iStaff’s 2016 President’s Club Winners!

I would like to personally congratulate iStaff’s top-tier achievers for 2016 who made President’s club. I am proud of how you go about your profession with excellence, the hard work that you put in and how you are always willing to go the extra mile for your clients. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful team.

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From left to right: Joe Broccoli, Matt Shumake, Nate Barrett, Jason Smith, Shera Walton, Jon Dilley, Jeremy McNeil.DSC_0032 DSC_0036 DSC_0037 DSC_0039 DSC_0041 DSC_0043

iStaff Christmas donation 2016 to North Gwinnett Co Op

ngcoRather than give our clients Christmas gifts, iStaff donates to a worthy cause in our client’s and contractors names.
This year iStaff donated $1000 and several bags of groceries to the North Gwinnett Co-Op.

iStaff’s employees and family volunteer weekly at the co-op and also participate in their annual bookbag drive and distribution party.

http://www.northgwinnettcoop.org/

How Honest is your Linkedin Profile?

If you are reading this then you probably have a LinkedIn profile. Here are some points to consider:

  • Is it honest?
  • Does it matter if it is honest?  Will anyone know if it is a lie?
  • Did you set it up and forget about it or is it carefully maintained?
  • Is your LinkedIn profile accurate?  
  • Are you lying if you leave off a past employer?
  • How about if you fudge your employment dates by a few months to make your job history look a little more “stable”?

When I interview someone they usually present a resume in advance.  I always compare their resume to their LinkedIn profile.  Sometimes I see dates that are stretched (usually online) to make it appear that they were at a certain employer for longer than they actually were.  I also frequently see when a person’s LinkedIn profile and resume is sloppy and their employment dates don’t match between the two.

What does it say to a prospective employer if your dates of employment don’t match or if an employer is left off of your resume entirely?  I’m not talking about a company that you worked at for 3 days before you realized that it was a mistake, but a place that you were employed at for more than a month, where you built relationships, where people knew you.

What does it say to a former employer when you leave them off your LinkedIn profile?

Your LinkedIn profile is your resume.  It is presented as both your professional work history credentials and your credibility.

Personally I’m not interested in hiring someone who lies or has such a sloppy online presence that they come across as not caring what their profile says to the world.  Are you?

You might want to carefully check your LinkedIn profile for both accuracy and honesty, as it is how the business world views you.

Tanzania Mission Trip

Thank you for your support of my trip, both financially and from a prayer standpoint.  It was an amazing experience.  I ended up raising $5,000 in support and needed $2,900 to pay for my expenses.  The extra $2,100 will go towards the programs.

I’ll summarize my trip in saying that it confirmed that a small yet concentrated effort can have a tremendous positive impact and make a difference in the lives of others.  In the poorest of areas I saw people who had a tremendous joy in their relationship with Jesus Christ.  They didn’t have the baggage of materialism.

I’ll use a short narration along with a lot of photos to tell my story.  Here it goes:
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After spending approximately 30 hours traveling with 24 of it being in a plane we arrived!  All of our clothes were in our carry-on suitcase as you use your two checked bags to transport HIV/AIDS kits, school books, clothes, etc.  For 2 weeks in Africa with everything being in a roll-on suitcase I learned how to pack light.

The first half of our mission started out in the village of Karanse, which is near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The story of Karanse is that it was once a vibrant farming community.  In the early 90’s several years of drought brought devastation and destroyed the economy.  Most of the men left their families, and many of the women turned to prostitution.  This in turn led to a domino effect of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, death and many children being orphaned.

In the late 90’s a local minister, Pastor Warieli, had a vision to take a dried up cornfield and turn it into a center for children.  Where there was cracked soil he saw a school, medical care, healthy food, church and most importantly, love.   This vision has become a reality and lives have been impacted.  In Tanzania 50% of the population is under the age of 16.  These are the future leaders of the country, and education is the key to their future.

Below is the new addition to the school, built with funds raised by another team from our church that was there a few months ago.  They hiked Mt. Mt. Kilimanjaro to secure pledges.

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The kids just want love and attention.  They looked happy, healthy and well fed.  They would swarm you, holding your hands, and like in the picture below if you sit down, they all hop in your lap.

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This was my little friend for the day.  She wouldn’t let go of my hand.

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More little friends:

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Pastor Warieli’s program has 450 children, each are sponsored by people in the US and mainly in Atlanta, coordinated by our church and a global organization Compassion International.  The cost is $32/month to provide food, medical care, schooling and spiritual programs for them.   They are known as compassion children.  If you want to sponsor one please see me.  I can tell you that the money is well used and the children are doing great.

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In the picture below is Diane.  She is sponsored by my friend Gail Clarke.  I brought Diane a care package from Gail and her family.

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Some of the children in the programs are orphans, others have a mother who is a widow (children of widows qualify to be in the program).  Diane is part of the latter group.

I had the privledge of going to Diane’s house, meeting and praying with her mom and siblings.  They are below.

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If you ever wonder if a child you sponsor receives or reads the letters and pictures that you send, let me confirm that they do at Karanse.  Below is a picture of a folder her mother showed me of every picture and letter that the Clarke’s had ever sent Diane.  It was very precious to them.

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As a gift for visiting, Diane’s mom gave me 5 eggs and a jar of milk.  I was overwhelmed, that a widow with 3 kids to feed and very meager means would share so much with me.  I was very moved and touched.

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Gail’s mother supports little Agape.  I delivered for her a care package.  She was ready to dig in!

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Karanse also has a program for the widows (the dignified name they use for widow is “Special Lady”).  We went and visited 2 special ladies who lived far from the central village.

Road into the boonies (wait, we were in the boonies already and going further into the boonies):

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The picture below is of a special lady with her 5 kids.  The little boy in the background is an orphan that she took in (thus she cares for a total of 6 kids).  Orphans are common in this area, and many special ladies assume responsibility for them.

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Below is her house that they all live in along with the goats.

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After visiting with her we laid hands and prayed for her.  She was quite sick and was seemed comforted that we took time with her and prayed for her:

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We then went and visited another special lady.  She was healthy, happy and had everything that she needed.  She had several children and all the kids and the goats live in the dwelling in the picture below.  She asked us to pray for her 20 year old son who was handicapped.  Below are 3 pictures of our visit with her.  She had so little from a material standpoint, yet was so happy and blessed:

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A side note: Our church has a goats and chicken program, where special ladies are provided with a goat and several chickens and are taught micro economics, the selling the eggs and milk to provide for the family and help them be financially independent.  The program is working and allows long-term self-sufficiency as opposed to having them dependant on others for aid.  The widows of my church provide the funds for the goats and chickens.

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I saw God’s hand everywhere.  I got up Sunday at 3am (not on purpose as being 7 hours ahead can make for an interesting sleep pattern).  After spending time reading my bible and in prayer I watched the sun rise over Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It is the highest peak in Africa at over 19,000 feet.

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On Sunday we worshiped at the new church in Karanse.

Old  church building:
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New church building recently complete (you can see the old church building back and to the left):

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The worship service was like nothing I have ever experienced.  Dancing, singing, praising and happiness:

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I preached the sermon at church.  The sermon was about the true joy I saw during my trips to Uzbekistan and Tanzania in the people who has Christ in their lives, not matter how hard the circumstances:

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For the offering people put change in the pot, and you will also notice a live chicken at the left of the offering stand.  His feet were tied, but he was determined to get away so a man near me grabbed him and stuffed him under the pew.   Those are flower pedals on the floor.  A lady who we know as the flower-lady would dance and sing and throw the pedals everywhere.

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With our work done in Karanse, we traveled to Arusha.  The 2nd half of our trip centered around training Tanzanian pastors and women leaders (80 men, 20 women) in discipleship.  The training was 4 days long, and was the 3rd in a series of 7 (the next training date is in October).  We had large-group sessions, and after each session we would break out with a core group assigned to us (I had 8 men in my group).

I don’t have many pictures from this part of my trip as we were so busy teaching.  We started with devotion at around 7:30am and finished up around 9:00pm each night.

In case you are wondering what discipleship is, it is meeting weekly with a small group of people that you are mentoring, investing in their lives.  Discipleship moves beyond the typical pastor/congregation relationship and goes very deep.  Our goal was to train leaders who can in turn train their key people in discipleship.  The participants come from all over Tanzania and one pastor had a 4 day bus ride to get there (not uncommon).   The same group of people stay together as a team for all 7 sessions.

We stayed and taught the discipleship training at a convent (I am not Catholic; they rent out the space to other church groups).  The place was secure (armed guards at night), had incredible food (it is almost totally self-sustaining complete with organic produce, their own beef and chicken raised and prepared on-site) and was an awesome place to do our training (we slept and worked there never leaving for 6 straight nights).

The convent:

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My team at the end of the week (we got very tight):
From the top left: Pastor Joseph, Bishop Pius, Pastor Lazaros, Pastor Frances and Pastor Samuel (everyone has old testament names).
From the bottom left Pastor Constantine, Pastor Anthony, Paul (serves in local HIV/AIDS ministry) and Pendaeley (music and worship leader).

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The worship there was awesome.  There was a lot of singing!  What great music.

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Group training:

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Below is Bishop Bartholomew and his wife Hilikah.  She led a lot of the musical worship.  What a voice and a talent.

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Sister Maryland, who took such good care of us.  She was really dedicated to serving others:

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At the end of our training I was presented with a carved rhino.  This was unexpected and such a nice gesture:

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With the training complete we had 1 night on safari.  We stayed in fancy tents.

We took a safari into the Ngorongoro Crater.  It was an active volcano that become a mountain and eventually imploded.  We saw everything!  Cheetah stalking zebra, hippos, cape buffalo, etc.  It was a nice way to wind down prior to our flight after a very busy 9 days.  You were truly out in the middle of nowhere with wild animals everywhere.

A few of my favorite pics below:
Descending into the crater:

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Hippo out of water:

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These were a dime a dozen:

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Cheetah stalking zebra colt:

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Stand off:

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In the bush ready to pounce:

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“Lunch”:

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Yes they are this close and don’t care:

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Momma and baby:

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Baby baboon riding on mama:

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At night we had Maasai guards outside our tents.  They actually live in the park and walk around amongst the animals.  As soon as we laid down we heard the hyenas  near our tent.  I am glad we had our friends there to run them off (and anything else that decided to take a sniff of us).

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We left on Sunday and had about a 30 hour door to door trip home.  In the end it was so worth it and I hope to go back again one day.  What wonderful and kind people.  What a beautiful land (so lush and open).  Such outward poverty yet such inward and true joy.

Again thanks for your support.  Your prayers were felt!

Jason Smith

Guatemala Mission Trip

Dear friends and family,

I wanted to put together a letter complete with pictures to elaborate on our mission trip to Guatemala.

In summary Bennett, Dylan and I all grew tremendously.  We had long, hard yet fun days where we watched as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ ministered to both the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of some of the nicest people that I have ever met.

I am changed forever and I feel that Dylan and Bennett are as well.  This experience was better than any vacation that I have ever taken and I can’t wait to go back, perhaps next summer.  Dylan is working on becoming fluent in Spanish and wants to go back to Guatemala as a translator next year.  Bennett was also deeply impacted and is eager to return.

We arrived on Sat 7/21 at the MMM compound.  Their URL is http://mmm-guatemala.com/medical_missions_ministry.asp and Facebook page ishttps://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/mmm.guatemala

The compound is in a walled and guarded neighborhood and also has high walls, electric razor wire lining the ledges and 2 large German Shepherds named Nina and Starke that patrol the grounds.  Below you can see Dylan with the dogs:

Our team of 18 from Perimeter Church

 

We then went to church service held at a restaurant on top of a beautiful mountain top.

 

After church we went to a local orphanage named Casa Hallelujah run by an American named Mike.  30 years ago he saw the need for a safe place for children.  He currently has over 400 kids that range in age from infant to high school.  The kids were so happy.  Mike adopts them and they are treated as family.  We played with the kids, held babies made balloon animals and toured the grounds.  It was awesome.  Scroll down to see several pictures.

Every morning we had a 2 hour devotion with Dr. Alb, the person who founded MMM.  He is also a pastor.  The devotion time flew by and got us spiritually, mentally and emotionally prepared for the day ahead.

 

For 4 days we went into both the countryside and also to the inner city to put on a full medical clinic at a 4 local churches (1 per day).  The ministry has 4 doctors, 2 dentists and an optician.  These are people who opted-out of successful private practices to care for those that can’t afford their services.  They serve with joy that I rarely see here in the states.

To summarize what our average patient experience: The patient would first see the Dr and then would sit in a prayer station with an interpreter and a member or two of our team.  We would run their prescription to the pharmacy (pharmacy being a set of tables a few feet away that we set up within the church) and offer to pray with them.  We witnessed several people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and many others simply wanted to be prayed for.

In addition to set up and breaking down the clinic, we (our team) took turns assisting in the pharmacy, manning the prayer stations, entertaining kids so that their parents could meet with the dr. and also helping the dentist.

 

Bennett was a pharmacy runner, taking the prescriptions to the patients:

Our dentists in action:

 

Part of our job was to watch the kids so that the parents could see the doctors.  Bennett and Dylan took to this like fish to water.  Below is Bennett playing street soccer.

 

 

Dylan, Josh and Clara playing with the kids:

 

I will never again complain about waiting to see the doctor.  The patients would wait for hours to see our staff with smiles on their faces.

 

A proud mom and her kids

 

Waiting for the Dr.

Dylan praying with a local man

 

Seeing Dr. Mario

 

Wheelchair repair & fist-bump for said wheelchair repair

 

Eye exam

 

Below is the Mayan church that we had a clinic at.  Sometimes we had to translate from Mayan to Spanish to English.  God worked it out.

 

And prayer…

 

In front of one of our clinics

 

Seeing Dr. Hector

 

Seeing Dr. Alberto.

 

The pastor’s wife cooking us lunch over her wood-fire stove.  Lunch was fresh tortillas, beans, rice and sometimes potatoes & carrots.  The church staff gave us their best and I was humbled.

 

Pastor Abraham and his son David

 

Bennett and David.  Bennett made friends as fast in Guatemala as he does in the states.

 

Dylan assisting in the pharmacy

 

Helping in the pharmacy.  Everyone that comes through also gets a 15 day supply of vitamins in addition to their meds.  This was our hottest day with it being in the 90’s inside.

 

At every store (including McDonald’s) was a security guard, complete with pistol-gripped sawed off shotgun and usually a bullet-proof vest.

 

Soldier checkpoint

 

Some of the most beautiful country that I have ever seen.

 

Lunch break

 

Volcano ringed by a cloud


And prayer…

 

Again thanks for your support, prayer and love.  God was present and at work and it was so wonderful to be used by Him to serve others.
Love in Christ,
Jason, Dylan and Bennett Smith

Uzbekistan Mission Trip

In 2004 I went to Uzbekistan.  It is a closed Muslim nation that border Northern Afghanistan.  It is a former Soviet republic. Here are some pictures of my trip.  God really blessed us on our trip and was in control the entire time.

Below is at the disabled children’s orphanage.  The white lines in the background are for the foundation wall that we dug (by hand, hard dry soil) for an exercise pool.

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Below is me and a couple of the disabled orphans in a ball pit playing (they pulled on me to get in there with them).

Prior to the orphanage being taken over by a Christian aide worker 6 years ago, this place looked like a war zone, the children did not have names (they were referred to by the state as idiots) and were dying at a rate of 6 per week.  In Uzbekistan if a child is born with any challenges (cripple, downs syndrome, deformed, etc.), they are put in a state facility where the majority of them die of starvation or sickness.  The children are now well cared for, are very happy, have therapy, and the orphanage is clean and nice.

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Our team that taught at the business seminar (3 days).  Being a former communist country, the bulk of the people have no idea how to run a business.  We taught about 20 students over 3 days, and formed some great relationships.  We expect several businesses to be launched as a result.

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Below is a widow that Jim (the missionary who we visited) cares for.  We brought her food, spent some time with her and prayed for her.  She is Russian, almost blind, and would unfortunately starve if Jim’s family didn’t take care of her.  She has no family.

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Below is a picture from a Soviet “resort” that we had a missionary conference at (the church is underground and the KGB is very dangerous, many who attended were nervous, and some of these people are veterans of working as aid workers in countries like Afghanistan during the Afghan/Russian war).

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Our room at the “resort”.  When you are tired, a blanket layered over plywood can be very comfortable J

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