Along this journey the Lord has given us the gift of encouragement and opportunity through the unexpected. As someone recently said, “The favor of the Lord is so apparent it’s undeniable.” It’s something our family talks about often… usually when we’re ready to give up. We know He has opened up circles of influence many spend their lives only dreaming of and because of that, we hold those relationship as sacred. Sydney has become a pro at spotting those who pretend to care about her, or the ministry the Lord has entrusted her with, as a means to benefit from her “connections.” The reason: she doesn’t view these people as “connections.” To her (and us), they are family. We’re protective of family.
One of those people is Mark Stuart, co-founder of Hands and Feet Project (also former lead singer of Audio Adrenaline), was instrumental in the creation of Be The Change Youth Initiative. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for him. Shortly after David introduced us to Mark, Sydney and I found ourselves headed off to Haiti on a founders trip for Hands and Feet Project. One of the things we LOVE about this organization is their commitment to offering opportunity to the people of Haiti through job creation. IKONDO, one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever stayed while traveling, is a profound example of this.
On the last night of our trip, Sydney asked if she could speak with Mark. (She actually made an entire video about her appreciation for Mark and the impact that moment had in her life. You can see it HERE.) She shared the idea for Be The Change Youth Initiative: What if kids all over the United States could use their gifts and talents to advocate for other children around the world? What if kids could do the things they love (like painting, baking, running, reading, swimming… even building Legos!) to raise money for those in need? Mark loved the idea and told Sydney to put together a formal proposal. He invited us back to Nashville the following month to “pitch” him a Fundraising Initiative idea. And as luck would have it, David Leonard happened to stop by the Frothy Monkey to sit in on that meeting.
Sydney shared her original vision, but also began dreaming about how she could use HER gifts to advocate and create change for others. She told Mark and David how she was creating music for her partnerships (Make-A-Wish, Africa New Life, Hands and Feet Project) and that all of the proceeds from those songs would go to the Fundraising Initiatives, as well as sales from shirts designed by a local teen in Maine who was also using her gifts to help. Immediately, David asked Sydney to send him her music. The problem however… there was nothing to share. The music was created, written down in her notebooks, but nothing concrete to listen to.
There was this awkward silence for about 10 seconds and then Mark turned to Sydney saying, “When David Leonard asks to listen to your music, you send him your music.” So we went home, made some video recordings and emailed them to David. By the end of the next day, he reached out to Jamie to see if we could talk. By the end of the week, we were creating a Kickstarted campaign to cover the cost of recording an 8 track EP. (We were told by WAY TOO MANY people that campaigns like ours NEVER get funded. Well, ours did… in 21 DAYS! Just another example of how Jesus was in this from the beginning.)
As Sydney was preparing to record in Franklin, Tennessee, she was also putting together the first Be The Change Youth Initiative Fundraising Initiative. She recruited 21 kids, from all over the country, to use their gifts and talents to help build a daycare in Jacmel, Haiti, through our partnership with Hands and Feet Project. Their goal was to raise $20,000 over the summer of 2017 and our Fundraising Initiative helped with almost $8,000 of that goal.
Pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.