About a Girl

We’ve had a recent breakthrough at Rooftop. Our alpha patient, a term used to identify our first patient, has received the green-light for travel. We will buy her ticket tomorrow. Exodus, a 13 year-old burn victim, is traveling to live in Seattle for the next five months. Her scarred and deformed skin is being replaced with grafts from her legs. This won’t just give her mobility and beauty; it will give her life.

It’s not being melodramatic to describe her in this way. Americans are unexperienced with children who look like Exodus. Our culture isolates us in an unrealistic cocoon of beauty. Even the ugly among us could be considered attractive in many countries. Exodus’s injuries are too bothersome for most to lay eyes upon. If her injury had happened in the U.S., she would have received immediate medical attention. One year after her injury she would have hardly had any reminders of the pain inflicted by a terrible fire. In Liberia, with scars like hers, she has very little hope of working, playing or possibly even marrying.

I have a really difficult time expressing the emotions I feel of this girl. She is my daughter’s age. As I type this through tears, I try to picture myself in Exodus’s parents shoes. Hopeless and helpless, they are praying for a healer. They can’t take out a loan to pay doctors, and they can’t just show up at a hospital without cash in hand. There is no cavalry for rescue and no possible solution within reach. The sheer frustration of these two parents has the potential to drive them insane. It would crush me.

Now they all have more than hope. They have an excitement I can’t even begin to imagine. Exodus has a passport, a visa and thanks to some generous donors, a ticket on the way. A family in Washington is excited to welcome her into their home. Doctors in Portland are ready. It’s been about 18 months since we began dreaming about helping kids like this. Only by the strength of God have we come this far. We will treat Exodus. We will have a story to tell like non other. We will radically change her family and her community in Monrovia. To God be the glory.

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Reading through the Stewardship Study Bible

About 4 months ago I purchased the Zondervan NIV Stewardship Bible. The idea of stewardship comes from the realization that at no time throughout scripture does God relinquish ownership of anything. Operating our lives from this standpoint is vastly different than the idea that God gives us ownership of what we have or who we are.

One of the most profound readings I’ve read is a commentary on Pride being one of our biggest obstacles to good stewardship. Pride puts us in the owner’s seat. It is impossible for God to be the Lord of our lives and for us live pridefully at the same time.

Pride of: Accomplishment, intellect, possessions, appearance, elitism and influence. Each one vies for us to create subjects, and each one gives Satan a foothold in our lives. He is the prince of pride. His reason for falling was pride. Pride in our lives gives birth to other sins, and ultimately to death.

Our lives are a struggle between master and mastered. Understanding our place helps us to submit our flesh to the one who owns our very being. This is what I’m wrestling out in myself… I’m dragging me out of myself. What do I own? Nothing. God is offended when I take any part of creation as unto my own. The Stewardship Bible is helping me to understand my role in stewarding my relationship to God, self, others and creation.

One of my favorite quotes is from Watchman Nee. “That strong self-assertive will of mine must go to the Cross, and I must give myself over wholly to the Lord. We cannot expect a tailor to make us a coat if we do not give him any cloth, nor a builder to build us a house if we let him have no building material; and in just the same way we cannot expect the Lord to live out His life in us if we do not give Him our lives in which to live. Without reservations, without controversy, we must give ourselves to Him to do as He pleases with us.”

This study Bible has quotes and commentaries from Larry Burkett, Dr. Scott Rodin, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Colson, John Piper and many more. It also provides an incredible index on savings, charity, the poor, debt and more. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this incredible resource, but it is already doing more than just scratching the  surface of me.

Tenacity

I Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In eighth grade I had my first encounter with a tenacious spirit. I was a heavyweight wrestler, better than some and less than others. My desire was to get in shape, not to beat anybody up. We had a great team, and one of our top wrestlers was a seventh grader who seemingly weighed about a hundred pounds less than me. He frequently bested wrestlers 20 or 30 pounds more than he.

“I could take him”, I thought. We were in practice, so I jovially stepped up when it was time for him to wrestle with the big boy. My 190 lbs to his 110 or 120. He wiggled, wormed and fought with every ounce of energy he could muster. Once when he was on his butt and I was fighting up his torso, I knew I was going to pin him. I was wrong. His tenacity… not just during that match, but, in every practice, gave him an advantage that my weight and muscle couldn’t overcome. I don’t remember the exact outcome, but it certainly wasn’t a feather in my cap.

Faith is like a muscle. Faith should be tenacious. This concept is often a business principle, but it is primarily a theological tenant. Jim Collins wrote a lot about tenacity in “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”, and leaders like Rudy Giuliani and Jim Sinegal have codified the executive tenacity we expect to see in leaders. Collins, Giuliani and Sinegal have something in common… the belief in disciplined exercise of faith.

The biblical principle is found in Hebrews 10:35-38 describes a relentless, unprecedented and supernatural faith. Likewise, James 1:2-4 tells us to grow our faith. It is the practice and application of faith that is beyond our own mustering that enables us to do more than we can do on our own.

I am going through a season of growth right now. My belief in God’s call in my life is greater than ever. I tenaciously believe in what he is working in me for his purpose. And yet, there is not a reason for my faith OTHER than the fact that I am called. I stand on the precipice of the unknown. But it is known, because the Lord doesn’t lead us to places where he doesn’t want us. Hindsight faith would be easy… like 20/20 hindsight vision. I look forward to telling the stories of God’s faithfulness in the year 2011 as He has provided everything we need, at the right time and in the right way.

This week we hosted an event at College of the Desert where we were able to evangelize to over 120 people. We boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus in a place that is filled with hurting people. Faith is the conduit for evangelism.

This week we partnered with a top medical professional who has incredible connections that will benefit the children of Rooftop 519. Only God could orchestrate these things. Faith is a catalyst for action.

This week I have taken inventory of the things that matter most. I am blessed beyond what most people will ever imagine. Faith is not fueled by external circumstance.

I would not trade this last year for anything. We have had more struggles, more pain and more loss (I am afraid to count how many friends and family members have died this year). Cheryl and I are growing in our faith. We are becoming tenacious about the things that matter, even when we can’t see answers to problems. We are more resolved, more determined and more patient than ever before. Faith does that. God creates that resolve within us when we fight the good fight of faith.

Our Greatest Social Problem

I posted the question on my facebook page recently, “What do you think is our greatest social problem in the world?” It seemed a rather lively topic, so I thought I would share my thoughts in my blog rather than attempt to nudge in one more soundbite-type response. My thanks in advance to all who posted.

I believe the single greatest social ill is our fractured relationships. Humans, in my experience, are terrible at prioritizing, communicating, focusing and nurturing healthy relationships with God, self, others and creation. When most people look at a social ill, they stare at the stalk and say, “Let’s come up with a cleaver way to pull that weed!”

A recent conversation with a dear friend about pornography is a perfect example. He and another friend had come up with a way to significantly hinder the porn industry’s ability to process credit cards. It seemed legal and ethical in the way they proposed it, and I believe it would have cost MasterCard and Visa financially to continue to do business with pornographers, not to mention a terrible headache for smut peddlers. I advised my friend not to proceed because I believe that the roots of the industry would have only dug deeper in the midst of an assalt.

The reason porn exists is because of broken relationships. The industry depends on broken parent-daughter relationships, parent-son relationships, and primarily, because of a brokenness in our ability to serve the Lord and follow His ways. Because we also have a broken relationship with financial resources, we monetarily incentivize, to the tune of billions of dollars, the further degradation of the family through porn.

This isn’t a diatribe about one industry, so let’s move on. One response to my facebook post was that “intolerance” is our greatest social problem. This is absurd (my apologies to the author), because you simply cannot tolerate everything. Alexander Hamilton is credited with telling us that, “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” The idea that you can allow everything to exist in harmony denies the fact that, when left to our own devices and desires, sin ensues. The primary Wiccan/Pagan tenet, “…do what ye will, harm none.”, is ridiculous when followed to it’s natural end. Can any social ill be done in private that does not hurt another person? At the very best, we use sin to isolate ourselves from necessary relationships, and at the very worst, we grieve the heart of God.

I do not believe we have too few rules or values in society. We have millions of laws, and most people would tell you they believe that families ought to be more loving, ought to show respect, ought to, ought to …. ad nauseum. The values aren’t gone from society. They are being intentionally rejected. My belief is that people in Western societies are filling ourselves with what is comfortable and entertaining rather than what is relationally healthy. I could really get on my soapbox here, but I’ll summarize by saying that I only have one T.V. in my house, and that might be one too many.

My friend, Brian Fulthorp, wrote the following on my facebook post: “most problems are symptomatic of broken relationships: divorce, war, fighting, killing, all that…. and like others have noted, all of that is borne out of our alienation from God our maker.” I completely agree. To his list, I feel compelled to add my personal conviction that it pleases God when we care for creation. This was a primary request of the Lord in Genisis 2:15, and I believe he is pleased when we steward the earth well.

Also to the list, and of utmost urgency, is a realization that we have to steward our relationship with ourselves. We tend to be sentient organisims that are particularly cleaver at seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but humans were created very differently here. We should, at times, chase after the thing that causes us incredible discomfort. I believe the greatest human attribute it to boldly pursue something that inflicts tremendous pain in the act of serving the Lord and serving others in His name.

I love that someone on facebook finally asked for the solution. Although I am far from mastering the solution, I feel I am living it, to some degree. I tend to my relationships with God, self, others and creation, in that order, stewarding each and owning none.

Asking for Money for Your Nonprofit

In this short blog, I’ll share an introduction to some of the things I’ve learned in my years of working with donors who have a passion for the work of nonprofit organizations. Whole books are written on the subject, but I will address just a few fundamentals in my blog. This is fresh in my mind because our board at Rooftop 519 just asked me to share a presentation on how to appeal to a donor or potential donor for funding. Today’s post relates to my recent article on Starting a Nonprofit.

The population of the U.S. is far more generous than other people groups. This isn’t because of our wealth, as we have had a history of compassion and philanthropy for centuries. I believe our biblical foundations for philanthropy as a Christian nation has created an environment for blessing, and we are currently reaping the benefit of our forefather’s stewardship.

Americans donate more each year than Portugal, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and China combined. We contribute exactly twice as much as the next most generous population: Germany. There are other statistics that show we have drastically declined in our generosity (percentages of per capita and GNI giving are both on the decline in the U.S.), but we are still a very generous people. We have contributed in excess of $300 billion each year for at least the last three years.

People give to their passions. The key to helping advance an organization or cause is connecting people to that organization around their passions. For instance, it’s easy to ask a carpenter who loves his church, his community and his children to volunteer his time and talent to build a swingset for the children of the church to use. It probably creates a lot of joy for the pastor or lay leader to ask the carpenter to donate some or all of the work necessary to complete the project. Couple his work with other people of complimentary passions (a gardner, a concrete worker, a sign maker and a landscape retailer), and you have the makings of a wonderful “barn raising” party that will create a tremendous amount of synergy and accomplishment.

In the same way, financial resources can combine to do something synergistically that cannot otherwise be done. This requires someone to present a case for support to a donor for a financial contribution. An appeal like this is never singularly minded (we never just want money). The best appeal is to someone who would fulfill their passions and receive joy and purpose in their gift, as well as their giftedness. Money should never be the central theme of any relationship.

The process of determining who to ask should always start with careful understanding of your organization’s Guiding Principles. Trying to connect a potential donor to something that does not match their passions is a miserable thing to do. Asking our hypothetical carpenter to design a flyer for the local kenel club, assuming he doesn’t use Photoshop and care much about dogs, is a totally unrealistic appeal. Likewise, philanthropists are limited in their investment interests.

Here is the Board of Directors Presentation I gave this Friday that explains the roles of directors and the CEO as it relates to funding your organization. The introduction is borrowed heavily from Dr. R. Scott Rodin’s “Four Theological Foundations for a Capital Campaign”.

Whether you are raising money for a mission trip or a youth sport, you have to understand that people give to people for people. The power of matching passions is usually connected to a story that gives a compelling illustration of your mission in action. In the powerpoint above, Dr. Rodin shares the five rights of an appeal: The right person ask the right donor for the right amount for the right project at the right time.

One of our core values at Rooftop 519 is “Relationship is the Prize”. Understanding the relational nature of fundraising helps to break away from transactional thinking. Fundraising is an essential part of any nonprofit, but it is never the primary reason for a relationship.

I would love questions about nonprofit fundraising in the comments section. I’ll do my best to respond quickly.