Sometimes changing the world begins after changing the clothes in your own closet.
Lindsay Giambattista, founder of Taylor’s Closet (TC) clothing store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., started by giving her extra clothing to at-risk teen girls when she was 14. She then began gathering outfits from friends and family, and soon she had an entire store full of merchandise. From there, Giambattista acquired a building and launched a full-scale ministry boutique.
TC is no ordinary thrift store, however. Giambattista’s boutique has made designer clothing available to young women and girls who would not be able to purchase such items for free.
Prison Food Never Tasted This GoodThe America’s Chef Competition, part of the 14th America’s Food and Beverage Show and Conference held in Miami, included two special competitors late last year: Florida state prison inmates Terry Garrish and Lance Wissinger.
As part of the faith-based Bridges of America work release/therapy program, these men, who have since been released, completed rigorous culinary instruction and were entered in this prestigious tournament. Their entry is a noted milestone, as this is the first time that inmates have competed.
Did you know you don’t have to fly to the other side of the world to go on a missions trip? Try traveling across the street next time—it’s cheaper and you might affect just as much change. So says Nashville, Tenn.-based My Own Backyard ministry, which is redefining the concept of missions work.
The group equips volunteers to make a difference in their own cities through everything from monthly block parties to mentoring young people to creating “action days” for churches and groups to go out and serve their communities.
A pillow can offer more than just comfort; it can deliver a message of hope. For the last two years One Touch Awakening has been distributing pillowcases, snuggle pillows and insecticide-treated mosquito nets to people around the world. A prayer team prays over each individual pillowcase and mosquito net, asking God to comfort the recipients and give them a renewed spirit as they rest their heads at night.
The Holy Spirit is on the move in prisons, and He’s targeting the wounded hearts of women inmates. According to Daughters of Destiny, more than 20,000 inmates attended the prison ministry’s evangelism events last year, with more than 7,500 making decisions for Christ.
“In the past, 7 to 10 percent of the inmates at a facility might attend our meetings. Now we’re seeing 30 to 90 percent,” says Annie Goebel of Daughters of Destiny.
With reports of teen suicide and bullying on the rise, the nonprofit ministry My Broken Palace (MBP) is creatively helping youth suffering from suicidal thoughts, self-injury, bullying and depression. Inspired by Psalm 34:18—“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”—this organization brings hope to teens using music, writing, painting and video on its Web community.
Even in the midst of difficult challenges, busy schedules and awkward moments, God wants us to enjoy our time on earth. He promised that His joy would be our strength (see Neh. 8:10); He personally participates in our lives, eager to see us face each day with grace and confidence, holding us up when the hard places on our journey threaten our ability to stand. The good news of Christ is that God has not left us alone.
Neither has He left us to figure out life on our own. Scripture provides signposts for the journey, helping us live active and balanced lives in Christ, keeping us from falling along the way and enabling us to partake of the feast of life as He intended. Just as the four basic food groups help us live a healthy physical life, so the four spiritual food groups God has defined produce an energetic, balanced faith that helps us live a vibrant spiritual life.
In Genesis 13 (Read Genesis 13), Lot chose selfishly and moved his family to the choicest land—near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose inhabitants sinned greatly. Abram, Lot’s uncle, generously let him go; and for his generosity, God blessed Abram and allowed him to settle his family in a safe area.
Later, God used Abram to rescue Lot from the evil cities before He destroyed them. Abram learned the blessings of being generous and following God’s plan.
Here are five simple steps you can take to begin a relationship with God:
1. Recognize your need. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, NASB). All of us are sinners, and we must admit our need for a Savior.
2. Repent of your sins. Because God is completely holy, our sins create a wall that separates us from Him. By confessing your sins you will find forgiveness. “Repent” means to make a 180-degree turnaround. The Bible promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
3. Believe in Jesus. God worked a miracle when He sent His only Son to die for us. We don’t have to pay for our sins … Jesus paid it all! We can’t work for our salvation. It is a gift from God, and all He requires is that we believe. Put your faith in Him. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
4. Receive His salvation. God has given us this free gift, but we must accept it. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die on the cross for you. Thank Him for His amazing love, mercy and forgiveness. Then ask Him to live in your heart. His promise to us is sure: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
5. Confess your faith. The Bible assures us: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). You have been born again and are now part of God’s family. Tell someone else what Jesus has done in your life!
This amazing experience can be yours. Embrace God’s love and receive the salvation that only Jesus Christ gives.
If you have walked through these five steps, you can say this prayer:
“Lord Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me. I recognize that You are the true Son of God, sent to earth to pay the full price for all of our sins. I believe You were raised from the dead and that You live forever in heaven. You are God Almighty, and I surrender to Your lordship. I am sorry that I have lived my life apart from You. Please forgive me for thinking that my life could have true meaning without You, My Creator and Lord.
I turn from my sins and choose to follow You. Please wash me clean and come into my heart. I give You all my hurts, my fears, my unforgiveness, my pride, my greed and all the garbage of my past. Thank You that I can start my life over again with You. Amen.”
The world has a lot of major problems that we in affluent nations tend to ignore. The trouble is, these issues are so big they make us feel like there's nothing we can do, so we don't do anything. That's why Mike and Danae Yankoski wrote Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice. It breaks down some of the biggest needs and provides information on ways we can do something about them. Please read our interview with Mike and pray about how you can help.This article was originally posted in New Man e-Magazine.
New Man: For those that haven't heard of it, what does the term "social justice" mean?
Mike Yankoski: Social justice is the necessary outworking of the radical love that Christ has shown for us. As followers of Christ, we know that God loves us, and we are commanded by Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves. Social justice is the way of working that out in the world. People in this world are hungry, without clean water, fighting diseases and human trafficking, and our response to these things needs to be framed by God's love for us.
Many Christian groups make it their business to try to cure spiritual blindness. But Eyes of Faith Optical in West Middlesex, Pa., seeks to address spiritual blindness by helping people with their physical eyesight first.
The organization is the first faith-based company to be members of the Opticians Association of America. But their greatest accolade as a company is that they have pledged 10 percent of their gross revenue to children’s charities. They have also partnered with Restoring vision.com to give one pair of free reading glasses to faith- oriented mission groups for every pair sold through their partners.
“There are so many people in developing countries that can’t work or read because they simply can’t see,” says co-founder Jim Schneider. “We can change many lives by giving the gift of sight with Eyes of Faith.”
“This tattoo symbolizes my lifelong commitment to Christ and to give back to the community.”
—Kyle Steven Bonenberger, lead pastor of City Church in Anaheim, Calif., who was among six congregants to have variations of the City church logo tattooed on their arms, shoulders or feet to celebrate the church’s one-year anniversary. the tattoos are an outward statement of their ongoing commitment to their community and church, which has had hundreds of salvations its first year.
Almost everyone loves a good cup of Joe. But not every coffee company promotes love with each bean. The Atlanta–based Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee (LTHC) is not just in the business of producing high-quality java, but also using their brew to bring justice in the name of Christ to Rwanda, where they grow their beans.
“God calls us to engage the good news of the gospel through both word and deed,“ owner Jonathan Golden says. “Eighty percent of the coffee Christians drink at home and at church exploits the people who grow it. We should choose to brew a coffee that matches the message we preach.”
Through a partnership with farmers affected by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, LTHC participates in “community trade”—paying above-market wages to workers—in an industry where exploitation is common practice in certain places. They also provide microfinance loans to Rwandans, and they build sustenance farms for the region’s malnourished orphans. All their beans are grown 100 percent naturally. For this company, coffee isn’t just a drink, it’s a symbol of community, healing and justice.
For 10-year-old Alex Chipilipili, walking barefoot meant more than just having dirty feet at night. For someone who’d never worn a pair of shoes until recently, it meant having sores and incessant itching caused by blood-sucking parasites that found a breeding ground in the cracks of his heels and between his toes. “I have been bothering my parents to [see] if they could buy me shoes, but they tell me that they don’t have money,” Alex says.
But one gift to World Vision, a partner of TOMS shoes, changed everything for Alex; his mother, Mary Chipilipili; and his brother after they each received a new pair of shoes.
“It is shameful and heartbreaking to fail to provide for children when they ask for something,” Mary says. “I am really humbled, and today I will sleep with a free mind and joyful heart.”
From the first grade, Marida Lopez was taught to believe that a woman’s only lot in life is to have children and care for her family. But something in Lopez (pictured above) yearned to do more, though she didn’t know how to accomplish it.
Since her first year of school, Lopez has been sponsored by the missions and relief ministry Food for the Hungry. Her sponsor, in addition to financially supporting her, would visit her and share Christ with her. “I became more confident about my uniqueness and what God could do through me,” Lopez says.
Food for the Hungry has helped Lopez complete middle school and eventually become the first person in her family to finish high school. She is now a bilingual teacher of Spanish and Pokomchi, her native language.“I am very happy because I have accomplished something that I knew God had planned for me. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of Brad Titus, my sponsor. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for him. Because of his love andgenerosity, I too can be an example of courage and hope to many young people in my community.”
Chris Young’s trailer was in disrepair before heavy rains saturated Windsor, N.C., in September. So when the river near his trailer overflowed into his home, his only source of shelter became completely unlivable—until Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team stepped in to help with repairs. The Red Cross also contributed by donating enough money to buy Young (pictured left) and his family a new bed, microwave, space heater and linens.
Seeing the change in Young was remarkable, says Todd Taylor, who headed the compassionate effort in Windsor. “When he came in Friday morning he was weeping and very emotional. He did not have a place to stay and [had] no hope. Chris knows the Lord, and as we discussed what we could do, all he would say was he knew the Lord would make a way. He is so excited and his faith in the Lord’s provision is so incredibly strong and unwavering [now].”
For one couple, giving to those in need changed not only their lives but also the makeup of their family—and the course of their ministry. In August 1989, missionaries Charlie and Cathy Milbrodt heard of twin-boy infants who had miraculously escaped death. After traveling deep into the jungle of the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, they purchased the boys—who weighed 4 and 5 pounds and were filled with infection—for a mere $4.
The Milbrodts set out in search of a home for the babies but soon realized that God’s plan for them was to raise the boys and start a children’s home for other unwanted young people. It wasn’t long after the twins’ birth that the Milbrodts launched Abundant Life Children’s Home, which after 20 years is still providing clothing, food, shelter, medical support and an education to the “unloved” children of Thailand. The Milbrodt twins, now in college, have plans to graduate school and return to Thailand to help their parents with the ministry.
In an effort to support ministering to Thailand’s “unloved” children, Abundant Life Children’s Home started Mai Tai Coffee with the hope that the coffee business would fully fund the children’s home. Currently at least 500 farmers have become Christians as a result of the ministry and are provided the materials and training to grow coffee. They’re also given above-market prices for the coffee.
The ministry’s leaders say this coffee business has radically transformed the lives of many in Thai villages.
“Through simple coffee cultivation we can fivefold and tenfold their annual income,” says Charlie Milbrodt, founder of Abundant Life Children’s Home. “It has a double purpose, that farmers are committed to tithe to the local church we have built in their village. This causes the churches to become self-supported where we don’t have to pay a pastor to oversee the church anymore.”
Buying coffee to support this ministry could reap endless dividends.
Though Angel Mo grew up in poor conditions, he and his family didn’t neglect his education. But without the support of Food for the Hungry, Mo says he wouldn’t have been able to complete middle school and high school, and become the first in his community to get a university degree. Mo now teaches middle school and encourages his younger siblings to excel, as he was encouraged to.
“I thank Food for the Hungry for all the support and encouragement that I received since I was in grade school. I won’t forget that very crucial moment when a staff read Joshua 1:9 to me: [‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’] I memorized this passage as a child, and it was the hope that carried me through some very difficult times.”
Just three years ago this month Brock Mealer was trapped under an SUV in a horrific accident that left him paralyzed and took the lives of his father, David, and brother’s girlfriend, Hollis. Doctors gave the then-23-year-old sports fanatic a 1 percent chance to ever walk again. But during the University of Michigan’s football season opener this fall, Mealer beat the odds by walking—assisted only by canes—onto the field to lead the team alongside his brothers Blake (left) and offensive lineman Elliott (right). Before almost 100,000 fans he attributed his miraculous recovery to God by wearing a Wolverines-colored T-shirt that read, “Glory to God. 1 % .”
Jesus called us to live as if we are already dead. Have you discovered the freedom of the crucified life?
One of the primary marks of Christ's life was His continual declaration that He was born to die. He taught His disciples that the avenue to greatness was always found in the willingness to forfeit one's own desires and serve those who are the nearest and often the least in the world's eyes.
The call to partnership in His kingdom was initiated by an invitation to "deny [yourself], and take up [your] cross [an instrument of death], and follow Me" (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). Such an offer is quite a bit different from the man-centered, need-oriented invitations that permeate the landscape of modern church culture today.