Eight years ago believing it best for our Orphan's Care Center in South Africa, we decided to turn the center over to a board of wonderful South Africans, and return to the United States. Unexpectedly, years-long supporters turned into ardent critics.
Reasons for the decision were sound. As our Orphan's Care Center grew it was evident that South African resources were needed to secure assistance in dealing with the increasing numbers of orphans. In hand with this, was a need to increase staff and expertise to meet the ever increasing demands.
Now, while money was plentiful from donors in the United States for the actual construction of the facilities, funds dried up all most entirely for staff training, development, and salaries. Some very gracious donors from other countries stepped up to the plate. Soon I realized what was best, and in accordance with South African laws, the Head of this NPO, Not for Profit Organization, would indeed need to be South African. As we reconstructed the board, a very capable South African took over the reins. My twenty-two years had come to a successful end.
Returning to the States, the criticism we received from some of our supporters was crushing. I remember hearing the words by a person whose only exposure to Africa was a three week trip to visit us, "So, you're a quitter now?" Another supporter informed me that he felt betrayed. Their contribution towards our Orphan's Care Center was $75.00 per month. It was if I'd burned my bridges with my supporters over doing what was actually best for the organization.
As of the most recent reports received from South Africa, fifty-two staff are employed at our Orphan Care Center most of which are doctors and medical staff. Hundreds of people are being treated for HIV-AIDS, and hundreds of workers are being trained to care for thousands of orphan children. And, some great research is being done to combat HIV-AIDS at the Qhakaza Mbokoda Research Clinic which also resides at the facility!
More importantly perhaps, is the hundreds of Care-Givers that are trained to take care of thousands of orphans in the Northern Natal area of South Africa. Literally, thousands of children see hope because of this center. And, what is the key to all of this? The Orphans Care Center is led by African leaders, paid for with African money, and owned by African people.
Clearly, stepping aside as director in favor of a South African team proved best. I am very glad I did not listen to the critics. Even though our decision was not celebrated by many of our supporters, I celebrate it today as the most effective and efficient decision made.
Sometimes with leadership comes the inevitability of leading from the middle of an arena surrounded by spectators in the stands; many of which judge your every move. Criticism is part of leadership. What secures a leader is the knowledge and conviction that what that leader does is right and best for everyone concerned.
In the end, right decisions are based on truth. Good leaders make their decisions based on truth. Truth always prevails.
One of my principles is, "Life is too short to spend it standing in long lines." For that reason, I try to stay away from the big stores lending themselves to the Great Wall of China type lines. Yet, on one particular day I found myself in quite a lengthy "queue" as the Brits call it. Behind me no less than five people stood in painful impatience. In front, was a woman loaded with her cart of goods and no less than five children. Four of those children were under five years of age. Perusing other isles for an opportunity of expediency, quickly I realized none existed. Here we all stood whether we liked it or not.
As the cashier rung up the woman's items, suddenly her propensity for speed and efficiency abruptly derailed as a host of items qualifying for payment by WIC coupons needed special attention. WIC is a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. As the cashier scrutinized each item matching it with the appropriate coupon, those behind me began to verbalize their restlessness mumbling under their breath.
The red headed women in front of me with all the kids did not waiver nor did she show any emotion to the deep exhaling gawking heads in the line. As the process labored on, the fellow directly behind me began mumbling, "I bet she doesn't even know who all their fathers are . . . &%$@@#*&&." Biting my tongue hoping those words might be his last, with raised voice a new barrage of lunatic cranial feces spewed out from his mouth. "Hey lady, do you even know who these kids' fathers are?"
Since two of the children were black, one special needs, and the other white, I'm sure in his keen observational mind he thought perhaps some deep truth existed. Yet, the red headed woman who so patiently took care of all those well behaved kids, and worked with a handful of organized WIC coupons carefully matching each coupon in sync with each qualifying item, expedited the matter as she quietly carried on with her tasks. At that point, the carbon air-breathing unit behind me uttered another cruelly insensitive accusation suggesting that perhaps this woman employed herself in some extracurricular nighttime activity producing so many different varieties of offspring.
In those few short minutes as I began to turn and confront this X chromosome, the oldest little girl of about seven years old looked at me puzzled and confused asking, "Papa, what is that man talking about?" The question itself totally uncovered the man's ignorance, cruelness, and insecurity. As this "papa" got ready to verbally confront the man, my daughter-in-law said assuredly, "Dad, just leave it alone. Obviously, the man has never heard of foster parenting." His ignorance served up a huge helping of shame and embarrassment upon himself.
You see, I agreed to go to Walmart that day to help my son's wife with the children. Two of those wonderful children are my grandchildren! The third little boy is my adopted special needs grandson, and the two little black children are foster kids. My son and his wife have now cared for close to a dozen special needs foster infants over the past six years.
A blister is a small to large bubble on the skin filled with puss, fluid, or serum caused by friction, burning, or other damage. That day blistered me, my daughter-in-law, and impacted my oldest granddaughter as a man in complete ignorance leveled inhumane charges against a mother who is a pediatric nurse and foster parent caring for five children. My wounds and anger over what I termed a "verbal crime" blistered me and took quite some time to recede. But, this wonderful lady my son married cautiously corrects me, "Dad, it's not the first time this happened and it will not be the last. You can't engage in people's ignorance and stupidity." She is correct.
I thought of Jesus' words when he said, "Better a millstone tied about one's neck and cast into the deepest sea than to offend one of these little ones." Those words give me some comfort, but I can’t help feel sorry for the man, and his unmet needs that cause him to be so hatefully unkind.
Jesus taught us to forgive those who trespass against us. Surely, this man trespassed upon our emotional premises that day. His ignorance caused great blisters in our lives. Those blisters challenge us to be just as understanding as my daughter-in-law was that day and as innocently inquisitive as my granddaughter too, and more importantly to be as loving as Jesus who said, “Father forgive them they know not what they do.”
By Don Mingo
Just My Thoughts Blog
The other day while sitting on the porch during a rainy day drinking coffee with my wife, I sort of blurted out loud a rather pensive question, "I wonder where the mosquitoes go when it rains?" After a brutal winter of record snow amounts and a very rainy spring, we are in no shortage of the swarming biting beasts up here in the Northland! I can tell you!
As soon as my question was stated Kathy answered in an instant, "Probably in our house!" We both erupted into laughter at the rather pessimistic response as I nodded my head up and down. Not in anyone else's home mind you, but those pesky things, are just in my house; all of them! Every single one of those blood suckers dwell in my abode! So, well I got to thinking about that statement. I sort of think many people embed themselves in that kind thinking, "The pests are probably all in my house, in my life, at my work, and in my relationships."
Not long ago a friend of mine shared with me, "Things are going so well right now in my life I just wonder when it's going to happen?" I replied, "What happens?" He went on to explain that he felt his job was just too fulfilling right now, his marriage too satisfying, and kids so rewarding that something - just some unfortunate thing readied itself to spring upon him ruining his happiness. "Besides" he continued, "Everything seems to happen to me."
Well here's the thing. Mosquitoes are everywhere! We all suffer from the ravages of these little pests. In the Northland they are just a real nuisance swarming by the thousands upon any unsuspecting victim. In the third world, they carry disease, suffering, and death. Millions struggle with mosquitoes in their houses!
Such are the problems of life. But, if we let them become more than they really are, we lose focus in a hurry. Many of our problems are quite small in reality. However, allowing every problem to live in our house, in our minds, and in our lives make them insurmountable leaving life lacking happiness and fulfillment.
Question: How do you handle the mosquitoes in your house? Ignore them to your peril, or, give this little, almost microscopic, pest front and center stage in your life, and the effect is the same. That little problem grows to seeming size of an elephant! Now imagine, two or three flying biting gnats in the house is a nuisance, but one gnat the size of an elephant is a life threatening calamity.
Truth: Most mosquitoes, the vast majority, are in fact are outside our homes. Let's keep it that way. That's where they belong. By keeping problems in their proper place, you reduce the mosquitoes in your life down to their actual reality; just little pests. They are nothing more than a small problem you can swat away.
Just My Thoughts
Traveling throughout Northern Minnesota looking for wildlife photography, I've come to enjoy certain communities which I visit from time to time. In a particular community, there is a man named Karlin. Karlin is a bit of a legend among the locals. Now, Karlin does not live in my community, and there are many Karlins in this world, but this Karlin is quite unique.
Karlin is a devout Christian, or so I am told. At church almost every time the church doors are open, Karlin is a cornerstone of his church. Karlin also likes to share his thoughts and beliefs about Christianity. Karlin makes sure that most every funeral in his community does not go unattended by himself. He feels it important that he be present. And, Karlin is willing to shake just about anyone's hand, engage in conversation, and smile!
There are a few other things Karlin is known for; common knowledge in fact. Karlin will do just about anything possible to get out of paying for a meal at a restaurant. Witnessed personally as I watched Karlin argue with a cashier one day, he emphatically stated, "I am such a good customer I shouldn't have to pay for this coffee!" People have also learned not to involved themselves with any matter regarding money; either purchasing from him or selling to him. If you don't get the money upfront from Karlin you will probably never see it. He also likes to peddle stuff that is well . . . not quite what he says it to be. One particular evening, Karlin drove his car into a ditch and after the towing service Karlin called pulled his car out, he refused to pay for the service. And, Karlin also is known for walking off with things that do not belong to him.
Karlin also is very critical of anyone who doesn't believe in Christianity quite the way he does. In fact, this seems to be one of his greatest legacies. Tragedy is that many people use Karlin as their reason they care little for church. Just this morning several hours ago after missing a beautiful shot of a Timber Wolf, I stopped by a place for coffee. A man I am acquainted with who knows I am a pastor said, "You know that Karlin . . . he's such a hypocrite!" Sometimes, I really hate being a pastor.
Thing is, Karlin is a hypocrite; no doubt here! And, the church I pastor has some Karlins in it too. But, really I must be careful about being too critical here . . . because; well . . . if I look deep down into my heart and soul I can see a little Karlin there too. We all possess a little Karlin in us; don't you think?
You see, church shouldn't be about Karlin or any other person for that matter. Church should be about Christ . . . cause He is the only One void of any Karlin in his life.
Just my thoughts.
I've developed routines in life as I've grown older. One almost daily habit is to drive to my local McDonald's, we only have one, and pick up a large coffee with 4 cream and 8 sugars before entering my office early in the morning. I always hear the words of my South African friend, Jeff, as I ordered coffee while living in South Africa, "Don! That's too much Sugah!" He never pronounced any "r" if it occurred at the end of a word. And, Jeff no doubt was absolutely correct, but my how I love my coffee with all that sugar in it.
There is another reason I visit this particular establishment. Almost daily in addition to receiving my coffee, an encouraging smile is given, an encouraging kind word, or a brief conversation with laughter is included. Now, I am sure that this is due in part to my approach as I once worked at a McDonald's, and knowing the difficult and demanding traits of some customers, this customer always tries to display kindness towards its employees.
However, much if not most of what I receive, is due to the affable nature of the people behind the counter. And, here's the sort of a goofy thing. I like going to this rather ordinary place because of its rather unordinary people. On top of receiving a hot cup of coffee, I benefit greatly from a warm cup of encouragement served consistently
topped off with a "have a good day."
Encouragement: we all need it. We all crave it. Most thrive on it. I encourage you to find encouraging places. I found one, how about you?
"I'm Lovin it."
The Power of Encouragement #2: Seek Encouraging People
The Power of Encouragement: #3 Seek Encouraging Conversations
Grandchildren! Is there anything more incredible then holding, playing, and loving them! I don't think so! My grandchildren think I am incredible. My heart and wallet stay deep and open to make sure this somewhat illusion remains constant in their minds. This often requires sacrifices of pride and large doses of humility!
Once, my granddaughter asked me to play fashion model with her. As she dressed up exchanging costume after costume, my task involved commentating to the imaginary audience, "And, now as the most impressive young lady approaches us wearing the finest of fashion . . ." Oh, and don't forget the mandatory commercials! After a while, she insisted, "Papa, now it's your turn." Replying with some confusion, "My turn to do what sweet pea?" She stated convincingly, "Your turn to dress up and be the model!"
So, here, this big man walked her imaginary cat walk in imaginary suits and ties down an imaginary walk way! Grandchildren make one feel young again! And, my grandchildren make me feel special because I am special. I am special to them, and play a huge part in their lives reassuring them of my love for them.
This past week we visited our oldest son. Upon entering the house my almost four year old grandson blurted, "Papa! Did you bring the donuts?" Laughing my head off I said, "What?" We hadn't seen each other in four months, and I remembered no mention of donuts at any time. Just this exchange was worth the eight hour drive, and soon after that I left the house in order that I might return to "bring the donuts!" :-)
I love my grandkids! Of all my many many experiences all over the world, not one of them comes close to what I feel when one of the cuddles up and whispers, "Papa, I love you."
Early on a Friday morning I usually spend time tucked away in the Play Land of our local McDonald's. At 6:00 in the morning there are rarely any children present, and I enjoy a hot cup of coffee, my Kindle, and my iPhone. It is during these enriching times of reading, thought, and medication that some reflection is gained.
One Friday in particular, a family entered unexpectedly early. Soon there were three small children in the Play Land elevated just above me playing and doing what children do. As they played, I struggled to clear my chest as I battled with a chest cold persisting for several weeks. As I coughed, a huge chunk of phlegm broke loose. Pulling a napkin from my tray I attempted to discreetly spit the entire contents into my napkin. With that, I folded the napkin and placed it on the tray reaching for my coffee.
Just then a small five year old voice erupted from above me, "Why did you do that?" Looking up I saw a young little girl who stood peering inquisitively. My reply, "Well, I have a cold." Without hesitation she blurted, "Oh, well, when I have a cold my boogers come out of my nose!" And, then without a thought she and her friends turned to play.
Chuckling, I thought of events of the past few weeks and the issues arising between people. From my viewpoint, most the issues emanated from what appeared trivial stuff; yet, the seemingly unimportant generated hardened positions of opinion. As I thought through each stressful episode's conclusion, a glimmer of light shone through into my thinking.
I thought many opinions people argue about are just that. And, really, at the end of the day, doesn't a lot of such stuff just boil down to opinions, perspectives, and boogers; especially boogers.