God’s Message: People Have a Deep Desire to Be Known and Accepted For Who They Are!


Excerpt from LWI El Salvador 2017 Mission Journal

October 12, 2017


As many of my mission followers know, God always shows me a revelation, a truth, or provides a message that I am to take forward from each short-term trip.  This year was no different. We came to drill a well, and in return, God continued to share with me ideas and concepts to take forward.

Last year’s trip to El Salvador was significant, because it was the final message in a book that God was writing for me.  It culminated into the concept of World Changers on Mission (WCoM). As I approached this trip, I was curious whether there would be a message, and if so, would it be the beginning of a new book or perhaps its own short story.  As is God’s way, He never shares the entire plan with me.  As He impressed upon me a few years ago with a vision: if He gave me the entire plan, I would have nothing to look forward to.

IMG_2737You ask, “What did God impress upon you this trip in El Salvador?” I experienced firsthand how the prisoners and community looked at me and how some of them hugged me.  They all wanted a future–something to look forward to.  Many of the kids, teachers, and parents wanted to come to America, a land where they believe dreams can come true.  We, who hold the power and resources, have a have a responsibility to honor others by truly seeing, knowing, and accepting others despite our differences in circumstances and cultures.

I am now a life and leadership coach.  I feel like I have been one my entire life, living it even without the formal training and title until this year.  I graduated in May with my Master’s in Human Services Counseling, Life Coaching, and put out my shingle under Shine Crossings.  Although I envisioned working with both individuals and businesses, the clientele who have reached out have primarily been friends, colleagues, and friends of friends.  I cannot tell you how much joy I get when I see my clients flourish, achieve their dreams, and improve their lives and relationships.  I really do feel like I’m living my calling.

IMG_3333In many ways my mission of life coaching is linked to the message of this mission.  Life coaching allows me to enter into a relationship where a person can be seen, known, and accepted.  If there is a connection between my coaching mission and the mission field, where do a take life coaching?  God told me many years ago that He has no borders, and neither should I.  I have a suspicion that I may need to take life and leadership coaching outside the walls of America.

IMG_3294Ivy keeps coming to mind.  Is it coincidence or plan that I met this self-taught English-speaking teacher, who lives in a rural farming community in El Salvador?  What is the likelihood that Ivy is fluent in English with no one to speak with until our team comes to drill a well on the school property?  Was this a divine encounter? Was I predestine to meet Ivy?  What will Ivy and I do together?

Although I prepared one, I never had the opportunity to give my devotional as other team members stepped up to share what was on their hearts.  What I planned to share was the life Scripture that God first put on my heart during my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.  This Scripture was the intended message that the mission team was to teach at the local high school we visited:

Jeremiah 29:11 which says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Then a few months before this trip, God strongly laid down on my heart:

John 15:5 which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I see how the Scriptures connect and build upon one another.  Jeremiah first declares the truth: there is a plan, a plan for a future filled with hope.  John then declares how I must walk out the plan for it to come to fruition.  I believe it is our human nature to create our own plan and exercise our own free will to execute that plan.  Our ears become muted to God’s direction and pearls of wisdom, so we end up relying more on our own foolish ways.  It takes concentration and effort to fight my own free will and follow God’s plan for my life.

God’s intended message for me is not crystal clear, so I will continue to pray for its clarity.  If you have read through all my entries, you will notice several highlighted phrases that resonated with me throughout the trip.  I believe the bigger picture lies in these puzzle pieces:

  • God brings together His team
  • People want to be seen by others
  • We live out purpose when we live in community
  • Make time to be in relationship
  • God’s dreams for us are always bigger than we can imagine
  • I am not the puzzle, but only one piece of a bigger vision
  • God never leaves us; He never forsakes us
  • People have a deep desire to be known and accepted for who they are, not necessarily, for what they have done

Amen!

Living Water International 2018: Give the Gift of Water!

img_3356.jpgClean water is a scarce resource for over 70% of the world’s population.  If you read this statement, you are likely in the global minority who have upwards of 15+ point sources of clean water in your home: kitchen and bathroom faucets, showers, toilets, dishwasher, washing machine, and outside spigots.

Can you imagine how difficult life would be if you had to worry daily on where to get IMG_3294safe drinking water? In developing countries, many children are not able to attend school, because their main purpose of the day is to walk miles to find, collect, and carry cisterns of water back to their homes.  In villages that may have an old well, the infrastructure has collapsed or is on its last legs.

Living Water International (LWI) is committed to change the landscape in Central America one village at a time. For the past three years, my husband, Darin, and I have brought together and led teams to drill water wells, do pump repairs, and teach hygiene and sanitation lessons in Honduras and El Salvador.  Three trips have not been enough!  We are headed back to El Salvador in 2018 to once again bring life-giving water.

IMG_3333Although the trip is designed around a specific objective—to give safe water to a village or school, the mission has an expanded purpose.  You can see how God is working in the lives of these people. Although the team comes to give, they get in return.  As you hang out, play, and talk with the locals and LWI staff, you develop a kinship and friendship that extends beyond the time spent in-country.

If you feel even a tinge of excitement or wonder, I encourage you to reach out to me, so we can have a conversation.  No prior drilling or mission experience necessary.  You will be taught everything you need to know while serving in the field and will be surrounded with experienced mission members who would love to show you the ropes.


About the Mission Leaders: Sandra and Darin Dillon have a calling to organize and take teams on short-term mission trips to developing countries with the purpose of blessing both the teams and communities. Previous missions have included drilling water wells, installing water purification systems, leading business-as-mission workshops, and evangelizing as well as teaching hygiene and nutrition.  You can learn more about the Dillons by visiting their website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Conviventia 2018: Invest in Others by Putting Your Talents to Work!

DSC01677Calling all teachers, chefs, project workers, sports enthusiasts, medical professionals, social workers, mental health providers, consultants, computer whizzes, and anyone with a servant heart. Do you want to learn about a new country, make a meaningful impact, feel appreciated, and experience the mutual joy of sharing your time and talents? If so, please consider joining a diverse team who will serve the people of Colombia during the summer of 2018?

IMG_3362Conviventia is unlocking human potential in Bogota, Cartagena, and Barranquilla by providing basic education, vocational training, and family strengthening through schools, community development centers (CDC), and services with a Christ-based worldview.  To continue the impact of transforming lives, they need and would appreciate the investment of your time, knowledge, and support through an ongoing relationship.  Our friends and family have all been blessed with experiences, opportunities, and talents that Conviventia would love to put in use.  Although the need is great, some of the more pressing opportunities for impact include:

  • Teach teachers, staff, and students (preschool, elementary, and higher)
    • Develop and lead English lessons
    • Share classroom best practices, theories of learning, discipline and strategies for working in large groups
    • Design and conduct classroom projects for math, music, science, and art
  • Teach business, vocational, and life skills classes
    • Cooking
    • Self-defense
    • Tailoring
    • Hairdressing
  • Lead construction projects that support and enhance the integrity of the facilities
  • Strategize and design programs that increase community safety, beautification, and neighborhood connection
  • Design and conduct a health brigade for parents and children
  • Develop and lead family strengthening activities:
    • Workshops on marriage, relationships, financial, conflict, handling a crisis
    • Family sports and activities
    • Parenting classes
    • Home visits
    • Vision/life projects
  • Evangelize with campaigns directed toward children, parents, elders and youth in the community
    • Plan and conduct vigils and camps
    • Teach a Bible class
    • Teach songs, do crafts, and orchestrate a class play
    • Lead sports lessons and activities

IMG_1261Have no doubts that everyone is equipped to do or share something.  What is on your heart to lead?  This list may not include your special talents, yet we know Conviventia can put them to good use.  Reach out and let us know how you would like to contribute.


About the Authors: Sandra and Darin Dillon have a passionate calling to organize and take teams on short-term mission trips to developing countries with the purpose of blessing both the teams and communities they serve.  Previous missions have included drilling water wells, installing water purification systems, leading business-as-mission workshops, and evangelizing as well as teaching hygiene and nutrition.  You can learn more about the Dillons by visiting their website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

The Power Of One

changtheworldMargaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”  I would add, “Never underestimate the power of one.”  It only takes one to make a difference—a hero—an every-day person who gives a part of his life to something bigger than himself.

To be a hero one must ask the question: “What can I give?” The answer lives in the difference between what is and what can be.  People rise up by lifting up others.  The truth—the world needs more of you and your unique gifts.  People ask, “How and what can I give?” People tap into their “power of one” by answering the following questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What can I do for others?

Heroism is unveiled in action. Where can you mentor, teach, help, encourage, and inspire? Heroism is like a boomerang.  The boomerang flies across the horizon only to return to its sender.  Heroes are motivated to give but find they get even more in return. In the process of giving, you may just create your best life ever—one that can be described as:

  1. A life worth living
  2. One with purpose
  3. One with love and laughter
  4. With significance

What will you do 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from today?


 

Shine: Everyone Has Something to Offer

shine 2I believe everyone has something to contribute to this world—a light within them just trying to get out.  That light may be a creation, an innovation, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or a quiet presence.  I lovingly refer to these gifts as Shine moments where people are at their best.  Some of my favorite Shine quotes include:

The Purpose of Light Is to Create More Light (Paulo Coelho)

Live to Let Your Brilliance Show

We Are All Meant to Shine

Sometimes More Sparkle Is Called For

The World Is Far Brighter Because You’re in It

Never Pass Up a Chance to Glow

Shine With All You Have

I Want a Brighter World Than Bright (John Keats)

Your Shine is Not Simply Seen—It should be felt

Always Keep Your Fire Lit

Be Brilliant—the World Needs You

Your Light Touches Hearts and Minds—It Changes the World

What are your Shine gifts?  When have you been most blessed by someone’s Shine moment?  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1, NIV).  I encourage you to continue to search within yourself for those gifts that need to shine out into the world and fill it with more light!

 

Hurricane Harvey Is Like Going on a Mission Trip


Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s El Salvador 2017 Mission Trip Journal: September 3, 2017

I feel as if I just returned from a mission trip by surviving Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.  Many of our team and even our dear local friends have lived through what might be considered their most devastating emotional and physical experience. Although Darin and I were spared the physical destruction from flood waters, Harvey did rattle my nerves and produce a continuous supply of cortisol running through my veins, as the torrential rains caused flood waters to creep up the street and transform the empty ditch behind our home into a river.  Setting the alarm to check water levels every 2 hours in the night resulted in a mixed blessing: increased exhaustion meeting relief that our carpet was still dry.  We hauled everything we could lift to the second floor and waited for the flood waters to take most of the furniture that made our lives comfortable.

If truth be told, I suffered some anxiety, as I relived memories from my childhood during Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  At 10 years old, my 7-year old brother and I were awakened in the night by our mother, so we could wade into rising sewage waters to haul upstairs anything we could salvage.  Although more than 45 years ago, I can vividly remember the pressure to save what little our family had.  No doubt, this tragic experience re-shaped my worldview—how I believe the world works.  My response was not to become emotionally invested in things, because they can easily be taken away through no fault of my own.  Although I have worked hard, made good money, and enjoyed nice things, I have never become emotionally attached or strived to have the biggest, brightest, or best.

Hurricane Harvey has put every Houstonian on a mission trip as if they have stepped into a third world or developing country.  In the past, those who served on their first short-term mission trip came away with more questions than answers and a desire to live differently upon their return home.  Their personal paradigms had been shifted. Harvey created a mission trip for Houstonians in their own backyards and paradigms were shifted without having left the city.

My rule of thumb, based on taking numerous teams on mission, is that people have ~ 6 weeks to act on their new worldview or paradigm; otherwise, they will acclimate to their pre-mission lifestyles. Life goes on as it was!  So, the question for Houstonians impacted by Hurricane Harvey is “What will you do differently now with your new-found worldview?”  For me, I am actively purging more material possessions and encouraging Darin to do so as well.

As the flooding threat subsided and we felt comfortable bringing our “stuff” to the ground floor, I took the opportunity to go through closets, drawers, and every room to give-away or throw-away things I had accumulated.  As an avid reader, my most difficult assignment was giving away books.  I love the sight of words and the feel of paper on my fingertips but realized that our future lives in a 1200 sq. ft. home and RV will not hold many books.  Better to start the process now in shedding that weight.  I gave away ~ 30% of my books and will continue the book-shedding process for months to come.  What change might you make to align with a new worldview?

I consider myself a positive person and always look for the blessing in adversity. My prayer is that others embrace or continue to act on two concepts after the waters recede and a new normalcy returns.  The first concept is that relationships and community are more important than stuff lost.  By the stories shared among friends and through media, I think most people are living this out in the midst of this tragedy. I hope that the outpouring of love as demonstrated by personal sacrifice and service is a sustainable paradigm-shift that continues. My second hope is that everyone appreciates the necessity and gift of clean water.  Many Houstonians were stranded by Harvey, and probably for the first time in their lives, they did not have access to safe drinking water.  I pray this tragedy becomes a wake-up call to the struggle of clean drinking water for a significant portion of the global population.

When Darin and I announce we are going on another mission trip to Central America to drill a well, I hope we hear, “Go, God speed,” and not, “Why do you serve outside of this country when there are so many people who are in need here?”  I agree, there are needy in every country; however, when Texans finally clean up from Harvey, even our country’s homeless can go into a public restroom and drink clean water from the sink faucet.  The same cannot be said in other parts of the world. During what appears to be these unfavorable times, I take to heart: “To every thing there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 KJV). May we all continue to be there for each other in our time of need.

The Power of a Simple Thank You Letter

Sandra Dillon: July 22, 2017


pen and paper 1In December 2011, I started an annual tradition to select at least three people who had the most influence on my life that year and to write them a hand-written thank-you letter explaining why they had such an impact.  That year, one of my chosen few was Anthony Spagnoletti, who is the owner of an auto body repair shop in The Woodlands, Texas, who brought me to Christ.  On a Friday afternoon, in June 2011, Anthony changed my life by shooing away his employees and handing off his customers to spend two hours talking to be about God and providing answers to my questions about unexplainable events that were happening in my life.  When I left his office that day, all Anthony knew for sure was that he had sacrificed several hours of his valuable time to have serious conversation about God with a woman whom he had just met hours before.

I never had any contact with Anthony after I left his body shop until he received my letter in December.  Actually, I assumed he received it and hoped that I would hear from him again, even if it was just a thank you for the thank you.  No word!  In April 2012 while driving back home from a weekend in Austin, an email appeared on my iPhone which began with “This letter is long overdue…”  Anthony wanted to let me know that my thank-you letter had made an incredible impact on him and come just at the right time.  He was questioning God and his purpose, and my letter affirmed everything he knew God to be and why he was put on this earth.  I changed Anthony’s life that day with my simple thank-you note.

Wow!  I assumed Anthony would enjoy hearing that his two hours spent with me was worth the investment.  That long-ago Friday night, I thought about everything that we had talked about.  I then slept on it, and the next morning while lying in bed, I prayed “The Prayer” and asked Jesus to be my personal savior.  The Holy Spirit came in a way I cannot explain, and my life was changed forever.  I wanted to thank Anthony for giving me that gift.  What I could not have imagined was that I gave him an almost equal gift in return through the simple gesture of writing a hand-written thank-you note.

I wanted to share this story and encourage you to think about those people in your life who have made a difference.  Next, take the time to write and express your gratitude.  If they left an edible mark on your life, do they not deserve that little bit of your time to put your thanks on paper?  You never know what impact you might make on them in return!

There is a post-script to this story which shows how the impact can live on!  In July 2017, my husband, Darin, returned to Anthony’s body shop to get his rear bumper replaced. Over the course of some chit-chat, Anthony told Darin that my letter sits safely tucked in the Bible he reads every day.  He shared that this letter is the best gift he ever received. My note of thanks is not a one-hit wonder but a lasting legacy for one Godly man. Knowing that my letter continues to have a daily impact inspires me to continue writing those annual thank-you letters and encourage others to do the same.


Give the Gift of Freedom: Give Clean Drinking Water

 LWI El Salvador Photo CollageToday, July 4th, Americans celebrate their country’s independence and the freedoms they enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.  Although every country wrestles with its injustices and socioeconomic differences among its population, by world standards most Americans are extremely blessed with basic living necessities and luxuries. Clean, safe drinking water is available to nearly all Americans.  Even the homeless can walk into a gas station bathroom, turn on the faucet, and drink water from a spout that quenches their thirst and is free of bacteria and disease. Most citizens in third-world or developing countries do not enjoy this gift, because their water supply comes from local streams and ponds that are used for drinking, bathing, cooking/washing, and sanitation.

Living Water International (LWI) takes teams for short-term (1 week) mission trips to Central American countries to bring life-saving water to villages, schools, or communities.  This September, I am taking another team to El Salvador to drill a well, do pump repairs, and teach hygiene in a community that is in need of clean water.  As you celebrate your freedom today, I ask whether you feel called to join our team, working side-by-side with the local people, to free them from contaminated water.  Although I can’t give you your money back, I can guarantee that the experience will change your life.  Call me at 281.793.3741 to learn more about this give-back opportunity.

 

Giving To A Vision

vision signIn the non-profit world, many people struggle with how to secure resources, namely raise money, to support their cause. Despite a ministry’s worthiness, many struggle or never reach their full stride due to inability to secure volunteer time or funding.   Why does raising money seem so daunting?  Although God is the ultimate resource provider, why do some non-profit leaders receive an outpouring of funds while others not?  Although most situations cannot be attributable to only one reason, I would propose a significant contributor is the lack of a leader’s clear, compelling, and well-communicated vision for the ministry.  I believe people are inherently generous and predisposed to give of their time and resources, if the right opportunity is presented the right way at the right time. When done right, I expect people to respond with joyful hearts and generous giving.

One of the key responsibilities of the leader is to ensure the ministry or non-profit has a powerful vision, strategy, and plan that can be effectively communicated to potential donors.  From a Biblical perspective, Christians are called by God to steward their resources and use them to invest in Kingdom opportunities.  Therefore, a responsible donor would logically expect to understand the vision, the strategy/execution plan, and how the ministry will be held accountable.  If a leader cannot article the vision and supporting details, a donor is likely to assume the resources will not be well stewarded.

When I interviewed for a full-time fundraising position at MedSend, the CEO enlightened me that those who have significant wealth feel an overwhelming burden of responsibility to give back and are actively looking for causes where their donations can make a big impact.  They want to make a significant contribution to the world and want to invest their money in a vision that is greater than paying someone’s bills.  Think about it.  What criteria do you use for giving?  Aside from tithing, people give to people not organizations, specifically to people who have visions.

If you are fundraising for a cause for which you are passionate, take the time to paint a clear and engaging picture of your vision, so you can help your donors understand how their efforts will release joy and power.  Make it big!  Stretch your dreaming! If you can create a vision that you could accomplish on your own, it is likely not from God.  God does not dream that small.