Guess what! Today’s guest is another internet-turned-real-life friend of mine! (These are some of my favorite kind of people, you know.) And all of a sudden, I feel this crazy, burning desire to spend some more face-to-face time with Melissa, because we are very, very passionate about some of the very same things. And the 24 hours we spent together once upon a time was not nearly long enough.
Melissa’s been busy the past few years taking her limited resources and asking her BIG God to multiply and multiply and multiply them, so that she can be a part of blessing some gorgeous and amazing kiddos in Zimbabwe.
And in the months to come, I’ll be sharing more of how YOU can be a part of it too. Because HOW EXCITING!! Let’s meet Melissa!
Melissa: Well howdy! I found Marla’s blog a couple of years ago and so very grateful I did because she’s a sister at heart! I was fortunate enough to meet her face to face this past year as she graciously received me in her sweet home and shared in an Orphan Care Summit with me! Thanks, Marla, for having me here as a guest also. I’m grateful, honored and humbled.
So, I’m Melissa. I live in Nashville, TN (a native) and I’m married to Joe, an awesome chef and together we have 2 boys. Asher is 7 and Shawn is 5. Our sweet little Shawnie has Down syndrome… and by all accounts is a rock star and a world changer. I also have an older son. Spencer is 23 … and yes that blows my mind too. I thank God everyday that He has given me these 3 boys to mother. I’ve recently finished writing my first book, Well Watered: Never Thirst. It should be released before Christmas. I’m also a photographer and lead a non-profit organization! Most of all, I’m a radically transformed believer living in daily doses of mercy and God’s glorious grace.
Me: I love (love, love!) your ministry–Beautiful Feet Global Outreach. Tell us how it got started and what it’s all about (and let us know where to go to read more).
I had a heart for children living in poverty long before I became a Christian in 1999. Joe and I were married for a couple of years before Asher was born, and at that time my heart became crushed for orphans. As I mothered and nurtured him, God began preparing my heart for the motherless. To make a long story short… through prayer and facing one closed door after another, in 2008 I ended up on an airplane, flying to Zimbabwe by myself. That was a crazy (borderline insane) thing to do but it changed my life. I encountered many orphanages but one stood out.
After my 2nd trip to the same kiddos, I founded Beautiful Feet Global Outreach (aka BFGO or Beautiful Feet GO). We are an orphan care ministry with a mission to minister the hope and love of Christ to orphans and vulnerable children globally. We are a 501( c)3 charitable nonprofit, about to have our 2nd birthday on 9/29.
We have 3 initiatives; one is to walk alongside orphanages and help them with resources, the 2nd is to provide adoption grants to qualifying Christians and the 3rd is to be an advocate for and help raise awareness for orphans with special needs, primarily Down syndrome. Presently we are only working with this orphanage group in Zimbabwe, but we are praying for our next partnership whether it be somewhere in Africa, Haiti, Asia… anywhere. I go to Zim usually twice a year.
Our funds have been a great source of help, but our partner there is in desperate need of more, so in October, we are finally launching a personal child sponsorship program. I am SO excited about this because we believe by giving donors here an opportunity to connect with a child there and to build a personal relationship through photos and letters, we may attract more donors and thus be able to meet their needs in a way that has never been done before. God is pushing me and I am loving it. By the way, these children are not adoptable. Most orphans aren’t. We’ve been called to serve those who need love and resources right where they are.
Me: Where do you get the money to support all of these beautiful kiddos?
Melissa: I’m not exactly a social butterfly and my family financial status is stressed… so planting a grass roots non-profit organization was reasonably ludicrous from every angle, except the angle of faith. Our donorship for the first 2 years has been primarily arms length connections and a little word of mouth. But even with that, we were able to raise $33,000 in our first year and so far this year we’ve just passed the $34,000 mark.
To sustain our Zim orphanages we need to be bringing in $60,000 – $70,000 per year… so the sponsorship program we’ll launch next month is huge. It won’t exactly get us there but it will get us so close. So, in addition to paths for recurring monthly donations I’ve added a fundraising product that I offer year around. Jasper pendant necklaces.
Me: Tell us more about the jasper.
Melissa: I have a deep fondness and strong draw toward Jasper stones. There are passages in Revelation chapter 21 that describe the New Heavens and New Jerusalem. God creatively has drawn up plans that include jasper walls. Jasper is a gorgeous natural stone found in mountains and even in oceans with limitless designs and colors.
As a reminder that we are on a journey to Heaven and that our lives, actions and words can be used in this day to impact the Kingdom of Heaven, I’ve been making and offering Jasper jewelry (mostly pendant necklaces) to raise funds for BFGO, but also to encourage those who wear the pendants to remember where we are going and to help motivate us in our walk with Jesus.
Me: Anything else you’d like to add?
Melissa: We are always seeking new prayer partners and donor partners so I’d love to share all of my contact info with your readers! Furthermore, BFGO is going through a season of branching out. I’ve been traveling outside of Tennessee to do small scale presentations, either in homes, at Bible study meetings and even at churches. I like to call these “BFGO” parties! These parties enable me to share the organization, the children, raise awareness for sponsorships, and “sell” jasper. The hosts of these parties are our angels… if anyone would like to consider hosting a BFGO party, please contact me to get on the schedule.
You can read my personal blog here. And the BFGO blog here. I’m on Twitter, and we have a BFGO Facebook page. We also send out one informative email newsletter per month which you can sign up for on our website.
Thank you so, so, so much, Melissa! And friends, if you’re feeling a tug to get personally involved with these beautiful kiddos God loves so much, LET ME KNOW! Next month, you’ll be able to sponsor a kiddo! I can’t wait!
Today on the blog, Melissa is giving away one of her gorgeous jasper pendants!!