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We Don’t Have What it Takes to Care for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging Parents

This article is excerpted from Kathy’s new devotional book “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,” which releases today! 

When my husband and I were young parents, our church friends had an ongoing joke that reflected the challenge of raising little humans. We designated that carefree time of life before the arrival of the first offspring as “BC” – before children. Before children, we enjoyed spontaneous outings, a little extra spending money, and a good night’s sleep.

But after the children’s arrival, everything changed. Grocery store trips required hours of preparation. Paychecks often ran out before the next payday. And we regularly navigated our days in a sleep-deprived state.

Caring for little ones was tough. Then they grew to be teenagers and parenting stretched us to new lengths. Now, with our children grown, we can look back and clearly see how God sustained us with His grace through every stage of parenting.

Kids out, parents in

Then we totally skipped the empty-nest stage. The summer our last child left for college, my 80-year-old father-in-law arrived. One young birdie flew out and one old birdie flew in.

Granted, Pappaw only needed a little assistance during the first years he spent with us. Then his health began to decline and he experienced one major problem after another. As doctors, medication, lengthy hospital stays, surgeries, and rehab dominated his life, he needed us more and more.

For a season, I was helping both my husband with his father and making regular trips to care for my own parents. I desperately wanted to do it all right, but the responsibilities felt heavy, draining.

I quickly realized I don’t have what it takes. I’m ill-equipped to make good decisions for my aging parents. I lack the spiritual strength to love and care for them unconditionally. One minute I want to hug them and tell them everything will be alright and the next I want to force them to “listen to reason.”

Read the first 5 days of “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents”

Are you caring for aging parents?

Many of you are there now – overwhelmed with the needs of your parents. With the responsibility of caring for them. Like me, you don’t have what it takes to do it well.

But I know Someone who has everything we need and more. Caring for ill and aging parents challenges us daily and can stretch us to the breaking point. But, by His power and grace, God will give us everything we need to care for them and live a life that pleases God “through our knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3).

Caring for our aging parents is a joint venture with God

As we abide in Jesus, God’s powerful provision flows through this life-giving connection. The power is Christ in us, working through us to minister to our parents. Caring for our parents is a joint venture with God. As we step out in obedience, God provides the power to fuel our efforts. God doesn’t promise the task will be easy. But He does promise our efforts make a difference.

Today, let’s take a deep breath and settle into the amazing truth that our powerful God willprovide everything we need for this journey. Let us draw close to Jesus and hold tight.

What can you do each day to purposefully stay connected to Jesus? How will abiding in Jesus strengthen you for your God-given task?

Caring for Aging ParentsMore about “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents”

Are you struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection. AVAILABLE TODAY! 

Order the book now on Amazon, New Hope Publishers, or CBD.

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Special Offers and a Freebie to Celebrate My New Book!

“30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” officially launches one week from today! We are so excited about this new devotional for caregivers we want to pass along the excitement with a couple of special offers and a free printable!

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents:

Are you struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Free Sample: Read the first 5 days of devotion!

Pre-order Specials

The book officially releases on May 21st, but you can preorder now. And there are benefits in pre-ordering!

Benefit #1: 30% the retail price!

New Hope Publishers is offering 30% off all preorders on their website through May 20th. Just click the “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” pre-order button and use “preorder18” for the coupon code.

Benefit #2: Free Prayer Card Printable!

Each devotional in the book ends with a prayer prompt. I’ve used some of these prayers to created a sheet of 10 prayer cards for caregivers. Offer applies to preorders from anywhere – New Hope Publishers, Amazon, CBD, Barnes&Noble, etc. Just email me at kathy@kathyhoward.org with your proof of purchase and I’ll email you the pdf!

Prayer cards

Bulk Order Offer

Are you connected with a caregivers or dementia support group? New Hope Publishers is also offering a 40% off retail discount and free shipping on bulk orders for ministry groups. (Bulk order is any order over a case of 36 books.) Email me if you are interested.

Spiritual Encouragement and Refreshment for Caregivers

My prayer is that God will use this new resource to give spiritual encouragement and refreshment to those who care for their aging or ill parents. What is your prayer for yourself or others you know that are caregivers?

 

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Grace Trumps Failure Every Time

Thank you to today’s guest, author Sue Edwards! She knows all about experiencing God’s grace through failure. This post is also a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Sue’s new Bible study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.”

grace failure

I learned about God’s grace through failure. And I learned that He is the God of second, third, fourth – infinite really – chances!

Discouraged by Failure

My first failure in ministry came while leading a small group in a community-wide Women’s Bible study. I’d only been a Christian three years, but I was on fire for Jesus and eager to serve Him. I was determined to be the best small group leader in the entire study, but every week, fewer and fewer women showed up.

Naïve and self-dependent, I called the women weekly, with urgent questions about their attendance. Of course, that only made things worse.

As I faced the looming reality that my first attempt at leading a small group might bomb, the enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered discouragement. As yearend drew closer, I wondered if the leadership would give me another chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But when I met with the leader to discuss the possibility, she said,

“We are only called to be faithful, not successful. You have been faithful.”

This significant life lesson taught me more about God’s grace.

Too Insecure to Succeed

The second big ministry failure came several years later, after I had led several small groups that bonded and thrived. The leadership of the community Bible study asked me to take on an administrative position and I said “yes.”

One of my duties was to recruit small group leaders for the following year. But when several of the current leaders decided they could not return, I took their resignation personally. The enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered “This is about you. They don’t want to work with you.”

Obviously, I was not ready for this role.

New in faith and still insecure in heart, I crumbled under the pressure. With less than a month before the study was to kick-off, I called the leadership and resigned. My immaturity caused the leaders to scramble to replace me, amidst much angst I’m sure.

But, amazingly – and graciously – they kept me on as a leader, and continued to pour into my life to build my spiritual and emotional strength. Another example of God’s character and grace.

Now, after almost forty years of ministry, I thank God for these dear women who continued to forgive me and invest in me. My service to others builds on the shoulders of these women who mentored me in my early Christian life. They did not give up on a naïve, insecure woman who loved the Lord but failed miserably many times. Their grace reflected God’s grace to us all.

Jesus is about second chances, and third, and fourth, and fifth. I’m constantly reminded of His grace and mercy. God’s grace–what an unspeakable gift!

Oh, Lord, help us all to remember our own failures and your tender mercies, and pass it on.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Sue Edwards new Bible Study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.” The winner will be drawn Wednesday, February 14th.

Sue EdwardsDr. Sue Edwards has over 40 years experience as a Bible teacher, overseer of several megachurch ministries, and author. Now, as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, she teaches full-time at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has trained women leaders in Russia, Africa, and Germany. She is the author of 5 leadership books and the Discover Together Bible study series. Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice is the newest in the series. Find out more about the series at www.discovertogetherseries.com 

Galatians

 

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It’s Not Too Late to Help a Child This Christmas

Last week, my husband and I did something new together and had a blast! We volunteered our time at a shoebox processing center for Operation Christmas Child.

When our children were growing up, our family packed three Christmas shoeboxes every year. Each of our kids got to pick boy or girl, the age category, and the items for one of the boxes. Since they are all grown, it’s been a few years since we packed one. So this year, we helped our 5-year-old grandson pack a shoebox.

Christmas Shoebox

When I went online to print a trackable label, I was drawn to the opportunity to volunteer. Since we moved last summer, we now live close to one of the processing centers. So I signed us up. We spent the better part of a day working and felt as if our time truly made a difference in the effort.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, delivers more than 9 million shoeboxes each year around the world. These boxes are checked and sorted in one of 8 processing centers across the United States. Volunteers are responsible for removing financial contributions, checking boxes for inappropriate items, adding additional items if needed, and sorting and packing the donations into shipping boxes.

Operation Christmas Child

4 Ways to Help a Needy Child this Christmas

It’s too late to volunteer at a Shoebox processing center this year, but it’s not too late to give to a child in need this Christmas. (FYI, in case your interested in volunteering next year, here’s the link to the Operation Christmas Child volunteer page.) Here are 4 opportunities to give now:

  1. Build a Shoebox online at Operation Christmas Child
  2. Help the child of someone in prison through Prison Fellowship’s ministry, Angel Tree
  3. Share the love of Jesus with a child in poverty through Compassion International
  4. Give a gift that helps a family in need through World Vision

Because of the most precious gift ever given to us – Jesus Christ our Savior! – let’s give back. I’d love to hear about ways you’re giving back this year!

Some other Christmas posts you may be interested in:

 

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Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

One week ago today a gunman walked into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire during the Sunday morning worship service. Twenty-six worshippers were killed. The other 20 in attendance were injured. In this community of just 400 people, everyone lost someone – a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend.

Is Prayer Enough?

Some have gone to Sutherland Springs in the wake of this tragedy to help. To feed, to counsel, to hug. Most of us have watched from a distance. Wondering what, if anything we can do. We can pray. But is it enough?

An MSNBC journalist asked Pastor Paul Buford the same question. Buford is the pastor of River Oaks Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, just down the road from the First Baptist Church. Buford’s church immediately became the ministry center for the families and law enforcement after the shooting. Buford’s answer was unequivocal. “Absolutely. We know prayer works. It brings comfort to the one praying and the ones being prayed for.”

The Apostle Paul also knew prayer works. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul asked them to continue to help him by their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:10-11). We can help Sutherland Springs with our prayers. Let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace on their behalf in the days and weeks ahead.

Specific Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

Sometimes we want to pray but aren’t sure how or what to pray. We can always pray “generically,” but I wanted to pray specifically. So, I contacted Martha Buford, the wife of the pastor at River Oaks Church in Sutherland Springs. I’ve known Paul and Martha for years and have ministered with them a couple of times in the past. Martha graciously shared some specific needs that are immediate and pressing. The following requests come straight from Martha:

Pray for today’s worship service at River Oaks Baptist Church – The sister church of First Baptist Sutherland Springs is holding services this morning, Sunday, November 12th, at 9:30 am. Please pray for each soul in attendance. There may be many there who don’t know Jesus. Pray for their hearts to be inclined towards Him. Pray for God’s name to be glorified. Pray for peace and comfort but also joy to be experienced as the community worships together. Pray for Paul Buford, the pastor of River Oaks, as he leads the service. Pray that God will give him boldness and wisdom as he proclaims God’s Word, and strength as he ministers. Paul is also grieving the loss of friends.

Pray for God to strike down the spirit of fear that threatens the community – Martha shared that the children of River Oaks are afraid to come to church today. Last Sunday morning, during the gunfire, River Oaks church went into lockdown mode. Just imagine how that event alone impacted the children in the nursery. The photo below is from the grounds of River Oaks Church earlier this week. They have been purposefully working with the children to ease their fear.

Volunteers playing with Sutherland Springs children. Used with permission.

Pray for the mourners as they attend funerals – Funeral services will be held every day this week. Remember, everyone in the community was either related to or knew everyone. They will all be attending service after service. Every day. Please pray for their emotional and physical strength and stamina. Pray for God’s unique comfort to hold them up. Pray for the privacy they need to mourn. Pray for all the details of each service to fall into place.

Pray for the family that lost 8 members – Everyone is devastated, but this family has also been decimated. One man lost his wife, five children, and his parents. Please pray for his emotional and spiritual healing.

God is Working in Sutherland Springs

One specific thing I have been praying is that God will be gloried and the Gospel proclaimed. As I wrote in an earlier post, God did not cause this tragedy, but His is working in it and through it. He is glorifying His name through His people in Sutherland Springs. If you’d like to know more, watch this video interview with Paul and Martha Buford.

Let’s keep praying. Our prayers do help. They do make a difference. Let us be faithful.

Let me know in the comments how you are praying for the community of Sutherland Springs. 

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10 Tips to Help Your Speaker Do Her Job

Women's MinistryNot long ago I spoke at a women’s retreat in another state. When I arrived at the hotel, a few members of the women’s ministry team were gathered around the registration table in “panic mode.” Several things had gone wrong at the last minute, the name tags were missing, and a snowstorm was rolling in.

You know what? The women who attended didn’t notice any of these things. They enjoyed the fellowship and God’s Word ministered to their hearts. The weekend was wonderful – snowstorm and all – because the women’s ministry team had focused on the most important things.

We women do love all the special touches at an event. But decorations and door prizes are like fancy wrapping on a package. It’s the contents in the package – the spiritual message and personal ministry – your women will take home.

This women’s team made sure the content of the event met the needs of their women by providing me with everything I needed to prepare and taking good care of me while I was there. They enabled me to carry out my ministry to the best of my ability.

Want your event to meet the needs of your women? Use these tips to help your speaker minister as effectively as possible to your women.

  1. Give her one contact – More than likely, your speaker is working with multiple churches at a time. If every member of your team contacts her about different aspects of the event it only distracts her from her task. Appoint one woman on your team to be the speaker’s contact. Then let her handle all communication with your speaker.
  2. Pray for her – Your speaker needs your prayers both before and during the event. She may have spiritual struggles, family issues, or illness. Be purposeful by putting it on your event to-do list. Ask your team to join you in praying for her and help them know how to pray. (See “6 Ways to Pray for Your Speaker.”)
  3. Remember her job description – Over the years, I’ve been asked for decorating input, sample retreat schedules, and help with technology. Even though I don’t mind helping when I can, it does take me away from my primary task – preparing the message from God’s Word. Your speaker probably has multiple women’s events for multiple churches on her calendar. Help her keep her focus on her God-given task. Don’t ask for her opinion on the food or with games.
  4. Diffuse any “landmines” – A couple of years ago, I was half-way through a retreat when one of the members of the ministry team told me the church had recently discovered their pastor was having an affair. I quickly reflected on the talk I’d already given. Had I said anything that would have poured salt in the wound? Make your speaker aware of any big issues happening in your church or with any of the women in attendance that could affect her messages or her interaction with the women before she comes.
  5. Give her the demographics – The more your speaker knows about your women the better she can target the message. Give her details like age range, level of spiritual maturity, and church background. Are most of them stay-at-home moms? Or do they work outside the home? Is your church in an affluent suburb or the inner city?
  6. Share the purpose of the event – Make your speaker aware of the primary reason you’re holding the event. Is the event your big, annual outreach event or a retreat for spiritual renewal? The nature of the event greatly affects not only your speaker’s message, but her delivery as well. She wants to help you reach your goal.
  7. Set aside a “ministry area” – When I speak at a women’s event, my ministry task goes beyond just voicing a message. I believe God has me there to minister to the spiritual needs of the women in attendance. Yes, that’s giving the message, but it’s also praying and talking with women one on one. But that requires a quiet corner. Set aside a spot – either a separate room or a discreet corner where your speaker can meet individually with women.
  8. Enable her larger ministry – Many women’s speakers bring books and other materials to your event. Provide outgoing, dependable women to run her product table so she can focus on your women. Bless your speaker by telling the audience about the book table yourself and encouraging them to visit it. Many speakers feel awkward “marketing” themselves. Do it for her so she can minister freely.
  9. Watch for “monopolizers” – You know these ladies because they’ve also demanded a lot of your time. Whether she wants to share her life story, pour out all her problems, or talk to your speaker about how she can get into speaking too, you may need to run interference so all your ladies have an opportunity to connect with your speaker.
  10. Provide a private sleeping room and bathroom – Many speakers ask for this in their speaking agreement. It’s not that she is “anti-social” or demanding (usually anyway!). No, your speaker needs a quiet, private place where she can go to pray and prepare to speak to your ladies.

Your speaker longs to be effective. She desires for God to use her in the lives of your women. You can help her help them.

What other ways can you think of to help your women’s event speaker?

 

 

 

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Glimpses of Bangladesh

Want to expand your view of our great God? Just travel to the other side of the world. He is already there, working in every culture, in every people group, revealing Himself to every race in every language.

This time last week I was in Bangladesh, in South Asia, with a team of 7 women. Our primary purpose was to lead a retreat for teenage girls at the Light of Hope Learning Center. This center provides basic education, life skills, and biblical teaching to at-risk girls from the slums of Bangladesh.

Safety issues limit what I can show you and tell you here, but I can share a few glimpses.

Our team spent 7 days in Bangladesh not counting travel time. We worked at 3 different day centers in two cities, spent some time with local Christians, prayer walked through a Bihari refugee camp, and visited with people in a Dhaka slum area.

Our team outside the guest house where we stayed.

Our team outside the guest house where we stayed.

Geneva Camp for Bihari refugees in Dhaka.

Geneva Camp for Bihari refugees in Dhaka.

Playing a relay game with the girls at one of the centers.

Playing a relay game with the girls at one of the centers.

Visiting with children in a Dhaka slum.

Visiting with children in a Dhaka slum.

slums 10

Laughter and sweet smiles.

Bangladesh needs Jesus. The work seems overwhelming, but God is good. And He is powerful. I’m praying for His people who serve there. They love the people. They pour themselves out. May God strengthen and empower them to complete His work.

Read this for more about the Bihari people.

Read this for more about The Light of Hope Learning Center.

 

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I’m headed to South Asia. Will you pray?

nieghborhood 4x6Right now I am putting the last things in my suitcase. Tonight, me and six other women will board a plane and head to South Asia for a short-term mission trip. I would covet your prayers for the team and ministry as we go!

Here are some of the things we will be doing in the name of Jesus:

  • Leading a retreat on biblical friendship for at-risk girls at a day center.
  • Meeting with and encouraging national women believers.
  • Teaching Bible stories and doing games, and music with boys and girls in two other day centers.
  • Teaching the Bible and doing crafts with moms and young women.

We will be traveling starting tonight and arriving at our destination early in the morning Saturday, March 14. We will be on the ground ministering from Saturday, March 14 through Friday, March 20. We will be traveling home on Saturday, March 21.

Here are a few ways you can pray:

  • Health and travel safety of our team members. Peace about those we are leaving behind.
  • Final planning and preparation.
  • Strength, unity, and bonding of our team. May God unify our minds and bond our hearts to each other. May He help us to work together as a team to fulfill His purposes.
  • Those we are working with there. Pray for their emotional, spiritual, and physical well being. Pray that God will use them powerfully.
  • The three centers and their staff. Praise God for this incredible ministry to the children. Pray that God will provide for the staff and strengthen and grow them spiritually. Pray for their effectiveness as teachers and spiritual mentors. Pray that God will supply all the financial needs of the centers and that they would stay right in the center of God’s will and purposes for them.
  • The children – pray for them in every possible way you can think of – their salvation, their spiritual growth, their health, their protection from trafficking, their futures, their families

I have kept this information general for safety concerns. But God knows all the details! Your prayers would benefit God’s Kingdom and encourage us! Will you pray for us?

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4 Things Your Pastor’s Wife Wish You Knew About Her

How do you feel about your pastor’s wife? Perhaps you think she’s the greatest example ever of a godly wife and leader and you hope some day to be just like her. Or maybe you think she needs to step up her game a notch or two, and be more involved or act friendlier or change the way she dresses or …

Join the InsanityOkay, I am exaggerating just a bit. But the wives of our church pastors and ministers hold a very visible and precarious position. The church usually has certain expectations. Everyone knows who she is and all eyes are often on her. Unfortunately, we often misjudge – and mistreat – our pastor’s other half.

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with author, TV show host, and pastor’s wife, Rhonda Rhea. Rhonda’s new book, Join the Insanity, written specifically for women in the “P-Dub” club (short for “pastors’ wives), encourages pastors’ wives in their unique role and encourages them to love their church and make Jesus look good.

Rhonda and I talked a lot about pastors’ wives stereotypes and how the church can best support and encourage P-Dubs. One question really sparked some great conversation:

What do P-Dubs wish the women in their church knew/understood about them?

  1. “I’m just an average chick” – Pastors’ wives don’t have a super power. They don’t have some super spiritual characteristic unavailable to the rest of us. They’re just another Christian woman doing the best they can to follow Jesus. They just happen to be married to your pastor. Women of the church can encourage P-dubs to thrive by letting go of preconceptions and allowing her to be who God created her to be.
  2. Being on a pedestal is a scary place – This position of high-visibility is a place of extremes. P-dubs often either receive harsh criticism or glowing accolades. According to Rhonda, “usually we haven’t earned either.” Let’s release our P-dubs from unrealistic expectations and see her for the wife and woman God created her to be.
  3. Many P-dubs are hurting – Ministry is difficult and it often comes with hardship and pain. P-dubs can carry many wounds. They share their husbands with the entire church. They often live life in a fish bowl. And – believe it or not – sometimes churches are extremely rough on their pastors and their families. Let’s reach out to our P-dubs. One of the best things we can do is ask our P-dubs how we can pray for them and then do it!
  4. P-dubs have to do friendship differently – Their husband’s position puts them in a precarious position. They can’t share everything they know with their girlfriends and we wouldn’t want them to. They can’t “play favorites.” They must be cautious about friendship. However, they also desperately need and want girlfriends in their church. Offer your P-dub your friendship. She’s more approachable than you might think. Ask her to lunch. Be interested in her. In other words, treat her like you’d like to be treated.

Let’s share some wisdom! What do you think is a way we can encourage our P-dubs?

Find out more about my sweet, funny friend Rhonda Rhea, her ministry, and her books.

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You Can Help Girls Half a World Away

Almost two weeks have passed since I last blogged! But I have a really good excuse. In the last month I’ve traveled to Bangladesh, Norway, and the Czech Republic. I’ve been on 16 planes and slept in 8 different beds. I’ve struggled to communicate with people of 5 or 6 different languages. I’ve traveled in planes, cars, vans, buses, boats, subways, trams, CNGs, and rickshaws.

I have been blessed by God’s people all around the globe. I have hundreds of photos to share and dozens of stories to tell. But if I could only tell you one thing, it would be this: You can help girls and young women at high risk for human trafficking in Bangladesh.

Poverty creates easy targets for trafficking. There are plenty of easy targets in Bangladesh. According to a February article in Liberty Voice, this south Asia country is top of the list for human trafficking. Although exact numbers are hard to nail down, several articles and reports I found estimate that about 15,000 women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh each year.

The scope of human trafficking worldwide is overwhelming. One person can’t stop this devastating injustice. But one person can make a difference in the lives of a few.

Light of HopeIn 2006, two American Christian women founded the Light of Hope Center in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The center provides education, vocational training, life skills, and more – all in the name of Jesus – to young girls from the slums. This work broadens future possibilities and lessens the chance of trafficking for these girls.

I am a member of a team – Bangladesh for Faith and Freedom – formed to support the efforts of the Light of Hope Center in these ways:

  • Raise awareness
  • Rally prayer support
  • Train and mobilize short-term volunteers
  • Facilitate BFF parties

You are officially invited to help! Here are a few of the ways you can make a difference:

Light of HopeWould you consider joining the fight against human trafficking? Find out more by visiting the BFF site. You can contact the BFF team at bangladeshbff@yahoo.com or contact me.

One person can impact a few. What will you do to make a difference?

 

 

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