Category Archives: Social Justice

Supporting Haiti: Not as cool as it once was; but still much needed.

Check out our brand new ‘Lansing for Haiti’ promo video:

This video was captured on our May 2011 trip to Haiti, shot and edited by Kris Bargen of Skinny Man Productions – excellent work Kris!

You can give a tax-deductible donation to our work with World Relief Haiti by clicking here.  After installing 10 peanut butter mills in 10 churches in Cite’ Soleil (the poorest slum in Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince), current donations are going to support agri-business microloan initiatives.  Microloans are small sums of money lent to farmers to start farming businesses in Cite’ Soleil.  When they pay back the loan, they receive a bigger loan.

If you can volunteer or are interested in running or walking in our 2nd Annual Haiti 5K on Saturday (afternoon), January 7th, 2012, shoot me at email at and I’ll make sure you get the details as soon as they’re ready – this race commemorates the anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

See more info on our work in Haiti by visiting our Lansing for Haiti website.

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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Social Justice


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Tough Day at Foster Park

Today was a tough day for me at Foster Park… it’s been a tough summer really.  Foster Park is a weekly summertime ministry I have led at a nearby inner-city park for the past five summers.  What has been difficult about this summer is to see what feels like a lot of ineffectiveness of all of my labor the past five years.  And more-so than merely being labor, what makes it hurt is that it is my love that I pour out on these kids time and time and again, only to see very little fruit.

Two weeks we ago we had a group of four 6 and 7 year olds jump a kid and beat him up after our program was over.  The sad thing is that I have known the lead 7 year old since he was 2 years old.  When he was 2-4 years old, he was the cutest kid you have ever seen, the one the leaders would always take pictures of.  Ages 5-6 brought serious anger issues where when he didn’t get his way, he simply couldn’t deal with it and could completely shut down.  This year, at age 7, that anger has turned into violence against others.

What was really difficult for me today was my small group of four guys, made up of 8th and 9th graders.  I have known three of these guys for five years.  Every week at the park, we do a small group Bible discussion with the older kids.  While I know that the main reason the kids are there is for the free pizza and prizes, there is that part of me that hopes that they actually give a rip about God and His incredible love for them.  Today was the first time I ever got up from my small group in frustration, simply not able to finish our discussion (today, of John 15:1-8).  I am tired of the kids having a head knowledge that “If I believe Jesus died for my sins, I’ll go to Heaven” and then not caring at all about actually having a relationship with God (or about God himself), and about how that affects their life in the least.

The sad thing is they cannot take anything seriously so talking about hell, prison, drug-addiction, homelessness, emptiness, or anything other warning of very potential future realities only falls on deaf ears.  One of them just got diagnosed with a serious liver condition and when I asked him about it, the rest of them simply started going off about how much they will miss him when he’s dead, and how it’s been nice knowing him.  And this is one of their best friends.

I think what is most frustrating is my total lack of control of the situation.  I have this idea that if I tell people about the incredible love that God has for them, and how He has made a way for them to have relationship with Him, that it will actually affect them.  That they will actually be intrigued that the God of the universe would love them personally, sacrificing himself for them so they could have a love relationship with Him, and that they’d respond by worshiping Him.  That they would see God as a better option than whatever else is before them, and in these kids’ cases, that other option isn’t much.

I wish more people would help, and help consistently, rather than just showing up and taking a photo with the cute kid, whether that’s at Foster Park, or in Africa.  All these kids know is adults who abandon them–who are there for a season–then something better comes along so they move on.  I wish less of us were like that.  While it may sound like I’m preaching here, I don’t care, it has been a tough day and I love these kids.  While these kids are accountable for their actions, it is certainly not fair the way they have been raised and conditioned.  I wish we would sing less songs about love being the answer, and sign up for less Facebook groups about social justice causes, and actually get out and love those who need it most… realizing that loving in this way is not glamorous or sexy, but will leave you feeling tired and defeated.  Yet somehow in this, we understand more of the love that Jesus has for each of us, and more of the pain he feels when we reject him, or worse, are apathetic toward him.

Just needed to vent a little tonight after a tough day at the park.  I know God is at work in these kids’ lives.  Pray for them that the fruit will someday appear, and pray for me that I will not tire of giving these kids a chance.


Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Social Justice


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I’m An Old Man Wishing I Had Ear Plugs

So as I posted today already, I attended our Haiti Benefit Concert two nights ago at the Loft, organized by James Defrees of Crossroads Church, which you can read some deeper thoughts about here.  I couldn’t just post on my Haiti reflections after such a life-changing experience though.  When I say life-changing, I mean that I think I permanently lost my hearing in my right ear, after experiencing my first ever heavy metal concert, up close and personal next to the ginormous speakers.  I felt like such an old man, so wishing I had ear plugs (knowing how rad that would make me look), while the 18-21 year old’s all around me were jumping up and down and yes, even a bit of head-banging–although I’ll be honest I would have liked to see a bit more head-banging (who can really do that without getting a huge headache?!  There must be some technique to it that I am not privy to)–I just kept thinking “I wonder if this ringing in my ears will ever stop?”

Needless to say, I had a great time.  The show consisted of:

Kelsey Rottiers & The Rising Tide – Excellent music!  I bought their CD, which is going to make great music to listen to while working in my office, driving, or reading.  I am no music critic so I don’t know all of the cool vocabulary words they use for genres but this is my style of music to chill to: folky, acoustic, and good.  And it was great to meet a fellow Golden Eagle.

The Plug Ugly – Brett Linsley is the man.  Really enjoyed his solo acoustic set and looking forward to seeing him be a famous musician someday.  And I can say “I knew him when he played at the Haiti Benefit Concert!”.  Brett’s music has a great vibe to it, creative lyrics, and is one I will continue to follow and attend more live shows at.

Kelly Deanne and the Octagon Band – Kelly’s music is the type you’d hear on 94.1, one of my favorite stations.  Rock/Pop/Alternative.  Their full band sound did a great job of bridging the acoustic beginning of our show with the harder end.  Their music was great and as an added bonus: they were rockin’ the accordion baby!

I Am Eternity – My first intro into heavy metal.  Like I hinted at, not my cup of tea genre-wise (because I’m an old man), but they really did a great a job and I also loved how they tactfully and gracefully shared how Jesus has transformed their life.  Also loved their support of the Red Thread Movement, where you buy a red bracelet, which supports girls rescued from sex slavery, who are the ones hand-making the bracelets.  I am currently rocking one on my wrist, which is a great reminder to be in prayer for these girls and conscious of how I need to be investing my life to make an impact.

Bridegroom  – My 2nd experience in the land of heavy metal.  These guys were great — I was very impressed with how the drummer, Daniel Posthuma, was able to do most of the lead singing while also going nuts on the drums.  Whereas I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I loved the audience interaction and the great show they put on.  Also good instructions on how to dance heavy metal from Will and Bridegroomer Andrew: act like you are fighting phantom ninjas (while they swirled their arms in wild circles)

Thanks to all these great bands for supporting our cause in Haiti.  Please support these bands by purchasing/downloading their music, and attending their upcoming live shows!

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Social Justice, Wisecracks


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Haiti Benefit reflections

Two nights ago, I attended the Haiti Benefit Concert at the Loft, organized by James Defrees of Crossroads ChurchKelsey Rottiers & The Rising Tide, The Plug Ugly, Kelly Deanne and the Octagon Band, I Am Eternity, and Bridegroom all played a great show (I blog on the music, and my hearing-loss, here).

I’ve been to Haiti in May ’10 and May ’11 and it’s a place God has really put heavy on my heart.  I’m saddened by the way our sociological-wiring works where when a disaster strikes, we are fascinated with it for a short period of time, but eventually the allure wears off, we give our $10 text to the Red Cross (our conscious now appeased) and we move on to the next hot news topic, whether it be a Japanese tsunami or Prince William’s marriage.  It’s like the news media has conditioned us to have the attention span of a cocker spaniel, always ready to chase the next squirrel that comes along our path, but never able to focus long-term in a single direction.  It’s easy to pull a guilt trip here, which isn’t what I’m trying to do, only raising awareness about the sadness of this trend.  While we move on to the next news story, the people of Haiti, who live an hour and a half (flight) from Miami, FL, continue to live in the misery and destruction of the Jan. ’10 earthquake, unable to change the news channel or turn the page of the magazine story that they live in on a daily basis.

I started a grassroots organization in Lansing following the earthquake called Lansing for Haiti.  L4H is a network of individuals and churches in Lansing who are partnering with a community of churches in Cite’ Soleil, Haiti (the poorest slum in Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince), through the NGO World Relief.  L4H started with a flurry of excitement and energy following the earthquake, with many people eager to help our cause.  The problem is that following a disaster, it is not the time for a bunch of excited Americans to jump on a plane and go save the day.  Trained first-responders are already on the ground feeding people and providing tarps — temporary solutions, getting people by until the situation can be addressed for long-term, sustainable recovery.  From the beginning of L4H, we set it up as an effort for the long-haul, we didn’t want to put a band-aid on something that needs major surgery.  As we had to wait for plans to be developed by World Relief for what this long-term recovery would look like, many Lansing folks interested in our effort started losing interest as the CNN news crews moved on to their next headline story, our adrenaline and attention-span moving along with them.

L4H still had a great year last year, raising almost $20,000, certainly a huge accomplishment in my mind.  It was an odd feeling when I was back in Haiti for my 2nd trip in May of this year, observing the peanut butter mills our money went to purchase in the Cite’ Soleil churches.  I was no longer a tourist, like I felt like I was on my first trip, just soaking everything in.  This time I was back to check up on a project we put a lot of work into starting, and it felt like work.  I felt a glimpse into what the World Relief staff feel, or what the Haitian pastors feel on a daily basis.  It was difficult.  It was a grind.  And it continues to be a grind in many ways.  Does this mean I should quit?  I don’t think so.  It reminds me a lot of my marriage of 7 years.  The honeymoon phase is long gone and now marriage is a commitment of love.  Not that it’s a “grind”, but it is work.  And I think the same reason we hop from relationship to relationship in our culture is a similar reason we can’t stay committed to a social justice cause.  It just becomes difficult when we get too involved as the illusion of the glossy magazine page becomes the reality of a difficult and sometimes seemingly hopeless situation; yet in my opinion, the only lasting impact that is going to happen will come from people who are committed for the long-term to sustainable impact, not just handing out band-aids.

There are a zillion causes you can find, and you certainly can’t help them all.  I encourage you to avoid this “compassion fatigue”, not letting it you push you to do nothing, or to continue being satisfied with handing out ineffective (or worse yet, destructive) band-aids.  Find ONE cause and be very committed to it.  Give lots of money to it, we all have excess we can give.  Give your time to it, something we all have.  If you don’t have that one cause yet, I encourage you to join us in giving a hand-up to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, as they recover from this debilitating disaster.

One small way you can do this is donate on our website (goes to our account with World Relief, tax-deductible) or put a team together for our Lansing for Haiti golf scramble, coming up on September 10th.  The coolest thing about my May ’11 trip to Haiti was seeing the utter joy in the faces of the Cite’ Soleil pastors, knowing that someone in America still cared about them, and hadn’t forgotten them.  It is exciting to be a part of that joy.

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Social Justice


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