Annual Gifts-that-Give-Back post

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link takes you to a Youtube video that explains why Giving Tuesday was created to follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post my annual “gifts that give back” post. More and more we have the opportunity to give gifts that give twice: to the recipient AND to a ministry that practices Biblical generosity. If you have already completed all your Christmas shopping, then this post isn’t for you, but if you’re just starting to think about it (I’m in this camp!), then I hope to give you some good ideas in this post.


You can use’s Smile program and choose a charity to receive a portion of your purchase price. (Mine is locked in at Compassion International currently, but there are thousands on Amazon’s list.) The link above gives more info, and this program is not just for the holiday season but operates all year.


Check out, Bel Kai, and Belove.

MudLOVE, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets, necklaces, mugs, and more. The most popular version is stamped with a word or phrase, and you can even custom order a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you. Twenty percent of each purchase goes to provide clean water in Africa, and $5 spent provides an African with clean drinking water for a year. My girls (ages 11, 15, 16, and 18) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

Bel Kai, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, is another company that gives-back, and when the creator of MudLOVE married the creator BelKai, Belove was created. Great story (check it out at the Bel Kai link above) and just as great products!


Hand and Cloth sells gorgeous, one-of-a-kind blankets made from used saris by women rescued from the slave trade in Bangladesh. I’ve featured this ministry before on my blog (  These are perfect buys for the person who appreciates beautiful, handmade artisan items (hmm—maybe that describes you yourself!). They start at $98 dollars and go up to around $200. Check out the blankets at the website—which itself is beautiful—and read their story while you are there. “Blankets handmade by women. Women handmade by God.” Wonderful work! (They also have stockings–each one unique! So cool!)

Renew Project is an incredible ministry. Based in my area (Chicago’s western suburbs), it trains and employs refugee women to make beautiful items from recycled textiles. Bags, baby items, tablecloths, etc., and their work is incredible (these women are artisans!). Best of all, each purchase helps a refugee woman thrive in her new home.


If you want something other than blankets made by women rescued from the slave trade, visit WAR International. The acronym WAR, standing for Women at Risk, was started in 2006. You can find jewelry, accessories, home décor, and children’s items made by women in 13 countries, including the United States.

Narimon employs women rescued out of the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. the woman make beautiful jewelry, handbags, and some clothing at The Well, where the women not only work but are ministered to. Narimon is the products division of Servantworks. Seriously, their work is beautiful. has t-shirts, jewelry, and totes/bags made from recycled materials. Many of their t-shirts express the heart of the women who run this website. One with a barcode also has the logo “People are not products” and several sport the logo “free.loved.radiant.”

Sseko (what a cool name) Designs was started by Liz Bohannon. Read this great article about her and her business at Relevant Magazine–and shop here, too! Their tie sandals are awesome, but they’ve now branched out to bags, clothing items, scarves, etc.

Noonday Collection and Trades of Hope both offer beautiful fair trade items (primarily jewelry, scarves, bags, etc.) made by women artisans in developing countries. Great businesses, great products, great stories. I have friends involved in both of these businesses, and they are passionate about their work and what it is providing for other women around the globe. I encourage you to check out their websites.


Need to shop for kids, men, women—want to spend a little for this one, more for that one? Go to Gorgeous jewelry, decorative items, and woven/knitted items for women; toys and games for children; even things like chess sets, bookends, and bicycle-chain frames for men. Their website is very easy to navigate and has some very helpful tools. If you click on the “gift ideas” tab at the top of the page, you can shop for holiday items, for men, women, or children, or by type of item.  You can spend a little (items as low as $4) or a lot. They also have shops (there is one in Glen Ellyn, IL) across the U.S. You can find a shop locater on the website.


Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has “Drink Coffee. Do Good” as its motto. It started with farmers in Rwanda (the founder saw the effects of the genocide and had to do SOMETHING) and now works with farmers in Haiti and Thailand as well. They sell 100% Arabica, fairly traded, fresh roasted coffee. They sell ground, whole bean, and decaf, teas, and coffee accessories.

I Have a Bean “was created for a purpose–to positively impact the lives of post-prison men and women, their families, and the communities in which we live.” This business employs post-prison men and women. If you’re in the Wheaton area, drop in their store on Fridays for free coffee and a chat with their awesome staff!

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton (if you’re not, you can visit them virtually) and pick up a few bags of their direct-trade blends, which River City Roasters roasts themselves. Sometimes they also have their Venture blend, which supports Venture Corp (, a small nonprofit started by some young friends of ours. Each bag purchased helps support two wonderful ministries in Africa. (I am privileged to have met both Mary and Ronnie, the leaders of the two ministries Venture supports.) Speaking of Venture, you can visit its website and support its ministries through buying beautiful Ugandan necklaces. Just click on the “enter the venture” link above.


My husband just told me about this one, and I checked it out and love their website. What a great story! A group of high school guys learned to crochet simply because they wanted unique ski hats on the local slopes. Others dubbed them the Krochet Kids. Long story short (if you want to know the whole thing, visit the website), they taught these skills to women in northern Africa and then Peru, and they sell these handmade items at Each item carries with it the signature of the woman who crocheted it, and you can visit the website to learn her story. They’ve also branched out and now offer several ethically-made clothing and accessory items as well.


Buy them a goat—bet they don’t have that. Seriously, go to World Vision or Compassion or Open Doors USA or International Justice Mission (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). The first two have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells–and goats! Open Doors has items that are specific to the needs of the persecuted church worldwide, and IJM allows you to pay for trauma counseling or legal representation for those suffering injustice. You can honor someone with your gift, and that person will receive a card telling about your gift and what it will accomplish. If you want to keep the idea of giving in front of you this season, request that a print gift catalog from either World Vision or Compassion be sent to you. It’s a fantastic tool to use with kids during this season when they are constantly faced with advertisements that fool them into thinking that their “wants” are actually “needs.”


If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear and share other opportunities to give gifts that give back. Feel free to share this list with others.

Thanks for reading! I sure enjoyed pulling the list together.

Africa Connections Info

Dave and I have mixed feelings about missions trips.

That’s a weird statement considering we just got back from leading one.

On one hand, you spend a LOT of money to get there that could be used instead either by the organizations you work with or by full-time missionaries. Sometimes missions teams go in with the idea that they’re coming in to save the day (not exactly a Philippians 2 attitude).

But on the other hand, often the money spent to go on the trip is like an initial investment. It opens up the team members’ eyes and hearts–as well as the hearts and eyes of their friends and family members–to needs and Gospel opportunities they had no idea of before so that future support gets funneled in directions it would not have otherwise. Mission team members find that they are “mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by … (the) faith” of the people they meet. (Romans 1:12)

My hope is that those of you who have read my blog have, in a sense, traveled with us and been impacted just as we have. Some readers have already asked me about ways to contribute to some of the ministries we worked with, so what I want to do in this post is provide links to all of the different organizations we worked with while we were in Kenya and Uganda. You can learn more about these organizations and donate to them at the website links provided. I’ve also included the link to the specific blog post I wrote about our experience at each organization.

1. Kibera Girls SoccerAcademy:

This is a FREE secondary school in the heart of the Kibera Slum (the second largest slum in the world) that provides girls with a quality education so they can continue on beyond secondary school to universities and colleges. Great program.

Blog link:

2. Springs of Hope Orphanage run by Kenyan Mary Musyoka:

Venture Corps is a U.S.-based non-profit that advocates for several non-profits run by Kenyan and Ugandan nationals. You can find more info on Springs of Hope on Venture Corps website and donate specifically to it or to the Venture Corps general fund.

Blog link:

3. Mercy Childcare run by Ugandan Wilfred Rugumba:

Mercy is dear, dear, dear to my heart. Our son, Patrick, is from Mercy, and I lived with Wilfred and his wife, Vena, for five weeks during our adoption process. Almost all the ministry we did in Uganda was through Mercy and its founding church, Light the World Church in Kampala, Uganda.

Blog links:

4. UAPO (Ugandan American Partnership Organization) (In Uganda, known as the Akola Project): (this site has information about the UAPO) (this is the UAPO’s shopping site–beautiful jewelry and very soon, some amazing woven bags)

Blog link:




Meet Mary, Day 2 in Africa

This is a weird pic to include, but the kids at our first game yesterday thought Dave's elbows were quite funny.

This is a weird pic to include, but the kids at our first game yesterday thought Dave’s elbows were quite funny.

Mary Musyoka’s name belongs in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith. Dave and I and the other adults on the team had a blast listening to this woman tell us how she came to start the Springs of Hope Children’s Home eight years ago in her hometown of Machakos, Kenya.

After many years of teaching Sunday School and working as a pediatric nurse,  Mary’s call from God to care for babies and children intensified when she had a dream about giving birth to and caring for twins. “But God,” she said in the dream. “My youngest child is 19 now. I’m almost done with active mothering. I can’t take twins.” Finally, after repeated urgings (in her dream), she said she would do it. The dream ended; she woke up; and she very nearly forgot about it.

We toured the Kirigiti Girls Rehabilitation School before we played its team. This is one of its classrooms.

We toured the Kirigiti Girls Rehabilitation School before we played its team. This is one of its classrooms.

Mary was already known in her community for her work with children. She taught Sunday School and helped the local police find safe places for children who were orphaned, abused, or neglected. Soon after her dream, in August of 2005, she received a phone call from the police about two babies—twins—who needed a place. Mary couldn’t find one, so she decided to take the babies to her own home. Her 19 year old watched her with the babies and said, “Mom, you’re really relaxed about the babies making messes and getting into stuff. It’s like they’re your own twins.”

The dream flooded back to Mary.

A few of our girls with girls from Kirigiti.

A few of our girls with girls from Kirigiti.

Several weeks later she had three more babies, and she began searching for a rental property that would function as a home for them. She rented a building without the money to pay the rent, and God provided.

He has ever since. “I just remind Him of His promises,” says Mary.

For several years, Mary lived at the home, but now five women care for the children, and another five clean, cook, and wash (and wash and wash—just think of all those bibs!). Currently she has 18 children aged 5 and under.

our impromptu bball game yesterday--see what I mean about height!

our impromptu bball game yesterday–see what I mean about height!

Mary has God-sized dreams. She wants Springs of Hope to own its own building, first. Then she wants a kindergarten and homes for older children so they don’t have to be sent to other institutions after they get too old for her baby-and-toddlers’ home. She wants house parents for each group of kids. She wants sponsorship for orphans that will go through the university level.

And there’s more!

The girls (minus one--still inside with a child) in front of Springs of Hope

The girls (minus one–still inside with a child) in front of Springs of Hope

Mary was grateful for the diapers and formula and clothes we brought with us, but she was most excited about the love our girls showered on her children. Every single child there had one-on-one time. The girls fed the eight babies (one was less than a month old), and played nonstop with the toddlers—who also wanted some holding. One of our moms fed the home’s one child with special needs. Dennis contracted meningitis when he was three and is now deaf, dumb, blind, and crippled by cerebral palsy. Shawna (the mom) sat with him for hours, stroking his head and legs. Several of the girls joined her later and prayed over Dennis.

Mary and I

Mary and I

When the children went down for afternoon naps, we visited the site where the permanent home is being constructed. The grounds are partially fenced, and concrete footers are being poured. Then we took Mary out to lunch.

“You were meant to be here for this day,” Mary said when we expressed regret that we were only here for one day. “It is wonderful when they receive individual love. It makes a difference: They sleep better after they have received love like your girls gave them today,” Mary said. “They are calmer, like it filled them up.”

Holes for the concrete foundation for Springs of Hope's permanent home. These were dug by hand!

Holes for the concrete foundation for Springs of Hope’s permanent home. These were dug by hand!


an impromptu gathering with children just outside the gates to Springs of Hope's permanent site. Notice Rachel trying to roll a tire with two sticks. She was inspired by the village boys--who were experts at it!

an impromptu gathering with children just outside the gates to Springs of Hope’s permanent site. Notice Rachel trying to roll a tire with two sticks. She was inspired by the village boys–who were experts at it!

She added, “And it will make a difference in their development.”

Mary serves on Kenya’s adoption committee, and she works hard to find adoptive parents (both Kenyan and non-native) for her children. It’s paying off. Though many of our girls left the orphanage in tears this afternoon, their faces brightened when we told them that three of the children will be in permanent homes in the next two weeks.

I was amazed, absolutely amazed, at the incredible level of care at Springs of Hope. The best example is Dennis. It often takes the staff two hours simply to feed Dennis alone. When they told Shawna how to help him eat, they told her, “You must stroke his head when he eats. This is how we let him know he is loved.” They turn him two hours around the clock so he doesn’t get bedsores.

It was a good, good day.

Thank you, God.

Correction/items for prayer/praise:

  1. At breakfast this morning, I was corrected about the outcome of the basketball game we played yesterday. Evidently we actually did win, by one point. My apologies!
  2. Tomorrow we visit the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy in the heart of the Kibera slum. Kibera can be overwhelming with its level of poverty. Please pray that we will se God’s hand at work in Kibera and that we will truly be a testimony of Christ to the girls we will get to know tomorrow.
  3. If you would like more information on Springs of Hope and on how you could donate to its amazing ministry, visit That is the website of Venture Corps, a Stateside ministry that partners with Springs of Hope. Scroll down to the bottom of the front page and click on the “soh” tab there. You can make a donation through the website, earmark it for Springs of Hope, and Mary will get it. (The founders of Venture Corps are good friends of ours.)
  4. I’m really grateful for our health and safety tonight. God is faithful in sickness and through accidents, but I’m very, very grateful that no one has even gotten the slightest case of an upset stomach so far! Wow!
  5. By the way–wasn’t able to upload too many pics. Have some beautiful ones of the girls holding babies, but Mary asked that I not post any that showed children’s faces. The girls are getting some great pictures with their cameras/phones, but I plan to make a cd of all the pics I take for each of the girls.

Thanks for reading,