Monthly Archives: October 2014

Oh, for Cute!

October 29, 2014 | Janie

There are countless ways to join the fight against global poverty, but I discovered a method recently that feels less like a fight and more like…fun! Earlier I mentioned running into a couple women who have inspired me. Both Sue Kurnett and Vicki Caspar are World Vision Child Ambassadors who have discovered a creative way to improve the lives of impoverished women.

Meet Sue Kurnett, a professor at William Jessup University and Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Sierra College in California.


I met her at the World Vision Child Ambassadors Conference in Seattle after seeing her in the company of these little guys. Finger puppets. I was totally charmed.


Sue travelled to Peru with World Vision and met women who knit these tiny creatures and then sell them, five for two dollars. Sue said to them, “I can sell these for you back home for $2 each.”


She pays the women upfront and, as soon as the knitted creations are shipped, Sue sells them all within a few days. Then Sue sends them another check for another order and quickly sells them all over again. The impact of this added income in the lives of these women and their families is huge.


Could you refuse Mr. Lion a home? I couldn’t.


He surely needed a friend.


And then, well, you know.


I refuse to confess how many little critters made their way into my suitcase. But, tell me, is there any resisting this face?


Take a bow, Sue. You are doing something pretty sweet. Come Christmas, my grandson will thank you, to say nothing of the women whose lives you are helping to transform.


I also became acquainted with Child Ambassador Vicki Caspar. That tote bag slung over her shoulder derives from a project in Zambia that supports women and orphans.


I suspect that when Vicki hits the skies as a Southwest flight attendant she is also the perfect advertisement for the sale of these amazing totes crafted from recycled plastic bags.


Who would have thought that plastic bags cut into strips could become the yarn for a crochet project. This next one is made from—you guessed it—garbage bags!


If you know how to crochet and are curious about the process, here’s a youtube video that might inspire you to try one. You can learn more about the project Vicki is helping to support here. For specific information about the bags, contact Vicki at To order finger puppets, Sue can be reached at (FYI: a postal strike in Peru is delaying her orders for now.)

Women spanning continents to creatively and compassionately reach out to each other. It’s a good thing.

A trip to Seattle

October 19, 2014 | Janie

You may remember that our area recently gained a new World Vision child ambassador. Yay, Barb!


Barb Holmberg has a tender heart for children and would love to link more of us living here in East Central, MN with children living in extreme poverty, most especially—but not limited to—the children of Kivuruga, Rwanda.


Barb recently traveled to Seattle, WA for World Vision’s annual Child Ambassadors Conference. When she asked me if I would like to go along, I couldn’t get my “Yes!” out fast enough. I had actually been wanting to visit Seattle, a place I hadn’t seen since the 1962 Worlds’s Fair. Sixth grade. Family vacation. Good times.

The reality is that the Space Needle is pretty much all I remember. Barb and I, and Barb’s former college roommate (who now lives in Washington and guided our “tour”) caught a tiny glimpse of this famous icon from atop the Great Wheel, a giant ferris wheel that provides spectacular views of the waterfront.




Of course, caffeination was a “must” at the very first Starbucks. That’s Barb and her friend, Gracia.


But more than Seattle what I really wanted to see was World Vision’s headquarters.


I loved the greeting printed just above the main doors.


Special bonus: attendance at the conference included a tour.

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I was especially thrilled that our first speaker was none other than one of my (blush) heroes, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision and author of The Hole in Our Gospel. Let’s just say that Stearns’ message did not disappoint.


Other highlights included group sessions focused on World Vision’s child protection theme for this next year. Because many millions of children are exploited worldwide through child labor and sex trafficking, the slogan for the year ahead is: “Defend childhood—change how the story ends.”

And because of an urgent emailed request from a WV staff member, we also filled backpacks for children in a Syrian refugee camp in need of school supplies—


which, of course, brought to mind our recent Medical Kit Build held locally just a couple weeks ago.


There are several other kits that can be put together. In addition to Caregiver Kits,


and School Tools Kits,


there are Hygiene Kits


and Promise Packs.


Perhaps your business, organization, youth group, or church would be interested in hosting a Kit Build? If so, please contact Brynn Esbenshade at, or call Brynn at 800.478.5481.

What a wonderful few days we had in the Pacific Northwest. To rub shoulders with dozens of caring women and men from all over the country who are committed to helping hurting kids was quite an honor. There were a couple child ambassadors I found particularly interesting, but more about their unique impact in the next post!

What a day!

October 2, 2014 | Janie

September 27th will go down as a memorable date in the short history of Our Response, which is saying quite a lot. After months of planning and effort, the day for the Caregivers Kit Build and Sara Groves concert finally arrived. Things got started early Saturday morning with the arrival of the set-up volunteers; it was their job to unpack the medical supplies purchased from World Vision and get them arranged on tables.


Washcloths, soap, surgical gloves…

Terri with World Vision washcloths.

…even flashlights—these were just a few of the items that needed to be organized. _75A1111



As you can imagine, there were a lot of empty boxes.


Which meant that there was also a whole lot of box cutting going on.


Thank you to all the set-up volunteers who showed up and faithfully got things ready for the the kit build that would take place a few hours later.

At 3:00, our 100 volunteer kit builders began arriving.


They gathered together for a brief orientation from Steve Fredlund and Barb Holmberg.


Steve never fails to inspire with his passion for the people of Rwanda.


Barb served as an outstanding leader of the Kit Build Committee. Those who know Barb do not find this in the least bit surprising!


We can’t thank Barb and her committee enough for their work in organizing the build!


Time for the assembly to begin!


Folks of all ages joined together to bring encouragement to Kivurugans suffering from HIV/AIDS. The caregivers who provide for these patients will also find it tremendously helpful to have these supplies for their patients.





These two won the “cute” award!


Everyone who put together bags wrote personal notes to the Rwandan caregivers who will make use of these medical kits for their patients. These notes were lovingly tucked inside each kit and were an important part of the experience._75A1174 _75A1167 _75A1181

Sara Groves and her children participated in both the build and the note writing.


In no time at all the supplies and notes were gathered into bags. _75A1211

The bags—all 824 of them, were packed into boxes.

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And then the boxes were wound with shrink wrap, ready for shipment to Rwanda. Good work, Jennifer!


There was time for everyone to head out for dinner before the concert. Thank you, Susan Morris, for catering—free of charge—a meal for Sara, her family, and a few others. Dee-licious!


7 pm came quickly. Janelle Guitelli and her worship team got the evening off to a great start, which included the sharing of Janelle’s personal faith adventures in Africa.


Then it was time for the ever amazing Sara Groves.






Sara’s son, Kirby, joined her for a few numbers.


Songs and stories reflecting Sara’s own transformative experiences in Rwanda were as moving as ever. Was it my imagination, or did this concert have something exceptional about it?

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Thank you, Sara. Your heart for God and for the people of Rwanda shines through your music. Thanks for uniting with Our Response and the East Central community for the sake of Kivuruga and a better quality of life for all who live there. You are gracious in every way.



Time to close with a few words from Steve:

Thank you Janelle Guitelli, Sara Groves, the 100 volunteers who packed caregiver kits, and the 300-plus who came to the benefit concert. What an amazing day of making a real impact for the people of Rwanda, sharing about Our Response, being surrounded by people of compassion, and engaging in the music of Janelle and Sara. From 10 am to 11 pm, the day was saturated by the positivity of those who live lives of radical generosity. Truly inspiring. Thank you to everyone involved. I am overwhelmed. I just met with the team going to Rwanda in February, where we will experience gratitude from the people of Rwanda for the work we did yesterday. What a weekend!