From Seat to Stage

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to speak at my alma mater, Liberty University. It was a surreal moment. Looking out on those 10,000 students quickly reminded me that I once sat right where they were sitting. And I realized how much those years and experiences had shaped my life. As I walked out onto that stage, I was overcome with emotion and, I admit, I held back a few tears.

Noel Yeatts: Liberty University

Liberty has changed over the years … but some things have stayed the same.  Students still come for so much more than earning a degree. They come with the hope of changing the world.

I challenged the students to “wake up to the world” and to let God use them to make a difference.  I told them that God doesn’t want to change the world without them – and that they were part of his plan. When seeing the overwhelming needs of our world today, I asked them to be “outraged, loud and bold”, and to take action. And I encouraged them to go on one of the many mission trips offered by the school … trips that years before that literally changed and confirmed the direction of my life.

I still believe in the importance of mission trips. While the terminology has changed to “exposure trips” or “short-term missions experiences,” there is no substitute for seeing the needs of the world firsthand. And, while many today question the value of  missions trips, you can’t argue the value it has in the life of the person that commits to go. I don’t think I have ever talked to someone who regretted going, or who came back unchanged.  Their passion is contagious and they inspire others to get involved–a ripple effect of change that starts with one person saying “yes.”

Standing before those students last week, I saw a sea of young faces who still have their whole lives ahead of them. It seems like just yesterday I was in their shoes, but the truth is nearly 20 years have passed since I was a student. The important thing is what I did with those 20 years, and what they will do with their next 20 years.

Speaking with students

I left them with this challenge: “I can’t think of a better way for you and I to respond to the needs of the world than to dedicate our lives to restoring hope . . . one day and one person at a time. I want to challenge you to live a life fully awake to the needs of the world. Let God break your heart…and then, when he does, let him use you to change the world.”

Special-Needs Home: A New Kind of Hope-Giving Care

It was incredible to celebrate the opening of our new Special-Needs Home in Guatemala several weeks ago. This new branch of Baby Rescue is meeting such an urgent need in a country where an estimated 14 percent of the people are disabled—and 20-30 percent of those are special-needs children.

Kelly's HouseThe construction of this facility is an inspiration of its own. It was funded by David and Carol Loveland, in memory of their daughter Kelly who passed away from cancer in 2010. Amid the sobering loss of their daughter, David and Carol courageously reached out to invest in something that would honor Kelly. They wanted her legacy to live on in the life of others. And today, that legacy is stirring an incredible hope—the promise that some of the earth’s most helpless children will receive the care they so desperately need.

That promise became more real to me when I experienced one of the most unsettling cases of the consequences of poverty yet . . . a little boy named Jefferson. Jefferson’s mother brought him to the Special-Needs Center . . . and my heart froze when I saw him.

Noel and JeffersonHydrocephalus had swollen his head to three times its normal size, even more exaggerated in contrast to his limp, tiny body that had shrunken to leathery skin and bones. When I held him, I didn’t know how to feel. The gravity of the moment shocked me to the point of emotional and mental numbness.

In a developed country, this child would have received immediate care by trained emergency professionals, evaluated by some of the world’s brightest minds, and given advanced medical treatments. What a contrast from the realities of indigenous Guatemala.

Only later did I fully process what I had experienced cradling Jefferson’s delicate body. It made me realize just how critical the Special-Needs Center is for thousands of Guatemalans. Each child’s handicap heartbreakingly unique . . . each life equally precious.

Let Jefferson’s story speak for those like him who are in urgent need of rescue first and then specialized care. This extraordinary center means a whole new way of life for children with mental and physical disabilities!

Meeting Jefferson has made me more determined than ever to bring hope to suffering Guatemalan children and their families. And because of the vision of individuals like David and Carol Loveland, we are in the process of achieving that hope.

Will you join me?

Dirty Brook

Quebrada Sucia . . . is the name of a small, impoverished community in Guatemala. In Spanish, it literally means “dirty brook.”

Watch the video on Vimeo.

Located in a remote, arid region of Guatemala, the 250 residents living in this community continually struggle with low-water supplies. The dirty brook, which is a substantial distance away, is their only option for water, as few can afford buying the purified alternative. In the summer, the brook is nearly dry and stagnant, and in the winter months, it becomes a destination for discarded garbage and waste.

One villager named Don Renato told us that because of the distance to the brook, the children of Quebrada Sucia often shoulder the burden of fetching water for their families—a chore that takes several hours a day. The children regularly miss school to help carry this contaminated water, which is a perpetual cause of illness and malnutrition.

There wasn’t much hope for the next generation to escape the cycle of poverty caused by the dirty brook—until now.

Last Christmas, we asked you to spread the joy of the season by Changing the Present for impoverished communities around the globe. So many of you stepped up to the challenge—giving generously toward our goal of revolutionizing five villages with clean water. Quebrada Sucia is one of those villages.

After a long, tragic history of disease and lack of opportunity caused by dirty water, hope arrived in the most simple of forms—a sparkling pool of fresh, clean water pouring from the community’s new water well.

I was there last month, watching the people of Quebrada Sucia bask in their new gift. It was clearly indicated on the beaming faces of the old and young alike, as this gift means far more than you or I could ever imagine. Clean water symbolizes an improved economy, better health, the time to pursue educational opportunities, and a new future for their children.

Today, Quebrada Sucia is a very different place.

Even though the village still bears the name “dirty brook,” it is no longer an indication of the fate of its residents but is a continual reminder of how far they have come . . . because clean water changes everything.

A Birthday Legacy

As a child I thought of my dad as an adventurer – Indiana Jones or Jacques Cousteau! He traveled around the world and brought me treasures from every location – wood carvings of giraffes, bracelets made out of zebra tails, and the stacking Russian matryoshka dolls.

But the best gift by far that he ever gave me … was taking me with him. I traveled overseas with my dad for the first time when I was only eleven years old to South Korea and the Philippines. It was on that trip that I first saw true poverty  – both physical and spiritual. My eyes were opened, and I have never been able to close them since.

I am so thankful that he chose to share his passion with me and allow me to experience the world through his eyes.  Here are a few pics of that first trip we took together:

 My dad and I in the Philippines on my first missions trip

Seeing poverty for the first time in the Philippines

Holding a child at an orphanage in Korea

Today as my dad celebrates his 65th birthday, I think back on all that he has accomplished in his life – all the places he has seen, the people he has met, the lives he has impacted. His mission statement says it all: Every day I try to live my life in such a way that I accomplish at least one thing that will outlive me and last for eternity. To him, these are not just words on a paper … but rather words that are literally the guiding force of his life.

So, happy birthday dad! May you have many more years to come … years that will continue to change the world!

To read more about my dad’s birthday and how we are honoring him at World Help, click here.


Just in time…

I can still feel the weight of his body and the tightness of his skin. I can hear his crying and whimpering in my ears. I can still see the fear and pain in his eyes.

But today, all I hear is silence and all I feel is emptiness.

Just days ago I was holding this boy in my arms and praying for a miracle. I remember the little song I used to teach my children when they were young – that God always answers prayer. Sometimes he answers “yes,” sometimes he answers “no,” and sometimes he answers “wait…wait…wait,” but God always answers prayer.

But as much I believe that to be true, this was not the answer I was looking for. I just received news that Kevin passed away yesterday morning. That little boy who was still breathing days ago in my arms, is gone.

I knew full well that this was a strong possibility, but I had hope and I was praying for a miracle. So, what do you do with hope that has been crushed?

It reminds me of a story I included in my book, Awake.

A few years back, I had some photos on the wall of my office. They were of two boys who had been part of our child sponsorship program. Although the young boys did not know each other, they shared something horrible in common. During the same time period, they both committed suicide. Our help had come too late, and their traumatic childhoods proved too much to bear.

I kept their photos on my wall for some time to serve as a reminder, I wanted to “see”…I wanted to remember. If we truly see, then we really can help. We are not going to win every single battle, but sometimes the ones we lose inspire us the most.

I will keep Kevin’s photo on my wall and his story will be a reminder to me of why I do what I do and that the impact of our work is great, even in the midst of tragedy. It will be an inspiration to keep going so that for other children, we will not arrive too late, but we will arrive just in time.

Too late?


I found Kevin in a dusty village in Guatemala. The home where he and his 8 family members live is nothing but a dirt floor and pieces of tin, sticks and tarps that make up his roof and walls.

At first glance, from a distance, you might think that he is just a chubby toddler, but as you get closer you realize something is terribly wrong. The cancer that is eating up his body has caused his kidneys to shut down and it has been more than a week since he has been able to produce more than a few drops of urine. He is severely bloated from head to toe.

I rubbed my hand on his leg and felt the pressure of the fluid building up in his body. It felt like the a balloon when you squeeze it … ready to pop at any moment. His limbs were stiff, unable to bend. His loving sister held him and tried to comfort his obvious discomfort and crying.

Back home, this child would have been admitted to a hospital long ago and the fluid would have been drained from his body. But here, local doctors have given up saying there is nothing that can be done. Instead, they want to operate and amputate his leg at the hip – a painful operation that may not even change his condition.

As I stood in his home, I couldn’t help but wonder – have we arrived to late? Can this child be saved? Are we simply going to have to watch him die?

I’m now sitting on the plane headed back home to my family and children – but my mind keeps drifting back to a little boy who is not even my own, but who has touched my heart.

The truth is I don’t know what will happen to Kevin. It is possible that the only thing we can offer him is a comfortable passing. Sometimes you can’t wrap stories up in a pretty packages with happy endings. The reality of life is much to harsh for that.

Sometimes all you can do for hope and pray for a miracle.

Kevin’s Rescue

Today we rescued a little boy named Kevin from a village. He is only 2 years old and has cancer. His kidneys have shut down and he is so swollen with fluid. He is literally just days from death. The local doctors have given up on him and have said there is nothing else they can do.


But that is not good enough. We brought him to the rescue center today, hoping and praying for a miracle. I caught a short clip of little Kevin and his mother and sister riding with us after we picked them up.  Please pray for this little boy. He truly needs a miracle to survive.

More than we can handle

God never gives us more than we can handle. I just wish he did not trust me so much. -Mother Teresa

Just when I think my heart can not break anymore, God reminds me that he is in control.

Today as we were dedicating the special needs center, I was introduced to a little boy who had just arrived. I was truly not prepared for what I would see. It was possibly the worst and most heartbreaking case I have ever seen. This 10 month old little boy named Jefferson is fighting for his life.

The doctors were surrounding him as he lay whimpering on the examination table. His young 20 year old mother stood nearby watching. They had come from the mountains hours away.

Trying to comfort him, I carefully picked him up and gently scooped up his head. I could barely hold the weight. His head probably weighs more than three times as much as the rest of his body. But his alert little eyes stared right into mine. His whimpering soon stopped. Like any baby, he just wanted to be held.

The doctors are still evaluating him but he appears to have hydrocephalus combined with severe malnutrition. He desperately needs surgery but his body is simply not strong enough.

I couldn’t help but think how serious this condition would be even back home. But here in Guatemala, a child like this almost has no hope. Well, almost …

We surrounded this little guy in prayer today -praying for a miracle in his life. Because of the rescue center, hospital and special needs home, he is in the best place possible to receive the help that he needs. There is no guarantee he will survive and his road will be long and hard, but now he has hope.

Today as I think back on all that I have seen and experienced, I echo the words of Mother Teresa and I understand what she must have meant. What I saw today, was simply too much. It makes me wonder -does God really know how much we can handle emotionally? Does he understand how much I want to run and hide away from the pain?

But I think God knows exactly what he is doing. While to us it may feel overwhelming and simply too much at times, perhaps that is just what we need to wake-up. Perhaps that is just what we need to help us admit that the comfortable world we live in is not the real world. Maybe that is just what we need to see that we have been lulled into a deep sleep, and we need to wake up.

In my new book Awake, I quote John Stott who says,”The horror of the situation is that our affluent culture has drugged us; we no longer feel the pain of other people’s deprivations. Yet the first step toward recovery of our Christian integrity is to be aware that our culture blinds, deafens and dopes us. Then we shall begin to cry to God to open our eyes, unstop our ears and stab our dull consciences awake, until we see, hear and feel what through his word he has been saying to us all the time. Then we shall take action.”

If feeling emotionally overwhelmed at times is exactly what we need to inspire us to action – then I say bring it on. Keep trusting me with more. Don’t let me grow numb. Keep me awake.

You are not forgotten

Can you ever replace the loss of a loved one? Can you ever take that pain away?

I dont think you can ever replace a loved one or that the pain will ever completely go away. But, I do believe you can use that pain and that loss to make a difference.

Today in Guatemala, we proved that to be true.

The Loveland family has suffered great loss. Their daughter Kelly fought a long and hard battle with breast cancer, and died at the young age of 38, leaving a husband, 2 children and an entire family reeling from the pain.

But today, nearly two years later, that pain in slowly turning into hope.

Special Needs Decidation

Kelly’s parents, David and Carol, were touched by the opportunity to provide a special needs center here in Guatemala. The long-term effects of malnutrition leave many children with disabilities that they will have for the rest of their lives. These children are often discarded, abandoned and abused. They are simply forgotten.

Special Needs Dedication

In a beautiful dedication ceremony today, complete with the Guatemalan Minister of Health, the doors to the Special Needs Center were finally openend. This home will house up to 50 children at a time as well as provide regular therapy for hundreds more.

Hearing the Loveland family share about Kelly was so touching. Kelly was a nurse and they said that she would have loved this place. But, it was Kelly’s aunt, Mayda,that said something so profound and touching.

She said, “Kelly’s last words were, ‘I am ready to go home’. And Kelly, today these children are ready to go home.”

My heart was so touched. I wish you could have been there to take it all in with me … the beautiful new facility, the Loveland family standing together honoring Kelly, all of the special needs children lined up ready to “go home” … it was a moment.

I was privileged to say a few words and I wanted to share that with you:

This is a special day. Today we are shouting to the children of Guatemala – the children who have disabilities and special needs – children who have often been neglected and looked over. We are shouting … You are no forgotten! You are not forgotten – and there is hope!

I am so passionate about the baby rescue program and this center is an integral part of that. We have to go beyond the rescue and look for ways to make a long-term, sustainable difference in the lives of these children.

So many of the children rescued havelong-term needs that without a facility like this would go unmet.

The pain that these children feel, both physical and emotional, must be unbearable. But, we are here to turn that pain into hope.

What a beautiful story the Loveland family has. they have experienced extreme pain in their lives – but they are turning that pain into hope for these children.

I have often said that the greatest injustice of all is not poverty, hunger, disease, abuse, lack of clean water … even disabilities. No the greatest injustice of all is hopelessness.

And today we are making things right.

So, Loveland family, on behalf of Julio, Danny, MiMi, Estelita and all the other children they represent – thank you for restoring hope!

After the ceremony, the nurses brought all of the children in. I knew so many of these children because they are the same ones we have rescued. It was a beautiful sight. Here is a short clip of that moment:


I arrived at Hope of Life today and one of the first kids I saw was Ulises. You will remember that he was the 16 year old boy I introduced you to a couple months ago. Because of severe malnutrition, he only weighed about 30 pounds when he was rescued … at 16 years old. Skin broken with open wounds – his body was literally eating itself. But after being at the rescue center nearly 2 months – the difference is incredible to see. Watch this short clip of my time with ulises today. His story is one of hope …