The Story

This is a story that was started long ago, when God placed a dream on my heart to work with child orphans and advocate for the voiceless children of world.

The nations have been written on my mind and heart for several years. I have guarded them closely, and now I can see why it was purposeful to wait for the right timing to act, to serve, and to love boldly. 2012 and 2013 were amazing years of adventures, lived out dreams and unexpected opportunities, below are summaries of these unfolding stories in my life. I look forward to 2014 and all the opportunities to love and serve the poor with my hands and feet.

HAITI - 2013 (Oct-Nov) How does one create a culture of creativity in a place of poverty? I believe it's already there, the people just need to believe in their creative prowess and ability to solve problems of poverty using their brilliant resourceful minds, hearts, and hands! 

GUATEMALA - 2013 (July) My first time to Guatemala and Honduras. Blown away by the beauty, the people, the kindness, the new stories and faces of strength and the conditions of the hearts despite their homes of poverty. With a team called "Art at His Finest" we brought art to and hope and healing to the schools in the jungles of Guatemala. Too much to share, I'm overwhelmed by how beautiful that time was -  call me and I'll tell you all about it.

UGANDA - 2013 (Feb-March) - Back to Uganda! Blessed beyond measure and excited for the new steps I get to walk, on familiar roads that I've walked on before. Ready for the beating of my heart to provide rhythms for children of Uganda to dance to. Encouraged to be a listener and be a friend to the former children of war, who are maturing into children of peace.

MEXICO - 2012  Every month I try to go with my community group for one day down to Mexico to love on the kids at an orphanage and the families and children in a village. Each time I come back full, and know that no matter what pain and poverty these families endure, the love and community they have is special and rooted. They are RICH in joy, and live like queens and kings in how they treat one another. There is a respect and cultivated friendship and loyalty that is evident in their actions. We meet with the people and bring them clothes, food, even starbucks coffee which they are VERY grateful for. Their voices sing praise songs "Alabaré a mi Señor" "Abre mis ojos" and lift high over the village, creating hope that rises from the dirt roads of Ensenada, Mexico. There are some favorite kids who run to me every time, and we spend the day drawing with chalk, laughing, speaking spanish to one another, and just enjoying a growing friendship. I get to be that kid, the one who never grows up. Who gets to just play and be a child of faith, surrounded by these preciosos kids from Mexico who know Jesús and praise him for all they have. Mexico is a place where community is built on love and generous giving, I am encouraged every time I go and watch how the families take care of one another.

HAITI- The Short Story: In Oct - November 2012, I had an amazing opportunity to support  Heartline Ministries in PAP- Haiti. Ever since the earthquake I had been wanting to go to Haiti and support the community in any way I could. I volunteered with non-profits that advocated for children and education, art therapy and relief efforts in Haiti, but I still waited for the opportunity to go. I just had a feeling though that in 2012 it would be the year and that it was the right time. When I was in New York I met someone who has been living in Haiti for two years and she gave me that chance. I was invited to come serve and work in Port-au-Prince helping raise awareness and support for a new maternity center. Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate. 1 in 90 women die. To me this is a tragic story that has the opportunity to be re-written. WE have the opportunity to rewrite this story. For the month I was humbled to serve with amazing missionaries and people in Haiti who are blessing the nation, just by being pillars of strength for the people. Prayer partners, builders of encouragement, and runners of faith. I was grateful to help depict and tell the story visually of Barry running the Run for Life across Haiti, 315 miles in order to raise awareness for maternal health. All funds raised go towards building a new maternity center for women in Haiti. I got to see how this building is shaping Haiti. I listened to women's voices and familie's stories and had the opportunity to encourage and empower them by accepting them. They don't have to fear for their and their children's lives, there is a hope and love that is stronger than the grave, stronger power to heal than an earthquake to destroy. I do see a redeeming love building in Haiti. Out of the ashes, these people are rising up out of the aftermath of the quake, and standing as beautiful and fearfully made people.

Realizations during the trips:
I think one of the ways to end extreme poverty is by showing more LOVE to our neighbors. The globalized platforms we have are erasing the lines and boundaries of our districts and expanding our neighborhoods. With technology and our abilities to communicate so effortlessly, we can write an email or log-on to facebook and share encouragement online to the same people who used be the "nameless" faces throughout the world. We can begin with words of affirmation, with hopeful messages that will inspire and put courage into the hearts of the people living in poverty, we can GIVE generously and anonymously so that our left hand doesn't know what our right is doing (Matt 6:3), and we can pray for their future and for an understanding of how to be selfless in supporting our Neighbors who we are called to love. Our next door neighbor is now a pregnant woman in Haiti who feels alone, or the orphan of war who's life could change if just one person sponsored their education. We can be good stewards of money, of time, but most importantly overly generous stewards of LOVE and compassion. We have the ability to love anyone at any time. Joy and love are choices we make every day. For me, it brings me so much joy knowing that wherever I go in the world, whoever I meet I can love them with the same kind of love I have known. Spiritual and emotional poverty is as much of a challenge as physical and systemic poverty. To me, the greatest achievement for our generation, would be to Love our neighbors more tangibly, and support them in ways - that redefine giving, redefine sharing, and redefine what it means to be meek. Maybe then we would inherit the earth.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 - Matthew 5:5 - 10

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LIRA - The Short Story: After years of waiting, learning, and listening - This summer I finally had  the opportunity to go to Uganda to work with former child soldiers. It’s been a dream and now it is a reality!! I have literally had dreams standing with children in African soil, hand in hand and singing. Now I can say, I have dreams of the nation coming together to sing a new song. 

During my time in Uganda, I used art and drama therapy to help equip the children with tools of healing. This is in the form of visual arts, dramatic and performing arts, writing, songwriting, vocational skills like jewelry making, and many other projects. One of the main focuses is training and empowering these Children of War, to become peace advocates in their communities. We started a peace club at Lira Integrated School. I am in awe of the thought of this and the ability for children to be the teachers and leaders of what true forgiveness means in their society. I have witnessed these children move mountains by the strength that remains in them. They are truly the first generation of forgiving leaders in their country.

After coming back from Uganda at beginning of August, I knew that this was just the beginning. My heart is left there with those children. One girl, Akello Judith, captured me when I met her in her village. I will tell more about her later, but I decided to sponsor Judith through school. Investing in girl's education is so important and so needed. Education will lift families out of poverty. Slowly as each girl gets lifted up, as light breaks forth, these girls will start living healthy and vibrant lives. Judith is a pearl of Africa. She has more joy than sorrow, even though her past is very dark. She reminds me of that undying love and joy that we can live our lives with and I am so glad that I can help her walk through education. I am committed to mentoring her, visiting her and praying for her future. She wants to be a nurse and social worker so that she can help heal her war-torn community. She is a picture of grace and radiant beauty.

These children I met in Uganda have been given a second chance and we can learn from what they’ve endured. I love this quote by Frank Warren…

"It’s the children the world almost breaks, who grow up to save it.”

These once voiceless child soldiers, now have voices, they’ve returned home and we have the ability to hear their stories…but will we listen? Will we let their voices and pasts change our lives? I want these children to be unchained and free, to forgive them of their transgressions, and see them as ABLE and powerful agents of change in their community. Please join me in this new adventure. It’s not going to be easy and there are challenges ahead, but we owe it to these children who were robbed of their childhood. I believe we will soon be hearing choirs of these children singing their redemption songs. 

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