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Hannah's Garden - Sunflowers in the Valley

Back when my daughter, Faith, was nine years old, she was a strong-willed child, but she was mostly compliant, which sometimes made it hard for me to say "no" to her. For some time, she begged my wife and me for a dog. "If only I had a puppy to love, play with, and care for…" became a common utterance. After much discussion, we surprised Faith with a miniature dachshund, Bella, that Christmas.

It was hard not to fall in love with this new addition to our family, so when Faith lost interest after about six months, Bella took a liking to me. Why? Because I paid attention to her and ensured she was fed and cared for. Before long, it became clear that I was Bella's favorite. She would greet me at the door when I arrived home each day, and she ignored others to get into my arms.

Often in life, we wonder why people make certain choices that may seem so out of character for them. Maybe they involved themselves with the wrong crowd, or fell victim to alcohol, drug, or physical abuse. People are not much different than our pets in that they will migrate toward individuals who show interest in them or make them feel valued. Each one of us has an innate desire to be noticed and appreciated, and we are vulnerable to the influence of others who are willing to extend that to us.

I was fortunate to recognize the incredible potential in a young lady named Hannah Harding, and my leadership team and I equipped her to become a star. This young lady had a desire to become a teacher but struggled to see where God wanted her to serve. She was passionate about influencing young women, especially high school seniors, so with our support, this 21-year-old created a program called Hannah's Garden, which is aimed at mentoring these young ladies, as they navigate struggles and the pull from a world that is aggressively trying to grab their attention and lure them.

Harding develops strong emotional bonds with these young ladies, instituting and reinforcing their value as individuals and creations of the Lord. She helps them develop life skills that boost their confidence, such as public speaking, interviewing, and financial responsibility. As each grows, she learns that she has a voice, and that voice is worthy of sharing.

Another aspect of Hannah's Garden is finding people within area schools who are otherwise unheard. These students are usually identified through school counselors as those who are not given the same opportunities to shine as others. They can easily become lost in the system and fall prey to the world, but Hannah's Garden validates these students and tangibly and emotionally invests in them.

At our leadership meetings, Harding has shared that it is amazing to watch these students transform from a bud struggling to emerge into a beautiful flower, once they break through adversity.

It's awesome to see what happens when we follow the principles taught in Hebrews 13:16, "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."
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