What Goes Around Comes Around

They say what goes around comes around.

And we’ve been praying it would be true at Mercy House. 

It’s one thing to rescue a young girl like Pauline from an abusive and tragic background and help her safely deliver baby Melvin after she unsuccessfully tried to abort him out of desperation. It’s a whole different story for her to complete the program and be reintegrated back home to a safe and loving environment and be able to provide for her child.

MH 98

2013

But the dream didn’t stop there. Since the first rescue in 2010, we have dreamed of the graduates giving back to the community by sharing what they’ve learned and what God has done in their lives with women just like them.

And today, we experienced exactly that.

Not only did Pauline complete the program (and some of you are her monthly sponsors), she moved back home and attends vocational beauty college 5 days a week while her 2 year old son attends a preschool nearby.  Today, she met us at her job.

SBP_0392s

Today

And it’s what she does on the 6th day of the week that leaves a lump the size of Africa in my throat.

She teaches women in a nearby slum how to make jewelry.

And she is a living testimony of what God can do.

SBP_0356s

These aren’t just any impoverished women. This is the community outreach of Mercy House and one of our Fair Trade Friday partners. Every class, they Break Bread and then they work so they may buy bread for their families.

SBP_0362s

There is something empowering about women working. These are proud mothers and they don’t want a handout. And oh my, they are so grateful.

This community of mothers are about to provide for their families, with Pauline guiding their hands and it is simply beautiful to behold. Coming full circle is a long and sometimes heartbreaking road, but eventually circles meet back up.

SBP_0459s

SBP_0394s

SBP_0478s

Pauline is making enough money to provide for her son’s future. And today, we bought beautiful bracelets that will show up in a coming Fair Trade Friday boxes and every woman in the group left with the equivalent of $50 US dollars.

SBP_0497s

SBP_0504s

One of the women asked me if the women in America would continue to buy the products. I said, “I hope so. I’m counting on them, too.”

Friends, let’s redeem consumerism. Let’s know who made our jewelry. Let’s provide rent and school fees, food and well, life with our purchase.

It’s a beautiful way to change the world.

redeemconsumerism

Buy a beautiful bracelet (on sale for $8 today) and support this Mercy House community group. Inquire about fundraising (adoption, missions) or wholesaling them to help us continue to support these women at mercyhousekenya@gmail dot com.

Join Fair Trade Friday and help us employ around 1,000 women and children in now 16 countries! Our waiting list is very short at this time!  (Or get a one time box and use code 4HOPE to get $5 off. We now have assorted, men’s, children’s, home and Mother’s Day options)

Little Girls Aren’t Supposed to Be Mothers

The room is filled with thirteen and fourteen and several sixteen year old girls.

Little girls who should be playing dolls instead of mother.

SBP_9019s

We sat in a circle and talked about courage. The girls took turns sharing bits and pieces of their stories. I was in awe of their bravery.

“I was in class 3 and a nasty old man raped me on the way home from school. If I didn’t live here, I would be dead by now. I don’t take life for granted,” I winced at the hard, honest words. For the last couple of days, we’ve talked about dreams and the strength it takes to say them aloud.  She took a deep breath, “I want to be a teacher one day.”

And I swallow down the knot because I know she doesn’t know how to read or write yet.

SBP_9782s

But I’m standing in a room full of the impossible and I believe her.

The stories are filled with loneliness, but they are not alone. It’s one of the beautiful tragedies of the rescue home in Kenya that Mercy House supports. Yes, there is pain and suffering and unspeakable sorrow, but when it’s what you have in common with your sisters and their babies, you feel a little less alone.

Sometimes it’s easier to find God together.

SBP_0078s

We live in a broken world where little girls become mothers. And if we watch the news, no place feels safe. We dodge crowded markets and avoid tourist spots when we are here because no one knows when the next terrorist attack will rock this country.

SBP_0098s

But God is the best at redeeming the broken places.

He creates family out of misfits. He binds the wounded. He reminds us again and again we aren’t alone and that he uses the weak to accomplish His purpose. I know this part too well. These girls can’t walk this road alone. It takes a united team.

SBP_0005s

God keeps showing me there is no “i” in team. I can’t help these girls. I can’t fund the thousands of dollars needed every month to run a maternity home in Kenya. I can’t even get all my laundry done most days. I am a part of a team of people and we are all on God’s team.

SBP_0193s

Yeah, so there’s no “i” in team, but there is a “me.”

Teamwork requires me to sacrifice my time. It asks me to give up my resources and lay down my will. Loving and serving others demands less of me, more of Him.

Because little girls aren’t supposed to be mothers.

But they are. And that’s why we need you.

teammercy

 

We would love for you to join our team.

Team Mercy is our family advocacy program that invites you to join hands with Mercy House. The task at hand–reminding impoverished and oppressed women they are not forgotten–is monumental. It’s overwhelming and we cannot do it alone. We need you! Team Mercy members participate by sharing via social media, representing Mercy House at local events, hosting family-friendly fundraisers and many other fun and educational service projects to help us spread the word. We also have  a brand new reward store that allows you to earn points by advocating to shop for free. Learn more and join today!

If you join today, use this code FREEMERCY in our reward store to get 10 love mercy bracelets for FREE to share with friends and family (a $50 value).

To The Monica’s of the World: You Are Not Forgotten

 She sat next to me and we munched on Kenyan samosas. Every once in awhile she would peek over her cup and smile when our eyes met.

Monica’s look was expectant and she fidgeted nervous next to me. I could tell she wanted, no needed, to say something. She leaned over and whispered, “Please, may I say something to you.”

I set down my cup and turned to her and said, “Yes.”

Our day at Rehema (Mercy) House had been so full already. We met new faces, rubbed some growing bellies, and listened to baby giggles.

SBP_9113s

SBP_9245s

We shared with these young girls, half mothers, half moms-to-be, about God’s beautiful plan for each of them.

SBP_9409s

We talked about thanking him even for our painful past, appreciating our present circumstances and looking forward to our future hope.

The girls listened intently and wrote down gratitude and dreams in their journals.

SBP_9443s

SBP_9158s

During the tea break, Monica sat next to me. Before I knew it, she wrapped her arm around my shoulder and put her warm hand in the center of my chest. She leaned in close, eye to eye.

Her words, thick with emotion, were said slow and heavy, “Thank you. Thank you for saving my life.”

SBP_9397s

Immediately, tears threatened and I looked down at her still swollen feet.

Monica moved into Rehema House in Kenya just a month ago. She’s one of more than 20 current residents and graduates that Mercy House supports. Monica is unique though, not because she’s a total orphan or a victim of abuse, not even because she suffers from epilepsy. Monica is the first teen mom at the maternity home, who won’t become a mother.

Her baby died in her womb just as she was moving into the house. She’s a mother without a child.

And just as she was recovering from the loss of her innocence and then the loss of her unborn baby, she suffered unexpected kidney failure and faced a near near-death experience in ICU.

After many days fighting for her life, Mercy House paid her $5000 unplanned medical bill.

Monica hugged me tight, gratitude etched on her face, “Please tell the people who helped me thank you. I owe them my life.”

“I don’t know why God allowed me to suffer at the hands of evil, but maybe it was so I could come here. Because God has not forgotten me,” she whispered.

Her thanksgiving, even in so much loss, was tangible. Breathtaking.

Silent tears slipped down my cheeks and she reached to wipe them away. I continued, “God has a special plan for you, Monica. He sees you. He loves you so much. He chose you. I know it’s hard to be the only girl without a baby and you might feel left out, but God sees you. He will redeem your ashes and trade them for beauty.”

SBP_9225s

I couldn’t help but think of the dozens of Monica’s supported by Mercy House and the countless Monica’s around the world today. Oppressed. Impoverished. Feeling forgotten. Yes, some wandering streets in Kenya, looking for hope, but many also in our cities, on our streets.

SBP_9536s

Even in the mirror.

We may feel alone. We might feel forgotten. We may suffer physically or spiritually or emotionally. We may wonder where God is in our struggle.

As I looked deep into Monica’s dark eyes, I didn’t see a stranger, I saw myself.

I saw a reminder of God’s great love for her and for me. And for you.

“Please tell the people God has remembered me,” Monica said to me.

A broken girl, with swollen feet, an empty womb and a grateful heart wanted you to know that He remembers you, too.

 

Help us remember the forgotten women of the world by wearing our simple prayer bracelet that falls off. Our new love mercy prayer bracelet is a piece of hemp with 3 simple beads-two silver and one gold. One silver bead represents you, the other a girl who needs prayer and the gold bead represents God in the middle. Our new bracelets are wear one | share one (you get two for the price of one!) After you’ve done your part in prayer, the bracelet will fall off. Order a family service project kit today and help us put bracelets together and sell them. 100% of the proceeds go to support women all around the globe.

 

Special Delivery

I’ve been dealing with some very important business in Kenya for the last 48 hours.

There’s a new man in my life.

SBP_9006s

It’s obviously been very exhausting work.

I introduced you to Maureen more than 5 years ago, the day I met her in a Kenyan slum and my life was turned upside down. She was a part of my undoing. Wrecked. Little did I know she would become the courageous Kenyan woman who would partner with me to help rescue impoverished and oppressed pregnant teens in her country.

You joined Maureen and I four and half years ago and believed in an impossible dream to start Mercy House.

You rejoiced at her marriage engagement.

You donated money to save her mother’s life and you grieved with us when we lost her..

You celebrated her marriage.

And now . . .

 

 

announcement

SBP_8941s

SBP_8960bw
SBP_8964s

Before I catch you up on (or introduce you to) the amazing progress of the maternity homes Mercy House supports here in Kenya this week, or introduce you to our young pregnant residents, or the dozens and dozens of women being employed by Fair Trade Friday in the countries we are visiting…

I had to introduce you to my newest love.

I’m sure you understand.

 

photos by my friend, Suzanne Box

Facing Fear: What Scares You the Most?

I found the lump unexpectedly a little over two weeks ago.

In my abdomen, rolling under my fingers like it wanted to be found.

Fear covered me like a heavy blanket.

Terrell confirmed the golfball-sized mass and I made a doctor’s appointment.

We have several friends battling malignant tumors right now and immediately my mind starting asking the “what ifs?”  I didn’t realize how much I feared discovering something like this until I did and dread filled every corner of my heart.

I had to wait a very long three days for the appointment and I constantly pushed the thought I have a tumor out of my mind. I reminded myself over and over again that nothing had changed. God was still the same. He is writing my story and I love living it. I wouldn’t change it, even though I don’t know what the next chapter holds.

But y’all, I was so afraid.

My doctor confirmed the mass and was concerned at the size. She scheduled an ultrasound, blood work, and a cat scan in case the results showed abnormal tissue. Another long wait.

That night, I filled up the tub with hot water and played the worship song “You Make Me Brave” over and over.

FullSizeRender

And I sobbed.

I did my best to act natural around my kids. I pushed bad thoughts away and continued to work and every time a negative thought entered my mind, I would pray. I’ve done a lot of praying lately. We went ahead with our scheduled Groupon trip to Washington D.C. (I can’t wait to tell y’all about it) last weekend.

I’m not sure when my teen daughter developed a fear of flying, but her white-knuckled grip on my arm and panicked look in her eyes, told me it was real.

The flight to Washington DC was turbulent and I felt my stomach roll with the lurches, but my daughter felt more than queasiness, she was deathly afraid.

“I’m so scared,” she whispered.

I tried to sooth and remind her that God holds us. Always. I tried to sooth myself with my own words.

“Don’t you ever get scared, Mom? What are you most afraid of?” she asked.

I couldn’t help but think of the paralyzing fear she didn’t even know I was living. I’ve never been a brave person. I’ve always struggled with worry and doubt.

“I’m most afraid I won’t be here for you and your brother and sister,” I could barely get the words out.

“I’m not afraid of death, you know,” she assured me. “Just the process.”

I had to laugh a little. I love honest kids. “Me, too,” I assured her. “Honey, sometimes we have to look fear in the face and remind ourselves God is in control. Someday, we just may face our greatest fear, but even there in that desperate place, God is with us. He loves us and He is glorified in our lives.”

We survived that bumpy flight and had a mostly-worry free, fun getaway Easter weekend.

But every time someone commented on how tired I looked (which was more often than usual), I just smiled. But I wanted to scream “You would look tired too if you were dying!” (Women, let’s not say that to each other, okay? It’s really a passive aggressive way to say “you look really terrible.” If we notice a friend who looks exceptionally tired, maybe we should say “Can I bring you dinner?”)

Monday afternoon finally arrived, I faced my fear and as the ultrasound tech measured the mass visible on the screen, I prayed.

Tuesday, I waited for the doctor to call all day long. And as my fear mounted, I pursued peace. But I discovered one is easier to find then the other.

I don’t think I knew how burdened I felt until I heard the doctor’s words, “Kristen, this mass is benign. You’re free to go to Africa tomorrow.”

I cried at the instant relief. I thanked God. And I continued packing.

Good news. Bad news. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. But we know who holds tomorrow.

I don’t know why we go through scary times or just the fear of them, but I know God loves us and He is in control.

Today, my teen daughter and I are getting on another couple of planes and going to Ethiopia and then Kenya. We will be meeting with Fair Trade Friday partners and new residents at Mercy House and celebrating Maureen’s newborn son. I hope you’ll check back in to read the updates, see the amazing pictures and join us in our yes to God.

We are going to a country that is experiencing random terrorist attacks.We are both facing our fears because we know who holds us.

What scares you the most? Say it out loud. Leave it in a comment below. Name your fears and believe that He is greater than all of them.

Because He is. No matter what the next chapter holds.