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Why My Last Visit to Haiti Made me Hunger

The first week of January I hosted a small team from Champion Forest Baptist Church in Haiti. The following entry was written after a beach excursion with the 3 newest children from Max’s Ministry.

What Hunger Looks Like

His tiny arm methodically lifted the large spoon to his mouth. It was slow but steady and with every heaping bite of food you could see him quietly whisper words to himself. Looking at his 20 pound, 4 year-old body, there was no way he could get all that food into his bloated belly—but he did. Every single methodical bite.

One of the girls from Champions leaned in and asked one of the older kids from Max’s home what he was saying. “Mesi Jezi.” After every bite, Jouri whispered “Thank you, Jesus.” Every single grateful bite.

I thought about the rawness and depth of his gratitude. It was a gratitude that oozed out of the hungry belly of a four-year old boy in Haiti.

He wasn’t TRYING to be thankful. This wasn’t some rote one-liner that he was instructed to recite. This little boy possessed a hunger and thirst of the purest kind and I was watching him be filled.

I was reminded of Matthew 18:2—”Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I’m not going to write about how we’re going to help Joure and the other two children who suffer from chronic hunger.  We’re helping Max get the help these sweet babies need—I’ll be sharing more about Joure’s journey to food safety over the coming weeks.

What I am going to write to you is a CONFESSION:

I WANT that kind of gratitude—the kind of gratitude that flows out of a hungry heart. Joure made an impact on me on so many levels. It wrecked me but it also got me thinking about my own chronic hunger or, if I’m honest, the lack thereof.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be hungry. I can try to generate a superficial gratitude but the truth is I don’t know what it feels like to be without. Those of us who are saved have forgotten what it feels like to be lost. Those of us who are full have forgotten what it feels to be empty.

We are over-saturated, over stimulated, over done and yet—we are so emaciated. We need to get to that place where we recognize our emptiness and take in heapfuls of God’s goodness and thank Him after every  single morsel.

Like a child showing pure gratitude.

Like sweet little Joure thanking Jesus after ever bite of food.

My 21-Day Fast

My last day in Haiti was the first of a 21-Day fast that we are encountering at Restoration Church. Joure was fresh on my mind that day and my prayer was that I would experience a hunger for God that got me to a place where every sweet encounter, I would say “Thank you Jesus.”

We were on Day FOUR of our church-wide fast when I wrote this and here is the verse for that day:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3—

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart,whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna,which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Our hearts yearn to experience that same hunger that Joure felt that day— and we long to have it satisfied in some radical way. The problem is we try to stuff it with junk rather than the pure things that it really craves. G.K Chesterton said it best when he said, “A man that knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”

Our hunger manifests itself in so many ways—for me it’s becoming too comfortable reaching for a second glass of wine at the end of a hard day.

For you it may be too much chocolate cake or shopping, for him it may be sneaking in some pornography late at night. What if we hungered for God like Joure hungered for that plate of food? What if we mimicked the pureness of his hunger? I think then we could experience that raw and open gratitude I saw that day on the beach.

Let’s pray that God causes us to hunger for Him like He did for the Israelites in the desert. Let’s pray that He teaches us to feast on His Word.

Stepping into a Life of MORE

Fasting helps us channel our physical hunger towards a hunger for Him. We experience pangs of need that get so strong that we either break down and eat food or we eat of His Word. We willfully create an environment where we are empty and deny satisfaction with things that will easily fill the emptiness. Dan and I aren’t hard—core fasters (is that what they are called?) and we certainly aren’t gurus on spiritual disciplines, but we are commiting to this 21-Day fast by skipping breakfast and lunch and eating a light dinner after sunset. It is hard, but not impossible.

Maybe you read this and feel like you want to join us the rest of the way—there is power in numbers and I think God is yearning to rain down manna into our communities, our homes, our hearts. You can click here to follow Restoration’s Facebook page and learn about the fast.

I don’t know about you, but I want to get to that place where I can’t help but say “Thank you Jesus.”—not because I know I should, but because every heaping spoonful of Him means LIFE. Like the manna that sustained the Jews, like the feast the famished Joure experienced, spoonfuls of Him is the difference between LIFE or death.

 

 

 

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Why Giving HUGGS is Saving Lives

Let me assure you that this is NOT a call for donations.

What I am asking is the following:

For you to consider carrying HUGG pieces in your church book stores, coffee shops, gift shops and lobbies.

For church leaders to learn more about a movement that seeks to create jobs in impoverished communities such as Haiti. We should be casting a vote to support artisans like Max by using our purchasing dollars for good. 100% of HUGG sales go back into our operations to create more jobs in Haiti. But more importantly, your purchase is saving lives. 

Let me explain HOW:

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with the Association to Save the Children in Canaan and Onaville.

This committee was founded on the principles that all children have the right to shelter, education and access to food. Canaan is located about 10 miles outside of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It is a post-earthquake, make-shift city settled on dry dusty hills with no plumbing nor electricity. It is a hard place for a family to carve out a living, but it is even harder for the children that drifted to this settlement without an adult to care for them.

Max, a HandUp artisan, knows just how hard it is to be an orphaned child in Haiti. He found himself a homeless teenager in Canaan. Although he loved his village, he knew that God was calling him to the city of Port-au-Prince. He didn’t know what he would find there, but he knew the answers were ahead of him.

After a few months of living on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Max was approached by a young man by the name of Patrick. Patrick had just aged out of an orphanage and was living with 6 other young men who had transitioned from the same boys’ home. Later Patrick would share with me the reason he was drawn to Max.

“I knew we needed someone like Max in the apartment. We needed someone to teach us more about the Bible and Jesus.”

After several visits with this young evangelist, Patrick invited Max into the tiny 3-room apartment he and the other young men shared. It wasn’t long before Max carved his place within this band of brothers. It would be months still before I’d show up in their apartment, asking these young men whether they wanted a job. These 8 would become the backbone of the HandUp program.

As soon as Max started receiving a steady income through HandUp, he went back to Canaan. It was simple at first. He started out by purchasing rice, beans and oil for a local lady to cook for some of the orphans there. Then it grew to him building a shanty for 16 parentless children.

Max’s shanty for 16 children.

He had very little resources and several of the other HUGG artisans started pitching in to help meet some of the children’s basic needs. Aside from taking care of the 16 most vulnerable children, he started working with other needy children in the community. Bible studies, crafts, singing and dancing all became part of a weekly program under Max’s leadership.

But it was too much for him to bear. He witnessed two little children die simply of infections that could have been prevented with antibiotics. After this incident, my Life Group in Conroe, Texas started supporting some of Max’s efforts by providing for food costs and allowing him to set aside some savings for emergencies.

These extra funds were the catalyst that Max needed to jumpstart his program. He formed a committee with HandUp artisans and local community members to bolster their efforts towards saving children from the grips of poverty.

Under Max’s leadership, the group has committed to taking care of 12 of the 16 orphans under Max’s care. The 12 boys will be living in a one-room house rented just for them. The rest of the group are girls and I will save their story for another day. We will continue to partner with the committee until we’ve placed each little girl in a loving home. But for now, this committee does the best they can to meet the needs of these children that God has entrusted in their care.

Max, Marcial and Richardson & the new home for Canaan boys.

Without HandUp Global Goods…

There would have been no job for Max and the other artisans.

Without a job, they would have been too busy surviving Haiti rather than helping Haiti survive and THRIVE.

Tools for Ministry

Max’s efforts to build a program in Canaan is a result of what he has learned under the leadership of HandUp staff. Education, spiritual discipleship, and mentoring are all things that have been poured into Max over the last three years. Without this holistic approach, Max would not have had the necessary skills to lead this ministry in Canaan.

A HandUp, Not a Handout

Because of one job, 16 orphans have their basic needs being met.

Because we give a handUp and not a handout, young men are experiencing a dignity attainable only through the work of their own hands.

Young Haitian men like Max must be employed, mentored, and trained so that they can be the ones to help their communities.

Once, these young men were destined towards the path of becoming orphan makers. Because of their jobs with HandUp, they’ve broken through systemic poverty and are being transformed into Opportunity Makers.

The Struggle is Real

Although our retail and wholesale orders are slowly gaining momentum; our donations are at an all-time low. Without these funds, we are unable to meet our operational expenses on the ground.

But I’ll be honest–it’s the sales that we need. We have beautiful pieces that tell an equally beautiful story. If we tell it right, God’s church WILL RISE to the occasion. I know God cares about the makers that make the things we wear and He desires to use the church to bless them, not to exploit them.

There are 23 young men in our program. Many who are also making an impact in the communities in which they live.  Would you allow us an opportunity to share their stories in your church?

THREE VITAL Ways to help:

  1. Host a Sunday Pop Up this Spring/Summer in your church.
  2. Invite us to come share the HUGG story at your next Event.
  3. Carry HUGG products in your church.
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Revolutionize Your Giving

We’ve all heard the ancient proverb,

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” But what if I told you that together, we can revolutionize the fishing industry?

Have you ever wondered how much of a difference your donation makes in the lives of the people to whom you donate? Efficiently run organizations maximize your dollars to create deep impact for the people they serve. But often, good intentions fail to stimulate economic growth for the people in need of a handUp.

The irony is that most of the time it is the lack of economic stimulation in communities that keeps people relying on handouts. Although your donation helps for a day, months or even years—

Does it revolutionize entire communities & promote lasting change?

80% of orphans actually have living parents.

Up to 80% of children in Haiti are poverty orphans. Many of them have parents that love them but can’t scratch out enough of an existence to meet the basic needs of their sons and daughters. The lucky ones end up in institutions.

But many of these poverty orphans end up on the streets, sold as slaves, trafficked, exploited, the list goes on and on.

And who is doing most of the exploiting?

The broken men raised in these impoverished communities.

At HandUp, we believe we can equip former street boys to radically change their trajectories from broken men and future orphan makers to leaders and future hope makers. We do this through one powerful formula:

Job Creation + Spiritual Discipleship = Orphan Prevention

 When you say “yes” to investing in HandUp Global Goods—you forge new pathways for economic development in communities as we seek to:

  • Employ 100 Haitian young men by 2020
  • Diversify production in order to meet the demands of the global marketplace
  • Scale our current Spiritual Discipleship program to create a strong, replicable model
  • Expand both U.S and Haiti marketing efforts to create more streams for revenue
  • Seek to sustain Haiti operations through sales revenues

What does this all mean?

Each HandUp work day begins with a devotional.

It means less orphans, less extreme poverty and more strong men making a positive impact within their communities. Let’s stop settling for handouts and give them a HANDUP together.

Do you want your resources invested in this kind of revolution? Learn more here!

DONATE TODAY & we will send you a handmade gift from Haiti.

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Here’s a Coupon for your Support!

Because you said “yes” to giving a “handup”; he can say “yes” to lifting himself out of poverty with the work of his hands.

Here is how YOU changed the harsh reality for these teens through your purchase or donation:

  • 23 young men who were facing life on the streets are part of the HandUp program
  • 10 new teens in transition are under the loving guidance of our new TNT House Parent
  • A new Program Director oversees production and programming
  • 16 former street boys work at HandUp & earn a fair wage, health insurance & more
  • We achieved highest monthly sales to date this November
  • An artisan microloan system has been implemented into our savings program
  • All 3rd year artisans were able to pay their housing this year
  • HandUp artisans founded two ministries; Be the Change & Ti Moun Canaan

The good that you’ve poured into these young men is spilling out into their communities and fueling social change one bracelet at a time!

Thank you for supporting our work. We can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2018!!!

Donate today and help us create jobs for 7 more teens in 2018!

$5 off your purchase of $25 PLUS Free Shipping:  Use Code THANKYOU

There’s still time to do your holiday shopping HERE!

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Did We BRING IT HOME???

I believe that good resides in all people because God made people.

AND there is a little bit of HIM in every person—even when we don’t recognize that it comes from Him. ALL GOOD COMES FROM HIM. I try to remind myself of this when I am disappointed in people. I think of Brene Browns comments in Rising Strong that she MUST choose to believe that everyone is trying her best. Seriously. It helps a great deal when I choose to believe in these two things:

That there is a little bit of good in everyone AND that everyone is doing the best they can.

But I have to confess, sometimes things happen that shake my heart a little bit and these two thoughts are tossed out the door.

Let me explain.

We recently had a fundraiser so that we could bring on TEN more teens in transition that have aged out of our partner orphanage. Instead of these boys ending up on the streets and perpetuating the problem of poverty—they get to be part of a story that is seeking long-term solutions to poverty. The lives of young men aging out of orphanages are changing and we believe that they will one day become the leaders in their communities.

THIS is why we give a handUP; to break them free from a life of handouts.

This is WORLD CHANGING stuff I’m talking about!

Yet at our fundraiser—we failed to raise the $60K that we so desperately needed to bring on these ten teens. Although the event itself was pretty amazing, we did not bring IT home. IT as in being able to offer our FOUR CORNERSTONES to all of these young men.

I was striving to find my peace with this lack of resources and was doing okay until I saw this:

As a country, we spent $3.4 billion on costumes that we will most likely use once. I know-I know—it’s fun and we’re making memories and visiting with neighbors and eating chocolate. But for me, it’s a REAL struggle. It’s like choosing to have a Pina Colada at a pool while knowing there’s a kid drowning in it!!!

Okay–so maybe it’s not a fair analogy but I’m confessing to you that this is how it made me feel. It’s times like this that make me wonder if I’m cut out for this kind of work. But then I get footage like this:

This is Richardson teaching English to impoverished children from a nearby village:

This is Patrick and he’s started a street ministry where he teaches young boys on the streets how to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Jean Ricard and he teaches the older boys at our partner orphanage how to make jewelry so that they can have the skills they need to get a job at HandUp.

THIS. This is the reason to keep moving forward and advocating for what we believe is right.

I believe that there has never been a better time to come together and put an end to extreme poverty.

I believe that HandUp is on to something revolutionary for Haiti’s aging out youth and that there is a BIG YES around the corner.

Will you believe alongside us?

The ripple effects of your donation to HandUp doesn’t stop at these young men. It spills out into their communities & THIS is what it takes to tackle poverty.

You can still TEXT to DONATE at 41444, TYPE in HUGG & follow the prompts.

At the end of the day, we want to know that we inspired you towards being part of this amazing story of redemption. We want YOU to know that you have the power to effect change on a global scale–so let’s tell this story TOGETHER!!!

 

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Why the THREE P’s are Vital for Success

HandUp Global Goods was birthed in passion and desire.

It was all at once…

whimsy and whirlwind,

deeply spiritual and taxing

hectic but steady

From the time that the idea was conceived to the time of our production launch was NINE MONTHS.

I had delivered a baby social enterprise. But just like delivering baby humans, the pangs of childbirth came quickly and fiercely. But THIS was the easy part.

This, my friend, is the hairy nature of a social enterprise. Social enterprise you say? What is it?

social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.

In other words, we function like a business but have the heart of a ministry. Managing both facets is tough and for this reason, I call HandUp my ever-hungry twin babies!!!

Have you ever thought about a more sustainable way of bringing relief to a need you’ve encountered? Maybe it’s a local social issue or perhaps you’ve gone on a mission trip and were left shaken over the poverty you saw.

I want to MOTIVATE you to DREAM & DO your part when it comes to promoting social change. But I also want you to know that there are THREE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS you must have in order to launch and maintain a social enterprise. Without these, your twin babies will be doomed from the start.

Passion

That’s right, Mama—the same passion that fueled the making of those babies will need to carry you through the initial hustle of getting this thing off the ground. HandUp was fueled by the novelty of the project and the dream that job creation and spiritual discipleship would change the lives of young orphaned men in Haiti.

I was obsessed. I read everything that I could and researched similar models working in Haiti. I was designing jewelry, fundraising, creating a website, sourcing raw materials, pricing, researching some more, traveling to Haiti AND managing my family of 7.

I wasn’t afraid to reach out to people out in the field and set up times to talk to them about their work. I was super nerdy about the approach, asking lots of questions, taking copious notes and giddily making my own plans based off the interviews. My initial passion for this project threw any semblance of balance out the window but it was sink or swim!

Prayer

I remember one all-nighter as I counted beads, typed up instructions and packed up supplies a couple of nights before heading out on my second trip to Haiti. I lacked the knowledge and experience to properly execute this grandiose idea that I had but because of this—I found myself praying A LOT. I didn’t have a clue how to successfully build a company whose backbone would consist of former street boys. So I prayed some more.

I had my first rude awakening when I learned that the boys weren’t used to the concept of measuring. They hadn’t been taught how to use measuring tools to calculate length. It took 3 days to figure out how to convey to them what measuring was and why it was critical to learn. I clung to my notes and tried to keep it together as the guys barraged me with questions

…in a language I didn’t understand

…as I pounded away at the brand new managers

…who were trying desperately to grasp my shallow knowledge of jewelry making.

I tried to stay strong on the production line, but in the evenings, I’d get on my knees begging God for intervention. To make matters worse, there were bouts of vomiting and diarrhea on those early trips. I’d visit the bathroom, lay down for five minutes to recover and then head back out and face the HandUp mayhem. It wasn’t pretty, but I prayed like a mother of HUNGRY BABY TWINS.

Persistence

Eventually, people with more experience and knowledge stepped in to help (hallelujah Jesus!), but I don’t believe that would have happened without the first two ingredients. People saw my stickwithitness and began believing the power of the story. They were inspired by this idea that a small social enterprise had the potential to radically change the lives of former street boys.

They believed that life was BIGGER than the daily grind and that GOD created them to change the world—in deep small ways and in MONSTER SIZE ways.

This is YOU reader! You are reading this because you know there is something MORE for you to do. Maybe you’re afraid of the ever hungry twins crying to be fed! Maybe the dreamer inside of you has drowned in a sea of to-do lists. The truth is God will use your hands and feet to bring hope to those who have no hope.

PASSION, PRAYER and PERSISTENCE are not just vital for social enterprises, they are required ingredients for transforming your dreams into DOs. 

I KNOW you are going to make it, sister. Know where you are going and don’t be afraid of the pylons and potholes. Before you know it, those babies will be walking and talking and you’ll have a deep gratitude in your heart that you got to be part of who they are. That’s how I feel about HandUp Global Goods–forever thankful that I get to be part of this amazing story.

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Why Good Advice Is Not Always Good

I remember, back in my late teens, when well-meaning people counseled me on improving my circumstances. I’d sift through their kind words looking for applicable wisdom but their advice was often oversimplified and unadaptable. Before me stood towering obstacles built over years of living in poverty under the rule of an abusive father. I’d wonder, “What would they say if I told them the uncut version of my story?”  Most of the time, I didn’t dare and I’d just smile and nod my head. Little did they know that their clean and simple formulas were foreign to my daily struggles.

But I wasn’t going to tell THEM that. Why bother spoiling their good efforts?

 

I think about these experiences in my work today. I try to resist giving well-meaning advice to young men who have experienced more horrors than my heart could handle. Sometimes I wonder if the words I choose to share with them is like a blind person trying to give physical directions to someone who is lost. How will I know when to tell them to turn left or right if I’m unaware of the pylons and potholes in the road?

Instill a Them a Moral Compass

Yet, as former street children, it is clear they need guidance. They need someone to help them find their way just as I did 20 years ago. So if you’re in a position of serving the marginilized, acknowledge that you will NOT get their whole, explicit story and therefore can’t apply blanket statements to cover their problems. Give them the means to discover their own truth and empower them to create their own map towards success. No one knows the pylons and potholes better than they—

If you want to build solidarity with the people you are serving; you MUST be relevant–not in some dorky poser way–but a connection must be pursued on a deep and meaningful level. Below are FIVE THINGS I’ve learned over the years of working with marginalized people.

  1. Listen.

Don’t be afraid to ask for details if you are not understanding a person’s predicament. You need to make it clear that the details are important to you. If they don’t want to share, that’s okay. But try to set your preconceived ideas aside and listen to them as if you were living in their home or community. Try to see life through their perspective.

  1. Emphasize the Process.

Often, the boys in our program think that money will solve their problems. If Jesus had intended for money to be the fixer of all things, he would have nailed hundred dollar bills to the cross. Instead He gave us His life. There are no quick fixes to most problems because He intended for us to learn through the process of following Him. Whether it is to cultivate faith, learn problem-solving skills, attain wisdom, live out experiences or give opportunities —God works His good through all circumstances, but we must be open to allowing the circumstances to teach us.

It may sound naïve to say this—but I have been in situations that made NO sense outside of clinging to the process for the sake of spiritual growth. I always try to stay open to what God is trying to teach me, but it’s hard to say this to others who are suffering. Instead, I ask questions that might lead them to understanding the “whys” and “hows” of their circumstances.

  1. Be Vulnerable. Be Real.

I don’t have all the answers and don’t pretend that I do. Sometimes I just listen and lament alongside the stories I hear. Sometimes I am reminded of a story that I lived through that could possibly be of encouragement to the listener. There is a solidarity built among leaders and the people they serve when we allow our humanity to show.

Paul Woodward, from Impact Houston, an inner-city missions church, was the first to teach me the beauty in vulnerability. I had always seen my vulnerability as a weakness but he taught me how to use it as a tool for ministry. I was on staff with him for a few years and was struck by the way he empowered the people he helped. He mitigated their “neediness” by punctuating his efforts with an “you would do the same for me if I needed it.” Such simple words but significant for people needing a handup.

  1. Search God’s Word for Applicable Wisdom.

Someone recently told me that they wished there was a third biblical testament to address so many issues that we have in modern times. While I understood the sentiment, the relevance of God’s word never ceases to surprise me. Your search engine is great for looking for applicable verses if you put in the key words. Take some time and research relevant scripture and set up a follow up conversation to share the insights gleaned. For example, this past week at HandUp Haiti, we learned about the importance of planning and prayer before launching new ministries.

Several of our young men want to give back but I realize that they haven’t been given the tools to minister effectively. In the midst of explaining this concept, one of them stood up and read Ecclesiastes 7:8. This verse alone opened up conversations in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. It impacted them deeply as they realized, some for the first time, that a ministry mustn’t be started if there are no steps in place to see it through.

http://livingfree.aubreecherie.com/2014/04/thoughtful-thursday-ecclesiastes-78/
  1. Take a Risk

I realize you can’t take a risk for everyone if you are in a leadership position in ministry, but you CAN let people know you care by doing one thing apart from praying and encouraging. There is so much TRUTH to the cliché; “Actions are louder than words.” My life changed radically the moment a ministry leader jumped into my messy life and helped me with specific obstacles that I couldn’t fight alone. That single “yes” on his part, opened up doors that allowed me to heal and grow.

I think about the measured risks that I can take for these young men not because I have something to prove, but because God’s love has already been proven to all.

The last thing I want is for these young men to smile and nod and politely wait for me to finish giving them the “wealth of my knowledge”. Perhaps I’ve done a little of this and they walk away wondering what in the world I just said. So sorry!!!!

It’s only when they see the relevance of ministry in their lives that they will become DOERS. They are the ones who will fill the potholes and tear down the pylons that stand in the way of progress. Your job is to help them etch out the road map.

How do you make your ministry effective and meaningful to the people you are serving?

 

 

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Target: Taking a Stand Against Child Labor

I have a love/hate relationship with Target.

My journey towards buying more ethically-sourced apparel and accessories has led me to harbor a little bit of jealousy towards them. Ok? I admit it.

I’m the friend who has given up chocolate and coffee for Lent and suddenly I’m bitter of every woman out there eating chocolate and drinking their cup of Joe! I’m going to spoil your fun and tell you that the chocolate you’re eating is not “child-labor” free and that your cheap coffee grounds taste like dirt. Wah! Wah!

Okay—so maybe I’m not THAT much of a hater—my intentions really are GOOD. I just want people to be aware of the abuse that takes place in the garment industry today. I’m genuinely passionate about using our purchase power for the GOOD of all people involved in the process.

It feels GOOD to be connected, on some level, to the laborers who make the things we wear.

At least it should feel good. It would be nice if shoppers felt anything at all towards the people who produce the products we purchase.

Truth be told, I WANT to shop at Target.

I want to be able to casually look up their brands and see more transparency on where and how their beautiful things are sourced. Maybe if this big-box store was a little more “wal-martish” in their selections, I wouldn’t feel so determined to call them out on some of their sourcing decisions. But they are SO on trend, affordable and oh-so convenient that it makes NOT shopping there a sore subject for me.

But the other night, THIS happened….

Their Spring 2017 HomeStyle Catalog showcased a recent partnership with one of my favorite organizations.

Target has partnered with Good Weave, a non-profit that seeks to eliminate child labor in the carpet industry. This organization was one of my many inspirations when I first started researching the impact of social enterprises across the globe. Have you ever wondered if a child made your clothes? You should. According to the International Labor Organization, over 215 million children are engaged in work across the world.

This may not sound terrible to you, but IF a child is working, it means they aren’t going to school.

IF they aren’t going to school, the chances of that family ever freeing themselves from the chains of poverty is virtually eliminated.

Children are most vulnerable and are taken advantage of in the work place even to the extent of not getting paid at all. Find out more here.

THIS is why it excited me to see that Target was moving in this direction through their collaboration with Good Weave. Demanding that children around the world be spared from industrial abuse should be second nature to us. I’m glad to see Target taking this stand.

As I continued thumbing through their globally-inspired furniture and accents, I saw another golden nugget of sustainable goodness on page 41. Their Threshold Organic sheets are now GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard). This certification demands high ecological standards for the cotton produced but there is a component of social responsibility as well. Compliance with GOTS standards involves fair trade principles like fair wages, ethical employer practices and absolutely no child labor.

Choosing to buy GOTS certified cotton also ensures that you are not being exposed to the dangerous chemicals in traditional cotton. If you didn’t know this already, cotton is considered the dirtiest crop on the planet. Read here and dare to enter the rabbit hole….

Some of you may think that this maneuver is nothing more than a shallow gesture of corporate responsibility. These two collaborations very well could be ways to appease those of us who actually care where and how our stuff is made. Regardless of the intentions, I believe my relationship with Target may be on the mend.

In the words of one of the Good Weave reps when asked about their collaboration with Target… “Having a partner like Target sends a huge message to manufacturers, consumers, partners and other brands around the world.”

Way to go Target! Message heard.

I would love to hear how this might change your shopping!

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Why Helping Men Helps the Women

I never imagined that I would be working with young, black men. Really! It was the stories of the women and children who beckoned my heart to bring aid to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, through a series of connections, our church ended up partnering with a boy’s home by the name of Grangou in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The women and children would have to wait…or so I thought…

But first, let me go back….

My husband and I facilitate an orphan care ministry at West Conroe Baptist Church.  At the time, we were walking with other families who were in the midst of fostering. Fostering did two things for our family.

One—it brought us our 4th child, a little boy whom we adopted at two years old. His name is Daiton and he is about as cute as a 4-year old can be!


Two—it brought us a keen awareness that there are 153 million orphans across the world and God was calling us to do something about it.

So, we invited one of Grangou’s board members to speak to our orphan care group. I clung to his every word as he described how the street children were treated worse than the dogs in Haiti. He talked about his own daughter and son-in-law and how they cared for nearly 100 children, mostly boys, in Grangou. Dan and I knew we needed to go and so Dan did.

We yearned to help the tender faces and big brown eyes that we had seen in photos….

But as it turns out, it was the working hands and hearty spirits of the young men who had aged out that captured our attention. Watch the story here.

From the moment that Dan handed me the survival souvenirs that the young men had made, I knew I wanted to become part of a solution to transform these street bracelets into tokens of success. I knew we could cultivate their spirit of survival into something that would powerfully transform the lives of these boys. HandUp Global Goods is a result of this partnership. We offer jobs, spiritual discipleship and education to these former street boys and thus, we’ve discovered something extremely special…

My desire to help the women and children in Haiti didn’t have to wait.

By engaging the men, we see potential for the lives of the women and children in these communities to improve. This belief has lovingly guided our social enterprise to invest in the lives of former street boys by continuing to develop programming that instills a healthy sense of who they are. While doing so, they also learn how to view the women and children in their spheres of influence. We consider this investment in these young men one that will perpetuate goodness in all facets of not only their lives, but the lives of others around them.

Most social enterprises like us specifically work with women.  While we recognize this is vital, we are less likely to achieve lasting change if we fail to engage the men.

THIS is what makes us different.

Their stories have been weaved into my story along with many other people in this community. Every time I come home from my trips to Haiti, my passion for this movement is refueled.  I see the change stirring in this little corner of the world.  You’ve GOT to see it for yourself.

I invite you mamas and wives and sisters to be part of this story that invests in the lives of young men… who, in turn, will invest in other mamas, wives and sisters living in Haiti.

Want to volunteer and help package incoming products? Ask Gretchen about hosting an online bracelet bash? Share this ministry with your pastor? Check us out here and here.

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Small Purchases Make a Huge Impact

I believe the hardest part about moving our purchases to fair trade items come from changing the way we think. The old saying, “Go big or go home” starts to play over in our heads. We think that if we cannot make some large, expensive purchase into fair trade then we feel as if there is no point.

This is simply not true.

Changing one purchase to fair trade can make a huge difference. That one purchase makes a tremendous impact on another person. And that purchase does not have to be large or expensive. It can be small and, in this case, delicious!

Today I am talking about gum. That’s right, gum. Project 7 makes specialty gums and mints that are made in America and have a global impact. Their focus is to aid in 7 Missions through the purchase of their gum: save the Earth, house the homeless, feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, heal the sick, teach them well and hope for peace. In their mission statement, Project 7 states, “Little purchases when added up, can pull many people together and make life changing impacts every day of the week.

What I enjoy most about their gum is all the unique flavors. I recently purchased Birthday Cake which legit tastes like birthday cake. It was amazing and my 4-year-old especially loved it! Now they have Girl Scout cookie flavored mints and gums! My girl-scout-cookie-loving heart is full.

Let the change in our perspective start here. Small changes do make a difference and small purchases do make a huge impact.

You can pick Project 7 gum up at most grocery stores. Give Project 7 a try and let me know what you think.