Confession #15: Lessons from Talking with Bob Goff
Yep. You read that heading correctly. We (Correction: Hunter) recently had the privilege to talk to Bob Goff, author of Love Does, on the phone. You may be wondering how exactly we scored the phone call. Well, if you have read the book before, then you may have noticed that Bob gracious left his phone number on the last page, just in case you ever want to call him. CRAZY! Now, since reading Love Does I’ve always wondered: Who actually does that? Who would actually try the # in the back of the book and try to call Bob Goff? Answer: Apparently my brother-in-law Trae- in which I am so grateful.
Let me back up a little bit…
Bob Goff does some amazing work in Uganda with a program called Restore International and has helped to form some programs similar to what we will be trying to accomplish at the Emmaus House. After recently discussing how much we admired various aspects of Bob’s work in Uganda, Trae decided to give Bob a call on our behalf. Again, who actually does that? After sharing word of the Emmaus House, Bob Goff was interested to talk with us further in order to offer us his advice on working with youth in developing countries. And of course we were willing to be all ears!
Although we only had the opportunity to speak with Bob Goff for a brief amount of time, he was able to share some invaluable wisdom. So what did we ask him and what did he have to say? Let me share:
Three Things I Learned from Bob Goff
Question #1: Just like most of Haiti, the youth moving to Emmaus House are very accustomed to American support. As we move forward in trying to prepare them to become more independent and self-reliant, what advice can you give us based on your time working with young adults in Uganda?
What I learned: “We are all in this together.” Go ahead and break into the High School Musical theme song if you must, (because I did) but according to Bob Goff this is key. From educational programs, to vocational programs, to university programs, to spiritual programs, we need to do everything as a community. The success of the Emmaus House is dependent not on how great our programs are, but instead how close of a family those in the home can become. If they can learn to be “all in this together” just as the song goes, then the youth will learn to be each others’ strength, support, accountability, and family.
Question #2: What advice can you give us in forming a healthy sponsorship program for our young adults in the Emmaus House program?
What I learned: Stay in the middle of the affairs. As someone who has worked directly with highly active child sponsors for over two and a half years now, I have debated whether to share Bob’s opinion on the matter. With Restore International in Uganda, the youth have no contact with their sponsors. No Facebook, no emails, no letters, and especially no gifts. In order to prevent potential dependency issues, unhealthy relationships, and the temptation for excessive gift giving, Bob’s organization has chosen just to say “No” to all of the above and instead chosen to personally “stay in the middle of the affairs” between sponsor and young adult. As we look to create more independent adults in the Emmaus House, Bob advised us to do the same.
Now obviously our case is a little different in the Emmaus House. Many of our young adults have grown up their whole lives under the support of very loving and generous sponsors. On the flip side, however, I have also seen many of our teens attempt (and some times successfully) abuse the sponsorship program. I’ve seen boundaries between sponsors and teenager get a little foggy, and I’ve seen more broken promises and more broken hearts than I would ever like to admit.
In other words, sponsorship programs can be beneficial and rewarding, not to mention a great fundraising tactic! But it can also be harmful if not managed and not strategically given healthy boundaries. As the Emmaus House looks to kick start its Youth Sponsorship program in the next few weeks, we are prayerfully considering what is best for our youth and their development in becoming young adults.
Question #3: In our experience, raising money for little kids living in an orphanage was much easier than for young adults in a transition home. Any fundraising tips?
What I learned: Hope. Joy. Jesus. Restoration: If this is what we talk about, then people will give. Ok, I’m not going to lie, money has been coming in rather slowly. Some might blame it on the economy or the fact that churches have already set their budgets for the year, but I’m not so convinced. Thing is, I see other missions in Haiti thriving financially big time right now because of generous Christians back in the states. I know people and churches have the resources to give- they just need a good cause to believe in and to connect with personally. So that is why Hunter and I came to America- to share our story, ask people to believe in us, our mission, and our teenagers, and to prayerfully consider connecting with Emmaus House. And you know what we learned rather quickly? Teenagers are hard to market. Compared to the cute little toddlers we once used to put on our PowerPoint presentations for the orphanage, people usually don’t get all emotionally wrapped up in the pictures and stories of an 18 year old. And when heartstrings aren’t tugged, typically neither are wallets.
In a few short sentences, we tried to explain our frustration with Bob Goff. And we were completely relieved to hear that he completely understood. “So what do we do?” Hunter asked him. After his only advice was to write a best selling book like him (on my to-do list) we knew we were in trouble. Then he got serious. He told us to stop trying so hard to sell ourselves and our mission. He said people don’t like sales pitches. Instead, form relationships with people and share with those people how Emmaus House will bring hope, joy, Jesus, and restoration to the youth of Emmaus House and to Haiti as a whole. And then if we nourish those relationships and if our message stays genuine, then our support will come.
Note taken Bob Goff. Nevertheless, right now we really need some money. Maybe I should get started on that best seller.
Overall, our conversation with Bob Goff was very encouraging and insightful. He defiantly gave us a lot to think about and a lot to consider as we move forward to the opening of the Emmaus House. More than anything, it is just super cool to say that we talked to him on the phone! I mean, seriously, who does that?