Meet Allison Ockenfels, one of the most inspirational teens I’ve ever “informally” met. You see, okay, we haven’t ACTUALLY met but we do email back and forth and I do have every intention of meeting face-to-face in the future, but you see there’s something about this whole me being in Malawi and her living in Iowa that really isn’t working for us at the moment.
Allison is on fire for Mary’s Meals (more importantly Christ first which is awe-inspiring in itself) and has raised thousands and thousands of dollars for the organization. Did I mention that she’s only in her teens?
It’s for this precise reason that Allison has inspired me. No, it’s not the fact that she’s raised tons of money for hungry children or that she spends her time teaching young Catholics to be on fire for their faith through confirmation classes at her church, it’s her overall compassion for humans. It’s quite evident through communicating with her that her “small” (depends on your definition) acts of love have touched so many lives.
So, I felt inspired to write this blog entry. Why? Because on January 22 of this year, Allison gave me one of the best birthday presents I have ever received. I was crying in the teacher’s lounge as I opened her email, and that’s saying a lot! As I opened the message with the subject line: “Happy Birthday!” I expected to find an email simply wishing me a great day…what I got was a lot more unexpected!
Instead of simply sending me a happy birthday email, Allison had arranged for TWO people a day from around Iowa to email my husband and me to tell us that they were praying for us. So for 30 days straight, two people have emailed us specific prayers that they’re praying for our family. What an incredible gift!
I have to admit, I’d never even thought of doing something like sending prayer warrior emails before, but what an impactful gift!
1. I’m all about gifts that are low cost
2. I’m all about gifts that have a purpose and a meaning
3. If they can be Christ-centered, that’s even better!
Allison’s present served all three purposes: score! (Please note the excessive use of the exclamation point, as I am that excited about this).
What’s even better is sometimes while we’re living in Malawi we can begin to feel fairly isolated. It’s difficult to be cut off from your friends and family so Allison’s idea brought us closer to the people we love.
This outpouring of Christ’s love helped me to realize a few things. First, it’s within human nature to appreciate verbal confirmation once in awhile. You can pray for people all you want, and God will work through those prayers, but humans want the reassurance of being told, “I prayed for you today.” It’s really just that simple and can turn someone’s day around.
Second, how impactful to send someone a showering of prayers for thirty days from people that they love? I’m thinking birthdays, weddings, birth of a baby, the options are endless! This really encouraged me to think outside of the box when thinking about gifts for my friends. After all, there’s nothing more lasting or impactful than the power of prayer.
Third, how convenient. If you have someone that’s living away from home…college, work, whatever, what a great way to help that person feel connected to their home.
I just thought this was such a beautiful idea that I simply had to share it on the blog!
Now, last but not least, since Allison seems to never be satisfied with her ability to end world hunger through Mary’s Meals, she’s currently raising money to build ANOTHER kitchen. Yes, as in, she’s built two and now is in the process of getting enough funds to build another (You go girl!). Please check out her blog and see if you feel called to help her reach her goal.
World hunger can come to an end, but it’s up to us as individuals to reach out to those individuals in need and practice sympathy and compassion.
May God bless you!