Christianity

First Thoughts on Being Back From Haiti

I’m not sure what I want to say. I keep jumping all around in my mind, a nontemporalproximal place.

The number of emotions that sweep over me remain overwhelming.

I feel a sadness now that I’m back. I feel like I’ve died.

I feel a great relief to be back home though. Yet, I hate what home brings with it.

I am acutely aware of the sounds: the low murmur of cars on I-5. The buzz of the street lamps in their orange glow. The people yelling down the street. The cars as they drive past me.

It’s so cold here. I’m not used to sleeping with all these blankets.

I put my ear buds in and play a podcast…not my usual one, but one I would listen to in Haiti. My whitenoise maker reminds me of the airplane engines. I fall asleep.

As I walked to the next gate at the airport, I felt inundated with commercial advertisement. What is this product? Why do I need it? Why the fuck are they even advertising this, nobody needs this.

I keep looking out the window, not wanting this plane ride to end. Planes and airports now remain my last vestige of something that means so much, yet I can’t accurately explain what or why.

I don’t want to collect my bags on the carousel. I don’t want to leave the airport — it means I have to say goodbye.

There’s something special about spending such intimate time with these people. We eat together, we sleep together, we pray together, we ride together, we laugh together, we cry together, we work together. We created a new being — a new life form — that existed for 11 days. It was symbiotic and it will never exist again like it did.

I don’t want to go to sleep, because it means I have to move on.

It feels weird to be alone, knowing there’s no one just around the doorway.

We see each other at church and naturally gravitate toward each other.

We seem different now. Sure, we’ve all taken our hot showers; but it’s not that. We act different.

I don’t want to look at my email. There’s 116 new emails covering at least 50 different topics.

Work, even life here, seems too complicated. Too complex. Too overwhelming. I just want to curl up into a ball and cry.

I want things to be simple again. I want to focus on what’s in front of me right now, not what may or may not happen in two weeks.

3026 photos, that’s a lot of memories. I look at them and replay the trip over in my head. I look at the photos from the very beginning of the trip, from when before we really knew each other. Who are these people?

Coming back this time was different. Last time, I was excited to be home because I didn’t know when I was going to get home. This time though, I could anticipate getting home. I knew almost precisely when I would land.

There was no large contingent of people waiting with bated breath for us at the airport. Just our parents, significant others, or roommates.

We sang our song one last time. It was beautiful, amazing, poignant, awesome…just like Haiti was.

I don’t know if I want to go back. I love the simplicity of it. I love Bruce and Deb. I love to see what God is doing. But I hate the politics. I hate that things don’t make sense. I hate that people sometimes try to take advantage of me because I’m “blan”1; it doesn’t feel good when I’m trying to help.

I don’t want to let go of that feeling of being down there. I want to hold it close to me. But I don’t know how to do that and still live and work here.

I don’t know what’s next. I just want to feel that way again.

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  1. white 

Going Back To Haiti

In case you didn’t know, I’m going back to Haiti and leaving in just over two weeks! I wanted to share with you my support letter and ask that you consider partnering with me or directly with Haiti:


Dear Friends,

Just over a year ago, I had an amazing opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti.

It was a chance, I thought, for God to use my talents for His glory. I assumed that as a college-educated engineer still wet behind the ears, I would show Haiti all the amazing things that could be done with a little bit of math, some ingenuity, and elbow grease.

I am humbled to report that I was wrong. Well, at least wrong about what talents God would be using.

Before leaving for Haiti, I was praying with Jon Epps, the director of Convergence (the young adults group at church). I was feeling ambivalent about so many things in life. Jon prayed that “God would rock [my] world,” and He really did…in every sense of the word (we were there during the earthquake).

I can’t fix Haiti. My skills as an engineer focus mostly on sensing, control, and communication; not designing hurricane strength aqua ducts, constructing bridges over raging rivers, or building earthquake resistant homes (because nothing is ever really earthquake proof). I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m not supposed to fix Haiti. Sometimes it takes a little smack from God to remind me of that.

There is something I can do though. I can engage Haitians. I can come alongside them as best I know how and show them God’s love and compassion. I can do the work that God laid out using the tools He has equipped me with, even if they aren’t the tools I thought I would be using.

I can also come back and tell my story, which I’ve had the opportunity to do as a guest writer in The Oredigger (my alma mater’s student newspaper), and in the UPC Times (my church newspaper), in addition to my pictures and posts on my blog. I’ve also had the pleasure of talking in person with many people at work, church, and around town about my experience and the issues facing Haiti.

Now, I have been given another opportunity to spend 10 days serving the Lord in Haiti. In April, I will travel with 11 others as we come alongside UPC ministry partners Bruce and Deb Robinson. We will engage with the Haitians as we work to continue construction of a school as well as take on other tasks Bruce and Deb set out for us.

So I’m humbly asking if you would be my partner in this service through prayer, financial support, or both. I am looking for a group of people to commit to praying for me and my team during this Spring’s experience. As for finances, we are asked to raise $1600 each.

I know that is a lot to ask, so any contribution you could make to this trip would be greatly appreciated, and I promise none of it will go to pay off my school loans. Your gift will be fully tax deductible (your cancelled check serves as a receipt), and any contributions I receive above my individual cost will be applied to team expenses as a whole. Please make any checks payable to UPC (“Haiti: Andrew Ferguson” on the memo line please) and send the enclosed response card1 with your donation by April 5th.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 [NIV])

Your Brother in Christ,

Andrew Ferguson

If you’re interested in helping support me, you may also do so online through PayPal:





Download a copy of this letter: Haiti Letter (PDF: 345KB )

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  1. only if you received an actual letter….you can use the PayPal link below instead 

Prayer of Confession

We’ve been praying this confession at church recently, and I’ve really liked it…perhaps because it’s so true in my life. So I pray this confession:

You asked for my hands, that you might use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them, for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them, for I did not want to see.

You asked for my life, that you might work through me.
I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you — only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only with those who make it easy to do so.

Father, forgive me, renew me, send me out as a usable instrument, that I might take seriously the meaning of your cross.

Amen.

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Grace and Growth

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace and growth; how and when I grow and how I’ve seen and experienced grace.

I believe that growth happens from the hard things we do in life. And granted: some things are harder for others, and thus you may not grow as much in areas where I find tremendous growth — and vice versa. That’s okay; we’re not all supposed to be the same. Growth occures when each of us reaches our own points in life where we have to make an actual decision…a conscientious choice.

Grace occurs when we attempt to grow, and we stumble — because we are not perfect. Grace is when someone else acknowledges that we tried, or are still trying, and continuing to love us anyway — even if what we did or thought was wrong: you are loved.

How awesome is that?

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The Blessing

For everyone at The Colorado School of Mines, class starts today. Despite the fact that I’m not in school, I still like to celebrate this day, taking note of its significance. For me, it’s almost like New Years day, being the start of the school year and all.

I’ve been thinking recently a lot about the desires and challenges of life and where they lie. I have fond memories of playing in my backyard with my brother and my neighbors when I was little. During the summer, I would design tree forts and think, “If only I had the money to build this.” I had a desire to have the means necessary to fund my adventure.

Back then, I got something around a $5 allowance/week. And I could earn some extra money by doing some extra chores. But the $250 in materials needed was freaking huge. I dreamt of ways to come up with money so I could build the ultimate tree fort; I mowed lawns through middle and high school and eventually started fixing computers for friends and family who would also pay me. It never seemed like enough and always got spent in other places, mostly LEGOs. But I desired for the day that I would be a grownup and making lots of money; and then I could do anything!

Of course, there’s a certain innocence in being a child. While I wasn’t making any money, I also didn’t have to worry about other adult things, like figuring out living situations, paying for rent and utilities, working a little bit, and being generally responsible.

I had a desire to go to college, learn about engineering and get a job. Maybe I would build airplanes. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was prepared.

I went off to college and learned a lot. I had to deal with finding food on my own. Mom and Dad were no longer there to cook meals and I was 1000 miles from home. I had to do laundry, get up on my own, plan ahead, and keep my grades up; all without anyone else being there. I had several internships where I traded in some more responsibility for some more pay. But it wasn’t enough. I felt restricted in what I could do as an intern and in the limited confines of a classroom. My desire was to be done with school and to grow up; to go out into the world and make a difference. I wanted to make my mark on society and I was going to do this by challenging myself to be the best damn engineer the world has ever known1.

When I graduated, I took on an entirely new set of responsibilities. I had a job — a real, full-time job — and practically all the responsibilities of being grown up2. I had to deal with insurance in all its wonderful forms, making doctors appointments, scheduling vacation, getting enough sleep, budgeting, etc. I was working on integrating myself into society as a contributing member of what makes this world work. I had the desire to grow up more though, to contribute even more to society. My new challenge was to meet a woman, date her, marry her, and start a perfect nuclear family3.

Several months ago, probably starting during my trip to Haiti, I took pause.

At every point in life, I was measuring my level of happiness not by what I had, but by what I desired. It was never enough to have accomplished what I set out to do, because there was always another bigger desire behind it. And each desire became increasingly complex and time consuming. What was I really chasing?

I wanted to be grown up. I think I saw not being grown up as a limitation on what I could accomplish and a limit on what my opportunities were.

I came across this bit from C.S. Lewis4:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

This was one of those “A ha!” moments for me. Before, being an adult meant being grown up. But now, I can start to see the difference between the two. And so I think about what my desires for life really are; what are the things that I truly could not bare to be without?

So far, I’ve come up with three things:

  1. A loving relationship with my creator.
  2. A loving relationship with the people I care about.
  3. Never to be left unchallenged.

The last one, while it is last for a reason, is also important. As Scott Adams has pointed out, “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.”

I love solving things. I love figuring things out. What makes me excited to wake up in the morning is knowing that I have still have so much to figure out. I know I can be a better Christian, a better boyfriend, a better friend, a better engineer, a better coworker, a better person. I know there are so many things left to explore, there are many questions left to ask, and there are many challenges left to solve. I know I won’t be able to accomplish everything, but I that’s not the point. Besides, if I were to accomplish it all, what would I do with myself?

And so I wake up saying, “Today, I will try to be better than I was yesterday.”

Perhaps this is the blessing5 and what makes me so excited: a God who loves me, friends that care about me, and things — such as dating Carly — that challenge me in all the good ways….and vice versa.

Here’s to another successful trip around the sun.

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  1. or something like that 

  2. or so I thought 

  3. this is simplified version of a complex challenge, but I think the point still stands 

  4. emphasis mine 

  5. read Hustling God by M. Craig Barnes for background 

What Is Really, Truly Good

Jesse sent me this video and I just got a chance to look at it. It’s such a great message:

Note: you may need to click through if you can’t see the video above.

The video was created by Jonathan Collins, the same creative genius behind the Advent Conspiracy video I love so much1.

I love little reminders, like this video, because I’ll never grow old of needing to be reminded “how God calls people into his Church, how God transforms people in His Church, and how He asks them to respond;” and that pesky little “selfish belief that life is about us.”2

Sometimes I just need a smack in face, other times a simple creative reminder works just as well.

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  1. which, incidentally, Jesse also pointed me to 

  2. Hint: it’s not 

12 Months, 12 Books

I have a new goal for this calendar year: Read 12 books in 12 months!

I’m already off to a great start. I finally finished “Mere Christianity1 in January when I was in Haiti (although that doesn’t count because I started it in 2009.

When I was in Haiti, I also read:

In the last month, I also finished reading:

And now I’m in the middle of:

As long as I can finish by the end of the month, I’ll be on track. Here’s what I think is up next (in no particular order):

That still leaves me one book short of the twelve I want to read, which is not for lack of having a list. I want to keep at least one spot deliberately open so I can choose something excellent as I discover new books.

The types of books I’ve listed above are the types of book I generally like to read. Based on that, what books would you recommend I look into?

In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with this excellent bit from Hustling God2 that I’ve been reflecting on lately:

When I wake up in the morning, I can jump in the shower, grab a cup of coffee, and rush off to work to be productive. Inevitably that will destine me to a day of running. Like Jacob, I will either be running to make something happen, or running away because it didn’t happen as it was supposed to. But if sometime in the morning I become still with prayer and the words of God, then it will occur to me that all of the important things have already been accomplished today. The sun came up and the earth stayed on its axis without any help from me. The Psalms remind me of that. I have awakened to a world I did not create to receive a salvation I did not earn. The Gospels make that clear every time I read them. And I need that reminder, because there are so many temptations in the course of the day to be my own savior, which is always, always, a temptation to hurry in the wrong direction.

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  1. An excellent, although somewhat dense, book. I recommend reading it, although take your time; it took me the better part of 6 months. 

  2. Page 64 

Passion: The Intersection of Communication and Intent

The PNC1 nominated Jason Santos as the next YMM2 Associate Pastor. Last Tuesday (a week ago yesterday), Session allowed the nominee to proceed for a vote. Session wanted to hold the vote last Sunday (i.e. three days ago) because UPC was already having a town meeting and it would be simple enough to vote on the position. However, the Book of Order states that the congregation must be given at least two weeks notice. Thus, May 16th was chosen as the date since that would be the first Sunday after the two week notice given from last Sunday.

It also happened to be the only weekend that Jason Santos could come back out to give a guest sermon (although he’s not required to give a sermon, nor is the sermon linked to the voting in any way, nor do prospective YMM Associate Youth Pastors typically give sermons to the congregation…voting is all that is required) within the next 6 weeks or so because of obligations he already had.

If Session had decided to postpone his visitation until after he calendar cleared, some of the staff would have already left (because they were leaving after the end of the school year) and it would be nice to have some interchange between the outgoing staff and Jason Santos.

So the decision was made to hold the vote on May 16th after the 11:30 am service, which would put voting at 12:45 pm, or so. On paper, this seems like a great plan. Except that The Edge3, of which I am a sponsor4, is going to be at camp. The Edge makes up roughly half the constituents of the YMM, the other half being The Rock (the middle school youth group).

This problem was first brought to my attention by my friend and fellow sponsor, Jesse, on Saturday on the way to a Mariners’ game. She briefly explain her disappointment in not being able to vote to me. I knew about the vote and I knew about the retreat, although I hadn’t connected the dots until now – the retreat started on May 14th, and that’s the day I had in my head. I called my local elder, who also happens to be my Mom, to see if she knew anything about this and to hear what her thoughts were (Mom happens to be very good in these regards). She pointed me in a couple directions and I continued to mull over what the best course of action was.

Later Saturday night, I also bounced the issue off my friend Tad, another great resource and future pastor (he’s starting seminary in the fall).

By Sunday evening, I decided to talk with our Senior Pastor, George Hinman. He was very patient in listening to my concerns and in pointing me to the appropriate people: Tim Snow and Juli Lorton.

I went to join my parents for dinner upstairs at church, and when I caught with them, they were already talking with Juli! How fantastic. I talked briefly with Juli who assured me that the point had been brought up and that a solution was in the works, possibly involving some sort of Skype or Justin.TV solution and a proxy vote of sorts where members who were on the retreat would be able to watch Santos’ sermon and then vote. I also told her what I thought to be a complete lack of communication from the PNC, Session, or YMM on this issue. I let her know that we had a Sponsor meeting on Monday (the next day) and perhaps she or someone else could attend to help explain what was actually going on, field questions, and report back to whomever needed to know.

I also talked with Jennie, the Interim YMM Associate Director, and mentioned to her that I thought it might good if Juli, Tim Snow, or someone else intimately involved with the process to be able to come to our Sponsor meeting, even for just a few minutes.

I emailed Juli later that night:

I believe that this would be a very good opportunity to address some of the people who have a very vested interest in what is going on, to be able to communicate what the scenario actually is (versus what the rumors are, and trust me there are still some rumors), and to be able to interact with the people, many of whom honestly have felt very left out of this important process.

As I’ve stated, and would like to reiterate, communication (and dialog) is key. Can we continue to keep in touch throughout this process?

My biggest frustration up to this point was that there was a HUGE disconnect between what the intent of the PNC/Session was and what they were communicating (or not communicating). The intent was along the lines of: We’ve found an amazing pastor! Let’s get this guy in and going! What was essentially communicated was: We don’t care about you as long as we get our guy.

Dave Hill, another elder (of the YMM, no less) and member of this PNC, was able to come to our sponsor meeting. He spent some time explaining the process and then turned the flow over to us. After a few beats of silence, I tried my best to gracefully lay out what my feelings were of the situation, the great work that the PNC had done so far (they’ve been at this for about a year now), and the seemingly utter failure in this last home stretch to reach out to some of the people who matter the most (i.e. the students, sponsors, and staff of The Edge).

Other people brought up some great points as well, including the fact that if you look at the demographics of the people who probably care the most (i.e. students, parents of students, sponsors, and staff), most of them trend toward going to the evening services, not the morning service. Dave held a belief that if people really cared about voting they would show up to the morning service, to which I paraphrased an interesting observation about organ donations:
From www.boingboing.net:

When organ donations are a check box on a form where you opt into it, the rates of opting in are 25-30%. There’s an asymmetry here. If you start where the default is to opt out, then the organ donor percentage is 85-90%. We’re not sure why, but it’s completely different. It’s opting in versus opting out; in-group out-group distinctions.

My point was this: yes, people do care about being able to vote. Will they care enough to change their schedules? Probably not as much as we’d want them to.

By this point, it seemed like the best option would be to hold a second vote after the 7pm service. The idea of having a remote broadcast and proxy vote seemed unviable and overly complex. The third idea of post postponing the vote until another week also seemed more like the first idea, but more complicated.

I asked Dave to keep us in the loop, wanting reemphasize that communication is key. We prayed and that was that.

As I write this, the official word is that a second vote is going to be held after the 7pm service:

Dear UPC Family,

As you know, our candidate for Pastor of Youth Mission & Ministry, Jason Santos, will preach at the 11:30 am and 7 pm services on May 16. The original plan to hold one congregational meeting after the 11:30 service to elect Jason would have left out UPC members–YMM staff, sponsors, and students–attending the Edge spring retreat that weekend. In order to welcome their participation, we are expanding the congregational meeting into two parts.

Apparently, this may not be the kosher solution. But I think it’s the best solution, and I think this is a great solution that works for everyone. I just wish it had started out this way.

I debated whether it was even worth posting this. I decided it was, because it’s a great example of how something that had great intentions had some poor execution. I want this to be an example of why communication is so important. I want this to be an example showing that if people have passion, things can change, but someone has to speak up. I want this to be an example of how we can do things better next time.

Finally, to be clear – since we’re talking about communication – this was never about whether I (or anyone else) thought Jason was a good candidate or not. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I think Jason is an excellent candidate and when I vote, I will be voting to affirm him. This was about making sure that everyone had a chance to have their say in the matter, regardless of what their say was.

Pre-emptive snarky comment: If only wishes were horses.

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  1. Pastor Nominating Committee 

  2. Youth Mission and Ministry 

  3. The high school youth group 

  4. basically a mentor/Bible Study Leader 

On a Mission For God in Haiti

I will be sending out letters later this week, but I wanted to provide an update on my plans now!

haiti-letter

Dear Friends,

It is with great excitement that I write to you about this next step in life. As you know, I graduated this past May from the Colorado School of Mines with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering. After traveling in Europe for nine weeks, I started my job at Boeing as an entry level Design and Analysis Engineer for Integrated Defense Systems. For a while, I have known that God has blessed me with special talents, especially those involving technology; and over the last several years, I have felt called to use my talents for His glory.

Last spring, I was looking for a summer mission trip that would be able to use to my skills as an engineer. Although I pursued several different avenues, I didn’t find anything that struck a chord with me. Excuses will always be prevalent, especially in today’s society.

This fall, I’ve been attending Convergence, the young adult ministry at UPC. Through an interesting set of short conversations with a variety of people over the last few month, I’ve decided that it’s high time I let my “religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” (G. K. Chesterton)

I have been given the opportunity to spend ten days serving the Lord in Haiti. I will travel with 11 others as we come along side UPC ministry partners Bruce and Deb Robinson. We will be engaged in a variety of work ranging from irrigation projects to rebuilding structures damaged during hurricane season, and more. I have no doubt that God will be able to use me and my skills for His work.

I am writing to ask if you would be my partner in this service through prayer and/or financial support. I am looking for a group of people to commit to praying for me and my team during this winter’s experience. As for finances, we are asked to raise $1500.

I know that in this economy that is a lot to ask, so any contribution you could make to this trip would be greatly appreciated; and I promise none of it will go to pay off my school loans. Your gift will be fully tax deductible (your cancelled check serves as a receipt), and any contributions I receive above my individual cost will be applied to team expenses as a whole. Please make any checks payable to UPC and send the enclosed response card with your donation by December 31 if possible.

This is a pretty exciting trip and I’m looking forward to seeing what God is up to. If you would like to stay appraised of my goings-on, I will be writing about my process and trip to Haiti on my web site, which you can visit at http://AndrewFerguson.net

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV))

Your Brother in Christ,

Andrew

Download a copy of this letter and fundraising response form: Haiti Letter (PDF: 595KB)

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Operation Water Engineering: A Mission Trip to Haiti?

For several months now, shortly after I saw The Advent Conspiracy, I have wanted to be involved in humanitarian/missionary projects to bring clean water to places that don’t have it.

Last semester (Spring 2009), I was part of a group at Merge (Flatirons Community Church) that was looking for opportunities for college-aged people to be more active in mission work. It was at that point that I started developing more passion for using my engineering skills to serve other people, specially with regard to getting access clean water.

A specific idea I had was doing what I’ll call “emerging technology transfer.” The idea is that we would take some form technology and extract the emerging technologies out of it to be put to use in different ways. For example, technology in a Toyota Prius, could be used to design a wind turbine where the blades would be made using the same composite technology1, which would connect to a generator that is based on the regenerative braking system. The same motor-generator system would also be used to power the water pump. Excess energy would be stored for later use in NiMH batteries ius. And for the cloudy days, the efficient gas-engine could be used. There are other issues, such as: will they be able to maintain this equipment? So I digress.

Convergence, the Young Adult Ministry at University Presbyterian Church, is going on a mission trip to Haiti in January to “come alongside UPC ministry partners Bruce and Deb Robinson as they serve the Haitian people through various community development initiatives, mainly through flood control projects.”2

From upcconvergence.files.wordpress.com:

We will be doing a variety of work, ranging from irrigation projects, rebuilding structures damaged during hurricane season, and more. We will primarily work on construction projects. If you have specific professional skills, we will inquire to see if they might be useful to the community. In addition, you will get to see how God has been working through the Robinsons during their time in Haiti.

As it turns out, I do have specific skills that could probably be useful. I have a passion for the project, I can get the time off, and I can mostly afford the trip (if I decide to go, I may ask for some fund raising help). I’ve also never been to Haiti before, which would sort of tack on a bonus country to my Travel the World goal.

But there’s still that hint of reservation…is this what I should be doing?

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  1. I actually don’t know if such technology is used on the Prius, just assuming here. 

  2. http://upcconvergence.wordpress.com/mission-trips/haiti/