Looking back on 2017, I feel honored and privileged to have played the different roles God invited me to fill. My experiences as a husband, foster parent, lay-leader in my local church, and One 17's Executive Director were marked by challenge, reward, and joy.
This year, I was blessed and privileged to be able to visit Zambia and Botswana while serving with my local church on a short-term mission trip. My wife and I were also able to spend a week of vacation in Zimbabwe visiting a dear friend. Our time in Africa was marked by seeing God's beautiful creation and learning stories of the left behind in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I was both surprised and encouraged by the similarities I saw between Africa and Haiti. Ultimately, people—no matter where we live—share common desires to belong to something and someone, to be loved, and to live a purpose-filled life. God made the world a little bit smaller of a place this year and captivated my heart with how He holds all people and all things in His hands.
God also brought the world to my doorstep as my wife and I served as foster parents to children from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. Foster parenting is more challenging, refining, and rewarding than I ever expected it to be. I have enjoyed seeing my wife live fully into her giftedness as a caregiver and mother. I have also learned a lot about myself and how God desires for me to be fully present on a daily basis with those I love and have the opportunity to interact with. If you know me at all, you know I tend to be a dreamer who gravitates towards the future; this sometimes leads me to miss out on the present. Becoming a foster parent to refugee children has taught me to savor the moment. Each case and each child is different. It's so important to celebrate the season of life you're in because you do not know how long it will last as a foster parent.
God also continued to encourage my heart and spur me on in my work with One 17 International. I was able to make six trips to our school and spend 40 days serving on the ground with our team in Haiti. My greatest joy was found in serving with our Haitian staff team and diving deeper into leadership training with our management team. One training session on developing personal mission statements and setting goals stands out to me. I absolutely love encouraging people to live fully into God's story for their lives and was honored to be able to spend intentional time doing that with our Haitian school leaders!
I also saw dads at our school experience DADCAMP for the first time. DADCAMP is a ministry focused on building strong fathers who build strong families through providing life-changing camp experiences for fathers and their sons and daughters to experience together. I was blessed and encouraged by my week serving with this incredible ministry. As man who lost his father as a teenage boy, DADCAMP holds a special place in my heart because of my personal heartache for a father in my life and the way God provided fatherly mentors to me through my local church. Through serving with the DADCAMP team for a week, I was able to encourage some of our students without fathers and serve as their big brother during camp. I also received and experienced an incredible moment of blessing and affirmation when the DADCAMP team spoke into me as a leader and child of our good Father. I'll never forget the week I shared with this team and the way they encouraged me to press on in the work God has allowed me to do.
Finally, I cannot speak about the 2017 year without mentioning our students and you, One 17's faithful volunteers, partners, and donors. You might find this surprising, but you actually have more in common with our students than you might think. You are both joy-filled, generous, wildly talented groups of people. You are driven, resilient, and full of God-given talents and abilities. One of the great pleasures of the work I do on a daily basis is seeing how God exceeds our expectations and invites us deeper into his story. The sacrificial gifts of time, talent, and resource that you make without blinking an eye inspire me on a weekly basis. Your record-breaking generosity this year allowed us to build the Prodigy building and purchase a truck. Both of these resources will impact the students we both love and help them live more fully into God's story for their lives.
Thank you for encouraging me as a leader and expecting my best effort. My hope and ultimate desire for many of our students is that they will grow up to reflect the image of Christ to the world, just as many of you do so well! I cannot wait to see where God leads us in the coming year as we pursue new influence among unreached people groups and multiply our influence in Haiti through the development of our second school.
The best is yet to come, my friends! May God continue to align our hearts with His heartbeat for the world.