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Grateful For Gifts

This is the third of 3 guest blog posts by Poverty Resolutions’ volunteer trip participant Lee Sampson, originally written in May 2014.

You might think this note is about food or cars or houses or nice clothes, but it is not. Of course being in Haiti has a way of making you grateful for those many physical things and blessings that we have every day, but I experienced another type of gift and gratitude during the trip and the leadership development sessions.

Haiti 111

There were a multitude of people encouraging me during this trip and for this I am the most grateful. My wife and family, and the Haiti team on the trip lead the ranks of my supporters. My prayer partners and those other folks that I shared with were also thinking about me and the people of Haiti. You may find this hard to believe, but I am a type-A, take-charge, very confident kind of person. For example, when walking through an airport, I believe the most important thing is to keep moving forward…quickly. Who cares if it is not in the right direction? We will keep moving, look at the direction signs, and make corrections as needed…keep moving! My family just laughs at my antics when we fly together.

Haiti 111Anyway, I had very little of that confidence and sense of direction once in Haiti. In fact the entire country can be kind of disorientating due to the huge differences from home and the daily contradictions in life on that island. The direction for advance preparation of the Leadership Sessions that I received from the leaders of Poverty Resolutions really was enough…but I kept asking for more. I ‘needed’ to know exactly what and how I should prepare. Ultimately, I was able to prepare well enough with the input given to me, but I still felt ill-prepared and uncertain on arrival.

I guess one of the funny things I learned is how much we depend on technology like PowerPoint presentations, and even hide behind these tools instead of being real. Imagine preparing to talk with a group of total strangers, in a foreign language, with no high-tech wizardry for 9 hours, and really be able to add something to their knowledge and experiences. Frightening!

Gift #1: The needs of the group matched what I had prepared, very closely. I prepared about 7 different sessions for our three days of discussions. I had little idea how useful or interesting these would be. So I started with introductions, like I would anywhere in the world. Then I asked the people present to create a list of those topics that they would like to have covered during our time together. The list that they came up with made me think that someone in the group had read my topic list and almost copied it verbatim. Weird? Coincidence? No, it was gift #1 and an immediate boost to my ability to relate to these guys.

Gift #2: Gwo Wóch (Créole for Big Rocks). I was able to use the local natural resources (rocks and sand) to demonstrate the importance of doing the important things first and making a simple plan for your day, week, month, year and life. You have probably seen this before as demonstrated by Steven Covey, but this was very new to the Haitians and as it is a simple physical presentation – very little language was needed to make the point. We really connected at this point. We were coming to a more common ground.

rocksGift #3: Affirmation and “I Love You” – part two. Even after a good connection with Big Rocks, I remained nervous about doing something good for these people. It felt like I was going to burst from the pressure. We were talking about ‘being real’ as an essential part of communications with any person and my head was buzzing. Am I real to these men? Am I just another smiling white face who drops out of the sky for a week and says blah blah blah?

John C. Maxwell says: “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” So I tried to show that I cared and just be real. Finally I told the guys, “I am not sure I am real to you. I am not sure I have anything to offer you. Are we doing anything good here?” After some internal discussion, one of the men stood up to address me, straightened his necktie, and said something like this: Several of us have come from quite far away to be here. We have left our homes and families. We have left our jobs and are not getting paid. We have left our churches and friends and we had to pay some money to get here. And what I can say, speaking for all of us is: “we are not sorry that we are here. And more than that, we love you and we are so glad to be able to be a part of this group. You are very real to us.”

Well, I am a bit hard-headed and slow-to-learn, but three gifts were enough. I had all the support and confidence that I needed to cruise through the rest of the week and really enjoy my time with these men and the things that I was learning.

DSCN2690Lee Sampson is a 55-year old grandfather and VP of a major global chemical company. He has been privileged to travel the world as part of his work, though, in his words, “I have never seen anything quite like Haiti.”

Failure Is Another Chance To Succeed

This is the second of 3 guest blog posts by Poverty Resolutions’ volunteer trip participant Lee Sampson, originally written in May 2014.

Sometimes Haiti seems to be a hopeless mess to me. My feelings swing back and forth between this thought and a feeling of encouragement that what one individual or team can contribute may be multiplied and blessed many-fold. The best example of that I saw is in the Mission of Grace and how it has expanded from feeding starving families in a time of crisis, to a vision for the entire village of Carries. A vision where there will be a vital and healthy community where people want to live. A community that provides the basic necessities of employment, education, worship and growth in a safe and healthy environment. But how to get from what Carries is today to the fulfillment of that vision? The goal may seem to be elusively far away, but already progress is being made and the signs of that are all over the village.

I think that part of the answer to making the vision comes true comes step-by-step, one person at a time, with smaller objectives achieved on the way to the overall goal. During my visit, I had the privilege to provide some personal training for Haitian pastors. These pastors also are business people and community leaders, so their influence can be quite substantial. The training centered around Leadership, Life Skills, and Communications. It was a diverse group; some of the pastors were local and some came from many hours away in the south. They had a few things in common. One was their love for Haiti and their fellow man. Another was their thirst for learning and knowledge.

pastor training_leeWe had one of the most beautiful training venues prepared for us – a beautiful gazebo right by the sea. The days were very warm but the soft ocean breezes and sounds kept us in the perfect frame of mind for learning. And boy, did I learn! Wait a minute – I was supposed to be the teacher – not the student! As is so often the case, I found that gifts that you are prepared to give are returned to you in multiples. We met and shared knowledge, ideas, and experiences for 3 hours for three consecutive days. All presented in English with instant translation to Créole. I received so much during these sessions.

One Leadership session was about following the example of Thomas Edison, who made more than 1000 attempts before finally creating the incandescent light bulb. When asked how he felt after failing so many times, he is reported to have said something like: I don’t feel like I have failed. I feel like I have succeeded in finding 1000 ways to not invent the light bulb. As a group we discussed the many ways that you can still learn and make progress, even if you have a setback or don’t meet your goal. I shared a story from my business world about losing a big customer and how that felt like failure, but ultimately led to a better success.

I found it a challenge to adapt my ‘big world-big business’ experiences into relevant and understandable stories and illustrations for the pastors group. But they were kind and patient and I think together we all came to learn many things. My example of losing a big customer was about one of the lamest illustrations I used in Haiti. I could even tell it did not resonate too well with people who may even be concerned about where their next meal comes from. So I asked the men to break into groups and discuss their experiences with learning from failure, and then share with all of us. After the group discussion, one of the gentlemen proceeded to tell a heart-wrenching story about how he lost his wife in the earthquake of a few years ago. He felt like he was a failure because he had failed to protect and save his wife of 22 years. He prayed to God to take him too, because he had nothing left to live for. He was finished. With tears in his eyes he went on to conclude the story. He said that after a time, God provided him with a new wife, and they were happy together and working with great purpose. He then concluded the personal story with what he had learned. It was so much more poignant and true than any words I had muttered during the training. He said that he learned that when you fail, it does not mean that you are finished. It simply means that you have a chance to start again. He is a living example of this truth, and a blessing to all of us.

DSCN2690Lee Sampson is a 55-year old grandfather and VP of a major global chemical company. He has been privileged to travel the world as part of his work, though, in his words, “I have never seen anything quite like Haiti.”