Tag Archives: missions

Loving the One

Loving The One

If you spend time with me in person, you will very quickly discover the things I get passionate about. There are a number of them! But sharing the love of Christ with those that need it, both in practical ways and also meeting the needs of the heart; then looking at long-term solutions for every person to enjoy the fullness of life that God has created for us – those are biggies. I love the big picture, but also the details. I love cultures and nations, but also love the one, and sowing into a single life the love of Christ in whatever ways he opens up.

I’ve felt heavy of heart lately with the sheer enormity of the needs of people across our nation and the globe. The estimate of people currently in need of humanitarian assistance has risen from 82 to 102 million people just in the last 8 months. The scale and sometimes complicated circumstances around some of these situations can make it easier to turn away from, as it seems that what we can do is so little.

I realise I can’t change the world for every person, but I sure can for one. Every single life is worthy of touching with the love of Christ.  Love does not hold prejudice, or make a judgement on which life is more worthy than the next.  Love has to look like something that is more than words or good intentions.

I love this:

“I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important and that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionise the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities, nations, and yes, the world.” (Beth Clark in “Kisses from Katie”, by Katie Davis)

If I turned up on your doorstep and was in desperate need of your help, would you turn me away? Think about it. Picture my face. Imagine my children at my heels. Of course you wouldn’t. You’d invite me in. You’d meet the most immediate needs right then and there. You’d care for my children. If need be, you’d help me work out a plan for my future. You’d pray for me, hug me, and encourage me with hope.

And now imagine again, and this time picture this woman at your doorstep, with the same needs.

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

The fact is, there’s no difference between this woman and me. Other than the obvious cultural difference and geography, she’s a mother like me, she loves her children and wants to see them live the best life they can. She hopes that one day they will never have to worry about having enough to live. She wants them to have an education, and gain skills that will see them through life. I want this for my children too.

This women, and others like her, are not on my literal doorstep, but in a sense they are. We share the same earth under our feet, and neither of us chose where we would be born. I was blessed to be born and raised in a country without war and one with a ‘safety net’ via our Government should I ever need it.

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Will you look at what you have in your hands today, and considering offering what you have to be Jesus’ hands and feet?

I’ve been tremendously encouraged lately by the work that Caritas have been doing worldwide, including in my own country.  They are working in almost every country, and when a crisis hits they are already on the ground.

Have a read about one place that has especially moved my heart recently, and pray about whether you can add your strength, resources, and prayer behind their efforts.

It just takes a little sacrifice, compassion, and willingness to partner with others.

“ With no husband I worry every day how I am going to cope; how I will pay for food, school fees and medicines for my children.” says Rawia*. Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

“ With no husband I worry every day how I am going to cope; how I will pay for food, school fees and medicines for my children.” says Rawia*.  Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

If you click through nothing else in this post, I would love you to read this one:  Darfur Voices: Vulnerable Families

Thanks for reading, and have a blessed week.

Victoria

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
 – Micah 6:8

Our Family’s Discipleship Approach

Our Family's Discipleship Approach

We are still very much growing into how we are to disciple our children.  We have the clear scriptural precedent that we, as parents, are solely responsible for training and guiding our children’s hearts to pursue a living relationship with Jesus.  We can invite others into this place, but scripturally speaking, there is no direct command given to any other role or person to fulfill this responsibility to raise our children to be followers of Jesus.  So in that aspect, we are certain.

As to how we do this however, we’re only just finding a rhythm and consistency in this.  Partly this has been due to having three young children, all at different places on their faith journey, and then we as parents continuing to grow and add habits that we need to be disciplined about keeping in place.

What is Family Discipleship?

Firstly, what is discipleship in the context of the family?  I believe it is partnering with the Holy Spirit in directing your child’s heart towards cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.

The heart of our family’s discipleship approach is to stir within our children a desire to love like Jesus, and to follow Him every day of their lives, growing deeper in their faith, and living out His purpose for their lives on earth.

We’ve decided that the very best thing we can do is to love Jesus ourselves, devote ourselves to knowing him, be extravagant in our faith and in how we express love to others, and our children will follow our lead.  We cannot lean on a method or curriculum to guarantee our children’s successful discipleship – these can be useful tools but do not replace loving nurture and guidance in stirring within our children a heart to cultivate their own relationship with the Lord.

Nurture and Connection

We’ve found that having gentle and sympathetic hearts with our children, and making our connection with them a priority, makes it possible to guide them from that place of relationship.  Let me add that we aren’t perfect, and we ask for forgiveness daily for impatience, stern words, and missing the target in other ways.  But establishing heart-to-heart connection is at the foundation of  building into their hearts.  Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than teaching good morals, and teaching bible knowledge as though it were a school subject.  Discipleship for us must be from a living, real, honest, relational context.

Shannon Jungle Tales (1895)

Some Practicalities

Admittedly, we have wavered in our consistently many times, and are only just reviving our goals in this area.  But here’s some of our approach and what we hope to grow into more this year:

  • Read the bible (or storybook bible) and pray together.  We bought a Discoverer’s Bible for our 8 year old, and enjoy The Jesus Storybook Bible with our younger children (we all love it).
  • Prayer is the first response rather than the last when navigating the storms of life, no matter what their size.
  • Children’s devotions are those designed for children to work through themselves or with your assistance.  We especially love “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” which is written for children ages 8+.
  • Family devotions are a way of bringing the family together and connecting together over His Word.  “Our 24 Family Ways” by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a favourite, which contains nicely-illustrated colouring pages for children to complete while they are listening.  Sometimes we just do a spontaneous family devotion at the dinner table.
  • Spending time with like-minded families is such a necessary part of building one another’s faith, and inspiring a desire to know Jesus and make Him known.
  • Worship with other Christians is something we love to do, and we have a community of like-minded families that we love to worship with where the children are welcome to participate.  It might look a little different from a family separating into two locations once a week and standing in rows to worship, but we love the freedom of creativity of allowing God to move in a group of people that love, honour and accept one another, with children a valued part of His voice and expression amongst us.
  • Worship music on in the house every day is something we’ve always done.  Worship is my great love, and I know it will form the soundtrack of my children’s childhood.  It’s our hope that the songs of their childhood will be remembered throughout their lives as a source of life, encouragement, and blessing.
  • Memorising scripture and displaying scripture so His Word is being learned and meditated upon regularly.
  • Audio bible is something we haven’t utilised yet, but plan to use when our children are a little older.
  • Intentional bible study and learning – we haven’t wanted bible study to simply be another school subject, but do want to gradually introduce more intentional study as they get older.  We want them to first and foremost understand that the bible is God’s Word – infallible, trustworthy and true.
    A couple of resources we are currently enjoying as part of our intentional learning are, “Who is God and Can I Know Him?” (Apologia text and accompanying notebook), and “What’s in the Bible” DVD series.

We have a growing collection of books containing stories of missionaries and some great heroes of faith (both historical and living), that seek to inspire children with what it can look like when lives are surrendered to Jesus.  A couple of films that we’ve watched recently (Father of Lights, and Compelled By Love) have reminded me that these will be a wonderful addition to our family’s discipleship resources at some stage.

Our Discipleship approach

One Final Thought

We aren’t simply aiming for our children to simply behave like Christians and grow up to be good people.  We want to present them with the truth that the power of the gospel will save them and transform them.  Yes we need a discipleship path that is grace-filled and intentional.  Yes we need to model them love and a living relationship with Jesus ourselves.

But also, we need to remember that the goal isn’t to produce children and eventually adults with good morals and behaviour.  It’s to train them up in the way THEY should go on the path of life, and encourage them to find out what God wants for their lives.  Instead of asking them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’, ask them ‘What does God want to do in and through your life?’  It’s all about Jesus, and what He’s done for us.  In dying for us, we can now live for Him.  And he enables us to do so.

You might also like my ‘Parenting and Homeschool book list, and ’Family Devotions and Discipleship book list.  There are many other great titles, but these are ones that we use and enjoy.

{This post contains some affiliate links}.

Introducing ‘WinterPromise’ – A Unique Homeschool Curriculum

WP

Reading ‘Children of Many Lands’ Together – a beautifully presented book on 30 countries (exclusive to WinterPromise)

I confess, I love researching homeschool curriculum as I’m constantly looking for the very best resources that suit our learning goals and our core values.  It’s not every day I come across one that really gets my attention, but here’s one that has.

WinterPromise has the best of everything.  It’s a literature-based curriculum with a Charlotte Mason twist and a touch of the Classical, and combines notebooking, worksheets and hands-on activities, journaling, mapping, and the best living books that will engage your child’s attention and stir a love of learning and of history.  I especially love the Christian perspective that encourages my child’s heart towards God and towards seeing opportunities in the world to love and serve.  That has been a real thrill for me, as I’ve seen my daughter’s awareness grow and her understanding widen to how others live.

WP 4

Looking at the stunning photographic displays of what families own in different countries around the world (in ‘Material World’)

We have been using resources from the ‘Children Around the World’ theme this year, and here are some of the highlights so far:

  • Eye-catching books that draw my children in, with beautifully written content. ‘Children of Many Lands’ is one particularly that’s a real treat for us.
  • Involving my younger ones in the reading times and cultural experiences.
  • Reinforcing our family’s core values in international justice and compassion issues.
  • Finding an age-appropriate outlet for prayerful discussion – some of the things we’ve read have given us some priceless opportunities that I’m grateful for.
  • The flexibility to do some things more in-depth when we want to

WP2

My friend who lives just a walk away is doing the full-year theme ‘Children Around the World’ and purchased mostly e-books, which made for a much more cost effective way being that we are outside the US.  She is a full-time missionary and wanted to widen her children’s worldview in this area.

There are currently 18 themes that will suit any interest and learning goals, and range from pre-K through to Senior High – have a look here. We have already picked some favourites for future years!

You can add Science and Language Arts programs to your themed full-year theme package, and WinterPromise also stock some quality Math programs and activity kits.

Finally, I thought I’d show you some photos from our recent English tea party (from a free WinterPromise study on Great Britain).  The kids loved this one.  Because I have English parents and we eat similar food anyway (and I wanted our tea party to be a little more special than normal), I took the opportunity to make some things we ate as children, and did a little family history lesson while we ate.  Naturally we also learned a little table etiquette also.  The kids learned about their English roots and most importantly we had lots of fun!  The girls especially loved drinking from  cups and saucers.  They have asked me to make some of our family favourites from when I was young, which I’ll do at some stage soon – Toad-in-the-Hole, Roast Beef with Yorkshire puddings, apple pie and custard, and bread and butter pudding.

WP English tea party (3)

WP English tea party (4)

WP English tea party (2)

If you’d like to find out more, start here for further information, free samples, and heaps more.

WinterPromise are having a Facebook party this Monday 30th September.  I encourage you to come along and learn more about them and win some of the dozens of prizes.  I hear that there’s going to be a special announcement.  I’ll be there – join me!

WinterPromise FB Party{Linked up at Ducks in a Row}

Interview with a Foster Parent and Missionary

Interiew children washing clothes pin

My dear friend Isabel is such a source of inspiration to me.  Her family have dedicated their lives to serving and loving the most vulnerable and needy and have done so for many years.

So when the activity to interview a foster worker came up in our ‘Prayer and Personal Involvement Journal’, I thought we’d take the opportunity to tweak the activity a bit and instead ask Isabel about her experience as a foster parent.  I also sneaked a few questions in there about her work with orphans.  She has a huge heart and great capacity to love.

I hope your heart is stirred for loving the most vulnerable children.  We may not all get to travel to Africa, but there is much we can do.  It takes all kinds of participation!

1.  How did you get involved with foster care?

I have had a passion for abandoned children since my early childhood. My husband Richard was himself adopted and has always had a tender spot in his heart for fostering/adopting. The Lord released us into fostering when we came to NZ 8 years ago.  After fostering short-term and respite, along came our fifth child who we have now been fostering for over 6 years and has become a permanent member of our family.

2.  What is the greatest challenge in foster care?

For short term: getting attached to children and then having to give them up again

For respite: adjusting your family routine constantly to changing children which I found very intense.

For permanent care: the issues that you deal with from a child that has had a difficult start in life. But we absolutely LOVE the tremendous GIFT and ENRICHMENT that our foster son brings to our family, and the challenges pale in comparison to the JOYS!

3.  How can a family participate in foster care?

There is a GREAT need for all types of foster care mentioned above. PLEASE consider opening your home to a child/children through foster care.  You have to know the Lord is calling you to it, but if you feel a tug on your heart, don’t be held back by fear about how you will be able to handle it. It IS a step of faith but the Lord will be there to help and there is a lot of support available. In NZ there is no financial burden at all, as all costs are covered – quite the contrary to those caring for orphans in Africa!

praise school

4.  Please share with us a little about your work with orphans.

Three years ago, God has led me to come alongside existing African initiatives that care for orphans and vulnerable children.

I feel to strengthen and empower these through friendship, prayer, support-raising and input to carry the heavy load with them and enable them to serve and care for the orphans more effectively.

I currently support 2 projects in Uganda:

  • Home(s) of Praise – a children’s home (hopefully soon 2 family homes) – caring for close to 40 children at present – near Kampala. Praise has become my much loved daughter which is priceless and much more than a ministry!
  • Hope In Villages+ – a sponsorship programme to help vulnerable family units keep children that would otherwise end up abandoned/in orphanages in the very poor villages surrounding the YWAM base near Jinja.  Through our home church in NZ, 65 children are now able to go to school and get discipled. Their caregivers are getting trained in micro-business at present to empower them out of extreme poverty.

Praise school maths

5.  What is life like for these children?

It is very hard yet full of joy for the children. They live very simply, without electricity, proper sanitation, have to carry heavy water long distances daily. Showers are sponge baths in the open. They wash their own clothes. The older children look after the younger ones. In the “Home of Praise”, up to now, they have been living in an unfinished house, 2-3 in a bed (that will soon change) with rats nibbling on fingers and toes while they sleep, bats flying over them for lack of windows and occasional snakes. They have many mosquitoes that carry malaria and the children get malaria regularly, even though they now have mosquito nets. They constantly have to fight jiggers (worms) in their feet that come from the mud.

Their greatest treasure is God and the highlight of their day their devotional time with praise/worship/prayers and teaching. They love to sing, play drums and dance and are generally very happy and content. Up until now they are not eating when it rains (about half the year) since their food is cooked on an open fire. But money has been raised for a kitchen to be constructed that will enable them to eat regularly. They do get to go to the school that Praise started, but it is very basic and nothing compared to the education our children are receiving – hopefully that will change soon!

toilets

6.  What vision do you have for the work in Uganda that you are involved in?

  • For Homes of Praise – Praise and I are envisioning 4 houses to be built where children live in family units with a mother and a father (about 20 per home).  We would like to see a well on the property, proper sanitation, a kitchen and a proper school with qualified teachers. We would like the ministry to eventually become self-sufficient.  We envision the children to become strong godly leaders that will impact their nation and the nations!
  • Hope IVillages+: As we are now starting to empower the children’s caregivers where possible (hard for the old grandmothers), it is our hope that they will eventually become self-sufficient and won’t need sponsorships indefinitely. The vision that YWAM Hopeland and I have are transformed communities where HOPE is alive and children can grow up to be productive, God-loving adults with thriving families transforming their nation.
Isabel's first time meeting Jo

Isabel’s first time meeting Jo

7.  What can your average family do towards caring for orphaned children?

There is no limit to what a family can do!  Ask God – be creative and use what’s in your ‘hands’.  Ask the Lord to give you HIS heart for the orphans and you WILL find a way to do something!

  • Adopt an orphan in prayer (I can give you a photo)
  • Sponsor a child to go to school ($25/month)
  • Write to your sponsored child and possibly develop a relationship
  • Get together with other homeschoolers for occasional or regular fundraisers
  • Stay in touch with regular updates on Praise’s Facebook page “Journey with Praise”

We pray regularly for the children and my 10 year old daughter has decided that she wants to save all her pocket-money and earnings from extra jobs to help pay for schooling for Praise’s children. It is great for our children to become sensitive to those less fortunate than them and to pray, share and work to help them!

~  Isabel is about to leave for Uganda in a week, so I would so appreciate you praying for her time there and also for her family who are remaining behind this time. ~

**  Thanks to Isabel for the use of her beautiful photos.

[Our cousins are also in Uganda – I’ll tell you about them another time] 🙂

{Linked up with March for Missions}

Children of the World – Unit Study

http://www.teamgordonuganda.com/

We’ve been taking a focused look on various topics in our social studies, choosing one topic per month to concentrate our studies around.  I grouped most of the books in our reading list at the beginning of the year into different themes, which include the British Isles, New Zealand, The Old and New Testaments, exploration, and so forth.  [Most of our books for this year come from Sonlight Core C, World History Y2].

Each month we include a person of interest, mapping exercises, reading aloud together, notebooking pages, and various other activities depending on the theme and what resources we have.

journal cover

I made my own cover for the journal so I didn’t have to print the solid colour version.

So this month is all about how children of the world live.  I’ve been looking forward to this one all year!  Justice and compassion issues are really important to us as a family, and we plan to continue to lay this into our children’s worldview.  We already do lots of things as a family in terms of supporting others and loving and giving where we can.  But sometimes it’s good to have some intentional and concentrated learning time as well, just to bring a different dimension to putting this emphasis in our children’s value system.  One day, it will be up to them to decide what they do with all this.

Here’s what we’re aiming for (with our almost 8 year old daughter):

  • To widen her growing awareness of how others live;
  • To cultivate a heart of thankfulness;
  • To stir a missions heart and encourage a response in reaching out to others;

We’re weaving our history and geography in by marking places on our world map and doing notebooking and copywork pages that I printed free from various websites.

The main resource that my daughter is using to write in is a printable activity e-book (from Winter Promise) which includes activities and suggested for serving and reaching out to children.  Because doing we’re enough writing as part of this unit study, we’re taking a couple of weeks off our regular writing program (Writing with Ease).

We are using:Window on the world

journal page

Extra reading and activities

We’re also going to watch a program on an inspiring young lady who cares for 30 orphaned children in Uganda.

Most of our learning will take place simply by reading selections from these great books aloud, through discussion together, and through using a few simply writing and craft activities to reinforce it.  So far we are really enjoying this together.  It really can be that simple!  And really at this age, it probably needs to be. 🙂

Here are a couple of the suggested activities from the prayer journal e-book (well worth purchasing this super resource – then you can also read the text that relates to the activities):

  • Write a thank you card to Dad for providing for us
  • Volunteer at the local soup kitchen
  • Interview a foster care worker
  • Follow a 30-day calender and pray for the need listed on each day
  • Read about the life of Paul
  • Write to a missionary

I hope there’s something here that inspires you to do something similar in your learning at home to grow your child’s awareness, and stir their hearts to make a difference.

Related posts you might find interesting:

Simple Acts of Generosity

simple acts pin

One of the things my husband and I try to be intentional about, is finding ways to bless and encourage others at their point of need; regardless of what we have in the bank or how weary we may feel, there are countless ways to touch the lives of others all around us.  This is especially something we involve the kids in.

I feel like my heart lives in this constant place of ‘tension’, where I want to do so much more than what our circumstances allow, but we simply aren’t able to.  To do so would take food from my own children’s mouths, or make living in this society much harder than what I’m willing to do at this stage.

Perhaps I should put it like this: to what extent should we simplify our lives and channel our excess funds towards the pouring into the needs of others?  We all have a different place that we live in this regard. Yes, we could disconnect from the internet and not buy toys for our children or gifts for people, then potentially free up some more ‘giving’ funds – but I don’t believe that is the right thing for us.  The way Shawn and I try to look at it is, we hold all things lightly, so if one day if we were to find ourselves without or needing to give something away, our world wouldn’t crumble down as a result.  Still working on that one. 😉

But in the meantime, we give what and when we can, and pray that the Lord will multiply our offering to Him.  And let me add this – sometimes the Lord leads us to give where we ourselves go without and the recipient seems to have more than enough already.  Call it ‘Kingdom economics’ – it’s not about the maths or what we can always see on the surface, but about an eternal perspective, our willingness and obedience to Him, and sowing up treasure in heaven… into His hands.

child

Here are some simple and fun things you might like to do as a family to bless others in need around you – even if you’re on a tight budget, there should be something here you can do.

  • Put an extra food item in your trolley each week and when you’ve saved up enough, buy a basket from the op shop and fill with your grocery items (or recycle a gift bag);
  • Make up a basket of goodies from your vege garden, including bundles of herbs, and deliver to someone who would love some extra fresh food that week;
  • Give a ‘Necessities’ Gift Bag to someone that has things such as soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and dish detergent, all wrapped up in a tea towel. You could put it all in a bucket, which you can buy for less than a dollar.
  • Get your homeschool group on board for a special project: eg. collect food items for Christmas hampers.
  • Scan through your pantry and consider parting with items that you haven’t used in a year, such as canned goods.  Give to your local foodbank.
  • Collect up toys that your children have grown out of – and that are still in good shape to give.
  • Ask around at your local bakeries and cafes if they are throwing out food at the end of the day, and see if you can take some to give to people who could do with a little extra.
  • You could also find out if anyone has fruit trees or big gardens with a little excess harvest, and deliver a basket of fresh produce.  It’s hard to ask for help – save someone that difficulty and be the delivery person for them. 😉
  • Contact some local charities and ask how you could best serve them – perhaps you could do flyer drops in your neighbourhood, help in the office, special projects or campaigns, or some other form of volunteering.
  • Support a charity such as ‘Samaritans Purse’, where you collect coins in plastic bottle over the course of the year, to give the gift of water.  Also for Samaritans Purse…
  • Save up items for an ‘Operation Christmas Child’ over the year, or do a shoebox with your children’s church kids or homeschool group.
  • Adopt a nursing home in your town, and visit these wonderful elderly people with hugs, homemade pictures, and maybe even a musical recital or two. 😉
  • Sponsor a child – encourage your children to contribute some of their pocket money each month.  We know of one ministry to the needy that only ask for $4 a month.  It’s really not much. 🙂
  • Adopt a teacher – if you’re homeschooling, consider adopting a Christian school teacher and praying for them, as they serve and love children who go out to school.
  • Give your change to that person standing outside the store that you usually say no to. Encourage your children to give some of their pocket money too.
  • What are you gifted in?  Music?  Building?  Writing?  Sewing?  Offer your gift of service to someone.  It costs you so little, but could make all the difference to them.
  • One of my personal favs – group foster homes – find out how you can help support them.  The smallest things can mean the world to a child that is away from their parents and living with other kids in a foster home.  Ask them what they need, and get your groups and friends involved in raising support (eg. backpacks, personal care and hygiene items, Easter treats, Christmas gifts or hampers for the homes)
  • Add your strength behind someone else’s cause that are loving on others – find out how to help international projects that are reaching the vulnerable.

If you don’t know who the needy and vulnerable in your own community are, make the effort to find out.  They could be living on your street, going to your church, or (home)schooling with your children.

I know these are just small things and won’t change the world.  But it might make a difference to one. And what if you were that ‘one’?

Aside from giving to alleviate physical needs, be generous in your relationships – pray for others; give words of encouragement and life; speak hope and healing words; give of whatever you have in your basket.  And trust the Lord to multiply your offering.

“Freely you have received, freely give” – Matthew 10:8