#WeAreOne – Kenya’s Unity Shines Through Crisis

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is senseless. I am speechless. We are all shaken.

As many of you are acutely aware, for the past several days the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has been under siege in what appears to be a very organized and intentional terrorist attack. Though the true motives behind this horrendous act are not yet fully known, here are some things I know:

Innocent lives were lost. And innocent lives should never be lost.

One’s race, religion, economic-status, age, gender, or political affiliation have never, will never, and should never be reason enough to rob an individual of his or her life.

Despite the obvious tension looming over Nairobi, Kenya’s largely diverse and culturally rich capital city, home to about 4 million people, life continues to move forward.

Kenyans are extremely resilient people.

If you have been following Kenyan Twitter accounts over the last two days, you will have seen this popular hashtag attached to many Westgate Mall tweets: #WeAreOne.

Carrying a complex history sewn together by the threads of colonization, suppression, tribal violence, political corruption, and economic difficulties, Kenyans have managed to continually strive toward unity: unity in the home, unity in the larger community, and unity as a nation.

Out of the dark events of the past hours, a bright light that is the Kenyan people’s commitment to human unity has been a shining reminder that We Are One.

Amidst the weekend’s tragedies, numerous beautiful stories have surfaced – sweet reminders of God’s kingdom on earth. The following is a brief recap from a Nairobi resident’s Twitter account:

#WestGate

Little children pushed other children out of harm’s way. Children pulled children to safety.

Kenyan police run into harm’s way for us with no helmet, no bullet proof vests and regular shoes.

A Muslim man wrote a short prayer on a piece of paper for a Christian man he was hiding with and helped him to memorize it in case the terrorists asked him to say something from the Quran.

Secretary General of the Red Cross put on a volunteers vest and went on site to work with his paramedics.

The Kenya Defense Forces went in there like superheroes.

No hospital turned a patient away.

Blood banks were full before they were empty again.

#KOT outrage on NY Times images made them pull those images off.

Heaven was filled with prayers and questions.

We will prevail.

“We are as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms.” – President Uhuru Kenyatta.

As this sickening event continues to plague the media – as speculations make their way into many a conversation – I encourage all of us to use our words wisely. No matter who committed these atrocities, no matter what innocent victims have lost their lives, we are one. As difficult as it is to stomach, we are all God’s sons and daughters. Somali, Kenyan. Black, white. Rich, poor. Male, female. Old, young. Al-Shabaab, Kenyan Military.

In the aftermath of such events, it is common that previously existing stereotypes, labels, and divisions are only widened and strengthened.

I encourage you to pray for those who will fall into these stereotypes and categories. I urge you to remind them that they are loved and valued. I urge you to think and process before you speak.

I urge you to pray. Pray for the victims and the families of victims. Pray for Nairobi. Pray for Kenya’s government. Pray for the future of this beautiful nation.

Pray for the persecuted and, equally important, the persecutor.

#WeAreOne

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 In closing, here are some words from World Concern’s Kenya Country Director, Peter Macharia:

“Westgate is a lovely place and Kenya is a very beautiful country. With 68 confirmed dead and many more people still inside the building with 10-15 gunmen, my heart sinks. I sincerely congratulate our police and army for the rescue of the more than 1,000 people from the building and my condolences to those who have been left by their loved ones. As the president said, we will not be cowed. Kenya will rise again!

World Concern has accounted for its entire staff in Kenya and we are glad no one was injured or killed by this despicable and devilish terrorist act. We continue to pray for those who lost their loved ones and hope that those still being held hostage will survive. We also pray that this will never be witnessed again in our country. We also pray that Somalia will soon find peace. The Westgate attack gives a glimpse of what has become the norm in
Somalia.”

Saved to Serve People

Jean Berlin knows that his life was spared during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 for a reason. And that reason is to serve others. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to share his amazing story of a life dedicated to serving people.

A math and physics teacher, Jean Berlin was teaching in a 5th floor university classroom in Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Just before the earthquake hit, he got what he describes as “a bad feeling inside.”

“I felt something would happen,” he recalled.

He left the building, excusing himself from his students and explaining that he wasn’t feeling well.

Haiti earthquake - collapsed building
A building in Port-au-Prince that collapsed during the January 2010 earthquake.

Moments later, when the shaking started, Berlin was confused. He’d never experienced an earthquake before. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, the school was gone. The building had collapsed and everyone inside was dead.

“I said, ‘Oh my God what happened?’” Berlin ran home to check on his two sisters. Thankfully, both had survived the earthquake.

He’ll never forget that day when his city went dark. “It was a very, very bad time in Haiti,” he said. “After I wondered, ‘God why didn’t you give me the chance to ask my friends to come out too?’”

Berlin still has no answer as to why so many died that day, but he survived. All he knows is that he is here for a reason.

“Jesus saved me to serve people,” he says with confidence.

Although Berlin loved teaching, he now dedicates his life to helping protect vulnerable families and communities in Haiti from future disasters, like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.  As a project manager for World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction program in Port-de-Paix, Berlin teaches people safe building practices, disaster preparedness, and how to keep their families safe in a disaster. He says he never wants to see such massive, preventable loss of life again.

Jean Berlin
Jean Berlin survived the Haiti earthquake. He believes it was so that he could serve others as a humanitarian and help prevent future disasters.

“If something happens in Port-de-Paix one day, now we won’t have as many victims,” he explains. “This is one way I can serve people.”

Berlin’s humanitarian service is his life mission, and the mission of World Concern.

“I can say that it is very, very important to serve people because, as Christians, we have to do what Jesus has done. Because Jesus himself, he served people too. As a Christian organization, it is our very special mission to serve people.”

We at World Concern humbly salute Jean Berlin as a dedicated humanitarian who is fulfilling his calling by serving others and protecting human life.

Listen to Jean Berlin say, in his own words, why he believes his life was spared so that he could help protect others.

 

High school students raise awareness of World AIDS Day 2012

The following blog post was written and submitted by King’s High School Social Justice student Trinity Chanel Hepper in recognition of World AIDS Day 2012.

As today, Dec. 1, marks World AIDS Day, King’s High School Social Justice class, taught by Ryan Crane, decided to make a bold statement on the campus of King’s High School.

Students on World AIDS Day 2012
King’s High School students in Seattle, Wash., stand amidst 250 white crosses, symbolizing the number of people who die of AIDS every day.

Some of the students met early Friday morning, Nov. 30, before school and set up 250 stark white crosses on the lawn in front of the high school, symbolizing the 250 lives lost every hour from AIDS.

Senior Trinity Chanel Hepper, a student in the social justice class and club said, “The crosses almost symbolized grave crosses that you would see in like a military graveyard. I felt shock from how depressing it looked and from the number of people that die in just one hour from this terrible disease. My classes are longer than an hour and 250 people die in less time than I am in my class. I really hope our idea and our action made an impact to the student body of King’s. I know it got people talking which is always good.”

Some associate AIDS with people from other or third world countries, but it’s right in our own backyard. In 2010 the estimated number of people in the U.S. who were diagnosed with AIDS was 1,163,575; of these, 226,593 were adult and adolescent females, 9,475 were children under 13, and 893,058 were adult and adolescent males.

The social justice class aims to raise awareness different injustice topics happening around the world—even locally.

“Kids that attend King’s have such a great opportunity to change the world, and for us as a class to bring awareness to [the student body] is a good thing,” said Mr. Crane. “Hopefully it will plant a seed, and make them have a desire in whatever they do in their future and even through their job to help change and make a difference. They all know of injustices, but they don’t know about them, in detail. So we try to bring awareness to them and ways to help solve and create problem solvers out of them.”

“AIDS is a worldwide problem and our students and young people need to be aware of it,” said Trinity. “The crosses put on the front lawn of the high school did just that.”

Let’s focus concern on Haiti, where Isaac threatens vulnerable families

My mouth dropped open when I read the words of ABC News reporter Amy Bingham in an article about the potential effect Tropical Storm Isaac could have on the city of Tampa as the Republican National Convention kicks off there on Monday. Most of the commenters on news stories like this made fun of the fact a storm was bearing down on a group of Republicans.

A family in the southern mountains of Haiti
Nadѐge Moise and her family live in a rural village in the mountains of Southern Haiti, an area that has been severely damaged by hurricanes. Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to bring 12-20 inches of rain to this area this weekend.

But my shock was over the complete lack of regard for the people of Haiti who are in real danger.

“Under the best case scenario, the storm could smash into the mountains of Haiti … then the weakened storm could sweep over the Bahamas and swirl off the east coast of Florida … missing Tampa…” wrote Bingham.

Seriously? A storm smashing into the mountains of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is the “best case scenario”?

I was just in those mountains of Southern Haiti in June. There are families and communities in those mountains who are extremely vulnerable to storms like this. They all talked of the terrible flooding that overtook their homes and villages in 2008 when four hurricanes hit Haiti. They are terrified of disasters, and because of their remote rural location in these mountains, most of them probably don’t even know another storm is coming their way.

I was glad today to see NBC News and a few others focusing on the danger to Haiti. If Isaac continues on its current path and strengthens into a hurricane, it will likely cause much damage to the homes and lives of the millions of people who live in Haiti.

World Concern is preparing staff members in Haiti and gathering emergency supplies to respond.

Kids near a canal in Southern Haiti.
Children in Côtes-de-Fer, a village near Bainet, along the southern coast of Haiti, stand near a canal built by World Concern in 2010. The canal is part of a disaster risk reduction project and is designed to direct rainwater away from homes and into the ocean.

We’ve also been working to reduce the risk to communities in this region, like Côtes-de-Fer, a village near Bainet, along the southern coast of Haiti. We worked with community members to build a canal in 2010 that is designed to direct large amounts of rainwater away from homes and into the ocean.

“The water used to flood my house,” said Dieudonné Felix, who lives in Côtes-de-Fer. “The last time it rained, the rainwater went straight to the sea. This is a big improvement.”

But even communities with canals are at risk because Isaac is expected to dump more than 12 inches of rain—possibly up to 20 inches—on Haiti today and tomorrow.

Please join me in praying for the people of Haiti, World Concern staff and others who work in this area, and all who will be affected by this storm.

Learn more about our disaster response work, and partner with us to bring immediate help to families in need.

Staring poverty in the face

This is a guest blog post by singer Jenny Simmons, who recently traveled to South Sudan with World Concern to see the great need in this country and witness the transformation taking place with the help of her supporters.

 

It is a simple memory—but one that haunts my mind.

The sound of rain coming for me.

Jenny Simmons talks with a woman in South Sudan
Singer Jenny Simmons listens to one woman’s story in South Sudan as she traveled with World Concern earlier this month.

Last week in Lietnhom, South Sudan, I slept under a tin roof (one of the only tin roofs in the village; everything else is thatched) during one of the biggest thunderstorms I have ever heard in my life. The rain sounded like an army. Constant, steady, violent, encroaching. Angry. All night long it pounded away at the roof like artillery fire.

It is odd to sit in my living room today and watch the soundless rain roll off my shingled roof.

Like most of South Sudan, there is no electricity in the village of Lietnhom. So when it is dark, it is very dark. And when bolts of lightning strike, they pierce the sky with an unbelievably cruel, taunting brightness.

It must be scary as a small child to live in a hut with a thatched roof and no electricity during a thunderstorm.

It is utter darkness. No sound of cars in the distance. No highways. No stadium lights or street lights or sirens. Can you even imagine that kind of darkness? That kind of silence?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

I was.

In fact, the truth is, I was scared during much of my trip to South Sudan.

The people were kind beyond measure. They offered us the very best of every single thing they had. Their food. Their beds. Their friendship. Still, I found myself lying in bed each night praying several different prayers of desperation.

“Lord, please send a UN helicopter to come get me.”

“God, if you’re gonna end the world somehow, someway—tonight would be a perfect night for you to go ahead and do that.”

“God I will do anything—I will serve you anywhere—if you will please, please just deliver me from this place.”

It is with great shame that I confess: My solution, as I interacted with people living in extreme poverty, was to beg God to put an end to the world. Or at the very least, send in a special UN convoy to rescue me from latrines, mosquito nets, cold showers, no electricity and the really scary thunderstorm in the black of night that rattled the tin roof above my head like an army, coming to pillage.

Just because I spent a few days in the bush of South Sudan doesn’t make me a saint or a hero or even a humanitarian. I’m not. I straight up spent most of my time praying for the apocalypse just so I would not have to pee in another bush on the side of a dirt road. Is that really end-of-the-world worthy? I think not.

If you make any conclusion about me based on my trip to South Sudan, conclude this: I am scared and selfish.

Jenny Simmons holds a child in South Sudan.
Jenny embraces and prays for a child in South Sudan.

Scared to eat food that comes out of a tin shack with mud floors and barefoot women. Scared to eat the chicken on my plate (because I swear he was just roaming around my bedroom window a few minutes ago). Scared to use the latrines, convinced that the horrific smell has created some sort of critter that will come out and eat me. Scared to sleep in pitch black darkness. Scared to hold a baby that may not live to be a little girl. Scared to hug a momma who has to bury that little girl. Scared to look at both of them in the eyes and imagine it being me and my little girl. Scared to love them and see them as people … because what if I go home and forget about their stories? Forget their cries for help?

“No milk. No milk,” the momma shows me her breasts, drooping and empty, “You take her.” And she tries to hand me her four-month-old baby.

Scared to look her in the eyes—scared that seeing her as human means I must act.

Scared that the problem is too big to be solved.

Scared that the only solution is death.

At the end of the day, I was just scared.

And selfish.

Though the country was beautiful and the people I met were amazing… the truth is, I couldn’t get home fast enough. When I got to Washington, D.C. my dad picked me up from the airport. I asked if we could go straight to a restaurant for breakfast. I scarfed down croissants and muffins. A latte. In a pastry shop that serves the up and up of Washington, D.C. elites. From there I went straight to the store and bought a new outfit. A razor. Body scrub. Face wash. I showered for nearly an hour. An entire hour of wasted water and gas. And then, we went out to eat again for Mexican food. I ordered $10 table-side guacamole. By the time I caught my flight back to Nashville I had spent more money in half a day than the families I had just been with, spend in a year.

And the spending and eating and gluttony on all levels was cathartic. A sort of cleansing of the poverty via a frenzy of money spending. It was like something in me needed to spend money. Needed to consume. Needed to re-ground myself in wealth and comfort as quickly as possible.

And that speaks to my own selfishness. My own poverty.

An unhealthy dependence on the things of this world to make me feel comfortable and happy.

So now you know the truth. I am just a girl. Mostly scared. Mostly selfish. Entirely out of her element in the small village of Lietnhom, South Sudan. Praying, begging for some end-of-the-world moment, simply so I could be delivered from my own discomfort.

Jenny Simmons singing in South Sudan
Joined by a village choir in South Sudan, singer Jenny Simmons sings “Amazing Grace” during a small concert in the village of Lietnhom.

Poverty does that to us. It makes us uncomfortable. And if we can just get to the center lane, so we don’t have to pull up right next to the homeless person on the corner and look them in the eyes, we have saved ourselves the discomfort of having to know and having to act.

The truth is, my trip to South Sudan with World Concern was one of the hardest trips of my entire life. And I feel like a baby saying that because my teammates joyously snapped pictures, conducted interviews, pooped in latrines without complaint and ate the poor little pet chickens without hesitation. But for me, it was hard. It was hard on my body and soul. It was an affront to every single way of life I have ever known.

South Sudan was hard for me.

We are all a little scared to stare poverty in the face. And we should be.

Poverty displays the very essence of our brokenness as people. Those living in it and the rest of us … avoiding it. We both operate out of poverty.

Jesus came to alleviate poverty. He didn’t avoid it. In fact, in the New Testament, many times Jesus went out of his way—literally, through different villages and cities in order to stare the broken, hurting, poor, widowed, ostracized people in the eyes. He looked poverty in the face, in order to give hope. Other times, he went out of his way to teach those with wealth what it truly looked like to follow him. To give away possessions, and more importantly, to be willing to follow His lead even when it meant personal comfort would be diminished. He knew that people were either impoverished in their spirit or in their possessions. A lack of faith or a lack of bread were the same in His eyes—and he sought to shine new life into both kinds of people.

We go where God sends us. To the least of these. And the truth is: we’re mostly too scared and too selfish to do this on our own. But God walks us through our greatest fears.

So at the end of the day, I do not stand here a proud girl, telling you of all the amazing things I did to serve the poor.

I stand here as a girl who prayed for a UN helicopter to come rescue me. And instead, found a Savior who gave me strength, comfort and overflowing power and love to stare poverty in the face and at the end of the day—to sleep through the storm.

Be a part of ending poverty. Join me in seeing One Village Transformed.

 

I Heart Food Trucks

Skillet is one of Seattle's top food trucks. They'll be at the Mobile Food Fight for Hunger on Aug. 19.
Skillet is one of Seattle’s beloved food trucks. They’ll be at the Mobile Food Fight for Hunger on Aug. 19.

I don’t know what it is but I’ve been drawn to food trucks for the last few years like a moth to a flame, as they say. Maybe it’s the excitement of discovering something new, or just the fact that I love good food. Regardless, all I know is there is a special place in my heart for food trucks. Even when traveling, I always research where to find new street food.

It seems like this growing passion is taking place in the hearts of other Seattleites too.  Some might even say Seattle is having a food truck revolution. I say, it’s about time! So many awesome trucks are popping up around the greater Seattle area showcasing their delicious curbside offerings.

So I’m sitting at my computer at World Concern one day making myself hungry thinking about how much I love food trucks. I started thinking about ways these roving restaurants on wheels could do more than just fill bellies in Seattle.  Then followed a genius idea: what if we invited some of the best food trucks in Seattle to World Concern and raise money to fight global hunger?! Beautiful! Two things that are very dear to my heart have united: helping the poor and food trucks!

Food from Off the Rez
Off the Rez will bring the unique flavor of Native American food to the Mobile Food Fight for Hunger on Aug. 19.

The Mobile Food Fight for Hunger was born, and now you have the opportunity to taste some of the best food trucks in Seattle right here at World Concern on Aug. 19. Plus, there will be zero guilt about all this eating because you’ll be helping feed hungry people in places like South Sudan, Chad and Somalia. Ten percent of the proceeds from the Mobile Food Fight for Hunger will help fight hunger through World Concern’s sustainable agricultural programs.

So get on this bandwagon of awesomeness and join us as we make a difference in the world through this delicious event!

All the details and a list of trucks can be found at www.mobilefoodfightforhunger.com.

5 Ways to Fundraise for Your Cause

Whether you’re passionate about bringing clean water to thirsty African villages, or want to ensure children living in poverty get an education for a better future, personal fundraising is a trend that enables you to make a bigger impact.

It’s pretty simple: Ask friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances to donate to your cause. You can do this by dedicating your birthday for a cause, or designating an anniversary or other special day. Instead of gifts for yourself, you ask for donations to your cause.

You can also do this by participating in an event. Right now, hundreds of people are successfully raising money to help protect children from slavery by participating in the Free Them 5k Fun Run to Stop Human Trafficking. Last year, top fundraisers brought in more than $1,500 each in donations for a cause that’s near to their hearts.

Whatever your passion, here are some tips for increasing your impact with donations from others.

  1. Ask! You’ll be amazed at how willing people are to give if they’re asked. Some of us have received donations from unexpected Facebook friends or others, despite having little contact with them recently. You never know who’s just looking for an opportunity to give.
  2. Explain why you’re doing this. When you share from your heart, others will relate. If you’re a parent and issues like child trafficking touch your heart, tell other moms and dads about why you care.
    Carrie Yu
    , a Seattle mom of two young children, explains why she participates in the Free Them 5k. “As a parent, it’s heart-breaking to think about. I can’t imagine having to make the decision to sell a child into slavery in order to survive,” she said. “I can’t go into the mission field, but I can run for this cause. I can raise money. This is something I can do right now where I am in my life.”

    Bake sale for World Concern
    Kids at Trinity Family Fellowship in Yakima, Wash., held a bake sale and raised more than $1,100 for World Concern.
  3. Use your talents to raise funds. Lorene Jansson sells cinnamon rolls at her office as way to boost her fundraising. Last year, she was a top fundraiser for the 5k. This year, she started selling hand-made beaded jewelry as well. “You take your passion, whatever it is, and apply it to what you want to do,” suggests Lorene. “It’s inspiring to see so many like-minded people wanting to do something about trafficking.”
  4. Find out if your company matches donations. This is a super simple way to double your impact immediately and effortlessly. If you’re not sure if your company will match your donations, use our online tool to find out, or ask your HR department.
  5. Spread the word. Use Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, email, snail mail, or casual conversation to tell others what you’re doing. Be yourself and have fun with it. People will respond if they see the real you coming through. As someone who has never been a runner, all I had to do was tell my friends I was actually running and they showed their support by donating. Pretty cool!
An example of a 5k fundraising Facebook post.
My personal fundraising page tells more about why I'm helping fight human trafficking, but this Facebook post about the fact I'm actually running a 5k shocked my friends enough they showed their support with donations.

Witnessing the transformation two years after the Haiti earthquake

Loueze Berlien proudly shows visitors around her one-room 12-by-12-foot transitional shelter she received from World Concern. It’s simple, she admits, but it’s much safer and far more comfortable than the tent on her cousin’s property she’s been living in since the earthquake.

She was pregnant when the earthquake destroyed her house. She escaped with only minor injuries from falling debris, but her husband Patrick did not survive.

Loueze Berlien and her baby in their new home.
Loueze Berlien lost her husband in the earthquake. She and her baby now have a place to call home.

“It was difficult. I didn’t have anything. What was I supposed to do?” said Loueze.  “I saved some blocks from my old house, thinking I might be able to construct something with them, but I couldn’t build something I could sleep in.”

Loueze was grateful when she learned she would receive a shelter from World Concern. “It was a way to restart my life,” she said. Now, she and her baby have a place to call home.

The cinder blocks she saved now fortify the entrance to her new house. She has hung curtains and decorations inside, and framed pictures of family are displayed on her night stand. But the most important thing about being here is a feeling of stability. “I no longer have issues with security,” said Loueze. “I am able to sleep at night. I can live here with my baby. I’m no longer afraid. I no longer have sadness.”

The initial recovery that takes place in the months following a disaster is often dramatic. Although the progress in Haiti since the devastating earthquake two years ago has been challenging, it is, nonetheless, remarkable.

1.5 million people were left homeless in a country with an already strained infrastructure. 250,00 homes were destroyed. Two years later, a million of those who were homeless have been housed. And five million cubic meters of debris have been cleared from narrow streets – most impassible by vehicles.

Immediately following the earthquake, people needed tools to survive – water, food, first aid, shelter. Having worked in Haiti for more than 30 years, and with a warehouse full of emergency supplies, World Concern was able to help save lives by meeting these immediate needs.

Houses being repaired
World Concern hired local workers to repair more than 2,500 damaged homes so families could move back in.

We put people to work, clearing rubble, and paid them cash so they could feed their families. Business owners received grants to buy equipment and inventory to restart their businesses.

And we built and repaired homes – more than 3,000 of them – like the one Loueze is living in now.

There’s still a long road ahead for the people of Haiti, but they are resilient. Despair and shock have turned into hard work and hope. The economy is improving. A million of those who were homeless are now in shelters. And new homes are safer.

Aid organizations are shifting their focus to preventing another catastrophic disaster. There’s no doubt, Haiti is building back better.

To learn more, visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti

Blown away by generosity

Yesterday, a man walked into our headquarters office and said he wanted to make a donation. He ordered a few gift cards for goats from the Global Gift Guide, then proceeded to write a check—for $10,000.

A husband and father of two, he told us he had picked up a copy of the Global Gift Guide at an event and started pondering the tremendous needs of children and families living in poverty, and compared this to his own life. He was moved to tears. He and his family talked, prayed and decided to make this donation.

A World Concern donor in Kenya
World Concern donors help transform the lives of those living in extreme poverty, offering hope for a better future.

Over the past few weeks, we at World Concern have been in an almost constant state of awe at God’s provision for our work through the generosity of others this holiday season. As a humanitarian organization responding to some of the worst disasters in the world, and working in some of the poorest, most difficult to reach places, we have the privilege of seeing the impact your donations are making every day in the lives of suffering people. We never take this for granted.

The gifts that have come in this past year – and particularly this week – have, quite honestly, blown us away. Large or small, they are heart-felt, God-led, powerfully meaningful gifts. Each one has a story behind it. We wanted to share a few of those with you.

After one of her Christmas tour shows, Addison Road lead singer Jenny Simmons had a 13-year-old girl named Kate approach her. She wanted to use her Christmas money to buy a goat in honor of her uncle Clint, a pastor who had been murdered in his own church by robbers. “Taking care of poor people was what he loved to do. I want to do as much as I can to keep his spirit alive. He would have loved buying a goat. This is the perfect present for me,” she said.

At church this past Sunday, a friend handed me a check made out to World Concern for $350 to buy animal gifts for poor children. I looked at her a little confused because the week before she had told me she was sad that she couldn’t buy any gifts from the Global Gift Guide this year. Her husband had been laid off from his job. I hugged her and told her I’d pray for him to find work.

But God touched their hearts that week and they felt led to give, even beyond their current means. “We talked it over, and this is what we want to do,” she said, handing me the check with a smile. More hugs.

It reminded me of the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4, where Jesus said, “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

The gift is even greater when it’s given sacrificially.

We received an email from a college student saying he had accidentally donated more than he intended. No problem, we told him, we can refund the difference. But he sent another message saying that after praying about it, he had decided to leave the donation as is. “It’s a leap of faith,” he said, and was excited to see what God would do with it.

Earlier this week, a family of five with two special needs children donated an entire school for a village in Kenya. Because of this gift, children in this village will be blessed for generations.

Just this morning, a donor purchased a year’s education for two children and wrote this: “This is given in honor of my mother who died earlier this year. She was an amazing mother, spouse, teacher, and advocate for women and children. She had such a tremendous spark of life and hilarious view of the world. She gave of her gifts always, whether to family or to her students.”

Wow. To say we are humbled by the outpouring of love in these gifts is an understatement. Because of these gifts and so many others, we are able to freely give to those in need, reaching the farthest corners of the planet. What a blessing to witness love like this in action.

Thank you to everyone who has given a gift this year. Have a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

How Global Gift Guide gifts transform lives

“When you are isolated, no one comes to help,” said David, a young farmer who lives in a rural village in Haiti. “World Concern is the first to support us this way.”

People in his village have received goats, cows and other animals – each one a gift from a generous Global Gift Guide donor.

A girl receives a baby goat at her school in rural Haiti.
A young girl receives a baby goat at her school in rural Haiti.

“When the cows give birth, we pass the cow on to someone else, who becomes the owner of the cow,” he explained. “By selling the milk for income, parents can pay for food for their children, for school, and to take them to the hospital if they get sick.”

“It’s like heaven,” said Pierre, a farmer who received a cow from World Concern. “We could never afford a cow like this with our own money.”

At a nearby school in Les Cayes, children receive baby goats of their own. As part of the program, they’re trained how to care for and raise the goats, and are able to earn income from the goat milk.  The income they earn helps them afford uniforms, supplies and tuition to stay in school.

With healthy animals to raise, kids and families in rural Haiti have hope for the future. Beaming smiles on the faces of the children as they receive their goat gifts are just one indication of the impact these gifts have on lives.

Bring hope and a smile to the face of someone struggling in poverty this Christmas. Your gift will make a lasting difference.

Visit www.globalgiftguide.org to view all the gifts.