First of all, and speaking of communication issues, I realized at some point last week that I am no longer, and have not been for a while, receiving emails at my "firstname.lastname@example.org" email address. I should have realized before now, but when we changed our website my email address associated with the previous domain went away as well. If you have tried to reach me there, please understand my lack of reply is nothing more than a "communication issue" and you can reach me at email@example.com.
I started thinking through all of the intricacies associated with communication because of our lives over the past few years. Throughout our time in Haiti and with All Things New, it seems like issues with communication have really dominated our lives. You have normal communication struggles within your marriage, between co-workers, amongst friends, in churches, on sports fields, etc. but on top of those struggles we have also had things like:
- Taking care of 15 teenagers. If you think caring for 1 or 2 teenagers in the same house at the same time is difficult, think about All Things New. We have 8 teenage boys living together in one place and 7 teenage girls together in another. Talk about communication issues...
- Learning a different language. Throughout my time in Haiti, I have made probably thousands of communication mistakes based on speaking in another language. Simple things like telling everyone at a church one time that, "I am Jessica's wife" to more difficult things like not being able to say everything I want to say to our kids without messing up. It is tiring and it is hard to speak in a language other than your own, and it is very easy to make mistakes no matter how good you might be.
- Living in a different culture. At least as difficult as speaking in another language is living in a different culture. Going from America to Haiti (and back for that matter) brings about cultural minefields that can be difficult to navigate.
A short story that illustrates this happened while I was driving in Jacksonville a couple of years ago after being in Haiti for a while. A car had pulled up at a stop light and had clearly come to a complete stop. Remembering that people in Haiti do not really care so much about traffic laws, for a second I forgot where I was and I laid down on the horn and stared the guy down...For stopping at a red light...Exactly like he should have done.
- Having 30 employees whose lives have been drastically different than my own. I talk all the time about how blessed we are with our employees, but there are still issues that arise. The communication issues that exist between our employees and us are mostly mitigated with those (especially Gina) who speak english and translate for us, but they are still there.
- 3 adoptions. The adoption process is fraught with communication challenges including the fear of the unknown and the fact that you always communicate through a 3rd party. With each of our 3 adoptions, 1 of which is ongoing, communication issues and fear (how will we pay, what if the birth parents change their mind, and other fears that I won't mention) were and are a huge part of the process.
- The pressure of fundraising. Prior to starting All Things New I had no idea how to fundraise, no clue where to start, and I was completely unaware how difficult fundraising for a nonprofit would be. Communication is so important in the nonprofit/fundraising world, and the fact that there are so many communication avenues both makes it easier and much more difficult than ever. We do a lot of communication through Facebook, but what about people who are not on Facebook? We do a lot through email, but what about people (like me recently) who change their email address?
Communication is really hard. All of us, no matter how open we believe ourselves to be with others, keep a lot of how we feel and what we want to say inside. Half the time I'm pretty sure I don't even know how I feel much less how to communicate how I am feeling to another person or to GOD. I don't know about you, but there are numerous times that Jessica actually tells me that I am feeling a certain way far before I have a clue, and she is usually right.
Did you know these "communication issues" work their way into our relationship with GOD as well? I cannot tell you how many people have asked me how to know how GOD is leading them or what GOD's will is for their life just to find out that they spend absolutely no time communicating with GOD. Think about that for a second. Think about how often we wonder where GOD is or what He is trying to say to us and then we proceed to live our lives like He is not even there, except for on Sunday and Wednesday of course.
Let's join together and work on our collective communication skills. First with GOD, second with our family, and then with everyone else. Let's be understanding, listen more than we talk, and seek to grow in this area of our life in a way described in James 1:19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry"