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National Orphan Awareness Month

Tornados.

They are disastrous. Sometimes deadly. They tear through a community, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Now let’s imagine for a second that someone–a meteorologist, let’s say–invented a technology that allowed us to stop tornadoes before they formed.

Only instead of putting our time and resources into this technology, we let it linger in the shadows while we focused the majority of our efforts on tornado clean-up. It’s sad, of course, when a tornado destroys a community. But there’s something so tangible about going into a neighborhood, rolling up our sleeves, and helping these people who have lost so much.

Um … that would be ridiculous, right?

We just wouldn’t do it. If there was a way to stop the traumatic thing from happening, we would opt for that route 100% of the time. Preventative care is the way to go. Maybe that’s why our insurance is so great about covering preventive care. It not only makes sense, it’s cheaper, too. 

And yet, when it comes to the orphan crisis, our efforts seem to focus on clean-up instead of prevention.

November is National Orphan Awareness Month, and according to UNICEF, there are 153 Million orphans around the world. It’s a staggering, jaw-dropping number. It’s a number that inspired my husband and I to adopt.

What we didn’t know at the time? A statistic that isn’t as familiar? 83% of those orphans have at least one living parent, many of whom are vulnerable mothers born into the cycle of extreme poverty. Desperate to feed their children, they take their children to an orphanage, where they will most likely receive one meal a day. Those children are then classified as orphans, and many get swept into the adoption industry, a billion dollar industry.

I don’t know about you, friends, but this wrecks me more than a little. I cannot fathom being in this situation. I’m not okay with it. I’m not here for it. No mother should have to make the choice between keeping her child or feeding her child.

And so, I have become passionate about a very specific, very powerful form of orphan care:

Preventative Orphan Care. 

How does this work?

We care for orphans by caring for vulnerable mothers. We attack the orphan crisis by targeting one of its biggest, ugliest roots: Global Poverty.

This is why I started The Lokumu Project, friends. When we give a mother employment, when we empower her with entrepreneurship so she can care for her children, we are validating her God-given dignity and we are keeping. families. together.

Look, I’m not saying adoption doesn’t have its place. Obviously, I wouldn’t say that. My husband and I adopted. It is most certainly a piece of this puzzle. What I am saying is that there are ways to care for the orphan that have nothing to do with adoption and everything to do with family preservation.

Family preservation prevents the trauma that inevitably occurs when a child is separated from his or her birth family, and its way more cost effective, too. For $1000, a vulnerable mom is able to go through our entire year-long program. A program that educates, trains, mentors, and provides capital (with accountability) so this vulnerable mom can successfully launch her own small business. And with this small business, she can support her family. 

The average international adoption (for one child) costs anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000. Friends, with that money we could help twenty to forty women. Families. Through viable employment and sustainable income, these women can afford school tuition for their children. And if anything has the power to stop the cycle of poverty in its tracks, it’s education. Not to mention, when pour into local, impoverished economies, we can change entire communities.

Right now, The Lokumu Project has six women waiting and ready to enter the program. We just need to get them fully sponsored. In an effort to do so, we are running an Orphan Awareness campaign in the month of November. Our goal? Raise $2000. Once we hit $2000, our incoming cohort will be fully sponsored (and I can take a nice, long break from all of this fundraising and everybody, including myself, said AMEN 😝).

If you’re looking for a way to fight for the orphan, if you’re looking for a way to keep families together, if you know anyone whose heart aligns with the work we’re doing, please share. And please consider donating to our campaign. Every little bit helps. TRULY. Every little bit. Also, I’m a volunteer. I don’t take any payment. Ryan and I are going to Congo in February to meet these women and check on the program on our own dime. Which means all of your money goes to the Congo to help the vulnerable families we support, and all of it is tax-deductible. 

Your donation means the world. So do your prayers. Together, we can make a difference in this world. <3

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27

A New Thing

I’m sitting here at my computer, wondering where to begin. How do you start explaining a project that is at once profoundly personal, overwhelming, and invigorating? How do I tell you this story without telling you my daughter’s, because that story is hers to tell or hers to keep. Not mine to share. What I can tell you? The two are intricately tied together, and in uncovering hers, it led to this:

Reeds of Hope – Lokumu

A project born from her story, with the power to change many stories. An opportunity to help women trapped in the vicious, perpetuating cycle of extreme poverty. It’s a cycle that steals life, children, hope, and dignity. Here’s the thing with that kind of poverty. Charity doesn’t touch it. It might meet some immediate needs for a time, it might temporarily relieve hunger pains, but it doesn’t break the cycle. Charity is dependent on the giver. It doesn’t empower the recipient. And it doesn’t restore dignity.

Education, on the other hand? Developing potential. Providing opportunities and targeted resources. Empowering women to envision and dream and plan for and work toward a better future for themselves and their children? This has the power to break chains, to change narratives.

Lokumu – a Lingala word that means dignity. And now a program with actual feet on the ground. This is the project I’ve been working on. The project I’ve been excited to share. I look at it, and I see my daughter. I see me. I see her birth mother. I see her first country, and her new country. I see a whole bunch of puzzle pieces coming together. And I see this great big God doing what He’s in the business of doing – using what is impossibly broken, and hard, and confusing to grow something good.

So what is it, exactly?

Lokumu is a comprehensive program based in Kinshasa, DR Congo, created for women interested in running their own business, but without the education or the means to do so. Through high-impact business training, Christ-centered mentorship, targeted financial aid with accountability, and wrap-around support for children, Lokumu is designed to turn women with little to no education into confident entrepreneurs with sustainable businesses.

There’s so much more I want to say, you guys! Like how thankful I am for the women at Reeds of Hope. How excited I am about the Lokumu model, which you can check out on the website, including a breakdown of expenses (found on our support page). Lord willing, I have big dreams for this program – like trauma counseling for the women, money saving circles, and watching as our most promising Lokumu graduates become course instructors and mentors …

But first, before we can dive into any of it, we need to purchase a business kit, which will be sent to our partner in Kinshasa. This one-time purchase will allow Celeste to begin teaching Business Essentials, a 16-session, 40-hour course through Alternativ Global Entrepreneurs. This is the entrance point into our program, the first step for these women. If you’re interested in making a donation, please visit the Lokumu page to learn more, then click on the button at the end that says “Kickstart the Project”. Our goal is $500, which covers the cost of the kit. All donations are tax-deductible. Every U.S. staff member at Reeds of Hope is a volunteer, so donations go directly to DRC to run the program and support the women. We hope to have sponsorships set up soon!

Feel free to “Like” or “Follow” the Lokumu – Reeds of Hope Facebook Page to follow along as we walk this new and exciting journey! I would cherish your support!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
– Isaiah 43:19

Finding That Stride in 2019

Hey Friends ~

I think it’s about time for another update, because somehow it’s 2019 … and not just the beginning, either. We’ve officially entered month three. Hopefully March will bring us better weather, even if my weather app’s extended forecast is looking rather depressing at the moment. It’s been a brutal winter, hasn’t it? I’m beyond ready for warmth and sunshine and open windows.

So what’s been going on in my writing world?

You know, this has been a slow-moving writing year for me. I’m still getting back in the swing of things, trying to find my creative stride. It’s a new normal–having both kids in school full time. A glorious normal, for sure. But after a whole year off, the gears were more than a little rusty. I’m attempting to give myself grace as I get them working efficiently again.

I finished the rough draft for the first book in a potential Young Adult series that would be in the same vein as The Gifting. I actually finished two rough drafts. Y’all, my writing process drives me a little nuts. The first draft is truly horrendous. Like, I only use 20% of it. Maybe. I think 20% is being generous. Usually, though, I’m able to get A LOT closer the second go round. Such was not the case with this particular story. I think the premise is super strong. It has all the potential in the world. I just can’t seem to come through with the execution. After writing a mostly all-new second draft that still felt really bad, I decided to take a break from said Young Adult novel, and dive into a project I am every bit as excited about, one much more similar to my latest release, No One Ever Asked.

I’m currently moving from brainstorming mode–developing characters, figuring out journeys, finding the perfect climactic moment to build toward–to proposal-writing mode. You guys. I haven’t been in this mode in ages and ages and ages. I’m not even sure I know what a synopsis is anymore. But a synopsis I must write.

My plan? Write the synopsis for this new project. A back cover blurb. A few sample chapters. Send the proposal off to my agent, and then jump back into the YA novel while my agent does what agents do. I’m really hoping this extended break will give me the fresh eyes needed to make my young adult story everything I know it has the potential to be.

Some of you have reached out to ask when my next book is being released.

The bummer about taking an entire year off? You have an inevitable gap. Even more honest than that? I’m a woman torn between two genres. I’m equally fond of The Gifting and No One Ever Asked. I’m not entirely sure which direction I want to go with my career. It’s something I’m praying about, thinking hard on. For now, though, my goal is to get this proposal done, and see if I can’t fix all that’s wrong with the young adult. It’d be great if I could end this school year with a strong proposal and a completed young adult novel I wouldn’t be mortified to send to my agent. Then I can start making some business decisions.

We shall see!

Until Next Time,
Katie