Why We Made Haiti a Family Thing

Jun 26, 2009

We live in one of the most affluent communities in Colorado. Which means:

  • The houses are huge, million-dollar mansions everywhere you turn.
  • The amenities are generous, including multiple recreation centers, pools, etc.
  • Residents count their toys: boats, RVs, waverunners, SUVs, dirt bikes, etc.
  • 1st graders get iPhones for Christmas.
  • The landscaping is award-worthy.
  • The highschool parking lot brags vehicles I’ll never be able to afford.
  • From hair and nails to the kitchen sink, everything is impeccable and pristine.

Our first home was built here nearly 18 years ago, when the community was just getting started. And although we’re thankful for some of the benefits of this kind of suburban living (good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean community), we’re constantly fighting the materialistic mentality that comes with the culture. It’s incredible easy to get sucked into the comfort of stuff.

I especially notice it in my kids. Every day they see friends enjoying the latest and greatest gadgets and toys and vacations. So-and-so is going to Europe for a month. What’s-his-name got a $500 allowance this week. You-know-who got a Beamer for his 16th birthday.

How do I compete?

I don’t. For a while I felt pressure to defend my less-opulent parenting against the neighbors and friends who spared no expense. Not any more. As much as my kids groan against having the weird parents who don’t give them a full-ride, I believe it’s one of the best things I can do for them.

That’s why we did our family vacation different this year. Instead of a week enjoying the white sand and blue waters of Cozumel (which is something we’d LOVE to do), we spent a week in the the villages of Haiti. Still an island with an ocean view, but not nearly as glamorous. And not what most teenagers dream of during their summer break. Many of our friends thought we were nuts. Maybe.

We want our boys to grow up with a perspective and heart that transcends the borders of our little white-collar community. But wanting it isn’t enough. If I’m serious about teaching my boys about compassion, generosity, and servanthood, I’m going to have to (1) MODEL IT and (2) intentionally create opportunities for the practice of it.

I’m not sure a short-term mission trip is for everyone. I’m also not sure it’s NOT. But I’m wondering …

When you and I dream of what kind of adults we want our kids to be, is our parenting intentionally focused toward or distracting from that ultimate goal?


  1. Diane Shaw

    The pastor of our church, Church for all Nations, loves the nations. We support missions efforts all over the world. He states that we are all to be involved in missions as either “goers” or “senders.
    He very, very frequently says that everyone should go on at least one short term missions trip in their lifetime.
    When your children talk about their summer vacation with their friends I think they will have an audience hungry to know why you choose a different path. What an opportunity to share the gospel here in their neighborhood (more missions work).

  2. Scot Longyear

    Absolutely agree. Last year my wife and I took out 14 year old to Guatemala http://reson8.org/2009/published/. That trip is having a significant impact on her life. Imagine what it would have been like if we could have experienced that at an early age.

    Thanks for the great thoughts and fantastic action.

  3. Michele

    Diane, I love your perspectives! Thanks so much for sharing. And thank you for sharing the link, Scot. I look forward to reading about your trip with your daughter!



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