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Putting My Hands to What’s in His Heart

It is my absolute delight to introduce you to my sweet friend, and guest blogger, Susan Morris (www.susanbeth.com). Susan and her husband pastor Amplify Church in Jacksonville, FL and Susan is an active member of the Leading and Loving It community where she and I received our introduction. Susan is one of the sweetest most passionate women I know living her life trying to put her hands to the things in God’s heart… but I’ll let her share her own story!

A year ago I was immersed in wedding details for one of my daughters and had never even heard of World Help. I had however been part of Leading & Loving It, a community of women involved in ministry and have led one of their Connect LIVE groups the past several years. I had been looking forward to attending their retreat again last Fall, but due to putting some things aside in preparing for the wedding I felt like it wasn’t something I could do at that time.

Because of that decision I missed hearing Noel share about World Help and an upcoming L&LI trip to Guatemala. It wasn’t until after the first of the year that I saw something about the Operation Baby Rescue Project. I knew immediately I needed to go. I also knew that I didn’t have the money budgeted to go on a trip that was now quickly approaching.

It’s funny now looking back out at how everything played out…

I created several items for my daughters wedding and a few people had inquired about ordering pieces from me. That idea did not appeal to me at all, until the moment I read about this trip. I decided to create and sell custom art pieces to raise the money needed for the trip (out of my comfort zone!)

I was able to raise the funds to go on the trip. One of the highlights for me personally was getting to know Noel Yeatts. In a world that often glamorizes strength and beauty in a self indulgent way, I saw in her, womanhood at it’s finest. I saw a devoted, loving wife and mother who was passionate about what God had put in her heart. A woman who was willing to get out of her comfort zone, rally the troops and lead the charge to get a job done!

Noel spoke into our lives throughout the trip and she continued to speak into mine afterward from her book, AWAKE – Doing a WORLD of Good One Person at a Time (which you need to get if you havent already!)

One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Do you want to be safe, or do you really want to change the world? The conflict is that we want to be brave, we want to take risks… but we also want to be safe. The problem is we cant have it both ways.”

Even though many people I know would consider me a risk taker and brave…I knew deep in my heart I was still playing it safe.

I remember sharing with Noel the very first night of the trip that I had asked others to pray I would not be overwhelmed with the need before me, making it unable to see anything else. It is easy to become paralyzed by the enormity of it all.

That prayer was answered… I saw so clearly in my time in Guatemala that it takes each of us being obedient to what God is asking us to do. Only then can the miraculous happen. I made a decision to be obedient no matter how insignificant or how huge that looked.

The day after I got home from the trip, I made my commitment to raise money to rescue five babies, representing each of my five children. The total amount raised would be $6000, which seemed insignificant and HUGE all at the same time.

Another one of my favorite quotes from AWAKE is “Doing a world of good is oftentimes just doing what you already know how to do…”

So that’s what I’ve done…at AMPLIFY where my husband and I pastor we have Amplify LOVE Projects, so Operation Baby Rescue has become one of our projects. We made #amplifyLOVE shirts and coffee mugs with proceeds going to rescue babies.

Our family also owns Reach Destiny Arts, a Dance Studio lead by my daughters that has nearly 200 students associated with it. We have created a fun way to donate to OPERATION BABY RESCUE by buying a Pointe Shoe and the students writing their name and amount on it to hang up on the walls of our studio.

At this stage, we have rescued two babies and this just by doing what I’ve already been doing. Nothing spectacular or special! People you know want to make a difference…theyre just waiting for you to show them how.

I specifically took a picture of my feet on the ground in Guatemala because I knew once my feet were on the familiar soil of home it would be easy to forget. The following is a blog I wrote a week after being home about that picture…

susan morris 2
A week ago I was standing on the soil in Guatemala.

I had the opportunity to share about my week with my church family on Sunday. I wore these boots and I told them why…

Ive been on several trips to other countries where you see such heartbreaking need all around you. I know that my life and perspective has been shaped through the years by these experiences. I wore these boots on Sunday as a reminder that as much as I was moved to make a difference in those moments standing there in Guatemala, life back in my “normal” can soften the urgency over time.

I snapped pictures while I was there and as I was scrolling through them just hours later they seemed unreal. I wonder if its because its hard to process the reality of what I was seeing?

I don’t know.

But I do know, I want to remember…

I want to remember the mom that walked with her children 3 hours one way so they would have food for the day.

I want to remember the filthy dirty plastic 2-liter bottle that her child held up to me to fill that Im pretty sure he had just picked up in the dump that was a few feet away.

I want to remember the precious babies being held by brave moms choosing to leave all they have known to do what’s best for their sick children.

I want to remember the scared little girl that was probably going to lose her infected left eye due to not receiving treatment early enough.

I want to remember the joy and gratefulness on the faces of the people in the village where we dedicated a well so they could have clean water.

I want to remember the little boy in the plaid shirt that came and sat by me and melted my heart.

I want to remember that my feet stood on this soil and in that moment I knew I could make a difference.

You can too.

To help Susan raise money for Baby Rescue, visit http://lali.worldhelp.net/susan-morris

World Help and Leading and Loving It

On the Ground with Leading and Loving It

“As a church we are good at teaching people how to get to heaven, but we are failing at teaching them how to live on earth.” — Carlos Vargas

I’m here in Guatemala with a group of 30 women from Leading and Loving It—pastors’ wives and women in ministry. Our focus this week has been on our Rescue Program and meeting Leading and Loving It’s goal of rescuing 200 babies. We’ve loved on babies in the hospital, visited the special needs home, and heard a number of rescue stories from Hope of Life’s founder Carlos Vargas.

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Yesterday the entire group of ladies had the opportunity to visit a trash dump community here in Guatemala where lunch is served three days a week. I loved watching our group serve “the least of these” so selflessly. It was a reminder of the extreme poverty so many of these people are living in and why this rescue program is so important. Please take a moment to watch this short video and consider joining the rescue at www.lali.worldhelp.net.

Watch Guatemala | #LALIRescue15 from World Help on Vimeo.

India - causelife clean water

A Reason to Celebrate

The entire village is there. Dignitaries arrive. Ribbons are cut. Fireworks go off in the background. Streamers fly up in the air. Children splash and play, and prayers of dedication are prayed.

Around the world … water is celebrated. When a new well or clean water source is provided, it is commemorated in the same way that we would celebrate a grand opening, a new building dedication, a house warming, or a birthday. It is a party!

You see, they know access to clean water will change their lives … everything about their lives. So, it is something worth celebrating.

La Iglesia Antombran - causelife clean water

Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” But, our wells are never dry. We no longer know and understand the worth of water.

The truth is, we have forgotten how much of our daily life revolves around water. From the first flush of the toilet, to our shower, to brushing our teeth … our day begins with water, continues with water and ends with water.

Recently, I stood on a hillside in Africa watching young girls carrying water on their backs. I only watched part of their journey and can simply imagine how much further they had to walk. It was in the middle of the day and I couldn’t help but think what other productive things they could be doing with their time. Not to mention the hardship on their bodies carrying heavy loads for such a long distance … and at such a young age. This daily chore has been shown to literally stunt the growth of these girls leading to lifelong issues including difficulty in childbirth.

Ethiopia water crisis

In Africa, I also stood next to the water source that my family was able to provide. You can read more about that here. On that day, water became more than a cause … more than an idea … more than a need in some far off place around the world. It was real. And the children who would benefit from this new clean water … well, they were very real too and running all around me. It hit me that this water will bathe them, clean them, and feed them. This water will truly give them life.

Over the last few years, we have learned a lot about water. We know we should recycle our water bottles. We know that the earth has a limited supply of water and that we should conserve it. And, we know that not everyone has access to clean water. But, there is one thing we still need to learn. One truth we still need to wake up to … how easy it is to make a difference.

In my book Awake, I write: It is hard to get our minds around the need for clean water … numbers like that are impossible to really grasp, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed. We must focus in on the one child we can help, on the one village where we can make the difference, and on the one story that we can change …

Noel Yeatts - Evah Mugerwa - World Help

Tomorrow, on World Water Day, I will be running my first half marathon. (OK, so maybe more like walking … my goal is simply to finish!). And I could not do this race without water. At every aid station as I sip the one thing that will keep me going, I will be thankful. I will appreciate. I will remember the ones who still do not have access to clean water. And, I will celebrate. There may not be fireworks, or a ribbon to cut … but there will be a reason to celebrate. The life-giving gift of clean water is worth celebrating.

So this year, let’s go deeper – lets go from being aware … to being active.  And let’s give people something to celebrate all around the world.

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Too late?

Kevin

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.

Kevin

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.

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:

Ulises

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 …

I Knew You Would Come

Chapter Five “I Knew You Would Come” from World Help.

As I finished writing this chapter in Awake, I was getting ready to leave on a very special trip to Guatemala. It was the first visit where I would see the Baby Rescue Program in its entirety – from start to finish. I knew we were helping save babies and young children, but I had no idea the lengths our partners were going to make that happen.

All I could do was speculate on what I would see and experience. I could only imagine the long roads I would travel, the hills I would hike, the intense heat I would feel, and the beautiful face of the desperately hurting child I would find just waiting for our arrival. In my heart, I imagined they would say “I knew you would come”.

This week I am leaving again for Guatemala and I am thinking a lot about the word “rescue”. I believe that somewhere deep inside, we all want to be rescued from something . . . financial troubles, bad relationships, a dead-end job, addictions, etc. And as people of faith, we know what it truly means to be rescued. But what if we believed that we were rescued in order to rescue?

It is true that so many children around the world are waiting. “They are waiting to be rescued from hunger, disease, sickness, abuse, and slavery. They long to say ‘I knew you would come’.” (Awake)  And their stories inspire me to keep going…

We just admitted a baby into the rescue center weighing 2 pounds 12 ounces and is only 6 weeks old. Our team is working very hard to keep this baby alive and need the prayers of everyone at World Help at this crucial moment. This is a family of nine from the mountains and they have already buried two of their children due to malnutrition and contaminated water.

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Our goal this year is to rescue 1,000 babies. We have already reached more than 10% of our goal – and I admit, we have a long way to go. But, I am committed to telling the stories of these children. I am committed to being their voice. That is all I can do.  And, that is exactly what I am going to do this week.

I am launching a new blog and I encourage you to follow my daily video posts of this incredible trip. Let me introduce you to the children of Guatemala. They will steal your heart and inspire you to action.  I can tell their stories, but I need you to spread the word. Use your voice, share their inspiring stories with your network of family and friends – and together let’s save some lives.