Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What They (OFWs) Wanted for Christmas...

I just found out about an amazing thing that CocaCola did for some folks from the Philippines... specifically OFWs... overseas Filipino workers... (it really messed me up with the spelling of the country starting with "Ph" and the acronym having an F in it for Filipino...; )

I wasn't aware of this acronym much less how many of these people have left their homeland in order to provide for their families... I found the number to be staggering... over 11 million!!!

I learned of this project on a very interesting and unique blog I just discovered (by way of Pinterest)...
You are Talking Too Much - how'd'ya like that for a blog name? Could easily be mine but it's already taken... ; )

You could read about it as I did on this gal's website (click link above) and start by reading her very appropriate little "into" to the video (re: family drama at Christmastime)... she's got a link to it... or you can click here and go directly to the YouTube video... it's less than 5 minutes but I doubt you'll finish watching it with dry eyes...

After watching the video, I still didn't know what OFW stood for so of course I "binged" it and that is where I found this fella's blog... Neil IS an OFW... check out his short bio here.

I can't begin to imagine what these families have endured! We are so blessed to be in the same country with our family members! Just one more thing (among many) that we take for granted...

Hope you're having a great week!

Monday, December 26, 2011

How was your Christmas?

Ours was very nice... we attended the 4:30pm Candlelight Service at our church on Christmas Eve, then returned for the 9am service on Christmas Day...

If you've had a chance to look at my earlier posts (since Thanksgiving)... I've put a lot on here about our LOVE ORLANDO campaign that was begun this past March when Christian author Bruce Wilkinson (Prayer of Jabez) came and spoke one Sunday and challenged us to make a difference for the newly homeless families in Central Florida (which had been highlighted in a segment of 60 Minutes on NBC)... (I have links to the video of those segments if you scroll back to those postings... if you have a few minutes to watch them.)

Well... that weekend that he spoke, our church members (in 3 services) pledged to contribute -- by the end of the year -- $5.6 million (over and above our regular giving/tithes -- a real miracle in a time of recession and the highest unemployment Orlando has every experienced) to help those families who had recently lost their homes in our area... it has been an AMAZING 9 months!

Anyway... after our two morning services yesterday, we had 1,000 boxes of food to be hand delivered by our members to famlies who had been identified by the children's schools I believe (the families had been notified they would be getting them)... so we volunteered to deliver a box after the 9am service... we were handed a piece of paper with an address and the names and phone number of the family we were to deliver our box to...

I had also put together a Christmas gift bag containing some of my cookies, a tin with some candies, some hot chocolate mix, one of my Christmas cards, and a Christmas mix CD I had made... to go along with the box of food when we delivered it.

We got to the address, less than a mile from our church, and in a poor, primarily black section of town... only to find the house entirely empty... we could see in the windows and confirmed that no one was living there... absolutely nothing on the bare floors, etc.
So we headed back to our church to report the situation and get another address... the second house was about 2 miles from our church... same type of neighborhood... however, as we got into the neighborhood we noticed that several of the homes were completely boarded up... we got to the address we had been given only to find that it too was one of the boarded-up homes... across the street, there was a woman outside at a vehicle in her driveway and we spoke to her and told her we were there to deliver a box of food to that house and she confirmed that no one was living there. So we did the next logical thing... we asked her if she could use the box of food which she said she could so she was the recipient of the box as well as my Christmas giftbag full of goodies... I know God will bless whoever got it... but it was very sad and disappointing to think that the two families we tried to deliver to were not even in their homes anymore... It just makes me wonder where they are now... in a homeless shelter, living in a relative's garage, or worse, on the street.

There are so many ways we can help one another... please find a local charity whose work you admire and volunteer... and please continue to give, give, give to the food banks! This need is the greatest it has ever been in Orlando/Central Florida.

I pray you have a wonderful year in 2012... our church's theme this year has been A Passion for God... next year it is A Passion for People... I think we've already got a pretty good headstart on that one... I can't wait to see what He's going to do through his people in the coming 12 months!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Where to serve?

Volunteering is certainly a good deed fueled by passions that God has stirred up in your heart... find your passion for impacting your community and go volunteer!

One of the many excellent charitable organizations we have in Orlando is the Christian Service Center... I have a particular fondness for this Center as it is led by a long-time friend and fellow Orlando native, Robert Stuart. He has been the director for many years...we grew up together at FBC in the choir... he and his twin sister Georgia and I had entirely too much fun in choir practice!

The Christian Service Center in downtown Orlando is celebrating 40 years of service to the Central Florida community. Here's the Center's mission statement as posted on their website:

Mission Statement
To prevent homelessness, combat poverty, cultivate self-sufficiency, restore hope and glorify God through the faithful provision of services that directly address physical, emotional and spiritual needs for families and individuals who are struggling in Central Florida.
Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” -- Matthew 25:40
Each of the Christian Service Center’s programs has availability for volunteer service. If you are interested in volunteering your time and/or resources to any of our programs or would like more information on how you can get involved, please contact us directly anytime at 407-425-2523 or via email: ccrouch@christianservicecenter.org. You can also view more information here.

New LOVE PANTRY Program for Hungry Students

58% of OCPS students are on free or reduced lunch! Many of these students are going to their school cafeterias to eat the only nutritious meal they will have for the entire day. Way too many children and their families have limited financial resources, are homeless and living in shelters, hotels or out of their family cars. The Love Pantry puts emergency food right at the school to help feed hungry families.

The In-School Pantry Pilot Project, now known as the “Love Pantry,” is a new initiative of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida, in cooperation with Orange County Public Schools with initial fundng through the Love Orlando fund established by First Baptist Church of Orlando, to provide struggling families with emergency food distributed through a group of 13 elementary schools for the Fall Semester of 2011 School Year. Each pilot project school will be provided with a lockable cabinet stocked with food items identified as commonly in demand. When a student/family is in need, the school’s staff member can go to the cabinet to provide enough food for several family meals, plus give them valuable community resource information. The Center's monthly newsletter, Servant's Heart, has a more in-depth writeup on the Love Panry on the first page of the November issue.  To watch a video on the Love Pantry project, click here.

Other programs include:

Family & Emergency Services: Compassion
The Family & Emergency Services (FES) program was established to provide immediate emergency assistance and relief to families and individuals who are faced with an unexpected financial crisis. The primary goal of FES is to help families maintain their residence and prevent them from being forced into homelessness.

Daily Bread: Comfort
The Daily Bread program was established with a goal that no person in Central Florida struggle with hunger. Through Daily Bread, anyone who is hungry can eat for free, no questions asked. Daily Bread provides a nourishing noontime meal for families and individuals who are hungry six days every week at no cost to the consumer. In 2008 Daily Bread served its three millionth meal to the Central Florida community.

Fresh Start: Counsel
Fresh Start is a short-term residential program designed for rebuilding and restoration in the lives of men who are seeking a new beginning. Fresh Start seeks to enable men, regardless of their circumstances or previous life choices, to move from a state of helplessness to a place of confidence, capability and hope. By restoring dignity and equipping men to acknowledge and overcome their weaknesses, Fresh Start provides a safe environment that fosters personal growth and helps men back onto their feet for a second chance.

KidsFOCUS: Care
The KidsFOCUS program provides a safe and healthy learning environment for children in economically challenged families who might not have an after-school alternative. KidsFOCUS provides after school care for children and includes tutoring, academic monitoring and family assistance.

I'm sure one of their many programs would be suited to your interests, talents, and passions... just contact them and get involved!


It's Gail West's birthday today!

I am so glad that God brought us together 33 years ago... and although we lost touch for a few years... I'm delighted that we got reacquainted and are enjoying the RV lifestyle together when we can...

You have always been a real inspiration to me... self-reliant, adventurous, resilient, kind, fun to be with, and my best cheerleader and mentor! I pray God gives us many more years and adventures together...

Have a wonderful birthday dear friend... we'll do lunch soon I promise!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

LOVE ORLANDO - do you know about this?!

LOVE ORLANDO is a movement started by First Baptist Orlando, to serve the community and show God’s love to others. Over $5.6 million was pledged on one weekend to help restore hope to those families that are broken... meeting their basic needs is just the beginning.

So far, the church has partnered with 11 Orlando-based nonprofits and distributed about $1.8 million in grant awards under the Love Orlando banner. The ministry is committed to funding long-term and foundational programs that demonstrate proven results in moving families to self-sustainability.

The church hopes to continue to identify partner ministries/organizations in Central Florida to be a part of this Love Orlando initiative. Rather than simply distribute funding, Love Orlando will partner with local, nonprofit organizations to address a range of issues, from homeless prevention to food for impoverished elementary-school kids to transitional housing.

How LOVE ORLANDO came about...

Some of you know of the 60 Minutes "Hard Times Generation" segment that aired earlier this year... Bruce Wilkinson (author of The Prayer of Jabez) was scheduled as a guest speaker at our church about a week after that segment aired... Well... he came to Orlando and challenged us (First Baptist/Orlando congregation) to do something about the "new homeless" in Central Florida... our church's response was pledges totaling more than $5.6 million (to be given by the end of this year) -- specifically to address this situation and help families that so desperately need hope... so I was a little surprised to watch this second segment which aired in November...

60 Minutes: Hard Times Generation60 Minutes: Hard Times Generation
Scott Pelley from CBS’ 60 Minutes program presented a follow up segment to the eye-opening “Hard Times Generation” piece that aired eight months ago. Both stories detailed the plight of homeless families with children, living in Central Florida. Click here to watch the program if you missed it when it aired on November 27th (and the response from the Second Harvest Food Bank). 

I would like to challenge you to find a non-profit, charity, faith-based organization, etc... and make a donation... it's pretty easy to see what's truly important after watching these segments... feeding, clothing, and providing shelter for families who are struggling to find hope... or buying another video game for a child or grandchild who really doesn't need it... find the charity or cause that ignites your passion and do something to make a difference for those around you!


Last year I sent an email to a bunch of friends and family members with a link to watch the most incredible Christmas food court flash mob ever... most appropriate as we enter this Christmas season and celebrate our Lord's birth.... so, I decided to check it out on YouTube (watched it several more times) and found that is has been viewed over 34 MILLION times since being posted late last year! That has broken ALL flash mob world records! I decided to do a little more digging to find out where it took place and learn more about the folks who made the video.
Seaway Mall
Here are links to my findings:

Where it was shot: At the Welland Seaway Mall in Welland, Ontario... about 10 miles southwest of Niagra Falls, best I can tell from the map on their FB page... I just looked at the Mall's website and on their opening page, they have a link to view the video! How cool is that?!

Group that produced the video: Alphabet Photography (They are located in Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada with offices in the US and UK.) In 2010 alone, Jennifer Blakely (founder of Alphabet Photography) partnered with over 20 non-profit organizations, donating more than $30,000 back to these charities.
Celebrity fans of Official Alphabet Photography include: Nelly Furtado; John Schneider; Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Drew Barrymore, just to name a few.

What they do: Using photographs of architectural detail, they have chosen those details that resemble letters to spell out family names, inspirational words, etc. I had just started seeing this kind of artwork lately and I love it... Can you see the word in this image?

Since its inception in 2007, Official Alphabet® Photography has generated more than 100,000 online orders, has received worldwide media attention as far as Chile & Australia, and even Prince Charles himself called the work "smashing"!

If you go to this link on their site, you can type in a word (I typed "Christmas" to get the image above - were you able to read that?) and it will replace the letters with photos of these archectural details... if you don't particularly like one (or all) of the letters, you can click on one and a pop-up opens that shows additional photos for that letter.

What they have made available for iPhone/iPad users for FREE:
Earlier this year, Alphabet Photography developed and launched an iPhone/iPad App entitled Word Chaos. This innovative word scramble game has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in the Apple App Store. (I just downloaded it... it's going to be one of my favorites... you get photos that are scrambled and you have to unscramble them into the correct word.) Here's what the screen looks like... it's interesting that it's automatically turned the long way on my phone...
The letters represented here are: F G O... you drag each letter down into a spot below and in the right order to spell FOG and you then get another set of letters to guess the next word.
I am a true addict of word games... I have several on my iPhone and I usually have the maximum of 18 games of Words with Friends (like Scrabble) going on most of the time... I don't play it constantly or even every day... but I do think it helps keep me sharp and may be instrumental in warding off Alzheimer's... ; )

Hope you'll take a minute to watch the video (again) and let others know about it too... a great way to get the word out as to the real reason for the season!


Friday, December 2, 2011

God is so GOOD... all the time...!!

I continue to be amazed at God's perfect timing! You would think at almost 59 years of age... I would have come to expect it but each time He does something new for us, His grace and compassion are almost overwhelming. I am humbled once again by His care for us.

As I mentioned in a previous post a few days ago... Steve's first SS payment was expected on 12/21 (that's what the local SS office had told him)... I was wondering how we were going to pay car insurance, rent, etc. on our unemployment income...

Well... I checked our bank account on line this morning (to make sure his unemployment had been deposited yesterday or today)... not only was the unemployment in there but his first SS payment had been deposited yesterday! (I'm guessing that was actually for November.)


I'll  have some cute gift cards and gift card holder cards to show you in the next post... gotta take some pictures first though...

I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend as we head into this hectic holiday season... and I hope you have the opportunity to go to at least one Christmas pageant or concert to celebrate the real meaning of the season... We all have so much to be thankful for... the most important ... the birth of our Saviour and Redeemer... the greatest gift ever given.