As long I live I will not forget that moment. Watching our bus pull away, leaving me and my team in the small village of Llavimisa, Swaziland.  Everything around me seemed so alien, so foreign and remote: from the red clay dirt beneath my feet, to the aloe trees as far as the eye could see, and the mud huts scattered here and there. The complete lack of cars, phones, internet and powerlines was more disorientating and disconcerting than I expected. The mountains in the background were spectacular. Immediately our little team was surrounded my children- beautiful children of all ages, wanting hugs, trying to use the little English they knew.  I was told that these 200 children had walked some five miles over rocky paths, BAREFOOT, to welcome us to their church.  The older children had carried the younger children on their backs.  Now, as we stood in the dirt in front of their church, it began to rain- a very cold rain, especially for southern Africa (it was only 37 F that day). The children huddled together and shivered, but continued to sing us songs. I looked in horror at children the same age as my own, with tattered shirts, no shoes, no jackets or hats, clinging to eachother against the cold. Instinctively, I wanted to say, “Now go inside and put your jacket on” but I knew they did not have homes close by, or more clothes, or jackets. I cannot describe the helplessness of that feeling….it is overwhelming. Having a bank card in my back pocket and it means NOTHING. Because there are no stores anywhere near by.  I swear to you, that if there had been a store right there, the whole team of us would have been clearing out our bank accounts to get clothing and blankets for those kids. Such a helpless feeling.  I asked the pastor of that church if the parents were coming to the kid’s ministry nights we were doing.  He responded that almost all of the children were orphans.  Almost everyone my age was dead from AIDS, malnutrition or other illnesses. These children were being raised by grandmothers (sometimes raising 15+ children each) or they were raising themselves…..The ministry there was powerful and life-changing, but it has been impossible to get those images out of my mind.

Every year around Christmas we have a “season of giving”, in which we encourage people to be generous and give to others. But Scripture is very clear that for us, the Christians, it was never meant to be a “season” of giving, but instead a “lifestyle” of giving- a way of life and sacrifice! It’s not “giving a little bit of what is OURS”, everything we have is a gift from God.  The Bible is full of stern warnings to help those in need- not as a suggestion.  It is a command! And you do not realize how rich you really are, until you encounter those TRULY in need. Someday ONLY what was done and given for Jesus will last. So in this new YEAR of giving, how will be impact our world and make a difference for Christ?

Last year, I had the fortune of meeting (over Facebook) an amazing person -Samuel Ssengooba Mugabi, who runs an orphanage in Uganda. He takes care of many wonderful orphan children in his facility- clothes them, houses them and feeds them.  But many times what he has to feed them varies from week to week depending upon that week’s donations. A lot of people TALK about helping kids. Samuel is out there in the trenches getting it DONE. Samuel has set up a GoFundMe site through his Facebook page to feed and clothe the orphans that he works with.  I have to wonder what could be more Christlike than that?  To clothe, feed and house orphans, and then share the love of Jesus with them? Isn’t that what Jesus would do? I highly encourage you to check out his page on Facebook and consider donating to his orphanage in 2015. Then you can actually see the pictures every day of the kids you are getting to help- that’s pretty tangible to me!

Also, Samuel may have a big opportunity coming up this year to visit the United States! The purpose of the visit (sponsored in part by several U.S. missionaries) will be to share the story of the kids at his orphanage with churches in the U.S. and gain sponsors for “Samuel’s Kids”. I am excited to try to help him make that dream a reality. Again, on his Facebook page is the link to “Bring Samuel to the U.S.”  Will you consider checking this project out? Perhaps making it a goal for your kid’s ministry or youth ministry this year? I will put the link on my facebook page as well- will you please share it too?

Jesus has always been a Father to the Fatherless. And we are never more like Jesus than when we reach out to help the suffering in His name. When 2015 is over, will we say, “yup, the year went by…..” or will we be able to say “we got to help feed, clothe, house and give Jesus to many many orphans this year!” I like the sound of the second one better. Go check out Samuel’s page TODAY and see how you or your church group could help- and God bless your year!