Archive for June, 2013

Guest blog for World Vision

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

With Melandia (in red), her mom, her sister, and her little niece outside their home

With the neighborhood children

World Vision asked me to blog about our trip. This is the piece I wrote for them:

World Vision has been a constant part of our family. When I was little, we always had a sponsored child’s photo up on the refrigerator. At 17, I sponsored my own child for the first time. And now, as part of the World Vision Artist Program, I have been working to find sponsors for World Vision children at my ministry events for years. I was thrilled to be able to go and see their work in Dominican Republic just a few weeks ago.

Before we left, we decided to sponsor a new little girl in Dominican Republic so that my husband, Nathan, and I could meet her while we were down there. Her name is Melandia. We got her picture folder, and wondered who she really was? It’s so easy to see all the pictures and think of needy children as a big group or a problem to be fixed, but they are not – they are individuals, children just like mine, with their own dreams and gifts and potential to make a difference in the world. We were so looking forward to meeting her!

Before we got to Melandia’s neighborhood, we got to see several of the programs run by World Vision in her area, and it was truly amazing. I was expecting the schools and the medical clinic. I was expecting to see children who had access to nutritious food and clean water where there had been none before. What I wasn’t expecting was the realization that when we sponsor a child, it’s not just that child who is sponsored – it’s their whole family, it’s their community, it’s their future.

Melandia’s area is caught in the grip of generational poverty from which there is no escape without help. They are of Haitian descent, people who immigrated here to live in shanty towns and work the sugar cane plantations. There’s nothing else here. If you have nothing, how can you get the start-up funds needed to become educated, or move to a better area, or buy a bike to get your crops to market, or the materials to create something for sale?

I saw World Vision running not just medical clinics and schools which are incredibly important, but also teaching gardening techniques to moms, giving classes at the vocational school such as barbering, baking, and sewing, teaching basic math skills and how to run a business. Perhaps most startling was to see the micro business loans of $100, $200, or $500 which had completely transformed families. These are sums most Americans wouldn’t think much of, but we met a father and son who used that money to buy a grinder. They collect plastic trash from their area, grind it up, and sell it to area companies as recycled plastic. They paid their loan back in 10 months, and now support their entire family with it. They are saving, and plan to expand their business next year.

When we got to Melandia’s house, we met not only her, but her younger sister, her mother, and her little niece. We met her chihuahua and learned that he made her less shy. The first thing she brought to show us was the letter we had written to introduce ourselves. We gave her a picture of our family and letters our children had written to her. We brought her some school supplies and little presents and groceries for her family. And the whole time her mother just beamed at her. She was so proud of her daughter! It was her mother who got to me. What mom doesn’t want to see her child thrive? How difficult it must be to not be able to give your children the future you want for them, and that is what World Vision is addressing.

That was the moment I realized that we are not just sponsoring Melandia. We are sponsoring her family. It costs us so little, and because of our sponsorship they have access to so many resources. Because of our sponsorship we can write and remind them that God loves them and we are praying for them every day, even if we live thousands of miles away. When one sponsored girl we met was asked, “What is your favorite thing you ever received from your sponsor?” she answered with no hesitation. “Every time they write, they send me their love! Every time!”

That incredible gift of love is what World Vision makes possible.

Jennifer Shaw is a World Vision Artist. She is also a speaker, author, singer, and songwriter whose ministry has been featured by Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Joni and Friends, Autism Speaks, Insight for Living, and many more. She loves glorifying God with her songwriting, and has had five Top 40 Billboard songs. She lives with her husband Nathan and their three children in Columbus, OH. For more information, visit

New blog for Autism Speaks from the Dominican Republic

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The picture I took before he grabbed my camera

With his siblings and neighbors

I was asked by Autism Speaks to guest blog about special needs issues again. This is the piece I wrote for them:

I was recently on a trip to Dominican Republic with my husband. This wasn’t a vacation, but rather a work trip. I am an artist with World Vision, a poverty relief organization, and we were traveling to a few of the poorest areas of the country to see some of the work being done there. I’ve been on trips like this before, and I knew I would see children in some very difficult circumstances. None of that took me by surprise. But on our first full day, an encounter with a child stopped me in my tracks.

We were meeting a sponsored family, and I was just playing with a group of neighbor kids, handing out stickers and blowing bubbles. I took a few pictures of some of the children and then showed them the picture on my camera. Most of the children we meet love this and want to see the camera. It’s magical to them.

I took a picture of one little boy who was about six years old and turned the camera around to show him his picture. He immediately grabbed the camera and tried to pull it out of my hands, but his hands weren’t strong enough. As I looked down at him, I realized immediately that he wasn’t trying to steal my camera, he just didn’t understand. He was a special needs child.

His mom hurried over and apologized to me, but she was also protecting him. I could tell she was ready to defend her son, and didn’t know how I would react. She didn’t know that I am also a special needs parent. My son is doing so well now, but when he was little, his Sensory Processing Disorder was absolutely debilitating. He couldn’t eat or communicate or play or go outside. We went through years of therapy, specialists, and appointments to get to where we are now.

I got back in the van and cried as we left. That little boy was so sweet, and his mom loved him so much. What chance does he have in that environment? I thought of all the resources we had access to for our son, but in that place, they are just worried about feeding their children.

Suddenly I realized what a responsibility we have in the United States and in other first world countries. We have the resources to help find answers for these children. When we support the research of groups like Autism Speaks, we are not just supporting our own kids or other children we love, we are finding answers for people who will never be able to find answers on their own. We are leading the way to help for children around the world.

I will probably never see that little boy again, but I will never forget him or his mother. They have left a mark on my heart. It will continue to drive me to find ways to help children around the world, and reminds me again that every single child is precious and valuable no matter the struggle they are facing.

Jennifer Shaw is a national speaker, author, and Top 40 Billboard artist and songwriter whose work has been featured by Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Joni and Friends, World Vision, Insight for Living and many more. Her book “Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed My Faith and My Song” is an Autism Speaks resource. She lives with her husband Nathan and their three children in Columbus, OH. For more information on Jennifer or on sponsoring a special needs child through World Vision, visit

Insight for Living and FamilyLife Today

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

It’s been a big week! Insight for Living posted a Skype interview I did with Colleen Swindoll Thompson a couple of months ago. Colleen runs the special needs ministries at Insight for Living, and also has an autistic son. It’s been such a pleasure to talk with her and get to know her over the last year! You can see that interview here.

Also, we’ve added the interviews that aired on FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine to my media page if you missed them. I really had such a wonderful time with the whole team at their studios – such a heart for God, and they do everything with such excellence. I love how the interviews came out and hope you’ll listen! They aired over two days, and with me on the show was Amy Julia Becker, a great writer who is also the mother of a daughter with Down Syndrome.

Let us know what you think!