Thursday, November 25, 2010

What if...

Even with the down turn of the economy, the bad stock market returns, the high unemployment...we Americans still have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Even our poorest people are considered wealthy in the eyes of those in many other countries.  We have many freedoms and liberties that others do not.  With so much to be thankful for, I think its important to remember to give back this holiday season.

This week was 'Thanksgiving in Africa' on the KLove radio station, partnering with World Vision.  They talked a lot about how fortunate we are and how we have the opportunity, TODAY, to literally save lives in Africa. 

When was the last time you spent $25 and saved a life??


This past summer, through a random chain of events, I decided to sponsor an orphan in Ethiopia through Children's Hope Chest (  I found a little 4 year old girl named Mita and fell in love when I saw her picture.  She is shy and introverted according to the document I got about her.

THEN I found out she had an older brother, Derebe, who also needed a sponsor.  Well of COURSE I couldn't just feed and clothe and educate Mita without her brother, right?!  Derebe is more outgoing and athletic...

Before Children's Hope Chest (and sponsor families here in the States) got involved with this Care Point in Ethiopia called Trees of Glory, they were only able to provide the children with a few bowls of rice PER WEEK.  I'm not kidding you.  They had no school, no education, no food...they literally might not have made it.  (And there are stories like this ALL OVER Africa...)

For $68/month ($34 each), that little amount of money (in the grand scheme of things) provides these orphans with a new life.   We have changed their world.  And unlike some organizations where you might never REALLY know if your money is going where they say it is, I have PROOF that my kids got just what I sent for them!  I KNOW they are being taken care of.  I have the pictures to prove it! :)

Just last week, a team of sponsors travled to Ethiopia to visit these kids, work on improvements at the care point, and more importantly, deliver the care packages that every sponsor got to send for the over 50 kids there.  Let me tell you, you'd be surprised what all you can fit in a 1 gallon plastic bag for kids in Africa!  Mita and Derebe got LOTS of cool stuff:  toys, clothes, sunglasses, soap, toothbrushes, snacks, candy, paper, crayons, markers, and PICTURES!

Yep, that's my kids in Ehtiopia, holding the pictures I sent them.  ACTUALLY, that is Mita and her OLDEST brother, Gebre, who I didn't even know about!  Derebe was sick that day. :(  I literally almost cried when I got these pictures.  I don't know how or why, but I truly love these two children I've never met.  I wrote them a letter too.  They know there is some girl half way around the world who loves them enough to provide the basic necessities for them and to pray for them.  The REALLY cool thing is, they also know there is a God who loves them and desires to change their story forever...because Children's Hope Chest provides them with a Christian education.

**The school officially opened this fall!  They have two teachers, uniforms, and they all got new shoes.  I just found out a couple of weeks ago that there are a significant amount of new children who need sponsor families as well, so let me know if you want to 'adopt' an orphan in Ethiopia and I will get you in touch with the right person!**

Also - if you want to read a first-hand experience from one of the sponsor families who went on this trip to Ethiopia to meet her child for the first time, click HERE.  It's pretty awesome. :)

So back to my point...  With tomorrow being BLACK FRIDAY, the biggest shopping day of the year, it got me to thinking...  Instead of the same old stuff under the tree, why not choose instead to help an orphan in Africa?

What if you didn't buy that new pair of jeans and sent an orphan to school in a uniform?  These children have no hope of ever breaking the cycle of poverty without an education (no unform = no school).

What if you didn't go out to eat on a Friday night and provided food for an entire month for an orphan in Africa -- for the cost of ONE of your meals?  A little bit of money goes a LONG way in Africa.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am REALLY pulled towards the orphans in Africa.  I don't even really know why, but I can't even describe the feelings I have when I think about them and see their sad faces in pictures.  I mean these are beautiful children, born in to a world of poverty with NOTHING.  No hope.  These children need someone (need US) to remember them, help them, stand up for them. 

There are SO many bible verses on the subject of orphans...

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves
the alien, giving him food and clothing. 

-Deuteronomy 10:18 

In you the orphan finds mercy.  
-Hosea 14:3

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
-James 1:27

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans.
-Isaiah 1:17

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
-Proverbs 31:8-9

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.
-Matthew 18:5

We are called, as Christians, to not just change lives, but so SAVE lives.  And YOU can save a life today.  Pretty powerful opportunity if you ask me...

What if we changed Christmas this year?  What if we skipped the gifts and asked for food for a starving child?

What if we put not only help for this life, but HOPE for the eternal life under someone's Christmas tree?

Wouldn't Jesus love a birthday gift like that?

Now I know not everyone has a "bleeding heart" for orhpans in Africa!  And that's okay!  There are TONS of worthy causes and great organizations that NEED help too!  Just pick one you're passionate about and support it.  Give a donation to the Ronald McDonald house.  Tell the world about congenital heart disease and the families it effects.  Take a stand against child trafficking in Cambodia.  Be an advocate for the abused elderly or Veterans.  There are flood victims in Pakistan, families living in tents in Haiti, thousands if peoples lives hurt by the oil spill in the Gulf - and they ALL need help.

What if you didn't turn away from the homeless guy on the corner?  What if you looked him in the eye and gave him a bible and a meal and prayed with him?

What if  you gave those old clothes and shoes you don't wear anymore to the needy kid down the street instead of just keeping them around?

What if you took a name off the Salvation Army tree and bought a child a new outfit? Can you imagine waking up on Christmas without ANY present?

What if you spent time at a nursing home and listened to the stories of the older generations?  The gift of time is just as great as any monetary gift to the lonely.

What if everyone found out that true happiness is found in serving others?  What would the world be like then?

YOU can make a difference.  I love the motto 'GIVE  so that others might LIVE.'

We have the opportunity to change someone's world - or even save their life - this Christmas...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Family Pictures

Once a year (for the past four years anyways) I drag my brothers out in matching outfits to take 'family pictures' so I can make a calendar for my mom.  It's her favorite Christmas present every year!  Last year, we had a good friend of mine from work take pictures for us.  She has her own photography business on the side, and just does amazing work!  Here are a couple of the pictures she did for us last year:

Well THIS year, we decided that since I have a big fancy camera, and Shauna was booked up pretty solid when we were all available, that we would just have Tony's girlfriend, Christa, take pictures of us for the calendar.  I think this picture pretty much sums up how they turned out...

Okay, I mean maybe it wasn't THAT bad, but compared to last year, our pictures just suck!  To NO fault of Christa, the elements were just against us.  It was SUPER windy and the bright sun made lots of shadows everywhere we went.  I'm going to send some of them to Shauna and at least have her edit some of them.  Here are a couple that turned out decent...

Next year, I think we'll go back to Shauna so she can edit us with her fancy software and make us look good even when we're not!! ;)