Parking Lot Detour

I was recently leaving a meeting with my assistant Kate when a Romanian woman begging for money approached us. Her name was Maria. She had two small children she was pushing in a stroller. One child was only three months old and the other was about three. She barely spoke English but from what we could understand she was hungry, and so were her children.

The three year old was eating a bowl of rice in her stroller and the woman looked very thin, especially considering she’d recently had a baby. Kate and I were both concerned so we dug into our wallets and gave her what we had. I am usually very cautious about giving money to people begging because I don’t want the money spent on alcohol or drugs. Instead of money I have always preferred to give food. In this case though, there was something so desperate that immediate action seemed necessary.

When we gave Maria the money she began to cry and kissed our hands. That was enough for both of us to want more information. We asked her where she lived and all she could tell us were the cross streets, that there was a 7-Eleven on the corner and her apartment number.

We decided to try and find her the next day and see how we could further help the situation.

We went to the area she described and as God would have it we found her apartment right away.

What we discovered was heartbreaking. She had another child and husband at home, and it turned out that she and her family were refugees from Romania. They were waiting on the court’s decision to grant them asylum in the US. The house was sparse, containing hardly any furniture, and as far as food, there was only a bag of pretzels, two top ramen packages in the cupboard, and a small piece of meat in the freezer.

Kate and I went to the store and bought them food and diapers and went back the same day to deliver it. When we returned the kids jumped up and down as they saw the bags of food. We couldn’t even unload all the food before Maria and the kids began to tear open the packages.

When we left we still felt like we should do more. I called Keith Giles, a friend of ours that runs a food bank through The Mission House Church, and he went to their apartment that night and brought even more food. Maria and her family are now receiving a weekly delivery from the food bank.

The story gets even better.

We first met Maria right around Thanksgiving but by the time Christmas rolled around, we started thinking about what kind of Christmas her kids might have.

Our friend Bruce from our house church, The Well, told us about a charity his daughter Carly started, The Twelve Kids of Christmas. The program sponsors needy children locally that would otherwise get little to nothing for Christmas.

Once again, as God would have it, that same week my sister Stephanie emailed her friends and family that come to her annual Hanukah party and asked if anyone had a good charity to support for the holidays this year. For many years she and her family have collected toys and clothes for less fortunate children in her area and this year she didn’t have a specific charity in mind.

I emailed her about the Romanian family and the Twelve Kids of Christmas and within a half hour, she got another email from a friend about the same program.

Needless to say, that sealed the deal.

She put together a list of all the kids that would need to be sponsored this year and emailed it out to her guests. As Hanukah drew close, the list was quickly covered.

In addition to the many children sponsored within her group, all three kids from the Romanian family got sponsored as well. Although I didn’t expect it, on the Sunday before Christmas, our friend Bruce brought us all the toys that were collected for the Romanian family and asked if we could deliver them.

When we went to Maria’s house to deliver the gifts, she invited us in. Her daughter was sleeping and her other son was at the park with his dad. But the baby was awake and she put him in my arms. Our seven year old, Carson, opened some of the gifts for the baby since he’s still an infant. He looked wide eyed at the colorful objects Carson held up for him and they both smiled at each other as if they had a secret language that none of us adults could understand. We spent about thirty minutes playing with the baby and then we got up to leave.

When I got up, I noticed that Maria was crying. She gave me a hug and  said, “Thank you madam.” Had she been able to understand, what I wanted to say to her was, “No Maria, thank you.” She gave my husband Ken and I and our son Carson a much bigger gift than we could have ever given to her.

Carson was affected so much by this experience that he has become more benevolent than he has ever been. He recently told me that he wants to use the money he’s been saving for his favorite Lego toward a clean water well in Africa.

I feel absolutely privileged to be a part of a community of people that unselfishly cares for the needs of others in tangible ways.

Thank you to Keith Giles, The Well, The Mission House Church, The Twelve Kids of Christmas and Stephanie’s family and friends for taking the time during the busiest time of the year to bless those in such great need.

Though my family and I made wonderful new memories this Christmas, having the opportunity to love on the Romanian family will go down as one of my most precious gifts this year.

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn
Executive Director
With This Ring

For more information about With This Ring, radical giving or digging clean water wells, please visit withthisring.org. 

 

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Never Too Young…

I am speechless and in awe of Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old girl from Bellevue, Washington. She said that she’d discovered that most children in Africa do not live to see their 5th birthday because they don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.

Her birthday was coming and she decided she wanted to give the gift of water to the people in Africa by raising money for water wells. Her goal was to raise $300. How amazing that Rachel chose at a young age to be a radical giver. She chose to focus outward, on others, on loving people. Her passion and generosity are proof that one person can truly make a huge difference in standing for a transformed world. She decided that people in Africa matter, that generosity matters, that love matters. How powerful it is when we make a declaration that we will stand for what God cares about rather than focusing inward.

Rachel never got to see that goal realized because she died in a tragic car accident before the money was raised. The amazing part of this story is that since her death, her fundraising page has reached $368,000 in donations.

It really is true then, that one is never too young to make an eternal impact on this world. Rachel’s maturity and discernment to stand for truth at such a young age is astounding. It reminds me of the verse that says, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

You can read her full story at:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/donations-pour-9-old-clean-water-cause-tragic-153811801.html
Living Water!

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn

“Just Come!” – The story of Two Amazing Grandparents

I have run across a lot of generous people in my lifetime but recently I met a couple that really made me stop and ask myself if I can’t be more radical in my giving.

My husband Ken met a man named Rick at a local pastor’s breakfast and they immediately connected on many levels.

Rick and his wife Sherry invited us over for dinner the very next week.  Ken told me a little bit about what Rick and Sherry are passionate about and it turns out that I have a lot in common with them as well.

They are passionate about Africa and they have spent the last several years preparing for something most of us would never even dream of doing.

They are leaving their comfortable home in Huntington Beach and moving to Uganda for six months.  They are starting a well digging program there that will involve teaching local people to dig wells and addressing medical needs.

Rick and Sherry

While I am thrilled at the amazing similarity of our goals for helping the poor and needy, I have to say that hearing the “getting there” piece of their story is spectacularly God in every way.

In 2001, Sherry began reading books like “Rich Christians In an Age of Hunger.” Their son was an Intercultural Studies major at Biola University and he began giving her books he was studying as a part of his program.  In 2003, his girlfriend Bethany, now his wife, came to live with them for the summer before her senior year.  Their son was in Thailand with World Vision.

In order to graduate, Bethany had to complete 6 weeks in an intercultural setting.  She went to Uganda for those 6 weeks.  When she returned to Rick and Sherry’s house she downloaded her pictures from Uganda onto their computer.  Sherry walked past the computer and saw a picture of Bethany, who had no medical training, holding a stethoscope to the chest of a pygmy baby, and Sherry commented, “I could do that!”

They sent an email to the doctor Bethany worked with in Uganda, saying, “We’ve never been to Africa, and we have no medical training, but if you think we could be helpful, we’re willing to give it a try.” He wrote back two words, “Just come!”

And guess what?  They did!  They went to Uganda for the entire summer of 2005 and they have never looked back.

Sherry came back and decided she wanted to go back to school to become a nurse.  Being a mother and grandmother already, she wanted to do more for children in third world countries.

Rick walked away from a successful flooring business to finish his degree in animal science and he stayed in school until 2008 when he graduated with an MBA in International Development.

In order to continue their education and prepare for life as future missionaries, Rick and Sherry rented out their house and moved on campus.  They lived on campus for two years in a converted slaughterhouse on what is called, “The farm” at Cal Poly Pomona and then spent another six months in an apartment.  As grandparents!!!

The kitchen at "The Farm" at Cal Poly

 

Now that’s what I call radical generosity.

They are now preparing for a move to a remote area in Uganda where they will live with the bare necessities so they can bring hope, health, and the redeeming message of Jesus Christ to people on the other side of the world.

When I hear stories of people like Rick and Sherry, I am humbled and challenged to learn of how else I can reflect God’s love to the world through radical giving.

Will you join me in that? I’m convinced that God is always up to something and never ceases to pour out his love to us and I never want to cease reflecting that love to others.

It could be something as simple as stepping up to become a leader in your church or it could be as complicated as quitting your job to pursue that vision that God gave you a long time ago.

Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about it!  Send me an email at ali@withthisring.org and let me know what you’re thinking.

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn

Teens-Raising a Generous Generation

Teens: Raising a Generous Generation

Money for Nothing!

According to a national survey conducted by Teenage Marketing Unlimited, the average American teenager spent over $104 per week in 2001, and based on the spending of some teens, that amount has now increased by $16 or more in 2010.

Teenage Research Unlimited reports that teenage spending has risen from $122 billion per year to $172 billion per year over the past five years.

What are we going to do with our “privileged” teenagers and what will our future look like?

Well, according to these statistics, it’s not looking good!

I never thought much about how our consumer driven culture could affect my future grandchildren someday, but a young man named Gavin, a sophomore in a local high school, has made me see the light.

My fifteen-year-old son had his teenage friends over last week and while they were sitting around talking, one of them, Gavin, approached me and asked about the details of With This Ring.  He asked what he could do to get more involved and to be honest I was taken back by his interest.

He is the first teenager that has even asked about what I do.  I gladly told him all about the things we are doing at WTR and he began to rattle off idea after idea.

I went from just answering his questions to be polite, to total excitement as I heard his heart about his generation and what he’d like to contribute to it. I spent over an hour talking with him and he said he would like to come back the next day and start volunteering.

The next day he walked into my office and sat down without wasting any time as he began to explain the concepts he stayed up late imagining. It made me step back and realize I had grossly underestimated the power of a sold out teen. We sat for several hours planning and I put him on a computer, showed him how to work a program that creates flyers, and cut him loose.

By the end of three hours, he’d carefully strategized and mapped out a program he intends to launch at his high school this year, created a flyer and a one sheet to give to the school superintendant, and he even called the ASB president of his school to begin the steps to implement this new program.

I have to say that this was not what I was expecting.  I have worked with adults and spent weeks training them.  There are few volunteers who in several months come even close to what this young man accomplished in one day.

I have high hopes for this generation because I am now confident that in the middle of a self centered culture of spoiled teens, there are those like Gavin that are waiting for the opportunity to make a difference.

The name of the program he created is called, “Give Change to Make Change” and I can’t wait to see the outcome!

Do you know a teen that might be a generous giver in the making?

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn

With This Ring

www.withthisring.org

Anniversary Flat

Casual Elegance

A recent evening topped the list of amazing anniversaries.  My husband, Ken, and I recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary in Lake Arrowhead where we stayed at a friend’s condo for the week.

Ken took me to a restaurant called, “Casual Elegance” in the city of Blue Jay for dinner and let me tell you that it was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had.

Before you think I am giving a restaurant review rather than a blog about generosity, let me put you at ease and say, it’s definitely about generosity, but the food and atmosphere were out of this world and if you’re in the area, don’t miss the opportunity for an amazing culinary experience. Being a bit of a gourmet cook myself, I give it a BIG thumbs up.

Now…back to the story: we had a great meal and we were served by an adorable and polite young waiter named Noa

The owner Kathleen and me!!!

h (he was twenty-

seven years old, but didn’t look a day over sixteen).   At the end of the meal we were greeted by the owner, Kathleen, who came over and asked how our meal was.

Noah-Waiter

We left a good tip and headed out the door only to find that our luxury 2001 Nissan Quest Minivan had a flat tire.  After walking right back into the restaurant to use their

phone, (no cell coverage in that area) Noah offered to help us rather than wait several hours for AAA to arrive.  He could take care of it in five minutes…or so he said.

Forty five minutes, and a lot of laughs later, we were on our way back to the condo in Arrowhead having made new friends with Kathleen and Noah.

Yet another random act of generosity that just amazes me and reiterates that we don’t have to be rich to bless the socks off of somebody. You just have to be willing to make yourself available to serve.

If you happen to be in the Lake Arrowhead area and want a great and elegant place to eat, skip over to Casual Elegance in Blue Jay.  If you are worried about getting a flat, don’t worry. They’ve got you covered.

How can you go out of your way today to help a stranger?

Noah saves the day!

In case you’re wondering how to find the restaurant:

Casual Elegance

26848 Highway 189

Blue Jay, Ca. 92317

(909)337-8932

Tell them Ali from With This Ring sent you!

Automatic Generosity: How a 14-Year-Old Girl Used $20

My best friend, Kimmi, lives in Northern California. The other day we were talking on the phone and she mentioned that the child she sponsors, Rahema, just turned 14 years old.  She and her husband sent Rahema a letter and twenty dollars for her birthday so she could buy something special for herself.   Just a few weeks later, Kimmi got a letter back from Rahema.  It began with these words:

I greet you with feelings of joy.  Praise the Lord Jesus!

This child living in extreme poverty is exclaiming joy, praising the Lord Jesus.

I already love her.  Kimmi has told me many things about Rahema in the last three years, but somehow reading her letter made her real to me.

Rahema goes on to thank Kimmi and her husband for the generous birthday gift and then proudly announces what she bought with the twenty dollars.  If she were a typical American teenager, you might expect her to buy a new dress, or some toys, maybe even some candy or a video game. But for Rahema, those were not of any interest.

Instead, with the money she received for her birthday, Rahema bought a female goat for her family.   Then she spent the remaining money on a pair of shoes for her mother who walks long distances selling goods in local villages to support her family, like many of the women do.

That twenty dollars we don’t even hesitate to spend for a movie and popcorn is the same twenty dollars Rahema used to bring her family a little further out of poverty’s hand.

Twenty dollars is a little more than half of what Rahema’s family earns in a month.

Can you imagine giving away that much money, approximately two weeks salary, without even thinking twice about it? What is it that makes a person care about those they love more than they care about themselves?

A person who exhibits love like that has to be the result of God’s love so deeply resonating in them that their gratitude and generosity is more prevalent than their own personal needs or wants.  Love like that must be instinctual, automatic, not manufactured. It must come from a deeper knowledge of the Savior and His character, and a deeper knowledge of His love.

I want to exhibit love like that; generosity that doesn’t even consider oneself, but immediately looks to the needs of others.

I have a lot to learn from Rahema.  We all do.  Rahema values people, not things.  She values life, not riches. While the amount of money she has is limited, she is very, very rich.

So, how can we love more generously and expect nothing for ourselves?

We practice it!  We put action to our faith by living it out though our deeds, even when it is hard to do so. When God calls, we answer Him with authentic praise that is evident in everything we say and do.

I believe the reason Rahema is full of joy and praising God is because she has traded riches for contentment, and selfishness for service.

In Hebrews 13:16 it says: And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Little or big, we can all do something generous every day, and pretty soon our response will be as automatic as Rahema’s, even when it comes to the big things.

There is something generous you can do today that will be a significant blessing to someone else – once you know what it is, do it!  Then, begin to plan how you can be generous tomorrow and then the next day.

Who knows?  Maybe generosity will become contagious!

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn

Executive Director

With This Ring

Let Them Eat Cake: Radical Giving from Limited Resources

I am in Trafford Pennsylvania right now with my husband and six year old son. We are staying with some good friends of ours, the Cables, visiting their house church.

A couple of days ago, a group of us were sitting around the table talking about our love for chocolate cake and a young couple from the church casually said, “You haven’t had chocolate cake until you’ve had the chocolate cake from Max and Erma’s.” Before long they said they had to get home because their kids were getting cranky.

Instead of going home though, they decided to stop at Max and Erma’s and get several pieces of cake for us.  They came back, cake in hand, and let me tell you, this was the richest cake I have ever eaten. It was so rich it was hard to tell where the layers of cake started and where the chocolate filling ended.  Needless to say, it was delicious.

It was such a simple thing for them to do but I was touched by the sentiment behind their act of generosity.

It turns out that this sweet young couple has four young kids that they home school and dad is currently unemployed.  I don’t know if they even considered the cost – all I know is they wanted to bless us with something they knew we would enjoy.  And even when tried to give them money, they refused it.

It reminded me of what the Apostle Paul said about the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8. He reminded us that, Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

They did not give out of their wealth, they gave out of their limited resources, but that makes it even more beautiful.

That is the kind of giver I want to be.  I want to act first and think later.  Give more than I have, and trust that God will take care of my needs.  If all we have is offered to God to bless those around us, I know that we will be blessed in the process.

While I’m sure God was speaking to them that day, I don’t think He was saying, “Let them eat cake,” but I do believe He was saying, “It is more blessed to give than receive” Acts 20:35.

We certainly didn’t need the cake, and they could have done many other things with their money, but it wasn’t about the cake.  It was about listening to God, not only with the radical act of giving something huge, but also with the daily, little things.

And when God calls we get to answer with a big fat “Yes.”

What about you?  Is there something, big or small, that you can do to bless someone today?  If it is your lack of resources holding you back, go for it.  Take a risk.  Be radical.

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn

With This Ring