I write this report in humble reflection upon an amazing year of serving in faith and joy. Recycled Lives, as well as I personally, have experienced a great amount of growth in a steadfast and unwavering commitment to do our best in glorifying God in all that we do while serving those He has called us to help. I am privileged and blessed with the opportunity to use my heart and skills to do this work in which God has entrusted me to do. I respectfully submit the following report as reflections and highlights of this past years’ service.
The beginning of the year started with a bang celebrating the start of the New Year in true Guatemalan style with the December 2013/January 2014 Mission team. I served in Guatemala from Dec 21, 2013 to January 10, 2014. The team arrived on Dec 26 and we all returned home January 10, 2014. The team built 9 stoves and performed daily VBS activities while at the San Gabriel community (“the dump” in Escuintla), we served several hot meals, did a gift-giving activity for Christmas and on Christmas eve I provided a message and we served an amazing catered meal! We held daily prayer and devotional times to keep our hearts centered on the reason for the season and did all we could to witness to others the love of Christ in our actions and words.
During the months of July and November I traveled to Guatemala to do program review, future planning and to implement changes for improvement to programs as well as research new program opportunities. I have been working diligently on establishing trusting relationships with the people of the San Gabriel community in Escuintla Guatemala. Implementing principles from the book “When helping hurts” has been key in doing our best to provide assistance in a way that is not shaming, pity-driven, God-complex ridden or done in a way that creates dependence.
January and February was spent finalizing the preceding several months’ work of researching, gathering, writing and compiling the data needed to complete our paperwork and forms for the daunting IRS 1023 application. The application was submitted February 18, 2014. Then the long, long, long wait began….We grew in patience and faith that a positive reply would eventually be heard….thanks be to the IRS for this great lesson in patience.
May we celebrated one of our FUN fundraising events: the Cinco de Mayo 5k/1k Family Fun Fest was our 4th annual event which was held on May 4th. Also in May our IRS 990 (tax filing) was submitted….. and we were still patiently (kind of) waiting for the determination letter to come from the wonderful IRS on our 1023 application (501c3 tax exempt status request.) May and June we also organized volunteer groups to serve at Feed My Starving Children packing sessions.
July was busy with a team of 7 that traveled to Guatemala. The July team accomplished a double home build, hosted our first BBQ and movie night, served several hot meals, provided daily VBS activities and distributed bibles and small group bible study supplies. Funds were gathered by a few team members to provide the labor and transportation necessary for another humanitarian organization, Quesada Solidaria, to build another house in San Gabriel, Guatemala in August.
In September our prayers were answered and our long wait was over… we received the glorious news that the IRS granted us the 501(c)(3)tax exempt designation! Praise and Glory to GOD!!!
November brought a small team of two to serve in Guatemala. Despite its small size, the team accomplished building a home, performing the monthly food distribution and hosted four movie nights with hot meals. Much time was spent building relationships and seeking input from community members to learn their honest perspective on what is helping, not helping and would be good for the future.
MEET THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
I am so thankful for a Board of Directors that love Christ and are passionate about the vision and goals God has laid on our hearts for Recycled Lives to accomplish. Each board member volunteers their time and talents to help keep our organization financially accountable and operating with the greatest integrity. They assure that our work and decisions are prayed over and they each are my accountability partner. The Board of Directors met for quarterly meetings during the months of January, March, June and October. Online meetings were held as needed for carrying out business.
Kelly Wichman is our Board of Director’s Chairperson. Kelly plays a key role in assisting me with planning and hosting each of our annual fundraising events (the Cinco de Mayo 5k/1k, garage sale, Christmas Delights, sweet on Guatemala event). She is often researching and assisting with ways in which our organization can raise funds. Kelly is willing to serve and help anywhere necessary and for her support, friendship and true love for Christ, I am grateful.
Liz Cheney, our Board of Directors’ Secretary does a wonderful job keeping things organized and documented. I am also extremely grateful for her experience on non-profit boards and involvement in church operations and large scale fundraising. She is my go to gal for advice on operational procedures, ideas, prayer and encouragement. Liz is devoted to shepherding others and this past October she became an ordained minister!
Brad Johnson, our Board of Director’s Vice-Chairperson, did a wonderful job assisting with the creation of video and photo presentations as well as signage for events and marketing purposes. He sets up and is responsible for the audiovisual operations behind events and helped to make the first movie night in San Gabriel happen. Brad is one of our behind the scenes helpers that keeps things moving smoothly by tending to many of the small but hugely important details for event,
Dave Wichman, our Board of Director’s Treasurer, works diligently at keeping the books current, watching our budget and balancing the books. I feel one of the biggest contributions Dave makes to Recycled Lives is boldly sharing with anyone that will listen about our work in Guatemala, He to assists with keeping things sounding good at events with his experience with operating sound systems. Dave opens up his place of business to persons wishing to stop by and chat about what Recycled Lives is up to.
Michelle Jilk is on our Board of Directors and serves as the chair for the fundraising committee. She has much knowledge and experience from her many travels to Guatemala. Serving others and being thoughtful and generous is in her DNA. Michelle’s organized a full year’s worth of ideas, lessons and supplies for a teen aged youth leader to lead weekly lessons for the children in the San Gabriel community. Michelle has a heart for children, the poor, volunteering and is simply one of the most generous and genuinely sweet people I am blessed to know
Lina Becker is on our Board of Directors as well. Lina brings to the board a great willingness to volunteer wherever needed. Her opinions and suggestions have been crucial in helping guide our organization in a positive direction through providing the valuable insight from the perspective of someone that has not yet traveled to Guatemala which helps to give us a different set of eyes so we don’t miss things by making assumptions that everyone “gets what we are trying to convey”. Lina has a firsthand and deep understanding of the effects of poverty through her adoption experience in Vietnam. Lina brings to the board a true passion for helping the poor, the single moms, the widowed and the orphaned. And did I mention she has much valuable experience in accounting, business operations and management to boot?! Lina is a perfect fit and brings a wonderful balance to the board.
Recycled Lives started our formal supplemental food distribution program in September of 2013. We started with a monthly budget of $525 which covered a supplemental food package for 40 families as well as the labor and transportation costs to distribute it. Families receive 5# each of black beans, rice, oats and 4# of tortilla flour. We spent more time researching prices and found a more cost effective option, made a slight adjustment of the quantities distributed per family and was able to increase the number of families served to 60 for the same price. After reading “When Helping Hurts” in early 2014 I began to reconsider the way in which we were operating the supplemental food distribution program. In July, while working in Guatemala, I was able to share the biblical message that is provided prior to the food distribution each month. Following the message we held a meeting with the families where it was explained to them that if we began collecting a 10Q ($1.33) donation per family for their food package, they would be able to help 40 more families with the funds collected which would be put directly into purchasing more food. An informal vote was met with much excitement and I believe deep happiness knowing that they were not just getting a handout but they were in some way helping others. Beginning in August we increased the number of families receiving food to 100. When receiving their food packages in August the family had the choice to make the donation or not. Every person on the list made the requested 10Q donation and continues to make the donation! Praise be to God for this amazing step and the positive change it made not only in increasing the numbers served but in giving a great sense of worth and increased self-sufficiency to those participating. Each month there are approximately 20 families that faithfully wait at the food distribution hoping and praying that we have extra or a sponsor for the month that has donated extra food. Sometimes we can help but often times we cannot. In order to add these 20 families to the program we would need $140 more dollars per month. With a monthly sponsor willing to help cover all or a portion of the $665 (the amount to cover the 120 families) it would free up funds for constructing more homes and starting new programs. In November we again surveyed the families regarding food preferences. The communities voice was that there was the desire to no longer receive oats but instead receive a larger quantity of black beans. This change was implemented with no additional cost incurred. This changed was implemented in December.
A smaller but important program we have started is the Individual and Family Care Program. This program is a sponsor type program where we do our best to meet specific physical, financial, spiritual, prayer and emotional needs with someone that can help. Over the past year there has been 3 families that have had a consistent monthly sponsor providing $15-$25 per month as supplemental income to help them through a rut following a family member’s death, injury, temporary inability to work or find work, unexpected financial strain/burden, etc. Three shelters have been rebuilt for families that are squatting on land. Five homes were built in the San Gabriel community, a water line was installed in January which serves 5 families and many children have received school supplies and uniforms because of donations/sponsors. We were able to connect 5 persons with sponsor funds to help cover medication, laboratory and/or ultrasound testing. There are seven families in the Cuidad Veija and surrounding areas that come to receive a supplemental food package each month and a social visit to assure they are doing well. The program has also helped to connect two young teen girls with the opportunity to attend an intensive 20 day discipleship training program by finding the sponsorship needed for them to attend. These two girls are hopeful leaders for their community. VBS supplies have been purchased and provided to two different church groups in the San Gabriel community and children have the opportunity to attend both Thursday and Sunday bible lessons. We have connected a family in need of assistance with water bills and another with electric bills with sponsors. During the November trip one of our care families experienced a death of the father/husband. God blessed us with the funds and timing that we could provide the traditional coffee, bread and cookies for the visitation and grieving time. In November three families received a high efficiency cooking stove. During the November trip many persons were ill with Chikungunya, a mosquito borne illness, including me. I prayed over many that were ill and witnessed rapid healing in four painful, fever-ridden bodies. I too received prayer from a Pastor’s wife, and felt healing course through my body as well as ongoing pain relief received from her generous sharing of a medication she had. God is so AMAZING! Praise HIM!
I am excited to report that in our first full year of being a nonprofit, we exceeded all program goals I set and did so within projected budget through working hard and depending on God! As you can read and see, this has been a busy year of ministry and growth in which I feel so blessed to have been entrusted to lead. I am thankful for a wonderful Board of Directors that supports, knows and trusts me to get the job done in an honest and Godly manner. I thank God for stirring this deep love and need within me to help make a big difference in this world one small step at a time. Not because I want to feel good about myself and what is being done but because I truly want to please God through using the gifts, skills and talents He gave me. I want to help others to know Him better, I want others that don’t know Him to see or hear Him through me and each of you. I want to live a life of generosity, selflessness and simplicity. I close this reflection with a few of my most favorite sayings and scriptures for encouragement to you into the coming year.
“No one ever became poor from giving”~ Maya Angelou
“Live simply so that others may simply live” ~ Mother Theresa
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV) 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Can I get another AMEN?!
Signed with sisterly love,
Shawn Johnson, Founder and Executive Director Recycled Lives