Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty

One of the common questions about Compassion (or any charity for that matter) is, “Where does my money go and what is it used for?” That’s a valid question and one worth exploring.

Let’s suppose you were given a sum of money to help a community who has been caught in the cycle of poverty for generations. What would you do? Sure, you could use the money to buy them food, clothing or medicine (all of which Compassion does) but if you only did that, where would that community be when the clothes wore out and the food was gone?

Compassion goes further than just simple food distribution – they focus on the whole person and give them the tools to help break the cycle of poverty themselves.

I could tell you how they do it…or I could introduce you to Caroline Otwoma.


Caroline lives in a 10′ x 10′ shack with her husband and four children in the congested slums of Kawangware, a place devoid of hope.


And yet in the midst of the poverty and hopelessness that surrounded her she welcomed us into her home with a bright smile on her face. Caroline was part of the Compassion Child Survival Program (CSP) that taught mothers the skills necessary to raise their family. Every week Caroline walks to the Compassion program to learn things like how to fashion a container for water so that she can have access to clean water to wash her hands.



She was excited to show us how she has been able to learn a trade that helps support their family. Through a micro-finance loan she was able to purchase groundnuts to sell at the market.


Caroline showed us how she first sorted through the nuts…


then prepared the fire….


before roasting the nuts in a pot.

She then packages the nuts into little plastic bag and seals them using the heat from a small candle.

She sells the little packages of nuts at the market and is able to make about 80 shillings ($1.05) a day.

As we left her husband proudly told us that his wife was working hard and that together they were changing their situation. He thanked us for coming to visit their house that they lived in “for now.” He said “for now” because he told us that he knew that they wouldn’t be there forever. The tools they had and the skills they learned were helping them break free from the poverty that surrounded them, one bag of nuts at a time.


It is their attitude that gives me hope. They know that their situation isn’t hopeless as long as they have the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty. That is what Compassion does. That is what you do when you sponsor a child or give monthly to the Child Survival Program.

That is how the cycle of poverty is broken.…

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Safe In Nairobi

We arrived safe and sound in Nairobi around 9 PM, went through customs, picked up our bags and drove to our hotel. The flight over was loooonnng but for the most part uneventful.

On the first leg of the trip (Minneapolis to Amsterdam) I sat next to a documentary filmmaker who was on his way to Munich to pick up a special underwater housing for his video camera. The subject of his documentary? The Loch Ness Monster. He and his team are going to attempt to capture footage of the Loch Ness  Monster by spelunking into a cave that it supposedly lives in. Interesting fellow. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The reason he is knows where and how to capture footage of the Loch Ness Monster? His psychic told him.

Sunrise at the Amsterdam Airport

We had a short layover in Amsterdam. Cultural boundaries are definitely different here. I was making use of the restroom at the airport and half-noticed a custodian cleaning in the bathroom. It was only as I was walking out that I realized it was a lady custodian who was in there while I was going to the bathroom. I don’t know about you but I prefer bathroom visits to not be a co-ed activity.

After we arrived in Nairobi a free Wi-Fi signal was found so the iPhones flew out to check emails and update Twitter statuses.

Tomorrow we start right off by visiting a Compassion project first thing in the morning. If you haven’t already grab one of my trip banners for your blog or web site to help spread the word.

More to come soon. Thanks for reading!…

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

Wow, I can’t believe this day is finally here! I’m leaving this morning for a long flight to Nairobi, Kenya (via Minneapolis and Amsterdam) with the rest of the Compassion Bloggers. I’ll be arriving in Nairobi around 9PM Kenya time. I’m terrible with keeping time zones straight so I made up this little time zone reference chart:


Geeky, I know, but I’m a visual person so that helps me figure out when I am in the world.

In other news, we received the packet on our new sponsored child from Kenya just in time for the trip! Meet our new beautiful little girl, Ivon Magoma:


I’m so excited to meet her this week! She’s 9 years old and has a birthday the day before my oldest daughter. Her packet said she has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. She enjoys playing jump-rope (we packed one to give her) and singing.

I’ll be talking more this week about what Compassion Child Sponsorship is and how it works (click here to read about Sabato, our other sponsored child). You’ll have plenty of opportunities to sponsor children while we’re there but if you simply can’t wait, you can click here to find a precious little child of your own (clicking that link helps me track how many children were sponsored because of this trip). Only $38/month covers all their medicine, education and basic necessities (less than the cost of one dinner out a month).

Anyway, I’ve only got another hour or so before I have to leave for the airport. Probably time enough to sneak in Leaving On A Jet Plane one more time on the stereo…it always makes Lisa cry before I leave on a trip.…

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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other


Did you ever watch Sesame Street growing up?
Remember that game called “One of these things is not like the other?”

Ok, let’s play…

One of these things is not like the other things,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you guess which thing is not like the other things,
Before I finish my song…

If you guessed the goofy-looking guy third from the left, you would be correct!

You see, these sharp guys and gals around me are the other bloggers who will be going with me to Kenya for the Compassion Bloggers trip next week (read about it here & here). I feel just a little out of my league. I mean, these guys have like a gazillion readers each (yes, those are verified statistics) and are pretty big stuff in their respective blogging circles.

Let me do my best to introduce you to each of them so you’ll know who I’m talking about when I mention them in my posts next week. Some of them I’ve met while a couple of them I’ll be meeting for the first time next week.

Compassion Kenya Bloggers:

ryandetzelRyan Detzel

I’ve already met Ryan several times. This guy wrote the book on “cool.” He’s a pastor in Cincinnati, an talented photographer and an amazing cook. If that’s not enough, he’s got some pretty sweet ink that totally legitimizes him as a rock star. Ryan is the real deal and I’m thrilled to be joining him on this trip. You can read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @DetzelPretzel.



kristen welchKristen Welch

I’ve not met Kristen yet but I’ve been getting to know her through her blog. As far as “Mommy Bloggers” go, she’s pretty big stuff (she was named in the 2009 Neilsen Online Power Mom 50 Blogger list). She writes about parenting on her blog and also is a guest contributor over at (In)Courage. After reading some of her parenting adventures I’m looking forward to meeting her in person next week and getting to know her on this trip. You can follow her on Twitter at @WeAreTHATFamily

Kent ShafferKent Shaffer

I’ve met Kent a couple times and the geek in both of us hit it off. This guy is smart. I mean come on…he took his picture in front of a bunch of books! (not to be outdone, I am occasionally photographed in front of books as well…so there!) Kent is a busy guy…he blogs at and, manages a real estate startup, and volunteers full-time with the Digital Missions team at You can follow Kent on Twitter at @KentShaffer.

MckMamaMckMama (aka Jennifer McKinney)

Jennifer is better known in Mommy Blogger circles as “MckMama.” I wasn’t really familiar with her blog but when I told my wife and neighbor who was going on the trip with me both of their eyes got big when I mentioned “MckMama.” She’s an amazing photographer, successful blogger and still manages to make time for her four kids…with one more on the way! I’m assuming that she’ll pack her cape and mask in her luggage because she has to be a superhero to juggle all of that. You can follow her on Twitter at @MckMama

LV HansonLV Hanson

I met LV when he rolled through Indy and filmed the Catalyst podcast here (and wrote about it here). I liked LV from the minute I met him. He has wit in abundance and will undoubtedly make his way into many of my stories and photos on the trip. Then again, anyone with a name like “Luscious Vernon” (I’m not making that up) is bound to be memorable. LV Blogs for Catalyst at You can follow him on Twitter at @LVHansonor @CatalystLeader.


BradRugglesLittle Ol’ Me

Oh yeah. Then there’s me. That confused look on my face? That’s me wondering how I got to hang with so many amazing people on a trip like this. Seriously.




I also need to give a shout-out to our awesome trip leaders: Shaun Groves, Patricia Jones, Chris Giovagoni and our amazingly talented trip photographer Keely Scott.

It’s going to be a life-changing trip…for me, the bloggers joining me, but especially for the children who are going to be sponsored and released from poverty because of what we share. Subscribe now (by email or RSS) to follow everything as it comes together next week.…

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Our Little Boy Is Growing Up


It’s hard to believe that in just five weeks I’ll be in Kenya! I’m so excited to experience the awesome work of Compassion International first-hand.

We’ll be sponsoring our second child from Africa who I’ll be able to meet while I’m there. Our first little guy, Sabato, has been a part of our family for nearly four years. Letters, like the one below that we just received, are what make the child-sponsor bond so special.

**this letter was dictated by Sabato in his native tongue and then written and translated by Compassion workers – I’ve left the broken English intact**

letterSaboto greets you so much in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says he is very happy for the gift you sent to him. (we send extra at Christmas for a Christmas gift) He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much. He says he took his picture near with their center.

He asks do you like his suit and his shoes? He says he likes wearing his suit and his shoes during going to the church.

He says he continues with his lessons with all his effort and after school lessons. He also went to learn an extra lessons during evenings.

He says he likes going at the church on time in order to sing, to pray and singing the Lord’s songs. He says later on he plays football.

He says he loves you so much and he continues praying to God with effort in order to succeed in your activities. Lastly he asks you to continue praying for him so much in order to do all his effort in his lessons.

He says may God bless you so much and to pray for his country Tanzania. He says Goodbye.

We received this updated photograph of Sabato along with this letter…


This photo is proudly displayed on our refrigerator next to pictures of our two girls. I smile every time I see it.

Sabato described Compassion best in his letter: “He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much.”

And that my friends, is what Compassion is all about.

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I’m Going To Africa!

It’s not often that the opportunity to do something that has been on your heart for years just falls in your lap. When it does, it’s hard to pray about it objectively because you kinda pray and ask God about it with the equivalent of the puppy-dog eyes that my girls know work far too often on me.

You see, while many people have prayed the, “God I’ll do anything for you…just please don’t send me to Africa!”prayer, I have always prayed the opposite. My heart has beat for this continent and its people for years.

So when I got a phone call from Shaun Groves, who works with Compassion International, asking me if I wanted to take a trip to Kenya with Compassion Bloggers in March…well, let’s just say I was more than a little excited! And not just the “I get to fly on a plane to an exotic destination” kind of excited – I’m pumped about leveraging the influence and voice God has given me through this blog to make a difference in a child’s life.

Children like our little Sabato.

We’ve sponsored Sabato for nearly four years. Because of a very small monthly sacrifice on our part he has been able to go to school and stay clothed and healthy. Because of the unique sponsorship relationship Compassion has developed we are able to write Sabato and receive letters from him. Chloe & Emily talk about him to their friends and even call him “their brother.” He’s become part of our family and we are an important part of his.

That’s why I’m so excited to take this trip and share the sights and sounds with you. I’ll be live-blogging from Kenya March 4-10 with a team of bloggers and photographers. I’ll be sharing more details about the trip and my fellow bloggers in the weeks to come but in the meantime you can follow our trip on Twitter. You can also promote help me promote the trip by embedding this widget on your blog:


I’ve got a few little surprises I’ll be sharing along the way so keep checking back (click here to subscribe to my updates in an RSS reader or click here to subscribe by email).

Thanks for reading and helping me promote this trip. I’m so excited to share this adventure with you!…

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Catalyst 09: Shane Hipps


In this session Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels, shared about what and how we communicate our message in today’s digital world. Don’t forget to keep checking in over at

Shane Hipps – The Medium Is The Message

  • Christianity is fundamentally a communication event
  • “The methods change but the message stays the same.” i.e. You have to innovate your methods otherwise the gospel becomes increasingly irrelevant.
  • The medium, in fact, IS the message – how you say something as much as or more than what you say
  • What you use to communicate will determine how your message is heard and received
  • The content of any particular medium is like the slight-of-hand that a magician performs. While we’re distracted the message is subtly communicated
  • In advertising there is a big difference between the printed words and images. Our brains process them differently. When you present your views in an essay format, it invites argument. However, when you present your opinion using images, it represses the logical side of our brain and causes us to become more accepting of the message.
  • Mark 2:22 “No one pours new wine into old wine skins…” Jesus makes the emphasis that the wine is new as well as the wine skin. In other words, you must update your methods and your message. The gospel of message has changed through the years depending on who it was being presented to, where they were at and at what time in history they were from.
  • And yet, the ever-changing gospel never changes. How is that possible? Look at a picture of yourself when you were a baby. You look, act and function completely different now than you did when you were a child…and yet, you are still the same person.
  • The look, function and feel of a mustard seen is completely different than the look, function and feel of a mustard tree. And yet a mustard tree cannot exist without that tiny mustard seed. They are the same and yet always changing. The leaves that grow on the tree do not invalidate the mustard seed.
  • The DNA of the gospel will never change (love wins, grace is free, etc.)

I haven’t read Shane’s book, Flickering Pixels, yet but I want to after this talk. Your thoughts?

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Catalyst 09: Malcolm Gladwell


In this session, Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, talked about the danger of being overconfident as a leader.

Malcom Gladwell

  • Experts can still make mistakes. You need look no further than the current economic crisis to see an example of this.
  • Does more information allow you to make a better decision? You can still be wrong wrong even with more information. In a study, a group of individuals were asked to make a decision about a certain thing with little information. As more and more information was provided to them their decision didn’t necessarily change but their confidence in their decision increased.
  • Incompetence irritates me, overconfidence scares me
  • We generally like people who are overconfident. When a brain surgery says before surgery, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine,” he is being overconfident and we want him to be. And yet he can still be wrong in his overconfidence.
  • When we’re trapped by our overconfidence and arrogance, the world around us can change and we will never know it (example: the banks, and mortgage brokers who thought the economy would keep going up…)
  • In times of crisis we think we need daring and bold decision making from our leaders. We don’t. What we need in times of crisis from our leaders is humility (note: I thought this was an interesting point…I’m not sure what I think about Malcolm’s point here but maybe I need to hear more context)
  • Andy Stanley’s Question to Malcom: What are the warning signs of an overconfident leader? There is a potential for overconfidence in all of us. We should be looking for it in every leader in our organization. The biggest warning sign is when our leaders stop listening to the advice of others.
  • The opposite of an overconfident person is a person with humility – being willing to listen to others
  • When a small business reaches a certain point in their growth, the entrepreneur fails to realize that the same rules that helped them grow to where they are at now will not take them to where they need to be. As your organization or church grows, it becomes imperative that leadership begins to become more and more collective.
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Catalyst 09: Andy Stanley


Here’s my first post from Catalyst 2009, On Your Mark. In the first session Andy Stanley shared about leaving our mark as leaders. Don’t forget to stop by and check out all the fun and interviews there with Anne & Los.

Leaving Your Mark – Andy Stanley

  • Most leaders won’t realize the significance of their mark until long after it has been left.
  • In Joshua 5 Joshua encountered an angel standing before him with a drawn sword. God basically told Joshua, “I have not come to be a part of your story. I’m not even here to be a part of Israel’s story. I’m here to find out if you’re willing to be a part of MY story.” Our response to that question will determine the mark we leave behind
  • God is not someone who has been invited to play a part on my story. Instead, as a leader I have been privileged to play a part in His.
  • Am I willing to submit my leadership gifting to a bigger picture and a larger story?
  • Joshua determined that he would not be a man in authority but a man under authority. He would not be a man out to make his mark but a person who would be commited to let God make a mark through him.
  • “God takes full responsibility for the life that is wholly devoted to Him.”
  • It’s not about the mark you leave. It’s about being in the perfect place so that God can make his mark through you.
  • When God does his greatest work through you, you won’t even know it happened.
  • Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to. But when God calls us to let him make his mark through us, that is the thing willing to give our life for.
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Catalyst 09: Rob Bell


I was really looking forward to Rob Bell’s session here at Catalyst this year. He always blows me away and challenges me every time I hear him. Rob Bell’s latest book is Drops Like Stars.

This was such an amazing talk. I’m sure I didn’t do it justice in this post. If you can you really need to hear this message when it comes out on CD or DVD.

Rob Bell – “10 Years Ago I Didn’t Get This”

  • RobBell-20091008-151510Is bigger better?
  • John 6 – “…from this time on many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him…”
  • Jesus had to confront many misconceptions the Jews had about who the Messiah was and what he was to do. When he told them about what the Messiah came to do many of the disciples said, “We can’t do that.”
  • Sometimes the crowd thins and people leave.
  • What would Jesus say to modern church growth experts who say “If you do A, B and C then this and this will happen”?
  • Yes, sometimes there are large crowds but sometimes large groups leave. Sometimes the crowd thins and not everyone comes with you.
  • Luke 21 – Jesus saw the rich giving large amounts and the poor widow giving a small amount. Even though the rich had given more money Jesus said that the poor widow had given more than all of them. More is not always more.
  • Rob took a stab at magazines and organizations that rank churches according to their influence and creativity. “Really?” he said, “And this coming from people who claim to follow a man who said ‘The first will be last’?”
  • Is the church in our culture known for its beautiful, self
  • When you rank and break down a church into numbers and statistics you violate the bride of Christ and what she was meant to be.
  • Have you had a deep dissatisfaction with what you’ve done? Are you carrying this burden for this thing you’re building for God? Have you stressed about the size of your church or organization? God wants to set you free from that.
  • The ten commandments end with “You shall not covet.” Some people view this as more of a reward than a commandment – if you love God and seek him wholeheartedly you won’t want any other life than your own?
  • Have you been observing a sabbath? Which day of the week are you busy doing nothing? Which day of the week have you set aside to feed your own soul so on the other six you have enough food to share with others? Which day of the week can you not be reached by phone or email?
  • Does your spouse get your very best or does your spouse get what’s left over after you’ve given your best to the church? (personal note…holy crap! Talk about kicking you in the teeth!)
  • If things are going well with the church but not with your family then they’re not doing well with either. They are inextricably linked. You ignore the one at the peril of the other.
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