Sunday, November 24, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013


Haha, back at the end of the summer, David and I came up with a plan to visit and blog about all of these things to do in Saint Louis. It was a great plan. But I've (as usual) managed to figure out how to fill every minute of every day with some form of productivity, and that plan kinda died out...

Maybe we'll manage to pick it back up sometime.

In the meantime, starting next week, Under the Same Tree (or UTST, as I like to call it), will be selling official t-shirts! It's going to be a really great experience for anyone who buys one, because they will be able to choose an individual and a specific need that they want the proceeds of the shirt to go to. Here's what the logo is looking like..

"How are things going with all that?" You may be asking me in your head. My answer is that we are continuing to make slow progress towards actually getting things started! (We need to raise some initial money, so these t-shirts are a step towards that goal.) We have had specific things we have been prayerfully asking for for the past several months, and are beginning to see our prayers answered in exciting ways. I've been in need of other people who are committed to helping me with planning, logistics, etc, and I've had a few very good friends who have decided to plunge in recently, and that is so, sooooo good.

A large piece of what planted the vision for this work was time that I spent several years ago in Tanzania with Grace and Healing Ministries (supported by an absolutely incredible US based advocacy organization called Lahash International). They released this video at the beginning of the year, and it played a part in really pushing me forward to put thoughts/dreams/calling into action. Since then, things have come together in really unexplainable ways.

Watch this (I know many of these precious people):

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Here's some exciting news...!

For the majority of the year, something really exciting has been coming together, and I'm finally ready to "throw it all out there," so to speak, and see where it all goes...

I've been able to play a part in developing an organization that is focusing on micro-development in Sub Saharan Africa by partnering with local churches. We want to build on the resources that people in this region already have, and the local church is an incredible, yet often overlooked resource. Over the past century or so, local churches, planted and run by African people have spread throughout this part of the continent, and have withstood civil unrest, national impoverishment, epidemic disease, and a host of other hardships. Many churches in these areas long to care for their communities in sustainable and holistic ways, but simply lack the resources. Our vision with this organization is to partner with churches who have this desire, and to work together with them to create community based programs focused on sustainable microdevelopment (in other words, helping to provide income generating opportunities, nutrition, health, education, and spiritual growth while empowering them to become self sustaining contributors to their societies/communities).

Our goal is to create opportunities for individuals and community groups here in the United States to hear the stories of the individuals in these programs and be able to connect with them in a unique and powerful way. As we provide information about an individual's story and specific needs that they have, individuals and groups will be able to respond in a variety of ways. We provide opportunities to really connect with these people by corresponding with them through writing letters/messages of encouragement.  For those who would like to respond through prayer, we provide specific ways to pray for the individual. We also provide a unique was to respond by providing for needs. We make information about each individual's specific needs available, and those who wish to respond by donating can give directly towards these needs (rather than money going into a generalized fund).

The organization is being called "Under the Same Tree" based on a quote by a Rwandan archbishop: "In Africa, we say that we are all coming together under one tree. The African way is that the extended family comes under the ancient tree... to celebrate and pray for our next season.  Through Christ, we have all become a world family, and we need to come together under one tree." Our vision is all about coming together and taking care of each other, growing as one community.

We have partnered with a church in Nairobi, Kenya, who works in three of the city's huge slums: the Soweto district of Kibera, Mathare Valley, and Korogocho, so our work is currently focused on the slums of Nairobi.

Last but not lease, this organization is being launched as a branch of the Saint Louis local 501-c3 nonprofit, Love the Lou, which is a fantastic organization focused on gospel centered restoration in the city of StL.

Here is why you NEED to know all of this:

We are currently entering a launching phase in which we are pushing outwards and working to raise awareness, raise support, and raise excitement (!) about what is going on.

We really need your help.

Here are some areas in which we are currently looking for help:

  • We are looking for resources in the way of skilled and talented people. For example, I would love to make awesome, inspiring promotional videos and graphics, but I simply do not know how. Maybe you do. I would REALLY love to design an engineering project that would provide clean water for slum residents, but I am not an engineer. Maybe you are. Please let us know what your skill sets are, and how you might be able to use them to help!
  • We are looking for people who are interested in joining our leadership team, and who would be willing to step in and help with all of the groundwork that is going on.
  • We are looking people who can invite us into their social circles. We are basing a large part of this organization on a program designed to be implemented into community groups. So if you are a part of a Bible study/small group/student organization/community of any type, we would really love the chance to come and share what we are doing with your group.
  • We need you to SIGN UP! It's so simple. Just sign up HERE and either once a week or bimonthly we will send you information about an individual from our programs and ways in which you can make a difference in their life by connecting with them.

Our website,, is still partially under construction, so if you see anything that looks weird or is missing, it's probably because we are still working on it.

Our "donate" function is also still in the process of being set up, so I'll let you know when that is ready.

Please send us any questions or resources that you might have...

Phew, that was a lot.

Stay tuned, friends.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Elephant Rock and Taum Sauk State Parks

Ever since summer ended, I've been in a camping mood. I'm about to spend 6 months indoors (due to winter), and I just want to live outside for a little while. As we were choosing which park to go camp at, the weather channel was saying that pretty much all of Missouri was going to be experiencing thunderstorms all weekend. Awesome. I decided we would go anyways.

We decided to go to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park since it has a pretty rugged hiking trail, the highest point in Missouri, and the tallest waterfall in Missouri.

It was about a two hour drive from Saint Louis, and on the way David wanted to stop at Elephant Rock State Park for some awesome boulder jumping. Elephant rock is made up of enormous rounded boulders of pink and red granite. Over the years, the strata covering the boulders has eroded, exposing the amazing rock formations. It was beautiful and really fun:

By the time we arrived at Taum Sauk, we were just in time to grab the last camping site. The park's 12 basic sites are first come first serve, so we were pretty lucky. We were planning to hike the park's mountain trail the next day, but I was a genius and ended up melting the soles off of my shoes trying to warm my feet by the fire...

So sad.

I ended up hiking it anyways. Wearing shoes with no bottoms. 

Kind of like wearing moccasins, which I dig anyways.

This was no stroll in the woods either. The entire mountain path was constructed with jagged stone, and the hike consisted of climbing up and down mountainside rocks, sliding down wooded paths, and climbing down waterfalls. (Well, the waterfall was just for the fun of it...)

Really incredible natural beauty.

Oh, by the way.,. it didn't thunderstorm at all. Eighty degrees and sunny :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Those who wish to sing always find a song

Thinking about Venice Beach today...

Oh October

We live in between two great rivers. If I can't live near the ocean, at least I know I am completely surrounded by water that runs to it.

In Saint Charles, they have festivals all year round on the bank of the Missouri River. Last weekend was Oktoberfest - evidence of the German heritage a lot of this area is built on. I don't feel like I identify with German culture very well, but it was festive enough. ;)

Lederhosen.. Um pa pa.. free candy.. Wood carvings..

And a street full of organ grinders!

I know a lot of people really love October. The weather gets cooler, the leaves change color, and there are a lot of festivities going on.. But I really don't like October, actually. It's a sad month for me. Summer starts to die, and we begin the long descent into winter. I am perfectly fine in climates that don't really have big distinctions between their seasons. It's hard to see summer turn to fall and fall turn to winter. But I am glad for these random festivities. Maybe they make it a little better ;)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lovely CA

I spent some time at the beginning of this month in California, where I'm originally from... There were too many years in which, for whatever reason, I wasn't able to come back and visit.. and that was a sad thing for me. I'm trying to put an end to that, and luckily David is growing to share my love of this place. :)

Here's a quick summary of our week in pictures...

Day 1:

We flew in to Long Beach, and immediately hopped into a rental care and drove to San Diego. For some reason, when we were booking the trip, we didn't realize that we would be arriving on Labor Day weekend... oops. So a 1.5 or 2 hour drive took around.. 4 hours. But I love driving down the PCH, so it was all good.

We stopped at Carlsbad for one of the most incredible sunsets I've ever seen

Day 2: 

We spent the morning at historic Old Town San Diego, which is such a perfect blend of Californian and Mexican history and culture. Plus, delicious churros ;)

In the afternoon we went out to La Jolla Cove. It was packed, packed packed (Labor Day Weekend), but I wanted to go snorkeling. Between cutting my legs and feet on all the sharp rocks, jumping along seacliffs, and trying to dodge seals, it was absolutely fantastic. Next time I'll bring water shoes.

We made it out to Pacific Beach that night, but I didn't have a camera on me. I just got to spend time with the ocean, which is an essential in my life that doesn't happen enough. 

Day 3

We went out to Pacific Beach again in the morning, but a storm was rolling in, so it was really gray and chilly.. so we decided to go ahead and roll on out to Palm Springs. We got a pretty good Groupon for a spa out there... but we're not really used to being around classy people or fancy stuff, so it was kind of funny. 

We drove out to Joshua Tree National Park, but made it there just as the sun was going down.. So we just ran around and took pictures and headed back.

Day 4

We drove from Palm Springs, straight out to Orange County. Went Kayaking, and then out to Huntington Beach. Huntington is one of my favorite beaches ever, and I'm not even sure why. But my feelings were confirmed when we went into Jamba Juice and were able to get smoothies for a dollar with a student discount, and they started throwing free t-shirts at us...

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Festival of Nations

I really love diversity. My family is full of different nationalities; Chinese, Ethiopian, Norwegian, Native American, Mexican, etc, etc... I love to see that kind of beauty shining out wherever I can find it. (I love this picture of my brothers and sisters and cousins..):

 There are some who call America a "melting pot;" where nationalities come together.. But so often in our cities we separate ourselves into districts and ethnic enclaves. I guess it's natural in a way; we want to be around people whose culture we share and who we can identify with. That's how urban ethnic zones are formed. But who is to say that we can't adapt a little bit of other cultures as our own? That is one of the beauties of the opportunities that I have had in recent years to surround myself with an incredibly diverse group of people. I used to see Saint Louis as a city that simply consisted of black and white - two groups that tried very hard to stay away from each other.  But I took the amazing opportunity to become involved with international students and refugees here in Saint Louis, and met so many friends who were not only Caucasian and African American, but also from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burma, Bhutan, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, South Sudan, Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Cuba (and the list goes on and on...)

Last weekend we celebrated the Festival of Nations in Saint Louis. I love this tradition because it represents all of these friendships, and the diversity that I love so much. The festival brings us together to appreciate our uniqueness and cultural variety, rather than estranging us and pushing us apart. Food, artisan crafts, music, dancing...

Brazilian Pescado

Haitian rice and beans

 The festival is put on by the International Institute, the biggest refugee assistance organization in Saint Louis. (The one I have done work with is called Oasis International).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We went to see the birds

My little brother, Joshy, has a lot of really great interests. Raising turtles, outdoor exploration, sketching, painting, taking pictures, birdwatching, creating terrariums... Many of them are things that I also enjoyed while growing up (except for raising turtles... I raised frogs).

A few months ago, we discovered that Saint Louis is home to the World Bird Sanctuary, and I wanted to take him for his birthday. Everyone ended up coming along, so that was pretty cool. I've lived in Saint Louis for a while, and I had never so much as heard about this place before a few months ago, so I figured it could use some free promotion ;)


The World Bird Sanctuary is located near Lone Elk and Castlewood State Parks, near the intersection of highways 270 and 44. It's one of the largest centers for the conservation of birds in the United States. Many birds who are injured and are no longer able to live independently in the wild are brought to the sanctuary for care and to be used for public education. If the birds are able to be healed, they are released back into the wild. Bird species who are declining in Missouri are bred at the sanctuary and released to repopulate the area, promoting the biological diversity of our forests.

The birds that cannot be released back into the wild are kept outside and are either in cages that allow flight, or are tethered to their posts. A caretaker explained that this doesn't bother the birds; birds of prey expend most of their energy flying in search of food, and would much prefer to remain stationary in one spot all day long. Since the sanctuary provides the birds with their food, they don't have a need to expend all that energy on flight.

Most of the cabins, exhibits, educational displays, and flight cages were constructed by local scouting groups.

Happy birthday Joshypoo