Introducing the Missional Church by Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren

My last book of the year for my goal was “Introducing the Missional Church by Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren. This book is all about how a church can become missional and help change their community for good and the process that can be used in order to move from a church that is about attracting new attendees to a church that goes into the community and try to change it for the better regardless of how it adds to their membership.

I am not a pastor, I do not run a church and because I am leaving for Germany within the next few months (hoping and praying for this) I am not in a place within any church I read this with a slightly different mindset. I read this book thinking about how I can be missional as an individual in my new community in Germany. What I did then was change where the book said church and added myself.

This first quote basically sums up what the other half of my ministry in Germany needs to be about.

 “What is God up to in my neighborhood?” and “What are the ways I need to change in order to engage the people in my community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?” This is what a missional imagination is about.

The hardest thing for me is to figure out how to help my neighborhood, how to go about finding out what is the “right” way to go about doing that. Roxburgh and Boren relieved my fears when they said:

There isn’t one specific form, predictable pattern, or predetermined model.

I can’t wait to figure out the absolutely best and perfect way to do something, I just need to do it and if it helps people where they need help then it will be alright.

Notice that this illustration emphasizes the call of God to be his people in the midst of life, engaging everyday life in the neighborhoods where they live.

As soon as I move to my new community I plan on living life in a way of observation and action. If I notice someone carrying too many grocery bags, or dropping items, or anything else that I can help with, I will then take action and offer to help.

Offering to help will hopefully lead to conversations with no strings attached and conversations can lead to discussing God, but first it must start with observation and action.

Like I so often like to do, I want to leave you with a quote. A quote that can inspire everyone to be more missional in their everyday life. It doesn’t require you to do things you aren’t good it’s:

about doing local theology-waking up to our context and becoming God’s wonderful cooks with all the flavors and aromas of the local.

 

Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Foster

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read 15 “theology” books (check out more about my goal here and here). While it looks like I will only finish 11 of the 15 (the one today is number 10, but number 11 is almost finished) I am still happy with what I’ve done and decided to make a new goal for next year of 13 books with two in depth Bible studies in addition.

Today is all about the book Life with God: Reading for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Foster.

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If you are like me, you have read the Bible and know the stories pretty well. Even if you don’t know the stories too well, reading the Bible isn’t always the easiest, especially when reading through Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers, they aren’t exactly page turners! Even the more readily understood books like the Gospels can often be skimmed over and nothing gained from reading them. Another thing I have noticed is that “knowing” the Bible does not equate to being changed by the Bible and that is why I initially chose to read this book.

Those two things are what I want to highlight from this book today. I want to share Mr. Foster’s point of view and insight into these two topics.

It is not surprising, then, that study that focuses on knowledge alone does not lead to life transformation, which is the real human need.

The second common objective people often have for studying the Bible is to find some formula that will solve the pressing need of the moment. Thus we seek out lists of specific passages that speak to particular needs rather than seeking whole-life discipleship to Jesus.

When we read the Bible we need to do it with the mindset of being transformed by God’s Word and not just reading it to check off our list of things to do.

So how do we know if we have been transformed by reading the Bible? Mr. Foster says:

the test of whether or not we have really gotten the point of the Bible would then be the quality of love that we show.

The outpouring of love on others, whether we know them or even like them, is the true test of whether we have been changed. And how do we do that? Mr. Foster says we need to work on the spiritual disciplines in our lives which include:

fasting and prayer, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence, simplicity, frugality, secrecy, sacrifice, celebration, and the like.

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort.

We need to do what we can in order to do what we cannot by the power of God. Studying the Bible for knowledge is good, but studying it to be transformed is better!

Be Ignited With Love and #LiveWonderstruck

“The Creator desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with himself–displaying facets of his character, igniting us with his fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of his holiness.”

– Margaret Feinberg in Wonderstruck

We probably all know the illustration used in Revelations to describe some Christians as lukewarm. It says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  I have struggled with self-evaluation when it comes to whether I am hot, cold or lukewarm. I know which one I would want to be, which one God would want me to be, but still I struggle with which one I am.

I have been blessed to be able to read a preview of Margaret Feinberg’s book “Wonderstruck” that is available for pre-order now and comes out next week (check my own wonderstruck moment blog and my Q & A with Margaret Feinberg blog for more detail.)

When reading the preview of Margaret Feinberg’s book “Wonderstruck,” I came across the quote above and focused in on that “Igniting us with his fiery love.” phrase. What came to mind was an actual campfire. As a kid my family went camping a lot and I was in boy scouts so building campfires was a somewhat normal and common experience. In fact, I love building fires for a multitude of reasons and the analogy for experiencing the wonder of God seemed to work pretty well.

Cold – When we are living a life that is cold I imagine a dry piece of wood. It does nothing, it cannot help you roast s’mores by itself. It cannot create warmth and it cannot provide the ambiance that drives so many pleasant experiences like a fire can often do. All it can do it sit there and look like a piece of wood. What lies inside that dry piece of wood though is potential. A potential to become something greater than itself, a potential to become a campfire. Just like that piece of wood, people who have no connection with God, those who have not been ignited by God’s love they are better off then the lukewarm because of that potential.

Lukewarm – A lukewarm human reminds me of a soggy piece of wood. At first glance it looks like it could be the catalyst for something great, but in reality it will be discarded because it is portraying something that it is not. Lukewarm people are similar, they want you to think that they are doing what they are supposed to do for God, but they are soaked to the bone with things that make it hard to ignite them.

Hot – This is a piece of wood that is on fire. It is exactly what you need and is using it’s potential to give off something much greater than itself. Something that it cannot do on it’s own, it gives you warmth, comfort and s’mores (with a little more help of course)!

Wonderstruck seems like it was crafted specifically for those lukewarm Christians, the ones who, like Margaret, were experience a fading of a sens of the splendor of God and needed a “fresh encounter with God to awaken me from my sleep, to disturb me from my slumber,”

Margaret is very open in the opening chapter of her book when she says, “Worship was meh. Conversations felt flat.” If this is you, as it is me at times, then let me leave you with Margaret’s own words and encourage you to buy the book and soak it in like I will be doing next week! Let’s all be filled with the wonder of God and start living Wonderstruck!

“Look for him in your workdays and weekends, in your meeting-filled Mondays and your lazySaturdays. Search for him in the snowy sunsets and Sabbaths, seasons of Lent and sitting at your table. Pray for—and expect—wonder. For when you search for God, you will discover him.”

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

bonhoeffer_bookI love history and like most people who love history I love learning about World War II. I cannot tell you why World War II sticks out to me so much, or why I enjoy learning about it, but I do. When I first heard about Eric Metaxas’ book “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” I was intrigued, but had no idea who this Bonhoeffer was. The subtitle was what really caught my attention and then when I heard that Bonhoeffer was German and was a part of the resistance and attempted assassinations of Hitler, I knew I had to read the book.

When I tell people that I am going to Germany as a missionary one of the  most common questions I get is, what are Germans like? Most people that I come across in the US have this negative stereotype of all Germans as being mean, stuck up and stand-offish. When I tell them that they aren’t that way people seem to be confused, like everything they ever knew about Germans was all of a sudden the complete opposite. Sure there are some mean, stuck up and stand-offish Germans, but then again that happens everywhere in the world.

I think Americans struggle with the idea that a country that was responsible for things like World War II and the Holocaust could have good people living within it’s borders. That stereotype still exists for Germans, but even while those events were happening there were good, godly people within Germany who were trying to make a difference. That is why I loved this book. Not only did it give me background information on the amazing man and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it also showed me that men like him struggle to do the right thing just like I do. A quote by Henning Von Tresckow (one of the organizers of the Hitler resistance and Valkyrie assassination plot) that Mr. Metaxas uses seems almost prophetic. He says:

The German people will be burdened with a guilt the world will not forget in a hundred years.

If you search the internet you will see many reviews of the book and if you have read any of my reviews on my site you will know that that is not exactly how I like to do things. I liked the book a lot, but I can’t sit here and tell you that you should read it when there are so many incredible books available to read. What I can and will try to do is highlights specific parts of the book and talk about them briefly and if something sticks out to you then I can say you will not regret picking up this book.

Bonhoeffer often worked with children and “he often said that if one couldn’t communicate the most profound ideas about God and the Bible to children, something was amiss. There was more to life than academia.”

I love this idea because if we can’t simplify the Gospel then do we really know it? I encourage everyone to work with children in their church and teach them, you won’t regret it!

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is; there is never loneliness.”

I can’t add anything to this another than an enthusiastic amen!

“the whole of world history there is always only one really significant hour—the present.”

This is hard and convicting to me because too often I am wasting the present. What are you doing right now for your family, for you, for Christ. Right now is what is important. We are not promised tomorrow!

There is no single quote for me to give you about how Bonhoeffer struggled with his decision to help with the assassination plot, but know that he did and please read the book if you are wondering how he did that. There is way more detail to that decision than I could possibly share here. I can tell you that I am looking forward to visiting some of the Bonhoeffer sites while I am in Germany and I want to leave you with a prayer that Bonhoeffer wrote while in prison. Let these words soak in you and be your prayer today and every day.

O God,
Early in the morning do I cry unto thee.
Help me to pray,
And to think only of thee.
I cannot pray alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with thee there is light.
I am lonely, but thou leavest me not.
I am feeble in heart, but thou leavest me not.
I am restless, but with thee there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with thee there is patience;
Thy ways are past understanding, but
Thou knowest the way for me.

#LiveWonderstruck

Blog Post Wonderstruck Cover Art ImageLast week I told you about a new book that is coming out by my new friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)—a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. Too often I think we forget to live in wonder of God. We forget to truly see what God has done and is doing and that’s why I am excited that I got a chance to preview this book. To learn more about the book, watch the Wonderstruck Video below.

I recently received the insider’s scoop about Margaret’s new book. Here are some highlights from the interview:

 

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”?

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before.

 

Why are you calling people to #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK?

 If you look in the Gospels, what you’ll discover is that those who encountered Jesus were constantly left in wild amazement. They were awestruck by the teachings of Christ, the healings of Christ, the mind-bending miracles of Christ. Within the Gospel of Luke we see words like “awe” and “wonder” and “marvel” at every turn. If this is the natural response to encountering Christ, how much more should it be for you and I—who are invited to live in relationship with Christ as sons and daughters of our God Most High?  We even created a free PDF that looks at some of these Scriptures. For a free copy, email us at wonderstruck@margaretfeinberg.com and we’ll send you one.

 

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.57 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble [http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wonder-struck-margaret-feinberg/1110904808?ean=9781617950889] for all you savvy shoppers.

A Unique Opportunity to Live Wonderstruck

Recently I was given the unique opportunity to preview a book written by my new friend, Margaret Feinberg. Over the next three Tuesdays I will be introducing you to this book. Margaret has a new book and 7-session Bible Study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)—which is a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. Wonderstruck will help you:

  • Recognize the presence of God in the midst of your routine
  • Unearth extraordinary moments on ordinary days
  • Develop a renewed passion for God
  • Identify what’s holding you back in prayer
  • Discover joy in knowing you’re wildly loved

 To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video, here: https://vimeo.com/53953257

This week I want to share where I have seen the wonder of God in my own life. Next week I will share some questions and answers from the author herself and then the following week I will talk about the preview. Then two weeks later I will have a post on my thoughts from the whole book giving me about a week to read it after it comes out.

So how have I experienced the wonder of God in my own life?

A few years back I was praying and thinking about whether I was supposed to be a missionary with Greater Europe Mission and I spent some time looking back at how I was prepared for a position just like this. I was truly amazed  and filled with wonder of how much went into getting me to that point. God showed me that He had been preparing me for this for a long time and I wanted to show you all of the things that amazed me.

Took German after school in Middle School and then 3 years in high school.

I moved to Maryland after college for a job.

Got involved in a young adult Bible study in Maryland.

Almost died twice which allowed me to see God had a plan for me.

Because of health issues I wanted to lose weight and set a goal of 150 lbs lost and to reward myself a trip to Germany with friends.

On the Germany trip I went to a small town called Kandern.

Leading the young adult Bible study led me to search for missions trips where I “randomly” stumbled on a long-term job in that small town that I visited.

Looking at those things, I can’t help but be in awe of an amazing God. His work is wonderful and I have been wonderstruck.

 

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook , or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.57 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.


So where have you seen the wonder of God in your life?

Theology book #8 – From the Garden to the City by John Dyer

At the beginning of the year I set a goal of reading theology books, biographies of Christian leaders and other books that would help expand my knowledge of how the world should be seen through a Christian’s eyes. I am way behind the 15 books, but I will continue to read them until I get through this list and then I will start a new list, so in essence I will never be done! The most recent book I read was “From the Garden to the City” by John Dyer. This book was suggested to me by several different people who are missionaries, specifically in the technology arena. Since I will be a technology missionary, as we like to call ourselves (or maybe it’s just me), I figured this would be a good thing to read before I become fully immersed in the field. If you are curious about technology and how we should interact with it to impact the World for Christ then this book is a must read. Check it out!

In the description on Amazon it asks a question that sums up what this book is all about. It asks, “Where does technology belong in the biblical story of redemption?”

Any Christian living in modern times should be considering this question especially because of the more and more prevalent role technology is playing in our world. Technology is not only tablets, smartphones and social media though. Technology includes things we often don’t think of as technology including pens, paper and things we have been using all of our lives that seem “old school.” I never even really considered a pen to be technology, and yet it makes sense that it is along with many other things that I would not have considered technology before.

Why do we even need to consider this? Does it matter if we read God’s Word on a Kindle or the actual book? Who cares if we worship using a hymnal or a projector? John Dyer makes an awesome point in his book when he says:

“While God’s words are eternal and unchanging, the tools we use to access those words do change, and those changes in technology also bring subtle changes to the practice of worship. When we fail to recognize the impact of such technological change, we run the risk of allowing our tools to dictate our methods. Technology should not dictate our values or our methods. Rather, we must use technology out of our convictions and values.”

What do you value? What are your convictions? Once you have those in place then you can properly evaluate the technology and what role it can/will play in your life. Our values and convictions should be coming directly from the Bible so before you decide how to use your new iPhone 5 and the fancy new app you got, think about what you value and see if they line up.

Once we realize that technology can change the world and our lives then Mr. Dyer says:

If it is true that technology has the capacity to shape the world that God made, as well as shape our bodies, minds, and souls, then it seems we should care deeply about our tools. Moreover, if technology plays some role in the story of God redeeming his people, we should care all the more.

How can we use technology to play a role in the story of God? So many mission’s organizations are doing that now including using new techniques to get clean drinking water to new places or Bible courses to pastors who didn’t have access before (that’s going to be me!). There are so many examples that I could spend a long time writing about, but that is not the point of this blog. We need to first examine our values and convictions, then determine what role each piece of technology will play in our life and then figure out ways to use the technology in the story of God.

There are always going to be dangers when using technology, but if we remember, as Mr. Dyer says, “We alone, not machines, are responsible for our choices.”

We have to be careful with using any kind of technology and yet if we keep Jesus and the Bible at the root of all we do, technology can be a powerful tool in God’s story. Let me leave you with a final thought from Mr. Dyer that should guide all of us in our use of technology, but so often doesn’t.

We must continually attempt to view technology through the lens of the story of God and his people, with the resurrected Christ at beginning, middle, and end of that story. It is his life, work, and promises that should inform our value system, shape the way we see the world, and transform the way we live in it.

Theology book #7 – Branded by Tim Sinclair

Instead of summing up what Branded is about I will let Tim’s own words say it for me. He says, “Branded, by design, is a pep talk, not a playbook. It’s motivation, not mechanics. It’s inspiration, not instruction. It’s the start of a very long, perhaps never-ending, discussion that’s desperately needed.”

In today’s world you can find books with step by step directions about a plethora of topics. A simple search of the words step by step on Amazon returns 93,600 results. You can probably find a step by step book for just about every topic and yet those books often do not provide step by step instructions that will work for you. Why? Well they are written in a very general way so they mostly apply to most people at most times. That’s the same reason why horoscopes look like they are in tune with what is happening in our lives when in reality saying, “you will meet someone new” is pretty obvious! Step by step books are not written for your situation specifically so they won’t always provide what you need. Now don’t get me wrong they serve their purpose and I have read a bunch of them, but the biggest reason I liked Branded by Tim Sinclair is because it doesn’t claim to give you the steps necessary to take in order to achieve something. Tim Sinclair says, “I’m convinced that when it comes to showing and sharing Jesus to and with the world around us, it’s critical that we recognize our own unique situations, talents, abilities—and then effectively use them to reach people within our individual spheres of influence. Other than the boundaries and guidelines provided by the Bible, nothing else should create a game plan for us because there is no right way for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology. So I’m not going to give you one.”

The book’s title should give you a glance at the content. Tim presents evangelism as marketing Jesus and if we are marketing Jesus then our goal should be to sell Jesus to others and get our product out to as many people as possible. Don’t fuss over the word marketing if it has a negative connotation to you, the goal of marketing and evangelism is the same so if you would feel more comfortable saying evangelism then say that.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time going over everything that Tim says because he has a lot of points and I strongly encourage you to read it, but if you can agree with me and Tim that we need to be showing (show), sharing (sell) and spreading (distribute) Jesus to as many people as possible then let these words sink in for you.

We agreed that there is only one right motivation to sell something—belief. Belief that your product is the best. Belief that the up-front costs are worth the long-term benefit. Belief that your service will make a lasting difference in someone’s life. (As an aside, belief doesn’t necessarily make you right, but it does make you authentic, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.)

Let’s go out, be authentic about our belief that Jesus Christ is the one and only Redeemer and let others see what it is that we see.

Theology books #6 – Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas

I have been working on reading fifteen books this year that I called theology books, but in truth not all of them are “theology” books. Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas is a great example of what I mean. It is not a theology book, but a biography of a normal man (William Wilberforce) who did extraordinary things because of the radical transformation that was made in him when He started to have a relationship with Jesus.

This book was a nice break from reading about how to change my life to fit more closely to the way God intended. It’s not that I don’t need to hear those things, but reading about a man, his struggles and triumphs inspired me a lot. For those of you who don’t know who William Wilberforce is he was the driving force behind ending the slave trade in England and eventually freeing the slaves in all of the provinces under English control. Wilberforce did many other things to which I cannot address because I would have to literally rewrite Metaxas’ book and he did a great job so I’ll just touch on what was most encouraging to me.

With the elections coming soon it is easy to get frustrated by those that are constantly running for office with suspect character, but even though Wilberforce was from a different country and time, he was a politician and that gives me hope that someone here could rise up in the ranks like Wilberforce did and greatly influence our country for God and not for themselves.

One of the best statements in the whole book came in the introduction. In Wilberforce’s time slavery was viewed as a good thing that helped all parties. Metaxas said, “Wilberforce murdered that old way of seeing things, and so the idea that slavery was good died along with it. Even though slavery continues to exist here and there, the idea that it is good is dead.” Wilberforce helped people see slavery for what it really was, a horrible and disgusting institution. Could you imagine changing people’s belief about something. I am not talking just a friend or two, but imagine everyone in the world for a long time to come adapting your viewpoint and then doing something about it that led to a ridiculous amount of lives saved. Yeah, that is incredible!

I will leave you all with a quote from one of Wilberforce’s speeches in Parliament and hope that this will inspire all of us to stand up for doing what is Biblical no matter what popular opinions dictate.

“Policy, Sir, is not my principle, and I am not ashamed to say it. There is a principle above everything that is political. And when I reflect on the command that says, ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ believing the authority to be divine, how can I dare set up any reasonings of my own against it? And, Sir, when we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is here in this life which should make any man contradict the principles of his own conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God?”

Thank you Mr. Metaxas for writing this book and reminding us about someone who did not live for himself, but for God and all of God’s creation. That is a lesson we can learn and apply to our lives no matter who and where we are.

 

Theology book #5 – Speaking of Jesus by J Mack Stiles

I am still recovering from my trip to Alaska so I will keep today’s blog nice and short. Short in length, but hopefully not in content.

I’ve talked about evangelism before and my struggles with making this a regular part of my life and not waiting until I get to the mission field to start so Speaking of Jesus by J Mack Stiles was a natural fit for my current season in life. I liked the book, but often times found myself thinking that the book made it sound much easier than it really is. Even though Mack Stiles repeatedly said that it takes work to become comfortable with talking to people about Christ, I still kept thinking that he made it seem simple.

I guess it is simple though. When you get an amazing present from someone is it hard to share with anyone and everyone that will listen? I know it’s not for me, I even have a hard time keeping to myself a great gift that I am going to give to someone. Why are we, and i am definitely including myself in this one, so slow to share what Jesus has done for us? I mean, seriously, can you get better than the gift He has given us, life eternal? How does your new video game system, piece of jewelry, trip or other temporary gift stack up? Don’t get me wrong, I still love presents, giving and receiving, but do they compare? If they don’t compare to the gift God has given us then why aren’t we will to share it with others?

I want to highlight a few interesting things that Mack Stiles says in the book that I hope will pull on your heart as much as it has mine.

God asks the same of us in evangelism. God wants us available to people, not shouting instructions at them. (They often can’t understand what we’re talking about at first, anyway.) He wants us to get into others’ lives. He may not ask us to steal a boat, but he may ask us to cross some conventional boundaries. If we are willing to risk our comfort to get into other people’s worlds with the truth we bear, we’ll be a more powerful witness than all the instruction manuals in the world.

Availability-mental and physical is the first step of evangelism. Christians need to go physically and mentally into all the world: to Africa and non-Christian cubicles at work, to Congress and smoking sections of restaurants, even to Florida beaches.

When we come to know the love of God, we want to share our faith.

But here’s shocking news: our comfort has a very low biblical priority. Jesus doesn’t seem to care much about our comfort.

 

I know I have been plugging my indiegogo project a lot on this blog and that’s because I want to get to Germany as fast as possible, but that is only possible if I have your help. Please check out the project and share it with your friends. Even if you can’t donate money, maybe someone you know can. Any help I get is greatly appreciated!