Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts

Jul 21, 2016

Queen of Katwe - A Review

Phiona Mutesi.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BuzzPlant. All opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

"Phiona Mutesi is the ultimate underdog. To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. To be a girl is to be an underdog Katwe."
    Tim Crothers, The Queen of Katwe

Young Phiona Mutesi lives in the worst of the worst slums: Katwe, in Uganda, Africa. Her widowed mother usually can't earn enough money to feed all her children. The family is often kicked out of their one room shack because they can't afford rent. Filth is everywhere, and human waste often floods the family shack when it rains. Education is unaffordable. And Phiona is angry, often battling boys in the streets without fear.

That is, until she meets a missionary who teaches her to play a mysterious game called chess. Suddenly, Phiona has a new place to direct her energy and talent. Even though she's a girl, and most males in Uganda think females can never do as well as males at anything, she quickly learns to beat boys in chess. It humiliates the boys so much, they cry. Phiona, in the way of Ugandan women, never brags, and with the Christian humility she's developed, downplays her wins.

Phiona's modesty often takes others by surprise. As does her youth and her aggressive chess technique. Even her chess coach is surprised when she gets to compete on an international scale at age 11 - and wins. In chess, very few females win competitions; but Phiona, a slum child nobody ever thought could amount to anything at all, becomes a chess champion - the "Queen of Katwe."

Tim Crothers' account of Phiona Mutesi is thoroughly engaging. The Queen of Katwe is a book that's easy to pick up and hard to put down. Some critics have complained that much of the book isn't about Phiona herself, but about the people who've helped her achieve her success. This is true - but their stories are so compelling, I didn't mind at all. In fact, The Queen of Katwe reveals the world of Uganda so vividly, it's a hard-hearted person who, after reading the book, doesn't contribute to the charity (Sports Outreach) that helps Phiona and other children achieve, while also teaching them about God.

Especially compelling to me were the scenes where Phiona went to chess competitions outside of Africa. Her coach literally had to teach her and her fellow child chess players how to eat with utensils, how to open a water bottle, and how to use a flush toilet. Along with Phiona, I found myself amazed at the modern world - and I keenly felt her depression when, after having her eyes opened this way, she had to return to the slum.

Which brings me to an important point: The Queen of Katwe doesn't offer a typical happy, Hollywood ending. Phiona is only a teenager; by no means has she reached her full potential. And while winning chess games has enabled her to help pay her family's rent, her mother's debts, and some school tuition, Phiona still lives in the slums.

But as Christians, we understand Phiona better than the world does. Yes, her physical circumstances are still heart-breaking. But we know she has something all the slum - in fact, everyone - needs: Jesus Christ.

I find myself praying for Phiona to overcome the many obstacles the slums throw her way. And with the help of  Sports Outreach, The Queen of Katwe makes me believe Phiona - and other children like her - can overcome.

And, good news! Disney has turned Phiona's story into a movie that will release next month. I pray it will touch millions of people, who will in turn support Sports Outreach, Phiona, and children everywhere who are in need.

Learn More

Sports Outreach Ministry

Queen of Katwe website (including a short ESPN documentary about Phiona)

Trailer for Disney's Queen of Katwe

Phiona Mutesi's Facebook Page

Oct 26, 2015

Why Paying it Forward Isn't Enough

"Pay it forward!" is the motto of the day. I hear and see it everywhere, among non-Christians and Christians alike. And while the idea of random acts of kindness is nice, Christians are really doing people a disservice when they practice it.

Let me explain.

Last summer, I learned about an event at our local park. A bunch of local churches got together and gave away backpacks full of school supplies for any child that needed one. In addition, there were free used clothes, hot dogs and drinks, face painting, a bouncy house, and a few other free activities. It was a fantastic idea.

Well, this year has been financially difficult for us, so I decided to attend the event with my husband and children. We didn't have to fill out forms or make applications; all we had to do was show up - hours early, it turned out, because there were long, long lines for the free backpacks.

I noticed two things during this event:

1. There was a lot of grumbling and complaining among those parents. ("Why can't they just start giving away the backpacks early?" "Why can't they give us a number so we don't have to stand in line?" "They really should do things better.")

2. While the local churches were doing a really nice thing, where was Christ? I really couldn't find him anywhere at the event.

This last part struck me hard. 

These churches had really worked to put together the event. They shopped for backpacks and school supplies, they set up booths, they gathered and sorted used clothes, they arranged for games and food...but they did virtually nothing to meet anyone's spiritual needs.

Now, to be fair, they did give out pocket New Testaments to any child who wanted one, and one time I heard the announcer mention a prayer booth where anyone could go and pray with one or two members of a church. (Every time I walked past, the booth was empty.)

And in the meantime, pop music was blaring - and sometimes the lyrics were, in my opinion, inappropriate. An announcer on a mic kept cheering for the volunteers and for the town itself, but never once mentioned God. When I asked several volunteers what churches were involved, they couldn't tell me; they could only name their own church. None of the volunteers I spoke with invited my family to their church. There were no invitations or announcements or anything else encouraging people to go to any of the churches or other church events. There was no mention of Jesus. There was no Gospel.

In short, it was basically a secular event.

This sort of thing saddens me deeply. Yes, Jesus told us to help others and do good things for them. (1 John 3:17 and Matt. 25: 35- 40, among many others)  But he also told us to tell everyone about the Gospel (Matt 28: 19). Because while it's a good thing to meet a person's physical needs, what matters most is that person's soul. If we put cash in a Redbox DVD case, but don't point the next renter to Christ, what have we really achieved? If we feed and clothe and school every person on the planet, but don't attempt to lead them away from Hell, what are we thinking? What are we feeling? We certainly aren't loving those people. In fact, we are showing them hatred. Because if we truly love them, we can't be satisfied with giving them food or clothes or anything else they think they need. If we truly love them, it pains us to think of them being separated from God for eternity.

Next time you "pay it forward," consider this. Could you put a Bible reference in that Redbox DVD, perhaps leading a curious person to look up a Bible online? Or the next time you bring dinner to a family going through a crisis, could you also give them a Bible and a list of sections in it that might help them get through that crisis? At your next church event to help the needy, could you say a prayer? Say "Praise God!"? Invite everyone to your church? Most importantly, give everyone a tract or a simple flyer explaining why Jesus died for our sins and how everyone has the choice whether or not to accept that gift?

Whatever you do, remember you are doing it for the Lord (Col. 3:23). It's not His will that any person should go to Hell. (Matt. 18:14) And he's charged YOU with explaining the gospel to them.

Dec 9, 2013

Operation Underground Railroad

There are more slaves alive today than at any other time in history. Nearly 2 million of them are children and about 8,000 American children are sold into slavery each year. But these children aren't being worked to death. Even the littlest amongst them are sex slaves. But here's the real kicker: Experts know where many of these children are - they just don't have the funds to rescue them.

Until recently. Operation Underground Railroad, powered by former FBI agents, CIA agents, Navy SEALs, and Green Berets, has made it their mission to rescue as many of these children as possible. “We know how to extract them. This is what we do,” their website states. “We rescue them and place them into safe havens where they can be rehabilitated. Then we go after the bad guys and break their organizations. Help us do this. Help us help the children.”

And Operation Underground Railroad moves fast. Recently, when the charity was mentioned on The Glenn Beck Program, they raised $300,000 in a single day and immediately deployed two rescue teams. One of the rescued children, kidnapped during Sunday School, was immedietly returned to his father.

There are a number of good organizations that fight human trafficking (my friend and fellow blogger Tanya Dennis' Justice Network is one regional organization worth joining), but what makes Operation Underground Railroad stand out from the rest is that they are focused on getting children out of sexual slavery and either restoring them to their families or finding them new a new family. In addition, they go after the bad guys, to make sure they don't hurt more children.

Please consider making a tax-free donation this Christmas season. You can also report tips on their website.


Jul 10, 2013

Teaching Kids Not to Covet

Coveting, or wanting what others have, is a huge problem in our society. It's what fuels occupy protestors. It's behind the cry for higher taxes. It's the basis of most television commercials. 

I think we all fall into the trap of coveting at least once in a while. Have you ever thoughtL "I wish my husband helped with the kids like her's does" or "It must be great to have a husband who helps with the housework. Wish mine did." Oops. That's coveting. And how many times have I heard other mothers say things like, "I wish we were able to take a yearly vacation like the Smith family." Or, given the right tone of voice, "It must be nice to have a grandma who watches the kids for you once a week." Oops again; that's coveting.

But as mothers, we are concerned not just with our personal sin, but about modeling correct thinking and behavior for our children. I feel pretty certain none of us wants our kids to grow up thinking everything should be given to them, or that if they want something somebody else has to get it for them. But with coveting being such a major feeling these days, how can we prevent them from growing up this way?

* Model good work ethic. 

* Avoid speaking covetous thoughts aloud. But if you slip, by all means, let your kids hear you ask God for forgiveness. You might also use such an occasion as a way to start a conversation about what coveting is and how the Ten Commandments show us it's wrong.

* Give your kids chores to do - no matter their age. Even toddlers can learn to work to make the home run more smoothly. (For ideas for age-appropriate chores, click here.)

* Let your kids work for stuff. For example, if your daughter really wants a new toy, suggest that she earn money to buy it herself. Not only does this help improve a child's work ethic, but it helps her learn not to be wasteful by not taking proper care of things. (And no, she doesn't have to go get a job at a local business, or even with a neighbor. It's just fine to give her extra chores around the house and then pay her for them.)

* Encourage your children to give to those in need. Help them to see that it's their personal responsibility to help the needy.

* Volunteer at a shelter or travel to a third world country (even if only via the Internet). Help your kids see how much they truly have.

* Encourage thankfulness. Every day, have your child thank God for at least one thing. Once in a while, have each child write (in words or pictures) things they are thankful for. When times are tough for your child and he is struggling with covetness, ask him to name a few things he is especially grateful for.

* Read 1 Kings 21. In this story, a king's covetness leads to murder. It's an extreme example, but see if you and your child can think of other stories where jealousy and covetness lead to bad things.

* Help your child think things through. If she is upset because she doesn't have the latest video game, ask, "If you had it, would you really be any happier? What if your friend got 10 new games - would you still feel as happy?" Encourage your child to come to the conclusion that things you can't buy are what truly make us happy.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

"No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough." Proverbs 13:4

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." I Thessalonians 4:11-12

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Colossians 3:23

" For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10 

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8 

"[Let them do] something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." Ephesians 4:28

Feb 14, 2013

This Child Needs Your Help

Alexander ("Xander")
In August of 2012, doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri told Alexander ("Xander") Speidel's parents his marrow was failing and a bone marrow transplant was needed. Xander's mommy is my friend, Liberty Speidel. 

Soon, Liberty and Xander made a trip to see experts in Seattle, Washington, who agreed a transplant is necessary to save Xander's life.

Xander was born in 2010 with a rare genetic disorder called Shwachman Diamond Syndrome (SDS). While many areas of his health are affected (skin, pancreas, bone formation and growth, etc.), one of the primary problems it causes is bone marrow failure, which can lead to leukemia. In a patient with Shwachman Diamond, leukemia is almost always a death sentence.

This March, Xander and Liberty will journey to Seattle Children's Hospital and the Seattle Cancer Care
Alliance so he can receive a life-saving bone marrow transplant—before he develops leukemia. A fully
matched donor has been identified; now his family just has to get to and pay for treatment…and it is costly. That's why I'm asking for your help. As a mom who's had a child whose been near death, I know well that any additional burdens can seem completely overwhelming.
Please, first and foremost, pray for the Spiedels. Then please consider helping Xander's family shoulder these costs. (For easy ways to do that, scroll down to the bottom of this post. To learn more about the Speidels, read on.)

The Speidel family. (Photo by J. Smith innovations Photography)

Me: Liberty, what was the first sign of Xander's condition? What lead you to seek medical help for him?

Liberty: Xander was a full-term, seemingly healthy baby. He was born at 8 lbs, 1 oz. - so not exactly small! But it took over a month for him to get back to his birth weight. By the time he was 3 1/2 months old, he still hadn't cleared 9 lbs. At that time, doctors said he had "failure to thrive" (FTT). 

However, it was a severe case of eczema that sent us to a dermatologist at Children's Mercy Hospital that fall. At the time, our pediatrician believed his eczema could be related to his FTT, and in a way it was. I will always be thankful for our dermatologist because she was and remains a bulldog on his medical care. She had him hospitalized twice - once over Thanksgiving, and again over Christmas - trying to get to the bottom of why he just would not gain weight. We didn't get any answers then, but when a routine blood test came back with abnormal liver enzyme levels, it was his dermatologist who told us she wanted him to see a hepatologist (liver and gastorintestinal doctor.) Very quickly, our hepatologist realized Xander had Shwachman Diamond Syndrome. A genetic test confirmed this, and that opened up a whole other ball of wax.

Xander and his sister.
As to why he needs a transplant, we've never really seen anything "wrong" with him that would indicate he's sick. Yes, he's small. Yes, he has to take medication literally with every meal. If it hadn't been for a routine bone marrow biopsy (routine for people with Shwachman Diamond), we may not have known that Xander's marrow was failing. 

Me: Would you mind sharing a little about how his diagnosis affected your family - both practically and spiritually?

Liberty: Right now, we just keep on keeping on. We take everything a day at a time. But I'd be lying if I said I just accepted everything in the beginning. There have been many days I've been mad at God, even second-guessed whether marrying my husband was a good idea in the first place (because this is a genetic disease; we got "lucky" in the genetics department and are both carriers for the gene that causes Shwachman Diamond). For about the first six weeks after we learned Xander needed a transplant, I cried at the drop of a hat - and I'm not what you'd call an overly-emotional person. We're very fortunate to have groups through our church to support us, to pray for us, and who check-up on us. I just wish they could go with me to Seattle!

Me: Why does Xander have to go all the way from your home state of Kansas to Seattle, Washington?

Liberty: We have good doctors here. I'd be very comfortable having Xander's transplant done in Kansas City. However, the top specialist in Xander's disease is in Seattle. And the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle had access to a low-dose chemo drug that isn't widely available in America - most certainly not in Kansas City. Because Xander already has some very minor liver damage, we're worried about what chemo drugs will do to him. This chemotherapy regimen is specially designed to bypass the liver, which will, in turn, give him a greater chance of long-term health post transplant. 

Between the drugs and the expertise, it seemed like the best option for Xander was to take him to Seattle. But believe me, it was no easy decision. My husband and I spent two months debating it before I finally agreed to go to Seattle.

Me: You'll be going with Xander to Seattle. What will happen with the rest of your family?

Liberty: Because we need to be able to maintain our insurance, my husband will be staying home for the most part and working. I've been trying to prep our daughter (Felicity, 4) for the last couple months that she'll be going on a "great adventure" when Mommy takes her brother to Seattle. When I'm up there, and Xander's inpatient, she won't be able to stay with me because siblings can't stay overnight in the hospital room. So, she'll be spending a lot of time with grandparents and aunts and uncles (and cousins!) around the Mid-west until she can come out and stay with us for short periods of time. Both of them will be coming out to visit as they're able.

Me: How long will you be in Seattle?

Liberty: We expect to be in Seattle between 4 and 6 months, depending on how well Xander recovers. If he has a lot of problems, we could easily be there longer, but typically, 100 days from the day of transplant is when most patients are released and can go home.

Me: Statistically, it's difficult for marriages to survive the illness of a child. How are you and your husband safeguarding your marriage?

Liberty: This is a difficult question to answer, because I don't feel like we've been terribly proactive on this front. I'm trying to find a way that my husband will have his own computer so we'll be able to Skype so we get more than just a voice on the other end of the phone. We've already agreed that I can't make any big decisions regarding our son's care until I've talked it over with him. With the two hour time difference, this could get interesting! 

But, you know, after thinking about it a bit, my husband and I have been through some pretty tough waters already in our 10+ years of marriage - things that would probably have caused many couples to split. And, though I've told him I'm afraid of the repercussions of my being gone for so long, I do believe that God will get us through this trial. I can't see the path, but I'm clinging to Him to guide us one step at a time - me in Seattle, and my husband in Kansas City. 

I do know one thing: I will be very happy when our doctors tell me Xander's healthy enough to come home. I may not be able to wait for my husband to get a flight to help us drive - I may be so eager to get home, I'll drive all 30 hours by myself!

You can help!
1. Pray.

2. Eat at Chick-fil-A (7500 W 135th Street in Overland Park, Kansas,) from 5 – 8 PM on
Thursday, February 28th, 2013.
20% of all receipts designated for Xander's Transplant will go to
the family for travel and medical expenses. In order for your meal to go into the fund, you must tell
your cashier it's for Xander's Transplant.

3. Buy skin care products. Two of Liberty's friends are hosting fundraisers through their skin care companies.
Please contact the host prior to making an order for additional instructions on ordering.

Intuitiv by Nature
Host: Maria Holiday 

Arbonne International
Host: Liberty Brammer

4. Send a check to:
Alexander Speidel's Transplant Fund
c/o US Bank
15610 Shawnee Mission Parkway
Shawnee, KS 66217

Donations may be taken to any US Bank location nationwide. If your location has trouble locating the
account, they can call the above location at 913.248.2850.

For more information, follow Xander's page on Facebook. 

Aug 31, 2012

Where to Donate Garden Produce

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. "

Did you know that if your garden is brimming with food you can share it with more than just your neighbors? Many charitable organizations accept garden fresh produce, making gardening an excellent way to not only feed your family, but to feed the needy.

Although it's always wise to call ahead of time to make sure the charity or organization accepts garden fresh produce, here are some places that are generally eager for it:

* Battered women and children shelters.
* Homeless shelters.
* Soup kitchens.
* Community food banks.
* Church food banks.
* Community sharing programs.

Find these sources through a Google search or by visiting, or

It's important to remember a few things before donating to any organization:

* The vast majority only accept fresh produce - not home canned or home frozen produce.
* Produce should be at it's peak; don't donate questionably old produce. Those in need deserve better - and by the time the food actually gets to the needy, it may be inedible.
* Produce should be freshly picked. Again, if it's been sitting around a while, by the time it gets to the needy it may be spoiled.
* You don't have to have bushels full of produce to donate; even small amounts make a difference.

Can you donate some fresh produce today?

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Dec 5, 2011

Getting Children Involved in Charity

Last month, I posted some ideas about encouraging generosity in children. This month, I've been challenged to find more elaborate ways for my daughter to show generosity and charity. She's participating in a Character Fair where she must complete a project related to a these traits. But because the project must take a bit of time to complete, and because she's just 6, it's been a bit of a challenge to find charity work she can truly do on her own. But after a lot of mind-picking, thought, and prayer, I think we've come up with some ideas. See if one of these ideas is suitable for your child, too.

* Children who knit can make simple hats, blankets, and similar items for premature babies and others in need. Find places to donate knitted items at Knitting for Charity and

* Children who can sew can make parachutes for sneaking Bibles and Christian literature into countries where they are banned. There are also charities that accept home sewn blankets, clothes, and other items for the needy; for some ideas, visit and Cyber Seams.

* Kindergarteners on up can find ways to raise money for charities, like collecting and turning in aluminum cans, or doing chores for neighbors.

* Any child can sponsor a needy child - with a little help from you. Let your child do extra chores for your family, or for other relatives and friends. Send the money they earn to a needy child organization every month, then help your child write letters to their sponsored child. (I highly recommend Compassion International, which not takes care of the material needs of children, but also their spiritual needs.) The sponsored child will also send photos and letters back, teaching your child about life in other nations. In addition, kids can earn extra money to send practical gifts to those in need, including livestock, building materials, and eyeglasses.

What other charitable projects might kids get involved in?

Nov 18, 2011

Teaching Kids Generosity

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

Mathew 25: 34-40

Do you ever look around the world and think: What selfish, self-centered people! You're not alone.

It's natural for young children to thinking selfishly, but it's our job as parents to lead them away from this behavior toward generosity, compassion, and biblical servitude.

One way to do this is to help our kids focus on giving. Any time of year is the right time to give, but with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner - and, often, gluttony along with them - fall and winter are ideal times to focus on generosity.

* Together, read and memorize Bible verses on generosity. (Ideas include the parable of the sheep and goats, Acts 20:35, Prov. 19:17, 2 Cor. 9:6-7, 1 John 3:17, Prov. 14:31, and Luke 12:233-34.)

* Teach your children about those with less. We are extraordinarily wealthy in the United States - so much so, we often loose track of just how much more we have than so many others around the world. An easy way to show your children what life is like elsewhere is to do a few Google image searches. For example, you could search "third world children" and come up with a wealth of images of undernourished kids, children doing back breaking work, and extremely modest housing and clothing. Print out the images and help your child stick them into a purse-sized photo album or turn them into a lapbook project. Then start discussing the images: "Do you think that house is warm or cold? Do those children have lots of toys? What do you think it's like for a child to go to work each day?"

* If a disaster takes place, share it with your child. You may not want to share a news report with young children, but you can still show them carefully selected images of a recent earthquake, flood, or other disaster. Ask questions like, "Where do you think that man will live now that his home is ruined? How long do you think he might have to work to earn money to replace it? Do you think he has enough food?"

* Allow your kids to see your generosity. If you give a homeless man a meal, your kids will notice and learn.

Link * Take care of others together. Volunteer - as a family - at the local homeless shelter, or get involved in a group that visits the elderly.

Link * Give your children a way to help on their own. Give your child opportunities to earn money - give them extra chores, for example, or help him gather and turn in soda cans - then teach him how to set some aside for charity. Help him choose a cause for that money to go to; for small children, offer only two or three choices, to make the selection less daunting. Try to make sure your child knows exactly what her money or donation is going toward. Some ideas include a local Christmas giving tree for children, a care package for children living in poverty, or Blanket and a Bible.

How do you help your children learn thankfulness and generosity?

Jun 29, 2011

Learning Servanthood

As I think about the most important things I can help my children learn, right near the top - just under learning to love and obey God - is servanthood. Servanthood isn't easy to learn in a world that's increasingly self-centered, but I'm working hard to make serving others a priority in our home - because, without a true heart for servanthood, we can never serve God.

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

"After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, 'Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them." John 13:12-17

But just how can we help our children learn this important lesson? Here are some ideas:

* Read stories of Jesus' servanthood. Point out that his mission here on earth was to be the ultimate servant - sacrificing himself for others.

* Be a servant yourself. If you grumble while doing for others, your kids will learn to grumble while serving others, too. So next time you're tempted to grump because (for example) your child wants something from you when you're busy doing something else, bite your tongue.

* Whenever you help friends, family, or strangers, say "Off we go to be God's hands!" Young children will enjoy tracing their hands on paper, cutting the shapes out, and decorating them as a reminder. Ask your children to think about times they've seen God's hands when others served them.

* Encourage your children to think about how others feel. Empathy is an important step toward true servant-hood.

* Encourage a good work ethic in your children. When we're lazy, we don't want to lift a hand to help others. Make sure each child has a list of family chores they must accomplish each day.

* Be sure your kids understand where money comes from: God. Then give (or make) each child a piggy bank that makes visualizing money for charity easier. When your children are moved by images of a disaster or people living in poverty, encourage them to give. There's also no reason they shouldn't give in church.

* Be an example of discerning servanthood. Is it better to give the man begging on the street cash or food? Read more on this topic over at Focus on the Family.

* Teach your kids to pray for others. Finger prayers are a good way for young children to learn this (more info here), or teach your children to pray through the alphabet. (For each letter, the child thinks of a person's name starting with that letter, and prays for that person's needs as specifically as possible.)

How do you help your children learn a love for serving others?

Jun 14, 2011

Teaching Kids about Persecuted Christians

In the United States we know next to nothing about true persecution. That's why I love Voice of the Marytr's "Kids of Courage" website. It offers an easy way to expose your children to the needs of others while opening their eyes about the sort of freedom we enjoy in the U.S.

At the website, you and your kids can find kid-friendly, recent stories about Christians in countries that persecute them, a map showing where Christians are most persecuted, fun and educational puzzles and activities, videos, and (if you sign up for free) downloadable activity books.

Make a Colombian snack with bananas, learn games from various parts of the world, learn some foreign language phrases (including how to praise God in 10 languages), make a Chinese picture scroll, learn facts about many countries (including their prominent religions), and much, much more. The downloadable activity books alone are a fantastic resource for parents who want their kids to learn about other countries.

I think you'll find Voice of the Martyrs in general and Kids of Courage in particular enrich your family's life. Check it out today!

Dec 1, 2010

Christmas Care Pack for Needy Children

One of the things I love about Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is the way they come up with affordable, tangible ways for Americans to give to Christians who are seriously persecuted. In preparation for Christmas, for example, VOM is offering two different care packages that can make a real difference in the lives of persecuted people in India.

For children, donate just $25 and send a child clothing and shoes, toiletries (like a toothbrush and soap), school supplies (including a backpack, paper, pencils, and pens), food and vitamins, a children's Bible and Christian storybooks. What an incredible way to spend $25!

For $75, VOM also offers a "village outreach" care package that includes lots of ministry materials for church leaders, including practical items like a flashlight and batteries, Bibles, tracts, food, soap and household items, clothing, and a solar powered MP3 player loaded with gospel messages.

VOM's "Blanket and a Bible" outreach also continues. Just send in a blanket (new or gently used) and VOM will mail it, along with a children's Bible, to a needy Christian child in the Sudan. It doesn't get more affordable than that!

Can you spare an extra $25 or $75 this Christmas? Donate here.

Nov 10, 2010

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

It affects one out of every eight infants.

It's the leading cause of newborn death in the United States.

Each year, half a million American babies struggle with it.

In a majority of cases, doctors cannot say why it happens.

"It" is prematurity.

Our firstborn was born 3 1/2 months early; she spent 4 months in the hospital, then years in therapy. Today she's basically a healthy child - which is not only a testament to God's hand in her life, but also to the recent and vast improvements in caring for preemies. Improvements that were only possibly through the support of such organizations as The March of Dimes and The Children's Miracle Network.

Unfortunately, not all preemies are as fortunate as our daughter. Many struggle with disabilities and health problems all their lives.

Here's what you can do:

* Use the SHARE buttons below to spread the word about prematurity throughout the Internet.

* If you know someone who's pregnant, send them a link to this article.

* If you're pregnant, be sure to check out the signs and symptoms of premature labor.

* If you know someone who's recently had a preemie, offer help. Parents with newborn preemies spend most of their time in the hospital, so aid in the form of meals, free housework, and gas cards (to get to the hospital) and always appreciated.

* And be sure to visit The March of Dimes and The Children's Miracle Network for information on how you can help treat prematurity.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Spread the word.

Oct 4, 2010

A Blanket and a Bible

Want an easy way to make a real difference in a child's life? Send a blanket (new or quality used) plus $2 to Voice of the Martyrs and they will send your blanket and an illustrated Bible to a needy child in the Sudan.

Christians in Sudan suffer great persecution from the Islamic regime in the area, and children few material possessions. However, a good blanket is something every Sudanese child could use. As is a copy of He Lived Among Us, a children's Bible storybook.

For information on where to send your blanket and $2, visit the Voice of the Martyrs website.

Sep 10, 2010

Be a Bible Smuggler

You and your children can be Bible smugglers, help persecuted Christians throughout the world, and develop a better sense of thanksgiving - all through one free source.

Voice of the Martyrs is my favorite magazine. It's slender, but every time I receive a new copy in the mail, I can hardly wait to read it. The magazine (the publisher calls it a "newsletter," but it's full color and laid out just like a magazine) offers true stories of Christians throughout the world who are suffering persecution. In communist and Muslim-controlled areas, for example, Bibles are illegal, and so is any telling of the gospel. Yet despite this, Christians in those nations still worship God and tell others about Jesus' saving grace. Very quickly, I'm reminded just how fortunate we are to live in the United States, where Christians never wallow in filthy prisons or put their lives in danger because they love Jesus. My problems and worries seem very small, indeed, and I never fail to feel inspired by the perseverance and faith of the modern-day martyrs I read about.

Read this magazine with your children. Or, if your kids are young, show them the photographs and retell the stories in your own words. Talk about religious freedom and the spiritual, political, and religious reasons not everyone enjoys it. Together, learn about which nations restrict Christian activity, and add the martyrs you read about to your prayer lists.

Becoming a Bible smuggler is also an exciting activity to do with your children - and you can do it from the safety of your home. Voice of the Martyrs isn't just about reporting; it's about doing. They smuggle Bibles into countries where they are illegal and offer support to the families of Christians sent to prison for their faith. All through donations as small as $5. A more worthy charity there is not.

Jul 5, 2010

Moms Helping Moms

Last week I learned an acquaintance - a bright eyed, warmly smiling mother of two children under 5 - committed suicide. It's almost all I've been able to think about. Not only do I mourn for Mary*, her two small children, her husband, her family, and her close friends, but I wonder: Is there anything I could have done to stop this tragedy?

Being a mom is difficult. More difficult, I believe, than it once was. A hundred years ago, women lived near relatives who knew it was their duty to help. If relatives were unavailable, neighbors with older children took it upon themselves to help. It was expected, because women keenly understood that mothering without help from others is impossible.

One could even argue being a mom is even more difficult than it once was. Today, it's often not considered enough to be a stay-at-home mom and housewife. No, people expect you to travel, to participate in events, to do some kind of "real" work - to be a super hero.

In Mary's case, her marriage was near divorce. Her family was out of state. She didn't have a regular shoulder to lean on, an understanding friend to watch the kids when things got rough, or a neighbor who warmly offered a hand.

Why don't women reach out to help each other any more? This is what I ponder as I realize I'm as guilty of this as anybody.

Images of Mary flash through my brain: The glow she had when her husband complimented her performance in a local theater production. Her laugh as she told me how much she loved being a mommy. Her smile as she talked about getting together for a play date. A play date that never happened. I never followed through. She never followed through.

But today as I think about the difficulties of motherhood, I vow to be a better woman. I vow to lift my head from my consuming role as mother to two small children and notice other moms like me. Moms who need encouraging. Moms who need to talk. Moms who need someone to pray with. Moms who need help.

Please, help another mom today - and every day.

* Not her real name.