What does it look like when that website of our mission slowly comes into view?
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I’ve had the experience of seeing this happen with a good friend, Matt York, as he, launched a non-profit company named One Media Player Per Teacher (OMPT). Matt had significant success with his media company, Videomaker, becoming a local success story. He’s the kind of entrepreneur that turns up on national TV to discuss the revolution that video has brought to everyday life. But recently, he was led in a new direction: he dreamed of a way to help the billion poorest people on this planet, those who live on less than a dollar a day. And one of the clear elements of the Hebrew Bible and into the New Testament—in fact, that resonates in most enduring religions—is that we are to care for the poor. Jesus proclaimed it clearly in his inaugural “mission statement” message,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me
To bring good news [or “the gospel”] to the poor. (Luke 4:18)
I figure if it’s top priority for Jesus’s mission, it needs to guide our mission. And certainly Matt’s on the same page.
As he learned more about what the poor needed, Matt discovered that education and training were fundamental to their challenges, because it’s education that draws people out of endless cycles of poverty. When you know how to do something, you can be hired for a job. Agriculture training dramatically increases crop yields for sustenance farmers, while health care training decreases incidence of disease and infant mortality. And that dramatically changes lives.
The next step was Matt realized that these poorest of the poor were often geographically isolated such that they had no access to adequate teaching and training. But what if we could use his media experience to bring some of the best education to the poor of this world? Here’s where the media experience played in. (God, as it were, doesn’t waste our experience.) Through fairly simple technology—inexpensive media players (like iPods, but much cheaper), he could partner with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) serving in these isolated places to increase the quality of education. Matt’s organization empowers the regional NGO to produce short video lessons featuring the most skilled teachers in the region. These videos are then disseminated in hard-to-reach areas with small battery powered video projectors (a new technology called “pico projectors”). But they needed to be economical, easy-to-use, and not power hogs. I remember a night at Matt’s house after dinner where he showed me a table containing a half dozen different media players, all of which had been diligently created from him or culled by him from hundreds of similar devices manufactured in various factories oversees. “You see this one has a hand crank. So it’s very energy efficient.” “He’s one that’s only $8, but can store half a year’s worth of lectures.” “These speakers are good, but they’re not sufficient loud for a classroom of thirty elementary-age students.”
As of the writing of this chapter, Matt is still working on the delivery system for these media players to the right countries. He’s visited some of the most remote places on earth including Sudan, rural India, and Guatemala, and he’s on the road, but the bigger point for this book is two-fold: his hearing the call emerged over time. It was something that he heard gradually. Secondly, he found incredibly joy and energy as he’s pursuing this deep passion as it met what God’s mission is in the world. He has frankly told me that he’s never enjoyed his work, or his life, this much. And that’s what makes hearing the Yes so worthwhile.
To repeat Frederick Buechner’s quote:
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
What I need to add to Buechner is that this calling from God is about all of life, not just our work (and for Christians, certainly not just what we do for the church). In the U.S. we are too focused on what we do in our jobs. Besides that sometimes the best a job can do is provide for our, and perhaps our family’s, financial needs. And that’s a worthy goal. It is not, however, yet vocation. So, as I will develop in this book, I’m affirming that finding your yeses are about the three important facets of our life, that triangle I presented in Say Yes to No: personal life, work, and relationships or “life, work, and love.”
All this requires that we become quiet enough to hear the voice of God, or what Naomi Wolf more broadly calls that
an inward voice one recognizes as wiser than one’s own and transcribes without fear.
When we hear it, a person “transcribes without fear” and that leads us to excellence.