Christmas Cards, Killer Whales, and Cows

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Whew! This will be a mixed bag today. I have a lot to share and not much time in which to do it …

First of all, it looks like the Andrews family has missed every Christmas card deadline this year. Ugh. As much as we enjoy receiving them, it is aggravating that none will go out from us. It seems like every time we were about to head to the beach for pictures, it would rain, or there was too much homework, or a cat was lost. Or something. Anyway, no Christmas cards from us this year. But we do have a possibility for New Years!

It snowed at the beach last week! Only a tiny bit, but in some places along the gulf coast, it actually stuck on the ground. Hmmmm … global warming? In an unrelated event, a local boat captain and his passengers aboard The Shady Lady saw, photographed, and filmed Killer Whales in the Gulf of Mexico only 90 miles from Orange Beach, Alabama! And not just a couple either … They saw more than two hundred Orcas in several pods. Read the story and see the pictures here.

I am currently on my third month of a total “news fast”. No news. None. No newspapers. No FoxNews or CNN. No talk radio. Why? For the simple reason that reading or listening to the news makes me mad. When I disagree with what I am hearing, I get mad. And when I agree with what I am hearing—because I can’t do anything about it—I get mad.

Here is my problem: I am a husband, a dad, and a businessperson and I have found that I don’t do my best parenting or my best writing when I am mad. I am not the best husband I know how to be when I am mad. Or when I am scared. Thus, the “news fast”.

Last week in his blog, my publisher and friend, Mike Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson, wrote that bad news can perpetuate itself. He pointed out, rightly, that the news media exacerbates our economic woes with their reporting. “They are systematically undermining consumer confidence,” he stated. “This is a case where reporting the news is actually causing the news.”

Occasionally, when I mention my “news fast” to others, someone’s comments are along the line of, “Are you asking us to be ignorant?” So first … no—I haven’t asked you to do anything. I am just telling you what I am doing. And second, if you do decide to focus on something besides the news, I promise you won’t miss anything important. If it gets bad enough, someone will call and tell us!!

This cow has changed our Christmas.

Cows

The pretty girl with chestnut colored hair in the middle of the picture is Kim Pace. Kim is the daughter of close friends of ours, Jim and Mary Pace from the Atlanta area. The lady in the multicolored dress is Jane. She is flanked by her local pastor (an unpaid position) and surrounded by her children and one of Kim’s staff. Jane and her children dressed in their best clothes for this photograph.

Kim is a missionary in Kenya. She is 30 years old and has been on the African continent for almost a decade. A couple of years ago, Jim and Mary were visiting their daughter and went with her to the western part of the country. There, they experienced poverty that we, in our country, find tough to even imagine.

One morning, in a one room, mud hut, Jim and Mary met Jane. Jane’s husband had been killed in a job related accident the year before. Seeing her “guests” sitting on her dirt floor, Jane was horrified that she had nothing—no food, no tea—to offer them. Kim assured her friend that her parents were expecting nothing and were not offended. Still, Jane was embarrassed.

As the children sat quietly in the laps of the adults, Kim noticed a child missing. “Jane,” she asked softly, “Where is Purity?”

Jane’s eyes filled with tears as the corners of her mouth tugged down. “I had to give her to another family,” she said. “I could not feed her.” Then, with guests in her home, the young mother put her face in her hands and cried.

Jim stepped outside the tiny hut and saw Edwin, Jane’s pastor, nearby. Wiping tears of his own away, Jim told Edwin what had happened and began to take every dollar he had out of his pockets. But before Jim could go back inside with the money, Edwin stopped him. “Please sir,” he said, “you are most generous, but may I make a suggestion?”

“Of course,” Jim answered.

“If you really want to help Jane,” the pastor said, “don’t give her all your money. It will only run out. Just buy her a cow.”

Jim was taken aback. “What?” he asked. “A cow?”

“Yes,” Edwin went on to explain, “Jane can use the cow’s milk to feed her family and any that is left over can be sold in order to afford some grain for bread. A family with a cow will never go hungry. In fact,” Edwin added, “one cow can provide enough nourishment to keep almost fifty children alive.”

“How much is a cow?” Jim asked carefully.

“About five hundred of your dollars,” was the answer.

Jim looked. He had more than that in his hand. The cow was purchased that day.

A week later, Jim was back in America. In New York City on business, he found himself unable to shake from his mind the experience with Jane and her family. One afternoon, in a hotel lobby waiting on a friend, a lady seated nearby struck up a conversation. After asking Jim where he was from and a bit about his family, this woman then asked an unusual question. “What is the most gratifying thing you have done recently?”

Jim raised his eyebrows, smiled and said, “I bought a cow.”

After relating his experience, the woman asked, “Can I buy a cow, too?”

“I guess,” was Jim’s answer and after a quick phone call, he gave the woman an address to use.

Neither Jim nor Mary has given a speech or written a letter requesting help. Kim has not asked that anyone pay special attention to the people to whom she ministers in western Kenya. Edwin operates an orphanage with 1,800 children and oversees two medical clinics. He receives no salary, yet never advertises his needs. Everything that has happened since Jim and Mary’s first of six trips to Kenya has been done by word of mouth. And as of today, 123 cows have been purchased.

Several months ago, Polly, the boys and I began talking about the children in Africa. You know, perspective is a wonderful thing. As crazy as the economy is here, we are attempting to be extremely grateful for a roof over our heads, clean water, and food to eat. Austin (9) and Adam (6) have done extra work to earn dollars for “Miss Kim’s children”. Polly and I have managed to save a bit of extra money that, I suppose, would have gone for vanilla lattes or another shirt or more fishing equipment.

So yesterday, with what we had saved, we bought two cows. The check was sent to:

Brackenhurst Ministries
104 Bridgewater Drive
Peachtree City, GA 30269

We think it might be our best gift ever.

Merry Christmas,
Andy


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