Category Archives: blessings

Ukraine ministry rescues children dumped into poorly run orphanages

Nita Hanson God's Hidden TreasuresIn 1997, Nita Hanson was a prosperous employee in Thousand Oaks. Then she went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine.

It broke her heart and changed the direction of her life. She saw crib after crib of babies and children crammed together in dim rooms.

“That’s when my heart broke open. I knew then that I couldn’t leave,” she told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Gods Hidden TreasuresNita saw babies with special needs being dumped into ill-equipped and poorly staffed public orphanages. She witnessed handicapped people who had no real hope to ever receive mobility devices. If you were poor, there was little chance of finding help.

She decided to abandon the American Dream and pursue God’s dream. She was divorced and her two kids were grown. She was free from commitments, so she committed herself full time to the Lord’s work.

Today, Nita, 77, runs three orphanages in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Her ministry, God’s Hidden Treasures, has teamed up with Christian athlete superstar Tim Tebow to stage events to help some of the neediest people in Ukraine. She provides wheelchairs and walkers; people who otherwise would have been enclosed in four walls forever may now go out and breathe the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. Her group sponsors medical home visits and supplies food and basic needs.

Staffed by mostly Ukrainians, her people seek to create life-long relationships with orphans and other families.

Lori Hall in UkraineLori Hall of Ventura County recently joined Nita on a short-term mission group.

“I was thrilled to join the Impact Team as we set out to listen, learn and serve the ministry of God’s Hidden Treasure,” she says. “We sought to be humble servants as we went to other cultures, to share Jesus’ love by listening to the people, learning of their concerns and serving them in Jesus’ name.”

Lori spent 12 days assisting doctors and pastors with in-home health visits, delivering necessary wheelchair or mobility devices and helping with an annual citywide picnic evangelistic event for over 300 handicapped persons. Her group ran a Vacation Bible School for teenage boys with special needs living in an orphanage, a highly anticipated event. Not much is done for these special needs people, so it’s significant that this group makes a concentrated effort to focus on people sidelined by society.

“I was most impacted by the great love, tenderness and respect everyone showed to each and every individual,” Lori noted. “Jesus and His love was everywhere as people’s lives were blessed and changed forever, whether by receiving their first wheelchair or walker, by being touched with loving hands and hugs or finding new life in Jesus’ message of truth!”

In 15 years, God’s Hidden Treasures has delivered more than 6,000 mobility aids across Ukraine, her website says. When she provides a wheelchair as a gift, she tells the recipient it is “because God heard your prayers.”

They’ve come a long way from the original three wheelchairs brought on a Delta Flight to the Ukraine purchased from China in conjunction with Joni and Friends USA. Read more about God’s Hidden Treasures.

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They’re not feeding me enough in Guatemala

IMG_6501LOL!

Here’s our Guatemalan Christian school that I am visiting now, along with the church.

How could 5 years of extreme fatigue be good?

laurel-galucci-sweet laurel bakeryWhen she suffered extreme fatigue for five years, it was a curse that elicited a forlorn “Why, God?” But when God turned her hormone deficiency into a profitable bakery of gluten-free cakes, it was a case for Romans 8:28: All things work together for good to them that love God.

Laurel Galucci had just married her dream man and was working her dream job of teaching. Then a mysterious fatigue crept upon her, progressively sapping her strength until she had to quit her job. Her dream life became a nightmare and at first there were no answers.

laurel-gallucci-gluten freeAt long last in 2012, her doctor found the problem: She had Hashimoto’s disease, which attacked her thyroid, resulting in reduced hormone production and subsequent exhaustion. She couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs.

If that weren’t bad enough, she suffered from acute constipation. Already very slender, she lost another 40 pounds. She couldn’t get pregnant and went without a period for four years.

miracle baby

Husband and miracle baby

The standard treatment in the medical field of synthetic hormones didn’t restore her energy. “I had severe energy depletion” and was living in misery, she says.

Two years later, a friend suggested a change of diet. She cut grains, legumes, refined sugar and diary.

“After years of feeling exhausted and sick,” Laurel told Women’s Health, “I was willing to try just about anything to get my energy back and feel better about myself.”

More vegetables and protein was fine but giving up baking was out of the question. Laurel was the second of seven children and grew up baking constantly for her brothers and sisters. The ban on grains was a sticking point.

She had to find a substitute. Gluten-free baked goods on the market at the time tasted like cardboard. So she experimented and whipped up a surprisingly good chocolate cake using almond flour, coconut oil, 100% maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt and organic eggs.

Upon sampling the delicacy, her close friend (and now business partner) Claire Thomas remarked: “Gluten-free cakes aren’t supposed to taste this good. We have to do something with this. We need to share this with other people.”

Claire was already an entity in the foodie world. She had hosted a show on ABC called “Food for Thought” and in 2011 she was tapped by McDonald’s to direct the filming of a commercial. Claire suggested a partnership with Laurel.

In 2015, they founded the first grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free baked goods called Sweet Laurel and it shipped cakes nationally. Their products were offered in select grocery stores (mostly in L.A. and New York City), and she listed recipes on her blog and in cookbooks. They called that first cake “the chocolate cake that changed everything.”

In September of this year, they are opening their first storefront bakery in Pacific Palisades, a well-heeled neighborhood in Los Angeles. Laurel is not talking specific dollar amounts but says, “We’ve been very successful this year. We are hoping to grow out of Southern California. We’re getting up there. We’re expecting it to be worth lots of money.” Read the rest of Sweet Laurel Gluten-Free Baked Goods.