We need food to grow.
I think of the adage, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Growth represents the very life, vitality, and strength for all of us.
As we entered a classroom built of orange bricks in Bugasera, Rwanda yesterday, the children in Primary 6 (sixth grade) stood with an enthusiastic cheer, “Welcome our visitors!” We were instantly warmed by those ear-to-ear smiles as our girls introduced themselves.
We talked favorite subjects and how the students were all preparing for their annual exams in three weeks. Each student carried a quiet confidence in their demeanor, as if they understand they’d received an opportunity to create a new life. Oozing with hope, they were free from inhibitions. They’d snuggle in close with no need for personal space, welcoming human contact with a desire to be close. It pierced the fabric of my soul, this childlike freedom that I wanted to bottle up and bring back to the states, this openness to life.
This generation, rising from the ashes of genocide, are choosing gratitude for a new life.
We moved out to the courtyard where the children ran free. Our girls joined in, like they’d been friends since birth. While they played, we went to the kitchen where a hot lunch was being prepared by Africa New Life, their commitment to not only satisfying the hearts and minds of these children, but also their bellies. We learned how hunger was prevalent in this community, with Rwanda being landlocked and the cost of healthy options more than most families could handle. We listened and asked for specific ways we could help.
WHAT WE HEARD
“When you are hungry, you cannot do things with courage.” – Dauphine, student
Food is LIFE.
Food is JUSTICE.
Food is A FUTURE.
Each year, Africa New Life feeds about 1.2 million meals to the children and families served by their programs in Rwanda. The FOOD IS campaign raises funds to serve these meals, which are not covered by child sponsorship. A nutritious meal can be served for just $0.83.
Which means, only $25 will serve 30 student meals to children raised in the shadow of genocide!
A GENEROUS CHALLENGE
If just 2,000 of us mother/daughters give $25 by Oct 6, joining Kennedy and me, Ann Voskamp with Hope and Shalom, Lauren Chandler with Audrey and Esther Havens, that generous donor will match up to $50,000 doubling your gift from $25 gift to $50!
Can we do it? Will you offer $25 to ensure 30 student meals and the best care possible for these Rwandan kids at Africa New Life? Our prayer is to meet the match, raising $100,000 total. Click here to give generously to Rwanda.
Ever so grateful,
In the midst of packing boxes, loading trucks and relocating families across the country since June, the Q team is still busy as bees, with laptops humming on floors, coffee tables, lawn chairs, you name it! Time keeps ticking whether or not we are settled, and today we are THRILLED to launch our newest offering, Q Commons, bringing the experience of the national gathering to cities across the U.S. and around the globe in one evening.
On Thursday evening, October 9th join 10,000+ participants in 60+ cities as we gather to enjoy an evening of vision, learning and engagement. Alongside Tim Keller, Ann Voskamp and Andy Crouch leading off the evening with 3 nationally broadcasted talks, 3 locally curated Q Talks will be presented addressing cultural issues and topics that matter most in your city.
It’s not often we have the opportunity to come together with our neighbors, friends and colleagues to be educated and inspired to advance the common good in our very own community. Check out a city near you and join us!
Grateful for this new season for Q,
Gabe, Rebekah, Lance, Hannah, Rob, Katelyn, Peter, kids, babies, and of course, dogs.
Rwanda has always been near and dear to me. I’ll never forget my first time visiting there, eight years ago when Kennedy was only ten months old. I sat in social services a month prior, nursing her for the last time while I waited to get the yellow fever vaccine, with big ol’ tears streaming down my face. I knew I couldn’t nurse after getting the vaccine, and I also knew Kennedy was my last.
Yet something compelled me to GO. That week changed me, with the breathtaking views in the land of a thousand hills, visiting women entrepreneurs with HIV, loving on orphans in schools, hearing stories of the survivors of the genocide, visiting wells, and even a crazy day of trekking gorillas.
When I met Natalie with Africa New Life over coffee in New York City this past January, the tears started flowing again. This country, these people, stirred something massive in my heart. The grief they bore twenty years ago, and the reconciliation and resolve that has followed suit. I listened to Natalie describe the Esther Home and the women being raised up to lead in that country. These were exceptional young women who demonstrate Christian character, leadership and academic rigor. They are genocide survivors, orphans, and the poorest of the poor. She also explained how a college degree in Rwanda ends the cycle of poverty, but attending college is cost prohibitive. Without scholarships, these young women would not be able to get a college education.
You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn of a tangible way IF:Unleash could participate in supporting the women of Rwanda.
What IF… 1600 of us gave a one-time gift of $30 and impacted these women for a lifetime?
This would provide scholarships for two women in Rwanda to attend a four year college.
They would also live in the the Esther Home, receive leadership training, learn basic finance management, and serve/learn in community together.
Will you join us by July 1 deadline?
Ann Voskamp, Lauren Chandler, Esther Havens and I will travel to the Esther Home in Rwanda this September and meet both of these women and introduce them to our IF:Gathering community via video. We are so excited and grateful to see what God has in store for both of them. Thanks for being a part of something beautiful today, I pray each you are blessed by your generosity and faithfulness!
A weighted word, yes? Safety. Security. Haven. In the four years since moving to NYC, the meaning has taken new forms. Risk. Surrender. Rescue.
With a heavy, yet peaceful heart, our home is moving. Again. I’ve posted less these recent months but the writing is still happening, mind you. I’ve filled almost two journals since August. But some seasons are for wrestling, twisting and turning, and can’t be shared prematurely. Writers understand, that words are often a space for working things out. Most books are agonized over for years, before they ever make their way to a published page.
I’ve sensed, perhaps all along, that New York City wasn’t permanent. We “opted-in” every year when the rental agreement slipped under the door requiring our signature to renew each May.
“Are we up for another 12 months?”
“Yes, absolutely we are.”
That conversation stayed on repeat year after year. The first couple years, the answer was agonizing. We held a sense to stay, to not run or retreat, no matter the struggle. We knew running from pain never solved any problems. So God held us close, while He gently pried idols and entitlements from our hands.
As our fingers released a bit more each year, that answer came easier. Eventually New York City became my love. These years marked the most formative moments of my adult life. From serving in a church that we were passionate about building, to meeting with different women each Tuesday over coffee in TriBeCa, I knew I could live here forever.
Turns out I’m only 1 of 5. A family unit, with individual needs and desires. Although Gabe and I were thriving, the city was getting tougher for our kids. Cade, thirteen years old, met challenges finding a community of other kiddos with Down syndrome. He’s a social bug, and I’m learning as each year passes, he needs more buddies like himself. Pierce is about to enter Middle School and begin his 6th different school experience in seven years. As for Kennedy, our youngest, the majority of her life has been muddled with transition.
Gabe and I shared many late night conversations about this reality. We only have 9 years left before our youngest takes flight. Nine years! A blink! (Likely even less to influence their crucial years of emotional development.)
This May, we knew this decision would hold more weight.
The South has always been home. I grew up in Florida, met Gabe at a college in Virginia and spent our first thirteen years of married life in Atlanta. Those roots run deep. As we considered where we might plant our family for the immediate years to come, the likely place became Nashville, Tennessee. A city where our extended family was driving distance, not flying distance. Amen?!
Funny how God works these things out. Our decision to host Q in Nashville 15 months ago apparently was our set up. The multiple trips there over the past year began to raise the question, “Could this be where we land?” My immediate reaction was, “No.” Don’t get me wrong, 12 South is progressive, and Franklin is charming, the horse farms are dreamy and rolling hills picturesque, but I couldn’t accept it. I woke the first half of May with fear and doubt, terrified of the comfort.
Somewhere along the way, I adopted the belief that my faith was built on martyrdom. That God would remain in my apartment flooring where I met Him so intimately these years, and moving South would leave me wandering aimlessly. Thank God for honest friends. As I expressed my doubts to my dear friend, Lauren, she reminded me to take the fear captive. To ask Jesus to give it a name. The next morning I woke and asked Jesus, “What is it?”
He whispered, “IDENTITY”.
God revealed that my identity was wrapped around NYC. It made sense. It’s the place where I found my voice, where I experienced healing, and ultimately found freedom. However, He gently reminded me that New York City did not give me my identity, He did. The city had only been the setting. A kindling, in fact. And what He has begun here, He will accomplish elsewhere. I’m resting in that promise.
I knew obedience required me to come, but I never thought obedience would require me to go.
When the decision was final last week, there was such PEACE. A resting place where I can stop focusing on what we are leaving, and focus on what He is taking us TO.
Over the last many months, untold hints and confirmations have surfaced along the way, giving us a sense that this is where our next phase of life will play out. We know it won’t hold all the answers as we meet struggle and opportunity in Nashville, just like the NYC. Yet our sense is that this is the right decision for our family, for this moment. We are grateful to join in on what has already begun, many like minded kindreds, shaping the future of this great city in the South.
We are eager for many things: For rest and renewal, to finish the next book, to be sent out, and while away, return to a new place called home. BONUS: Pierce is eager to play his guitar on the streets of Music City. (Though I keep telling him the tips won’t rival Central Park!)
Thanks to each of you, dear readers, for joining me in this wild ride. For journeying with me when I penned the story of Freefall. I can’t imagine our story without New York in it. This sacred space has given us an understanding of God’s presence and power. His healing and revelation. His longing for us to live and thrive in relationship. A recognition that we NEED one another and can’t do life alone. This city has shown us that when we CRY out, He draws near. I pray I’ll take that understanding with me—no matter the place-for the rest of my days.
Posted on May 6, 2014
I’m thrilled and honored be take part in a beautiful film, Irreplaceable, which will play in 700 theaters around the country, TONIGHT.
A year ago in April, Freefall to Fly had just launched, and we were traveling on a two week book tour between New York, Chicago and LA over Spring Break. Each night I shared about Cade, how his LIGHT and LIFE had turned my world upside down thirteen years prior at age 26, my entre’ to motherhood. At the end of one of the gatherings, a producer approached sharing the message of this project, and wanted to chat in NYC the following week.
The crew arrived in NYC as promised, joined us in picking Cade up from his elementary school on the upper west side, and walked with us to Central Park to have a conversation on the freshly warmed green grass of spring. I had no idea what to expect, but as Gabe and I shared our learnings and longings, our brokenness and beauty, it became evident that FOCUS was onto something special in this story of commitment and connectedness. They were sharing a global glimpse of the WORTH of family.
We live in a day in NYC, when I show up in my children’s public school classroom to chaperone or view their latest creations, the teachers gather us by saying to the children, “Find your grown-up.” In that setting, I’m not Kennedy, Pierce or Cade’s “mom”, I’m their “grown-up.” I’m interchangeable. There’s not permission anymore to say mom or dad, because the sad truth is that no longer holds the popular definition of family.
Just three weeks ago, I was incredibly blessed to fly to LA to view this film for the first time, at Fox Studios, for the premiere. I had no idea how much this finished work would grip my heart. There were whispered “amens”, and “yes’s”, and “hmmm’s”, from the crowd after quotes like, “Our pursuit of individual freedoms have made us slaves,” by John Stonestreet or “I went to prison, to become free.” (A women’s story of encountering Jesus for the first time)
The film was followed by a panel led by Jim Daly with Carey Casey of National Institute of Fathering, Rev. Sam Rodriguez of National Hispanic Leadership Conference, Tim Sisarich (Director), and myself. I’m not sure how I was asked to represent on that panel, but it was a beautiful experience of learning and I’m incredibly grateful for their pursuit of diversity. The panel will play in theaters at the end of tonight’s film.
If you don’t have plans tonight, please join us. I promise you will be stirred, convicted and inspired.
May we, the Church, be the LIGHT of the world, the SALT of the earth, the CITY on a hill that cannot be hidden. May this film open our eyes and ears to where we sit as a people, in desperate need to find our footing again. May this gospel be “Good News”, that gives way for our children, and our children’s children, to flourish. To SHINE.