Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Loving Lepers

Do you know anyone with Hansen's disease?  I don't either.  Hansen's disease also known as leprosy is one of the world's oldest maladies.  Leprosy is a bacterial disease that attacks the nervous system, particularly the nerves of the hands, feet and face. As the body absorbs cartilage into its system, victims of the disease slowly lose their fingers, toes and even limbs. While leprosy has been eradicated in the west, it is still active and greatly feared across Asia because of the disfigurement it can cause, the social stigma it carries, and because it can be transmitted through close contact with a patient.


There are tens of thousands of people suffering from leprosy in more than 1,000 leper colonies throughout South Asia.  The social stigma is devastating, perhaps even worse than the disease itself.  However, leprosy can be totally cured without permanent damage if medical help is sought immediately. Unfortunately, in remote places and among the poor, diagnosis and treatment often come too late. And sadly, only those among the cured who have no visible deformity will be able to integrate back into society. All others will have to live in leper colonies—alone or with their families—for the rest of their lives.

In the midst of this hopelessness, the light of Jesus Christ is breaking through, bringing hope to those who have been brushed aside by society. Please pray for Gospel for Asia's leprosy ministry, that many suffering from this terrible disease would embrace the Savior, who is reaching out to them in love.  GFA-supported missionaries in the leper colonies show Christ's love by cleaning wounds and changing bandages, by giving medical care, by making special shoes to protect the people's feet, by helping with household chores, by providing food, but most importantly by telling the people of and showing Christ's love for them.

Recently a group of student traveled to Asia and visited a leprosy colony.  Below, watch and share Ashley's powerful story.




LOVE... it draws a crowd!
"It is a kingly act to assist the fallen." — Mother Teresa

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Way I Loved You // unsung and developing heroes





I have a new puppy and I've been sleeping on the couch for a week, getting up every two or so hours to let him out into the frigid world to relieve his bladder throughout the night. Recently you had a friend sleep over and the two of you woke up early to come down and meet Barley the pup. It never occurred to you that I was quite sleep deprived and any chance of getting another hour or two went out the window with you two coming down. But once you'd wrestled and snuggled the puppy sufficiently and were ready to go upstairs and wake Lane up so you guys could play video games I convinced you to stay downstairs and watch some tv for an hour so Lane could sleep in a little.




Sometimes I am selfless like that. Then there are other times... Naturally struggling with selfishness and that feeling that the world revolves around you is only heightened by a lack of sleep. Your patience and tolerance shrinks with every lack of consideration for my needs. I lash out with frustration and am nearly intolerable to be around. Truly there is nothing good in me apart from The Lord's abiding presence. I'm still very much dependent on grace. I try to be transparent with these lessons that I learn through my shortcomings hoping you'll learn from my example of growth.




As your teacher and the main adult in your life day in and day out, and apart from those selfish and frustrated moments, my motive behind everything is a love for you that compels me to do what is best for you. Sometimes that makes me look like a "bad guy", dishing out consequences and putting my foot down, meaning what I say and holding you to a high standard, insisting that you do a job completely and correctly. Parents are truly unsung heroes. As nice as it would be to be recognized and thanked for my labors on your behalf, my greatest desire is just for you to grow and succeed. Hmmm... Sounds familiar to what dad always said to me when I thought he was being terribly unfair. That's the way mom and dad love us, and that's the way I love you.




Then we come to the end of the day and we put the "teacher"/"student" roles aside. I tell you that I bet you don't like my interacting with you as though you were my baby brother any more but I can't help but think of you as my sweet, squeezey little buddy. You confide in me that you think I don't like you much anymore because I'm hard on you and I tell you again that its only a strong sign of how fond I am of you. The guard comes down. You invite me to just be your sister tonight and to come up and watch tv in your room with you, Lane and Gabi.




... And that's the way you loved me.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Story Telling // Of worshipping in a dump...



During our trip to India we visited a community of people that collect garbage to sell for a living. Their homes, constructed of rubbish, are grouped together to form a type of neighborhood. It is hard to see fellow humans living in such conditions. We were welcomed into the community leader's home where they had "decorated" in their excitement for our coming. The dirt floor, usually bare, was covered with several scarps of tarps. They had collected the only chairs they had (three total) for us to sit in. 




Once we had all been seated, the people from the community gathered inside with us. All packed together in the hut we had a worship service. The people from the community sang songs in Telugu and then we sang songs in English. There, beneath the light of one exposed lightbulb and the weight of humidity that hangs thick in the air even at night, we felt the loving presence of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord is found by all who seek for Him with their whole hearts, and we were seeking Him. 



When our service was over we fed everyone, and they were thankful, but as we left what they thanked us for over and over again was our prayers, our encouragement, and our love. There in the dump community, church has nothing to do with the comfort or the space, the sound equipment or the schedule, its all about the Lord and His people -- which is as it ought to be. The people who live there are beggars on this earth, but they are truly princes before the Lord in worship. 


Their circumstances were some of the worst that we experienced on the trip, but our time with them was the most beautiful experience that we had by far. Christians in India are few and far between so any fellowship with believers is precious. Because we went across the globe and were willing to sit in a hut constructed of garbage we brought this blessing to our Christian brothers and sisters in the dump community. If there was one experience I wish everyone I know at home could have shared with me, it would be that. We blessed them more than we can imagine, but the testimony of their lives blessed us more than they will ever know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Show Hope // Post by yours truly!

My parents got to follow along as the music careers of some of the earliest contemporary Christian artists unfolded. One of those artists was Steven Curtis Chapman. Actually, my dad was at an Amy Grant concert back in the 80's. As he was riding the escalator at the event location with another gentleman they both asked each other if the other was going to the concert. They both were. They parted ways and half way into the concert dad saw that same man get on stage. It was Steven Curtis Chapman. If you listen to the Christian radio stations these days you'll hear songs by him titled "Do Everything" and "Cinderella" but I grew up listening to his earlier stuff like "The Great Adventure", "When Love Takes You In" and "Dive".


I've grown up "alongside" of his biological kids, I followed along with he and MaryBeth's adoptions of their three Chinese daughters, I celebrated from afar when their older kids got married, I mourned with them when Maria died suddenly, and I was likely one of the earliest fans of their son Caleb's band (and was delighted to meet he and Will when they came to Eau Claire on their first tour).

Dad and I meeting Will. Dad told him his escalator story. Great memory!

The Chapman's have been role models for me and their lives were used to plant seeds early on for my own desire to adopt. To this day one of my greatest wishes is to meet and really know Steven, MaryBeth and their kids. Their hearts reflect the deep love of the Father of the fatherless. They started an organization 10 years ago called Show Hope. It's main function is to provide adoption grants to families who want to adopt but can't afford it, however they have several ways to get involved with orphan care and Emily & Caleb are carrying the torch to inspire our generation to get creative and come up with new ways to advocate. Through the videos below you can get a taste of who they are, what they do and how you can help. And if you get inspired and decided to "get to know" them more, I bet you will find that Steven and his family will feel like long-time family friends to you too!

SPONSOR // http://www.showhope.org/Donate/BecomeASponsor.aspx


GO // http://www.showhope.org/Mobilize/ShortTermTrips.aspx


PASS IT ON // http://www.redbusproject.org/


CELEBRATE // http://showhope.org/mobilize/10YearCelebration.aspx?

I'm not sure if I'll be able to swing it, but you better believe that if I can make it to this celebration, I am going to! Hope to see you there. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

At the end of the day.

Health. I haven't been 100% healthy in over a year now. It's been one thing after another. I'm sick of it -- no pun intended. In India I was unhealthy the whole time but I was there to do a job and I wasn't going to let health issues keep me from doing that job. As miserable as I was I kept happy, the joy of The Lord truly was my strength through the entire trip. Now that I'm home, living everyday life, having the freedom to be sick without having it interrupt much, I sulk. I feel robbed of my entitlement to health. I'm an American and I ought to have health and prosperity and happiness! Hmm... Maybe not. The geography of where I was born and raised doesn't entitle me to wellness, it simple makes the chance of health more likely.
Most of the time no one can tell I feel unwell from my appearance but even if they could there wouldn't be anything they could do to help. When you're at the end of your rope though, when you're so weary and unwell that every little thing is a labor and no one can see it so they push and prod and demand and insist as usual, eventually you lose it. That's what I've been living with for over a year now, losing it. There must be something for me to learn in this.
I've had this subconscious feeling that The Lord is training me for difficult times ahead, something like climbing a mountain... dealing with high altitudes and really hard work. When I am strained to the point where even the most simple actions are hard work, what will I draw on in order to respond? I've had a lot of experience drawing on myself in those moments. I've been homeschooling my youngest siblings and I can tell you that when I draw on my own "strength" I respond with impatience, frustration, insensitivity and crankiness. But the experience I had during my two weeks sick and strained abroad showed me that when I draw on The Lord for strength I respond with peace, patience, great joy, and love for others. I'm not entitled to health but I am entitled, by the blood of my Lord, to strength and joy to face a lack of it. Each day I get to choose where to draw my strength from.
Consider the strains that weigh on you day in and day out. What do you find yourself drawing on to face them?

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Way I Loved You // intentionally

Dad was ready for the day, he could have jut headed out the door with a simple kiss on my forehead but he pulled out a kitchens stool and spent time with me while I made breakfast. The kids came down and got time with dad which they never get, and which altered their attitudes for the day. Intentionality made our morning special.





We were siting on the couch together, I was keeping the kids on task with school. Aidan was asking silly questions and making up songs and trying to procrastinate. It gets to the point where I begin to tune it out. He started to say my name and ask me another question. I looked over, made eye contact and had a look on my face that suggested he better have something real to ask. As I looked at him though, my expression softened as it hit me that the past two years of his life, while mom and dad have worked everyday, I've been the eyes he gets to look into when he's searching for help and support and care. I love him all the time but to show it takes intentionality. So today I'm living with more intention, tuning in when I would usually tune out...





... And that's the way I loved you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

His Little Feet // Guest Post by Brooke

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” 
–Corinthians 1:27

Who am I? “Who am I that you are mindful of me? The daughter of man that you care for me?” (Psalm 8:4) I search the face of my King? I am like Mary declaring to the Lord, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” (Luke 1:46-48) Who are we but a people born of a sinful nature? Even the heavens above declare HIS Gospel! With one WORD He spoke and the galaxies were thrust into existence! (Jeremiah 31:35) The heavens declare the glory of God! And so, I ask again. Who am I that He would choose me, would wash me, and would use me? And yet, here in my humble estate I declare that “Behold, I am the maidservant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to Your WORD. (Luke 1:38)



In these past two years, I have seen the hand of the Lord at work, at work in me and in those around me. Oh, how many times I would ask Him, “why me!?” I can’t even begin to share with you the wonders of His infinite wisdom and faithfulness that He has revealed to me, day in and day out. 
I am here to share a glimpse of a ripple effect that started with 15 children from Haiti. Children who were lost, hungry, and rescued. I was an “Auntie” to these children for 7 months, wonderful months! For the past two or so years I have had the privilege of being a part of the ministry His Little Feet. His Little Feet (HLF) is an international children’s choir. We have children who are orphans themselves come from different parts of the world to stand before many and be a voice of the children all over the world who are crying for help & love but have not been heard. The children and staff of HLF travel around the United States to spread awareness of God’s royalty, the orphaned & vulnerable children all across the world. I have had the privilege of traveling with the first two tours of His Little Feet. This little story I am about to weave is to reveal my Lord’s faithfulness and the ripple effect that comes as we, the foolish things of this world, are used for HIS glory!  


My story begins when we were told some news, news that rocked the world of everyone who was a part of the His Little Feet team. It was during the first tour, and Mike and Christa (the founders and directors of His Little Feet) were preparing to leave in the morning to go to Ethiopia to start the process of selecting the new children for the upcoming tour. The children had a performance that night and then the next day, Sunday we had four performances, three morning services at one church and one evening service at another church. Mike and Christa gathered the children around them after the concert explaining what was happening and where they were going. Then, after a pause, Christa told the children that they received the news that one of the “Mamis” who these kids have known and grown up with at the children's home in Haiti had suddenly passed away. There was a still shock hovering in the room and then, deep pain and anguish burst from the hearts of these sweet children who had become so dear to me. They wept, heart wrenching sobs, a moment that is forever etched in my memory. Tears of confusion, hurt, agony...I will never forget the wails of these children who had already gone through so much pain in their young lives, crying out to God. I sat there among the other staff with tears freely falling, praying, comforting in any way I could. The verse, “weep with those who weep, comfort those who need comforting, and rejoice with those who rejoice” became so real to me in that moment. After quite some time we all headed to our host homes, the children still in a state of mourning and shock. I remember what a blessed time the Lord gave my two girls and I that evening as they asked all manner of questions about heaven and eternity. I sat in their room praying over them as they drifted off to sleep asking the Lord to give them strength for the next day where they had to pour out. Not quite knowing what to expect and knowing that this was one of the biggest days of the tour, I knew the Lord would show Himself faithful. The next day came quickly and the kids allowed the Lord to work through them in the first three morning services. And then our last concert came. As they began worshiping the Lord with all they had in them, blessing His name, the Holy Spirit empowered them. Their voices rose and fell and they began singing a song I had heard them sing dozens of times before, yet the words were coming alive to me as I witnessed these 15 children rise upon a strength not their own. “Blessed be the name of the Lord...you give and take away...my heart will choose to say...Lord, blessed be your name!” Tears came to my eyes and to those around me. These children were offering a sacrifice of praise and a sweet peace, the aroma of our Lord swept through that little church in South Carolina. He was there strengthening each of the children just as He had in the past; comforting them, empowering them, and refreshing them. There was such joy in the faces of those dear 15 Haitian children, a joy not their own. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126:5) I will never forget this evening, because it showed me my Jesus in a way I had never seen Him before. But because of the faithfulness of our Lord, because He uses the weak of this world to confound the wise, this story of mine does not end there...


Soon after the first His Little Feet tour ended the Lord opened up to me the opportunity to go to the Philippines for 10 days. We where asked to prepare a few speeches to share with the churches in the Philippines. As I was praying the Lord kept placing in my mind and heart the testimony of the children as they offered their King a sacrifice of praise. I could go on for quite some time sharing what the Lord has revealed to me about blessing the name of the Lord, it would fill page after glorious page, but for time sake I shan't go there. I was asked to share at two different churches in my time there in the Philippines and a boldness washed over me both times, a boldness that was other than me; boldness and peace. I shared what the Lord had intricately put on my heart, I shared what He taught me, and then I shared the testimony of those 15 wonderful children who were instruments used by my God to show me what it looked like to bless His name in the good and bad times. May we raise our voices because HE is worthy of all adoration and praise! As I shared this dear memory of those children I took care of and traveled with, tears came to my eyes. Sharing from the depths of my heart, a heart that had learned so much, a heart that yearned for her Lord’s name to be blessed, I glanced around the room and tears were streaming down the faces of all those in the room. As the translator translated my inadequate words, words that I knew did no justice to the subject, I saw the Holy Spirit at work. After I was done sharing people came up to the front tears streaming down their faces, some falling to their knees sobbing, worshiping, adoring our Lord. A different culture. A different language. Same God. And then tears came to my eyes as I saw what the Lord had done. I saw the people of the Philippines worshiping Him, re-dedicating their lives to HIM, giving HIM all the glory, all the honor, all the praise. All because He took the weak of the world and shamed the wise. He handpicked each of those 15 children in Haiti, He rescued them from the tough times in their past and He gave them the opportunity to be a voice for millions across the world, not only that but through them He spoke into my life as His glory filled them in a time where it seemed as if there would be no praise left in them. The Never-ending Fountain of Life used those children, who were destitute and lost, to reach hundreds of people across the world from them with the testimony of His empowering grace. I was speechless and in awe of my Lord as I saw His hand reaching across the nations, reaching across language barriers, reaching across cultures. His presence, rippling outward because fifteen orphaned children chose to Bless the name of the LORD in spite of what circumstances dictated…a ripple that has affected eternity. 


Please consider joining His Little Feet International Children’s Choir as we travel around the United States spreading awareness for the Orphaned and Vulnerable children around the world. There are many ways you can partner with us. We call it our {Be In On It} Campaign: Give. Sponsor. GO. Adopt. 


{GIVE} Partner with us by giving to His Little Feet, helping take care of the sweet children while they are here in the states by caring for them, as well as helping us with the daily needs of gas for the bus as we travel from state to state spreading His fragrance. 

{SPONSOR} a child in need through Compassion International. The definition of compassion is not just having sympathetic consciousness of others' distress, not just seeing, not just knowing coupled together with a desire to alleviate it; it goes even further then a desire, compassion is an action. An action to alleviate that pain, hurt, & distress. 
{GO} “Go into all the world and preach the Good News.” We are commissioned by God Himself, to proclaim His good news to the ends of the earth and have compassion on lost souls, souls who need their Savior! His Little Feet is partnered with Visiting Orphans, connecting you with an opportunity to spread the love of God to the orphaned in the world around us and at the same time giving them LOVE, Himself. 
{ADOPT} Prayerfully consider becoming a forever family to a child. Giving them a future and a hope, a loving family, daily needs, and most importantly, Jesus. 

Be sure to look at the HLF schedule to see if they are going to be coming to a church near you! You will be blessed! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Purchase with Intention // Woman's Gift Guide

It's the month of love and of my dear mother's birthday. February is the perfect month to celebrate the women in our lives, and what better way to do it than to support women overseas in doing dignified work. All of these items are gorgeous and, personally, I would be delighted to receive any of them -- preferably all!



--- --- ---

31 Bits  provides dignified work for artisans overseas to create fair trade items.
NSPottery is donating 20% of all profits to build wells in Asia during 2013.
No. 41 provides dignified work for artisans overseas to create fair trade items.
TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child without them for every pair you buy.
SERRV provides dignified work for artisans overseas to create fair trade items.
Noonday Collection provides dignified work for artisans overseas to create fair trade items.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Way I Loved You // while mom and dad were gone...




While mom and dad were on vacation and it was just us kids, I got sick. Our bathroom sink stopped draining, so we brushed out teeth in the kitchen every night. Lane gave you guys your science test. Gabi and I watched you boys play Call of Duty all day, then you let us watch chick flicks all night. I got off the couch long enough to make one home-cooked meal a day, and always put some spinach in it (except the pancakes, of course). Even though I always make sure you fulfill your daily responsibilities (aka chores) I did the dishes for you on Monday because you had a lot on your plate. I bought tulips to bring some spring into our snowed-in world. When we ran out of groceries at the end of the week and you and Lane went to a friends house, I went to the store so you wouldn't have to be bothered, even though I felt like I was going to throw up on the way home. 



 Lane took the trash in on his way to school so I wouldn't have to be bothered to do it. Gabi made me tea and brought it to me in bed when I got really sick, I brought her emergen-c and lotion Puffs when she got really sick. Our Super Bowl party consisted of snuggling under blankets on the couch with cats and drinking fruit smoothies, surrounded by piles of kleenex. You guys did your school quietly and without complaining each day. While I was washing dishes for you, you were vaccuming the floor for me, and Gabi was folding my laundry. When mom and dad's flight got canceled and they couldn't come home for another day, we all pulled together to keep up each other's spirits and then all went to bed early. On our last day at home alone I was finally on the mend, we had had a good week alone, I was proud of how we had coped, and we had celebrated your 13th birthday. Aidan, you know how to drive me insane, but you couldn't make me love you more. You're my baby brother...





... and that's the way I loved you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Next Step store + The Justice Rescue Project

Photo Credit: http://givenphotography.com/

the haiti letters // number four
annie wesche, october 2012
"My dear friends, I want to walk you inside the gates of a horrifying compound. A property where just over fifty small children are held under the facade that such a place is actually an orphanage. In truth, the man who runs the operation holds these children as his private collection with which to woo in the dollars of well-meaning people who have no idea of the true corruption and abuse that is behind this man's smiles and pleas for help. The children are in bondage to a false advocate, a man who calls himself a pastor and yet wears this title to exploit the suffering of children for his own selfish gain. He is not operating legally. And yet many of these boys and girls have been in this prison for over six years. ..." 

Photo Credit: http://givenphotography.com/

Annie is serving at a children's home in Haiti. After uncovering this corrupt orphanage she and others have been laboring to set the little ones free. They created the Justice Rescue Project to give updates on the children that are rescued, ask for specific prayer, and raise funds to get the children out of bondage and into a safe and loving home. I want to do my part for these little ones. Aside from prayer, I have decided to give all the profits made from The Next Step store in the month of February to further their cause. 
Follow The Justice Rescue Project on Facebook // https://www.facebook.com/TheJusticeRescueProject


During the month of love, show your heart for the least with every purchase!