Genoa Women’s Retreat

November 18th, 2014
Some of the over 100 clocks Christine used to decorate

Some of the over 100 clocks Christine used to decorate

Presenting "For Such a Time as This"

Presenting “For Such a Time as This”

This past Saturday I got to present the life of Esther at Genoa Church’s women’s retreat in Westerville, OH just north of Columbus. It was such a great group of ladies, and I so enjoyed working with Amy and Christine who were organizing the whole event.

I call it “For Such a Time as This – A Study on the Life of Esther” and Christine went and found over 100 clocks and had them placed all around the room! They were centerpieces and hung on the wall and on stands and at the tables – it was pretty amazing. I so love sharing the Bible with people, and the history behind the stories which takes the people from characters you can read about impersonally to real people who lived and made mistakes and heroic decisions and everything in between. When we see the people in the Bible as real people, we can learn so much from their lives! Esther is one of my favorite, and I’m so glad they gave me the chance to share it!

Remember Nhu Benefit

November 13th, 2014
Children dressed in the traditional costumes of the nine countries they serve

Children dressed in the traditional costumes of the nine countries they serve

Presenting at the Remember Nhu benefit to aid children in danger of human trafficking

Presenting at the Remember Nhu benefit to aid children in danger of human trafficking

We got back from Nicaragua late Friday night, and Saturday morning I got up and drove up to the Cleveland area to do a benefit concert for the group we went to Thailand with two years ago, Remember Nhu. This is a wonderful organization, still quite young, but it is amazing to see how God is blessing their work!

Nhu is a Vietnamese woman who grew up in Cambodia and lived with her grandmother in profound poverty. When she was twelve, her grandmother sold her into the sex trade. Carl Ralston, the founder of Remember Nhu, heard her story from some missionaries who ran the school Nhu attended and felt that God had called him to “remember Nhu” and find her. Six trips to Cambodia later, he located her and was compelled to start Remember Nhu which seeks to stop the child slave trade through prevention. They are operating in nine countries now, and Nhu works with them and is just an amazing young woman. We got to know her well when we were in Thailand, and it was so good to see her again! I hope we raised a lot of money for their homes, and praise God for the children they are helping. Poverty is the number one reason for children being trafficked, and it is one of the reasons we feel so passionately about helping those in poverty and protecting the most vulnerable!

Nicaragua Part 3

November 13th, 2014
At Alvin and Joel's house (Alvin in the purple) with his mom and Joel's teacher and the other boys who work with him

At Alvin and Joel’s house (Alvin in the purple) with his mom and Joel’s teacher and the other boys who work with him

Alvin showing us some of the first mussels he found

Alvin showing us some of the first mussels he found

The neighbor girl playing in a boat on the mud flats waiting for the boys to return

The neighbor girl playing in a boat on the mud flats waiting for the boys to return

The boys coming back after several hours of working - you can tell it was a bad day because Alvin only has half a bag of mussels for the four of them

The boys coming back after several hours of working – you can tell it was a bad day because Alvin only has half a bag of mussels for the four of them

One of the neighbors showing her fish for the day

One of the neighbors showing her fish for the day

The mom from our first home visit here getting water from her neighbor's - her house has no water, and this water is not safe for drinking but they share with each other

The mom from our first home visit here getting water from her neighbor’s – her house has no water, and this water is not safe for drinking but they share with each other

The fishing boats coming in where the mom from our home visit works - she can gut up to 250 pounds of fish by herself in a day

The fishing boats coming in where the mom from our home visit works – she can gut up to 250 pounds of fish by herself in a day

Now as the tide is coming in, you can see how this sewer empties right into the water behind their homes

Now as the tide is coming in, you can see how this sewer empties right into the water behind their homes

Milagro's home - one of the nicest we saw because it had a floor and concrete walls

Milagro’s home – one of the nicest we saw because it had a floor and concrete walls

The washroom and bathroom at Milagro's house

The washroom and bathroom at Milagro’s house

Milagro looking so pretty in her backyard - you can see the trash and barbed wire brought in with every heavy rain

Milagro looking so pretty in her backyard – you can see the trash and barbed wire brought in with every heavy rain

To view larger images of the pictures, just click on them.

Our last full day, we spent the entire morning and early afternoon with one family, just doing what they do all day. We were split into groups again, one going with the men to cut wood, one group staying with a family who would help bring the catch in and process the fish, and our group going to a home where we would be “collecting sea shells.” You can imagine when they announced that one on the bus! Compared to chopping wood and gutting fish, sea shells was sounding pretty awesome! We had many invitations to switch with other people! When we got there, though, it certainly wasn’t what we were expecting.

We ended up at the next door neighbor to the house we had visited the day before. That was interesting because when the mom from that house saw us, she came with us and spent the whole morning with us. We had brought her a few things like soap and towels, and she wanted to thank us, but in the end, I think she just wanted to understand why we were there and why we had come to see them.

The family from this day had three children. Their son, Joel, was in the program (and in the pastor’s wife’s class – she was so proud!!). They had a baby who was too young, but they were planning to put him in when he got old enough, and an older son named Alvin who was not in the program. When we asked the mom why, she said she needed him to collect shells, so he was not able to go to school or be in the program. She looked a little embarrassed, but I don’t know where dad was, and she obviously couldn’t do it without her son. It made me so sad. He was such a cool kid, too, 15 years old and a very hard worker who clearly loved his mom and family.

He took us down to where he collected shells. We were picturing a sandy beach (we were right on the Pacific, remember) but it was actually the mud flats we’d seen the day before where the sewage was draining. We realized he was collecting mussels not just shells, which made so much more sense, and would sell them at the market, 12 for forty cents. We had a dilemma because he was wading calf deep in this mud and feeling around under the banyans, well past his wrists in the mud to find these mussels. Since we knew it was contaminated and also that there were scorpions under the banyan trees, we didn’t feel safe doing this – waterborne illnesses can be really nasty and our bodies would never have been exposed to anything like that. We went with them, but we really couldn’t participate, and I felt terrible. Our translator explained, but it still felt bad. They seemed happy just to talk with us while the kids hunted, though – I hope it was okay.

Alvin and four other boys went looking. We talked to Alvin’s mom and also the mom from the other day for a long time, and when the boys finally returned, they told us it was a very bad day. The four of them had gotten about a half bag of shells. They were large, but that didn’t make any difference to the price they got for them. On a good day, they would all get at least half a bag.

We went back to their house, and then Alvin’s mom took us to the fishing pier where she worked. While Alvin looks for shells, she guts fish for the fisherman. She is paid in fish which they can eat and she can sell at the market. She works with three other women, and on a good day, together they process 1000 pounds of fish. A bad day is more like 400 pounds. This woman will gut 250 pounds of fish herself on a good day and then have to turn around and take her portion to the market to sell it to make a few dollars to buy food to come home and cook it for her family and turn around and do it the next day all over again. Again, these people work incredibly hard, it blew my mind!

We went back to their house and shared lunch with them and met Alvin and Joel’s grandmother who was a hoot! We stayed and prayed with them for quite a while and gave them some gifts also of food and soap and towels. I am praying that now that Joel is in the program, maybe some of the pressure will lift and Alvin may be allowed to go to school. Culturally, if one child can get an education like Joel, they will help their whole family, so at least they have that here.

We had time to stop at Milagro’s house. She was so excited we had come! She had been very shy the day before, but now that she had had time to think about what we had said and had looked at the pictures and card that Donna sent her about her family, she was like a different kid. Her house was nicer than many, with a cement floor and walls which would hold up better in an earthquake. They had almost no belongings, though, and their backyard where they bathed and washed their dishes was literally the sewer for the neighborhood and full of trash and barbed wire. Her dad said that he and his neighbors had recently tried to dig a trench to get it to drain better, but it had washed out in the next rainstorm, and they didn’t know what else to do.

We gave Milagro a present that Donna had sent. It had art supplies and toothbrushes and soap and hair ribbons and a brush and candy and all kinds of things she would like and could use. She liked that stuff, but it was nothing next to the most important thing Donna could have sent apparently – a doll! Her eyes got so big when she saw that doll, and she snatched it right out of the box and wouldn’t stop hugging it. I asked her what she was going to name the doll, and without missing a beat she looked at me and said, “What is my sponsor’s name again?” and I said, “Donna” and she said immediately, “Her name is Donna.” It made me cry! And if you’ve met Donna, you know that she was bawling!

It was a good way to end the trip. Nathan and I both said this was the longest, shortest trip we’ve ever taken. For some reason, this one was just grueling. It is always so hard to see people living in terrible poverty, but these people were trying so hard and just needed some support. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ, and I was so encouraged to see the Church able to be the Church here! There is still so much more to do, though, and I am left with a fire to share and to help, and praying for wisdom about how to communicate all we’ve seen!

We have so much in the US. We don’t have any idea how good we have it. And there’s so much we can do to help. It’s not just throwing money at the problem – it’s addressing the issue of poverty in a way that makes sense with all the complexities that are present. Compassion is seeking to address poverty from all angles – economic, social, emotional, and spiritual. They are giving people hope in the name of Christ, an education and a future, while supporting their physical and emotional needs today.

I was so impressed with everything I saw. It was hard to see, but I also saw the hope and the progress. I’m proud to be sponsoring children through Compassion, and I know that God is using them all around the world. Will you join me? If you’d like to sponsor, feel free to email me at info@jennifershaw.com and we will set you up, or you can contact Compassion directly through the link below and tell them I sent you. :)

To sponsor a child today, please visit Compassion following this link!

Nicaragua Part 2

November 12th, 2014
At the welcome assembly in Corinto - some of the children did beautiful traditional Nicaraguan dances

At the welcome assembly in Corinto – some of the children did beautiful traditional Nicaraguan dances

Our team singing to the kids and families in Corinto  - we sang "How Great is Our God"

Our team singing to the kids and families in Corinto – we sang “How Great is Our God”

Meeting Milagro and her father

Meeting Milagro and her father

These streets had sewers but they were open and ended right in the yards of the people we were visiting

These streets had sewers but they were open and ended right in the yards of the people we were visiting

The cooking station at one of our home visits - she was cooking for the returning fishermen

The cooking station at one of our home visits – she was cooking for the returning fishermen

The other half of her kitchen

The other half of her kitchen

The bed their family of five shares in her brother's house

The bed their family of five shares in her brother’s house

Her husband holding the baby - he was such a loving dad!

Her husband holding the baby – he was such a loving dad!

The kids back at the Compassion program

The kids back at the Compassion program

Singing with the kids at the school

Singing with the kids at the school

Blowing bubbles with the children at the school

Blowing bubbles with the children at the school

Bringing in the afternoon meal

Bringing in the afternoon meal

Yum!  Chicken corn soup with plantains

Yum! Chicken corn soup with plantains

There were dogs absolutely everywhere, and you could tell by their posture it was really hot

There were dogs absolutely everywhere, and you could tell by their posture it was really hot

To view larger images of the pictures, just click on them.

The next morning we got up and went to the church partnership in Corinto. This was especially interesting because it’s a new program here. The ones we had seen in Managua were well established and had many graduates, but this program had only begun 8 months ago.

Corinto is on the Pacific coast, and most of the population are fishermen. The church we were with had been trying to get Compassion there for several years, and the pastor was so happy that they had gotten the program started! Although it was rural as opposed to urban, the neighborhood felt similar, and we would learn the same truths about it – poor but decent housing surrounded on the fringes by a double layer of true desperation.

One of the problems that we see everywhere we go in developing nations is water. These people had no clean water at all. But the problem is very different. When we were in Kenya, there was no clean water, but there was no water at all. People were walking 8 miles to dirty water everyday. That is a serious problem. Here, there was water everywhere – they were living on an ocean just feet above sea level and dirty water was running through the streets. They had no access to clean water, and also no way to get away from the dirty water – no sewers, no filtration system, floods every time it rained bringing sewage and trash with it right into their homes. Opposite ends of a desperate problem with water.

We got to the church and they had a special assembly with all the kids and a lot of parents to welcome us. Since this is a new program, we were the first visitors other than the staff in Nicaragua, so that made us an oddity. :) The kids did a beautiful program including some singing and traditional Nicaraguan dances and then we sang for them too. Afterward we went out and saw the classrooms and heard from the school administrator and pastor about how the program was going and how it was impacting the community and the families.

As we were listening to this pastor, something struck me that I had never realized before about this program. This pastor was also so passionate about helping these kids and families and he knew every one. This was his neighborhood, these were his neighbors. He had seen the problems and his church wanted so much to help, but lacked the resources. I thought about how heartbroken I would be as a Christian if I saw obvious needs around me that I could not address, and I realized that not only are we helping the children and their families, we are enabling the Church to be the Church in a way that would not be possible for them without support. This is a double blessing we are giving!

The pastor’s wife here was amazing! She loved the children so much, and she was with us for a lot of the time we were there, mostly because we were going to the homes of children in her class and she was so proud of them, she wanted to introduce us and show us how special they were. The mothers of kids in her class told us she visits every day, just to check in and see how they are doing, if they need anything and are doing their homework. It was incredible! These are the people we are supporting in ministry!

While at the school I got to meet a very special child named Milagro which means “miracle.” My scheduling coordinator and good friend, Donna, asked me to find a child who needed a sponsor while I was there and meet her for Donna’s family so they could sponsor her and feel like they knew her situation personally. Donna already sponsors three boys, so she thought it was time for a girl!

Milagro is the youngest of three children and 7 years old. Her father is a single dad, and our translator, Carlos, told me that he thinks her father is “a very brave man.” He told me that the culture does not see caring for ones’ children as being masculine, so if the mom leaves (Milgro’s mother is an alcoholic and abandoned the family) most dads would abandon their children. Milagro’s father told me many times how much he loves his children, and that he could not imagine giving them up. He drives a bicycle cart and supports his family that way. Milagro also has a 15 year old brother and a 9 year old sister named Amanda who has some neurological issues. Amanda was having testing for that the following week and the dad asked us to pray for her with tears in his eyes. She is able to have the testing now because she is also sponsored through Compassion, and he is hoping they will finally get some answers and medical help.

After meeting Milagro (we were going to visit her at home the next day), we went for another home visit to one of the families in the program. This neighborhood was slightly better than the urban one in that it had open sewers running alongside the street rather than sewage running in the street. Unfortunately, the sewer ended where the pavement did, which was right where the houses we were visiting started, draining all that was running through the sewer right into the backyards of these homes.

The father of the family we visited was a fisherman, and he had been out fishing all night, but asked to be woken when we got there because he wanted to see us. We got there and talked to mom, dad, the three kids, the sister-in-law, and nephew. They lived next door to mom’s brother which had turned out to be a real blessing. There was an earthquake two weeks earlier, and now their house was tilted about 30 degrees off vertical. It was too dangerous to sleep in there (we went in for a few minutes and I was seriously uncomfortable just being inside it because it was so obviously unstable), so her brother had taken them in, and now there were eight people sleeping in one room about 10 feet by 14 feet, with one twin bed holding her family of five and her brother’s family sleeping on the floor. They had no mattress – the bed frame was lined with rags – and they were hoping to do something about the situation because at the full moon, the tides shift and usually flood their homes monthly. She was not sure how they would get all eight of them in the bed when the floor flooded.

It’s hard to describe how difficult it was to be at this home. The smell was incredible as there was running sewage in the yard, and the mud flats behind the home are exposed at the low tide which makes everything smell like fish. There were flies and insects everywhere. It was very hard to keep anything or anyone clean with the mud everywhere. Mom makes an extra $2 a day by cooking for the fishermen when they are coming in after work, and the whole time we were talking, she was working, cooking chicken that had had no refrigeration in 98 degree heat all day, using one knife for the chicken and vegetables, with no water and no way to clean anything, dripping chicken juices all over her work surface. It was difficult not to react.

We sat and talked with them for a long time. Dad works 15 to 24 hour shifts. He gets 1 Cordoba for every pound of fish he catches. There are 26 Cordoba to 1 US Dollar, so that’s 26 pounds of fish for him to make $1. She said on his best days, he catches 200 pounds of fish, making just under $8, and about half the days, he will work those very long shifts and catch nothing. She cooks for the fishermen and also cuts wood, rowing 3 hours to get to the place where they can cut it, bringing it back in the boat, and selling it for 40 cents per 100 pieces. If she still doesn’t have enough money to feed the family every day, she will go and rent a bicycle cart and drive people around until she earns enough to make a meal.

People have said to me that poor people just need to work harder or make different choices. Poverty is so much more complicated than that. These people worked harder than I ever have, often not sleeping at all because they are chopping wood during the day and fishing all night. If you have no money, you can’t move to a place with more opportunity because you have no means to get there or money to stay somewhere when you arrive. When you have to work every second of the day just to eat, you have no time to attend school to change your future. When you have no hope of things ever being better, you don’t think about the future – you are always focused on what you need right now.

There were people making bad choices, just like Milagro’s mother, but there were many more doing everything they could to provide for their families. There are people making bad choices at every level of society. The difference is that when you have a little more, you have options. And what I saw Compassion giving was the hope of Christ, so people knew they could have a different future, and then the means to realize that future.

We went back to the school and played with the kids for a while. We had brought some candy and some bubbles and other things to play with. It was a relief really to get back to the school and see the happy faces of the kids. We served them a meal (Compassion helps with nutrition, education, Christian nurture, medical care, and many other things) which they do every day before the kids head home to make sure they have dinner. This school was sunny and bright and clean, and the kids were so beautiful and happy, it was jarring to realize what they will go home to everyday.

And yet, I want to make sure that I say, these parents were amazing. They loved their children! They loved them so much, and they worked so hard with what they had. They had dignity, and they wanted so much more for their kids. That was what I heard over and over – they were so proud that their kids were going to school, that there might be something different for them down the road. Generational poverty is very hard to see beyond, but these parents had a glimpse of what could be, and they were hopeful to see where it would take their children.

To sponsor a child today, please visit Compassion following this link!

Nicaragua Part 1

November 11th, 2014
Compassion International headquarters for Nicaragua

Compassion International headquarters for Nicaragua

The man in charge of letters from sponsors showing us the letters he will check in and get translated that day

The man in charge of letters from sponsors showing us the letters he will check in and get translated that day

Nathan meeting the pastor at the one of the programs in Managua

Nathan meeting the pastor at the one of the programs in Managua

A classroom at the Compassion program in Managua

A classroom at the Compassion program in Managua

The folders kept for each child in the program with their educational, medical, social, and letter history

The folders kept for each child in the program with their educational, medical, social, and letter history

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

A boy welcoming us to the second Managua program reading to us from his Bible with Mario translating

A boy welcoming us to the second Managua program reading to us from his Bible with Mario translating

The nicer streets with just a little water running today - it hasn't rained for a week.

The nicer streets with just a little water running today – it hasn’t rained for a week.

Our first home visit - mom shows us her home

Our first home visit – mom shows us her home

With the children out front

With the children out front

Nathan walking down their steps to leave - this is the "stream" of sewage the children jump every day to get to school and it's low now

Nathan walking down their steps to leave – this is the “stream” of sewage the children jump every day to get to school and it’s low now

A washing station at one of the homes we visited

A washing station at one of the homes we visited

One of the kids we played with most back at the school

One of the kids we played with most back at the school

To view larger images of the pictures, just click on them.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we’ve always been very passionate about children’s welfare and poverty relief. We’ve been working in conjunction with several organizations to protect and nurture the most vulnerable children in the world through sponsorship and awareness of issues like poverty and trafficking. Next to people knowing Jesus, this is probably the thing I would most like to share with the world and over the years we’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of kids sponsored in developing countries.

Most recently we’ve partnered with Compassion International and this past week we had the privilege to go to Nicaragua with them. It was a hard, amazing, educational, eye-opening, overwhelming experience all rolled into one. I knew that Compassion was an organization with integrity, that they have an outstanding reputation and are one of the top rated charities in the world, but to see the program in action really took it from paper to reality for me. It was truly an incredible trip!

We flew out of Columbus on Monday, and met up with about half the team in Houston. There were several other artists on this trip, all going to see Compassion’s work in the field. Unfortunately, we had no idea what anyone looked like, so while we knew they were on our plane, we didn’t know who they were until we got to Managua! We got in, got introduced and went to the hotel for dinner and to wait for the other half of the group who were coming through Atlanta. There were 16 of us plus 4 Nicaraguan staff members (who rocked by the way! Thanks, Corina, Milagro, Mario, and Carlos!!). It was a very diverse group with artists from around the US and all different genres and audiences, and yet, God is a common denominator. What a fun group of Christ followers! It’s like going to camp – we may have only spent several days together, but you come back bonded. :)

The next morning we started very early because they wanted to show us a broad spectrum of the work happening in the country and we didn’t have much time. We started with the national offices where there are about 50 people on staff. Compassion has 45,000 children in its programs in Nicaragua, and we were so incredibly impressed by the efficiency and professionalism of this office. What was more impressive, though, were the hearts of the people working there. Over and over we heard what a privilege it was to serve children and families in the name of Jesus, and it was obvious in everything they did. I especially loved learning how the letters come in and get processed and translated and sent to the field. They do 10,000 letters per month just in Nicaragua! And speaking of which, if you sponsor a child, please, please write to them! Everywhere we go we hear from the kids how important their sponsor’s letters are to them, and sadly, we hear from many who never get a letter, even when they write asking for one. Please know how much your letters mean to them, and get writing!

After the headquarters, we went to a church partner in Managua to see an urban program. Compassion always works through church partnerships, and the pastor of this church welcomed us with open arms. He touched my heart so much – he was very animated when we got there telling us about his programs and the church, but as soon as he started talking about the children, he got so choked up he couldn’t talk for quite a while. These children aren’t just pictures in a folder to him – these children are his children. They are real, and this program is so invested in their future!

While there, we saw the whole program, met the staff, and got to see the level of detail and involvement they have in the kids’ lives. They keep a record for each child of the school history, help needed, medical history, even their dreams and plans for their future and a plan the staff has worked out individually with each child to help them reach their goals. It was incredible! These folders were 5 inches thick, and they have one for each and every child in the program worldwide. One of the greatest needs of people everywhere is to be seen, to be known, and it was very obvious that what this staff was saying to these kids was, “I see you, I know you, you are valuable.”

We had lunch with the staff there (yes, it was only lunchtime!!) and then headed to another urban partner church to see their program and play with the kids. We also had the opportunity to have some home visits. They split the team up, and our smaller group got to visit two homes where sponsored children live – they were next door neighbors. It was very sobering. We walked just a few blocks from the church down charming, poor but nice houses painted in bright colors. The worst part was the sewage running through the middle of the dirt streets, but it wasn’t too bad. We walked one block behind those houses though, and entered a different world. We saw the “stream” where are the sewage was headed. It was wide enough that I literally had to jump over it, and when I did, I realized that we were in the front yard of our home visit house, and it was a shack made of tacked together plywood and pieces of tin with rusty barbed wire hanging at head height being used as a clothes line. The small children living here had to jump that river of sewage every day just to get to school. We had had 5 clear days, so it wasn’t high when we went, but they had had flooding so bad the week before that it ran through they house and washed their lavatory down their hill. Their mother had her hand bandaged because she had cut it with a machete while gathering firewood the week before, and she’d had to dig a new latrine in their yard with her damaged hand.

It was a terrible situation. But after getting past that for a few moments, I realized that what was most striking about this was that even in spite of the poverty and desperation of their situation, this mom had such dignity and joy. She was proud to invite us to her home, and she had dressed in her best dress. She had a son and twin daughters, and they were obviously wearing their best clothes, and she was clearly proud of them – they were all so loving to each other. Her house was neat and as clean as she could make it with a dirt floor. One of the twins has some special needs, and her brother and sister both treated her kindly and hugged her continually – they were obviously friends. She told us how much she appreciated the education and medical care her kids were receiving, and what a difference it was making in their lives. We asked how we could pray for her, and she asked for prayers for her husband’s safety – he was away in the army – and that her children would have a different future than hers.

The second home was similar. Two things stood out here – when we asked if the children received letters from their sponsors, the mom pointed to her son and daughter and said, “He writes and gets letters, and she writes but gets no letters.” It was so sad. The other thing was when we asked the little boy what he would want to pray for, he said, “Food!” He is six, and how I wish he’d never had to wonder if there would be food. I was so struck by the fact that when we asked the parents at all of our visits this week what they wanted most or what we could pray for, they did not ask for what I thought would be obvious or for things for themselves, but instead asked that we pray for a different future for their children. As a mom, that really spoke to me.

After that we drove about 3.5 hours up the coast to Chicandega, checked into our hotel, and basically collapsed. It felt like a week’s worth of experiences in one day, and it’s going to take us a while to process everything we are seeing.

To sponsor a child today, please visit Compassion following this link!

Christian Post’s Video Interviews

October 30th, 2014

The Christian Post is doing a 4 part series on my right now and the first installment came out today – hope you enjoy them! Let us know what you think. :) You can find those here.

Weekend with Women’s Leaders in Chicago

October 27th, 2014
With Meagan Gillan, head of Women Ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Denomination

With Meagan Gillan, head of Women Ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Denomination

With all the presidents of regions for women's ministry

With all the presidents of regions for women’s ministry

Isn’t it great when you think you’re going to serve others and give, and then you realize that while that may have happened too, God had something just for you? Last Friday, Donna and I left bright and early and drove to Chicago. I was invited to do some worship and just meet with the women’s leadership for the Evangelical Covenant denomination at their annual meeting. We got there Friday night and met them at The Compassion Experience, a traveling experience that takes you into the real story of a couple of kids who have been sponsored by Compassion and tells you their story and where they ended up – it was fascinating and moving and I immediately looked up where it will be this year when I got home. I want to take my kids! If it’s anywhere near you, don’t miss it – it’s free too, which is always a plus. :)

We had dinner together and frankly, I was a little intimidated by this group as they run women’s ministry for all of the US and Canada for a whole denomination, but I had no reason to be – what incredible, Godly, sweet, humble, funny women. We had a blast getting to know them!

Saturday morning I did some worship and music for them, and then they were going to do a discernment exercise, basically guided prayer where you are seeking God’s will and direction for future ministry by praying together. They invited me to stay, and I did it with Donna about my ministry. What a wonderful God we serve! He made several things so clear to me that I have been praying about and wrestling over for some time. It was so sweet of Him, and it really touched my heart. I felt like I had come to do this ministry for these women, but God had me there just to speak to me about our direction!

We ended the weekend talking to a pastor’s wife about a ministry event who also happened to be one of Donna’s oldest friends. Can’t really have a better meeting than that – she was so much fun! We even got to stop by Donna’s alma mater, Wheaton, to see how everything had changed. Add to that the spectacular color on the trees the entire way home, and that was a pretty amazing weekend.

My Worship Article Published Again

October 22nd, 2014

Ministry Best Practices has republished my article “Why Has My Congregation Stopped Singing?” They did a slightly abbreviated version of it – you can check that out here!

A New Sister-in-Law

October 19th, 2014
Andy and Katie listening to the toasts

Andy and Katie listening to the toasts

On a personal note, I just had to share that I gained another (my third!!) sister named Katie yesterday. My brother Andy got married this weekend and we are just thrilled for them. Welcome to the family!

Women’s Retreat with the Missionary Churches

October 5th, 2014
At the Missionary Churches retreat

At the Missionary Churches retreat

I had the great privilege to do the women’s retreat for the East Central District of the Misisonary Church this past weekend, and what fun to be back with them! I had done their retreat a couple of years ago, and so many of these women are people I’m excited to get to hang out with in heaven. Just a blessing to have more time with them here on earth! We learned about God’s power to transform us into people He can use, and it was wonderful to hear all the feedback about how God was speaking to people that weekend. Hope to be back with them soon!