Orphan Sunday

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Today, on Orphan Sunday,  we have the chance to celebrate all the ways God is reaching his kids!  Circumstances of relational brokenness, financial poverty, natural disasters and widespread illnesses have brought them to this point, but God doesn’t leave them there. He is coming for them, lifting them up, defending their cause, making them a home, inclining his ear, and executing the dozens of promises he has written for them.

Here are twenty-two ways you can celebrate Orphan Sunday in your home this year:

  1. Pray. Pray for a country, an age group, or a gender. Pray for their health, their friendships, and their futures.
  2. Sponsor a child. Consider our child sponsorship program and bring a child into your extended family. As Andy Stanley says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.”
  3. Study. What is the latest on the orphan crisis? Google it. How many kids are there in the world without a family? What are their current challenges?
  4. Consider investing an hour or two in a “Lemonade stand”. Whether you have a bake sale, a car wash, or a garage sale, think how you might be able to use your sweat equity to benefit the fatherless?
  5. Have a conversation with your family, what does it mean to live in a world with orphans? What is God asking of us? Create some questions to discuss at dinner.
  6. Look up an adoption agency online. Most agencies have a waiting child photo listing. Scroll past the pictures and pray for the waiting children. Is there anyone you might be able to forward the link?
  7. Talk to an adoptive family. What are their needs? Are they waiting for their child? How is their funding coming along? Is their child home? How might your family gift them with needed resources? Prayer? Babysitting? A meal?
  8. Take a meal to a foster family; there are 400,000 kids currently in foster care. You might not be able to care for their child, but you can always bring them a meal.
  9. Contact your county’s local children’s services, and ask what it is they need. It might be networking, a professional service, advocacy or a particular item. You’ll never know until you ask.
  10. Take fifteen minutes and look up God’s promises to orphans. As you read God’s word, ask him to share with you how you participate with him in this mission.
  11. Make a special financial gift to either your local church to support their efforts for the orphan or to Back2Back. Share your resources with fatherless children.
  12. Think about the upcoming Christmas season, how might your family bring some Christmas cheer to kids? Use our gift catalog to find needed tangible items you can share with kids around the world. Link to gift catalog.
  13. Reach out to a missionary and encourage them on this day. Send an email, a message over social media or a care package. They would love to know you are thinking of them!
  14. Post, tweet, and activate your social networks, let them know how you are using this day to pray and sacrifice for the fatherless. Should we offer them something here to re-tweet?
  15. Read a book, about orphan care. We have several recommendations. Send us a message at info@back2back.org and we’ll shoot you a bibliography.
  16. Sign up for a mission’s trip. We have openings in 2015 in Mexico, Nigeria, Haiti and India. Link to missions trip page.
  17. Ask your church if you could put something in your bulletin, a sign in the bathroom, or something on your church website, raising awareness of the plight of the orphan. Download some samples here.
  18. Volunteer to share in your church’s children ministry, it’s a great opportunity to sow seeds into the next generation. Here are some ideas of things to talk about.
  19. Contact your local school and ask what school supply or clothing needs your local foster kids might have. Can you sponsor an upcoming field trip?
  20. Watch the fifteen-minute film, 163,000,000 and discuss it as a family. (Link)
  21. Many counties link foster youth with a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). A CASA serves as advocate and ally for the child as the courts determine what is best for him or her. Learn more at www.casaforchildren.org.
  22. There is an all-volunteer alternative to the foster system, volunteers can provide temporary homes, support these host families, and also aid birth families. More at www.safe-families.org.

However you spend this day, please know we are grateful for your joining in this work!

Blessings,

Beth Guckenberger

The Day I Became THAT Mom

mother

Many of my friends are 10 years younger than me with no church background.

I worked with Young Life for five years and these kids now have kids and recently, I piled my boys into a van with a gift bag and handmade cards and we drove two hours to the city for one of the kids’ birthdays.

And it was there, surrounded by toddlers in Toms’ shoes and seven-year-olds in high-tops and low-riding jeans that I realized I’d become one of THOSE moms.

Yup.

I was the mom with the kids who wore matching knitted sweaters that said “Jesus loves (followed by their name).”

Granted, I hadn’t chosen those sweaters for them to wear that day. Goodness, I’d tried to find them the “coolest” second-hand clothes we had but they’d INSISTED on wearing their matching knitted sweaters–to my chagrin. “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” I kept whispering to myself as I begged God not to let my precious boys be beaten up.

Every time I asked Aiden if he was getting too hot and wanted me to take his sweater off, he sweetly said, “No thank you.”

I was also the mom who brought homemade-bread sandwiches and homemade cookies and who listened to Wee Sing Bible songs with the boys in our dented mini-van on the way to the party.

But it was there, in the backyard surrounded by my hip, gangster friends with their brand-name clothes and their top-end phones, that I realized–children equalize us.

Even as I ran with Kasher through the throng of parents claiming he “had to poo and now they were all laughing because they got it. Every kid has to “poo”, and NOW.

We were all cautioning our kids–in their high tops and matching sweaters–not to climb too high on the tree house and not to eat too much sugar and kissing them when they fell down and bumped their heads. We were all groaning as we talked about things like time-outs and punishments and defiance and tattling and by the end of the day, we weren’t different social classes or different religions or different ages. We were all moms and dads trying desperately not to mess up the future generation.

At one point, my friend–the one whose boys I watched for a year while she became strong again, the one whose kid was having a birthday party–she touched my back and looked into my eyes and said, “Thank you–for coming. It means so much to me.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the appearance of things.

It’s so easy for me to get embarrassed by things like matching knitted sweaters. Yeah, I was the reverend’s daughter who begged God to make me cool. I would douse myself in Exclamation! perfume and spend all of my allowance on Thrifty’s jeans and Roots sweaters.

But then one day I found myself driving a mini-van singing Wee Sing Bible Songs with my four and three year old.

Deep down, I don’t want my kids to ever be cool. I want them to be kind.

I don’t want them to have to have the “new” things. I want them to give their things away.

I don’t want them to EVER stop wearing sweaters that say Jesus loves them… well, okay, I do, because I really don’t want them to be beat up… but I don’t EVER want them to be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the POWER of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

And I don’t ever want to stop being THAT mom–but the key is? To be THAT mom who goes to THOSE parties. The ones where people who don’t know Jesus are. Because we are lights, friends. And how BRIGHT our light when it shines in the darkness.

Blessings today,

Emily

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Shop Locally. Impact Globally. (BIG Giveaway!)

photo by Allyn Lyttle of World Help Organization

photo by Allyn Lyttle of World Help Organization

 

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

 (*Please note, friends: This post is long. But, would you take time read it, for me? For all the precious Ugandan mamas who need your help? And then, would you consider sharing the post so others might help too? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.)

 

She walked for four hours just to meet me.

Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looked at her sandals, even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, and I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.

She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/Aids, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it.

She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting–because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money and no way to feed her sons or daughters.

And here I was, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t. And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sun-up to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. No, it was because I came from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.

I smiled at her, but I felt sick.

I am a mother. Every night I walk into my boys’ room and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of my children. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under your own roof-and THEN, to walk four hours to meet the woman who can?

Our Father weeps. He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Uganda in the same situation–who has to lose her child, who cannot take care of her children.

And He’s asking us to do something about it.

Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong. I sponsor as many children as I am able.

But standing there with this beautiful woman in her brown hat and her downcast gaze, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought, No. Enough. There has to be more.

I want this son to look at his MOTHER with adoration, not me–a stranger.

I want him to look at HER to provide his needs, not me–an outsider who didn’t birth him without an epidural, who didn’t weep and pray over him every night of his childhood, who didn’t spend every minute of every day trying to earn enough money to buy him a bowl of Matoke (cooked banana) so he wouldn’t starve to death.

So, I went home and founded a non-profit called The Lulu Tree. I didn’t intend to found a non-profit. I didn’t–and still don’t–feel qualified to start one, I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.

Our vision at The Lulu Tree is to work with HIV mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda (the worst of Kampala’s eight slums), equipping them to be care for their own kids. Our slogan is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.” Lofty, I know. But you have to dream big, right? Shoot for the moon and you’ll land somewhere among the stars?

So we’re shooting for the moon.

We’ve hired a beautiful Ugandan social worker named Esther Natakunda Tendo (Esther–is there more anointed a name? She has been called to free her people from captivity). We’ve also hired a national coordinator named Carol Masaba.

Esther Natakunda Tendo, and her son

Esther Natakunda Tendo, and her son

Esther is a 29-year-old married mother of two who has received education in Sex and Gender Based Violence, computer application and project planning and management from the African  Population Management. She has volunteered for years through the children’s home where she was raised, and has extensive work experience both in banking and in communications. Esther speaks several dialects, and is a strong believer in Jesus Christ. Her heart beats passionately for women and children suffering from AIDS,  and it is her heart’s desire to help those who are impoverished find hope. As her name suggests, Esther has responded to the call to set her people free from poverty and despair.

Carol Masaba

Carol Masaba

Carol Masaba is the national coordinator both for The Lulu Tree and for the African Evangelistic Enterprise in Uganda. She partners with churches across the country to bring the hope of Christ to various parts of the nation. Carol has over 20 years experience in integrated community development work, during which she has worked with poor and marginalized communities to improve the well-being of children and youth. She is in charge of hiring and mentoring Lulu staff and volunteers and overseeing the ministry as a whole.

Both Carol and Esther will be working with the mothers in the slum of Katwe. Our goal is to equip them holistically–spiritually, emotionally and physically. This involves connecting them with the local church, providing HIV treatment for the mothers and children, and teaching the mamas a trade–to how to sew, or cook, so that after two years of being sponsored, these mamas will be self-sufficient.

(You can read about how to sponsor a mama HERE).

And … we’ve got some EXCITING NEWS! If you have Christmas shopping to do, and want to help people at the same time, look no further!!

We’re launching THE LULU TREE BOUTIQUE this week, with the ultimate goal of creating a market for these precious mamas to selling their beautiful work through, once they’ve been trained. SHIPPING IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICES. All proceeds go towards The Lulu Tree.

A friend of mine, dear Jodie Vanderzwaag, HAS GIVEN UP her very successful business a few months ago to run this boutique. Pretty amazing.

We are also partnering with The House of Belonging, Funky Fish Designs, Krafty Kash, and Little Dragonfly Boutique, as well as a number of individual artisans who have donated their products to this shop. My dear sister Christy Stewart Halsell of Sandy Feet Media has volunteered long hours to set up this website and boutique (I HIGHLY recommend her web services!), and countless others including photographer Leanne Doell have donated time and energy to Lulu. To see a full list of everyone who’s helping us, please visit HERE.

So, let’s get shopping! We’ve got cozy slipper boots, slouchy beanies for kids and adults, little girl dresses, cowls and jackets, infinity scarves, dolls, darling Lulu headbands and artwork, jewelry, and more. See below for some sneak peeks.
10656310_10152863376778296_2098000950_n jordyn-7089akikilulu4 barefootsandals headwarmer infinitycowl (1) woolswingcoat woolzippercoat IMG_0560 myliecloche  Lulu bracelet

KraftyKashnecklaceLuluTree EmilyWierengaScarfSecoya

Would you consider doing some Christmas shopping at our boutique, and helping us help these mamas? We would be so grateful. Click the button below, or just follow this link: http://thelulutree.com/shop/.

lulu tree boutique

On behalf of women like Harima, below, who is our first Lulu Mama–THANK YOU! For helping us bring DIGNITY and LIFE to these dear women!

Harima, Lulu's first Mama

Harima, Lulu’s first Mama

For those who help us share the post or do any of the following, we’d like to give you the chance to win some extraordinary products including:

An infinity scarf made by The Lulu Tree from African cloth

An infinity scarf made by The Lulu Tree from African cloth

A copy of the novella Mom's Night Out, by Tricia Goyer, inspired by the popular movie

A copy of the novella Mom’s Night Out, by Tricia Goyer, inspired by the popular movie

A Lulu Tree headband designed by Little Dragonfly Boutique

A Lulu Tree headband designed by Little Dragonfly Boutique

A beautiful tank from Cross Training ~ Couture http://www.facebook.com/crosstrainingcouture

A beautiful tank from Cross Training Couture http://www.facebook.com/crosstrainingcouture

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

To win the above products, just follow this link (or copy/paste this link: http://www.emilywierenga.com/can-change-world-one-mother-time/) scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter.

PS. Friends, if any of you wants to get involved with The Lulu Tree, we’d LOVE to work with you. We are a non-profit that exists only due to the generosity and compassion of people like you. Please visit HERE to find out how you might change a life today through Lulu.

Blessings,

Emily Wierenga

When You’re Overwhelmed With The Bad In The World: Five Things That Actually Help

overwhelmed 2

Now, look. I just had a baby. I know I’m tired and hormonal.

But is it just me, or are things seeming a bit bleak these days?

If you’re like me, you don’t need me to recite the world’s tragedies… you know them already. You read them in the paper. You see them in your Facebook news feed. Ebola outbreaks, the genocide of Christians, suicide, mental illness, riots and racial fighting, incurable diseases, little kids battling cancer…

It can feel extremely overwhelming.

It can make you want to cry, and shut your eyes to it all. You feel so guilty, tense, powerless, and confused.

Where is God, exactly? What in the world can we do?

When I was in college, my professor said something really profound. Don’t zone out here. This is really good. In fact even years later, it’s stuck in my head.

Things are different now that we have mass media, he said. A long time ago, in Biblical times, even our grandparents’ time, if you heard of something bad, you could help, because it was local.

If you knew someone was sick, or who’d lost their house in a fire or a child to sickness, you could help them, because they were nearby.

These days? These days we are literally flooded with tales of evil and tragedy. Even if we can help some of those suffering, we can’t help them all. There are too many.

So we are left feeling depressed, cynical, and powerless.

Is there a cure? I think there is (sort of). Here are some things I’ve thought of to do – when you start feeling that tense, overwhelmed feeling with all that’s going wrong in our world.

  1. Help the people in front of you. Really basic, I know, but do it. Who is suffering around you, that you know? Who that God placed in your life – family, church, neighborhood – needs a meal, a card, a hand? It sounds cliche, but when you feel overwhelmed by the bad in the world, do something good. Think of one person you can actually help, and do something – today. I think one thing my professor was criticizing about our modern culture is that it gets you in a mindset of not helping. Today, do something small.
  2. Think about good things. Okay, so again, I’m sounding cliche. But isn’t it what God says to do? Whatever is good, whatever is true, right, noble, honorable…think about these things. In plain English, here’s how you do that today: The Lord IS doing good things in our world; tell yourself these stories. Remember that miracle he performed in your family? Tell yourself that story again. Stop scrolling through the litany of tragedies and read stories like this one, about the baby they thought might not survive, but did, and this one you’ve heard, about how God saved the doctor’s life, or even read my story from three weeks ago, when God answered my desperate prayers by a hospital bed. Think about good things.
  3. Stop in-taking and start up-lifting. Again, in plain English: When you have reached your “max” of hearing depressing stories, get off Facebook for the day, and refuse to watch the news. Instead, make a list of all the prayer requests you can think of. Write them on index cards if you need to. And then, pray through these things. Once a week I take the day off from the internet (read more about that here), and it is so refreshing. It’s literally one of the best decisions I’ve made. And especially when you’re on overload – step out from the noise, and spend some time praying for what you already know.
  4. Evaluate where you’re spending your money. Sometimes our vague, negative feelings are just guilt speaking to us. Stop, and ask the Lord if there is a cause he wants you to get behind. Compassion International is a great one. Already have a child? Get another.
  5. Thank God for heaven. No seriously, guys. Don’t glaze this over.

One day, there will be no burying our loved ones. One day, there will be no deep-sinking-feeling in your stomach from hearing about suffering brothers and imprisoned believers. One day, little ones won’t die young, leaving heart-broken families behind.

One day, All Will Be Right.

We will be safe. We will be truly, and wonderfully, at peace. One day He will wipe away every tear, for good. Spread the Word, friends. It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming. It’s dark out now, but morning’s coming.

 Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the negative noise? What helps you regain your focus?

Blessings,

Jessica 

 

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