It’s amazing when life comes full circle!

richard and jarek_together!!!!!!

This beautiful soul with my husband is one of my favorite people in the entire world.  And I know a lot of people all over the world.

This man, let’s call him the English name Jared, hugging Richard is one of the FIRST men that ever walked into our soup kitchen in Poznan, well over a decade ago.  LONG before I even had my first child (and she is a decade plus 2).

In fact, after we returned with Adelyne to Poznan/Poland, at around 5 weeks old, bringing her to our soup kitchen around 6-10 weeks old, HE was actually one of the first to hold our baby.  At our soup kitchen.  In Poland. It was the Holy Start soup kitchen (HS closed a couple years ago).

This beautiful soul that ALWAYS brightened my every day that I saw him…He is now the AMAZING volunteer at an unbelievable SOUP BUS located in Poznan, Poland, with the charity christianer.org … (find them on Facebook—it will BRIGHTEN your life)

Isn’t it AWESOME how you can watch one man go from served to SERVING!

Life — in full circle — makes my heart burst with joy.  Tears. Happiness.  And just an overwhelming sense of #itiswell .

It truly is.

It is well, with my soul.

Jared reminds me of that!

May Jared be your reminder to always invest in the beauty and hearts of others.  Your full circle will come.  And it IS worth it!

God bless.

THEM…Campaign THEM!

what so special about you

It’s fitting that today, as we work in Kalisz to raise money for precious children fighting for their lives, that this blog memory popped up on my Facebook page:  Campaign THEM!

Here’s a portion…I really hope that you will read more and be encouraged!  xoxo b

…I studied Special Education in college.  When I became a teacher and it was time for the awards ceremony at the end of the year, I realized that none of my students would ever receive a special award from the school based on the school’s criteria.  After all, the school demanded great grades, superb attendance, active participation in school functions/sports/clubs/so forth, wonderful behavior.  As the list went on and on and on I realized that not a single student of mine would meet any of that criteria.
Why?
Because—they were crack babies or FAS kids.  They suffered from brain damage or constant epileptic seizures.  They had such severe learning disabilities that they couldn’t even read or spell rat/cat/bat/fat in the 7th grade.  Some smelled so badly, it was required they took showers upon entering school premises in the nurse’s office for their sakes.  And, to be honest, the behavior of many of them was more gangster than Dangerous Minds.
Yet, to me, each and every one was so extremely and uniquely special.  Don’t get me wrong.  Many afternoons, when the school bell dismissed the swarm of teenagers, I sat behind my desk crying—amazed that I made it through another foul language-laced day filled with fights and security escorting students from my room.  There were even times I wondered if the student was going to or planning on harming me. 
And, still, each and every student remained special.  Somehow, in some way, I was able to look beyond what they had become to what they could potentially have in store.  In a sense, I felt as if I was the only one at times to think this way…

Advent #4: Homeless

 

We just had this awesome opportunity to hop in our car and travel over 10 hours to a country far, far away—Holland.

While in Holland—we were a part of a beautiful wedding, visited Amsterdam, and went to a fun theme park.


It was truly a wonderful time for our family.

BUT…

Do you know what made our children the happiest?  When we pulled back into our driveway and said, “We’re HOME!”

They were thrilled!

They squealed…They talked about all of the things that they loved…They ran from room to room just to see their stuff.

Their home.

Their security.

Their happy place.

Home!

There is most often something very comforting about that place—home. The saying “Home is where the heart is” rings true for many of us out there.

But for many, many, many others—it also does not.

And that’s what we will address today with Advent #4:  Homeless!

I hope that you have a read and find some great ideas for you and your family to do and grow and learn and give with this activity!

God bless,

Brooke

Advent Activity #4:  Homeless

Begin with only addressing this part of the scripture (and tell the kids not to worry—you’ll come back for the rest on a different day)…

“…there was no place for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7b

Kids, did you know that when Jesus was born, his parents were staying outside—in a stable!  His very first bed was a manger.

Now you can talk about a time when you have been to a barn or a petting zoo—how did it look?  Smell?  Was it clean?  Where were the animals?  Where was their food?  Would they want to sleep out there with them?  Would they be afraid?  How would they feel?  Would they feel clean?  Have they ever stepped in cow pies?  Do they think a horse trough is clean?   Do they think the barn is loud or peaceful at night?  Do they think there are a lot of insects that would try and bite them?

Tell the children that Mary and Joseph had their baby in a stable—and laid him in a manger to sleep!  Can they imagine?  It was probably a lot like the above discussion (emphasize that with the kids)…

And yet—it was exactly as God had intended.  For Jesus to be born in humble circumstances because he was not a king of gold and jewels—he was a king of people.  All people—everywhere!

Did you know that there are many people around us that also do not have a home?  They are homeless.

Did you know that Jesus loves them so much?!  He does!  He loves them as much as he loves you and me.

So today we are going to do a bunch (or a few—up to you, parents 😉 ) of fun activities where we will get to show the homeless or lonely how much God loves them!

First up:  The Sock of Love!

My husband and I started a foundation for the homeless over a decade ago.  It includes, only to name a couple things, a weekly soup kitchen as well as multiple clothing closets.  And there are always 3 essential needs in any clothing closet:  Clean underwear; shoes without holes; and clean socks.

There are never enough!

So today, you will get to do something amazing—and use a HUGELY needed item to do it with—a sock!

You are going to build a giveaway sock with your kids.

You will need:  A clean pair of adult socks per child in your family (so they can all build their own); items to go in that sock.

Here is what I found on Pinterest:  The Sock

April 2013 028

But—as a founder of an international organization that helps the homeless (Rescue the Forgotten), I would omit a few of the above and add a few other items (in my opinion):

Add:  a water bottle—always needed; one dollar for needs (the mom also mentions this in the writing); gum or mints; granola bar/s; a snickers bar; Chapstick, Kleenex

Take away:  lotion (unless there is extra room), sunscreen, soap (if they have opportunity to use a sink, most likely there will be soap)

In any case, your children are going to really have a great time stuffing one sock full of essential items—make sure that they make a card to put inside, too (card ideas coming up).  It will be a great family activity that will literally “Bless someone’s socks off!”

(what do you do with the other sock—double the sock back to front with the first stuffed sock to keep all the items locked in)

Have the kids put their socks in a family bag in the car and then you are ready for when you see someone on the side of the street or in a parking lot.  Someone without a home…go and love on them!  But don’t forget your card…

Next up:  Making a Card of Love for the Homeless or Forgotten

Cardboard Roll Heart

Heart-Stamp-2

Did you know that when you give a homeless person or a child in an orphanage a card, they most likely will treasure the gift?

They will.  Especially if it includes a photo. It is a ray of sunshine in their very difficult world that shows them someone out there was thinking of them.  That is rare and valuable—just like the card you will give out with the sock.

If you click on the above link, you will find a fun way to make a heart stamp—which is always fun—with a household common item:  the empty toilet paper roll!

All you need is a toilet paper roll, paper, and paint, a message of love, and the time it takes to make the cards!

It’s actually the perfect transition activity after they are done stuffing the sock, they can go and make the card (so it can dry) while the others are still working on their socks.

While the cards are drying, it’s time for activity number 3—which will always be a favorite for your kids!

Following the Card:  Bird Feeders

Cheerios-DIY-Bird-Feeders-simple-crafts-for-kids

We live in Poland.  It’s a cold country.  And there is something really fun we see every winter—Bird Seed!  It’s everywhere.  Every store is selling it.  Everyone is buying it.

Why?

Because in the winter, in a frozen land, it’s a hard life for birds.

I grew up in a desert (Arizona) and did not realize this until we moved to this frozen land.

So you can also talk with your kids that as much as God loves you and me, he also loves the sparrows in the air…

And to help them out this winter—you can make them a bird feeder (click on link)!

You won’t believe how it easy it will be:  Pipe cleaner or floral wire, cheerios or loop cereal, and ribbon for hanging it on the tree!

Voile!  You’ve done it.

And just like you will see the person that will receive your sock smile, you will see your children smile as they watch birds in your front or backyard enjoy their new feeders.

Believe me—I have a 3-year-old that LOVES watching birds every day outside of our windows.

Last Activity for the Night:  Heart Fingerprint Ornaments

Fingerprint-heart-ornaments-red

What you’ve done for the night is create a LOT of love that has come straight from your hearts—and put together with loving hands.

Therefore, a fun reminder for your family of your time spent on serving others could be for you to create family heart fingerprint ornaments (found on Pinterest).  Super easy and great fun for the Christmas tree (or even gifts to be given to family members like those grandparents that can never get enough of their grandkids!  Click on the link above and have fun!

End the evening praying with your children.

Thank God for the home and security you, as a family, have.

Pray for continued protection of your family.

Pray for those without homes.  That they will remain safe, people will remember them in love, and that they will stay warm.  That food may fill their bellies, and that they will get the help they need.

And pray that God will place the perfect people in your path to receive your Socks of Love!

God bless, my friends.  I hope you’ll have fun as a family remembering that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born humbly without a home because he is the King of People!

I look forward to sharing a couple more Advent activities with you this week.  Keep your eyes open for:  The Nativity (will include Bingo games, snow family globes, and footprint manger) and The Candy Cane!

Next week we’ll look at:  The Angel; The Shepherds; The Wise Men.

Until then…pa!

***

Fitting that also trending today with this post is our foundation’s page where men that were once formerly homeless—men like you will be giving your gift socks to, are now serving others.  Friends—homelessness is not a life sentence!  It’s merely a station where no one wants to remain.

God bless as you journey with your family into this amazing act of love!

Enjoy this read, as well:

30 Tons of Food Given by the Homeless to the Not Homeless.  Confused Much?

 

Rescue the Forgotten

Source: Rescue the Forgotten

Don’t just allow this photo to break your heart, go online today and do something about it!  Help us as we work every day to help Rescue the Forgotten!

www.rescuetheforgotten.com

30 Tons of Food Given by the Homeless to the Not Homeless. Confused much?

IMG_3396

If you read my title you would see that it says, “30 tons of food given by the homeless to the not homeless.  Confused much?”

Let me explain. We have a beautiful center that is a transitional home for men from the streets of homelessness, men out of prison but would be on the streets of homelessness if not for our center, or men out of rehabilitation but still without a home.

It is a beautiful home. It is blue. It lies on property in a very small village and has a trickle of a creek that runs at the base of the property.

We love this center. We love this home. We love the men that come and go. And the new men that come. Then go. And then the new men that come. Then go.

Let me emphasize this again.  It is beautiful.

You see, the New Life Center is not meant to be a shelter. It is meant to be a rescue. But a rescue that teaches. It teaches the men that enter the door to become men of great pride, education, skill, talent, and worth.

And it teaches these men that although they were raised in homes of abuse. Although they spent too much of their lives in and out trouble. Although they once thought their only love was a substance that tried to take their very life…The New Life center teaches these men that they are worth far more than their pasts.

They are beautiful.  And they are worth much.

And because of these things, by the grace of God, they learn that this beauty that they behold should also be used for the sake of others.

You see, the men at the New Life Center help distribute over 30 tons of food to the surrounding village and communities every year.  That over 66,000 pounds of food a year (long ton).  These men that were formerly homeless, formerly prisoners, and formerly addicts are learning while at the center how to give and serve and help others around them in need.

They go every week and pick up food donations.  They bring these donations back to the Center.  And then they distribute the food accordingly all over the village and surrounding communities.  To the poor.  To the elderly.  To the children.

Do you want to know what is especially ironic in this situation?

When we first bought the New Life Center, the community was very upfront about how they DID NOT want us there.  They DID NOT want the center to open.  They DID NOT want any of it.

And today?

Today the very men that they battled to keep away are humbly serving them.  Their families.  Their children.  Their parents in need.

Now we have become a community of blended love.  Men from streets of homelessness and families of villagers.  Everyone working hard to survive.

Together.

There’s nothing confusing about that.

***

Check out our Facebook page and become a friend.  We would really love it if you did!

Facebook:  Bread of Life Ministries

And here’s an amazing YouTube video that will touch your hearts of these men serving tea and cakes at the local train station to break down barriers and begin conversations so neither will be afraid!

I don’t noramally say this…

This was one of the most gut-wrenching things that I have seen in a long time.

It’s 3 and 1/2 minutes of your time.

You may say, “I don’t have 3 and 1/2 minutes.”

Well, today you should make time. Time for this video. Time for 3 and 1/2 minutes. Time to gut-check your heart.

You will be very glad you did.

It was beautiful. So beautiful.

Beautiful and sad.

And important. So important.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
1 Corinthians 13:1

When I was electrocuted…and Adelyne made banana muffins.

adabakes

I was 10 weeks pregnant with Adelyne when Richard and I were working one really late night out at the New Life Center. We had just purchased the property, and it needed a completely new deck.  The old deck was basically non existent.  Which means, the framework was there, but the walkway was dangerous planks placed strategically one next to each other.  And believe me when I say, if you fell off the plank, you were fed to the sharks…or the spiders and other spooky stuff that lived under the porch.  It was a true walk the gangplank challenge.  And, in order to open a transitional home for men, there definitely needed to be something other than gangplanks to walk.

If you want to see the NLC and the porch, click on the link above (the highlighted New Life Center) and look at the blue house and you’ll immediately see the porch.

Okay, back to my story.  So, at 10 weeks pregnant, Richard and I were out there working really late one Polish summer, building the deck.  It was quite a dangerous job, and we were basically working off of the day’s light or the waning sun’s light.  Just as we finished one part of the deck, we prepared to move to another section to work on when I saw a dangling wire.

Now, mind you, I am not a daft person, but this was definitely not one of my most defining Einstein moments of my life.  I decided to loop this dangling wire and hang it from a nail that was protruding from the nearby pillar.  I thought, “Oh, great idea, Brooke, I’ll get that dangling wire out of the way.”

Oh, bad idea, Brooke.  As soon as I touched the exposed wire to move it, not realizing it was live, 220 volts went shock, right through my body!

Yowzer!  It hurt.  Yes, it did.  But I got back to work.  And many hours later with lots of help, that deck was finally finished.  Just one small step in the process of making the home that we purchased into the perfect transitional center.  Don’t get me started on all of those bags of cement I also had to go and purchase and carry—yes, while pregnant.  And the sewage that needed to be cleaned (um…after basically telling Richard that I would clean the sewage filter rocks, even though I was pregnant, he finally jumped in and got the job done)…

Needless to say, every single ounce of effort was so worth it.  To see how God transforms the lives of the men that go through the center and its program is astounding.

And, today, as several of the participants from the New Life Center were at our house (our personal house), Adelyne, that same little baby that was in my belly when I was electrocuted 8 years ago, was using electricity.

This time to make muffins.  Muffins for the men from the New Life Center.

It’s funny how God works.  Eight years ago, I would have never thought my electrocuted baby belly would be using some of that same 220 to bake for the men that live in the home of the porch that she, in my belly, helped build.

Walking the planks was worth it…And I love that my daughter continues to walk them with me.

Tell me, what did you do in your past that continues to be a big part of your life today?  I look forward to hearing from you!