Today is a sunny, bright, frozen day here outside Chicago. The year still feels new and little. The icicles are sparkling and the heater is humming. World Change feels possible.
This year my family is focusing on Haiti. Following the Family Compassion Focus Calendar, we spent January researching the country and different organizations working there. I had a grand plan of how that would work. I shared how that totally didn’t work and instead we are still taking a slow research train through these winter weeks.
The kids and I have breakfast together every day (my poor husband is out the door before 5:30am). I’m trying to feed their mind and souls while they slurp grapefruit and smear cream cheese. We try to read something about the bible, and guess why God sent those words to us for that particular day. We pray for each other, orphans, the world, and Haiti using lists taped to cabinets above the fridge.
(I’m not sure what comes to mind when you picture that, but please make sure it includes someone falling off their stool, a drink spilling, someone touching someone else, butt jokes, eye rolling, and me silently counting to ten.)
Somehow adding “learning about Haiti” has made all of this easier. It doesn’t make sense. I assume it’s a God thing. Our goal is to love the people of Haiti, and God seems to be clearing a path for us.
Folks sent us more than 30 ideas about Haiti. I pull the list of them out of our binder, and type in a name, organization, or website into google. We go to the About page. One of us reads it out loud. Then we go the Media page to look at pictures and watch videos. Attention nonprofits! If you want kids to learn all about your organization make cool videos with snappy music. You will win! After about 5 minutes (or more if there were lots of videos) I ask the kids for a summary and I scrawl it onto the list: “teaches farming,” “medial clinic,” “the one with a goat,” “gives babies nutrition,” etc.
I pay close attention to the kids while they look at these sites. Sometimes Greta covers her eyes when she sees a very sickly person. Sometimes the kids re-watch a video I don’t think is that interesting, but then I see there are Haitian 10 year olds on the screen. Sometimes they want all the details about raising chickens. Sometimes they don’t care about harvesting salt. They always love the babies. I’m trying to learn what draws them in.
When they spontaneously want to pray for someone we just learned about in Haiti, I put a star next to it on the list. A holy transaction happened. God prompted them to pray for a stranger. It might be the beginning of their Compassion Experiment for the year.
We still have 5 more organizations and people to learn about. Going deeper, the kids are hoping to interview:
1. A national geographic photographer
2. A girl who was adopted from Haiti last year
3. A man who works in Haiti and wrote a book about it
That should be highly entertaining. If we can figure out how to do it I will surely share the results.
So, January was all about gathering the information. Now in February we’re letting this information rest to see what takes root. Here are the Next Steps for February:
1. Let the knowledge shape your hearts, minds, and prayers. What pictures keep popping in your head? What questions do your kids keep asking? What makes you feel scared or hopeless about your discoveries? Don’t shut it down. Make an extra minute of space to feel it, maybe write it down, maybe pray about it.
2. Keep reading. Follow the rabbit trails online about your Focus. If you like the About and Media pages you found, continue on to read the rest of the site. Check out a book from the library or do a couple more Wikipedia searches.
3. Pray for discernment about selecting an organization to partner with. Some families are already off and running with an organization that embodies their Focus. They knew people there, or had worked with them before. Others of us need to take time to know what we’re getting into. If something doesn’t sit right with you, listen to that, and wait.
4. Go deeper. Consider the organization’s location, mission statement, vision statement, organizational goals, partnerships, fiscal responsibility, and transparency. This is the stuff you find when you read every page of the website or paper annual report. It’s very important. Would you want to be associated with the people featured on the site? Could you take on their vision and mission as your own? Do they have a contact person, or do they make it hard to connect? Do you know anyone else who has worked with them? How did it go? How do they spend their money? What percentage goes toward administration and then what goes on to the people they are serving?
One useful tool is Charity Navigator. It’s like the Consumer Reports for charities. In a simple table it lists how they use their finances: Program Expenses, Administrative Expenses, Fundraising Expenses, Primary Revenue Growth, Program Expenses Growth, and the Working Capital Ratio. There are graphs and charts, too. You decide if you like the way they do things. If your organization isn’t available on Charity Navigator you might want to contact the org and ask for the latest annual report and/or list of financials. Good stewardship is key to integrity.
5. Memorize scripture as a family. It’s easy to lose our way whenever we try to do something good. We can think of it as Work. Or make it about Me. Or do Pity instead of Justice. I think it’s good to remember that God is the boss of all this. He loves me and the people we are trying to learn about and serve. He equips us. He plainly tells us what he thinks about poverty, the sick, prisoners, refugees, and the elderly. We need that truth and guidance.
We aren’t great at this. I recommend finding as many as you can and then picking one for your family for the year. Write it down and read it out loud every day. Do it in crazy voices (we do cowboy, old man, baby, Angelina Ballerina, opera, robot, and beat box). Sing it. Help your kids (and you) get it in your bones.
–link to several verses about compassion, poverty, justice, and specific causes coming soon–
Press on! It’s never too late. God is at work in our families. Equipping and inspiring us to bring love, justice, and compassion to the world he loves.
You are loved.
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2015