Scooping Seeds and Sealing Envelopes

Seed packing event

Volunteers pack vegetable seeds

This weekend, I experienced an example of people coming together for the good of others. Back in December, a church in Texas took up a Christmas offering, and they chose to spend it eight months later on a vegetable seed and school supply packing event with GAiN. This church not only offered the event to their own congregation, but they opened spots for community and church leaders, and others who have a desire to help people living in difficult places around the world.

Seed packing event

Seed teams work together

People of all ages—about 250 in all—poured through the church doors on a Saturday morning. Each received a task assignment. Families with small children were directed toward the school supply packing area. Other young children helped place instruction stickers on seed packet envelopes. Older children and adults scooped seeds, sealed envelopes, or banded packets into stacks of ten and boxed them for shipping.

After a short orientation, the work began. Chatter abounded as seed scoopers acquainted themselves with their envelope sealers. Chants echoed as good-natured taunting swapped between onion and collard green packers. Who would finish packing their seeds first? Runners, including myself, ensured seed bowls remained full and envelope stacks stayed tall. As plastic shoe boxes filled up with sealed seed packets, a runner whisked them to the boxing area. This whirlwind of activity continued for about 2.5 hours.

Seed packing event

Scooping okra seeds

When the last seed was poured and the last box taped, a total of 36,000 seed packs and more than 1300 school supply kits were boxed up and ready to ship to countries in Africa or the Middle East.

What happens next? When seeds or school supplies are requested by a GAiN field ministry partner, GAiN staff will load these items along with other aid onto a shipping container and send it on its way. (That description was an over-simplification. A lot of logistics work happens between here and the destination!)

Once received, GAiN partners will have seeds and school supplies to give to people who can’t afford to eat, much less send their children to school. These important supplies make a way for GAiN field partners to show the kindness of Jesus to hurting people. The seeds offer an opportunity for families to work a garden, feed their family nutritious vegetables, and even provide some income through the sale of excess produce.

As communities cultivate the seeds from this one event, the total yield could be as much as 360,000 pounds of okra, onions, and collard greens.

Seed packing event

Okra seeds ready for shipment

It’s events like these that paint a picture of the universal church. On a Saturday morning in August, a lot of people sacrificed their time to be part of something that will make a huge difference to someone they will never meet. This is love in action. I John 4 says, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” God’s love becomes evident when we give ourselves out of the love God gives us. And great things happen when we give together!

Camp Resident Uses Skills to Care for Neighbors

The people of South Sudan find themselves caught in the middle of a war that is tearing apart this new nation. Decades of civil war with Sudan, and now internal power struggles, have taken their toll. As a result of the violence, a staggering 1.55 million people fled their homes, displaced in their own country. More than 600,000 sought refuge in neighboring countries.1 Families desperately seek new homes, new ways to work, and a way to start over with nothing. Food, clothes, medical care, and other basic necessities elude those trying to survive.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-16One camp houses thousands of displaced families who came from the northern part of South Sudan where intense fighting and civilian deaths prompted the exodus. Tents measuring approximately 25×35 ft. fill the camp area. Multiple families crowd into these shelters, amidst their meager belongings, and call this their new home.

Unsanitary conditions in the camp promote the spread of communicable disease. Unfiltered drinking water trucked in from the Nile introduces contaminates that cause cholera and diarrhea. Human waste from overflowing latrines and open defecation washes through the camp when it rains. With too few mosquito nets, malaria runs rampant. Constant illness increases the suffering of these people.

Jengo**, displaced from his home, lives in this camp with his family. He saw how contaminated water, uncontrolled waste, and lack of protection from infected mosquitoes created preventable illnesses. Instead of fixating on his own suffering, Jengo took action, using his medical skills to run the camp clinic – with very few resources.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-121Jengo described the frustration he feels when a patient lies before him that he cannot help because medicines or supplies are unavailable. Jengo says, “It is very straining if you know what to do, and you don’t have the right material.” Through GAiN and their partners in South Sudan, the camp clinic received medications and supplies for treating people who flock to the clinic.

The antibiotics included in one shipment of donated medications treated at least 200 patients in the camp. Because of the great need, the clinic quickly ran out of supply. Jengo desires to foster preventative habits. Therefore, his staff instructs people to wash their hands so that cholera and diarrhea occur less frequently, reducing cases for which treatment is required. With fewer preventable illnesses, available medications can be used for more severe diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, and TB. Because of help from GAiN and Jengo’s dedication to his new neighbors, the internally displaced people in South Sudan have a chance to be healthier and happier.

Manga Ten Refugee Camp-4

** A pseudonym

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

School Supplies Aren’t Just for Kids

School supplies in Liberia

In developing countries, people understand the importance of education. Parents want their kids to attend school in the hope that they will break the cycle of poverty. Even children desire the opportunity to go to school. However, in poor communities, often children miss out on education because parents can’t afford to pay school fees or purchase pens, paper, and colors. School supply kits, or CarePacks, are frequently requested from GAIN in-country partners. We and our partners want to show communities that children matter, and their education has great potential to facilitate change for the better.

In one Liberian village, a newly formed Christian church found a different use for CarePacks. With a fresh, faith-filled outlook on life, the women from this new church have a zeal for learning to read and write – especially in English. Because of this desire, a Women’s Literacy program formed. They realized the CarePacks were perfect for increasing the learning experience. Armed with their own notebook, pens, and pencils, these women have the tools for practicing their new writing skills. When they received their CarePacks, these happy women proudly began singing their ABCs! They couldn’t wait to show off what they learned.

CarePacks for adults

Learning is fun for all ages! You can help provide education opportunities by simply helping GAIN get CarePacks into the hands of children (and excited women) in tough places in the world. Visit the GAIN gift catalog, or learn how you can host a CarePack drive in your community!

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Sometimes You Have to Sell Your House

Budgeting. It might as well be a four-letter word. Despite the initial hatred of the idea, we learned how freeing it is to spend within a budget.

We never kept a close eye on where our paychecks went. We had one income for the most part while I was a stay-at-home mom. We paid the bills fine. We took vacations. But, we had a little bit of debt. Although it wasn’t much, it was there all the same. We both believe in tithing, and we made sure that didn’t fall through the cracks. Yet when opportunities came up to give something extra to a cause, we couldn’t do much, if anything.

A friend told me about YouNeedABudget.com. She told me what a huge difference it had made in her finances. We decided to try it out. We started keeping track of all our spending. It was tedious – keeping receipts, entering expenditures in the proper categories, budgeting the next paycheck. After about a year, we really started seeing a difference. It was becoming easier to pay bills, and we had a little left to save!

About the time we started budgeting, I got a full-time job working from home. That was a big jump in income from my stay-at-home mom pay… So, not only was our budgeting paying off, we were now able to start saving more and having extra for those times when we wanted to give to special offerings at church or give to a charity. We were also starting to get involved in missions. We both wanted to be able to give to missions, and also to be able to go on mission trips.

Sometimes you have to sell your houseMy husband felt it first. He half joked about selling our house and getting something less expensive. I always said, “No way! I don’t want to move!” We built our house on an acre and a third. We had a creek, trees, and lots of space (which is kind of a rare find in our area). We planned to raise our kids there until they graduated high school. I loved our home. We had lived there for 11 years.

In 2012, I went on a mission trip to Zambia. It’s funny how God uses mission trips to change our perspective. When I returned, I began to feel what my husband had already been feeling. “God, you want us to sell our house?”

This was a tough decision for me. However, I came to recognize this was something God was asking of us. He wanted to make it possible for us to have more freedom to be generous like never before. We could refuse and stay in the home we’d been comfortable in for so long. But in doing so, we would miss out on his greater plan.

Sometimes you have to sell your houseWe followed His leading and sold the house we loved. We moved 10 minutes away to another house the same size – with a considerably smaller yard. (My husband doesn’t mind the yard work so much now!) We cut our mortgage in half. We are living debt free. We have paid cash for home improvements, a new car, vacations, and mission trips. Last year, we were able to be generous like never before! God is providing for those in need through our obedience, and we are blessed in the process!

When God calls, He usually asks us to do something we might not do on our own. But, wow, what amazing things happen when we do what he asks! We are already seeing new things He has in mind for us. And, we’re ready to say, “Yes!” More to come…