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

Paving a Way to Unity

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. – Romans 12:15-16

In this cultural climate where many are weeping and many others are calling for harmony, these have to be two of the most relevant verses in the Bible right now.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they come hand-in-hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one precedes the other.

The Greek word used for weeping here is klaio. It means any loud expression of grief, with an emphasis on the noise accompanied with weeping.

And we’re seeing it, aren’t we? We’re seeing pain and fear surface these days. It’s loud. And honestly? I think for most of us entrenched in white America, it’s uncomfortable. We don’t like to leave too much space for lament.

Yet, in this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us that part of our job as believers is to enter into the feelings of others. Even if they are louder than what we’re comfortable with. Even if they don’t make sense to us.

I love what Anthony Bushnell says in his post, Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear:

“We don’t have to agree with the intensity of their fear in order to empathize with them. Compassion doesn’t require us to be convinced another person is entirely correct. It requires us to care about how he is feeling. Even if you think the danger won’t come to pass, the fear is certainly real.”

I immediately thought of my daughter, Salima, who has a deep-seated fear of dogs. It’s gotten better the longer she’s been with us, but when she first came home, she would crawl up my body at the sight of one, screaming like someone was about to saw off her leg. It was intense. It was extreme. And while I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to it, it didn’t negate the fact that her fear was 100% real.

In this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us not to be like Elphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three “friends” who tried to reason with Job when what he needed most was a sympathetic ear.

Weep with those who weep.

Because doing so ushers us closer to the harmony Paul talks about in the very next verse.

Interestingly enough, this harmony isn’t the setting aside of differences. It’s not the idea that we should all just get along. This harmony is talking about being of the same mind. It’s present tense, which means our same-mindedness should be an ongoing, continual process.

Being of the same mind means wanting for your brother or sister what you would want for yourself if you were in the same position.

The problem is, we don’t know what position the other is in. But the Lord. He is clever, isn’t He? He knows that when we step into another person’s grief and weep with them, our hearts start to go soft. Suddenly, we want to understand.

But just in case we forgot to actually do verse 15, Paul gives us a directive.

Do not be haughty.

Don’t think we somehow know better. Just because we may not be going through a thing, doesn’t mean our brother isn’t. And we certainly shouldn’t tell a person how they should feel when they are experiencing something we never have.

Don’t be wise in your own estimation.

I love how one theologian put it:

You don’t know what your brother is going through until you get down in the trenches with him.

And that’s where Jesus calls us, isn’t it? Into the trenches, so we can weep with those who weep. He calls us to put on humility. He calls us to listen well.

Instead of trying to silence the division that already exists, as if silence is somehow the same as peace, let’s step into the heart of it. Let’s do the hard work of healing, where true unity is born – the kind that makes the watching world take notice.

2015: A Word & A Prayer

ABIDE Yesterday, I had lunch with six women.

It was a visionary lunch. A fellowship lunch. A let’s-be-real-and-share-our-struggles kind of lunch.

As one friend shared about the hard season she’d come from and this new season God was leading her into, I was struck with a realization I hadn’t yet put into words.

She said that for so long, she was numb. She had walls up around her heart that she didn’t know were up, and God was finally starting to break them. Her heart was soft and pliable.

And as she talked, this giant, unexpected lump rose in my throat. Because y’all, I’m where she was. I was sitting amidst these amazing women of God, in this visionary meeting of the minds, ready to talk about ministry and womanhood and Jesus, our champion, and all I could think was that I was numb.

JESUS, who SAVED my SOUL, who rescued me from myself, who rose from the grave, who promises VICTORY and GLORY to all who believe in Him and yet …


You want to know the great thing about being with Jesus-loving, authenticity-minded women?

I could tell them the truth.

Hi, I’m Katie. I love Jesus. But I’m not feeling it.

There are all these things I know in my head.

I know God is good. (Because there have been seasons in my life when I’ve experienced His goodness profoundly.)

I know God is ENOUGH. (Because when my world has fallen apart, or when my hopes have crumbled into ash, or when my expectations and my reality might as well exist on opposite poles, He. Has. Been. He has been more than enough. I know it from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head.)

But sometimes knowing these things, sometimes even experiencing these things, doesn’t help when you’re struggling with the emotions of the moment.

Thank God, truth does not rest on emotion.

He is good, even when life feels blah.

He is present, even when He seems silent.

He is faithful, even when we aren’t. Even when little-old-me is sitting here not wanting to go to Him.

He still loves me.

And get this.

His grace is sufficient, even when that grace doesn’t move us to awe. <–Click to Tweet

Can I tell you how utterly scandalous that feels to type? Because if His grace isn’t moving me to awe, then something is SERIOUSLY wrong.

That’s just the thing, though. Something is!

Something is seriously wrong with all of us.

We’re all completely messed up, and yet His grace covers it.

I can try to muster up the awe. I can try to fill up my heart. Make it not numb.

But it won’t last.

Because I can’t fix me.

So instead of striving to fix things I can’t, I’m going to ABIDE with the One who CAN.

Maybe some mornings, all that’s going to look like is me sitting with my cup of coffee and my open Bible, with nothing to say.

Maybe some mornings, the only prayer I’ll be able to mutter is, “Show me your goodness.”

Maybe that’s a selfish prayer, I don’t know. That’s another thing I’ve been struggling with. He says to ask. But sometimes I’m not sure if I’m asking for the right things. But you know what? I’m just gonna go ahead and ask anyway, because He calls Himself ABBA, which means daddy, and all the good daddies I know never get mad at their children for asking, and since He’s not just good, but PERFECT, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say He doesn’t get mad at us for asking for things either.

So there you go.

As I abide in Him during this season, I am going to pray that He’ll show me His goodness.

wait for the Lord

Whatever that looks like. I want to see it. Like, off-the-hook see it. This year, in 2015, I want to see His goodness in the land of the living. I want Him to pour out His love in a way that far exceeds anything I could ever ask or imagine. I want Him to show it to me in tangible ways. I don’t just want to be wooed (He’s always wooing us), I want to be undeniably, can’t-escape-it, He’s-after-me-and-won’t-give-up pursued.

That’s my word for 2015.

That’s my prayer for 2015.

What’s yours?