A year ago, a sweet friend asked me if I’d ever thought about starting a website.

My answer was … Well, I didn’t have time to answer. Because before I could tell her the reasons why I didn’t think I could do that, she started telling me why she thought I should give it a try. So I spent a few days thinking about it, pondering website names, wondering if I had anything to share that anyone might want to read.

And tomorrow marks one year from the day I first clicked the “Publish” button and opened my heart to you.

I am so, so glad I began this journey.

The Quarter Challenge

And I am unspeakably grateful for those of you who have joined me along the way.

So today, instead of our normal Service Thursday post, we’re going to celebrate. And since fun party favors are pretty much my love language (no joke – ask my friends), I have a little giveaway for you.

Several years ago, I discovered a website written by Kristen Welch, a “regular mom” from Texas who had the opportunity to go to Kenya with Compassion International to see the work they do and to blog about it. Hours later, my husband came into our office to find me sobbing over my computer. I read her words, and I just couldn’t shake them. She opened my eyes. She broke my heart. And suddenly, I wanted to do more.

Through her influence, my family decided to sponsor two boys through Compassion International. If you haven’t read this post from my husband, I’d love for you to take a moment to read his story. He had the opportunity to travel to Colombia to meet our boys, and his words make me cry every time I read them.

Meeting the boys

I have followed Kristen’s journey as she began a remarkable new ministry. She realized that there were countless young Kenyan girls who were pregnant and living in absolutely desperate situations. These girls all had a different story, but they shared a common thread – heartcrushing poverty, despair, and hopelessness. She realized that these girls had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Their fate seemed determined. They would give birth, and assuming they survived, they would raise their children in the same desperate poverty.

That’s not okay with me.

That’s not okay with you, I know.

And it was not okay with her.

So she began one of my very favorite programs – The Mercy House. They do so many amazing things (you can check out their website here to learn more). But basically, they take in pregnant teenagers for several years. They give them not just shelter, but a home. They LOVE these girls. They teach them how to take care of themselves and how to care for their babies. They teach them to cook nourishing food. They give them an education. They provide desperately needed therapy. They give these girls a safe place to grow stronger. They teach them life skills and prepare them for higher education, for employment … for success. And by the time the girls leave, they are transformed.

One girl in particular, Violet, had a heartbreaking story. I sobbed as I learned about her and the heartbreaking “childhood” she had experienced. I cried when The Mercy House had to raise $10,000 to pay for reconstructive surgery on her feet, which had been severely burned by her “employers” – and I wept as the money poured in within 24 hours by people all over who stood together for mercy. And then last year, as they announced their new sponsorship program, I joyfully selected the young Kenyan mother that I wanted to sponsor through college.

Sweet Violet.

This is one of the most stunningly beautiful programs I’ve ever seen.

It’s faith in action.

It’s redemption.

It’s hope.

Months ago, I had the opportunity to give away Kristen’s fabulous new book. This was truly one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. From the very beginning, I was hooked. Kristen has encouraged me to figure out what my “yes” is.

Rhinestone Jesus - Just Do Something

One of the biggest “yes”-es of my life was starting this website.

So it is only fitting that today, as I prepare to celebrate one year of writing and serving with all of you, I share a bit of The Mercy House with you.

The girls who live in The Mercy House, as I mentioned, are taught life skills. They’re also given the opportunity to learn to earn money. For girls who were formerly on the streets, the opportunity for honest employment is priceless. So they make necklaces and bracelets and other beautiful crafts, and they sell them at The Mercy Shop. The girls get to keep a portion of the proceeds so that when they graduate from the program several years later, they have a bank account.

That bank account doesn’t just mean money.

It means security. It means confidence. It means hope.

So this weekend, I am giving away a $20 gift certificate to The Mercy Shop to one of you. This is not sponsored or affiliated with The Mercy House in any way. I just love, with my whole heart, the work that they do. And I want to share it with you.

It's our BLOG-IVERSARY

Here’s how you can enter our giveaway! You can earn up to three entries. Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

  1. Leave a comment here letting me know what your favorite Service Thursday challenge this year has been! It can be something you’ve participated in, something that has touched you, or something you’d like to do in the future. If you’re new to Let’s Do Some Good Today, you can browse through our weekly service challenge posts here.
  2. Visit The Mercy Shop’s website and let me know what your favorite item is.
  3. Share this giveaway on the social media platform of your choice, and come leave me a comment letting me know you did so. I’ll be putting a post on Facebook and you can just click “share” on that, or you can share in whatever way you prefer.

This giveaway will close on Saturday, August 29th at midnight (central time), and announced by Sunday, August 30th at 2:00 pm. The winner will receive a $20 Mercy Shop gift certificate, which will be delivered via e-mail.

Thank a Police Officer

Thank you for doing good with me this year.

And thank you for loving mercy.

12 Comments on It’s Our 1st Anniversary! Time To Celebrate!

  1. How do I choose just one service challenge?! 🙂 I loved your recent Teacher Challenge – we’ve found some great bargains for school supplies. The teachers have been over the moon excited! Do you know how excited they get with Expo markers?! Apparently that’s like gold to a teacher! And, they are on sale this week for $1 at Office Max and Office Depot – bonus! We love serving as a family so finding ways we can do more for less is always a favorite. Happy blog-iversary! Keep doing great things!

  2. SO many beautiful items at The Mercy House! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful ministry! I loved the kid’s bag – the crochet ball really was my favorite! Oh, and I love the buy one, give one prayer bracelets too!

  3. My favorite challenge has been the shoebox challenge. I’ve enjoyed being able to bring a small bit of happiness to a child that has never been blessed to experience the magic of Christmas. I now have a little stash of items, waiting for November when I can start my “packing!”

  4. I love the Operation Shoebox and am so excited to do it again this year! We made a goal to do a box each year as a family. I also hope to come out of my shell and find ways to serve more in our city/ward- visiting people or making goodies each Thursday and taking them to someone either in need or someone we want to meet.
    I love you Oates about the Mercy House, what an amazing organization! I love all the products- but I really love Sarah’s Bracelets. They are beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration to do good today!

  5. I think my favorite challenges are the homeless challenges. The needs are great and I love being reminded that little things can help.

  6. I love surprises so my favorite Mercy house product is the Fair Trade Friday boxes. You spend a certain amount of money and receive beautiful hand crafted surprises!

  7. My favorite challenge is the “Just Because” challenge. I often find those closest to me get second best. What a great reminder to let them know how much we love them…just because!

    I love the Beautiful Large Hand-Woven Fair Trade Kenyan Baskets on the Mercy House though the layered global bracelets are a close second. I didn’t know Mercy House had a shop. So cool!

    I shared this post on Facebook too.

  8. The first challenge I did was the operation shoebox challenge and I loved it! But my very favorite thing is actually just getting ideas for service (am I allowed to say that?). Please
    Keep the ideas and challenges coming!

  9. My favorite item from the mercy house shop is the new tote, that says this bag has a story. I’d carry it around and tell everyone where I got it!