The Simplicity of Compassion

Thanksgiving was just around the corner, and for the first time ever I was standing in line at the food bank. I wasn’t there for myself. I was just the driver. Beside me, stood a single mom and her four-year-old son. She had contacted me days earlier in a panic.

“I’m wondering if your church can help me. I need a ride to the food bank to pick up my Thanksgiving box,” she said as soon as I answered the phone. “I just keep getting the run around. No one will help me.”

Simplicity Girl with red hair

We talked for a few minutes. She explained her situation, and I realized this mom didn’t have a car because of a car accident. She just needed a ride. That’s it. How easy is that? So we made the appointment to pick up her Thanksgiving box on the day the food bank was distributing them.

There we stood, waiting in line, getting acquainted, watching the well-oiled system and the energetic volunteers at the food bank. Tina (as we’ll call her) turned in her slip that said she had completed the necessary paperwork and went about filling her boxes. Some of the boxes were prefilled, and she conscientiously removed items she would not use so that others could use them. The process took less than fifteen minutes, but it put food on the table so this little family could eat, not just on Thanksgiving but also beyond the holiday.

As we were loading the car, Tina stopped mid-action and looked at me, her eyes sincere and grateful.

“Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome.” I replied, “But it’s not a big deal. That’s what we’re here for.”

She shook her head emphatically. “No, you don’t understand. I called churches all over town, but your church was the only one willing to help a single mom. Thank you.”

My heart sank. How could that be true? Later that week, I started doing a little research. I already knew that 41% of American children are born into fatherless homes. I discovered that in Billings 32% of children are growing up in single-parent homes, roughly 75% of those homes being fatherless. But tears came to my eyes when I discovered that nationwide, only 1% of churches has any type of ministry specifically to single-parent families. How could there be such a vast disparity between the need and the number of those reaching out to meet it?

Often the needs of the fatherless seem overwhelming. We see pictures of droves children with big eyes, empty tummies, and outstretched hands, and we wonder how we will ever meet the need. And then we walk away. Not because we do not care, but because we’re overwhelmed. Meeting those needs, however, doesn’t have to be overwhelming. No, we may not be able to meet every single need, but perhaps we can meet one. One need met, followed by another need met, followed by yet another need met leads to the meeting of many needs—a simple fulfillment of the compassion which moved us in the first place.

Earlier this year, a friend of Forbid Them Not was moved with compassion. A homeschool mom, she considered the amount that it would have cost her if she’d had to buy school supplies for all of her children to attend public school. Then she considered the many families that would struggle to buy everything on their school list. She approached Forbid Them Not about partnering together to help meet that need.

As a result of last year’s Green Bean Project, we had forty pounds of school supplies waiting to be put to use this fall! We’d also been given some beautiful children’s Bibles as well as some coloring books on forgiveness. Between those things, and the donations of individuals and local businesses we were able not only to help ten children with backpacks and school supplies but also to help supplement a third grade class with many students who were not able to get everything on their lists!

Did it take a little effort, organization, and time on our part? Yes! Of course it did! But that simple act made a difference—a lasting difference. You see, I’ve since had reports of the children using their Bibles with excitement. One grandmother thanked me for the coloring book and said, “This is so needed. We will definitely be going through this.”

Maybe you were part of last year’s Green Bean Project and felt that you didn’t do much. Maybe you weren’t sure it would really make that much of a difference. But it did! Not only were we able to provide these school supplies as a result of the GBP, but over the course of the year the funds that went to FTN also helped us to provide a car battery in one situation and groceries in several other situations. Your simple act of compassion made a difference and will continue to.

Earlier this year, we interviewed two single moms to learn from them and gain their perspective on how a ministry like FTN can best walk alongside of them and others in similar situations. When asked, “What do you feel is your greatest asset?” one of the moms gave an answer I will never forget. She said, “God bringing the right people into our lives at the right time.” Each of us could be that person so long as our hearts are attuned to God’s leading.

The answer does not lie in a massive government program. The struggle these families face sits at our door, waiting for us to take action. Compassion isn’t complicated. It’s simple. It is love and sorrow compelling us to move. All we have to do is act.

Will you join us in making a difference? Click the link below to be a part of this year’s Green Bean Project.

 

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How the Great Commission Shapes the Green Bean Project

I grew up in a missionary’s home, so it’s no surprise that the verses often referred to as the Great Commission are very familiar. I grew up hearing the importance of reaching our Jerusalem, our Judea, and yes, even the uttermost parts of the earth. But that is such an enormous task! How could we ever fulfill it? When Forbid Them Not first began, our primary focus was on that uttermost parts of the earth portion of Acts 1:8. That was where I saw the biggest need, and the Green Bean Project was an awesome way to fulfill that part of the Great Commission. But over the months and years following, God began to reveal other needs much closer to home.

The thoughts and ideas of how to best reach the fatherless grew and the vision for the ministry grew with them. I began to hear people saying, “This is too broad. It’s overwhelming. People will say there is no way one ministry can do all of this, and they won’t support the work.” But as those of us working directly with the ministry prayed about a shift in focus, God’s Word kept coming back to us. We are called to reach our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and (not or) the uttermost parts of the earth.

Like any missionary, we have one mission “field”—the fatherless—but their location is not limited to one town, country, or continent. God has called us to reach them, whether they are near or far.

So what does that look like for a ministry as small as Forbid Them Not? Here’s a little breakdown.

Our Jerusalem

Based in Billings, Montana, this is our home and our Jerusalem. Since I was a little girl, the city has boomed. While the city itself has a population of just over 110,000 the metro area includes more than 165,000, and it serves a trade area of more than 500,000. According to 2012 census information, approximately 32% of Billings’ children are growing up in single-parent homes, 75% of which are fatherless. Due to an increase in drug activity, our local and state systems for caring for neglected and abused children is in crisis. Billings is an amazing place to live, but many of our children and families are broken, hurting, and in need of the love and hope of Christ and His people.

Our Judea and Samaria

As mentioned above, the crisis our families are facing is not just a big city problem. The system as a whole across Montana is in crisis. Our legislature and Governor have been scrambling to find help. Montana is not alone. The numbers out of surrounding states are similar. God has deeply burdened our hearts, not only to reach our city but also our region and beyond. Obviously, we cannot be everywhere at once, but we can help walk alongside churches that are seeking to reach their fatherless and those caring for them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Uttermost Parts of the Earth

Through the Green Bean Project, we are able to walk alongside of ministries to the fatherless in other parts of the world. God has led us to support three missionaries in three separate countries over the past few years, and we are currently looking at adding a fourth. Each year, we have been able to provide for various needs including textbooks, school supplies, fabric for uniforms, clothing, vitamins, and small financial gifts to each of these ministries. This year their needs are much greater, but we believe that God is able to meet each of those needs. We may not be able to sit with the children one on one to share the gospel with them, but we can help those who are able to do so.

During the first two weeks of this year’s Green Bean Project, we’re going to be sharing with you more about our Jerusalem, our hometown of Billings, MT. Last year’s Green Bean Project was our only source of funding for meeting the needs of fatherless families here in Billings, so you can see the importance of this project to the local ministry. The need here is great, far greater than many would imagine. Billings has been home to me since I was 12 years old. It has woven itself deep into my heart, but it is a city with a host of hurting children and broken families and lives. My heart yearns to see the hope of Christ brought to its darkest corners.

If you haven’t already, please join us on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

 

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What IS the Green Bean Project?

Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me, “Just what is the Green Bean Project?” To be honest, I know when I share about the project everything in my heart tends to well up and a TON of information pours out. To me, it seems simple and straight forward, but sometimes I leave people in a dither. So this is my attempt to simplify all that heart gushing in one clear and concise post.

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The Short Answer:

The Green Bean Project is a fundraiser. That’s the ugly truth. Ministries have needs and often those needs are met by funds. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a vision behind the fundraising.

The Vision:

The vision behind the Green Bean Project is to give God’s people an opportunity to visit the fatherless in their affliction (James 1:27) as we bless ministries working with the fatherless by meeting their specific needs through the love, giving, and action of those who participate in the project.

Why?

Why is this so important? The answer is multi-faceted. Caring for the Fatherless:

Is God’s Command – God’ mentions the fatherless more than 40 times in the Bible. He repeats the commands to visit them, defend them, and judge their cause throughout those passages. He also passes severe judgment upon His people when they neglect the fatherless and the widow. For a complete list of references dealing with the fatherless, click here.

Is a God-ordained form of Worship – In James 1:27, God defines pure religion (the carrying out of our faith, worship) as visiting the fatherless and the widow in their affliction and keeping oneself unspotted from the world. The second one often receives greater attention because it can easily be thrown into a checklist, but visiting the fatherless and the widows is equally important in God’s eyes.

Allows us to demonstrate God’s love and His plan for Redemption – In nearly every reference to adoption in the New Testament, God is speaking of redemption. Caring for the fatherless whether through projects like this one, praying, mentoring, fostering, or adoption provides amazing opportunity for God’s people to become living pictures of redemption.

The Green Bean Project gives us the opportunity to either to take the first steps in caring for the fatherless or to grow in the care we are already giving. It allows us to come alongside of those caring for the fatherless through their ministries in the U.S., Africa, and Asia.

The How

You might be wondering how the Green Bean Project Works. Here’s a quick step-by-step account of how it normally goes:

  1. Each year, the missionaries leading the ministries involved provide a list of specific needs. These needs touch the lives of 500-600 children every year.
  2. When the Green Bean Project launches, usually either October 1st or November 1st, Forbid Them Not shares those needs with you through our website, blog, emails, and social media accounts.
  3. Over the course of the project, we ask you to prayerfully consider what God would have you to do to help meet these needs.
  4. God’s people pray and give.
  5. At then end of the Green Bean Project, December 31st, the total amount received is tallied and we praise the Lord for His wonderful works!
  6. After the New Year, we divide the funds evenly between the ministries. Sometimes, the needed items can be purchased in country. In those situations, the funds are sent to their mission agency and applied to their account. At other times, the items need to be purchased in the States and shipped. In those situations, we do the shopping for the missionaries and then package and ship the purchases. Any remaining funds are then sent to their mission agency and applied to the missionaries’ account.
  7. A Final Update. Often things happened during the period of point number 6 that further display God’s provision. We always try to share those events with you, so you can see the full picture of what God has done—at least as full as we can give you this side of eternity.

 

So, to sum it all up, the Green Bean Project is an opportunity for us to put our faith into action. It’s an opportunity to meet the needs of children in desperate physical need, while at the same time living out for them the love Christ demonstrated to us on the cross. It’s a place to begin, a place to grow, and a place to help ministries to the fatherless thrive.

Participate Here!

2017 Green Bean Project is Here!

Today is the big day! Today launches this year’s Green Bean Project. Some of you may be very familiar with the GBP, while for others this is entirely new. For those of you who are just learning about the project, the GBP started as a result of one woman’s kindness in the midst of holiday shopping mayhem. That moment was an enormous lesson to me about the importance of stepping out of sleeve-brushing distance and right into people’s lives—specifically the lives of the orphan ministries we were working with at the time. Life situations do not always allow us to be right there on the field with a missionary, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a relevant part in their work. Each year, the GBP seeks to meet specific needs faced by each of four ministries.

Over the next six weeks, we’ll be sharing more about each of these ministry with you. Acts 1:8 says,

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

This year, we’re going to take a look at how the Lord is enabling Forbid Them Not to reach into our Jerusalem, our Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth, and how you can have a part in that through the Green Bean Project.

For now, we want to invite you to join us for this online event. This is an amazing way for each of us to add to our account as Paul said in Philippians 4:17. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, please join us on Facebook. We’re excited to see how God will work through this year’s Green Bean Project!

LATE ADDITION:

In the final days before the launch of this year’s Green Bean Project, we realized that the needs of each ministry are much bigger this time than any previous year. Please check out this Facebook Live video, which shares a little about those needs and what God has already begun to do.

Please help us spread the word by sharing our blogs with others!

Just Around The Corner

October is quickly coming to an end, which means the Green Bean Project is just around the corner. We’re excited to be sharing a lot of new information with you this year, and to have an opportunity to introduce you to the international ministries in a way we’ve never been able to in the past.

The Green Bean Project will be starting November 1st. For now, we ask that you join us in prayer for the project that:

  1. God would be glorified,
  2. Hearts would be stirred for the need of the fatherless,
  3. God will grow each of these ministries through this project, and
  4. Specific needs of each ministry will be met through this project.

Thank you so much for your prayer and support of Forbid Them Not and the Green Bean Project. We look forward to sharing more with you about how God has used your faithfulness to help us reach the fatherless.

 

 

Why We’re Moving the Green Bean Project and What to Expect

Fall is certainly here! In fact, I’ve already seen snow. How about you?

The last three months of the year are some of my favorites. In our family, in addition to all of the usual holidays we also have multiple birthdays and anniversaries in October and November, and of course the Green Bean Project!

Beans Extracted

Normally, we would be announcing the start of the Green Bean Project on October 1st, but this year, with everything else that has been going on, we felt the need to push the start date back to November 1st.

Some of you reading this may be wondering, “What is the Green Bean Project?” That’s a great question. The Green Bean Project (GBP) started in 2010 with a “reality check” and a list of specific needs from three missionaries working with orphans in their respective countries. Each year since, we have been able to meet various needs, providing school supplies, textbooks, fabric for school uniforms, clothing, and small financial gifts to each of the ministries. You can watch a video telling of the project’s origin here.

In 2013, we added FTN’s “Loving Locally” program to the project. This program reaches out to fatherless children, single moms, non-parental guardians, and foster families here in Billings, MT. Our 2017 outreach was completely dependent on what came in through the 2016 GBP. Through it we were able to help provide groceries, a car battery, backpacks and school supplies for multiple fatherless families while developing a relationship and opportunities to share Christ with the women and children in need. So you can see how very important this project is to this ministry!

This year we will be taking a slightly different approach than we have in the past. We will be sharing with you in our blogs and social media a little about each of FTN’s three primary areas of ministry: OUR Jerusalem, Judea, and the Uttermost Parts of the Earth. They break down like this:

Jerusalem – Billings, MT

Judea/Samaria – Our immediate surrounding region/Other locations in the US

The Uttermost Parts of the Earth – The three international ministries.

As I said, we’ve decided to push the start date back to November 1st, but the project will have the same ultimate goal: Helping each of these ministries honor the Lord as they reach out to the fatherless with the love of Christ. Here are a few important dates to keep in mind as you consider what part the Lord might have you to take in this years GBP:

Wednesday, November 1 – GBP begins.

Sunday, November 12th – National Orphan Sunday

Monday, November 27th – Cyber Monday – Do your shopping through Amazon Smile to help boost the GBP

Tuesday, November 28th – #GivingTuesday

Saturday, December 9th – Join us for our annual Christmas Open House here in Billings.

Sunday, December 31 – GBP Ends

We’ll be using these two months to share a lot more about each area of the ministry, what it’s all about, and how we would like to see it grow—so you won’t want to miss anything. Here are the best ways to follow along:

Check out our website

Like our Facebook page

Join our Facebook group

Follow our Blog

We’re looking forward to seeing what God will do through this year’s Green Bean Project and hope you will join us!

(Rachel)

 

 

 

 

End of the Growing Season

“I will never buy those again!”

I turned toward the voice and spotted a tall man, standing next to his wife and pointing at a brightly colored flower on the shelves at Lowe’s. I laughed inwardly at the immense effort it required of me NOT to shout out, “ME EITHER!!!!”

The red and yellow flowers were beautiful, but they do not grow in my garden. I could barely get them to stand up straight, let alone flourish. They will never go into my garden again. Not because I don’t like the idea of them growing there, but because they simply don’t grow.

I was thinking about those flowers again on Saturday as I sat in my front yard waiting for my computer updates to complete. I was thinking about things that don’t grow the way we want them to, at the rate we want them to, or with the amount of fruit we want them to. Those things are rampant in life, and sometimes the struggle to see “our garden grow” can be discouraging. We may even come to the point of saying, “I’m done with that! It’s just never going to flourish. I want a plant I can depend on.”

My thoughts were on this summer’s Growing Together campaign at Forbid Them Not. We set out with hope and enthusiasm. The Forum on Fatherlessness went so well. We felt people were ready to see the ministry grow and to grow with us. We wanted so much to be in a more flourishing place by the time this year’s Green Bean Project rolls around in October. We set out a plan, and followed it faithfully. But the results did not seem to come. We had hoped for growth in the areas of prayer, participation, and partnership. But it didn’t seem to happen. We cancelled a few things we had planned because everything else had been met with the proverbial chirping crickets. We did not have the time or resources to invest in something that only we would attend.

As we came to the scheduled end of our campaign, my heart was discouraged. I considered the massive amount of energy poured into blog posts, events, social media posts, interviews, etc., and then I looked at the apparent lack of fruit. My heart and my flesh and probably Satan said,

“There you go. You’ve failed. Again. You worked your heart out, but it wasn’t enough or it wasn’t right or it just doesn’t matter.”

But as I sat in my front yard Saturday morning, I considered my flowerbed. It doesn’t have those bright red flowers that I will never buy again. It has something else—lavender. Lavender does not yield substantial fruit the first season. In fact, if you want the plant to survive and thrive, you don’t even cut the flowers the first year. The second year, you might get a handful of flowers, maybe even two handfuls. Not until the third season can you expect substantial fruit. Then something happens. It becomes hardy. My lavender has been frozen, scorched by the sun, run over by a drunk (or possibly blind) driver, and yet I have three baskets of lavender drying in my front room.

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I thought about my lavender, and I thought about ministry. I realized that just because a plant doesn’t have visible fruit on it, doesn’t mean it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It may still be maturing.

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I will spare you the four pages of notes that came from these musings, but I do want to share a few precious things that encouraged me and might encourage you.

That Number Isn’t Really Important

One of my greatest struggles over the last few months has been a number. A number that threatens to shrink. A number that comes up once a month and must stretch an enormous distance. A simple number that affects every single aspect of life and ministry. But as I was looking at that flowerbed on Saturday, I was reminded that I am not living on that number. Forbid Them Not is not surviving on that number, but rather on all the “riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” That is the account, the soil, we are drawing upon, and that is where our hope must lie. (Philippians 4:19)

Preparing for a Mountain

God teaches us to profit. He leads us in the way we should go. (Isaiah 48:17) I know these things, but it wasn’t until I studied them out a little that I saw the picture of how He does this. The idea behind the Hebrew words is that He disciplines us, goads us, gets us accustomed to things, chastises us, prepares us as a soldier preparing for war, so that we can ascend a mountain and stand on the summit.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve climbed a few mountains in my life. It was work—and believe me we’re not talking Everest here. I’ve hiked to the tops of mountains in Montana. I’ve hiked on a ledge in Romania that was so narrow you had to hold onto a chain bolted into the mountain to work your way across. I’ve hiked to a height in Kyrgyzstan that made my legs tremble and my lungs burn and that said, “You can’t go any further because you are not strong enough. If you go further things will not go well for you.” And I had to stop.

God doesn’t want us to have to stop. He wants to prepare us to reach the top, to stand on the summit, and to praise Him. And so, HE PERSONALLY TRAINS US. It’s not our own effort. He gets us accustomed to the thinning air, the steep incline, the weight of our packs, and then when the time is right, He leads us.

A Guide for the Trail

He leads us with His own footsteps. That’s what Isaiah 48:17 says. Leadeth means to tread with the feet. No matter how you look at it, this word means to get somewhere by walking. God doesn’t just point up the trail and say, “Go.” He steps onto the trail, and in some cases, He creates the trail with His own feet. He goes with us, trampling down the brush and the grass and the other things that may impede our way. It may not be fast moving, breaking a trail never is, but we have an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, everywhere present Guide who will never leave us nor forsake us on that trail, be it in the wilderness, on the mountain side, or in the city.

A Rock for Rest

Later this month, I will be helping out with a Rock of Ages Prison Ministry revival at the Montana Women’s Prison. In preparation, I was doing a little study on faithfulness, and came to a verse from the story of Moses, holding up his hands while Joshua fought Amalek. Exodus 17:12 says,

“But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”

The next verse in the list of cross-references I was studying was Deuteronomy 32:4,

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

Sometimes, we just need a rock to rest on. What confidence it brings to know that God is that Rock. His work is perfect. He will hold us up.

Hands to Hold Us Up

Even when he was sitting on the rock, Moses needed Aaron and Hur. Can you imagine standing all day with your hands held above your head? It is no wonder he grew weary. Sometimes, maybe more often then we would like to admit, we need someone to hold up our hands. This is our goal with FTN, to share the gospel of Christ while we hold up the weak hands of the fatherless and those who are caring for them. But sometimes we need someone to help hold up our hands, just as you need someone to hold up your hands from time to time.

I’m going to issue one last Growing Together challenge: Let’s hold up each other’s hands. Let’s encourage one another, walk together, talk together, prayer together, and work together. We must always stand (and sometimes sit) on the Rock, why not hold one another up in the process?

We’ve shared many ways over the summer that you can help hold up our hands. I’d ask that you look back over them, and see what the Lord might have you to do. At the same time, I’d like to ask you:

What can we do? How can we help hold up your hands? Let us know! We can’t help, we can’t even pray, if we don’t know there is a need.