Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is it Enough?

In the corner… all alone. Oh how my fingers tremble trying to put ill equipped words to the situation of the fatherless. The child sitting in the dirt, his skin struggling to stretch over his bones, and his eyes- those empty eyes- they are open but they look at nothing. His mouth closed tight. It gave up on asking for food or love or care of any kind long ago. What’s the point when no one ever responds? All around him well fed children play in the dirt, laughing and dancing. No one pays him mind. He’s all alone. His parents left him. His caretakers ignore him. He isn’t fed. He isn’t loved. He doesn’t know touch or attention of any kind.

My mind cannot even fathom. I write in fragmented phrases because

how can I form a sentence that even begins to grapple at this pain? How many more children are all alone, sitting in the corner abandoned? How many won’t be found and rescued? How many will we never hear about? And how do I spend my days worrying about test scores and how do I spend money on new clothes and jewelry?

This is an emergency. 147 MILLION orphans. How do we even begin to reach them? How do we even start to open our eyes to them and soften our hearts to their pain? Must we force our heads to turn towards their suffering when all we want is to look away and continue living our comfortable lives?

I see the suffering and my heart hurts. It aches. But then the ultimate uncomfortable question ignites- what am I going to do about it? Do I settle for setting up a sponsorship program that has helped 17 children home? Giving my time and money, surely that must be enough.

But then I see him… sitting in that corner all alone, never knowing love. How could I have ever thought I’d done enough? To let this work become a check list and once enough time and money is checked off for others I am allowed to go buy myself a new dress and waste hours on the internet.

Is giving 10% enough? Is service meant to be a checklist we mark off and then live our lives however we like? I don’t think every Christian needs to sell everything and give to the poor. I think that verse is often taken out of context. But I do think we need to give more. More time. More prayer. More money. More love. Why? because the God that we love and owe it all to is aching and crying too when he looks at that sweet boy all alone in the corner and God desires for US to be the ones to show his His love. What an amazing privilege and gift... and yet we don't choose to take hold of it.

That little boy sitting all alone with the skin straining to stretch over his bones? He is now CHUBBBY, LOVED, and starting to HEAL… all because some of my amazing friends stepped out in faith and allowed God to work through him. They never stopped believing they had done enough.

147 million orphans minus one… what are you doing about the 147,999,999 still left?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He Is Risen

My mother died when I was six so my memories of her are short and scattered. Most of them are fused together with stories i've been told by others so that i'm not sure what is true recollection and what is memorization. But Easter one is one of my purest memories.

The Easter before her death was a special one indeed. I didn't fully understand it at the time but she, and everyone around us, knew it would be her last. What a beautiful thing it must have been to be standing in church celebrating Jesus making a way for us into heaven and knowing you were going to taste that sweet promise in a few short weeks. What a beautiful and terrible thing all wrapped up into one. Celebrating that gift and counting the cost of what you will lose all at the same time.

That morning I remember getting ready for church, her fingers tying the ribbon on the back of my dress, and her saying "He is risen" and me reciting right back at her "He is risen indeed." We had practiced days before so that I would be ready and know just how to respond when the people around me declared, smiles painting their faces, that He is RISEN!

The phrase always make me remember her.

Last year my parents were teaching my baby brother Benjamin the same phrase and reciting with him the proper response. His preschool ears got it wrong though... or did he get it just right? Instead of responding "He is risen indeed" he shouted "He is risen in me!"

From the mouth of babes...

And so today we remember and we rejoice and we say thank you. Because of Jesus' incredible sacrifice when we face death we know he has already declared himself victorious and that we get to take hold of the precious gift of eternal life. And when we face life we get to put on a child like faith and declare "He is risen in me!"

Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Her head rests against my chest, soaking my sweater with drool and tears. I sing gently and I rock her back and forth. I sing Amazing Grace- the theme of my life. I feel her body shudder and then fall into limp calm as I sing over her sweet self and rub peace into her back.

I really should give her back to the teacher. I should have left thirty minutes ago. My to-do list is falling off the page and today time is of the essence. I already woke up feeling like this day just didn’t have enough hours in it. But I stay where I am because as I rock this body and try to bring the calm she needs I am blessed with perspective.

People are more important than lists

This child’s need for peace right now is more important than the exam I have later.

God does not care about me looking successful to the world- he cares about me showing his love to the people he puts in my life.

I am not here to please my professors or peers. I am here to please God.

My lists are full of meaningless toil. My plans fail.

When God stops my frantic hurrying for a moment so that I can run my hands across a crying child’s back THAT is where I am supposed to be. Living in the moment God has given me.

My prayer today and everyday is that my lists and plans will never keep me from stopping for the child, the friend, the co-worker, the stranger who God puts in my path and gives me the opportunity to bless.

And so I stop. And I breath. And I sing into her precious ears. And I force my brain to stop planning, stop list making, and start living.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Discussion of Invisible Children

Invisible Children is arguably the most popular non-profit organization working with Uganda. If you’ve never heard of them (which I would be shocked if anyone reading this blog hadn’t) visit their website Over the last year or so I’ve been hearing some criticisms about Invisible Children and I feel like it is time to gather all the facts and opinions and try and put them together in a clear and concise manner. My goals is not to support or bash Invisible Children but to allow myself and others to make an informed decision on our opinion of Invisible Children and decide whether we want to start or continue supporting them as an organization. Here are some accusations I have heard made towards Invisible Children and a small discussion on each. Enjoy!

Accusation: Invisible Children makes people believe that the war in Northern Uganda is still going on. They are perpetrating this lie so they can get more donations and attention towards their organization.

The Invisible Children rough cut film was filmed and released in 2003. While the film was being made the LRA had already moved into Sudan and was present in both Sudan and Northern Uganda. The last LRA attack in Uganda was in May 2004 while the movie was gaining popularity and spreading across North America ( At this point the people started to return home and Northern Uganda began to re-build while the LRA started terrorizing DRC, Southern Sudan, and CAR. However while all this was going on Invisible Children was circulating a movie depicting war in Northern Uganda. The official organization called Invisible Children was not started until 2004 and a campaign to “end the war and end night commuting” was done in 2006. People were given the impression that the war still existed in Northern Uganda when in fact it had now moved to other countries. Today however Invisible Children provides peace and conflict updates on their website ( and recent videos update followers on what is going on with the LRA right now. Invisible Children’s most recent work in Africa is actually taking place in DRC where the LRA is most active now.

Accusation: Invisible Children film director’s salary from their non profit is way too high- they are making money off of the war

The highest paying member of the Invisible Children leadership team is Jason Russell and he is paid $89, 625 a year. This seems like too much when you compare it to the US average yearly income which is $40,711 ( However compared to other large NPOs this is actually a rather low salary. The World Vision President is paid $380,609 a year, Red Cross Chief Executive is paid $467,252 a year, Save Darfur President is paid $190,000 a year, and International Justice Mission President is paid $201, 931 a year.

Accusation: Invisible Children does not give enough money to people in Uganda. They exploit the suffering of the Acholi and then use a majority of the funds on awareness in the US rather than actually helping the people.

The Invisible Children website states “Consequently, 50% of our programming budget is utilized in bringing awareness to the situation and promoting international support of the peace process taking place. At the same time, there is a dire need for relief in northern Uganda, especially when it comes to the region’s youth. The remaining 50% of our budget provides top-notch programming for affected children and their families”. According to Invisible Children’s 990 form (what you have to file yearly with the IRS) and their audited financial report their total revenue in 2009 was $8, 253, 941 and $3, 336, 566 went directly to Uganda. That means only 40.3% of their total revenue went to Uganda while 60% of it was used for programs in the United States.

A problem with this policy is that some people believe when they are giving money to Invisible Children their money is going directly towards helping the Acholi people. Some Ugandans also feel that, since their images are being used to promote Invisible Children, they should be receiving more than half of the donations in the form of aid on the ground. However the flip side of this is that it could be argued that raising awareness of the issue and lobbying the US government to be involved is helping the Acholi in an indirect way. Invisible Children is educating and inspiring a generation of American young adults to become more involved in world affairs. The question that remains is: are they effectively educating the US (see accusation about spreading the untruth that the war is still going on) and is it worth the money they put into this education?

Accusation: Invisible Children has downplayed the Ugandan government’s role in the war

This is a very difficult accusation to test because it is not fully known what role the Ugandan government played in the war. It doesn’t take long when you’re in Uganda to learn that the Acholi and other Ugandans believe that the current president Museveni (Ugandan President) perpetrated the war for his own gain and did not try to stop it until the international community started paying attention to the conflict. I cannot find any legitimate source giving any support to this idea. If you know of one please let me know. According to the UN the Ugandan government has never targeted the Acholi for discrimination. In the 1990s Museveni assigned a government minister to the task of ending the war and this man made contact with the LRA in 1993. Around this same time Museveni launched the Operation North Campaign. This campaign ultimately failed and efforts were revisited in 2002 following the United States naming the LRA as a terrorist group (

Accusation: Invisible Children has simplified a complicated war that requires complicated solutions

I don’t think it can be argued that this is not true but it could be argued that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Most people do not have the time or desire to pour over hundreds of newspaper articles and reports on the LRA and this East African war and even if they do it is difficult to comprehend the wealth of information. It is important to have organizations that can put the information together- assuming the information is true (see discussion above)- in a way that people can understand and learn the basic facts. Not everyone enjoys the research and effort it takes to fully comprehend a conflict as complicated as this so Invisible Children provides an opportunity for the average person to at least have a basic understanding of the conflict. However as mentioned above Invisible Children has a monopoly on this story and might have left out important facts, such as when the war ended and the role of the Ugandan government, so is it justified for them to simplify the story when they have such power and control over how the American people hear and view the situation?

Accusation: Invisible Children violated the IRS regulations for tax exempt non profits by using donations to lobby for the passage of LRA disarmament bill

This is inaccurate. Invisible Children is filed as a 501(c)3 organization and according to the IRS it is allowed to use funds to lobby as long as their lobbying efforts do not use more than 20% of their budget ( According to Invisible Children’s 990 form they only spent $65,136 directly lobbying in 2009. This is less than 1% of their total revenue so their lobbying was perfectly legal.

Accusation: Through the LRA disarmament bill Invisible Children is advocating US military action to help capture Joseph Kony and end the violence perpetrated by the LRA

Political bills go way above my head because frankly politicians are just plain confusing. If you understood this bill and want to fill me in (in simple words please) please do! Here is a question and answer on the bill This is from the Enough Project that lobbied for the bill so it is most likely biased. I couldn’t find another good article critiquing the bill.

Conclusion: you make it J

Let me know if anyone has any other accusations against Invisible Children that we can address on here. This is by no means an exhaustive report of the strengths and weaknesses of Invisible Children so please feel free to add more resources, comments, or fact check me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Abundant Blessings

His cup overflows.

And that is a promise.

When I was young I lived up to my middle name and prayed for a child. I wanted another baby brother or sister so badly it consumed my prayers for years. The day my parents told me they were pregnant my joy was incomparable.

I was so excited about my baby brother but even more so I was so amazed that God heard my prayer and answered. He chose to give me the desire of my heart. Still to this day I love to watch my little brother during worship and here God whisper into my ear, “this is my gift. You are my daughter and I love to lavish gifts on you.” My joy was so complete and I was so blessed. I didn’t even dream of asking for more.

Eight months later my parents sat my siblings and I down again and once again told us we would be welcoming another baby to the family. I was shocked and overjoyed. God had given me a gift I hadn’t even dared to ask for. Asking for another sibling would have been greedy- surely he couldn’t love me that much. Once again he whispered into my ear, “My love for you overflows and I desire to give you gifts you haven’t even dared to ask for. I want to bless you.” When I see my baby sister I am reminded that God has lavished his love upon me.

As the years went by I would hold onto those gifts when times got rough. When darkness threatened and I struggled to raise my hands in worship I looked down at my siblings playing at my feet, or kissed one of them as they rested on my hip, and I gave thanks for this gift that keeps on giving. No matter what I faced I always had a reason to thank God because I couldn’t thank him enough for those precious gifts.

It’s been four years and my babies are preschoolers now. Baby siblings are completely off my radar. I dream of my own babies now and cry out that they won’t be too far away. Jesus whispers, “trust me, my timing is perfect, hold onto the hope and wait upon your God.” Some days I wait well. Some days I don’t. As many of you know the last year has been one of my toughest as I’ve missed Africa each and every day and ached to return. I struggle each day to hold onto God’s promise but feel my weak faith fingers starting to slip.

And then I got the phone call. A normal conversation with my dad about my life followed by the infamous, “we have some big news.” My mind whirls- did someone die? Are they moving? The last time they said that they were pregnant but there is no way…

His cup overflows.

His promises are new every day.

His gentle whispers to remind me that he is still here, that he is still the miracle maker, that he still has control of my life, that he still loves and desires to bless me if I would just trust his timing… all these whispers weren’t making it through my shriveled cold heart. He had to shout. Baby sibling number three is quite the shout.

I heard you this time God… and I’m still reeling at your glory.

As if I needed anything else to be reminded of all these messages I have recently made the decision to transfer schools and live at home next year. I’ll be moving home just in time to welcome baby.

Thank you doesn’t even cut it. All the praise ever uttered from these lips from birth until death will never cover it.

Little baby, the fifth child in this crazy family, the wonderful beautiful unexpected gift- I cannot wait to meet you. With your very existence you have already been used by God to speak to me- I cannot even fathom what amazing things He will do through the rest of your life. You are so loved.

Do you think he can hold three???