Category: Compassion

It’s Our 1st Anniversary! Time To Celebrate!

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.

Shopping with Purpose: Using Your Holiday Gift Budget to Change Lives

Today’s service challenge will be a little different than our usual weekly challenges. Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I am going to be taking a little blogging break. I’ll be checking in from time to time, but I’ll be taking the next week or so to spend time with my family. So this is a challenge that I hope you read today … and hopefully, one that you’ll keep in mind in the days ahead.

Using your holiday gift budget to change lives

If you’re like me, you’re already thinking about your Christmas shopping. There are some people on my list who are easy to shop for. Like my son. He was recently asked, “What do you want Santa to bring you?” His answer: “Just … anyfing. Anyfing he wants to bring me will be just gweat.”

Bless him.

But for others (particularly adults), shopping can be a bit harder. You likely have a few people on your list who don’t need anything, and perhaps don’t even have many wants that are unmet.

So here’s an idea: Don’t give them anything.

Give to someone who needs it, and give your gift in honor of your loved one.

Or give a gift … but buy something that will directly bless the life of the person who made it.

I love this idea for several reasons, but it boils down to this: you’re giving a gift that makes someone’s life better. In fact, you might be able to quite literally change someone’s life. That is pretty amazing.

I really love gifts (I enjoy receiving them, and I LOVE giving them)… but have you ever sat down to make your Christmas shopping list and just been tired of all of the STUFF? I sure have. So this year, as you’re preparing to shop, I’d like to encourage you to think outside the box a little and to look at Christmas shopping a different way. Let’s shop with purpose this year. Let’s let those dollars in our Christmas budget count.

There are many, many organizations out there that provide ways for you to “shop with purpose”. Today I’m going to share a few with you, and your weekly service challenge is simple: Take a few moments to think about how you can make a difference with your giving this Christmas. Here are some of my favorite ideas. They are all programs that I have personally been involved with in the past. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I feed comfortable endorsing them. If there are any other programs you know of, I’d love to hear about them from you!

The Mercy House is a program in Kenya that provides a home to destitute, pregnant teenage girls. The young women that they take in are in absolutely desperate circumstances. This program is beautifully transforming. These young mothers are taught how to care for themselves and their babies. They’re fed – and they’re taught to cook. Their needs are met – and they’re given life skills and an education so that they will be able to provide for their children in the future. When you “shop mercy“, you are teaching a young mother that her work has value. You are providing for her immediate needs, and you are helping her set up a future for herself and for her baby. Take a look at the beautiful items that they sell. And if you have a bit more to give, consider this: they have a wish list. You can make a donation in honor of a loved one, and The Mercy House will send a card letting him or her know that they have been honored.

You know how much I love Compassion International and the work they do. This gift catalog is one of my favorite things! Think of your loved one, and what he or she is interested in. Then give a gift along those lines to someone in poverty. Is she in the medical field? Every $4 you donate can protect a child from parasites. Is he a teacher? Your $40 donation can help buy textbooks. Gardener? $38 can buy enough seeds to fight off malnutrition for a family. There are many, many options – and when you make your donation, be sure to click on “Honor Cards”. Compassion will mail or e-mail a card to your  recipient, letting him or her know about the donation that was made.

Similarly, a reader reminded me of the wonderful work that Heifer International does. They have a gift catalog as well, and you can choose from a wide variety of gifts (from sponsoring an animal to supporting sustainable farming). They also provide honor cards that you can send to your friend or family member, letting that person know what gift was donated in his or her honor.

A few weeks ago, I told you about the book Kisses from Katie. When I read that book, I was only about halfway through when I put it down and ran to my computer to do a frantic internet search. I wanted to be sure that Katie was doing okay, and I wanted to know if I could help. I can – and so can you. You can make a donation to one of her programs in honor of a loved one, and they will send an e-card to the recipient of your choice. Or you can shop in their store for your holiday gifts. I love this – much like the products The Mercy House sells, these items are giving work to mothers. It’s providing them an honest way to make money and giving them an opportunity to feed their babies. It’s hard for me to think of something that fills my heart with more joy than that.

Have you ever heard of Kiva? This is a company that provides microloans to people living in poverty. If your give a Kiva gift card, you allow your recipient the experience of choosing a person to lend their money to. They get to see names and faces, and they can find a story that they connect with. And then, as the loan is repaid, the money gets added back to their account – and when it’s fully repaid, they get to re-lend that money. It’s truly a gift that keeps giving.

If you have any women on your Christmas list that enjoy purses (or totes, or makeup bags), take a look at Freeset. This program is based in Kolkata, India. Many, many women in that city work as prostitutes simply because they do not see any other possibility other than these: sell their bodies, or go hungry (and watch their children starve). The Freeset factory provides a safe working environment for these women to work and to learn. You can read some of their stories here, – but you might want to have a Kleenex nearby. Here’s a bit of one woman’s story (warning, it’s not an easy read):

“My mother’s life as a sex worker was very hard, but she did it for us (my brother and I). There were customers in our room all the time which was hard. Because of this, it was difficult to study when I was young. I had to stay outside and play in the street with friends. It was really hard. When I got older it got even worse – many customers wanted me. That’s when I thought, If I could just grow up and get married I could get away from this, but my mother didn’t have enough money to give me in marriage. I couldn’t study because of the room situation and when I was home I had to help around the house so I couldn’t study even then – so I knew study wasn’t for me.”

PEOPLE. THIS IS REAL. This is happening in the world. Right now. And Freeset is helping women learn that life can be different than this. Let’s use our holiday money to help.

Finally, if you’d like to help on a local level, here are a few more ideas for you:

* If there is an angel tree in your town, choose one of the children on the tree to shop for. Take a picture of the gifts, wrap it up or put it in a card, and deliver it to your loved one. If you have a child on your Christmas list who already has tons of toys, here’s an idea: buy several things for an Angel Tree child. Buy one of those items for the child on your Christmas list. Wrap that small toy up with a picture of the items you donated and include a note saying something like – “I know that you have a sweet heart and that you love to share. So this Christmas, I shopped for another child who doesn’t have very many things. This is a picture of the gifts I got him/her. And here is a —–, just for you! Every time you play with it, you can remember that there’s another child somewhere in your city is playing with the same toy, who got to have a special Christmas because of YOU!”

* Along the same lines … if you’re shopping for an adult, you can give a token gift and attach a card explaining the donation you have made. To an amateur chef, wrap up a new spatula and attach a picture of the donation you made to the food pantry. To the fashionista, wrap up a scarf and take a picture of the warm coat you donated to a homeless shelter. Think of something your recipient might want … and connect it with something that someone else might need.

I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to think about. If you have any suggestions to share with me, please comment! Let’s take this time of year to give a little bit of extra thought to giving – even when we shop.

 

The Feed a Stranger Challenge

It’s Thursday again – time for a new service challenge! If you’ve participated with us in the past, thank you! If not, this challenge is a great one to start with. Why? Because no matter what your financial position is, you can help!

Feed a Stranger Challenge

This week’s challenge is simple: Feed someone who is hungry. (Technically, this challenge is the “Feed a Stranger Challenge”, and I’ll be giving suggestions in that vein. But of course, if you know someone who is hungry, take this week to consider how you might help, or even how you might be able to rally your community’s support.)

I’m going to share suggestions at for those in various financial positions. If you have absolutely nothing to give monetarily, don’t worry! You’re first!

Are you on a there’s-nothing-to-spare budget? If you are living paycheck to paycheck (or if you are hoping and praying that paychecks will someday start again), you might feel like this challenge is one that you can’t participate in. But you can! Have you heard of The Hunger site? It’s pretty cool. You go and click a button, and food is donated to people living in poverty. I know, it sounds kind of scammy. But remember when I talked about Swagbucks? It’s kind of the same idea. The Hunger Site has a lot of sponsors who pay them money to advertise on their page. When you visit their website, they get paid just because you’re glancing at ads. They turn around and use that money to feed hungry people. It’s that simple. In 10 seconds, your click can buy a little more than a cup of food to feed someone in desperate need. You can try it here.

Are you on a very tight budget? Did you read my post earlier about the book Kisses from Katie? Katie Davis founded one of my very favorite programs. When she began living and serving in Uganda, she found many children in her community who weren’t going to school – not because it wasn’t available to them, but because they were hungry. These children were choosing to spend the day digging in the garbage for food rather than going to school. Her Masese Feeding Outreach is simple: she feeds them. I love this for several reasons, but it primarily boils down to this – she feeds them, she gives them hope, and she enables their education, offering them a better future. When I went to donate last year, there was a note on the website asking people to donate online with a credit card rather than mailing in a check, because “for the cost of a stamp, we can feed two more hungry children”. This shows me that they take any and all donation money very seriously. If you have one extra dollar in your budget, you can feed four hungry children. That is amazing to me. You can check out her program here.

Do you have a few extra dollars to give? Reach out locally! Call your closest food bank and ask what their greatest need is. (At mine, the greatest need actually isn’t food – it’s toilet paper! It’s worth a phone call before you go to the store.) Remember, smart shopping can really stretch your budget. One of my local grocery stores has name-brand canned vegetables for $.29 this week. My $3 can give 10 local families a side of vegetables to go with their dinner!

Do you have even more to spare? I would encourage you to consider making a donation to a non-profit organization that supports those in poverty. Compassion International has a special place in my heart. And right now, they have a Christmas catalog. In honor of a loved one, you can make a donation to Compassion, and you can designate where that money goes. You can buy seeds for a family to plant a garden; you can buy livestock; you can financially support a child who is waiting for sponsorship. And if you’d like, they will send your friend or family member a card letting them know about the donation that was made in their name. If you have people on your Christmas list who already have everything, this is the perfect gift!

That’s our challenge for this week! I hope you are able to find a cause that speaks to your heart. Remember that no matter how much or how little you have to spend, you can always, ALWAYS make a difference.

Thanks for reading!

The Day I Learned I was Rich!

A few weeks ago, my husband had the opportunity to visit Colombia and to meet the children we sponsor through Compassion International. (If you haven’t had the opportunity to read his words yet, I invite you to do so here.) I had a wonderful time preparing for his visit – the kids and I shopped and tried to pick out gifts for our sponsored boys that would be meaningful, needed, and fun. For weeks we talked about “our boys” and speculated what kind of presents they would like.

Meeting the boys

When the day arrived for Matt to meet them, I was thrilled. As I drove the kids to school, we began talking about the boys. “Do you think they’re going to be shy?” “What do you think will be their favorite present?” “Do you fink he will wike his new car?” And suddenly I realized something. My kids knew that we had bought presents for the boys that we sponsor. But … did they know what sponsorship really means?

“Hey guys,” I asked, “Do you know why we pay money to Compassion for John and Jhonatan?”

Long pause. “Um … so they can buy some new toys?”

Not quite.

I began explaining. “John and Jhonatan’s families are very, very poor. They might not have enough money to even buy food every day, did you know what?”

I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw two pairs of eyes wide open.

“And it’s not just food. You know how we have a nice, comfortable house? And clothes? And a car and a truck?”

“And toys?” “And a dog?”

“Yup. We have all of those things. And we are so, so blessed. Did you know that some kids don’t have a bed? They sleep on the floor. And when they fall asleep, they’re hungry. You know, if our Daddy didn’t have a job any more, we have some food in our fridge. And if that ran out, we have lots and lots and LOTS of people who could help us. We have our family and our friends. We have our church, and there are people in our neighborhood who give away food to those who need it. We don’t have to worry about having enough food to stay alive. But lots of kids do. And that doesn’t make me happy. That actually makes me very, very sad.”

“Me too.” “Yeah, me too.”

“But you know what, guys? Instead of just being very sad about it … we decided to DO something about it! As a family, we decided to sponsor these boys. So Mommy and Daddy send money to the people who work at Compassion International, and then they work with John and Jhonatan’s families to make sure that those boys have the things they need. If they need food, or medicine, or school supplies, or clothes – whatever they need the very most, our money goes to buy that.”

My six-year-old spoke up. “Mom, how much money does it cost to do that?”

“Well, it’s $38 dollars a month.” I did some quick mental math, since around here, our currency is quarters. “So that means we pay 152 quarters every month.”

She loudly gasped. “MOM! You’re RICH!”

I started to laugh, and opened my mouth to argue. But she opened her mouth faster – and rocked my world. “Mom – you and Dad can pay 152 quarters EVERY MONTH. For BOTH boys. And you STILL have some left over?? YOU. ARE. RICH!”

My laughter died away quickly, and tears began to fill my eyes as I realized how right my daughter was.

I have a very comfortable home, and it’s full of machines that wash my dishes and cook my food and scrub my clothes for me.

I have taps that I can turn, and clean water will instantly be flowing. And within seconds, I can make that water hot or cold.

In the morning, I wake up in my cozy bed. I walk around my perfectly air-conditioned (or heated) home and get my kids ready for school. I pack their lunchboxes with healthy food, I load their backpacks with school supplies, and I drive them in my safe, reliable car.

When I don’t feel well, I drive to my doctor. The office is clean, the tools are sterile, and I have access to medication within hours.

I have food in my fridge and my pantry. And sometimes – heaven forbid – I have so much food, I get grumpy when I get home from the store because there isn’t enough room to hold it all.

I can spare 152 quarters a month.

I. Am. Rich.

Are you?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

It Makes A Difference

Today I have the opportunity to share with you a guest post written by my husband. Two years, ago, we made the decision to sponsor children through Compassion International. After much thought and prayer, we selected two boys who live in Colombia. My husband’s company has an office there, and I was hoping that someday he might have the opportunity to meet them. Two weeks ago, he did. He came home with stories that broke my heart and healed it, all at the same time. There are countless things I want to share with you, and I will at another time. But for today, here is Matt’s story.

As I thought of the 17-year-old boy, I cried. I cried tears of sadness for his circumstances, and tears of joy for his ability to rise above them.  As I thought of the 7-year-old’s mother embracing me and expressing heartfelt gratitude on behalf of her family, I felt a wave of emotion.  These boys and their families were now real.  A small act of compassion on the part of my family was making a difference and bringing them hope.

Two years ago my wife encouraged our family to sponsor a child through Compassion International. We chose two boys in Colombia, one a teenager and the other a young child.  I’ll admit, though, that my support of those children was largely support of my wife.  It wasn’t personal for me.  I hadn’t felt a personal connection to them and their families.

Last week, though, I traveled to Colombia for work. And at my wife’s urging, I arranged to visit the two boys, John and Jhonathan.

I flew to a city called Cali. John (age 17)  lives in a neighborhood just outside of Cali and Jhonatan (age 7) lives in mid-sized port city two hours away.  Both live in difficult circumstances.  John’s neighborhood is plagued by violence, gang activity and drugs.  He’s watched as many of his friends and family have fallen victim to those scourges.  At 13 he was beaten nearly to death by a gang, simply for wearing the wrong color soccer jersey.

Jhonatan lives in city that’s so violent that most Colombians won’t travel there. The city is run by drug traffickers, who battle over control of the port and its drug export channel.  Murders, kidnappings and disappearances are a common phenomenon.

Meeting Jhonatan

But despite their challenging circumstances, these boys have something else: hope. They’re happy.  They have faith in God and can see a way out of poverty and out of a life of insecurity and violence.  These boys are part of Compassion International’s child sponsorship program.  Through the efforts of Compassion and local churches, these boys and their families are given the support to make sure their spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs are met and are climbing a ladder that will enable them to escape poverty.

With Compassion’s support, John recently completed high school. He’s now enrolled in a nursing program and wants to work in the emergency department of a hospital.  John has confidence that he can become more than his circumstances and surroundings, and is on a path to get there.  I was touched by his confidence, strength of character, and faith in God.

The Compassion sponsorship program changed John’s life. It saved his life.  I remember when we chose to sponsor John two years ago.  Compassion shows you how long a child has been waiting for sponsorship and, as I recall, John had been waiting for over a year.  I remember that something about his profile touched me—the one time sponsorship had felt personal for me over the last two years—and I felt a need to try and help this young man who was in such a pivotal period of his life.  During our visit last week, John told me about when he learned he had been sponsored.  He had almost given up, thinking no one would ever choose him.  But our small act gave him hope.  He felt that someone cared about him, that God cared about him and had answered his prayer.

Meeting John

Jhonatan traveled from his home to Cali by bus with his mother. We met at a mall and had lunch together.  At Jhonatan’s choosing, I bought them lunch at a fast food chicken restaurant, similar to a KFC.  To me, there was nothing special about the meal, but to Jhonatan’s mom, the “abundance” of food was overwhelming.  It took some urging just to get her to order the meal, as she clearly thought it was too big and too much.  She was so grateful for what to me was a cheap and unimpressive meal.  But to her it was food and it was precious.  And being the loving and self-sacrificing mother that she is, rather than finishing her meal, she packaged up a large portion of it to take home to the rest of her family.

John, Jhonatan and Jhonatan’s mother are the faces of poverty. It makes me sad to understand their circumstances and challenges, and incredibly grateful for how blessed my family is.  But it also inspires me.  It inspires me that these same people who deal with extreme violence and abject poverty also radiate hope, optimism and happiness.  They have faith in God and see a way out of their circumstances.  They know that life has greater things in store for them.  And playing a role in giving them that hope is so simple.  But it makes a difference.  It changes lives.  Now it’s personal.

Meeting the boys

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion