On Andrew's 14th Birthday


Today marks 14 years from the day we welcomed Andrew. For the most part our life feels full right now, and we no longer feel the deep sadness of those first few years. I still long to keep his memory alive and it brings me joy to know others still remember him too. I still wrestle with how his life turned out, but I hold on tightly to believing God was always in control and had a special purpose for his short life.


This year I felt I had nothing to offer, nothing to share, nothing insightful about Andrew's short life. But I strongly felt led to write something in his memory. I prayed and asked God for help, and he brought a story involving Andrew that has always brought me great hope. So here it goes.


Two months after Andrew passed away, Steve and I decided to take a trip to Europe. It had always been a dream of mine and we wanted to get away in hope of a refreshed perspective. It was very spontaneous and last minute (it was not like us to do this, we always plan!), but we took a chance and the two of us went off for ten days to Europe. We visited Munich, Florence, Tuscany, Rome and Venice. 





We were not only grieving the loss of Andrew, but we were also wondering what our future would look like. At the time we didn't know what had caused Andrew to be so sick, and there was a very good chance he had died from a genetic disorder. If that was the case, there was a much higher chance that if we ever had children again, they would also have the same genetic disorder. If that was the case our future seemed very different from what we had pictured just a few months earlier. While we smiled for the pictures, I felt very hopeless that our life could ever be restored again. 





And it was in the beautiful green mountains of northern Rome that I opened my bible (I carried around a small travel bible most days) and this verse jumped out at me:


But now listen, Jacob, my servant,

Israel, whom I have chosen.

This is what the Lord says—

he who made you, who formed you in the womb,

and who will help you:

Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,

Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground.

Isaiah 44





This bible verse brought me hope. It reminded me that whether or not Andrew had a genetic disorder, it was God who makes us, he forms us in the womb. My hope wasn't on the results from Andrew's autopsy. My hope wasn't on myself or my efforts to make my life whole again. I could find rest in knowing God saw my pain in that moment and he answered my deepest question.

He knew my fears about the future, and he reminded me that I needed not to be afraid.

              He knew life felt empty and dry, but he reminded me he had the ability to change that.





I held on to this bible verse. I knew it wasn't a guarantee or promise God was giving me, but it brought me hope. Even now as I have wrestle with new fears about the future for our children, I go back to this verse to remind me of God's truth: He sees me, He loves me, and He is in control. 


Happy 14th Birthday Andrew! Until we see you again. 


Beauty for Ashes: Venezuela Ministry Update

Below are pictures the pastors from Venezuela have shared from their most recent bible and formula distributions.











Below are some pictures of the bibles that have been shipped...






As you may know, there is a formula shortage in the U.S which has significantly impacted our ministry of sending formula to Venezuela. Here is a short article expanding on contributing factors for this shortage.


Beauty for Ashes had consistently been receiving formula sample cans from a post office through a local church. This had been a blessing for about a year and a half, as this provided a few hundred cans a month- these cans returned to the post office by parents who did not want them. It was a foundational part of this organization that unfortunately is no longer taking place.


In the beginning of the year we were able to still send a few boxes of formula to Venezuela. As the year went on, our ministry began sending bibles and children’s clothes to continue to help those in Venezuela. In the post link below you can see many pictures we have received from the pastors in Venezuela from their distribution.

I believe we should care and help those here in our community in need of baby formula. As great as the need is here, the need in Venezuela is even greater and exacerbated by the hyperinflation and inability to get the formula to market. I believe God calls us to care for our local community, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. I’m thankful for the opportunity to give to those in Venezuela who are in desperate need of formula.


There is limited data on malnutrition and food shortages in Venezuela, but below are some important facts.


- The WFP estimates that one in three Venezuelans is food insecure.

- Venezuela’s collapsed health system has led to the resurgence of vaccine-preventable and infectious diseases.

- The UN Human Rights Office has expressed concern over the absence of public data to monitor and adequately inform public health policies. The government has not published epidemiological data since 2017.

- Monitor Salud (NGO), reported 83 percent of hospitals have insufficient or no access to personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and 95 percent similarly lack sufficient cleaning supplies, including soap and disinfectant.

- Some 5.9 million Venezuelans, approximately 20 percent of the country’s estimated total population, have fled their country since 2014, the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela reports.


When you make a donation or contribution to Beauty for Ashes, 100% of your donation goes directly to those in need. No one is compensated for work and there are no operational costs as there are in some larger organizations.


You can give through PayPal at  


Paypal.me/venezuelaformula



Blessings,

 

Carolina Briggs


Formula Shipment and Bibles Sent

I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who generously donated towards formula for Venezuela. I never expected to have such a great response and have been blown away by people giving so abundantly and generously! To date I’ve collected 503 cans of formula as well as financial donations towards shipping and formula.


It’s taken me a few weeks to figure out how to move forward. I will be sharing updates on this blog and have created a Facebook page to provide updates on the formula sent. I’d like to be as transparent as possible (I’m also shipping bibles and a few other baby needs) to how this is distributed. I hope this will be a simpler way to provide updates on Venezuela, let you know of needs that come up, and share what I hear back from the pastor who is receiving all of this. A sincere thank you, and excited to be able to send help to where its most needed.


First shipment of formula was sent on October 12th! We shipped 95 formula cans and 50 new testament bibles, which will take around 4 weeks to get there. Here are some pictures of our kids and friends helping tape Spanish bible verses to the formula cans. I would love to ship even more boxes at a time, but because the boxes are valuable and are target to be stolen, the pastor has asked me that I only ship 2 boxes at a time.


Will share an update once I hear that the boxes have made it safely over there!







Update on Venezuela Formula Boxes

Earlier this year our family collected cans of formula to send to Venezuela. It was something that had been running through my mind for a few months, until I finally had the courage to organize a drive and send to a church connection we had over there.


Unfortunately, after receiving the first box of formula cans (which had about 35 cans) we did not hear back much from our church connection in Venezuela. They did not give us any updates. When we asked for pictures of moms or families who had received the formula, they replied with ‘no that it would be too embarrassing’. Their lack of transparency made them untrustworthy, and I did not have a peace to continue to send them anything else.


I was so disappointed. I wondered if I had heard God right all along and if he had really asked me to do this? I had another large box of formula in our living room, that friends had so generously donated and nowhere to send.


That box sat in our living room for 4 months. During those four months I asked God would to open up a door for us to give out of the abundance we have here. A place to give consistently and that it would get to the hands of the right people. But for four months there seemed to be silence and I certainly wrestled with all of it.


Then in July of this year God very unexpectedly showed up. I was on the phone with Patrick Carberry, the founder and director of Joshua Cord which you can read about here. This is an incredible non-profit we support which focuses on supporting persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa. Patrick is former FBI agent, and through his line of work has made connections in all kinds of countries, including Venezuela! Long story short, I was able to find a connection through him and thought I would give it a shot.


On July 14th (I remember because it would’ve been Andrew’s 12th birthday) I mailed the box with about 50 cans of formula. We sent it to a pastor Pedro Pablo, a catholic priest in Caracas who said he would distribute to a local maternity center (over 80% of hospitals operate without formula) and malnourished children.


He has been wonderful to work with and incredibly transparent. Not just because he’s sent pictures, but all through the process he has kept a detailed log of the kids who have received the formula, has kept us up to date, answered any questions we had, and has even come up with his own ideas to make sure the formula is not resold (which happens over there). He has come up with some great ideas to ensure the boxes gets into the hands of the people that most need it. I am so incredibly grateful God opened up this door in his own time!


Here are some pictures from the last box sent:








I would like to ship more boxes and will be collecting formula- any kind, any size from sample sizes to large. All is very much needed over there as the infant mortality rate last published had increased by 30% in just one year. (You can read further into children's malnutrition in Venezuela in these articles from The Guardian and Reuters).

I'm also collecting bibles in Spanish. The pastor said preferably New Testament only, light bibles that can be handed out and will not weigh the box down too much, so more quantity of bibles can be sent. 

A very sincere thank you to all who helped and contributed to the boxes that have been sent!