Separated By Water

8,731.

That’s how many miles away my husband is from home as I type these words.

We are oceans apart, separated by water.

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He is at our home-away-from-home in Kenya with a group of donors on a vision trip.

Sunday, this happened:

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12 of the teen mom residents graduated and will begin to transition into the next phase of their lives in 2016.

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Yesterday, his group visited one of the world’s largest slums, to the home of Pauline, one of the sponsored graduates who attends vocational school and leads a Fair Trade Friday group of twenty women who live in a nearby slum.

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And then his group journeyed the tragic and heartbreaking road to Lillian’s home, the youngest resident at the maternity homes.

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Sometimes I just don’t have the words to describe someone else’s daily reality.

But the main reason he’s there is because of water.

Clean water is more precious than gold when it’s limited.

The homes that we began with Maureen in 2010 spend more $1500 a month on water.

The current underground tank  holds 21,000 gallons but it’s never more than one-fourth full. Water is controlled by the local municipality and there aren’t many wells in the area. Water is constantly shut on and off, rationed and it often runs out.

When it does, it’s trucked in at a high cost. And there are times that it’s even collected and distributed in jerry cans.

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With mommas and babies and staff, there are more than 40 depending on water in our homes.

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For more than 5 years, Mercy House has been working in Kenya to come up with a long term sustainable plan that would help support the maternity homes outside of Nairobi.  And after much research and planning, it has been decided that water is the life-giving answer.

Several months ago, when I was in Kenya, our Director’s handed over a geologist’s report that proved one of our properties is sitting on a natural water resource. And that’s why we want to drill a deep bore hole that will provide water–if we had our own water source, not only for these homes in Kenya, but for approximately 100 families in the surrounding community who struggle to provide it for their families.

We dream of providing a consistent, affordable water resource that could change this community.

Water is life.

Unless it’s unclean.

Can you imagine being separated from the opportunity to have clean, consistent water?

Separated by water.

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Learn more about our efforts to raise the remaining $25,000 to bring water to those we love so that we can introduce Living water to those He loves.

Water may separate us.

But it doesn’t have to.

Stitched Together With Love

When I was a young mom, I went through a season where I tried to understand the challenging road I was traveling. My husband and I lived over a thousand miles from home with a toddler and a new baby, in a town we didn’t love, working a job we didn’t like, in a broken-down house with couldn’t afford.

I was lonely and life wasn’t what I thought it would be.

When I looked at my life, I saw a tangled mess, like the back of a cross stitch project I carried with me from place to place. I never quite got the knack of counting stitches perfectly and the backside was messy.

Sort of like my life.

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But when I would flip that little stitched project over, I could see the beginning of a picture, something beautiful. Life is like a tapestry. It’s messy and it can look tangled and like all the threads don’t fit, but God is always creating a beautiful picture. We might not know what it is or what it will be, but He is working.

Mothers saved me. Literally-connecting with moms, piecing our stories together, like a giant quilt, led me to where I am today. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t be more proud of the community of women who came to me and asked if they could share their hard and beautiful stories (more than 60 of them!) in an ebook, called The Mom Quilt.

Oh, and it gets better: 100% of the proceeds of this project will go to Mercy House to help us drill a deep bore hole on one of the properties in Kenya that has the potential of providing water for 100 families. Currently, water is one of the most expensive monthly payments as it is trucked in several times a week to both homes. We’ve been working on a way for sustainability at the maternity homes for years and we believe water is the answer.

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The project cost $40,000 and will provide water to the women of Mercy House, but also to the surrounding community. And we also know that it will lead to Living Water for so many. . .

Alone, we are a single strand, but woven together by His hand, we are able to accomplish the impossible! That’s the unbelievable story of Mercy House. Please consider purchasing this lovely ebook and support this work.

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Mud Cookies Shouldn’t Exist. Fair Trade Friday Exists Because They Do.

I should have never watched the video before bed.

But I did.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about the countless hungry children in Haiti who dine on the flat brown cookies baked in the sun, made of mud and a bit of flour.

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But mostly, I couldn’t get the image of these desperate bakers out of my head–women, mostly mothers, who make their job selling cookies made of dirt to kids who have nothing else to eat.

It’s part of the terrible cycle of poverty, selling things that weren’t meant to be bought (like dirt and sex) because it helps people continue to live–in that same cycle.

I think that’s why God spoke the words to me in the middle of the night so clearly a couple of years ago.

I told Him, I want to help women and He said, Provide them with jobs.

Jobs that will feed their hungry families.

Jobs that will open the door to the Gospel.

Jobs that will provide sustainability and hope.

And that’s why Fair Trade Friday was created. It was intentionally started through Mercy House because we believe in empowering women in Jesus’ name. No one is making money off this endeavor, except the women who need it most.

In my exhausting yes to God, I have discovered the passion of my life. This is it.

Friday we celebrate the one year anniversary of Fair Trade Friday.

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In the past year, we’ve provided more than 1000 jobs in 18 countries and sent out more than 6000 fair trade boxes to thousands of people. All in the name of Jesus.

And thankfully, I’m far from alone in reminding women they aren’t forgotten. There are a host of local volunteers and nearly 2000 club members who are helping us do just that.

If that isn’t enough, we’ve had an amazing online tour happening this summer, where bloggers and Facebookers and instagrammers have been sharing about this life-changing club. I’ve asked these precious women to link up their posts today for you to enjoy (and get a wonderful glimpse of what comes in a one time box).

Visit their fun posts and come back here and leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of TEN Fair Trade Friday One Time Boxes (Value $50 each) that we are giving away to celebrate this momentous day!

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(items will vary from what is pictured)

And although we have a beautiful waiting list for our monthly club (join the 2-3 month wait list here), we still have room for late summer/ fall home parties for you to host your own girl’s night out!

We also have an unlimited supply of one time boxes (in various styles) for you to enjoy until a spot comes open for you. Use code 4hope to save $5

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winners have been notified

Save the Date

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I’m so excited about our 2nd annual Mercy House Gala. Everyone is invited to this hoot and hollerin’ good time!

There will be an amazing live auction and country & western band, dancing and delicious BBQ, a high-end Fair Trade Friday silent auction and most importantly, inspiring stories from the women we empower from around the globe.

You can purchase a ticket (or a table), learn more about attending or sponsoring this barn-raising good time here.  (There’s also lodging info).

Save the date!

P.S. Please drop us an email if you are coming from out of town or if you can’t come, but would like to donate to our auction at mercyhousekenya@gmail.com

We’d love to invite you to a casual meet & greet lunch and tour of the Mercy House warehouse the next day!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

 

That Thing You Can’t Let Go Of

Four years ago, we sat in a warehouse-turned-coffee shop and had a heart to heart. Terrell and I were visiting one of our favorite Texas towns and we stumbled upon the quaint shop. The walls had pallets hanging on them, holding fair trade product from around the world. I bought a few Christmas gifts and we sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee.

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This is what I want to do, he said.

I looked at my husband like he was crazy. Mercy House was only a year old, he was working 50+ hours a week as a sales rep and I was juggling family, writing and the new non-profit. We were overwhelmed.

Even with all these reasons, I heard something in his voice I will never forget: It was the sound of a dream being spoken aloud. And I know how much courage that takes.

Yeah, it was a cool place, but it was more than a global marketplace and a great cup of coffee. It was hope and opportunity for the countless women it empowered.

Fast forward a couple of years.

I was having a hard to sleeping. Again. What is it God? I whispered in the middle of the night. That was the first night I was burdened to create jobs for impoverished women. It didn’t make sense-this tangible intangible, this whisper in the night. I argued How am I supposed to provide jobs for women? I’m in over my head with my yes already. But I held onto the words.

Because I couldn’t let them go.

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You may know the rest of the story. A few months later, I visited an apartment complex in the heart of my city and started helping refugee women make product. I didn’t really relate it to creating jobs for women at the time. It just felt like obedience. But then Fair Trade Friday was born out of our vision for Mercy House and now with over 1200 members a month, we are providing jobs for many, many impoverished women all over the globe.

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The tiny building on our backyard that has housed Mercy House product and an office quickly filled and we added more shelves and volunteers actually had to move boxes into my yard just to fill orders. Product began to fill our garage and dining room. For months we carried thousands of fair trade items to my church every month for volunteers to pack monthly boxes because we needed the space.

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On the way home from my parents house one night a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little discouraged about our space problem and I passed a sign for a building lease. I picked up my phone and called the number. It was a Sunday night and the owner answered. He just happened to have a warehouse space for a rental rate so low I had to have him repeat it a couple of times. The building isn’t fancy (at all), but it has enough room for us to pack our boxes, house volunteers, have an office or two and a retail space.

Sometimes signs really are a sign from God.

As we scrubbed and painted and prepped our warehouse last week, Terrell stopped and pulled me close.

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This is what I saw all those years ago.

I hadn’t thought of that little coffee shop in the middle of  Texas in years. But I knew immediately what he was referring to. I nodded my head yes.

It was this place.

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I don’t know what you can’t let go of today. But can I encourage you to hold onto it?

God speaks in the dark of the night. He whispers a word, maybe two. He gives us a glimpse. He plants hope in our heart. And it may take months or years or a lifetime, but when God speaks, he will make a way. We might not know when or how or who, but He is faithful.

Don’t let go.

 

[If you’re local to North Houston and want to come  volunteer or help pack our monthly boxes, we’d love to have you! You can learn more here. Or if you’re just in the neighborhood and want to come shop, we’d love that too!]