Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor

I was getting ready to leave for a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago, when a church emailed and asked if Mercy House had any specific needs. I quickly responded and told them I wanted to give Maureen, our Kenyan Director, an iPhone, so we could communicate during (almost weekly) power outages. I told them if they would buy one instead, we could use the money for other needed items.

On the church’s Facebook feed a few days later, I saw an appeal that said something like, “We want to support a ministry with a used iPhone. If you have an old one you can donate, please let us know.”

I was given an older iPhone a week later. On the ground in Kenya, I realized it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. The phone was junk.

So, when I left Kenya, I gave Maureen my used one that worked.

The church contacted me after the trip and asked how Maureen liked her new phone? I told them it was useless and said, “Don’t worry about it. I gave her mine.”

“Oh, we feel badly, please let us replace your phone! We want to buy you a brand new one, an upgrade. You deserve it,” I told them I used my husband’s upgrade and already had a replacement phone. “Ok. Instead we would like to write you a $500 check for the inconvenience.”

Give it to Maureen, I said.

And they did.

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While the church tried to make it right, I was bothered by the fact they were more than willing to buy me a new phone I didn’t need. I have noticed this mentality permeates the Church as a whole: The poor will be happy with our leftovers. They don’t know any better. They live in Africa or Honduras, they don’t need the latest technology or the best brands like we do.  They will appreciate anything we give because something is more than nothing.

Why do we give others-often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves-something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?

Somehow collecting clothes for immigrants has become the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff we don’t want and gathering baby items for new moms is the perfect excuse to toss out stained and worn clothing we wouldn’t dare use again. I’ve packed suitcases with beautiful donations, but mostly I’ve pilfered through piles of junk donated in the name of Jesus.

It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.

There’s nothing wrong with used or second-hand. It’s often my first and favorite choice. Many organizations and ministries depend on used gifts. But if we give used, it should be our best.  I’m not saying when we clean out older clothes or toys or things we don’t use any longer and donate them–that this is wrong. I am saying if we give it away, it should be something we would use ourselves.

The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

I’ll never forget meeting a woman in Africa who supported her large family by reselling used clothes from America. But when she held up clothes to show me what was for sale– clothes Americans had donated in clothing drives–they were tattered and stained. I was embarrassed.

Her best depended on our worst.

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Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” -Ann Voskamp

There have been times over the years, I’ve gasped and grinned at the beautiful items I’ve sorted and packed  for the impoverished. When we give our best, we are living our best. We are saying with our donation, you are valuable. We are whispering with our gift, you are worthy of the best. We have the opportunity to speak self worth when we give generously.

It’s a promise for them.

It’s a promise for us.

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”- Proverbs 19:17

The next time we have the opportunity to share what we have with someone who is in need. let’s give from the pile we want to keep, not from the one we want to throw out.

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A Love Story: 3 Things Every Father Needs to Tell His Daughter

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Including giving and wearing mums at high school homecoming football games. Have y’all heard of this crazy, often over-the-top southern tradition?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mums, it can just be excessive like so many other things in our culture. You could say I’m not a big mum fan. Pun intended.

But I’m not a freshman in high school either. And my daughter is. She casually mentioned her friends were wearing them to the upcoming Homecoming football game, some had boyfriends, others were making their own, and I couldn’t help but note the longing in her voice. When she asked me what I thought, I said, “I think it’s silly to wear one just because everyone else is. You’re going to have fun with your girlfriends and the band. Why not wait to get one until it’s special?” She agreed and we didn’t talk about it again.

I never mentioned the conversation to my husband.

So, I was surprised two days before the game when Terrell whispered in the middle of the night how he was thinking about our daughter, “You know homecoming is this weekend. Our girl is nearly 15 and even though she won’t be dating for awhile, I want to be the one to give her a first mum. I want to be her first date and show her how she should be treated.”

Early the next morning before a long work day getting ready for the Mercy House Gala, my handsome cowboy went and shopped and brought home his first mum for his first daughter.

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And when he walked into the house with the big maroon and white floral ribboned thing, I cried.

Because what I dismissed as a silly tradition, he saw as an opportunity to teach our daughter about love.

When he showed her and explained, she gasped and hugged him. And I’ll never forget the look between those two. He said, “I want to be your first.”

And she said, “You already are.”

She ran off to text her friends and tell them about her dad’s gift and she proudly wore it to school on Homecoming day. It’s hanging in the closet because she wants to wear it again next year.

I fell in love with Terrell again that day. In the scope of our busy lives, this is a small thing. Unnecessary. Even extravagant.

Which is exactly why it was such a big deal to her.

A father’s relationship with his daughter is one of the most crucial in her life. And while it may change from toddler to tween to teen, she needs him in every phase and stage.

3 things every father needs to tell his daughter

3 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Father:

  1. You can trust me| Daughters need to know that no matter how high their highs are or how low their lows are, Dad will be there. She is learning who she is and she’s constantly changing. But knowing she can count on her father to listen and love no matter her mood, will help her confidence.
  2. You’re beautiful| The correlation between a girl’s self esteem and her relationship with her father can’t be denied. Even on her worst hair day, she needs to know her dad thinks she is beautiful. It’s part of her discovery that true beauty really doesn’t depend on fashion or a clear complexion. It starts with what is inside.
  3. You’re valuable | Value is not a message our culture will teach our daughters. Girls are treated like either owned objects or sex symbols in just about every corner of the world. She begins to understand her value at her father’s knee. She needs her dad to tell her.

He made her day.

And that made mine.

The Mercy Marathon #Milesformercy

This summer I met Chrystal Evans Hurst at the Declare Conference. She had an idea- a creative way to say yes in her mess. I loved her story and thought you might enjoy it too. She started #milesformercy and it isn’t just for runners, it’s for anyone who has a yes in them. After chatting and falling in love with this lady, I discovered she was Tony Evans daughter! I’m excited about her yes to God. 

by Chrystal Evans Hurst

It all started the morning I went for a run and met Linnette.

Well… technically I guess it started before that. I guess it started when I decided to run a marathon.
I have no idea what got into me and why on earth I’d attempt such a thing. I don’t consider myself a runner.

I’m too slow. SUPER S-L-O-W.

But I go out there and put one foot in front of the other.
On one of the days I was out there doing my “so-called-running,” training for a marathon, and preparing my body for the torture of running for 26.2 miles, I connected with a local running group and met Linnette.
She was running easily and we struck up a conversation.I let her do most of the talking.

In fact, I asked her questions so that she would indeed do most of the talking. One of those questions was to ask her about her motivation for running. Was she training for a marathon? Was she trying to lose weight? Was she seeking to check something off her bucket list?

While Linnette was running because it was good for her body, that wasn’t the only reason she was running.
She told me that for every mile she ran, she went home and put $1 in a jar.
I quickly did the math.

Six miles a run. Three runs a week. Twenty bucks every seven days. Eighty dollars a month.

I started getting excited about the idea of saving eighty dollars to regularly reward myself for putting in the work.
My brain immediately started calculating how I could easily earn a massage, treat myself to a pedicure, or indulge in more runner’s paraphernalia.
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But Linnette quickly brought me down off of cloud nine when she proceeded to inform me that she didn’t spend that money on herself. She explained that, every few months, after the jar was filled to overflowing, she emptied the jar, collected the cash, and delivered it to her local pregnancy center.
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Linnette wasn’t just running for herself.

Linnette was also running for others.

She was putting in the miles so that the blessing of her healthy heart and her healthy life might overflow to the hearts and lives of others.

As I ran, ever-so-slowly, I processed the reality of what this woman shared with me. And honestly, at that moment, I felt like a cold-hard criminal. There I was… running next to an angel basically and realizing how far my thoughts had been from blessing another person with my efforts.
Now… that conversation didn’t change everything.

Yes. I’m still running for me. I like the race. Running is a part of my journey to steal my life back.

But in running to encourage myself, stretch my own limits, and move beyond my comfort zones… I’ve found myself wanting to encourage others too… just like Linnette.

So I contemplated running for a variety of different organizations. I asked around. I googled. I researched. I found a lot of potential groups to partner with but nothing seemed to fit. Nothing felt right.

And then I found out about the Mercy House…And it was my story… half a world away.

Something deep stirred within me.
Why?

Because I was an unwed teen mom. And even though I live on this side of the globe, it wasn’t easy. The hurt in my heart was overwhelming and the realities of living that life seemed insurmountable at times. But I did have help. I did have support. I did have a family and community of people who were willing to encourage me and love me as I tried to get on my feet.

These girls, almost 9000 miles away on the other side of the world, are in my same predicament…
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Except they are unwed teen mom’s not living in America with a teen pregnancy center available to them or a 1-800 number to call. Many of them do not have the support of their family and are instead encouraged by their loved ones and communities to abort their babies. They are encouraged to choose their next meal over motherhood.
There is no one to give them encouragement and love as they seek to get on their feet. Until Mercy House. Every girl who steps through the door of the Mercy House is offered hope in Jesus Christ.

When I watched the Mercy House video, then later met Kristen personally, I knew this was the organization I wanted to support. I figured that in my running for me, I could also help others by raising money and awareness for an organization that was doing what I would love to do many miles away on the other side of the globe.

I had found my cause… #MilesforMercy
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In the weeks to come, I’ll run and contribute $1 for every mile from now until my marathon on December 14th, 2014.
I’m running… but my upcoming marathon is not gonna be just about me. I’m running a marathon and the miles I run will be #MilesforMercy.

I figure if I can buy the shoes, buy the water belts, and pay the marathon entry fee, I can spend some money changing the life of another girl that I will probably never meet.
Maybe, like me, you might donate a dollar a dime or a penny for every mile you run, walk, or bike. Maybe you don’t want hit the pavement but are willing to donate in conjunction with my runs as I chronicle my marathon journey via social media.

Either way, I’d love for you to join me on my #MilesforMercy journey so that we can touch the life of young girls who needs our support. I’m stealing my life back and I’m overjoyed at helping girls on the other side of the globe, steal their lives back too.
Act Justly. Walk Humbly. Love Mercy.
#MilesforMercy
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Do you want to run for Mercy House too?
Enter #MilesforMercy in the “instructions for sellers” box so we can keep track of how much we raise!)

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What’s On My Reading List This Fall {Recommended Reads & Free Books}

Fall is here and I feel like I’m falling behind. I’m in the middle of a crazy-busy season of life, but I’m determined to slow down and read. It’s how I know I’m taking care of myself. It’s a great way to relax, reflect and respond. Here are the awesome books (click on the my affiliate links below to read more about each book) I’m planning on digging into this fall:

  • Decorating Cookies Party by Bridget Edwards (Recipe book)  | My dear friend (and former next door neighbor) Bridget, has done it again! This week she released another cookie cookbook and it’s an amazing, picture-filled DIY cookie party guide. She’s got me itching to break out my mixer. Remember when I made these? I’m not exactly a baker, but I am on page 33 (!). I was honored to attend Bridget’s cookie party and it was so fun and delicious. I ate them all. Leave a comment on this post and you could win a copy!

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  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp (Children’s book) | I cannot wait to get my hands on Ann’s newest book for our family. It will be our guide this Advent Season. It’s full of daily Scripture passages and specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme.

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  • God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner (Children’s book: ) | I’m planning on adding this book to my Christmas list to all the littles in my life. I love the beautiful art and the Gospel message.

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  • Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan (Faith book)| I’ve actually read this book and it was absolutely life-changing. I can’t recommend Revolution in World Missions, written by the founder of Gospel for Asia, enough. And guess what? Everyone gets a FREE copy. Click and get yours today.

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Leave a comment to win Bridget’s fun new cookie party book and make sure you click here to get a free copy of a book that will change the way you see the world!

[Updated with Winner: Congrats to random winner, Summer!]

WFMW: The God Nod

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Crystal for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Waking up in the 3:30 darkness, I smiled. Race day was finally here! I would combine my two passions of running and social justice by putting on a 5k/10k charity race for Compassion International’s Child Survival Program (CSP).

I just knew in my gut that this race was a God-thing. And it was. We had hoped for maybe 150 runners. More than 300 showed up. I thought the race could raise $3,000 for impoverished mothers and babies around the globe. We raised more than $6,000 — enough to keep a CSP center running for several months.

From those numbers, the race was a stunning success, especially when you consider that it was founded by a rookie race director who really was just a stay-at-home mom.

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And yet, from the moment people started showing up, things went wrong. An unapproved race used the course the day before, leaving elaborate chalk drawings that pointed my runners in the wrong direction. While trying to cover those markings, I grabbed the wrong spray paint — non-washable — and accidentally graffitied the whole park. About 20 people got lost on-course. My husband crashed a borrowed truck into a car — after he blew out a borrowed golf cart’s windshield. And there wasn’t a single aspect of the race someone didn’t complain about afterward.

I sobbed for two days. All I could think was FAILURE. I had planned and planned some more, but it wasn’t enough.

God, You’ve had your hand in this race, I prayed. You moved mountains. So what happened? Are You mad? I just couldn’t understand why so many things went wrong if Jesus wanted me to create and direct this race.

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Since then, I’ve learned that “giving God the nod” means no artist smock included. You’re going to get messy! Saying YES to this race meant success, but is also meant hard growth. Like learning that:

God uses both our strengths – and weaknesses — to glorify Him. In many ways, my personality perfectly lends itself to being a race director. However, it also breeds impatience and lack of context. Yet the Lord, with his infinite planning skills, utilizes both to accomplish His purposes.

My standing with God is not based on my performance. Pre-race, I would have said, “Of course God loves me no matter what!” But I never realized I didn’t truly believe that; it took the race to expose my faulty belief.

The ones who truly care are the ones who get out and do something. My best friend gently pointed out that my biggest critics weren’t the ones dealing with the race’s 10,000 details. They merely had to pay $20 and show up.

Failure isn’t always failure. Sometimes, it’s a launching point. Preach it, Teddy.

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Saying YES means you get lost on the course. You deal with some jeers from spectators, and even more from the inside. You trip and fall on the trail.

But you keep running, and keep praising the one who gave you breath to do it.

 

Godnod3Crystal Kupper is a military wife, freelance magazine writer and stay-at-home mom of three cuties living in England. She blogs over at Crystal’s Cliffnotes about parenting, marriage, military issues, volunteering for Compassion International and Reece’s Rainbow, missing all things Oregon and how really, really ridiculously good-looking her man is.