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, www.underthesametree.com, 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... underthesametree@live.com

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 ;)