[Written by Shawndee Lovoy]

In Swahili, Tabasumu means smile.

The largest slum in Africa is the Kibera Slum. In fact, it is one of the largest slums in the world. It is home to about 250,000 souls in the space of about 1.5 miles. The government owns the land and about 10% of the people are shack owners, and the other 90% are tenants with no rights. The average size of a shack is about 12ft by 12 ft, and usually houses and sleeps about 8 people. Only about 20% of Kibera has electricity. There are no toilet facilities and about 50 shacks will generally share 1 latrine (hole in the ground). When the hole is full then young boys will carry the contents and dump it in the rivers. Water is scarce and polluted. Cheap alcohol and drugs are rampant. About 50% of the young girls ages 16-25 are pregnant and most babies are unwanted/aborted, or uncared for if born. The average life expectancy is 30 years old.

There doesn’t seem to be much to smile about in Kibera slum.  3 of my 4 children have been to Kibera slum with their grandparents. We have ministry partners there who are the hands and feet of Jesus in one of the darkest places on earth. The circumstances of these children’s lives are dire and without much hope. But I’ve seen the smiles. I’ve seen the pictures of hundreds of smiling children who just want to be loved and noticed. They are drawn to anyone who will show them attention and my children have had the life-changing chance to meet them, love them, laugh with them, and see them for the children of God that they are.

We have the chance this missions month at Cross Creek to provide smiles through shoes, socks, snacks, and bibles gifted to the Tabasumu ministry in Kibera slum. Our Cross Creek kids are working hard to raise money to purchase as many of these items as we can, and to bring smiles to the faces of these precious children. We are so thankful to the Lord for our ministry partners and friends who give of their lives to love these children and provide basic needs to make their lives a little better. Let’s continue to pray for the smiles of the Kibera slum children. Pray that they would know their worth and life is rooted in Jesus. That He sees them and cares for them. Pray that Jesus would be their smile and their peace.


Bring Them to Jesus

Bring Them to Jesus

[Written by Shawndee Lovoy]

Matt. 19:14 “But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

When mom and dad lose our temper. When we argue. When we don’t keep our promises. When we disappoint them. When we forget to show grace. Bring them to Jesus. Who teaches to let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. Who, in His very nature, will always keep his promises. Who will never disappoint because His will is revealed perfectly in time. Who is the author and founder of grace.

When they don’t make the honor roll. When they don’t make the team. When they are left out at school. When they don’t bond with a teacher. When it seems like everything comes easy to everyone else except for them. Bring them to Jesus. Who teaches they are fearfully and wonderfully made. Who teaches that their worth is found as His child and nothing else. Who teaches to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. Who teaches that He has given them everything they need for life and holiness. Who teaches that their purpose is to know Him and to enjoy Him forever.

Sickness, fear, anxiety, self-esteem, performance, status, hopes and dreams are all a part of this earthly life. Our kids will face every single one of these. We will mess up. They will mess up. Bring them to Jesus. Put His word in front of them. Teach them His grace, love, and desire for their lives. Listen to worship songs that remind us of who He is. Take them to church. Put the church body in their lives and pray for others to speak truth to them.

Bring them to Jesus. In every triumph, bring them to Jesus. In every heartache, bring them to Jesus. Every day when we rise and when we lie down. Bring them to Jesus.

I Watch in Amazement as God Shows Up

[Written by Shawndee Lovoy]
I tell you, I am so very lucky!

Bumpus Middle School First Priority Club
Bumpus Middle School students sharing prayer requests at First Priority Club

Every week for the past 3 years, I have gotten a front row seat and watched in amazement as God shows up. And when He shows up, He shows up BIG!!

If ever I feel overwhelmed at the state of our nation and begin to feel as if there is no hope, all I have to do is go to Brocks Gap Intermediate School, or Bumpus Middle School, or Ross Bridge Park on a Wednesday night.

There I see it.  I see HOPE. I see that Jesus is as alive and well as He ever was. I see that He has not let us go.  He is still pursuing, still calling, still changing lives. And the lives He is changing are those of the next generation.

First Priority Club, Leaders Summit and Cross Creek Youth Group

First Priority Leaders Summit
38 Bumpus Middle School Students attended the First Priority Leaders Summit in Birmingham, AL

I have watched 200 plus students show up by their own choosing to worship Jesus in the choir room at Brocks Gap.

I have seen an 8th-grade girl stand up in front of 100 of her peers and proclaim how Jesus has changed her heart at Bumpus Middle School.

I have watched a group of 5 Cross Creek middle schoolers invite their friends and our youth group grow to almost 50 kids on a Wednesday night.

I have sat and watched in awe and wonder at the reality that God is still very much at work around here.

I am perplexed at the fact that I see Jesus so alive on a public school campus. I am moved that I see Jesus getting His glory at a neighborhood park.

So, if you ever feel despair about the way our world seems to be heading, just believe me. I’ve seen it.  Jesus is moving and He is not slowing down.  I pray that we will all continue to jump on board what He is doing and watch in amazement.

Cross Creek Youth at Ross Park
Cross Creek Youth
Pizza time
Cross Creek Youth
Cross Creek Youth at the Lovoy’s

My Grammy and Mamaw

My mamaw

[Written by Shawndee Lovoy]

I have been so blessed to have my two grandmothers into my adult life.  Both of my grandmothers met and had a sweet relationship with my husband Jason, and our 4 children, Isaac, Juliette, James and Mary Rose.  My Grammy (left of me in red) was a precious woman who was married to my Papaw over 65 years, raised 7 children- 5 of which are still living, and taught school most of her life.  She went to be with Jesus about 3 years ago.   My Mamaw (right of me in blue) just went to live with Jesus at the end of December.  She was married to my Papaw over 60 years, raised 4 children, and taught school most of her life also.  We had just spent an amazing week together at my parents house in Nashville, where we shared Christmas morning, games, meals, stories, and lots of love.  Christmas was always our holiday with Mamaw and I thank Jesus that He gave us the honor of spending Mamaw’s last Christmas on earth with her.  It was a hard loss, very sudden, us having had lunch with her just a few hours before.  It was my children’s first real experience with loss of someone they truly knew and loved.  I am only 1 of 10 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren that my Mamaw had.  I decided I would regret it forever if I didn’t speak at her funeral.  I was very scared and didn’t want to cry but I wanted to honor Mamaw in that way and let everyone know what she meant to me.  So, I wrote it all down, got up and read it.  I choked up a few times but I made it through.  I want to share with you about my Mamaw.  Even these few words don’t give this precious woman justice but it’s enough to give you an idea.  Meet Mamaw.

My Mamaw-

When I think of Mamaw I think…

1) sourdough bread- she would let me dig out the entire middle if I wanted too

2) biscuits and gravy- which I loved until I watched her make it once, then I could never eat it again!

3) cows and lightening bugs

4) sleepovers in the living room with all my cousins

5) playing in the basement and the hot tub

6) parafin wax

7) Christmas

8) shopping

9) letters

I think I wrote every paper in school about who I admired most on Mamaw.  The amazing thing about Mamaw is that I think all of her 10 grandchildren each thinks they were her favorite in some way or another.  That’s what her love did.  It made me feel SPECIAL, WANTED, AND IMPORTANT.

Even though I never lived even in the same state as Mamaw I could always feel her love all those miles away.  It was bigger and longer than all the miles between us.

I’m forever grateful that Mamaw was there for the birth of all 4 of my children.  She came to Birmingham after each of their births, stayed with us about a week,  and did what Mamaw does…she rocked, she sang, she read, she played, she cooked, she loved.  She too made each of my 4 children, just a few of her 21 great- grandchildren feel SPECIAL, WANTED, AND IMPORTANT.

Mamaw loved us all so well.  She has taught me so much about how I want to love.  We were so blessed to have her in our lives for so long.  She is and will always be greatly missed.

Now I have new thoughts to think of when I think of Mamaw.  “Absent in the body, present with the Lord.”  Mamaw is HOME.  She has had her glorious reunion with Papaw and all her loved ones gone before her.  She’s with JESUS.  I imagine she and Jesus are becoming best friends as we speak.  I’ve been singing this old hymn since Mamaw went to heaven. “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.  When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”



Shawndee Lovoy




Inner Dialogue

[By Holly Coble]
As Jim and I left to have a date the other night, we laughed about how Caroline parroted the often heard phrase: “I love you SO much…How much?…So much!” This is one of the phrases that we repeat over and over…. And it tickles my ears to hear her say it to us unprompted. After our parental giddiness subsided, we further discussed why these phrases are important. As we went down the rabbit trail of personal discovery, we talked about how we are not programming a machine to spit out an output unthinkingly or unfeelingly, but rather we are training her mind and heart to have an inner dialogue of truth. We want for her to be so certain of these truths that, when times get hard and she is uncertain of what is real, she knows this is true.

Likewise, God has instructed us to plant seeds of His Truth in our minds and hearts through memorizing His Word.   This truth of His love, plans, and promises is unshakable and unwavering. As much as I want Caroline to know and trust me to love her unconditionally, I will fail her. But God never fails. And this Truth with a capital “T” is bedrock. Only on it and through it can I ever hope to love her as Christ has given me the ability.

As we talked about how we want her to have an inner dialogue of these parental truths, I had to ask myself, are we sufficiently teaching her God’s truths of His love and promises to lean on? A child’s mind is fertile ground in which to plant the Word of the Lord!