Thursday, March 10, 2011

Off to Ghana, Upcoming Posts, Refugee Update, & Books that Changed Everything!

We are off to Ghana this morning! Our flight leaves Des Moines at 7am and we will arrive in Accra, Ghana tomorrow afternoon…around 1:50pm (Ghana time)! Today will be my last blog post until we get back from our trip. I am looking forward to having a little break from writing, but I know I will have much to share about our time in Ghana when I get back! I was hoping to get a write-up done yesterday regarding the Adopt-A-Refugee-Family program that we are launching this month, but there are so many details to share that I didn’t want to rush through getting it written. Be watching for that information when we return. I am also getting ready to start a new series on my blog called “Everyone Has A Story Worth Telling”. I’ve had the idea for it for about a year now (those of you who live near Ames know that this is the signature slogan of our local coffee shop!) and will be starting posts soon. Mainly through Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program I have been meeting SO MANY people from all walks of life who have the MOST AMAZING stories. Everything from miraculous healings, to fleeing from Hurricane Katrina, to cool adoption stories – one family in Jake’s program has adopted 8 times! God is doing incredible things in the lives of many people, and I want to start sharing about it. I’ve also realized that many people are going through some really hard things, but they are making it through, and I want to share about what they are learning amidst their trials. Like the title of the series says, I really, truly feel that each and every person in this world has a story worth telling. I am hoping to feature a few stories per month to start. I’d been praying that God would bring along the perfect intro story for the series, and last week He did. Once you hear this gal’s story you are going to FREAK OUT! :) I have been putting this series off because I knew it was going to take a lot of time and work….mainly finding the time to do interviews, preparing questions beforehand, and sort of becoming like a newspaper article writer…turning interviews and thoughts into stories…something I am not sure that I know how to do. However, seeing the results of Dau’s incredible story a few weeks ago really inspired me that these sorts of stories need to be shared more!

Also, along the lines of blog posts, I was asked to do a guest post on a friend’s blog regarding practical insights for ‘How to Start an Adoption’. If you are interested you can watch for my post which will be on her blog sometime next week:

Here is a little update from our friends over at U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants (USCRI) – I bold-faced the best part:

As many of you know, we are continuing to collect donations- from clothing and household items to tables, beds and couches. We are looking for interested volunteers who can assist with picking up donations and bringing them to our office or storage space. Please let me know if this is a service you think would fit your schedule and interest. There is not much time commitment but it is a great help that will allow us to better serve our refugees.

Along with our wonderful influx of donations- we have been lucky enough to gain additional storage space from Dino's Storage on 2nd Avenue. However, in the last few weeks our donations have surpassed our space and we are now searching for a larger storage that can accommodate the generosity of donations. We are contacting our leads and we ask you to do the same. If you, or someone you know has spare storage, warehouse or garage space- we are in need!

For an update outside of donations: we are now on Facebook! Search for our USCRI Des Moines page and help spread awareness and interest by becoming a fan. We will continue to update our Facebook page with other information, news, pictures and events- including our upcoming Volunteer Orientation Thursday, March 24th at 6pm.

Your support and interest in refugee work has been awesome! If you have any other questions or ideas don't hesitate to contact us. Email: Phone: 515-310-0117

HEE HEE, I LOVE IT!!!! I KNEW you guys would rock the house on donations!!! Seriously, I have been AMAZED every time I am in Jake’s gym as to how many people have dropped stuff off. Just an FYI – each night we move donations from the front office area to a storage space in the back of the facility, so if you’ve dropped items off and didn’t see any others in there that is why. Also, please keep the donations coming, the need will be ongoing, especially as more families start to come in. A lot of people have asked me if they need clothing donations – the answer is YES! USCRI has a new office space that they will be moving into soon, and within that space they will have one entire room in which clothing and smaller items will be kept. This will allow the refugees to come and sort through clothes/sizes and select what they need for their family. If you have no idea what any of this refugee stuff is about, you can read my initial post here:

Lastly, I realized the other day that I haven’t ever posted about the awesome books Jake and I have been reading that have really encouraged us to start living out our faith. All of these books were recommended by good friends, and each time we read one of them it seemed like scripture opened up in a whole new way. I am posting them below in a good order of which to read first and so on (a good order according to Jake that is). Maybe over spring break you can start in on one of these! I just finished up Forgotten God and will be reading The Hole In Our Gospel on our trip (I’ve only read excerpts that Jake has pointed me to, not the whole thing yet so I am very excited). All of these books are extremely scripturally based. Here is the rundown:

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God
By: Francis Chan
God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we're missing it? It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrifi cing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you've verbalized it yet or not.we all know something's wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts-it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

The Hole In Our Gospel
By: Richard Stearns
"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." - St. Francis of Assisi - It's 1998 and Richard Stearns' heart is breaking as he sits in a mud hut and listens to the story of an orphaned child in Rakai, Uganda. His journey to this place took more than a long flight from the United States to Africa. It took answering God's call on his life, a call that hurtled him out of his presidential corner office at Lenox-America's finest tableware company-to this humble corner of Uganda. This is a story of how a corporate CEO faced his own struggle to obey God whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Using his own journey as an example, Stearns explores the hole that exists in our understanding of the Gospel. Two thousand years ago, twelve people changed the world. Stearns believes it can happen again.

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
By: Francis Chan
A follow up to the profound message of Crazy Love, Pastor Francis Chan offers a compelling invitation to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives. In the name of the Father, the Son, and … the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two? As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit—the Helper—so that we could be true and living witnesses for Christ. Unfortunately, today’s church has admired the gift but neglected to open it. Breakthrough author Francis Chan rips away paper and bows to get at the true source of the church’s power—the Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we’ve ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan’s invitation to stop and remember the One we’ve forgotten, the Spirit of the living God.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
By: David Platt

WHAT IS JESUS WORTH TO YOU? It's easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily... BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU? In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple--then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a "successful" suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus. Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment --a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

The Irresistible Revolution: Living As An Ordinary Radical
By: Shane Claiborne
Many of us find ourselves caught somewhere between unbelieving activists and inactive believers. We can write a check to feed starving children or hold signs in the streets and feel like we've made a difference without ever encountering the faces of the suffering masses. In this book, Shane Claiborne describes an authentic faith rooted in belief, action, and love, inviting us into a movement of the Spirit that begins inside each of us and extends into a broken world. Shane's faith led him to dress the wounds of lepers with Mother Teresa, visit families in Iraq amidst bombings, and dump $10,000 in coins and bills on Wall Street to redistribute wealth. Shane lives out this revolution each day in his local neighborhood, an impoverished community in North Philadelphia, by living among the homeless, helping local kids with homework, and "practicing resurrection" in the forgotten places of our world. Shane's message will comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable . . . but will also invite us into an irresistible revolution. His is a vision for ordinary radicals ready to change the world with little acts of love.

On our trip Jake is going to be finishing up the book he is currently reading called When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor…and yourself. And he will be starting The Price of Stones: Building A School for My Village.

See you all when we get back!!!!!!!!

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