Following the trail of Patrick

On March 17 I had the unique privilege of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland. This “bucket list” trip was special and memorable for many reasons. I was always able to spend time in Northern Ireland following the Saint Patrick trail and learn more about the the man and missionary called Patrick. Much information and inspiring was discovered at the brand new Saint Patrick Center, the only museum in the world dedicated to the history and story of Saint Patrick. http://www.saintpatrickcentre.com/

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During my travels I visited a number of historic sites included Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where it is said Patrick baptized converts in a well in AD 450. IMG_4372

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saul Church, the site where Saint Patrick built the first Christian Church in Ireland in 432 AD.

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also his burial site in Downpatrick.

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It was a remarkable and memorable experience which I highly recommend if you have the opportunity to visit the island of the Irish.

My time and travels in Ireland provided me an opportunity and invitation to expand the horizons of the Christian faith as well as sounds, sights and spirits of this great culture. During my remaining few months living in Europe, I do hope to experience a few other new countries and cultures, as so much can be learned that help broaden and expand our minds, hearts and lives.

I leave you with these words from Patrick that serve well for us all as we enter into the Eastertide season celebrating Christ’s resurrection and presence with us!

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

 

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

 

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

 

Christ to comfort and restore me,

 

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

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The real Saint Patrick

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I have the privilege this year of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland this year.

This has long been a dream of mine and thanks to a kind and generous friend (and supportive wife) I will be taking in the sounds, sights and spirits in Dublin on March 17th.

I have also longed to visit Ireland to learn more about its rich cultural and religious history.  Though damaged by religious and political divisions and still scarred by the remnants of anger and hostility, much reconciliation has occurred and often through the Church.

The recent critically-acclaimed movie Calvary delves into this topic and I would recommend the viewing.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2234003/

But since this is Saint Patrick’s Day, I wanted to write briefly about the story behind the celebration…the man called Patrick.  If you have never read or familiarized yourself with his life, I highly recommend it.

Once kidnapped in slavery at age 16 and brought from his home in England to the land of savages in Ireland, Patrick had visions from God that gave him strength and lead to his escape.

So inspired and moved by God once home, he felt compelled to return as a missionary to preach the gospel to a land that had never heard the message of Christ before.  The story continues and his writings are full of profound insights, theology, prayers, and confessions that challenge and inspire me deeply.   I have included at the end a hymn written by, or least attributed to Patrick from around 430 AD.

It should also be noted that Patrick was not recognized as a “Saint” until decades later, did not drive out snakes since there were none in Ireland at the time, did not use the 3 leaf clover to describe the Trinity, and was basically kicked out of the priesthood for failure to submit to authority. He was however a great contextual theologian and missionary who reached an entire people for the Kingdom of God!

We have much to learn and celebrate from the rich and diverse history of our faith. The traditions of past and present, while different from our own, provide a wonderful opportunity for our faith to increase.

This national “holiday” of sorts, Saint Patrick’s Day has given me an opportunity and invitation to expand the horizons of my congregation as we learn together to appreciate what God has been doing through his servants throughout the centuries. Of course, we can also expand our food and spirits horizons at your local Irish pub!

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So, as you listen to U2 or The Cranberries (depending on your style) and raise a pint of Guinness  thank God for examples like Patrick, and may we all follow the example of a life of obedience, sacrifice, servant hood, faith, prayer, and mission.

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I bind unto myself today

The strong name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,

By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan River;

His death on cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spicèd tomb;

His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the day of doom;

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of the Cherubim;

The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour;

The service of the Seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord,

And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,

The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightning free,

The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, his shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours

Against their fierce hostility,

I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,

Against the knowledge that defiles,

Against the heart’s idolatry,

Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death-wound and the burning

The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,

The strong name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same.

The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

salvation is of Christ the Lord.

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Being in the moment…a Lenten reflection

As I continue my Lenten journey, I am encouraged to reflect on the idea of what stands in our way in experiencing God anew this season. For some, Lent simply becomes a time to give up a favorite snack or drink, somehow confirming personal endurance or strength. Yet, Lent is to remind us that we cannot do it on our own power, but need to rely daily on God. Perhaps it is not chocolate or wine (both very popular here in France and indeed difficult to go without!) that we need to think seriously about. Perhaps busyness, worry, stress, or even our personal agenda is distracting us from experiencing freedom and new life this spring.

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I remember a time one month ago when I was with my boys, Jack and Blake. It was one of those magical moments when they were laughing and playing and simply enjoying life. Rather than being captivated by this moment, I wanted to capture it and so naturally I took out my cell phone and attempted to take pictures and videos. Of course, my phone was not very “smart” then and did not work. Meanwhile, I realized I was missing the moment with my boys: so preoccupied with technology and maintaining a memory, that I was unable to create a memory.

Sometime, I confess, I am too busy taken up with life to step back and record such moments. Even if I am physically present, my mind is full of chores, duties, worries, or other preoccupations. I feel this impacts my time with my boys; and I fear this also has a profound impact on our relationship with God. Could it be that God in fact delights in our presence…our full and attentive presence?

But often we get too easily distracted by life’s worries. Even good things such as food, drink, and technology can become hindrances to entering fully and freely into God’s presence. This Lent, let us each reflect on what we can say “no” to and leave behind, so that we may be open to receiving the joy of God’s company.

One final springtime summary.

As I continue my reflections on what I will miss most here in Paris, I hear the birds chirping outside my office. Growing up in the northeastern United States, I remember that spring rarely showed her face until late April or May, whereas here in Paris, the month of March manifests miraculous new beginnings as the weariness of winter warms away. I have always appreciated and anticipated the early arrival of spring this month. The green grass, bulbs of flowers beginning to blossom, and the once barren trees beckoning forth their leaves. This serves as a hopeful reminder that during Lent, the deaths we may experience during winter, serve as fertile soil for new life to burst forth. May we let go and behold the beauty of it all!

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A Long Goodbye

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Below is a article published in the Spire newsletter of The American Church in Paris.

http://www.acparis.org/spire-newsletter

In my article, I shared my recent news, emotions and reflections on my family’s decision to leave Paris this summer and therefore leave my position of Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults.

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I like the French term “au revoir” for while we customarily use that to say good-bye, the actual translation implies a “till seeing again” or seeing again of someone.

This past summer, after two months of extended conversations and prayerful conversations, my wife Lauretta and I made a difficult decision regarding our time in Paris. What began as an initial two-year assignment has grown to four extraordinary years of personal and pastoral growth and development and quite literally the growth of our young family. We could not be more grateful and appreciative of our time here. The love and support of our ACP family has been overwhelming from the moment we landed with our dog Brady, multiple suitcases and nervous anticipation. How can one know what life in a foreign country and culture will be like? Would we make new friends and integrate well to our new church family? Would we enjoy life living in the city of Paris? We would be able to communicate and understand a new language?

An emphatic “YES” was our answer to all of those questions

(Well, maybe except for the last one!”

Our time here has indeed been remarkable, memorable and truly life-changing.

Which is why it is sad to announce that at the end of the summer we will be leaving.

Paris has become a “home away from home” to us. T.S. Eliot once said, “The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant”. It has been exhilarating to live and minister in this beautiful, historic, artistic cultural capital of the world. More than a physical residence and geographic location, Paris and ACP has captured our hearts. They say that home is where the heart is, and for so many reasons, ACP will forever be our home church.

And yet, our home is where our family reside. Many understand the challenges of living so far away from family. Our parents, now grandparents to Blake and Jack, long for closer proximity to be able to celebrate holidays, birthdays and baseball games together. We long for that as well and understand the benefit of returning to our roots and a sense of familiarity as we raise two toddlers. We know that the transition back will not be easy and reverse culture shock is quite real. Yet we are confident in God’s timing and at peace with the process of transition. At this time we do not know what God has planned for us, but are learning to trust more each day in God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I titled this “A Long Good-Bye” because we have the blessing of another nine months of ministry, service, fellowship and friendship together. As Pastor Scott has said in the past, when you live in Paris, the days are long but the years are short.

Well, I sincerely hope that this is a long year together full of laughter, memories and moments we will cherish forever. And rather than actually saying good-bye, I rather like bidding an au revoir, confident that we will see each other again.

On behalf of the Haugh family, we want to thank each and every individual of The American Church in Paris for your love, care and support. Thank you for praying for us this year as we remain committed to praying for you.

I conclude with this thanksgiving and prayer from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, which I now say to The American Church in Paris:

 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”

-Dan, Lauretta, Jack and Blake Haugh

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Sun, where art thou?

I continue my reflections on what I will miss here in Paris.

To be honest, February is the difficult month for me and many residents of our great city. With a slight vitamin D deficiency, the winter months of clouds and darkness do not bode well for my body or spirit at times.

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Since I am not an avid skier, my plan over these past four years has been to travel to warmer climates and sunnier skies in February. Many Parisians take to the slopes during the 2-week holiday break in February. The Swiss and French Alps are among the most beautiful mountain rangers in the world and are located only a few short hours from Paris. For me, a 3-hour TGV ride to the South of France to visit places such as Cassis, Montpelier or Nice provides a nice change of atmosphere and pace during the normally dark days this month.

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Of course, February 14 is Valentine’s Day and indeed there is no city more romantic than Paris. While the city does not celebrate this day quite like in America, one cannot go astray making a reservation at your local bistro with that special friend, significant other or spouse. The general ambiance of French restaurants or wine bars reflects romanticism at all times, but add a nice box of fine French chocolates, some freshly cut flowers and a bottle of wine, you will have a Valentine’s Day to remember! Although many could argue this description is a typical weekend date here in Paris!

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Personally, I have been blessed each February to attend the Youth Pastors Conference sponsored by the AICEME (Associate of Churches in Europe and the Middle East).

http://www.aiceme.net

Each year, my friends and colleagues from other international churches in our region gather together for a few days of fellowship, worship, learning and inspiration. It can be a lonely path serving in a large city away from your home country and culture. Fortunately for me, during my time here at ACP I have met incredible men and women serving in similar roles and contexts. I have cherished my time with them and can honestly say that their encouragement and example throughout the years, and especially during our times together in February, provided me much-needed support in my own ministry here at ACP. My last conference with these youth pastors will be in Basel, Switzerland and I eagerly look forward to connecting and reflecting together.

Through February can feel long, dark and dreary at times, it is helpful to know that the days are actually getting longer. The darkest days are behind us in fact. I believe this is true for our city as well in light of the tragic terror events in January

Spring will arrive and light will shine forth through the clouds increasingly as the days progress. and winter melts into spring. As it does, may our hearts be lifted up with hope and our lives reflect God’s love and light.

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Are short-term missions shortsighted?

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“Short-term” mission trips.  It is a relatively new venture that works well for Western churches.  There has been much argument over the past few decades as to the importance or impact of these trips.

Who benefits more?  Those we go to serve or the groups going?

It can be helpful to ask long-term missionaries their views on incoming summer teams.

Is there presence helpful or hurtful?  Do these strangers visiting a strange land require extra time, effort and resources for the locals, or do groups bring a much-need blessing?

Another demographic to ask similar questions are the local charitable organizations or churches.

I have been on, or lead, over thirty of these trips during my time in youth ministry.  I do believe much good has come from these experiences.  I certainly know the impact these trips have had on my students.  Like our actual time-serving, some of the impact was very short-lived.  However, over the years I have witnessed profound changes in hearts and lives and, perhaps most importantly, a genuine and lasting passion for missions in many people.

Sadly though, too often these trips become glamorize cultural experiences that have little long-term effect on either side of the equation.

A recent piece from The Onion (satire news source) highlights a very real and growing concern for short-term mission trips.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/6day-visit-to-rural-african-village-completely-cha,35083/

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I am just as guilty of this as anyone…I will admit that.  Following any of my trips, I am eager to post pictures and share stories that will last until the next adventure.

What we often fail to realize is that the people we intend to serve need much, much more than our presence and some photo op’s for two weeks.

Their lives, struggles and needs continue well past our “work vacation” and sometimes actually increase because of our time there.

I know of local organizations who actually lost money because of incoming groups.

I also know of groups raising close to $40,000 simply to travel some exotic country and virtually zero dollars remained in that country.

I have experienced both of these situations personally as well.

Knowing what the real needs and estimated costs to meet those needs would be, sometimes I shudder to think how much good could be given for the cost of one plane ticket.

But..we want the personal experience.

I have begun to ask this very honest question upon my travels:

What do you need the most?  How can we support and serve you the most effectively?

Do you know what their honest answers are?

Resources.

The truth is that every single place I have been and situation I have encountered, I have met amazing women and men who have inspiring vision, uncanny ability and ample time to really help their community.  What they lack is perhaps the one thing that my group possesses in abundance.  Money.

While I am still in favor on traveling to these places to visit people, hear their stories, encourage them and hopefully help in a practical way, I think it is essential that we bring more than just our smiles and “selfies”.

I recently asked on of my students to reflect and share his thoughts on past experiences and what he believes would be the best type of service trip.

Here is his response:

“Humanitarian work is different from tourism, as the purpose of the trip is serving the interests of the local population. Of course, those who leave benefit from the trip as well. But today mission trips are somewhat growing into some sort of “sustainable tourism”, a “to do” thing, offering wonderful cultural experiences to people from developed countries but only impacting the local situation superficially.
Many people today want to go on mission trips. The chief question in order for their trip to be helpful is to seriously ask yourself what you have to offer. Will your teaching of english in this school be of substantial help to the local population? For most fluent english speakers the answer is yes, provided that the kids focused on are attending a medium to long-term educational program.
Indeed the missions with the most impact are not the amateur ones but those of professional NGOs such as Médecins sans frontières for example. Partnering with that  type of organisms could probably be an efficient way to go about saving poor regions of the world – although i’ve never looked into it.
To me, an efficient trip would also imply spending at least three weeks to a month on spot – there is not much you can do efficiently in two weeks even if you are relayed by another group afterwards. Sadly most people, and I too for the moment, are not ready to leave a whole month in the summer vacations.
Of course, as discussed, I think it is also important to bring a cheque. A lot of places do not really need a hand, but are cruelly strapped for money.”
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Do you agree or disagree?
For those of you leading summer mission trips this summer, I would love to hear your thoughts either in preparation or reflection.
I will post various comments this summer and also create a list to think through before planning or leading your next short-term trip.
Perhaps these trips must continue  but perhaps we can do a better job being a blessing to those we go to serve.

Real Freedom

As an American, I am very proud of my nation’s history and the independence we celebrate each year on July 4th.  Living now in France, I have also been caught up in patriotic parades on July 14.  ”Bastille Day”, as known among English speakers, is the the French National Day, commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789,as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held throughout France and I just recently enjoyed a wonderful parade and fireworks display this week.

I recognize and respect the many sacrifices and lives lost in order to protect these national and individual liberties.  Our two countries share much in common and just recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings and the eventual WWII victory.

As I reflect this month on the blessings of freedom, I also acknowledge the harsh truth that my situation is not the reality of so many in our world.  Millions of people live in oppressive situations, held captive by political or religious dictatorships.  Many nations are currently scorched by civil war and longing for safety.

While I watched colorful fireworks and heard marching bands, hundreds of thousands of people were scattered seeking shelter from air raids of missiles and blocking their hears from bust of bombs and screening sirens.

In addition to these “news worthy” stories, we know that millions of people from every nationality suffer under the oppression of hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, poverty, and addiction. These chains in many ways are just as deadly but often are swept under the rug of ignorance.

I will be honest, it is easier for me to enjoy parades eating cotton candy if I do not have to think about starving children in Africa, overworked immigrants in Asia, or orphaned boys and girls in Latin America.

Considering these contrasting realities, I am struck by a powerful quote from the great international leader and humanitarian Nelson Mandela.

He said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

How are we living in a way that not only respect, but also enhances the freedom of others?  How are we spending our time, talents, and treasures in ways that help release people and communities from the chains of oppression?  Are they actually ways in which we spend our money that contribute to these global problems rather than work towards eliminating them?

Personally, I know I have difficult choices and decisions ahead.  We can all do our part and believe that the culmination of many people doing their part can make a big difference.  Mother Theresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

Let’s think this summer about how we can use our lives to help others break the chains holding them back and be set free for the life God intends for them.