Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Life Lived For Others

In light of recent weeks, I think it only appropriate to share what I know to be a great jump start to climbing out of a funk and reconnecting with what's most important and that is:
 simply to find a way to serve another person.
It can be in any capacity, big or small. The fact that you are making the effort to look at the world thru the eyes of someone else, rather than staying fixed in your own frame of reference, combats the urge you may have to wallow.
I mean in no way to minimize the suffering that people endure, or adversities they face, by claiming a quick fix to life's challenges.
 Sometimes trails can be the undercurrent in our lives for months or even years. 
Maybe you find yourself feeling deflated for a moment, while you work to strike a balance of obligations, or maybe you are fighting a difficult challenge that few can relate to and  
of course there is everything in-between.
I simply know from experience that there has never been a time in my life, when my burden hasn't been made light, by offering my time to lessen the burden of another.
I find it a miracle really, the give and take of life.
 Right when you find yourself searching for a solution to your personal riddle, the Lord provides a way for you to see those who really actually need you to be their answer. 
The balance of it all never ceases to amaze me. 

It couldn't be a more perfect time, for me to share a person near and dear to my heart, 
Darci Lee Simkins Burke.
  She is my friend, who also just so happens be my sister in-law.
Darci has a core purely made up of serving others.  
I have never seen Darci stuck in a bad mood, or heard her speak ill of another person. She is a very hands on, understanding, and loving mother to her 4 children. She is always wearing that gorgeous smile, and certainly knows how to have a good time.
I cherish my connection with her and the memories we have together from being teenage girls, to college students, to becoming wives, and now mothers. 

Just watch out when it comes to us doing anything 
that involves TREATS! 
Actually, who am I kidding? 
Me and treats with anyone, can be dangerous.


Somehow amidst the pestering and obnoxiousness of older brothers, as the youngest, I have always idolized all my siblings, and my brother Brandon is no exception. The fact that he was able to get Darci Lee Simkins to fall for him, makes me love him that much more. Darci and I actually attended rival high schools, when I was a sophomore and she was a senior, which is no biggie 
except that we both played on our school's basketball teams, 
need I say more? 
During this time, my brother Brandon was on his mission, and while it would have been easy for her to avoid a sincere connection, she instead made efforts to build a relationship with me. I certainly looked up to her then, especially because my brother was so smitten for her, but I have watched her since that time, offer selfless service time and time again, which has only deepened my love and appreciation for her. Her actions have empowered me to not only reach outside myself, but to provide opportunities for my children to serve as well.

I have known Darci for over 16 years and have witnessed her selflessness in many capacities. She supported my brother through all his Undergrad, Dental, and Orthodontic degrees with commitment and encouragement. She volunteers her time in church, to her friends, and in her children's classrooms.
 And listen, this girl goes the extra mile. 
She took parent volunteering to the next level by preparing and demonstrating science experiments one year, all while wearing a lab coat and glasses and complete with an accent. 
She not only shows up on Sundays but works throughout the week to build relationships with the girls she leads. 
I was truly humbled, when years ago I witnessed her volunteering her time to watch kids for a family with 7 children for FIVE DAYS when she had 3 young ones of her own, so that the parents could go house hunting in the city they were moving to.  
 She showed me that true service, is rarely about connivence and more about pure love and putting someone else's needs 
before your own comfort. 
She does this time and time again without giving it a second thought. In fact she doesn't even fully remember half of these things that she did, that are alive in my memory from years ago.

She goes beyond herself, and not only teaches her children to serve, but gives them the opportunities as well.

For example, while my brother was going to Dental and Orthodontic school and they lived on the East Coast. They were far from their own families and living on nothing, 
but they used the time to think of others. 
They made a significant effort to visit those with severe disabilities who were residents in a home. They made homemade Christmas gifts, and Valentines cards for them, and loved their experience so much that they started visiting almost weekly. 
One of their special fiends there named Greg, was wheel chair bound. He and my nephew Shaydon formed a bond playing pingpong together, which truly meant a lot to Greg, considering the fact that he carried ping pong gear with him 
in his wheel chair everyday.
They have also paid many visits to Nursing homes where they sing  to and chat with the elderly living there.

But naturally it's difficult to always make the time to take children places.

That doesn't stop them. Their children have spent time writing and sending letters to Soldiers. They have also written pen pal letters to other children, who have fatal or non-cureable diseases.(A website I found if you want to take this up with your own children here)
  My earliest memory of Darci, teaching her children to serve was  hearing of their service Fridays. I wasn't even a mother yet, and it touched me so deeply that this was an important thing to do with my own children some day.
My nephew Shaydon, even started a service club when he was in 2nd grade. (See what I'm talking about here folks!) 
He called it "Little Helping Hands". He came up with the name and logo and had cards made. Friends from school and in their neighborhood have become involved. They have sang and done talent shows at nursing homes, volunteered at the Utah Food Bank, written letters to veterans and assembled humanitarian kits. Little Helping Hands also volunteered at a homeless shelter where they organized food to pass out, along with hygiene kits they had assembled. 

Last year Darci and Brandon took their two oldest children Shaydon and Graci, on a trip to China with them where my Brother gave lectures at a dental school on orthodontics and how it is practiced in the U.S.

 Darci made sure to use this opportunity to serve and included her children in the process. While there, they visited a school in a remote village where the people had NOTHING. 
The school house was the size of a small living room.
The Chinese children and parents were mesmerized by Shaydon and Graci
 since they had NEVER seen Americans.

Shaydon teaching them how to give "knuckles" 

Brandon looked at their teeth and suggested treatments. 
Darci brought over scarves that she had the young women from our church make to give to children. They gave other donations like, balls, crayons, coloring books, and then spent time making 
jewelry and coloring with them. 

Disclaimer: No, Darci isn't suddenly great with child in this picture, just being a little extra cautious in a foreign country with her purse. You know the feeling when your far from home,... I mean you want to give, but not necessarily hand over your passports and wallet :) 

Now, you might be reading this going, "Ugh! Seriously? Who is this perfect woman? Who has time to think of and carry out all of these service projects amidst the life of a mom
 to four children?" 
Lets look at this for what it is… Darci with her heart of gold, and love for others, wants others to be happy, so she started small and those small consistent acts led to greater and more.
 We can all start somewhere and that 
is what I love about the power of example. 

Now on to her recent trip to Africa, which is the first of it's kind but I'm certain not the last! 
She took this trip with the Ordinary Hero Foundation
Darci's experiences were so rich, 
I'm thankful that she agreed to share them here.
She starts by sharing some interesting info about Ethiopia:

" -Don't ask someone how old they are, especially kids, because they will have no idea. Many people who adopt from Ethiopia have to make up a birthday for the child they are bringing home

-If you are caught being involved in pornography 
you could go to jail 

-It's culture there for men to not be very involved in their families lives. It is common for them to just up and leave and find a new life with out any obligation to their families. Due to this, many women are stuck raising the kids and working … 
which only adds to the growing problem 
there of hunger and homelessness.

-There are 90 million people

-5 million people in Addis (Where I went)

-60,000 Street kids of all ages. I saw some as young as 4 or 5 living on their own.

-15,000 prostitutes

I met a man while there who changed my heart in many ways. I was able to spend a lot of time with him and ask him many questions. My friend Deborah, wanted to go on a 14 hour car ride each way to see the birth place of her son she was adopting , and where he spent time living on the street as a young boy,(Watch his remarkable story here). Deborah asked me if I wanted to come along and see parts of Africa I probably would never have the opportunity to experience again. Little did I know that I would be flopping around in a van on the crazy roads of Africa with absolutely no driving rules, no seatbelt and no A.C. through a desert where I thought I would die of heat! All while sitting on top of all our luggage the entire way. But the treat I received in return of getting to know Bizrat was all worth it. 
He came along on the trip as a good friend of Deborah's and a helpful translator. He has people call him Bizzy :) 
Before Bizzy was born, his parents decided to join a Monastery, but they wanted to have a child first, (you can't have kids or be married when you join a monastery). As you can guess they found a way around that stipulation. They fulfilled their wish of having a child, and shortly after being born Bizzy's parents then joined the monastery. Even though his parents could not "be" together they could raise him together. 
BOTH of his parents were blind so when he was little his parents tied him to a tree so they would know where he was, at all times. He was raised believing that Jesus Christ was not divine, just a great teacher. They also do not believe the Bible. When Bizzy was around 15 years old, some Christian Missionaries came to visit the monastery where he was living. They shared with him their testimony of Jesus Christ and gave him a Bible. He said he felt it deep in his heart that it was true and he knew Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world. I asked him how many times he has read the Bible and he said, 'Oh..many, many times!'
He shared his belief of Jesus and the Bible with others at the monastery. Because of this, they stripped him of his clothes and put him in prison for three days. After the three days, they told him he could not longer live there. They tied him to the top of a car, (because they considered him cursed)
 drove him three miles away and dropped him off. 
He had nothing but his Bible. 
He found his way to the city of Addis where he was told he could find food easily. Once in Addis, some other street kids told him about Korah. Korah is a community next to the garbage dump, where people dig through piles and plies of garbage to find food.  Bizzy went there and ended up living in the trash dump
 for 13 years!  
He slept on a pile of plastic bottles every night. 
 His life was literally the trash dump. 
He told me he would dream of eating fresh bread. 
While living there he continued to teach others about 
Jesus and the Bible.
 He was a missionary.  
He said, he was 'weak in the flesh, but strong in the spirit.'  

One of the people Bizzy converted to Christianity while living in the trash dump is named Tesfi. 
Tesfi, is now running a ministry in Korah to help the people there, and oversees all of the sponsorships.  
Tesfi is in the green jacket. 
Not only does his mother have leprosy, but he also spent many years living off of trash. Some of his stories from living in the trash dump, are hard to wrap your mind around. For example, one time, he took a bite of a rat thinking it was a potato! Another time he mistakingly ate vomit out of a brown sack mistaking it for a sort of chili.
(I have a hard time even typing that)

Tesfi was eventually sponsored by an American that put him through school and fed his family for many years. And now Tesfi is changing thousands of lives (literally). 
What an awesome example of how helping one can 
really change the world.  

The Ordinary Hero Foundation, met Bizzy while he was in Korah. Bizzy knew English (he found an English dictionary in the Monastery and taught himself) and so OH asked if he would like to be a translator for them. This led to other opportunities for Bizzy. He is now living in Addis, and manages the Guest House where teams and adoptive families stay, and continues to be a missionary.  
You would think that after experiencing a life like this you would be mad at God, and have an angry heart. But Bizzy was completely opposite. He is always smiling! Always so grateful for everything. So concerned about others well being and their needs.  To me, he is an amazing example of how a Christian lives their life. I learned so much from him and am so grateful for his example of Christlike love, his determination, and his disposition of GRATITUDE.

 He said to me, 'Some people are blessed with material wealth, some are blessed with family, some are blessed with good health,  and that is all good for them, but regardless of what you are blessed with, His grace is sufficient for all….and that is reason enough to be happy.'  

I love this.  

While there we visited several orphanages and drop in centers.  Drop in centers are where kids who are living on the streets first come to receive food, clothes, and a bed to sleep on. They are taught the Bible every day and their hearts are changed.  
I saw it firsthand and it was amazing. Each place we went to, we heard stories from the kids about their lives and how they had overcome their trials. I was heartbroken all week, but also in so much awe of the human spirit and what people have to suffer with, and how they rise above. There really aren't many words to express it, and it would take a novel to tell all of the incredible stories I heard.

This little guy, we found naked on a cold day and I was happy to give him some of my son's clothes that I had 
brought with me to donate.

At the Orphanages we would just love on those little children. They wanted love and affection so badly.

 We would play games with them, play soccer, or do crafts with them. At one of the orphanages I noticed they used an old tire and tied it up in the tree for a basketball hoop. I went and bought them a real hoop with real basketballs. One of their biggest needs is having things to do during the day when they aren't in school.

One of the girls had such a sad story. 
She had been living on the streets for some time. 
She was raped and beaten continually by men taking 
advantage of her situation. 
When they found her they said she was lying on the side of the road badly beaten. 
They said she had no soul left and would never smile or talk. After being at the orphanage for some time, she began to have some light in her again. After teaching her about Jesus Christ, giving her a safe place to live, and providing her with the love and attention she needed, her countenance changed.
 Now, you can't get her to stop smiling! 
She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.

One last thing that I want to share. In Entoto mountain there is a community of people that go there to find a cure from Aids and Tuberculosis from the "holy water". They basically go there and die. They have families and kids. Some of them are lucky to get even one meal a day. There is a ministry there as well that tries to help as many people as possible and OH also has sponsorships to help them. The government can give them medicine for these diseases, but if they do not have proper nutrition, the medicine can do nothing for them.
So, while there you see women carrying these huge bundles of sticks on their backs. These bundles weigh 150-200 lbs! They carry them 20 miles and sell their bundles for $1! They do this everyday, rain or shine, pregnant or not. We passed a couple of women doing this on our way down the mountain. We offered to put their bundles on top of our car, and give them a ride to where they needed to go to sell them. 
It took 6 grown adults to lift the bundle of sticks off these women's back and load them on the van! 
I saw some women who had to be at least 80 years old doing this." 

Finally, I asked Darci what was hard about coming back? 

"It was hard coming from a place where people are literally starving to death right in front of our eyes, and then coming home to all that we have... and hearing my kids complain about things like, 'we don't have good food in our house,' or 
'The I Pad is dead!' Or 'Why do I have to do chores?' They just don't yet realize how blessed they are and what real life is like for so many people in this world. That was hard. And a day hasn't gone by since I came home, that I don't think about the people I met there and what they go through every day just to stay alive. Then I drive to the grocery store in my comfortable car and buy groceries for my family like it's no big deal, which it isn't… but it is after seeing what I saw. 
This trip taught me in a different, but very real way, the power of love, and that it truly changes people including those who are giving it. I loved seeing how by helping and loving one person, you really are changing the world.
Those incredible people are heroes in my eyes for what they have overcome in their lives.
 It is hard for me to put into words an experience that truly changed my life."

And that my friends is an example of
 A Life Lived For Others.


  1. I have tears streaming down my face even still while writing this comment. I loved this post so much for so any reasons. What An amazing experience for Darci...this is my dream to visit this place of pure humility and who have so little but still seem content.

  2. I absolutely loved reading this post. Darci Lee Simkins Burke is my daughter, and my champion. She is a shining example of love, charity, and care and concern for others. She gives service so willingly, cheerfully, and lovingly. Her children are gaining those same desires through her example. I am so blessed to call her my daughter.