By Brooke Connelly
Commitment can be defined in several different ways and it looks very different in people. Often times it can bring out the very best in people or shine a light on some not so great qualities. It is a tough thing to learn and takes a lot of practice. -The hardest part about commitment? It does not like teenagers.
Commitment, what?? In a society where instant gratification is everyone’s desire and patience runs a little low, commitment is not easily learned or welcomed. Teenagers shouldn’t have to commit to anything serious in high school, right? They are just teenagers, right? WRONG.
Wanna know how I figured this out? God brought the TEEN-led organization, Sustaining a Village Everyday into my life. This group of students began to teach me that my life wasn’t truly my own and that I was meant for so much more. They began to teach me that the comment, “you are just a teenager” is not actually a compliment and that God calls me to do so much more. God has called me to invest in something bigger than myself in order to make His Kingdom known. How special is that?
The idea of serving others and working for the Kingdom of God is a pretty awesome notion for a teenager. It gets ya real excited inside and makes you dream of what life is going to be like for these people. I quickly discovered that all of these things are powerful, but man to really make a difference dreaming wasn’t enough. And then that special little world began to pop up again and again- commitment.
So what has the power of commitment looked like in my life over the past four years? It has been real discouraging and super frustrating. My parent’s will be happy to know that I have officially realized that money does not grow on trees…(sorry dad!) Some people just aren’t very nice, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and well, things don’t work out as planned a lot of the time. As I began to take a bigger part in this organization, I began to realize that God is shaping my heart for something so great. He needs my commitment and my time to do His work. Once I realized that, I was ready to commit to hours preparing for a business presentation or brainstorming for a new event to raise money. The thing about commitment and hard work is that once your heart is in tuned to what God has in store for you, He will strengthen you through the toughest parts of this whole “commitment thing.”
I am praising the Lord for pulling me out of my comfy bed and away from Netflix because even through the roughest parts, He has shown me that through commitment to His Kingdom, my life can be so much more than my own. Thank you Jesus!

To do everything to the best of your ability is hard. To do everything to the best of your ability with a pure motivation is even harder. It seems nearly impossible does it not? I am writing this blog post at 1:37 in the morning with two Arabic assignments, a Physics paper, a debate, and an entire book to read all by Thursday. So how, despite all I have to do within the next 48 hours, do I complete every task with full effort and utmost sincerity? Sure, maybe next time I should not put off doing all this work until the last day that it is due. But I think there is a little more to it. Even with a perfectly planned week, my schedule, and I am sure your schedule too, will be filled to the brim hour by hour with an incredible number of tasks, assignments, activities, and to-do’s. We love to exhaust our days do we not?

Don’t get me wrong, being active and busy is not a bad thing. Investing in an array of interests is a wonderful thing, a blessing even. But we must remember our Father’s command. Do everything unto the Lord. Be good stewards of what is given you. Whatever you do, do so with a pure heart that is eager to serve God and His people. One of my very favorite verses in all of scripture is Micah 6:8 when the prophet says, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Friends, these are not easy commands. When I am overwhelmed with my schoolwork, when a friend comes to me with a problem, when I am feeling lonely, when I am perplexed, sad, angry, and burdened; what does the Lord require of me? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. When I am approaching a business sponsor, when I am sitting in 100 degree heat trying to communicate with a Haitian village council, when I am setting up for a 5k, or when I am on my knees praying for God to show me direction; what does He require of me? My best effort and my most sincere heart.

Remember, our Father commands us not in frustration, but in love. In His perfect love, He knows what will bring us joy. He knows that when His child acts justly, when his child does not cheat himself, he will be satisfied and joyous and filled with the Spirit. That is not to say we cannot fail. In some ways, we must fail. But more importantly, we must learn and we must grow. If we lose heart, we must pray with earnest intensity for God to pour Himself back into our work. If we cheat ourselves or each other, we must confront our sin and turn back to His face, accepting His grace. We must help each other give our best efforts through prayer, encouragement, and assistance. And we must do so in all things whether it be in our sustainability work, school work, relationships, or our own walk with Christ Jesus. Friends, in the midst of the chaos of our lives, let us not forget what our Creator requires of us: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. To do so requires our best effort and most sincere heart.

-David L. Newman

New Beginnings. Beginning new. NEW. Not just renovation, but revitalization from the dead. That’s what happens when Jesus takes root in our hearts. LIFE and life to the full. This past semester I have gone through an incredible learning season. I guess I could really say this about every time period in my life; right when I think God has done the biggest refining process possible in my heart another season of learning begins. However, this past semester is still fresh on my mind… I unexpectedly was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and had to have a full spinal fusion all within a month of my plans of going back to school for my fall semester at Carson Newman. Needless to say, plans changed. That’s what God does, He loves us enough to rewrite our plans to bring us exactly where we need to be.
The surgery and hospital experience were literally the hardest and most humbling experiences I have ever had. I could not move by myself at all. I could not go to the bathroom on my own. I could not be in control and I experienced the worst physical pain that I did not even know was possible (except for maybe someone who happened to survive a jump off the Empire State Building). I struggled spiritually, physically, and emotionally. All I could say to God was “I trust you” and most of the time I could only say that because deep down on some subconscious level somewhere there was a vague and distant memory of being near to God and his faithfulness being proven true.

After I got out of the hospital and tried to erase the experience completely I walked with a walker and had a hard time doing anything on my own. God met me where I was. That’s what He does. He loves us enough to meet us where we are. For the first time in my post-infant life I had to be dependent on others for everything. He continued a work in me to teach me who He is. He showed me how capable He is to provide. He showed me that He is enough. He reminded me that I am passionate about little things and ordinary people and so is He. During the process of having back surgery, a local children’s home in Murfreesboro, Good Shepherd, asked me to help teach at their school during my semester “off.” The thought of being back with the kids that I had grown to love and care deeply for, pushed me to recover as fast and as safely as possible.

Two weeks after surgery I was back at Good Shepherd helping as a teacher and living-life with kids who have so much to teach the world about love, adventure and pure joy. It was a place where I questioned what I want for my future, what I believe about certain issues and what it looks like to pour out more than you think you have to offer, even when you feel unnoticed and unnecessary. Life as I knew it as a perfectionist student, world-changing dreamer paused for a little while. Life was busy, but simple. The kids at Good Shepherd reminded me of the kids that I have met and loved deeper than I thought was possible in Haiti. They reminded me that people are people wherever we are and wherever we go and that individuals have to matter before any world-changing plan can take place.

Over and over again God’s faithfulness, grace and complete goodness is being unveiled through the messy and crazy adventures of my life. I am being challenged and hopefully you are too. If we become blind to what is right in front of us because of an idea of the future we are not yet living we are missing the extraordinary opportunities that God does with the ordinary people and circumstances right before our eyes. We all need to be continuously asking for eyes capable of truly seeing. We need to see the hurt right in front of us; we need to see the damaged places in our own families; we need to see the brokenness in our fellow students and coworkers; we need to see the desperation hidden in the darkness of a ran down motel across town; we need to see the cries of the weak across the world in places where life is based on day-to-day minimal survival; we need to SEE. Not only do we need to see, but we need to feel. We need hearts that are capable of breaking alongside others so that our actions can reflect a love that is capable of changing the world.

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” –Albert Einstein

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” 
― William Martin

-Shelby Hardison

This year is going to be one to remember in the life of SAVE. 2015 is another year for Haiti to taste more clean water and see broken roofs fixed. It’s another year to reach out our hands to a country that is hurting. Coming into 2015, SAVE has a brand new, effective structure established, six new, passionate board members ready to change the world, and a rejuvenated heart in all of us to make SAVE the best it can be. Our most famous events: famine, business sponsorship, and SAVE 5k will be happening over the next six months. These events are our greatest successes. Starting this year off prepared and focused in completing these events is top priority. Along with fresh starts for SAVE as a whole, our senior board members will be embarking on a fresh start all their own. Graduating and then quickly after: college. It is sad that they will be leaving SAVE in the fall but exciting because they will be able to make a huge impact on this world in a new way, using everything SAVE has taught them so far. With all of these exciting, fresh starts, there is still a downside. Starting with a clean slate can seem daunting, exhausting, and difficult. Running a nonprofit is hard work. Also, college is unknown and intimidating. Therefore, we ask for prayer to keep working hard when things in SAVE and college seem worrisome. Despite, the challenges that will come our way, we believe that Christ and the people of Haiti will be our motivation. The SAVE family is ecstatic to tackle this new year that will be full of amazing opportunities. Thank you for your support with SAVE so far and we hope that you keep reading and supporting us! Christ is going to do big things through SAVE this year.

-Raegan Jackson
“The wealth of Haiti is its people. If you miss the people, you miss the wealth.”
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 78% of the population living on $1 a day or less, there doesn’t seem much reason to celebrate those considered the disposed of humanity in the landfill called Haiti. These poor, poor suffers just waiting to wilt away and cease to live must hardly be able to stand this island of horror…right?

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. While this country has certainly been dealt a bad hand, the people of Haiti have some of the richest hearts and spirits that I have ever experienced. This is where the treasure of Haiti lies, and all it would take for me to realize this was a week in Boukeron this past summer, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Culture shocked, drowning in a world I had never previously experienced, these are the exact feelings that overcame me as I shuffled out of a battered old van into the scorching Haitian air. A six hour car ride to rural Haiti over jerky dirt “roads” tends to physically jar the brain around in one’s head quite a bit, but my head was whirling for a completely different reason. Driving to this village I had heard so much about and dedicated so much of my year towards, I consistently was presented with too much to look at; my head was spinning from overstimulation. Though dazed, I was more than ready to start what would be the most moving trip of my life.

On this steamy June 5th, my life started spiraling out of my control and directly into God’s.  Timid and unsure, I followed the path less traveled set before me. The day of our arrival sparked an amassed, elevated interest in catching a glimpse of some of the blancs, which we were more than happy to oblige. This immense surveillance and the extremeness of the poverty encompassing however, forced a feeling of slight discomfort upon me based solely on the situation of which I was a part. This contributed to a certain shyness on my first day which I would drag with me like a ball and chain, holding me back from absolutely and wholeheartedly losing myself in these people. However, the next morning I woke up knowing if there ever was a place to be so freely giving of my love and self, this was the place to do it. I dove headfirst into a culture whose language I neither comprehended nor whose difficulties I understood.

As we visited Waunlop, the largest of Boukeron’s five zones, we were able to stop by the school building that S.A.V.E. (Sustaining A Village Every-day) had presented the community three years prior. As I peeked through the doorway of this structure, my heart fluttered as over sixty beautiful children began to sing a song for our group. Soon after the last verse reverberated, a multitude of giggles filled the air; children were rushing among us, my favorite type of chaos was to ensue, the chaos of rowdy, pint-sized kids. Not wanting to miss a second of the action I found a group of children and immediately was deemed the “rocket-ship guy.” Now while throwing kid after kid in the air isn’t rocket science, it is exhaustive nonetheless; thus, I moved on to another playtime activity. With a mango in one hand ready to be juggled amongst a muddle of Americans and Haitian children and a multitude of mangos at the ready as an insurance that our fun wouldn’t end, a game of “keep-it-up” commenced.  As the mangos would always tend to burst into a multitude of sticky fruit bits after a few too many overpowered kicks or gauche drops, this game disseminated rather quickly, unlike the intoxicating smile upon the faces of the ecstatic Haitian children.

It amazed me, not only this day, but in the many more days spent in the Haitian sun that were to follow, how simple it was to understand exactly how the sweet children were feeling. To laugh with them, to collectively smile as I was embraced, here it was evident to me that happiness and love share one common language: human.

The people in Boukeron are so freely giving of their love. My challenge every day is to just try to reciprocate it the best I can; will you take this challenge with me?

-Spencer Beckman
It’s hard to invest in to something you can’t see. 
We start our week off with a groan and squinty eyes as our 6:00 AM alarm screams in our ears. We hit snooze and yearn the usual “5 more minutes?!”.  Oh no! Those 5 minutes turn into an hour and we are racing out the door with one shoe on and the other off because school starts in 10 minutes or there is that 8:00AM meeting in 5 minutes and traffic will take 30 minutes to get through on a good day. But it’s Monday right? So our chances are slim and we are rolling in the building late once again.  Our lives are packed full of hustle and bustle. We become intent on completing our to-do lists and filling in our planners that all we can see is what’s right in front of us. Life get’s messy and blurry for all of us. We struggle with broken relationships and family drama that cripples us and leaves us shaken and confused. So when organizations like S.A.V.E. ask you to donate to people that you don’t know and have no relevance to you, the easy answer is “maybe I’ll donate another time…” .
But what if I told you that you do know them and they do have relevance?
Here is a story of a beautiful Haitian girl named Esther:
“Esther, every time I think of her I think of her beautiful smile and her striking eyes who has seen too much at the young age of twelve.  In a world with little to be excited about she never failed to put smiles on every person she encounters.  I met her and she was standing off alone, watching the world around her.  She was very attentive to her surroundings and the people that encompassed her.  I came up to her and even though she came off as a shy girl with little emotion, I could see behind her frown and know that she had a spunk about her that no one ever got close enough to see.  She sat off alone not because she didn’t want to be talked to, but quite the opposite.  She wanted someone to devote their time to her, to play with her hair, to laugh with, to share life with.  All little, sweet Esther wanted was love.  after a couple days of spending time with her, she began to open up and become the girl she secretly always wanted to be.  I slowly started to see parts of her personality that i wasn’t sure anyone had seen before.  No longer was she the reserved, moody girl I met but a spunky, gracious and loving girl who was so willing to share her big heart with anyone who would listen. Esther changed the way I look at people.  She taught me patience and grace.  She taught me that eyes truly were the window to the soul, but not only that but you have to look long enough to notice, to devote your precious time solely on the person you are standing in front of, with no distractions.  “
– Madison Bivins, Former S.A.V.E. board member
Esther was shy and quiet at a first impression but all she really needed was someone to love and believe in her to give her the bravery of being her true self. Does that sound familiar? I struggle with being my complete and authentic self with other people. I draw back and let a quietness take over me when I feel uncomfortable and insecure. I forget that I am beautiful, loved and fun to be around. My friends build me up into the person I am made to be and without their unconditional love, I would give into the lies of the shy girl more often.
Too often we see the  people of Haiti as a statistic. We see them as big group of poverty stricken people without a face and blindly forget that a big group of people are always made up of individuals. Each one of those individuals acquire a face.  And when you look deep into one persons dazzling, dark eyes, you discover they are just like you. That person has a story that began with ” For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. ” -Psalm 139:13 and then the narrative begins to pour out like a clear but muddy stream taking twists and turns through fresh vividly wild colors of plant life to bumpy rocks with a dark shadow looming over top.  They experience messy beautiful life just like we do. They dream up dreams of things they are passionate about. They experience death and grief sleepless nights and they have families whom they would give their lives for if they had to just like you would. The good, the bad, and the ugly doesn’t just happen to us. It’s happening right this very instance to a bright eyed little girl in Haiti named Esther or a boy full of dreams in Africa. Let’s be less location centered and more people centered.
S.A.V.E. is currently made up of 11 teenagers who have been called to love other kids, teenagers, adults, and elderly in Boukeron, Haiti that have needs just like ours. They need a roof to protect their heads in the rain, clean water to cool off with after a hot day, a latrine to safely and comfortably use the bathroom in, and other necessities that we take for granted every day.
Jesus told us to treat our neighbor the way we wanted to be treated. I don’t know about you, but a roof and clean water is something I need and enjoy.  I also need love and affection and the assurance that there are people for me, not against me. Haiti is our neighbor and Jesus asks us to love our neighbors, so will you help us love them too?
So next time when you hear statistics of heart-breaking poverty, lack of basic medical attention, etc, remember that the statistic holds a group of people and that group of people contains a single person with a story that might just change everything.

-Raegan Jackson

 The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
When I was a freshman in high school, never in my right mind would I have thought that all of these spectacular things would be happening.  Never in my right mind would I have thought that God would use me in such an unheard way.  Never in my right mind would I have thought that I could help change the world.
But I wasn’t crazy then.  I was a teenager who woke up, attended school for the required 7 hours, did a few extracurricular activities, ate some Bojangles, read a few scripture verses if I felt like it, and went to bed.  Same routine everyday.  That is until a few friends of mine introduced me to an initiative that they had started, hoping to fight malnutrition in some country that I saw once or twice in the news.  It seemed cool, different… and a little crazy.  So crazy that at first it was unappealing.  Too much work.  I figured I would stick to the standard activities that America promoted, staying in my comfort zone.  And yet, there was a mystery behind the whole idea that excited me.  I wondered if it was possible.  $25,000? In less than a year? Preposterous!
However, we do not know the realm of possibility and all of its wonders until we step into uncharted waters and sail beyond the horizon.
When Christopher Columbus decided to travel in a new direction – toward the west – people thought he was crazy.  Even Columbus himself thought that at best he would find a new and quicker way to reach Asia.  After months of sailing, following only the stars, Columbus stumbled upon an entire new world!  Because he decided to think a little crazy, and attempt to do the impossible, the reward was exceedingly greater, much more than he could ever imagine.
Now looking back, I see an international teen-led nonprofit in its fourth year that has raised almost $100,000, permanently changing the lives of over 3,000 Haitians, and breaking the chains that our world has placed on this generation.  People believed we were crazy.  Some still do.  Today, I view that high school freshman as the one who was crazy for not believing that these things were possible.
As I look to the future,  I know that there is one thing that I must continue to do: Be a little crazy.  Just because we have reached beyond the horizon of our previous position does not mean that we can sit back and relax.  For if we look out again, alas, another horizon has been set, waiting to be reached.  And when we reach that one, another will be ready for us.  Life is a continuous journey, with multiple horizons.
S.A.V.E. is ready to keep getting crazy.  We are ready to break more barriers that society believes in order to change this world and advance the Kingdom of God.
So I challenge you.  How are you going to be crazy?  What impossibles are you going to break; what mountains are you going to climb; what feats are you going to accomplish?  We at S.A.V.E. had to be a little crazy in order to change the world, and we hope that you join along for the ride.
It’s ok to be a little crazy.
-Jack R. Hicks