What else do you worship instead of God?  Politics?  Wealth?