The One Thing That Will Change Your Life

We have laughed our way thru her first automatic carwash and basketball game, introduced Chinese food and trampoline-jumping. We’ve exposed her to the wonders of marshmallows and s’mores, silly string and hammock-lying in our backyard. Oh, and laundry in a washing machine.

We’ve dreamed and planned, worked and played and cried our way through deep conversations, remembering the amazing, often hard road we’ve journeyed, nearly three years now.

For the last two weeks, Maureen and I have told our story, the story of Mercy Housetogether– it’s another first, and it’s been powerful.

How could I know, this, too, would change me?

How could I know seeing my life thru her lens would wreck me in a new way?

How do I explain why my country spends more on accessorizing pets in a year, than her entire country earns? She asks innocently without judgement, “Does your country know how we live in Kenya?” I don’t even have an answer. I’m just embarrassed.

How do I explain why she sees so few hospitals in my suburban town and so many in hers? I try to describe healthcare and preventive medicine and my words sound hollow because I don’t even say thank you for what I’ve always had. We take her to the doctor for a physical and blood work, another first.

Everything about my life is easy. From the laundry piles I whine about to the dinners I prepare, my life of comfort and convenience is the polar opposite to hers and millions of other. I know this. I have been to Kenya three times now and even as I prepare to go again in April, it’s startling to see my life thru her eyes.

It’s one thing to think about your life, comfort and convenience when you’re in the middle of extreme poverty. It’s hard not to. But it’s a whole different ball game when you bring someone from that background into your comfort and convenience.

She’s shared story after story of countless people who suffer more than I can fathom on a daily basis. Today, right now. Children who do not have enough food to eat. And I feel the old question welling up, tears with it. I still don’t have answers; it’s still unfair.

I’ve spent the last few weeks seeing my life as she sees it.  I am deeply compelled to be a part of the answer.

She tells me more of her childhood story, so much that I can smell the sewage that ran in front of her family’s shack. I am moved with compassion at the suffering she endured. I ache for her family and her world and I long to wipe out the suffering of her people. “Don’t cry, Mom. Look how far God has brought me,” and she begins to name blessings. “Look at all I have,” she exclaims and spreads her arms out.

We are standing in my big, beautiful home and I quietly answer, tears falling now, “Look at all I have.” There is no comparison.

But then Maureen holds one arm up to Heaven and one down to the ground and gives me a knowing look. It’s the pose we created for moments like these. It means:

I want to live my life with one hand open to receive from God above and the other hand open to give it to others. I want to be a conduit, not holding anything too tightly, ready to open my hands to others, to give to those who can never give back.

This is our commitment.

This one thing will change your life.

I dare you to try it.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” -John Bunyan

 

[photos by Suzanne Box Photography]



Heartbroken

I’m hurting, y’all, and I’m desperately asking for prayers.

Three weeks ago, Maureen, our Kenyan Executive Director of Mercy House lost her precious 7 year old nephew to a preventable disease. It’s been a dark time.

Yesterday, his mother, Maureen’s only sister, also passed away.

I am heartbroken.

She is grief-striken.

Can you imagine losing two members of your immediate family within three weeks of each other?

Maureen is the leader of her family, looked to for decisions by all of her relatives. She is hurting and the days ahead will be dark, exhausting and financially draining.

I am asking every person who reads this post to stop and pray for Maureen. I know she is confused and has a lot of questions. I also know that she teaches me by the way she lives out her strong faith. Please pray for peace and understanding and divine strength.

Would you also pray that God will give me wisdom?

Thank you.


Mercy Me-Part II

(cont’d from yesterday…turns out there are A LOT of peekers out there!)

It was just another regular day. I didn’t know when I opened the email from Maureen it would change my life and that of my family.

It said, “Last night, God spoke to me very clearly. You know the pregnant girls in the slum you asked me about many months ago? The ones we have been praying for? God told me He wants me to help them. This is what He is calling me to do. Will you help me?”

Immediately, instantaneously, when I read it to my husband, I knew, we KNEW that this, THIS was why God had dropped Africa in our heart. This was what He was calling us to do, to help Maureen, help them.

That night, I remembered reading a blog post about an American woman who was opening a maternity home in Ethiopia. I spent the next hour searching for the article and when I found it, I emailed and asked them to contact me.

Little did I know that within 48 hours, I would be connecting with American’s premiere pro-life leader, who had started more than 35 maternity homes in American and her first in Africa.

She listened as I poured out my heart about Africa and Maureen. She advised and counseled and offered to help us. She also asked for help. And that resulted in an amazing baby formula drive for starving orphans in Africa-more than 1,000 cans, $3000 and a huge shipment of 600 cans from Similac (thanks to the behind-the-scenes work from a reader)!

When we met with Maureen in Oklahoma at her Student Life camp, we met and dreamed and prayed together.

We knew that not only had God united our hearts as a family, He was birthing something new and ordained of Him:

The Mercy House.

So, this is it, The Mercy House is what we’ve been planning and praying about the last few months. The Mercy House exists to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will aid them in nutrition, housing, prenatal care, counseling and job skills for sustainable living.

Yes, we are helping Maureen open a maternity home (Rehema House) in Africa!

We started paying Maureen so she can be the full time Executive Director of the The Rehema House in Kenya. on September 1. In January, she will travel to Ethiopia for hands-on training at the maternity home there.

You can read about the vision, the plan and the monthly budget. I’m not going to pretend that we aren’t SCARED to death! We don’t know where all the money is going to come from, but God has spoken this God-sized dream into our hearts and we are believing Him to meet every need.

Part of the proceeds from my blog and my proceeds from my  book will go to The Mercy House, which currently has  501c3 status as a non-profit organization (which makes your gifts tax deductible).

We’ve assembled an amazing Board of Directors to help us with important decisions…you might know two of them who are familiar with women’s issues and : Amber (and her husband, Seth) and Lisa-Jo.

We also have a cute Etsy store (more on that tomorrow with some fun giveaways and new items added!!) which will help offset some of the expenses.

Honestly, the last thing, my hubby and I wanted to do was start something. We’ve fought against that very thing. We thought we could appease the call in our spirits by giving some money, helping the poor, etc. But sometimes, God answers your prayer by asking you to risk it all.

The Mercy House is slated to open in 2011.

We need a lot of miracles and we want you to join us. Would you visit the site and pray about how you can love mercy?

Tomorrow, I’ll share specific ways YOU can be a part of this needed work in Africa.


Mercy Me-Part I

It’s been brewing awhile-this mercy rising.

It actually started before I went to Africa with Compassion International in March. Last year in the fall, I wanted to share my marriage testimony. I was afraid, but I wanted to pull away the mask and see if it helped people. I told my husband that I wanted to use my blog for God.

And so I did, I told the story on my 15th wedding anniversary over at (in)Courage. From that, a deeply private and emotional series was born.  My soul was stirred by the hundreds of private emails we received from hurting wives and husbands.

The Do-It-For-Others projects were born from this idea of helping people. Well, that and the simple fact that I was actually spending a lot of time and money trying to come up with new DIY home decor projects for weekly posts.

It was a quiet epiphany for me: I can spend the same time and money helping others (instead of doing for myself) and ask my blog readers to help me.

And then, I went to Africa. I’ve written so much about this trip. You’ve come along side me, sponsored kids, supported projects, and shared your hearts. Days past and the fog of jet lag and guilt faded, but I couldn’t shake Africa. It was redeeming for me and I knew I would never be the same. And that was okay, because Africa made me better.

During this time, Maureen (you can read about her here and here, in case you’re catching up) and I were emailing and sending each other Facebook messages, getting to know each other better and dreaming of meeting when she came to America for the summer to speak at Student Life camps.

I read this disturbing article from CNN right after my trip about the rampant illegal backstreet abortions happening in the very place we visited. I was so burdened for these young girls, many of whom were trading sex for food. I laid awake, night after night thinking of these girls I’d met, and of the ones who died in a dark alley from terrible infections, I thought of my daughters asleep, fed and safe in their own beds.

I thought of Maureen, my only real connection with Africa and I emailed her the CNN story and asked if it was true and if she knew of anyone helping these girls. She replied a couple of days later: yes, it’s a bad problem in Kenya and no, I don’t know of anyone helping them.

We agreed to pray for these girls and for the unborn babies.

Before my trip, we thought we would adopt. It seemed like a natural decision (one I think every Christian should consider), but experiencing Africa changed my heart. I knew that adoption would change and save the life of one child, but I wanted to help the people of Africa. It was a crazy, irrational thought, really. One I kept to myself.

Until one night, a month or so after my trip, my hubby and I were asking hard questions. Should we pick an agency and start the adoption process? How would we come up with $30,000? My hubby broached the subject first, “It just doesn’t feel right. There’s something that’s stopping me.” I was relieved and said, “Me, too.” And then I said it, “I don’t know what we should do and I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same person, but I do know what feels right: returning to Africa.”

In the foyer of our home, my husband wrapped his arms around me and we cried. We didn’t even know what it meant, but we were on the same page and we knew it meant something big.

We decided to pray and fast and doors began to open. After weeks and months, the same doors closed.

And then, out of nowhere, I got an email from Maureen that changed everything.

Part II continued tomorrow….

[I'm so excited (and crazy nervous) to reveal what God has called us to. But it's a long story and I won't be finished telling it until tomorrow. If you can't wait, you can click here].