thrive news

deepest of heartaches

Tears are streaming down my face... My heart is in my throat...

And I feel like throwing up.


All I can say is... Thank you for your prayers. And for simply letting me know you're there...

: : :

Read the complete partner letter here →

A Note from Our Founder

As you’ve been aware while walking this road with us, the past two years have been extremely difficult for Thrive. We have encountered significant challenges that far exceed any other obstacle we’ve overcome in the past 13 years of ministry.

In spite of every effort to raise funds, our financial support has continued to dwindle. For the first time since our inception, we’ve found ourselves unable to sustain our basic operating expenses, for multiple months in a row.

Last month the Board of Directors came to the point of needing to make the most difficult decision we’ve ever made. We will officially be closing our operations in South Africa at the conclusion of the ministry year.

I am thankful that the closing of Thrive doesn’t mean a ceasing of the vital work we have been doing. We are supporting the launch of a new ministry, Ignite South Africa, through several of our staff members who will carry on large aspects of our programming.

I ask that you prayerfully consider continuing your partnership with us through April 2011. Incoming finances will be used to provide our indigenous ministry staff with severance pay and clear Thrive’s operational debts. It is our desire to finish strong and honorably in every way, and we need your help to do that.

We have much to celebrate and rejoice about as we look back at over a decade of ministry together in Africa. God has done incredible things, and you have been a vital part of that. Thank you for allowing Him to use you to bring the light and hope of Jesus to so many.

I so appreciate your ongoing prayers for me, our entire staff team, and everyone whose lives are deeply impacted by this transition. Thank you for everything.

With love, thankfulness, sorrow, and hope, my heart still believes...

God is good.


Read the complete partner letter here →



risky faith

Remember when I said I wanted to trust God for even greater things? Apparently God was listening.

Our financial situation at Thrive Africa is extremely tight right now.

I wrote an email to our partners, letting them know what our needs are and how they can help. It was an unbelievably challenging letter to write, even though I've been raising funds for missions since, ohhhhhh, 1992.

This email took me waaaaay outside my comfort zone.

It's the biggest, boldest ask in Thrive's history.

We are trusting God for $80K in new support by June 1.

And my faith is being stretched to almost-painful extremes.

But I know God has greater things still in store for Thrive.

So we're moving forward in active trust.

I'm working on the details of my huge fundraising trip that starts in just a couple weeks. I'll be in Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Virginia. (Let me know if you want to help!)

We launched a new website that shows how you can impact South Africa, and each week we're going to celebrate 10 Buck Tuesday.

If you've been around a while, you know I don't ask for prayer very often.

But I would really appreciate your prayers right now.

For Thrive. For provision. For my trip.

And for my faith to be strong in the One who is strongest.

Easy Links: Big, Bold Ask Thrive Africa Fundraising Campaign 10 Buck Tuesday Thrive Online Store

do something

We just launched our Thrive Africa online store.

We've got custom t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, bracelets, and coffee, and the proceeds go directly to funding our ministry in South Africa.

I love all our merch, but by far my favorite is the coffee. Because it's unique. I mean, lots of organizations sell t-shirts. But c'mon! Who has their own custom blend of coffee?! So fun that we do.

It's fair-trade and organic. And it's made with all African-grown beans.

From Africa, for Africa.

I love that!

So take a look around. Maybe you'll see something you like. You can even create a wish list to give someone an oh-so-subtle hint.

Will you help spread the word?

You can tell people about Thrive. Blog or tweet about our new online store. Grab one of these graphics to put up on your site.

Click on the graphics to see size options & to copy the HTML code.

Help us train African leaders and turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic.

Do something.

turning the tide

break the silence

A huge part of what we do at Thrive Africa is AIDS prevention. I love our strategy for combating HIV because I know we are making a difference. The fruit speaks for itself. And I don't mind shouting that from my blog. Because it's not a pat on my back, it's a pat on God's.

There are a lot of agencies focusing on the effects of the AIDS crisis--building hospices to care for the dying, establishing orphanages for the scores of children left parentless, and providing services to those infected and affected by HIV. I believe in the urgent need for each one of those things. But I also know if we don't start focusing on the cause of the AIDS crisis, we're going to lose an entire generation in Africa.

The vision God's burned into my heart is to mobilize next generation leaders to live God-honoring lives. The only thing that will truly turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic is lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Long-lasting behavioral change comes from the work of God in a submitted heart. So we teach thousands of students each week in public schools about the purpose God has for them and how to avoid getting HIV so they can actually fulfill that purpose.

Our reason for teaching students isn’t just to prevent them from getting AIDS. Our primary purpose is to lead them into growing relationships with God. As they grow as Christ-following leaders, they'll learn to make wise choices in every area of their lives.

You can learn more about our AIDS prevention program, how you can invest into Africa, and opportunities to serve with us on Thrive's website.

i am only one, but i am one

aids ribbon"I am only one, but I am one.I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." -Edward Everett Hale

Everyone can do something in the fight against AIDS. Don't let the enormity of the task keep you from doing the something you can do.

Learn as much as you can, discover what you're passionate about, and throw your full weight into that passion.

  • Discover which aspect of the AIDS crisis resonates with your heart. It will be different for different people, and that's okay! You may not know yet what you're passionate about in regards to fighting the AIDS pandemic. So begin by reading about the multi-faceted issues involved. Your heart will be gripped by something as you research. It might be orphan care, or medical intervention, or prevention/abstinence programs. Whatever it is, find your passion.
  • Find an organization that shares your passion. Again, this may take some digging. But there are plenty of solid ministries out there targeting the various aspects of AIDS.
  • Connect as much as possible with the cause/organization you believe in. The more you know and understand about their vision and strategies, the more you can be a megaphone for them.
  • Interact with the organization and its team. Visit their website, comment on their blog posts, ask for specific prayer requests. Passion grows when you truly become part of something. Family members have the same blood in their veins. Join the family. Get the vision coursing through you till you bleed it.
  • Use your voice and influence to promote the cause you believe in. You can do that through blog posts, sidebar widgets, twitter updates, and personal conversations. You could commit to a monthly megaphone day on your blog where you highlight different aspects of what’s being done, what the needs are, and opportunities for others to get involved.
  • Be passionate about it. Anyone can plug something, but passion is unmistakable. People will know how much you really believe in what you’re saying.
  • Pray. Prayer really does change things.
  • Contribute financially to support the work that's being done.
  • Get off your "but" and go. Drop the excuses and go see for yourself. Travel overseas to not only see the work in action but to participate in it. The best advocates are those who’ve been involved. And I guarantee it will change your life forever.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What are you currently doing to help in the fight against AIDS? What are you going to start doing? What other suggestions do you have for ways people can get involved?

you CAN do something

AIDS is a reality you don’t have the luxury to ignore.

Bono wrote in his book On the Move---

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drugstore. This is not about charity; this is about justice and equality.

Because there’s no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we’re honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in Southeast Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature.” In Africa 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did---or did not do---to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Don’t close your eyes or turn your head away. People are dying for you to do something.


What will you do to learn more about the AIDS crisis? What will you do with what you know?

pay it forward

I've never been one for Black Friday shopping. Just thinking about all the crowds and chaos makes me feel an anxiety attack coming on. No thank you! But I love me some internet shopping. Cause I can do that without ever leaving my bed house. Mmhmmm.

Here are some ways you can support Thrive Africa and your online shopping habit---not just on Black Friday but every day:

Buy a Thrive Shirt.

thrive shirts

Shop Amazon From Here.

amazonYou can donate without actually donating by clicking on this link before making purchases. Thrive gets a small referral fee when you buy anything from Amazon after you follow the link.

Donate a Portion of Your eBay Sales.

ebayDo you sell things on eBay? You can donate 10%-100% of the final sale price to Thrive, for any item you sell. Learn more about setting up your next listing to donate to us.

Who says you have to live in Africa to make a difference in Africa?

THE shirt

crystal with THE shirt

Crystal's wearing "THE shirt". It makes an appearance once a year here at Thrive Africa.

It all started in 2005 with the arrival of our interns. One of them stepped off the airplane to start his year with us wearing THE shirt. He'd had it made just for the occasion. We laughed; we cringed; we told him he wasn't allowed to wear it off the mission base.

The next year, smack in the middle of our summer internship program, THE shirt surfaced again. At the end of a Family Night gathering at our house, one of our summer interns took off his sweatshirt and there it was! THE shirt! It was an incredibly fun surprise, and the rest of the night was filled with a lot of laughter.

Last year one of our interns did something similar. At the end of Thrive Church, she unzipped her fleece and revealed THE shirt! It caught us totally off-guard---once again!---and solidified its spot as a Thrive family tradition.

THE shirt collage

Two weeks ago at a staff meeting, we went around the room sharing testimonies, same as always. When it was Crystal's turn to share, she started off by saying how hot it was in the room. She dramatically pulled her sweatshirt over her head, revealing THE shirt underneath. Niel and I couldn't stop laughing.

So, in case you hadn't heard, this is THE shirt to wear this season!

four-minute friday: 10 years old


Now the challenge is to get this typed in and posted before the power goes out again. I think we've spent more time without power than with it today.

2008 is a pretty monumental year for us. Thrive Africa turned 10 years old! We've been working on a new page for the website that tells more about our journey. It was fun writing the copy for it, although it was challenging to not go on and on about things. (I've got a decade worth of stories to tell... It's hard to fit that onto one page!)

We even dug out some old pictures from our early years and scanned them in (yes, we used film back then!). There's a whole gallery of these classic photos on the ministry site. (Kitty, enjoy the trip down memory lane!)

You can read our story and see our pictures here.

(Yay! Power's still on...)


inside scoop

It seems like I've been working forever on our new ministry website. Thankfully, I haven't been working alone. Over a year ago, our stellar creative guy started working on the design, and simply never stopped. With the new site having way more depth (meaning way more pages) than our old one, there was a lot of new copy to be written. Thankfully, in June I got some help in that department. I suddenly had a department when I discovered that one of our interns (now a dear friend) is a phenomenal writer, and I recruited her to help me write for various projects, the largest being the website. She wrote the first-draft copy for the entire site.

Hundreds and hundreds of man hours later, we finally went live with the new site on New Year's Day. Dave and Becca, thanks for making us look so good.

I love our new look. The whole feel and vibe of the site definitely seems more... us. And one of the biggest changes is the interactive ministry blog, which I'll be writing for a few times a week. Please, please, please drop by to read and comment. (Yes, I've resorted to begging...)

We aren't announcing the new site until the end of the month. In the meantime, please check it out and let me know if you find anything that should be fixed... like typos, spelling errors, or the like. And definitely let me know what you think.

Don't you feel special for getting the inside scoop?

holy moment

We experienced a sort of holy moment at our women's conference. One of the speakers had the women partner up and wash each other's feet. It was very "improv" in that we used glasses of water and napkins to do the job, but the awkwardness of the supplies was not enough to override the holiness of the moment.

Throughout the room, women were weeping as they served each other. They wept as they themselves were served. Walls were broken down, hearts opened wide, and the presence of God was thick and palpable.

Linda, a missionary in Botswana whom I respect deeply, called me over. "Can I wash your feet?"

I sat down and removed my shoes. As she started to wash my feet and speak words of affirmation over me, I just started to cry. I can't even put my finger on what it was that moved me; I don't think my heart was stirred by any one specific thing she said or prayed. The whole moment was just overwhelming.

Then we switched places; I washed her feet. We continued to cry together as I lifted her up before our Father.

To be served by this beautiful woman, to be flooded with sweet words from her heart, to be immersed in the presence of God... It was a holy moment indeed.

this year in missions

So far this year, we have... ...hosted 218 people ...on 13 teams ...from 11 churches ...for a total of 115 days with us.

We have...

...given 12 Thrive talks ...had 19 team leaders over for coffee (thankfully, not all at once) ...gone on 12 safaris ...eaten at the Carnivore 10 times.

Best of all? We've...

...seen 154 salvations.

And the year's not over yet!

beauty for ashes

"No weapon formed against you shall prosper." This verse holds hope. Promise. It also holds an undeniable fact. If weapons formed against me shall not prosper, it means there will be weapons formed against me. Saturday night, the roof of our dining hall caught on fire. Somehow, sparks from the fire in the fireplace made it all the way up the chimney and set the thatch roof ablaze. After six hours of prayer, hard work, and brave efforts, the fire was completely out.

While the entire building suffered extensive damage, things could've been much worse. We were experiencing strong winds up until just minutes before the fire broke out. Had they not suddenly stopped, the fire would have spread much quicker (and affected other buildings). The temperature was only 40 degrees, and we were soaked from all our efforts to douse the fire with water. Although we were all exhausted and freezing, no one was seriously hurt.

We had a mission team with us from a Spirit-filled church in Michigan. We were so strengthened by their prayers and faith, and their eagerness to jump in and help however they could. Our staff and interns were also all involved; everyone really pulled together as a team. It was a blessing to see unity at work.

While facing the possibility of losing the entire building, Niel and I felt our resolve strengthening. The enemy could take our "stuff", but he could not take our vision. We were determined that we'd find a way to continue reaching people and raising leaders, with or without a dining hall. We knew that there was more at stake than just a building. The enemy's aim was to discourage us, to distract us from the vision, to cause us to lose heart. He did not win.

We are now faced with the challenge of figuring out how to feed our interns and host mission teams without our industrial kitchen and eating hall. We are faced with the uncertainty of how to rebuild and where the money will come from. It's hard. But the decision to not give up isn't.

We will move forward. We will continue doing what we've always done. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on the vision He's given us. We will not give up. We will not slow down. We will not wallow in our losses.

Yes, a weapon was formed against us. But it did not prosper.