Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 Rookie Missionary Tip 040: Remember the Flight Number. Twice now I have forgotten to remember or write down the flight number of someone visiting us. Do this!

 Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sex Tourist For Coffee and What You Can Do

[Parents, this covers a sensitive topic. Use discretion when sharing with your children.]
A bar on Pedro Clisante for sex tourists.
Pic from GoMAD Ministries.

Rookie Missionary Move #1: Inviting strange men to coffee who are traveling to a sex tourist destination.

Rookie Missionary Move #2: Realizing what you did, acknowledging the potential for awkwardness, and going fully forward to engage the conversation anyway.

I am still unsure if these rookie missionary moves were mistakes or not. That remains to be seen.

The motivation for this blind coffee date was a) that I was suddenly curious about what goes through the mind of someone who travels at great expenses and causes such immeasurable harm, and b) how they react when they realize that we work in the ministry trying to repair the damage they cause.

Mind you, I did not create this moment.

$25 RD pesos to anywhere in Sosua.
It was quite serendipity that Marissa and I took one of the public buses, the gua-guas, at the hour we did. And that, on instinct, I closed the door, causing all of the Dominicans to laugh at my gringo move. Which opened the bus-ride conversation with the two blancos.

They were obviously American. The main gentleman had traveled extensively, several times to the Dominican Republic. Regardless, his knowledge of the Spanish language or appreciation for the culture were somewhat lacking.

He was nice enough. We jumped off the gua-gua at a coffee company in town and chatted on the way to the counter.

What tipped me off that he and his quiet-yet-amiable traveling companion were sex tourists was when we introduced each other. “Hi, I am John*. This is my friend, Steve*.” (*Not their real names.)

“Hi, I am Grant and this is my wife, Marissa.”

(Without missing a beat,) “Wow. Its not often someone would bring their wife down here,” said John quite boldly.

People will tell you what their own motive is by projecting their motive onto you. 
This is what John did.

In the moment, my mind asked:
‘Why wouldn’t someone bring their wife down here? It’s gorgeous. There is so much to see.There is so much good people can do. You could help the poor with sustainable housing. You could help with the sex touri...ah. 
Now I get it. HE wouldn’t bring HIS wife down, not because what people do, but because what HE does.’
Cabarete Coffee Company, a locally grown,
organic coffee shop off the choked main road.
It partners with the Mariposa Foundation.
“So,” I blurt. “We will be having coffee on the patio. Please join us!” [Internal glare from Marissa.]

Somehow we managed small talk for a while. I was wondering how to bridge the conversation toward why John and his quiet friend, Steve, would involve themselves in sex tourism when John offered it up quite blatantly.

“Well, I am sure you can guess why we are here.” 

He looked at his stoic friend, Steve, for someone to back him up, to tease about the topic, or chuckle as chums about it. Steve looked back at him with empty eyes.

John accepting the implied need for privacy, added, “well, you could guess what I am here for at least.” He looked down at his breakfast seeming to feel suddenly exposed.

I let the moment pass without saying anything, smiling and waiting for the explanation.

He went on to explain and unload his desire to find a companion, his continued disappointment to be able to build “lasting, trusting” relationships (the longest time he had spent with one of the local girls was 3 days), and how (give me some room here) he felt victimized by several of the girls who had stolen from him or asked for more money.

These are quite difficult things to hear. Let’s be honest. We all know the paradigm we generally have as a culture regarding the sex tourist trade.

Women are victims. Men are predators.
Women the oppressed good. Men the oppressive bad.

Yet, listening to this John, I began to see the depth of complexities and structured violence transpiring between all of the Johns and all of the prostitutes.

During our coffee, we shared that we were missionaries, that we worked with a group that serves to help women out of the sex tourism trade (GoMAD Ministries), and that we felt that many of these women were trapped in their situations.

John offered that he was not like the "normal" sex tourists. 

He took the woman’s children out shopping. He cared about building trust with the women; this he proved by sharing with us that some nights after they were quite intimate he would offer to simply sit together instead of having sex.

A sex tourist in Boca Chica.
Pic from
His biggest reason for “looking for companions” abroad was his age. “I am 58,” he complained. “They type of women who I can date in the States are all too old to have kids. I wanted kids with my last wife, but she didn’t want anyway. Now that we are not together, I still want kids. But who in the States could I be with?”

So, he searched abroad for a younger companion who he could possibly be with who could bring him children. He was just caught in a loop, he suggested, where he had trust issues between him and the women he, well, frankly, bought nightly.

We continued to try to bring the conversation around, positively, to the fact that it would be very nearly impossible to build trust in 3 days. I shared stories about building trust with our ministry in Haiti which took years. I suggested moving to the island, being involved in the community, serving and building relationships with people, and seeking a companion that way.

However, we never came to any reconciliation. He never recoiled at our work in ministry; quite the opposite. He got more transparent. It was not rebellion as much as confession.

But the words that Chantz and Renee Cutts shared about the ex-prostitutes they worked with resonated with me throughout: you cannot judge or condemn them. You can only love them into the right way and serve them.

Somehow we passed the entire time with even-headed talks, without anger or frustration and parted amiably enough considering the divergence in ideologies.

I figured that, even though we demonize the Johns (and Janes) that make the sex tourism trade possible, they need to be reached as well.


We were riding with Chantz Cutts as he drove us down Pedro Clisante, the well-known road that was home to the majority of the bars which target sex tourists and prostitutes.

He pointed out one bar owned the leader of the Hell’s Angels was opening a bar with rooms on the premises. We drove by another bar where they were opening a live strip show and, since there were no walls on this bar, it was effectively a public strip show.

He stopped in front of one hotel. “Look inside. Just above the check in desk. Do you see that wall plaque that looks like shoulder badges?” he quizzed us.

“Sure,” I said.

“Those are badges of American police officers, fire fighters, government workers, and all sorts of officials who have bought sex here. It is appalling to know that we are contributing to this that much. It is much more appalling to know that the American’s are bold enough to allow it.” He said.

I just took it in my stoic way, wanting to joke away the heavy reality but not wanting to be cavalier about the plight of the locals trapped in the trade.
Women also travel as sex tourists.
They hook up with men called 'sankies',

Throughout the night he unraveled the different “degrees” of the sex trade. Girls start at age 12 - 14. Boys and men are involved, called sankies. There is a dynamic with “reputable” pornography companies to transition men from watching porn to attending sex tourist events. There are dynamics of locals selling each other because of medical treatment bills or market debts they cannot pay.

Chantz and Renee have committed their lives, their families, their futures, to making a difference here. They have a home to receive women who want to escape the sex trade, a girls group to help the girls before they enter prostitution, an community building.

Chantz & Renee's awesome family.
They are doing a huge work here. And, as Marissa and I realize how much MORE needs to be done, we are considering diving in and helping their ministry that already has so much momentum.

But there is something that we are already doing.

We are in the process of developing 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' goal-setting system. We wanted to make this available to you to give as a gift for Christmas in preparation for the goal-setting New Year. We may miss the opportunity for you to give this as a gift for Christmas; life on the field, Dengue Fever and lack of solid internet have challenged our ability to deliver it on time.

But Chantz and I have agreed to also develop a Spanish version for the women in their transition house (called Oasis) and for future ex-prostitutes developing a vision for their life.

Every copy sold will help us to deliver a Spanish version to women attempting to escape the prostitution cycle. Let us know if you are interested in being notified when we launch the 'The Top 100'.

Though the Dream Igniter is still being completed, you can make a difference in helping bring prostitutes out of the sex tourism trade and prevent young girls from being sucked in.

GO MAD! Go Make A Difference in a young girls life this year.

If you want to be notified of when 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' is ready, fill out the information below.

If you just can't wait to help, you can Pre-Order the Dream Igniter by clicking the Buy Now button in the sidebar.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 039: Duct Tape

The Ultimate, indispensable tool of the mission field...

Rookie Missionary 039: Duct Tape. Is there any more diverse tool out there to help you on the mission field?! I just don't think so.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 038: Deck of Cards from Natalie Kale

Natalie Kale, a frequent traveler, missionary, and all-around friend, stopped in to visit us in Bayahibe. Here is her Rookie Missionary tip.

Rookie Missionary 038: Deck of Cards. Natalie Kale noted that sometimes, you just gotta have something to do to pass the time pleasantly and have fun with friends.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Story of Marissa's Dengue Fever & Other News

Our Dear Friends and Family of the Mission!

We are so glad to be writing to you! We want to update you on our time in the D.R. so far, Marissa's Dengue Fever, and our (your and our) direction forward together. So without further ado, let's rock! BAM!

Our Time In the D.R. So Far

Marissa and I landed in the Dominican Republic on faith with a semblance of a small plan with big intent. 

We arrived in late August. We knew that our vision for the island is long term. We also knew that we want to support ourselves until our vision was refined.

So, Marissa went to work finishing her Dive Instructor certificate. I went to work making connections and networking with ministries already in motion here. (I also finished our book, got traction on our other tools for launching missionaries, and launched Rookie Missionary.)

Us meeting pastors in Higuey, DR.
For the first 5 weeks we were in the tourist city of Bavaro. We met interesting people and became acquainted with the country. Then, we moved to Bayahibe with little notice for the remaining 8 weeks of Marissa's classes. This was a move toward a more authentic, though not yet scary, Dominican experience.

We had two awesome visitors, Natalie Kale and Yvette Carrigan. We really got embedded with the local culture. We continued to discuss how God was shaping our vision for how to serve this island.
Natalie Kale visiting! FUN!
Marissa fought through her exams and my impatience to get ministry going, and finally approached her dive instructor certification. To do her final exam, she and her classmates rode the 50 minutes away back to Bavaro. When she came back, she was happy to accomplish this 5 year goal, yet she felt under the weather.

  • That Monday we reasoned that she was just feeling a release from all the pressure. 
  • Tuesday we were confident that she had a flu and needed to let it process. 
  • Wednesday we grew concerned, but, not wanting to panic and desiring to be those faithful missionaries who trusted God, decided to give it a day. 
  • Thursday she was shivering and blazing hot. I would place cold towels on her feet. The heat of her feet and forehead would warm up the wash cloth quickly to the point where it was warm to the touch. I felt weak and unable to relieve her pain immediately. 

We deliberated what to do as we had reservations to travel on Friday to the north of the island. She felt decent in spurts, but overall was just trying to be tough through the aches and extreme fever.

Friday we did, in fact, move. She showed few signs of the fever, kept a smile (probably for me!) and we made the 6 hour journey north. By the time we arrived at the bus stop, she was exhausted, and resting her head on our luggage while we waited for our new contact, Chantz Cutts, to pick us up.
Marissa being tough for me at the bus stop in Sosua, DR.
I was hopeful that her fever was breaking. More and more, all she could say was, "I just want to sleep." The more she said it, the weaker she got, and I was afraid.

That afternoon, we finally made it to our hostel. The owner was nowhere to be see, so we simply sat outside. Marissa was nodding uncontrollably, slouching, craving to sleep with no rest. I finally told her to pick an empty room and sleep until the owner showed. She did. The owner finally arrived, told us to stay in the room Marissa was already asleep in, and we crashed.

That night, she tossed and turned; hot, sleeping but not resting. The next day, she was extraordinarily worn. I woke up, got around and realized we had no food, juice or fluids for her. Reluctantly, I left for groceries.

It tore me to leave her in a feverish state in a strange place, but we had no cash for taxis or buses, no phone minutes, and I did not know where a hospital or ambulance was. Did I mention we barely speak the language? Regardless of these obstacles, I had not choice but to overcome them, and leave Marissa alone for a small time to do so.

So, I retrieved some juice and small items for her and a few apples for me. All the while my stomach was in knots about the increasing desperation of our situation. In tears at my inability to help her, I made my way back to the house.

I finally had to lift her to get to the restroom. I made a wet wash cloth and washed her with it. She kept drifting off with the phrase "I just need to sleep a little", not giving me permission to take her to the doctor, reasoning that it cost too much and where would we go.

As I washed her and tried to convince her to let me get medical care, I noticed that her back was breaking into an extreme heat rash. My fear took over, and I pressed her about going to the doctor.

She clothed, and I walked her to the corner. We were too far to a taxi or road for her to walk and I fretted to leave her again when some boys came by. They offered to find a taxi for us and to come our way, and left down the road. Time passed with no sign of them.

Seeing Marissa sitting on the curb, holding her head, trying to stay upright, knowing the pain she was in, I tearfully tore myself away to follow the direction of the boys to find the taxi. Halfway, a taxi came up with the boys in it and we made it back to Marissa.

I lifted her into the taxi-van and away we went. We pulled into the Centro Medico Emergency room and Marissa began to be afraid. She broke down, afraid I would be mad at her for getting sick, afraid of what the staff may do (with their needles), or concerned that the final bill would cause us to return to the States too soon.

These fears broke my heart. I began to be afraid and cry thinking that these fears were torturing her when she desperately needed medical care. I wept at her strength and will to endure. I wept to see her weep.
A deep, penetrating needle in the arm. Marissa crying out. The breaking of glass vials. The sticking of an IV. Thermometers in her armpit. Doctors asking us questions in Spanish. An English translator. The request for insurance. Insurance didn't work. Request for other form of payment. Credit card disappears. Request for passports (in case you try to leave the country without paying the bill.) Marissa weeping, falling asleep, shivering awake to start over again. Another needle that sends searing heat through her body. Panic. Temperature leveling off.

Finally, her temperature evening off. The shivers slowing. The doctors recommending admitting to the hospital for a few days. Blood tests return, indicating Dengue Fever. Doubts and distrust of these foreign doctors. Marissa showing small signs of relief.
Marissa finally unable to stay awake.
Phone calls to insurance. Discussion on costs to return to the States for treatment. Doctors saying she is not strong enough. Me doubting their motives. 
Finally, yielding. Giving up. Taking a risk with our other insurance. Accepting. Admitting. Marissa in a bed. Out. Me watching her ever so intently. Then began the long slow road to recovering.
All the next day she was checked every few hours. Her IV was injected with antibiotics, medicine for fever, and medicine for nausea caused by the medicine for fever. All hours of the day, the lights never went off. 1:30 a.m.: How is her temperature? 5:00 a.m.: Is she bleeding anywhere?

The next Monday nausea set in. Marissa spent the entire day feeling better from fevers, but then she began to vomit. She could not keep anything down. We began to watch massive amounts of television to distract from the discomfort. We could not sleep much, yet she was not feeling good enough to move around.

That night, however, the nausea lessened. Marissa finally slept for almost 5 full hours. I, finally realizing that I had neither slept nor eaten in a day or so, crashed. I slept whenever Marissa did, waking to listen to her breathing.

During the day we tried to stem the boredom by having her sit up. We took it one minute at a time. We rubbed her legs so they did not get stir crazy. I climbed into her mosquito netting (to keep her from spreading Dengue) to rub her back.

Marissa's mosquito net or, as I called it, our love cocoon.
Finally, Tuesday her nausea slowed down to waves, eventually disappearing entirely. We were able to talk finally. She was getting stir crazy, but still not hungry.

Wednesday, she woke feeling fine. The doctors cleared us to leave at 9 a.m. We waited for the final bill as the insurance company deliberated until 5 p.m. We paid the final bill ($2,500 USD). Marissa and I rode on the back of a 'moto' (motorcycle taxis). She left the hospital in a wheelchair and we rode home on a motorcyle!

Thursday, back our our room, she slept. As she slept, I thought about the miracle that she is to me. I also thought of the miracle of the cost. Even though it was high for here in the D.R. (the 'gringo price'), I think we were blessed to be able to pay it. I thought of the miracle that the clinic was even there and able to handle it.

The biggest miracle has been the people. Obviously, you all were praying for us. Yet, there were a string of unexpected, uninvited, but welcome visitors.

One man poked his head in. He was an American and a 7-year missionary here. His wife was a few doors down with their newly adopted Haitian baby. He just came by to pray and wish us well and introduce himself and his missionary family. It turns out that he is from the Lakeland area and knows, oh, about 3 families we know from Lakeland.

The next day his pastor came by. These were powerful prayer warriors. They had been on the island 7 months, though they had an established church in North Carolina and had been coming to Cabarete for years.
Chantz Cutts with his awesome ministry team.

Chantz Cutts of GoMAD Ministries has been indispensable. He took me to the local store while Marissa slept. He prayed with us. He introduced us to people. He took us to church to meet more of the local community people.

The nursing staff sat with us and talked. They would see Marissa watching her comfort-show, Ellen, and would come in quietly, sit and then leave when their 'jefe' yelled for them. Even our hostel manager offered to come down to the clinic to help with anything!

We were truly blessed. The D.R. was, like, "Hey, welcome to the mission field! Here's Dengue." The people were like, "Hey, we'll help you out." We have been so blessed in Marissa's recovery.

Now, she is resting up. We take walks to the beach to build up her strength. We walk and talk about the vision we have building for the ministry, and we think you are going to be super excited about it!

Currently we are in a hostel. It is rustic and owned by a Swedish-Canadian woman who is 70 years old but acts 50.

Marissa and I have committed to serving one of the several missions organizations here to continue to serve and become familiar with the area. During the month of December we will focus on shaping the long-term vision for the area.

We want you involved in that process!

A Sneak Peak At the Vision We Need Your Help to Shape

In the next 3 - 5 years we want to have established The PhilanTropic Village. This is a place where we have built 10 self-sustainable houses for the poor. Aquaponics, tilapia farms, and a permaculture garden/co-op will be up and running.
The sustainable house design we are working with.
This is the one built in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
We want to have a powerful educational system in the community, access to clean water and clean sanitation. We want to have a small local library, weekly courses on economics and civic involvement, and to be in the position to "export" the systems of our community to other villages in the area.

This month Marissa and I are shaping that master vision. From that we will derive a proposal for our first phase of fundraising.

It is a grand vision. We believe that we have the powerful network; this includes you. We believe that we have the skills, background, experience, and local connections to make it happen. We believe we can build it.

Part of phase one will include forming a strong advisory board, establishing a foundation (paperwork with the IRS), and setting up meetings Stateside for speaking and fundraising.

Our vision includes you.

We want you to feel like our project here is open to you to work and be involved when you can. When life in the States is too busy, we want it to be something that you are proud to be partnering with, proud to sharing with your friends and family, and confident in our integrity in serving the poor.

As our awesome support network of friends and family, we wanted to share this with you. We want you to begin to dream how you can help partner with us in your area of expertise. Some of you are doctors, educators, nutritionists or general missionaries. Your expertise and areas of interest will be an active component of our smart-growth village.

In Conclusion

I know this has been a lot to take in. We wanted to convey the story of what happened with Marissa and where she is at today, alive and healing up quite well.

Along with that, we wanted you to know that we are taking the next month to shape a comprehensive vision plan; one you can be proud to be partnered with and share with people.

We will keep you informed as this shapes up! Please contact us with any ideas or questions. We will be in touch soon.

With the Deepest Appreciate and Gratitude,

Grant & Marissa Nieddu (aka "The NiedDUO")

Marissa getting better, but plain ol' sick of being sick.

Our book, H.O.P.E. From Here To Haiti is now on! Learn more about our adventures in mission & how we learned about hope along the way.

We are on the island of Hispaniola, setting down roots to further our ministry in Haiti and Dominican Republic. Follow our blog, get free resources, or check out more about Grant and Marissa on the mission field on their website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marissa, Dengue Fever, & Rookie Missionary

Most of you know by now that Marissa has come down with Dengue Fever.

You can imagine how scary such an extreme illness is in a foreign country, especially in a developing or under-developed country.

She arrived at the centro medico with 40 C temperature (about 104 F), a white blood cell count of 1.4 per mL (normal 5-10/ml), a platelet count of 20 mL (normal 150 - 450/mL), and a fevered rash all over her back. Now she has an even temperature (though it peaked at 100*), a white blood cell count of 3.4/mL, platelets of 50/mL and her normal, beautiful skin. She is just completely over being here, as am I.

We have been quite blessed. We are at a fantastic clinic. We have stumbled upon encouraging, involved local relationships. And, of course, we are happy because Marissa is getting much better.

Needless to say, there will be many Rookie Missionary Tips that come out of this. I wanted everyone to rest assured that we have not forgotten about them. We have plenty more prepared and, with going through this ordeal, will have plenty more interesting tips and suggestions.

From what insurance to use, what to pack for your hospital stay, to a shade-tree remedy for Dengue Fever with chicken feet; we will dowload what we have learned so far!

Marissa is quickly recovering and is even pushing herself to do things on her own. I am researching my own local insurance here on the island. And we will give you updates as soon as possible!

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Most Gratefully,

Grant and a slowly recovering Marissa

P.S. This post we wrote a day or so ago. We are home now. Of course, I will writing an update soon!--GN

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 037: Cell Phones & Move Update

So far, so good in terms of switching cell phones. We have an update on how T-Mobile responded to us regarding canceling our account. More on that in the future!

Move Update

We are just a day away from moving now. We planned on moving to Cabarete, DR on Saturday. However, we found that someone was headed to Santo Domingo (where we are picking up our Caribe Tours bus to the north) on Friday. So, we scrambled, shifted our arrival dates, requested Chantz from GoMAD ministries to pick us up from the bus stop then, and are all ready.

Now we just need Marissa to shake her sickness. Give her a Google+ (or Facebook) encouragement to shake her blech-ness.

Once we get to the north we will dig in and really launch ministry and servanthood! More to come!


Grant R. Nieddu

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

5 Things That Make Missions Gritty and Real

or, 5 Things I Worry About Constantly, Transitioning to the North, & Our Map to Cabarete, DR

On my birthday in Bayahibe, pondering our future.

Popular perception is a powerful thing.

Likewise, social proof of our story is just as strong. What people think when they see our blog posts or status updates carries a lot of weight in their minds.

  • We could look like we are doing the adventurous thing. 
  • We could seem like we are living exciting, Indian-Jones-like lives. 
  • Or, our journey could seem extraordinary, Pinterest-y, or desirable.

We love our journey so far. We love our path. But, we go to great lengths to make sure that we deliver the reality of the journey.

That is the purpose of our constant contact with people like our supporters; to give them the reality about what we are doing. Efforts like The Rookie Missionary are to dispel the popular perception (while making missions approachable, of course!) The reason I write all the time is to connect you to the mission; the real, challenging, and ugly sides of the mission work.

You see, I want it to be gritty. I want you to think "wow, that seems more challenging than I thought." (I also want you to think "that seems far more fulfilling than I thought", too, but that is for another post.)

So, to that end, to make the reality of the mission field more real, to ground you in the nitty-gritty of what it is like to be on the journey toward a life of mission, here is a transparent look at 5 things I worry about the most right now.

1. Money

This is ever on the fore-front of my thinking. Our goal is to set an example of sustainable mission. But with every step we take, ever meal we buy, or every tool we purchase I see the money-ticker counting down.

I say it all the time, "This is a time counter, not a money counter. This time counter is counting down to when we have to return to the States."

2. Returning to the States Too Soon

You see, we love where we are. We love the idea of what we are building. But I worry all the time that we are not taking the right actions to ensure our ability to stay here.

It would be one thing to do the typical ministry thing here: "Hey, we are doing some general missionary thing, so support us, yeah!" [Enter Sally Struthers with more 'poverty porn.'] I think we could raise a lot of money to do that without a problem.

Instead, we set the bar kinda' high for ourselves. 'We will only raise money for project stuff that is legitimate. We will never raise money or create projects to simply fund ourselves.' That value makes it very difficult to simply raise money.

And, with me watching number 1: Money, above, my fear is that the bar has been set too high and we will have to Return to the States Too Soon.

Marissa already missing her girls, L.A. & Mandy.
Key in on the "too soon" part. We are not concerned about returning to the States. Getting jobs should not be too difficult for us. And we miss our community very much. But if we return too soon we may not have grown like we should have, accomplished what we should have. I worry about that.

3. Will We Get Sick Suddenly

In the middle of the night, Marissa rose suddenly and went to the bathroom. She returned to bed and was shivering. I asked her what was wrong and she could barely chatter out that she had the chills.

I got pale and frightened. I was burning up. The windows were closed. The door was closed. The fan was not on. I was melting in the tropical humidity. That meant that she was legitimately experiencing an unexpected illness.

Thoughts of no insurance, no emergency fund, and the nearest hospital being at least an hour or more away made my stomach turn over.

One could say that this is highly unwise. I would not disagree. I would simply respond that this is one area that we have left up to our general healthy dispositions and reliance on God.

We never worry about our health, until something happens. Needless to say, I am anxiously waiting to see Marissa return from class to gauge her health this afternoon. This fear runs through me now and again. I just push it out of my mind.

4. Our Marriage Will Be Tested Beyond What We Can Bear

I worry about this all the time. One of the initial benefits of going to the mission field so early in our relationship was to help us bond together quickly. This is true, but in an unexpectedly gritty way.

When Marissa and I were at Earthship school in Taos, New Mexico, we had to work closely. We discovered that we had never really had to work closely before. That meant we were newly discovering the nuances of each other, like it or not!

  • Marissa found out that I can't stand language which I perceive to be negative. 
  • I found out that Marissa doesn't like to be critiqued. 
  • I found out that I am not as proficient of a communicator as I would have liked to believe. 
  • Marissa found out that she isn't either.

Moving to the island, I thought that it would ease up quite a bit. After all, so my thinking went, we were now working on our missionary work together. Marissa went off to the SCUBA Instructor classes, and I started writing.

This was all part of the plan: we lean into our gifts and passions to continue to build a self-sustainable ministry here on the island. However, with all of my time writing, I watch things like our time-counter (our bank account) tick away and I start to panic. Marissa goes to class, walking out the plan, and does not feel any need to increase the pace of our work.
Marissa & I stretching our marriage, in a good way.

Small differences like this, right or wrong, lead to tension in the marriage. I am still glad we are doing this so early in our relationship. Since I sincerely do not want to fail here, I do not let up in my drive. Since Marissa does not want to fail here either, she does not let up in pacing out the plan.

I guess these things are good, but they strain us both.

5. General Failure

I have often been told that fear of failure is actually the fear of success. I think that is usually true. I think it is true that people sabotage their own success because they do not know what they would do if they were phenomenally successful.

And, I think that Marissa and I have, along this journey, experienced the fears of success and the unknown obstacles it brings.

However, more than that, I think we fear failing most.

  • That could look like coming back too early. 
  • Or it could look like finding ourselves penniless like so many other Americans...but with a language barrier, no community here, and no way home. 
  • Or it could look like sudden, unexpected illness that causes a massive stop in all of our efforts with very little to show for the time, energy, money and calories spent shaping our lives for the mission.

It could also look like us slipping into passivity, falling away into lives of just getting by, not seeking to spark others, not feeling ignited successes, unable to feel explosive significance in our own lives.

PHEW! That was medicinal to say! That was cathartic.

These are the things that I pace the apartment pondering. I obviously think of all the good things that could occur. But, in an effort to share with you the gritty reality of our time here, these are the things I deal with.

Transitioning to The North

While being robbed on the road is a possibility I do not fear it too much. Regardless, I must be off to ensure that we are not by planning our move to Cabarete in the north of the Dominican Republic.

We are quite sure that this is where we will land as a home base for our time here. We feel it spiritually, but, more than that, we cannot afford to move again for a while!

We will give you the update once we do!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 036: Car Storage

We are back on line and back in action!
To catch you up, here is the latest Rookie Missionary Tip of the Day 036!

Spark interviews will continue soon as we finish our move to Cabarete, Dominican Republic. BAM!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Happy Birthday & Rookie Missionary Tip 035: Be Supra-Political

I had a truly happy birthday yesterday. Even though I feel too far from everyone, the digital world really enabled people to wish me well and contribute to an awesome birthday. Likewise, Marissa was able to put together a truly moving gift; letters from friends and family appreciating their best memories of me. I was deeply touched, and I am placing it in my Dream Machine for close memories.

Thank you, wonderful people, for making it happen.
Thank you, technology, for being the bridge that allowed that to happen!

Now, the Rookie Missionary Tip of the Day!

Tip 035: Be Supra-Political. 

Politics, especially during campaign season, can be get quite obsessive. Instead of being drawn in, remember that your faith is a-political, or, more accurately, supra-political.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 034: Keep Your Commitments

Tip 034: Keep Your Commitments. When establishing relationships on the field, do whatever it takes to keep your commitments to locals. Building trust is already difficult crossing cultures. Even if you have good reason to change your plans, do whatever you need to fulfill your promises.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 033: Know HCD - Human Centered Design

Tip 033: Know HCD - Human Centered Design. How do you work with a local culture to accomplish what they want, respect their values, and offer your skills in an uplifting way? The Gates Foundation teamed up with IDEO to uncover this amazing tool.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sparked Interview: Gala Calisto

Spark Interviews – Gala Calisto, Kay Angel.

Gala Calisto is with Kay Angel in Jacmel, Haiti. She is working hard at this amazing orphanage to help these children, some of whom have AIDS. Learn more about her Sparked journey to a life of humanitarianism and philanthropia here.

Sparked Interviews are part of the, to activate and equip missionaries and philanthropians to make a global impact.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 029: Have a Set Date Day

Tip 029: Have a Set Date Day. The busy-ness of the field can easily make it so that weeks go by before you have intimacy time with your spouse or loved one. Make sure you are connecting on vision, spirituality, and your relationship.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 028: Know The Local History

Tip 028: Know the local history. Many people have a context that is not merely cultural. It is based on an actual, local history that they connect with. With online tools, you should be able to check out any place you are headed to.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

P.S. We had some technical difficulties yesterday with many uploads. We are back on track today! Thanks for your patience!–GN

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 021: Keep A Clean Area

Tip 021: Keep a Clean Area. This is an often-overlooked area of ministry. Those around you are deciding if they want to live a similar life as you. How you keep your area, room, or home is its own testament. Disciplines determine discipleship.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 025: Know Your Customer(s)

Tip 025: Know Your Customer(s). When considering missions, especially Business As Mission, one begins to need to consider just who is their customer. This is the key difference between for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 024: Learn About Servanthood

Tip 024: Learn About Servanthood. This is the lost art of missions. It is the simplest approach to the most effective form of ministry. Yet, it takes everything to learn it.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 023: Check Out Operation:World

Tip 023: Check Out Operation:World. Operation:World is a great resource of research for countries, their spiritual and practical, climates, and how to pray for them.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary

Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary. The habits and skills necessary for a life of success on the field (from learning language, to farming, to executive business management skills) begin to be acquired long before you step foot on the field.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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Rookie Missionary Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary

Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary. The habits and skills necessary for a life of success on the field (from learning language, to farming, to executive business management skills) begin to be acquired long before you step foot on the field. Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

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An Afternoon of Tank Repair in Pictures

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary

Tip 022: Start Today As A Missionary. The habits and skills necessary for a life of success on the field (from learning language, to farming, to executive business management skills) begin to be acquired long before you step foot on the field. Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Missionary Catch-22

The rain tapped the ceramic tile roof. In fact, the rain had tapped the tin and ceramic roofs, the mud ground, and the crystal-clear bay water pretty much all the previous day.

Yesterday was a perfect day from Marissa to take a day off from diving. We had desperately needed to connect on direction for some time. She has been extremely busy with finishing her dive certification. I have been writing my fingers numb and my brain numb-er.

Yet, in all that, this morning I am thinking I have been guilty of The Missionary Catch-22.

We want to be sure to be good stewards of the time God has given us here. We want to make an impact. So, we have been mightily busy. A day off sitting at the cafe, watching the rain, and re-synchronizing vision was welcome.

It was relaxing. We walked down our dirt path to the "lavandaria". After yelling up to the second-story windows of the owner, she came down with $2 in American quarters to run the washing machines that clean our clothes once a week. We ate lunch slowly and lazed on the balcony, stewing over our plans for December. But all in all, it was a pure day off.

That time away from my writing (also known as "coming up for air"), I was able to reflect a bit. Which is where I have been most of the morning: listening to the tapping rain on the ceramic tile.

Reflecting usually has me nostalgic. This is when I consciously or unconsciously release all the things that frustrated in the moment and look back with new fondness on the good that actually occurred. This is somewhat of a revisionist history but for the better.

Since leaving Lakeland to join the ministry, we have seen some grand successes. We completed Earthship school. We traveled the country to see family. To rest and write. We launched our book. We finished up and began organizing free missionary training resources. We re-tooled the website. We landed in the D.R. to begin getting accustomed to the island. We made a few friends, visited a Dominican church, and connected with a few awesome ministries like Go MAD.

One thing that stuck out, however, was that during all this time I have felt very little spirituality. I have felt very little spiritual connection.

This is the Missionary Catch-22. (You heard it here first, folks!)

The Missionary Catch-22 applies to any ministry really. I have seen it in our work at the church in Vero Beach. I have seen it in the work in Chauffard, Haiti. And, in my latest Spark Interviews with Gala Calisto of Kay Angel, I heard that she is dealing with it as well.

The Missionary Catch-22 is this:
  1. Get spiritual inspiration to do more for others.
  2. Do more for others.
  3. Get too busy to maintain a spiritual life.
Gala alluded to it. Terry always warned of it. Umpteen State-side pastors banter in the cafe 8 days a week about how so-and-so pastor never prays and they munch another biscotti while downloading their sermon from

And, listening to the tapping rain, I knew that in my crazing to be a good steward with our time here, for our supporters, for our friends, for my faithfulness to God, I had actually been praying far less.

So, it is about 5:00 a.m. The rain is tapping and, I am on my way out to the patio. The wind is blustering drizzling wetness from Tropical Storm Sandy. But, you know what, in prayer and connected spiritually is where this sparked journey started. That is where I am headed now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Betatesters for my 'Top 100 Dream Igniter' Goal-Setting system.

I need #Betatesters for my 'Top 100 Dream Igniter' #goalsetting system. I need to hand pick 5 people who can a) commit to reading it over, b) can offer general grammatical and ideological edits, c) can offer constructive criticism to make it better, and d) will help me spread the word once it launches.

Dream Igniter testers get the benefit of:
1) Receiving a free final copy to print off and use for themselves.
2) Will be added to the Dream Igniter for all posterity as collaborators!
3) Access to State of the Spark at the Sparked Supporter Level (including discounts, early notification of future product releases, and more!)
4) Being part of shaping this powerful tool to help others spark their own life of significance!

Message me, email me, or smoke signal me to let me know!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 02 Without Running Water & Rookie Missionary Tip 015: Keep a Journal

Here is the lastest #RookieMissionary #Tip of the Day!

What do you do without running water? Especially when dealing with (ahem) bathroom issues?

Take water from your 5 gallon drinking water, put it in a pan, and pour it in your toilet! 5 gallons of water is $40 DRP, or about $1 USD. So, using a little drinking water is not easy to agree to, but its gotta be done.

Showers are just dips in the ocean. Salty, yes. Better than sleeping in your rank skin, also yes.

Also, check out Marissa's new experimental blog,

Finally, today we are attempting to put together a smashing website back-office for our awesome monthly supporters. BAM!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 013: Use Backpacks

Tip 013: Use Backpacks. It may be tempting to use a really nice bag of some other design. But there is nothing like having free hands on long hauls.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gun Shots, Bilbo Baggins & Rookie Missionary Tip 010: Read 'The Open Secret'

Tip 010: Read 'The Open Secret' by Lesslie Newbigin. Missiologists like this have really offered great understanding to the field of missions. Get some background!

You can view all of the tips at the experimental site for Rookie Missionary Tips here.


Gun shots rang out. 

That is not what it was like, though. We heard several rapid pops shock the otherwise muggy night air. Then another four or five pops sounded. So, you could say rather "gun shots popped through the night." And we really did not know it was gun shots until we thought about it later.

Then, it was quiet. A baby in the apartment somewhere below us cried. Dogs barked incessantly. The neighbors all came to their tiled porches or barred windows.

Another sudden volley of shots rang out sending everyone inside. Then, it was over.

Marissa fell right back to sleep. I could not.

I went outside to see a crowd of neighborhood men, some in shorts, most all shirtless gather at the end of the street to find the culprit(s). One of them puffed a cigarette as he passed me dialing a cell phone. A police truck raced down the dirt road moments later. After a few minutes of heated exchanges, the police left and crowd of men dispersed. Apparently no one was harmed, only threatened.

The muggy night breeze foretold of a cooler evening (which ultimately accounted for Marissa's sound sleep.) That same breeze touched my skin as I tried to ease myself to rest unsuccessfully.

I had been up and down in the night, each time rousing Marissa who had a long day and was expecting another. Not wanting to wake her again, I grabbed my copy of 'The Hobbit' and sat down on the cool, sweaty tile to read.

The baby cried once or twice more, but finally faded to sleep as the stars began to dance between splotchy blacknesses that hinted at night clouds. Completing the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, I put down the book still wide awake. "Bilbo, you just finished your adventure grim. I feel as if on the edge of the Mirkwood just beginning mine," though I as I leaned on the concrete patio railing.

The pathway to missions, or any mission, or any adventure for that matter, was, apparently, not very straight. Many other lines of work and living, I suppose, are quite straight and straightforward. Missions, or, in another word, adventuring, is most certainly not.

This had been a deep frustration of mine. For, like Bilbo, I have been a rather out-of-sorts adventurer. Unwilling at times. Unsure most times. Quite delightful at rare times. Unsure of myself.

But, as Bilbo said to himself somewhere in the roots of the mountains, well in the dark heart of the Misty Mountains, "Back is sure death. Left and Right are almost as questionable. I guess forward is the best way." And he placed a fury foot forward. My foot, not nearly as fury and my heart not nearly as formidable, must follow Bilbo's footsteps, dark though it may be.

In the morning, Marissa did yoga on the patio while Eric stretched and had a morning smoke. We all took turns watching the sky adjust from deep purples to the blinding white of day. I lit the propane stove and place the coffee percolator on to boil.

Not being hungry from want of sleep, the hot coffee was a luxury in the cool morning air. (See! I told you how the breeze promised a coolness!)

Regardless, I felt glum. I have felt glum. I continue in my glumminity. My companions seem to fair the changes of place and weather well. I feel that our troop of adventures has either turned into wanderers or mere merry-makers.

And, in my defense, I love a good merry-making and have witnessed my own wanderings with pleasure and whimsy. However, now I feel that there is a great, solemn adventure (and treasure, of the soulish sort!) to be had under a great dragon to slay and that our adventure stretches longer into the winter of the soul than desired.

The Cities of Men
We set forth on our mission for missions in May (and what a glorious May day it was, bright and brilliant and green.) We traveled over the mighty river that divides our country in two though not evenly. From there we experienced the vast expanse of grasslands that is glorious and mesmerizing. We forged over the Craggy Range of purple mountains, into the sopping yet-not-dreary northwest. Visited the Red Tree Giants and saw their mystery in an eclipsing moon. From there we ventured down to the vast cities of men and women and their buildings and immeasurable roads.

Our Desert Hobbit Hole
We then turned back East to make our way into the bone-dry and never-ending desert for training. The desert was at first an inhospitable place, but buried in the sand we found homes and a surprisingly welcome and open people. We learned much and had a very many small adventures and surprises that I shall not retell here. But as June galloped by and July faded toward August, we made a return trip.

All in all, the adventure to a life of missions to that point had been mostly jolly. There were interruptions of inconveniences and inconvenient attitudes, but on the whole it was most enjoyable. On this return trip, however, I had grown increasingly glum.

First, the unknown of being on an island we know not of was challenging. And second, the weight of the dragon we desire to slay increased (and increases still) with each day. The seriousness of the mission burns in me. The treasured sense of victory beneath the dragon when slain seems to be unattainably distant. And our excursions to Bavaro and now Bayahibe has me all turned around as in a darkly cave.

These places have been far pleasant and warm enough. We have not wanted for a safe place to sleep and people to chat with while continuing our development for the ultimate boon, the true mission adventure. Yet I have wanted for a sense of security in our direction.

And, as Bilbo in the Mirkwood when having stepped off the path and lost all orientation, I feel I must simply step forward in the direction I am the least doubtful of, know that my Guide is there with me, and press forward.

Typical Empanada Cart
Forgive me if this sounds too grim. I will say that quite often we have been in places that felt to be Elrond's elvin lands, where birch trees sing green and joyful, where no dreaded things have ever come nor will ever come. Bavaro is bubbly. Bayahibe is a gorgeous, small town with cobble stones and empanada vendors and a small plaza where the entire town comes to commune every evening from 7 to 9 (the only evidence of this in the morning being rows and rows of empty Presidente beer bottles standing neatly.)

I do not mean to spoil these things by being grim. Rather, I mean to be honest in my assessment that I am anxious to face our trials (though, I say, grateful for the hospitality shown us so far) for I know they are coming sooner or later. And, knowing their degree of challenge, I desire to face them sooner than later for I have the boldness in me now.

And, these things I pondered today as I sat on a cobble-stoned curb over looking the Bayahibe bay. Many numerous mopeds sped by on morning preparation errands. I assume they moved quickly to receive the several thousand vacationers whom I watched descend throughout the morning. Finally, all climbed into a white armada of tourist boats, full of life vests and sunscreen.

The town was quiet once again. Marissa and her dive companion (and our roommate) Eric were off for the day, diving, training, and learning the trade. And I sat listening to the silent, cool breeze and watching the crystal waters lap the coral boat moorings.

Dwelling on the adventure to come, the mission in our heart, I figured I should be off in preparation of some sort myself. So, up with me, I plodded down the cobblestone, greeting whom I could, shaking what grimness I could, and, considering the beauty if things I saw, brought just enough boldness in my heart to turn my attention to the missioning needs of the day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 008: Find Beauty

Tip 008: Find Beauty. Everywhere you go on the field you see amazing things! But you won't see it if you are not looking! Grant and Marissa Nieddu, life from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On ADD and Getting to the Mission Field

A close person and supporter to the work Marissa and I are doing recently wrote me the following:
"Grant, I can not find a good book or resource to get cutting edge, up-to-the-minute time- and life-management skills and help based on the reality of the black hole that the Internet CAN be if not MANAGED properly. 
"Before the Internet there used to actually be more minutes in every hour. I wish someone would put that theory to Steven Hawking!! 
"Anyway, I know you could write [just such a] book - for people generally including all vocations lofty enough to require elegant management of time and energy to accomplish - in free-form occupations/activities like I am now as a grad student and part-time employee, and you are now based on your current work. 
"All the time mgmt books I can find are the same old stuff. Those skills have to be updated constantly as technology/media devices and platforms keep morphing and growing. Like details on when/how best to use Twitter/G+, and everything else combined in THE MOST EFFICIENT smart manner in concert with housekeeping, cooking, reading, meditating, personal care/bathing, Internet for school, and Internet for social/pleasure/family stuff. 
"Help! I'm feeling my way along in the dark - this stuff is especially important for those of us with ADHD-type challenges since we get so easily distracted online and before we know it we've done a bunch of stuff we didn't have on our original to-do list, even though the stuff we did might actually be good stuff, just not the right good stuff for the moment! 
"Help me OB1 canobi, you're our only hope"!
I think that this is a concern for many people today. Especially those who already deal with focus and have attention issues, the internet (and the resultant pace of life) can pose a significant challenge.

But, this had to be overcome. There are many steps it takes to achieve your dream. In our case, getting to the mission field for any length of time, let alone attempting to move to the field, has many steps.

The following are my 9 Major Ideas behind creating focus to achieve the things on your heart.

  1. There is no such thing as time management. You cannot manage time. There is only YOU management. Time will march on regardless.
  2. All the books sound the same because they are all pointing to the same thing most of which I agree with: self-discipline. Self-discipline is the same regardless of the internet or not. Back in the day, news was the internet of their day. And radio before that. And newspapers before that. And the local pub before that. (Imagine an irish woman's voice: "Why'r ye' down at dat pub all day, boyo?!") It has always been the same and it will always be the same. Discipline will be the only thing to overcome it! How?
  3. The following is the sequence of books that made the most impact on my life. I have the order and the revelation that came to me by them. (Although I am sure you can guess the revelation when you see the title.) 
    1. 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill: success is won or lost because of my own thoughts (instead of thoughts you could replace it with any of the 13 major points of thinking there). I learned and began extracting my vision and passion here. 
    2. '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by the late Steven Covey: This book helped me to understand Roles and Responsibilities, which affect the Importance-Urgent Quadrant, which determine First Things First and what we focus on. I learned that my passion was possible by managing myself and began APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES. 
    3. 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen: This helped me by offering me a better system to funnel my efforts toward. This assumes that I have already developed sufficient self-discipline to execute any system I decided I want to try.
  4. To take it further, I believe that the books are saying the same things because the general population still has yet to apply the basics of focus, self-discipline. Do the basics. then get more.
  5. Other Tools: If you use the Google Chrome internet browser, you can install free Extensions from the Chrome Web store that limit your surfing/websites in chunks of time that you set up. Some of them limit social sites from hour X to hour Y (your working hours.) Check out Strict Pomodora and StayFocused. With these two, set up correctly, you won't have the choice but to be disciplined. Just don't shut off the Extensions when you feel the temptation to distract yourself. With those extensions I think you are on your way. 
  6. I would also do an honest self-assessment: Have I actually completed the steps in these books or any other material I have read in the past? Am I currently living the daily habits they suggest? 
  7. If you have not shaped the self-discipline habit, you can attempt to take the next, higher level in life, but it will not be sustainable for long. Sustainability of whatever your next level is based on your ability to manage self. And, I believe that most all people have that ability, whether they have ADD, ADHD, BiPolar disorder or whatever.
  8. Weekly Planning. I would seriously set up your week. Schedule in day-dreaming or web-surfing times so that you have the peace of mind during work times that you will get to it. 
  9. Have a note pad titled "Stuff to Look Up" so that you do not carry anxiety that your passing thoughts will be lost (this was often my motive for surfing forever).
Honestly, if these things, the basics, are not done, the next level will remain unreachable or, at the very least, unsustainable. One MUST, MUST, MUST have the planning habit to corral the need (and I believe it is a need) to surf and peruse the ideas in your head. But corral it. Schedule it in. Capture it on a sheet. And let 'er rip, when you scheduled that time.

That is the best advice I have until you have attained it. Once you have attained it, there are other things you can do to optimize it for further effectiveness. But that must wait until then!

Good luck! Get organized. Get focused! And we look forward to seeing you on the field!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reflections from Port-au-Prince

I recently received this amazing letter from Ted Steinhauer, Managing Director of the Grace Center and Grace Mission near Port-au-Prince Haiti.

It was a solid reminder to me about our life here on the island. But it also made me think of your lives in the States, or wherever you call home.

 You can follow his blog here. [formatting mine.]

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem, 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children… Multiply! Do not dwindle away! Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.’ ” (Jer.29:7)
Want to do some “unpacking?” (I love writing because I’m free to assume you’ve answered, “Yes!”)

What a shocker this “word from the Lord” must have been for the exiles! I can hear their protest.

“What! Unpack, build homes, plant, open businesses, marry, and have families—is this Babylon our home?” "They’re our enemy, for crying out loud!”

And then the straw that must’ve broken the old camel’s back –
“Work for the peace and prosperity of the city… Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” 
“Are you kidding me?” they must’ve exclaimed. “Why should we work to make things easier and better for our enemies; why should our welfare be tied to theirs?” 

We’d most likely have said the same thing –let’s face it, we actually do. 

Still, it sounds to me that regardless of our reasons for living in any particular location, we’re to help prosper the community we’re living in and even “…pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” It’s almost as if we’re responsible to God to get involved- sink roots, build homes, farm, trade, and establish commerce- in order to make ourselves an integral part of the community in which we live. 

We’re supposed to contribute to the community’s progress - spiritually, economically, and socially.

Wherever we may find ourselves; wherever God has called us to be—whether it’s to live, do mission work, ministry, make disciples-all of the above— we’re supposed to be assets. We’re supposed to live out God’s Kingdom in our respective communities. If we dig into this notion for a moment, we’ll find that it’s as scary for us as it was for them. (Hey, it’s not my counsel- it is God’s command!) But, I know He’s right, because the same God who sent the remnant of Israel into exile is the same God who directs world history and the lives of all who belong to Him – all believers.

Sadly, most of us don’t want to be part of community God’s way; in fact, we work hard at forming our own comfortable, relationally shallow, non-threatening communities. Nevertheless, like Israel in Babylon, we are where we are by God’s will and purpose for a specific time. During this time, we need to be the ones who have an influence on our communities; even bring them prosperity—we’re not to be influenced and prosper from them. But, putting this into practice—considering our short-term, out-of-sight/out-of-mind, send-money-from-a-distance-mindset—these attitudes build buildings - not relationships

With these mindsets, any God-ordained personal involvement, community-focused vision, or any long-term spiritual, economic, and social relationships is near impossible – 
without a change of heart.

If we would only take a lesson from Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—these men who took God’s message to heart and worked (through the reign of two Babylonian Kings) to prosper Babylon – they obeyed Jer. 29:7. The result— each of these kings publicly praised God in these words, 
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true and he is able to humble the proud.” (Dan. 4:37)
And King Darius:
“I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, His Kingdom will never be destroyed… He rescues and saves His people; He performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth…" (Dan.6:26 – 27).
Why don’t we trust and obey God? Allow Him to change our hearts from self-centeredness to the relational love of Jesus AS we work to influence and prosper the communities God has placed us in? Wouldn’t this glorify His name—show the world (as Daniel did) what true Kingdom of God community looks like? 

Why are so we afraid to break away from our traditional mission methodology that has created unsustainable dependency; the passing of poverty from one hand to another while doing very little to prosper the church and community?


Ted Steinhauer

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Church in Higuey & Our Visit There

Here is our very brief overview of our trip to Hebreo's church in Higuey, Dominican Republic. 

Their community was awesome. They opened up their home to us and made us banana smoothies. And they had a great Pastoral Appreciation Service.

This is a quick 2 minute overview.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

9 Questions To Ask When Deciding How to Write

"Do I Just Sit and Start Writing Or Kind Of Lay Out The Book First?"

This is a question I was just asked by a fellow minister on the field, Chantz Cutts, after reading my book, H.O.P.E. From Here to Haiti.

My answer is: It depends.

I have a decent process for my non-fiction stuff that I am very pleased with. It is structured to produce a clean final product AND functions well to deal with my bursts of muse-driven inspiration.

On my non-fiction stuff, I have a brainstorm/download process and about a thousand conversations with my master-mind team. Along the way, I do a mind map, look for an order, and begin downloading ideas on the mind-map. I eventually transfer the brainstorms (stickie notes, drawings, emails, napkins, etc.) into an outline of sorts. I see what makes sense on an order and then go back over the material.

On my first fiction novel still in process, 'Aegis, Shopper', I attempted to simply sit and flow. It has been an experiment in going with the flow to write. This works very well if you are a general story teller. BUT, I would say that I am starting to believe that I am only comfortable with this process at this point because I have the confidence in my system to finish and organize and edit it later. AND, I am pretty good about saying to myself "I will just sit down and knock out 1,000." (I write a minimum of a thousand words a day, even if it is dribble that I will eventually throw away.)

On my second fiction novel, currently unnamed, I approached it a tad more systematically. I could go into this as I had to devise a proprietary way to do it, and there is a lot to explain to it.

How Would You Recommend A New Author Approach Their Writing?

I would say it depends on several things. What type of book it is, how intense is the muse (aka The Holy Creative Spirit) in you (this affects pace, degree of discipline needed, and systematic approach), knowing your creative process; these are all things to consider.

Your process could vary from my. Start by answering these questions:

  1. What is the premise of the book?
  2. What sort of book is it?
  3. Can any of it be crowd-sourced?
  4. How intense is the idea in you? (1 - 10, 1 being I woke up with a good idea but by the time I finished coffee it was 'myeh' and 10 being It lines up with my current work, accelerates our vision, and I would sell my left leg to finish it)
  5. Do you prefer deadlines? Or just to go with the flow?
  6. How structured is your schedule already?
  7. Are there any deadlines that the launch of the book would go well with?
  8. How much do you know about The One-and-Only Story told?
  9. Has anything even similar been written before?

I would say that as I answer these questions for myself I begin to see the process required to accomplish it.

What is your process? 
Do you have a specific project you are working on that you need process questions answered for?
Let me know below!