When my friend Kristen announced she was starting a maternity home in Kenya, I was so impressed and proud and inspired but a little confused. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand what she was doing or why she was doing it.
I’d read her stories as she traveled with Compassion International, and I’d watched her — virtually, from a distance — grapple with all that she saw and learned after she returned home. When she said she had to do something about it and she’d decided what that something was, I felt excited for her and wanted to help, even if I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing.
In the earliest days of Mercy House, I signed up for a monthly donation of three dollars. Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s the commitment Kristen asked for at the beginning, and I know all of our three dollars have added up to significant support for the organization. But in hindsight I realize now that three-dollar commitment — not even enough to buy a latte — was truly the least I could do.
But, like I said, though I was excited for my friend’s new project and though I’d been moved by her stories of bad things happening far away, I didn’t understand much more than that. I didn’t know how powerful three — or ten or twenty — dollars could be.
Over the years as Mercy House has grown and Kristen’s ministry and impact has grown along with it, my understanding of the work she and her team are doing has grown, too. Slowly — so slowly! — I began to learn about fair trade and dignified work and the ripple effect employment has on a population living in poverty. I began to see that buying a pretty bracelet or tea towel wasn’t just a good thing to do or a way to show my friend support; it was making an actual, real-life difference in an actual person’s real life.
Kristen is an incredible storyteller, and she has taken all of us — her friends, family, readers, and followers — on this journey, so the blame for my slow understanding rests solely on my shoulders. I was sheltered and privileged and blind, but thankfully God used Mercy House to open my eyes and my heart.
And He really sealed the deal when I traveled to Kenya with Mercy House two years ago.
Never had I questioned the integrity of Kristen’s reporting or the truthfulness of the stories she shared. But when I stood awkwardly in a dark, cramped home smaller than my kitchen, watching a woman tell us about her daily life, her struggles, and her gratitude for Mercy House and what it’s done for her daughter, I believed in a different way. As I sat down for a moment, exchanging smiles and nods with a woman making jewelry, something shifted in my soul.
It became clear to me in those few days abroad that I’d been a skeptic. I knew the stories I’d heard from missionaries and bloggers and aid workers and journalists were real. I did. I believed them. I believed my friends who had been on trips and had seen things I hadn’t. I saw their pictures; I knew what they said was true.
But deep in my heart, I didn’t get it. I couldn’t grasp how truly horrible poverty is. I hadn’t seen the rivers of waste flowing in front of the makeshift homes. I hadn’t heard the cacophony of children and goats, men and women, jeeps and motorcycles fighting for the same small space. I hadn’t smelled the roasting meat and wandering animals and mountains of trash as they made a perfume that lingered in my mind for weeks. And I hadn’t held the hands of men and women so talented, so grateful, so determined, and so joyful — real artisans creating real things that Mercy House sells to people like me, who can make real change in a person’s life.
See, more than a lack of first-hand experience with poverty, my doubt that my small contributions could make a difference is really what has changed since I first learned about Mercy House. As I shared before, just after I came home from Africa, the babies weren’t what got to me. Do not send hate mail; I’m not a monster! They were adorable, and the maternity homes Mercy House has built are incredible. The difference they’re making in lives is so comprehensive and intentional and heartfelt. The ministry of Mercy House is the most vivid and beautiful example I’ve ever seen of people being the hands of Jesus.
However, it has consistently been the stories of women being rescued from poverty by learning a trade and supporting themselves and their families with that trade that has blown my mind and made a full-blown believer out of this skeptic. It took standing on Kenyan soil, hugging my Kenyan sisters in Christ and watching them beam as they showed us their creations, to believe. I pray it takes much less for you.
Today we’re kicking off a new opportunity to love our sister’s around the globe — we’re calling it #1000mercies.
We’re looking for 1,000 women to join (in)courage in partnership with Mercy House Global . . . will you be one of them?
Our goal between November 1st and November 16th is for 1,000 women to donate $15 or more to Mercy House to help provide sustainable, dignified jobs for women in poverty around the world. This is one tiny, practical thing we can each do — in Jesus’ name — to make a huge difference in a woman’s life.
Will you join us?
When you donate $15 or more, we will send you a beautiful hand-stitched ornament made by a Mercy House Global artisan — one of the very women who will benefit from this fundraiser. While this will look GREAT on your Christmas tree this year — even more important — it’ll be a visual reminder for you to pray. Pray for the woman who stitched the felt, for her children and her community. Pray for the women who have not yet discovered Mercy House but soon will. Pray for Kristen and the entire Mercy House team for strength to continue with their mission.
Together, we can help to provide a brighter, more dignified future for God’s daughters in need.
I pray you understand that your this-feels-small donation, your wish-I-could-do-more contribution, your needed-Christmas-gifts-anyway purchases are not just making a difference in some bland, cliche, feel-good way. Instead, they are shattering the cycle of generational poverty. They are showering grace all over a woman’s life, filling her with hope where only despair lived before. Every single way you support Mercy House is changing a life and changing the world. You, my friend, are being the hands of Jesus, helping your sisters in the most meaningful way.
Your this-feels-small donation has the power to shatter the cycle of generational poverty. - @MaryCarver on #1000mercies: Click To Tweet