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

There’s a Girl

ganshert-9We first saw her face in February.

Three pictures in our inbox.

We learned her story a couple weeks later.

And since then….

We’ve said a lot of prayers.

We’ve done some investigating.

We’ve received more pictures.

I’ve written her love letters.

We’ve sent care packages.

Thanks to so many of YOU, we made her a puzzle….500 willing hearts came together and sponsored a piece to help bring this precious one home.

completed puzzle

I bought her a pair of pink Crocs that sit on my nightstand.

We glued some pieces on our Adoption Map. (Brogan asks, almost every day, if we’re getting closer to the heart.)


And then….

I flew to the Congo.

I held her in my arms.

I kissed her sweet cheeks.

I smelled her sweet skin.

I wiggled her sweet toes.

I whispered her name into her ear.

I didn’t want to let go.

But I flew back to America and here we’ve been, waiting and waiting and waiting…

Dying to go back.

After losing two previous referrals (a referral is adoption speak for being matched with a child), a little boy in October and another little girl in January, we weren’t going to share the news about our Congolese cutie until we passed court.

But court’s been taking forever.

We’ve been there now for 13 weeks.

We feel stuck.

We’re weary.

We’re distracted.

And we could use prayer.

So please pray.

Pray for her well-being.

Pray for her precious little heart and the difficult journey she has ahead of her. Because what she’s already gone through and will go through makes my “suffering” absolutely pale in comparison.

Pray against corruption.

Pray for all the hurdles we still have ahead of us.

Pray that God would be glorified and we would be sanctified, come what may.

Pray that we’d be a family soon. Because we sure don’t feel whole with her over there and us over here.

My friend, Kelli Standish, says it best:

Waiting is one of the most excruciating acts of worship.

And that’s exactly what it is. Or at least what it becomes. Because when you’re here, in this place of helpless waiting, with no power to move it along, what else is there to do but open your hands and trust?


Let’s Talk: What are you waiting for?

Update on July 27th, 2013 – PRAISE JESUS! We are a family of four! We passed court! She is officially our daughter. Hoping and praying the rest of this journey goes quickly so we can bring her home! Thank you for your prayers!


CongoWill you be posting about your trip to Congo?

Several people asked this question when I returned.

Only I didn’t know how to answer.

I thought I would write. I thought I would fill a whole journal with words upon words after returning. Writing is how I process, after all.

But every time I sat down and picked up a pen, I would stare awhile at the blank page.

Then I would set the pen down and close the empty journal and do something, anything else.

Because how does one put into words all that is Congo?

A place wholly broken and wholly beautiful.

Where corruption and redemption are so inextricably entwined, telling them apart is a complicated, messy business.

Where an abundance of the world’s coveted resources exists right alongside a poverty so abject it could rattle a person’s soul.

Where men with crippled legs sit outside a Fondu restaurant serving $40 meals, beating on drums for money.

Congo is a walking contradiction.

A lively one, too.

With its cacophony of sounds and its mishmash of color.

Beeping horns.

Crying babies.

Mmmbote Mundeli! and Bonjour!

Children’s giggles and that adorable way they say madam, like ma-DEM. Oh, I could melt.

The lush vegetation.

The bright oranges and yellows, purples and blues of fabric that women stitch into dresses and shirts.

The darkness of skin and the whiteness of smiles.

Children in uniforms walking to and from school and children without uniforms, sometimes without any pants at all, walking the streets, tapping on car windows, begging for money because they have nowhere to go and nothing to eat.

Rains that flash and flood all within the time it takes Shakira to sing Waka Waka.

A sun that rises and sets at six o’clock, on the dime, every single day.

Heat and dust and humidity and bugs.

Women and men carrying eggs and water and towers of whatever else atop their heads.

Orphanages overflowing with bald, big-bellied children, their lips quick to smile, but their eyes?

They tell a different story.

One of sadness and injustice and a whole world of heartache.

Little girls walking around with even smaller children strapped to their backs.

Because while childhood is almost a given here in America, in Congo it is a precious, rare commodity.

I visited a country saturated with resiliency, love, passion.

It’s a country that has not received a fair shake, not then and not now, but marches on because what else is there to do but keep going?

How does one write  about a trip such as this?

There aren’t words to do it justice.

Let’s Talk: Have you ever gone on a life-changing trip or had your eyes opened to something they can never be closed to again?