The following video was filmed in March, 2011. It was used in my church's message about how we should be there to help others in their time of need.
When Brad died, I had an enormous amount of love and support from family and friends. In just a few months, I'll be able to return the favor...and then some. This incredible story started in a parking lot at Little Rock Christian Academy all because of a bumper sticker.
One day in the fall of 2012, I was waiting in the parking lot for Nate to get out of school. It was a nice day, so I had the window rolled down. Someone walked up from behind my car and told me she loved my bumper sticker and wanted to know where I got it. Let me throw in here that I really am not a fan of bumper stickers, but I did like this one enough to put on my back window:
Fast forward to the summer of 2013. Nate came to me and shared that the night before, he was unable to sleep. He said he got out his Bible and began reading. He said he clearly heard God telling him to go to Africa. I mentioned Go Near, and that maybe he could go with them one day, but the conversation ended there. We really didn't talk about it again until recently. More about that later.
In November 2013, we were sitting at the computer trying to decide where we wanted to spend our Christmas money. Every year, my (very small) family draws names for gifts. The money that we save by not buying gifts for everyone is used to do something for someone else. For instance, in previous years, we have picked angels from the Angel Tree, given money to Heifer International and World Vision. This year, I wanted to give to Go Near, but I had also been thinking about sponsoring a child. While we were looking at Go Near's webpage, I noticed something new. They had a new child sponsorship program! We looked through at all the children's faces....read their stories, and knew God had someone in mind for us. The stories were heartbreaking. Yes, we as a family have endured an extremely difficult tragedy in the loss of Brad, but these children had not only lost a father, but also a mother, with no family to care for them. We were drawn to their precious faces. Some had timid smiles, some had big grins, and some had no expression at all. I wanted to reach through the computer screen and just give them great big hugs! With numerous faces to choose from, we decided we would find a girl Nate's age, and a boy Allie's age. We chose Ann and Comfort. Both of these children are being raised at the ABC Children's Home in Nairobi because they do not have either parent. They now no longer have to worry about how their physical needs will be met. As we continued to look, we found a face we could not refuse. Sweet little Gaby. She lives at home with both her parents and her 7 siblings. Because we chose to sponsor her, she can now attend school, and her family is provided with one meal a day. When we looked at her birthday, it was no coincidence that she was born the year that Brad died. We only wished we could do more!
God knew our hearts....He had been preparing us over months and months. Now we are in February 2014. I noticed a post by Melody on her Go Near Facebook page that she was hosting an informational meeting on summer trips to Nairobi. The meeting was on an upcoming Sunday afternoon. I thought maybe I should go to find out more. That night, I began reading the chapter for my church core group meeting the next day. Can you guess what the chapter was on? Global Missions. One of the tasks was to pray that I would be open to going wherever God needed me to. It was becoming clear it was Africa. I began praying and asked my core group to begin praying. I asked them to pray specifically that God would make it clear, and that I would be able to forfeit my Sunday afternoon nap to go to the meeting!
Every year our church hosts youth retreat weekends, known as Winter Chill. Nate has always enjoyed going, and he went again this year. When he returned I asked him how it went, and he replied "fine." Typical for a teenage boy. I didn't press, as I knew he had been through so much and I'm sure it was an emotional time for him drawing closer to the Lord.
Later that week, I told Nate there was a meeting the following Sunday about going to Africa with Go Near Ministries. I knew that this was something Nate was interested in, and wanted to possibly do some day. I just didn't know if he was ready. He seemed excited, and said he would go with me to the meeting. On Sunday, I didn't nap (!), but Nate didn't want to go. So, I went to the meeting alone. As the director began showing slides of the children and the widows, their faces were pulling at my heart. I was nearly to the point of tears as I realized this was what God was calling me to do. My heart was about to jump out of my chest as my excitement grew. I had not felt this way in a long time. It was a joy from deep within my soul....something I truly had not felt since before Brad died. I knew without a doubt this was what God had planned. I've written this countless times before, but the night that Brad died, I told my pastor "I will use Brad's death for God's glory." I was ready to go! I felt God wanted my kids to go with me. I realized that the date was going to be a conflict for Allie. She had not mentioned anything about feeling called to go. I sent her a text, telling her I needed her to think about something. I needed her to decide if she wanted to go to Brookhill (camp) or to Africa. She asked what we would do in Africa. I told her we would love on others and share about Jesus. She replied right back. "I want to go to Africa. I want to tell others about Jesus." My heart soared and my eyes filled up with tears. It then hit me, we would be able to meet our sponsored children! I thought my heart would burst.
I left that meeting with the firm knowledge this was what I was being called to do. When I got home, Nate asked about the meeting. I told him it was so great and that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to go and love on those precious widows and orphans. Nate then shared something that blew me away. He said that during Winter Chill, the pastor asked everyone to right down something they felt God was calling them to do. Nate wrote down "Go to Africa."
Could God be any more clear?!
We had our next meeting last Sunday, and it was about raising funds for our trip. I hadn't even given thought to the cost. The director shared that not everyone is called to go to Africa, but some are called to share in the journey by supporting them financially. So, I came home and set up a fundraising page. I emailed it out and by the end of the day, I had nearly $500! I have not received anything since then, but I know that God has called us to do this, and I know He will provide a way!
I am beyond excited about this trip, and can't wait to continue to share our journey. What an incredible God we serve. We all still miss Brad so very much, but we are put on this earth for a purpose. Brad's purpose was fulfilled, and as much as we miss him, our purposes are still here on earth. Please pray for us as we prepare our hearts and minds for this incredible journey. Pray that we will be open to God's calling without doubts or fears. Pray for a way to be provided. Pray for the precious widows and orphans who have experienced a loss like ours, but in conditions none of us can imagine. Pray for the others who are going with us.
Before Brad died, there was a song being played on the radio by Mike's Chair called "Let the Waters Rise." At the time, I thought it was sent to me because of Brad's work situation and some other things we were battling. When Brad died, the song took on a completely different meaning. Now, when I hear it, I feel like the words that stand out to me the most are "I will follow You..." I chose to follow Him when Brad died, He'd been faithful before, and He would be faithful again. His love is enough, and I am willing to go where He wants me to!
Here are the lyrics:
"Let The Waters Rise"
If you aren't able to give financially, we would appreciate your prayers!
My life has changed, My God has not....