How To Make a Jesus-Garden Grow

December 9, 2012 | 12 comments

I’ve only begun to know that the biggest dreams are borne from the smallest beginnings–

The way that one small pebble can send a whole pond in motion with ripples. Or how one holy baby makes a quiet appearance on a starry night, splitting open the cosmos with his first gasp of air. And in 2012, how one girl plants tiny seeds for Christ, and behold: gorgeous flowers bloom.

 “You don’t have to be a grown-up to do great things for God.” Those were words that Lydia and Anna uttered last month here on our farm.

No, you don’t have to be a grown-up at all. You can be a 12-year-old girl like Kendra.

May I introduce you?

Here she is: Miss Kendra Michael, a 12-year-old world-changer from Iowa.

kendra michael

With miles of duct tape and a singular passion for Christ, Kendra is changing the world — one pen at a time. She is setting hearts abloom, making a whole garden of beauty — in prints of cheetah and tie-dye and leopard and polka-dot.

She’s making pens … and she’s making history. And everything’s coming up roses!

It was 2010. That’s when it started.

Kendra’s mother — my dear friend Joni — went to Haiti shortly after the earthquake.  After Joni returned home, little Kendra, then 10, vowed that she would go one day, but until then, she wanted to do something to help. Anything. So she began to create and sell duct-tape pens all over our corner of Iowa.

She raised enough money to sponsor a child to attend a Haitian school in Simonette. And then another child. Simonette  is a little village by the ocean — a village of tin huts and rice-and-beans and Haitian song and tumble-down shacks and barefeet on dusty paths, and face upon face of Christ. It’s true: you can spy the face of Jesus in the people there — who are paradoxically dirt-poor and utterly spirit-rich.

Kendra wants to love Jesus more. So she started by loving two Haitian girls. She sells pens, and with the profits, writes a $70 check every month to Touch of Hope ministries to pay for those two girls to attend school.

Did I mention that she’s 12 years old?

I caught up with Kendra Sunday night in a quick interview over the phone.

“I really felt it in my heart; I needed to help,” Kendra told me.

Kendra went to Haiti earlier this year and met her sponsored children. Here’s what happened when Selineda met Kendra for the first time:

kendra michael

“She ran right into my arms, just jumped right into my arms,” Kendra said. “It was just amazing to feel her, to really hold her.”

Selineda’s mother told the translator that she had recently had a dream that Kendra would come.

“It was really cool to hear that,” Kendra said.

During her visit, Kendra began to teach teenage Haitian girls in the village how to make her duct-tape pens. That’s when the little garden began to grow deeper and wider, putting roots down in Haiti.With the help of a local missionary, Kayla Grooters, several girls in the village were invited to learn the craft. And now, 15 girls are making pens in Haiti. They are paid a fair wage for the pens, and every pen is sold for $5 apiece, here in the United States. Every single dollar pays for the girls’ wages, or helps support Kendra’s two sponsored children.

“I had no idea this could happen, but it is. It’s happening!” Kendra said.

Here’s how a garden grows:


And here are two of the teenage girls whose lives are being impacted because of the pen project.

Dana, 13, uses the money she earns to help her family.


Dana’s sister, Seadley, 16, says she also uses her money to help her family, and to buy school supplies.


In January, our family (all four of us!) will be headed to the same village where these girls make pens. We will be staying with Kayla. We look forward to meeting Seadley and Dana and the other girls. We also are excited to meet the children we sponsor at the school, check in with our friends at ViBella Jewelry, and help build the playground that YOU helped build with Lydia’s recent fundraiser! (We raised all $5,000 … and then some!)


If you are interested in learning more about Kendra’s pen project, you can find her Facebook page here at Kendra Michael, A Kid Making a Difference. 

You can place orders by calling: 712-477-2171 or emailing Kendra at kendrarenaemichael {at} gmail {dot} com.

(Pens are $5 each.)


by | December 9, 2012 | 12 comments


  1. Marlys Etter

    Very cool! You are such an inspiration to me!

  2. Joni Michael

    Thank you Jennifer for sharing Kendra’s passion for helping the children in Haiti. Your words are so beautiful. Your love shines through for Jesus and His people!
    It is a true blessing to have you in our lives and call you friend!
    Love to you and your wonderful family.

  3. David Rupert

    There is great dignity in productive labor and transferring money for it to help and minister. It’s much better than just “give to them”. There is an investment and effort that makes people stand up and take notice

  4. Dolly@Soulstops

    Wow, Kendra, and Jennifer, you both inspire me 🙂 Keep blooming for Him 🙂

  5. Diana Trautwein

    This is just fabulous, Jennifer. Wowza – these Iowa kids are somethin’!!! I love this idea – will you guys be bringing them truckloads of duct tape to keep them going? Wondering where they get enough of it to make the pens… And applauding Kendra (and Lydia and Anna) really big over here in CA.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Diana, for your kind words. Kendra is amazing. When she walks in a room, the whole place lights up! … You asked about how the material gets there. Well, when various people go down, we fill our suitcases with whatever is needed for that trip: duct tape, charms for ViBella Jewelry, blankets, gifts from sponsors, etc. … So our suitcases are used almost entirely for supplies. We take our clothes in our backpacks. And when we come back, we will fill our suitcases with finished product! Thank you for asking.

  6. Sylvia R

    Agreeing with David above. This is beautiful blessing on so many levels, and goes so much further than a money or goods gift alone. What a joy to read your (spirit) rich presentation and see these beautiful, beaming faces!

  7. floyd

    That’s really amazing! One heart that God uses to make such a huge difference. I’ll be supporting the cause. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Dave Vander Laan

    God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

    Glory to God in the church!
    Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
    Glory down all the generations!
    Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

    Ephesians 3:20-21 – The Message

  9. Monica Sharman

    Love the colors!

    And love how you are a great encourager not only to your own girls but to others as well. I’m wowing.

  10. Betty Draper

    What an encouraging post about this God annointed girl. All it takes is one sold out person inspiring another and then another and that how the message of Jesus gets passed on. Thanks for posting this. Blessings

  11. Lisa @ SLP

    What an AMAZING story! So inspiring, and really convicting. If a 12 year old can do something, then what is my excuse?


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