Note: This message was recorded before the Coronavirus outbreak that has dramatically affected the U.S., Haiti, and Ethiopia in recent weeks. Therefore, the pandemic is not specifically mentioned or addressed in this message. Nevertheless, the key points of this video remain true.
In case you’ve missed some of the incredible stories from this year on the blog, we wanted to share a few of our favorites. There are many testimonies praising God’s faithful work here at LSM – from volunteers in the States to staff in Ethiopia and an orphaned child in Haiti. Their stories are a beacon of hope. Each life touched is precious and each life is connected to you. It takes money, sacrifice, love and prayer to make this ministry possible. That has come from all of you!
The beauty of this ministry is seeing lives changed, as well as watching the Body of Christ come together with genuine love on behalf of the vulnerable children and families we serve. You are the life blood of LSM – and we hope that you’ll be deeply encouraged by these stories today. And if you’re not feeling connected, we’d love to bring you closer into the LSM family this coming year so you can witness these miraculous stories first hand.
As the sun rose upon her, she put her worn and broken feet on the ground. The life she lives is one of hardship. She did not always know where her next meal would come from or where she would lay her head down at night. The pressure on her young mother was to keep her children alive and take the next step. She could not see much further than that.
When Loving Shepherd Ministries entered in, the struggle to stay alive was removed. This little girl was surrounded by people who loved and cared for her. Her mom was given tools to help provide food and stability.
Where did those gifts come from? They came from you.
Our ministry in reaching vulnerable children would not exist without your loving support. We understand that there is sacrifice involved each time you give. Your gifts are changing lives, empowering mothers and leading souls to the Greatest Gift ever given! The beauty of gift giving is waiting for that joyful smile when it is is unwrapped.
Thank you for the gifts that you give to vulnerable children around the world every single day. From all of us at Loving Shepherd Ministries, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!
May you find peace and true joy this Christmas in knowing that the perfect gift has been wrapped in swaddling clothes and already given! His name is Jesus.
All around the world Christmas is one of the most important and highly anticipated holidays of the year. But the way Christmas is celebrated often varies from country to country. Here are some holiday traditions from Haiti and Ethiopia, where LSM operates.
WORSHIP AND FAMILY TOGETHERNESS IN HAITI
Haitian families celebrate the birth of Jesus by decorating their homes with candle-lit paper lanterns called “fanals” and candles called “petas.” On Christmas Eve, Haitians traditionally attend church and sing songs like “Minuit Chretien,” their version of “O Holy Night.” After church, families return home to celebrate Christmas together. Children enjoy playing “wosle,” a game similar to jacks. Popular food items at these gatherings include pumpkin soup and “kremas” or eggnog. Haitians rarely exchange gifts for Christmas. Time spent with family and worshipping God are activities Haitians tend to value most.
Last year, the staff at our grocery store in Les Cayes played an important part in the seasonal landscape. More than a place to find fresh produce, vegetables, and dry goods, our store serves as a source of hope and community for locals. To further this mission and shine a light on the reason for the season, our staff got in the holiday spirit by holding a raffle and decorating the store, inside and out. Check out this video of their work. Didn’t they do a fantastic job?
GAMES AND FAMILY FESTIVITIES IN ETHIOPIA
Ethiopians follow the Julian calendar, which means they celebrate Christmas a bit later than we do. On January 7, they observe their version of Christmas called, “Gena,” meaning “the birthday of Jesus.” They attend church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and then return home. Children often play games like “Ye-Gena Chewata” which is a combination of hockey and soccer. Families also gather to enjoy their favorite Ethiopian dishes, such as “wot,” a spicy Ethiopian Christmas stew. Like Haitians, Ethiopian families do not usually exchange gifts. Instead, they dedicate their time to family togetherness and thanking God for sending his Son to earth!
In years past, our Ethiopian staff has marked the Christmas holiday with parties for the children, including crafts, lessons, food, singing, and giveaways of clothes and school supplies. One year, we celebrated by sharing the Gospel with locals and by handing out food and aid.
REMEMBERING THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
It’s fun to learn how Christmas is celebrated around the world, as well as the different traditions and values that are emphasized by various cultures. But no matter how we celebrate the season outwardly, what’s more important – and universal – is the celebration that takes place in our hearts. Merry Christmas from our LSM families around the world. As we celebrate, let’s keep Jesus first!
WHAT CAN I DO?
You can learn more facts and statistics about how Christmas is celebrated around the world at WhyChristmas.com. And while learning about the countries and peoples of the world, perhaps use the site as an opportunity to pray for them. Ask God to move in their lives.
Finally, open your Bible to Luke 2 for a great reminder of what the season is truly all about. How does God sending his precious son to earth inspire and compel us to live differently? Perhaps in 2020, you have a new idea for how you would like to partner with LSM as we spread the hope of Christmas to all by serving the world’s most vulnerable. Tell us your idea, and let’s work together to shine the light of Christmas around the world in 2020, starting in the darkest places!
What a year! We are so grateful for the amazing things God has allowed us to be a part of in 2019. Here are just a few of the highlights:
LSM TECH WILL WELCOME OUR FIRST STUDENTS IN EARLY 2020! It’s been quite the road getting to this point, but this incredible initiative will provide vocational training, work skills and biblical discipleship for our Home of Hope kids. What an incredible opportunity for these future students!
WE’RE EXPANDING IN ETHIOPIA! The Seeds of Hope Program in Addis Ababa just launched this Fall. Our programs in Ethiopia now serve one of the poorest slum areas in the capital. Today, 60 children and their single moms are being cared for. For the first time, they are being given the tools and discipleship they need to become a thriving, stable family.
BRICKHOUSE FAMILY MINISTRIES MERGED WITH LSM IN AUGUST and we’re so thankful for the open doors this provides to expand our local reach. We are re-imagining what this program can look like and have many conversations with those in foster care and the state. As those details get worked out, we are so happy to be able to offer FREE counseling for foster and adoptive families. What a blessing this has already been for dozens of children and their families.
THE GOSPEL PROJECT provides incredible opportunities for our Home of Hope families to share the Gospel with their neighbors in tangible ways. You can read how volunteers here in the States are serving and how it’s empowering our young people in Haiti at the same time.
Beyond that, when we think about the last decade at LSM, it’s almost unbelievable to think about how much we’ve grown. Thanks to you – and the direction of the Holy Spirit – we’re serving hundreds more vulnerable children in a complete Continuum of Care from childhood through adulthood. It’s not a quick fix. It’s the stuff that brings generational change. You can read more about LSM’s journey since 2002 here.
Thank you for partnering with us in 2019 and for the 17 years of our ministry. We praise Him for the hundreds of lives touched through the Body of Christ working together here at LSM. We look forward with great anticipation to what He will continue to do in the coming years. May your 2020 be blessed with your daily bread and much more as you continue to serve in His Kingdom!
We can say “thank you” with our mouths and type it out here so you can read it on your screen, but a true heart of thankfulness comes from within.
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say, “Thank you.” You have given to LSM through the years, and your gifts have transformed the lives of many desperately vulnerable children in Haiti and Ethiopia. This year, we’re also expanding that reach to right here in the U.S. as we open our arms to care for vulnerable teens through the BrickHouse Program.
THANKS FROM A VULNERABLE TEEN IN FOSTER CARE
“Thank you” from the young boy whose addictions cost him everything. He lost it all and thought there was no one left to care for him. He is waking up today free from bondage and with more blessings than he can count.
MESI FROM HAITI
“Mèsi” (thank you in Haitian Creole) from the Home of Hope children who were once abandoned, lonely, hungry and afraid but now have a mom and dad who love them and care for them. They are happy. They are safe.
“Mèsi” from the Home of Hope parents whose once empty arms are now full of children to love. They are joyfully making memories together and praising God for the gift of family.
“Mèsi” from our Haitian staff who have stable jobs and can provide for their families, too. They are pursuing their own God given talents as they daily serve on behalf of our Home of Hope families.
“Mèsi” from the communities who are benefitting from the Gospel Kits that our Home of Hope families are giving out. They are hearing about the Good News of Jesus!
አመሰግናለሁ FROM ETHIOPIA
“ አመሰግናለሁ” (thank you in Amharic) from single moms in Ethiopia who are off the streets and are now running their own small businesses. They have the ability to provide food, education and a home for their children that they desperately love.
“ አመሰግናለሁ” (thank you in Amharic) from the vulnerable children in Addis Ababa who are going to school for the first time and have enough to eat every day. They know that without you, they wouldn’t survive, much less thrive as they grow into adults. Because of your support for them and their moms, today they are dreaming of big things for their future!
These smiles are because of you!
With all our hearts, we want to say, “Thank you!” Your giving has changed entire lives, families and communities. We feel truly blessed to partner with you in this ministry that is so close to the heart of God! May you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
As you gather with your family for the holidays, we hope you’ll make our GIFTS OF HOPE CHRISTMAS CATALOG a part of those memories too! Each gift can spark a meaningful conversation about caring for others around the world, from buying a tank of gas in Haiti to providing one month’s supply of food for a family in Ethiopia. There are also ways to care for vulnerable children right in our own backyard!
ONE LITTLE GIRL’S GIFT
Last year, the Gifts of Hope Catalog sparked some amazing stories like Mylin’s in Bluffton, IN. Eight year old Mylin picked out a gift in the catalog that she wanted to give, and began working hard to raise her own money. Many children her age make lists and circle pictures in magazines of what they want for Christmas. But Mylin’s focus was on giving not getting. Her hard-earned dollars went directly to help a little girl in Ethiopia who does not have a daddy to care for her. Mylin’s sweet story touched our hearts. You can read about it here.
SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US
We’d love to hear your family’s story about giving this Christmas, too! Email us at email@example.com and share how God’s been working on your family’s hearts this year. Because the greatest gifts are not usually found tucked under a Christmas tree. Sometimes, it looks like a hope-filled smile across a little girl’s face in Ethiopia.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE GIFTS OF HOPE EXPERIENCE
The Gifts of Hope Catalog is a wonderful way to open up conversations with your kids about giving. Perhaps your Sunday School group would like to get together and raise money for a family in need? Maybe you could put an empty gas can at your work or school and ask for donations to help the fuel crisis in Haiti? We hope this catalog provides a special way to connect and give with purpose this Christmas. Thank you for partnering with LSM in caring for the world’s most vulnerable children. Your gifts are truly changing lives!
On Friday night, November 8, nearly 170 people gathered at our newly renovated Event Center for an inspiring evening together. Guest speaker, Tim Goeglein, spoke profoundly from a place of humility about his personal experiences in life. He was once an affluent politician, but pride caused him to fall into repeated plagiarism. When he was caught, he thought his whole world was falling apart. In an act of true grace, President George W. Bush forgave him when he didn’t deserve it and had disgraced the White House. Tim felt the love of Jesus through the forgiveness extended to him. His open and honest testimony is a reminder to all of us that we can show radical grace to others. Today, he is using his words in a different way. No longer seeking to promote self, he is seeking to lift high the name of Jesus! His genuine heart is pointing others to the saving grace of Jesus.
Doug Isch, LSM’s president shared another story of grace that night. From places of hopelessness, ultimate healing has come through the loving gifts of many just like you. For single mothers like Mahret* living in the slums of Ethiopia, the journey was particularly tough. Mahret had nothing – and ultimately, made some pretty desperate decisions to survive. Her little girl was born in the midst of those difficult years. Mahret was scared, and now she had a little one to provide for. At times, they would not eat for days. There was not adequate shelter and they were extremely vulnerable on the streets. Those were long dark years and they barely survived. It wasn’t until LSM was able to come alongside them that Mahret began to see what true hope could look like. That was in 2010.
Today, Mahret and her daughter are living a fully restored life. Her daughter is going to school, has plenty to eat and they have a bright future ahead. With the business skills Mahret learned in LSM’s programs, she’s been able to start her own small business selling coffee and injera, a local bread. They aren’t rich in material things. However, Mahret and her daughter have been introduced to the saving, forgiving grace of Jesus! They know that they are truly rich in things that can never be taken away!
On this special night, we were reminded that our Healer can bring restoration to every situation. We are grateful for that powerful knowledge – and grateful for every person who sat at those tables and gave generously to the work of LSM. Because of you, we were able to exceed our matching grant goal! Now, we can reach more vulnerable families like Mahret and her daughter with the Gospel of Hope. Thank you for being part of this beautiful redemptive story!
November 10 is Orphan Sunday, a global day that churches and individuals set aside to pray and advocate on behalf of the orphan. We hope your church or family takes a moment this weekend to learn more and to get involved as well!
John 14:18 teaches that all believers are former spiritual orphans who have been adopted by God. This means that God’s special affection for the orphans in our world is the same love that prompted Him to send His son to die for us. For this reason, helping and advocating on behalf of orphans is a cause that should resonate with each us personally.
Christian Alliance for Orphans estimates that there are 140 million orphans worldwide. Here in the U.S., 112,000 foster children are waiting to be adopted, some of whom are classified as “hard to place. ” The term “hard to place” can be due to several factors. Some children have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse, leaving them with PTSD and detachment disorder. Trust is difficult for them. Sibling groups and children with special needs are also difficult to place.
In developing countries, the plight of an orphan can be even more dire. Twenty percent of the world’s young people never attend school, and eight percent of the world lives on less than two dollars a day. These realities disproportionately affect those living in developing countries, especially the most vulnerable. A child’s nation of origin may even determine their chances of living past 5 years old. Tragically, about 15,000 children in the world die daily from preventable causes, especially in developing countries.
But the wonderful news is that since 1990, that number has been cut in half! Global poverty has also been reduced by more than half in the last 20 years, due largely to the united efforts of governments, nonprofits, and advocates like you.
Among other examples, international and domestic adoption have provided a tremendous benefit to the world. CAFO reports that over the last decade, more than 112,000 domestic and 103,000 international adoptions have occurred here in the U.S. And many vulnerable children who haven’t been adopted are being reached in their home countries through ministries like LSM.
Not all orphans and vulnerable children will be adopted. This is especially true with some governments closing their borders to international adoption in recent years. It’s crucial that we provide comprehensive, in-country support in the parts of the world where we see the greatest needs. Here at LSM, we’re working hard to create generational change through Family Sponsorship, Child Development, Trauma Healing, Vocational Training, and much more.
Thank you for partnering with LSM to help ensure that every child is given an opportunity to achieve their God-given potential!
WHAT CAN I DO?
Learn more details about the realities facing vulnerable children around the world by viewing research compiled at un.org, brookings.edu, and cafo.org. Talk to your church or family about ways you can do more to help orphans and vulnerable kids around the world.
Join churches around the world on Orphan Sunday (Nov 10) in praying for the vulnerable. And ask God how he’s calling you to help.
If you believe God may be calling you to meet these needs by considering adoption or foster care, we’d love to help you start gathering information. Please visit our free Adoption Resources page.
Pregnant at 14 years old was not the life that Nira* envisioned. Her father made her drop out of 7th grade, and marry a man of his choosing. Nira was still a baby herself and now she was about to become a mom. She followed her father’s orders and married. Her first baby was born. Not long after came her second baby, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Nira and her husband had a hard time keeping their six children fed and cared for. As she looked at her child nearing 14, she thought about the life that she could’ve had if she had not become pregnant and married off. Her heart sank into hopelessness. Does anyone care?
One life changing day, Nira was introduced to Jesus! She began growing in her love for Him. Her faith became evident to those around her…most of all, her husband. Sadly, he wanted nothing to do with her religion and decided that he had enough. He got up and kicked her and four of their children out of the home.
Nira did not have much time to grieve the loss of her broken family; she had to find way to provide for the children. The burden to be the sole provider weighed heavy on her shoulders. She worked tirelessly as a maid, cleaning, cooking and washing clothes. But no matter how hard she worked, or how many different ways she tried to ration food, there was never enough. How does a mom look into the eyes of her child crying out for hunger and say, “There’s nothing for you today.” Nira determined to find more work. She began selling spices on top of the back-breaking labor she was already doing. The life that Nira was living was a constant cycle of hard work, pain, hunger and deep sadness. She questioned her faith. Does God care? Does He see me? Does He even love me?
Loving Shepherd Ministries heard about Nira and welcomed her in with loving arms. Nira felt cared for like never before. She said, “Before I joined this program, I struggled with my faith. But now, because of LSM’s consistent teaching and follow up, I am sustained. I have learned that the God who saved my life from eternal death is my only helper in my suffering. He is on the throne!”
Nira also received business training through LSM. She now bakes and sells “injera.” (an Ethiopian flatbread) Armed with love and wisdom, life is much different! There is a loving group of people who check in with her regularly to ensure she does not fall into despair. One of Nira’s biggest blessings is the true hope she has found in Jesus. She loves seeing her children grow in their faith as well. They are thriving in school and have enough to eat. This family is smiling once again because of you. Thank you!
Nira has lived through the heartbreak of her husband abandoning her, but she now clings to the knowledge that Jesus will never ever leave her or forsake her. This is not just Nira’s story. There are many more women and vulnerable children struggling to survive in this cycle of poverty. Can you help us rescue another family in Jesus’ name?
Sponsor a family. Help single mothers like Nira rise above poverty and make a lasting impact for generations to come.
Become a prayer partner. Nira has asked us to pray for her business to be fruitful and that she could purchase her own home. She would also like us to pray that she and her children would make Jesus known in their community.
Give a financial gift. Nira’s business relies on donor support and would not be possible without you. Thank you!