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40 || Both Hands

I’d give you money if you were doing something like working on a widow’s house…”

That was the response JT got from his friend all those years ago and those words never left him. They struck a chord in his heart. Why was his friend so reluctant to give his money? It’s not like he was begging for money in illegitimate ways or for unimportant causes. Rather, he was on the board of Bethany Christian Services; they were raising money to support adoptions of children who desperately needed homes. Yet, he was asking to be financially supported in a game of golf. His friend really wanted to see him do something good with the fundraising event, instead of having fun on one hand and helping orphans with the other hand. What should he do with both of his hands?

The Lord was weaving…

Growing up wasn’t easy for JT. After losing both parents in a car accident during his seventh grade year, JT and his four siblings had fear in their hearts – who would take them and who would keep them together? It turns out that an agreement between his parents and his aunt and uncle resulted in a home for all of the siblings. By God’s grace, they were kept together; however, their aunt’s and uncle’s home was full after combining their adopted five children with the three children.

Dealing with his grief, anger, and disappointment was not easy for JT as a teenager. He struggled through his high school years with the normal issues that one might expect from someone who lost their parents so young. With the loving hands of his aunt and uncle and through God’s providence, his experience as an adopted orphan would prove invaluable to his life’s calling.

The Lord was weaving…

After marrying, he and his wife moved close to a university where he took a job in sales. As they started working and getting involved with the college students, they soon found themselves “adopting” young women who had gotten pregnant, were terrified and unprepared, and considering abortion. Passionate about saving the lives of innocent babies, JT and his wife along with a ministry called Bethany Christian Services ministered to these ladies, even inviting them into their home for refuge. As a result of their efforts, all of the young women made choices to keep their babies. The children were placed in homes full of love. JT was forever impacted by that experience. In response to the loving care and compassion he witnessed from Bethany Christian Services during that time, he began serving on their local board.

The Lord was weaving…

JT and his wife lived full, happy, and productive lives. They loved helping other people. They had the beautiful and chaotic family life that four children contributed to. Always mindful of teaching their kids about others who were not as fortunate in this world, they participated in a church sponsored “less under our tree, more under the world’s tree” campaign. Watching a video of the poor hopeless children without parents in Africa, their kids were heartbroken. The five year old (now seventeen) piped up optimistically, “We can be their mom and dad, right?” Adoption. It had been done for JT, but it wasn’t something they had seriously considered doing for others. Having four kids of their own, starting a new business, and having no money seemed like good enough reasons to back out of adopting, but the tug on his heart wouldn’t cease. JT’s response soon moved from “…but, it would take our life’s savings” to “What’s wrong with using a life-savings to save a life.” Consequently, they adopted a beautiful little girl named Gracie from China in 2003.

The Lord was weaving…

The past, present, and future all seemed to culminate one day in a conversation with his friend at church. Approaching him for advice, his friend began to explain how he needed to raise $65,000 to adopt four orphans. Not even batting an eyelash, JT knew that those four kids were siblings. His heart was tugged by the memories of his own aunt and uncle keeping him and his siblings together those many years ago. His only response was “Right on man, we’ll figure this out.”

The Lord was weaving…

Keeping in mind the comment from his friend all those years ago, he saw it all come together: we’ll help the widows in exchange for money to adopt the orphans. It seemed brilliant, simple, and God inspired – straight from the Bible.  The scripture speaks of helping then needy, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27)

JT didn’t make up the concept of helping both widows and orphans, but the way he executed is truly unique. Gathering together thirteen men who would volunteer to help a widow in need, they each sent out letters requesting support to all of their contacts. They went around to local businesses asking for material donations. Once they had the necessary materials, they began helping a local widow with repairs around her home. When the dust settled, they had raised $55,000 in one weekend. You really can’t beat that!

The Lord was weaving…

And thus the Both Hands ministry began – connecting widows, orphans, volunteers, and sponsors; they were helping out widows with one hand while rescuing orphans with the other. The first official Both Hands project was completed in 2007. It has grown steadily since. In 2012, they brought in $1.2 million to fund adoptions. What is especially amazing is the fact that 100% of that money went to the families adopting children. They accomplish this through the generosity of their volunteers and donors. The concept is still the same – find parents wanting to adopt orphans, find a widow who needs help, find volunteers to fix her home, and then find sponsors to back the volunteers.

Looking back over his life, JT thoughtfully reflected about the paths that God had taken him. From significant loss, to adoption and hope, through anger and grief, to a redeeming purpose in his life, he knows from firsthand experience that God can turn tragedy into beauty – even if it takes a lifetime. At 56 years old, he gets it. He sees how God brought everything together. He sees how God intended everything that happened to him for good. His jobs, his skill sets, and his story – they all make sense now. God designed him for this purpose. To connect widows who need help and orphans who need hope with the God who can provide both.

Thus far, the Both Hands outreach has hosted 241 projects across 37 states. They have raised $2.6 million and gifted 282 orphans; the orphans are orphans no more! Generally speaking, if investors put in $10,000 into Both Hands, then families will be able to raise $70,000. It is an unbelievably good feeling to have that kind of financial blessing and impact with money that you donate. How amazing! God took a story that started out in ashes and built it into something so powerful.

“God weaves our stories throughout our lives. Everything has come full circle for me. I believe He does that for everyone. He has a purpose for our lives and every event that He allows to come into our path, He intends for His glory.”

May you also be blessed to know that your story has a purpose. Whatever it is, God is interested in your good, His glory, and reaching people with His Gospel. Allow Him to use you. You will soon understand.

To support Both Hands in their mission, you can volunteer for their building events, donate money, or sign up for a whole host of other odds and ends. Just check out their website at http://boathhands.org. If you are a widow or looking to adopt, you can also sign up on their website and see if you can get your own project started.

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