(Photo: Pure Charity)
A group of Christian bloggers is partnering with South African-based organizations and local churches to raise $150,000 to build a community center in the city of Muabane that will benefit adults and orphans in need of food security and employment opportunities.
Lisa Jo-Baker, a Virginia-based mother and blogger considers herself the storyteller of the initiative and hopes to rally moms with the same heartfelt need to help raise the funds between Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.
"It's a terrifying amount! There's no way I could possibly accomplish it myself. But as scared as I get and as much as I wanted to hide from this call, I felt certain that I heard God's quiet challenge to me and it sounded a lot like Him saying, 'I dare you to lose face.' So I'm all in," said Baker to The Christian Post.
The project is spearheaded by a nonprofit in South Africa, Take Action, along with the James 1:27 Trust, an organization committed to helping orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS. In the U.S., Baker is collaborating with Help One Now and the Pure Charity blog.
Their mutual goal is to build a sustainable center that will facilitate community development for 400 people and will include a vegetable garden, kitchen and welcome center, an outreach hall, 12 classrooms and a playground.
They also hope to accomplish the project in five construction phases beginning with an attempt to raise $5,000 on Valentine's Day for the garden that will provide nourishment, education and income to those in need.
"Take Action has been working on this for over a year now. They had the permissions from the local tribal council, the local government and the blueprint drawn up. All they lacked were the funds," said Baker.
According to Pure Charity, Muabane is home to an entire community of women who are raising more kids than their very own but who "still have all the same hopes, dreams and fears that we do." And while the project organizers wait on the construction to begin, dependent on how quickly they can raise the funds, Muabane community members gather on the open plot of land each week for meals, play and to hold church services.
As a native South African whose parents adopted her three siblings from Muabane, Baker says her dedication to the project is about more than just helping, it is personal.
"My father preaches in the community regularly and our family is connected umbilical-like to the lives of the people there we have grown to love. These are brothers and sisters in Christ and in family ties," she said.
Baker's parents' story of adoption also triggered her to write a book, Surprised by Motherhood, set to release in April that focuses on getting readers to join the project, "because there's no such thing as being 'just a mom,' especially to the kids who don't have one."
This is the first time she's undertaken an initiative of large financial proportions, however, last fall, Baker was able to raise $5,000 in less than 12 hours through her blog, to fund the water point and laundry center that will be the heart of the Muabane community center. In addition, she raised $1,000 to purchase gifts for 120 kids during the holiday season.
Although the idea of raising $150,000 seems daunting to Baker, she sees the goal as a realistic project.
"In the words of my South African friends and family, 'even if we only raise $1,000, that will be more than we had yesterday,'" said Baker. "They are convinced that God will build the house. And I'm honored to hold onto their faith with both hands."
For more information on how you can help, click here.