Friday, December 25, 2009

BECAUSE HE DID IT FIRST



God has used this Christmas Day to remind me that I can give because He first gave. I can love because He first loved. I give to and love others not to get happiness, but because I am already full to overflowing with a happy heart secure in His amazing grace. God is so good.

Merry Christmas to each of you. He loves you so very greatly.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

KISIMUSI EVE LOMUHLE...or HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE!

Tonight, our family had it's traditional Christmas Eve snack supper...fancy cheeses, meets, special breads, chips, sweets, crackers, fruit, and whatever other good things we thought to add to the spread. Afterwards, we watched our traditional Christmas Eve movie, A Muppet's Christmas Carol, and then each child opened one gift. This year, the gifts were ones picked out by Super Daddy. The girls all got glow-in-the-dark bracelets (A and B are saving their's for the upcoming WinterJam concert) and the boys got short swords also filled with the glow-in-the-dark liquid. It was so cute to go in the darkened nursery just a bit ago and see Baby M's bracelet brightly shining on her little wrist.

Tonight has been a wonderful time for our family and I absolutely love being here, but I also couldn't help but think about my loved ones in Swaziland and miss them, too.

So in honor of them, here's a little African Christmas cheer:

Children's Cup Christmas Parties '09 from Paul Chasusa on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SOMEWHERE OUT THERE A CHILD IS WAITING



If you would like to be a part of bringing love, hope, and help into the life of one of these precious Swazi children, please visit www.threadsofhopewovenbygod.blogspot.com .

And on behalf of the children, thank you. Or as they would say it in Swaziland, siyabonga.

Monday, December 21, 2009

NO TRANSLATION REQUIRED
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“There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.”



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Photograph by Adam Wilson taken at a Swaziland Children's HopeChest/Adventures in Missions carepoint. To see more of his photography and read about his time in Swaziland, visit his blog at: http://wearebound.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 19, 2009

AN AFTERNOON SPENT IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS

The MISSISSIPPI "City of Lights" that is....Canton to be exact.

According to family tradition, we took the kids to charming Canton to see the lights, peek in the shops, ooh and aah in the Christmas museums, ride the carousel, and enjoy all the other seasonal and particulary Southern offerings in this small town now famous for the many movies filmed here.

Here's a glimpse into our afternoon:















For more information on Canton, it's Christmas happenings, and other year-round offerings, visit their website: http://www.cantontourism.com/

Friday, December 18, 2009

FLASHBACK FRIDAY....THEN and NOW

Today we made our annual Christmas visit up to Canton, City of Lights. We've been going for several years now. I thought it was amazing to see how fast the kids change. The top two photos were taken four years ago.







And here we are now. Anna is almost as tall as I am...maybe half an inch shy of my height...and Betsie has probably grown 12 inches or more. They've gone from little girls to nearly grown women. I'm understanding more and more the old expression...my, how time flies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

STOP SEX TRAFFICKING BEFORE IT STARTS

From Tom Davis of Children's HopeChest:

As you read this letter there are over 2 million children forced into prostitution and sex slavery.

This can be prevented and we can do something about it. These girls need our help and there isn’t time to waste.

Right now, pimps and prostitution rings are targeting our precious, young girls. They wait for them to leave the protection of the orphanage, and then offer them a "job."

Many of the girls simply disappear: never heard from again by their friends. But sometimes you glimpse this horror.

Like the girl who was flung from the cab of a truck once her "client" was finished with her. She was paralyzed, never to walk again.

Or the young woman the police found in a ditch on the side of a busy road. Killed at the truck stop where she worked as a prostitute.

These were kids that could have been helped by our programs.

One of these stories is too many...2 million children is unfathomable. This is a direct result of evil having its way on the earth.

As Peter tells us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

We can’t let him continue to destroy lives. You can stop this, and help reclaim a child's future.

HopeChest stops sex trafficking before it starts. In Russia, we are taking girls into residential living centers and community centers to actively protect them from the commercial sex trade. We identify girls early, while still in the orphanage.

Our staff form meaningful relationships to role model what successful living looks like. And when that girl leaves the orphanage, she knows exactly where to go for help--to HopeChest. She is not alone.

Amongst our girls, there is no sex trafficking. In fact, our transitional living homes have a 90%+ rate of helping girls find true independent life. This is the reality of God’s Kingdom in action.

Right now these girls need you. Please go to http://www.HopeChestPartners.org and click the GIVE button to make a gift today.

You can make a gift in honor of a special person this Christmas. Perhaps you will honor someone who mentored you as we are helping these young women?

Help us stop sex trafficking now by reaching more girls in Russia today and into 2010.
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To read more about the minstry of Children's HopeChest in places such as Russia, Swaziland, and Ethiopia, visit Tom Davis' blog: http://tomdavis.typepad.com/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE ADVENTURES!




Today, one of my best friends turned 39. I took her on a surprise adventure down roads unknown to either us. We went down one road that kept getting narrower and narrower until it ended up as a driveway in someone's yard. One road turned dirt then paved then dirt then paved then half dirt and half paved before going back to paved. We saw lots of houses that are now waterfront property thanks to the copious amounts of precipitation. We oohed and aahed over beautiful homes and lovely, lovely scenery despite the overcast skies and frequent rain.

Our main destination, of which I kept a surprise from Rhonda til our arrival, was Porches Restaurant in Wesson. Jim took me there to eat on Veteran's Day and since then, I've been plotting Rhonda's birthday surprise.

After a delish meal and a jolly time exploring the old house that is the restaurant's home, we did a little sight seeing around Wesson. We were so into it, that an old gentleman pulled over his truck to ask us if we were alright since we were stopped in the middle of the road. We just told him that we were tourists. After perusing the shelves of the public library and driving around looking at interesting buildings and old houses, we drove north to Hazlehurst (what a HUGE cemetery and interesting county court house) and then on to Crystal Springs where I lived for 3 years as a kid. We went into the post office to mail a Christmas card to my domestic helper in Swaziland while we were looking around. And as in most small towns, immediately had two strangers strike up a conversation with us only to discover that I went to school with the husband, they go to church with my best friend from elementary school, and they knew a million folks I knew way back when. And of course, before it was all over, 2 or 3 more folks (including the postal clerks) were in on the conversation. Oh, the joys of small towns!

I drove Rhonda past my old school, church, library, even the beauty shop where I got my first "wings". As we left Crystal Springs, we went down my old road and saw my old home and reminsced about neighbors and happenings.

The last spot to visit was the small town of Terry. More old houses to ooh and aah over before heading home.

What a wonderful day combining some of the best of the past and the best of the present...and building on the foundation for many future years of fun and friendship with Rhonda.

Love you, woman! Thanks for letting me celebrate your birthday with you. It was one of the best birthdays I've ever been a part of...muddiest, too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

NO THORNS


"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne;
no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown."

William Penn

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Photo by Adam Wilson. To view more of his photos taken in Swaziland, go to his blog: http://wearebound.wordpress.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NOT A SINGLE ONE

Last week, our family went to WE WILL GO, an inner-city ministry in the heart of our metro area. We will go holds Bible studies, prayer times, and worship services along with providing food, counseling, discipleship, toiletries, and clothes. Basically, they try to minister to the whole person.

During these fall and winter months, many of the folks who are touched by this ministry are cold. Many are either living on the streets or live in buildings that are unheated or inadequately heated and insulated. WE WILL GO gives them blankets, sleeping bags, gloves, hats, and other much needed items. Sadly, they are running very low on provision for the men.

Last Sunday, a friend sent a coat with us to donate to the ministry. When I took it to the clothes ministry building, I noticed that it was the ONLY men's winter coat. There were probably 50 or so women's coats, but there was just that one and only men's coat. And as I worked in there later on helping to pass out clothing, I assisted one of the first men coming through the door. He needed a coat. That lone coat fit him perfectly. But then all the other men needing one that day had to leave and spend another week coat less in the bitter cold, hoping that this Sunday there might be one for them.

Would you be willing to provide a coat for a man in need? The Bible tells us that if we have two cloaks and see our brother in need, we should give him one of those coats. Jesus also tells us that whatever we do for "the least of these" we also do for Him. When we give a coat to a freezing man, we are not just warming him physically, we are warming him spiritually as he sees the love of Jesus lived out in a practical and tangible way. And we're also giving that coat to our savior.

It's truly amazing that when we show Jesus' love to others, we are also showing love to Him.

So maybe you'd love to give a coat but your husband only has one or maybe you're not married and you're a woman so there are no coats to be had in your household. Perhaps you can ask the men in your life to donate one. Or buy one. Money tight? Try the local thrift store or consignment shop. In many cases, if you buy one at a thrift store (such as Gateway Rescue Mission in our area), the money you spend goes to support local charities and ministries.

If you need more details about the WE WILL GO MINISTRY, visit their website at http://www.wewillgo.org/Welcome.html . If you live locally and would like to donate, I'll be glad to either tell you how to get there or I'll take the coats for you. If you don't live in our area, but you want to mail a coat or two or three, that would also work! Just let me know and I'll get you the shipping address.

Thank you in advance,
Elysa

Friday, December 11, 2009

FLASHBACK FRIDAY
SONNY & CHER's CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION




Wow! Where can I get some cool Christmas clothes like these?!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

TIMBALI CRAFTS: GIVE A GIFT THAT GIVES MORE

I love to give a gift that not only is awesome on it's own, but will also benefit awesome people. Gifts from Timbali Crafts in Swaziland fit the bill. I've met some of the women who make these purses and crafts. I've seen how they live and heard their stories. These are amazing women doing amazing things for God but they are struggling, in some cases, just to survive. Each purchase of one of their handcrafts helps them to win this fight. Here's what the folks at ADVENTURES IN MISSIONS have to say about Timbali Crafts:

Visit Timbali Crafts to not only find some great Christmas gifts,
but also make purchases that impact African families!

Timbali Crafts is an income generating project for women in Swaziland, Africa. The 90 women who create Timbali Crafts are volunteer cooks at feeding centers for orphans and vulnerable children in their rural communities. Timbali Crafts helps to provide an income for these hard working women and their families who would otherwise have little or none. Each product comes with a tag signed by the woman who created it, and her pictures and short bio can be viewed on our website. A great way to connect with a family on the other side of the world!

Go to http://timbalicrafts.org to view the unique hand-bags and other items from Timbali Crafts. (please place orders by December 16, 2009 to ensure on time delivery)


It's not too late to host a Timbali Craft Sale before Christmas!
An easy way to make an even bigger impact. Check out our website for details.

Adventures In Missions
Online: www.adventures.org
Email: info@adventures.org
Phone: 1.800.881.2461

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE PATCH MAN!


Today, our 2nd born son celebrated his 11th birthday. I can't wait to see where God is going to take this energetic, funny guy. Jim Carrey probably was a lot like Patch Man 30 or so years ago.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We love you SO much!!!!

GIVE HOPE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON

Looking for a way to bless others during this time of year? Why not consider supporting the amazing ministry of Children's HopeChest. This is the organization that we traveled with to Swaziland two years ago and I can testify that they are effective stewards of the resources given to them and lives are being changed for the good. Here is a message from the folks at Children's HopeChest:
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Africa: Lift a child from extreme poverty
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Help build 25 new carepoints to serve 5,000 orphans with food, education, and discipleship.
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My name is Musa. I am five. My mother and father are dead from AIDS. Now my sister Zodwa is taking care of me. She's 12. After my parents died, we ate grass for food, but now that is changed. Every day the go-gos cook food for us at the carepoint. At the carepoint, Zodwa and I eat two meals each day. I no longer think about food so much. Now I dream of school. Thank you for making this place for me and Zodwa. Please do not ever forget us. I do not want to be hungry again.
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With an HIV infection rate of over 45%, widows and orphans are the only people left in Swaziland. That's why Pastor Walter, already poor himself, took money from his own pocket to start our first carepoints. The smoke from the fires brought the hungry children from the countryside. They emerged from isolation, relieved that this food was free of any strings--no expectation that they would have to trade sex for food. Those modest carepoints have grown to a network that now feeds over 4,500 children each day!
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We have identified 5,000 orphans in Swaziland, Ethiopia, and Uganda who are ready for enrollment in our programs. What they need is a carepoint, a safe place where they can receive food, medical care, education, and discipleship.
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This is what children like Musa and Zodwa find at Children's HopeChest carepoints. Your gift of $50, $100, or $500 will not only provide food, but will lift children from lives of poverty through care, discipleship, and--eventually--self-sustaining projects and education.
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Make a difference in a child's life this Christmas
by giving a gift of HOPE.
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Click here to give to an African child:
http://www.hopechestpartners.org/africa.asp?tpgid=93108767&sn=0

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

WITH THIS RING: AN UNUSUAL WAY TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

Missions-communication-guru and all-around-fun-and-funny-yet-seriously-passionate-guy Jeff Goins sent this to me yesterday and asked that I pass it on to the Graceland folks, and since it's about loving "the least of these" in Africa, you know I said YES!

"Here is a unique and unusual way to celebrate Christmas this year -- by being part of a radical giving campaign that helps build wells in African villages. We've all heard that it's more blessed than to receive, but this organization, "
With This Ring," is really calling people to put their money where their mouth is (or would that be mouths?).

Here's how it got started:

Ali Eastburn decided to make a radical gift and give up her wedding ring to help dig wells in Africa. Since then, she has been challenging people to give radically to change the lives of people around the world. For twelve days this month (Dec. 7-18), With This Ring will be auctioning twelve different rings that have been donated, with all of the proceeds going to charity.


You can read the
With This Ring blog each day to find more about the back story of a particular ring, as well as the cause it will benefit.

I've been talking about Advent, lately -- this season where we prepare for Christmas, the ultimate display of love and sacrifice. What's really great about this cause is that both the givers and recipients benefit from this campaign.

Right now, With This Ring is
auctioning off the rings that people have donated from around the country. You can see the auction here:

http://www.cmarket.com/auction/AuctionHome.action?vhost=withthisring

Feel free to get the word out; you never know who might buy a ring or even donate one."

Monday, December 07, 2009

A SHORT POST AND A BIG "WOO-HOO"!!!
It's late so I need to keep this short, but I just had to share our BIG news....no, I'm not "with child", nor are we moving to Africa next month, and we did not hire a full time housekeeper, but I'm still excited! Hubby found a great Black Friday deal online and we were able to use Christmas money to buy a fabulous, new HP pc. Our old one really was falling apart. It was not uncommon for our windows to just suddenly shut down several times in one hour and don't even get me started on how long it actually took to just get the thing to turn on in the morning. I could literally make breakfast faster than it could wake up.


So with no sadness, I bid the old pc adieu and say welcome to my new baby. You and me, PC, we've got a lot of good times to be a happening at just the click of the furless mouse.