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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.

Don’t Miss “The End” . . .

I came to Africa with a group of storytellers . . . and I saw Africa through their eyes.

The power of a story is undeniable.

They give meaning to the forgotten. They shed light on what no one has seen. They breathe life into people that have been silenced by injustice and oppression.

Keep reading on the World Help blog . . .

 

Noel Yeatts Uganda_

The Water is Waiting

The water makes its way up the dusty hill. Under the dry Ugandan soil – under the deep, thick African brush until it reaches a tank at the top overlooking the valley below.

The tank can store enough water to help meet the needs of all the children on campus … and the needs of the children who have yet to come.

Today was a special day … one I have waited for. A day that represents birthdays, Christmases and special occasions where water was chosen instead of gifts. Where life was chosen instead of instant gratification.

Of all the places in the world where my family’s well could have been placed, I could not think of a better location than this – just steps away from the three new rescue homes we are hoping to provide. These three homes will care for 40 more children – children who are abandoned, malnourished and in desperate need. The center is at capacity now and without these new homes, children will have to be turned away.

World Help Africa

The need for clean water is great in Africa and around the world. It is a perfect starting point when trying to address the overwhelming needs of extreme poverty. It changes all aspects of life – education, economy and health.

Usually, people around the world are waiting for the life-changing effects of clean water.

But in this case … the water is waiting.

Waiting for more babies – waiting to bathe them, clean them, feed them, refresh them … restore them.

The water is waiting.

World Help Rescue Homes

We are over halfway toward meeting our first goal to provide a new rescue home that will take care of 10 more children. Help us reach our goal today. Click below to learn more and to join the rescue.

World Help Rescue Homes Donate

Extraordinary Africa | Join the Journey

After months of dreaming and planning, it’s finally here . . . our blogging journey through Africa is about to begin!

Please take a moment to view this personal video invitation from the field to see how you can follow our journey.

Watch Blogging in Africa | Join the Story from World Help on Vimeo.

World Help Bloggers Africa

Small Steps. Big Difference.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in college, dreaming of where I would go, who I would meet, and what purpose my life would serve. I wasn’t anyone extraordinary . . . all I wanted was to make a difference in the world in some small way.

And through a lot of learning, growth, and challenges, God has taken me all over the world . . . to cities and villages most will never go . . . doing what I love and trying to bring a little hope to people along the way.

Most recently, I was honored to share my story and explain more about the initiatives I’m passionate about in an interview with GivCause, a global online network that partners with nonprofits, like World Help, to connect people to causes that are close to their hearts.

If you’re new to World Help, or don’t know what we’ve been up to lately, watching this interview is the perfect way to begin understanding what we do, where we work, and how you can be a part of changing the world with us.

One of my favorite parts of the interview was being able to share more about what we’ve been able to do through Baby Rescue and causelife, especially in Guatemala, Uganda, and Haiti. The connection in these places to rescue children and provide clean water is so close—you can’t really have one without the other.

It was only a few weeks ago that I was working on the ground in Haiti where children are carried in every day from the streets, barely alive . . . and most of the time, the result of contaminated drinking water.

This particular trip is one that I’ll never forget because we were able to open a brand-new water system and a state-of-the-art medical clinic that will meet the needs of thousands—on the campus of our children’s home and Haiti headquarters for Operation Baby Rescue. This improvement alone will help prevent hundreds—maybe even thousands—of cases of water-related illnesses for the children here each year.

Even though the Haitian skyline is still dotted with heaps of rubble from the devastating 2010 earthquake, the lives of people are being rebuilt on a daily basis. Everywhere I looked there were signs of hope, little miracles running around in the hot Haitian sun.

I even got to see Josiah, one of the first babies rescued from the earthquake. I can’t resist sharing this quick clip of our reunion:

Watch Rescued from the Rubble | Josiah’s Story from World Help on Vimeo.

These are the moments that mean the most to me. Moments when I know, without a doubt, that I’m where I’m supposed to be. But it took thousands of tiny steps to get there . . . steps that had I ignored, would never have helped me reach the place I am today.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the people who are willing to take small, seemingly insignificant steps forward are usually the ones that make the biggest impact. They are the ones who understand that moving an inch forward is still progress, even if no one else notices.

If you really want your life to be about serving the needs of others, you have to train yourself not to despise small beginnings. Instead of waiting for your bank account to grow or your schedule to clear up, or your degree to be handed to you . . . why not start moving now?

Maybe that step is actively educating yourself on the issue that you’re passionate about solving. Pick up a book and read it. Take notes. Ask questions.

Or perhaps you have an audacious fundraising goal you want to meet . . . to build a clean-water well or help rescue a child. Set up a fundraising page. Share your dream with the world in a blog, tweet, or Facebook post.

For some of you, moving out of your comfort zone and traveling to see the need firsthand may be the next step for you. Sign up for an upcoming trip like the one we’re offering to Africa. Start making simple changes: Skip going out for coffee. Walk instead of drive. Little by little, save the funds you’ll need to secure your spot with us.

Whatever that small step forward is for you, I encourage you to take it this summer. Don’t let another day pass. Start small. Start now!

This summer we’ll be taking the conversation to my blog where you’ll be able to stay updated with some of the latest happenings going on with causelife, Baby Rescue, as well as my latest World Help adventures. We’ll pick back up with my monthly newsletters again this fall.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to hear how you’re planning to take these small steps toward making a world of difference. Feel free to send a tweet my way @nyeatts, or share your progress with others on my Facebook page.  We have an incredible community to encourage you—you’re not alone!

Together, let’s move one step closer to changing the world . . . one person at a time.

Africa’s Children: They Need Protection

Three-year old Dindi didn’t understand why he was always hungry. He was just a small boy who didn’t know much about the world.

The watery bowl of porridge he ate once a day never quite made the gnawing pain in his stomach stop. But he knew nothing different. All of his short life had been spent living in a thatched hut with a dirt floor and an animal skin covering the door. He shared the small home with his brother, sister, and mother. He had no memories of his father. “The sickness” had taken him before Dindi was born.

The toddler had never been farther than a few steps from his mother. He was used to following her everywhere she went or riding in the pouch on her back. She walked for miles in the hot sun to bring back fresh water. She struggled to find peasant work to support her children. She gathered wood and built a fire in the wee hours of the morning. But now she couldn’t even get off her bed mat.

He kept his eyes focused on his mother’s face. And though he tried to be brave and not whimper, from time to time a lone tear would make its way down Dindi’s cheek before he hurriedly brushed it away.

Soon the exhausted little boy’s eyes started to droop. He snuggled closer to his mother’s side. He slowly drifted asleep with his tiny hand resting on her thin arm. Those last glimpses of her through heavy eyelids would be the last time Dindi would see his mother alive.

— Excerpt from Children of Hope by Noel Brewer Yeatts and Vernon Brewer

When Dindi awoke, he was utterly alone . . .

Dindi’s story is one of millions in a land overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty. This is the Africa I was first introduced to and one that completely shook me to the core.

At first I saw the same Africa we all have seen. One whose problems seem endless and never appear to improve. Story after story proved my assumptions to be true . . . until I met a group of children whose voices reminded me of the difference hope can make.

As we arrived, children ran to greet us—children  whose families have been torn apart by poverty, AIDS and a 20-year civil war. They were smiling, laughing, and offering handshakes and hugs. Each boy and girl is special and unique. They are children who, without our support, would not have the opportunity to attend school—a  place where they also receive at least one nutritious meal a day. This is a privilege for them and not something they take for granted.

I watched them play a game in their red and green school uniforms that looked somewhat familiar, like “Duck, Duck, Goose” with an African twist. Then the children formed a large circle and began to chant a poem together. I had to listen carefully to understand what they were saying, but once I did, my heart stopped. This is what they called out over and over again:

Who is a child?

A child is a person below eighteen.

What do they need?

Love, care, comfort.

They are young and innocent.

Give them protection.

They need protection.

Children of Hope

When I see this picture, I can still hear them . . . Give them protection. They need protection.

You see, children of extreme poverty need protection from so much.

Poverty means loss of freedom, loss of dignity, and loss of control over the fundamental course of your life. Poverty has been compared to “living like a dog, because it makes you so hungry you scavenge, so thirsty you foam at the mouth, so needy you will do anything to make a buck . . . even sell your body in prostitution.”1

It is out of this dirty, messy, life—a life that many of us can barely understand—that children are orphaned, discarded and abandoned.

Katwe is one of the most notorious slums in all of Uganda. This area has been devastated by the effects of war, conflict, disease and poverty. The results are innocent children who are abandoned when they are most vulnerable. Whether they are left orphaned after their parents die, or deserted by parents who can no longer bear the burden of raising a child . . . these children are desperate and alone.

But just on the outskirts of Katwe, a flicker of hope can be seen. Our new Operation Baby Rescue center is truly changing the lives of many of these children. Our rescue team in Uganda receives these unwanted babies—naked , sick, and malnourished. They find them in dark alleys, on trash heaps . . . just lying on the side of the road . . . and some are placed on their doorstep.

But after receiving the loving care of our house mothers, including medical care and nutritious food, most of these children make a full recovery.

Ugandan rescue

And this is just the beginning. You see, the future of any nation lies with its children.

Our commitment is to impact the next generation and help them to become the future leaders of their countries. But we have to save their lives first. That is why the rescue program is such an integral part of the holistic approach that World Help is taking in our African programs. We are committed to providing physical help and spiritual hope—help for today and hope for tomorrow. It is this kind of help that leads to transformed lives.

When we think of Africa, we cannot be overwhelmed by the massive needs of this continent. We must be inspired by the one child whose life we can change.

An African proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.”

Today, more than ever, we have an incredible opportunity to change the face of an entire continent . . . from despair to hope.

One day soon, when we think of Africa, we will no longer think of those images of starving children covered in flies. Instead, we will think of an empowered people who are pulling themselves out of poverty to change their future. We will think of hope.

It’s the new story of Africa and I want to be a part of it. Will you join me?

_________________________________________________________________

1 Black Death: AIDS in Africa, Susan Hunter

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.

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.

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 …