Sunday, November 2, 2008

Procrastination, My Old Friend

Why do today what you can do tomorrow? This philosophy has plagued me for most of my life. Procrastination and I are blood brothers. I'm not sure when we made our pact, but I don't remember a time when we weren't on speaking terms. Throughout my existence I have repeatedly found myself at the bottom of a pit that Procrastination helped me dig.

I was often grounded as a child because I had failed to complete major assignments on time. In fact, there were times that I had not even started the assignment by the time the due date had rolled around. My customers were reportedly unhappy with me when I found time to watch my afternoon cartoons before delivering the evening newspaper. Cleaning my room was always a mystery; even though I was stuck in my bedroom with nothing to do but clean, I would somehow find a way to delay the inevitable.

Isn't it funny how we always expect to shed our character flaws each time our lives take a major turn? When I started university, I swore that I would become a better student. Silly me. I dropped out in the middle of my second year (unavoidable when one adopts the attitude of Why go to class today when I could go to class next week?). When I moved into my own apartment, I was determined to clean on a regular basis. But, alas, Why do dishes today when I could do them tomorrow? Somewhere in a Vancouver landfill, the mold is still clinging steadfast to my first set of kitchenware. Surely marriage is an excellent opportunity to improve one's self. And yet, even as I type, I notice several articles of dirty clothing littering the floor on my side of the bed.

So when I moved to the Philippines, I was once again confronted with my weakness. Would this be the moment in history when I would finally start acting like an adult, and end my tumultuous relationship with Procrastination? Well, yes and no. I believe that I have taken major strides to distance myself, and Procrastination and I are more like acquaintances now, rather than the best of friends. Oh sure, he still comes calling on a regular basis, but I'm much less likely to answer.

What has led to this breakthrough? Procrastination has always had the potential to annoy my teachers, my parents, or my spouse. Apparently their exasperation was never enough to motivate me to get the job done in a timely fashion. But things are different now. People are counting on me. Not to sound too dramatic, but lives hang in the balance.

Last week in our newsletter, I mentioned a village that has been transformed by our bio-sand water filters. This community has watched as several children die every year from diarrhea, a direct result of their contaminated water source. There are now 42 families that are sharing 4 bio sand water filters. The community health worker has reported that there has not been a single case of diarrhea since the filters were installed. What if I had procrastinated, and waited an extra month before getting around to delivering the filters? Would another child have died?

The stakes are just too high. Now, I'm not telling you that I'm totally cured. It is still a daily struggle. There are always things competing for my attention. Tasks that are perfectly legitimate, yet not high priority, may find themselves cutting in line and reaching completion before their time—right now I'm supposed to be working on a budget proposal, but I felt like writing words instead of numbers so the budget has been rudely delayed. And yet, when push comes to shove, I'm getting the job done.

I recently met with one of my contacts here in town who told me that his organization would like to begin manufacturing filters in Butuan, a city in the north eastern corner of Mindanao. He informed me that he had a man who wanted to make filters his full-time job. Immediately after that meeting, Procrastination came by for a visit. I had a choice. Was I going to once again welcome in my old friend, or was I going to tell him to take a long walk off a short pier? By the grace of God, I was able to resist the temptation to come home and watch television or some such nonsense. Instead, I spent the rest of that afternoon (when I wasn't caring for Promise—family always comes first) making phone calls and sending emails and text messages, making arrangements to visit Butuan and get things started.

We made our trip to Butuan on Saturday. The trip takes about five hours when carrying three filters. We left at 4am so that we would be in Butuan for our 9 o'clock meeting, so we were able to enjoy the sunrise along the way. We spent about four hours with our old friend Rinel, who had received training from us earlier this year. He is so excited about working with us, and I can tell that he is truly committed to making this new endeavor a success. I was able to make a presentation to a group of church leaders who are now very excited about the possibility of providing safe water to the remote communities where they are planting churches. Rinel worked with Toti and I to demonstrate the bio sand water filter to a large group of pastors and parishioners. After lunch, we were back on the road and arrived in Davao just after dinner. Yes, it was a long way to go for a meeting (similar to driving from Vancouver to Portland), but it was certainly worth it.

I'll let you know how things develop. We are still in the planning stage, and we need to find some funding to get Rinel a couple of steel molds to make the filters. But it sounds like the Lord has provided a team of welders that will be able to provide some free labor, so that's very exciting. My hope is that by December we will have a two man operation in Butuan that will be able to provide a couple of filters a day to an area that has been too far away for us to reach. They will be a micro enterprise operation, so it should be fully self-sustaining.

I was in another meeting last week with a local organization called Tricom that works with tribal people in the province of South Cotabato. It would have been easy to treat the meeting as a simple introduction, and leave feeling thankful for the new contact. After all, I'm plenty busy with this stuff in Butuan. But again, I felt the intense urgency of the need. We were able to make plans, and Toti will be visiting one of their communities next week, bringing filters with him. We will be in another of their communities later this month, and we are already talking about starting several small businesses to help with distribution. We are also in talks with one of the local governments that Tricom works with, hoping to secure their support.

Why am I telling you all this? I'm afraid it sounds like I'm patting myself on the back. I assure you that is not my intention. I guess I just wanted to encourage you. Each and every one of us has at least one major character flaw that has plagued us for years. I'm not sure what yours is, but I want to tell you that you can beat it. When God gives you an assignment, and you suddenly find yourself with purpose and vision, there is an abundance of grace to overcome your issues and just get the job done. You still must make the choice daily to flee from temptation, but it's definitely getting easier for me. After all, Why do tomorrow what I could do today?



Anonymous said...

Tim, you are a great writer. Wow, that is something I didn't see at all when we were at your place in December, but I love reading what you have written as you express your feelings so well and make yourself quite open. Thanks for the candid sharing. Helps the rest of us know how to pray for you guys. Dorothy Hunt

Anonymous said...

Once again, exciting stuff happening. God is a great multi-tasker. He is usually about doing something new IN us while He's doing something THROUGH us. It's all good!
Love ya,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Tim. I'm excited by all that God is doing in you and through you. I'm proud of you and I love you (Bethany too!). We're praying in the money to keep up with you! Love Mum

danbryce said...

When you google "Tim and Bethany" this blog is the first result....

Heidi said...

Hey Tim I just finished having a huge fight with Mr Procrastination this weekend (in fact both kate and i commented on how we were procrastinating WHILE we were reading what you wrote about procrastination!) - I had resisted the knocking for the last two months and then wham... with a vengence! On the good side - finally made a big dent in the digital diarrhea! I would definitely agree that there is something so much more motivating about peoples lives as opposed to textbooks!
Bethany has always inspired me in this area - she gets it done! Alas back to work for me - keep up the great work, it is so awesome to hear of God's faithfullness!