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Entries in Alissa's deep thoughts (6)

Friday
Jul032015

A 4th perspective

I feel like our country currently wants to fight more than solve issues or problems.  The supreme court decision last week made individuals either very excited and made others think the world was coming to an end. Social media blew up and almost every post I saw about this issue (from both sides) had terrible comments from someone with a different opinion.  It was ugly.  We can't even seem to disagree as a country anymore and show respect to other's who have opinions different than our's.

Let me remind us of what we do have in this great country:

1.  Freedom of speech - In Zambia there isn't freedom of speech.  We have watched the lack of free speech over the past few years as presidents have changed in Zambia.  People who speak out for change or in an effort to hold the Zambian government accountable get jailed, deported, or worse.  Newspapers are run by the government.  Can you imagine if we didn't get to publicaly speak out about our concerns? 

2.   Electricity - Right now the Zambian government is struggling to provide power to their country.  The one and only power plant, which is run by the government, is hydro electric and there have been droughts that has effected the output capacity.  Most areas of Zambia have forced brown outs where power is cut off for 8 - 12 hours a day.  Our staff doesn't have power at home most of the time. They spend 3 - 5 hours an evening trying to get home on busses because no power means no traffic lights.

3.  Opportunity - You can most likely get a job in America if you want one.  It might not be exactly what you want but you can find something that will pay you.  I am reminded of a woman I met in a stone quarry years ago. She is a widow, her husband died a while back.  She spends ALL day breaking rocks that then can be used in mixing cement.  Her kids also work and help her.  She is just as committed to her children's future as we are in America.  Can you imagine going to a rock quarry everyday and splitting rocks in the sun to only make $5 a day?  Be thankful for America.

4.  Health care - OK I don't want to argue about Obamacare and if everyone has health care.  But right now if you were in a car accident and taken to a hospital you would be treated.  There would be qualified doctors to treat you.  The lights would be on. There would be machines and medicine and blood and IV bags for you if that was what was needed.  You might have flown by helicopter to get you there faster.  Or the ambulance would have had gas in it to drive you. Some friends of our's have a non-profit that provides ambulances to remote villages in Zambia, you want to see what that looks like:

  You have access to some of the best health care (if not the best) in the world.  I have been reminded of this as a friend of mine is battling cancer.  She is having a "minor" brain surgery next week to remove a lesion on her brain. The surgery takes 8 minutes and lasers go through her temple.  The doctors told her the entire procedure will take an hour and she will be home by the afternoon and will be ready for dinner in the evening.  I thanked the Lord at that moment she is in America and has access to this.  Given her aggressive cancer, if she were living in Zambia she would not be on this earth but in Heaven. 

In early June we had some of our Zambian staff with us in America.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times our guy's jaws dropped at all the things we have and have access to.  They LOVED that the electricity never went out in my home.  Hot water in the showers was a treat.  They thought wireless internet was awesome and that it was so fast you could stream videos.  They were introduced to Starbucks and thought a coffee shop open that early in the morning with good coffee and even food was awesome.  They couldn't get over ALL the food choices we had.  They never had been introduced to seafood or mac and cheese!  They were shocked that you couldn't bribe the police and that they were honest. (I don't want emails from some of you telling me the police aren't honest) They thought a store like Wal-Mart where you could get almost anything was so cool.  They loved that there were biking and walking trails by my house that I could get on any time and not be worried about getting mugged. I am not worried about muggings but passing out because of the heat and my lack of fitness.  They thought that a postal system that brought things straight to your door everyday was shocking.  They were more blown away by Amazon Prime, Solomon, screeched like a little girl when the phone he ordered showed up 24 hours later. They told me I was blessed that nobody took packages off my front doorstep. They loved that we didn't have to have 8 foot tall cynder block wall fences around everything.

I say all of this out of love for our country.  Take a moment to thank the Lord for the access you have to so much.  You drive on roads that are paved.  You can get food at a grocery store and droughts don't cause famine.  You aren't scared that you will never be able to find a job.  You have a bank that is open right now, Greece doesn't! You can tell the president that he stinks to his face and he can't throw you in prison. 

We have all of this because so many people fought for our freedom.  Through the Lord, our military and those who serve and have served in the past have made this great country available for us to live in.  

Can we try as Americans to put things in perspective?  We might support or not support the supreme court ruling last week.  We might like or not like our current president.  We might support or think the global warming concern is ridiculous.  I could go on forever. 

But we need to remember to love one another and discuss our differences in a loving manner. The one thing that made America is now tearing us apart.  That is that we are a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds and people.  Don't hate immediately just because the other person has a different opinion.  Don't attack, and don't judge. And on the flip side be able to take criticism and don't flip out on someone.  Just listen and can we all understand that we won't all be on the same page about everything?  Sometimes we need to agree to disagree with someone.  You still love them though.  Let's remember the bigger picture and what is important.  What does God want you to do on this earth?  What is our mission while we are here?  And how are we supposed to handle ourselves when there are differences? 

Take a moment to love someone you might not have thought of today.  Maybe it is saying something nice to a clerk at the grocery store. (if you are headed to the grocery store today I already feel like you need prayers yourself!) Send a text to someone.  It can be anything. 

We are blessed to be in America.  When you are hanging out with friends or laughing with family this weekend remember that.  We might have our own issues but look at the big picture.  We are blessed for this country and spending the weekend angry about our issues and wanting to argue with people on the other side of an opinion aren't going to get you anywhere.  Take a deep breath America, be thankful, thank those who fought for your Freedom, and love well. We so blessed, thank you Lord for my freedom, my country, my friends and family in America and in Zambia. 

Don't worry we are letting the Arise Home kids celebrate our American holiday in the best way possible, fireworks:

- Alissa

 

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

 

Thursday
Sep182014

Are all donations really a good thing?

Recently we have been contacted by a few organizations that want to help ship food and other items over to Zambia in an effort for us to be able to help and feed more children.  Although this sounds like a home run for us, you might be surprised that although the offer is very generous, we typically say no.  And let me explain our philosophy.   

 

I want to first of all say that in no way am I trying attack people and organizations that are doing this.  But I do ask people to really look at the big picture before they get involved with helping others. 

Arise Africa has spent countless hours learning about boosting the economics of a third world country.  If we are really focused on ending poverty and helping people have lives that God desired for them than we have to attack poverty on all fronts, right?  When unemployment is 70 – 80% at times how do we boost the economy and not hurt it?  A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a man by the name of Robert Doar who is a Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.  Let's just say he studies poverty for a living and has been for years.  Robert kept encouraging me in what we were doing in Africa and continued to say to me "Alissa if you can help their economy and provide as many jobs as possible that's the key to ending poverty, teach them to provide on their own and get them to tools to do that and you are doing great!"

How do we help increase more jobs to people in these countries that hopefully one day the exact children we are helping have jobs?   

We feel this is a prime example how: Arise Africa strives to purchase food and other items we need with local men and women and farmers who sell these items in their stores, markets, and farms in Zambia.  Let’s just take food for an example.  What this does is not only provide food for the children we are helping at our schools or elsewhere but it also provides income which is food for the people selling it.  It provides them a job, it keeps their job secure, and it keeps them from being jobless and having to beg for food themselves.  Local women in the markets we buy from use our money to feed their own children and pay for their kids to go to school.  If we were to ship donations in from organizations, we would wipe out an entire economic level of people who benefit from us.  We have a farmer who we get all our chickens and eggs from, and we are some of his biggest sales weekly.  He can count on us, we are always there and needing meat.  Through Arise Africa purchasing food locally it provides jobs.  Not only the farmers themselves, but the people who work for them.  How can we expect the economy of Zambia to improve if we aren’t purchasing local?   If we want to encourage individuals to be self reliant and sufficient, we have to provide the opportunities too. We are trying to teach people how to stand on their own two feet. 

Let me be the first to say that Arise Africa doesn’t buy everything we need in Zambia.  If you were at my house a week ago you would have witnessed me packing a massive box that was getting shipped to Zambia on a container ship. 

 

 What was in that massive box I was packing was a brand new basketball goal for the kids in the Arise Home (it is a secret don’t tell!) for Christmas.  In three months after crossing the Atlantic Ocean and going through port in Namibia the goal is for the goal (get it goal/goal ha ha I digress so fast) to make it to Zambia.  You might ask why I went to ALL this effort to get a basketball hoop over there that cost me 4 times as much as the goal itself to ship?!  Because they don’t sell basketball hoops in Zambia and can you imagine the looks on the kids faces when they see they have one?!  And we have had quite a few made by welders over there, and let’s just say they are sub par.  After purchasing the goal I then opened it and filled it with other items we pack and take ourselves over to Zambia, which in this case were books.  Yes heavy Christian books.  See, when you ship stuff there is no weight limit, just a size limit, so I stuffed that box with everything I could.  Books in Zambia are rare and about three times the price they are in America and Christian books are nowhere to be found.  Therefore we make exceptions to our “buy local” rule.  DISCLAIMER:  yes if you look closely at the photo you might see fireworks in there that were purchased in America.  I have no comment about the illegally packed fireworks other than I strongly feel every child in the world deserves a proper New Years, which involves fire works in my opinion. (This is a personal opinion not an Arise Africa opinion)

Arise Africa makes exceptions for things that also are not made well in Zambia.  For example we have learned that door knobs are imported from China to Zambia and are terribly made.  Imagine how much wear and tear a door knob gets in your home.  Now imagine the Arise Home, there are at least 24 hands in that home, grabbing the door knob and our kids are kids, they don’t treat things very “lovingly” at times.  The Arise Home door knobs don’t last, like not even a week.  It looks like our children have chain saws as hands if you saw our doorknobs. They are broken in half, torn out of the door etc… (don’t get me started on the toilet seats in the boys bathroom, that’s a whole other blog post)  Therefore we have decided to replace our door knobs with American made doorknobs that can withstand the brutality that the Arise Home provides.  We really should be a durability product testing lab for companies, we could make major money because I promise you our kids can destruct anything in ten minutes. 

When the Arise Home was getting built, we were offered by a company in the USA to ship all the furniture over there on containers.  Once again this was a very very generous offer.  We choose to hire a carpenter and welder to make all of the furniture in Zambia.  We gave them work for months and months.  They had never had someone come to them and ask for ten metal bunk beds to be made!  They were able to increase their shops and staff because of us.  They had enough profits to purchase better equipment which in return gave them the ability to make things quicker and better and boosted their business forever.  We hired local women in the markets to be our seamstresses and make all the kid’s bed spreads and couch cushions.  We provided labor and jobs for so so many people.  The sad thing is folks, these people were BEGGING for work, and were beyond grateful to us for using their services. 

The cost that people spend to ship food and items across the oceans is astronomical. To ship one basketball goal was $536.  How much is an entire 20 or 40 foot container?  We are talking $15,000 - $30,000 easily.  That doesn’t even factor in how much the items in the container cost that you ship. Now imagine how much food you could buy in Zambia and the kids you could feed with the shipping costs alone and what that would do for their economy?  Is it really smart to use hard earned dollars to pay for shipping when the item you are shipping can be bought in the place you are sending it to?  If your aunt lives 500 miles away and she needs food and cannot afford it herself are you going to go buy heavy rice and food and package it up and pay to ship it to her?  Or are you going to write her a check and put it in the mail? 

In theory these offers seems like a no brainer right?!  Get as much food as you can to feed kids.  But we feel that to make a long lasting impact and help the country of Zambia stand on it’s own two feet, this isn’t helping them, in fact it is hurting them.  This is a hard pill to swallow for some Americans, and we understand that.  But everyday I try to look at the bigger picture and am working to put myself out a job. That happens when poverty doesn’t exist. 

There are some areas of the world where shipping food or goods in makes sense.  Maybe there is a drought or floods that have wiped out all the local farming.  Maybe there was a war and it wiped out all the available shops to purchase from.  Look at Haiti after the earthquake, they needed many many things brought in.  Maybe what you are shipping just doesn’t exist in that country.

We want to be responsible and aware of our impact in Zambia on ALL levels.  We want to improve the standards of living for all.  And we don’t want to spread materialism issues or hurt their economy any more than it already is.  That is why we are so very careful to take on any project and closely evaluate the impact we have. 

We don’t do everything right, in fact I know some would argue that this exact blog post isn’t correct.  And that’s OK.  We appreciate the generous offers, we really really do.   This isn’t to say organizations that are doing this aren’t making an impact.  We have chosen to not partake in this.  That’s not to say we are trying to point fingers at those who do.  I get many questions about this and wanted to express our side on the issue, that’s all. 

- Alissa

Monday
May062013

The sifting of Arise Africa

    "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.   But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." 

Luke 22:30-31

      A few years ago I was hanging out with a friend who was helping me get through a hard time in my life.  We discussed how things can be difficult for a period of time and that Satan wants to sift you like wheat.  My friend kept directing me towards Luke 22 where it is discussing Jesus' last supper.  In Luke 22:30-31 Jesus speaks to Simon and says "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.   But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."


     We talked about how with hard things in life God never turns away from you or lets you loose your faith fully.  You might go through a period of uncertainty or anger at God but he will never fully let Satan "sift" or get to you.  This is common throughout the Bible when you look at Job or others who suffered.  And even though our flesh wants to be angry or give up or feel that you cannot overcome whatever is in front of you, you will make it if you continue to trust in God. However, you have to fight to not be fully sifted.  At the time I must admit I don't think I fully understood being sifted and tested and what it looked like to be sifted and be OK.  When you are in the middle of a hard time it is difficult to see that things will get better.  But, as my friend told me, I saw years later that I had been sifted and that I had made it through.  In fact I think one's relationship with the Lord is strengthened through those difficult times.  I know mine was, even though I didn't like it at the time! James 1 talks all about this.

I listened to a Tim Keller sermon on this exact part of the Bible the other day:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-sifting-of-simon-peter

     Something jumped out to me when Tim Keller talked about how he has noticed that Satan likes to attack or sift you when maybe there has just been a major victory or spiritual achievements that have happened in your life that has glorified the Lord. And this does make sense, Satan doesn't want God's kingdom to be glorified. 

     It really struck me though because Arise Africa was definitely being sifted in March/April. We had just opened the Arise Home in December/January and had all these exciting things happening to us.  We had new kids in our custody, were expanding and hiring more staff, and were gearing up for another awesome project with the Kershaws for Kershaw's Challenge 2013. 

    But we were being attacked too.  In fact for about a week straight I think I was called from Zambia at least twice every night.  And I know things are bad when I get a call in the middle of the night USA time, that means we have trouble!  I remember one time answering the phone and Megan literally saying "Everything bad is happening this week!" We had difficulty in the Arise Home with one of the kids.  We had a bit of a security issue at the home we had to work through.   One night I answered my cell phone at 3AM to hear Megan say, "OK don't freak out but Peter (kiddo in the Arise Home) got his finger slammed in a door and lost the tip of it, we are taking him to the hospital right now and we do have the tip with us in a cup, let's hope they can sew it back on. I thought you would want to know."   Lovely, what a wonderful way to be woken up!   (the tip was not able to be salvaged but the poor guy had surgery and his finger was repaired)  Then a day later we had a water issue with the well at the home too, which was an expense we didn't expect. All of these things came at once.   We were both laughing and the craziness as we discussed how to work through all the trials that had been thrown at us.  We were being sifted!  And a few months earlier we had a major triumph for God's kingdom by the Arise Home opening and everything else happening. 

     Our staff pulled together and really helped out these past few months.  They helped handle the security situation and take care of the kids in the home.  They stepped up and dealt with Peter's injured finger and took him to the hospital and clinics.  They got him through it, although his middle finger is not the longest anymore on one hand.  I never thought our first major medical bill would be for a middle finger.  kinda fitting for us :)

     Every time we make it through a hard time I am reminded that God was there for us.  In fact, it is our Zambian staff that remind me constantly of this.  Sometimes when I am worried or stressed they politely just say, "God won't let us down."  Oh yea Alissa remember this isn't YOUR show to figure out and worry about, God will take care of us.

     Although the sifting wasn't fun and all the trials were difficult, I am thankful for the reminder it gives me to rely on HIM.  I am grateful how during difficult times I am forced to pray often to God and lean on Him.  I am even grateful for the bond and seeing our staff pull together and work as a team to serve the Lord and take care of everything.  Sifting brought us closer to one another and we laearned to have faith. 

     I don't have all the answers to trials in life. I am the first to say that when I am sifted I am a mess and sometimes not very nice.  I am learning to be a better person during my sifting.  But I have been sifted enough to take something from it and to rely on HIM and grow my faith.  There are SO many things in life we try to do without the Lord.   It is so much easier just to dig in when it gets hard and know that you have to give it up to the Lord.  Things might be uncomfortable or painful for a while.  But beg for help, comfort, security, and most importantly faith and see what happens.   He doesn't let you go through it alone, I promise.  Just ask Him for help. 

 

Friday
Mar012013

The Oscars and Africa actually have something in common... 

This past Sunday night I watched the Oscars along with the rest of America.

  I would write an entire blog post about Renee Zellweger's eyes or the lack of being able to see them but I am going to refrain.  OK but seriously what happened?  I don't even think she could open them enough to read the piece of paper that said who had won the Oscar she was presenting.  Don't you think that should be a requirement if you are a presenter?!  Where are the friends and family to the Hollywood stars that should call them out on going to the extreme with the botox or that some of those dresses just don't look good??  I can PROMISE you that my friends and sisters would fall on the floor laughing at me  (that would be their way of "calling me out") if I was walking out the door and getting ready to put myself in front all of the world to see and had taken too many pain killers or couldn't open my eyes fully for whatever reason!  I'm just saying a little bit of honest truth could go a long way for Hollywood. 

Now to the real blog post... 

The day after the Oscars I downloaded the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

I had heard great things about it and it didn't let me down.  It is a great movie.  For those of you who haven't seen the movie you need to see it but I will tell you a tidbit without ruining it. 

Here is a brief summary of the movie taken from the website:

"In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl (Hushpuppy) exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions."

Something about the movie was really hard for me.  I am not much of a crier or emotional person in movies but this one in particular was very difficult for me to watch.  There were times when I found myself wanting to turn it off because I didn't want to see what would happen to Hushpuppy or how she would be treated. At first I thought I was so emotional because I just just finished a vacation with my family and had just walked off a plane after spening three hours sitting next to my two and half year old nephew.  That will bring anyone to tears. He's adorable but you try explaining to him that he can't open and slam the tray table closed a thousand times while the businessman in front of him scowls at you.  (hey man we all were babies at one point in our lives, chill out)

But then it hit me why this movie was so hard.  The story and the struggles in the movie are exactly what every child we work with in Africa faces everyday.  This was personal for me.  I know people well that live like this.  When they would show her home or the physical abuse it reminded me of our kids in the Arise Home and what they used to deal with.  It made me sad to think of the kids that we work with that are still in these situations.  Our kids in Africa live that life.  Every stinking day.  I know many Hushpuppies in Africa and their names are Mukonda, Fred, Guideon, and Esther to name a few.  And we see it and live it with them at times.  Our staff tries to help them get out of these life cycles but they also try to help them endure their situations. 

Take a look at Hushpuppy's house on the outside:

 

Take a look at a house that one of our kids in our child sponsorship program lives in:

 

Here are photos of the inside of Hushpuppy's home:

Here are some photos of the inside of our child's home:


                                          (and yes that is a real live baby in the corner)

I thought how interesting it was that Hushpuppy loved her father dearly and wanted to be with him and even care for him when he was sick.  Her father was an alcoholic and physically abused her.  Many of our kids in Africa are verbally and physically abused all the time by family members.  Sometimes the family members are drunk and other times they aren't.  And yet our kids still love them and want to be a part of their lives and feel an obligation to care for them and stay with them.  Why is that?  Is there an inside instinct to stick to our parents and family no matter what? Or is it all these kids have and they don't know any better? 

At one point Hushpuppy experiences positive physical attention by a woman holding and hugging her.  It isn't sketchy like I am making it sound.  But Hushpuppy says she can remember every time she has ever been held in her life, and it was two times.  Once when she was born and then this time.  Many of our kids in Africa never experience physical touch and affirmation.  I have watched our girls and boys in the Arise Home draw to us as we pat them on the back or hug them when they come home from school.  They want to hold our hands and they want that love so badly.  Kids their age in America are probably over that amount of physical touch but since our kids in Africa never got it growing up they are behind.  It is a TINY example of Christ's love for them that we can show them.  Positive words and love go such long way in a child's development.

Another aspect of Hushpuppy's attitude that I could relate to was how tough and relentless she was. 

This kid NEVER gave up.  She was willing to do anything to save her home and her father.  She was self sufficient and could cook for herself (even if it was cat food).  Our kids in Africa are the exact same way. They run over glass barefoot and burn themselves while cooking and don't even think anything about it.  I remember one time we were having a kids Bible Camp with some Americans and there was a soccer game going on.  There was an American boy playing with our Zambian kids and he got a soccer ball kicked right in his face (by another American who shall remain nameless).  He went down pretty hard and was crying because it hurt, and it looked like it hurt!  All of the African kids stood looking at him shocked and one of them even asked our Zambian leaders what he was doing and couldn't understand that people cried.  Growing up, my friend Amanda loved the movie A League or Their Own and this story reminds me when Tom Hanks says, "There's no crying in baseball!"

The lessons I learned about Beasts of the Southern Wild was that I didn't like the life for Hushpuppy.  It made me sad to watch it unfold.  It made me respect the spirit of a child and the ability to live in terrible situations.  It made me even more fired up for what we try to do in Zambia. And that's help kids have a life that God desires for them. 

But the biggest emotion I had was that the movie made me very uncomfortable.  I don't think it is right to sit there and know that really happens in this world (and not just Africa, but in America and other countries too!) and not do something about it.  It is wrong and that fires me up.

I lay in bed at night and think of how we can help more kids and have a bigger impact.  I discuss this with people who know more than me in the development world and friends who have the same hearts.  I read blogs, books, and other information on what works and does not.  I dream and plan and pray about what to do next. 

 I want to ask one question and that is, what fires YOU up? 

Are you going to continue to sit there and not get some skin in the game to whatever that may be?  It might not be about kids or Africa and that's ok.  God has put things on our hearts and wants us to be servants to everyone around us.  Where is your place in all of this?  What is the one thing that God wants to use you for?  What are you going to do about it?  And I don't want to hear a problem is too big and you can't change it.  Your exactly right if you never try. Arise Africa wouldn't have 150 kids in child sponsorship or have built an entire orphanage if people thought they were too small to make a change. we wouldn't exist!  It has taken literally thousands of people who thought they could make a difference to support us to get us to where we are now. 

The best part about getting involved in something bigger and more purposeful than you is God actually will teach you more about yourself than you ever expected.  You will blessed in ways you didn't even know you wanted or needed. Take the chance and do something and see what happens.  

In Him,

Alissa