TLDR: Our longtime friend (Eric) turned his childhood home in Nigeria into a 501©3 nonprofit both in the US & overseas to help kids in need. Because of the pandemic, they haven’t been able to hold their large annual fundraiser as usual, and giving is down. He shared a Christmas need with me. We’re on a bit of a deadline, but I think if anyone might be able to help, it’s this incredible community that lets our actions be answers to prayer.
The Google doc of the needs is here or you can directly Venmo or Paypal me and I will be able to purchase more. If you’re moved to give a larger donation and would like to give directly to Cornerstone of Hope, you can do so to them here. The items need to be received by Saturday, Nov. 20. (I know, it’s tight. But I think we can do it.) If you want to purchase items online & send them directly to me, reply directly to this email for a mailing address.
(And keep reading for an excerpt from a Christmas prayer from To Light Their Way.)
When I met Eric, I was a rookie reporter covering the business beat for a local newspaper.
His energy caught my attention. Notebook in hand, I was tired of scribbling the same mundane stories. I made my way toward the corner of the room, where he’d drawn an audience. The light in his eyes and the way he threw his hands into every story he told distracted me from my assignment.
“And that is how I turned my childhood home into Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage,” Eric said, sipping soda.
A trio of suited men who worked in insurance nodded, and one of them asked for some clarification. “Excuse my thick Alaskan accent,” Eric laughed. I’d soon learn it was one of his favorite jokes.
Eric might not be from Alaska, but he has lived just about everywhere else. Born in Benin City, Nigeria to an elementary school headmaster and a teacher, his beginnings were humble but hospitable.
Along with his siblings, he lived in a home his parents built themselves—board by board over two years—after they got married. His parents had left the beliefs of their families of origin and forged a new path for themselves. “They were one of the first in both of their families to get married—their families were still practicing polygamy and paganism,” Eric says. After becoming Christians, his father changed his name to Gabriel and his mother chose Theresa.
“Our tiny home provided shelter and the basic necessities of life. My childhood was very relationship-based. Our values were God first, family second, and then helping others,” Eric says.
Villagers from Gabriel’s hometown would send their children to live with the Idehen family, hoping they’d receive an education. There was always room for one more. “They came to our home to do school work, they ate, they slept, and sometimes they never went home,” he says. This setting laid the foundation for Eric’s eventual legacy: providing a home for the orphaned and forgotten.
In his mid-fifties, he’s finishing a doctoral program, studying organizational psychology and social change. He works full-time in the banking industry, and in every spare minute, he pours into the true passion of his life—Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage, a 501(c)3 with a board of directors in Des Moines, Iowa and Benin City, Nigeria.
It’s the home where my son, Joseph, spent the first year of his life before he joined my family through adoption.
My views on charitable giving have evolved as I have learned more and more about the nonprofit sector.
I used to work in communications at a large, popular global nonprofit and found myself discouraged and disturbed. Organizations can seem really beautiful from the outside and be unhealthy on the inside. The thing about Cornerstone of Hope is that it is run by a leader who is from the country, state, and town it serves. Do you know how rare that is?
Cornerstone of Hope is small. It doesn’t have a fancy marketing budget or a slick website. It’s not well-known. But from everything I have seen for the past 10 years, it is run well. The board is completely volunteer. Eric doesn’t take a paycheck. Do you know how rare that is?
Thank you for letting me share. The needs are so seemingly simple. A Christmas wishlist is simply a Christmas wishlist. But it’s a tangible need that he shared with me. And providing some of this can ease their budget to ensure vulnerable children get health care and safe housing and educations and compassionate care. That local women and men are employed. Will you join me?
If you feel moved to chip in, you can:
Venmo or Paypal me and I will add as many things to my cart as I can to check off this list and deliver the items to Eric this weekend. (He is going to hand-deliver them when he travels for Christmas.) Please donate by Friday, November 19 so I have time to go to the store.
You can also pick some items to purchase and buy them yourself and have them sent to me. Just message me for my address and make sure you bold and highlight what you purchase on the Google doc.
Could you pray for those represented in this document? I’ve removed their names but kept their first initials. There are children who live at Cornerstone of Hope, community members, nannies, and even security guards. May the Lord hear our every prayer.
An Excerpt From To Light Their Way
As I close this, I want to share an excerpt from “A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas from my new book To Light Their Way: A Collection of Prayers & Liturgies for Parents. (And yes, I’m sending some of the last personal copies I have with Eric to Nigeria!) Will you pray with me?
As we hang stockings or set out shoes,
We anticipate Your arrival, O Lord.
In these times
Of great darkness in our world
And division in our land,
We ache for You
And wonder if the small ways we love
Can really make a difference.
We thank You for St. Nicholas of Myra,
Whom we celebrate on this day.
We rejoice over a life lived so long ago
Out of great love for You.
We pray that we will be like St. Nicholas,
Whose devotion to You
Is seen in the stories of his quiet love
Society often deemed unworthy of being
The children and the laborers
And those struggling to make ends
We ask that we would be parents who
Cultivate goodness and generosity
In our children
Out of their love for You, O God.
In the paths of St. Nicholas,
Who sold his possessions
And gave his inheritance
To those on the margins,
Help our family love
The sick and the suffering
Out of a love that pours out of
Your everlasting love.
Thank you for being, well, you.
For the ways your lives become prayer. And become answers to prayer, too. I’m deeply moved by the ways you’ve shared different ways the modern liturgies in To Light Their Way have spoken to you.
And stay tuned, because “To Light Their Way: Finding Simple Wonder & Joy in Advent” is coming to your emails soon as a free resource. (Think weekly prayers & practices, prompts & Psalms for parents & families.) You don’t have to prepare anything!
This Advent resource can stand alone, but I created it to act as a companion for the longer prayers in To Light Their Way. ICYMI, it’s temporarily sold out everywhere EXCEPT Amazon, so for now, head there to purchase your holiday copies. Thank you for sharing with your friends, family, and church communities. We’re better together.
May the Lord bless you and keep you as you give out of the deep wells of your hearts,