Mission Ideas

Service Opportunities: Friendship Families

Caroline and her husband have done a tremendous job leading a local program, Friendship Families, where families can welcome and “adopt” an international college student. I asked her to share a little bit of her heart in opening up their lives and their home.

Each year hundreds of students come from all over the world to do cultural exchange in our city. Most stay only for a couple weeks but others stay here for a few years. The students that stay here to attend college feel that they are fulfilling their “American dream”. For most students it is their first time away from home. Soon after the excitement of being in a new country wears off they begin to realize that they don’t know where to buy clothes for a season called “winter”, they have run out of every toiletry they packed and they really just want to eat something familiar. Sure, they might find someone from school to give them a ride to Walmart, but with 42 different shampoo/conditioner options written in English, more than likely they will leave feeling frustrated. 

What would happen if they had a family come alongside them to help them learn all about their new “home” away from home? For starters, Walmart would not seem so intimidating and they would have a local able to introduce them to the culture. Imagine picking your very first pumpkin, attending your first American wedding or celebrating Easter and learning that it was about so much more than a rabbit. By being a part of a group called Friendship Families, a group of local families that have adopted a student during their time in America, this has allowed us to see joy that comes from inviting a student into our home and lives. For our family, our adopted student hasn’t just had the opportunity to learn about us but she has also shared about her family and culture back home. Just the other day we were talking about how when she graduates in four years, she will have watched my children grow up from infant to kindergarten and how we get to watch her grow up too!

If you have the desire to open your home and life to a student, it is something you will not regret. For those thinking they would never have the time to commit, I’ll be the first to admit I thought so too. My husband so graciously reminded me that we eat meals everyday- no biggie to add another plate and we also go and do family activities, like going to the pumpkin patch-no biggie because our car has extra seats. The friendships between your family and your student will be deep and they will last a lifetime.

Next year the Friendship Family program anticipates having almost 40 new students. If you would like to know what the program is all about or if you would like to get involved, I would encourage you to check out the program and consider attending our end of the year celebration for our first group of graduating seniors. Last school year, before all of the students went home for the summer a few sent us messages saying that without their family they didn’t think they would have ever left their school’s campus and they would have been very lonely. So many left for summer break feeling like when they returned for the Fall Semester they knew they would have their American family here waiting on them with open arms.

Not everyone who reads this is local to Spartanburg, but this is something that you can do too! Do you live near a college or university? They more than likely will have international students attending! Connect with their Dean of Students and ask how you can serve their students. They will be excited that someone cares!

And if you are local, email us and we will connect you with Friendship Families so you can learn how to make dumplings, watch someone pick apples for the first time, and have the opportunity to love and welcome someone to your table and into your home and heart!

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Blog, Mission Ideas

Service Ideas: “Love” Month

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My oldest came home the other day talking all about Valentines Day but she kept referring to it as  “Love Day”. It made me giggle a little bit to hear her call it that, but It also got me thinking about what we celebrate and why and how and why it couldn’t be more than just one day. What if we set aside time throughout the month, and really the whole year, to love and be loved. 

How can you love others well this month? Maybe you need to slow down and show love within the four walls of your home? Maybe you need to walk across the street and show love to the new neighbor that just moved in? Maybe you need to share love to the complete stranger who you pass in the grocery store?

Here are just a few ways we hope to show love around our home:

1. Valentines Mail  –  Before the little ones came along, we would write little notes on hearts, put in a “mailbox” and enjoy opening them up randomly each day leading up to Valentine’s Day. Now with the little ones, they LOVE checking the mailbox and hanging their heart mail throughout the month.  We write things we love about each other, silly jokes, or just a quick hello – whatever we want to say!

2.  Loving Others Sticker Challenge  –  Throughout the month, we are going to play a little game if you will. Each time I see the girls loving and serving others, we’re going to get a heart sticker on our Love Month Heart.  Stickers could come for helping our sister pick up their room, feeding Nola without being asked, helping mommy make cookies for others, being kind and loving with our words and any other “act of love”.  There are lots of things that you can do with the game board once it’s full like give prizes, etc., but we will just be celebrating all the stickers and all the loving! Have fun being creative with it and see how much love you can share!

3. Sharing the Love – Last year the girls and I had such a fun time making and decorating cookies and delivering them to some of our homeless friends. We plan on doing that again this year and making sure they continue to feel extra loved on a day when they are often forgotten.

How will you be celebrating “Love Month” with your little one? It’s so fun to share our ideas and pictures to encourage one another. Be sure to tag us @onmissionmoms so we can all see and celebrate loving and serving others.

For more ideas and ways to serve others, be sure to click over to our Pinterest Board too!

Blog, Mission Ideas

Prayer Meal: New Orleans

I’m always super eager to pack up the Christmas decor around the first or so of January because I know that my next favorite season is coming up soon after – Mardi Gras! Throughout the months of January and February this year,  people in New Orleans (and all over the world) are celebrating Carnival. I’ll be the first to admit, I love a fun parade and all the beads and ridiculous trinkets that we stand for hours to catch as floats pass by. If you have never been to New Orleans, you really need to go – it’s so much more than Mardi Gras and what you see on TV. It’s an amazing city filled with incredible people! Can you tell how much I miss living in that city!?!

This month I will be preparing a yummy New Orleans meal probably more than once. I gotta squeeze in my favorite red beans and rice, jambalaya and maybe even some gumbo. I will also be making King Cake and hopefully trying my hand at pralines (pronounced correctly, of course!).  Be sure to check our our Pinterest page for all the yummy recipes and fun Mardi Gras activities that you could do with your little ones to lead you to the most important thing – to pray for that great city and her people.

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New Orleans Prayer Meal Idea

Red Beans & Rice

Salad

French Bread

King Cake

There are several great churches doing great work in the city of New Orleans and I wish that I could highlight them all. As my family enjoys our yummy meal of red beans and rice this Mardi Gras season, we will be praying for many of our friends and churches including Page & Ashley and their fun family at Canal Street Church. Pray that this church (and many others) will have lots of opportunities to serve the thousands of tourists that come to New Orleans during these weeks. Pray for open doors and conversations that lead to life change and salvations.  Praise the Lord for families like Page & Ashley and others who serve Jesus so faithfully with their families in this great city. And if you are ever visiting NOLA, be sure to stop in and worship with them!

Here are some fun things that you can add to your Mardi Gras dinner to make it more festive! (These are affiliate links so On Mission Moms does receive a super small portion of any purchase that you make! Thanks for supporting our work!)

(If you aren’t up to making your own King Cake or Red Beans & Rice, these are a “great” quick way to enjoy a taste of New Orleans and still pray for this great city, although not quite the “real” thing. )

*The links above are great recipes that I’ve prepared myself; however, there are LOTS of other great recipes over on our Pinterest page too! I’m not endorsing these particular websites.  Be sure to share your favorite Mardi Gras or New Orleans recipe with us in the comments below or over in our Facebook Group!

Blog, Mission Ideas, On Mission

Service Opportunity: Christmas Caroling with Littles

There is just something special and sweet about little ones singing Christmas carols unless it’s Jingle Bells for the 100th time at the top of their lungs. It’s even sweeter when they are singing for sweet friends at a local assisted living center. This morning we had 14 super cute little ones and 7 mamas ready to sing and worship Jesus and it was the sweetest (and shortest 15 minutes) and a fun way to kick off this Christmas Season!

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It was really a simple and easy service opportunity. I asked a friend (who just happens to be an incredible singer and mommy) what she thought, we started chatting and planning and it was pretty much done! I called and chatted with the activities director and confirmed a date and then sent out an invite to our local On Mission Moms facebook group.  For those that were able to come, I sent a short list of songs that we would sing so that mamas could practice at home. We also made Christmas cards and passed out candy canes to all the residents that had gathered. It was super simple and a great opportunity to remind our little ones that it’s not really about Santa or elves or even singing – it’s about Jesus, and loving Him, and making him known through our words and our actions.  It also gave us mamas a chance to serve with our little ones right beside us. There’s something extra special (and maybe a little crazy too) about serving with your friends and your children and their children.

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So, find a date that works, call a local assisted living center, invite a few friends, make a few cards and then sing about Jesus and sing to Jesus!

Let us know when you have a chance to go caroling by sharing pics over on Instagram @onmissionmoms !

And because we can’t just share a couple pics of this cuteness…

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Blog, Mission Ideas

Prayer Meal Idea: Oh, Canada…

As it gets colder, I often think of our Northern neighbors, Canada, and I often wonder how in the world they handle the cold?!?  I’m a summer gal through and through! I love a good snow, but I love the southern kind of snow that shuts everything down for a few days and then we head back to school and work and it’s 60 degrees a few days later. I was even complaining this morning because it was a cold 32 degrees. In Canada, their weatherman is already calling for SNOW! I just can’t…

This month we will be enjoying a popular Canadian dish, Poutine. This is an interesting combination of a few of my favorite things. Who doesn’t love fries covered in cheese? But covered in brown gravy and cheese curds? I can’t wait to give it a TRY and spend the evening setting our hearts and minds on people a little further up north and thanking the Lord that we are a little warmer…

For some great recipes for Poutine, be sure to check out our Pinterest board. I had a hard time just picking ONE – there seems to be LOTS of thoughts and ideas on how to best make this yummy messy super unhealthy dish!

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And while we are enjoying all the yumminess, we will be thinking of one of our favorite families, the Ostrems , who live in Canada with their family working among internationals through various outreaches. As they get ready to gear up for the winter months, it’s a great time to pray for them and for all that God is doing through them.

Prayer Points:

1. Pray for their Christmas outreach event with around 150 Syrians. They will be hosting a meal and sharing the Gospel. I wonder if they will serve Poutine?! Ha

2. Pray for their sports ministry. They have some great opportunities ahead but are limited on money and staff. But we know God is NOT! So we are joining them in prayer for God to provide!

3. Pray for their family. With winter coming and families not getting out much, depression can begin to set in. Pray for great family time and opportunities during the cold hard months.

They are also a pretty talented family too – Brandy has an incredible doll making business called Blessum&Arrows that you should totally check out! Oh it makes my heart skip a beat to see these sweet little creations she has made with her hands and heart!

Let us know when you try the Poutine around your dinner table! Share a pic over on our Instagram Post!

Blog, Mission Ideas

Seizing Opportunities: Serving During the Holidays

It’s so easy during the Holiday season to want to draw a circle around your family and focus on yourselves. We all get it – there are a TON of things going on – from parties to family dinners to school programs and even to the traditions that you are striving to start within your family. It’s busy! But I want to encourage you that often times during the Holidays is when others are most open to the Gospel and when we can teach our little ones to set their minds on Jesus and others, and not themselves.

Here are some easy Thanksgiving Service Ideas that you can do with your little ones!

Host a Thanksgiving Feast and Invite Others

If you look around your neighborhood, your office, your child’s school, or at your local college, you will see lots of people who could be spending this Thanksgiving alone. Invite them to your family dinner. Ask them to join you and your family for a meal.  There is always room for one more, right?! And if you have ever had to spend a holiday alone, you will know how incredible it feels to be invited in, to have a place at the table set just for you.

Visit your local Nursing Home 

Holidays can sometimes be hard for those in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities. Encourage your child to make thankful leaves or a fall craft and deliver it to residents to brighten their days. Maybe you can get together with other moms and kiddos and make a fun adventure out of it! Make a craft and then set a time to deliver them all together!

Say Thank You and Give Thankfully! 

Look for ways with your little one to say “thank you” to those in your world that serve your family. This is easy – the trashman, the mail lady, the lawn guy (even if it is daddy or mommy). Make cookies, make a card, draw them a picture, buy them a hot coffee on a cold day – whatever it is, it encourages our little ones to not only SAY thank you but to live and give thankfully!

Collect Food for the Hungry 

We all love to sit down at our Thanksgiving meal but many in your own town won’t be doing that! Contact your local food bank, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter and see how you can partner with them to provide a Holiday Meal.  Let your little ones help you shop for the food items needed. Encourage them to make cards or “turkey hands” to go with the food items. Often times that means more to the family receiving the items than the actual items! Locally, we have an incredible program called Overflow which partners with many churches, our local United Way, and several serving agencies to provide Holiday Bags filled with food items like stuffing, beans, sweet potatoes, etc. and then provides recipes to help a family know how to prepare a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.

Get Outside and Rake! 

I love all the Fall Leaves but by November and December they are usually starting to pile up! Is there someone in your community or neighborhood who could use a little encouragement and physical help, maybe a widow that goes to your church? Offer to come over with the little ones and spend some time raking and helping them with their yard work. When it’s all piled up, let the little ones have a few jumps in the pile and enjoy the squeals of laughter! I’m sure that sweet widow will smile too!

These ideas aren’t brand new. They aren’t that “ah ha… what a great idea!” kinda thing. They are just simple ideas to help us set our time and our hearts on the right things this holiday season, serving Jesus and others. If we want to raise World Changers, we have to start somewhere and seize those opportunities to lead our little ones to love Jesus and others!

For more Thanksgiving Holiday service ideas, follow Pinterest!

And for Super cute ideas and traditions to start with your family during the Holidays, make sure you are following Ashley over at The Littles and Me! She has great fun activities and resources!

Mission Ideas, On Mission

Thankful Leaves: A Printable

If you could write out all the things you are thankful for, what would you write? We have so much to be thankful for! I’m so thankful that my sweet gals are napping in their rooms right now as I write this! Ha

Seriously though, this time of year just gets me! I love Thanksgiving and turkey and of course the pecan pie! But a huge part of it is the tradition that Dan and I started when we first got married. We began a thankful “tree” and each evening at dinner, we spent a few minutes writing what we were thankful for from that day on a little “leaf” and tying it to the tree. Some things are funny. Some things are just plain silly. Some are sweet. And some just make me cry like a baby. Once our gals came along we knew we wanted the tradition to continue and each year just gets better and better! And we also love keeping the “leaves” and going back and reading them… lots of things change from year to year.

I also have noticed that when we are more focused on things we are thankful for, our gals begin to also do the same. It’s funny how that works, eh…

So how do you foster thankfulness around your home? Do you have any traditions like a “thankful tree”?

If you don’t, I want to encourage you to start a simple tradition and take time to voice and write down things you’re thankful for this year!

Here’s a simple (like super simple) leaf printable that you can use. Just print and cut and then punch holes and tie on your tree!

Click the Link Below to Download your free printable!

Our “tree” is pretty basic too – just find a good mason jar, fill it with sticks and there ya have it! I think they even have some great “real” trees now at Hobby Lobby or Target?!

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What thankful traditions do you have?! Share your ideas here or over on our Instagram!

Here’s the free Printable!