A young girl’s good deed led to something more valuable: her calling.
Anna Lipscomb calls them “my orphanages.” Not that she owns them or even takes all the credit for raising $85,000 to build them through donations to her CD. The “my” speaks of her closeness to helping orphans in Haiti. It signals that her giving isn’t a one-time thing, like sending a toy gift to foster kids at Christmas time or a donation to the Red Cross during a catastrophe. Anna owns these orphanages—not on paper, but in her heart.
And here’s the surprising part: She’s only 16.
In just over four years, she has grown from a timid 11-year-old who had never seen the poverty of a foreign land, to a teenager who travels to speak on the needs of those less fortunate, who has done numerous interviews and speaking engagements to inspire others to give and to find their purpose, just as she has.
Her Eyes & Heart Are Opened
The journey began in January 2008 when Anna went on a missions trip to Haiti with her parents and members of the Global Orphan Project, an organization that helps orphans worldwide. When she returned home, just outside Kansas City, she couldn’t stop thinking about the trash she’d seen scattered throughout the streets, the dirty water, the faces of children in need.
"I knew I wanted to do something myself to help, I was thinking, who else is going to help these kids that don’t have a place to call home, and they don’t have parents?"Anna Lipsomb
Just a kid, herself, from the suburbs, she couldn’t do much. Or could she?
Putting Her Gifts To Work
Anna could sing. She could play the violin. She decided to write Heart for Haiti, a song about the people she’d met there, and include it on a CD with six other praise and worship tracks. She would give the donations to Global Orphan Project. At least that’s what she set out to do. Then came the earthquake that ravaged the poverty-stricken country in 2010, and Anna’s efforts garnered greater attention. More newspapers and magazines wanted to tell her story. Groups invited Anna to sing and speak.
Singing was the easy part. Anna had been involved with music for years, learning piano at age 4 and violin at 5. More recently, she has picked up the guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. After the song, however, people always wanted to know more. They wanted to hear the story in her own words—that part was not so easy. Anna was shy, always had been. She was the girl who barely raised her hand in class, the one who rarely spoke around people she didn’t know. Now she had to be the featured speaker for youth groups, for Vacation Bible School classes, for a local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“When I started this project,” Anna says, “I didn’t really think I would be speaking.” God’s plan was gently nudging her out of her comfort zone, revealing a boldness that Anna didn’t know she had.
She recalled the story of Moses who also resisted speaking in front of crowds. Like him, Anna initially thought: “Why me?” Yet, with each event, she says, “God showed his power.”
Another revelation: “I realized that sometimes shyness can be kind of selfish,” Anna says. “First of all, I guess it can just be an excuse, and God calls us to share and live out our faith.”
One of the hardest groups to talk to, she says, is her peers. To cut down on the nervousness, Anna prepares by writing down key points on note cards and praying that God speaks through her to inspire others.
“What’s really surprising is that people have said I’m good at speaking, which is really crazy,” Anna says. “I don’t think they understand what a compliment that is.”
Not every response has been so positive. Once, Anna says, someone sent an email asking why she helped Haitians when people in her own backyard need help, too.
"First of all, we’re all called to different things… I feel like God called me to Haiti."Anna Lipscomb
Secondly, giving is not an either/or proposition. She believes she can help people in Haiti, as well as people in her own area. For instance, Anna and her friends held a “birthday party” this summer for needy kids in Kansas City.
Doors Began Opening
Her newfound role as a speaker and fundraiser has opened other doors. No longer the timid little girl in school, Anna was elected to be co-president of her junior class at the private Christian school she attends. A few years ago, she wouldn’t have believed in her own leadership potential. Now, she says, “I also feel called to my school and helping my class grow spiritually.”
Anna plans to attend college, although she is keeping her career options open. “But I know I want to serve others,” she says. Her heart for giving may be somewhat genetic. Anna says her parents are her role models. They exposed Anna and her 12-year-old brother, Thomas, to the joys of serving others at an early age. At home, they had the “T3 Club,” a fun way of encouraging the kids to volunteer in ways that used their time, talents and treasures. That upbringing played a major role in the impact Haiti has had on her life, Anna says.
A Contagious Calling
She isn’t the only one who has grown from the Haiti mission trips; the whole family has felt the effects. The Lipscombs took a second trip to Haiti in May 2011 and, over the years, Kari Lipscomb has traveled with her daughter from one speaking engagement to the next. The results were as much a surprise to her as to Anna.
“I knew that she had a certain amount of confidence in music,” Anna’s mother said, “but I also didn’t really think through what could really happen through this.”
Nor did Mrs. Lipscomb realize that God had plans for her growth, as well. Like her daughter, she had never seen herself as much of a public speaker—until about a year ago when event organizers began asking her to say a few words, as well.
Then, earlier this year, mother and daughter were invited to speak in front of hundreds during a national conference in Colorado Springs sponsored by the nonprofit Generous Giving. Anna told her story and showed her music video. Her mother spoke about the gift of giving to others and about inspiring kids to give at a young age.
Speaking in front of such a large group was new to both mother and daughter. Having watched her daughter’s transition, Mrs. Lipscomb has also accepted the challenge.
“I never knew God was going to stretch me with her,” she says.
The important thing is that mother and daughter allowed themselves to be stretched. For those who are afraid to pursue God’s vision, Anna has a little advice: “Just take a small step and you’ll be amazed at what God can do through you.”