I have been changed –
to bring change, to bring change.
[music and lyrics by Aaron Niequist]
There has been much press lately about this video of Jim Wolf. Jim is a veteran without a home and lives here in Grand Rapids. He’s often found at Dégagé, a beautiful ministry downtown that offers an alternative to the streets. In September, Jim was given a makeover and saw himself, for the first time in years, as the man he used to be. Physically. He saw possibility and hope and, I pray, incredible memories in that mirror. The internet poured out support and shares and likes… but the reality is, that Jim is still struggling. It was an incredible first step, but that makeover didn’t fix his life. We saw that coming, right? Alcoholism, PTSD, homelessness… they aren’t easy problems to address, much less fix. The roots are deep and entangled and easily fed.
But effort, any effort, is an act of love and for that I applaud Rob Bliss for his idea. Anything that brings our attention beyond our front porches, anything that opens our hearts a little wider, anything that speaks to a broken core… bring it.
Flood the lights and open the doors.
Human trafficking, poverty, clean water, starvation, infection, lack of medical treatment… we are surrounded by a dying world in one form or another. Even the sane-est, the clean-est, the rich-est of us… we are dying.
There is no way around that save Jesus returning and restoring this earth. Might we do some work in the meantime? Let’s put faith into action.
Here are a few practical, tangible ways we can be the hands and feet of Love. ‘Tis especially the season for starting new traditions… and I think you may find something below that makes your heart smile.
How can we live out redemption’s melody?
Your family will be eating dinner together in a couple weeks. Many of us will add leaves to our tables and open the door to aunts and uncles and cousins and a million awkward conversations. How about if we put that conversation on hold for just a second (there’s no way to completely avoid it- you know that) and write a holiday card to a service member who will be away from family for the holidays? Have a bunch of cards and paper and crayons and markers and ask everyone- from youngest to oldest, loudest to shyest– to say Happy Holidays and Thank you. Put those cards (no envelopes) in a big manila envelope and mail it, immediately. Your deadline is December 6th.
Give to super typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines:
The most amazing piece of the writing conference I attended last month was the chance to meet the people behind some incredible overseas ministries. These are the people I talked with, along with link to their websites and mission statements:
Operation Christmas Child – fill a shoebox with practical and loving items that will then be given to children all over the world (Many of your schools are tackling this one this season. It’s SUPER kiddo friendly!)
Sole Hope – buy a simple pattern kit and video for $10 and have your family members cut out shoes from old jeans. The shoes are sewn together by women in Uganda… all you have to do is cut the pieces out. (Mulder family, get ready- we’re doing this!)
Free the Girls – donate gently used bras to FTG, who will then give them to former sex slaves who use them to make a living selling used clothing while they recover and build a new life (Mulder women, we’re on this one, too… start going through your drawers, literally.)
The Exodus Road – help rescue a child from sex slavery by volunteering to host an event, sponsor TER corporately, blog for rescue, host a book club, or even be on a search and rescue team
Freeset – A fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. They make quality jute bags and organic cotton t-shirts, but their business is freedom!
Buying from Freeset makes you a small part of the solution. (People I know and love may or may not be receiving gifts in Freeset bags… act surprised.)
Pure Charity – like a kickstarter fund for your tithing idea; a “personal charity savings account”
Ornaments for Orphans – This December 50 million Americans will set up Christmas trees in their homes. Buying a handmade ornament from here gives money to a ministry helping those in Uganda, Africa who have been orphaned due to AIDS.
Mercy House Kenya – The Mercy House exists to raise funds to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House aids in education, nutrition, housing, prenatal care, Bible study, counseling and job skills for sustainable living. You can write letters of encouragement, buy supplies, or donate money.
Blood:Water Mission – loving on Africa by addressing the HIV/AIDS and water crises; help your kids start a lemonAID stand!
That’s a start, right? There are thousands more, but that’s a start. These are all ideas that serve the global community, which is often harder for me to wrap my brain (and heart) around. Let’s talk local, too. What does your family support? Where do you go locally? I’d love to make this list of accessible service projects PAGES long.