Executive Director 2014 Year-end report

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.

PROGRAMS REVIEW:

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





2014 Video update

Recycled Lives is a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people living in poverty through facilitating access to resources that are physical, spiritual and/or financial in nature. We are advocates for ceasing poverty for all of God’s people throughout the world. Recycled Lives is focused on sharing the gospel through serving as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities and throughout the world. We will go forth into the world to bring positive change to lives through demonstrating the love of Christ so that we may bring praise and glory to God. We are a 501c3 Christian non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax deductible and can be received online by clicking donate button or by check to “Recycled Lives” PO Box 408, Cambridge, MN 55008





Exciting News!

I met her while standing in line waiting for coffee at church. I had heard she traveled to Guatemala and when I asked her about her recent trip to Guatemala the shine on her face and intensity of her love for the poor solidified an instant connection and wonderful friendship. Only God knew at that time the ensuing journey that this friendship would embark upon as sisters in Christ and only He knows the journey that lies ahead for us. One of the few things we do know for certain on this journey is that we shall continue to serve Him with all our heart and strength!
It has been exciting to watch over the years as God has shaped and molded this dear friend, Shawn Johnson, for work in leading teams and ministering to and advocating for the Guatemalan people. Shawn has been traveling to Guatemala for 7 years and for the past 2 years she has volunteered her time outside of her full time job to found and operate Recycled Lives, a non-profit Christian organization. As her friend and the Chair of the Recycled Lives’ Board of Directors I am blessed to be a front row cheerleader for her and Recycled Lives’ mission. A mission centered on demonstrating Christ’s love through building relationships centered in Christ to change the face of poverty. We work to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that are suffering by offering love and support in many ways. Most importantly, we offer hope to people that do not know the hope available in a relationship with Christ. We also serve to connect people, like you, that have a heart and desire to help alleviate the suffering on this earth with a way to do so.
Recently God has called Shawn to take a leap of faith in leaving the security of her full time job in order to devote more time to work and travel for Recycled Lives. This comes with the humbling struggle of having to surrender fully to faith and dependence on God for provision while she abides in His calling. We, as the board of directors, fully support Shawn’s decision and are excited to also announce that we have decided to hire her on as a part time employee. This we feel is an important step to better serving those we are called to care for and are so excited to see what God has planned through using Shawn’s love and talents!
Supporting our organization means you are supporting work that creates a lasting and impactful change. Imagine Ya Ya, a 4 year old, being able to excitedly show a visitor her newly built home and her summersault skills on her new bunk bed. Imagine a young mother’s tears of joy knowing her 3 starving children have food for another month upon receiving her monthly food package sponsored by a loving stranger. Please take the a few minutes of your time watch Shawn’s heart-inspired video, “Overwhelmed”. Once you are done watching it, pause and ask God to guide your heart in how to respond. Please immediately act on what God just told you.
Most importantly I ask that you please pray for Shawn and the board of directors to seek, clearly hear and do the will of God. We truly desire to shine God’s light in some really dark places of suffering. Please come alongside us in supporting the vision and work that Shawn has been humbled to accept by lifting her and Recycled Lives up through your powerful prayers and financial support. Shawn leaves November 5th for a month of serving in Guatemala. There is no better time than now to come together to show God how much we love Him through prayers and thanksgiving supporting Shawn in this overwhelmingly-amazing calling!

In Christ’s overwhelming love,

Kelly Wichman, Recycled Lives Board of Directors’ Chair

Overwhelmed- in a good way


Recycled Lives is a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people living in poverty through facilitating access to resources that are physical, spiritual and/or financial in nature. We are advocates for ceasing poverty for all of God’s people throughout the world. Recycled Lives is focused on sharing the gospel through serving as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities and throughout the world. We will go forth into the world to bring positive change to lives through demonstrating the love of Christ so that we may bring praise and glory to God. We are a 501c3 Christian non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax deductible and can be received online by clicking donate on our webpages or by check to “Recycled Lives” PO Box 408, Cambridge, MN 55008





WE GOT IT! OH YEAH!! THANK YOU GOD!!!!

It is with great excitement and loud thankful praises to God that Recycled Lives can announce we have received our 501c3 tax exempt designation! All donations made throughout this past year and into the future will now be tax exempt. We thank you for your support in the work that God has called His body of followers together to do in order to make a difference for His beloveds living in impoverished conditions. The heart of Recycled Lives beats to make God smile through caring for those that are suffering and trapped in impoverished conditions. We are blessed to know that there are people like you that want to make God smile too! With a little help from a lot of people we can change the lives and conditions for impoverished people all over the world while bringing glory and praise to God.

We believe in an approach that does not just simply provide material resources to ease the effects of poverty but to evaluate and treat the root cause of poverty. The cause is not always simply due to lack of material resources but due to a broken relationship with God. This broken relationship often times renders a person to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. We work to address this spiritual poverty by sharing the gospel and sharing the hope readily available through a reconciled relationship with God while also addressing the real needs of limited material resources. With the donations we receive we are able to perform this work God has called us to through equipping individual volunteers, local volunteers in the community being served and through mission team projects to provide spiritual and material assistance. We provide tools and supplies necessary to construct homes & stoves, install water lines, serve hot meals and perform a monthly supplemental food distribution to a community in Guatemala living at a garbage dump. Most importantly we are leaving an imprint on each person’s heart through prayer, biblical lessons and materials that are provided to community leaders for a weekly children’s bible school as well as ongoing men’s and women’s bible studies and prayer groups… these are the things that are making a permanent change!

All of this help is being given through just a few faithful donors such as you! We ask boldly in the name of Christ that you continue to support our organization’s work through making a commitment to include Recycled Lives and the people being ministered to in your regular prayers. We also ask that you would prayerfully consider making a monthly commitment to giving financially to Recycled Lives’ work. With each donation we can make a powerful change to the ugly face of poverty.

Praying for God’s greatest blessings upon you and yours,

Shawn Johnson, Recycled Lives Executive Director & Mission Team Coordinator

Recycled Lives is a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people living in poverty through facilitating access to resources that are physical, spiritual and/or financial in nature. We are advocates for ceasing poverty for all of God’s people throughout the world. Recycled Lives is focused on sharing the gospel through serving as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities and throughout the world. We will go forth into the world to bring positive change to lives through demonstrating the love of Christ so that we may bring praise and glory to God. We are a 501c3 Christian non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax deductible and can be received online by clicking donate on our webpages or by check to “Recycled Lives” PO Box 408, Cambridge, MN 55008





July 2014 Guatemala Mission Team

Two years ago while in my 6th year of serving in Guatemala I witnessed something that still haunts me just as much today as the first day I saw it. Women, some with their infants strapped to their back, and their young, barefoot children are digging through trash at a garbage dump. They are searching for their next meal in the very trash they sift through for plastic to recycle. I see many living under trash-constructed shacks on top of the garbage dump they call work and home. The words “I need to do something” keep repeating in my head and heart as I stand sobbing and feeling helpless over what I am witnessing. These conditions do not make sense in a world that has plenty.

Recycled Lives was formed because we recognize there is a desperate and urgent need for us to do something to stop the suffering for those trapped in impoverished conditions. We know that there are people like you that want to do something about it as well. With a little help from a lot of people we can change the lives and conditions for impoverished people all over the world. We are asking you to consider with us the situations of the children and families that are living in these unimaginable conditions and do something to help us help them.

For the past two years we have been doing something about this heart-wrenching problem. By sending volunteers, providing supplies, constructing homes & cooking stoves, installing water lines, serving hot meals, providing educational support and monthly supplemental food distributions to this community, we are making a permanent change. All of this is being done through just a few faithful donors & volunteers! With each donation, large or small, we can make a powerful change to the ugly face of poverty. Would you be willing make a contribution toward our work and encourage others to do so as well?

We have a team of 8 traveling in July to work directly with the men, women and children living and working at this garbage dump in Guatemala. We are raising funds to support daily biblical teachings, hot meals, monthly food packages, medical aid, shelter improvements and homes!
This community is learning they are loved from afar through the monthly support through our food distribution as well as through semi-yearly mission teams. We ask that you consider helping our organization and July Mission team to give them something that can only be received through a team’s work…smiles, hugs, tears and the light and love of Christ in person. Together we can enrich the lives of families living in unimaginable conditions at this garbage dump in Guatemala. We would be honored to have you come alongside of us to help!

Blessings,

Shawn Johnson, Recycled Lives Executive Director & Mission Team Coordinator

waterline Digging for a waterline

stove A completed stove

fooddist Food Distribution

Contributions can be received online or by check to the address below. If you would like to view videos showing the work we do and the conditions in Guatemala you can do so by searching YouTube or Vimeo for “Recycled Lives Escuintla Project”. We are a non-profit organization that has applied for 501c(3) tax exempt status. Until that determination is made by the IRS, your donation will not be tax exempt at this time. If tax exempt status is granted this year, a year-end statement will be sent to you by January 31, 2015.

4th Annual Cinco de Mayo 5K Family Fun Run

The mission of this 4th annual fundraising event is to provide a Christ-centered family friendly event that is focused on FUN & FUNdraising! No need to be a professional runner! Run, walk, jog, skip OR…eat, cheer & play; whatever suits your lifestyle! This event will help raise funds needed to perform life-changing projects for some of the poorest children and their families that live on a garbage dump in Escuintla Guatemala.

Activities for kids: face painting, games & activities, playground!

We will also be selling Walking Nachos for lunch!

Event schedule and times
12:00 registration for 1k & 5k

Events begin:

12:15 Line up for 1k race

12:45 Line up for 5k race

For more information or to register for the race, please use this LINK.

zach2723 Last year’s youngest 5K runner Age 10 Time of 27:23 5th overall!

thepark A look at the race location.

lastyearswinners The top three winners from 2013.

littleonesrun Even the little ones run! How FUN!

iheartguate This will be the race logo for the 2014 4th annual Family Fun Run

We sure hope you can join us! If you can’t, remember there are a number of ways that you can help out with other fundraisers to support Recycled Lives work in Escuintla, Guatemala. Check out the How You Can Help page.

February – Love Offering

1 John 4:7 “Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

It is February and Love is in the air! Would you consider sharing some love with those suffering from poverty in Guatemala? Please help fulfill our mission here at Recycled Lives through donating online right here on our website. You will find the “donate” button at the bottom of this post. Thank you for sharing some love this month!

iheartguate

 




 

Recycled Lives is a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit Christian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people living in poverty through facilitating access to resources that are physical, spiritual and/or financial in nature. We are advocates for ceasing poverty for all of God’s people throughout the world.

For more information, please email us at info@RecycledLives.org.

Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours.

“Heal my heart and make it clean.
Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like you have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks Yours.
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.” Lyrics from Hosanna by Hillsong

These are the verses that have become a regular prayer for me. In 2011 I was leading my 4th team on a mission trip to Guatemala. While gathering together on a roof top terrace for our worship and devotional time we sang the song Hosanna. Its words cut deep into my heart. Since my first trip to Guatemala in 2008 my heart had been broken and it was moving me to want to do something to make a change but this was something different. I was starting to see the suffering of the Guatemalan people not through my own scale-covered eyes but I would say a little bit more through the eyes of Christ. I was praying for God’s will in my life in regards to continuing work in Guatemala and what it was to look like. God made it clear to me that moment with the lyrics of that song that the things that were breaking my heart didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg of how much more it broke God’s heart. He showed me on that trip how differently things were in serving as His hands and feet with Him being the center of all of it. He blesses the works and time even more richly when we are focusing on carrying out His will, His purpose and His plan. How humbling it is to have the privilege to aid in furthering His kingdom even with our imperfect and lacking abilities. What matters to Him is that when we are moving in tune with His song, He allows us to be a part of His ongoing miracle of loving on others as an extension of His beloved son Christ Jesus’ hands and feet.

This morning at church I was again reminded of this time of confirmation of continuing on with mission work in Guatemala. There was a missionary sharing about his serving in Japan for 42 years and Ukraine, Siberia for another 15 years. His message made it so clear how as the body of Christ we are all in some way a part of Global mission work. That just because we may not step foot on foreign soil while proclaiming the saving love of Christ, that God uses us to further His kingdom throughout the world nonetheless. He talked about how a mailman played a starting role of another missionary that brought hundreds of thousands to Christ through the planting of a church. We are all able to play the role that mailman played….by simply witnessing to a lost soul surrounding us and years later they may become a missionary or perhaps that day they become saved and raise their children to know the love of Christ for generations to come. The closing song to today’s sermon: Hosanna by Hillsong. Thank you Father God for again reminding and confirming the work I feel at times is busting my heart to pieces while you continually mend it back together with every act of love done in your name in Guatemala.

I thank God for being gentle with me. For providing me with His never-ending grace and loving guidance as I fumble my way through how best to lead teams in Guatemala to grow His kingdom and love on His people.