3.04.2012

Imagine...

Read the following excerpt from the book, No Longer A Slumdog, and have it break your heart.
This is not an exaggeration.
This is not just a story.
This is the life of more than 1 billion children around the world.
Your parents saw your conception as both a blessing and a curse. They knew that in a few years there would be more hands to work, but also that you would put even more strain on the meager food supply. Prenatal care for you was lacking because there was no medical facilities in the remote village or slum where you were born and your parents couldn't afford to travel away from home to find one.

After a risky home delivery on the dirt floor of the family shack, you were dried off with a dirty rag or an old newspaper; your parents never learned much about sanitation.

Your home was made of tarpaulin sheets held up by bamboo sticks. It was pretty crowded with your whole family living in less than 100 square feet of space. The shack was right next to a railroad track, and every 10 minutes a train would come roaring through. Sleep was difficult under these conditions.

When you where born, you were already malnourished. The little milk your mother was able to give you couldn't do much to ensure your growth. You might also suffer night-blindness from vitamin A deficiency.

Soon your mom had to resume her day job of cleaning streets with a hand-broom and washing other prople's clothes, because when she didn't work, the family didn't eat. So you where left in the care of an older sibling. As you started to crawl, you explored on your hands and knees the open sewer trenches running along the alley between neighboring shacks. If you had any clothing at all, it was made from rags found in the near by dump, which is where all the household treasures came from.

If through strength and providence you survived the first few years of life, at the age of five or six you might be sold by your parents into bonded labor to help secure a little desperately needed money for the family. Otherwise, you probably joined your siblings sifting through garbage to find rags, plastic bottles, pieces of metal or anything else that could be sold for a few pennies to help the family survive. You may become a better or a thief, desperately doing whatever you could use to eat.

Get Involved:
Sponsor a child... Transform the slums, one child at a time.

12.03.2011

Giving.

Christmas is about giving. 
God gave His only Son to this world to bring us back to Himself. 
Mary gave up her reputation, becoming pregnant and giving birth to the Savior while she was still only engaged.
The wise men gave gifts to baby Jesus.
Jesus gave up His life, and died on a cross to save mankind.

Below is a list of my favorite stores. You know why? Because these stores give.
They give to women trying to overcome poverty, adoption funds, or food and water to orphans.
Check them out, I promise you'll fall in love with all of their products!

"31 Bits Designs," Northern Uganda, empowers vulnerable individuals to rise above poverty though maximizing creative abilities and generating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

We provide a job so that women can meet the present needs of their families. We educate them so that they develop beyond the need for outside aid. We provide mentorship to help each lady plan a unique and sustainable career path for the future.

Love is Waiting
Heather opened the store to help raise money for our Ethiopian adoption. Love is Waiting offers a variety of African and adoption inspired products. (By the way, the left a couple days ago to GO GET THEIR SON!) 
Your purchase of a fashionABLE scarf creates sustainable business for women in Africa.  Our commitment as a non-profit is to the development of people — fashionABLE works with women who have been exploited due to the effects of poverty.  So, when you purchase a scarf you are providing jobs, and then we send the profits back to holistically rehabilitate more women. (PS. Their scarves are ADORABLE. I want them all.)

The vision of this movement is two-fold. First, we want to give a voice to the voiceless and oppressed all across the world. We’re depending on you to tell the individual stories that each shirt embodies. Second, the money you spend on the shirt goes directly to fund the specific project that your shirt was inspired by. Each project helps empower the powerless in a sustainable way.
Help us raise awareness of the plight of the children of the world AND provide food, water and medical supplies to a child at the same time.

Each piece of jewelry is made by a hard-working Karimojong woman in Amazima's vocational program.  We know these women and their stories, and we love them deeply. 

Rachel is stay at home mom of one (soon to be two!). She and the hubs are also in the process of adopting. All proceeds from the store go to their adoption fund. 

10.05.2011

Featured Activist: Katie





And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
--Mark 9:35


Haiti.  Where do I possibly begin?  How do I write about a country that has so many complex problems that it makes my head spin on a daily basis?  I guess I should start at the beginning, or I should say the beginning of my relationship with Haiti.  In 2008 after a week long mission trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the Lord put a burden on my heart for this country.  I never imagined myself as one that could pack up and move away to another country.  In my heart I knew that God was leading me towards Haiti for a purpose, but in my mind I was sure it would only be a month or two commitment at most.  I mean, anything beyond that would actually be...well...a commitment.  But, the funny thing about God is that He doesn't have the same plans as we do.  Fast forward three years and skip a lot of details: I found myself getting onto a plane alone with three suitcases and a guitar headed to Haiti indefinitely.  I didn't know what exactly God had planned for me, but I just simply knew that He wanted me in Haiti.

Most people know of Haiti because of the earthquake that killed over half a million people.  But, even before the earthquake Haiti had its share of problems.  It has long been known as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” and in the top ten “most corrupt countries”.  The earthquake only exacerbated those pre-existing problems.  Going on two years later, over a million people are still homeless and living in tarp tents.  Going on two years later, rubble still litters much of the city.  Going on two years later, little has improved here.

Per capita, Haiti has more foreign aid workers here than any other country in the world!  I can't tell you how many people ask me, “Why isn't it improving?  I've sent money to Haiti, has it helped?  Why are there so many problems?  What can be done?”  I try to answer the questions as best I can, but in all honesty, I do not know the answers.  The problems of this country go so far back in its history that I cannot even begin to understand them.  I've tried, but each time that I examine Haiti in “big picture mode” I become frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, and I lose hope.  I constantly have to remind myself that God is bigger than the problems that I see here.  

Haiti has a corrupt government, the churches here have been infiltrated with Voodoo and false teachings, there are too many people and not enough jobs, there are over a million people living in refugee tents, there are over a million orphans, the earthquake damaged the vital infrastructure of the capital, the land here has been eroded and can't grow crops, free hand-outs have damaged the local economy, the the list could go on all day.  It is true that Haiti has many “physical” problems.  However, the largest problem...the root problem...is spiritual.

There is a Haitian proverb that sums up the way many Haitians live their lives: “degaje pa peche”.  In English, it means: To get by is not a sin.  Too many people in Haiti live their lives in that mentality:  It is ok to steal because I don't have food at home.  It is ok to lie to my employer because I won't be able to find another job.  It is ok to cheat on this exam because I know the government will make a mistake when they are scoring it.  Everyone likes to blame Haiti's problems on the corrupt government,and I am the first to agree that the government here is undoubtedly corrupt.  But, how can we expect a country to change when they believe that “to get by is not a sin?”  Even many “Christians” here believe “degaje pa peche.”

So, with all that being said I feel that God has brought me here to “love the one”.  By that, I mean that I am here to just love each person that is placed in front of me.  I am not here organizing a new program that is going to house all the orphans in Haiti or provide jobs for all the single mothers.  I don't have any special skills that will save the country.  I am here to spread God's love as the Holy Spirit leads me, and to bring “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  I am teaching at an elementary school in hopes that I can show my little students God's love and teach them how to walk in His ways.  I am here to disciple, and to help raise a generation that know the TRUTH of God's word.  

I am challenged daily.  I am pushed to my limit daily.  I am humbled and heartbroken daily.  And daily I turn to the Lord for my strength and the ability to continue.  I remind myself on a regular basis that “God never promised me that life would be easy.”

My only hope in life is God, and that is truly the only hope for Haiti, too.  What Haiti needs is not better programs or plans.  It is not more aid or more hand-outs.  It is not more non-governmental organizations or UN troops.  Haiti needs more workers for the Kingdom of God.  Haiti needs more people that walk in the authority that has been given to them by the Holy Spirit.

He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.   
--Luke 10:2

If anyone feels that same “burden” on your heart for Haiti, there are many ways to get involved.  You don't have to travel all the way here to help someone.  

I am a teacher at TLC Barefoot School, and we are always in need of spiritual and financial support.  TLC provides very poor Haitian students with a free Christian education (in English), uniforms, and two meals per day.  Several of my Pre-K students are still in need of school sponsor's.  If you are interested, you can check out the school's website:  www.tlcbarefootschool.com

Prior to teaching at TLC, I lived at Faith-Hope-Love Infant Rescue.  It is a home for malnourished infants and young children.  They care for the infants until they are healthy enough to return to their families.  They also take in children with HIV/AIDS, and care for their physical, medical, and spiritual needs.  FHLIR is a very small organization, and they depend daily on God to provide for their needs.  If you are interested in donating, or possibly planning a trip you can find contact information on the FHLIR blog: www.dorothypearcehaiti.blogspot.com

If you are interested in interning in Haiti for an extended period of time, or you would like to bring a team to Haiti, Child Hope International would be one of my first suggestions.  Child Hope has a boys' orphanage, a girls' orphanage, a transition home, a feeding program, a medical clinic, a school, and a guesthouse.  There are many different opportunities and ways to serve through Child Hope International, and I have seen God working through this organization.  Check out their website for more information: www.childhope.org

Another great organization is called the ApParent Project.  They provide jobs for men and woman as artisans who make “up-cycled” jewelry, home d├ęcor, purses, and journals.  As written on their website, “We are trying to help mothers and fathers in poverty be A PARENT to their children. We are educating and taking care of street kids who don't have A PARENT. We are using media and the arts to make the needs of Haiti APPARENT to those who can help, and we are doing this all with the hope that the love of God will be made more APPARENT to those we humbly serve and that He will be known as A PARENT to the parentless.”  To get more information, host a jewelry party, purchase Haitian made products, or donate, check out their website:  www.apparentproject.org




9.20.2011

I need Africa...

I need Africa more than Africa needs me. Do you?



When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. "I am needed here," I think. "They have so little, and I have so much." It's true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in those same people. It's a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.

The images spilling out of my television showed circumstances that could seemingly only equal misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness. The truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory, indomitable spirits. In places where despair should thrive, instead I find adults dancing and singing, and children playing soccer with a ball crafted of tied up trash. Instead of payback, I find grace. Here, weekend getaways are not options to provide relief from the pains of daily life. Relationships and faith provide joy. Love is sovereign.
My new reality… I know now that my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I'm ashamed by my lack of faith, but at the very same moment I am excited by my new pursuit. I'm forced to redefine the meaning of having much or having little. I'm uneasy with the prospect of change and of letting go, but just the thought of freedom is liberating. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart - I no longer want to need the "next thing" to have joy.
I'm not saying that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I've come to understand that I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. I've learned that I don't need what I have and that I have what I need. These are just a few of this continent's many lessons. I came here to serve and yet I've found that I have so much to learn, and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me.

Join Mocha Club in Spreading the Word

Start a new conversation. Raise awareness of the joy and hope that exist in Africa, and begin to reform the inaccurate perception that Africa is a continent only of despair.
Many in the west think Africa is simply an object of charity. This mindset does not breed true compassion. And there's something about truth… when it becomes clear, it hits you in a way that is hard to ignore. The same is true with people. If we invest in knowing someone, love is the automatic response. We can't all make a trip across the ocean, but we can seek to have a conversation that recasts the damaging images that force pity over partnership. WHY DO YOU NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS YOU?

-The Mocha Club, Redefining the Coffee Break.

9.16.2011

Lower

In this world we are told to look out for ourselves. We are told that we can make it big if we put our minds to it, that we can achieve anything. In life, the goal is to constantly trade in what we have for bigger and better. We are pushed and prodded to climb to the top, but only the best make it. Even in the church world there can be a ladder. This ladder could be the ladder of how many Bible studies you've taught, how many solos you get in the praise band, how much you "help" with different programs, or anything that gets you one rung higher in the eyes of others. It's easy to think that we must constantly be climbing higher. I certainly have a ladder in my life. What is yours?

Jesus had a ladder too, but instead of climbing up He was constantly going lower. He started out in heaven as the LORD over everything, but out of love He chose to come to earth and take on human flesh. Couldn't He have come in all of His kingly glory? Sure! But, He did what was best for us. He humbled Himself. He went lower.

Durring His life on earth, He showed us how to live as servants, not kings or queens. Servants. He ministered to the the lowly, regardless of how it looked to the "religious" ones. He said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28) At the close of Jesus's ministry on earth He washed the feet of His disciples. Now, this wasn't something that was normally done. Washing someone's feet in that day was a very low task they reserved for the lowest of the low...the non-Jewish slaves. It was considered dirty and demeaning. That is why Peter was so repulsed by the idea in John 13:4-8. Jesus knew that this would get their attention. After He finished washing their feet, He told them to do the same. He set the example for humble servanthood. He went lower.

Shortly thereafter He endured the most horrible and humiliating death. Roman citizens were not allowed to be crucified, no matter what they had done. It was the worst kind of death. Not only was He sentenced to a cross, He was beaten, spat upon, ridiculed and mocked. It low enough that He died for us, but He died on a cross. He went even lower.

This is how we are to live: not climbing up our different ladders, but continually lowering ourselves. Following Christ demands humility. In Philippians 2:5-8 Paul writes, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." This is the example we are to follow. We are to keep going lower and lower in our service. What if He calls us to pick up a homeless man and let him dirty the seats in your car? Go lower. What if He calls you to go and spend a year in Africa, looking after AIDS patients? Go lower. He calls us to serve and to give up everything we have for Him and for those for whom He died.

So why do we sit in church keeping all of our blessings to ourselves? Why aren't we out in the world serving the needy as Jesus did? Why aren't we sacrificing our time to make disciples? Mother Teresa once said, "You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made if very clear. Whatever you do to the least of My brethren, you to it to Me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive Me."

So the question remains for you and for me:


Will we go lower?





9.12.2011

Blind Spots

I used to drive a granny car. Yep. It was most definitely a boat. It stuck out of the dorm parking spaces like a massive stream liner sandwiched between sailboats. Now, before you label me as ungrateful keep in mind that I was really glad to have this car. My previous car, ("Cam" as it was known) liked to stall out on the interstate, in intersections or where ever and whenever it felt like it. I know it hated me. Anyway, even though I liked this new granny car it had the most horrible blind spots known to man. It's curved body would have been wonderfully dynamic for speeding through the ocean's waves. But for merging into other lanes? Yeah, those boat-like curves weren't so great for that.

For a while I didn't know that my granny car had blind spots. One honk from an angry driver was all it took to make me realize that I was in the wrong. I could no longer do the things I had always done when driving. From then on I was very aware of my blind spots and made sure I remembered them.

Well, in the past year I've had a similar kind of revelation. I have had a huge and blaring blind spot in my life. What is it? It is my wealth. (And yes, we Americans are incredibly wealthy compared to most of the world.) I have been comfortable in my comfort for far too long. I say love Jesus, but I don't love like Jesus. He sacrificed everything to reach the world, to meet people's physical and spiritual needs. What am I doing?

You see, this blind spot will cause much more harm than merging at the wrong time...this effects the world. This effects eternity. Will many die without Christ because I choose to ignore their needs? Well, I cannot stand by with idle hands any longer. I have to get out of my pew and get into the street.

So I challenge you to read God's Word and ask Him to reveal the blind spots in your life. Are you blind to what you should be doing with the money you posses? Do you live as if it is yours and for your pleasure, or for God and for His pleasure?

Take a few minutes to read over these verses today.


"By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brother. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart agains him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:16-18)
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:5)
"It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice." (Psalm 112:5)
"He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor." (Proverbs 22:9)

"He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses." (Proverbs 28:27)
"Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." (Luke 6:30)
"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

9.07.2011

Featured Activist: Do Something Now


If you've ever heard of the Passion Conferences, it's probably because of the worship songs that are birthed there. More than likely your local church is going to use one this Sunday morning. Every year thousands of students come to Passion to learn from the Word and to worship God. That is great, right?


But to only worship isn't enough. Passion wanted to make sure that the worship wasn't all about the music. Worship is more than that. "Worship is love in motion." [source]

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27

God's stance on worship is pretty clear. It is meaningless if you are just singing words, but it is powerfull if that worship is put into motion. All along, they have desired to be a movement that helps the student's in this generation make Jesus famous. They realized that putting worship into action was part of that. So that is what Passion set out to do.



In the past few years, Do Something Now has raised over 5 million dollars that has been given to help those in need. How? It's because poor college students, the people that often have the least to give, have become passionate about worship and justice. Slaves have been freed, orphans feed, girls rescued from sex trafficking, clean water provided and the Word of God has been given to those who had never heard.

So now you are invited to join the movement. Are you really ok with sitting in your padded pew while there are those around the world who cannot help themselves...but you can? Take action. Do Something Now.

To get involved check out the website for Do Something Now and follow their twitter page.