WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT: BARAKA’S STORY

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When Baraka was little his father passed away, leaving his mother the sole provider for their family. It was difficult for Baraka’s mother to find work, but she eventually took a job crushing rocks so she could feed her children.

When she heard of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative, she enrolled and received training that empowered her start a chicken business. With her newfound success, Baraka’s mother and her family thrived!

But one day, she was in a terrible motorbike accident. After two days in the hospital, she passed away. Baraka felt like he had lost the most precious thing in the world.

After 37 days of grieving, Baraka realized he needed to turn his mourning into action to honor his mother’s memory. Inspired by her hard work, Baraka decided to take over his mother’s chicken business.

As the youngest person in our Agriculture Initiative, Baraka’s chicken business is booming! He is passionate about carrying on the good work his mom started and now he’s providing for his siblings.

Baraka’s life has been changed because friends like you support our Women’s Empowerment Initiative. Thank you for continuing to empower women — and their families — all over the world.

Would you consider partnering with us on Mother’s Day and give up one day’s salary to help more families like Baraka’s? You can give by going to: http://www.painesvilleag.com or texting PAG to 77977. Simply write “Women’s Empowerment” in the memo line and we’ll take care of the rest! Thank you for your generosity!

MOM! He hit me!

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Growing up, we all have this theory of forgiveness embedded into our heads. It’s like when you were playing with your sibling and it broke out into a name calling fight because he won the game of battleship. When mom finds out, you know what she made you do. You each had to apologize and respond by saying: “I’m sorry, I forgive you.” If you didn’t, well, you were either threatened to be put in the corner or mom would tie you to your sibling until you made up.

It was such a simple thing to say… “I forgive you” as a kid. We didn’t look into how being called a mean name by our sibling affected us. We didn’t dwell on the mistake that they made after they apologized. And quite honestly, we probably forgot all about it and went back to playing battleship like it never happened… except now you know not to do it or else you’ll get in trouble.

That is kind of how Christ’s forgiveness towards us works. But in a much more sincere and greater way. God is not One who harbors our sins and mistakes; quite the contrary. The Bible actually says:  “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103.12 | “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” Micah 7.19

Listen, our human nature is imperfect. We are sinners. Even once we’ve come to Christ we find ourselves approaching God quite often for His mercy and forgiveness. We are a people who NEED Jesus and who NEED the Mercy and Forgiveness of God. Period.

Similar to our childhood arguments, when we confess the wrong that we did against God, our Creator, He forgives us. Not just because He can, but because He wants to – no strings attached. We are His creation and He longs to see us prosper in the things that He has put before us. He paid the price for our sin when He was on the cross. Not only that, He experienced the full wrath of God and separation from God in that moment when He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) Me? ” (Matthew 27.46)  For a Savior to do that?! That’s MERCY. That’s forgiveness at its pinnacle. Because of that singular act, now we never have to experience that same separation and wrath from God. Mercy… what a gift!

In today’s culture we think of forgiveness as something that has to be earned. That we have to go through some type of “punishment” in order to truly receive it. Or we have to do some “work” to merit God’s forgiveness. But there is no cost to receive the forgiveness of Christ. There is no punishment waiting for you. There is no work you can do to ever earn it. God is the God of second chances.. and third chances.. and fourth chances.. and so on. It is all free. I’m living example and recipient!

Not only does Christ want to give us His forgiveness, and give it to us freely, remember… He also forgets our sin. He does not hold us to it. When you were 16 you may have asked your parents for a car. Let’s say they gave you one. A really nice one… a brand new one as a matter of fact. You loved it. But one night you weren’t paying attention and lost control of the vehicle. You spun out and hit a tree. You are perfectly fine, your new car on the other hand, is totaled. If you were to ask your parents to give you another brand new shiny car, they are most likely going to say no and you’ll get a hand-me-down, or no car at all. Why? Because they’re keeping in the back of their mind your car wreck.

The forgiveness of Christ is just the opposite. When we “wreck” or mess up and are forgiven and ask for another chance, the slate is wiped clean. We get to start fresh. He doesn’t hold it against us that we sinned in the first place. Isn’t that such a gracious thing for Him to do? Who else does that? What other God is doing what Jesus does?! He is seriously AMAZING!

We serve a gracious God who offers forgiveness at no cost. He holds no record of wrongs. There is no file in Heaven that has every sin we ever committed at the exact date and time it was committed – those would be some pretty big files.

So be encouraged! As we continue to learn about the “Miracle of Mercy” it is important to understand how our God is merciful and forgives us. Check out pastor Aaron’s sermon this week “Mercy Forgives” to learn why it is important to understand and accept the forgiveness of Christ.  http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

Remember Church, just like with your sibling, God is going to forgive you and go right back to playing… well, you know what I mean. All with no cost to you and all in the name of love. WOW.

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

Women’s Empowerment: Sitota’s Story

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This Mother’s Day, Painesville Assembly of God will be partnering with Convoy of Hope’s “Women’s Empowerment Movement” for a May Mission’s Initiative.  Through this movement, COH is able to encourage women around the world to realize their value and reach their potential through job training and education. As a result, many now own a business and feed and care for their own children.

Sitota is a woman who has been radically touched by the love and compassion of Jesus because of Women’s Empowerment. Because of the ministry of Convoy of Hope, her life has taken a dramatic turn for the better. A life that was once plagued by horrific circumstances is now filled with overwhelming joy and peace. Check out her story; we guarantee you won’t be the same after.

To give to this life-changing movement, you can give online at: http://www.painesvilleag.com or by texting PAG to 77977. Simply write “Women’s Empowerment” in the memo line and we’ll take care of the rest.

Thank you for your generosity!

Pity IS NOT Compassion…

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I have been blessed to live without need due to having a good job for most of my life.  But I have also been blessed to live “in need”.  There was a time where I had no place to live, I had no food, and I had expenses beyond what I could take care of.  I have had much and I have had little.

You may ask how I can say that I’ve been blessed in both cases.  Certainly when we live in abundance it’s easy to say that we are blessed.  But when we are in dire need, can we say the same thing?  I have learned that we can.  Years ago I was at a point in my life where I had lost everything.  I won’t go into that story, but I had made choices that led to my destruction.  But there was a reason for me to be in need.  The reason was so that I could see the blessing.

Sometimes it takes the hardest situations in order for your attention to be captured.  That was me.  When I lived in abundance, I felt that I could conquer the world.  And unfortunately I lived like I could too.  Then the day came when I realized that the world had hit me with its best shot and I was down for the count.  I was knocked out.  My undefeated record was shattered.  When I woke up, I had lost everything.

I was at times pitiful.  Yes, the successful young man was now down and out.  The world would call me a loser.  People around me said that they felt bad for me.  People even said that they would never want to be in the place that I was in.  Maybe some would even said that I “had it coming”.  I don’t know. I was pitiful.  The friends and family that I had around me found great pity for my situation.

Have you ever thought of what you would do if all you had were the clothes on your back with no place to live?  That was where I was.  I had two beautiful children.  My situation led me to a place where I couldn’t see them any longer because I had no place to call home

There is a difference between pity and compassion.  I had heard a lot of pity in people’s voices.  I didn’t know that there was even an attribute called compassion.  Until it happened.  Mercy was poured out on me and over my circumstance.  Out of nowhere, compassion came into my life.

A friend of mine at work heard of my situation and was moved with compassion.  You see, mercy is compassionate.  It’s not like pity at all. Mercy stepped into my situation.  This man found it important to see that I would recover.  He gave me a place to live.  Well, I had a bedroom and a bathroom in a house that was being refurbished.  I didn’t have to pay for anything right then, but when the house was finished, I would be given the chance to rent it and continue living there.  If not, I would have to leave.

It was unbelievable to me.  Someone cared enough to act.  Someone looked beyond my situation and saw the greater need.  I had learned something of great value that day.  I realized that compassion was real.  It was so much more than pity.

Compassion is to enter into someone else’s pain, to enter into their suffering to relieve them from that pain and lift them out of their painful situation.  This reminds me of the story of the leper in the Book of Mark, Chapter 1, verses 40-45. “A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’  “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.   “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

This leper lived a life where everyone had pity on him.  The Bible says that he had to announce himself to everyone as “Unclean” upon seeing someone, as written in the Law. (Leviticus 13:45) But no one would show him compassion until the day the leper came to Jesus.  Jesus, filled with compassion, reached out His hand and touched the leper and he was healed.  The leper asked if Jesus was willing.  He knew that no one else was willing.  The people had pity but kept away.  Jesus not only told the leper He was willing but touched him.  Jesus stepped into the leper’s pain, his humiliation, his circumstance and immediately changed it.  My coworker stepped into my pain, humiliation and circumstance and immediately changed it.

More importantly, Jesus did the same thing for you and for me.  He took upon Himself our sin so that we could live again.  Jesus took upon Himself our pain, our humiliation, our circumstance and changed it when He died for us and rose from the grave.  Jesus looked upon each of us and was moved with compassion.

If you would like to hear the powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor on the Miracle of Mercy – Love in Action, please click on the podcast link below.

http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

Friends, who are the ones you see that need compassion.  Are they physically challenged?  Are they financially challenged?  Have they lost everything and need a place to call home?  Who are the ones who think that they don’t belong here or they’re not worthy of anything?  The leper asked Jesus a question: Are you willing?  The question today is are we willing?  Can we care enough to act?  The Bible says this, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

George Leonhardt,
Blogger, Writer

Women’s Empowerment: A Mother’s Day Missions Initiative

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In America, most mothers ask, “What should I feed my children today?” But in many countries where Convoy of Hope serves, mothers have to ask, “Which one of my children can I feed today?”

This Mother’s Day we’ll be taking a special missions offering for Convoy of Hope’s “Women’s Empowerment” movement that is based on the same concept as “One Day To Feed The World.”  What does that mean you ask? We’re glad you asked.  One Day to Feed the World is where individuals are challenged to give up one day’s salary to bless someone else in need.  When you give up a day’s salary you will empower women in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Tanzania to make strategic, independent life choices through community-based training in peer-oriented cooperative savings groups and non-traditional micro-enterprise development. When you do this, Convoy of Hope is able to facilitate sustainable income-generating activities and entrepreneurial thinking that equips women to make positive choices for themselves and their families in the areas of health, education and economic welfare.

Check out this video for a more comprehensive overview of what this initiative is all about!

To give, text PAG to 77977! Simply write “Women’s Empowerment” in the memo and we’ll do the rest! You can also give online by going to: http://painesvilleag.com/ and doing the same!

The Test.

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As a college student, I am very familiar with what a test is. I am going to break it down in a way that I have never done before. Imagine you are back in school (pick any grade you would like!)… Each day you go to class and you know what is expected of you (i.e. – take notes and pay attention so that you understand what you are learning). Whether it be math, history, science, or even art, there were new things to be learned each day. An average class would look like this:

The teacher would come into the room, silence the class, and begin. He would stand in front of everyone and teach new concepts, theories, equations, and methods. Sometimes (on the lucky days) he would even give an example on how to apply these concepts. Some of these concepts you understand, some of them are not as easy to understand, or they take a little more effort. Right before the bell rings to go to the next class, the teacher would call out some page numbers or hand out a worksheet for homework. The whole class would groan because all of you knew that the homework was going to be based on what you had just learned in class. You get home and mom gives you a glass of milk and a few chocolate chip cookies and you get started on your homework assignment. While you do not have the teacher at your house with you to help you through the assignments, you do have your notes (which you took very well in class). After about three of the problems are completed you get the hang of it and put the notes away. By the end of the assignment, you feel like a pro. Now, you go back to school the next day, hand in your assignment, and the teacher marks it as a completion grade (not if it is right or wrong). This time, before the bell rings, instead of yelling out a homework assignment, the teacher announces there will be a test the next day. At home, you spend hours studying and preparing, making sure that you understand all the material covered in class. You finally feel prepared to take this test head on and conquer it with a passing grade. When you take the test however, you don’t feel as confident as you did when you were studying at home. You knew all the material, but are now having a hard time applying it to the test. You wanted so badly to raise your hand and ask the teacher for help. At one point, you even considered looking at your neighbor’s paper to see what he wrote down. It’s now the following day. When you get your test back, the grade is not as terrible as you thought it might’ve been, but it’s not the grade you wanted either – an 83% or a B-. On the last page of the test, the teacher wrote, “great job, but could use some improvement on some of this”.

Did you ever get a B- on a test? Especially a test you feel so prepared for, but feel like it wasn’t as easy you expected? I have!

Here is my correlation: in life, we are taught certain things, whether it be through Sunday school, Church, Bible studies, a mentor, or just your own personal time with God. God teaches us lessons and opens our eyes to see things we had never known before. For me, throughout the week I am usually more aware of what was talked about at Church on Sunday morning and catch myself “doing my homework” and putting into practice what was preached (sometimes… I don’t always have my notes there to remind me how to do it)!

There are, however, times when we are put to the test. In these times, it feels like we are on trial. We are sitting in a room taking a test and we know the teacher (Jesus) is there, but we can’t just raise our hand and ask Him for the answer – or at least if we do, he most likely won’t give it! Because how many know that during the test the Teacher is always quiet? Sometimes God tests us on whether we will be obedient to continue to practice the things that He has taught us. Sometimes, it’s a pop quiz and He wants to see how much we truly know on the subject. Or maybe the test is in preparation for what He’s called us to do for His kingdom.

Church, tests (even academic tests) were created to build one’s character and integrity. A lot of times when God is testing us, the devil is also right there tempting us. But the question is why? Why does God allow this to happen? Pastor Aaron shares two conclusions that we can apply to our lives on why God might allow these “tests” or seasons of wilderness to happen in our lives.  http://painesvilleag.com/wilderness-a-lenten-series

“Remember, the teacher is always silent during a test.” – God’s Not Dead 2

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

GPS Failure

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PICTURE THIS: You are on a road trip with your closest people – friends, family, etc. You are following a GPS that will take you to the most perfect vacation spot. As you follow the directions of the GPS you begin to question whether you are on the right road, or even heading in the right direction. As you observe your surroundings you see sand dunes, cacti, and maybe even a large lizard. Surely you must be on the wrong route because your GPS tells you that you are only a few more miles, but you are not planning on vacationing in a desert. All of your friends are sleeping by now because of the boredom of the road trip. Everyone is silent. The GPS is even silent because there are no new directions. There is no sign of life or activity for miles on end.

We have all been in the wilderness. We are cruising along on our journey of life, listening to God as our GPS, when all of a sudden it seems like the life gets sucked right out of us. It seems like even the one we are seeking directions from is silent. Our friends are “sleeping”. All we want to do is get to our final destination, but according to the GPS, God, this is the route we have to take.

What is your destination?

God gives each of us a calling. He places passions and desires in our heart and opens doors for us to pursue those passions. For example, about a year ago, I developed a passion for missions. A month later, the opportunity came for me to go to Southeast Asia on a mission’s trip. Now, my end goal is to go to the nations. So for me? My destination will be the fulfillment of that calling. But it’s definitely not happening immediately. There’s a process… A journey God is taking me on to get there.

As you can quickly see, we cannot choose “HOW” we get to the end result that God often has for us. If you are anything like me, you are a futurist. You’re also a perfectionist. If you can imagine the two of those attributes together, they most definitely are not the best recipe in this scenario. I am constantly finding myself planning. I am planning my day, my meals, my work schedules, my future, and how I will get there. In my head I think: “I am going to be a missionary so here is the path I MUST take in order to get their”. Does that resonate at all with you? Surely I’m not the ONLY person who does this!

God had other plans though. Plans that usually do not line up with what it is I have in mind. It’s when the course of our route gets disrupted that we enter the wilderness. Why? Because in our plan, there is no wilderness. But with God, He’s needing to get our attention again. He wants to speak to us. He wants to develop a more intimate relationship with us. He wants to say “Hi, remember me, your GPS? I am holding your future in my hands, do you trust me?”

Often times we look at the wilderness and dry seasons of our lives in a negative way, but what if we radically changed that mindset? What if we begin to recognize that the desert is truly where we are supposed to be and say: “oaky God, what is it you have for me here?”

God uses desert experiences to draw His people closer to Him. The Israelites were driven into the wilderness and do you remember their response? They began to grumble and complain and told Moses they wanted to go back to Egypt where working as slaves for Pharaoh seemed more appealing! Did you hear what I just said?! Slavery seemed appealing compared to the wilderness! Yikes! Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing as the Israelites? Where your wilderness experience seems so terrible that something, typically viewed as bad, now looks and sounds better than the state you’re currently living in?

I challenge you to change your perspective on the wilderness experience. God has something for you while you are there. Something that you need to experience in order to reach your final destination. It’s a refining fire. It’s a chamber of transformation. The wilderness has great purpose and without it? You can’t reach the promise God has waiting for you.

Pastor Aaron began a new sermon series this week focused on wilderness experiences. I encourage you to listen to the first podcast to hear what we can LEARN while we are in the wilderness. http://painesvilleag.com/wilderness-a-lenten-series  Church, the wilderness does not need to be a time of negativity. Rather, the wilderness can be a time where God shapes us like clay in the potter’s hands… if we’ll let Him.

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student