I found my happiest place on earth!

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The second to last day in South Africa, we visited the Maubane Community and participated in their children’s church service. There are not words to describe how incredible this experience was.

You see, most of these children live right across the street from this colorful playground (that you helped build!) in little homes — mostly made of cast-off supplies they’ve recycled into building materials. Many of these children don’t have parents or their parents are working in the city so they don’t see them but maybe on the weekends.

The majority of these children know hunger and want as a daily part of their lives. They have very few possessions and very little to look forward to. Despite all that, every Sunday, these children gather with Pastor Norman for an exuberant children’s church service.

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To see these children joyfully and enthusiastically clapping and shouting and singing about the goodness of God… it was soul stirring.

I didn’t understand a lot of the words they were saying and shouting and singing at the top of their lungs, but I didn’t need to. Their enthusiasm, their heart, their hope, their happiness all spoke louder than words ever could.

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After they were finished with their church service, the toddlers were called over to line up for food. They had a very special treat that day — Walkie Talkies (i.e. chicken feet & chicken beaks). The leaders there told me that it is rare for them to have meat so this was a very special occasion for them. {Take Action Ministries paid for some of the locals to make this for them as a treat because we were going to be there visiting.}

The leaders also told me that they have the toddlers line up first to give the older children a short break from caring for their younger siblings. Since there are so few parents around in this community on a daily basis, the older children often have to look after their younger siblings much of the time.

These older children shoulder a great deal of responsibility and burden and the church leaders try to give them a break as often as they can by having the toddlers all line up and sit down to eat together so the older kids can talk and play together.

We spent some time hanging out with the older kids. Taking pictures, laughing, talking, and even being quite goofy (as those who know me well know I am an expert at!)

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but pretty soon, different children just randomly started coming up to me and hugging me. From the littlest ones to the teens, they all seemed desperate for love and affection. And the more kids who hugged me, the more the line grew of kids wanting to be hugged.

As more and more children hugged me and held on tightly, my heart began feeling like it just might rip into shreds. I tried to look into each child’s eyes and also speak words of life:

“You are loved.”

“You matter.”

“God has something special for you to do.”

“I love you.”

I felt so overwhelmed by the needs. It wasn’t just the need for food and shelter and clothes and schooling. More than any of that, these children are starving for love. To know that someone cares about them. To know that they have value.

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As I found myself surrounded by these beautiful children, I wanted to just weep and laugh at the same time. Because I knew then and there that, going forward, one of my callings in life would be to see to it that none of these children in the Maubane Community go hungry again.

That none of them die from disease. That none of them miss out on an education. But most importantly, that I do all I can to provide opportunities for them to know that they are loved — not only by other people, but by a Heavenly Father who created them and has infused them with gifts and talents and worth.

Right there, on the red dirt of South African soil in that huddle of children, I discovered my happiest place on earth.

Somewhere deep in my soul, I felt right at home. Right where I was supposed to be. Doing what I was created to do. The only that would have made it more complete would have been to have my husband and children by my side experiencing it with me.

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When I finally had to say goodbye, I could barely keep back the tears. One boy who was around 13 years old asked me, “Why are you going?”

I thought, “Trust me, child, I’m asking the same thing!”

But instead, I told him: “I will come back.”

And, by the grace of God, I will. I will come back as often as I can. And when I’m not there I will carry the stories and the faces and the hugs with me everywhere I go.

Because I left part of my heart behind in South Africa. And I will never be the same.

P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you who have joined me in this cause that I have become fiercely passionate about. I know not everyone has the wiggle room in your budget to give money and not everyone is called to give to this project, but you have no idea how humbly grateful and excited I am that 130 of you have joined Lisa-Jo and me in making a difference in these poor communities in South Africa!

Your partnership in the #TenDollarTribe is going to make a major difference in the lives of all of the children you see pictured in this post plus many more. And it thrills my heart!

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The day we’ve been anticipating for months is finally here…!

Join the #TenDollarTribe

The day we’ve anticipated for months is finally here!

After coming home from my trip to South Africa, I’ve hinted around for the past few weeks that we were cooking up something really exciting to give you an opportunity to join us in making a difference in the poorest communities there.

After months of emails, Skype calls, and a few in-person meetings, we are ready to launch and we are all so very excited!

Drumroll…

Beginning today through February 20, 2015, we are opening the doors for the first ever #TenDollarTribe — and we’d LOVE for you to join us in this.

Join the #TenDollarTribe!

What is the #TenDollarTribe?

The #TenDollarTribe is a group of people — moms, dads, singles, grandparents, families — who are all committed to making a difference in two very needy communities in South Africa: the Maubane community and the Reagoboka community.

I have visited both of these communities, spent time talking with the leaders, met the children they are ministering to, seen how great the need is, and witnessed just how far money can go in these very poor areas of South Africa.

Join the #TenDollarTribe

Why $10 Per Month?

We talked about a number of different options and we really felt like we wanted to provide an amount that was doable for many, many families.

I knew that something like $40 per month was not in many of your budgets, but that the majority of you could find a way to tighten your budget in a few categories in order to free up $10 per month to give to this much-needed cause.

In addition, because money goes so much further in South Africa, $10 per month can make a big difference.

Join the #TenDollarTribe

What Can $10 Per Month Do?

The short answer is: a lot. In fact, I was shocked at how much of a difference small amounts of money can make in South Africa.

For instance, $10 will buy 100 bowls of porridge for school children, a month’s worth of school supplies, or two weeks of cooking fuel for a local family.

100% of Your Gift Will Go Directly to South Africa

I know that you all are like me: you want to give your money to causes that will use it well. I can say with utmost confidence that your money will be stretched as far as possible to make as big of an impact as possible.

Lisa-Jo and I are working in partnership with Help One Now and Pure Charity for this initiative with the on-the-ground team, Take Action Ministry. Both Help One Now and Pure Charity have been incredibly generous in helping us out. We could never logistically do this on our own as there are so many moving parts involved and we are so grateful for their support and help.

Best of all, 100% of all funds donated as part of the #TenDollarTribe project will go directly to the needs in South Africa.

Join the #TenDollarTribe

Our Family is Personally Very Invested in This Project

I hesitated to share this, because we do the majority of our giving anonymously. However, I wanted you to know that our family is committed to putting our money where our mouth is.

When I went to South Africa, it was primarily to personally investigate the projects and leaders there to make sure I felt 100% comfortable asking you all to join us in this. But our family had a secondary reason, too, and that was to look for a way that our family could personally partner with Take Action Ministries.

I discovered that they had very little money coming in for their organizational expenses (storage/office building rental, computer equipment, office supplies, etc.) and that almost everyone involved was volunteering their time or only getting paid a very small amount. As I talked with them more, I realized that this was a huge stress for them as every single month they were just barely, barely eeking by.

Because of the financial choices we’ve made throughout the years to live on less than we make, develop strong income streams, and stay out of debt, and because God has blessed our businesses far beyond what we could have ever dreamed or imagined, we are in a place where we could take on these monthly expenses for them so that they wouldn’t have to constantly be looking for grants or dealing with the stress that comes from trying to survive on a tiny, tiny budget.

I share this only because I want you to know that our family is very invested in this project and we believe wholeheartedly in the work and ministry Take Action is doing in South Africa. I would not ask you to join us in this had I not vetted it very thoroughly and felt I could put a huge rubber stamp of approval on it.

Join the #TenDollar Tribe

Will You Prayerfully Consider Joining the #TenDollarTribe?

There are many fantastic causes to give money to and I completely understand that not everyone is called to give to South Africa nor in a place to make a monthly commitment like this, but I want to urge each of you to not click away from this post without taking a few minutes to consider whether this is a project you could find the funds to support and the desire to be involved in.

If dozens of us are willing to take a step and make this commitment, it will impact the lives of hundreds of children for years to come. Will you join us?

>>Click here to sign up to be a member of the #TenDollarTribe.<<

If you join, will you do me a favor and either email me or leave a comment on this post? I’d like to personally thank you.

Join the #TenDollarTribe

Can’t Give Money But Still Want to Help Out?

For those of you who are not in a place to join the #TenDollarTribe, but you’d like to help out in some way, can I ask you to pray that God would bless these community centers, provide for their needs, and help them to have wisdom as they seek to make lasting change in these communities?

Also, would you consider sharing this post via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest? Thank you so much!

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One of the Most Important Gifts We Can Give Our Children

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One of the greatest gifts in moving to Tennessee has been quickly finding a new church home. We’ve been challenged, inspired, uplifted, and spiritually fed each week through the preaching, as well as being blessed by the people and their warm hospitality and hearts for the Lord.

During the Christmas season, our church has been encouraging families to adopt a theme of “Less Under Our Tree, More For the World.”

While the adults in our church have been encouraged to give and make a difference, I’ve loved the strong emphasis they’ve placed upon encouraging the children to give, too. They have given the kids specific needs and ways that they can help with their coins and dollars.

These specific needs and dollar amounts have been a huge inspiration to our girls and they’ve been spending time doing chores, emptying their piggy banks, counting change, and soliciting donations from us for the special Global Christmas Offering on Sunday.

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Earlier this week, I discovered this sign that they had put in our hallway as a reminder for us all to keep contributing any loose change this week.

As I’ve observed my girls being so passionate about finding ways they can contribute and impact other children around the world, it’s motivated me to look for ways to be more of a giver in my own life.

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And Kathrynne and Kaitlynn’s desire to give is rubbing off on Silas, too.

Last week, I took the kids to the The Greatest Christmas event here in Nashville. Ann Voskamp was one of the main presenters, along with Ellie Holcomb and Amena Brown. This event was sponsored by Compassion, so halfway through, Ann shared about the opportunity to sponsor a child and how it could make such an impact.

When Ann finished sharing, my kids all looked at me, eager to do something about it. I quickly leaned over and reminded our kids about the girls we write notes to/support and the moms & babies we support through our CSP.

I want to be able to regularly write notes to our Compassion girls as I know this is so important to them, so we’ve opted to only sponsor two girls (plus our CSP) so that we could be more faithful about writing to them.

And honestly, I was feeling like that was enough. Or so I had told myself.

But then, 5-year-old Silas looks at me intently and said, “But what about the boys? We need to support the boys, too.”

I was speechless. There was no quick comeback for that plea.

So, I sat there for a moment and then said, “You’re right. We need to do something for the boys, too.”

I hesitated before I responded, “Would you like to pick a boy for us to sponsor?”

His eyes lit up and he excitedly responded “Yes!”

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The next day, Silas and Jesse looked through all the children waiting to be sponsored on Compassion’s site and finally chose 6-year-old Gerald from the DR.

Silas instantly felt a connection to Gerald because they are almost the same age and they both love baseball. Watching his enthusiasm over making a difference in Gerald’s life reminds me that giving our children opportunities to be involved in impacting others’ lives is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to them.

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We don’t have much figured out as parents — other than that we have so much left to learn! — and every day, we struggle with attitude issues and character issues. There are days when it feels like nothing we are trying to teach or live before them is sticking.

But then there are moments like this past week, when we realize that they are watching and learning. And I’m so grateful for these hearts and their desires and willingness to have less under our tree so we can give more to the world.

If our kids can someday leave home knowing that there are a world of needs around them, that money will never buy happiness, that there is so much fulfillment that comes from giving, and that money is just a tool to be used to change lives, they will be well on their way to living contented, rich lives — no matter their income level or career.

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5 Ways to Teach Your Children to Be Givers

5 Ways to Teach Your Children to Be Givers

As parents, we want to train our children to be lifelong givers. Not only will it impact many lives, but it will give them so much blessing and fulfillment in return.

Here are five ways we’re seeking to teach our children to be givers:

1. Model It

More is caught than taught when we’re raising children. We can tell our kids how important giving is. We can read them stories of people who give generously. We can stress how much of a difference we can make in the world. But our actions will always speak louder than words.

Let your children see you giving generously — whether that’s opening your home up to those in need, serving in a local soup kitchen, going on a missions trip, giving to a charity near and dear to your heart, or sacrificing time and effort to help someone who is struggling.

We involve our children in much of our giving. We collect money as a family to give to causes we believe in. We often have them right next to us when we’re reaching out and serving those who are struggling. We write letters to our Compassion children. In the big and little things, we want to model a life of giving for our children.

5 Ways to Teach Children to Be Givers

2. Teach It

While modelling giving in front of your children is the highest priority, it’s also imperative to teach them why we give. Don’t expect them to just pick up on it all on their own. It’s important to help them understand the why behind the what.

We’ve sat our children down from a young age and explained to them the reasons behind why we’ve chosen to stay out of debt, to live simply, and to not use credit cards. It’s not just so that we can be in a better financial situation, but so we can be in a position to give generously.

As opportunities arise while we’re living life, we continue to talk with them about how blessed we are when we give. When they participate in a giving project with us, we talk with them about how it makes them feel, about what an impact they are making, and how we want to continue to live simply so we can give generously.

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3. Simplify It

Giving doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. It’s often the simple things that can make a big difference.

Look for opportunities that might seem small, but that are perfect for a young child to be apart of. We love Operation Christmas Child for this reason. It’s something that the whole family can be involved and a project that our children get really excited about.

We also encourage our children to earn money by jobs around the house and then to use some of that money for giving projects. Last year’s family giving project was spear-headed by the girls. And they’ve decided to do the same this year and have been working hard to fill the money box with cash they’ve earned from chores.

5 Ways to Teach Your Children to Be Givers
4. Practice It

As often as is possible, give your children little opportunities to serve and give. Develop the habit looking for ways to bless others from a young age. A life of giving is borne out of practicing the attitude of serving again and again until it becomes your natural response.

Have them help you around the house. Encourage them to do things to bless their grandparents or elderly neighbors. Give them chances to give up what they’d like to do or have in order to help or bless someone else.

5 Ways to Teach Our Children to Be Givers

5. Celebrate It

Giving is so much more fun when you celebrate it! Find the joy and excitement that comes from giving anonymously.

Give lavishly of yourself for others and you’ll be so blessed in return (Need some encouragement in this? Go get yourself a copy of Love Does by Bob Goff.)

And most of all, praise your children when you see them being givers. Celebrate their giving spirit and it will only inspire them to give more generously in the future!

Teaching Our Children to Be Givers
This post was underwritten by Shultz Photography School. Their mission is to teach moms & dads the secrets of professional photography. Why? Because the images you take of your kids, as they do ‘actual life,’ are the photos that matter most. Hands down. They will tell your family story and shape your legacy. Shultz Photo School is a step by step, web-based class that’s self-paced and custom-fit for busy parents.

photo credit; photo credit; photo credit

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Less Greed, More Generosity

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During the month of October, I’m following along with Edie & Ruth on their 31 Days of Less & More journey. I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and completing the projects, or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Greed

It’s easy to give from our abundance, but true giving requires sacrifice. This is something God has really been teaching me in recent years.

Since I’m not one who is very attached to many items, giving stuff to other people is fun, but it’s relatively easy to do. For instance, if I’m going to be getting rid of an item anyway, is it really a sacrifice to pass it onto a friend instead of tossing it in the Goodwill box? No, not really.

Giving of my time and effort, on the other hand, is an area where I often struggle. I can be stingy when it comes to giving of myself or setting aside my neatly planned out day to meet a need in someone’s life.

When a child needs me to drop everything I’m doing to help them with something, I can be feel frustrated or interrupted. Or when my husband calls and asks me to run an errand for him, it’s my natural reaction to feel irritated.

For me, that’s often the giving that matters the most. Because it’s giving where it really costs me something.

However, every time I give in a way that requires sacrifice, I’m so very blessed in the end. And it inspires me to let go even more and live with arms stretched out wide.

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More Generosity

When Jesse and I traveled to the Dominican Republic one thing that struck me was how generous these people were. They barely had anything and yet they were constantly offering us what little they had.

And they weren’t just giving us their leftovers; they were offering us their very best — the best chair to sit on or the best food they had to eat. It deeply challenged and convicted me.

I want to live my life with arms open wide. Willingly and gladly giving of my best for others. Holding nothing back. And at the end of my life, I want to have used up everything I was given — for others.

For more on this topic, check out Ruth’s post on Less Greed and Edie’s post on More Giving. I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

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