Archives for category: nonprofit

Devastation of the magnitude of the earthquake in Haiti that killed *230,001 people in January 2010 stretches the bounds of our ability to comprehend the depth of brokenness and suffering in our world. News of tsunamis, tornadoes, and flooding shakes the earth and our faith.

From the outside, even our angriest shouts at God seem ridiculously small. Can we really figure out the meaning of suffering when so many people lose so much, so quickly? When the earth itself is ripped open with violence and disregard, what can we feel except very, very small?

The Safety Dance

In the church, we are often tempted to avoid suffering, to make life as safe or comfortable as possible (just listen to the way much Christian media is marketed, “Safe for the whole family”). At other times, we might Kinkade-ify suffering; that is, to gloss over the reality of pain, or to forge ahead by pretending everything’s great, thanks for asking.

Suffering With

Trying to walk alongside others who are suffering is a kind of suffering in itself. Compassion means to suffer with another person. Sweeping generalizations about the sovereignty of God lose their meaning when a friend has just lost a beloved child. Perhaps it’s more meaningful to sit in silence nearby, covered together in ashes and tears.

Suffering unites. As Dave Gibbons notes, not everyone can relate to our success or victories, but everyone can understand pain. Not that we’re called to seek out hardship as an end in itself; rather, to face with courage the reality of our broken world, and to share with empathy in the suffering of our neighbors.

After Shock

Kent Annan, co-director of Haiti Partners, has worked in Haiti since 2003. After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken is Kent’s psalm to God — anguish, confusion, hope — in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

Throughout After Shock, Kent writes with disarming honesty. Not the “keeping it real” kind of honesty we might read in confessional memoirs today, but the kind that refuses to throw religious-sounding platitudes into the darkness of theodicy and call it a day.

Kent describes a conversation he had with someone in the United States who was marveling at an amazing story of survival, in which a woman emerged from the rubble of collapsed building fourteen days after the earthquake praising God:

We grasp at straws trying to make sense of the suffering. To fill the silence, we say things that are sincere but sometimes silly. We find slivers of Scripture that prop up our defense, but do we want the kind of God that the logic of our straw-patched statements creates?

Don’t Turn Away 

In the same way that sharing your goals publicly might actually prevent you from achieving those goals (“When you share a goal publicly, your brain enjoys the sharing in the same way it enjoys the achievement itself, and you’ve lost some of your motivation”), becoming a consumer of disaster tourism can trick us into thinking we’ve done something about suffering — as Charles Lee has noted, genuine compassion is more than a tweet.

However, After Shock calls us into deeper faith and action:

Don’t turn away and pretend suffering isn’t pandemic. Don’t become a charitable tourist of suffering either. Pain is personal, but also universal. Don’t turn away from doing everything possible to stop suffering. There’s so much we can do nothing about, but we can help — sometimes one person and sometimes many.

Broken For You

In Kent’s description of celebrating the Eucharist alongside Haitian Christians in the rubble of a collapsed church, I come to know better the Christ who embraced the destroyed by becoming broken Himself. “The body of Christ in this place broken, literally broken bodies, broken homes, broken church building,” distant yet near in the rubble and dust.

May we become the response to a world that is always crashing around us.

Full disclosure: Kent is a friend from seminary, and I received this book free by winning a contest via Twitter. However, I would highly recommend After Shock even if neither of those were true.


* From the footnotes of After Shock, “The number of people who died can only be estimated and so rounded off, but adding the one seems like a way to try to hold onto the personal scale of loss.”

The Idea Camp tribe has been so life-giving to me over the last couple of years.  This amazing group of compassionaries has inspired, challenged, and partnered with me in ways that have changed me and compelled me towards concrete action for good — to demonstrate the reality that God has not given up on the world by becoming better expressions of God’s love for the world.

I loved being a part of #Ideation11, even if it was only for a day. While the Ideation Conference is not strictly faith-based, this gathering of amazing idea-makers, creatives, and doers from both the nonprofit and business worlds moves powerfully together for good. A huge thanks to Charles Lee and the team for bringing together such an incredible gathering.

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July 12, 2010 marked the six-month anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people, leveled countless buildings, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

In March, I wrote a review about Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin, executive director of Plant With Purpose. PWP is a nonprofit working to alleviate poverty by addressing deforestation. From their website:

By reversing deforestation, Plant With Purpose helps the poor restore productivity to their land to create economic opportunity out of environmental restoration. Since 1984 we have helped more than 100,000 people in some 230 villages lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic approach to sustainable development.

PWP has worked in Haiti for thirteen years, and continues to help in the rebuilding process after the devastating earthquake.  From The New York Times:

(PWP) has so far hired some 2,200 workers to plant more than 170,000 trees to protect communities. The extra available labor has allowed him to scale up Plant With Purpose’s operations, constructing more than 260 miles of soil erosion barriers to protect farmland from hurricanes and tropical storms.

There is still much work to be done.  Visit the Plant With Purpose Haiti Relief page to contribute towards rebuilding hope for Haiti.

From June 28th through July 31st, a team of riders will be cycling down the 1800 miles of the historic Underground Railroad route in order to raise awareness of and bring an end to modern-day slavery on the Stop Injustice: 5 Weeks for Freedom tour.

5 Weeks for Freedom supports the work of International Justice Mission, a human rights agency doing incredible work around the world to fight injustice and bring hope to many people trapped in slavery and other forms of injustice. The cycling tour will be led by Venture Expeditions, who have sponsored cross-country ride:well tours with blood: water mission in the past.

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One of the threads I saw running throughout The Ideation Conference (you can find other reflections here) was the importance of good storytelling.

Many (most?) nonprofits struggle to raise awareness for their work, find donors and raise support.  From organizations such as Invisible ChildrenOne Day’s Wagescharity: water, and Nuru International, it is clear that communications is not a nice touch to throw on at the end if your organization has time, but a crucial part of the work itself.

Stories that grip people’s hearts will naturally lead to participation and contribution.  And telling those stories requires a willingness to invest.


Telling Effective Stories

charity: water consistently produces high-quality videos to communicate not only what they do, but why they do it.  Here is a recent example:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


This brilliant motiongraphic video from Nuru International was produced in-house and explains simply some of the complexities of their work:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Tell Your Story

Now, most of our organizations are not well-connected enough to have the director of Hotel Rwanda direct and Jennifer Connelly star in a promotional video pro bono for us, but similar principles can guide even the smallest teams. If you were to sit down with a friend, how would you answer the following questions in a compelling way:

Why do you believe in your work? Why should your friends & family?

One of the speakers at The Ideation mentioned that, if you can’t get your immediate family behind your idea, then maybe you need to re-think things a bit.

Via marketing maven and all-around social networking guru @decart, here are some useful tips on creating a hook for your story and engaging your members.


Invest In Your Creatives

Among both charity: water and Invisible Children’s first hires were their creative teams (or, at the beginning, creative person).  As charity: saw the need for telling their story through videos, their creative took on the task of learning how to edit video, and they grew from that point.

At The Ideation, I met and/or connected via Twitter with many talented videographers, graphic designers and organizational consultants (as well as in-house creatives) who passionately care about people and finding ways to create a better world.  If your organization does not have the capability to produce creative content on your own, there are many who can help you out (at a reasonable cost).

In any case, organizations must be willing not only to invest financially in communicating their stories, but also in time, imagination and hard work.