Friday, November 5, 2010

Helping people in the third world

Here's a lengthier article on how to (more about how not to) help people in third world countries. From the New Yorker

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Americans in Haiti

Well, we are back from Haiti. Here's a picture of Magalie practicing to carry stuff on her head. She is doing well and was running around with the other little kids, laughing and playing. She is staying at Roberta's for awhile. She had a place on her face that her mom was concerned about, so we accompanied Roberta on two doctor's visits. Turned out to be stitches working their way through (like the Mayo folks said they would).

The short summary of the trip is that Charlie preached a lot. we did most of the stuff the Haitian Christian Development Project wanted done, and we interviewed four orphan's home directors (or wannabes) for Orphans' Lifeline. Oh, and we drove from one end of the island to the other and back, quite a feat for American drivers. I have lots of pictures and will likely share a few more in a day or so.

I am sure you are anxiously awaiting my conclusions about how Americans can best help Haiti. I did talk to several people about it. Haitians didn't usually want to answer, but when they did, they spoke of helping individuals "get their feet under themselves" (my paraphrase). They meant things like helping people start a business. Americans living full time in Haiti had some interesting advice. One fellow I met in the airport said he was a paper pusher in the military attache's office at the American Embassy, I think that's code for CIA. His advice was for all the Americans to clear out and let the Haitians figure it out. He mentioned both the churches and the NGOs. The fellow assured me that the Haitians were capable of solving their problems if they would let go of the expectation that the Americans were going to fix things for them.
That was strangely consistent with the advice I got from many of the resident missionaries and a few Haitians.

Recently I have been reading some books about raising kids, particularly about under-achieving gifted kids. The best advice from those books was very similar to the advice I got about America's relationship with Haiti. The kids' books said if you help them too much, you rob them of their chance to develop independence. If you don't help them enough, you rob them of the sense of security that they need in order to take chances and move forward.
And here's the trick. How do you know how much is enough? The answer is that you have to know the kid. Or in the case of helping the Haitians, you have to know the people involved and the nature of the project. It is about relationships. Please understand that I am not comparing the Haitian people to American teenagers, just making a parallel in terms of the nature of helping relationships. The bottom line is you can't help very well from afar. You or someone you know and trust has to be on site with some regularity, to know the people involved, to know when you are stifling the development of independence and when you are not giving the security needed to reach out, to experiment, to strike out on their own.

It is a hard answer because it requires so much more from the helper. But Jesus said "Go."

Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Headed to Haiti Tomorrow

Charlie McGee and I are headed to Haiti tomorrow. Charlie is my brother, and Charlene's. You'll have to ask him about that. Our calendar is full for two and a half weeks. Charlie is doing a gospel meeting at Roberta's the first week and we have several appointments related to my agenda. More on that in a moment.

Then we go to Gonaives to do some work on behalf of Healing Hands Int'l. That's stuff like building bunks, making a VOIP system work ("voice over internet protocol" - that's Charlie), and checking on some water wells and filtration systems. From there it's on to Cap Haitian to see some old friends, check out funding eligibility for a couple of orphanages for Orphans Lifeline, and check on little Magalie. See the earlier posts on this blog, If you are not aware of Magalie.

My larger agenda is to get a better feel for the relationship between Americans and Haitians. I plan to ask everyone I meet three questions, to be answered in whatever order they choose:
  1. What are the best things Americans can do that will help Haiti in the long term?
  2. What are the things that well intentioned Americans are doing that might seem to be helpful, but that are actually hurtful in the long run?
  3. What things are Americans doing or proposing to do that really will not make any difference in the long run.
It will not be a scientific sample, but it will give me a good idea of the conventional wisdom of both Haitians and Americans. I plan to compile and summarize the answers, report them here and and elsewhere and shape my personal efforts from what I have learned.

This research is prompted in large part by the earthquake, by the hundreds or thousands of rescue workers who responded, by reports of a lack of coordination among them, by the subsequent disappearance of most of them, and by my long existing goal to learn how best we can help the Haitian people without fostering dependency. May God bless me in my search.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hummmpf! Blogs!

Well am I ever behind? When Magalie left I lost interest in this blog. It didn't have a serious purpose. I think the purpose has to be to talk about me and the family and what we are thinking and doing. I see problems with that format. 1) I'm shy. 2) I don't want to appear to be self-focused (I'm shy). 3) I want to respect the privacy of my family and others with whom I deal. 4) A lot of what we do is boring and I don't want to bore folks. 5) I know a blog needs to be kept up in order to keep interest and I'm not sure I have the diligence to keep it up (as witnessed by the last several months of inactivity).

Why would I bother with a blog, If I am not really interested in drawing attention to myself? Basically I have some ideas I want to promote. As I have researched how to market these ideas, what I have learned is that I need an identity to tie them together. That identity is me. If I were a corporation or a church or an agency of some kind, I could hide behind that identity, but in reality it's just me. So, I have to market me in order to market the ideas. That sounds crude to me - downright repulsive.

But it's really about integrity. I decided a long time ago that who I am is a single individual. I am not someone at work, someone else at home and a third person at church. Being the same person wherever you are is the definition of integrity. And my ideas, my way of looking at the church and at God's will for our lives is a part of who I am, wherever I am. It is with me at the Minnesota State Fair or in Port au Prince, Haiti. I can't separate the ideas from what we do, though I do work at not being a bore by talking about them all the time.

One thing I keep forgetting, that makes it a little easier, is that "marketing" ideas is not about trading money for something. All the money from the sale of the books goes into publishing more books and making a few copies available to give away. My ultimate motivation is to further the kingdom of God. I need to pray that He will teach me how to do that without becoming prideful.

So here goes. I am going to attempt to keep this blog up with family news and thoughts on what's going on in the world. See also my web site which badly needs an update as well. Started working on that this morning.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kitchen Tile Project

Some folks really enjoy this kind of work. Not me. I do like seeing it done when it is over, but I have never gotten into the work itself. I'd rather be reading, writing, or riding a bike through the woods. I have determined that this project has six steps: removing the old tile, sanding, spackling, sanding again, priming and painting. Last night we completed step one. Don't be fooled by the smile on Alex's face. He can be happy because it isn't really his project. He just pitched in to finish up the end of step one.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Magalie in Haiti

Kim Meredith flew to Minnesota from Texas at the last minute to escort Magalie back to Haiti because Charlene was too sick to go and I needed to be here with Charlene. All these pictures and those on the previoius post are Kim's. Thanks Kim for your love for Magalie and for God's work Back in Haiti.
Being cute.
With her mom, Marie Rose. Haitians typically do not smile for photos. They prefer what I was told is the french style of posing. It's kinda like a fashion model or something.
The bus to take them back home to the northern montains.

Magalie Goes Home in Haiti

But first, as promised, here are the pair of mallards who have been hanging out under our bird feeder out front.
Magalie stalking the mallards:On the slide at our local park during the final interview with Tim Sherno from KSTP-TV: Our front porch on the last day here:
At the airport at 4:30 a.m. to catch the plane, with Kim Meredith and David. Kim flew to Minnesota from Texas at the last minute to take Magalie back to Haiti because Charlene was too sick to go and too sick for me to leave at home. Kim took all these pictures and those on the next post. Thank you Kim for your love for litttle Magalie and for God and for His work!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Charlene's Birthday!

As many of our family as could went to Feed My Starving Children last night in honor of Charlene's Birthday.
#1 Making packets of food, using chicken flavoring with vitamins, dried veggies, soy, and rice.
#2 Jennifer (Mick) sealed each bag.
#3 Mike and Gypsy held and weighed the bags while the kids loaded them.
#4 And Charlene, still recovering, took a job with a seat, putting the labels on the bags.
We all had a great time and the kids are already asking when we can go again.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Marie Rose & Magalie

MarieRose, Magalie's mom, made it down from the mountains today and they have been joyfully reunited. Film at 11 (or whenever we can get it). Kim is still there, so hopefully we can get pictures.

Friday, April 16, 2010

She's Gone

Magalie left this morning, is in Port au Prince as of this writing. It was a sad time, but rewarding at the same time. She did what she came to do and is going home a very different looking child. May God bless her and protect her.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Magalie's New Glasses

Magalie and I have been hanging together a lot since Charlene got sick about a week and a half ago. One of the places we went (twice) was to Rochester to get her glasses fitted, then to pick them up. We also did Aunt Jennifers' birthday party last night. At the end of the day we were both worn out.

Kim Meredith is here now from Haskel Texas. She came in this afternoon and will accompany Magalie to Haiti on Friday. Our remaining time together is short.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Chicago Experience!

We have lots of photos of Chicago (though not as many as we might have had since both cameras broke down at one point). To pick a group that would be representative of the trip was very difficult, We did two museums, an art gallery, an aquarium, the top of what used to be the Sears tower, and several really good places to eat. We really enjoyed being together, and enjoyed Chicago.

Here is Magalie showing us something on the Chicago skyline from atop the sears Tower.

A stroll down a Chicago Street & heading to the Field Museum (Day 2).

David, Magalie, and Pat's son riding a cow.

Mike and Pat Odum, Mike's former college roommate, outside the church where Pat preaches

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Contribute to Haiti and get a Haitian made figurine

This is an easy way to encourage entrepreneurship in Haiti. I have seven of these figurines, plus some larger art. This one is about 4" by 5.5". It was hand made in Haiti by Haitian artists. If this works, I am going to offer them one at a time at auction. I have nothing invested in them, so 100% of the highest bid (after shipping costs) will go back to Haiti and to the artists' studio where they were created. If you bid and are not the highest bidder, of course you will owe me nothing. Place your bid by an email to Put the word "Bid" on the subject line. Bidding ends one week from now at 5:00 p.m, on Sunday, March 7, 2010.

I am also posting a picture of one of the men at work.

More of Alex's Birthday

You may notice that there are two birthday cakes here, plus some donuts, and at least three sets of clothes. That's how we do birthdays. Don't ask why. There is the occassion of the birthday itself, then the "family" gathering, and the next Sunday morning meeting of the church - not necessarily in that order. These are:

1. Alex lighting the first cake...

2. Gathered with friends and family...

3, Uncle Mark lighting the second cake...

4 Posing uncomfortably at church function in his honor...

Alex's 17th

Here are a few pictures from Alex's birthday. I have more and will post some of them as soon as I find the other camera. The one that that didn't quit on us has turned up missing. ["Turned up missing." There's an interesting phrase.] You can see who showed up in the middle of everything. But I do have more pix of Al, like blowing out candles and stuff. For real.

Magalie taste testing the BD cake icing.

Helping Uncle Mike read his book.

Jamming with Matt and Alex.

And showing Matt a new chord.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Our oldest grandson lives with us. That makes the passing of time as indicated by his birthdays more vivid. He just turned seventeen. I hadn’t thought about it like this before, but there is something different about seventeen. Sixteen is exactly the midpoint of the teen years – neither a child nor an adult. But seventeen puts him in the last half of teendom. It’s like at seventeen he is no longer half-child, he is more half-man. It could be a sad time. A time to grieve over the loss of the bright eyed, ever-learning little kid he used to be. And there is a bit of that in it for me. But there is also an excitement at what he is becoming. I can still see the bright eyes, and the endless desire to learn in the man he is becoming. He will be an incredible addition to the adult world in a few years and maybe adulthood won’t be so stuffy any more.

The little Haitian girl who is staying with us just turned three. Three is an amazing age. Always learning; always excited. Excited about things like Granny coming home, about ice cream and bananas. I like to preface her name with the word “Princess” and to say that she is to be the first female president of Haiti – the one who solidifies their place as an equal partner in the world’s commerce.

And I just turned sixty-eight. Sixty-eight was hard for me. I have always enjoyed birthdays, and the party was great this time. But sixty-eight is closer to seventy than it is even to sixty-five. Suddenly I felt old. And there is so much left to do. I don’t have my PhD, yet. I haven’t figured out how to really help the Haitian people on a very large scale. I haven’t published half the books floating around in my head or really found out how best to market the ones I have published.

Time is a strange thing. Sometimes it moves so fast we can’t even see it flying by. At other times it crawls so slowly we cannot tell it is moving.

The Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes said “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” (7:10)

“Consider the work of God. For who is able to straighten what He has bent? In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider-- God has made the one as well as the other,” (7:13-14)

And finally (12:14): “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Magalie's New Face

Here are a couple of pictures of Magalie since her eyes were straightened. Her eyes are still a little bloodshot from the surgery, but that will fade.
Note the strategic product placement in the second picture. We get a nickle every time one of you drinks a coke within thirty minutes after viewing this picture.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back to straighten the eyes

Magalie went back to surgery last Wednesday February 17 for outpatient surgery to make her eyes point in the same direction.

Listening to Grandpa's heart.

Getting her heart checked.

Doped up and headed to surgery.

Minnesota winter.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest from Roberta

This comes to us from Jesse Robertson in Henderson, TN, by way of Facebook.

"Today Team 4 is on its way to Port au Prince. Roberta reports that she has already distributed about 50,000 lbs of food, and has several more tons at her house waiting to be packaged for families. The security walls have been closed to a height of about six feet, and gates have been installed at the group house. The church is receiving compliments on its show of Christian generosity, and worship is standing room only. For the next few weeks we will focus on keeping some helpers on hand to facilitate food distribution."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Magalie has a cold

Magalie has been alternating between feeling okay and feeling pretty miserable. Charlene has been in touch with her primary care doc at Mayo about it. Right now we are in a "wait and see" mode. Her surgrey is not until Wednesday of next week, so hopefully the cold will be cleared up by then. Here she is looking at the most recent snowfall. Check out the flamingo on the lower right, asking to be let in.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book Review

Prostitutes, Tax Collectors, and You Prostitutes, Tax Collectors, and You by David May

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An important book. It will encourage all Christians to take a new look at the mission of the church and at his or her role in it. A quote: "You see, that is what church leadership should be about - people of integrity doing what the church needs to do, and inviting the church to join them. Isn't that what Jesus did?"

View all my reviews >>

Dead To My Flesh: When Michael May hits you hard

A great testimony to Michael. Check it out by clicking here:

Dead To My Flesh: When Michael May hits you hard

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Magalie at Home and Plans for the Future

Princess Magalie taking care of business.

At Jerebek's Bakery this morning.

Getting ready to go out. It was 1 degree this morning.

Helping Grandpa finish off the banana pudding (made with Haitian vanilla)

Checking the photo wall, looking for Roberta.
I have applied for an extension of Magalie's visa because of a follow-up surgery, now scheduled for February 17. It is a 20 minute outpatient surgery, but they want to see how it worked as much as eight weeks later. The surgery is to correct the muscle in her right eye to line up the eyes to point in the same direction. There is a small chance that she will have to have another small surgery after that. Right now her flight to Haiti with Charlene is scheduled for April 16. So we get to enjoy her company a little longer.