Kristen Welch, one of my closest friends and daily heart-sister, her and I share a friendship forged in brokenness. Back in 2010 when she first traveled to Kenya and I to Guatemala, little did we know how God would use those respective trips to break our hearts for the things that break His — and use those trips to bind our hearts to His and to each other’s. Since then Kristen has founded Mercy House Global, a ministry which transforms lives in Kenya in a multitude of ways—yet Kristen would be the first to tell you that perhaps the most significant transformation she has seen through it all has been in her own family. I absolutely could not love this woman more, hold her in the highest esteem possible and I’m thrilled to welcome this world-changer to the farm today . . .
I stretched out on the lush, green grass and let the sun warm me. July in Kenya is cold. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
I’m not sure how long I sat there, eyes closed, head tilted toward the African sky, listening to babies cooing and toddlers giggling around me. I am listening to miracles.
I opened my eyes to a chubby hand offering me a flower. I accepted the fragrant gift and tickled the little girl offering it.
She plopped down onto my lap, and I looked up to see her teen mother, Violet.
She was sitting with my oldest daughter, Madison, fourteen years old at the time.
It looked like just another Thursday in Africa. But it was more.
It was holy ground.
My family started Mercy House in 2010 and we were visiting our maternity homes in Kenya, where our staff rescues the most at-risk pregnant girls in the country.
I looked up from the little girl in my lap and looked over at my daughter, talking with Violet.
The wind carried their words, and I caught bits and pieces of their conversation. I noticed they were holding hands, and I couldn’t help but smile at the view.
But then there it was—the moment that changed everything. I froze when I heard Violet ask Madison this question:
“Why do you think I was born here in Kenya and you were born in America?”
I watched as my daughter chewed her lip, considering the question and how she would answer it.
You see, you have to know Violet’s story to understand the magnitude of her question.
I hugged Violet’s little girl, who was still sitting in my lap, as I recalled the horrible details of her mother’s life.
Violet was around thirteen when she came to the maternity home, but no one knew her exact age because she didn’t know her birthday.
She was an orphan, and she came to us directly from a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, where she recovered from being burned over 40 percent of her body.
While she was in a coma the medical team discovered she was pregnant. The local newspaper shared her story and the article ended with a plea for someone—anyone—to help Violet.
Mercy House answered that call.
That’s the girl who was asking my daughter the question on the grass that day.
“I don’t know,” Madison said after a long pause. It was an impossible question to answer because there was so much more behind it.
Violet might as well have asked, “Why have I known a life of suffering? Why has my life been so hard? Why does your life seem so easy compared to mine?”
My daughter’s story probably isn’t very different from your kids’ stories.
She’s never missed a meal or been refused school. She has free time and can use her babysitting money for trips to the mall. She’s never prostituted for food. She lives in a nice house, not too big or too small. Madison has grown up in North America.
I like to think Madison’s next words to Violet came from the fertile ground we had raised her in.
I like to think that generosity had taken deep root and produced the joy of giving.“Maybe I was born in America and you were born here because I’m supposed to help you.”
They grabbed each other’s hands and held tightly: two girls from two different sides of the globe figuring out a profound truth that most of the world cannot seem to grasp.
I swallowed the lump in my throat because yes, this was it.
I believe when God asks us what we did with our time, talents and resources, we will be accountable for our answers.
We may give already.
But we have been given so much. We can give more, share more, and do more.
Not to prove we are good people or we do good works.We give, because our purpose is to glorify God.
We give because He first loved us, and we are to love others.
We give because we have it to give.
We give because we want to raise children who give.
I don’t know where you are right now. You might question where God has you today. Why here, God? Why this hard, broken place?
I have thought about my daughter’s words many times.
They remind me of my purpose.
I was created for more than surviving, getting by, or moving to the next phase in life.When our hands are busy serving others, we aren’t thinking about what we don’t have.
Instead, we are reminded about what we do have. We were created for more than filling our time and our lives with more stuff and more space. We were created for a purpose and to live our lives with purpose. We were created to give our lives away.
This is how we change the world: we change the world when we give to someone in need.
And when we change the world for someone else, we change it for ourselves too.
I want my kids to press into who they are, what they have, and what they are supposed to do with what they’ve been given.
When we are obedient enough to ask hard questions and brave enough to encourage our kids to do the same, we unlock a deep well of joy.
This kind of joy isn’t touched by our circumstances or what we receive in life.
This kind of unparalleled joy comes from giving our lives away.
I often go back to that day on the green lawn.
I close my eyes and remember that one moment when everything changed.
That moment when I wanted to live out the answer my daughter had given.
I’m challenged every day by the choice every family faces: we can let the world change us, or we can change the world.
This woman is my heart sister and I read every word she writes because her heart’s pressed close to Jesus & her life has changed mine.
Kristen Welch is an author and the creator of the popular parenting blog We Are THAT Family, has a regular column in ParentLife magazine, and is a frequent radio guest and speaker. Kristen is the founder of Mercy House Global and lives with her family in Texas.
In her new book Raising World Changers in a Changing World, Kristen shows parents how to discover for themselves and instill in their kids the profound joy that comes from sharing what we have been given—our time, our talents, and even what’s in our wallets—with those who have less.
Through powerful personal stories as well as stories from Scripture, she guides parents in teaching their kids the beauty of sacrifice, the value of hard work, and the joy of putting others first, establishing an unshakable faith in a shifting world. HANDS DOWN, A MUST READ FOR EVERY FAMILY!
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]