Sunday
Mar082015

It is all about the numbers... or is it?

      I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and Matt Chandler (Village church in Texas) was preaching about how we are not awesome.  And for whatever reason it was this moment of me realizing about how non – profits like to boast about how awesome they are by giving their numbers and recruit heavily on “how many” they are feeding, saving, curing, sponsoring etc.  Don’t get me wrong we do this too, to an extent.  If you made a donation to Arise Africa in 2014 you got our end of year letter giving you the year “2014 by the numbers” which has many of these stats.  But we don’t do it often and for whatever reason it has always rubbed me wrong with other organizations who talk “numbers” all the time. 

      I think it goes back to when I supported a non-profit and it was all about “how many” kids were being saved or run through their programs.  Although those numbers are awesome and staggering it made everyone strive for quantity over quality.  The end result was always the number.  How much could be raised?  How many kids could be reached?  How many Americans participated?

         What makes me so frustrated was that the quality of work gets diminished when this happens.  You are so focused on getting as many people as possible to “sign up” or “give” or kids to “save” that I wonder what the end result is. 

         The reality is that EVERY SINGLE number is a real child.   A kid with a heart and emotions and personality.  It is a human being that needs nurturing, love, constant care, and for us to constantly shepherd.  This child needs discipleship, and not a “one time saving.”   They need Jesus in their heart everyday, and that takes years and years of time and love to help them see that and grow it.  They need a parent because their’s are gone or don’t care or cannot provide.  Don’t get caught up in the numbers or whatever else, get caught up in the children themselves!  That is what you should see staggering, are the kids who’s stories are getting changed through the Lord.  The numbers can be deceiving. 

            We struggle with this in Zambia all the time.  The fact of the matter is there are so so many kids that need saving.   And the Arise Home could have more bunks in both the boys and girls room and places for those kids to live in.  We could physically go and save more kids tomorrow.  But our staff has always wanted to focus on the quality of the work we are doing and children we are raising.  I am not saying this is right or wrong, I lay in bed at night wondering if we should be saving as many as possible and not devoting as much time to each child.  But this is how we have chosen to operate, is quality over quantity.  One example of this is the low ratio of children to staff member in our child sponsorship program.  For every 30 children sponsored in our program we have 1 staff member assigned to them.  They are in charge of those 30 children ONLY.  Most programs run on much much larger child to staff member ratios, in the hundreds.  We did this for multiple reasons.  First, I wanted to be 100% sure we knew and could account for every single child in our program.  If we are telling you that you are really sponsoring that ONE child than we better know that kid and make sure they are in our program and showing up as school and eating on your dollar!  If you have been to Zambia and see where we work you would fully understand how easily it could be to lose track of a child and why we need a low ratio of adult to children.  Second, how do you disciple and shepherd and teach the word of God when you have more than 30 kids you are watching after?  It becomes more of a management program than an actual personal relationship with the child.   The most important thing is teaching these kids about Jesus and how much the Lord loves them! 

            So I ask you as the donor and supporter of Arise Africa or any other non-profit to remember this.  Even if a charity’s “numbers” aren’t as staggering as another, look deeper.  Because they could be making more of an impact than the “big number” groups.  Ask yourself what is most important to you too.  Ask any charity you invest in the hard questions.  Do they seem so polished and slick that it is too good to be true?  Because it probably is!  Third world development and working to eliminate poverty is complex and messy.  That’s why it hasn’t been fixed in thousands of years.  Try to investigate the quality of programs they are running and how they are doing it.  If you sponsor a child how often do you get updates?  If it is only every 6 months or even more, I would wonder how much that child you sponsor actually gets attention and is being cared for.  Make sure to know what that overall goal is of the charity and “feel them out.”   You can get a sense of a charity’s “M.O.” (mode of operation) real quick. 

Don’t get caught up in the numbers.  Gat caught up in investing in a child’s heart. 

- Alissa

 

Wednesday
Feb112015

A word from Megan...

At the Arise Africa home, our goal is to raise these kids as apart of a larger community.  They attend a local school as well as attend a local church.  Our hearts behind having a home is to make sure that our kids experience life and not confine them to institutional living.  This means that our kids go to Sunday School each week and as our kids get older they start attending youth groups.  Because of this, our kids have grown to love the body of Christ.

With that comes responsibility and involvement that goes further than them just  receiving.  Last week at church, our pastor requested that people come and help plant trees and plants on the church grounds.  What better way for our boys to start connecting and serving at the local church.   Instead of going to their weekly football game, Abraham who many of you know and love, picked up the boys and took them to church to help out. 

Of course the boys were a bit bummed out at first when they heard they were not going to their football practice.  However, once they got there and started helping out, they began to see that other people were giving of their time and they jumped right in.  Armond loves gardening, so I think he actually liked this more than football!

The boys worked really hard and gave it their all, so what better reward than pizza and ice cream! 

As we sat there, they were tired and dirty, but I could see that they had enjoyed giving back and had a sense of accomplishment.  When there was one slice of pizza left, I asked the boys who deserves the last slice?  Armond, the shy one that he is didn’t have much to say.  Fred said, “I deserve it because I worked hard at planting trees” and out of nowhere Mukonda replied, “I deserve it because I am a better dancer than both of these guys!”  They decided to share it as good brothers do. 

It makes me so proud to see these boys living as brothers.  To see the changes happening in their lives and in their hearts is such a miracle from God.  All I can say is…get ready world because we have three young men who are destined for greatness!

 

- Megan

Sunday
Nov302014

It's beginning to look alot like...

CHRISTMAS FOR ZAMBIA!

This month we are hitting the road and taking the Arise Africa Christmas Catalog party to Dallas, Midland, Houston, and Austin.  Well to be honest with you I meant to write this blog post a few weeks ago because Dallas and Midland have already happened.  Sorry if you are late to the party for those.  We had great success in both cities and can't wait for Houston on December 3rd and Austin on the 7th. Food and drinks on us!

 

Please join us for those parties if you live nearby:

 

Houston                                                                        Austin

Wednesday December 3rd                                             Sunday December 7th

St. Arnold Brewing Company                                         Contigo Restaurant

Investors Pub                                                                  6 - 9 PM

7 - 9 PM                                                                          2027 Anchor Lane

2000 Lyons Avenue

 

If you are unable to make it to a Christmas Catalog Party we STRONGLY encourage you to shop with the catalog we sent you in the snail mail or online

Thursday
Nov062014

Jesus is Better

Note: this blog post was written by one of our 2014 summer interns, Ellen Taylor

I have been back from Africa for some time now and I am just now getting around to writing this post. I guess it takes that long to process through a trip like the one I had the opportunity to experience. A life-giving, life-changing trip. A trip that shook me to the core and taught me lessons that I am still learning almost three months later. It was an unforgettable month.


Exhausting. Hard. Good. Draining. Eye-opening. Incredible.

These are just some of the words I have used to describe my time in Lusaka, Zambia this past summer. Whenever people ask me about my month there, these few, simple words are all that I can usually muster up. It’s hard for me to even start describing my experience because it was one that was completely different than I could ever have pictured. It was a day-to-day humbling, uncomfortable, but incredibly life-changing month.

For those longer conversations with good friends over coffee or a shared meal, I tell them stories. I tell them about the people that I met and the pure joy that overflowed from them despite all the hurt they had been through. I tell them about the beautiful, precious kids I got to know and the determination many of them have to overcome the obstacles they face for a brighter future. I talk about the antics that went down when you throw 5 college-age girls together for a month and the sweet community that happened with these girls whom I had never met before our trip. I talk about how my internship changed me and challenged what I want for my future. And most importantly, I tell them that Jesus is better. That He is better than anything that this world can offer or supply. That our circumstances should not define our joy and limit our Savior. That Jesus is better today, and He will be better tomorrow and every day after.

 

The media and the Western world tend to shape people’s view on Africa. I know it did for me. They paint a picture of a broken, hurting, poverty-stricken continent that is full of desolation and in desperate need of our resources and occasionally our help. They tell us that we must fix their symptoms through tangible resources instead of fixing their deeper needs. Yes, I saw hurt and heartache. I walked through dark streets and had my eyes opened to a life that is completely different than the one I live here in Texas. But, what the media and Western world leaves out, is that these are hurting people. People like you and me. People who have a deep, abiding, unending amount of joy. Who do not let their circumstances define them and steal this joy away. I saw Jesus clearer in these people than I ever have before. Time and time again, they taught me what James commands us to do in James 1:2:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

To simply rejoice. To give all the glory to God, no matter what life throws at you. My friends in Lusaka live this out daily and taught me that I still have so much to learn when it comes to trusting my Savior. I learned by watching them live their lives for Jesus that we were made to know Him. And to make Him known. When something good happened to them, they gave all the glory to God. When something bad happened, they still gave all the glory to God. They knew that they were loved and known by Jesus. I only hope that one day I can be as half as loving, grace-giving, humble, and generous as them. I look up to them for their strength, courage, and compassion. And most importantly, I look up to them because they understand that Jesus is better than what this earth can supply us.

I could go on and on about my time in Zambia. I could fill blog post after blog post about all the lessons, big and small, that I learned from my time there. I am so thankful that the Lord sent me there this summer to meet and get to know the people that I did. I am forever changed by them. Jesus is greater y’all. And so much better.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” // Ephesians 3:20-21

 

- Ellen Taylor

 

Thursday
Sep252014

Meeting Colliard

Just over a month ago, my family of five returned from a life changing trip to Lusaka, Zambia with Arise Africa.  While I could write pages and pages about our amazing expedition, I was asked to condense my words for this post and focus solely on meeting the child we sponsor through Arise Africa’s child sponsorship program.   This is like asking someone who’s been to Disneyworld to report on just one ride in the park.  Seriously?  But because I’ll hear from Alissa if I don’t follow the rules, I will do my best to stay on task.

A little over a year ago, My husband and I decided to sponsor a child through Arise Africa.  I wish I could say it was a decision that came from the heart, but it was honestly because Alissa point blank sent me an email with a picture of a sweet little boy asking if I would sponsor him.   How could I say no to that?  Or to Alissa?  Don’t get me wrong, I was NOT guilted into doing it.  It was just not something that was on my radar at the time.  Because, well, life.

When we agreed to sponsor our child, Colliard, I had no idea I would eventually be in his home one day or that my children would be playing soccer (futbol) with him in his ‘front yard’.    What a difference a year makes.

Our first introduction to Colliard, 13, was a hand written letter and a 4x6 photograph sent to us from Arise Africa.  We tacked the letter and photograph to a bulletin board in our laundry room as a reminder to pray for him each time we saw his face. 

Even though I knew what we were doing was a good thing, it was hard to make a heart connection simply from a picture.  I couldn’t hear his voice. I couldn’t see him smile.   I didn’t know if he was shy.  I didn’t know if he had a sense of humor.   I just trusted that somehow we were making a difference by ‘sponsoring’ him.  What did that even mean?

 

Fast forward 365 days and my family was on a plane (or four) to Zambia.  We were told we would be able to meet Colliard once we arrived at his ‘compound’ (similar to a neighborhood, but not at all.)  When we drove up the dusty road to the compound and parked the car, my youngest said, ‘There’s Colliard!”  I think I laughed out loud because I assumed he didn’t have the first clue when it came to identifying one specific African child in a literal sea of African children.  (It turns out, however, there’s a reason he’s in TAG and I was not.)  It WAS Colliard!  Of all of the (what seemed like 10,000) children that were swarming our car, he was standing right in front of us.  And my kids recognized him from a 4x6. 

There’s something so surreal about going from praying for a child who you’ve only known from a photographic image to actually meeting him in person.  No description I write could ever do it justice.  I could literally see my children’s brains connecting the dots that THIS is the child who we are helping.  This is the child who’s handwriting is on that notebook paper in our laundry room.  This is the child for whom we have been praying.  My heart almost couldn’t take it. 

We brought Colliard an FC Dallas jersey as a gift from our family.  We wanted something that represented our city, but also something to which he could relate. 

(Have you ever noticed that soccer somehow speaks the universal language?)  He immediately put it on as we awkwardly hugged him one by one.  I say awkwardly only because my husband and 2 of my children have personal space issues and to hug them is akin to embracing a porcupine.  And really, because what is not awkward about 5 white people whom you’ve never met jumping out of a vehicle excitedly greeting you as if you’ve just reconnected after years of absence.  It was like a scene from a high school reunion gone wrong.   

 

After recouping from the overly anxious meet and greet, we accompanied Colliard back to his ‘house’ where we met his younger sister, Vida, and his older brother, Gift.   We were struck by the visual images that filled our minds on that journey.  There were kids everywhere.  And kids holding kids.  And more kids. 

 

It was unbelievable.  I’ve never seen so many beautiful little faces in such a small space.  As we approached his modest cinder block home, we were pleased to find a small garden of vegetables that his family had planted.  (Of course my kids had no idea what THOSE were, so I just told them they are a delicacy only grown and eaten in Africa.) 

Colliard invited us in by pulling back a piece of fabric that acted as a door.  I was struck by the darkness of this tiny dwelling, and it took my eyes awhile to adjust to the lack of light.   Once inside, the five of us sat on whatever furniture we could find.  Colliard’s brother, sister and cousin all joined us along with two Arise Africa staff members for translation.  We asked several questions and learned more about this precious family that was quickly starting to feel like our own.   It was then that I heard Colliard’s voice.  It was then that I saw him smile.  It was then that I learned he is shy.  And it was then that I learned he does have a great sense of humor.   In those moments, he went from being an image on my bulletin board to being a part of my family.

After a natural break in conversation, my children asked Colliard if he would like to play soccer outside.   We then watched as they quickly integrated with the other children in the compound and played various games with the soccer ball.    We were also able to go visit his classroom that day, as well as feed he and his classmates a nutritious lunch.  It was by far one of my favorite days on our trip and one I will never forget.

 

We also were able to write in and leave a Bible for Colliard.

What does sponsorship mean?  It means so much more than writing a letter and sending a check each month.  It means touching the life of a child who is in need of education, spiritual guidance, food and hope for a future where the cycle of poverty is broken.  The Arise Africa staff has a personal relationship with each child it sponsors.   These kids are followed and cared for by loving people doing the work of the Lord in Zambia.   I saw it first hand, and pray that this post urges you to consider helping just one child.   You may never have the opportunity to meet this child, but I promise you have the ability to change them forever.   

 

- Jamie Kraus