Thursday, December 13, 2012

I slept with a girl.....and I didn't catch HIV.

She is four years old. Her name is Leah Grace and she is the daughter of my friend Deb (the one I just went to Africa with). She contracted HIV through no fault of her own. She takes her meds every day like a good girl. Because of those meds, and the love of her family, she is a perfectly healthy normal little girl.

While in Uganda, I wiped her snot, drank after her, shared food with her, helped her in the bathroom....all of the things I would do with my own daughter. About halfway through the week we had some friends come and stay with us for a few nights, which caused us to have to do a little shuffle of the sleeping arrangements. I am no stranger to having kids in my bed and all up in my business while I sleep, so I didn't think twice when Leah Grace wanted to bunk with me.

But then right before I fell asleep, 1987 came back to haunt me ......for a split second.

What if she has a stomach virus and throws up on me during the night?
Is HIV present in urine? What if she wets the bed?
She got a cut on her nose today...what if it opens up while she is asleep?

The truth is sometimes ugly, and I really don't want to admit it.....especially since I am on staff with Project Hopeful, and our whole objective is to shine light on the facts about HIV and to advocate for children who live with it. 

But then I realized, that if I KNOW the facts, and 1987 still crept in to my mind for a split second, how would my friends react in the same situation? How would I have reacted a couple of years ago?

Please friends, for the sake of this sweet girl and so many others like her, educate yourself!

Here are the fact about HIV.....most of them are very straightforward and the only thing you can do with them is read/understand them and help educate others......

....but 2 of these facts are things we can CHANGE.....YOU can change....right you find them? Will you?

You NEVER have to fear contracting HIV through casual contact with an HIV+ person.

HIV has NEVER been transmitted in normal family living conditions. Never.


#1: HIV is spread in three main ways: Sexual contact, IV drug use (through the sharing of dirty needles), and mother to infant (through pregnancy, birth or breast feeding).

#2: Medications called ARV’s can mean the difference between life and death. Children who receive treatment are expected to live a normal lifespan.

#3: HIV is not found in sweat, urine, feces, tears, saliva or snot. It is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. While HIV may live for a short while outside of the body, HIV transmission has not been reported as a result of contact with spillages or small traces of blood, semen or other bodily fluids. This is partially because HIV dies quite quickly once exposed to the air, and also because spilled fluids would have to get into a persons bloodstream to infect them.

#4: You don’t have to fear catching HIV through day to day activities with people who are HIV+. You are free to share plates, cups, utensils, food, toilets, towels, linens and other household items without risk of transmission. –American Academy of Family Physicians

#5: Today, HIV is considered a chronic, but manageable disease, much like Type II Diabetes (though Diabetes cannot be transmitted).

#6: If a pregnant mother does not receive medical treatment, there is approximately a 30% chance she will transmit the virus to her child. By treating mother and infant, doctors can reduce that rate to approximately 1%.

#7: A persons HIV+ status is protected medical information. There are US laws in place to protect the privacy of individuals living with the virus. There are also laws to protect citizens from being discriminated against because they have HIV/AIDS should they decide to disclose their HIV status.

#8: Social stigma is perhaps the greatest challenge an HIV+ individual will face.

#9:  A persons viral load is the amount of HIV found in their body. Through the use of HAART treatment it is possible for a patients viral load to become undetectable in laboratory tests. Having an undetectable viral load does not mean a person is cured. It simply means the medications are working to prevent the HIV virus from replicating within the body.

#10: In 2009 the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study titled “Survey of Americans about HIV/AIDS” which found that levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS had not increased in the US since 1987.

#11: Families should use universal precautions whether or not someone in the family has HIV. Kids should be taught not to touch anyone’s blood anyway! This enables them to offer assistance to injured persons in a safe and healthy way.

#12: In the West, HIV is now considered a chronic illness rather than the terminal disease it used to be. Sadly, this isn’t the case for those children infected with HIV who are living in resource-poor settings, where 50% of infected and untreated children are not expected to live past the age of two.

#13: Today, 6,500 people will die as a result of AIDS. 6,000 of those people will leave children behind. Those children will join the already 15 million children who have lost parents to this treatable disease. (note: HIV is NOT AIDS. Patients receiving treatment for HIV (with ARV’s) can be expected to live long healthy lives without ever developing AIDS. In the U.S. ARV’s are readily available, however this is not the case in most developing parts of the world)

#14: There is no reason to fear that a mosquito or other insect could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Studies conducted by the CDC and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects–even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects.

#15: There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted during participation in sports. The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur. If someone is bleeding, their participation in the sport should be interrupted until the wound stops bleeding and is both antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged. There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur.

#16: No incident of food being contaminated with HIV-infected blood or semen has been reported to CDC. Furthermore, CDC has received no reports of HIV infection resulting from eating food, including condiments. HIV does not live long outside the body. Even if small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen was consumed, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus. Therefore, there is no risk of contracting HIV from eating food.

#17: Many scientific studies have been conducted to examine all the possible ways that HIV is transmitted. These studies have NOT shown HIV to be transmitted through air, water, insects, or casual contact.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

How do you explain Africa?

I just don't think you can explain this place. Pictures, words, and even video are just not adequate. You have to be here. You need to get the red dirt on your feet. You need to hear the sounds of the birds, bodas, cows, cars, music, drums, traffic, people. You have to see the city, villages, babies, people, mountains, trees. Uganda has a smell….but it isn’t like anything else. So how do you explain it with words? Words just don’t suffice… a quick update on our trip will just have to do!

The kids have all been great. Zechariah is a little dream of a child and smart as a whip! His English is already excellent and the siblings have bonded well over the past few weeks. He is the perfect fit for their family. He wants to help with everything, he follows instructions well…..he is a tender little man. Did I mention he is smart? : - )

He says “I am” instead of “I want”. So all day long we hear:

I am chicken.
I am potty.
I am mommy.
I am get out of car.

So precious.

The LONG process is almost finished. Deb has an appointment tomorrow afternoon at the embassy to get Z’s Visa, then once that is picked up they are all done and ready to head home! Deb knew that I only intended to stay 10 days max since I miss my babies, and this is my VERY busiest season of the year with work, BUT, I really wanted to be able to “complete my mission”, so to speak, so I am sticking around to fly home with them as planned! Lord willing, they will be home Wednesday afternoon and I will be home Wednesday evening!

We have had the privilege of going to a number of awesome ministries while we have been here. First on the list of course was Ekisa. We traveled to Jinja to see them, but unfortunately when we arrived we learned that one of the children they have been caring for had passed away. It was a very sad day for them, so out of respect, we simply left the 3 suitcases full of supplies we had brought for them and we went on our way. I am so thankful to all of you who made the delivery of all of those supplies possible! I know they will be greatly blessed by all of it!

Since we had some time and we were already in Jinja, we were able to stop by another ministry that Project Hopeful has helped out in the past, ate a little lunch at the Source Café and headed back to Kampala!

A couple of days ago (it is all starting to run together now) we were able to visit an amazing place called Malaika Babies Home. It operates under a foundation out of Europe called Child's i Foundation. I have been to a lot of ministries to children and babies in Uganda and Kenya (side note-the solution to every problem is NOT to start a new non-profit…there are already plenty) and I can tell you that I have never seen anything like this place. I didn’t take any pictures (which was literally painful for me) so I will just have to try to describe it, but I promise my words won’t do it justice. They have a separate room with a designated nanny for each age group (0-6 months, 6-9 months etc) with a printed sheet posted on the door with the names, details and care instructions for each child. The clothes are all organized by size and in their own individual cubbies. The nurses have an immaculate room with detailed files neatly kept for each child. In each bathroom, they have a towel for each child on a hook and labeled with their names. The whole place is that way. Did I mention they did not know we were coming? This wasn’t “clean up for the mzungus” stuff…..this is their normal day to day life. They have 7 social workers on staff….SEVEN! Their mission is to keep abandoned children for no more than 2-3 months while they get them healthy and the social workers can find their families. Then they re-settle them back with their own biological relatives. If none of their family can be located, then they have a list of hundreds of Ugandan families who are on a waiting list to adopt them! So amazing. The last resort is to have them adopted by non-Ugandan families, and even then they try to place them with International families who are currently living in Uganda (and surprisingly there are a lot). Malaika is a perfect example of the fact that the solution to worlds problems is NOT to adopt all of their children into the U.S. or to Westernize everything. Seriously I was so impressed. Can you tell? : - ) Please check out their website!

Yesterday we went to a village outside of Kampala called Ssenge. It is a very rural spot, and just 2 short years ago the hundreds of children there had no where to go to school, much less a place to be taught about Jesus, be fed etc. We were invited by one of Deb’s very good friends who runs the school to attend a big celebration there to end the semester. The people from the village were there, as well as the families of all of the students….we didn’t realize until we got there, and were ushered to the front row (of hundreds of guests) that we were going to be introduced over the loud speaker to everyone! This place has come a long way in just 2 short years due to the hard work of a handful of people. The children danced and sang….it was a beautiful thing to see!

Today we went to church. Would it be totally un-reasonable to fly here once a month for church? Just wow. We went to Watoto church…..I love that this place is a relatively famous church/organization across the world, but their church is still simple. Yes it is in a big building, but they have done little to “western-ize” it which I think is awesome. The worship was fantastic…of course. I can’t attend Africa church without tears.

A lot more has happened on this trip and we are doing all of it with 3 kids in tow, so that has been an adventure in and of itself! More pictures to come soon…..ish, but for now, I will leave you with two pics (which only took 2 hours to load) of my first ever boda boda (motorcycle) ride with Seth, and one of Deb on the boda in front of us, with the other 2 kids…..and of course the driver.

Blessings from Uganda!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

In honor of Orphan Sunday...I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT! :-)

 More than 1/3 of Americans have considered adoption, but no more than 2% have actually adopted.

It is estimated that there are currently over 163 MILLION orphans in our world.

There are 27 million slaves in the world. There are more people enslaved today than at any other point in history.

The statistics show that if only 7% of the 2 BILLION Christians in the world were to care for ONE orphan, there would be no more orphans. Zero.

The number of people that it takes to change the world......... and likely eternity for one child............. 1. ONE.

I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I want to be one of the Christians who not only claims Him, but actually FOLLOWS HIM and his commands. I want to be in the 7%.

That is why I am.................. adopting!

If you really know me you are probably thinking "Duh. Big shocker." Well there is a little more.....

God is leading me to a child with Down syndrome.

He has made it perfectly clear to me over the last few months that this is the path HE wants me to take. A lot of that has to do with my work with Project Hopeful ....did I mention that I am on staff with them now? :-) Seriously these ladies are all AMAZING and are an awesome source of encouragement to me on a daily basis.

So, what happens now? Well, that is hard to answer at this point. I have turned in my application with our awesome local adoption agency Lifeline and gotten the process officially started. But, a lot of....unexpected things....have happened since then, and I have been working with Lifeline as well as some other folks to discern exactly what God is leading me to do next. Unfortunately I can't share many of those details here......but let's just say that sometimes when you give God a YES He sets HIS plan in motion.....and it isn't always what you expected! :-) BUT GOD's plans are ALWAYS better than that is a good thing!

I thought about going in to all of the "I know you are wondering ______"  and "what if______" questions, but decided it would be a lot easier to just say this. If you have a question about my adoption that cannot be answered by one (or both) of these statements, then feel free to ask me and I will do my best to answer (assuming that it is non-mean, non Angelina Jolie related, and non-ridiculous).

Isn't that what it all boils down to?

Aren't we all afraid to say YES to God, because deep down, we don't really believe that HE can handle the hard stuff? 

Don't we think that HE can't come up with money, or space, or time, or all of the things that we use as excuses?

Well, I know that my God is bigger.....and so I say YES....and I am going to TRUST HIM with the rest!

Will YOU do me one favor? Will you pray, today, for God to reveal to you, how HE wants YOU to care for the orphan? Give Him an unconditional YES, up front, and then wait for Him to lead. My next post will detail specifically some of the MANY ways that we can ALL follow the command to care for the orphan!

I appreciate all of your prayers as we continue this process!



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Remember how I said I wanted to go back to Africa?

Ok, so some of you may remember the post I wrote when I decided to go to China this past Summer. {You can read that post here}. The point in summary was that I REALLY wanted to go back to Africa, but God just wouldn't open the doors. Now I know why........

God sent me to China this Summer, because he knew I would be going to AFRICA...this WINTER........wait what?!?!?! thoughts exactly. So here is what happened:

When I went to Chicago to run the Chicago Half Marathon on behalf of Project Hopeful my friend Tesney and I stayed with {and finally met face to face}our BFF Deb Steiner. She is seriously one of the most amazing women I know. She is a single mom {like me}, she has two kids {like me}, she is super duper smart and a big time lawyer {NOT like me} and she is my HEEEEEERRROOOOO.

Tesney, Deb and Jenny (aren't we cute?)

As a single mom, I KNOW how hard everyday stuff can be. So when Deb was talking to us about the adoption of her THIRD child, from Uganda {which is like a different continent}, and telling us that her parents couldn't go this time {which is a pretty big deal because she is bringing her two kids ages 5 and 6 with her} I knew I would want {need} help, so naturally Tesney and I did what any true and slightly crazy friends would do........... we volunteered to go with her!

Because sometimes just saying "Oh I would love to help!" or "I wish I could go" isn't enough. Sometimes you just have to DO.

Now let me be clear: when we said yes, we thought that this adoption/trip would be taking place in the Spring or Summer of 2013. Perfect. That will work out great for my mission trip for next year! But, as God continues to teach me, in spite of my extreme stubbornness, HIS PLANS are ALWAYS better than my plans. HIS WAYS are better than my ways. HIS TIMETABLE is better than mine. So as soon as she gets a court date, we will set HIS plan in motion!

Before i even had a chance to publish this post {that I wrote last night} the plans changed! Looks like Deb will be flying out in the next couple of days, and Tesney will either go with her, or the day after. Apparently the little guys she is adopting is very sick and her friends in Uganda said she needs to get there as soon as possible. Please pray for him, for safe travels and for the court date!

But, it is not all about the adoption. While we are there, we will be working with a small orphanage called Ekisa. I beg you to please please pretty please visit their website and read about these amazing women and the kids they serve.

What would cause two girls in their twenties to pick up and move to Uganda to serve children with special needs? Two people who know in their hearts that God does not call us to just "wish" we could help....often He calls us to abandon everything and follow Him. Not to simply say "I will pray for them" or "I will keep them in my thoughts" but to give everything away and DO.
The Ekisa kids
One tangible thing we will DO for these ladies, who have become mom to many of the least of these, is bring them some supplies. We will each get a 50lb bag and we plan to fill it up with the stuff listed below! I am most concerned about the medical equipment, so if you know of anyone who might be willing to donate some of these things please let me know!

Cardiac Monitor
Oxygen Concentrator
Jesus Storybook Bible (several copies) We and our kids love this book
however the one we have is in pieces.
Ink for printer – 122 HP Ink Color & Black
Match box cars
Powder paint mix
Swimming pampers – all sizes
Larger flash drives – for social worker
Glue sticks
Clorox wipes
Sensory toys (any toy that is musical, textured, vibrates, bright or has lights, etc.)
Chewable Vitamins
Glow sticks
Duct tape
Sidewalk chalk
Sterile gauze or sterile dressings
And for the Aunties, if you so wish, here are our American cravings:
Crispix Cereal
Funfetti Cake and Icing
Parmesan Cheese

These children would literally be discarded and left to die if not for these ladies. I hope to bless their socks off with every single thing they ask us for!

So, to sum it all up, I will be taking the coming home end of the journey. I will fly over, stay for 5ish days, and fly back to help Deb with the kids on the trip home.

I am not asking any of you for money, because I know I wore you all out with the marathon! ;-). BUT, we do need to raise $ for flights, supplies for Ekisa etc. All money that is donated goes through Project Hopeful and is totally tax deductible. So, if you know of anyone who is rich and needs a tax deductible way to give away some money, please share this blog with them!!!

I can gladly take donations to purchase stuff on the list as well. And if you would like to donate some of the items or would like to send a check, feel free to mail them to me at 6166 Eagle Point Circle Birmingham, AL  35242 {make checks payable to Project Hopeful}.

What an amazing blessing to be a part of this redemption story.

 P.S. Buy this book. As soon as I finish it for the second time, I am going to write more about it. But the guy who wrote it loves Uganda and that is no coincidence....I am pretty sure we will all be BFF's by the time this is all over with. Bob, you are going to love being friends with the 3 of us.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunday School, Plastic toys, and other random stuff that is currently ticking me off.

I just feel the need to get some things off my chest. None of these things necessarily have anything to do with each other. Enjoy.

The words "You deserve". I hear those words in what seems like EVERY commercial on T.V. and radio right now.

"Come to us and get your teeth whitened for the smile you deserve!"
"We will get you the money you deserve"
"Drive this car because you deserve more!"
"Don't you think you deserve a better cell phone company?"

Makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. Know what we deserve? Hell. Because we are sinful people before a sovereign and just God.

The words "You Need" or "I need". I wish we could all strike this language from our vocabulary and that of our kids. We need a Savior. We need food, water and shelter. We don't need a new iphone. We don't need a new car. We don't need a new outfit for the weekend.

The words "I am starving". Trust me when I say that if you have ever laid eyes on real people, who are actually death....then you would stop saying that. I know that because I used to say it all the time.....I don't anymore.

The phrase "I just don't feel called". I find that people throw this phrase out most often when they know in their heart that God is calling them outside of their comfort zones. But we American Christians can't like that. So, in order to avoid following a call that might alter our cozy lives, we say we don't "feel called". We say there are plenty of ways to serve God! I don't have to adopt or care for widows! You do that and I will just go to church and be on the greeting team. know....the body has many functions and .....stuff. So mine is greeter....every.single.Sunday. And I give my 10%. So I am good. You guys adopt a kid (I am not called but if I was I would adopt locally because what about the kids in our country?), or foster a kid....right here in our country (oh well....maybe I will look in to it but I just don't think I could take care of a child and then have to give them up), or sponsor a kid (I can't afford that), or care for a widow (I don't know any!), or go on mission trips (not my what about the people right here in America?), or go to low income neighborhoods and serve the poor (I have to work on.....that day), or financially support people who are adopting or going on mission trips overseas (aren't there are grants and stuff for that?), or advocate for the overlooked (I am busy advocating for people to...... go to church) I need to go on?

The Bible calls us ALL to so much more than church attendance....and I am over the "I don't feel called" excuse.

For some reason it has really been bothering me lately when people talk about kids being in Bible class, as if Sunday morning attendance is the only way they will ever become Christ followers. If people go off the reservation and stop attending church at a church building, friends and family freak out. "What about the kids and Bible class!" Other people say "I just really wish _______ would get those kids in to Bible class on Sunday mornings.....". PARENTS, it is OUR JOB to disciple our children. I know I need to do a MUCH better job in this area....probably why it is bothering me so much right now....

When did Halloween become all about dressing up girls of all sizes as sluts?

It is Christmas time. Oh don't get me started. I was cleaning out toys the other day and looking for stuff to donate. So we can make room for more stuff. More plastic toy stuff. Don't get me wrong.....we have cut WAAYYYY back at Christmas time. We give away the same amount we spend on Christmas to urgent physical and spiritual need around the world (more on that soon). BUT, I am so tired of all the plastic toys that are in our house. We feel like we "need" a bigger house so we can have more room for all of our plastic stuff.....while others in our world have no food, water, shelter OR Savior.


That's about all.......for now. :-)



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crazy Quiz. How crazy are YOU?

(this post was written for the Brook Hills women's blog

When I was asked to write a blog post for Brook Hills Women, I thought about a lot of "normal" things I could write. Something about single parenting. Something about finding peace in divorce. Something about using your singleness for God's glory. But, God has really laid a burden on my heart lately to live my life in such a way that other Christians around me will think I am crazy......and maybe they will start to get crazy too.

What do I mean by "crazy"? You know. "Those people". The ones who have giant multi-colored families. The ones who have perfectly good American lives, but choose to move their families to some unknown place in the Middle East for the sake of the Gospel. The ones who choose to adopt a child who is HIV+ or has another special need. The ones who just refuse to live like "normal Americans" because they are on the Jesus crazy train.

Let me clarify one thing: I think there is a big difference in a Christ FOLLOWER and a BELIEVER.

F=Follower. Followers are typically the crazy people. They take what is in the Bible and actually apply it, in tangible and visible ways to their lives. Their lives look different to the world. They stand out. They get labeled "do gooders" or "Bible beaters".
B=Believer. Believers are those who claim Christianity. They believe the Bible. They believe in Jesus. But, unless you catch them at church on a Sunday, you likely won't see them living out what they believe.

{Disclaimer: This part is important. The answers in this quiz are based solely on my experience and how I THINK a follower or a believer would answer these questions. Neither of these are my answers. I want to be a follower, but I don't claim to be one. And I don't think I will ever fully arrive, and neither will you. Because the only perfect follower was Jesus.}
So, now that you have the picture in your mind of what crazy is, let's find out how crazy you are:

The Crazy Quiz

1. Do you believe that all disciples of Christ are called to be disciple makers?

F: Yes. If you are not actively working to create disciples then you are being disobedient. That is the whole point of being a Christ follower. We are called to be like Christ, and making disciples is what He did.

B: That is what missionaries are for. I am not called to be a missionary, so I give my money to the church each week and I am sure they are making disciples because we get new members all the time.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age". Matthew 28:18-20

2. How do you feel about missions? What about orphans and widows?

F: I believe John Piper said it best: "There are 3 types of Christians when it comes to missions. Zealous Goers, Zealous Senders, and Disobedient.". Everyone doesn't have to move to a village in Africa, but we should all give our time to serving and spreading the Gospel in a different context (i.e. outside of our comfort zones) whether here in the US or overseas. I think the same holds true for orphan care. You don't have to adopt to care for orphans, but many Christians are called to adopt and don't. Adopt or care for those who do. And that means a lot more than writing a check. If the church was more supportive of those who do adopt, maybe more Christians would step up and follow the nudge in their hearts to adopt as well.

B: I think missions are great but I just don't feel called to actually go anywhere. I don't feel called to adopt either. But I will write a check to those who do feel called to it. I don't know any widows, but if I did I would certainly try to care for them!

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

3. What do you think happens to the THOUSANDS of people who die every day in our world without ever hearing the Gospel?

F: Unfortunately, I believe they perish eternally. God is loving and just. That is why the call to take the Gospel to the nations is so important and urgent. Jesus died so that all may have eternal life. The church needs to step up and do what it takes to get the Gospel to the nations because that is our job.

B: I don't think God would send someone to Hell just because they never heard of Him. That doesn't seem fair or merciful at all.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:16-20

4. Do you want God's kingdom to come?

F: This world is not my home. I desire to be with God and spend eternity worshiping Him! There is so much pain and suffering in this sinful world, and I long for the day when Jesus will return for His bride. That is why I am so compelled to be a part of taking the Gospel to the nations.

B: I know that everyone will die someday, but I don't WANT to die. I like my life and although I know it will come to an end someday, I am not looking forward to it.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, 
and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14

5. Do you expect to suffer as a Christian or do you think Christianity guarantees you an easy life?

F: Here in America, being a true follower of Christ goes against everything that our culture believes. Culture says get more stuff even if you can't pay for it. Culture says you deserve freedom, and happiness, and prosperity. Christ says deny self, and follow Him. I don't think we will all experience the same types of suffering, but the Bible seems to say that suffering and persecution go along with following God. So if you aren't suffering, maybe you aren't truly following..........

B: I think as long as I am going to church and being a good person, I shouldn't have to worry about suffering. I think God loves us and wants us to be happy and have good lives while we are on this earth. I got saved so I know I am going to heaven......

    In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. II Timothy 3:12

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33


I could go on and on with this quiz. Actually, I did in my first draft. But, the point of this post is not to provide an exhaustive list of answers that will make clear whether you are a believer or a follower. The point is simply to make us think about our faith and if it is evident in our lives.

I struggle daily with the knowledge that the Gospel is so lacking in many places in this world, but it is so widespread here in America. But what do we do with this great Gospel? How do we live as Christians in America? Do we really believe that Jesus actually meant all that stuff He said in our Bibles or have we created our own version of Christianity that suits us and our culture? Have we decided somewhere along the line of history that being a Christian in America means simply going to church on Sundays and spending the rest of our time focusing on ourselves and our stuff?

The Bible tells us that even the demons believe.

So I don't want to be just a believer anymore. I want to be a follower.

  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he
 does and not by faith alone. James 2:19-24

So...............who wants to hop on the crazy train with me?



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Did you ever know that you're my heeeeeeeerrrrroooooooo? The Chicago Half Marathon.

Honestly, I can't believe it's over. I can't believe I did it. But even more than that, I can't believe how much this whole thing turned out to be NOT ABOUT ME. I mean, I knew all along it wasn't ABOUT me.....but I still focused a lot on me. Because me had to finish the race. But once it was over, and the fear was gone, I was able to see the real truth of why God put me on this team.

So here are a few of my new heroes:

This is my new friend Judy. She is a rock star. Not only is she hilarious and fun to be around, but she is a freaking fighter. Not many people thought she could do it, but she showed up, and was determined to finish. Because she had to walk a good bit of the race, she (and a lot of others) got kicked off the street early and literally watched as they cleaned up the race right in front of her. But she did not quit. And here she stands with her medal on! I am so stinking proud of her.
Not to mention Rene, who finished the race (beating her own personal record and coming in like 56th or something crazy like that) and then ran all the way back retracing her steps along the race course to find Judy and finish with her. Wow.
I need to know more about this woman. What I do know is, she is a super sweet and supportive mama with a hubby who is an absolute gem. I also know that she loves her daughter and her grand kids, and has a passion for the least of these. That is why at almost 70 years old she ran the half with our team (she had never run anything before in her life!), and she beat a bunch of her teammates a boss.
The tall drink of water in the middle of the picture below is Deb (daughter of Jeanine above). She is my single mom soul sister. She has adopted two sweet little angles on her own as a single mom.....and has another one on the way from Uganda. She juggles life like nothing I have ever seen and still manages to find time to volunteer for Project Hopeful because of her passion for the overlooked. I heart her.

On the left is Tesney. I have know her since I was a kid. I loved her then because she had Aussie hair products in her shower and we always had Suave. Her mom also had a never-ending bowl of tootsie rolls in the living room....mem' the corners of my mind.... Anyhoo, a lot has changed since those days. She fought (and I mean FOUGHT) for her son from Russia who has DS and literally paved the way for more kids like him to come home to forever families. Not to mention the fact that she is a diabetic and ran the half marathon with us, checking her blood sugar the whole way. I would have SO used that excuse to sit on the sidelines, but she stepped up and did it.
Then there is Selah. If you have ever been to the Project Hopeful website you have seen this picture. When Selah was found, her tiny body was literally wasting away. BUT GOD, in His great love, brought her home to a family to love and care for her. What a difference......
And as if that wasn't enough, here she sits. Right under the banner......with her very own picture on it.  Having just finished the 13.1 miles as a member of Team TRUTH. I can't think of a better picture of God's redemptive power here on earth.  

A life not only saved, but now being used by God for His great glory.
And the rest of the runners in her family are pretty awesome too.
I cannot say enough good things about ALL of the members of Team TRUTH. 

Thanks again to everyone who supported me! Because of YOU, over $30,000 was raised for Project Hopeful. Lives will be saved........God will be glorified!

I am so grateful that it wasn't about me.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

I ALL CAPS HEART sweet brown African babies, but I can't like China. (So you went to China, but did you really make a difference?)

(I did a SIMILAR POST when I came back from my mission trip to Africa last summer, and I wanted to do it again for this trip.)

One of my BFF's has a little boy named Jacob and he says "I can't like it" instead of "I don't like it"......we have all adopted the phrase because it is so stinking cute. And it is how I feel about China.

Numerous people have asked me since I got back: "How was China? Did you like it better than Africa?", and that simple question has jacked up everything I thought I knew about missions.

I loved everything about Africa. It is a beautiful place, in spite of the reality that people there starve to death every day. The people are so poor, but yet they have so much joy. The children have nothing. Literally nothing. Many of the ones we met didn't even have pants, much less food in their bellies. But yet they seem so happy. They just want to play and have fun like other kids. The mama's may not have a job, and they may not know where their next meal is coming from, but if a mzungu smiles at them and makes eye contact, they can't help but shyly smile back. For some reason even the dirt there makes me happy. I remember being sad when I came home and it all finally washed off. The kids we met just want to be loved and held and told that Jesus loves them. And I am all about holding and loving on sweet brown African babies. ALL ABOUT IT.

So if I love Africa so much why did I go to China? Well, because God called me to (and if you feel like spending your day reading my blog, you can find that post HERE). People said it was silly and that I should stick with what I know and what I am passionate about. Many didn't like the idea of the security risks involved. Some said that since I loved kids so much, it didn't make any sense to go and work with college students. I am so glad that I listened to God instead, because otherwise I would have missed the great lesson He was to teach me through this trip.

I remember the first day we were in China, looking around this big bustling city and comparing everything I saw to Africa, and I truly thought, this place is just not for me. And the trip confirmed that. It was not FOR ME.

We as Americans have an inherent tendency to make everything about US. Even right down to our mission trips. We look at the list or search for organizations that will take us where we want to the name of Jesus of course. I know this because I did it.

Africa as a nation is very poor. BUT, in the areas I visited, the church was there. It was working. Tirelessly. Do those long term missionaries and churches need on-going support? Absolutely. But what about the places that are spiritually poor? That is what God opened my eyes to in China. I can't like China because I felt so sad there........because there are just so few believers there....much less followers. So many people who have never heard (let that sink in) the name of JESUS. Never. That was a tough pill to swallow for me. It is hard to see so many faces in such a spiritually poor place. They seem almost emotion-less. What motivates them to live their every day lives? What about the children? It is just hard. BUT, the spread of this great Gospel is the whole reason we go right? So then doesn't it make sense to go to the places where people haven't heard even if it is a tough place to be?

I was able to love on so many sweet kids in Africa and show them the love of Jesus. But, to be able to look into the eyes of another human being, fearfully and wonderfully made by God, who has never heard of Him, and tell them the story......there are just no words to explain how that feels. And that is what we are called to do. Not to go to the easy places, or only the safe places, or only the places that look pretty in pictures. We are called to GO therefor and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL NATIONS.   

To quote John Piper:

Missions exist because worship doesn't.

Watch this quick video (only a little over a minute long):

Isn't that so true of us? We are believers, but we don't truly want to be followers. We will leave that up to the crazy people who go places no one else wants to go and adopt the children no one else wants to adopt. The crazy people who take their children in tow and move to the dangerous places because they believe that this Gospel is worth sacrificing everything for. The people who give their money away left and right because they don't feel called to go overseas themselves but want to be zealous senders of those who do. We want comfort, security, ease and safety because that is what people in this country have taught us to believe that we deserve

Africa is a beautiful place and it will always be etched on my heart. I would LOVE to go back there one day, but that is up to God. This is HIS work, not Jenny's work. People have also asked me "Would you ever go back to China?". They expect me to say no, but my answer is, I will go where ever He sends me.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The truth about why I am running the half marathon for Project Hopeful

When I started this process, I thought that God was trying to teach me a lesson by taking me WAAAAYYYY out of my comfort zone. While that may be partially true, I think I now fully understand what this has been all about.

First, let me answer a few questions. Some of which people have asked me out loud, and some I just know people are thinking....because I used to be one of them.

Question: Why do the marathon? Why not just write a check?
Answer: I am not going to "just write a check" first of all because it would bounce. Second of all, because it wouldn't help the ultimate goal AT ALL. My main goal in all of this was to raise awareness for these children and tell as many people as possible about Project Hopeful and the amazing work they do. The third reason is because I think our American-ized response to just about all things is "just write a check". You can't advance the Gospel by writing checks people. YOU have to step out and DO.

QuestionWhy do we need to give money for kids in Africa who have HIV? Don't we need to take care of "our own" first?
Answer: The words "our own" quite simply make me want to scratch the eyeballs out of any person who utters them. If you have ever said those words, then tell me this: what are "our own"? Are they just the kids who look like us, live like us, and don't make us uncomfortable? Or are they God's children? All of them? Did you know that there are kids right here in our country who are born with HIV or who have Down Syndrome or other special needs that cause them to be over looked for adoption just as much as a child in Africa? Did you know that Project Hopeful works hard for those kids too and many of the staff members have adopted kids with DS from right here in the US as well as HIV+ kids from around the world?

When did we decide as Christians to get our pencil out and draw an invisible but understood line around our country and assume that God would want us to love the people inside the line first? He didn't say "Go therefor into your own country so you don't get your hands dirty or get uncomfortable and then maybe someday you can throw a few bucks at the kids in Africa or India or Russia but only after you have paid off your new SeaDoo". He said "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...." and I am pretty sure by all, he meant......all. 

And one more thing on this subject: I have never ONCE met a person who believes in taking care of "our own" first, who actually does it. Who is trying to spread the Gospel at work, and school and in their own families, and adopting/fostering kids domestically. *jenny steps off soapbox*

Question: Does all of this money you are raising really go to Project Hopeful? Surely you are using part of it to pay your entry fee to the race, plane ticket, doctor bills or something? Why else would you be so crazy about it!?
Answer: Every single flipping dime goes to Project Hopeful. The reason I am so crazy about it is because I believe that when a group of people come together and VOLUNTEER their time and their very LIVES to do something like this, the CHURCH should step up and support them! Similar to short term mission trips. We can't all go to another context and do life there to spread the Gospel, but we can all go for a short time and support those that do.

Question: Ok, if the money all goes to Project Hopeful, then what do they do with it? Is it really a life or death situation or are you just being a touch dramatic?
Answer: I don't do dramatic. 

This little girl was 11 years old when she died. I don't even know her name or what country she was from, but I know that because she had Downs Syndrome, she was considered "not worth caring for" and she was left in an institution and neglected until she died. She never had a mother or a father on earth to love her.

This tiny baby has a name. Beatrice. She was about 2 years old, but only weighed about 10 lbs. Baby Beatrice was HIV positive, severely malnourished, and fought hard for her life. I could show you a picture of her in her tiny casket that I found on this blog......but I won't.
This is a little boy. In all pink. Transferred from an orphanage to an adult mental institution....when he was only 7 years old. He was transferred simply because he has some speech and mental delays and he is HIV+.

I could go on but I think that is enough to get my point across. If you CHOOSE to SEE THE TRUTH, then I don't see how you can NOT act and do something.

Question: You have had a torn Achilles, you have a fractured knee, you have likely have a  fractured toe (I dropped a metal bucket on it on Saturday. Ouch) ...... don't you think maybe God is telling you to quit?
Answer: No. I think He is showing me how to live.

This process has taught me so much. God has taught me so much about me, and about my life, and my lack of faith in Him.

God is showing me a tangible and painful picture of what my life is SUPPOSED to look like. Check your Bible. The Christian life isn't supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be hard. And maybe if it isn't hard, you aren't doing it right.

I have been down in the dumps the past few days because I have felt discouraged. Mad at friends who haven't donated to Project Hopeful for this marathon (just being honest). Mad at all the people who keep telling me to quit. Wishing I could just get through to people but I don't know how. So angry about the sweet children in this world who have to suffer while the church stands by and looks on.....or looks the other way. But, I am trying to remind myself to run my race. To do the best I can. To TRUST that God has this thing. To prove to Him that my faith will not be shaken by the physical pain or the difficulties of the journey.

This isn't about running a race in Chicago that has a metal at the finish line. This is about running the race that has a crown and JESUS at the finish line. And I pray that when I finish, HE will say "Well done."

(if you want to donate to Project Hopeful and help save lives, just click the image above)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Great Wall, and the GREAT WALL. Days nine & ten.

It is hard to leave this place. Although I have formed real bonds with the students, that isn’t why it is hard. Although I loved China, that isn’t why it is hard. Unlike Africa, it isn’t because of the sweet brown faces of the babies I have gotten so attached to. It is because of the sinking feeling of the lack of the Gospel in this place. It is because so many of the people we saw all over this city, will live and die without knowing the God who saves. The ones we saw as we walked to and from our hotel each day. The ones who served us our meals in the tiny restaurants. The people we sat (or stood) next to on the bus. So many of them. So lost.

We left the city and headed back to Bejing. Since we had a NINE hour layover, we were able to have a driver take us to see the Great Wall! What an awesome surprise! However, we realized on the way there that our awesome surprise was likely to turn out slightly less than awesome. It is the rainy season here, and this particular day was apparently the most rainy day of the rainy season. But, how many times to you get a chance in your life to see the Great Wall of China? So, off we went. The green ponchos, on top of our already nasty bodies and clothes (you just cant stay clean here because of the pollution) were a really nice touch. In hindsight, I would not recommend a hike up the Great Wall, in the POURING down rain, with thunder and lightning, up “over one thousands steps” to anyone with a fractured knee, much less a fully functioning brain.
A few of the "over 1,000 steps"

We made it to the top, drenched. I am sure it is an AMAZING sight…….on days when it isn’t a monsoon and the fog mixed with pollution causes you to not be able to see much farther than what is directly in front of your face. So, we snapped a few pictures and headed back down to haggle with the many, many angry women in the many many shacks at the bottom of the Wall that sell souvenirs.

We made it back to the airport after having to detour because a couple of large trucks were stuck, and floating in water ahead of us……I told you it was a monsoon.

(We later found out that the storm that day wasn't just a regular storm, but a deadly one : Read article "Heaviest Rainfall in 60 Years" here.)

Our flight to Korea was slightly delayed because of the weather, but we made it safely. Here we had a TEN hour layover, but, it actually worked out great because we were able to go to a hotel near by and get a few hours of sleep and a much needed shower after the mess in Bejing…..and a Korea stamp in our passports. ;-)

Currently we are on the lonnnnggggg flight home. 14 hours in the air is a long time, but it passes pretty quickly.

We were able to see the Great Wall, which is clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity, but we leave this country with a burden. These people have no knowledge of God and there are very few people here who can teach them. The concept of God and eternity, was left behind a couple of generations ago, and now the new generation sees it as a joke. A funny thing that the very old people used to believe. The walls between these people and the Gospel are high, and they are thick. But, God has broken down some of those walls, as only He can do, and I pray that all over China, the walls will continue to come crashing down until they have all heard.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?
 Romans 10:14-15

Friday, August 10, 2012

Last chance. Be bold. Day eight.

The dream team :)

This was the final day of English camp and our last day with the students.

During our morning session we talked about the very end of the book Jane Eyre. It closes with the story Jane's cousin named (St. John) who is a missionary that gave his life to spread the Word in India, and that life is coming to an end. He says he knows that he has followed the path that God laid out for him and he is not afraid to die. Rather, he is eager. These students have never thought about their own deaths, much less eternity. It was an amazing experience to see them begin to think of their lives in a new light. I asked them at the very end of the session, what if all of this is true? What if there is a heaven and a hell? What if there is a God and an Eternity? I pray that many of them will continue to ponder these questions and that God will do what only He can do. Please Lord help them to believe.

We went out to our last lunch with the students. There are 2 girls that I have had a chance to get pretty close to this week and I really wanted to have a quiet lunch with just the 2 of them and have some bold Gospel centered conversations, but we ended up with a big group of about 15! However, God worked it out (as only he can) that I was seated next to a couple of guys who I really hadn’t had a chance to talk to much, but who had a lot of good questions.Hopefully some new seeds were planted there.

We finished up our business projects in the afternoon, and then we did a little more dancing! Who would have thought that Chinese college students would love the To De Ta (and the Hokey Pokey and the Cotton Eyed Joe and the Electric Slide) as much as African kids?!?! In addition to that, these people who aren't supposed to be loud, aren't supposed to be outgoing, aren't supposed to be touching people of the opposite sex, were all dancing, singing, and hugging everyone they could get their hands on!

The team with most of the students

We said our goodbyes to the students and then we all headed out for one last dinner with the group. A couple of other Americans and their son (who were commissioned from Brook Hills) flew over for a couple of days to be with us. We had a great dinner and then headed back to the apartment. We had an amazing time with our WHOLE group in the Word and worshiping together. We were able to pray for all the ones who will stay behind when we are gone to continue this great work. We sang, we prayed, we cried. It was truly and amazing time of worship in a tiny apartment in the middle of nowhere.

We traveled back to our hotel, with the same thought on all of our minds. We pray that God will keep all of His believers here safe. That He will grow the seeds that have been planted as only He can do. That His church will truly rise up and spread in this city and all over China.

The last two paragraphs of the novel Jane Eyre:

St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil, and the toil draws near its close: his glorious sun hastens to its setting. The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a strangers hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord. And why weep for this? No fear of death will darken St. John's last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this-

"My Master," he says, "has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly,-'Surely I am coming quickly!' and hourly I more eagerly respond,- 'Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!'"

The last two verses of the Bible:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. 
Revelation 22: 20-21

We had the students read out loud in literature class. In all three sessions we had today, I was overcome with emotion and had chills simply hearing the words "Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus" come out of the mouths of these students who have previously believed in nothing. I have no doubt that God's Word is powerful enough to transform hearts simply by being spoken aloud by the most unbelieving of unbelievers.

May it be so in our lives, and Lord let it be so in thiers.


-The people here do a lot of stuff that looks like worship, but it's not.

-They randomly do fireworks here. In the middle of the day. Not like the go up in the sky and make a boom type but the light them and run away and they pop on the sidewalk sounding like a machine gun type. This is good information to know BEFORE you experience it lest you wet your pants thinking you have been shot.
-The cucumbers in this country are freakishly large.

-No eggrolls. No fortune cookies either. Who knew!?
-They don't brew tea. They put tea leaves in a cup and pour hot water over the top. Then you wait til the leaves sink and drink up. An undisclosed member of our team (name rhymes with......Malph) got his cup of leaves and said "Am I supposed to drink this or smoke it? HA!