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Why We’re Taking Our Kids to South Africa

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

Next Tuesday, Jesse, our friend and my manager (Brian), and our three kids will be getting on a plane with me to go to South Africa.

To say that I am excited would be an understatement. Honestly, I am ECSTATIC!

I left part of my heart in South Africa when I traveled there for the first time earlier this year and I’ve been hoping and dreaming about getting back there ASAP ever since I came home. I love the people, I love the food, I love the climate, I love the culture, I love the local team from Take Action that is serving and ministering there.

So, as soon as I got home, we started talking and praying and thinking about the possibility of our family going together to South Africa. I wanted to introduce Jesse and the kids to the beautiful country and people there.

Because the truth is, I could talk and talk until I was blue in the face about how amazing my trip was and how it had forever impacted me, but I knew that the only way they’d really get to understand why I fell so madly in love with South Africa was for them to actually walk on the soil, meet the people in person, and have firsthand knowledge of South Africa.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

So we started talking about dates. We started seriously considering it. And we began looking into the costs and what a trip like this would entail.

We had some honest conversations with our kids about it because we knew it would be a big deal for them. It would require some major stepping outside their comfort zone and it would mean facing their fears of long flights.

While they are all apprehensive about the trip, we feel like the timing is right and this is going to be a life-changing trip for us and our kids. We’re leaving on Tuesday, September 29 and will be returning on Tuesday, October 6.

We’ll mostly be in the Pretoria area and yes, we are going to get to SEE THE CLASSROOMS THAT YOU ALL HELPED BUILD!!! {I’m not sure, but I might just be a wee bit excited about that part of this trip. ;)}

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

Many of you have asked for more details as to why we’re going as a family and why we’re taking our kids and I wanted to try to fill them in for you by sharing three of the reasons we decided to travel to South Africa with our kids…

#1. We Want to Challenge Our Kids to Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

I would be lying if I said our kids aren’t scared about the trip. They have a lot of fears going in — just like I did when I got on the plane earlier this year for that 18-hour flight.

They are scared of being in an airplane that long (gratefully, we’re taking a different route this time and the flight is only 15 hours instead of 18 hours!). They are scared of flying over water for so long.

They wonder what they people will be like. They worry they won’t understand what people are saying. They wonder if they will feel out of place or awkward.

We’ve been able to have a lot of great conversations as a result. We’ve talked about what to do when you can’t understand someone’s accent or don’t know what they mean when they use a certain word. We’ve talked about how to respond if something makes you feel awkward.

We’ve also worked hard to eliminate as many fears as possible: showing them pictures of South Africa and the people we’ll be meeting, talking about my experiences there, talking about the things I especially loved, having them watch YouTube videos of what international flights are like, and planning the trip in a way that we’re balancing out the hard stuff (like seeing poverty) with fun stuff (like going on an Elephant Interaction Trip — how cool does that sound??).

While I am quite certain there are going to be awkward moments for all of us, we are excited for our kids to have the opportunity to jump outside their comfort zones and face their fears. I think this trip will be something that will forever change them as individuals.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

#2. We Want Our Kids to Experience a Different Culture

One of our greatest hopes is that our children don’t grow up being stuck in an Americanized bubble.

We can show them pictures of other cultures. We can read books about other cultures. We can watch movies about other cultures. We can even meet people from different cultures here in the U.S.

But I think there’s nothing that can quite help you break free from the American bubble then just actually stepping onto another continent, walking alongside the people there, and experiencing their life firsthand.

We don’t want our kids to think inside a box. There is so, so much we can learn from other cultures.

We want them to see that there is a very big world out there — of needs, of ideas, of different ways of doing things. Our hope is that this trip will help to expand their horizon and broaden their perspective on life.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

#3. We Want to Inspire Our Kids to Be Givers

This is our biggest hope with this trip.

The first time Jesse and I traveled outside of the U.S., it was to go to the Dominican Republic. We came home from that trip forever changed.

We saw how money could make such a big difference — and how far a little bit of our money could be stretched there. We were inspired to dream big dreams and pray big prayers. Most importantly, we recognized that by continuing to live simply, it would allow us to give more generously.

Our greatest desire is to raise kids who are world-changers. We don’t want our kids to be content with the status quo. We want them to realize that their lives can make a big impact.

When I came back from South Africa, Jesse and I committed to pay for the operating expenses for the Take Action ministry in South Africa. It’s been such a blessing for us to give in this tangible way.

We want to make this giving real to our kids. We don’t want our giving to just be something that Mom and Dad do, but we want our kids to catch a vision for how their money and resources can make a difference, too.

Have you ever traveled internationally — especially with kids? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions for us as we prepare for this trip. We would also so appreciate your prayers, especially that my kids would have peace, not fear, going into next week.

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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!


Starting today, 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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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!”


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.


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.

Operation Christmas Child

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.

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