(in)Mercy LIVE from Africa

Teen-aged laughter and baby giggles.

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Heartfelt worship songs and dancing feet.

Red dirt and colorful laundry hanging on the line.

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I’m in Kenya this week with my family at Mercy House and this verse is alive in my heart:

“O, Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.’ -Psalm 33:9

Sometimes when we give money, we wonder if it really goes to what it’s asked for. I’m your eyewitness today, testifying of mercy.

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Maureen, Kenyan Director

We have a little more wiggle room for our 24 residents now and in our new-to-us van.

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Two new classrooms are already in use…

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As a skills room

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and a computer lab that will take our students to the next level of learning.

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Click to continue to read all God has done through (in)mercy at DaySpring….

Growing in Mercy

The funny thing about a house full of babies is they don’t stay babies long.

It’s a universal thing, huh?

Healthy babies grow. And it’s a poignant journey for all mommas across the globe.

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It’s a lifetime of firsts. It’s what God created all of us to do–grow up.

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Every time I visit Mercy House, it’s the first thing I notice. Chubby thighs, double chins, heavy babies who were bundled the last time I held them and are now peekaboo-playing toddlers running through the house.

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I’ve also noticed with each visit, there’s less for me to oversee and advise on, less dependence. It’s more of me watching like a proud parent.  The maternity home is growing and maturing and developing far past anything I could have hoped or dreamed.

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It’s a beautiful thing for a mother to witness, these first steps.

When my family said yes, nearly four years ago, to this baby of an idea, we had no idea what God would do. We simply offered our meager offering.  And I am the first to tell you, what I’m witnessing this week is Divine. Watching traumatized girls powerfully healed, holding babies who were botched abortions, watching God make something from nothing–this is holy ground. Listening to the girls worship this morning, brought such deep gratitude and reflection for the countless miracles.

I look at this big baby that’s a growing, changing ministry and I stand back–half excited, half terrified–of what’s coming next, more of the unknown, bigger dreams and scarier yes’.

And I sort of feel like just a little girl. And so, I look up to my Father. My big Daddy in Heaven who says, “I’m going to keep growing you, too, daughter. Hold my hand. I’ll lead you.”

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And He says it to each of us. You sitting there with a babe growing in your body or a grand baby growing in your grown baby. . .We all keep growing. Keep giving all you’ve got to those children in your life, those without, those who don’t have what you do.

It’s the best way to live Thanksgiving.

It’s the best way to grow.

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We keep adding to our family here in Kenya. It’s growing in size and grace and we want you to be a part of it. Help us help more girls, more babies, turn this heartbreakingly beautiful country upside down for Jesus? We are asking God for 100 new families to join this growing family in 2014.

2014 Family Picture

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Sweet [Exhausted] Mercy

We made it.

And I’m almost too tired to type another word.

30 hours and mostly still smiling (not one meltdown, so clearly miracles happen).

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We landed at 7am and hit the ground running. We arrived at the home and got reacquainted. Everyone is shy at first, babies tentative to white strangers.

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Well. Most.

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We shared gifts with all the residents and staff and took a tour of our new home and the recent additions.

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It’s surreal being in Kenya again. Loving mercy, being eyewitnesses to all God has done.

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Also: What happens in Kenya stays in Kenya

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One of my kids got stuck in a bathroom for half an hour and we had to break the door down. That was fun. You can take that family out of the USA, but you can take THAT family out of us. Apparently.

I’m so glad you’re here with us!

P.S. Don’t you love my Team Mercy shirt? Our new Team Mercy Advocacy Program starts in 2014. It’s the perfect way for families to join our team and help reach more girls in Kenya for Christ.

Last Minute

Our bags are packed, weighed, rearranged, unpacked, repacked ready for Africa. (And I have a large supply of chocolate and Xanax for my travel anxiety. And all the other passengers said AMEN).

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We leave on a big plane tomorrow and layover in Amsterdam. Since our kids are traveling with us this trip, I was on the hunt for cheap plane tickets a few months ago, which should explain the 12 hour layover in Holland and the 9 hour red eye to Kenya. And also the cranky exhausted kids I’m expecting.

Remind me of that okay?

I’m always excited SLASH nervous when I travel to Kenya. It’s like stepping into a completely different world where you lose control and expectations. I’ve gone half a dozen times now, but this trip, this trip will be like no other. 

12 babies, y’all. 

I want you to come with me. I want you to taste, smell , hear and see. I can’t wait to show you what you’ve helped create. I can’t wait to show you joy only God can bring.

I can’t wait to show you miracles.

Would you pray for us? (Specifically for peace and wisdom, endurance and grace over the next 12 days)

I’m praying for you, too. 

Good Stuff to Give

There are only 63 days until Christmas.

I don’t mean to alarm you, friends, BUT YOU NEED TO GET BUSY.

The older I get, the faster time flies.

This year, don’t just give stuff, give back.

Give life:

I know just the place :)

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New Mercy House 2014 Calendars:

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New Stretchy Paper Bead Bracelets:

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New Unique Paper Bead Statement Necklaces:

Necklace Grid

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New Christmas Greeting Cards:

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New Trio Paper Bead Necklace:

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Visit The Mercy Shop. Use coupon code: BEAUTY4ASHES to get FREE SHIPPING on orders of $25 or more.

And now, it’s nearly 62 days until Christmas.

See what I mean?

What It Means to Be a Girl in Our World

There is a price on her head. She runs for her life because she knows they will kill her, she hides in dark corridors like a criminal, she sells her body for food.

What is her crime?

She is a girl.

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The United Nations estimates there are 200 million missing just like her, killed, aborted or abandoned just because they are girls. Today, India and China eliminate more girls in their countries than are born in America every year.

It’s a quiet genocide.

But it’s not just a foreign issue: in our country we exploit, objectify and even traffic girls. Pornography is a 10 billion dollar industry. Sex sells and our daughters are the commodity. There must be a direct correlation to this booming practice when you consider trafficking is on the increase in our nation. Girls are trafficked in 49 states in our country and the average entry age for commercial exploitation is between the ages of 12-14 years old and many of these girls are punished for prostitution instead of helped as a victim.

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In countries like Kenya, girls have been subjected to genital mutilation and polygamy and sent out to prostitute their bodies for food to help feed their families. And if they end up pregnant, they have to quit school and are often kicked out of their homes. Some are orphaned, some are trafficked.

It’s the main reason we risked it all and started Mercy House.

A day this week has been set aside as International Day of the Girl.

The Day of the Girl is a response to an urgent problem facing our world today: the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world.

You might have a daughter or two, a sister, you’re probably a mom reading this. And we are busy busy people with so much to do, so many demands placed on us. But we cannot ignore the plight of our sisters around the globe.

How can we help? Because this isn’t just a day, it’s a call to a movement, we can stand up for the girls in our world by boycotting places that sell pornography, getting involved locally in trafficking organizations like Not for Sale, become active in the fight to save our girls. Here are 11 tangible ideas for action.

“No act is too small; you may never know the full extent of your impact. Activism is contagious. While you may be one person, your voice and actions can touch others, whose voices and actions can touch still others, and so forth until we experience change. This is how activism works.” (Fight Like a Girl by Megan Seely)

We can also do something right now. Change begins with the opportunity for education.

I’ll never forget sitting on a blanket outside Mercy House in Kenya with one of the very first residents almost three years ago. This young girl had been rescued from unspeakable horrors. She gingerly reached out to touch my white skin and said, “Thank you for bringing me here.” I thought she was referring to sleeping on a bed, living in a clean home with plenty of food, a safe place to heal and become a mother.  But her next words surprised me. She thanked me for the the chance to get an education. “I want to learn. This is what I want the most. I want to be something,” and then she put her hands on her swollen belly.

“We know from study after study that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.” Kofi Annan

Education is a fundamental right for all people, women and men, of all ages. Unfortunately in Kenya and many countries like it, education for girls still lags behind education for boys.

When girls are given the opportunity to learn, it not only changes their lives, it changes the world (facts based on research at womendeliver.org):

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  1. Educating girls raises lifetime incomes for them, their families and their countries. In particular, girls with secondary education have an 18% return in future wages, as compared to 14% for boys.
  2. Educating girls and women fosters democracy and women’s political activity. Educated women are more likely to resist abuses such as domestic violence, traditions like female mutilation, and discrimination at home, in society or the workplace.
  3. Educating girls and women saves children’s lives. Each additional year of schooling for girls reduces infant mortality for their offspring by up to 10%. Also, mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children: girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men only spend 30-40%

Want a tangible, practical way to help? Today, right now, you can be a part of Phase 2  of the (in)Mercy fundraising campaign called Learn Mercy. After moving into a smaller (paid for home), the Mercy House desperately needs a two-room classroom addition for the residents to be educated, continue their sewing skills (sewing machines are outside under tarps right now due to space), learn computer skills in a future computer lab and work on their studies.


Let’s remember girls everywhere today.
Please share this post. We can be a part of changing what it means to be a girl in our world.

*Photos by Bess Brownlee

An Invitation to Step (in) Mercy

Three years ago today on Sept. 12, 2010, I invited you to be a part of an incredible God-story. Some of you may remember…
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Thirty-six hard, beautiful months ago, Mercy House was born. It has been a labor of love to help those who would need to labor and learn to love.

An unlikely family was created, babies conceived in abuse and desperation, united sisters through grief and shame.

 

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One-thousand-eighty days ago, Mercy House opened it’s doors to be a haven for pregnant girls to become mothers, to fall in love with their unplanned babies. It’s a home of second chances, an environment for orphaned girls to connect, for lifelong friendships to establish.

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It’s a place where hope is born.

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It’s a home for new life and 12 tiny miracles so far…

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It’s a house where aunties are created and cousins play.

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It’s a refuge where girls like Cindy can lay down their burdens in exchange for transformation.

“When I joined the house, my challenges were nothing to smile about, it was not a joke because I had a big burden deep inside me. I worried a lot even though I never wanted to show it out directly. I also wondered how I would get used to the new environment at Mercy {Rehema} House with new people and policies set since I never had any at home…It was nothing close to my home having been brought up in a filthy slum. But I thank God for this far, am totally changed and my life transformed am a proud mother, the burden is gone and above all a new creature fully transformed.” Cindy, age 18

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It’s a beauty for ashes kind of place, where God takes what the world has trampled and turns it into something breathtaking.

Twenty-six thousand minutes ago we said yes to a God-sized dream.

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And today, we are inviting you to be a part of the story again. We have the opportunity together with (in)courage through Pure Charity to change the world for the girls and babies of Kenya.

Phase 1: Drive Mercy {Van}

Phase 2: Learn Mercy {Classroom Additions}

Phase 3: Generate Mercy {Generator}

Phase 4: Advance Mercy {Computer Lab}

Phase 5: Live Mercy {Second Home}

Mercy House is a place that will change your life the minute you step into the story.

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Will you step (in)Mercy today? <—————– Click to learn more about Phase 1 (of 5)

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Thank you Dayspring and (in)courage for being a part of this dream!

photos by Bess Brownlee

What Three Years of Chasing a God-Sized Dream Has Taught Me

“I cried every day last week.”

That was the answer I gave when someone asked me how I was doing the other day.

Awkward, I know.

But it was the truth and sometimes you just have to let people in your mess. I’m pretty sure my friend was sorry she asked because then I was all LET ME TELL YOU HOW I’M DOING.

The details aren’t super important, but they do involve me running a non-profit and BEING COMPLETELY INADEQUATE.

Random stress facts might also include: the first week of school, strategic longterm planning of Mercy House and restructuring both organizations in Kenya and the USA, my son locking my keys in my car as I was heading out to carline, which left my first grader stranded, some hard parenting stuff, me yelling, having company for the long weekend and not a clean towel in the house, oh and being accused of money laundering by Western Union at 4pm on a Friday, JUST TO NAME A FEW.

During one of my many crying stints, I whined to my husband, “I never wanted any of this–the piles of paperwork, the uncomfortable stretching, the hard hard work of being inadequate and trying to learn something so foreign to me. I just wanted to help girls in Kenya.” He just patted my back reassuringly and ordered me a margarita.

I often keep the day-to-day struggles of this God-sized dream to myself. It’s easy to when struggle is your normal. I’m an introvert and it’s not easy for me to ask for help. But God is continually using this journey to change me. Part of the growing is being desperate in the wilderness moments. We all have those seasons of being overwhelmed and lost, struggling, wandering, the days when no one asks how are you doing? And you are dying for them to. So, today I’m saying it out loud.

My family just completed year 3 of chasing our God-sized dream and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. We desperately need Jesus, every hour, I need Him.  I constantly find myself questioning the next steps to take as we pioneer and fund the first-of-its-kind maternity home in a developing country across the ocean. I need divine wisdom at every turn. I don’t have the education or background for any of this and it drives me to my knees.

2. We need community. Isolation breeds doubt and pride. I cannot live this life alone. I cannot achieve my goals or chase this dream without help. And part of accepting help is being honest about needing it. I’m constantly looking to surround myself with people who can dream with me.

3. It gets easier. I gave up control around year one (since I never really had it). I can’t always predict or prepare for what will happen next, so I stopped trying and worrying so much. God has never lost control and He has a plan. Plus, I can almost talk about Mercy House without crying and I only weave it into every other conversation. And I can have a pedicure without guilt. It’s called progress, people.

4. It gets harder. At the start of year 4, you’d think I’d be used to the stretching and pulling. It’s a lot like my husband doing Crossfit workouts faithfully three times a week for the last two years. Just when his body is adjusting to the constant strain, he comes home sore, from being pushed harder and further. The thing about God-sized dreams is they are always bigger than we are, stretching and pulling us further than we think we can go. I don’t think at some point, I’ll wave God off and say, “I’ve got this. Thanks for your help.” And if I do, it will become my thing, not His. I’m growing into the dream, but the dream keeps growing. And some days I feel lost and overwhelmed and very tired.

5. It’s good to look back. As intimidating and overwhelming at the future seems, it’s encouraging to look behind me. A specialist in Kenya who is helping us structure the organization for growth (and making Maureen and I work harder than ever) said to me in a particularly emotional moment recently, “Kristen, you have already achieved your goal. You set out to help girls and you have done that. Very few organizations achieve their one main goal. This growth is uncomfortable, but it is good.” I cried. Again. Because yes. This face and eleven others like it are a constant reminder of what God has done.

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6. It’s good to look ahead. For the last 36 months I feel like I’ve been treading water and not only in the bigger-than-me dream, in life too. As a mom and wife, I’ve had to learn to shut down my computer and close down the constant barrage of “I need to’s” and just live because life keeps on going, kids keep growing and needing you. As we enter this new season of dreaming, I’m looking ahead and expecting God to do great things.

7. We would still say yes. Even though I want to quit my volunteer job about once a week, I wouldn’t change the past three years for all the ease and comfort in the world. I’ll give you 24 reasons why (12 moms, 12 babies). I’m sort of glad I didn’t know everything thing I was saying yes to because even in the oh-so I’ve learned that my inadequacy is the perfect place for God’s glory. And watching Him be glorified in a broken place, through an unlikely group of people, makes me want to say yes all over again.

I don’t know what your God-sized dream looks like. I don’t know if it’s in your rearview mirror or if looms large and scary ahead. But don’t doubt for a minute, He has one for you.

Don’t be afraid to chase it.

 

[Something BIG:: Coming Soon]MHK-inMercy-BlogTease

Photo by Bess Brownlee