Thursday, August 27, 2015

8 Reasons Why Youth Workers Should Use True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty



It's late August, and if you work at a church or school, you're gearing up for what you know is the real New Year. So, first off... Happy New (ministry/school) Year!

Now, if you're a youth worker looking for a curriculum to use at your youth group or school this ministry year, you're in luck, because you've stumbled upon the blog of a girl who happens to know of a great resource that was created just for you.

Last summer, I had the absolute privilege of working with a fantastic team from Compassion Canada to develop True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty, a youth curriculum video series about poverty, injustice and our part to play in God's story of redemption in the midst of it all.




It's pretty fantastic, and I think True Story would make a great addition to your curriculum line-up this year.

So, I give to you... 

8 Reasons Why You Should Use True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty

1. Let's get this out of the way: It's FREE. Like for reals, no-hidden-fees-and-no-strings-attached, zero-dollars free. Why? Because at the very core of who they are, Compassion is passionate about reaching youth through the local church, and that passion isn't limited to the youth and the Church of the developing world. So, True Story is Compassion's gift to the Church, because we know that today's youth, no matter where they're from, will accomplish great things for the Kingdom.


2. True Story is easy-to-use, adaptable and all available online. True Story comes with an incredible Leader's Guide that is designed to support you and your small group leaders every step of the way as you make this conversation about poverty and justice fun, personal, engaging and real. It's also super adaptable to fit the needs and structure of your group. Finally, it's all available onlineWe are so excited about True Story that we don't want anything to stand in the way of your group getting started!

3. Youth groups urgently and desperately need to have this conversation - because young adults are leaving the Church because of the lack of compassion- and justice-related conversations. I think most youth workers in the church can recall Hemorrhaging Faith. One of the biggest reasons youth left the church? The lack of compassion- and justice-related conversations and action. Christian youth (myself included) want to believe in a gospel that is about bringing hope to the darkest places of this world with both words and deed... so let's start talking about and acting upon the Gospel that is just that!


4. Is your group headed on a missions trip? This is a great prep course to do together as a team. Prepare your group to serve in the most broken places in this world by looking at God's heart and story of redemption behind it all... The story in which we get to play a part. 

5. Is your group of young Christians looking for "What's Next?" Maybe you just finished Youth Alpha or a similar course, and now that your youth are excited about Jesus, they're wondering what it looks like to follow Him in practical ways. What kinds of things is Jesus all about? Why is our world broken? What can we do as the Church? True Story is a natural next step in discovering some answers to those questions.


6. Week 5 is a serving-together opportunity, and it's gold. A whole bunch of head knowledge is useless if it's not put into practice, which is why on Week 5 of this 6-week journey, you and your group will roll up your sleeves and serve the poor, marginalized and oppressed in your community. Whether this is something you do together all the time, or you're terrified by this foreign concept, from my humble experience I personally think there aren't many things that strengthen faith, unite groups and deepen relationships with Jesus and each other more than serving together. 

7. You get to listen to my voice for 6 weeks! Just kidding. But seriously, I got to work with the most talented (and awesome) creative team on True Story's video segments, which are pretty sweet and are sure to engage your group with footage from all over the world. 

Want a taste? Check out our promo video:



8. Compassion and Justice issues are central to the Christian faith and they mean a lot to Jesus. And that's the bottom line here. Justice, compassion, serving the poor... This stuff is some of the most-mentioned stuff in the Bible, and stuff that Jesus preached and lived and simply assumed to be a part of every Christian's life. And I mean, if it means a lot to Jesus, I wanna take a good hard look at it, you know?


So now that I've convinced you, you're left wondering, How can I get my hands on True Story? Remember that "available online" bit (see: Reason #2)? You can get your copy of True Story at www.compassion.ca/truestory, where you'll find the entire leader's guide and 6 video segments available for download, plus a whole bunch of extra resources designed to make True Story the best possible experience for you and your youth group.

I will be praying lots for you as you start this conversation about poverty, injustice and God's invitation to the Church in the middle of this messy world, and I hope that True Story is just the beginning of a conversation, and eventually, a lifestyle of compassionate living.


Questions?
There's a nifty little Contact Us button at the bottom of the True Story website.

Connect. 
Personally, I would love to connect with you on Twitter and hear all about your True Story experience!
I would also love it if you would hashtag all your True Story photos and experiences as #TrueStorySeries.
Plus, don't forget to connect with Compassion Canada on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why The Difference Truly Is Jesus

The last thing I expected to be knitting for our Guatemalan Compassion girl, Esperanza, in the week before we got on a plane to meet her was a baby beanie for her soon-to-be-born child.

But there I was, pulling the tiny soft-yellow loops through one another to make a little cap to keep tiny little ears warm in the mountainous Guatemalan countryside.

Just a week and one day before we stepped on that plane to Guatemala, the office of Compassion Canada called with the news... Esperanza is pregnant and married, and would be leaving the Compassion program effective immediately.

Our reactions moved and ranged from shock to confusion to worry.

Yet both we and Esperanza were still very much looking forward to our visit, and we stepped on the plane with expectant and hopeful hearts... knowing that we were headed into a very different culture, one our First World minds would struggle to understand, yet we were determined to try our very best. 

Fun Fact: I LOVE flying.
Welcome to Guatemala! :)

The length of the drive from Guatemala City to Esperanza's community should have prepared me for how truly far removed her home is from anything I've ever known.

But it didn't really.

Her home sits in a community that is 8 long hours away from Guatemala City.

On the road.
Driving into Cobán, Alta Varapaz, the closest city to Esperanza, a 2.5 hour, $10 bus ride away and where she has been only 3 times in her life (including once during our visit).
P.S. Take note of the election posters lining the road... Those would soon be nowhere to be found in Esperanza's forgotten community.

It is a community where the water pipes are only turned on once a week and the nearest city, shopping mall and McDonald's sits 2.5 hours away.

Even the country's presidential campaign does not reach Esperanza's community. With a fall election looming in Guatemala, we were bombarded with election posters everywhere we went... except for in Esperanza's community. Even the vote-hungry presidential candidates can't or won't be bothered with the people living in this remote region.

Our guide from Compassion Guatemala's head office, Ruth, would later express shock at how low both Esperanza and her husband, Hernan's proficiency in Spanish is. At their level of schooling, she said, they should be far more fluent in the country's national language.

But they weren't... not even the church's pastor, Javier, spoke Spanish; only their project director, Martin, did. So this led us to gather the story of Esperanza and her community through triple translation - English to Spanish to Q'eqchi' (the local Mayan language) and back again. It was quite the game of broken telephone! ;)

And as we sat in the church that is home to Compassion project GU996, with the centre's countless children peering through the window to stare at the Canadians, we gathered what we could of our Esperanza's story...

Within minutes of being face-to-face with this sweet girl for the first time!
P.S. #InGuatemalaIAmTall
P.P.S. Notice the kids in the window behind us? 
Okay, maybe not that tall. #NotSoLittleBrother
My parents with Esperanza, her husband, Hernan, and her mom, Doña Maria.

A mutual friend introduced her and Hernan, who is just a year older than Esperanza, at 18. The two, nearing the end of their primary schooling (the highest level of education available to them in their community), with him finishing Grade 6 and her, Grade 4, soon found themselves pregnant and married at 17 and 18 years old... The next "normal" life stage in their community, if you will.

Some of the precious kids of Esperanza's community...

Their story, under the lens of First World culture, calls for major edits. And while most people can agree, when presented with theoretical questions, that development and poverty eradication is best carried out in a grassroots, by-the-people-for-the-people manner, I think most of us are still quick to reach for our Western "values" when we hear a story like Esperanza's.

I know I am.

The first question in my long list of questions is Will she be able to finish her education?

And her community will look back at me with this: Will she be able to finish her subpar, 6th grade education? For what?

Well, even a 6th grade education can make all the difference, I'll say.

Because I'm a soon-to-be International Development student and I've read United Nations stats, you know. Duh.

And I'll be met with are-you-an-alien looks because why would a farmer's daughter, and now, a farmer's wife ever need a 6th Grade education to raise her baby and feed her family? Her mother and grandmother certainly did without one.

Well, I'll say, what if she one day has hopes to move to the city and pursue higher opportunities?

But you see, my projection of First World culture is fast crumbling because she can't even speak Spanish and finishing 6th Grade certainly won't help that, as evidenced by Hernan, so how would she be expected to survive in a city that has barely even heard of her native Q'eqchi' language?

I think you see where I'm going here.

All of this is so far removed from anything I've ever known. And in the world I grew up in, anything removed from what I've always known is wrong.

But that is simply not true. 

Yes, there are deeply ingrained, systematic issues and problems that are running rampant in Esperanza's community.

But so often we mix up what is inequality and what is culture. What is holding a people group back, and what is simply their way of life, something they can't afford to lose.

It is truly a fine line, one humanity will always be walking.

But when it simply comes down to it, what I believe and what I saw makes all the difference is always Jesus.

This overwhelming picture I've painted for you above... Man, there is overwhelming hope in it because of Jesus. 

There's Esperanza's father, who we met when we later visited her home, who asked us to join him in prayer for his family... Because sure, his daughter's story might look different from what he and his wife had hoped when Esperanza registered in the Compassion program, but because of how Compassion and the local church has touched his family, he knows that there is a God who loves his family more than anything. So he prays, and invites us to pray with him. 

Esperanza's father, Don Juan, Hernan, and my papa. 

And while Esperanza will be leaving the Compassion program, the local church that has been journeying with her all along will not be leaving Esperanza. That is the beauty of Compassion's program: It works exclusively and closely with the local church so that once a child leaves the Compassion program, they are already a part of a thriving and supportive church community that will journey alongside them for life.

Sharing some gifts... including the aforementioned baby beanie. :)

Because the reality is that it could take years and years and perhaps even a lifetime before Esperanza's community gains things like quality education and uninterrupted access to clean water.

And yes, we will work towards those things with tenacity, because they are basic human rights. But the hope we can offer now - as in right now, at this very instant - is Jesus.

Because...

The difference between hope and hopelessness is more than education, healthcare and social programs. 
The difference is Jesus.
Just two girls from opposite ends of the world who have the Cross, the Kingdom and the Love of Christ as our greatest hope.

***

This blog post would seriously have no hopeful conclusion without the hope of Christ. And that is why the difference truly is Jesus. That's not a line or a slogan. It is the essence of Compassion International's ministry.

Sponsor a Child with Compassion. No, it doesn't make everything "perfect", by any standard, including in our First World minds. But it inserts hope into the most broken places on this earth in the form of not only education, healthcare, and social programs, but most importantly, Jesus Christ.



ps Check out my mama's reflections on this day!
pps More photos from our trip to Guatemala can be found on Instagram. Man, that country is so beautiful!


Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Saturday, July 25, 2015

15 Ways To Live Compassionately As A Family... From A Kid Who Was Just There

I turned 18 this year, and that makes it official: My parents have successfully raised me through my childhood. 

I, of course, appreciate every single sacrifice they made for me, but what I am most thankful to my parents for is that they have raised me and my brother in a home where living compassionately is part of who our family is and how we do life

It is messy, yes. But it is also full to the brim with joy, redemption and hope.

So I was thinking, through these lazy summer days, how do I best share our story of living compassionately as a family and encourage families like ours? 


And so here is my list of 
15 Ways To Live Compassionately As A Family
from a kid just on the other side of 18 who knows first-hand what it's like to be raised in a home where living compassionately is part of our DNA.

This list is split into 3 parts: Awareness, Action and Lifestyle. I'll explain along the way.

Ready? Here it goes:

Awareness
Understanding why compassionate living is important to us, our world, and our walk with Jesus was so important to me and who I've become. 

1. Do Step Into My Shoes together! Designed by Compassion International for families, Step Into My Shoes is a curriculum full of resources to help your family understand poverty & what God wants us to do about it. Check it out: www.stepintomyshoes.ca.

2. Pray for the World. Here's a good place to start: www.operationworld.org. We did this for a while when my brother and I were younger. Learning about the struggles of people all over the world and learning how to pray for something other than my own little world was an eye-opening, worldview-shaping experience. 

3. Devo Together. Do justice- and compassion-centred Bible time together. 
Here are a few suggestions: 

Christmas 2014 - Reading from Ann Voskamp's Advent Devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

4. Read Compassion-Centred Books. As a family or individually.
Here are a few suggestions:
:: Kisses from Katie - Katie Davis
:: Rhinestone Jesus - Kristin Welch
:: Overrated - Eugene Cho

5. Watch Compassion-Centred Movies. Documentaries that tackle a certain issue or ones you'd find in your local movie theatre that simply carry a compassion-centred message.
Here are a few suggestions:
:: The Blind Side
:: The Help

Action
Pretty self-explanatory - Faith without works is dead... Engage your family in a living, breathing, moving faith.

6. Stop For Panhandlers More Often Than Not. This is probably the thing that my parents exemplified to us growing up that had the biggest impact on me as a child, because without thinking twice, they would interrupt our everyday life to buy a panhandler a meal. This is so normal to my brother and I that we eventually started doing it on our own. This gesture, however small, can have a big impact... both on the panhandler and your family. 

7. Sponsor A Child. This is where our family's story in compassionate living really started getting intense. It opened our eyes to this huge world of need and hopelessness, as well as the redemption and hope that is truly within grasp. We could no longer turn a blind eye. 

Big side note I'll add to this: WRITE to your child!!! It's a fantastic family activity and it means the world to your little one on the other side of the globe.

May 2012 - Writing letters to our Compassion children as a family.
[How many laptops does it take...? ;)]

8. Kiva. Kiva rocks. Basically: You make $25 loans to impoverished small business owners to help pull them from poverty. Choosing a borrower and reading their stories = Another great family activity. This two-sentence crash course definitely does not suffice, so check out www.kiva.org to see just how awesome Kiva truly is.

9. Seek Out Opportunities to Serve Together. It will be hard to find places where kids are allowed or where you all have a role in which you thrive. Don't give up. Keep trying and searching for a place where you all can serve together because it is so. important. to serve as a family. It was invaluable for me to, from a very young age, serve and engage with people from all walks of life.

Here are a few places/ways our family has served together:
:: Self-Organized Sandwich Runs (Head downtown with bagged lunches or care packages and offer them to the homeless, along with a smile and some conversation.)
:: Local Food Bank(s)

Fall 2014 - Volunteering at a Compassion booth at a local event - one of our favourite family activities!  

October 2012 - My dad and brother bring a bagged lunch to a homeless man on one of our sandwich runs.

10. Give & Make Opportunities to Give. Ever since I can remember, we've had what we call a "Shoebox Bin"... When my brother or I brought home a small toy or trinket from a loot bag, happy meal, etc., we were to choose whether to keep it or place it in the "Shoebox Bin" - our year-round collection of toys to place in Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes come Christmastime. This instilled in me, at a very young age, the concept of sacrificial giving. 

This can happen in your home in a variety of ways... A change jar placed in the foyer [If your family is a little too old for loot bags and happy meals.], emptying piggy banks to contribute to relief efforts after natural disasters, or making a rule of setting aside a portion of weekly allowance to be given away. 

Christmas 2014 - Packing Christmas Shoeboxes is still a well-loved tradition in our family...
One we've come to share with many other families!

Lifestyle
Intentional changes to regular things you do as a family helps distinguish between doing compassionate things and living compassionately...

11. Give Up Birthday Parties/Presents. For my brother's 10th birthday, he asked that instead of presents, people bring backpacks filled with school supplies for underprivileged kids in our city. For my Dad's 45th, everyone was invited to the local food bank to sort food together. These have been some of our most memorable birthday celebrations. 

September 2010 - My papa having a blast at his 45th Birthday Party at the Food Bank!

September 2010 - My brother, Jon, and his birthday backpacks!

12. Vacation Intentionally. If you can vacation internationally, go visit your sponsored child. If you vacation locally or do road trips, find places to serve. Dedicate even just one day of your trip or vacation time to visiting a local ministry to learn more about their work and how you can support them or pray for them.

Summer 2014 - Flying into Masbate, Philippines to meet our Compassion girl, Florianlyn.

Summer 2014 - Meeting Florianlyn!

Summer 2014 - Visiting a Habitat for Humanity build site where homes are being built for Typhoon Haiyan victims in Daanbantayan, Philippines.

Summer 2014 - Meeting our Compassion boy, JD, and a friend's Compassion boy, Jamson, in Cebu City, Philippines.

Summer 2013 - Visiting a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Summer 2013 - Visiting UrbanPromise in Wilmington, Delaware.

Summer 2011 - Our first trip to the Philippines to meet our Compassion child, Florianlyn, and our then-future LDP student, Rechelle.

13. Buy Fair Trade. Coffee, Chocolate, and Sugar are the biggest culprits for being produced with bonded labour, child labour, and slavery. Next up is clothing.

Here are a few places to start shopping:

And if you can't buy it fair trade, then buy less. Wear your clothes to the threads, use your iPhone to its bitter end [and get it fixed rather than throwing it out and buying a new one!], eat/drink less coffee, chocolate and sugar [pssst... it's bad for you anyways, sorry to break it to you. ;)]. And this brings me to #14...

14. Live Simply. One of the biggest things that my parents exemplified that allowed us to pursue compassionate living is saying no. I know, it's not really an exciting tip. But sometimes, we have to say no to buying the latest doodad or joining the latest extra curricular activity in order to say yes to God's call to serve and love the least of these. We had a rule in our house: We were each allowed one type of lesson or sport outside of school at a time. I believe that rule kept me [and definitely my mom] sane as a kid and it surely gave us time to say yes to various serving opportunities placed in our lives.

15. Make Compassionate Living Something You Can't Live Without. It'll get messy. You'll hate it sometimes. There will be many days where you wish you could simply go back to turning a blind eye to all the suffering in the world. Most days, it'll be easier to stay home and have family movie night or game night. But allow compassionate living to permeate your life. Allow pictures of/from your sponsored child to cover your walls, and compassion-centred events to fill your calendar, and social justice issues to fill your conversations. You'll soon find that, while there are still hard days, this lifestyle and the joy, hope and redemption it brings is something you can't imagine your family going on without. 


The bottom line here is this - Families and kids can make a difference together for their communities' and the world's most vulnerable and oppressed people.

I hope this list and our family's journey inspire you and encourage you even just a little... to let compassionate living permeate your family's life and bring you closer to each other, to the world's vibrant people and places, and most importantly, to Jesus.


In what ways is your family engaging in compassionate living?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When God Gives You Both

I was this. close. to meeting [Esperanza] in the summer of 2014, but God had other plans. However, I'm convinced that travelling to Guatemala was postponed, not cancelled. 

That is what I have written next to the picture of my Guatemalan Compassion sister, Esperanza, on the Compassion International page that lives up there on the pages bar of this blog.

I had an amazing summer last year. It was something only God could orchestrate, and that is evident by the fact that my summer 2014 looked very different in Spring 2014 than it ended up turning out.

I had planned to spend a month in Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee. And when God took that away (in favour of something I never could've imagined at the time) with a phone call from the team leader stating not enough people had signed up for the trip for us to be able to go, well... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't devastated.

But you know, God is good and he gives good gifts, and it turns out He wasn't saying no to Guatemala, just simply - wait.

Wait one year, to be exact.

And a year later, the entire family will be on an airplane to Guatemala in late July, off to meet Esperanza.

Stoked? Uh, yes.

So there it is... We're going on an adventure to Guatemala.

Pray for us - mainly that I don't say anything super stupid in my (extremely) limited Spanish... I'm not as good as I think I am. ;)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Introducing... True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty

  
It's for real for real in my hands!

I joke that at one moment, a wonderful member of Compassion Canada's creative team was emailing me about getting my feedback on a youth curriculum they were producing, and the next moment, I was on a plane to film it.

But this whirlwind has kind of felt like that.

"Did that happen? Did we really produce a youth curriculum?" That's the question the team leader and I laugh over last Saturday.

It happened... and by no fault of our own, really. 

Only God could do something like this.

It is with great joy that I blog-introduce you to...
True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty.

Here are 7 quick facts about True Story:

1. It is six sessions, including a serving-together opportunity for Week 5.

2. It was filmed over 11 days in 2 countries - Canada and the Philippines.

A photo posted by Allan Spiers (@allanspiers) on

A photo posted by Allan Spiers (@allanspiers) on

3. Over that period, I delivered 6 scripts.

4. The Week 5 script was done in partnership with our recently-graduated LDP student - Rechelle!

A photo posted by @iamcurtanderson on

5. True Story is way, way, WAY more than just videos - that leaders' guide pictured above includes activity ideas, teaching notes, Bible readings, small group questions, Identify with Poverty challenges for students and leaders to engage in at home each week, prayer guides, and lots of tips and support for youth pastors, facilitators, and leaders.

6. True Story is entirely FREE. Compassion truly has a heart for reaching youth through the local church, both in the developing world and here at home, which is why True Story is Compassion's gift to the Church.

7. True Story is all available online, and hard copies can be requested off the website, too... www.compassion.ca/truestory.

I personally learned so much about poverty from hosting this curriculum, and my prayer is that youth across the country and across the globe will be impacted by the message of True Story


Thinking about poverty and seeing it through God's eyes changes your perspective.

- True Story - Week 6

My generation is one that is going to deeply impact this world - I have no doubt about that. But it's so easy for us to start with a burning passion that quickly goes out when we realize how overwhelming the brokenness of this world is.

True Story's message speaks to that superhero tendency of my generation and reminds us that our Saviour has already overcome this world... It is a blessing that we get to be a part of that. 

Brokenness seems a lot less overwhelming when we realize that we serve a God that has had a redeeming restoration plan going long before we were ever involved - and that is the Gospel.


Our world is broken... Things are not the way they should be. But we have a God that loves us. One who made a way to fix this mess and make things right again.
- True Story - Promo


When you address poverty from that perspective, it becomes a lot easier to join in and partner with this loving God who simply invites us to trust him enough to say yes to our part in this bigger story of redemption. 


How can we use what God has given us to serve our communities?
- True Story - Week 4

As a Canadian teen, I am so excited about True Story. I hope you'll join me in praying as this curriculum begins to land in youth groups - that the Holy Spirit would move in powerful ways, and that youth everywhere would begin to say yes to God's invitation to serve the least of these...

...until all those daily yeses become a lifestyle of compassion and justice. 




#TrueStorySeries
www.compassion.ca/TrueStory

Sunday, May 10, 2015

To Mamas Everywhere -

I've seen the scene play out many times.

You're chatting with me or that adorable, kind, genius not-so-little brother of mine.

I might be telling you about Wilmington or True Story and maybe he's telling you about how all these little kids crammed into this tiny house in one of the most underdeveloped parts of the Philippines to watch him solve a Rubik's Cube.



And after a few minutes of conversation, you'll turn to our Mama who's most likely close by and you'll say those words that will make that Mama of ours squirm a little -

"You did good raising these two."

And I'll smile and nod because you're right - she's one great Mama and I'm so thankful she's my Mama.

But I know what inevitably comes next. She'll smile and open her mouth to respond and through these few short words, you'll see what makes her such a great Mama.

"No, their Heavenly Father did good. It's only by His grace."

My mama always tells me she doesn't want to be special. Yet I could solve world hunger if I had a dime for every time someone asked her how she does it.

And she doesn't know how to answer because she really doesn't think there's anything special about the way she does the whole Mom thing. It's simply in her blood. But I get it, there is something incredibly special about my mama.

I know it is not normal that her two kids spend their days off driving to the inner city to hang out at a UrbanPromise Rubik's Cube Club or that we collectively sponsor 3 kids through Compassion Canada.

And my mama has been such a huge part of why that is.

Why? Because...

She sacrificed so much to be our full-time mama. Every kid says that. But for real - after working her butt off for 5 years to earn her Bachelor's of Landscape Architecture, she never pursued a career as an Architect in order to be a Mother. In this climb-the-ladder world, I don't know too many people who are selfless enough to give up their entire career for even their children. But being able to come home for lunch until I was 14, knowing my mama would be home after school after a particularly rough day, or always letting her be the first one to know about my greatest accomplishments from the day made me the woman I am today.

She taught us by example. She never asked us to give something away that we hadn't seen her give before. She conquers her fears, rides victory and losses, gives and receives with a grace and posture that inspires and informs so much of the way I carry myself today. She said yes when I begged and begged for a little Compassion International sister, so how could I say no when the opportunity came for me to sponsor my own little girl? She always brought us along when serving at church or in the community, because she wanted us to see and be involved from a very young age.

She expected excellence from us. No, not perfection. But excellence. A performance that was our best - one that we could be proud of. On a similar note, she expected us to be generous. To whom much is given much is required, and my mama expected us to give of our money, time and lives to the least of these, because she knew that's where we would find our greatest joy.

Most importantly, she knew that the best possible parent we could ever have would be our Heavenly Father. At the end of the day, none of these great parenting decisions meant anything if she didn't know that ultimately, we are God's children. It all comes down to grace, she always says. And that, friend, is what truly makes her a great mama.

And you know something else about my mama? She wishes that every mama could have kids who spend their time and money in unusual ways like hers, so that the way she and her children live are no longer unusual.

And I think that's why she's so disturbed by those questions or comments of "How did you do it?" 

Because she does not want to be extraordinary.

So, to all you wonderful, beautiful mamas out there, on this day that celebrates YOU, can I encourage you to be extraordinary?

It will take courage, but simply bringing life into this world is courageous, so we all know that mamas possess the courage already.

It will take sacrifice, but I know that you would give anything for your children.

It will take trust in a God who loves your children more than you ever could, but I truly believe that you will find even greater peace in giving it up to Him.

It will be the hardest thing ever because (trust me, I've lived this first-hand) us kids are so darn stubborn sometimes...

But I believe you can raise your kids to be great.

But more importantly - I believe their Heavenly Father will. 

And I pray that you would have the power to truly and deeply believe that, at the very core of who you are as not only a mother, but as the beautiful, courageous woman of God that you are.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wilmington, Take 3

Hi, blog. I think I'll just save the bytes and skip the whole apology for the dust everywhere and just dust off this little corner right here and place this little update about my trip to Wilmington down. However, I'll put a little plug in that my Twitter & Instagram are far less dusty, for anyone interested in 140 character and/or snapshot updates on a more regular basis. But for right now, I'm still blown away by how Wilmington blew me away again... 

The city of Wilmington, Delaware never ceases to amaze me.

I didn't see anything new during my latest trip to Wilmington to work with UrbanPromise - my third trip. Nothing groundbreaking. I tell stories about Wilmington and they sound repetitive, same old, I've-heard-this-one-before.

And maybe that is the most beautiful thing of all.

It's been 4 years since I first stumbled upon this Kingdom-community known as UrbanPromise Wilmington. And 4 years later, they're still the same passionate, world changing Jesus-lovers that inspired me and changed my life back in Grade 9.

Yes, they're moved by Christ-like compassion, hope, and love. But what makes this community different from every other spark of passionate action for social justice is their Christ-like perseverance.

When the going gets tough, it's not "Well, we tried." It's "We're gonna get through this. Together. Because we're a family. We're the Body of Christ."

Guys, I'm just gonna skip the tip-toe politically correct business and say that it's been an especially tough year for at-risk minority youth in American inner cities. The streets of America seem especially soaked with the blood of black youth this year. Race relations, black violence - this is all real stuff all the time, and maybe it's because I'm older or maybe not, but there was a new level of tension in the air this year.

And this trip was a reality check for this girl from the Canadian suburbs, let me tell you. Because there's shaking my head at the latest on CP24 from Ferguson, and then there's sitting in a room while a teenager from Wilmington says he's literally afraid to take his little brother outside sometimes.

Because there's retweeting something social-justicey, and then there's the community at UrbanPromise Wilmington that is passionately and tirelessly working together against the grain of this broken culture day in and day out.

"What's the biggest challenge facing youth in your city?"

All three of those teenagers said the exact same thing - "Violence." "Violence." "Violence."

It runs so deep. And even though the stories are same-old, may we never take lightly the absolutely heart-wrenching, world-shaking, holy Kingdom-work that the UrbanPromise community is doing with a Christ-like hope and perseverance - kids, youth, interns, and staff alike.

I think we like quick in this culture, wouldn't you say so? Quick results, quick answers, quick LTE data.

While my generation has the power to change the world with our quick advancements, what's going to kill us is our restlessness. Our inability to stick around long enough to see the really beautiful deep stuff take root. The best stuff - hope, love, reconciliation - that stuff takes time to grow.

The UrbanPromise Wilmington community has stuck around. Beauty like that doesn't just happen. It requires trust. It requires perseverance.

And I know I'm guilty of restlessness. But my week in Wilmington taught me that there is beauty in staying, because our Father knows exactly where He needs us to be -

And personally? There's no place I'd rather be.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...