There have been SO many new developments going on in the ministry lately I don't know where to begin! It seems each time I sit down to write...another new development occurs. So in an effort to keep things concise...and yet thorough, I'm going to break up all this newness into two posts: People and Places. I hope they will sum up the majority of things. It's all quite exciting.
It's hard to believe that a year ago today Scott and I were managing this entire ministry out of a tiny room in our home almost all by ourselves. We had a bookkeeper and board of directors, but in terms of operating things...we were flying solo. This was NOT healthy for our marriage. It was way too intense. We figured we were each doing the work of 4 to 6 people. Help was needed desperately. The problem, though, was how we were going to hire employees if we had to pay them.
Scott and I lived through an extended period with no/partial pay. We considered ourselves blessed if we had enough to support our family at the end of the day. How in the world could we add another soul to the payroll?
If we were to keep serving the children in Uganda, though, we were going to have to grow. Otherwise, we'd be headed down a path of inevitable burn-out. Two people can only do so much! It was going to take a lot of faith in the God who owns all those cattle on all those hills.
Scott and I talked, debated, whined, complained and pondered what to do. In the mean time, God was doing what He does best...taking care of it.
In March 2009 we got a random email from an old college aquantiance, Ashleigh Luther. She mentioned she had been living/working in Birmingham for a while (where we also work/live) and had heard about our ministry in Africa. Ashleigh graduated from Covenant college with a community development major and was interested in putting it to use. She was interested in hearing more about what we did in Uganda and how she might "fit" with it.
Just out of the blue!
A week or so later Ashleigh was sitting in our little home and we were dumping our guts all over her. Looking back, I'm surprised she didn't head for the hill country. Scott and I were simply so eager and excited at the possibility of even having another team member we couldn't stop talking. Shockingly, Ashleigh agreed to go to Uganda with us in May AND to work for us during the summer while she considered the possibility of a longer tenure.
A few weeks later we met Lauren Ford. Lauren was a friend of a friend. She was on the verge of graduating from Samford University with an International Relations major and she wanted to go into non profit work. She was looking for experience and we quickly snatched her up as an intern.
Within a matter of months we had more than doubled our sets of hands without really trying. Praise God!
After the summer we hired Ashleigh part-time as a program director. She was key in helping develop/research opportunities with the African crafts as well as designing many of the ministry's publications. Lauren also stuck with us and continued serving the ministry in whatever way needed-coordinating events, finding volunteers, etc.
Still, three part time staff (me, Ashleigh and Lauren) members and one full time (Scott) was not sufficient to manage the many innerworkings of a growing nonprofit. Everyone was getting paid for part time work...but in reality everyone was working 40+ hours per week. The fall was a little nuts.
Things really got nuts when Scott flew off to Uganda in September, leaving us girls to manage things on our part timeish schedule. But it was in that crazy month that an even more "random" and unexpected door was about to be opened in the most unusual of ways.
In late summer I got an email from a gal named Kerry at my local church. She'd won a photo contest. Her good friend, Allison Lewis, has a photography business in Birmingham and Kerry had won her first photography giveaway. Kerry wanted to give ME her prize: a free session and a print credit!!! This was quite unexpected, but as Allison is REALLY talented, I was pretty elated. Somehow those cheap Target studios I'd been frequenting just never "caught" Vivian. I was eager for something more. (Check out Allison's website HERE.)
Kerry told me I would probably hit it off with Allison pretty well. She also had a young family and she and her husband were in process of adopting their fourth child from you guessed it...AFRICA. Originally the Lewis' had hoped to adopt from UGANDA, but the Lord ended up redirecting them to it's neighbor, Ethiopia. So needless to say, she was interested in our ministry.
I kept all of this to myself and breathed not a word of it to my hubby. I was planning to have the photos taken while he was in Uganda and surprise him on his birthday once he returned. It was a fabulous session and Allison was great. To view some of the insanely cute photos Allison took of Vivian click HERE.
Long story short-Allison and I began emailing and one thing lead to another. I blurted out (shocker) about how we were understaffed and she mentioned that her husband, Josh, would be really interested in any opportunities we had open. Long story REALLY short-Josh Lewis is Pearl Ministries' new Chief Operations Officer. He joined the Pearl payroll the week before Christmas!
Josh has years of experience in management and is highly trained in a lot of practical skills we NEED. He and Allison have long felt a tug on their hearts to use their gifts and talents in full time Kingdom work particularly with orphans particularly in Africa. Pretty cool, huh?
Josh has been a great addition to our little team. He's lifted a large burden off of Scott's shoulders as he now manages the growing staff and oversees their programs. (Scott's also pretty excited to have another man in our estrogen heavy work environment!)
Josh and Allison have wonderful and generous hearts. Not only does their presence help make the work load lighter, but hey help ward off some of the loneliness that creeps in as we struggle to pour ourselves out for these kids. The company is quite welcome!
I've already mentioned that Ashleigh and Lauren have been a part of our PMI team since the summer. What I've yet to mention is that beginning this past Monday, both Ashleigh and Lauren are FULL TIME staff! This is huge. Having the devoted full time attention of four people is just what the ministry needs to begin the year right. That puts us at 4 full time employees (Scott, Josh, Ashleigh, and Lauren), one part time (me), and our newest college intern, Caroline, who began this week!
I am still a little stunned and speechless when I compare January 7, 2009 with January 7, 2010! And y'all...I haven't even shared all of the goodness yet! I'll have to cram the "Places" stories into a post tomorrow.
Please be in prayer for our growing team. We so often see Satan attack us harder when we take great strides forward as we have done this month. Pray the Lord will protect us, encourage us and unite us as we press forward to bring the gospel to hurting children in the Pearl. Lastly, please pray for provision. We are all operating in faith, trusting that God will provide the necessary funds to keep all the children in Uganda AND ourselves fed and sheltered. I know He can, so I am not afraid. Even though the world would tell us this is NOT the time to hire new people.
To close, I think one of the biggest takeaways I get from this story actually comes from Kerry. She seems at first like a small player in this little tale, but she is instrumental. Without her I doubt I ever would have met Allison or Josh. Kerry could have kept that prize...or she could have given it to another. But that small, kind gesture did much more good than give me some invaluable snaps of my Viv. It helped innumerable children in Africa. Kerry probably had no idea at the time, but God used her in an extremely BIG way...probably bigger than any of us know right now.
So just remember as you go about your day to day task, loving people where you find opportunity and giving in little ways where you have chance. You NEVER know just what God will do with those small seeds you plant and kind things you do. As His hands and feet, He works through you even when you may not realize it. So when you feel a little tug or nudge on your heart to do a small thing for someone else, don't brush it off. It may be bigger than you realize.