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Monday, September 19, 2016

They Need Food

Dear BFGO Community -

I'm begging for your forgiveness as I have been silent far too long. Life has tossed me a few good excuses, but please know that I am aware that I could have done better at keeping you up to date. This is my effort to jump back in.

BFGO is still moving and shaking, even when I'm silent. We are still serving and ministering in the day-to-day, even though you may not be hearing about it.

*If you would like to skip directly to the immediate needs, please scroll to the bottom.

It has been a hectic year in Zimbabwe. If you care to follow along with the news headlines, I do prefer the BBC application or website for accurate information. There is civil unrest, violent clashes between the people, the military police and government, including bombings and burning down business establishments. It's not good. There is a cash crunch and food shortages, and where commerce is operating, prices have been grossly inflated. It is more difficult than ever to be one of our kiddos over there. And it is nearly impossible to be the orphanage director. Along with running operations of the orphanages and the school, our sweet Fatima has endured tragic loss. Her husband passed away. One of the children died of illness, and just this past week, one of her brothers was murdered and his body was discarded into a river. And somehow she still manages to provide excellent care and direction to the children with the gospel as her first priority.

The children are growing to be oh so big, and babies continue to be registered with us. I think we are up to 18-20 infants and toddlers. I truly wish each one of you could experience living with 20 babies and 5 teenagers in a 3 bedroom house. Or, if that isn't your cup of tea, perhaps you wouldn't mind experiencing 25 teenagers in a 3 bedroom house? Or 22 elementary age? It's bananas.

Our Board Secretary, Elaine, has spent a lot of time in Zimbabwe over the past year and is on her way back again in November. She personally oversaw the training of new caregivers, and she took one of the babies in for eye/neurologic surgery, then stayed with him for several weeks for his recovery. We've recently learned that his surgery was a total success. We truly praise God for His hand in making it all possible, especially for all of the funds donated to cover the expenses and the hands of the gifted surgeon. Little Muna would have a completely different future if it were not for the movement of  hearts stirred to care for him. We are forever grateful for this.

Here are the immediate needs, one of them being quite urgent:

1. The orphanages have enough maize and beans but they are almost completely out of perishables. Because of the volatile economy, we need to make an immediate push to raise funds to stockpile more food. There is an immediate concern that food will not be available to purchase in the very near future (October) because the government is trying to issue a new "fake" currency. The last time this happened, people died from hunger. Unfortunately - I have only learned of this today and only because I reached out to them and asked for an update on the food situation. They are afraid to ask for too much - but in times like these, they need more than we could every give. If I could send them $2k - $4k by the end of September (over and above their monthly support), I do believe it will sustain them for another 3-4 months. Please, please consider donating to this fund immediately, HERE.

2. Our young man, Richman, is nearing the end of his 2 years of Bible School. He will be graduating on December 2nd. He still has outstanding school fees and a graduation fee that need to be paid before the end of October. We are hoping to raise $500 for this. Direct link to support Richman:  HERE

3. This last need isn't urgent, but it is important. I personally am looking for monthly support to cover my missions travel fees and to contribute toward a salary for myself. My goal is to raise at minimum of $1,000 per month and to have that split 70/30 for salary and missions travel expenses. Please consider partnering with me directly, HERE.

Our website: will direct you to all giving and sponsorship opportunities.

Thank you for taking the time to read and catch up. Please know that we are continually grateful for our supporters and that the children are living drastically better lives because of you.

Humbly and gratefully,

Melissa Irwin
Founder / Executive Director

Monday, December 21, 2015

When Cash Makes More Sense Than Clothing

So often ... way too often, a well-meaning line of questioning about BFGO turns sour because the inquisitor wants to know what they can purchase for the kids because they'd prefer to give a tangible object rather than money.  I'd never suggest that this feeling/belief/desire is wrong, but it's often not best.

No two mission trips or charities are the same. Some countries are easier to serve because they are geographically closer, goods are more readily available, ships or planes make multiple daily stops, economies are friendlier (low prices), and multiple other reasons.

I love that people want to send backpacks full of books to Zimbabwe. The heart for this is precious. But that will not ever make sense - and here is why: school supplies are easy to buy in Zimbabwe. Very easy. Some items are more expensive than in the USA but some are cheaper - together it all works out. To ship a SMALL 10 lb box from Franklin, TN to Zimbabwe costs us $150. Then the recipient in Zimbabwe has to pay a customs/import tax. By the time we've paid the fees, the shipping costs far exceed the value of what was in the box.

Almost everything that our Zim babies need can be purchased right there.

When our missionaries travel to Zim, we do cram as much "free stuff" in  our bags as we can. Over the years we have taken dental supplies, clothes, vitamins, medications, books, bibles, computers, printers, etc. Often we have to pay $100 for each additional piece of luggage over the airline limits. If we pay an additional $100 for a box of toothbrushes, we have spent way more than it would have cost to purchase toothbrushes at the Zim market. This is true for most things.

The exceptions to the above are (1) technology (2) medication (3) certain text books.

We cannot send the children Christmas Presents but we can send them each $10 to go shopping for their favorite hair clips, small toys, ball caps, or earbuds.  We cannot send them warm blankets but we can purchase them brand-new $30 each. We cannot send or deliver school supplies, but we can fully supply a child for $20.

Zim has nearly all of the goods but our orphanage partner simply lacks the funds to purchase them. This is straight economics. In a country with a 90% (usually higher) unemployment rate, the sad fact is that for our friends, it is nearly impossible to obtain the needed items. This is why people die for no good reason ... lack of water, lack of medication, lack of shelter. And these reasons go back to the root of why we partnered with them in the first place, even why we formed BFGO. It's so simple... they need money to buy necessities and to pay for school fees, medications and some food items.  And although we haven't shared much about the other details, we are also helping pay the salaries of the caregivers and teachers as well as the rental fees for their various shelters. (They rent 5 houses: 3 orphanage houses, 1 school and the Poultry farm).

During this Christmas season, I know how fun it is to pack boxes for Samaritans Purse, donate coats for the homeless, deliver meals to the shelters and choose an angel off the tree to provide for a vulnerable child. These are beautiful - in fact, stunningly beautiful. My family also has participated in all of these activities. It is so important to give in tangible ways and to teach your children. My kids have had fun in selecting items for those boxes and for those angels. They have gone into homes with me to deliver groceries and we've left in tears. Donating much needed funds is also a beautiful activity and it's impact shouldn't be diminished.

A financial donation online isn't quite as touchy and feely, but for organizations like ours where money does the greatest amount of good for our orphaned kiddos, your donations are almost too impactful to measure. Please consider a financial donation to BFGO during this Christmas season. We are raising money specifically for unpaid rentals and a Christmas Gift for each child - that they will select at a market in Zim next week.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Zim Baby Updates

I was just in Zimbabwe for 2 weeks and captured these cuties! They are adorable and we are honored to have them in our lives! Their needs are costly and we'd love to have a team of financial supporters to help provide their food, formula, diapers, and medical visits.

Baby Elaine

Peace (boy)

Ruva (girl below)

Tadiwa (boy below - he has extra medical needs)

Tafadzwa (boy below)

Baby Kundai (boy below - preemie with extra medical needs).

Tariro (girl below - normally smiling. :) )

Makanaka (girl below)

Munashe (boy below)

Nyasha (boy below - special emotional needs)

These kiddos have a special fund setup through our donation platform. Click HERE if you would like so specifically support their needs each month or for a one-time donation. In the drop down fund menu, please select Zim Babies. Thank you!

** There are many other needs in addition to the babies. If you'd like to help the older children transition to University or give to our greatest need fund, we'd be so grateful for your love, prayers and support.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lawn Party for Marlena's Orphanage - Awareness & Opportunity

On The Lawn with Marly Mae 


Friends of BFGO, friends of mine and friends of the precious Marlena ...

Please join us on Saturday October 24th from 3pm - 5pm in Franklin for a lawn party. It will be important for you to bring a towel or blanket for seating. We are offering worship and uplifting music by the ridiculously talented and beautiful Marcia Ramirez. Marcia is currently on tour with Christopher Cross but is joining us on this day. You will love her voice, her heart and her stories.

Marlena, an orphan from Zimbabwe is going to be sharing her story. She has been in America for just a little over 1 year and will graduate high school in May. At that time she will return to Zimbabwe if not awarded scholarships to attend University here.

There is no cover charge for this event, however our goal is to raise awareness and raise funds for the various important needs including but not limited to 1) Marlena's tuition fees, 2) needs for her orphanage in Zimbabwe, 3) scholarship funds for orphans.  Please bring an open heart and mind. We can't wait to share BFGO with you. (Beautiful Feet Global Outreach, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization offering orphan care and ministry to orphans.)

We will have various things for sale including t-shirts, jasper stone necklaces (these are great inspirational reminders of the Heaven we long for. See Revelation 21). We will also have some African wares straight from Zimbabwe. The cashier station can accept checks, cash and all major credit cards.

To RSVP - please go to the Mission Marlena Facebook Page and leave a comment. Also while you are there, please "like" the page.  (<-- link)  (Location: 405 Meadowgreen Drive)

May God bless you and forever keep you in the palm of His Mighty Hand. 

humbly His,
~ melissa irwin
founder / executive director

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chickens, Babies and Goodbyes

BFGO has experienced much in the past year... great things and hard ones.

We struggled as an organization through some fundraisers. We bit our nails and gritted our teeth as our Zimbabwe Poultry Project kept getting more and more expensive. We celebrated the great news that Marlena, from Zimbabwe, gets to remain in high school here in the USA - but still without funding, and then most recently, our Zimbabwe orphanage is going through two major changes: 1) Many of the older children are completing school and aging out. A hard reality! 2) Social Welfare in Zimbabwe continues to bring babies and toddlers into the orphanage...lots of them.

Our Zim Chicken Project has finally opened for business and we are so grateful. It will take a little while for it to turn a profit for the orphanage but we are well on our way.  To recap, because it has been a long while, BFGO established a water source and electricity, and then we provided all of the funds to construct a large building that includes 3 interior chicken coops. We purchased a generator and provided for various systems to be put into place to feed and water the chickens. Someone else outside of BFGO also donated some funds and they finally have chickens. The photos below are from the day that the chickens were delivered. Please rejoice with us - this has been a long and difficult but amazing project to be part of. We owe so much gratitude to the various people who contributed approximately $16,000 of the $20,000 to complete it.

Our next big thing happening in Zimbabwe is LOTS OF BABIES!
Our orphanage partner has been flooded with babies and toddlers. Social Welfare takes in children that have been abandoned and they find placements for them in orphanages. Our older kiddos are moving out due to age and those spots are filled with precious little ones. Several of these kiddos were abandoned roadside and others found in the brush. Our youngest was placed at just 7 days old. As a result, our board member, Elaine Smith, went to Zimbabwe and spent 9 weeks caring for them around the clock and to develop a baby/toddler program. A caregiver was hired and also trained. We currently have more kiddos than the homes have room for, but that is often the African way. There is not enough money to fund their formula and diaper needs, so this is an emergent need. We've established a baby fund at our website for donations. The photos below are a few of our newest residents.

Finally, a large number of our Zim orphans are completing school this Christmas and it will be time for them to exit the program. Our orphanage director has already worked tirelessly to help find many of them jobs and placements. In fact, several of those kids are already working at markets during the night and still going to school all day, while maintaining their studies and their chores. They earn very little money, but with a 95% unemployment rate in Zimbabwe, we believe that any opportunity is valuable.  This is one of the hardest aspects to this type of work - having to let kids go, but it's mandatory per social welfare. A few of the kiddos have achieved academic excellence, and for those, we desperately want to help them go on to higher learning opportunities in Zim or abroad. 

Please consider partnering with BFGO in one of the following ways:
1). Sponsor a specific child. You can research our kiddos over at the website.
2). Don't want to sponsor a specific kiddo? You may choose our Zimbabwe Orphanage partner via the website and set up a monthly donation of any amount. Your donation will be allocated directly to their greatest needs.
3). If you believe in the work of BFGO and want to offer your general financial support, you may set up a one-time or recurring monthly donation of any amount into our Greatest Need Fund.
4). If you feel compelled to help specifically with education costs for the kids who are aging out, you may make a one-time donation, or monthly recurring of any amount into our education fund.

All of these can be established at our website by clicking onto the donate tab, decide on the amount you want to give, and then choose the fund you desire by clicking the drop down menu. It's so simple and yet so impactful. You may visit our website HERE. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our updates. We continue to be deeply grateful for every engaged heart. God bless your tenderness and generosity.

Melissa Irwin and the BFGO Team

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Diminished God?

(no time for editing/spellcheck) - deal with it. ;)

I was thinking about ministry. In general.

The Sunday before I left to come to Zim, my pastor asked my husband and I to come up and share a bit about our missions calling with the congregation. First of all – yay – what a sweet opportunity. Secondly, I kinda bombed it.

Sure, I shared 2 minutes worth of vision and hope and excitedly got to share that sweet Marlena is returning with me. But! At one point Darren asked me what we (BFGO) mostly do when we are with the kids at the orphanage.

My stupid response: “mostly just ministry”. Okay I shared a couple of brief specifics, but I woke up the next day thinking…

…GAW! JUST ministry?

Seriously, couldn’t the Holy Spirit have inspired me to recognize that ministry isn’t just a little thing – like maybe not even worth mentioning?  I didn’t even mention the chicken project BECAUSE MY BRAIN WAS DEAD.

What is ministry if it isn’t everything?

When you encourage a child – it is ministry.
When you teach and love and discipline your children – it is ministry.
When you forgive your spouse for being aloof – it is ministry.
When you hand out programs at church with a precious smile on your face – guess what? Ministry.
When you wrap your arms around someone who count their life’s hugs on one hand – yep – ministry.

Just ministry is Just Jesus and He is All in All. I cannot even fathom that I reduced the work He shaped for me as some small thing. Such a reduction makes Him a tiny man on a tiny cross shedding just a tiny bit of blood.

How could I?

I’m an ambassador of Christ, a Christian soldier, a child of God and a co-missioner with Jesus. I am a carrier of the Holy Spirit and with that I have the power in me that God used to raise Christ from the grave. I am small and He is large – but His ministry is huge.

Do you feel small in your ministry? Well stop it. You may be small – but the ministry He gave you can never be less than all that He is.

I remember this as I sit and talk with Misheck and learn of all the ways he has heard Jesus in the past year and the ways that the Holy Spirit has managed to remove greed and replace it with an earnest desire to love his neighbor. Yes, sweet Lord!! These kids want to serve as much or more as they are being served in their great love for the God that created them in His image.

I remember this as I speak with Eric about his great love and appreciation for his sponsors – the people who write letters and pour love and life in his otherwise sometimes lonely heart.

I remember this as I read (with permission) the diary of one girl who was raped at approximately the age of 8 and her continued desire to rid her own life and body from this earth.

This ministry carried out by you and by me – it delivers hope and love and healing into the lives of the hurting. It feeds a hunger for a greater understanding of who God is to the hurting world at large. Jesus – you show up in our “just ministries”. Jesus is, in fact, the minister through His Holy Spirit. If we reduce this in our minds and heart – we reduce the power to nothing and we fail to leave a trail of love.

It’s catastrophic. The hurting world cannot afford for us to diminish the value of the ministries He gives us.

I pray that I never do this again.

I tell you – Zim is a learning place. It is a microscope that I personally need to see through. So much is revealed. The eyes of my heart open to greater wisdom and insight and my heart is leveled to a new place of humility. I could never thank Zimbabwe enough for her precious people, her reception to the gospel and to the warm hugs that minister to me in a great big huge way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zim Baby - I've Lost Count

Home sweet home away from home sweet home.

I love being here. It helps that 70 degrees is my love termperature - (like a love language but different). The air is singing me super sweet love songs and I feel like a butterfly.

Sunday was landing day and also the day for groceries. I'm all stocked up on peanut butter, crackers, eggs and coffee. Thank sweet Jesus for Kind bars because it looks like my only supper will be rice and a small portion of vegetables. I must add this though - the cook prepared some kale 2 nights ago that was to-die-for. And no, this isn't some sort of manipulative mind game for Pastor Darren - it was actually awesome. I'm pretty sure that was one heck of a massage.

Yesterday was all about conversation. The house of teenage boys is swelling now with many many guys. It is heaven to me as I get to spend time with guys that I haven't really had the precious fortune to before. Blessing me down deep into my toes. I could dance. Again.

And there is the cook. Auntie Dorcas.

She came into the living room where I had been sitting alone for a few moments reading my devotionals for the day. So poised, as they all are, she folded her arms across her legs and smiled so big, as they all do, indicating hope for a talk. She began with all the pleasantries of how "heyappy" she is to finally meet me and a string of kind of words that it seemed she had delicately knitted to present as a gift to me. Warmer than a blanket. I could have cried.

Before I asked, I knew her story. I could feel it coming. Imagine walking into a library and every book on the shelf is exactly the same, only the names are changed. Her pages read like so many. Her husband left. She gave the baby to her momma. She came to the city to find work to pay for food and school fees for her little girl. She sees her daughter once per month when she can find time and money to travel to the rural areas. End of chapter 1. Chapter 2 is still being written.

The thing that she said over and over that is haunting my mind is how she is the bread winner for her family. Auntie Dorcas is 24 years of age, the 9th born of 11 children. Her mother is 66. Her baby girl is 7. Auntie cooks and cleans for a household of 10 boys and makes $200 per month. She is the bread winner.

You know, in our culture, the bread winner is the money-maker. Our bread winners win cars and houses, clothes, jewelry, internet access, vacuum cleaners, x-boxes, paint, facial cleansers, Clorox wipes, wine and Starbucks venti-mocha frappucinos (no whip please).  In this culture, the bread winner is the person who actually wins literal bread. The bread winner here wins fertizlizer and seed for the small maize crop just outside of the mud hut where 8 people sleep side by side on the floor. Bread is lunch and often, it is the whole of their lunch. Nothing else.

For Auntie Dorcas to be the bread winner she has had to forfeit a full-time life with her daughter.

I can't even…

I don't know.

The pain.

The people in Zim give me so much to chew on. So much to wrestle with. Right now my shoulders are pinned to the mat and I can barely move.

I love people. I love and hate their stories. I love that Jesus gives me tears for them. I know I'm alive.

I wish I could tell you that the Holy Spirit moved me with just the right words to speak into her. He does that sometimes and it rocks but for now He is working in me quietly. He's knitting a gift from Himself, in me for her and I will give it to her before I leave.