What An “American Girl” Can Do

November 21, 2011 | 44 comments

The girls, they’ve been thinking. That’s the sort of thing that happens when a Daddy leaves for a week, and when his absence starts to speak a language of its own. They start to talk back.

Their dad is in Haiti, his last day carrying lumber and tarps up a mountainside to build, and to rebuild, and to share Christ’s love. And in a way, we are right there with him on that hillside — even though we’re sitting right here around this kitchen table in Iowa.

Yeah, the girls have been thinking. We’ve all been thinking. What can we do? Right here?

Before we ate dinner, we prayed — like we always do — for our food, for our blessings, and for Daddy in Haiti. We were about halfway through our tacos  when it happened.

Lydia pushed back her chair and bounded from the room, footfalls pounding the staircase.

“Be right back, Mom!” she shouted.

She came back with her furry pink purse, stuffed with dollar bills.

“I know I have enough in here,” she said, breathing hard and pulling wads of bills from her purse. “I just know I do.”

She stacked tens and fives and ones in tipsy towers on the wooden planks of our kitchen floor. “… 48, 49, 50,” she said, and her numbers kept going higher.

I knew what she was doing. She was trying to reach $75 so she could sponsor an elementary child to attend school at Mission-Haiti, where her Daddy has been serving for the last week.

I also knew she had enough, but I let her keep counting.

“56, 57, 58,” she counted. It was a year’s worth of savings, from chores around the house, money slipped to her from Grandma, dollar bills tucked into birthday cards.

“Are you sure?” I asked her.

She and her sister have been saving up for American Girl dolls. I’d counted her money weeks earlier, and knew that she was well within reach of her goal to buy a doll.

“… 74, 75,” she said, and then clapped her hands together. She looked up at me, and she was grinning, glowing — a candle for Christ.

“I want to do this, Mom,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “I mean it. I want to do this. God wants me to do this. This is the answer to our prayer.”

With dinner half-eaten on our plates, we sat at the computer, and she found a girl to sponsor: Jacques Judith. “That girl,” she said, pressing her forefinger on the screen.

American Girl, meet Haitian Girl.

And then, we turned to see Anna, age 7, with tears quietly spilling down her cheeks. She sat with shoulders hunched at the dinner table.

She said she wanted to sponsor a child, too, but didn’t have enough money. She’d spent it on too many other things: cheap trinkets, lip gloss. I told her that she could support a child in other ways — prayer, or by writing notes to Jacques Judith.

But Anna, determined, stomped out of the room — like her sister had done minutes earlier.

She came back into the kitchen with her cowgirl purse. But I just knew there wasn’t enough money. It would take a Jesus-miracle to multiply her money — like He did with a boy’s lunch on a grassy hillside more than 2,000 years ago.

Anna started to count, and I watched it: This simple handing-over of her five small barley loaves and two small fish.

“Five, 10, 15, 16, 17 …” she said.

And on it went, stacking tipsy piles, until she pulled the very last dollar from her purse.

“… 72, 73, 74.”

And that was it. No more dollars. She had exactly $74 in bills.

But the purse jingled with promise, and she pulled four quarters from inside. Just enough — exactly enough — to help a girl named Jirodier Jenese.

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
— John 6:9


Writing in community with Michelle today …

by | November 21, 2011 | 44 comments


  1. Kathy Josephson


    • dukeslee

      Yeah. Me, too.

      God-bumps. 🙂

  2. Jennifer Ferguson

    oh my gosh. what Jesus can do with a little girl, a heart desperate for Him, and a cowgirl purse.

    • dukeslee

      I want to be like my girls when I grow up.

  3. Dea

    Oh….no words!

    • dukeslee


      I have to thank you for your advice on tracing Scott’s hand before we left. That has been an incredible touchstone for us. You are dear to me…

      • Dea

        I guess you’ll be holding that hand real soon! 🙂

      • Sheila

        May I butt in and thank Dea, too? My daughter and her family will be home for Christmas. Next year they move from Hawaii to Guam.

        I think I’m going to be tracing some hands next month for my fridge.

  4. Radical Believer

    Awesome! Just awesome! And that’s a word we don’t use too often on this side of the Pond. You have two very special daughters – and memory you will all treasure. Life really doesn’t get much better than this.

  5. Nancy

    Wow. Just wow. Hug those American girls of yours. Hug ’em tight.

  6. Karen

    Oh..my..goodness…what a testimony! I am sure there were several “mama tears” over this….

  7. floyd

    That was an awesome story! What beautiful hearts your children have. Children develop that heart for God by their role models. Good job to you and your husband. You guys are an inspiration to me, and I suspect more than you even know. God is honored… Thanks.

  8. Colleen

    How incredibly beautiful-I’m still crying 5 minutes after reading this. What a lesson they can teach all of us about what is truly important. They are shining so brightly!

  9. debra

    Lump in my throat! Reminds me when my girls pour out their hearts like that, too, why Jesus said to be like little children who the kingdom of heaven belongs to.

  10. Jeanne Damoff

    You made me cry. Again. But that’s okay. Love this so much. They are giving, but do they have any idea the enormity of the gift they receive in this? More like Christ. More in tune with His heart. Nothing better than that.

    Love to you and your sweet American Girls.

  11. Lindy

    beautiful girls you have!

  12. dukeslee


    THE most amazing thing just happened! I just now received word that Scott met both of these sponspored girls today! Happy tears!

    • Crystal

      Oh, my goodness!! How amazing is that! Your girls moved exactly where God wanted them to be – and there He was with another miracle. What an awesome God we serve – and what amazing work He is doing in your home. Praise be to Him!

  13. Kristi

    What a beautiful modern day example of the loaves and fishes Your girls have truly lovely hearts.
    Stopping by from Sundays…Jumping Tandem

  14. Linda

    Oh Jennifer, this makes me want to do a little “Happy Dance!” Isn’t He amazing? He works in the hearts of precious little girls and draws them close – and multiplies blessing.

    • dukeslee

      Linda ~ I’m Happy-Dancing, too. So much so that I can’t get my fingers to work properly. I see (above) that I wrote sponspored instead of sponsored. 🙂

  15. S. Etole

    I came from Laura’s {Wellspring} with tears in my eyes … they seem to have multiplied here.

  16. Erin

    This brought tears to my eyes.

  17. Connie@raise your eyes

    I’m soooo thankful to have come to the conversation at this point! Isn’t our GOD amazing beyond words?? What joy and delight.

    This GOD-story will be told in your family for generations…

  18. dukeslee

    Another new development…. The Mission-Haiti site went down, shortly after the girls sponsored Jacques and Jirodier. A hacker is to blame, but the site is now back up — Alleluia! — and at least one of you big-hearted people has responded to this post by sponsoring another child! Lydia and Anna are cheering wildly! (Lydia was even doing the “sprinkler” in the kitchen.)

    Jesus-Sister — You know who you are! That little boy in Haiti is going to be so blessed because of you!

  19. Lea Culp

    What an awesome story and what tender, sensitive daughters you and your husband have raised. So young, so tender and so sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

    Sounds like you and your family are headed towards a wonderful Thanksgiving. Blessings!

  20. Sherrey Meyer

    I’m humbled by your daughters’ faith and actions! WOW!

  21. Cari K

    awwww mannnn, Jennifer, now I need tissues….thank you for this story.

  22. Carolyn Counterman

    Jennifer, I am loving this story and loving your girls’ hearts! How awesome!

  23. Lori@myevidentfaith

    Jennifer, How you tell a story is breathtaking. And your daughters are so lovely to understand the depth of the commitment they are making. Their insight is inspiring, as are you. ~Lori

  24. Sheila

    May I just add a big tearful happy-dancing “AMEN!” to all of this? To the story, to all the comments, to Scott meeting the beneficiaries of your girls’ great big Jesus hearts, to someone else moving up to sponsor….


  25. patricia spreng

    so, so beautiful…
    this would be unbelievable if we didn’t know the God behind it all…
    How Great Is Our God… <3… sing with me how great is our God… and all will see how great, how GREAT is our God!!!

    • dukeslee

      Singing with you … Love that song. And yes, it’s God, all God. He Great He is, to bless us in a way to bless others.

  26. Dolly @ Soul Stops

    Don’t know what to say, other than…Thank you God for multiplying money in little girls’ purses by first growing Your love in their hearts and their parents’ hearts.

    Thank you for growing the joy by sharing.

  27. Lisa Auter

    ohhhhh I’m sobbing here at 6:33am this morning. I totally did not expect Anna to reach the amount to sponsor…. not a 7 year old….and then Jesus performed the miracle and multiplied a little girl’s faith and hope and with you writing this, made it into millions of dollars worth of hope and inspiration sent through the internet to millions of people. I hope we all can see the passion in those girls’ hearts….and follow suit, trusting in Him. (((hugs))))

    • dukeslee

      I was surprised, too, Lisa! I thought there was NO WAY she’d have enough. I wish I could adequately describe the look on her face when she realized that she had enough.

  28. Mama Zen

    This is just amazing!

  29. Megan Willome

    An absolute miracle! Honestly, Jennifer, one of the best things I’ve ever read.

  30. Michelle DeRusha

    Wonderful story, Jennifer. Cheering with your girl, doing the sprinkler in my office (just kidding), and loving that Scott got to meet your sponsored girls in person in Haiti! The gifts just keep multiplying!!

  31. Shelly Miller

    Wow, what an amazing, inspiring story and the way it keeps unfolding! So lovely I just might have to share it around the Thanksgiving table!

  32. David Rupert

    We all feel the need to “do something” . These girls have done it and inspired the rest of us

  33. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    Just enough. He’s awesome like that, isn’t he? You’re raising some beautiful hearts.

  34. Jerry Johnson

    Amazing. Thanks for sharing!


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