Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ring Part 7 The Finished Product

After Doug had finished cutting the stone, I still had the challenge of selecting a ring for the stone.  Again, I was looking at silver, and Doug had warned me about a couple of challenges with silver.  Silver is usually very pure compared to other precious metals 98%+ versus gold being about 60% pure.  This means that silver rings are somewhat softer than gold rings (even though pure gold is very soft).  Also, most rings are made from gold or platinum, so he warned me that it may be difficult to find a silver ring that I liked.

We spent about two hours pouring through a catalog and I found about eight options that I liked.  There was one ring in particular with which the wedding band paired uniquely, and the engagement ring itself had a unique setting.  Instead of 4-6 prongs (which can break), the ring setting was comprised of two semi-circular clasps that hold the stone liked two clasped hands.

Doug was concerned that the ring may not be able to be cast in silver, but to my joy and our collective surprise, it could be.

Some of you may be wondering why I would go to such lengths over a ring and stone.  Let me explain.  Jamie is incredibly special to me, in fact, I would say that she is a precious gem and a treasure that God and her parents have entrusted to me, and allowed me the privilege of sharing her and caring for her.  She’s an incredible lady, and I consider her a gift to be cherished.  So often, the media encourages us to spend money to show our love for another person, and personally, I love to lavish gifts upon my friends.
With Jamie’s ring, I wanted her to be able to look at it, and know that it, much like she, is one of a kind.  I wanted her to know that I wanted the ring to be special and memorable, and that I wanted it to be a symbol of the same care that I want to show her for the rest of our lives on this earth together.  It’s also a symbol of the degree of care with which I want to live my life on this planet.  It’s not often we get an opportunity to pour thought and effort into a symbol, and an engagement/wedding ring is one of the most powerful symbols on the planet.

For you men out there, remember that he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and that your spouse is one of the most precious gifts God can give you.  Don’t take this person lightly or take this gift for granted.  For you women, the same is true.  You are called to support one another and to work together to accomplish far more good in this world than either of you could do alone.  That’s a lofty challenge, and the beginning of such a work is to be found in centering your lives upon the beautiful way of Jesus, and then taking this divine love and sharing it with each other, then letting it pour out to the rest of the world to add bring joy and peace to the earth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ring Part 6 Some Spiritual Thoughts About The Process

As I was writing about the process of making Jamie’s engagement ring, I couldn’t help but think about a spiritual correlation.  I think God finds us on this earth as rough sapphires.  He applies heat and pressure, and begins to shave away aspects of our lives that do not reflect light brilliantly.  For us, the process is often painful.  Nobody likes having our rough spots grinded away until they are smooth as glass.
But God does this, and over time, there is a brilliance and light that emanates from us with increasing brightness, that is if we abandon ourselves to the trustworthy skill and expertise of God the gem-cutter.  If not, we may never develop our full potential.

But every time we yield another aspect of our life, to the Creator, he is able to create another facet.  And then, we reflect light.  We don’t produce it from within, but rather, the light enters us like it enters a gem, it bounces around, and then radiates outward like some kind of divinely orchestrated spark or sparkle.  When you see someone whose life seems to radiate a great light, it is a mark of the master jeweler who has been cutting away and working toward’s creating a masterpiece out of that person’s life.  You see, we aer God’s masterpiece, we are his precious gems that he created for the purpose of emanating love, joy, piece, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. In a world in which we need to see more of these things.

May you be yielded in the hands of the Master as he brings out your brilliance and enables you to reflect and shine His light in this world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Ring Part 5 The Stone And The Process

After doug received the stones, he began working on cutting them;my previous post contains an image of the rough stone before any cuts or faceting if you want to get an idea of what it looks like--it really just looks like a bright colored rock. 

One stone, he planned to do a pin cushion cut (a little more antique style), but mine I had hoped to be rounded.  The stones were 3 and 5 Karats rough, but much of the stone get’s ground away as the gem cutter begins faceting.

One day, I visited doug’s house just to see the apparatus he used.  Not being a gem cutter, it was like exploring a whole new world and culture.  He had intricate apparatus that used small diamonds to grind away the sapphire.  The only thing harder than sapphire is diamond, so it was a pretty challenging process for Doug to cut such a hard stone.  After he had cut the first stone, he saw some imperfections in it, and wanted to make sure that I still wanted to take the risk of cutting the other stone.  You see, the sapphire mine would take the rough sapphire back, but if there was a single cut made into the stone, then we would be keeping it. I told him that I was willing to take the risk, and that I wanted to see this through to completion.
So doug began the work of making a stone into a beautifully sparkling sapphire gem.  I asked him to take photos during the process, so I could share this story with Jamie, and then with you. 
I also want to recommend Doug’s work to you.  He is a Doctoral candidate in Neurobiology, and so this is more of a hobby for him than a profession.  His work takes time, but he has an incredible eye for detail, and loves the challenge of bringing out the brightness and color of stones by precise and diligent faceting work.

As you can see, the process brings out so much of the stone.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ring Part 4--Indigenous Stone

Doug started making calls to mines around the country to find that there was only one mine in the country that was still producing topaz.  It was in Texas, and the mine owner was also a gem cutter.  She insisted that she cut the stone, and was charging a very steep price for her topaz. 

I don’t think I mentioned this earlier, but as Doug and I had our initial discussion, he offered to cut whatever stone we were able to get.  If he found something, he would order it, and then would cut it for me.  Doug’s a pretty amazing dude.

So as Doug commences calling mines, he gets in touch with the owner of a sapphire mine in Montana who had just discovered two rough blue sapphires.  He said that if I wanted one, he would take the other, and would keep it for his own collection.  I gave him the ok, and he placed the order.
Just so you know, if you are thinking about trying this, there are no guarantees with purchasing rough stone.  As you cut into the stone, there may be impurities, fractures, and the like that emerge.  Sometimes stones will be heat treated to burn away many of the impurities.  The stones Doug was working with came out of the earth as is.

Also, if you are thinking about doing something like this, it takes time and effort.  It’s not as simple as clicking a couple of buttons or going to the jewelry store and swiping a credit card.  In order to do it, you need to plan ahead, and give time for the turn around.  From start to finish of everything it took around a month.  I believe it was worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Ring Part 3 The Search

Knowing that Jamie and I desired to keep the cost of the symbol low, I began my search.  Actually, my best friend in the whole world, Willie, helped me begin the search.  He sent me several websites with alternative style rings.  Everything from wood to hammered silver.  I loved looking through the pages and considering the power of the symbol as well as the power of the story we could tell about the ring.  Looking for a female perspective, I turned to my sister. She suggested that I consider buying a ring that was made from Jamie’s birthstone.  Jamie’s birthstone is blue in color, and Turquoise, Blue Topaz, and Zircon are all considered December birth stones.  I began looking online at different rings that were available, and then an idea occurred to me. 

Back when I was working as a chemist at Mylan, I worked with a guy who had become a gem collector and jeweler.  His name is Doug Kolson.  Doug and I were friends back in the day, but I hadn’t talked to him in a while.  As I searched through several web pages, and considered walking into a jewelry store with hundreds of mass produced rings, I just felt like none of these would be special enough for Jamie.  I wanted something that was unique, and I thought, “Maybe Doug could help me find something.”  After all, the world of precious stones and jewelry was fairly new territory for me (the last ring I bought had a giant cherry flavored “gem” atop the plastic ring), and so help from a knowledgeable friend would be so incredible.

I called Doug, and we set up a meeting during the evening of the day when I asked Jamie’s dad’s permission for her hand in marriage.

Doug and I looked through his collection as I explained to him that I wasn’t interested in a diamond, but rather I was considering a blue topaz.  My first preference was to find a stone that came from a mine in the US, so I could insure it was “conflict free.”  After that, I wanted to buy a quality stone that had a bluish tint and that was semi-precious.  After suggesting stones from topaz,  zircon and sapphire, we landed on a search for natural blue topaz or a blue sapphire,  both of which could be found in the United States.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Ring Part 2-I Could Have Done More

Beyond the issue of conflict stones is another issue.  It’s the issue of spending extravagant sums of money on a status symbol.  The power of a ring to be a symbol of commitment and fidelity is not dependent on the amount spent on it.  Nor does it indicate the degree of love that one has for another. 

Jamie and I made a second decision that we wouldn’t “buy into” the standards set across our country for engagement ring expenditures.  One reason is because of financial feasibility—why should we go into debt for something if we can prevent it.  The second reason compels us more strongly than potential debt.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Schindler’s List, you might know what I mean.  At the end of the movie, Oskar Schindler, while standing amid a group of thankful Jewish Holocaust survivors, begins to lament the things he didn’t do.  He looks at his pin and tells them that it could have saved another life, and then he looks at his car and says, “this could have been ten more lives.”  He breaks down in the arms of one of the Jews he had saved lamenting, “I could have done more!”  Every time I see that clip, I think about the wastes we take part in on a daily basis.  Jamie and I decided not to spend a bunch of money on a ring, when we could use the same money to help our global neighbors who are living in extreme poverty.  We’ve both heard all of the arguments—“It’s an investment!” “You will have this your entire life!” “It’s a way of communicating your love for one another!”  We believe that the symbol of the ring still has it’s same power whether we spend $50 or $5000 for it. 

Every time Jamie or myself look at the ring, or share the story with another person, it’s a reminder to us and to them, that we are building the foundation of our relationship on principled decisions, on our love for each other emanating from a love for God and overflowing to allow us to love our fellow human beings.

If you made a different decision for your engagement ring, this post isn’t to make you feel guilty.  Rather, if you haven’t made this decision yet, then we would like to encourage you to think about the good you could do by resisting some of the traditions of the past and trends of the present. No matter what, it's always a good process to evaluate what we use our resources in this world.

The Ring Part 1 Do No Harm

Over the next few posts, I am hoping to share some thoughts and reflections around the process of the creation of Jamie's ring. Hope you enjoy them.

As I mentioned before, I initially wanted a hand crafted silver ring that was made by a tribal elder to be the ring with which I proposed to Jamie, but that just wasn’t working out.  Jamie had mentioned that she loved silver, and that she’d like her ring to be made from this precious metal.  She and I had also discussed that no matter what, we didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on the ring, or purchase a precious stone that could be associated with conflict, slavery. 

You might be wondering what I mean by conflict.  If you have seen or heard of the movie “Blood Diamond” you have some idea.  You see, many of the precious stones that make their way into our jewelry here in the United States come from places known for political instability, extreme poverty, and violence.   Poor people become forced laborers, and are compelled to search for these precious stones.  Then, the  guerrilla or terrorist group that forces these people to work take the stones.  They sell the stones in global markets, and use the precious stone trade to fund their operations, and continue to oppress other men, women and children.

It’s a very ugly situation, but we are significantly removed from the reality of it when we walk into the local jewelry store and go online to purchase a gift.  Early in our relationship, Jamie and I watched the movie Blood Diamond, and made a conscious decision that if we continued in our relationship and became husband and wife that we would not support the diamond trade, and that we would seek to do no harm with our purchase.

One of the things about Jamie that impresses me about her is her heart for justice (that could be a blog post in itself), and her practical mentality about material goods.  She and I both strive to thoughtfully love our neighbors, and one of the ways we wanted to do this was to go against the grain of normal wedding rings.  I don’t believe anybody sets in their mind to do harm by the purchase of an engagement ring or other jewelry.  Honestly, as I said before, we are so far removed from the conflicts associated with these precious stones that we just don’t know what evil we may be participating in when we make a purchase.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Place

Back in April 2010 I went to visit some folks from my tribe who live along the Ohio River. Me and my best friend in the whole world, Willie, picked up some tobacco as per our tribal tradition while on our way (you should always bring some form of tobacco as a gift when visiting an elder or spiritual leader), since we were visiting the oldest living elder of our tribe.  His name is Flying Duck, and he is the brother of our tribe’s former principle chief.  He and his sons are pretty amazing artisans, and in particular he and one of his sons work with silver.

The reason for our visit was twofold.  The first reason was because Flying Duck is an elder, and regrettably for both Willie and myself it had been far too long since we last visited him.  The second reason was because I was hoping to ask him and his son if they could make an engagement/wedding band for me to offer Jamie as I asked for her hand in marriage.  Shawnee people have a long tradition in silver-work, and for many other tribes, the word used to describe the Shawnee meant “the silver people.”

As Willie and I drove the narrow country road that led away from the Ohio River along a small stream on Rush Run Road, my mind flooded with memories.  We had driven this road many times before to visit Flying Duck and other Shawnee who lived in the area.  We had roofed a house there, gone to church there, attended funerals there, and on many occasions sat in the house where Flying Duck and Raincrow grew up.

Every time I visit, I sit down in an old wooden chair that sat next to an old wooden table in the dining room, and sometimes, Flying Duck talk about the table and chair. Shawnee people love to tell stories. "Billy, a lot of very deeply spiritual people have sat at that table.  Many of the most committed Christians I have ever known have sat exactly where you are sitting.  Raincrow, my grandmother, and my mother have all sat in that space.  We’ve hosted missionaries, preachers and others and they have sat right here at that table for meals.  Have you ever heard of Dr. Alexander Reed? Dr. Alexander Reed was a missionary to Africa and he had a huge crush on my mother.  Lot’s of men did because she was beautiful, and very godly.  Every time Dr. Alexander Reed would return from Africa, he would come visit for Sunday dinner after church and would share stories with our family of his missions in Africa.  Lot’s of powerful Christians have sat where you sit Billy, and it’s an honor to have you sit there too!”

And so we would sit and listen and share stories.  It’s a bit of the Indian way.  On this trip, it was more of the same, and although Flying Duck and his son felt they would be unable to help me make a unique ring, we certainly enjoyed catching up, and sharing stories.  I remember my drive back to Columbus with Willie, and just how nostalgic we had become from our visit to a place and to people with whom we had many special memories.

As I talked with Jamie about it the next day, it sparked a question.  “Where’s the most special place on earth for you, where you have a lot of memories and good times?”

Her response, “I’d have to say Lake Floyd.  It’s the place where I grew up, and it is really special to me.”

I thought, then spoke “Well, is there any place in particular around the lake that is particularly special for you? It’s kind of a big place.”

“The middle of the lake, I used to love rowing out there and sitting—it’s just so quiet and peaceful.”

And that’s when I knew that when I asked Jamie to marry me, it was going to be in the middle of Lake Floyd…

And what about you?  What are some special and sacred places for you?

Friday, May 06, 2011

One More Permission

Jamie and I had been in a relationship for a long time, and once again I found myself looking for an opportunity to sit down with Jamie’s dad to ask permission of him.  This time it was to ask for his permission to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.  It was a one of a kind conversation, and had it’s fair share of humor in the brief exchange.

It was mother’s day 2010, and Jamie and I drove to Lake Floyd to spend a little time with her parents.  I was praying for the right time to ask her dad, and for an opportunity, but I knew that much of my summer I would be out of town and traveling.  I had a 5-10 minute window on Sunday morning before church while Jamie was taking a a shower, so I took my opportunity.

“Hey Les, could I talk to you for a minute”


We sat down in the living room, and I started.

“I’ve never done this before, and I hope I never have to do this again”--masterfully eloquent I know.

We both laughed a little bit, and I continued, “but I’d like to ask your permission to ask Jamie to marry me.”

“Sure. Kim and I felt like we might have this conversation soon.  When were you thinking about asking her?”

“I was thinking sometime over the next month or two.  I’m going to be meeting with a friend tonight who is a gem cutter about possible rings and gemstones.”

“When were you thinking about a wedding date?” 

“I was thinking sometime next May or June, after she finishes her Master’s degree.”

“Well what if she says no?”

“I never thought about that, that’s a good question!”

“You know nobody bats 1.000 right?”

We both laughed, and I told him my plans for asking her.  He asked me to let me know if there was anything he and his wife could do to assist.

And then Jamie came out of the shower and we all drove to South Ridge Church.  Les told his wife about our conversation, but Jamie would have to remain in the dark for a few more weeks . . .

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Permissions and Clearances

Now I’ve been interested in people before, and I’ve even dated some, but I haven’t spent that much time in the dating sphere.  Honestly, for a long time I called myself a “bachelor to the rapture” because I really wondered if it wasn’t best for me to be single.  I believe that if you are going to be married or in a relationship that the person you are with should be a complement to you, should spur your growth, and should be someone with whom you can pursue your faith in a meaningful way.  I further believe that friends and family provide some of the best guidance and perspective when it comes to whether or not to pursue someone.

I had talked to a handful of friends in the days before the ‘Bubble Tea Episode’ and they all thought Jamie was absolutely wonderful.  After Jamie had let me know the answer she had received through prayer, I told her that before we pursue anything further, that we needed to ask for a few people’s thoughts about it, and the first people I wanted to talk to were her mom and dad.

There were a couple of reasons for this.  The first being that quite simply, courting/dating relationships shouldn’t be entered into lightly, and it is honorable and right to ask a woman’s parent’s permission before entering into a dating relationship.  Mind you, I had never done this before, but I just believed that on this occasion, this was the right course of action.  Another reason was because at the time we started dating, I was leading a ministry in the church that Jamie was part of.  I wanted Jamie’s parents to know that I wasn’t some creepy church guy who was preying on their daughter (unfortunately there really are people like that and it’s a tragedy that they turn people away from the faith).  If those reasons were not enough, a month prior to asking Jamie about dating, I had a dream in which I drove to Jamie’s parents to ask their permission to date Jamie.  All in all, it seemed like the right thing to do.

During thanksgiving break, I followed Jamie to Lake Floyd and had lunch with her parents and her.  I explained to them how very special I believed Jamie was, and that I was interested in pursuing a relationship with her, but that I would stop that pursuit immediately if they did not feel that they could bless it, or did not believe it was honorable.  Jamie’s dad had one of the most profound responses I’ve ever heard—it echoed Gamaliel’s statements in the book of acts  (read em).  He said, “Well, if this is God’s will, then there’s nothing we can do to stop it, and if it isn’t, there’s no way it will ever amount to anything.  So we will trust God, and give you our blessing to pursue a relationship with our Jamie.”

After Jamie’s parents, it was time to ask my own family.  I had really never even talked about dating anybody with them in my whole life, but I wanted them to weigh in on it with Jamie.  As I spoke with them after leaving Jamie’s folks they said they thought it was my choice, and they looked forward to meeting her.  My best friend, Willie, expressed some concern over her being a Tarheel fan but other than that, he thought it was great! (Just for reference the photo above was taken just after I told them about Jamie, and just before I let Willie know she was a UNC fan.)

And my final clearance and permission needed to come from the pastors of my church.  Now I don’t think this is necessary for every person, but for me, as a leader in the church, and knowing some of the downright awful things that can happen among ‘leaders’ and members of a congregation, my ultimate concern with all of my asking permission was that I did not want to do anything that would tarnish the name of Christ in mine or Jamie’s lives, nor did I want to do anything that would draw reproach on the church or undermine mine or Jamie’s testimony to the hope we had found in Jesus.  The response of my fellow staff member’s and pastors was enthusiastic and encouraging.

So on December 17, 2008 Jamie and I announced our relationship at a birthday party at the Olive Garden.  While all of my conversations with family, friends, and church leadership might seem a bit over the top, I’m so glad that from the beginning of our relationship we have invited many others to speak into it, to counsel us, and to encourage us in our pursuit of God first, and then our relationship with each other.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Bubble Tea Will Never Be The Same

It was October 19th, 2008, and the place was a little spot in Morgantown called Bubble Sikaku.  It was an Asian Tea place that sold bubble tea.  Bubble Tea is a delicious drink that has small tapioca balls in the bottom of it. It comes in a variety of flavors and styles, and I believe one could spend years drinking it without exhausting the combinations.  I had chosen Bubble Tea for the place where we would meet.
I had hoped to meet up the day before, go for a bike ride to Apple Annie’s, and then take a drive to Cooper’s Rock, but we couldn’t do that because of schedule conflicts—she was attending a wedding with another guy.  So I waited for the meeting, and planned it for the next day.
When I was scheduling our meeting, she asked if other people could join us, and I told her that I would rather just talk to her.  She asked if she was in trouble or getting fired, and I let her know that she wasn’t in trouble but that I just wanted to talk.
As she came into the space and we sat down, I started by thanking her for her friendship.  We had been friends for three years, and she had become one of my most trusted friends.  She and her mom came to my mother’s funeral, and I had encouraged several guys to pursue a relationship with her because she was such a catch.  And recently, I had wondered if maybe I should stop encouraging other guys to date her.
I told her that we had been spending a lot of time together, and that I really enjoyed every moment of it.  I didn’t believe we had crossed the line of “too much” time, but I felt like we were getting close to that line, and that if I really wanted to honor God, and honor her, I needed to talk in more detail about our relationship.  I wanted to get to know her better, and I was beginning to believe that I either needed to begin to pursue a relationship with her, or back off in our quality time together significantly.
So I shared my feelings with her, and how special and treasured she was to me, and how I had no idea what the future had in store, but that I would love to find out.  Maybe we would only end up being really great friends, but maybe there was something more.
She didn’t talk much.  She didn’t pour her Bubble Tea out on my head either, so it didn’t go entirely badly.  She told me that she was honored and flattered, and although the thought had never crossed her mind about it before, she wanted to take time and pray about it. 
And so she prayed, and I waited.  And after a few weeks of prayer, she let me know that YES, she would be interested in seeing what a relationship together might look like.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bachelor to the Rapture No More

For the longest time, perhaps for about as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve used the term “Bachelor to the Rapture” to describe my relationship status.  I first heard the term from my long time friend Andy Manzo, and it quickly developed into my relationship mantra.  In my mind, I felt like perhaps the best way I could serve God was to do it as a single individual.   That’s not to say that there weren’t people who caught my eye, or who I even considered and pursued for a bit between 1995 and now.  But each time, there was a clarity brought about to indicate to me and/or the other person, that this wasn’t the best match up.

Recently, that all changed.  There was a young lady who over a three year period became one of my closest friends.  We would spend time together often among a larger group of friends, and neither of us looked at the other as a person to pursue for a potential relationship.  But something changed during the fall of 2008, and I began to wonder if I should pursue her as something more than a friend.

So why her?  I’m not sure if I can enumerate all of the reasons, but I can tell you it starts with her faith in Jesus. She is one of the most genuine faith-filled people I have ever met.  There’s something about her that radiates the joy she has in God, and anybody who spends much time with her sees the same attribute.  She loves God, the deep abiding kind of love that saturates every area of life.  Beyond this, she loves people.  In the years that we were friends, I don’t think I ever heard her say a mean thing about another person.  Beyond this, I would regularly see her go out of her way to welcome new people, and comfort those who would be standing at the fringes of our faith community in Morgantown.  She would regularly give of her time and energy to help others realize their potential, to weep with them, and to rejoice with them.  Beyond these two attributes, Jamie truly loves life!  She brings a contagious enthusiasm to everything she does, and people absolutely love her. 

Jamie is set apart from every other person I have ever met.  She is one of the most thoughtful, tender, and nurturing people I know.  If you’ve met her, you know exactly what I mean.  If you haven’t met her yet, I hope you have the opportunity!

I am a “bachelor to the rapture no more,” and I’m looking forward to spending many wonderful years better getting to know this woman who has so enamored my heart.

In future posts I’ll unveil more of the story, and more of how things have transpired since fall 2008, and how Jamie Reaser went from being one of my close friends to my fiancée.  

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Work of Nuru International & The Death of Osama Bin Laden

Sunday evening, before going to bed, I began scrolling through my twitter newsfeed, and discovered that President Barack Obama was about to make a special announcement. Before he was able to speak, the news was all over the internet via Twitter & Facebook. United States Special Operations Units had been in a firefight with Osama Bin Laden and the leader of the terrorist organization Al Quaeda had been killed. As I lay in bed, incredibly tired, I pulled myself together to go before the television and waited to hear the words from the mouth of our nation's Commander In Chief, Barack Obama.

As I waited for the President to begin his speech, my mind went back to September 11, 2001, and the day that four planes were hijacked and nearly three thousand lives were lost in a matter of moments. I was an analytical chemist at Mylan Pharmaceuticals and I was preparing samples for a test as the news came over the radio. It was shortly after that day that my career took a significant turn and I left the pharmaceutical company to pursue a career in ministry with Great Commission Ministries. Leaving Mylan was a difficult decision both financially and personally because I had many friends there, and I loved the fact that I was serving millions of people by insuring they had high quality medicine to take.

Over the next eight years as I worked and recommenced my studies on the campus of West Virginia University, my friend Jake Harriman was serving on the front lines of Iraq as a platoon commander in a Special Operations unit called Force Reconnaissance. While he was serving, he had seen a connection between terrorism, insurgency and extreme poverty that led him to launch out an initiative to fight the war on terror on a different front.  The connection in its simplest form is that terror and insurgency groups use the desperate conditions of people living in extreme poverty as a means to recruit individuals to take up arms against the West.

In 2007, Jake, John Hancox, and I met in Morgantown, WV, the place where John and I call home, and the place where the three of us initially met. We gathered together to talk about the issue of extreme poverty, and an organization that Jake and John were starting to fight extreme poverty by empowering local communities to lift themselves out of their condition in a holistic, sustainable, and scalable manner. The idea Jake and John were proposing absolutely fascinated me. In September 2008 the idea became a reality when we launched Nuru International and began this innovative approach to fighting extreme poverty that Jake had developed while attending graduate school at Stanford University.

We inserted our first team on the ground in southwestern Kenya, and today over 10,000 people are beginning to lift themselves out of extreme poverty through Nuru's unique model. Farmers are able to feed their families, save money, pay school fees, and have drastically reduced the incidence of malaria and waterborne illness.

As the President began his speech I took in the words of May 1, 2011. "...The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda. His death does not mark the end of our effort..."

Indeed, it does not. As long as there are people living in extreme poverty, there will be a recruiting ground for groups like Al Quaeda. I am grateful to be working with a team of dedicated individuals like Jake and John who are working to give our global neighbors access to tools and knowledge that will insure that this and future generations will be able to live with opportunities and choices and will take away the desperate conditions that contribute to the cultivation of terror and insurgency groups, trafficking, slavery, and many other significant global problems today.

The president wrapped up his speech, and I was sitting in my living room confronted with the reality that while this was a significant day, our work is not over. Every day, my friends and I who work at Nuru wake up with the reality that we are working toward ending the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation. And so, just like the rest of the world, I will take a moment to reflect on this significant event, and then I will return to the work of engaging others to join us in this effort.

In that spirit, as you finish reading this, I want to invite you to join us in the fight by sharing Jake's Story with others, and possibly making a donation to further Nuru's work of empowering families out of extreme poverty in Kuria, Kenya and beyond. Thanks for reading and for your unique contribution to fighting terrorism and insurgency by working with Nuru toward the end of extreme poverty!