Numbers

Culture studies means knowing the importance of speaking to the heart of how people think – and Americans love options! Clear choices, and a lot of them – this is a Western way of thinking that my dear friends and readers prefer!

So because I love y’all and am perfectly content to contextualize for Western thinking just how we are teaching Compassion Corp to examine biblical truths and then communicate them in a way relevant to culture….here are options!

So as I talk about financial partnership – here’s the clear numbers and the variety of options! I need about $1000 a month in partnership, which breaks up a lot of ways…

  • 10 partners at $100 a month would cover this completely!
  • 5 partners at $100 a month and 10 partners at $50 a month would also cover financial partnership completely!
  • An annual partnership for $2000 would take my monthly need down to $835 a month, which is a big difference!
  • An employer matching a $100 a month gift (making it $200 a month total), would cover 20% of my current need to keep developing leaders through Compassion Corp and lead our Haiti Team with Breathe!
  • If 15 students wanted to make a global impact with $30 a month partnerships, that would cover almost HALF of the need for financial partnership. That’s fifteen high school and college students – there are literally thousands of employed students in central Ohio where I am from! If there’s no current margin in budget – three to go meals or one outfit accessory a month could instead go into developing leaders to make a change in the world.

I spent $50 on necessary toiletries this week – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, razors, etc. Life is EXPENSIVE, isn’t it? I know that little things add up and margin can feel impossible. I also know that there are asks around every corner and endless needs. Add the fact that I am less and less on the “front lines” and more and more raising up leaders (aka American students) instead…and it’s just hard to make to choice to give.

But for every Facebook post about doom and gloom and every tweet that is half-humor, half-reality on creation just overflowing with need for redemption…this is what I believe God has asked me to do in response. Asking is hard, and staying at this is hard, and creating new programs is hard – but there are students being equipped in a way that didn’t exist five years ago to go out and breathe life into whatever space God is creating them for. And partnership with me means that you are equipping these students too – which shifts the “dark” feel of timelines to opportunities to hope, pray, and get excited about what God is doing!

So – the options are there. My ask feels overwhelming. My God called me anyway. If you like the idea of one of these options or have a number or way to give that is specific to you ($45 a month because that is what was just freed up in your account, a $4000 gift in the new year after your tax return and some other finances line up, increasing current support levels) – please e-mail me! My e-mail is steph@breathepartners.com and I would be so, so grateful to hear from you.

And partners…..I so very, very much appreciate you! There are about 40 of you that make ALL of this happen, not including every person that dedicates time in prayer or sends an encouraging message! You ARE THE DIFFERENCE in the world everyone is shaking their heads at and looking for leaders in!

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Partnering With What?

I recently put myself out there again – I am in need of financial partners, as the team of global partnership constantly transforms season by season with new and old to pray, learn, and be invested together.
And I’m not all talk – I really do see this intertwining of those who encourage and pray and give as I have been support based for about four years now – one as a year long intern and three as staff so far with Breathe. I’ve learned why community is so important (cause it’s no joke when you step into obedience!) and I’ve been humbled to hear how families are able to have a natural conversation starter of mission with their kiddos because of their trips to Haiti or the way they invest as a partner.
As thoughts on the past few years and praying forward have tumbled around my mind – it’s crazy to think of what people have done with me! This partnership team has…
  • Seen around 1,000 people on Experience Teams (based on the stat of about 300 people a year coming through Haiti with us)
  • Sat in (who knows how many) homes on overturned buckets, sat in four years worth of the best dining chairs the home can bring out, sat in the cab of dozens (or hundreds) of tap tap rides
  • Led four years of Compassion Corp Intensive Training (CIT), with the fifth “class” being accepted now for summer 2018. That’s over 24 high school and college students that have come in depth to be on mission with their summer! I could sit over coffee and tell you about where they are now, the things they’ve learned, and how they’ve shared with me what was shaped in them by CIT.
  • Walked with Brooke as she went from CIT, to Compassion Corp “long term” (which used to be a year), to pioneering the three year program, to now being with her and learning with her as she earns her ministry degree alongside of other Compassion Corp students.
  • Gone from giggling through what can best be described as international charades with preteen girls (cause – no creole means lots of hand signals)……to sitting & listening to them as young women – mothers now, sharing more in depth on topics ranging from what goes on in the classroom to the funny side of their child developing to a trauma they’ve been holding in. How can so much LIFE be packed into just a few years when we look at how they have grown and what they have experienced?
  • Stumbled through so many sicknesses, soda runs, side of the road tire changes, sponsorship letters, slips through the mud of market and hillsides – all a part of fuel for a fire for Scripture that the Spirit has generously ordered the steps of my life towards. I would not get one of the most precious gifts of my life (a serious love for the Word) if no one stepped out to partner with me.
  • Hosted vulnerable families during Hurricane Matthew and been astonished at the Young Lights leader team literally owning the entire experience

Guys – I have no idea what the full extent of the ripple effect is from each student here, from myself, from our team – can you imagine how much I miss in trying to communicate all that happens because of partnership?!

Anyways – bring it in, Steph. We’re on a rabbit trail here.
So – a lot has happened since landing in March 2013. A lot has happened since November 2014, starting as official staff. We haven’t sat down for a chat in a while – so I’m pulling up a folding chair and sitting down with you this morning to talk about what goes on when partners give.
Monthly/quarterly/annual partnership and one time gifts all go towards my living expenses, travel, insurance, and the things that just make up life as I am Compassion Corp Coordinator. Automatic withdrawal on a partner end looks like the crinkled gourde I hand Cassandra when I buy a bag of fresh warm bread on the Haiti end (something you MUST have if you come to Haiti at all)!
Because we don’t all work at Breathe Partners and live Compassion Corp 24/7, I think it’s fair to unpack what I actually DO more than “Compassion Corp Coordinator” :). So, a stroll in Stephanie’s shoes (a favorite pair currently are Haiti made Deux Mains sandals with Goodyear tires as the sole):
I call Haiti home if someone really pushes me to say “where” I am, but I travel more and more with training students and making connections in raising up a generation that is the change for all the pessimism, pluralism, and ‘hopeless’ that people are talking about.
I am leading our long term program where students earn a ministry degree in Haiti/Philly & leading our CIT Summer Experience. From envisioning how it will play out on the ground next year to refreshing my inbox and find a new application waiting to review and follow up on – there is background leadership and vision. Then the students interview, get accepted, and relationship begins – there are prayers, questions to answer, emotions to process, trainings to write and then lead (some teach culture, some team personal spiritual growth, some teach leadership). There is now university curriculum to write, teach, and grade. There are last minute runs in “Big Red”, our Ford-Ranger-Turned-Tap-Tap, to get Pat-N-Toes Haitian made ice cream and celebrate a week of straight hard work.
I have a passion for Experience Teams and Compassion Corp students being students of culture and the world around them in Haiti and in the city. I also aim for all training and experiences to intertwine with life back home and not be compartmentalized into a separate experience.
Speaking of culture and intertwining instead of compartmentalizing…One of my favorite new things is intertwining teams and life habits with others who are breathing life in Haiti – from local bakeries for freedom from poverty and spiritual chains to justice fighters who empower women through training with ESL.
The best part of what I get to do is pray for God to have us fall more in love with Him – and then see it happen over and over. This summer had some surreal moments where CITs literally said word for word what they were feeling with God – and let me tell you, they could have just been reading from my journal!
One of the hardest parts of what I do is choosing to train up leaders and invest in them and send them out “on the field”. I am still out here, I love where I am, and I still get plenty of creole, market, and dusty rides – but there is only one of me, so there is a choice to do it all myself or instead see the value of investment in four that will go out and sit in homes instead of for myself to just do it all. I am Team Leader – meaning sometimes my mind is inside whiteboarding communication and vision instead of outside learning how to cook “cham cham” with Beaudiana. But at the same time – there is no clearer place for me to be and it is a humbling place to sit to be considered leader.
One of the best, best, best parts of life is growing up with everyone. I see the uninterested become the worship leaders and the unthought of become the babies born and then the toddlers working their way towards that first kindergarden class. I am hearing plans of tonight’s baptism of a teenage boy who made a turn away years ago and is now on his way back – with more understanding of Jesus than ever before. There are relationships I used to sit in the middle of every day and I’ve had to drift into the background, yet there’s still this intertwined way of life in Haiti where I see the ways life are being stitched long term. I see pictures of what looked like deserts – the same fields are overgrown with greenery. I looked up pictures of a Cabaret community for a comparison yesterday and I caught unrelated pictures of kids that took me back as I didn’t realize JUST how skinny they were before moringa. Whew. I could keep going.
So. I titled this “Partnering With What?”. This is a glimpse of what you have been partnering with, and what more people can! Without further ado – here are pictures for a fun ending after all of that reading. You’ll see the Redemption House where Compassion Corp does inner city training, Dalinsque & I at the anniversary party for the church in Bercy, Leah & TiKris & Roobins & Youvensia with sponsorship letters, airport day selfies with our current 8 person team of students and interns, the Compassion Corp girls (Brooke, Leah, myself, and Alyssa), the background work at the Breathe Center in Haiti with I-Tec, and the bakery mentioned above – Boulangerie Liberte!
If you have been praying for a way give globally or with the next generation and leadership development, I am in need of monthly partners starting at $30 a month (and going up to $600 a month). Please email me if you want to be a part!
Email: steph@breathepartners.com

Website: https://breathepartners.com/give-to-stephanie-taylor/
Partnership Availability: $30/month, $35/month, $50/month, $75/month, $100/month and everything in between! Annual, quarterly, and employer partnership giving also available.

Word on the Street

Heard a rumor that because we haven’t built a school / orphanage / visible thing to the community that we are “doing”, that people (locally) are saying we don’t do anything for the community, that we don’t help.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this…and it could easily not be the last.

That statement may feel like a shock to the system if you don’t live here. You may be thinking of the adventure and beauty of international mission, thinking, “people really walk up and say this to your face?” (to which I would respond…yes). Compounded with the “not enough” feeling that already happens pretty often in the attempts to make an impact in the midst of a culture that doesn’t always understand. It’s also easy to get logical and want to have a discussion (see: argument to prove self) – “What about the well anyone passes EVERY TIME they are near us? What about the clinic that people have been asking for, the team coming next week that will serve them like they do every year?”.

But we will not quit because we are misunderstood.

We will not judge our success on what people are saying or the very real emotions that reel as we want to feel appreciated or successful.

We aren’t done yet – and we aren’t going to be frustrated with you, community, because you have not yet caught the vision of what “done” would even mean.

I will not throw in the towel as I consider my calendar, the growing list of what I wish was being done better, and the report that my financial partnership isn’t at the level I need for 2017. These casual comments will not be the “straw on the camel’s back”.

Instead, Isaiah has become one step away from a permanent installment on my desk. I leave it’s promises open, knowing I that the next time I sit down I just may be feeling defeated before I even start my tasks at hand. I know it’s not natural for me to go seeking when I feel I have no strength – so the chapters are waiting there for me instead. Basically anything past chapter 40 is sitting there – today the idea of bold promises as opposed to chaos and tiptoes stuck out.

For the Lord is God,

and he created the heavens and the earth and put everything in it’s place

He made the world to be lived in,

not to be an empty place of chaos

“I am the Lord”, he says, “and there is no other.

I publicly proclaim bold promises

I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner

I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found

I, the Lord, speak only what is true

and declare only what is right”

Isaiah 45:18-19

Are they saying things about you, too?

Cause we are the body of Christ, and this isn’t a Stephanie thing, or a Haiti thing.

WE, together, are being made new. We are being given over for the sake of others and obedience is never in vain. Life is being planted, it is sprouting, it is being harvested. We are comforted, we comfort others. We are pressed, we are not crushed. We are empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are purposed. You specifically are shaped and placed in that spot exactly.

We will not back down.

Five Years

My passport was sitting out after a recent trip to the bank (where I need my passport as an ID) and for some reason I went flipping through the stamps that customs agents have pressed into the pages, marking entering and leaving as I hop between countries. And there it was – “2012”.

2012?! That was so long ago!

2012, this week exactly in 2012, I was on an Experience Trip in Haiti as Grace Pickerington came down. A new attendee at the church and so unsure about applying that I emailed the pastor asking if it was even allowed to. Someone that got to experience the first steps into Canaan as ORLA and Breathe – called CPR-3 back then – having no idea that these would be memories of many “first steps” I’d get to be a part of. Seeing the first gathering of the church with a woman full of songs and joy that I now know is also full of patience, wisdom, and a heart to do life with others (Pastor Samedy’s wife, Venise). Now the church is celebrating five years. I ate at Yolti’s local restaurant, rice & beans & red sauce with chicken – with no idea that rice would become a comfort food and I would repeat this meal much more than just six days in a row.

Now I sit and realize – that was five years ago.

While I haven’t been in Haiti that whole five years, it would be nuts to sit with that recent college graduate. Literally one week after walking out of Ohio State’s graduation I walking into the Port-au-Prince airport. I had no intention and no idea what five years would teach me and where five years would take me.

Some of the things I’ve learned…

As I ran full speed ahead with the “high” of lots of yeses, obedience – I was never told that there are lows (even in obedience). I have learned so much on the realization – like Peter’s as He denied the same Christ He swore up and down He’d die for – that this isn’t what I thought I signed up for.

This isn’t what I thought I signed up for. There are things I wish I knew and things I know no one could have explained. There are lows that I never considered – there are also ways of truly living that I never could imagine. I signed up with a yes – I had no idea of the good that God was inviting me to.

I was unaware of how deep racism cuts. Not cut, cuts. It is still so active as a force of darkness while we work for redemption. 

True justice is redemption – this concept that goes much deeper than coffee for good and much wider than Genesis 3 to Revelation 20. Our job is not conscious buying and good deeds but being a part of the world back to how our Creator intended.

True justice is actually painstakingly difficult, it’s a long haul deal, and it’s messy. I have literally told God, “I don’t want to do this anymore – I believe in the concept, I’m tired of attempting to live it out.”

God’s grace is ridiculous and His patience the same. He doesn’t take me out when I ask for it and deserve it. He teaches instead – or simply comforts instead.

I’ve learned more and more of a gospel that is separate from our American worldview. (The election hit and I was like “Y’all…this isn’t new news or surprising.” There’s a few of us that have been seeing these things cause God graciously brings us to spaces to teach us.)

How deep my refusal to accept God’s “like” of me was (and still is on many days)

The deep hurts inflicted. The deep healing poured out. Both by people.

Love starts way past landing. Yes – we love and we pour out and we give and we partner and we hug and we teach and we work hard. But then the feelings fade. And the kids fight over something petty. And the neighbors make fun of me. And the gospel turned out to be something some people are peddling for gain. And after that – am I still going to show up? The Bible told me this is when our love STARTS showing up.

I learned I’m a bitter person at times and a reluctant learner many times. Guess who is still reluctant to keep showing up on the point I JUST said, among other points?

A beach day does not change that God is God, and that He is doing mighty things. My afternoon spent getting an iced coffee in Port-au-Prince is being way too overthought. My electricity at night to keep a fan going is not something that I need to feel shamed for. My personal work of putting chains of guilt on in place of rest and care for myself is not helping anyone and it is not biblical. It’s a fight to take those chains off – but they’ve gotta come off.

This world is one big identity crisis…only complicated more by travel. Am I posting on social media for you? Is my blog something that should have a certain audience? Am I “helping without hurting” just right? I’m not doing it like her, or with half the fashion sense as her…what can make me better? Whose expectations am I supposed to fill – my neighbors, my supporters, my organizations, or my perfectionist ideal? Who has the right view of mission and how do I align? How do I apply this article in my life, right now – alongside of three other opinions I heard this week? What is home, anyway?

Jesus is peace. He is peace for my overthinking mind. He delights in me as I condemn myself with things He never asked me to. He is the purpose in my minefield of questions. He is the treasure of my obedience. God of the Old Testament uses my isolation and deep emotions to reveal Himself and only be sweeter over time. His justice reigns and His promises intertwine through every book. There are words I need today that are in books I’ve never even opened before. The Holy Spirit has been present through every. single. step. He is friend, counselor, teacher, and was not absent in the moments, weeks, and months when I insisted I was alone in this. He is everything. He is everything and nothing less, and my faith is weak and brittle but it has the hope to cry out to a Jesus that responded to the father that cried, “I do believe, please help my unbelief!”. The God that stitched Peter together and then aligned Him with Jesus’ path, knowing very well the journey ahead for Him – that is my God. The Holy Spirit that Jesus insisted was better to be with us than Christ Himself sitting in this room with me – that is my ever-present reality.

In five years, I have loved where I’m at and I’ve hated it. I’ve shamed myself, I’ve blamed others. I have taught in front of students and teams and I have hid from the world – either physically or behind shallow answers. I have loved others and fallen in love with the design of community and I have learned that I am capable of fierce anger that I never knew before. I have been sure of my place and I have been tossed like the waves. I’ve had ridiculous views of mountains with Caribbean trees and I’ve gotten the most refreshing jump into a clear blue waterfall – one that I still don’t have a life experience to top. I’ve been ugly with pride and I’ve felt trapped in a cage of apathy and grey, with no vision at all in any ability for myself. I’ve soaked up His word like a sponge and I’ve let my prayer life collect dust. I’ve seen miracles and I’ve wondered if I totally heard God wrong, or if I’m being punished.

And in five years – these are not the lessons. These are not the takeaways, the “Ten Things I’ve Learned As A Missionary In Five Years”.

He is.

Always and Forever, He is.

Direction

I have no idea how to use this blog, what stories to share anymore.

I assume that many people expect and desire pictures of Haiti, stories of adventure and spiritual depth and other worlds. I wrestle with my lack of stories as well as wrestle with the definition of privacy and dignity when there is a story to share.

There are thoughts all the time I wish the world could hear and see – but then there’s not being sure how to share, or it not “fitting” the blog.

I’m learning a LOT in this season and I think we should be talking about it – stress, grieving, self-care, burn out, unrealistic expectations as the severe stresses of life on mission are just part of the job and therefore not dealt with. Should I take the time to write on that?

There’s scripture that I just want to post.

Then there’s just simple things that make me want to shout “Y’ALL. WHO CARES ABOUT A GOOD BLOG, LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS” – things like…I’m updating prayers for job opportunity for a sweet friend. A single mom who wants to provide for her kids. A neighbor with the best sense of humor and a fun heart that is one of my favorite to sit and share life with. A woman who has been wanting a job for the entire three years I’ve known her. There’s just no opportunity.

Wait.

That’s what I need to post on right now.

Three.

Years.

No opportunity for a skilled, able, and willing young woman in her mid-20’s.

There are no jobs. It’s like the Lion King when Simba’s mom is talking to Scar – there IS nothing in the land. It’s not an issue of not finding it.

Guys….we are all exhausted by a hurting world and a constant barrage of images, videos, and stories on our newsfeed that we can do seemingly nothing about.

But this. This reality. I’m not sure what to post, but I know that as long as I keep meeting and doing life with people..today, I will post this.

Change

We’ve GOTTA celebrate something together!
 
Background:
 
I have both a dream, and a little bit of a soapbox I have tried not to step up on, about students supporting missions (or SOMETHING outside of themselves in the world). I’ve almost written a blog a couple times, and then I back off.
 
We (I say we cause I was there) say, “broke!”, #thestruggle, and talk on inching cars along with gas on E.
 
**I am not talking to those actually fighting and working hard to get by, who pay bills and support family or others. I am talking on those with time and money management that keep Taco Bell wrappers filling the car and fashion changes based on the season.
 
Y’all have SO MUCH MONEY. SO MUCH. YES, it can get stretched thin and there are so many things it CAN be used on. Yes, gas adds up quick and food and needs for school and life add up to. But any pair of shoes that you do not NEED (like, you need it for a purpose and not a fashion choice), any form of entertainment (from monthly subscriptions to a new gadget), and the amount of times a week you eat away from home tell the story without a bank account being seen.
 
There is so much potential for personal, generational, and world change if people would step up and make decisions that reflect generosity and money that is not ‘yours’ starting NOW, not before ‘an adult job’.
 
So to my point:
 
I want to CELEBRATE the world changers who are unseen, no one knows what they are doing. 
Because of my role as Compassion Corp Director, I get an insider’s peek as people fundraise, fail, get up again, get encouraged, get discouraged and doubtful, put themselves out there, debate where they could go for help. And then sometimes I hear the stories that turned their doubt around, or encouraged them, or straight had them dancing around the living room.
A student who is fundraising recently had a conversation with me where I suggested what I was just talking about – I said they should try asking  peers. Which sounds crazy. Students don’t have money, or they will say they won’t. Adults and people with jobs and $35 fancy lunches out can’t do $25 a month….a student? That’s the best suggestion you’ve got, director? (Plus – awkward to ask friends).
That afternoon, I got a text about three new financial partners for this Compassion Corp student.
I talked with this student, so encouraged and hopeful about this being doable, and heard more behind stories of complete opposite reactions to what was expected. Generosity, excitement, and encouragement from peers. After school jobs as a source of world change. Instead of shame or awkward conversations, there is an environment of mission, chasing Jesus, and “yes” in the unseen and mundane.
Because these partners will not be known or look for recognition, I’ve gotta say it. I’ve gotta celebrate it. The counter-cultural lief choices, the decisions to honor God that NO ONE will see or know (except for the Compassion Corp student it affects and an accounting firm that doesn’t know the giver), the mundane, the unseen.
This will and already is transforming spaces, y’all.
I have dreamed and written and prayed on the potential if a generation would live like this. I could talk all morning on it with you. But you’ve given before, some time in your life. You’ve said an unseen yes before, some time in your life. I know that you already know what I mean when I say that students – high schoolers, college students – taking opportunities NOW and not separating it from themselves “for the future”, “once I’m an adult”….will change the world.
If you are one of those people – I AM CELEBRATING YOU. Just as much as a Compassion Corp student stepping out in a yes, I am celebrating YOU. I believe in YOU. I am here, I am persevering and creating and dreaming of how to equip and unleash young leaders – because of YOU.
Mundane, unseen yeses and acts of obedience and generosity will revolutionize and change this world quicker than you can say “I bought a pair of TOMS last week”.
Keep being the difference, students. This is me, cheering you on for what no one knows that you are doing.