Back to School Sales and Orphans

Back to School Sales and OrphansJuly and August can be great months for teens who want to help out with orphan care ministries. Why? It’s simple. Back to school sales are currently at their peak.

School supplies can be used by a wide variety of ministries that help orphans and underprivileged children. During back to school sales, you can find all sorts of stuff at huge discounts. My personal favorite is the Wal-Mart sale. Clip With Purpose is a great website to keep track of other sales. Last year I got notebooks for 20 cents and boxes of crayons for 25 cents. Most of us don’t have a lot of expendable income, so this is a great way to stretch what we have.

Okay. So you might be wondering how you can use all those school supplies to help orphans. Here are a few ideas.

1. Backpacks for Foster Kids

Those of you who participated in the group read of Orphan Justice may already know about this. Kids often enter the foster system with very few personal belongings. One way individuals and churches can reach out to them is by packing backpacks with toiletries, underwear, coloring supplies, etc. You can stock up on many of these items during the back to school sales.
Read more about this opportunity

2. Shoeboxes for Kids Around the World

This is where the majority of my back to school finds end up. Operation Christmas Child delivers boxes to poverty stricken children around the world. Though this ministry is not specifically targeted at orphans, it definitely impacts them. Plus it’s super easy and lots of fun. If you have questions, feel free to send them my way.
Read how Operation Christmas Children impacted one adoptive family

3. Donate Directly to an Orphanage or Sponsorship Program

This one can be a little tricky because international shipping costs so much. Some ministries have predetermined ways of getting donations overseas. If they don’t it is possible to raise the money to ship a box or carton of supplies. Or you could send your donations with someone going on a missions trip. That’s the route I’ve taken in the past, and this year I got to be on the delivery end of the deal!

IMG_1948

School supplies for our missions trip.

4. Shop for an Adoptive Family

Do you know a family who has adopted or is in the process of adopting? You could always take advantage of the back to school sales to bless them. Ask them for a list or just surprise them. Or, if you don’t have any money, volunteer your time. Maybe you know an adoptive mom who would love to take advantage of the sales but can’t find the time to go shopping.

Do any of these ideas appeal to you? Can you think of any other ways to use back to school sales to bless orphans?

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But I’m Unqualified

UnqualifiedI think the feeling of being unqualified is one of the biggest things that paralyzes teens who want to make a difference. Actually, it probably extends beyond the teen years because I’ve read adult writers on adult blogs talking about the same thing. This feeling can be especially hard to deal with when it comes to orphan care.

The more I learn, the more complicated everything relating to orphans becomes. If you follow what’s going on in international adoption at all, you know what I mean. Is it more important for children to stay in their country of birth than to have a family of their own? When should biological families be encouraged and helped to keep their children and when is it best for the child to be surrendered for adoption? How do you help poverty stricken people financially without degrading their self-esteem and penalizing work?

So many questions and uncertainties surround orphans. The majority of adults, even the ones deeply involved in orphan care, don’t have the answers and solutions. If they can’t “fix” things what can we expect to do?

Sometimes I feel uncertain writing posts for this blog. It’s so easy to get something wrong, break some bit of etiquette I’m not aware of, step on toes concerning a sensitive topic. I know that friends and peers whose families have adopted read this blog. They know so much more than me on a much more personal scale. I worry about hurting their feelings or getting something glaringly wrong and making it clear that I don’t know what I’m talking about!

I appreciated a comment in Becoming Home, by Jedd Medefind. He said,

Even a glimpse of all this complexity can be paralyzing. Like the risk adverse investor in Jesus’ parable of the talents, we may be tempted to bury what we have to offer and not get involved at all. But Jesus minced no words in condemning that approach. He called it “wicked and lazy.” Instead, God calls us to act despite the risks. Understanding that helping can hurt gives us much-needed caution and humility. So we begin with learning, listening, planning, and only then, finally, action–always ready to recalibrate when we discover the mistakes we’ll inevitably make.

Just like every other area of life, we’re bound to goof up somewhere, somehow. It’s kind of like final exams in school. You study hard but you don’t understand everything. A lot of the complexity escapes you (or at least it escaped me…good for you if you understand all of it). You’ll probably get some of the questions wrong. But you don’t skip the test just because you’ll probably make a few mistakes. You prepare as best you can and, when it’s time to take the test, you do the best you can. Afterwords you look over what you got wrong, learn from it, and use it to do better next time.

I think that’s how we should approach the world of orphan care. Don’t avoid it just because you’ll probably get something wrong. If I goof up here, one of my lovely friends with more experience will probably send me an email pointing out the mistake. I’ll be embarrassed, but I’m sure they’ll be loving about it, and I’ll know better next time.

The bottom line is, don’t do nothing because you don’t understand it all and are bound to make mistakes. Learn what you can, do what you can, and fix what you’re doing wrong when you find out it’s not right.

Do you feel unqualified to help orphans? What mistakes are you afraid of making? How can you prepare and take action anyway?

Sozo: Beauty Through Pain

May is National Foster Care month. There are lots of frequently quoted numbers about foster care. Approximately 400,000 children live in the foster care system at any given time. Each year more than 20,000 of those children age out without finding a forever family or being reunified with their biological family. Around 104,000 of these children are waiting for adopting families. Sozo is the story of one family, one girl, who personally experienced the pain and beauty of adoption through foster care.

Note: I’ve mentioned my friend, Marli Tague, several times on my two blogs. This is the story of her family and her sister.

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 3)

Viktor and Yuri

Did you miss Advocating: You Can Do It Too, part 1 and part 2? If so, you might want to go back and read those before reading this last installment of McKennaugh’s story of advocating for three Ukrainian orphans and her encouragement that you can do the same.

~*~

I started waking up before four in the morning and doing my online advocating before the day started and I wouldn’t have time. I would surf the net for blogs that might repost Yuri and Viktor’s story. Mom blogs, pastors’ websites, blogs about children with disabilities, Christian teens’ blogs—these were just a few of the genres that I targeted. I would send an email that explained who I was and what I was trying to do and I would attach an article about Yuri and Viktor. I contacted dozens and dozens of people. A handful responded. Their emails said, “Your post is beautiful, but perhaps you could find a blog that talks about special needs AND adoption…” Or they would say, “I will pray about posting it…”

I burned with anger. When I say this, I don’t want you to think I was hateful towards these people, no, I just felt this righteous fury lit inside me as I thought, “My post is not beautiful. It speaks of dying children.” Or, “Your last post was about your kids making cupcakes. Did you pray before you hit the ‘Save to Live’ button on that?” I never let those people know my feelings, but I did curl up in a corner and write a passionate poem asking them, “Why?”  I never sent it, I never intended to. But the words helped ease my aching heart as I cried, “Does no one care?”

Surprisingly, most people don’t. They may say, “Oh, what a great thing you’re doing…” but would never lift a finger to help you.

Then you find a few souls out there willing to lend a hand. Out of all the people I contacted, one lady posted the article on her blog here: http://www.faithfulmomof9.com/come-with-me-walking-through-the-memories-of-a-ukrainian-orphanage/

She probably never realized how rare and appreciated her willingness to help was.

During my struggle to find these children families, however, I realized that I also had to be thankful to those who put me down. Why? Well, when someone told me how great I was for what I was trying to do (which wasn’t true—I was simply doing what we all should do) I felt thankful for their kindness. But it never inspired me. When someone told me I shouldn’t do it, or I should give up, or my cause wasn’t worthy, I was inspired. How come? I jumped up fighting. It put new energy inside me, pushed me harder. I reached further, climbed higher, and became more daring.

A fire doesn’t burn unless sticks are thrown at it. The sticks and stones tossed at me made the fire in my heart burn stronger. It forced me to try harder. I knew I couldn’t give up; I couldn’t shirk my duty on others…because I was often the only one. So, if you are advocating and you feel everyone is looking down on you, don’t let it make you want to give up. Let it build you up. That may sound strange. It took me a long time to learn that. It might take you a while, too, but, eventually, you may find that trials are really the strength you search for.

I wound up submitting an article to The Rebelution. It was a breakthrough. Finally. Brett Harris was so willing to get the word out. I will always be thankful to him and the Rebelution (therebelution.com). People all over the nation (world?) shared about these boys through their site. Yuri and Viktor received families. However, shortly after deciding to come for him, I learned that Viktor’s family would be unable to proceed due to issues unrelated to his adoption.

The family adopting Yuri decided they would come for both boys.

They are still in the process.

During the time that I found these children families, I learned many things, some of them the hard way.

The two most important things I learned are: Always pray, always ask for God to guide you to the right people. And never lose your perseverance. Never. This was one of those things I learned the hard way.

Do you already know of a child who needs a home? Don’t wait. You could save a life. Speak up. Be the hands and feet all Christians are called to be. God can and will use anyone. After all, he used a 14-year-old who, in the eyes of the world, had no hope of success. God uses the unlikely. And, if you let Him, He will certainly use you. Nobody else can be the change you were created to be.

Note: Want to advocate, but don’t know anyone to advocate for? I have a Ukrainian friend who keeps on sending me photos of children who desperately need adopted. Some of them have special needs and some are “normal” children. If you would like to help to find one of them a family you may email me at mckennaugh [at] inbox [dot] com.

–McKennaugh

Did this series of posts give you ideas for how you might advocate for a child? Have you done any advocating in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 2)

McKennaugh

 

If you missed part one of this series of posts, please take a moment to go back and read Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 1). McKennaugh is sharing with us her story of advocating for three children in Ukraine. We left off with Katia’s story making it into the Above Rubies E-zine.

~*~

I got a flood of emails from people that wanted to help. Many acted like they wanted to adopt her. My hopes would rise. Then I would copy her typed-up medical record and paste it into an email along with my thoughts and observations about this little girl. Usually potential families stopped here. Taking care of a child who couldn’t even bend at the waist or knees? A child who was fed through a tube and couldn’t open her own clenched hand? They turned away and I can’t say I blamed them. But my heart ached for Katia and I thought, “Somewhere, somewhere there must be a family for you!”

The first e-zine article generated donations for the yet-to-be-found family, but no family itself. (I now would not recommend for people to take donations before a child has a family. I could have had a very stressful situation on my hands if Katia never received adoptive parents!! I think that pledges are a much better idea to accept! Then you are not responsible for people’s money.)

I watched the stats on my site slide downward and knew that the e-zine had not reached Katia’s family…this time. I continued blogging and begging for a family for her. I made a short video for her. (Note: Katia is called Levina in this clip & the link at the end of it is no longer associated with me—I stopped running the website and the domain was purchased by someone else.)

I was a determined kid. Once again, I sent a request to Above Rubies. I asked them to place something else about Katia in their next e-zine. This time it was a poem.

To make a long story short, Katia’s adoptive parents saw that poem. They contacted me. I copied the medical record. I sent it to them. They read it.

They didn’t say no.

They came. To Ukraine. To Katia. By this time, I was 15. She was 7. She didn’t know I changed her life. She didn’t know she had changed mine. How? She showed me that anybody—even backwoods girls who hardly knew a soul—could make a difference.

If they only tried.

I wasn’t done trying. Yuri and Viktor, two other disabled children I had met in Ukraine, needed homes, too.

Somewhere along the way here, I had become a columnist for Homeschooling Teen e-zine. I published an article there about Yuri and Viktor. I was contacted by a lady who said they would adopt Yuri. I was thrilled. The next few events made me slightly wary that something wasn’t quite right, though. We kept in regular contact for a while, then I didn’t hear from them for a couple months. I sent them an email asking how everything was going. They said they had run into problems with US income requirements and would not be able to adopt Yuri.

A sent another article into Homeschooling Teen. Yuri and Viktor remained without a family. For a time, I lost my perseverance. Yuri and Viktor waited in their cribs. Waited for me to speak up for them.

And I didn’t.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a man who was surfing the web and had found my Homeschooling Teen article, though it had now been months since it was published. He couldn’t adopt Viktor, but he wanted to help him in any way he could. Could he send aid to the children? No, I responded, aid wouldn’t get to them. But I asked him if he would spread the word—Viktor needed an adoptive family. He jolted Viktor and Yuri back to the front of my mind and I thought, “These boys are depending on me!”

Stay tuned for the final installment of this article. Do you think you could do what McKennaugh did? Would you find the possibility exciting or scary? Or both?

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 1)

McKennaugh and KatiaIn the six months that TIO has been up and running, several people have stood out as youth who are really enthusiastic about TIOs vision. One of those people is McKennaugh Kelley. I contacted her to ask her to guest post after reading a guest post she did on The Rebelution. She wrote Loving Katia part one and part two. The story of how a teenager could find a family for an orphan captivated me, so when she contacted me about advocating for Miroslav, I asked her to do a how-to on advocating for orphans. The article turned out quite long, so it’s going to be a series. I hope you are inspired.

~*~

Take a 14-year-old girl who is homeschooled in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. She spends her free time climbing trees, swimming, hiking, and writing. She enjoys heralding in spring mornings before the birds, embarking on all things strange and adventurous, and will do almost anything to make someone laugh. Add her to a Ukrainian orphanage five thousand miles away, tear her heart out, give it to three little special needs kids, and send her back home. She doesn’t know anyone interesting in adopting disabled children a world away, but she doesn’t care. Putting clumsy fingers to a keyboard, she decides that she will do everything she can to bring to these children the love she knows they wait for.

It wasn’t the perfect recipe for success.

But you know what?

It worked.

Hi, I’m the strange 14-year-old slightly grown up. I’m turning 18. I spent three months in Ukraine with my family, seven weeks of which was spent at an orphanage. Three hours a day, every day. I had fallen into a place that I wouldn’t have believed existed a short year and a half before. I had cold water tossed onto my happy childhood. I was suddenly awake, older. These kids had had that awakening the day they were born. They received no happy childhood.

I was determined that I would bring one to them. It might be a little late, but they would have another chance. Leah of TIO asked me to share with you how I found families for three children, Yuri, Viktor, and Katia (aka Levina). So the following is the story of my struggle for them and some tips and encouragement to you…because you can bring love to a child, too. These are not instructions or guidelines, they are simply what I did and I hope that you can grab a few of my ideas, shape them for your situation, and take them a step further. I have summed this up so that I may have a chance of you reading it to the finish. If I were to tell you each detail, each failure and success, I would be typing for a month. So here is the small (but still long…) version, of a hard, good, terrible, wonderful story…

Fingers, staggering about the computer keys. The keys ought to have been crooked—I had typed this little girl’s plight so many times! Writing up her medical record alone took more time than I would care to admit, as I fumbled through spelling terms that I didn’t know the meanings of. If the list of diagnoses failed to make people understand Katia’s condition, the words “fifteen pounds and six years old” put it in a pretty shocking perspective. After that, I didn’t have to try quite as hard to explain what Katia’s life had been like. I started out advocating for her by blogging on my previously existing website. I got some people to pass my posts around, and tell her plight to people I wouldn’t have otherwise reached. I didn’t have a huge following, so the responses were few. I did have one very special friend who was a huge help and gave me so much encouragement. She loved Katia deeply, though she had only met her through my photos. This woman and I exchanged emails frequently, updating each other on any news about Katia. She basically turned her blog into a home for Katia’s story and photos. She spoke at conventions and handed out fliers about this little girl. On the days that I felt I would never find Katia a family, she was there backing me up, telling me that we could do it. She prayed for, loved and genuinely cared for this child halfway around the world. It is so helpful to have a friend to fall back on. A friend who will help you fight for a cause that you both know is worthy.

I called up the editor of a magazine that I read and loved, Above Rubies. It’s full of stories centered around family, adoption, birthing, mommyhood, and natural living. It goes out to thousands and thousands of people. Getting an article in their actual magazine would be difficult, but getting something in their e-zine was slightly more possible. I talked with the editor who told me that there are so many thousands of children like Katia who need help—she was simply another case.

I responded that there, indeed, are thousands of children who live in terrible situations. ButI had met Katia, I had seen her struggling for each breath, and I knew there was only one of her. And we had to let her know she was loved.

Katia got her story in the e-zine.

Have questions or comments for McKennaugh (or me)? Leave a comment. And stay tuned for part two!

Be Thou An Example

Praying Boy

Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou and example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12

Not to long ago I wrote a guest post for Devoted Generation explaining why teenagers aren’t excused from doing hard, responsible things like caring for orphans. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to do so now. It’s a good companion post to this one.

you probably know that we young people should do hard things, but why is it so important? Why does Paul specifically exhort a younger brother to be an example of the believers? I’m sure there are many, many more reasons, but two have been coming to my mind lately.

Adults Notice Young PeopleKatia with McKennaugh
We all know that adults take notice when teenagers do something that’s a bit above average. They’re more willing to excuse our stumbles and applaud our successes. They’re also more likely to start doing something hard if a teenager is doing it. It’s in human nature to feel challenged when someone younger or with less resources does something positive. I experienced this the other day as I read through some of the backlogged posts on the The Rebelution. Reading about an five-year-old who raised $3,700 for a homeless shelter, an eight-year-old who donated 869 boxes of crayons to kids with disabilities, and a seventeen-year-old who gave up everything to follow Christ made me go, “whoa, if they can do all that I should be able to do at least as well.” A lot of times adults have the same reaction to teens doing hard things. If we’re doing our best to help orphans with the means we have, adults are sure to add their hitting power to the game.

Refreshing Those In The BattleKitanda Project
Okay, so teen involvement can help encourage others to get involved, but what about those already working to help orphans? Helping orphans is hard, emotionally draining work. The complications, huge need, and overwhelming scope is exhausting and scary to even think about. Consider how hard it must be for those who have devoted their lives to helping these children. These are the adoptive families, the Christian social workers, the missionaries, the orphanage staffs, the speakers, the fundraisers, the awareness raisers, the lawyers…the list goes on and on. These are the people we need more of. The people who are our heroes. But their work is difficult.

The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head. ~Proverbs 20:29

Go ahead and smile a little. The wording of verses like this always amuses me a little too. But the truth this verse communicates is so applicable. We young people have the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that so often gets lost over a lifetime of thankless work. Stress, heartbreak, and unreached dreams can leave adults feeling worn and cynical. Young people who want to encourage them and jump in to work with them might be just what they need. These people have the experience we lack, and we have the energy they’re running out of. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for team work, don’t you think? Remember Moses praying for the armies of Israel in Exodus?

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. ~Exodus 17:11

We can be like Aaron and Hur to the adults already in the battle.

Being young closes some doors in the world of orphan care, but it opens others that will never be available to us again. Let’s not waste the opportunities we have now wishing for the ones we’ll have later!

What can you do to encourage people to help orphans by setting an example? How can we encourage those already working in orphan care? Share your thoughts!

P.S. The pictures in this post are linked to stories of teens in action and ways teens can help. Just click the pics to explore!

Who Will Care?

Finger HeartDo you ever watch parents interact with their children and think about the orphans who have no idea what that’s like? It happens to me pretty frequently.

This past week I visited the state capitol for a homeschool event. My friends and I spent some time sitting in on a public hearing about the Common Core. One of the testimonies was given by a mother who was there with her deaf child. The mom passionately expressed her frustration over potential laws that did not make provisions for her daughter. Watching this mom plead on behalf of her daughter, my mind wandered to the deaf orphans like Aris who don’t have anyone to fight for them. The mom at the hearing wanted to make sure her daughter had the best opportunities possible, but perspective adoptive parents pass over kids like Aris because of the challenges presented by their special needs.

This week a group of homeschooled young adults I know has been praying for a young man who went on life support after his heart stopped beating. This young man has brittle bone disease, just like Candy who we’ve been praying for. This boys mother is crying out to God for her son and begging others to do the same. Who will pray for Candy and sit by her bedside if the same thing happens to her? Who will comfort her when her bones break? Who will pay attention if she’s too tired and weak to move around? Who will beg God for life if her heart stops beating and weep tears of joy if it starts again?

These children with special needs deserve families who care just as much as those people born into loving families.

If there is something I’ve learned in this journey to try to figure out how to help orphans it’s that this problem is way bigger than me. Every single aspect of orphan care is complicated. Sometimes it seems like each of the worlds 153 million orphans is mummified in red tape that has to be hacksawed through before anything can happen. And it’s hard to do that without hurting the child stuck inside. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’ll be pretty happy when I figure out some of the answers. But in the meantime, I can care.

Caring doesn’t cost money. It doesn’t require hoping on a plane and traveling around the globe. I might not be able to sit by Candy’s bedside or sign my love to Aris, but I can be the one to cry out to God on their behalf. I can cry the tears their mothers would shed if they had families. I can beg God to give them families, and hope that someday they’ll have parents to tuck them in at night. You can too. These kids may not know this side of heaven that we love them, but in the grand scheme of things that only God knows, I bet we can make a difference even in something as simple as that.

Teens In Action: Everlasting Hope

Elisabeth

Elisabeth

Today, I’m excited to welcome Elisabeth Sullivan to TIO. I discovered her project through a comment she left on The Rebelution. When I emailed her to ask for a guest post, it turned out that she already followed TIO. And she agreed to write a guest post. Her project is fantastic! Just goes to show that young people can make a difference with a bit of ingenuity. I love how Elisabeth took an idea she saw somewhere else and modified it to make her own unique, effective project. And, even better, there’s a bunch of ways you can help her with it. Enjoy her article. 🙂

What we’re doing:

Everlasting Hope is a group that crochets hats to raise money for the Master’s Home, an orphanage being built in Uyo, Nigeria by MCCF International. (For right now, 50% of the profit we make goes to the Master’s Home.) Our goal is to raise at least $1000. We post different hats and crocheted projects we are working on. We also have an online store called Hope Eternal Enterprises (HEE) where have most of the hats we make that we are selling. HEE got 38 views 3 days after it was published and Everlasting Hope has gotten over 560 page views! We were really excited. 🙂

Polar Bear Hat

Polar Bear Hat

In December, I gave all the profit I made to the orphanage in honor of Christmas; a week after I sent it to the orphanage, I looked in my wallet for money to buy bunny food (you would not believe how much food my rabbit eats!) and it was empty except for a $5 bill. I now owed my mom $42 for bunny food and yarn. I questioned whether I should have put that much of my money into it and I prayed to God for financial help. A couple of days later, I got an order for over 15 hats! I thanked God with all of my heart. That was a kind of sign to me that God was blessing what I was doing.

What inspired me:

Flower Hat

Flower Hat

The book Do Hard Things is what inspired me to get moving and do some hard things for God. I wasn’t sure what I should do exactly until I looked at their website and saw a project that Elaini Garfield was doing to raise money for orphans in India. She styled one dress 100 different ways over a period of 100 days, blogging about it along the way. She raised more then $10k more than they initially hoped for, so now she is continuing the blog indefinitely to raise awareness. That gave me an idea: instead of styling one dress a different way every day for 100 days, I could crochet one hat a day for 100 days in different styles and sizes to raise money for the Master’s Home. My dad convinced me to change it closer to 50 days at least for the beginning so I changed it to 56 days (8 weeks). My goal was to raise $1000 in those 56 days. I made a blog for it called Everlasting Hope, where I post different projects I’ve made lately and other stuff like that. I was going to start on February 1, but since then, I have been absolutely flooded with orders for all kinds of hats so the 8 Week Challenge was on hold for awhile. LORD willing, I will begin on March 30. 🙂

God has definitely blessed us in this work; we’ve been absolutely flooded with orders for Minion hats, frog hats, flower hats, and more. It’s been really awesome seeing God work His will through us. I never dreamed it would grow as big as it is now.

How you can help:

If you would like to help, you can:
Pray – We need all the prayers we can get!
Donate – You can donate online on the MCCF International website
Buy some of our hats – We’ve got all kinds of cute hats we’re making! They are all $10, no matter what size or style you get
Spread the word – Tell other people you know about Everlasting Hope.
Join us! – If you know how to knit or crochet, you can make things and sell them too! My little sister is going to make 1 headband a day for 56 days along with me.

Have any questions for Elisabeth? What talents has God given you that you could use to help orphans?

Teens In Action: Project 27

Kitanda ProjectHello everyone! I’m back with another teen who is making a difference in the lives of orphans. (If you missed last week’s Teens In Action post,  go over and read Blankets of Love at some point.) Abby found TIO through The Rebelution and shot me an email to say she liked the website and blog. She also mentioned a ministry she and some girls for her school run. I found her story inspiring, and I hope you will too. Here’s Abby.

“Religion is that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

After studying Romans 12, a call to a transformed and sanctified life, my peers and I were challenged to respond to the call of James 1:27. Praying for an open door through which we could serve, the Lord directed us to Agape Children’s Ministry. We knew missionaries who were stationed in Kenya, Africa with Agape Children’s Ministry. The focus of the home to is rescue street boys and girls from the homelessness and wondering of street life in Kisumu, Kenya (www.agapechildren.org), and present the gospel to the children. We began supporting this ministry through a program labeled the Kitanda Project, as Kitanda is bed in Swahili. Through this project, we raised monthly donations in order that a child would be supported safely in a ‘bed’, which included not only a place to lay his head, but also all other physical, educational, and health needs.

We all were excited to get to work for the needy and orphaned! Through car washes, bake sales, and jewelry sales we raised more than the amount of money we needed. God taught us how to serve others, sacrifice time, and pray for the needs of the unredeemed. Captivated by the mercy and grace of our Savior, we were awed by His abundant blessing on our Project. Continuously money poured in, and we were able to support the ministry far beyond our commitment. As I reflect on the goodness of our God through this learning process I can’t help but become overly excited because of the Lord we serve! God used little middle school girls with hardly a clue about fundraising and commitments to bring about His plan for the orphaned.

Isaiah 1:16-17 says: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” We have learned that caring for the orphaned, the widowed, and the unredeemed is really a call for cleanliness on behalf of the believer’s life and heart. Once we have made our hearts right before the Lord, then we are able to serve, pray for, and become involved with orphans and missions. Our prayer is that on this road to answer the call of James 1:27 and Isaiah 1:16-17, we first prepare our hearts before our Holy Father.

As we continue the legacy of the Kitanda Project, we have taken on a new name, Project 27, based off of James 1:27 and the call for cleanliness in the last 27 books of Isaiah. We would be blessed if you lift us up in prayer as we pray for wisdom and guidance on how to live righteously and serve others.

I am so very thankful for the work, time, and effort Leah has put into this site! What a blessing it was when I came upon her website and her mission and heart for orphans. We don’t know how blessed we are to have the resources God has made available to us. Let us respond to God’s call of righteous, clean living! There are plenty of opportunities to serve; thank you Leah for organizing this precious mission and devoting your life to God’s call for the orphans.  

I also asked Abby how people can donate to Project 27, and this is what she said.

Thanks for your encouragement! The best way to donate to our project is to send a check, since we do not have an online account as of right now. Checks can be made out to Southside Christian School (my school where we have Project 27) with “kitanda project” in the memo line ( we have not yet changed the name officially). They can be sent to 2028 Orton Rd.

It’s so encouraging to me to hear stories like Abby’s and see that teens who care can make a difference. And I hope reading what other’s are doing will give you ideas for how you can take action as well. Have any thoughts or comments? Want to ask Abby a question?