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].

Make Yourself at Home

We showed up at the Student Life Camp as they were unloading for their 9th week of camp. It was really amazing watching these college kids empty four large Penske rental trucks and set up for more than 1,000 kids. When I complimented one of them, they said, “Oh this is a small camp. This is easy.”

Compassion had agreed to let us visit with Maureen and even though she was free to let others do her setup work, she asked our family if we minded hanging around while she performed her duties. (A true example of her heart and work ethic!)

We were happy to just watch and thrilled when they let us help. My hubby did a little drilling:

My kids helped with the packets of the children needing sponsors:

Everyone pitched in and constructed a replica home you might see in the slum, where Maureen grew up.

After she gives her compelling and touching testimony, she stands in the doorway of this mock home and answers questions.

People are moved at the image of this beautiful girl who has been rescued from poverty.

As I helped Maureen hang some “fact cards” on the interior walls of the home, she said, “This would be a nice home in the slums of Africa.” I remembered Vincent’s home and I silently nodded my head.

Once the home was completed, our family of five gathered inside. The average size of a family in Africa is usually at least five and I wanted my kids to see what it felt like to live in such a small space:

As I sat there with my family squeezed into the small, one-room dwelling, the nicest home on the block, I thanked God once again for His gentle reminder, this tangible example of perspective.

I’m pretty sure my family will never forget it.

Our New Daughter

When I met her in the slums of Mathare Valley, I knew Maureen was special. I watched her march into the heart of hell in her crisp, white satin blouse and heeled shoes and I didn’t doubt for a minute that she’d been rescued from poverty.

But I didn’t know that God would bind our hearts and our lives in such an unbelievable way. Just four short months after meeting in Kenya, our family drove to meet Maureen at a Student Life Camp while on vacation last week. Compassion and Student Life partner with the goal of child sponsorship and they invited her to the United States this summer to travel from camp to camp sharing her amazing testimony (and thousands of precious kids have been sponsored with Maureen’s help!)

Through Facebook and email, we have become dear friends. But I wanted my family to meet Maureen. They fell in love with her and understood immediately why I fell in love with her and Africa.

We spent 2 glorious days together, eating pancakes and bacon in our RV, italian food for dinner and a late shopping trip to WalMart. Maureen taught us a bit of Swahili, we taught her how to eat sunflower seeds. She called my children her siblings. She referred to me as Mom and we exchanged necklaces. She called my husband Dad. And I cried when I learned that this was her first hug from a “father”:

We laughed and prayed and enjoyed rich fellowship together with our new daughter.

God is slowly revealing a pretty amazing plan for our lives to be intertwined…

We will meet again.

*Updated to add: Maureen isn’t one of our sponsored children. She is actually about t0 graduate from Compassion’s Leadership Program and will graduating from the University in just a few short months.