Saturday, December 13, 2014

We need your help & it'll only take TWO SECONDS!

It's been forever since I've posted on this blog, but we need all the help we can get.

And it'll only take a few seconds...

Our non-profit, The Sound of Hope, is in the middle of a video competition. The winner gets $40,000!!! That's more than enough to put ALL 200 plus kids we serve in school for a whole year!

So literally your vote could put a child in Swaziland, Thailand, India or Burma in school.

It's simple... CLICK on the link below and then click on the VOTE button underneath the video! That's it!!


After you vote, please go to your Facebook and SHARE what I have written out below:

Hey guys - some good friends of mine run the charity @The Sound of Hope and today they need our help! They're in a video competition for a campaign called "Project For Awesome" - and if they win, they could get enough funding to put 200 orphans and vulnerable children in school for a year! Education can change EVERYTHING for a child in need. So let's work together to put these very deserving kids in Africa and Asia in school for another year! All you have to do is VOTE for their video!  That's it - just vote! You can watch and VOTE HERE:   http://www.projectforawesome.com/charity/the-sound-of-hope/project-for-awesome-2014--the-sound-of-hope  

Please help us out! Thank you very much! We're super grateful.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ben

Last week I got a phone call that changed my life forever. One of my best friends... a friend of 24 years, Ben Crowley, passed away last Thursday night.

I spoke Monday at Ben's service, and since that time some folks have asked me to post what I shared online.

So here it is. My whole purpose was to express to people that this was NOT Ben. He did not want this. We just talked a week or so ago about what camera he should buy so that he could video the birth of his daughter. Ben was excited and hopeful about the future.

He was like a brother to me, and my life will never be the same without him.

I love you Ben, and I hope what I said Monday honored you.


It’s easy to focus on the tragedy that brought us here today. So when Amanda asked me to speak, I knew immediately I wanted to focus on who Ben really was and how he lived his life.

And I have a unique knowledge in this area... I knew Ben for 24 years. We met right when I moved back to Arkansas from Florida in 1989. We were going into the 8th grade, and I’ll never forget one day after a two-a-day football practice I was complaining about having to live in little ole Monticello. You see, I thought I was a real big shot coming from Florida. Well, Ben piped up and said, “Well leave then, we don’t want you here anyway.”

I liked him immediately.

Later that same year, after discovering Ben was a lunatic Auburn fan I invited him to my house to watch the Florida-Auburn game. You see, I was a big Gator fan having lived in Florida for the past seven years. Well, that turned out to be a big mistake! Florida lost on a last minute drive and Ben was insufferable. Our rivalry started that day, and we had MANY great games over the years! One certain year I might have gotten passed out drunk after another Florida loss, ONLY to wake up with the final score written in PERMANENT maker on my forehead!! 

Who would’ve thought though many years later I’d actually join his side and cheer on his Auburn Tigers... I’ll come back to that.

Now I’ve got a ton of crazy Ben high school stories, flipping a truck, getting rear-ended by a church bus, and late nights back-roading all over southeast Arkansas... you name, we were in it. Who knows, maybe we were together so much because Ben was the only kid in town whose parents actually let me hang out with him. Thank you Bill and Nancy!


But Ben was so much more than just a crazy high school buddy. The richness of our friendship developed much later. You see, I talked to Ben everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, for the last two years. But even before that we had been in at least monthly contact for the past 8 to 9 years. I knew him about as well as you could know someone and I can tell you for certain, He did not want this. The tragedy that took Ben, was not Ben. This was not who he was. He was not in a place of desperation or hopelessness. 

Ben was far from hopeless!

So I’m going to do my best to tell you who I knew Benjamin Hugh Crowley to be. 

He was a man who knew and loved Jesus Christ, plain and simple. He LOVED God’s word. He had studied it extensively. Man, we had SO many conversations over this subject... theology, individual verses, historical context, the Gospels, Paul, I mean the list could go on and on. I always loved picking his brain, because the dude was smart, much smarter than me when it came to the Bible. I’m going to miss those conversations.

But he didn’t just have a head full of theology, Ben was a man who had experience with the true and living God. Guys, he had been through hell and back, and the Lord delivered Ben from drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t easy, and it often took many attempts, but I assure you Ben experienced freedom. That was a bond we both shared, a common struggle. You see, I’ve been sober several years now. So we would hold each other accountable, pray for each other and encourage one another. He was such a great support in my life. Ben knew Jesus not because he studied him in some book, but because Ben had seen Jesus work miracle after miracle in his life.

And that leads me to this miracle right here. Amanda, your wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life! I’ll tell you who Ben was, he was the guy worshipping the Lord with his bride on their wedding day! And he should’ve been praising God, because He way “out-kicked his coverage”! Ben loved you very much! We always talked about how we could be better men for our wives. He was so happy to be your husband!

Ben also loved that baby girl on the way. Ella Joy Crowley as she’ll be known to the world. Man, he was pumped! He’s always wanted to be a dad! Ben was excited about his little girl. In fact, he told me that every night he read Psalms to Ella. But this is the kind of dad Ben was, he told me, "Man, have you read some of the Psalms? They can be violent and heavy. I just want to be careful what I speak over my child. I want to protect her." Ben was the dad who was already protecting his daughter before she even left the womb.

Ben was a man who loved his family. I know Ben was a handful during his teenage years, but he loved you guys so much. The day we left Birmingham to come here, we found the program from his wedding day. Bill and Nancy - do you remember the letter that he wrote to you guys that was printed? He said how much he loved y’all and how your support meant so much to him. Your marriage was a great example for him. He knew very well all the love y’all had given him throughout the years, all the support and all the sacrifice... he knew it. 

Ben loved his friends. He and I had a special connection, but I wasn’t the only one. I know many, many others out here today that he loved dearly. Josh - one of the last things he said to me last week was that the three of us needed to get together. I’m pretty sure you guys drove each other crazy, because you see, they worked together for years, but I know the deep love he had for you. Josh, you were his brother, and he loved you like one. In fact, just the other night we spent hours watching duck hunting videos Josh had made over the past year or two. Ben Crowley loved his freaking duck hunting, didn’t he?

I know for a lot you, even if you hadn’t seen or talked with Ben, y’all could pick right back up where you left off. Chris, you remember that Arkansas-Auburn game this past Fall? Ben said it was so good to see you again and reconnect. I know he loved you very much. I think it was said best by one of Ben’s friends a couple days ago, “Ben is in the fabric of who I am.” I know many of us here feel that way. 

And Ben loved his Auburn Tigers... I’ll share this final story. I’m sure most you know Auburn had a magical run last season. So right after Auburn beat Georgia on that crazy last second hail mary pass I called Ben and said, “Dude you gotta come to the Iron Bowl!” We had been talking about for a couple weeks. Well it worked out that he and Amanda got tickets. So they drove over to our house in Birmingham, and we got to host them for a couple days. We had a wonderful time. As you all know Auburn beat Alabama on a last second FG return for a TD! It makes me so happy to know that Ben, Amanda and their unborn child got to experience that game inside Jordan-Hare stadium. I know Ben loved it that I was wearing Auburn colors that day! We rolled Toomer’s Corner together and everything. We all knew we were experiencing something very special. I mean, who wins a football game that way? But we had no idea WHY this would be such a special time. It’s so much more than a football game now; it’s special because it was the last day I ever spent with Ben. 


Ben Crowley was my friend, my brother and the hole that’s left in my life will never be filled. I’m not mad at you, because I know you didn’t want this and YOU didn’t do this. Mental illness did this, it took Ben from us, much like cancer or any other terrible disease. 

Ben, you were a man of character, integrity and most importantly, you were a man of God.

Simply put, Ben Crowley was a friend, a son, an in-law, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a loving, protective father.

That’s who Ben was.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Celebrating 29 Years of Ericka

Today I am celebrating my wife. 

It's Ericka's 29th birthday, and we've got a whole day of fun planned!

But before we get out and about I wanted to take a moment to share about my wife. Normally, I'm not much for public displays of affection, but she deserves it!

Ericka is without a doubt the most loving, compassionate and selfless person I know. Now, I get that every man probably says that, or at least HAS to say that about his wife, but it's REALLY true in Ericka's case. So much so, that I remember when I met her. I thought, "there is no way this girl is for real!" However, the more I got to know Ericka - the more I realized, "she is for real!"

Her love, compassion and desire to put other people's needs ahead of her own has changed me. Compassion, love and mercy are NOT my strong points. But because of my wife I'm discovering new parts of me I didn't know existed.

Today, I'm grateful for you Ericka. I'm thankful that you are willing to live this crazy life with me! I don't know many women who would sacrifice comfort, luxury and future prosperity. The kids we care for through The Sound of Hope are lucky to have you as a "mom" - you're a mother to the nations!

I'm lucky to be your husband.

So, in honor of Ericka's 29th birthday I'm asking all of you reading this blog to donate $29 to our Swaziland school fee fundraiser. Last year The Sound of Hope put 112 kids in school. We need your help making sure those same kids go to school this year! Please give this small amount today in honor of a women who has made me a better man.

Donate Now


Monday, December 17, 2012

Announcing a BRAND NEW Sound of Hope

For a while now we’ve known that in order to keep The Sound of Hope productive and successful, we needed to focus on improving our organization. As many non-profits do in the beginning, we had been “getting by” with free websites and print-work designed by friends. While we’re grateful for those “freebies” getting us this far, it just didn’t do our work justice. The children we serve overseas have INCREDIBLE stories, and we want to make sure people hear them, see them, and have a way to respond to them. So this Fall, we hired an amazing firm to make The Sound of Hope even better!

For the past few weeks, we’ve been working a lot of 10, 12, 15, and even 18 hour work days. But I’m thrilled to announce that all that work was worth it, because last week we revealed our BRAND NEW logo, website, and online store for The Sound of Hope

The team at Ideogram has worked tirelessly to create this awesome site for us, and we’re so excited to see it live! On our homepage you’ll find an interactive slider that shows each country we work in, our main video for that country, our latest tweet, and the projects we’re currently fundraising for. (Move the boxes with your up & down & left & right arrows.)



Click on the map (or the menu in the top right of the page) and you can visit 4 country specific pages. For the first time, you can see (in detail) where we work, how many children we care for, and exactly what we do in each country. You can also find our latest country specific videos, blogs, and fundraising projects. There are 2 brand new Feature videos too – check them out on our India & Swaziland pages!






























There are several other new pages, but I’ll let you peruse the site and discover them yourself. I do want to point out one more INCREDIBLE addition though. Last week, we opened up our first ever online store for The Sound of Hope




























For the past year we have been collecting merchandise from around the world to sell in our shop. We have so many beautiful, unique products from India, Thailand, Burma, and Swaziland – and I’m so excited to finally share them with you! There’s original art, handmade jewelry, silk scarves, handpainted brass bowls and MUCH more! And the best part is – every single purchase helps us provide RESCUE, PROTECTION, and HOLISTIC CARE to children in need.


So, what are you waiting for?! Go check out our new site and shop in our new store! (If you place an order by Monday night (the 17th), you should get it in time for Christmas.) And please help us get the word out by sharing our new site with your friends via email, blog, facebook, and twitter. ‘Tis the season for year-end tax-deductible gifts, and we need your help to finish 2012 strong!



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Return on Investment

Lately I've taken an interest in the stock market. I find the whole thing just fascinating - understanding how the market moves, what forces drive a stock, earnings, price action, charts, valuation, etc.

I never knew it could be so much fun researching a stock, and I mean really digging into a company's balance sheet, income statement and cash flow report.  If you're looking for long-term investments, doing this type of "homework" is a must. Ultimately, what you're trying to figure out is what kind of return on investment (ROI) you can get from a particular company/stock.

Anyway, I've learned a TON about all this stuff, and it's made me think differently about The Sound of Hope. You see, we've got ADMIN donors - people who donate monthly toward our operating budget so that we can work full-time for orphans and vulnerable children in Swaziland, India, Thailand and Burma. Now, when I look at these donors through a stock market frame of mind, I see investors, or shareholders. So, recently I've been asking, "what kind of return on investment does my organization offer them?"

It's a good question, because rest assured "shareholders" in The Sound of Hope are receiving a return. It just looks a little different from Wall Street. Every monthly investment makes it possible for us to care for 200+ kids in FIVE children's homes and one carepoint. Our donors' financial investment returns physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life to these children. Now that's a profitable investment right there, but that's not all!

Another way to look at our shareholder "ROI" is to ask this question. How efficient is The Sound of Hope at turning operating dollars into dollars released to our overseas projects? Well, let me tell you. So far this year we've generated $3.10 of charitable revenue for every $1 spent on operations.

"Charitable revenue" is the money we send our overseas partners, and "operations" is what the organization spends to operate - such as payroll, taxes, travel costs, media, office supplies, etc.

So lets say you support The Sound of Hope $10 bucks a month - that means we turn your $10 into $31 of charitable revenue EACH MONTH. That's a 310% return on investment! I promise you, finding that kind of ROI on Wall Street ain't gonna be easy!

So, do I have any buyers? I've got a great company here folks, doing amazing things in the nations. Consider this our IPO (Initial Public Offering). If you want to be a part of an organization that turns your money into changed lives, then you've found it. We take financial stewardship seriously, and we'll bust our tails to bring you a return on your investment.

Will you give The Sound of Hope an opportunity to put your money to work?


To become a monthly "shareholder" and get a tax-deduction, click the big obvious button below.
 Donate Now

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Official


This is a post from The Sound of Hope website. I just wanted to share it with my blog readers! Check out these happy faces!


The Founder of the Asha Mission Children's Home flew to India a few weeks ago to buy the land and make sure all the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed. And now that it's OFFICIAL, the children are beside themselves with joy! They know that this means they are one huge step closer to a big, new, permanent home!

Babu, the Founder, took the House Dad and a few of the boys to see the land while he was in India. As you can tell by these pictures, they are really excited to see the place their new home will be!



I love how open this location is, and how lush and green the land is. Those are 2 things you don't see much of in this area of India!



To everyone who gave to this need - whether it was $5 or $5,000 - you have made an extraordinary impact on the lives of these little boys and girls! We are still so humbled and amazed by your support! We know this land will provide a safe place for children to flourish and grow for generations.  It is incredible to think about the hope this place will bring into the lives of orphans and vulnerable children in India - for years and years to come!

Next up is the building project! Babu met with some builders when he was in India and began the process of drawing up plans for the new Children's Home. We will all work together to be sure it meets the government requirements and becomes a healthy place for the children to call home. We are so excited to see this part of the project take shape! We'll keep you updated as Phase 2 begins!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Proud Husband

I was never so proud to be Ericka's husband as I was yesterday.

Let me give you the quick back-story. My wife grew up doing pageants, and not just a few, but scores of them! She competed for 19 years - including two trips to Miss Alabama in 2004 and 2005. Now let me tell you, this is quite an accomplishment in itself, because only 48 girls get to compete each year for the right to be called "Miss Alabama". The experiences and friendships from those two years are a big part of who my wife is today.

So, fast-forward to a couple months ago...

At the time we had some extra money from some side work I had been doing, so Ericka comes to me with an idea. She wanted to create a $1,000 scholarship for a Miss Alabama contestant called the IMPACT Award. It would be given to the young lady who was making the greatest impact in the lives of those around her. I loved the idea and said go for it!

Well, yesterday at the Miss Alabama luncheon Ericka got a chance to share some of her story and then present the award. I felt like her words carried so much weight and influence. You see, Ericka didn't win Miss Alabama, nor did she finish in the Top 10. That will be the case for 38 of the 48 girls in that room. Yet Ericka stood there as an example of life on the other side of Miss Alabama. I was so proud!

I was also proud to see who won the award - Beth Milam. She just got back from a mission trip in Haiti 20 days ago. A fitting winner to an award created by my wife!

Beth Milam - 2012 IMPACT Award winner!