Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There are moments when the knowledge of what goes on outside of the four walls of my home is enough to send me into despair. When I stop to let the facts sink in it is overwhelming. When you read this information there will be so many reactions, anger, hate, doubt, fear, and sadness just to name a few.
I try to ask myself, what if it happened to me, what if my six year old was taken as a sex slave for tourists. I looked at Maris and really let myself go to a place I have never gone, to try imagining her with a man 30 years her senior. To see her tiny body being taken advantage of, her spirit crushed, the innocence I fight so hard to protect tore open. It sent me to a despair that was beyond what I could imagine and yet I know that there are thousands who live this nightmare everyday.
There are countless numbers of people who fight their own battle daily. They are all around us if we choose to see them and put ourselves, if only for a moment, in their shoes. Imagine being forced to kill or be killed, to be desensitized by watching a sibling or friend brutally killed in front of your eyes. To be so desperately thirsty that you are forced to drink the very water that you know may kill you. To watch “the disease” take first your father and then your mother…to fear going to the clinic because you might also be infected. To be so proud of your loved one and the sacrifice they gave and yet at the same time to miss them with every breath you take.
I urge you to truly feel these emotions, question God, your beliefs, the world as you know it. Be angry, hate the injustice, grieve the innocence that is brutally stolen, fear what is in the heart of man and what he is capable of doing, sorrow with the mothers and fathers whose children have been abducted, despair with those children forced to carry a gun, scream, cry, yell, let your soul be torn apart, there is only one thing that I beg of you to not do. It is truly the worst thing that you could do… nothing. Do not turn away, listen, do you hear their voices cry out for help. This is a part of your story now, a moment in time that you choose to act or turn away, it is entirely up to you.
“Having heard of all of this, you may choose to look the other way… but you can never say again that you did not know.” --William Wilberforce, British Politician, Abolitionist


Moments in time. There are the big moments, the ones that change your life in big ways. A church lit by candle light and speaking the words, "I do". A hospital room small and overfilled with another small phrase, "it's a girl". The Miami airport, 13 long months of praying and waiting...there he is, a hand off, "here is your daughter." Big moments, small phrases. A beautiful June day, the sun shining through the blinds, first ultrasound, smiles all around..."there is no heartbeat." Joking about the colonoscopy, an hour later the solemn words, "stage 3 cancer." Big moments, small phrases. Then there are the small moments, the little things that slowly change and shape us, our ideas, our attitudes. An evening in November, deciding to sponsor a child a world away. A night terror in a toddler, praying, hugging, and realizing we are not in control. A gift given that shows that someone really, truly knows you. A quote that deepens your understanding of someone else's pain. The smile of a child on a tiny impoverished island when given her first doll. The brush of a hand, a glance, a heartbeat quickening, sticky fingers and wet kisses, sleeping babies. Our lives are filled with small moments and sometimes these small moments lead us to something bigger than we could have ever imagined, that is where I am.

Moments. We have been world vision sponsors for 6 years and this year I let my 5 year old daughter look through the Christmas gift catalog with me. As Damaris is looking through the pictures I see her little mind working through all that she is seeing and she begins to ask questions about why children are running through water. I explain to her that it is a well and that not all children in the world have running water. "how do they go to the bathroom?, where do they brush their teeth?, what do they drink?" Well needless to say after our conversation she wanted to build a well! We now have a "well box" that we put spare change in and all the kids have gone through their rooms preparing to have a garage sale to raise money to build a well in a third world country someday. (

Moments. I was watching the today show, a rare occasion for a mother of 3, and there was a designer who designed a dress in beautiful, bold colors to raise money for a charity in Africa. It is a beautiful, but as Anne Curry points out it only comes in the size of the model, a 0.

Moments. Shane and I watched the movie, Amazing Grace. I am inspired, convicted, encouraged, overwhelmed. William Wilberforce dedicated his life to free slaves…and he accomplished it without his country going to war.

Moments. I have decided that I want a new red Motorola phone, the one that donates money to charity. I have a perfectly fine phone but red is my favorite color and it is for a good cause. The same day I decide this I get my World Vision magazine featuring women in India, a family torn a part by AIDS, siblings using a hole in the ground of their electricity free home to cook dinner with dry twigs and tin pots. Their mother has died of AIDS leaving her 13 year old daughter as head of the household. I decide I don't need a new phone, my old one works just fine.

Moments. I watch the follow up to Oprah's pay it forward challenge, amazing what one person with vision can do to change the world.

Moments. When I got to work this morning Dr. L asked me if I ever think about “Big things”? Everyday.

Moments. Every time I hear that Switchfoot song I wonder..."This is your life and today is all you got now and today is all you ever have, don't close your eyes this is your life are you who you want to be, this is your life is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose..."

Moments. Seriously I have missed extreme home make over once since it began, every Sunday I put the kids down a little early and make a pot of decaf, pull my favorite chair up to the tv and cry and laugh and wonder what it would be like to change someone's life, to offer hope and inspire courage. It is so much more than a house, and I love every minute of it, yet when it’s over there is an emptiness and I wonder what difference I will make in this world?

Moments. This is your life...God has given me a vision that I can't get out of my head and so here I am.


I am mother, sister, friend is a non profit created to funnel monies into existing organizations all under specific categories of mother, sister, and friend. Our purpose is to raise money through our online auctions with 100% of our proceeds given away. I have heard the quote often lately, “Be the change you want to see in the world”- Gandhi. I am a stay at home mother of three and I want to be a part of changing history. I know that united with mothers, sisters, and friends across the world we can begin to seek justice and love mercy. It is with great hope that I launch I Am Mother, Sister, Friend.
As women we fit into at least one of the following categories: Mother, Sister, Friend. No matter the color of our skin, how we have registered to vote, or who we choose to worship, we, as women, are unified through these honored titles. I believe there are moments when we must choose to lay aside our differences and work together on this earth that we all call home. This does not mean we do not maintain our beliefs, it simply means that we respect each other and unite despite our differences. Below is an incredible example of this kind of unity.
Mirembe Kawomera Coffee began with one man’s dream. In 2004, JJ Keki, a Ugandan coffee farmer, walked door to door asking his Jewish, Christian, and Muslim neighbors to put aside old differences and come together. Their community of third and fourth generation coffee farmers was struggling to make a living off the low prices offered by the local market. With the assistance of Laura Wetzler from the US-based organization Kulanu, these Jewish, Christian and Muslim farmers formed a cooperative to build lasting prosperity in their villages and to spread a message of peace throughout the world. They named their coffee Mirembe Kawomera, which means, “Delicious Peace” in the Luganda language. Now in 2007, the Peace Kawomera Cooperative has grown to over 700 members. Thanks to their collective effort, the farmers sell directly to Thanksgiving Coffee Company, and receive prices four times higher than what they were previously paid. This has enabled farmers to send their children to school, start savings accounts, and reinvest in their farms. Together, the farmers have succeeded in doing something that none could have done alone. As they face the many challenges of life in rural Uganda, they look to their cooperative for hope and strength. In the coming years, the Cooperative plans to invest in land and equipment, offer microfinance to members and contribute to a variety of public health and education projects. (Thanksgiving Coffee Company)

Simply put, what we cannot do alone we can certainly do together.


President: Malia Witham, Mother, Sister, Friend

Treasurer: Mother, Maureen Kruse. My mom is an amazing woman; she is the quiet strength of our family. Although she has many great qualities, I admire her humility above all. I am honored to be her daughter and strive to raise my children with the grace and love that she raised me.

Treasurer: Sister, Kela Brackman. Although my sister and I see each other only once every few years we always pick up right where we left off. She is faithful, kind, and strong. She has been by my side whenever I needed her. We laugh and cry together like with no one else. The bond of sisterhood is unbreakable and she will always be my true friend.

Secretary: Friend, Cherrie Cornish. My friend Cherrie is unlike anyone I know. She is one of the most generous and selfless people I have ever met. She has taught me the meaning of the saying, it is better to give than receive and her passion for serving is an inspiration to me.


I AM MOTHER will focus on building wells in impoverished communities all over the world. As a mother it is my responsibility to take care of my children but for many mothers their time is not spent worrying about buckling seatbelts and making sure their children eat their fruits and vegetables, it is hoping that their children are not:

-one of the 1 million children who will die at the hands of malaria each year from being bitten by insects that breed in water

-one of the 1.6 million who will die of diarrhea from drinking contaminated water

-one of the 6 million who will go blind from trachoma caused by washing with contaminated water

-one of the 12 million who will be affected by typhoid fever

-one of the 400 million school age children who will be infected with parasitic worms due to contaminated water. (Source World Vision)

Sometimes reading statistics like those above go in one ear and out the other. Stop a moment, let those numbers sink in; read them again and again if you need to. Absorb the magnitude of this reality. Diseases linked to water that is contaminated kills a child every 15 seconds. In the time it has taken you to read this paragraph four children have died!
It is almost unfathomable to those of us in the US, where water runs clean and clear out of multiple faucets within our homes, to understand life without this precious, natural resource. When we were in Haiti we were shown water stations as we drove through the country side and told that they will go days with no water, it was hit and miss. Understanding also that this water, that people walk miles to retrieve and which may or may not be available to them, is full of deadly bacteria, parasites and water-borne diseases.

Not only is water killing a percentage of the world’s children it is also robbing them of an education. Young girls will haul this unclean water all day instead of going to school. There is a saying in Ghana: “If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. Yet our girls will spend their days hauling the very water that may eventually kill them instead of being given the opportunity to better their own lives and the lives around them.

But there is always hope! All proceeds under I AM MOTHER will go to World Vision’s well building program in multiple countries. The following information is from World Vision’s Water Matters website.

“Water brings change. Some changes are immediately obvious and others happen slowly over time. In countries like Malawi, a well just 60 feet deep can bring new health and life to a community of 150 people. The well your gift helps dig will be capable of providing more than 600 gallons of safe water a day for drinking, bathing, irrigating crops, and nourishing livestock.

Safe water brings a dramatic improvement to health, especially for young children. They stop suffering from diseases caused by drinking or bathing in unsafe water. There’s also more water for washing regularly improving hygiene. People don’t get sick as often so they’re able to work harder. Food crops improve when there’s a good supply of water, providing better nutrition to keep healthy.

Instead of spending hours carrying water every day children have enough time to go to school. They’re less tired and can concentrate better on their studies and homework. Attending regularly improves their learning and they’re more likely to do well and continue onto high school. With an education their future job opportunities expand.

Traditional roles begin to change as girls gain equal access to education and women gain skills to earn an income. Their contribution is valued so they participate more in community decisions and everyone benefits.

Healthier animals and bigger crops provide a surplus that can be sold for income. Increased family incomes means there’s more trading at markets and new businesses are more successful. Families start saving and have extra they can contribute to community activities and infrastructure such as health clinics, school facilities, training, roads, and transport.

With improved technology it’s much quicker and easier to access water, saving time and energy for other activities. The water is protected from contamination providing a sustainable safe supply. People learn skills to maintain the technology which can lead to new ideas and opportunities. Access to technology helps leaders develop these opportunities and plan changes that will benefit their community.

Over the past 20 years, World Vision has helped provide clean water for more than 10 million people.”

The gift of water is the gift of life. It is a gift that we are able to give to hundreds of thousands of people around the world for a minimum amount of money. A traditional well is only $5390 while a Deep Well, which provides up to 2,800 gallons of safe water a day for as many as 300 people, is $18,000.

“When our drilling teams strike water, entire villages erupt in celebration because a clean water source can cut a community’s child mortality rate in half.” World Vision (


I AM SISTER will focus on the many women and children who are currently living in the bondage of human trafficking, sex tourism and sex slavery. My sister and I have always loved, supported, and stood up for each other…it’s what sisters do. Likewise there is a loyalty and an understanding between women, a unique sisterhood and common bond. We are both strong and nurturing, independent and yet strengthened by each other. I have never met Linda Smith the President and Founder of Shared Hope International yet I feel a kinship, I am proud of her and what she has done through SHI. I am proud that she saw and acted… she did not walk a way. Her moment in time came… “In the fall of 1998, while still a member of the U.S. Congress, Linda Smith traveled to Falkland Road in Bombay, India- one of the worst brothel districts in the world. The hopeless faces of desperate women and children forced into prostitution compelled Linda to found Shared Hope International (SHI). Linda's model for restoration has been revolutionary. SHI builds partnerships with local groups to provide homes and shelters where women and children can live with no time limit. These Villages of Hope have a holistic approach to recovery, including educational and job skills training.” -SHI Website

“Shared Hope International rescues and restores women and children in crisis.” With a motto of prevent, rescue, and restore they make a difference one life at a time. What I love about this organization is that they have an offense as well as a defense. I heard it said that the difference between compassion and justice is that compassion is responding to a need while justice is getting to the source of the problem. SHI is “working hard to impede demand, to repress the buying and selling of precious lives sold into the sex trade industry.”(SHI Annual Report 2006). They have a program called “Homes of Hope” in several countries. “SHI partners with organizations to care for and nurture victims of sex trafficking at strategically located Homes of Hope. Homes are currently operating in Fiji, Jamaica, South Africa and India, and include residential facilities, addiction recovery, medical and mental healthcare, education, vocational training and economic development programs” SHI. They are incredible places of healing and opportunity for women and children to be in a vocational program and to receive love and care from staff preparing them to start a new life. “Restoration has always been a crucial part of our work- prevention and rescue are only two-thirds of the mission. The agony a child goes through in this kind of nightmare experience must be addressed- and it must be addressed in a place of safety and security, a place of love and care.” (SHI Annual Report 2006).

In February of 1838, Angelina Grimke, the first woman to address a legislative body in the United States, wrote in her pamphlet Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, “And as a moral being I feel that I owe it to the suffering slave, and to the deluded master, to my country and the world, to do all that I can to overturn a system of complicated crime, built up upon the broken hearts and prostrate bodies of my countrymen in chains, and cemented by the blood and sweat and tears of my sisters in bonds.” Angelina was a self proclaimed “repentant slave holder” and believed that the nation’s women were duty bound to end slavery. We have sisters in bonds today, the face of slavery has changed but it is no less present and as women perhaps it is again up to us to seek deliverance.

All proceeds under I AM SISTER will go directly to Shared Hope International. (


I AM FRIEND will focus on our very own American hero’s. “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. I can think of no other organization that truly serves all people without prejudice than our military. Rich, poor, young, old, black, white, brown, democrat, republican, christian, catholic, atheist, male, or female. They serve Americans, they serve in honor and dignity for all those who have served before them, they serve with pride and sacrifice for their loved ones at home, and they serve for their country and all that it stands for. They fight for our continued freedom and they are heroes. They give years of their lives, time with their spouses, children and families. They give up careers, comforts, and wealth. Ultimately there are times these brave men and women even give their lives…voluntarily. Our military is strictly volunteer, that is an American soldier, that is the kind of people they are, they enlist and re-enlist to serve us even in war time when combat is almost a certainty. They are the ultimate friend and for those who risk their lives to protect your children and mine it is our responsibility to make sure that the children of these heroes are taken care of.

It is hard for us living in the 20th Century to truly realize how radical our founding fathers were. The idea to create a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was revolutionary in that time period. It offered the dream of freedom, hope, and a new life for those living under a tyranny that they could never have escaped otherwise. We were and continue to be the land of opportunity. Though they may not have truly realized it when they penned the words “all men are created equal” they set our country on a course of racial equality unheard of in that time. It is true that we have had many a dark hour and have done things for which we hang our heads in shame, but hopefully we have learned from our mistakes and are able to be proud of our country, proud that we broke free from hatred and ignorance. Proud that the words of the constitution were a foreshadowing of the America to come. It is a set of beliefs and ideals worth fighting for. Freedoms price is high and there are those today who pay with their lives. All monies under I AM FRIEND will go to the The Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund which “honors the bravery and dedication exhibited by Americans in our Armed Forces who have sacrificed life or limb defending our country by providing educational scholarships to their children. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardsmen have been killed in the War on Terror. Thousands more members of our Armed Forces have been permanently disabled, leaving their families in difficult financial situations. Their children – the sons and daughters of America’s military heroes – (many of whom are now young) will be eligible for a Freedom Alliance Scholarship in the years to come. Freedom Alliance has established a permanent Scholarship Trust Fund to aid the children of these brave Americans so that for many years to come, we will be able to help the children of American heroes when it is their turn to attend college. Through the generosity of so many patriotic Americans, the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships for thousands of young Americans, reminding them that their parents’ sacrifice will never be forgotten by a grateful nation.” (Freedom Alliance).

No matter how we feel about the war on terror all Americans love our country and can respect those who give their lives and service to preserving it. It is in this patriotism that we remember President Lincoln’s words, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It is rather for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

All proceeds under I AM FRIEND will be designated to the scholarship fund of the Freedom Alliance. (


There are some things as mankind that we can all agree on and come together to help solve. Children should not be dying by the millions because they lack clean water, women and children should not be sold into slavery and caged as animals, our troops who fight for our freedom and safety should be honored at home. We may have many differences of opinion on many different topics but there comes a point when we put them aside and come together for a greater good and this is one of those times. We can change the world, we can make a difference.

Sometimes, however, we need that one story to truly begin to understand and to visualize a situation. To relate past the numbers, to feel above the statistics, to respond with a desire for justice we need to see a face. There are many faces that have brought reality to my own world. The first was a photo listing of orphans in Haiti, October of 2001, the night I knew we would someday adopt a baby. Then there was “Nicky” whom we have sponsored through World Vision for the past six and a half years, I’ll never forget the night in November that I first saw his face. Then there was holding D in Haiti, knowing that her body was fighting against a disease that would someday take her life. And her precious sister Raphael, who at the age of 4 was raped because of the myth that if someone with AIDS has sex with a virgin they will be cured. I will never in my life forget the sound of Jacob’s crying from the movie Invisible Children and Tony asking them to not forget about him. Captain Shane Adcock is the face of sacrifice, he married my childhood best friend and then 4 months later gave his life for freedom. Then there were the children in South Africa from the documentary “Angels in the Dust” whose joy and laughter in the midst of extreme poverty filled my heart with hope. And most recently, Grace Akallo. I have no words for what Grace’s story has done to me. She is the epitome of strength and of one who continues to overcome her brutal months of being one of Uganda’s “child soldiers”. It is in these faces that I know I must act, in this moment that I decide that what little I am able to do is better than nothing at all. Maybe this is your moment too, where we join together…mother, sister and friend and we make a difference in whatever way we can.

As I think back now even my children needed a face to truly understand, and their face was found in none other than their own sister. My daughter Damaris has inherited her righteous indignation from her mother. She, like so many of us, has one of two emotions when faced with the reality of social justice and fairness in the world, compassion and/or anger. I actually consider both proper and necessary to instill change. I felt the Lord tell me one night, if you want a new perspective on social justice tell a child what goes on in the world outside of their homes. I will never forget the day I told her that not all children in the world have running water…it blew her mind. She could not comprehend this growing up in America where most homes have several faucets and water is in abundance. I watched her mind try to grasp this concept knowing that I can barely do that myself. That was the day we decided that our family would raise money to build a well through World Vision. There have been more moments of understanding for my children as I have told them a little about the war in Uganda and why we were raising money for Invisible Children, when I tell them about Haiti and the food crisis and as we pray for the orphans, and as we pray safety for “Nicky” our child that we sponsor in Zimbabwe as violence escalates in his country. But the day that Damaris and Kruse were given a face was the day we read about the civil rights movement. During Black history month I bought books on Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I gave them a history on the civil war, why it was fought. I told them if we had been alive we would have proudly been a stop on the underground railroad. I told them how “Grandma Moses” led hundreds of slaves to freedom, how President Abraham Lincoln led the North to victory. And I told them how the end of slavery was only the beginning of a very long road to freedom for Black Americans. I told them of segregation, that whites had special bathrooms, restaurants, schools and even churches. Then they saw a picture of two drinking fountains with the words “whites only” and they looked at me with a sadness and an understanding that those words would have literally tore our family apart. They realized that their sister would have been treated differently because of the color of her skin. I was proud of their defense of Hope and there genuine feelings of love and protection for their baby sister. Kruse asked me how they would feel about our family and I told him that they would have hated us and not understood. Damaris got angry as I tried to explain the unexplainable. She wondered why they did not call the police and I told her the police upheld the law of segregation. I saw her confusion as we teach them police are our protectors and yet here they were enforcing a law that defied our every belief. I told her the laws were wrong and how Rosa Parks took a stand and began the boycotting of the bus system that led to the civil rights movement’s greatest victory thus far. And I told them of Martin Luther King Jr. who fought a war with words and peace and love as its weapons. I saw it in my children’s eyes as the face of their understanding was that of their own precious sister.

We are currently in the process of becoming a non-profit and are working on our funding, we will let you know how you can be involved in the remedy soon.