hey yall, so for my FIRST missionary spotlight....I want you to meet my girl Amanda. ya know how yesterday I talked about our very first man up trip [through Visiting Orphans] to Africa? Well, that's how I met Amanda. she works for VO and this was her first trip to africa too! she has a beautiful story....so let's meet Amanda! make sure you visit her website HERE.
[read more about why I'm starting this here.]
[read more about why I'm starting this here.]
that's us, in Ethiopia [Korah to be exact]. we went on both of our first ever mission trip to africa together summer of 2011. and she's my sister for life now. it's been so amazing to see what the Lord has spoken over her + where He is leading her since this picture was taken. She's so close to going for it. and she has a story, she has needs, she needs a team!
[Amanda on the Nile in Uganda]
tell us three words to describe your personality...
Only.Three.Words.? ok, ok: Spunky. Freespirit. Broken.
what's your absolutely favorite thing in the world to do?
…Wynne. That’s so not fair. Between roadtrips, going to the lake, sitting at a bonfire, belting Disney in my car, cheerin for my Pats (do NOT say anything), going to live shows, watching movies and camping? I’d have to say Living Life. G’aw, I know that sounds so Miss America. But really! Every year for my birthday, I do something to make me feel alive. Whitewater rafting, a tattoo (or 5), Skydiving, taking a trip... There’s so MUCH TO DO in life. So as long as I feel like I’m LIVING, then that’s my favorite thing in the world.
So, Amanda you are a dreamer. When would you say that dreaming started?
I was standing on my coffee table in a costume made from tinfoil, performing the entire soundtrack to The Bodyguard, at the ripe ‘ole age of 8. Or maybe it was when I choreographed an entire figure skating routine to “Independence Day” on rollerblades. Or when I wrote screenplays with my cousin and acted them for my family. I can’t tell you when they actually started, I feel like I’ve been a dreamer since the day I came bursting into life!
what would you say to someone who didn't grow up dreaming big? where should they start?
Oh gosh, this hurts my heart a little. I think if someone hasn’t been dreaming since day one, they need to first ask themselves, Why Not? (and I mean that in all sincerity, not a condescending way at all). What’s happening, or going on in their lives, that has been robbing them of the freedom to dream? Every day, children are told they can’t be somebody or do anything with their lives, and they grow up believing it. Are people living in environments where they feel uncomfortable to escape? Financial burdens create vicious cycles that leave families giving up their dreams. Even marriages will sometimes steal the truth that it’s ok to dream and people tend to settle for mediocre…
So where, you ask, should they start? By taking one small step. “Things” are always going to come up in life (where you live, who you live with, what you’re doing) and if you continue to put those in front of your dreams, your dreams will continue to stay on the back burner. It’s OK to dream. And that it’s always, always, always okay to go for them. Small or Big. And then surround yourself with positive people that believe in you! But if you’re going to start now, you need to start by taking that step. God’s going to either crazy bless you in your own dreams or he’s going to show you another one, but you’ve got to take the first step!
It’s funny you asked this because as I was trying to put my thoughts together, this post came up in my newsfeed, and I think this is the BEST way of saying what needs to be said:
[amanda in Uganda]
when you were a little girl - what did you dream of?
I remember always dreaming as a little kid of being in front of people singing or dancing, entertaining in some way, shape or form. I never had a shy bone in my body and I loved the spotlight. (Loved. Past tense……. Urrr. Right). So when I dreamed, I always dreamed big. If I wanted to be an actor, I dreamed of the Oscar or Tony. If I wanted to be a singer, I dreamed of the Grammy. I dreamed of designing the most exquisite bridal gowns on the planet. I was going to win scholarships for sports and awards for school, travel the world… Honestly, I dreamed of everything.
But I will say this. Every time. EVERY time I ever dreamed BIG, it was so that I would have a decent paycheck to be able to travel the world to visit children in need and make a difference in someone’s life. I didn’t want the glory that came with those awards, I honestly wanted the platform so I was able to do more, to BE more.
I literally remember it like it was yesterday. Laying in bed as a 4th grader, I woke up in the middle of night with this thought that I was supposed to “Coat our Country”, giving warm winter coats to children in freezing places around the US. What?? A 4th grader? How in the?? … Almost 14 years later… partnered with Burlington Coat Factory & Cabela’s, we brought coats to over 400 children in need. And THAT’s when I realized that no matter what you dream and how you strive to reach it, or how long it takes for you to get there, don’t ever. EVER GIVE UP on a dream… If it’s His will, God’s going to give you a platform whether you’re an Academy Award winner or not.
[WAC in beautiful Uganda]
did you ever think you would end up in Uganda? is this a crazy life or what?
hAHA! Yes, when I was 3, I sat on my front porch drinkin my sweet tea, dreaming of a life in a faraway world, stricken with poverty, disease, famine and ……… Okay sorry. NOOoo! That just goes to show that, NO WAY EVER did I EVER think I would end up in Nashville, let alone be moving to Uganda. I probably couldn’t even pronounce it until like 2 years ago!
so, you are moving to Uganda. when was your first trip there?
(deep breath) I am. I went with this really cool, really fun, really awesome spiritually centered organization called, Visiting Orphans, with the very first ‘Man Up’ team. It was the summer of 2011, and I met some pretty cool, pretty radical world changers on that trip that have inspired me to do more. (cough, wink)
did it completely rock your world?
I smile. Thinking back how I felt after I returned from that trip, it’s almost silly now. I was not only rocked, I was WRECKED. Literally. I see it definitely as a refining season now, but during those couple months that followed, I was ultimately miserable. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t relate. Couldn’t find my place… I didn’t want to work and yet I couldn’t sit still. It was one of the hardest times I’ve been through, the waiting and wondering. I probably wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around, and so for that… all my friends and family deserve patience awards, seriously! Sorry y’all!!
when did you know that you had to go back?
The second I stepped off the plane in Entebbe. I knew I would be going home a very short 14 days after, but I KNEW I’d be back. I knew right then and there that this was the beginning to the ‘rest of my life’.
[Amanda in Uganda]
so your dream & vision for heArts to hope...can you share that with us
Do y’all have a couple hours, can’t we meet for coffee instead?
Prelude: It was a crisp and sunny October afternoon in 2010. I was on my way to Georgia after a pretty intense argument. I remember being so frustrated. So tired and weary of the fight. So aggravated that my point wasn’t being made and boy, was I mad…. And halfway into the drive, I felt, what I like to call, a Flick in the Forehead moment. I had to pull over as the most random, unexpected, and yet totally vivid and clear thoughts began to take over… 14 journal pages later… ‘The Vision’ was born.
Why do I tell you all that? To explain that this isn’t mine. Because I was in a totally different place in my life at this time. I’d never traveled to a third world, let alone knew what orphan ministry even was. I was working in the Entertainment industry and was settling into that lifestyle, married to my pride and control. So to say that this is definitely not my dream and vision is an understatement. You couldn’t have paid me to write this script ….
heArts to hope was born that day as my saving grace. I mean it. It was then and there that I knew I needed a life change and it has since saved my life. Visiting Orphans was introduced just weeks after. One thing led to another and I was on a trip to Africa only 8 months later.
While there, I noticed how these kids just shriek and squeal with delight when you throw all your insecurities and inhibitions out the window and just… DANCE. But what really stuck? Is that every time we took out the guitar, every time we sang a song, drew a picture, took a photo, or threw a dance party, these kids came alive. It was like we were feeding them HOPE on a silver spoon. And the vision started becoming a reality that this isn’t just a fun time for us… this is a NEED for them.
heArts to hope strives to be a place where learning and teaching creative expression through visual art, performing art, film, fashion, photography, and music, can offer children affected by life’s damaging circumstances and vicious cycles of poverty with an opportunity to use their passions for long-term life change. The goal is to build a ‘heArts Center’, an actual physical structure for Ugandan’s youth to come to and find solace—a safe haven to find freedom in Hope.
what's your plan now?
Haha…. Oh lordy. That word is my kryptonite. My ‘plan’ (knowing full well that when dealing with another culture on His timeline, anything could change at any given moment) is to visit Uganda at the end of February and talk with some of our ministry partners to see where this can best help. I will gather details on where I’ll be resting my head, how much it’s going to take, where to build the facility, who will be involved, the timeline—basically creating the business plan for the next year. Then come home to hit the ground running to finish raising support to move back in May and get started!
[Amanda in Uganda]
what do you need to get there?
Wynne, that’s such a loaded question. J I’m like a cliché Disney princess, so I say Prayers… but I really.do.mean.PRAYERS. This is not going to happen alone or without them.
And then after that? Turns out, you need funds to move to a foreign country and jumpstart a project. So if you’re anxious to help immediately (and I’m so thankful you are) here’s your chance! I have about $1,800 left to raise for the February trip and then from there, I’ll need about $10,000 more to get me back there to live. This is the biggest need at the moment and your help will go such a long way! (read amandas heart on this here.)
what should people that are wanting to support you do to help?
Set up a time where I can hug their faces! I’m already feeling the love from people I’ve never met and it’s the most humbling thing ever!
I’m gonna need encouragement. That’s what I love so much about you girl, and this Missionary Spotlight you’re doing. Not for my benefit. But for ALL the missionaries out there! For those kids! Because the times when we feel weary. The times when we get discouraged, frustrated, afraid or feel let down? THEY’RE going to be the ones that are affected, let down. Those kiddos aren’t going to get the best of us like they deserve. So let’s rally some cheerleaders! Maybe we can have a sign up where someone sends all us crazies like, a singing skype telegram every other month or something!! Or boxes of laffy taffy. Endless boxes of laffy taffy….
If people want to know specifics on tangible ways to help, always visit my website www.heArtstohope.org and click on the NEED. tab. I will keep that updated as much as possible on immediate needs, as well as long term dreams so people can pick and choose how they best fit in and where to help. If they’re feeling led to donate, all the directions are on the to DONATE. tab.
And finally. If you’re still reading this, all I ask is that you quietly listen to the little (or big) dreams that are whispering in your ear. Just remember that no matter what your situation is, your dreams can come true at any given moment. You just need to take one baby step towards the door…
[always full of joy and light...]
so what do you think yall?
think we can rally around Amanda?!