[love] mercy

this is mercy, a beautiful, feisty yet kindhearted girl who stole my heart the moment i met her. she recently turned 13, so i made her a card and gave her a pair of earrings.

today, she handed me this letter that she had written: “dear auntie elena, thank you for my birthday. my reason for me writing you this letter is to tell you that i love you from my heart and i want to say thanks for your love that you have been showing me. and i want to tell God thank you for you being: my study class teacher, my best friend, my auntie, and my mother. may this letter be a joy into your life, and may our friendship be forever. that is my prayer. i love you very much!”

oh, my heart. i’m bawling even as i type this. NO WORDS.

i can’t even describe how much i love this girl… ♥

 

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fam[ily]

yesterday’s small group lesson was on family. i was a little worried about how it would go over with a group of orphaned teen & pre-teen girls…until our discussion at the end of class.

favor (age 11): you are white. i black. but we have the same heart. so we are family. ♥

Let’s work together to bring Troken HOPE!

More great news: Troken’s story is now #1 on HopeMob! That means that people can start donating today–$1200 is all we need in order to send him to school next year. Click the link, read his story, and consider making a donation to bring Troken hope today. Big or small, every amount helps. Thanks for joining with us to help Troken out!

Please also visit Orphan Relief and Rescue’s website for more ways to get involved in the work we do in Liberia and Benin, West Africa. Join us to be a voice with action for orphans that no one else will help.

Last night, Orphan Relief and Rescue took to the airwaves, sharing stories about the lives we’ve seen transformed through people giving what they can to make a difference in the life of an orphan. In only two hours, we were able to raise $7,700! That means the project of an outdoor latrine system at a Liberian orphanage is FULLY FUNDED! AND we even have enough left over for the daily runnings of our safe home in Benin!It’s not too late to give your year-end financial donation. Visit our website to check out the stories of kids’ lives being changed, and go to our donate page to give securely online. And if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.Blessings to you and yours, and thank you for partnering with us as we dedicate ourselves to being a voice for the fatherless! 

Give a gift that will change the life of an orphan in West Africa!

Today is my African three-year anniversary. On November 20th, 2008, I was on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, headed to Africa for the very first time. My feet touched Liberian soil on November 21st, 2008, and from that moment on, my whole world was turned upside down.

Growing up, I had always dreamed of Africa. I can remember being a little girl, watching World Vision commercials at Christmas time, weeping at images of poor, dirty, hungry children. Even at my young age, something inside me knew that it was wrong, that life wasn’t meant to be that way. I wanted to go, I wanted to help, I wanted to fight against whatever had stolen away their childhood, their innocence, their hope. I didn’t have a plan whatsoever; I had no idea where I’d go or what I would do once I got there. But from then on, there was always this thing inside me, deep down within my soul, pulling me towards Africa. It was some magnetic force that kept drawing my thoughts there. And it wouldn’t let me go.

Over the years, Africa remained a dream of mine. The problem, however, is that it seemed like a completely unrealistic one. Africa was far. It was expensive to get there. Like I said, I didn’t have a plan, didn’t know how to even begin coming up with one. So I let the dream die. I had no idea that, years later, God would resurrect it from the ashes. I had no idea that the dream had been His from the beginning.

2008 was a rough year for me. I was in the midst of going through an incredibly messy divorce and, because of it, I lost a lot of what I thought were some of my closest friendships. Then, to top it off, the school I had been teaching at for several years was being closed down unexpectedly. I suddenly found myself without a job, without many meaningful relationships, alone, depressed—and desperate for Africa like never before.

I can’t explain it. All I can say is that God reawakened me during that time to His calling and plan for my life. In the midst of my pain and utter brokenness, He was asking me to live a life outside of myself and my mess. He took my already shattered heart and began to break it again, break it anew, break it for the things that broke His. I can remember many sleepless nights, where I’d lay awake praying and sobbing for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the orphaned. “Send me, Lord,” I’d beg. “I don’t know what I can do or how you can use me—but please, Jesus. Send me.”

And He did. Suddenly, all the pieces came together, a plan was formed, and before I knew it, November 20th came around, and I was on my way to Africa for the first time.

Liberia was a place that nothing could have prepared me for. The war was still fresh in everyone’s minds, and Liberia still bore the markings of a nation that just undergone incredible tragedy. I thought that my heart couldn’t possibly break any more than it already had, but I was wrong. As I held dirty, sad and starving children in my lap, tears would stream down my face and into their hair, and I knew, I absolutely, inexplicably knew—I’d be back.

It took me a year, almost exactly to the day, but I did in fact return to Liberia. I was thrilled to finally be getting the chance to live the life I knew God wanted for me—but I was also torn. Life in Liberia was hard. There were many days where I felt like I could have collapsed under the weight of the need all around me, and I wondered if I could really handle it. I was homesick. I was exhausted. Some days, I was jaded and bitter and questioned whether anything I was doing was actually making a difference at all.

But it was. God taught me to be faithful in whatever job He placed before me and, as a result, I began to see change. Progress. Hope. In the kids I served. In the people I interacted with. In myself. I had been broken for such a long time, and I finally started to feel like God was beginning to put me back together.

Last year, on November 20th, I celebrated my two-year African anniversary in my beloved Liberia. It was a day of looking back, remembering, and celebrating how far I’d come. It was also a chance for me to dream about the future, looking forward to all the things that God was going to do, and where I would be in another year’s time.

Today, I can’t help but thank God for this crazy, beautiful adventure I’m on with Him—three years and counting. It’s hard to be spending November 20th in any place other than Liberia, but I also rejoice in knowing that He is going to send me back. I look around and count my blessings and celebrate how good He has been to me, how faithful He is to fulfill His plans and promises. How He could take a broken nobody like me and use me to love Liberia’s orphans with the love of the Father. And in the process…well, my entire life, my entire self has been changed. I never would have thought that I’d be where I am or who I am today. I never would have believed that it would be possible to be in one place with your body while your whole heart was overseas, waiting for you to return. I never would have guessed that I could say yes, keep saying yes, I will go, I’ll keep going…until I hear ‘stop.’

Happy November 20th, friends.