Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Pay It Forward" Splurge Group

This past year I've had the incredible privilege to be part of a Splurge group.  What fun it's been!  A couple of weeks ago we had our wrap up with a Christmas celebration and an overview of the past year.  Oh My!  God is soooo good and what joy we had in sharing what He had done in the lives of the people that He'd touched through us.  It indeed was a wonderful celebration, filled with laughter, tears, hugs, love and the PURE JOY of GIVING! What a beautiful bunch of ladies that are in this group!

I've heard of Splurge groups before and had often thought of the fun of being a part of one but never really felt led to start one up or to join one. But when Kim Dyck, a woman in my Friday Bible study group, announced last December that she'd like to start a very special splurge group, it REALLY peaked my interest and I knew I wanted to be a part of this wonderful idea.  She approached our Pastor after discussing it in our Bible study group and announced it in church the following Sunday.

Last December began a number of things in our church and this was one of them. Our Pastor is often challenging us to be part of changing our world.  It was December 2010, that Rick from Hands On shared his testimony at our church and told us of his ministry to kids on 20th street. He also made us more aware of the growing population of teen girls that are being prostituted on our streets, illegally and against their will. So, as a church, we were being a bit shaken to the core and many hearts were torn at realizing what was happening in our own city! It was during of all of this that Kim, and while finishing up our current Bible study on Nurture, that God gave Kim a vision of starting up this "Pay It Forward" Splurge Group.

12 ladies signed up and we began a journey of the adventure of giving away our money each month. :)  It's not always an easy thing to do, but what an incredible blessing it's been when we have given! Most splurge groups, the women meet each month, collect an amount of money from each member, a name is drawn and the winner gets to spend the winnings on herself...and NOT to pay the bills or buy groceries...she must splurge on herself. Sounds Fun!!  BUT, the purpose of this particular splurge group is to spend that money on someone else...to Pay It Forward. This cannot be planned in advance and must be someone that God leads you to "splurge" on. Then each time that we meet, we get to hear the testimony of the woman who won the last month and hear how she followed God's leading and blessed someone else with the money.  I'd like to share parts of these very special stories with you!  Kim had made a beautiful handwritten card for each of us ladies with the year in review....wow, what a precious gift.  Here's what she shared: (NOTE: pictures are not all actual event shots but some are.)

January 2011 - a mom with a new baby is given help buying baby supplies

February 2011 - an electronic game was purchased and given to Hands On for an interactive activity for the kids

March 2011 - this months money is being used on an ongoing basis to provide healthy snacks for the kids at The Bridge

April 2011 - she has a son with special needs and although she receives some help from other groups, this money will help with the extra needs not covered

May 2011 - this money was given to a couple to help with an overseas adoption. When they heard that the child they were adopting had died, they were encouraged to use the money to help with needs at the orphanage, or to help with future adoption expenses

June 2011 - this money was sent to help the many starving in Africa....

July 2011 - in an emotionally abusive relationship, with no money of her own, a beaten down spirit, this money was given to her to encourage, to help build a little independence and to show that she was worthy of kindness.....

August 2011 - a woman left with several children to support on her own. She's not even sure how she'll manage to purchase school supplies. This money is given to her to help lighten the load....

September 2011 - once a prostitute herself, now a Christian, it's her desire to open a home to get the girls off the street so this money was used to be given towards this ministry....

October 2011 - ten years ago, her husband hurt his back and is unable to work. They have 2 teenage children and she works two jobs to support her family. God's leading was felt to use the money this month to bless her.....

November 2011 - some of the money given to a woman walking through a snowy parking lot, a large tip given to a handicapped worker doing his best, an elderly lady was blessed with this money to pay for her few groceries, and then also to a young mom behind her in the same grocery line whose cart was filled to the brim with baby supplies, another very pregnant lady was blessed with some of the money as well......just many random acts of "blessings" to get "rid of" this money......all led by God.....amen....and maybe some of them were angels in disguise.....  :)

What a year of meeting together and hearing the testimonies and sharing the laughter and tears. Oh the people that we have prayed for, knowing that God heard every single prayer and knew our hearts for all these dear ones.  We knew deep in our hearts that God had already, long ago, chosen those who would be blessed by this "pay it forward" blessing........and we look forward to another year of Blessing Others!

I'll leave you with the words of Paul in Acts 20:35, as they have spoken to me much throughout this past year..."..I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

35 Pastors tour Israel

The week after we returned from Israel, there was a group of 35 pastors from Georgia, US who were touring the Holy Land. Their blog address is www.cfui.org It's an organization that John Hagee founded, Christians United for Israel, has posted a number of videos on www.youtube.com and I totally loved listening to them. Here are a few of the links to the videos.



I'm sure you were just as blessed as I was watching these videos....and feeling the passion and emotion. Going to Israel truly does change one so!

Kyrstin's 15th Birthday in Israel/Jordan

So this is the 3rd time that I've been to Israel and I had the pleasure of bringing my youngest daughter Kyrstin with me. What a memorable time we had! I have enough memories to fill a very large treasure chest. The 1st time I went to Israel, our Pastor, Russ Wilson took a group of 35 people with him, including my hubby Roger, our son Brandon and myself.

in 2008 with Roger and Brandon
in 2008 when Roger, Brandon
and I are about to
board the plane to Israel
for the first time
Our tour guide, Arie Harel, had come to Saskatchewan in Spring of 2009, after that first tour, and invited me to begin taking groups of women to Israel. Well, how could I refuse?  I loved Israel so much and my hearts desire was to take each of my girls to Israel as well....so this seemed the perfect way to do that. :)

in 2009 with Alysha
So for the 2nd time I journeyed to Israel in November 2009 and took a group of 7 ladies with me to Israel, including my middle daughter Alysha. Now, in November of 2011, for the 3rd time, I returned to the Holy Land with 12 ladies, including  my youngest daughter Kyrstin. :)  What a pilgrimage it's been for me in the past 4 years. Praise be to God!

In 2008 Arie giving supberb historial
teaching at Bet She'an with
Brandon and Roger listening
intently (top two guys!!)  :)

Brandon always listened so intently to everything Arie
had to tell us at each spot (2008)

Alysha and I with Arie in 2009

Pastor Russ, Brandon, Roger in '08
in 2008
Each of the kids had been about 15 when they came to Israel, and we had the same tour guide each time. How special it was for him to meet each of us and get to know our whole family. Having him as a tour guide has been just excellent...he's become a very dear man to me, like an uncle or a grampa. :)  Arie Harel is an excellent tour guide, very thoughtful and dedicated, being raised an Israeli and having Jewish parents who both survived the holocaust, having been born and raised in Israel.....well he just has a wealth of knowledge and history to offer any tour group. Thank you Arie!! This post is also to celebrate the time that each of my family has spent with you in Israel! Thank you for the many many special memories that you've had a part in giving to us! We love you! :)
gotta have a picture with a cute guy! :)

tremendous gift making sand art in jars!

hiking to Petra!!

this is pretty cool, mom! :)

the place where marriage/family vows
were made at Petra :)

group pic at Petra..except for Frances
we lost her to shopping.....again! :)
oh how she liked to shop and
was often found in any store
where there was stuff to
be sold....so if we were
missing her...well we knew where
to find her! :)  LOL

goin down :)

had to enlarge this one BIG so that you could enjoy the look on Kyrstin's face :)   maybe the camels were stinky?? :) LOL
LOVE the look on Judy's face to while she's getting down off the camel! LOL

say kiss kiss...and he kissed me! :)
this is the same camel that kissed Alysha in 2009 :)

hiking down from the top

Brandon would like this
cane with a sword
inside it mom!  Yes I
know he would but
I'm not buying it for
him this time! :)

Well, Kyrstin celebrated her 15th birthday here in Israel....well actually, in Jordan too.  We were in Eilat, Israel, the most southern tip of the land right on the shores of the Red Sea. We had a day tour to Petra, one of the ancient wonders of the world. It was a great day!  Kyrstin got to ride a bus to the border, walk into the Land of Jordan, hop onto another bus to drive to Petra....well together with us ladies of course...and ride a camel and a horse there and then take the bus back to Eilat of course. :)

Everyone we run into who finds out it's her birthday...well, they of course say Happy Birthday...at the border crossing, on the bus, in Petra, at the hotel, in the elevator!  :)  So, she had people in Israel and in Jordan say Happy Birthday to her. :) AND...we had 3 other nice folks join us on this tour as well and they were from Belgium.

One of the fellows, Rudy, it was his birthday as well. :) So when we were at the restaurant for a late lunch after touring Petra, the manager and workers of the place came and brought a cake while singing Happy Birthday in their language. :)  It was pretty cool!  I posted a video of it  below.

While in Petra, she also got to ride a camel for her birthday.  She, of course, thought they were CUTE! :) ...but she wouldn't let the friendly camel give her a kiss.  :)  For someone who is constantly kissing and hugging the dog, she wouldn't let that camel get his face close to hers!!  hah!  I did though. There's a pic of it too to prove it! :)

It was a good day!  I don't think she'll forget this birthday for a while....if ever!  :)  Especially the cute guy in Jordan singing Happy Birthday to her and helping her blow out her candles THAT WOULDN'T BLOW OUT!  haha!  That was hilarious!!  :)

ice cream cake
from Arie!!  :) yay!

And then coming back to the hotel in Eilat for a late supper and enjoying a very very tasty ice cream cake that Arie had specially made just for her, cause he knew that was her favorite! :)  Wow!  Thanks Arie!!  ;)  It was indeed a very special day!

me n my girl! :) Happy Birthday!
sharing the cake with the others :)
eeeeee...I gonna stab da cake!! :) hah
enjoying cake with all, even Arie!
Kerri treated her to cheese pizza
on her birthday too, for a night snack

It's been a FANTASTIC day filled with many great memories!!  Thank you God for this most amazing gift of experiencing the Holy Land with each of my children. So this indeed was a memorable birthday, not only for Kyrstin, but for me as well to commemorate being in Israel with each of my kids and my wonderful hubby!!  Thank you God!

ps. be sure to watch the couple of short (about 1 min in length) videos posted below to give you a taste of the celebrations on this day. :)  Enjoy!