Okay, I admit it—I’ve been watching sappy Hallmark Christmas movies ever since Thanksgiving! Never mind that the entire plot, climax, and resolution are obvious within the first ten minutes of the movie—I still love the “feel-good” atmosphere of hope that comes with the viewing. And apparently, so do the over 500 million viewers who watch the movies right along with me.
Honestly, though, it’s the Hallmark commercials that have snagged my attention this year. Talk about knowing how to create an emotional response! And the company has been doing this since they were founded in 1910. In fact, the slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best,” was coined in 1944!
This Christmas they’ve outdone themselves. It’s turned into a campaign to encourage small acts of kindness that can make a big difference. The commercials are tear-jerkers: friends lifting a guy in a wheelchair above the concert crowd so he can see and participate, a dad impacting his son by pushing a woman’s car out of the snow, a young man attending his first Christmas dinner with his girlfriend’s family—starting awkwardly but ending with warmth—and so much more. Truly, they move me more in 60 seconds than the movies do in two hours.
The slogans go like this: When you care enough to . . .
. . . lift a spirit . . . show the way . . . be their hero . . . spread hope . . . give to a stranger . . . come together . . . share your story.
And they all end with . . . you can change the world!
I don’t begrudge Hallmark the income they made from selling their cards. After all, not everyone is adept at putting into words what they feel, and the wordsmiths at Hallmark have a gift for capturing exactly the right expressions of love, thanks, and comfort.
And every human being is wired for story. Even greater, we’re created to live a life of meaning, to know that our lives matter in the big picture. Hallmark wasn’t the first to show us that meaning comes from caring—tangibly doing something to help someone else. Jesus taught that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and that it’s through giving our lives away we truly gain a full life.
Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to show not only how much we care, but also how much He cares. We do this at home, at work, in our communities, and abroad. Not every act of kindness directly changes a life, much less the world. But there is a cumulative effect as we keep acting. Our kindness can do more than change the world; it can change eternity.
How? Imagine a hungry child praying alone at night, asking God if He’s real, and imploring Him if He is, to please send food. Picture a child caring for sick parents asking for the chance to go to school and build a brighter future. Really see the elementary-aged girl who has been raped and mistreated, questioning God’s love. Then be part of bringing God’s answer to those children in the form of food, schooling, and godly relationships. Past mere feeling, our action lets them experience God’s love and goodness.
I’ve enclosed a page to show what you can do for our Swazi children. I believe everyone loves helping. And just like Hallmark helps us “say” what we feel when we don’t always know how to word it, we also want to provide ways you can change a child’s world—and eternity—in case you would love to do that, but just aren’t sure how to get started.
Will you, your family, or your small group become part of the “care enough” team this year?
Tracy and I wish you a very “Caring” Christmas — and a world-changing New Year!
Much love—Becky Spencer and Family
(Since some of you have known us for decades, I’ve included updates on our growing family again. Thank you for the prayers and love you’ve shown to all of us!
Below that, you’ll see pictures of the work in Swaziland and details on what’s next–and how you can be part of the team!)
Sara is still the salon manager at Ulta Beauty in Hutchinson. She loves doing hair and ULTA keeps her up on all the latest trends, which keeps her artistic skills at the forefront. Danny is still working as a worship pastor for Crosspoint Church, Sterling Campus, while he finishes training for his new career as a police officer for the City of Hutchinson. When he graduates from the police academy January 26th, he will be working a couple weekends out of each month, so he will switch to volunteer status worship leading at the Hutchinson campus. Judah (7th grade) loves playing trumpet in jazz band. Nora (5th grade) still loves art and plays trumpet and piano. Silas (third grade) enjoys singing at all times and also plays piano. We’re still so incredibly thankful they’re back in Kansas!
Polly and her family are still in Haven, Kansas. She is working as an EMT there, plus still driving a school bus. In Jan., she’ll start classes to become a paramedic. Josh is facing another back procedure, so he’s doing custom cutting temporarily. MacKenzie (8th grade) volunteers at Reins of Hope (therapeutic horseback riding). Ethan (8th grade) loves sports; if you can kick it, hit it, or throw it, he’s playing it! Savannah (6th grade) enjoys riding her bike around town with her friends. (Don’t keel over at the fact that I actually got a photo with the parents in the picture! It’s almost a year old and was taken under duress! Haha!)
(Jeri is holding the baby; her Junior and Luressa are to her left.) Jeri found that providing care for people in their homes was an emotional strain after baby Claira Mae’s long illness and passing. So she’s got a part-time job and picks up some cleaning or yard work where she can. Always a hard worker! She was the first to call to let me know that her birth dad was denied parole again for another three years. Junior (13 yrs.) is still in a school for special needs, and Luressa (6th grade) plays clarinet in the school band, which was also Jeri’s instrument as a kid. The older children are now 17 and 15, and I can’t help but hope that when Elizabeth turns 18 in February, perhaps she’ll read the letter I placed in her adoption file, inviting her to contact us if she’d like to connect. I’ve longed for her and Andrew for almost 15 years. Meanwhile we’re incredibly grateful for the love they’ve found in their forever family, even while we look to the God who does wonderful redemptive miracles!
Nathan is wrapping up his last semester at the local junior college and will begin classes at Ft. Hayes in January. He is in transition to become the administrator at Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community here in Buhler. He is still serving as an associate pastor at Victorious Life Church, where he and Diana keep providing amazing leadership to the youth. He’s been free from addictions for over 13 years now. Thank You, Lord Jesus! Diana is the clinic RN at Bluestem Pace in McPherson, which is a program that keeps seniors safe and independent in their own homes.
All four kids are passionate about music. Gabe (10th grade) is in choir and plays trumpet in pep band, marching band, and jazz band. He’ll travel with the band to Washington, DC in the spring. He also plays basketball. Caleb (6th grade) plays trombone at school and has started piano lessons—and even talked me into teaching him a song on the guitar last week (It didn’t take much convincing! Haha!). He loves skateboarding, video games, and making youtube videos. Jordan (4th grade) loves to sing and recently joined Young Women in Harmony; she also takes piano lessons and loves making new friends.. Josiah (3), better known as JoJo, still loves sports and can really handle a ball. He also loves reading books and singing.
Benjamin and his family are still living in Michigan, near Amy’s family. Ben continues his service as the Worship Minister/Student Creative Arts Minister at Southpoint’s Huron campus. He is still writing lots of songs and has a new hobby of building things. Amy is still a part-time x-ray technician at the hospital, while embracing motherhood. She’s very active helping Ben with youth activities. Moriah (just turned 4) is in preschool (loves it!) and is definitely their little actress. Selah is a 20-month-old sweetheart, saying lots of words and loving her baby dolls—but not as much as she loves her big sissy!
Ashley and Brian moved to Little River, Kansas, recently. Brian was laid off from Gregory’s a few months ago, and it was challenging for him to find steady work. He was finally hired by Lowen’s Sign Co in Hutchinson, and Ashley is working at the grocery store in Little River. Ayden (4th grade) is as sweet as they come; he shares his time equally at Ashley’s and his birth dad’s. He, Alyssa (2nd grade), Alex (1st grade), and London (3) were joined by baby Jupiter in July. This picture was taken in November at Inman Mennonite after this sweet baby girl was dedicated to the Lord. Pastor Mike, who has discipled Brian for the past year, took the Inman pastorate, and we’re so grateful he’s still close enough to be involved in their lives. It’s been a bumpy year, but the Lord is holding them in the palm of His hand as they continue to look to Him.
Justin is still living in Oklahoma, and we haven’t had much contact with him this year. We know that he and his girlfriend Whitney are expecting a baby girl in a few weeks.
His ex-mother-in-law Tammy still has custody of the children, and she and her husband Bill are doing a fantastic job! Addisyn (4th grade) has the honor of being the Kindness Ambassador at her school. She welcomes new kids, shows them around, and does community outreach projects. She is part of the All Star Chorus and was selected to perform with the Circle the State with Song chorus—really loves to sing! Nathan Wray (1st grade) absolutely loves playing football, and it looks like he’ll be fast like his daddy was. He’s planning to play baseball next. He loves to cook, and in fact, both kids prepared dishes for me when I visited them in May, and they made 99% of their family’s Thanksgiving meal! They live in Norman, Oklahoma, and I’m so thankful Tammy and Bill make sure we get to see them as often as possible!
Anna, her husband Ben, and baby Eliza are living with us here in Buhler temporarily. She’s training to be the general manager at Family Video in Hutchinson, and he is working for Webcon, doing commercial roofing. Eliza (9 months) showed up a month early in February—when Tracy and I were in the middle of the ocean and couldn’t be with them! Anna had an emergency c-section because of pre-eclampsia, which is more common in diabetics. Eliza spent her first days in the NIC unit at Wesley in Wichita, with one issue being weaned off Anna’s insulin. Even coming so early, she weighed 8 lbs, 9 oz (also common when the mama has diabetes).Ben has amazed us by the way he helps with Eliza’s care—great daddy! And the love these three have for each other blesses our hearts every day. They attend Crosspoint Church in Hutchinson.
This year Tracy and I celebrated our 41st anniversary, 9 years of operating the bed and breakfast, 11 years since founding Grand Staff Ministries, and 23 years of his work at Takako America. Grand Staff Thrift Boutique in downtown Buhler has been open for over 2 years now (more updates below). Kalos Christian Fellowship still meets in our home for now, and we’re each growing as we explore what it means to follow Jesus more fully. It still seems that we’re to keep it small and simple for now, and we continue to seek the Lord’s direction so we don’t rush ahead, nor lag behind His plans.
Our 27th grandchild is due shortly, and she’ll break the tie between the girls and boys, currently at 13 each. The girls will have it. Maybe someone will feel pressured to let the boys catch up. J Seriously, I never could have imagined this much love. So thankful!
Grand Staff Thrift Boutique has been incredibly blessed as the Lord sends amazing volunteers, donations, and customers! Paula Wiens (above) started as our new manager late November, willing to serve in a continued volunteer capacity. I’m incredibly grateful that her leadership will allow me to gradually step back from spending so much time at the boutique so I can focus on other ministry tasks. We had a booth at the Kansas State Fair in September, which helped with visibility. Profits from the store help us cover ongoing monthly expenses on the care site in Swaziland, with enough to also contribute to the building projects. Jan. – Mar. is the slower season, so in order to progress, the feeding kitchen/preschool building will need additional resources besides thrift boutique sales.
Hannah Ball (left) accompanied me to Swaziland last January, and she is raising funds to answer the call for a 2-year term there with Grand Staff Ministries. The other woman who planned to go had some family situations that showed her it isn’t time for her to leave the country, so we’re eagerly praying for that space to be filled. We just can’t send Hannah alone, even though her heart is already there. We really do need someone on the ground for maximum effectiveness. Please pray and share this opportunity. I believe we are just one conversation, email, Facebook share, or any kind of connection God decides to use to see His plans unfold!
Grand Staff Ministries Care Center Sipete, Swaziland
Our first care home was completed earlier this year, and the Matsebula’s moved in with Angel in April. We will build 11 more homes on this site, each one housing 12 children. While in our hearts, this first one will always be “Angel’s Rest,” the official name on site is now Shepherd’s Care Homes.
Patrick and Siza are pictured above with four of their five children, plus one of our security guards (they’re on site 24 hrs./day). This couple has been extensively trained for their position as house parents, overseers/mentors for other house parents who will come, pastors of our church plant, builder/contractor (Patrick), preschool teacher/ manager (Siza), sustainability agriculture, and more. They’ve also taken on extra duties to oversee our sponsorship program in our four other locations until we hire another ministry partner, hopefully on my Jan. trip.
Our precious Angel (right), now 15, chose earlier this month to leave the home to return to the squatter’s camp where her mother, brothers, and boyfriend still live. She loves us and knows how much we all love her, but by the time we raised the funds to build her a
place to live, she was already accustomed to being unsupervised. And sadly, also how to “earn” money from men, as so many girls end up doing. She was only a couple of weeks from completing 7th grade, but she dropped out. Our hearts ache for her, concerned about what will happen to her, wondering if things would’ve been different if we’d rescued her sooner. But we can’t hold her; we must leave her in God’s hands and pray she remembers His goodness and all she learned about what real love looks like. And we ask for His mercy and grace to send us girls earlier when possible, before those patterns of thinking and behaving are set.
Meet Nokuphila (above, left) and her twin brother Philani! She is our newest little girl to move into Shepherd’s Care Home. She came to us severely malnourished, roaming from home to home in the village begging for food, because her parents are alcoholics and mentally ill. She’s responding to treatment, and got a root canal and crown, plus some fillings. Philani is deaf (not mentally ill or demon-possessed, as many villagers thought), so we placed him in the school for the deaf. He joins Nokuphila at the home during school breaks, and he’ll get an evaluation at the doctor and dentist while he’s there.
We’re still waiting on social welfare to complete paperwork on two more girls—a fifth grader who’s been repeatedly raped by her grandfather for three years, and one forced into slave labor by a relative.
What’s Next: Our current building project is the feeding kitchen/preschool, pictured below. We still need about $15,600 to finish the building, then supplies. We’ll be able to feed and educate many children from the village who can’t live on the site, but who are still in great need.
We’re adding fencing to increase the number of chickens on site and to add goats. Sustainability crops will be planted as soon as the rains stop. The church meets in the home, often with 30 children crowded onto the living room floor. The next building needed is an office on site for GSM, with living quarters upstairs. Then a guest house of sorts with an open “parlor” for visits from the children’s relatives, when allowed. For safety reasons, we won’t allow the visitors in the children’s residential area on the site.
Here’s how you can . . . change the world!
Contribute to the $15,600 needed to complete construction of the feeding kitchen/preschool.
So many Swazi children are living without any adults to supervise them and provide for their daily needs. Many others are caring for sick parents. Eventually we will be able to feed every hungry child in the village of Sipete.
And at every meal, the children will hear Bible stories of the loving kindness of Jesus Christ.
The preschool will also serve children in the village, and they’ll hear about Jesus again, plus get a great foundation for learning.
Sponsor a Swazi ministry partner. It’s crucial that we have trustworthy ministers who love Jesus, speak the language, and know the culture. These individuals will assist in visits to homesteads, churches, and schools in the five areas we have sponsored children, so we can stay current on how the children are doing. The regular contact allows them to develop godly relationships with each child that can lead to discipleship. The partners will also help teach the Bible lessons at the feeding kitchen. We have accepted assistance from another trusted Swazi ministry that will provide extensive training for our ministry partners. I plan to hire at least one partner, and possibly two, when I’m in Swaziland next month. Annual costs per partner are approximately $2,400.
Become a monthly sponsor of . . . well, me as a missionary. Even though I’m only in
Swaziland twice a year, the trips are still a major expense ($4,000 – $5,000 per person,
depending on the time of year). And necessary in order to keep moving forward
effectively. Our board determined we also need at least one board member to go with
me every trip, so they get a firsthand picture of what is needed and how to accomplish it.
In January, my precious mama, Pattie Belden, will accompany me. She’s served faithfully
for 11 years and will finally get to see with her own eyes what she’s helped accomplish—
and to hug some of these sweet children at last!
My full-time commitment to run the ministry from this side of the ocean prohibits my taking on other employment. And 100% of child sponsorship goes directly to care for the children. So in order to meet the $30,000 for the trips and GSM’s administrative expenses, we rely on fundraisers and donations. Thank you—your gift matters and keeps us going.
|Abandoned, orphaned, and vulnerable children in Swaziland are lost lambs.
The Good Shepherd’s staff is grand enough to care for each one—through me . . .
. . . and through YOU!
Contact us at: GSM, PO Box 321, Buhler, KS 67522 firstname.lastname@example.org
Grand Staff Thrift Boutique: 215 N Main, Buhler www.grandstaffministries.com/donate.php
(620) 543-6518 (this number doesn’t work when I’m in Swaziland) worthfightingforblog.wordpress.com
“For in You [O Lord] the orphan finds love and compassion and mercy.” Hosea 14:3b, AMP
|Is God calling you to care enough to:
Go? Swaziland Winter Mission Jan. 10 – Feb. 13
Give? See below for current needs and plans for 2018.
Help? 5 – 8 volunteers needed daily at the thrift boutique
Pray? God’s leading as we select children