Kristen Welch is a busy mother of three who runs the popular blog “We Are That Family” (WeAreThatFamily.com), in addition to a non-profit called Mercy Global House. In 2010, Kristen traveled with Compassion International on a trip to write about poverty in a huge slum. That experience turned her world upside down and led her and her family to start Mercy Global House–an organization that helps empower women and families in Kenya. Kristen wishes to give every family the tools to experience what it’s like to answer the call of the needs in our world, creating community with those in need, and in turn, raising up a new generation of “givers.” Kristen is the author of several books–her latest being Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Stay tuned for the entire episode and hear about gift package giveaway featuring Kristen’s new book!
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Narrator: Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise. That first turquoise table became a meeting place for friends and neighbors, a place to connect, and a symbol of hospitality. Now, Kristin invites you and her special guest to join her here at the Turquoise Table Podcast. Welcome.
Kristin Schell: Welcome to the Turquoise Table. I’m your host, Kristin Schell. Have you ever wondered about leaving a legacy or making a difference, not only in your own life but in the lives of the people that you love the most and who are living near you? Today’s guest, Kristen Welch, had that very same longing. She deeply desired to do something that mattered, but she didn’t know how.
Today, Kristen’s going to share her story with us. It’s pretty dramatic. She has gone from what she describes and explains as an empty and entitled life to one of finding peace and purpose, not only for herself but for her whole family. After a life-changing trip to the slums of Kenya, her life changed. Literally, Kristen says her life turned upside down in the best possible ways. She’s going to share that story with us today, and I can’t wait for you to hear, to be encouraged, and to take away practical tips that she’s going to share with us for leading a life, whether it’s far away like Africa, or more likely, in our own front yard.
Kristen writes faithfully at her blog, which is entitled, We Are That Family, and is a widely respected author on parenting. In fact, her book, her fourth book, just released, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. We’re going to talk about that specifically coming up.
Her family founded a non-profit called Mercy Health Global, which is a residential maternity house in Kenya. She’s launched what’s called Fair Trade Friday. It’s an enormously popular subscription club that employs women around the globe with dignified jobs making products that are fair trade that you and I can support.
Kristen is humble. She shares vulnerable stories today at the table, and I know you are going to be so encouraged.
Before we bring Kristen on, I want to share that we are going to celebrate the work that she does with Mercy House and her new book with a giveaway. Be sure to listen all the way through to the end of the podcast because that’s where we’ll share all of the details with you right after The Kitchen segment.
Just to whet your appetite, today on The Kitchen segment, I’m going to share a delicious African chicken stew recipe with you. It’s easy, delicious, and you don’t want to miss it. Let’s give a warm welcome to our guest, Kristen Welch.
Kristen, welcome to the Turquoise Table. I’m so excited you are here today.
Kristen Welch: Thank you. I am so honored to be a guest today.
Empowering Women At Mercy House Global
Kristin S.: I can’t wait to dive in and hear about your new book and talk about all the things. Before we get in too deep into our conversation, I’ve given an intro, but just tell us briefly about you, your family, what you’re doing, what you’re doing today.
Kristen W.: I’m a wife and mom. I’ve been married for almost 24 years. I have three kids; an 18-year-old who is getting ready to go to college in a couple of months, we actually have her graduation party this weekend; a son who turns 16-years-old tomorrow, and our youngest is 11. We just pulled her out of school and decided to homeschool for the foreseeable future. That’s a little glimpse into my life at home.
I’m actually at work today. I founded Mercy House Global, a non-profit that empowers women around the globe in Jesus’s name in 2010. That keeps me very busy. We oversee Fair Trade Friday. It’s a monthly subscription club that provides dignified jobs to thousands of women every month. Today is actually our annual giving day called She is Priceless. I am wearing pearl jewelry because today we put on our pearls and stand up for priceless women everywhere. Fun day.
Kristin S.: I love that. I saw that, I think, on social media. You know what? I’m going to go get my grandmother’s pearls, and I’ll join you in that. It’s incredible. I want to back us up just a little bit because before all of this and before Mercy House, I actually found out about you way back in the internet days. I’m going to date just a little bit. I came to know you from “What Works for Me Wednesday.” That was back when I was following “Rocks in My Dryer.” What was that, 2009 or something when you started that, right?
Kristen W.: Almost a decade ago. It’s hard to believe.
Teaching Kids To Give
Kristin S.: Isn’t that crazy? I think it’s interesting though because it’s fun to see what the Lord does and how He starts us in these brave, wild world of adventures and how far you’ve come. That’s how long I’ve been following you and admiring your work. It’s just been a joy to see what God has done and how far He has taken you. I love that. Let’s talk about your new book. You probably didn’t think about that a decade ago, did you? You weren’t thinking about it. No.
Kristen W.: Even still, I can’t believe I’ve written parenting books. Usually I’m not that great of a parent, it feels like. Kids sometimes make you feel like you’re not doing it right. I think my journey has caught me by surprise, for sure.
Kristin S.: I love that. I think that’s what makes you so approachable and how you’ve been so successful in building such a great community around you is because you’re in the weeds with everyone else. You’re not doing it from a place of back 20 years ago. It’s just such a joy to … I always feel like you’re just a kindred, like a friend walking through with me.
Kristen W.: Definitely. Definitely.
Kristin S.: This book is number five? Four? Five?
Kristen W.: This is my fourth book.
Kristin S.: It’s called Raising World Changers in a Changing World. I would love for you, tell us your heart behind that, how it came to be. It’s so important. It’s a great piece of work, and I want to hear just how you started, from the concept of it.
Kristen W.: This is one of those books, and this isn’t true of everything I’ve written, but this book had to come out of me. I felt like over the past couple of years I’ve been sitting on this, I guess secret, if you will, just this amazing epiphany that I’ve had in my own personal life and it spilled over into parenting. That’s really the core of this book. It’s simply that we were meant to share our lives. We look for joy and purpose in our culture in so many different ways.
What I discovered, instead of keeping everything to myself, which is, I think, part of we get on that American dream track and we just keep changing our lifestyle and making it better and better and better. What I realized is that when we give our lives away, that’s how we find joy and purpose. I’ve watched that in my home, and I’ve watched it in my kids’ lives. It’s changed us. I think we’re as busy as we’ve ever been, but we fall in bed exhausted and with so much peace and purpose that it makes us want to get up and do it all over the next day.
“When we give our lives away, that’s how we find joy and purpose.” Kristen Welch
Reminding Kids of Their Unique Gifts
Kristen W.: I think when we become parents, we automatically and naturally want to protect and provide for our kids. We want to give them the world. That’s just a natural inclination. It’s a slippery slope. It’s very easy to get into this habit of giving them stuff and responding to their demands and confusing their wants and their needs.
We’re still in the weeds, as you said, and in the trenches here, but what we’re seeing is that when we share what we have, the gifts that we’ve been given, we don’t have less, we have more. In our economy and even the way that we look at our finances and numbers, if you look at it on paper and you give half of what you have away, you’re going to have half of what you had. I think that’s how we view giving.
When we give to the Kingdom, and we share our gifts and our resources and our time and our talents, whatever God’s given us, we don’t have less. We have more because God multiplies it. It’s just like the boy’s lunch. I constantly go back to that passage in the Bible, in the Gospels where this little boy shared what he had. What is enough to meet the need? No, but he offered what he had, and God multiplied it.
When I tapped into that and began to even raise my kids in this view of God has given you specific gifts that he’s not given anyone else: your personality, your birth order, your natural talents; these were meant to be shared. If we sit on them and keep them to ourselves, we will not have the purpose and the joy that God wants us to have. When we share those, so we’re not just talking about money here, but when we share what we’ve been given, we were meant to share it. That’s where we find our joy and purpose in life.
“God has given you specific gifts that he’s not given anyone else: your personality, your birth order, your natural talents; these were meant to be shared.” – Kristen Welch
Kristin S.: I love that. I love it. It is a mind shift though, obviously. Learning Jesus math is different than learning math in middle school or high school. Do you remember when that shift took place as a mother and as parents, that … Can you take us back to that time where you knew that something needed to change and how you did that? What did you do first?
Kristen W.: I definitely think it starts with us as parents. We can’t teach and model what we’re not living. Really, that’s the core of every parenting book I’ve written is God has parented me as I’ve parented my kids. He’s disciplined me. He’s showed me my own entitlement, my own lack of gratitude. I think that I discovered my sweet spot, and that’s the place where I like to define that our passion and our skills collide with God’s timing.
For me personally, as a writer, that was something I was good at and I love doing. I felt God’s pleasure when I wrote. I felt like it was a gift. When I applied that to my passion, which for almost 20 years now has been motherhood and mothers, when that collided with God’s perfect timing, and I offered Him that passion and that skill, I found my sweet spot.
We started Mercy House as a result of all of that intersection of those things. God has given me a lot as a mom. I began meeting mothers around the globe who didn’t have as much as I had physically and were asking God to meet their needs. I get to be in this unique place in the middle where I can connect moms who don’t have with moms who do have. That’s my sweet spot. I’m convinced of it.
My life took on a whole new meaning. In that process, I discovered that I was very entitled and really just selfish by nature. As I began to share what I’ve been given and just let go and loosen my grip on everything that I had, it really changed my life. Then it changed the way that I parent because I naturally began modeling that for my kids. They saw me step out of my comfort zone. They saw someone who doesn’t really have the gift of hospitality, open her home to strangers. Someone who doesn’t naturally like to travel began to step into scary places. It just began to flow out of what God was doing in me.
“As I began to share what I’ve been given and just let go and loosen my grip on everything that I had, it really changed my life.” – Kristen Welch
I’m still in this place, especially with kids who are now considering what they want to do once they leave the house and they’re getting ready for college. We’re having all these amazing conversations. My oldest, she’s a smart girl. She’s a gifted learner. She felt a lot of pressure to go into the medical field because she’s good at math and science.
What are you doing when you’re doing it, you feel God’s pleasure. You just know you were created to do this. Out of the blue she said ‘Art’. This was several years ago. She got into art lessons. Now she has almost a full scholarship for graphic design and art to college. She creates a lot of Fair Trade product for Mercy House.
Her whole life changed by answering that question, what gift has God given you, and how can you glorify Him in it?
It’s so amazing to see our kids really just discover that their unique abilities and their makeup and the way God created them, He wants to use that to impact the kingdom. There’s a lot of fulfillment in that.
Raising a New Generation of Givers
Kristin S.: That’s so incredible that as a mother, yes, and for children, but also for all of it. I just know that there’s probably a woman listening right now who’s wondering what’s my gift still. How did you start that lesson with the children?
Kristen W.: I think it was just their natural conversation and allowing them to try and fail. Our youngest who’s 11, she’s still not sure what her passion and skills are. She’s trying lots of things. I think that’s just being a child and growing up. I think making giving a part of our normal lives, it really does raise givers. We’ve seen that just in very small ways. I’ve had the opportunity to take my kids all over the world with me.
Most of our lessons have been learned in our own backyard with sharing the extra seat in our van because a neighbor boy needs a ride to church. Last Wednesday night, we picked up five boys. I asked my son, I told him, I didn’t prepare. We didn’t leave early enough to pick up all these boys for Youth Group. I said, “How many kids are you going to invite to church?” He said, “Mom, how many seats do we have in our van?” I think when we raise our kids to be givers, they learn to give their lives away. There’s a lot of joy in that.
“When we raise our kids to be givers, they learn to give their lives away. There’s a lot of joy in that.” – Kristen Welch
When my daughter moves out in August, the next week we have a young girl from the Ukraine moving into her bedroom. She is a pastor’s daughter from one of our artisan groups. She got a student visa, and they needed a place for her to live. We have an extra bedroom. I think when we look at the empty seat at our table or the room in our home or the extra money in our bank account, we have to ask a couple of very hard questions.
I’m going to ask you these questions, not because I have always answered them correctly, but because it took me decades to even, I think, have the courage to ask them, and that is:
‘Why were we born where we were born?’
Why did we get to be born in North American where we have 75% of the world’s resources? We didn’t choose that. It’s was God’s sovereignty. I think that women in poverty in slums around the world, they didn’t choose where they were born either.
I think if we ask ourselves and truly consider that question, then it leads us to the next question:
‘What are we supposed to do with what we’ve been given?’
It’s not just for us to keep. If we keep it all, we have that choice, but we’re only going to want more. There’s not satisfaction or contentment. When we share what we’ve been given, we double our own blessing.
Recognizing Our Blessings & Sharing Them
Kristen W. I just grew up in this Bible Belt culture of thinking I was blessed, and I am blessed, but every extra thing in my life as an adult, every raise, every unplanned check in the mail, every job change, I looked at it as a blessing. I’m so blessed. It was a blessing because God says every good and perfect gift comes from heaven above, but I was keeping those blessings to myself. I was not sharing them.
I think the danger there is that we just keep changing our lifestyle over and over and over. We make it better and better and better and better. We upgrade our lives constantly with every blessing, and we don’t change lives. When we receive a blessing, I think the true question we have to ask ourselves is, “God, is this a blessing for me to keep for myself, or is this a test, and you’re asking me to share what I’ve been given?” When we started doing that as a family, literally, every blessing that came in our way, “God, are we supposed to keep this? Are we supposed to share it?” Many times, he said, “Keep it. This is something I’ve given your family as a blessing.”
Way more often than I realized, He also was saying, “This is a test. I am giving you this because if you will share what I’ve given you, this unexpected blessing, I will give you more, not for you to keep, but for you to change lives.”
“We have to ask ourselves, do we keep changing our lifestyle, or do we use what God has given us to change lives?” – Kristen Welch
Kristin S.: I love that. I love that you’ve experienced that both in big ways and then, as you pointed out, in small everyday ways. Your daughter, when she moves out, you’ve got an extra room. That would be so easy just to store the extra stuff in there or just save it for her when she comes home. You said earlier that maybe you didn’t have hospitality. That is pure hospitality to open that room up for a stranger. Hospitality means “love a stranger” in Greek. That’s exactly what that is. I love that. You’re right, the result and the feeling of that is joy.
Kristen W.: Yes, it is. It’s definitely joy. It changes your family. You think you’re going to change someone’s life by a simple, “Yes, you can stay with us.” In return, I know that God will change us. We’ll learn about a new culture. Our family will expand. We’ll be more selfless. We’ll be pushed out of our comfort zone because, obviously, that’s not something we know how to do. I think that that’s a good place to be. When you make serving and giving a part of your normal, it becomes your normal.
“When you make serving and giving a part of your normal, it becomes your normal.” – Kristen Welch
I remember years and years ago when my youngest was in kindergarten, we had moved into the house that we’re in now. We were in a new school district. She asked if a friend could come over to play after school. This was her first school play date, five-years-old. It was so cute. I remember she walked around the house giving her friend a tour. She was like, “This is my mom and dad’s bedroom. This is the bathroom. This is the kitchen.” We got to the kitchen. I was just following around to make sure she didn’t say this is the dirty laundry room or whatever.
Her little friend said, “Who are all these people on your refrigerator?” At the time, we had 10 Compassion sponsor kids. Several of them have graduated. We still have seven. We had their faces all over our refrigerator. My youngest said, “These are the people that we pray for and that we support. What does your family do?” I remember just being caught off guard at this very childlike … We started Mercy House when she was two-years-old. She just knows nothing else. Service has become a part of her normal. It was so powerful for me to hear her ask and in such an innocent way, “This is how our family changes the world. How does your family change the world?” I think when we make it a part of our normal, it definitely becomes our normal.
The Beginnings of Mercy House
Kristin S.: I’m so encouraged. I have a million questions. I want to take people back to your trip to Kenya. Tell us what you were doing and that ah-ha moment that eventually led to Mercy House.
Kristen W.: I actually think about that moment I think every single day. I had been blogging, like you mentioned before, for about two years. Blogging in itself, especially when I first started, it’s kind of an egocentric activity. I’m writing. I’m asking people to read my stories and then comment and like what I’m doing. I was very wrapped up in that world and loved it and found a lot of community and contentment doing that.
Behind the screen, behind my laptop, I was struggling with emptiness at that point in my life. My husband had his first corporate America job. We had a 401 (k). We moved into our, at the time, it was my dream house. I would drop my kids off at preschool, publish a blog post, and then I would go shop. I shopped and shopped and shopped. I had probably 15 huge totes full of just Christmas décor. I just was trying to fill something. It was about that time that I was invited by Compassion International, which is the world’s largest child sponsorship program, to Nairobi, Kenya, on a blogging trip.
At the time, I had never been in a developing or a Third World country. I had no idea what I was saying ‘yes’ to. As a matter of fact, I actually said ‘no’ when they first asked me. I just responded immediately, “No, this isn’t for me.” I told my husband about it at dinner at night. “Guess what I got today? An invitation to go to Africa.” He was very disappointed in me. He was like, “Why would you say no to a trip like that?” I had a lot of excuses. I said, “Our youngest is still a baby,” and so on. He said, “Kristen, why are you really no to this?” I said, with tears in my eyes, I said, “I’m afraid it’s going to change my life.” He said, “Honey, maybe it needs to change your life.” He had seen the emptiness in me and the desire to do something that mattered that I didn’t know how.
The next day I called back and said, “Okay. On second thought, I will go on this trip”. I literally woke up in a slum in Kenya. Physically and spiritually, the day that wrecked me, I wrote a blog post that day called Today I went to Hell. That’s exactly what it felt like. I had never been more afraid or more unequipped to walk into the world’s largest slum. I tell you, my normal ended that day. It really did. I was wrecked by what I saw. I learned so many new terms like cerebral prostitute, as I asked about the little girls who were begging for food and prostituting, not for money but for survival.
I learned what an orphan led home was. Really the defining moment, we walked into the center of a slum for probably half a mile. We were just surrounded with the most extreme poverty I’ve ever seen in my life. Every sense was on fire; what I was seeing, what I was smelling, what I was tasting. Everything was just difficult. It just blew open everything I know about God.
I remember feeling angry at God. That emotion really surprised me. Of course, as I’m walking, I can just see, I thought it was raining. There were big drops landing on my rain boots. It was me crying. It was just this shock. I didn’t even feel in control. I remember stopping on that very dirty path and shaking my fist, just clinching my fist and saying, “God, how can you allow so much human suffering?” I had been raised in church my whole life. I knew that Jesus loves all the children all over the world, but when I saw the world’s normal, I just couldn’t reconcile who God was and how He could allow it. The minute I asked that question, the Holy Spirit responded with, “Now that you’ve seen it, what are you going to do about it.”
Kristin S.: There it is.
Impacting the World’s Normal
Kristen W.: He sent us. We are His hands and feet. I came home wrecked, just a totally different person. When I continued on that path, we actually went to a home of one of the Compassion children. They were showing us how Compassion was responding to poverty and the slum. This boy’s name was Vincent. He was an orphan who took care of his brothers. There weren’t any parents in the home. He was the leader or the parent of the home. He was 14-years-old and had two little brothers. He showed us his very small, probably the size of my master closet, house, and showed us this one candle and how he would light it to do his homework in the dark. It was just mind-boggling how small and how poor and how sad this home was.
He said, “Does anyone have any questions,” after he gave us his little tour. I raised my hand and I said … I just felt so much pity for him. I’ve always regretted being the one person in the room who asked the stupid question. I think it really shows, it reveals where my heart was at the time. I raised my hand, and I said, “Vincent, how can you be so happy? You have nothing.” He looked at me really offended, but he was smiling the whole time, this big smile. He responded, “Ma’am, I have Jesus, and he is enough.”
“I have Jesus, and He is enough.” – Vincent, Compassion International child
I realized that I had Jesus too, but He wasn’t enough for me. That collision of all of those moments and everything, who I was, what I had done, the emptiness I felt, it all collided in that moment. I came home and decided to try to impact the world’s normal.
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Empowering Women Internationally
Kristin S.: Tell us now about Mercy House. Just give us the 411 on the women that are there and what’s happened since that life changing trip to Kenya.
Kristen W.: We have a fully indigenous staff in Kenya. They’re really the local heroes on the ground. We work with empowering local Kenyans to be the heroes of the story. We have three maternity centers in Nairobi, Kenya. I was there three weeks ago. I got to be a part of rescues of our 46th and 47th pregnant teens. We’ve had lots and lots and lots of miracle babies. It’s a residential program. The girls stay two years with an optional third year that’s part of our transition center. We provide everything imaginable: a loving home, counseling, prenatal care. They become loving mothers. We basically keep families together. That’s our goal.
Part of what we do is the initial, we rescue girls. We empower their families with dignified work. This is in the last four or five years we realized to break that cycle of poverty, and these girls are very young, between the ages of 12 and 16, for them to ever return home and transition, we have to really help their families with work. Many of these girls, the high percentage of them, have been put into prostitution or trafficking by their own family members to help feed the rest of the kids in the family. Years ago, I might have judged that kind of desperation, but sitting in homes in the largest slums in the world, I can truly understand that choice to sacrifice one to save the rest. We empower their families with jobs. We have seven artisan groups in Kenya. A lot of them are family members of our girls. We do that so that we can redeem future generations.
“Many of these girls, the high percentage of them, have been put into prostitution or trafficking by their own family members to help feed the rest of the kids in the family.” – Kristen Welch
Fair Trade Fridays: Redeeming Consumerism
Kristen W.: Four years ago, we started Fair Trade Friday, which is our monthly subscription club. We work with those seven artisan groups and also about 55 other artisan groups in 31 countries to create really beautiful, trendy Fair Trade product that we deliver every month in the mail to people all over North America. We have close to 4,000 club members now. We do all of that in Jesus’s name to provide dignified jobs and empowerment.
It really is full circle because we’re able to provide jobs for many of the family members of the girls we rescue. All of that, 100% of the proceeds of every Fair Trade item we sell, which is quite a bit these days, we sell a lot of product, that goes to provide jobs. Then the profit goes to support our maternity centers.
Kristin S.: I love that. The full circle-ness. I just keep thinking immeasurably more, immeasurably more. I’m almost envisioning you shopping. You just dropped your kids off at preschool. Now, you’ve finally taken … the Lord has taken what He knew you loved, which is…but, gosh, and you’re teaching us then now how to….empower other women in communities with our choices.
Kristen W.: It’s proof that God redeems everything. He truly redeems everything. For the month of May, it’s only May 15th, but we have two retail stores in Texas, but we actually set up three stores in area churches and in Texas, basically, setup complete full stores so that women could shop. We do love to shop. We’re redeeming consumerism. We’re not telling people don’t shop, which when I first returned from Kenya, I didn’t go to the store for probably a year, which was very unhealthy for my family. God redeems this natural desire in our culture to have stuff. Now we can provide jobs for women around the world.
Everywhere I go, I ask women the same question: What is it you want most in life? I have never had a woman say to me money. Never. These are women who live on less than a dollar a day. That’s what they need. They need money. Every time I ask that question, a woman responds, “I need a job.” When we can provide work, we were created to work. When we can provide dignified jobs, and do that in Jesus’s name, we’re providing dignity.
Women don’t want us to pay their bills or feed their kids. They want to do it. I think there’s just something so beautiful and redemptive about working hard. That’s really what we’re about. We’re about providing jobs and connecting women who have with women who don’t have. It’s been a very hard, very beautiful journey so far.
Establishing Peace & Purpose For Your Family
Kristin S.: So far. I know, it’s almost like I can’t wait just to keep following it. I have a couple of questions I want to ask you. Imagine there’s a woman out there listening thinking I’m not probably going to go to Kenya, but I have this desire for my children or my family to have peace and purpose like you’re describing. What’s the first step? What would you advise her to do?
Kristen W.: I think the first thing is to throw open the doors of your home and the doors of your cars. Look at what you have and what you can share; a seat at your table. I think in our culture, we think it has to be big to be meaningful. That’s a deception from the enemy. It doesn’t have to be big. There doesn’t have to be a size requirement. Think of the lunch with the little boy who shared his loaves and fishes. God, He doesn’t want us to give back. I think that’s a popular thing in our culture. We just need to give back. That really implicates that we’re giving a little. God wants it all. That little boy didn’t share half his lunch and kept some for himself. He gave it all.
Kristin S.: Looking at what do we have? Is it physical space in our home or in our vehicle? Is it a passion for something? Maybe we love baking. We’re an excellent cook. We think about recipes all the time. Who can we bless with meals or feed at our table? I think it starts with loving a stranger. Hospitality is a beautiful place to start. It’s not that big of a jump to invite one person over for dinner or to meet someone’s need.
Kristen W.: I think that another small way to start is to educate our kids about what we buy and even ourselves. It’s something that has become my personal passion. There are 40 million slaves in our world today. Many, many of the things that we buy are made by slaves. You don’t know what you don’t know. That has been hammering around in my heart for so long. I did not know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that I was contributing to modern day slavery when I was shopping at certain places. I didn’t know that I had the power to set women free when I bought Fair Trade.
I think educating ourselves and just starting small. Maybe it’s giving Fair Trade gifts or joining a subscription club through Fair Trade Friday. There are just so many small ways that we can … Sponsoring a child through Compassion International, something that we do that involves our family, and we begin to teach them about the world’s normal.
I truly believe that one day we’re going to stand before God, and he’s going to say, “I blessed you, and you kept it all for yourself. I gave it to you so that you would share it.” The principle here is so profound and so incredible that I just want to shout it from the mountaintops, “You will have more than you ever dreamed possible if you share what you’ve been given.” We’re like this conduit. We have one hand open to our God in heaven who is filling our hand. When we open our other hand and release what he has given us, he just keeps filling our hands. The picture there is all of our needs are met. Our personal, physical needs and dreams and desires, God meets them when we meet the needs of others. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful way to live.
“You will have more than you ever dreamed possible if you share what you’ve been given.” – Kristen Welch
Questions for Kristen From Our Listeners
Kristin S: I love this. I’m amen-ing you. My hands are all up. It resonates so much. I know it’s going to resonate with our Turquoise Table community. I actually have a couple of questions from women in our community who have asked me to ask you. Nell wants to know what it was like for you to overcome your fears of taking your children to a Third World country.
Kristen W.: That is a very good question. My very first trip with my family, I actually overdosed my child on malaria medicine. She was three or four, three and a half at the time. I was in this sacrifice season where I wasn’t healthy in the sense of I wasn’t shopping at all. I think there’s a spectrum there. I was on one end of it where I never thought about the world’s normal at all, only about myself and my family. The other opposite of that spectrum is becoming a nightmare for your family where you’re only thinking about the world, and you’re not thinking about your family. I think being in the middle is a really good place to be because you struggle with everything.
During that season, I decided on that first trip to Kenya, we were gone for a month, that I was only going to take one suitcase of clothes for our whole family of five. Of course, we get there. It was rainy season and cold. We wore our clothes every single day, all of our clothes. When they had to be washed, there’s no dryers there. It’s all hand washing. They were damp. We were cold. I had a three-year-old. I put her clothes in the microwave and caught them on fire. This is all in Kenya. I have learned a lot.
There’s always a little bit of fear every … I just returned from Kenya a few weeks ago. My oldest was with me. The responsibility and heaviness of that is hard. I think it’s natural that we have this healthy fear, but we can’t let it stop us. One of the most freeing experiences in my entire life that helped me solve this problem of being afraid to take my kids, there was a terrorist attack in Kenya a few years ago. It was brutal. It was in a mall where a lot of Americans would visit when they would go into the country. I had been in that mall many times with my family to troubleshoot computer problems at the Apple Store and that kind of thing.
This terrorist attack, basically, destroyed the mall and killed many people. I returned to Kenya three weeks after that attack. Everyone in my world didn’t think that I should go. I prayed about it. I really just believe God wanted me to go, to be careful, but don’t let fear stop me. While I was there, the Boston Marathon bombing happened. We had actually a runner from our house church, our community group, running. I remember being in Kenya and trying to figure out if he was okay. It was just this epiphany that nowhere is safe in this world. That’s not to make us afraid, but it’s to trust God’s sovereignty and his plan. He has counted every hair on our head. When your teenager drives off out of your driveway the first time, you feel the same way. It’s just as scary as going into a Third World country. It is a lack of control.
It’s also about trusting God and believing that He loves our kids as much as we do, that we are safest in the center of His will. We are safest in our obedience to him. If He has put a desire in our heart, we cannot let fear stop us. Bad things happen everywhere, and good things happen everywhere. At the end of the day, we have to trust that God is sovereign, and he has a good plan.
“At the end of the day, we have to trust that God is sovereign, and he has a good plan.” – Kristen Welch
Kristin S.: That’s a word. There it is. I’ve got one more from Caroline. Caroline wants to know how can we help our young adult children who are struggling and falling away from faith and the church.
Kristen W.: That’s a hard question, I think, especially in this day and age when we have this generation of kids who are really desiring authenticity and purpose. They’re leaving the church by the numbers. I think the number one thing that we can do is obviously pray for them. I think more happens in prayer and fasting than we could ever imagine. We move the hand of God when we pray and fast, especially for our kids.
We had a season where one of my kids, for probably 18 months, decided that they just weren’t sure if they wanted to follow Jesus. It had been something we were doing as their parents, but every kid has to make that decision if they’re going to follow their parents’ faith or they’re going to seek their own path, especially our strong-willed kids that want control themselves. It was a very hard season for my husband and I. I remember sitting at the dinner table night after night, and my child asking very hard questions that I could not answer.
What was interesting is poverty, exposing my kids to poverty, is what caused many of the questions. They were trying to make the same, reconcile exactly what I had tried to reconcile. They were trying to figure out the world’s normal compared to our own normal in justice. I remember not knowing how to answer their questions night after night. My husband was like, “Just let them ask it.” I’m a fixer. I’m also a control freak. I wanted to have an answer for them. He was like, “Let them ask it. God is doing something in their heart. Don’t be afraid to not have an answer. That’s part of the faith journey. We don’t have an answer for everything.”
I think during that season, I prayed more for my kids than I ever have, my two oldest especially, who were just questioning so many things. It gave me peace knowing that God was pursuing them as much as I was pursuing them or even more. He was doing things that I couldn’t see. I think that’s what we have to hold onto. We pray. We fast. We model a lifestyle of service and gratitude. Our kids are watching us. Everything we do, they are absorbing.
When I was in Kenya with my daughter a few weeks ago, I had about seven other women with me. We were leading this trip. I was technically, I guess, the trip leader. It was donors and volunteers. We were doing this art camp. Because there were so many of us, we had to split in different vehicles. My daughter went with one group and I went with the other. We get out of the van, and I would say, “Do you guys have any questions,” because we would be traveling through really difficult areas. They were like, “No, your daughter answered them all.” One of the woman said, “Actually, as a matter of fact, your daughter,” the same daughter who questioned God and wasn’t even sure about this whole journey and the sacrifices our family was making, she said, “She sounds just like you. Her answers, the way she has processed this, she is deeply wise and she has chosen this journey for herself.”
I started bawling. It was such a gift that she has truly chosen this path for herself. That might not have happened if I had tried to control the outcome and force it. She’s so passionate because she chose it for herself. I think we have to let God have our kids, which is very difficult, but they belong to him. They do not belong to us. I think that’s a very difficult part of parenting, but it’s necessary.
The Significance of Table Time
Kristin S.: You’re wise, wise, wise, Kristen. I have loved everything you have said. I want to end with…I want to ask you one final question. You’ve mentioned your family dinner times and your conversations around the dinner table. That must be a place that you all gather and spend community time together. Is there anything that has been consistent or special about that time? Is there a question you ask your family or a ritual or something that you all do at the table?
Kristen W.: There is. Actually, this table time has been significant in our family story for at least a decade. Before that, we just cried over spilled milk, I think, literally spilled milk. It’s hard when you’re just trying to get them to eat and not fight. I realized that, especially my kids were in public school for many, many years, all the way through starting high school, my older two. The demands on their schedule, I noticed were just … it was interrupting our dinnertime, and it was interrupting our lives so much.
We really began to make that time together, and we tried to commit to at least four times a week where nothing interrupted that time. It didn’t always work, and it wasn’t always holy. It was certainly messy, but we committed to it, to make that time a family dinner where we read scripture together. Sometimes we would read a whole chapter. Sometimes we only got a verse in because catastrophes would happen.
Kristin S.: Called life.
Kristen W.: Life. We would also use that opportunity to read a book together. My kids are avid readers. I really blame this, books that are very family-friendly like Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong is an excellent book you can start with kids who are kindergarten and up. You just can’t wait to get to the table every night to see what’s going to happen in this young refuge boy’s life. We’ve always tried to read something together, a scripture or two, and then we do highs and lows.
We go around the table, “What’s your high, what’s your low.” This ends up being a gratitude exercise, and it’s kind of comical too. You just get a look into your kids’ days. Probably the best high and low ever, in the history of the Welch family, we were taking turns going around. My youngest was probably second, first grade, probably. Everyone had done their high and low. “This was my high of the day. This was my low of the day.” It really gives you a glimpse into how to pray for your kids, too; what they’re worried about, what they’re struggling with.
When it got to be my little girl’s turn, she said, “My high of the day was we got an extra recess. My low of the day was my friend, George, pooped on the playground again.” We died laughing. My older kids were like, “We would like to change our lows of the day.”
Kristin S.: Now we have permission almost to make them better.
Kristen W.: It was hilarious. You just never know what your kids are going to say. Of course, we could hardly follow that up with Bible reading because we were dying laughing so hard. Just connecting with your family is … and food is a beautiful way to do that, and then breaking bread while you’re eating bread. As my kids have gotten older, we’ve actually taken … Lately, I feel like we’ve been hit and miss with this, but when we are together at the dinner table, we try to do it, where we have a Bible study together. Everyone has their own journal and Bible. We write out scriptures. As they’ve gotten older, that’s been a very meaningful time to talk about apologetics and defending our faith and so many good resources and books. I think just simply reading from the Bible together is a lost art in our Christian culture. Making it a priority, it’s not always neat and tidy, but when you do it enough, it becomes a part of your normal.
Kristin S.: I love that. Thank you. Thank you for that glimpse into the practical dinner hour. That is so hard.
Kristen W.: It is.
Kristin S.: It has to be a priority. It doesn’t just happen. Once you’re there, it can be meaningful and incredibly insightful, as you have shared. I’m so grateful. Thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s just been a true joy to have you, to reconnect with you and to have you at my table.
Kristen W.: Thank you so much. It’s been an honor.
Narrator: Welcome to Kristin’s Kitchen, sponsored by Shipt.
Kristin S.: Welcome to The Kitchen. I am standing in front of my stove and getting ready to start sautéing some onions for African chicken stew. I was so encouraged by Kristen’s wisdom and all of the tidbits. It’s going to take me awhile to process everything, as it may you as well. I’m going to make African chicken stew tonight. This recipe comes from my friend, Shelly Miller, who has spent time in Africa. She now lives in London. It’s a delicious recipe. My kids like it, but it’s also a great conversation starter.
I’ll put all the recipe up on the show notes at theturquiosetable.com/podcast, so you all can get all the recipe. Essentially, you’re going to take some chicken, cut it into bite size pieces, garlic, onions. The recipe calls for one large potato. I subbed a sweet potato because that’s what I had and then some seasonings: cumin, coriander, black pepper, red pepper. Here’s the secret ingredient that is common in African recipes but that makes it a crowd pleaser for kids, is peanut butter. You’re going to use three-fourths of a cup or a cup of peanut butter and then some garbanzo beans. You serve all this over rice. I’m going to get mine started right now. I’ve got the onions sautéing.
I want us to think a little bit about the wisdom that Kristen shared with us. Her life is truly, it’s remarkable. It’s remarkable what God has done for her and her family, and how dramatically it’s changed. Our lives, we may not be going to Kenya tomorrow, or that may not be the direction that we’re called. What she says in her book, and this is true of all of us, is we change the world when we simply meet the needs of another. Whether we go to Africa or whether we continue to live as front yard people in our very own front yard, when we meet the needs of those around us, that’s how we change the world. That’s how we become world changers.
“We change the world when we simply meet the needs of another.” – Kristin Schell
I want to ask you all, I’m going to give you a little challenge today. You do not have to make African chicken stew. Order a pizza. Make sandwiches. It doesn’t matter, but commit to having a family dinner or inviting people over who maybe you don’t see as often as you would like. Have a dinner and then ask these questions. I’m going to give you three questions. I drew them from the conversation with Kristen. Let’s ask these.
First, start with the highs and lows. If you all haven’t used this as the dinnertime tradition, it’s fantastic. Somebody starts, and you say, “What was the high, the high point, the good thing of your day, and then what was your low?” Start with highs and lows. It’s a great icebreaker. Find out where your people are? What’s happened to them during the day?
Here are three questions that I think it would be interesting. You don’t have to do them all at once, but tuck these away and we’ll put them again in the show notes. Kristen mentioned this. She says that this is one of the questions that she asks us in her book:
What is it you want most in life?
Second one is:
What need do you have right now?
If we’re going to think about changing the world when we simply meet the needs of others, sometimes those needs are obvious and apparent. Sometimes we may need to ask and then listen. Maybe our job isn’t to solve those needs immediately. Maybe it’s just to listen and then to pray and then to trust. I think it’s a good thing to ask the question, what needs do you have right now.
Especially true, listening to Kristen’s story as she talked about her sweet spot, where her passion and her skills began to align with God’s calling in her life. She had to know what gifts she had. She had to know what he had given her specifically to join him in that sweet spot. I think it’s great to start asking the question:
What gift or gifts has God given you?
Those can be tangible gifts that Kristin shared that maybe blessings. She shared that there was an extra room in their house. That’s a gift. How can you use it? I think just identifying those gifts, whether they are spiritual gifts or talents or just blessings, which will turn into gratitude.
We’ll put those three questions up on the website. I encourage you to have dinner. Commit to a dinnertime. Have dinner and ask these three questions. Ask them of your friends. Ask them of your neighbors. They’re great conversation starter as we continue to live out the mission of front yard people by changing the world, just by simply being present and meeting small needs of people who are right in front of us.
One last thing, we’re going to have a giveaway. We are going to give away a couple of copies of Kristen’s new book. I am in love with what she’s doing with Mercy House. They have so many beautiful Fair Trade products on their site. I want to encourage her. I want to share what they’re doing with you all, and then I want you all to share it with others as well. All this will be on the website. We’re going to put up our giveaway a couple of tea towels that say throw kindness around like confetti. Throw kindness around like confetti.
We will put all the information of how you can enter to win the giveaway of Kristen Welch’s new book, Raising World Changers in a Changing World, and the tea towels, throw kindness around like confetti. That’s it for today. I’m going to get back to making African chicken stew. Until next time, gather small and love deep, friends.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Thanks for listening. You’ll find the complete transcript of this episode at the turquiosetable.com/podcast. Also, be sure to subscribe to the Turquoise Table Podcast on iTunes, and leave us a review. Until next time, gather small and love deep.