Greetings everyone – hope y’all have enjoyed our long fall season followed by our immediate transition to winter. Here’s a list of updates in this email so you can jump right to what you are most interested in:
* Recap of the AIDS caregiver kit assembly & Sara Groves concert
* New date for 5-year celebration
* Rwanda trip moved to November
* Board of Directors changes & thanks
* A message to churches
* A message to other groups
* Sponsored children
* Ebola response
Recap of the AIDS caregiver kit assembly & Sara Groves concert
Over our 5 years with Our Response, there have been many amazing days. September 27 was right up there at the top of the list. Having 100+ volunteers packing 824 kits to provide a years supply of care to those with HIV & AIDS in Kivuruga, Rwanda, was tremendously emotional. The hearts of the people of East Central MN continue to encourage me. The night was capped off with a great concert with Sara Groves and special guest Janelle Guitelli. You can read more about this day and see a bunch of fabulous pictures on the Our Response blog at http://www.our-response.org/what-a-day/
New date for 5-year celebration
To reduce the risk of another weather-driven cancellation and to give us more facility options, we are moving the 5-year celebration to May 2. This will also be about the time we pass the $1 million mark of direct support provided through Our Response. This should be a great celebration so we encourage you to save the date.
Rwanda trip moved to November
While Ebola is concentrated in west Africa, there is growing concern about travelling to Rwanda in February, especially when plans need to be made now and we are not sure of the expansion of Ebola over the next four months. There are also some additional medical requirements for Americans travelling into Rwanda, due to the Ebola case in the U.S., which may restrict our opportunities. We are tentatively moving the trip to November. If you are interested in the trip, please get in touch.
Board of Directors changes & thanks
Bob Jonsson, one of the co-founders of Our Response, has served on the board since it began in 2009. With Bob’s retirement from First Baptist Church in Cambridge, and his move to Florida, he will also be leaving his role on the board. Trent Pepper travelled to Rwanda in 2011 and has completed his 3-year term on the board, serving this past year as the board chair. Both of these men have inspired me with their compassion and been incredible encouragers as we moved Our Response forward. Both continue to sponsor children in Kivuruga and will be key advisors to me going forward. Thank you to Bob & Trent for your vision & action for the poorest of the poor in our world. The board continues with myself, Mark Radeke (co-found & 2009 trip member), Janie Pearson (2011 trip member), & Nicole Forbes (2011 trip member). We are also considering additional new board members.
If you have not been reading the Our Response blogs on a regular basis, you are definitely missing out on all that is happening with Our Response. Janie Pearson does an amazing job of capturing events with pictures, putting words to them, and publishing them on a regular basis. Here are just a few examples worth checking out:
A message to churches
More than 30 churches in East Central MN have been involved with Our Response and we are looking to both deepen those relationships, and do some expansion, in 2015. I want to encourage all church leaders to set aside a Sunday to focus on compassion for the poor. I, or other members of Our Response, would love to come and support your efforts, whether it is for a ministry you are already involved with, or if it is to start/build a partnership with Our Response. We have many tools to help build a Sunday that your congregation will not soon forget (Journey to Jamaa movie, Hope Sunday for sponsorships, etc). Also, if your church is involved with the 30-Hour Famine, we can support you in that and the funds can be earmarked for our work in Rwanda; we can help your youth understand global poverty and feel the impact of their generosity; this program can also help build gratitude among teens as they begin to understand their lives in the context of the broader world. If you just want to talk through how we could partner, please give me a buzz and we can connect; I would be happy to provide many references from other churches to help you make that decision.
A message to other groups
I have had an opportunity to speak with many non-church groups about Our Response or generally about global poverty, lack of clean water, micro-financing, nutrition, etc. I would be happy to talk with you about how Our Response can raise awareness within your group and to support whatever causes you may be involved with, or to help provide an avenue for your group to get involved in helping the world’s poor.
Much of the support we have provided is through Child Sponsorship with World Vision. Currently, more than 570 children in Kivuruga, Rwanda are sponsored by the people of East Central Minnesota through Our Response. This blows me away, but there is still room for more! There are still more than 1,000 children in Kivuruga who need sponsors. In addition to providing support for the child and their family, the sponsorship dollars ($35/month) are pooled to meet needs and fund projects of the entire community. Further, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with your sponsored child, which can be such a rewarding experience. I want to encourage you to consider sponsoring a child. We have a tremendous person working with Our Response, Barb Holmberg, who is a World Vision Child Ambassador and would love to answer any questions you might have and help you sponsor if you decide to do so. Further, if your heart is pulled toward another country or area, Barb can facilitate those sponsorships as well.
As you all know, Ebola has taken several thousand lives in West Africa and resources are needed to stem the tide of this dreadful disease. While our efforts in the first five years have been focused on Rwanda, in east Africa, the situation with Ebola is an “all hands on deck” situation and certainly falls within the Our Response mission. Personally, I have a friend who has already lost two family members in Liberia. I have been in contact with the Liberian embassy in the US as well as several non profits to determine the most effective place to provide funds. Often we are not sure how to best help. I want to provide you with an avenue to be part of our “response” to this situation. We will do the research to optimize the giving, but we are inviting you to partner with us financially. 100% of your donations will be forwarded (we don’t take a cut). The gifts will be combined and sent together on behalf of the people of east central Minnesota. I want to send these gifts by December 31, so please get them to me before then. Options include: 1) Catch me in person, 2) send check or money order to Our Response (PO Box 493, Cambridge, MN 55008), 3) select the program “Ebola support for Liberia” when giving through our-response.org
. If you are a leader at a church, work place, or other group, please consider responding as a group.
I feel so honored to have served in this volunteer role since we launched in 2009. Some days it feels like we have been doing this for 20 years, and other days as if we just started. Thank you to those of you who continue to be generous with your time, money, and encouraging words. I look forward to celebrating our million dollars of impact on May 2, and to journeying with you through the next chapters of Our Response. Thank you all for your partnership,