oneLife at a Time

by Rebecca Madden, oneLifemaps Facilitator

One of the maps in the Listen to My Life workbook is called Peak Experiences. It helps one to identity satisfying activities and experiences that can be clues to one’s unique design and purpose.

When I began the process of looking at my life and my Peak Experiences a few years ago, the first thing that was easy for me to identify was scrapbooking. I remember thinking to myself – what does this have to do with God?

Since I was seven years old, I have always loved to put photos on pages. My first book (see photo) has the old black pages, black photo edges, and captions that were written with a big, fat white pen with some misspelled words too! To this day, I still love to scrapbook, and it is the only thing that I will stay up to do half the night – especially if I have friends to do it with! I have now updated myself from black pages and white pens to digital scrapbooks with infinite numbers of page backgrounds, fonts, and colors from which to choose.

For some reason, God had wired me to do this and love this, but why? In the fall of 2008, I got my first clue. I was having dinner with Stella Kasirye who works for our church, Willow Creek Community, but she lives and serves in Malawi, Africa. She helps our church to engage with other churches to help with the issues of water, hunger, poverty, and HIV/Aids. She provides the hands, eyes, feet, mind and soul for our church on the ground in Malawi.

Last fall, my husband & I were having dinner with Stella. I told her that I was considering being a part of the serving trip to Malawi in June 2009. Jay asked Stella how she might want me to serve. Stella said, “Do you like arts & crafts?…Would you be interested in helping AIDs families do memory books?” She continued by talking about how the children are left with nothing once their parent(s) die. They have no pictures to keep and nothing to hold on to.

I could have just fallen out of my chair at dinner that night. Doing scrapbooking is part of who I am and who God made me to be, but I have never dreamed that it could serve a kingdom purpose.

In the Spring of 2009, I began to prepare for the trip and the memory book project by rounding up supplies of scrapbooks, pens, paper, glue, scissors and stickers to take with me. A friend pulled together the instant cameras and film that we needed, so that we could take pictures of the families. Stella suggested that I have enough supplies for memory books for 50 families.

In June 2009, I found myself in Chitipa, Malawi at a home health care visit sitting on a mat outside of a one room mud brick home – thousands of miles away from my two-story, four bedroom home in Chicago. The husband and wife both have HIV/Aids, and they have a six-week old daughter.

We had arrived there to encourage them, pray for them, and deliver gifts of sugar, oil and soap. We were asked to take pictures of us giving the gifts to the family. It felt like a photo-op – white, rich girl gives to poor. I was overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the poverty, sickness, and sadness of all that I had seen. I just wanted to run back to the comforts of my home – far away from all of this.

The next day, we were helping HIV/Aids families make memory books. In addition to the scrapbooks, we had questions in the books for them to journal about that would help them capture their family history, traditions and desires. While I was there, I found out that these books would also help by serving as a “will” that would help them to preserve their land and home after death.

We had 20 families to show up to do their books. One of those was the women with the six week old baby that I had visited the day before. I had no idea that I would ever see her again. We greeted and hugged each other.

We made progress with each of the family’s books, and then we told them to return the next day with other family members that they would like to have pictures made or to bring photos that they might have at home, so that they could add them to the books.

The next day, my lost luggage arrived, and it contained all the extra scrapbook supplies – including alphabet stickers. All of the participants wanted to put their name in their book using the stickers.

At one point, I walked over to the women with the six week old baby, and she was spelling out her name in stickers: R-A-B-E-C-C-A. How many women in Africa have my name?  I can’t imagine very many. I felt like God was saying to me…I know that you are overwhelmed with all you have seen, but I am asking you to use your talents and gifts to bring hope to one person at a time, and I am confirming that by connecting you with someone else that has your name. I don’t think that she will forget me, and I certainly will not forget her.

I (we) can’t individually tackle the global or continental or even country-wide problems of AIDS, poverty, hunger or lack of drinking water that exist in our world, but if we all engage with our talents, gifts and passions and help one person, we can make a difference – oneLife at a time.

What do you LOVE to do that doesn’t seem to have a kingdom purpose? Look around and explore the possibilities of how your talents, gifts and experiences can be used to serve another – either next door or on the other side of the world.

To see more pictures and video from Rebecca’s trip to Africa, go to Rebecca’s personal blog at

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