Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A hard topic

Do you see this beautiful girl?

I love this kid, this one who drives me completely crazy already and hormones aren't even an issue on her end yet. She is so funny and smart and confident. She is boneheaded and silly and creative. She is stubborn and fierce and pokey. She is exuberant and free and healthy.

I've wanted to post about something hard for weeks now, but knew that I needed a good chunk of time to get my thoughts about it straight first. I have a feeling that they're still going to ping pong everywhere so bear with me.

Several weeks ago our church had some guest speakers. They came all the way from Moldova in Europe. For those of you, like me, who have no idea where that is, it's a neighbor of Romania and Ukraine. It's sandwiched between them. You can peek at a map here and get a better idea.

These visitors began to talk to us about human trafficking and what a serious problem it is in Moldova. They showed us video clips of these orphan girls who simply disappear off the streets, who are sold, who are beaten and mistreated and abused. Heart-wrenching doesn't even come close to the words needed to describe the situation. They spoke of intervening groups who try to get these girls into safe houses, to educate them and feed them and show them other ways of life. Two of these groups are called Stella's Voice and New Hope Moldova.

Stella's Voice came about because of a physically handicapped girl named Stella who was sold and died before she turned 20. The founder was absolutely wrecked over this young girl that he couldn't save in time. You can read more about Stella's Voice and the amazing inroads they are making in saving these girls here.

New Hope Moldova is doing similar work. You can read more about their organization and purpose here to see what I mean. Please check out these links. Lots of times we want to help but seem to get stuck trying to reinvent the wheel. These organizations are already on the ground in these countries, working with the orphans, building transition houses for them, providing job skills and mentors. The girls who go through these programs then mentor other girls and teach them that there are other options available.

One of the hardest things to hear was about the lack of room the founders originally had. They could choose three girls, because that's all the beds they had. There were fifteen girls in line for three beds. Three girls were chosen and saved. The rest melted away. One of the chosen ones eventually got in contact with one of the others who were sent away. She asked this girl, "what was your lowest day, your worst day?" The homeless girl told her, "Christmas. I was used by 95 men."

You read that right. Ninety-five men. On Christmas. This poor chosen girl, who had no choice in the choosing, has to carry around the knowledge that that could have been her. That it DID happen to another girl. If that doesn't break your heart like the heart of God must be breaking, then I honestly don't know what will.  


This girl, my girl, has lived a decade of a safe, prosperous life. This girl could just have easily been born to other parents, in another country, one where maybe she wouldn't even been seen as a citizen. Maybe her parents would have had to sell her to become a bride to an older man as in Yemen. Maybe she would have become an orphan in Moldova, to be sent out of the orphanage at the age of 16 or 17 to take her chances on the streets. Maybe she'd grow up a child of a wealthy celebrity. Maybe she'll grow up and discover the cure for AIDS.

Those are all maybes. The facts are that girls especially are not so fortunate in many parts of our world. Maybe we can't do anything to prevent mass shootings like the one at the Navy Yard. But we CAN help. Some of you are thinking, "what I could give would just be a drop in the bucket."

A drop in a bucket makes ripples that affect the entire bucket.

When our church was asked to give, we gave. We gave gladly. Our church, with all its branch campuses throughout all its services for the entire weekend, gave $371,000. I don't say that to brag; I say that to let you know that now instead of one more transitional home, they can now build two. Every single dollar bill helped make that difference. Every decision to forgo the weekly Starbucks order to be able to help the orphans out. Every choice to empty the loose change from the pockets of the jeans being worn helped. Each person who tossed any amount of money be it big or small into that offering plate or online got to participate in being the hope of the world.

Most likely, we will never meet the girls our donation helped. But we were blessed with an opportunity to partner in something greater that is making a difference in bringing light to a world full of darkness. I don't know if it's my heart or my brain that won't even let my imagination go to where those girls are in the darkness. I suspect it's a bit of both. For some, that's their reality, while I sit here in air conditioning with lights that flip on and a fridge full of food. Our family has too many clothes and too many toys. I imagine a lot of you are in the same boat. We are blessed beyond measure. In every aspect.

But it could just as easily have been me in Moldova. Or my mother or her sisters. Or my daughter. Only by the grace of God are we born where and when we are. That much should be obvious. What else should be obvious is that when money is being asked for, it's usually because it's needed. We are headed into the holidays, times when we get to reflect with family and friends on our blessings. Perhaps instead of stressing out over gifts for people who already have too much and don't even necessarily want more (which would be most of us, truthfully), why not do some homework, look into these organizations or others that touch YOUR heart, and seriously give what you can give to make your difference.

I think about what I have and I think about this verse. Luke 12:48 reads, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded..." I hate to think I need to be shamed into giving. I think we've been blessed with much so that we can bless others much. I want to set a good example for our children, so that they in turn can grow into generous, compassionate adults.

I try not to use this blog to preach. I try to keep it about the kids, mostly. But today if I can help MORE kids by telling all y'all about these organizations, I'm seizing that chance. Perhaps you'll never go to Moldova. Perhaps a piece of your heart will.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Erie Orchard 2013

One of Damon's very favorite places is "da apple owchawd" where we go every year to pick apples, drink homemade cider, and partake in way too many donuts. He just loves running around outside, picking every apple he can reach whether it's ready or not, and devouring donuts.

This year we got to take PaPa and Grandmama! I can't believe we've been here almost 8 years and this is their first time! They arrived at our house that morning and we popped them straight into the car after lunch so we could go play. Erie Orchard had their official opening weekend one week after we were there, so we got all the apples to ourselves in peace, which is just the way I like it.

It was a perfect day, weather-wise, and everyone had a good time collecting yummy, crisp apples before we wandered back to the entrance for the cider and donuts. Even PaPa was impressed, and he's had a lot of places to try sweets in his lifetime. ;)  

Poor Damon crashed hard on the way home, though, since we'd missed his nap. Gramps would have said he's catching flies, hehe! That's one tuckered out apple picker.
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Monday morning

Triskal is wishing for a longer tongue as she finishes off our peanut butter jar. She makes me smile.

So does this monkey, who has two settings these days. "I'm hunnry" and "can I play on da iPad?"
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