The story of “Mine”

This blog is a little different, I’m sharing a story of a little boy I met ten years ago. I’m sharing his story.

Through my years going on different mission trips and experiencing new places and people majority of the lessons I’ve learned comes down to these two things.

There is power in listening to people’s stories, these are our greatest examples of hope.

Love truly changes lives.

The first time I stepped out of my comfort zone and directly into others lives without fully understanding or comprehending it was my church’s first middle school mission trip. I remember hearing my pastor talk about how this would be life changing and “good for young teens” signing up with no clue what would happen during a week in Mississippi. This was after Hurricane Katrina after many families were displaced and hurting and left in devastation with little or no help from anyone.

Our week there was spent rebuilding and painting homes as well as connecting and bonding with the local community. I remember getting close with the little girl who my group was particularly helping. I remember walking through the rainy streets of a local neighborhood in a small and rural town in Mississippi as she told me the different stories of the families that lived there, one sadder than the next.

Although I was in middle school this impacted me greatly, and everyone else on the trip. I remember nearing the end of the street when a little boy in a white t-shirt stood behind the frame of a broken down door looking at the two of us walking down the street. I asked what his name was and what his story was. I honestly do not remember now, I know his story broke my heart, but I will never forget him, and think and pray for him often.

His name was “Mine” and he eventually came behind the door and we bonded and spent the whole week together. He would eat lunch with my group everyday and we would spilt peanut butter and jelly wonder bread sandwiches, he wore my sunglasses and taught me how to dance to the cupid shuffle with other friendly children on his block. I remember one dance party after lunch in a cracked pavement driveway and just laughing and swinging all the kids around. I’m sure every other middle schooler on this trip could remember that dance party also. Mine and I were together the whole time, he even started to help us repaint the home we were working on and introduced me to his friends that started to come around as well. He also wanted to give back to his community although no one ever helped him. He started be affected and changed by love. His rough and mature exterior started to soften and I could see him smile behind the hurt in his young eyes.

I remember the last day it was raining, we were all in clear plastic ponchos putting the finishing touches on the home. I remember knowing we would leave that day and maybe never return again. This reality shook me to my core. And then it was time for goodbyes, we took our last pictures with all the local kids on our disposal cameras and prayed for each other one last time knowing we might not ever see these people again.

I walked Mine to the end of the street for the last time and my heart felt so heavy not knowing what life would have in store for this young child but holding onto to something that God had our paths crossed for a reason.

I might not ever see or hear about this boy again, but I know his story and his willingness to share with me, and be open to feeling love changed my life. And he holds a very special place in my heart.

This mission trip opened my eyes to so much, and I felt as if I had popped this bubble that I had been living in prior. There were so many people in our own country, and the world living in terrible condition with no one to talk to, to listen to them to open their arms and love them. I remember going home after that trip and hugging my parents a little tighter that night.

I will be sharing more of these personal stories from different individuals on different trips that impacted me in different ways, some that I have the privilege of seeing again some that only remain in my memory. Either way I want to share these stories as resources of hope and inspiration for anyone reading that when we listen and love others we can change the world.

Here are two pictures I found from this trip in my room

Some of the sweet kids we got to interact with that week.
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The only picture I have of Mine.

Thanks for reading,

you are all loved.

Dev

What ever you  do to the least of my brothers that what you do to me. – Jesus

To love is to serve

I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me. John 14:6 

Lilian, Mary and Isaac

“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” John 14:18

These three pictures, are the pictures of our newest additions. Our family is growing. Meet Lilian 5 years, Mary 8 years and Isaac 7 years.

Our God is faithful. I look at these pictures, as I am in New York now, and will return to meet these children very soon. I see hope, and the chance at a new life. I am looking at the leaders of tomorrow. Their futures are so bright! I’m excited to love them, to meet them, to experience life with them, as they have already changed mine.

Once abandoned, now accepted. God is good. I believe in a day where our world will have no orphans. I believe that every child deserves the right to dream, the right to a better future. I believe that children deserve the right to education, love and a family. Every child belongs in a family. It’s the way God intended it to be.

I’m asking that you join our team and staff in Ghana, and our team in the US in prayer. Would you join our PNN family in prayer? Would you lift Lilian, Mary and Isaac in prayer today. There are days when I am in Ghana, going through a lot, dealing with more than I think I can handle sometimes, and then I feel relief, and I know someone on the other side is lifting me up in prayer. Sometimes I can literally feel it. I know they will, so lets come together and lift them up.

Those three pictures remind me of this picture below. The first children to come to PNN, I love how our family is expanding. I love seeing God rescue and bring light to the darkness. Because darkness cannot win, when we choose to shine light in dark places. I love being apart of something so much bigger than myself. I love seeing God move, and bring hope to the hopeless. And lastly…

I love knowing that there are three less orphans in the world today.

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where there is light, there is life

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with my boy Edward. This boy has my heart.

lets slow down, lets take a moment to reflect.

I’m not sure if this is a personal reflection or if I am just speaking from my heart on what this past year has meant to me.

At the end of the day, when times get rough, when life throws the unexpected your way, to a point where you feel like you are drowning in sorrow, challenges and difficultly, there is light.

There is a way out, and it comes in only one true form. Jesus.

The name above all names, the name that saves, redeems, rescues, loves and forgives. The name that selflessly gave himself so that we could have eternal life. Life that so greatly surpasses the length and meaning of this life.

There is freedom in Christ. A lot of people want to believe the opposite. I have seen this freedom, I have lived in it, I have witnessed it. I have tasted its goodness. I continue to seek it, continue to enjoy this freedom in Christ. I continue to spend my life seeking his face , seeking him, getting to know him.

I have seen the most innocent lives transform finding hope, safety and love in Christ. And it is amazing. It is real. It is happening, because of Christ.

I have seen children who carried around the heaviest of burdens from experiencing abuse on every level, let it all go. I have seen the sadness and despair in their eyes turn into joy and life. Because of Christ. Because they can lay down their burdens and experiences at his feet. Those which do not determine their worth, that can be erased and renewed. Surrendering their lives into his hands. What an amazing God we have.

Hopeless lives that were set in darkness, abused, forgotten, neglected, abandoned. Yet where there is light, no darkness can hide. And there was light and life. And there will continue to be light and life. Darkness did not win, and it cannot win, if WE choose to be the light. To shed the light on darkness all around the world. To what God has called our hearts to.

Christ came so that we could live. But it doesn’t end there. We need to be an active part of bringing love and salvation to the ends of the world, to shed light on the darkness. Even if that means shedding light in the darkness of where you are now. Maybe you don’t even have to travel to get there.

Did you know that there are more slaves today than ever before in history? Most of which are children. We can choose to ignore it because it doesn’t effect our day to day. Or maybe something else touches your heart, orphans, refugees, whatever it is. I am not asking or telling you, I am just speaking from my heart. That if Christ offers freedom, hope, redemption and life wouldn’t you want to share that ?

Because where there is light, there is life.

And where there is light, darkness cannot hide.

Lets. choose. to. be. light.

Let’s make this decision every morning, renewing ourselves and our lives to Christ. Laying down ourselves at his feet to be used for his glory, in this day and age. Because we are here for such a time as this.

And where there is light, darkness cannot hide.

 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

we were made for this

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Hello, I am back in New York! I was going to write a post about turning 23 in Africa, and reflect on some highlights of turning 22, but from a lack of wifi, and being so busy it didn’t happen. I’m home for some time before I head back to Ghana. With that being said I have been so busy this past week. The past 6 days consisted of a lot of traveling, the good thing is I loved traveling and don’t mind traffic, bumpy car rides (on red dirt paths) or long flights. Sitting in Accra traffic has done wonders to improve my patience 😉

I was traveling with my father to new places, which I will share in the right time. But this past week consisted of 7 flights, 35 hours of flying in total, countless hours of red dirt paths, and a 24 hour journey home. You would assume that we are very tired, but we had so much fun along the way and the 3 flights home (with the last being 14 hours home) didn’t seem so bad thanks to good old country music, writing in my journal, reading some awesome books and some in flight movies! One would assume that I am thrilled to be back home, which I am! But in the same excitement of being here is that it hasn’t even been one day since I arrived and I am already missing being in Africa. I know it is really hard for people to understand. And I am sure a lot of you, or others think that I am crazy and question this calling or desire to live somewhere, so different, remote or impoverished. It is the place where my heart lies, where my God created my spirit to thrive and be filled, and where my soul was created to be. I really thank God for giving me such a supportive family to encourage me and understand this calling. They make coming home so easy to always listen to me and the hardships of readjusting to life so different from what seems “normal” to me.

Maybe their understanding has to do with the fact that I spoke about this dream since I was young. Isn’t God amazing. It is almost as if he was subconsciously preparing my parents that one day it would become their reality as much as it would become my own. Before I could locate Africa on a map at the age of 7 or 8 I spoke of one day moving there and working with orphan children, even spoke of building a home for them. His ways are higher than ours, he gives us the desires of our hearts. Each unique and different from each others.

I like to see life as a journey, like I recently blogged about never exactly reaching a final destination. I see myself on this journey called life to show the same love that God my parents and family has shown me my entire life. The love that we are so undeserving of. I know I always talk about love and God’s love, but I don’t even think I can process just 1% of how much he loves us. God has given me this dream and desire to embrace the children I meet to remind them they are valued, loved and important in the eyes of God. To speak of hope and ignite the spark of excitement of becoming the future leaders of society and the world.

It is honestly very hard for me to come back home. I know how important it is that I take time to refresh, have others pray for me, speak about my experience, fundraise and see God move in my life on this side of the Atlantic. I know how draining serving others can be. On. every. single. level. For the next few days I like to take my time to readjust to everything. Something as simple as taking a hot shower, having consistent wifi and power, and not seeing my kids faces every morning and night is an adjustment. It’s hard to live in a third world country and just pop back home and be fine. Sometimes I feel like I see so much injustice and poverty, so much that it can be overwhelming, yet I see a place so close to heaven. Where I feel like I get to taste and reach out to grab it. With people and children that lack everything. But know more about God then most people I know. That trust him for everything, that know his word and sing his praises as they take joy in everything. Then I travel home and see people who have everything. And appreciate so little, and have an attitude where they want more and never seemed to be satisfied with the fleeting and material things of this world. It’s hard because I sometimes feel like not a lot of people understand where I am coming from. For those who do, who listen to my stories, who check up on me and send me words and emails of encouragement support and prayer. Thank you. So. Much. Thank you for being a shoulder to lean on, thank you for being apart of this journey.

Every single one of us is so different. I thank God for that. I never want anyone to confuse being christian with having to move to a place like Africa. No not everyone was called to live among the nations. You can make an impact and serve God in your 9 to 5 or in your hometown. We all have our own journey.

I’m on this journey to show God’s love to those marginalized, forgotten, abused, or orphaned in society. God has sent me to embrace those children in the exact place where he wanted them to feel that love, because he has a bright future for them. Because they are SO important and valued in the eyes of God. And if just one of those children knows that then through me God has changed the world. Just by reaching the heart of one.

We all have a different journey, that is what makes this world and beautiful and interesting place. We all have a heart for something unique and different. These journeys are fueled by different passions and dreams, motivations and hopes, sorrows and heart breaks. I’d encourage anyone to follow those dreams, because God is the one who gave you the desire of your heart. And if your reading this and you feel confused or lost along your path, and so desperately want to hear the voice of God and see his hands move in your life to show you the reason he created you for such a time as this then get in touch with him. Spend time with the creator of your heart, read his word, and speak to him. He is listening and he will answer you, and he wants to give you so much that this world could never give you, that the world could never fill you. Obviously this comes with a price of sacrifice and hardship, and discouragement. But we shouldn’t ever give up on our dreams, we shouldn’t ever let anyone or anything discourage us from living the life God created us to live. Because you were created to be here, for such a time as this! Don’t forget that. You. were. made. for. this!

Love Dev

writer’s block&new directions

Call it writer’s block, a busy day, whatever you want to call it. I haven’t found the words to describe past experiences, feelings, really anything.

One way I can describe it is having your heart feel full and empty at the same time. I’m not sure if anyone who is reading can relate, or maybe you can completely relate.

What I am trying to get at is the part of life that is hard, complicated, frustrating, sometimes even sad that brings you to a point where you feel like you’ve hit empty. zero. nothing.

Then on the other side, you see God’s glory and light upon your life. You see all that you have been spared from, protected from. You see a new path, and a new direction that the Lord is taking you. Sometimes I wish I could pour out my heart completely and write about everything that has made my heart to feel both empty and full at the same time. But I want to keep somethings private.

I am not perfect. I fall short everyday. I am learning as God takes me through steps now as someone placed in a position of leadership, and he shows me which ways to walk, to help remind me of my own selfishness in thinking in my small human sized brain not always understanding God’s magnificent and beautiful picture that he is painting. Recently I heard a preaching about learning “how do you know it is bad thing” basically the preaching was telling us that when things happen, moments where we find ourselves asking God why? How do we really know that it is indeed a bad thing?

We don’t know how he is molding us, shaping us, preparing us, guiding us, saving us from. He uses it all for his glory, for his purpose for our lives. Even the moments where I find myself being confronted with a feeling of being fulfilled and empty at the same time I know that God is teaching me something, my faith is being tested and strengthened.

Maybe some of you have felt this feeling before, maybe in a different way than I am. Maybe your experiences are different, but you feel a sense of sadness mixed in with your joys and countless blessings. Asking God why? Some of us pointing our fingers to him, some of us shaking our heads, some of us bowing down before him on our knees pleading God why, desperately waiting for an answer.

God answers prayers, in different ways at different times. And sometimes when bad things happen to really good people, we might never see the reason here. And sometimes we might never get the answer that we expected, wanted or could understand. Some things we will never understand. It’s part of being human, right? But to simply KNOW that the creator of heaven and earth is working things out for YOUR good is enough for me. It is enough for me to know that these feelings and experiences will pass, but his love will never fade. It WILL last forever. Just ask yourself right now, simply by thinking of your loved ones, your jobs, your money, your health your homes, friends…will any of it last forever? Is any of it guaranteed to last till tomorrow? No. None of it will last forever. I don’t want what kind of year you are having, or what is on the horizon for you?

If you are walking with the lord and things are looking good. Praise him

If you are walking with the lord and things are looking bad. Praise him

If you aren’t walking with the lord I am not here to tell you that you should, that is your decision to make, but I will tell you that when you accept Jesus into your heart and as your personal savior, believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that he died and rose again, and by his blood that was shed made a way for you to enter into an eternity with God, sparing you of death, having a relationship with him, talking to him, being comforted and knowing that you are never alone. Gives me peace, purpose and a new understanding of who my role model should be. Not looking to this world for validation, searching for something to fill that place deep inside of your being where you feel alone, sad, and unfilled. I will tell you that there is only one true thing that can “fix” or “fill” that void and it is Jesus. Always, only Jesus.

I am not sure I ended this blog in the way I was planning, just sat down to write. I guess God took this another direction than what I had originally planned. That could be another blog post on it’s own. I have tried to write these past couple of weeks but the words just didn’t come, and I never want to publish something if it is not sincere and from my heart. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like, or if my power will be on in one hour from now. I don’t know all that 2017 will throw my way, or how the enemy will try to distract, or discourage me from working in this ministry but I will promise you that you have a better chance of clinging unto God’s promises when those times come, rather than clinging to a worldly foundation that will never last, that will fade and erode away. Again, if anyone wants to talk more about anything, please do not hesitate to email me 🙂

You are all loved and appreciated, your life matters, and you were created with a purpose!

Love from a very Sunny and hot day here in Ghana!

Dev

When the storm comes

Happy new year! I have missed blogging and will be posting a Life Lately Holiday edition very soon! So you can see all that we did since my last blog post. New years brings many things, everyone likes to start making goals, setting resolutions for the new year as it feels like a clean slate or a chance for us to hit the reset button on our lives. We can make a list of goals, we can choose to be intentional about those goals and we can put forth our best foot forward to better ourselves in the new year to come. One thing that we have no control over is our circumstances or storms that may come, after we have set these exciting and refreshing goals.

I am sharing only from personal experience. I was so excited about the new year and still am. I can hear what God is speaking to me about what 2017 will mean in my life. If 2016 had a theme it would be “a dream come true” and “God’s faithfulness” getting the chance to actually taste God’s goodness and the promises that He had made from my childhood. Watching precious and innocent lives being healed, restored and renewed. With that also came trials, and hardships as we believers can expect.

What I have learned is this. Trials will always come. Never once in the bible does it say that once we are one with Christ we will never face hardship! No God tells us over and over again this will surely come, this is something we cannot be blind from. I have faced trials and hardships in my life, some darker than I’d like to share, but it seems as my faith is strengthened they seem to get harder or bigger. Because God would never allow one without us having the ability to handle it. God knows our limit, He knows how much we can take. God tells us in the bible He will never give us more than we can handle, He makes so many promises that He will see us through, that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us.

I love reading Matthew 8:23-27. And if you have time today! You should too!

Jesus calms the storm. This is something the Lord has really put on my heart and spoken to me this past week as the storm in my own life seemed to overwhelm and sadden me. I felt like God was saying don’t look at the natural, look to me, trust me. I will see you through. I can’t imagine being on a boat with Jesus, and a great storm approaches. I wonder what my reaction would be. If I would wake him up or sit watching the storm approach trusting that because he is with me no evil could overtake us! But then I think of my initial reaction to this knowing that Christ is with me, and see that TRUSTING is hard! That we must remove our eyes off what is going on in the natural, pray about it and look unto him. God wants storms to mold us to become more like Jesus. The most perfect example of who we are to become more and more like everyday.

So let me ask you this. So why is so hard to believe it when you are walking through it? One hardship that changed my life as I know it happened a few years ago. The only thing I could do is cling onto His promises for my life, choosing to see all the good in my life and speak his goodness into existence. Speaking that only by His grace I would get through, so in the end all who saw or heard would know it is only God who could do such a thing. So that HE gets all the glory, so others can see that it is not by or through our abilities, it is only through His.

It seems that once the new year began, and plans were being made, a storm had emerged, and amidst that trial more seem to intercede. More than I felt like “I” could handle, facing one that seemed much “bigger” and harder than the others. I found myself feeling completely stripped down of everything and everyone that makes me feel comfortable. I also found myself feeling completely alone. The thing is I AM NEVER ALONE. I have a God who doesn’t sleep or slumber, a God who called me to such a thing, that He would never leave me in. This is what I know. That we are to go through these trials knowing that God will see us through. We have three choices.

We can

1. Question God, ask him why me? Why are you doing this to me? How could you allow this?

2. Turn from God, and try to run as far as you can to avoid the trial in your life. Which will never help.

3. Hang in there, persevere and draw even closer to God, praying and relying on the promises he has made us, filling yourself with his word to get you through.

God allows trials in our lives to strengthen our faith and reveal to us things that we couldn’t have seen before. We see how deep our faith is, and we see how fully dependable we truly need to become. And if God wants to build and strengthen your faith he has to STRETCH YOU!

I find myself thinking “God I can’t handle this anymore” “God I am being stretched more than I think I can handle.” This makes me think about lyrics from one of my favorite songs Oceans by Hillsong United.

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Singing these words, that even among the waves I would keep my eyes above the waves. That through following God into the unknown my faith would be made stronger. Knowing that we are in the presence of our Savior. I can say with hope in expectation that He will see me through, that He is building my faith, preparing a path before me for the works to come. You can never stop learning, you can never stop being stretched, you should NEVER give up as hard and dark as it will seem! God blesses those who persevere. He even tells us this…

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”James 1:2-5

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

You see God promises us over and over again that even in storms, dark times He is at work making it turn out for our good. God will NEVER allow a bad situation to occur without producing good, even if we cannot see it right away.

So be encouraged through anything you face that you can rely on the one who has created this earth, in the one who gave you a purpose for this life.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ” Romans 8:28

It doesn’t say that God works somethings for the good of those who love him. He says ALL THINGS! So through this new year, would you keep this in mind, would you try to spend time in God’s word so He can speak to you, strengthen you, encourage you. So you would understand and know His promises so when trials come you can pray them back to Him. Faithfully expecting a good outcome, an outcome that you will thank God for in the long run, because through hardship your true character and faith will be revealed.

I am praying for all of you and your families, whether we have met or not. Your life has purpose, all of ours are different, but remember how special you are in the eyes of the one who created you. Don’t forget to call out to Him, He’s listening.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

You are loved,

Dev

 

What does orphan Sunday mean to you?

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I know it isn’t Sunday, its Tuesday.

I know orphan Sunday has passed, but has it really?

I’m not sure what orphan Sunday meant to you? Maybe it didn’t mean much, maybe it meant nothing at all. But to me, it meant everything. Having the ability to be apart of these children’s lives who were once abandoned, and now accepted in a home and family means the world to me. It means laying down my wants and needs to help them fulfil theirs. I have never knew real strength or perseverance the way these kids do. Yes I have endured challenges and hardships in my life, but not to the extent that these kids have. Have I ever known the true pain of starvation and hunger?

No. I have not.

Some of the kids have told me what they went through before coming to PNN. Some of the children told me how they would cry at night because of their hunger pains, because the food never came. I could only hold back my tears and be strong for them and hear them say that “God is too good” because now they have clothes to wear, food to eat , a shelter, and a family to call their own. They are coming to know their heavenly Father through seeing exactly what He has done in their lives. How He has removed them from their pain and placed them in a place of hope, a place with a bright future. I have not known what it feels like to not even know my roots, my birthday or where my parents went. But these kids do. To be confronted with this is one thing, to think about it is another thing. I want to use my voice everyday, not just on Orphan Sunday for my kids at PNN, and the 147 million out there with no one. Let’s use our voices to bring their stories to life. To allow their struggle and voices to be heard. To unite on different sides of the world, and stand united in the struggle together. It is easy to forget about all of these children because their struggle is so hard to relate to, it seems impossible to imagine. Working with them, living with them I cannot use my voice for anything besides them, to tell of their strength, to talk about the hope now found in their lives, and to speak on behalf of the millions of others, and hope that you would consider them too.

 

The craziest thing of all of this is that they are kids. Kids that weren’t allowed to even be kids. It is not fair that children have to go through these horrible things. But that is the world we live in, unjust things happen, children suffer, people suffer, but we have hope in a God who is much bigger than all of the unfair things that happen in the world. Why? Because He loved us so much that there is grace offered through a sacrifice called Jesus Christ. Without this grace that we are so undeserving of there is hope for all of us, hope for all who live to know who Jesus Christ is, and live to know how we can live like him. What made me fall in love with who Christ is in my life is his love for the children. Over and over again we learn about how much the Father and His son love children, and how they will never be turned away, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Children are close to the heart of God, they are highly valued and appreciated. So thinking about orphans we as Christians are told in the bible that we must care for those widows and orphaned in society. Thinking about the least of these, we are actually helping Christ himself. So won’t you join me by mentioning all of these children in your thoughts and prayers? Won’t you promise not to forget the millions of children out there with no one to stand up for their rights? If we unite as one in a common cause we have the power through Christ to make a change in this world. Because we have hope in the one who loved us first.

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm  82:3

 

That is what excites me about all that GOD is doing at Project Nyame Nsa!