2014: A Reflection on Life & Leadership

In Leadership by ChrisMarlow0 Comments

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2014 was the best of times and the worst of times. On Jan 1st, 2014, I was on my way to Ethiopia and Uganda. While the trip was amazing, I simply was not prepared to travel that soon into the new year. It threw me off for the entire first quarter of 2014. I always felt as if I was trying to play catch up.

Soon after our return, we got the horrid phone call that my brother-in-law had been murdered in an LA hotel room. That was quite difficult to deal with. Truthfully, you just don’t know how to handle those kinds of tragedies. You do your best, try to heal, and move on with life.

The year went on with some amazing events at Catalyst, Plywood Presents, Together for Adoption, and Allume. In the middle of all that, Help One Now acquired another non-profit, and that has been a huge and very unexpected blessing. Of course, we also spoke at multiple churches.

Our Love Hope trip was wildly successful, I landed a book deal, we received our largest one-time donations to date, and right now, we are in full swing to fund Phase Four of the Legacy Project and I committed to a local chruch!

Overall, 2014 was good but hard. It felt like a being a boxer; you get hit, and you hit. You get knocked down, but not out. You get up and go to battle–again and again!

There were live events, intense travel, plenty of mistakes, a few heartbreaks, and some incredible victories. God was gracious in the midst of the storm and chaos.

Here’s what I’m learning:

 

1) The Long Tail is vital to the vision. Whether it’s family, work or health, I’ve learned that I need to see all things through a “long tail” lens.  I’ve become less and less concerned about metrics in a 12 month span. When you run a small nonprofit with a handful of employees, it does not take much to throw you off. Healthy indicators are necessary, but they can also create unnecessary pressure.

Tragedy, travel, team-members who move on, campaigns that fail and more–life happens and it will always be that way. I’ve decided to shift all of Help One Now’s strategy to 24 months. Every six months, we update the plan. (I do have a five year vision in a sort of placeholder, if you will.)

Another words, I know where I want to go, but I’ve learned that the journey will always be changing. I will need to adapt on the fly and be ready to take advantage of key opportunities. Inch by inch, you move forward, work hard, create small wins, deal with setbacks and such. But, overall, you see the impact … and it’s beautiful.

2) The foundation to every successful dream is always the same. As the world shifts, a few things will never change. My job as a CEO of the organization is four-fold: present a clear vision, make sure we have the resources (cash) to execute that vision, acquire the best talent (board/staff) possible, and make sure our story is being told over and over and over.

If you lead a nonprofit, business, or church, take those four principles and own them. They are the foundation to all successful pursuits, and those four aspects should be how you use your time day in and day out. Because of this, I’ve made a shift from working IN the organization to working ON the organization.

3) Simplicity is a must. We just don’t know what to do with this word; we crave it but it always seems out of our reach. Simplicity does not mean EASY, and that is a mistake many of us make when we think of this word.

I want to simplify everything, so I can focus on doing the necessary HARD work. I cannot be scattered, I cannot lack efficiency, I cannot have too many areas that need my focus. I have to simplify all aspects of life. This is counter-culture, but extremely important to success.

Because of this, Help One Now has created a shift in our global operations, which we will announce in 2015.  We’ve also said “No” to more opportunities, and I’m rethinking what it means to collaborate. We’ve spent so much time and wasted so much energy when it comes to collaboration. (see #4)

If you have not read the book Essentialism,(Affiliate) do it. Our entire team read this book and embraced it. It’s hard to make changes, but its worth it.

4) Collaboration must be reimagined.  I think possibly the biggest issue we have faced is processing what is means to partner or collaborate. We realized that many churches would never follow through; they will always use us to “do mission trips” and not actually fight with us to make the world brighter.

We made some key mistakes when it comes to partnering.  One is not having a clear understanding of what partnership looks like. This made our life very complex in 2013/14. So, we decided to pivot on how we do partnerships and have made it incredibly hard to work with Help One Now.

We began to ask church partners to commit to do the hard work of caring for the poor. We also asked them to sign a covenant, or we stopped partnering with them altogether or shifted our commitment and their expectations. This, of course, led to some difficult conversations. I also did an informal study on new(er) nonprofits that I love and respect; these nonprofits were growing at a good rate, and I came to the conclusion that most don’t partner with churches or if they do, it’s not a big priority.

As a former pastor and church planter, that hurt.

We care too much about the vision of Help One Now and realized that most of our church partners were simply stealing our ability to make an impact. Truthfully, we started to lose money when we agreed to partner with churches who–for whatever reason–find it hard to make a commitment to do good missions work, it’s not in their DNA.

So we asked ourselves a question: what if we partnered with less churches, but served those churches far better and asked those churches to be deeply committed? Many churches said “No” to this idea, but many LOVED it. This has brought so much life to us. We’re in the beginning phases, so we will see how this works out.

Of course, we’ve had a handful for churches that have been in the trenches with us for years. They bring joy, life, hope, and resources to the table. We are so grateful for these churches who are fully committed to doing good.

But, less is more, and I think the results will be amazing. I feel like churches can make a big difference if they choose to commit and focus, and we can serve those churches better.

All in all, 2014 was an amazing year. I’ve come to learn that every year, we will face ups and downs, wins and losses, good times and bad times–but, for those who keep going, you can create something beautiful in the midst of the broken.

I hope you had a great 2014 and I look forward to 2015.

 


How I landed a Book Deal

In Writing by ChrisMarlow16 Comments

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Photo Credit

In 2012, in an airport security line, Jen Hatmaker did what Jen Hatmaker does. She looked me in the eyes as we frantically tried to get through security after spending a week in Haiti and said:

“Chris, you need to write a book and tell this story.”

To be clear, Jen is not the kind of person you ignore. She has that “it” factor–the one where you just tend to follow her lead and say, “Yes, ma’am!” She will never admit this, but it’s true!

So, a year goes by and I feel this nagging tug at my heart. I need to do this for so many reasons. But fear grips me. “You are not a writer; you’re a speaker, a strategist, but not a writer.(Jeff’s materials and blog have helped me overcome my fears – thx Jeff!)

So, I call Jen, who tells me to call Chris and Curtis (who are two really accomplished literary agents). I finally did, though before I phoned, I googled “what questions to ask literary agents.”

(By the way–those results are not helpful.)

I share briefly, they both like my idea (even though I stumbled my way through our conversations), and I decide to move forward with Chris, since these two dudes are close friends and they have a crazy rule: whoever is talked to first, gets the client!

But, to be honest, these guys gave me the confidence I needed that my idea mattered and it had legs.  I needed them to say “Yes, I like it!” or “No, that is a terrible idea and the only people who will buy your book will be your wife, mother-in-law, and the nice old lady down the street.”

Now I have an actual, legit agent. “Crap,” I thought. “This is is getting serious.” I had to ask some friends of mine for advice. These friends are real writers with published books and they did not get “F’s” in English.  A name keep popping up.

“You need to talk to Jonathan. He knows the writers world, he’s published a few books, and he helps authors work through the chaos and write books that readers want to read.”

Two months later, Jonathan flies down to Raleigh. We eat lots of Chick-fil-A, Krispy Kreme, and Goodberry’s. Jonathan is a Southern boy who lives in Brooklyn, so he does not have access to all of this goodness.

We go through 2 1/2 days of planning and strategy. We narrow the focus, outline the chapters, kill some bad ideas, and dream about new ideas. Then, we’re done.

All of my ideas are on paper, in an outline, and ready to be crushed.

I write the first two chapters of the book, complete the proposal with Jonathan’s help, get Jon to do a fancy design, and just like that, I’m done with the first stage. I send the proposal to Chris and then leave the next day for Ethiopia.

I come back home eight days later and we begin to get a few nibbles from some very accomplished publishing houses. We meet with editors, I share the vision, and wait for them. Two said “Yes;” others said “No,” but they would probably regret this decision. Others said that the idea was terrible and they were not interested at all.   I wanted to email those folks back and let them know that they’re lame, but I did not do that because I thought Chris would have been a bit upset.

After a few rejections, I text Jen with this “world is ending” heartbreak. She texts me back “Get over it. Welcome to the world of publishing.”

That’s it. That’s Jen and that’s reality. Getting published is HARD, people. I respect authors so much more now than ever before!

I reach out to Jeff, and tell him I only have two deals. He laughs at me and says, “Dude, I only had one offer on my first book. You’re lucky; stop complaining, and be grateful.”

“Oh ya,” I remind myself. “This is really hard work.”

And the true work is not done yet, even though I put a year’s work into this journey so far. I was getting a little weary!

I had three publishers on my list of “I’d like to work with them.” One we had not heard from yet, the other had backed out, but the last one of the big three finally reached out and wanted to chat. We set up the appointment for Friday. I was speaking at Together for Adoption, in Greenville, SC, so I frantically was trying to find a room that was quiet so I could speak with this editor.

I asked the janitor if I could use a locked room for 60 mins. He said no.

I shed a tear, begged, and he finally gave in and took out his magical keys and opened the door to what seemed to be the storage room for this old church. It was filled with all sorts of music books and file cabinets, but it had one mini-table and a broken chair. I called into the conference meeting and got nothing. I had been given the wrong conference code!

I had to speak in an hour, so we were forced to reschedule the meeting. Fortunately, I was going to be at Allume and so was Stephanie, an editor from Zondervan. We were able to meet there. We had a great conversation as I shared my dream for the book.  I was hopeful. I could tell she got my vision for the book. She could tell that I was teachable and wanted help to shape the book.

A few days later I got an email from my agent with an official offer. We also had some other publishing houses reach out with interest, but I knew what team I wanted to work with. A week later, after a little back and forth, I received another email from my agent as I was ordering a #1 meal at Chick-fil-A with a cookies and cream shake and TWO cherries on top for my daughter!

“It’s a done deal.”  

We accept the offer before I pick up the food. I got a bit emotional–rare air in my world. I did not understand why, but I think it was all the hard work, culminating to an end … which is really just the beginning of all the hard work.

But, I believe in the project more now than ever.  I know this book is going to help empower everyday people to do good and do it well.

Let me stop for a moment and make this clear: it always takes a team to make great art. This is why community is so vital.

I want to think Jen, and SO many other amazing friends, for encouraging me to start the journey. I want to thank Chris (my agent) for working with me and securing a great deal. I want to thank Jonathan for teaching me, editing my ideas, and helping me shape the book. I want to thank Ken for doing edits and proofreading. I want to thank Jon for the design, and I want to thank Charles for coming up with the initial concept in a strategy meeting two years ago!

And finally, I want to thank Stephanie and Zondervan for believing in this project. As Stephanie said in the offer email–“let’s get this done and get to work!”

NOW, I’m going to make my first ASK to you. I’m going to write my little heart out for the next 4-6 months. The professionals (sales and marketing) are gonna do what they do, and we will have an official marketing plan.

That said, I’m going to need you to help me make sure this book has the impact that I so desperately want it to have.  I’ll need you to buy this book, talk about this book, give a few copies away, blog about it, launch a book club…. and so forth.

Without you, this journey will not be successful. Just like all aspects of life, we need each other to succeed. Help One Now is what it is because of you — the tribe of amazing businesses, individuals, and churches who partner with us.

And that’s my publishing story so far. Now, onto the next step of the journey, writing 50,000 words that matter! 🙂

Why I’m Going Back to Church

In Church by ChrisMarlow6 Comments

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I found a church. It is a place that makes sense for my family–a place at which I can be involved and give back. It is a church that is focused on community engagement and not just the Sunday gathering, and yet, the Sunday gatherings are beautiful and holy and needed.

It’s not that we have not been going to church. We have, but we have not been fully committed to serving a local body since we have moved back to Raleigh.

We tried, but nothing felt natural or long term.

It is led by a young, humble, and talented up-and-coming leader, and some of our close family friends are on staff. The church is a 250 year old, but they are planting a new church in the heart of downtown Raleigh, where I live, work and play!

I resonate with the theology of the church; women are empowered to preach and lead in all facets of ministry. That was very important to me as I raise my daughters. And, speaking of my daughters, the church has a thriving youth ministry.

But this is not truly about that. Those are all “good” things and I’m happy to finally have found a church I want to serve. It’s not a perfect church. There will be struggles, but I can sense the hope and see the possibility!

The Necessity of the Local Church

God’s mission is wrapped in an imperfect group of men and women called the church, which is a local expression of a global community who all believe that Jesus is the lead pastor. The rest of us are called to be engaged and to use our gifts and resources within the framework of the local body for the benefit of the globally body to love and serve our world. When I study theology, I see that loving and serving the local church is just a non-option for me.

Solve A Problem by Setting an Example!

I don’t want to be a hypocrite as I ask the church to serve the global poor, seek justice, care for orphans, and to be more generous. I want the church to empower their people to live on mission, locally and globally, which means I will need to say some tough words out of love and conviction. I want to be an example of one who is fighting to make the local church better, not one who tosses shots, criticizes and flames the local church without trying to actually solve a problem.

The only way for the local church to be more kingdom minded is for God’s people to serve, give back, and try to live out this audacious calling that we have on our lives. The church is filled with people like me–imperfect, opinionated, moody, frustrated, hopeful, broken, angry–and yet, we all know, deep down in our hearts, that the church is a sacred place, a place that no non-profit, conference, or social innovation company could ever fill.

The local church is eternal. The calling echoes through generations, for the need for the church to thrive and be on mission is absolutely critical for the world as evil tries desperately to destroy the world and cause pure chaos and hell. But, that evil can and is being overcome by good.

The Local Church Is Good but Broken

The local church is good; it is good for the soul, good for the mission. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. We pray together, we cry together, we hope for a better world together, we hope that our friends will hear the Jesus story and be dumbfounded that God’s love can overcome all of their sin, that his grace is so amazing that they will experience what I’ve personally experienced – love, joy, meaning, purpose, beautify and community.

I know many of you are reading this, and you don’t want to believe it. You’re angry at the church, you’ve been hurt and that hurt is painful. Or maybe you’re like me and the church is boring…attending another Sunday service makes you want to go numb, or going to another small group makes you nervous.
I get it; I’m that guy. But discipleship and obedience was never meant to be easy, and the local church will never be perfect in this lifetime. I would ask you not to give up, but to believe again that being committed to a local body can be good, even as it might be hard!

Maybe this Sunday, you will go back and see and risk and hope. Will you give the church another chance? You could even help solve some of the problems, be a beacon of light, and set an example so others can follow.
This is my hope…

Why I Have Been a Coward: A Confession of Silence

In Justice by ChrisMarlow3 Comments

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It’s really easy to be a coward. It is true that the word “coward” is harsh, but I have been a coward–let me tell you why.

I have a message that I need to share, but it’s not an easy one. I constantly feel this very tense emotion–a true inner battle that I wrestle with over and over.

God’s people are called to be seekers of justice, to lay down their own comfort for the sake of their neighbor. This is hard– really, really hard.

At the same time, we cannot bear the burden to change the world; that is for God and God alone. You and me–we simply cannot fix the world. But, that does not mean that we can’t do something to make a real difference.

God is not looking for superstars. He is looking for servants. (Tweet That)

Why I’ve Been A Coward

I’ve refused to write about issues of justice consistently. I want people to read my work and feel good about themselves, and not to beat themselves up for not doing “enough.” I’m a super-fan of unity and encouragement. So, what is my problem? It’s really hard to talk about justice and not make people feel uncomfortable.

However, I was reading The Gospel of Mark this week. Man, Jesus did a great job of making people feel uncomfortable.

And…folks hate that. They will always try to find loopholes in the gospel, a way to justify their inactivity or lack of obedience.  It’s a way to stay comfortable being religious or a Jesus follower, but one that refuses to actually pick up the cross and lay down their own dreams for a greater dream. I know I struggle with this, because it’s hard to be a disciple and life is demanding!

Furthermore, I cannot tell you how many Christians I’ve talked with who see Christianity through their own political agenda or who read the gospels and somehow find a way to use the sacred text as a way to further their own comfort.

I’ve had enough. Christianity is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Forgiving is hard. Choosing to live more simply–so that others can live–is hard.

But, it’s the most wonderful life imaginable — and that’s why I have to write about these things. Not to cause conflict or to try and win a war, but to help people fully embrace who Jesus is and what He has called them to do.

Yes, I hate dealing with the aftermath, the anger, and the trolls. Therefore, I’ve chosen before not to be brave. I have friends that chose differently and are berated for this act of bravery; they are often treated like dogs by their own people. But, my friends choose to be brave, and ask their readers to do the same!

They believe the world can get better and God will use their writing to create a better future.

Moving Forward

I spend a lot of time writing on productivity and leadership for nonprofits. I want to help them succeed and love doing it. I know how hard it is to launch and lead a non-profit. I’m going to create some helpful tools that leaders can use.  But alas! I can’t put my focus there — at least not now.

I have to lay down my own desires and follow the call to write about hard things. But, I promise that though some of the words may be hard, they will be encouraging. Often I will be wrong, but my heart will be right. More importantly, the hope is to get God’s people to fully engage in what it means to seek justice and do good in our generation.

 

 

The Payoff

In Love Hope by ChrisMarlow2 Comments

You know that moment when all the pressure disappears? You can look back at the work, the stress, the obstacles and the risks and you finally reach the reward at the top of the mountain?

Watch this video for 10 seconds.

The Payoff

We all were a bit weepy… the week had brought MANY challenges including driving 8-10 hours a day in a van that felt more like a wooden roller coaster from the 1970’s.

Then there was also four or five hours of sleep in six different hotels and constant packing and unpacking over and over again!

And, of course, the never ending search for decent wifi so that the writers could actually POST some content.

The greatest part for us was truly spending time with Ethiopian families; although we heard their stories of pain and heartbreak, we also heard  their stories of redemption and hope because of our sponsorship program.

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*Photo Credit to Scott Wade and Ty Clark*

Inside,  you wanted EVERY SINGLE FAMILY IN THIS COMMUNITY to have the same hope and not just a handful who already had their kids sponsored prior to the trip.

You want them to send their kids to school and not to a labor field. You want them to eat three times a day and not just once. You want them to have dignity and hope and not suffering and pain.

You want these families to smile and know that God is love and His love is present. You want them to know that His love is sometimes revealed by other people who are traveling on the same journey and doing their best to love their neighbor whether that neighbor is next door, or in this case, across the world.

You want our local partners, who have been working so hard to keep this community together for so long, to feel relief and to see all of their hard work payoff. You want them to know that they do not have to do this work alone; they have a global community of friends who will walk with them.

Hope traveled to Ethiopia this past week and love became evident every time a child was sponsored.

We EXCEEDED Our Goal

After eight days of travel, a year of planning, two years of praying, and after a lot of financial risks… you see the payoff. Over 330 people said YES to helping keep these families together in Gunchire.

Needless to say, we were ecstatic. It felt SO good to get on that plane and deal with an 18 hour flight knowing that we crushed our goal and that hope was becoming evident in Gunchire and that the lives there will be changed FOREVER.

And not only that, the people of Uganda are also being impacted by this trip. Over 25 sponsorships have come through for our community there since  we reached our goal for Ethiopia. THIS.IS.AMAZING!

You can sponsor a child in Uganda…right now!!!

Thank You

I want to say thanks to the Hope Travelers.

The Writers: Brandon and Jen , Korie , Jillian, and Kristen.

The Creatives: Scotty, Ty, and Jacob.

Help One Now team: Lamar and Tim  and our stateside team –you all crushed it.

To Mike and the entire Pure Charity team for the technology to execute the plan and the passion to empower nonprofits to do good and do it well.

!deation for the amazing branding. Thanks for helping us to shape this trip and tell powerful stories.

And to our local leader, Aschalew, and his team on the ground. They are the true heroes who do the hard work every day. They brought hope long before this trip and they will continue to bring hope long after the lights fade.

AND YOU – all of you who prayed, who shared our story with your tribes, and who sponsored a child and helped to keep that family together. You are amazing!!!

Yes, we did it, we reached our goal, we felt the burden lifted from our shoulders… God is good and we are so thankful that together, we all played a role and together we were able to make a massive impact in Ethiopia!

Let’s celebrate this amazing moment together!

 

Love Hope

In Love Hope by ChrisMarlow1 Comment

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Love Hope — Ethiopia

Today, I leave on another jet plane across the Atlantic. On Wednesday, I will touch down on Ethiopian soil with some really amazing friends to do our best and tell some powerful stories with dignity and hope.

Our team has been working on this moment for almost two years. And now, that moment is here: a chance to make a massive impact in a community suffering from extreme poverty. This is a community in which moms and dads often have to make a decision that is far beyond my understanding… a decision that asks:

“Should we abandon our child and let him live in an orphanage?”

Our Ethiopian leader has asked us to help these parents so that they don’t have to ask this question ever again.

The Team

Our goal is to get 300 sponsorships on this trip. When you sponsor a child, you will help keep that child and his or her family together. You will help prevent that child from possibly becoming orphaned.

I’m taking some amazing friends: Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, Korie RobertsonJillian Lauren (Rockwife and New York Times Bestselling author), and  Kristen Howerton (uber blogger). They will share the story through the pen. Ty Clark from Kammok Fame will help produce and  Scott Wade will be doing photography and film. Finally, we have Mike from Pure Charity (they are running all things technology) and Lamar and Tim from Help One Now.

How You Can Help

Follow the trip… spread the word and help us do good and do it well in Ethiopia!

We can’t do this without your help!

 

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Building Something Beautiful

In Leadership by ChrisMarlow0 Comments

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For Such a Time as This

What do I do? This is a question I often get asked. Are you primarily a speaker? A writer? An activist?

No, I’m not any of these, though I am involved in all of them.

My primary role is to build. I’m building Help One Now. Sometimes, building requires that I speak and write. But, my passion–what keeps me up at night–is processing how to build something beautiful, something meaningful.

I don’t build alone. I have a board, a team, and our amazing tribe. We build together and together, we are building something that matters.

When you build, you go through peaks and valleys. It is much like a sports season. You have to endure, you lose your way at times, you suffer injury. The game plan does not work, so you pivot.

But, if you keep going, you get better.

The first half of 2014 was a valley–a deep valley of uncertainty, frustration and lots of losses. But our team kept working–discouraged, but still filled with hope.

Money was tight, changes had to be made, hard conversation were had and a few “OMG, did that really just happen” moments happened.

As I type these words, I’m holed up in cabin deep in the heart of the smoky mountains. I can hear the water streams outside my window, mountain peaks are everywhere, and the thick clouds roll through on this unusually fall like summer day.

I had to spend the majority of this day working and not relaxing. That may sound sad to you, but to me, it’s exciting because the work is so good and the opportunities are beyond what I could have imagined, even just a few months ago.

This week, I head off to Plywood People, and then the following week, I head off to Catalyst to share my story. A few weeks after that, I head to Ethiopia; you won’t believe who I’m taking with me! After that, I will be in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

When I get back, I will prepare for Allume and Together for Adoption, and after that, we have this big party in NW Arkansas and we finally end the year with a vision trip for investors and pastors to Haiti.

This is what it means to be a builder. Key seasons create growth and impact; then you take a step back and make sure you have your processes in place and that systems are working well.

We will have wins and losses–good times and bad times. We will stretch ourselves to the limits and maybe even wonder how we did it all. But, then we will see the impact. The lives changed, the kids rescued, moms and dads empowered, and a tribe of people who are seeking to do good and do it well.

I’m thoroughly excited about the next few months. We are building the next phase of this beautiful story!

From Hogwarts To Haiti

In Haiti by ChrisMarlow1 Comment

From Hogwarts To Haiti

A few years ago, I noticed my daughter on the computer. She was totally locked in and focused. Her eyes were wide, and her smile was so big her face could barely contain her excitement.

“What was she doing?” I wondered.

She broke the silence with a simple question: “Hey Dad, all my friends in class have been to Disney World. When are we going to go?”

(Since when is it not normal for 10 year olds to have not been to Disney?)

I quickly realized she was looking at YouTube videos of Disney World and, like all good marketing, she was hooked.

Soon she would shut down the laptop and leave. You see, she has an imagination that has no end. Its like the ocean from Miami to Haiti… the spectacular views never ends!

She loves to enter new worlds….

She can stare at the sky for hours…

She has read the Harry Potter book series in full more than seven times in the last two years.

When we take trips, she is quiet as she stares out the window of the car, day dreaming.

When we fly, she desperately hopes for the window seat. And, if she does not get it, she starts to barter.

I love this about her, and I encourage her to never stop being who she is.

But, this kids is also a strategic thinker. So, an hour after I told her that I would take her to Disney World someday, she returned with hand-written contract.

Not only did she want my signature, but she also wanted her mom’s as well. And she wanted some timeframes. I had promised her so many times but had never followed through with details.

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A year later, I found myself at the entry gate of the Magic Kingdom and a few days later, we spent the day at the Islands of Adventure. (And, this place is amazing!)

I had fulfilled my side of the contract, finally. My kids rarely ask for anything, but I knew this was important for my daughter.

Of course, we had a blast–princess shows, roller coasters, food, and lots of laughs. We made memories as a family and it was fantastic.

A few days later, after our trip to Disney, I was heading to Haiti with a group of storytellers. Honestly, I feel much more at home in Port Au Prince than I do in Belle’s Castle or Harry’s Coaster or in the darkness of Space Mountain.

So, when our little group walked out of the airport, I had a sense of deep relief. No more fabricated exotic worlds; I was now in the real world. A real adventure was about to begin!

You see, in the midst of the ragged brokenness, I see the greatest joys.

In the midst of extreme poverty, I see the Spirit working.

When I drive down the pot-hole filled streets of Haiti, I feel at home.

These are my people. They have adopted me and taught me more than I can possibly imagine — I’m indebted to them even if I still can’t speak a lick of Creole. Also, I might have called our team “gringos” in the middle of a rice field as I was speaking to a Haitian mother whose kids are in our sponsorship program! 🙂

For us —

This is not a mission trip.

This is more than a project with key data points.

This is not about another stamp in the passport.

We are not wearing matching t-shirts that proclaim we’re coming to “fix” Haiti.

When one of our kids gives me a hug and says, “Hello Mr. Chris Marlow” in their broken english, my heart melts. Those kids could be dead today had we not met.

I know what is I stake. I feel the burden. The weight is a constant.

When one of our kids speaks in English, I remember when that same child almost perished because of malnutrition. Now they’re going to school, they have dreams, they want to be artists, or doctors or athletes… heck, some want to be the President.

And this will happen.

When I extend a hug to Gaetan or Jean Alix or Pastor St Cyr, I’m hugging a friend. These men don’t need to read Harry Potter for excitement, they don’t have a broomstick to fly, but just like Harry, they’re heroes living out a magical story of love, grace, and redemption. They are fighting evil everyday.

And you are a friend who can help them!

This is why we do these story trips. One of my greatest joys is to introduce my brilliant friends in North America with my brilliant friends in Haiti. I know it’s only a matter of time until the magic happens.

We want everyone to get dirty

Our trips have no fabrications, no silos; they are not sterile. We don’t want anyone to leave Haiti clean, we don’t have pat answer to hard questions. We want everyone to get dirty.

You see, it’s in the dirt that we find the kingdom. It’s in the dirt that we realize how vital it is to serve the global church. It’s in the dirt where we see Jesus roaming and working, loving and serving, giving and going.

Often, our Western form of Christianity has become so clean, so boxed in, so boring, so formulaic. This is tragic and when I read scripture, I see a different story with a different outcome.

But that outcomes means our lives will literally be turned upside down, and that scares us to death. And, it drives us to creating Hogwarts.

Hogwarts is only fun for so long. Once we realize what it is, once we realize that it is fake and fabricated, once we realize that our imagination can’t become real … well, that is when we have to decide to work in the real world.

So, I asked the story team to get dirty for a few days and they did! We heard horrific stories of extreme poverty, human trafficking, disease, sickness, and deep deep brokenness.

We also heard amazing stories of love, hope, and community transformation.

We drove all over the country, we slept very little, we had a few unplanned fasts along the way (and some luxuries as well).

I believe when you get dirty, you tend to find the greatest joy, deep meaning and beauty that no human can imagine — not even the great Walt Disney or J.K. Rowling.

Jesus’ calls us to enter this kind of life, to leave the comforts for the cross, leave our families to help restore other families, leave our community to be a part of another community.

It’s spectacular. It’s holy. It’s glorious.

We need your help

I would love for you to read these dirty stories of love and hope from these brilliant writers. I would love for you to see the images, embrace the tension, and take a step forward and lean into what it means to love and care for the global poor.

As much as I loved Hogwarts, it will never capture my imagination like Haiti has. I hope these stories capture your imagination as well.

If you want to help today, you can sponsor a child. Our goal is 100 new sponsorships.

And/or you can throw a Garage Sale for Orphans party and help us rescue another 25 kids this year and build a pre-school for Ferrier Village!

Struggle for Progress

In Help One Now, Uncategorized by ChrisMarlow9 Comments

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Have you ever risked everything–to pursue a dream, to see progress, to make a difference, to grow to the next level?

Have you ever been so fully committed, risked so deeply and worked so hard for a moment, a season of possibility?

Last year I spent most of my time assembling an amazing team and board for Help One Now.

We hired 5 full time staff positions and brought in multiple new board members. I hired an amazing coach to help me walk through the vision.

We saw tremendous growth last year as we doubled our revenue. Plus, the work in Haiti and Africa continues to thrive.

But you see, doubling our revenue was not the point. We were positioning ourselves for some massive growth opportunities in the next 2-3 years.

All this is not because I have a desire to see us grow for the sake of growth; rather it’s because we have amazing local leaders who need us to grow so they can get vital work done.

Therefore, we decided to step on the gas, go full throttle, and do whatever it took to smash through key barriers–which equals lives changed, orphans rescued, kids loved and attending school, dads and moms working, communities having clear water, and much much more.

Now, here’s what is absolutely scary: I have no plan B. At all.

Failure is NOT an option. For us to succeed, we need to crush these three metrics!

1) We need 1000 new sponsorships in the next 8 months.
2) We need 1000 new Garage Sale for Orphan parties in the next 15 months.
3) I need 100 folks to say YES to becoming investors in Help One Now this year.

That’s it. 🙂

Those are the metrics. Those metrics will bring sustainable growth and community transformation to the places we work in Haiti, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, and now, Peru!

We’ve invested more money in the last 3 months than the last three years on partnerships with folks like Catalyst, Allume and a few others amazing organizations that I don’t have the liberty to discuss yet (but soon!).

We decided to do another bloggers trip. I leave this Saturday with these amazing storytellers.

Follow us here; we need you. It’s going to be amazing.

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Oh, and we have another trip to Ethiopia this September. We will announce more information soon.

The last six months have absolutely been the most challenging six months for Help One Now. I wake up every morning with a simple prayer – “God, lead us.” I go to bed with a simple prayer – “God, give us wisdom and provide the resources we need to fight the good fight.”

And then we work hard, because we care, because we understand the depth of the problem and pain that exists because of extreme poverty.

I love my job, I love our team, I’ve pushed them to the edge. They have pushed themselves further–because this is not just a job. It’s a calling and a passion and we are ready to do what it takes to see progress–for light to shine in the darkness.

We will fight for progress. We will fight for the slave, the orphan, those who are suffering.

If you are reading this post, I need you to help push us forward. I need you to sponsor a child, or help us get a few kids sponsored, I need you to become “1 of 1000” and throw a Garage Sale for Orphan Party, I need you to invest in Help One Now, like never before!

And, I’m asking you to pray for favor, wisdom and resources. We need some big breakthroughs!

All that to say, I’m thoroughly excited and pumped about these next few months. I’ve never felt more alive. I’ve never felt more aware of using my time and God’s resources well.

I’m embracing the moment… to see progress!

How Does One Deal With Tragedy

In Family by ChrisMarlow4 Comments

Forgive

Credit: Power of Slow

How Does One Deal With Tragedy?

It is the question we hope we never have to ask. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with my fair share. My family has seen deaths due to cancer and accidents to moms, dads, and brothers.

We’ve been here before–the middle-of-the-night phone call that changes your life in an instant. We had one of those phone calls a few weeks ago. My sister-in-law called from Dallas at 9:30PM on a Friday night; this never happens.

We missed the first call, but as soon as the phone rang again, I told Necole she needed to answer it.

I knew it was bad, but not this bad, not this tragic. After about 20 minutes, Necole came into the kitchen and told me the news. Her youngest brother, Robee, had been murdered in a hotel room in Los Angeles.

The entire world immediately stopped as I begin to make sense of it all.

Of course, I do what I do and processed how to tell my daughters. We called the girls into the living room. In a world of social media, you can’t wait to communicate. The word had already gotten out on Facebook and I did not want my kids reading that their uncle had been murdered via social media.

I broke the terrible news, tears burst out quickly, and one of my daughters collapses on the floor in anger. The weight of the moment is thick; the reality is horrific.

The story only gets worse as the details come out. A brutal attack in an LA hotel room and, at this point, one without reason. Self defense wounds, post-mortem wounds–I could go on, but I won’t.

The local news releases this story and detectives begin to search for the suspect with a full-scale manhunt. Searching for a known criminal who preys on young men.

The first time I saw the suspect’s face, I felt the anger rush through my soul. But, we didn’t have much time for all of that, since we had to focus on the logistics.

Family had to fly to LA to identify the body, and the cost of of the funeral begins to add up as we call the airlines, car rentals and hotels.

Questions arise. “How can we afford to go to the funeral?”

The details can suffocate you and create a culture where you have no time to be silent, mourn, reflect, and pray. But it is, what it is. (My Dallas family has received TREMENDOUS support from their friends and church, for which we are so thankful!)

We booked tickets and flew to Dallas. We cry, we hug, we laugh, we eat and we play crazy games like Flappy Bird for 5 days. This journey has no road–map, just step by step, you ponder how to deal with it all.

Over and over, you realize that life is really about Scripture, prayer, and community.

Thankfully, that is enough. That is the recipe that is needed in this and every moment.

After 2 weeks, we finally had the memorial service. Hundreds came out to pay their respects. More hugs, more tears, more prayer. I open the service with a prayer and a quick word. Brothers, sisters, and pastors also have messages of love, of hope, of eternity.

Hours after the memorial service, we learn that the suspect has been caught. This is good news!

Two days later, we leave Dallas and I sit here in a cafe in Raleigh writing and trying to reflect and process. I watch the news video for the first time. My first reaction? I want to punch the suspect in the face. What a freaking low-life thug!

I try to remember that this potential murderer is also created in God’s image and loved by God. Jesus hung on a cross for his sins –– even the sin of murder. Even murder that includes my brother-in-law. Jesus loves this guy as much as he loves me.

Then I remember that I am the same kind of person. A liar, a thief, a broken person in need of grace.

I wrestle with these tensions. There are no easy answers. At times, life can be so terrible. But, this is something Scripture speaks of over and over. Darkness exists, and the church–God’s people–are in a battle to overcome the darkness with LIGHT.

So How Does One Deal With Tragedy?

You commit yourself to creating a better world.

That’s the only answer that makes sense to me.

Of course, we can get angry, try to find blame, or even shut down and do nothing. But, none of that will actually solve the problems that our world faces.

Sometimes taking action means you have to be brave; you have to live different. Jesus’s message is so counter-culture. I’m trying to embrace that.

So today, I’m working. I’m working on loving God, my family, my neighbor, and the world.

Today, I even whispered a prayer for “Rick,” the suspect. I see Rick as being the thief on the cross.

The thief asked Jesus for mercy, and it was immediately granted. I pray that somehow, some way, I will meet “Rick” in another world. And together, we can celebrate the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus.

Yes, I’m angry at him. Yes, I want him to sit in a prison cell for the remainder of his days. No doubt, justice must be served.

But, I also want him to experience forgiveness and freedom and the explosive grace that Jesus gives to all humans, no matter how deep their sin goes.

This is the only way that makes sense to me. This is the only message I see in Scripture. This is the only way that I can envision Jesus acting.

I can do nothing else but try to do the same. And this is how I deal with tragedy!