Friday, September 24, 2010

How the World Gets Changed

I'm just giddy today.  One week ago yesterday Tariku started his campaign to raise $5,000 for a water well in Africa for his birthday.  I knew we'd never get to $5,000 and I knew that I just needed to be content with whatever we had raised in the 90 day period of time.  Well yesterday, exactly one week after starting the campaign, the well was fully funded and then some.  WHAT????!!!! 

I've had lots of questions over the past week..."how did you think to do that?", "how did you get that much money raised?" "how did it happen so quickly?".  I've been thinking about these questions and have some thoughts on them...

First of all - "How did I think to do this?".  Well, the journey I've been on over the past few years has brought me to the place where I realize that stuff doesn't matter.  There is incredible need in the world we live in and I am wealthy compared to the rest of the world, even when I don't feel like I am.  I have found greater joy in giving of my time and resources than in any gift I've ever received.  Ever.  I want my children to grow up with that same experience and I want them to start NOW.  What child really needs another action figure or toy??  Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying children shouldn't receive presents.  Mine do and will in the future.  But, what I am saying is that if we have any hope of changing the world we live in, we need to start NOW modeling for our children that giving is a pleasure AND a responsibility we have to our fellow man. 

The other part of why I thought to do this was simply because of Tariku's story.  He likely would have been one of the statistics...4,500 children die daily from water related diseases.  His brother died from diahrrea due to their water source and Tariku was drinking that same water.  That sends chills down my spine.  He was spared, but so many are not.  This is PREVENTABLE.  And we have the resources to do something about it.  I had learned about charity:water over a year ago and had been really impressed with their work and their model of educating and involving people. The connection just seemed natural. 

As to how we got that much money raised so quickly...that's simple.  People WANT to be involved in changing the world.  They do.  I have found that many folks sit back and do nothing because they are paralyzed by the massiveness of the problem and don't feel there's anything they do can make a dent. Haven't you all heard "Well, it's such a huge problem and my little donation isn't going to really help."?  It's really not that people aren't willing to give (although there certainly are those people!), it's just that they don't realize the impact they can have.  I love how charity:water breaks it down...$20 provides 1 person clean drinking water for 20 years.  That makes the person who thinks their 20 bucks won't make a dent see that it will indeed make an incredible impact for the one person they are helping. 

I also think that when people hear a statistic like there are 147 million orphans in the world they say, "Man, that's really sad."  It's overwhelming to them.  But when you share a story with them about one of those orphans like my son, Tariku, there's a connection.  People can connect to a story about a little boy.  They can see that they can help him have a future.  Our community of friends and family GAVE us close to $15,000 to adopt Tariku.  Ben and I were inspired to adopt as we saw friends whose lives were changed as a result of it.  People were inspired to help us bring our son home from Ethiopia.  Others were inspired by us bringing Tariku home and are now in the process of adopting their own children.  And now, people have heard Tariku's story and made the connection that he was one of the people in the world drinking water every day that may have killed him.  And so, once again, they acted.  None of it ever would have happened without telling a story.

So, how do we tell our stories effectively?  We live in the information age.  We have the advantage of social media like FaceBook, Twitter and Blogging.  But for all those folks who aren't technical, there are other ways!  Good old fashioned letter writing is what helped bring in the finances for our adoption.  Share your heart.  Share what you're passionate about and why.  CONNECT at a deep level with the people you are sharing with.  People want to be moved.  It's not about making it a production. It's about being authentic.  Help people understand why you are passionate about whatever the "thing" is.  Once they understand and are connected at a heart level, they may become fellow advocates!  My neighbor, for example, was so moved by Tariku's water project that she sent an email out to everyone in her address book.  My nephew shared Tariku's story at school in his classroom and gave out information.  Friends shared Tariku's story on FaceBook.  All of these seemingly little things mobilize people to get involved.

Stories change our lives.  They compel us.  Find a story and tell it.  Maybe it's your own story...maybe it's someone else's.  If you're feeling today like you can't really make a difference, don't buy the lie.  You can.  Find something you care about and if you don't have a story of your own to tell about it, find one. We all need to hear it. That's how the world gets changed.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Was Not Designed for This...

I was not designed

to be on my own

to author my own story

to compose my own rules

to live with me in the center.

I was not designed

to look for life outside of You

to treasure the creation

to love people, places and things

more than You.

I was not designed

to rely on my wisdom

to trust my imagination

to rely on my thoughts

to igonore Your revelation.

I was not designed

to follow the path of my craving

to be enslaved to my desires

to be ruled by my passions

more than I am by You.

I was not designed

to put created things in Your place

to look to the creation

to fulfill the longings

that only You can fulfill.

I was not designed

to live for the moment

to ignore what is forever

to covet what belongs to others

forgetting I've been given You.

I was not designed

to question Your goodness

to bring you to the court of my judgment.

to be bitter in my assessment

of the things You do.

I was not designed

to let my heart fill with envy

to be constantly accounting

to be jealous and untrusting

instead of resting in You.

I was not designed

to forget Your right hand that holds me

to ignore your good counsel

to not see that You're with me

I will be in glory with You.

I was not designed

to think I am living

to ignore the evidence that I'm dying

to forget that we perish

when separate from You.

So I acknowledge this morning

it is good to be with You

to make You my sole refuge

to speak daily of your workings

Whom do I have but You?

I praise you for rescue

for always holding me near You

for owning my heart's desirings

My life is You.
- Paul Tripp

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Gang of Little World Changers

In case you may have missed it, my 5 year old son is raising $5,000 to build a well for the Bakaya people in the Central African Republic for his birthday.  We launched his campaign almost four days ago and so far he has raised $3,000 towards the well!  All of us are blown away.  You can go here to donate if you like.  Or here to read Tariku's own story of growing up with contaminated water in Ethiopia.

One of the amazing things to me is that there have been so many children who have contributed to Tariku's water campaign.  I've had a couple of emails like the following over the past few days:

"Amy, I talked about this with Luke and Anna. Luke is so sad for Tariku and for losing his little brother. That would be like Luke losing Charlie, who just turned one year old. Luke is getting his bank, and we are talking about how to give more! Thanks for impacting my kids, too!"

"So, it's been a few more days, and wow!!! Almost $3000! Just amazing!!! My kids are still talking about the well and asking several times a day what the total is. I feel so grateful that my kids are experiencing this at such a young age."

"After reading Tariku's story and watching the video, our kids were appalled that clean water is not available to everyone and amazed that this is really going on in our world right now! They were also effected that someone they knew came from this exact situation. ("Ella's brother didn't have clean water AND he had bugs in his tummy???!!!") It really made it tangible for them.  Immediately after watching your video, Alli went and literally dumped out her "spending" jar and said, "I want to give it all" and Jack came over with a fist full of his spending money and said, "Bam! Give it all, mom!" It literally made me cry!!! How neat to see God working on their little hearts...not to mention mine!"
Isn't that just awesome?!  It is humbling to see children understanding the injustice of a world where not everyone has clean water.  And even more so, that they are not just understanding it, but are going to their own piggy banks and emptying them on behalf of others.  I would imagine THAT would bring a smile to any parent's face. It sure does mine.
Then today we actually had Tariku's birthday party.  The kids who came were asked to forgo buying a new toy for Tariku and simply bring a donation to the well, and if they felt compelled to give something to Tariku, to bring a used toy from their house. So, with 19 kids from five different families (we had three African countries represented in our little gang of kiddos!), we celebrated Tariku.  And we celebrated the fact that an entire community in Africa will have clean water thanks to them. It was so fun and cool to watch the kids engage. 
We sat them all down in front of the laptop and let them watch this video:

charity: water 2010 September Campaign: Clean Water for the Bayaka from charity: water on Vimeo.
I couldn't believe how they stayed engaged.

They watched as we explained what they were seeing.
And they all smiled when Tariku started pointing to the kids drinking clean water at the end of the video.  His excitement was so ridiculously sweet!  I just love my little man!
Wow.  Kids are awesome.  We are so grateful for our awesome friends who have stepped up to not only learn about clean water, but to give to and to pray for those who don't have it.  I don't know, folks...I think we might all just be raising little world changers.  Maybe it's time we start seeing them as such.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Impact of Our Stories: WATER

Clean water.  We turn it on in our kitchens to wash the dishes or to get a drink.  We use it to shower.  We use it to cook.  We give it to our pets.  We lavish it on our thirsty grass in the summer.  FACT: My grass drinks cleaner water than most of the people in the world. 

When we went to Ethiopia to adopt our son, Tariku we learned his story more fully.  He had lived for four years or so with his birth father and step mother.  They collected their water from a small dirty pond that was contaminated with God knows what.  His family had no other choice.  They needed water and that was the water they had to use.  Tariku's little brother became very sick and had severe diarrhea from the water.  At the age of one, he died. From dirty water.

When we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia in April he had severe stomach and blood parasites from the water...likely, the same parasites that ultimately took his brother's life.  Of course, here in America he had clean water and access to medication that got rid of the parasites relatively fast.  The same sort of simple care would have likely saved the life of his brother.

Parents all over the world today do not have a choice about the water they give their children to drink.  Their kids must have water and if the only water that is available is contaminated, then that's the water they get.  Tariku watched his brother be born and die in the same year all because there was no clean water available in his village.  As a mother, as a sibling, as a human being...this angers me.  Everyone should have the ability to drink clean water.  Period.  Have you ever taken the time to count how many outlets you have in your house for water?  I counted mine today and I have 10 places I can go in my house at any time to get clean water. Ten.  Most people in Africa can't even get to an unclean water source within a ten minute walk.

I'll never forget that about a month after we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia we took a weekend trip to Washington DC.  We visited the World War II Memorial where there is a gigantic fountain.  We walked down to the edge of the fountain and Tariku got on his knees and leaned over and cupped the water in his hand as if he was going to drink it.  I told him not to drink it because it was dirty and that wasn't what it was for.  In that moment I realized that water was much cleaner than any water he'd ever drank in Ethiopia.  He looked up at me confused after I had told him not to drink the water.  He said "For animals?"  I said no.  Then he said "To wash?"  I said no.  Then he said "What for then?".  What for, indeed.   Here we are in America, where we have the luxury of clean water being simply a decoration to look at.

If we can afford to have clean water as a decoration...if we can pay for it to water our lawns and fill our swimming pools, can we not afford to help a community like the one Tariku came from provide clean water for their families to drink?

Tariku is turning five in just a few days.  In celebration of his birth, his story and his miraculous presence in our lives, our family is going to raise the money to build a water well for a village similar to the one Tariku grew up in.  Isn't it cool that you and I can do that?! 

All it takes is $5,000 to impact the lives of 50 families.  That's 50 families who will be able to drink water without worrying it might kill them.  What an incredible opportunity we have to make a life changing difference for an entire community. 

Tariku's story is heartbreaking in many ways, but it is mostly a story of love and hope.  The hope that one little boy can help make a difference for 50 families just like his birth family.  That is a story I can't wait to watch play out.  And thanks to charity:water you can be a part.  We have three months to raise this money and it's going to happen.  I feel it.

Click HERE to read more about how to get involved or to donate.  Let's help Tariku tell his story so that 50 families can live to tell theirs.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Throw Your Pebble

One of the absolute joys of living here in Colorado has been getting to know Jody and Andy Landers.  They are some of the most authentic people I know.  I knew about Jody because of her work for charity water, and it has just been the biggest blessing that both our families moved to Colorado about the same time.  Not long ago they adopted two precious children from Sierra Leone and I wanted to share Jody's blog post from yesterday.  Enjoy.  Be moved.  Throw your pebble...

our pebble.

On our March trip to Sierra Leone, we had the profound privilege of spending some time in the Kroo Bay slums with Word Made Flesh staff. They focus much of their lives and their ministry connecting with the people who make up one of the poorest areas in the world.  On Saturday mornings, they run a program for the kids of Kroo Bay. We participated while we were there and it quickly became a highlight for all of us.

We watched them dance and sing.

We watched them pray to ‘Papa God’.

David lead them in a memory verse. A story was told. Each child was prayed over individually as they left the building.

Many of the children are sick and hungry and exhausted. We were given the job of watching for the kids who would fall asleep in their seats….and grabbing them quickly before they fell to the cement floor:

We had to do it several times in the hour we were there.
Each Saturday at the Good News Club, the kids are given an egg. Probably the only protein they have all week.  The adults watch to make sure the egg is eaten by the child and not put in a pocket to be taken home to their family.

This precious boy fell asleep in the seats and was gently placed on on of our backpacks…next to the Bible and bread. You don’t have to look very hard to see the Kingdom of God at work here. I’m not sure that I have sensed it anywhere as intensely as I did that day in heat of a crowded room in the center of Kroo Bay slums.

When we went in March, you helped us to bring a number of supplies. One thing we did was deliver these vitamins:

The staff took these and the past several months have given each child one vitamin with their egg on Saturday. We recently received an email that said: “We need more vitamins. Can you help?”

Um, yes. Yes, we can.  Because we love this. We love any opportunity to think outside of our own picket fences.  An opportunity to do something.  An opportunity to keep our eyes open, hearts soft.

Now I currently have what I would consider a strict grocery budget.  But I still browse the aisles at the supermarket and put oranges and apples and carrots and granola bars and pancake mix into my cart.
And I’m thankful for the opportunity to stop….to stop and pick up a couple jars of vitamins. Not to supplement my already full cart for my own kids. But to pause to think about mothers across the world who struggle every day to provide any semblance of food for their children.

This is simply one of those chances we look for ‘to do something’. Something that will no doubt provide a tiny bit of nourishment to the weak bodies of children in Sierra Leone. And something that will no doubt ensure that our heart stays aware and our hands remain open.

We all win.  And that’s why I love it.  So here’s the plan:  Join us if you want.

Collect vitamins. Do it with your own family. With your small group. MOPS group. Whatever.  And then we are going to stock the suitcases of the next person that travels to Freetown with WMF.  For now, we will make my house here the central location. You can order them online if that’s easier and have them sent here.
Or once your collection is done, you can mail them to me.  Or if you want to forego shipping all together, you can paypal (jodylanders @ gmail . com) me and I will shop for the vitamins. We will collect until Sept. if you can have them in the mail by then.

And to wrap this up I’m quoting in full here Jaime, a missionary in Costa Rica. She describes this incident where she delivers food to some desperate kids:

“I’m gonna go fight poverty for two and a half hours. Two and a half hours on a Tuesday morning to solve the biggest problem in the world. What a joke.  We will show up with a bag full of bread and an armload of bananas, and the children will clamber around us like ducks at a pond. A bunch of little ducklings, falling all over each other for a bit of bread and a soft pat on the head.

And for 2 and a half hours we will laugh and play and eat, and we will talk about Jesus. And when we leave, they will be just as poor as when we arrived. Poverty taunts us as we drive away.  It’s overwhelming.  The problem is so big, and we are so small. It feels ridiculous… showing up to war wielding a loaf of bread.

Of course that’s how David showed up. Just a shepherd boy with some bread for his brothers, a kid who was quick with a sling shot. He chose for battle against a giant, not a sword, or the kings armor, but five smooth stones. And he won.

He said to the giant:”You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” ~1 Samuel 17

I kind of love that.  I’m going to feed the ducks, now.  And then, with all my might, I will hurl a tiny pebble at their giant enemy. And I hope it hurts like hell.“

And I love that.

So pick up your pebbles, people. Here we go…Thanks for joining us.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oceans of Justice

My last post was about our stories.  Today marks the one year anniversary of one of the most important stories I've ever had the opportunity to be a part of.  A year ago today I walked into Ngariam, Uganda and encountered God through the weak and feeble frame of an old woman named Mary who I found lying in the dirt. To read about her story go here.  You won't be sorry. 

Mary has never been far from my mind over the past year.  Who knows if she's still alive or not.  I just know that when I get to heaven I'm going to find her and we will talk and laugh together.  I will tell her how God used her to open my eyes not just to suffering in this world, but to the people behind the the faces, to the names, to their stories.  Mary may have just been one in a sea of suffering, beautiful faces I glimpsed that day, but God allowed me the privilege and opportunity to stop and truly SEE her, and in doing so, to SEE Him.  And to see him more clearly than I ever have in my life.  

That day in Uganda amidst the heat and the dirt and the suffering, God wasn't interested in my "spiritual credentials".  He didn't care about my involvement at church or how much scripture I knew.  He wanted justice for Mary.  He wanted for one second, for someone to bend down, look in her eyes and see what He saw...His little, tiny lump of a creation crying out for justice and help.  That day, He wanted her to experience the love and care that He had for her tangibly.  He wanted her to be treated fairly, like everyone else in the village...not written off and left for dead because she was old and useless in the eyes of the village.  He wanted her to be seen as precious. 
 Amos 5 says:

I can't stand your religious meetings.
   I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
   your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
   your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
   When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
   I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
   That's what I want. That's all I want.

Living a life that stands up for and embodies the justice that God desires is messy and hard. Not sometimes, but often.  That's the reality.  How many people do you know who want to hear about the injustices in the world?  Likely, not many.  How that must break God's heart.  I think He's pretty clear above that He has no interest in our lip service.  He wants us to allow Him to indwell us so completely that when we walk into a village or the grocery store, or the school that Justice walks in.  That we won't be able to see an unfair or unjust situation and just turn around and walk out.  Oh, that I would be compelled by God's fairness with me to live it out in an unjust and fallen world. 

What would it take for us to be moved the way God is moved by injustice? I think it takes a movement of God in our hearts and a willingness on our part to engage in the brokenness and suffering of others...even others we don't know or who we might not ever meet this side of heaven.  There are millions like Mary waiting to be SEEN.  

Oceans of Justice and Rivers of Fairness...that's what He wants. That's all He wants. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Stories

"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually." - Frederick Buechner

I read that quote by Frederick Buechner today and it made me think about my story.  I don't know if any of you can relate, but I have kept "my story" just that - mine.  Over time as I have found the courage to spit out the words which encompass my story I have found the ability to breathe again.  How many of us hide who we have been and who we are out of fear of what others might think?  I did for years.  It was an ugly prison of my own making.  The freedom came for me in recognizing that God was big enough for my story.  He could handle it.  And in the end, that's all that matters.  There are people in this world who can't handle my story and that's okay because God can.  I've found that as I've spoken the words I thought I would never say, that freedom has seeped in to my bones.  Just like Frederick says above - I don't want to lose track of my story or the stories that my story has birthed.  God shapes our stories if we let Him.  And that, is a beautiful thing.  So, share your story.  Don't profoundly impoverish the rest of us. :)

In that spirit, here are the ABC's of who I've been, who I am and who I long to become... 


Beloved. It's taken me years to figure out I am.

Compelled by the compassion of God

Desperate for love.

Entrapped by my craving for comfort

Freedom found in forgiveness of myself.

Grateful. Ridiculously so. Nothing I have do I deserve.

Hoping in what I do not see, but what I know is real.

Insufficient.  That's me. 

Justice...learning how to stand for it, live it, and weave it into the fabric of my being.

Known...truly known by a few

Low Self Esteem

Married to the most amazing man on the planet

Night. So many dark nights...but light has always come.

Orphans. They have changed my life.

Prayer and lots of it has carried me through

Quitting my safe life. Trying to let go of the things I hold to tightly.

Rescued from my painful choices.

Sliver of who I long to be.

Tariku. My Ethiopian son whose story has shaped the course of my life.

Used.'s a word that has changed my life. Tell your story. Someone needs to hear it.

Whole because God stooped down and poured out His grace on me.

X- rated - My heart in all it's ugliness.

Yearning to be the woman God created me to be

Zealous wanna be.