by Jen Hatmaker on July 14th, 2016

"OKAY LADIES, NOW LET'S GET IN FORMATON, CAUSE I SLAY..."
 
"I dream it..."

 
"I work hard..."

 
"I grind till I own it..."

 
"Cause I slay."

 
SLAY ALL DAY. The Ethiopian women above all started their own businesses in Wolaita Sodo this year: a courtyard restaurant, a neighborhood market, a hair salon, a wholesale injera company. These are some things they told us about their lives last year:

"I was caring for my aging parents alone, and we were desperate." ~Estaganet

"My children ate either once a day or none." ~Chaltu

"I had no way to make a living after my husband died." ~Beletech

"I couldn't get work after my husband left me, so I was a daily laborer at constructions sites hauling rocks." ~Genet


There was more, plenty of tragedy and loss and violence. These women and their families have known sorrow, that is for sure. But the short version of their incredible rise is this:

They were all identified as candidates for the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program which they enrolled in around six months back, and every single one is not only financially independent but solidly thriving in the Ethiopian middle class after struggling to feed their children just half a year ago. They have employees, store fronts, vendors, clients, accounting books, equipment, and importantly, honor. Chaltu told us: "People who hated me are now my friends and customers." BOOM.

Let me tell you what the women already had in spades:

Intelligence.
Creativity.
Work ethic.
Experience.
Dedication.
Resourcefulness.

Here is what the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program added:

Business training.
Accounting instruction.
Skills and assets assessment.
In-kind funding.
Materials and equipment.
Marketing.

Together, magic! Magic, I tell you! Each business was tailored to their individual skill set, location, viability, and interests, and they developed a sustainable business plan. After receiving training, business mentoring, and start up funding, they launched.

And they are slaying, y'all.

I told the team while listening to them discuss their stories: "They don't wear any of their sorrow." I'm serious. Having endured what they've endured, I would expect a darkness about them, or at least a dimmed light. But NAH.
 

The program is one year long. It costs $1000 to send one woman all the way through. That includes all start-up money plus the training, professional development, equipment, and marketing. There is no other way to say this:

It is life changing.

This is not aid, not relief, not a handout. It is not a short-term gap stop. It does not create dependency nor rob women of their dignity. It is an entrepreneurial program that sends capable, smart women into enterprise without debt. It is for Ethiopians, by Ethiopians. We just get to provide the seed money. They graduate from the program financially solvent, never to return to poverty.

And of course, it is orphan prevention as these women can fully provide for their children and their families stay intact. I feel so incredibly tender here, because had this program existed sooner for my favorite Ethiopian Mama, my adopted son would have an entirely different story. It is not right that loving, committed moms have to relinquish their children because of poverty. It's not right. When all they lack is opportunity?? It's not right. (After finding her, we sent Ben's mom, Sentayu, through the program, and she now owns her own tea and coffee shop and has rebuilt her entire life. I am so proud of her but grieve her losses in a way that I can't express. Our reunion with her last week was impossibly sacred.)

All but one of the women we met were single moms except Chaltu whose husband is blind. So don't forget who else the Family Empowerment Program serves:
JD and Aschalew bought lollipops and Cokes from Chaltu's neighborhood market,
passed them out to every kid, raced them,
then sent them home hopped up on sugar and adrenaline.
WE ARE SORRY, MAMAS.

 
It's this simple: we want to send 300 new women through the program. If you specialize in math, that amounts to 300K. Think of any vulnerable community. Now imagine that THREE HUNDRED OF ITS COMMUNITY MEMBERS started successful small businesses, emerged from poverty, and began contributing to the local economy.

This doesn't just change individual families; it literally changes the entire community.

THIS IS AN INVESTMENT, not a handout. We have the chance to provide the capital for a slew of motivated, savvy entrepreneurs. They are required to set aside a percentage of their earnings each month, and once they've saved enough to repay their loan...they find out it is a grant and get to reinvest it back into their businesses. (This made me do a Happy Clap.)

Listen, if anyone EVER invested in you - parents, grandparents, aunts, teachers - if you got to go to college or trade school or learn a craft, if anyone ever loaned you start up money or gave you a big break, a second chance, if anyone ever helped you in any way get to where you are now, then you've been exactly where these women are. A small amount becomes a huge tipping point, and their lives will never be the same.

None of us can provide the full 300K, but WHO CAN'T CHIP IN $25? $50? More? Together, we can certainly raise that amount. CERTAINLY. Do not despise the small gift; a bunch of small gifts turns into 300K in a hot minute. (Of course, we don't despise big gifts either!) (*twirls mustache and laughs*) But because we believe in this program so intensely, we want to sweeten the pot for you: You get a bunch of cool, free stuff for joining in. Cause you are the best tribe that ever lived. You really are.

You can donate and find out about your swag here.

When we were leaving Beletech's hair salon, she hollered out: "I AM MY OWN BOSS!!"

CAUSE SHE SLAYS.

Okay ladies, now let's get in formation. Let's show up for our sisters.
 

by Jen Hatmaker on February 1st, 2016

It's February, which means Valentine's Day is on its way to make some of us feel awesome, some of us feel disappointed, and some of us feel left out. Yay, Invented Holidays!
 
The internet gave me this, and it has made me laugh for two days.

Anyhow, I couldn't quit thinking about reclaiming V-Day so that everyone wins. I was having a little prayer time with God trying to figure out what I could do to love my people on a day meant for love, and honest to goodness, just like He asked Moses, I had a little soul nudge:

"What do you have in your hand?"

Hmmm. What do I already have? What is in front of me? What do we have together? What am I already holding that might be put to good love use?

Well, I have a book I wrote actually called For the Love, for crying out loud. It is for women, about women, because of women, to empower women, to encourage women, and even to entertain women. I wrote it for the love of God and women.

And we have a big, generous tribe that loves each other well.

So here is what we are going to do:

Hundreds of you have written to me saying how much you would love a copy of For the Love, but you just can't afford it right now. Let me tell you something: NO ONE understands a tight budget more than I do. I am so serious. There were years Brandon and I could barely pay our bills, much less spend money on something as luxurious as a book. (I remember one afternoon when I was holding a newborn and a toddler and had a preschooler hanging on my leg, and Brandon handed me a $20 and said, "This needs to feed us for a week." I sat on the kitchen floor and cried for an hour.)

Maybe that is you.

Or perhaps you know someone who would love a copy but can't afford it. Or won't spend the money on herself. Or doesn't have anyone who will spend it on her. Someone who is precious and deserves to be loved on Valentine's Day but won't have any flowers or beautiful love letters coming her way.

So, today we are opening up a Share the Love site where you can do one of two things:

1. Request a FREE COPY of For the Love. Because you are awesome and I want you to have it.

2. Nominate someone to receive a FREE COPY of For the Love. Because you are awesome and love people well.


 

We are going to take requests and nominations until this Friday, February 5th.

AT THAT POINT, we will open up a second site for donors and purchasers to send books to all these dear ones, because the one thing I know about our tribe is that we love well. I think we can do this. I think together we can fulfill all the book requests that come in. I believe that we can generously love each other, even with something as simple as a book meant to nurture souls. (Book Givers, it will be a $15 flat fee which includes shipping.) Maybe this is the year you need to request a book, and maybe next year you'll be a book giver. We all take turns needing each other and loving each other.

I have no idea how many requests and nominations we will get. Like, NO IDEA. But I believe in us! I think we can pull it off! Would you join this little V-Day Lovefest with me? Donors can jump in February 5-9, then all books will be shipped on the 10th to land in everyone's mailbox by Valentine's Day!! Isn't that so fun?? (Donors will have the option to include a personal note, so you can love another gal with your words too!)

ALL THE FEELS.

So. The site is now open! Request a book or nominate someone to receive a book HERE. (If you are nominating someone, you will need their address, so do a little recon to get their details!)

Then watch for my word Friday...I'll let you know how many requests we received which means it is time for the rest of us to get busy!

We are SHARING THE LOVE with each other this year!

(This Love Campaign is only valid for residents of the U.S. and Canada, because SHIPPING ISSUES. I'm so sorry, International Friends!)


by Jen Hatmaker on November 23rd, 2015

Speaking on the Women of Faith LOVED Tour this fall has been one of the great privileges and joys of my whole life. Everyone who knows me has listened to me blather ON AND ON about the team, the experience, the legacy, and the delight. It is so real. These women have changed me and loved me and shown me what it looks like to serve with the same team across the nation, over and over.

As a writer who speaks (not a speaker who writes), traveling and conferences and stages and teaching has always been a labor - a labor of love to be sure - but a labor. I am not intrinsically geared for it and have to work super, duper hard to be even remotely competent. (This is not a fish for a compliment so don't give one. It is a fact that speaking is hard for me and I am not naturally gifted at it and it requires ten times the work that writing does.)

But then...this:
Luci Swindoll is my spirit animal.
She is exactly twice my age and I am OBSESSED with her.

I can't explain it exactly, but working with these amazing women who have served God and women so faithfully for so long and yet manage to do this without a sense of striving or competition or pressure, and in fact have the most fun I've ever actually seen on the road, well, I'm changed.

I've basically cried my eyes out the last two events because our tour is coming to an end.

But it is with the greatest, most sincere thrill I get to finally tell you about what's next:

For a whole year, we have been dreaming and building and praying and scheming on how to build on the very best of 20 years of Women of Faith and pay it forward into the next generation. How can we take all the love, all the transparency, all the laughter, all the power, all the story-telling, all the community and build something new, worthy of the legacy?

I am THRILLED to tell you about the Belong Tour coming Fall 2016! Same leadership team, same parent company, same beautiful desire to love God and women in our generation. I am joined by literally some of the best people I know:

Shauna Niequist
Sarah Jakes Roberts
Nichole Nordeman

And because GOD LOVES US, Patsy Clairmont has agreed to join the new tour with us, and for this, I could weep hot salty tears of gratitude. I love her so desperately and I am telling you: She is the very best kind of mentor. She loves our generation and has so much to invest, and we are basically the luckiest girls on earth.

YOU GUYS. This team is coming all over the United States next fall! We've been listening so intently to what you care about:
  • FAITH: how to deepen it, find it, hold on to it, nurture it, use it, express it, grow it. Amen and amen. Let it be said of our generation that we loved Jesus. We are deep diving into faith together, and no matter where you start on that spectrum, you are so welcome.

  • RELATIONSHIPS: how to care for them, heal them, invest in them, own them, expand them, honor God in them, strengthen them. Marriage, parenting, church, neighboring, loving this world - we care so much. Every bit of this will be covered in Belong.

  • PURPOSE AND PASSION: how to discover it, grow it, prioritize it, use it, thrive in it, offer it, develop it, share it. Oh man. You are singing our song. We believe so deeply in women and how God has gifted us and we are here to love and serve this world together.
And listen, there is a REASON we are calling the tour Belong. Because you do. Your friends do. Your neighbors do. Your colleagues do. Your churchy church friends do. Your totally not churchy church friends do. We are setting a big table, girls. Come to us. We love you. We love your people. You can trust us with the fragile hearts you love. You can trust us with your daughters and sisters. This is not a gathering of "insiders" where language and assumptions automatically exclude people outside of faith or church. NOPE.

You can come to us confused or mad, passionate or on fire, disassociated and ambivalent, scared or burned. We will hold your stories with tender hands. We are for you. (And wait until you hear OUR stories. Oh my word. Sarah once rammed a woman's car in her SUV, but I've already said too much.) All I'm saying is that we are regular women who've struggled and tried to love God in the midst of life, which we KNOW can be very, very hard.

NOW. Here is the deal. The Belong Tour gets blasted out to the world this Friday, but we only have 12 dates and when the seats are gone, they're gone. I want you to come. I so want you to come.

You can use my code here (JEN20) and get $20 off select tickets through this Thursday! Plus, every person who’s already bought a ticket or purchases tickets through 12/18/15 (including groups) will receive a FREE BELONG Tour T-shirt:

So basically, use THIS LINK (code: JEN20) by Thursday, get $20 off your ticket, get a free t-shirt, and YOU'RE IN! Yall, I am so serious: invite your friends, invite your neighbors, invite your church, invite your mom and sister and best friend and daughter. Ask for a ticket for Christmas! Give a ticket for Christmas!

This is big.
 
Bigger than any one of us. Because it’s not about one of us; it’s about all of us. When we gather, connect, and share, something happens. We change. We grow. We don’t just create an event, but a community.
 
We care deeply, right? For our people. For our communities. For our world. We want hearty exchanges with the people we love and safe places to fall. We want to unpeel the layers and offer the best of ourselves.  Our best is rarely perfect, but that’s BEYOND OK. We’ll take real over perfect any day. And real happens here.
 
Faith moves us. We’ve encountered it, wrestled with it, and embraced it. (Repeatedly.) We have learned what it means to experience God’s love in a real way and renewed our belief in each other (and ourselves).
 
When we look at you, we see untapped power that can change the world. There’s passion there, and fire, even if it’s just a spark. Let’s fan that flame and make things happen. We can do this. You are not alone.
 
We’ve readied a place for you to come in, to share and to heal and to dance . . .
 
To BELONG.
 

by Jen Hatmaker on November 3rd, 2015

It's time!!! It's time to DO THAT THING WE DO. We do it like a bunch of bosses every year, and together we have impacted thousands of kids and families and teachers and communities for the last three years.
 

Remember Help One Now’s first Legacy Project in 2012? When we went to Haiti and got the hair-brained idea to build a whole school? And you all bought in and we just went ahead and built it? It was birthed out of a desire to do something audacious, to build something lasting, to tangibly make a tremendous impact in our communities.
 
In short, we wanted to leave a legacy.
 
Now, every holiday season, we come together to build something HUGE. Something amazing. From a preschool to an actual school--every year, we aspire to do something that sounds so far out of reach that we shouldn’t make it, and yet, every year, our amazing tribe delivers.
 
This year, we’re again leaving a legacy of education.

"EDUCATION IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON WHICH YOU CAN USE
TO CHANGE THE WORLD."
~Nelson Mandela


 
This year, we’re changing five communities in four countries—truly a global impact. Together, we will bring education to hundreds of children in 19 classrooms in Haiti, Peru, Uganda, and South Africa through two paths of impact: 

Building A Legacy and Sustaining A Legacy.
 
Building a Legacy

This path will:

Fund the construction of 7 classrooms in Haiti, Peru, and South Africa, and it is resourced through generous, tax-deductible giving. They include:
  • 3 classrooms at Williamson Adrien Academy in Petionville, Haiti (our original Legacy Project) - these classrooms will add secondary grade levels to WAA!
  • 2 classrooms at Colégio Kairos in Iquitos, Peru - increases access to life-changing education to impoverished children from the slums of Belen and Iquitos.
  • 2 classrooms at Reagoboka Early Childhood Development Centre in Hamanskraal, South Africa - over 150 children receive meals, pre-school and after-school care, and even tutoring at our leader Elizabeth’s small home.
All these classrooms will increase their capacity to help neighborhood children and families! (BONUS! BONUS!)

Sustaining a Legacy

This path will:
  • Support 12 classrooms — 6 each at Aclaprotech in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and His Mercy School in Uganda.  
  • Fund 12 annual salaries for local teachers
  • Provide classroom resources such as textbooks, school supplies, and other necessities
  • Fund minor repairs to facilities
  • Provide training seminars for local teachers

The thing is, if we want it for our own children - good schools, great teachers, the ability to read and write, a hope and a future - we just have to want it for everyone's children. And if the roles were reversed, wouldn't we hope a group of folks across the world would decide that good for all is the way to go? These are our children and their parents are our brothers and sisters and their communities matter as much as ours, and we are either building a healthier, safer, happier world with the crazy advantages we were born into or we aren't.

This is so easy and you can do it one of two ways:
  1. You can Build a Community with a simple donation. The goal is 64K and we can do it in our sleep. 7 classrooms, fully funded, hundreds and hundreds of kids impacted, local jobs created, hope seeded in all these beautiful little hearts.
  2. You can Sustain a Community by purchasing this GORGEOUS 2015 Legacy necklace made in Haiti: hand-punched leather sequins and brass accent beads. Guaranteed to be shipped before Christmas, so BAM. Presents solved. 12 classrooms, new teachers, supplies, everything. The goal is 36K. Cake walk.
This necklace is so striking and original, every time I wear it, I get stopped a dozen times.
Plus, it is made by a Haitian artisan group, so MORE JOBS.

As a board member of Help One Now, I can just tell you that we are so in here. We are for the kids, for the schools, for the local leaders, for the communities, for the best practices, for helping and not hurting, for education, for the future, for this beautiful world and all its beautiful citizens. It is such a joy to share and empower.

And YOU matter so much. You have mattered to HON and the communities they serve over and over. You've funded jobs and construction projects and leaders and schools and wells, and it has all gone into the hands of the smartest, highest capacity local leaders in each community.

What I am saying to you is this: you can trust your dollars to count here.

Legacy Project 2015...commence!!! You can donate to build or purchase to sustain, and you can discover more about HON and the communities we serve and the leaders we love and the amazing work you've supported here.

Let's do this, you guys! Gather your children around your computer, show them the kids, look at the schools and teachers and pictures, talk about Haiti and Peru and Uganda and South Africa, and build your own family legacy of generosity, courage, and love.


by Jen Hatmaker on October 22nd, 2015

I don’t know if you know this, but chickens are low-hanging fruit. My girlfriend Katie asked me yesterday: “Did you have trouble with animals digging to get to your chickens? Did you have anything around their coop to prevent it?” No, we basically provided a free chicken buffet for neighboring raccoons, dogs, and coyotes. We started with twelve chickens and now we have two (RIP) (#neverforget).
 
But let me tell you about our two. These girls, they are survivors. I am so serious. They are two tough broads. All their sisters fell one by one to poor wandering habits and a basic ignorance of their surroundings, but these two own the hood. They never leave each others side and I’m pretty sure they are never going to die.
 
Until about three months ago, we let the chickens free range all over our one-acre (and sometimes the neighbors’ yards which accounted for the untimely deaths of chickens #4, #7, and #10). We would shut them in their coop at night all roosted together, and in the morning we’d open the door and they’d all run out at top speed to begin their thrilling day of hunting and pecking. I mean, I’d open the gate four inches and they squeezed out and ran for freedom.
 
But because chickens actually crap all over everything including your patio furniture and new porch, we fenced in a large area around their coop and confined them to a normal-sized free-range zone so we would no longer constantly sit on/walk through/clean up their irrational amounts of poop. They’ve been in there for three months.
 
Yesterday after texting with Katie, I decided to let the two plucky chickens have a field trip around the yard. Won’t this be fun for the girls! I thought. They’ll run around their favorite old paths and scratch under the trees and have a merry time. We had some rain so everything is soft and bugs are plentiful and this will be their #bestlifenow.
 
So imagine my shock when I walked over to the coop, excitedly threw open the gate preparing for the chicken sprint…and they just stared at me. Come out, gals! Look! Run like the wind! The whole yard is your playground today! But they just turned away and walked back toward the coop. I left the gate wide open all day, and they never left. The adventurous, seize-the-day spirit of our two survivors was gone.
 
I can’t quit thinking about it.
 
I’m a big fan of freedom, of wide-open spaces, of not being confined and imprisoned and stuck. This is absolutely God’s craving for us too: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). That first sentence is everything. Why did Jesus set us free? So we would be free. That’s basically it. He emancipated us from everything that imprisons because freedom is its own reward. To hear the Bible tell it, Christians should be the freest, most unstuck, unrestricted, liberated people breathing air.
 
I woke up thinking how many of us are staying inside the tiny coop while the gate to the big yard is wide open. There it is! Right there! Freedom! We believe we are locked in, but the confinement is imaginary. We’ve been imprisoned for so long, we cannot even recognize what an open door looks like. The small space, the fence, the latch, the borders; it has become our whole world until there is nothing even visible outside anymore.
 
Who told you imprisonment was your only option? What narrative have you believed that keeps you trapped, forfeiting your own freedom? And how long have you chained yourself inside? The prisons, they are many: toxic relationships, abusive churches, soul-crushing jobs, addictions, sorrow, impossible expectations, deferred dreams, the lie of scarcity, fear, regret.
 
These are hurdles, not prisons.

 
“…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1). Somewhere along the way, the idea of misery became enmeshed with the notion of Christian sacrifice. God became this irrational, confusing abuser who kept his kids locked in poisonous or barren environments for the sake of…I’m not sure what…the kingdom? Longsuffering? Death to self? I’ve heard abused women say, “God has not released me yet…” and I want to scream YES HE SURE AS HECK HAS. I’ve seen folks shrivel and shrink under toxic church leadership, dreamers desert their gifts under the double lie of scarcity + fear. I’ve seen the emotional surrender to addictions, imagining freedom is for other people.
 
Why do we think we only deserve the coop when God gave us the whole yard?
 
I remember the day I realized Brandon and I could walk away from a toxic environment that had broken our spirits. It was like a revelation, the moment my eyes saw the open gate. We can leave?? There was no Protestant work ethic that demanded we forfeit our souls for “loyalty.” There was no requirement of emotional loss so someone else could gain. God never asked for our full erasure to serve a bottom line. We were free.
 
We always had been.
 
Dear one, I don’t know what prison you are in, but listen to me: the gate is open. We are loved by a God of freedom and liberation and adventure and meaning. Run like the wind! Look, right outside the fence, there it is! We are not a people of prisons. Perhaps your spirit has been broken, because small locked spaces can do that after awhile. But you are not a slave to those shackles. Jesus set you way too free for that nonsense. There is so much life out there, so much to see, so much to experience, so much to enjoy, so much space to heal and find your legs again and run.
 
I know those first few steps outside can be terrifying; prisons confine and restrict but at least they are familiar. But if Jesus is to be trusted, He opened the gate because evidently freedom is how to do this thing, this life. It is his plan and will and He believed so deeply in its power that He went all the way to the cross to secure it for us. You are pluckier than you think; it’s still in there down deep. I know it feels risky, even unchristian if you’ve been abusively programmed. But you can do this. You can sprint through that gate. The whole yard is yours.
 
Off you go.










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