toward the ledge:

changing the world thru loving and serving others. without agenda


Leave a comment

bright spots

bright spot

a bright spot:  a pleasant or successful event or period of time when most other things are unpleasant or not successful

it’s no surprise to you all that i have a love affair with tanzania – the country.  the people. the lifestyle.  i cannot explain fully how or why that happened but it did.  but as with any love affair, there are good days, bad days.  there are days in which you want to run away, and days in which you want to run towards.  there are days in which you say – who ARE you and how did i END UP here?  and then days in which you thank your lucky stars.  just in case, i am speaking of my relationship with tanzania and not a person LOL.

for some reason, the past 4 months that i have been here THIS trip has brought to me a variety of challenges.  changed plans, loss of clarity, emotionally draining.  confusing.    i won’t go into details as really i don’t want to bore you and really no matter who we are, where we live and what we do, we have those damn tough days (and days and days).  and let’s be clear.  i KNOW KNOW KNOW in my heart that i’m to be here, and that these are just lessons and challenges that will open to new ideas and opportunities.

so.  in this moment i wish to focus on a few bright spots that have lifted my heart and spirit, giving me a surge of hope. and making me smile.

 

bright spot  The story of chichi

i learned about chichi through my friend bekka who operates (in tanzania) an organization called The Small Things (TST).  many of you have seen pictures of the babies and toddlers when i have visited the orphanage.  they also have an outreach program of which chichi is part of.  she is a young woman working in a small shop when the owner said he could no longer afford to pay her.  to help her along,  TST  put out the word that they needed someone to provide a small ‘grant’ to help her start her own used clothing business.  for someone reason, i immediately knew i wanted to be that someone and so sent $70  – which allowed her to purchase a bale of clothing, and she was on her way with her used clothing business.  $70!  think of what we in the US typically blow $70 on.  crap.  stuff.  a great bottle of wine.  a nice dinner for 2.  and here!  $70 gives a new start of life and opportunity to someone!

well, in addition to operating her used clothing business, from her profits, she has also started a small chicken project.  it warms my heart that she is not only getting the grant, but provided with good mentorship from TST.  chichi is empowered to explore her options, spread her wings and find ways to learn how to be a good business woman!    here’s a couple of pictures with her smiling happy face!!!  i wish all good things and success to her!  YOU ROCK, CHICHI!

Chichi and her clothing business

Chichi and her clothing business

 

 

 

chichi kukuu

 

  bright spot

 the story of a chicken project loan

this is a bit of a re-cap from a previous blog.   i am not disclosing names to protect their identity.  but 2 years ago a friend who lost his job met me regularly about his situation.  he was unable to take his sick daughters to the doctor or school; finding no work,  they were all very hungry and thin, and losing hope.  we had many discussions about business ideas and plans – and settled on raising chickens to be sold as meat (called a broiler chicken project).  i can’t remember the total amount of the loan, which was to be paid back over a few years – but it was around $600.  he kept in good touch with me through the first 6 week cycle, and then….due to my departure from the area and other things, we lost touch.   about 6 months ago, i started hearing from him again, learning that while the project failed (the 2nd batch of chickens were caught in a rain flood and he lost too many of them to drowning.) he HAD finally found a job.   3 months ago, he contacted me to thank me for believing in him and investing in him; and that he and his wife wanted to do the right thing to pay me back.  trust me.  this is not typical and his offer alone was encouraging.

yesterday, i met him for lunch, first time to see him in a few years.   his goal when we made the loan was to put his 3 daughters in school as he felt he wasn’t able to complete his education and he wanted better for the girls.  they are currently in english medium school (nursery and standard 1) and they are doing marvelously!   while his intent was to make a payment to me at lunch, he was sad to tell me that these funds  had to be allocated to the school as the girls were sent home  until dad made payment.   but we discussed an arrangement in which they could make a few payments and not sacrifice the education.  it was clear to me that it is important to THEM to be able to pay this back and to ME for restoring my faith in their honesty and integrity.    i am beyond thrilled that they are happy, that the girls are in school. and that they have hope for the future.  and while it isn’t about the money for me, in a way it is because to recoup those funds means that i can help someone else.

which was the goal all along.  get repayment, and loan to another person.    i still do not have the money in hand but believe that they will do the right things.

soon i will update you on what has been happening the past month, but that’s another story for another day.

thank you for being bright spots in my life.  and may we all shine our lights to be brights spots along the way for someone else.  seriously i have learned that sometimes the smallest of things can make the biggest impact.

be love.  you are loved!

 

 


1 Comment

when risk + loss = hope and success

living as a white person/westerner/mzungu in a country of abject poverty often results in being taken advantage of (for money), or feeling like an ATM.  it’s hard, really, because regardless of our own financial situation, we always have more than they do.  and as one friend says – we have a life line (meaning we have someone we can call to bail us out, send us emergency funds, or whatever) and they don’t.  in my case being without income for over 3 years and being supported by friends and family in order to live means i live on a very tight budget and do not often have the funds to help (separate from the fundraising for specific organizations or situations).

it is a challenge to balance our intent to serve and help with our hearts wide open but with the ability to discern a real need from manipulation.  our tendency to trust and prioritize needs makes it really difficult to say no when it is necessary to do so.    because the needs are never ending, and there is no way one can ever ever ever help everyone or every situation that they want it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  and also we know that handouts often lead to dependency and expectation (but of course sometimes those handouts are necessary).   sometimes you just feel …. like a white wallet…..and trust me that’s not a good feeling.  i try to still help individuals as i can, but most efforts these days are accomplished through fundraising for specific organizations and/or situations and accountability is a very important part of that ( from the receiver to me to the donors).

so i want to tell you a story about a loan i made in 2012.  a loan i was able to make because some friends in the US blessed me with funds that enabled me to try a few projects in 2012 (a few loans, investing in agriculture).   the story is interesting in a variety of ways because there wasn’t success in measurable levels but it caused me to evaluate and consider success in other terms.  and because, while the story hasn’t ended, it is still in play.  many of you know that micro loans is a huge interest and passion of mine and i’m still trying to figure out ways to include that in my service here.

yovin familyANYWAY….i met a young man in 2011 during my volunteer coordinator days; he was working for an australian NGO as their in-country rep, and for a variety of reasons lost his job.  he was smart.  he was kind.  he was driven.  he was well spoken.  he had a wife and 3 young daughters.  for the following months (almost a year), we remained in touch as he struggled to find work.  he tried small odd jobs (think digging ditches type of work) that paid little.  as their health and ability to care for children suffered, so did their hope of survival.  we would meet from time to time, and if i had a little cash, i would share it with him – he impressed me by always thanking me but mostly because he would say he would give it to his wife so that she would enjoy buying food for the girls.  our conversations usually covered his ideas or plans, if he were able to start a small business.  he had several ideas; i would encourage him to make a budget for startup, plan, etc.  he always came back with his homework and eventually a decent plan emerged.  however at that time, i didn’t have enough funds to help him with a loan but when the funds came from my friends (that i mentioned above), i felt he was an appropriate deserving candidate.

by january 2013, we worked up a business plan and loan payment schedule.   i requested up dates and photos and the loan was made (quite a bit larger than most micro loans which are $100 or less).   i was invited to their home several times to see progress.  the first loan payment was scheduled for 8 weeks out, because of the cycle of the business (raising chickens to sell for meat).  unfortunately, the business failed (various reasons).  but he didn’t run away from me, he informed me what happened and soon he was even excited to report that he got a job (a previous employer who had a policy of not re-hiring employees that left changed their policy).  the lesson i learned here, while yes i hoped to receive that money back so that i could loan to someone else, was that success comes in other packages.  in this case, the loan bridged hope to someone who needed it and blessed a family that had lost their reasons to keep going.   in measurable terms, it was a failure.  i think that we did all the right things, i took time to evaluate, and knew the risk and ‘i’ lost out.  but still my heart knew….it was still the right thing to do.

i heard from him today, he was on his job.  he said “my family is well, and i am looking to meet with you so that i can give you some cash by installment.  because you helped me much and i can’t forget you, my friend.”

i don’t know how much money he will be able to give me.  i don’t know when our schedules will work to meet up.  but i know this.  this is not usually how it happens.  it’s hard, and nearly impossible to get repayments (unless it’s an organized micro finance program, which i am not at this point).  by his continued communication and intent to pay …after all this time….he supported my belief in him to be a man of integrity and honesty.  whatever he gives to me, i will use to help support another person or group to start their business.  and no matter what, i consider this a win.  truly sometimes a risk that results in a loss can turn out to be a blessing with hope.

 


Leave a comment

thirty bucks.

so.  what did you spend $30 bucks on this month?  here are some comments from friends….

  • 1 pair of shoes on sale
  • 1 dinner out for two at a moderately priced cafe
  • 4-5 starbucks coffees
  • 1 ‘oops bought a few things i didn’t plan on’ trip to walgreens
  • movie tickets only at the cinema for two adults and one child
  • maybe 1-2 cosmetic items at ulta depending on the brand
  • a top or two at a discount fashion shop
  • 3 paperback books (new)
  • a hair cut (no color or other services)
  • 1/2 tank of gas

i am sure that this list could be expanded with your own ideas.  the point is that it doesn’t go very far.  and often we spend $30 in a month on things that aren’t ….. critical.  important.  necessary.  in fact, these days $30 is ALMOST nothing.

for comparison, here’s how far $30 goes at The Brilliant Pre-Primary School in Tanzania.

  • 2 sets of uniforms for a child
  • 1/3 of a monthly salary for a teacher
  • meals for 3 children for one month
  • 3 months of medical expenses for children that get sick while at school
  • 1 month education sponsorship for one child (if all 140 children are sponsored for one year, their meals, teachers, medical, expenses, uniforms, etc are COVERED!)

children so WANT to be in school.  partially because it is where they receive food (which their families might not be able to afford otherwise) and because they WANT to learn.  education is the path out of generational poverty.  we are but planting seeds with these kiddos because they have many years of education and growing to come.  but if we don’t start nothing will change.  their parents battle the need to have their children at home (to care for younger children, to fetch water, to herd livestock) but like ALL OF US, tanzanian parents also want life to be better for their children.  problem is that at average income of $1/day they cannot afford to send their children to school. or eat regularly.

right now, there are 140 registered students.  a few of those have parents which can pay.  even if they ALL could pay something, it wouldn’t be enough.  they are at the school because the founder, Deo, understands the power and value of education and wants to ‘pay it forward’ to these kids – because at one point in his life, someone sponsored his schooling.

140 kids.  140 americans at $30/month for one year – giving up something that is lovely and wanted but…not necessary.  to change a life of a child in ushirika tanzania.  that’s making a difference.  leaving a legacy. and not leaving an empty coffee cup in the trash.

trust me, i have also blown through $30 without blinking, and sometimes without even a memory on what i ‘lollipopped’ it away on.  my goal obviously is to raise funds, but also to raise awareness and keep us grounded in some global realities.  don’t feel guilty.  be conscious.  and if you (or your family, class, group, etc) also capture this vision and are willing to make a small change in your life in order to make a huge change in the life of an impoverished child (many have single parents, some are orphaned), join me to be part of the Pieces of Hope Tanzania project.

no matter what amount your heart and wallet leads you to, we appreciate you.  how to donate?  all the information is on the right hand side of this blog page.

NOTE:  please contact me at debmarshall77@live.com regarding ANY questions regarding my personal mission expenses or the water survey funding, education sponsorships.  but especially if you use the fiscal sponsor link so that i know how to allocate funds. we are working through the new fiscal sponsor relationship and so that we can ensure acknowledgement, know how to allocate funds and anticipate funding, that would be so helpful especially at this time.

marketing pOHT image 1

 

 

 


Leave a comment

what in your life is calling you…….

it seems like i am asked the question often – how did you, a middle aged white woman who lived in stilettos and bling, who didn’t like camping/outdoors or being dirty  – how did you end up in africa?  how do you know you are being called?  many people are at points in their lives, searching for meaning, purpose and ‘what’s next’. the last few days,  i have felt God suggesting that i share this ….it is the basis of what my presentation to the salem lutheran church last sunday and i have shared it in various other ways through the past few years.   perhaps my story will speak to you and that God will speak to someone through these words.  for those new to my blog and journey, it will help simply explain a bit more.


what in your life is calling you? when all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned, the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest, what still pulls on your soul?….. in the silence between your heartbeats hides a summons, do you hear it? name it, if you must, or leave it forever nameless, but why pretend it is not there? (terma collective)

what does it mean to be ‘called’?  how do you recognize it?  what happens?  i believe being called may occur in unique special ways to each of us, but this is how it happened for me in the fall of 2010…when this middle aged white woman who considered herself pretty boring and not specifically qualified ended up called to go to Africa to share her gifts and talents, to walk in love with women and children in poverty.   selling all her stuff, leaving her job, family, friends and comforts of home.

it was the fall of 2010 when life started changing in a radical way for me. i had a fairly successful life that externally looked pretty good.  at that point i was working in economic development near Tulsa Oklahoma , making a decent salary, having a nice apartment and car, many friends and family.  what’s not to love about all that?  but i continued to feel unfilled, and life was sucking the sparkle out of me.   i realized that i had to make some changes but i didn’t really know what.  i explored other jobs, volunteering opportunities, etc,but soon i realized that i needed to get SERIOUS about this and that’s when it started.

i started SEEKING.  i had been a Christian since i was about  8, so i understood seeking but this time it was SERIOUS seeking. i had stepped away from organized religion for a variety of reasons but that didn’t mean i stepped away from God.  but admittedly i wasn’t paying attention.  i was just living in the matrix and doing my work and thinking it was all okay.  i guess it wasn’t, for me.   i figured out pretty quickly that i needed to be STILL.   to stop the noise, the distraction.  all the blah blah in my head (YOU know what i mean!)  i went on a retreat along to be ‘quiet’.   i began to stumble on clues and ideas – one of which was volunteering abroad .  i read a book about a woman who went abroad for a year to seek and find.  it was at that point that something clicked and i began thinking ‘what if’ i went somewhere for 3-4 months – where would i go, what would i do?  now.  at this point, this was just a ‘what if’ process in my mind.  which i think freed my mind from coming up with excuses of why not.

so , yes i prayed over this and then i began meditating.  in fact the quote i read at the beginning was helpful to me – to get my focus to my heart and to be silent – between heart beats.  i need to explain, to me – prayer is talking to God with a walkie talkie with the button pressed.  God, hear me,  i need help, i promise, please protect, thank you, etc.  but meditation to me is the LISTENING – back to the walkie talkie, with the button off.  it’s really really hard in our busy noisy world to be still.  to listen.  to go within.  to get out of our head and into our heart.

and then it started happening.  first of all i heard God speaking to me – the word Africa.  it was AFRICA (boom) AFRICA (boom) AFRICA.  i kid you not.  and the next day, i picked up a women’s magazine to find an article about a woman who left her job and started an organization in Africa.  hmmmm.  ok,God – so in my what if story, i’m going to Africa?  where?  now – i knew nothing about Africa, i never dreamed of Africa.  but i continued my prayer, meditation and researching Africa.  soon i found an opportunity in Moshi Tanzania and i FELT the click.  at that moment i thought – ok- am going to Tanzania wherever that is.  and  within a few days, THAT was validated through a comic strip – a little girl asked her mother what the capital of Tanzania was!  in that moment, the light bulb went ON and i recognized that my ‘what if’ story was a ‘being called’ story.  and long story short – within 6 months i had my immunizations, quit my job, sold my stuff, left family and friends and left for Tanzania on my own.  and it is also how God spoke to me through a comic strip (which was cool because sometimes my sense of humor is a bit on the quirky side, so He GETS me, ya know?  lol)

that was just over 3 years ago.  since then the calling has evolved and been refined but i still KNOW that i was called to Tanzania.  i wasn’t called to preach.   but i was called to use my abilities, my knowledge, my heart to work hand in hand with women and widows, vulnerable children and orphans.  to help them know they are loved.  to empower them with education and ideas and opportunities. to let the love of Jesus shine through me in various ways.

and even though i KNOW i’m called – its not always a simple easy path. oh.  my.   i have insecurities, questions and doubts a lot.  right now, i will return to Tanzania on june 2 but my mission expenses are not yet covered, nor have i succeeded in raising enough education sponsorships for the children at the school that i am working with. it scares me to pieces but i fall back into the faith and trust that if this is what i am called to do, all other things will be provided for.    the path is dark right in front of me, i stumble over rocks and rough road, and i call out ” are you sure?”  and He responds with YES KEEP GOING.  so i do. even though i don’t know HOW it will all work.  WHERE the money will come from.  and i’m like any of you – i WANT to know more specifically, i would like to have that money in the bank, the certainty of a plan but….i guess i’m learning a really big walk of faith here.

i have plans of what i  would like to accomplish – plans that are overwhelming to be honest.  and while i believe those plans were given to me by God, i also am reminded from time to time that a calling doesn’t always have to be HUGE or HARD or COMPLICATED.  sometimes – it’s very simple.  He reminded me of this once when i was working with an HIV women’s group.  i met with them, visited their homes, helped them with a few projects – but honestly nothing very major in my opinion.  but one day, mama sarah touched me on the arm, looked me in the eyes and said:  Debora,  we see Jesus in you.  that moment not only confirmed that i was indeed on the right path but sometimes i make things too hard and that God was using me in ways that i had no idea of.

 

visiting the homes of one of the women with HIV

debora and mama sarah (on the left) visiting the home of one of the women with HIV

seeking.  being still.  listening carefully.  answering the call.  accepting the call.  keep walking even when the path is full of rocks and it’s dark ahead.  that’s how it is for me.  and while my detailed plans may or may not work, i know that HIS plans are always better than mine.

dear God,

oh wow! thanks for all that you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do.  i am grateful for my family, friends and those that love me, and whom i love.  i am grateful for the many unexpected blessings and surprises in my life.  please continue to provide, love, protect and guide me as i travel on my journey.  i really want you to break my heart….for what breaks Your heart.  get my attention.  communicate with me clearly so that i don’t miss any important guidance!  sometimes, really, i wish You would lay it all out in a defined roadmap for me but i guess that’s part of the growth, trust and lessons that i am to learn.  will you  allow me to be in the homes, hospitals, orphanages, schools and villages that need Your love and use me as a conduit for Your light, to shine through me?  i am here to be a vessel of your love and light.

love,

me


i wish for each of you a sense of clarity, a knowing and the will to be still and know.  your call probably won’t take you around the world or ask you to give up everything, but it will be just as important and necessary.  if you have that niggling in the back of your head – your HEART – maybe it’s time to let go, and let God speak.  and maybe it’s time to listen.

you are so very much loved.

 

 


1 Comment

this is crazy…..it doesn’t add up

“…what do you do when the will of God doesn’t add up?  what do you do when a dream doesn’t fit within the logical constraints of your left brain?  what do you do with a promise that seems impossible?  …too often we let  HOW get in the way of WHAT God wants us to do.  we can’t figure out how to do what God has called us to do…so we don’t do it at all.  you know God wants you to go on the mission trip, but it doesn’t add up.  but sometimes you have to step out on faith, even when it doesn’t add up.”  (The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson)


the book excerpted above is about the power of bold and specific prayer (it was a great read, by the way.  check it out).  about when it doesn’t always ‘add up’.  when your vision exceeds your resources.  when you can’t never always sometimes tell (meaning anything is possible).  when what you (and probably others in the family and friends circle) are thinking THIS IS CRAZY.   

but as the author of the book says…if you aren’t willing to put yourself in the ‘this is crazy situation, you may never experience the resulting ‘this is awsome’ moments.  just like you can’t NOT pray when you are running or paragliding off a cliff, it is also true when we are taking a flying leap of faith.

i’ve been speaking at various places not only about my experiences but about BEING CALLED.  (more on that later, another blog) .  and you KNOW that i have been called to do this work in tanzania.  and i KNOW.  but you see….here we are just weeks away from my departure and….i still don’t have quite enough support for my ministry expenses.  and i for sure don’t have much momentum if any in regards to the funds needed for the children’s education, for water, for the other important things in the school and village.

so this blog is devoted to the fact that many of my family and friends probably are thinking that THIS IS CRAZY (umm, or maybe that i am crazy) .  and that it just doesn’t make sense, in many of your minds, that i would go without certainty.  without money in the bank.   and they are worried i am sure.  and being practical and logical.  but….sigh.  sometimes faith isn’t about our practical, safe, logical ways.

the logical restraints of a left brain (and certainly the practical and logical thoughts of those around me) say:  YOU CAN’T GO UNLESS YOU HAVE THE MONEY.  and to be perfectly honest, i am scared to pieces that these things are not in place.  i’m overwhelmed.  a bit paralyzed.  and feeling like….confused, a failure, and well, you can imagine.

but here’s the thing.   all along..in the past 3 years, i have been provided for.  protected in some very challenging and potentially health related situations.  i’m a bit (ok.  a LOT) undone by the fact that in spite of all of the contacts and presentations i’ve made, and all the plotting and planning, the money needed isn’t there.  but. i BELIEVE that God placed this vision and this calling to me.  i further more BELIEVE that the plans were given to me by Him. so perhaps this is the ultimate lesson of faith and trust (scary as it can be). and maybe throw in the lesson of patience and waiting .

so.  i’m in, God.  i’m leaving here on June 2.  and i’m just totally in Your Hands, cause i’m doing all i know to do, and i know deep down and without a doubt that i’m to go as planned.  and i acknowledge that it’s crazy (uh, can we also use that other “C” word – courageous instead lol).  and  i acknowledge that it is not (AT THIS MOMENT) adding up but i BELIEVE that it will.  i BELIEVE that God already has selected those that will be partners with me, and He is at this moment working on their hearts.

and here i am again.  leaping from the edge which was the initial reason for naming my blog ‘toward the ledge’ when this calling started in the fall of 2010.  and, no it really doesn’t get any easier making that leap but you do learn that you can trust that you will be guided down safely.

as always, your prayers, your thoughts, your love is greatly appreciated.


 

empowering vulnerable children, widows and families to have a better future

empowering vulnerable children, widows and families to have a better future

  • consider being a part of my Mission Support Team: whether you can send $10, $25 or $100 per month.  currently i have about 50% of the required monthly budget committed.
  • consider sponsoring a child’s education for $30/month or $360/2014 year,  so that one child receives meals, uniforms, supplies, books, transportation, teachers so that they can receive their education.  $10 of that $30 per month is allocated to food, $10/month is allocated to education staff, and the rest is spread out between books, supplies, medical, transportation, utilities.  we have 140 children registered this year in nursery through grade 2.
  • consider funding a hydro-geological survey to determine the water availability, quality, production, etc for $1,000.  the government requires these surveys in order to move into the estimate by a water drilling company.  we have a shallow well at 18m which is dry and we have hit rock, impassable with hand tools.

these are the priority needs at this time, and part of a larger list.  whether as an individual, a family, a class or group, or organization, thank you for considering being a partner of Pieces of Hope.

  • Supporters of the Pieces of Hope Tanzania (POHT) can make tax deductible contributions through our fiscal sponsor Bixby Community Church (BCC), a registered 501(c ) 3.  BCC will provide donors with tax receipts. Donate online at www.bixbycommunitychurch.com.
  • please contact me at debmarshall77@live.com regarding my personal mission expenses or the water survey funding, especially if you use the fiscal sponsor link so that i know how to allocate funds.