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. read more
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. read more
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. read more
Imagine if your child were abducted from school and forced into a life of slavery that included raising other children groomed to become soldiers. This scene isn’t just a nightmare for Filder Akech—it was her reality.
Ugandan rebels kidnapped Filder when she was 9 from her schoolyard, and for a year and a half, she cared for children born in the bush and forced to fight. Eventually, Filder escaped and now studies at a school in a village set up by Watoto, a holistic care program that serves abandoned and vulnerable children and women in Uganda. read more
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.” read more
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. read more
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. read more
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].” read more
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.” read more
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.” read more
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. read more
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. read more
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 % .” read more
In China, nearly 72 million people are denied access to work, education and community, not because of race or gender but because of a disability. Many deaf Chinese turn to deaf-led gangs to find love and acceptance. But Hearts and Hands, a ministry based in Kunming, Yunnan, in southwest China, is working to be advocates for the deaf. Through the ministry the hearing-impaired learn Chinese sign language, as well as how to read, write and learn a trade. They also learn about Christ.
“The deaf Chinese are very open to the gospel because any disability is considered a curse,” says Jane Ramsey, a deaf American who taught English in China for 25 years and joined the ministry in 2004. read more
Tim Thompson should be dead, but God had other plans for him. At only age 6, Thompson almost drowned in a frozen lake. His brother did die—while saving him—and Thompson resented God after this experience.
Aching for his brother’s company, Thompson tried to communicate with him in the afterlife, and got an answer. “I heard a voice coming against God. It sounded like my brother’s voice. We were able to spend time together again,” Thompson says. read more
For millions of orphaned children in Africa, blankets do more than warm their bodies—they give them hope, reminding them that someone in the world cares for them.
What makes Operation Kid-to-Kid’s “God Loves Me” program even more special is that both the donors and recipients of the blankets are children. “Children learn best by doing, and so this gives them a tangible way to express their love and God’s love to other children,” says spokeswoman Shannon Velasquez. read more
The Pew Forum on Research recently asked American Christians about their prayer habits. Think you have a healthy prayer life? Tally your points from this quiz to see how you compare.
What type of church do you attend?
A historically black church4
How old are you?
What’s your gender?
How much do you earn per year?
Less than $30,0004
According to the study, a female making less than $30,000—who attends a historically black church and is older than 65—would score a perfect 16 points and statistically pray the most. How did you compare? For a better measurement, how does your prayer life compare to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV)? read more
Born with a hearing problem—in addition to having speech issues and wearing glasses and braces—Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings was made fun of for most of her childhood. That is, until she realized she had a knack for playing sports.
“No matter what sport it was, no one could make fun of me,” says Catchings, who eventually decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a professional basketball player. She dedicated her life to achieving that dream.
Over time, however, Catchings says basketball “became my god.” It wasn’t until she damaged her ACL during a college game that she realized it was time to recommit herself to Christ. Only then did she begin living her dream. read more
Remember, fear is a controllable emotion. That’s the last thing Ted Thompson, co-founder of Real Men Outdoors mentoring camps, says to a group of boys before sending them into a dense forest with only the moon’s light providing visibility for the next few hours. No, this isn’t punishment for the teens; it’s one of the many character-building situations they’ll face as part of the Orlando, Fla.-based ministry’s program to instill godly values in developing young men.
Run by an all-volunteer staff, Real Men Outdoors is a organization that uses the “wilderness experience” to teach fundamental qualities such as responsibility and accountability, which Thompson believes are missing in many of today’s youth. Citing results from a census poll taken a few years ago, Thompson says he and his co-founder Lawrence Williams were dismayed to find that 40 percent of all young men under the age of 19 in America live in homes without responsible men present. read more
Gilbert Tuhabonye loves to run. Growing up in Burundi, he ran the African plains near his village every day, challenged often by other distance runners who wanted a race. “They would see dust,” he says, “because I would run like the wind.”
Now 36, Tuhabonye never dreamed his youthful passion for running would one day save his life or become his gift of life to people a continent away.
Of the Tutsi tribe, Tuhabonye was a middle-schooler when civil war ignited in his country between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes. One afternoon, Hutus came to his school. read more