I was doing a gig a couple weeks ago and threw in a few gospel tunes. As I wrapped up one of my sets with a new arrangement of “It Is Well,” a rough, mustached guy approached me.

You ever heard the story of that song?” he asked. I said yes, but couldn’t remember the details. He went on to tell me that his preacher had told him the story of the hymn: Horatio_Spafford

Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in Chicago. A string of tragedies began in 1870, when Spafford’s four year old son died of pneumonia. The large family grieved the loss of their only son. The following spring, Spafford invested much of his wealth in developing real estate in Chicago. Not six months later, “The Great Chicago Fire” overtook the city, including most of Spafford’s new investments.

A couple years passed, and Spafford decided to take his family to England for a vacation. Held up by some imminent business, Horatio sent his family ahead on the Ville du Havre steamship. The steamship was sunk, though, and killed all four of Spafford’s daughters.

Eleven-year-old Annie. Nine-year-old Margaret Lee. Five-year-old Bessie. Two-year-old Tanetta. They were all dead.


His wife telegrammed, sending Horatio the unspeakable news. Horatio’s life was shattered into fragments. The man had been gutted. His family and his wealth had literally been destroyed. As he made his way to England and the boat passed the place where his children had recently died, Spafford penned the haunting words to the now-famous hymn, “…when sorrows like sea billows roll…”

Few people on earth will ever have to face the suffering of Horatio Spafford. But when our life is met with inevitable hardships, may we suffer in dignity and grace like he did. And may this song- whatever version we sing of it- remind us to cling to our triumph and hope in Christ.

When peace like a river comes my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It is well
With my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul

I long for the day when my faith becomes sight
The clouds be rolled back like a scroll
The trumpet will sound, and the Lord will appear
Even so, it is well with my soul

I recorded two different versions of this song. I’ll release the other one shortly and let you be the judge of which version is best. In the meantime, listen to the song on the player to the right. You can download my chord chart for the arrangement. You can also download the tune for a buck on Bandcamp. All proceeds will go toward Lincoln’s “Buy Tangawizi a Bed” fundraiser. So enjoy, share, “like”, and spread the word. And as always, I love hearing your specific thoughts on the songs.

May you seek and enjoy the peace of God, which is beyond all human comprehension. He is extravagantly rich, and He desires for you to share in His kingdom through Jesus Christ.


A couple weeks back, I introduced you to our friends Jennifer and Gloria who agreed to help my son Lincoln with his “Buy Tangawizi a Bed” project. Since then we’ve been in touch, crunched the numbers, and I’m excited to tell you that the trip to find Tangawizi has been scheduled! Here are the details:

May 7th. Jennifer and Gloria have already booked a taxi to leave for Keekorok. They should arrive by evening, where Gloria’s friend (a tracker in the Mara) will greet them. They’ve already sent photos ahead of both Tangawizi and the photographer, hoping for a lead.

May 8th-10th. The ladies, with some help from Gloria’s friend, will search in the area for Tangawizi. Unlike searching for someone in the United States, this might be tricky. They plan to start with the schools- traveling from one to another asking children if they know Tangawizi. Granted, “Little T” (or as I like to call him, “Young ‘Weezy”) is probably not old enough for school. But between siblings and friends, we’re hoping this will be the quickest way to find him.

mara schooledited

Once they’ve found Tangawizi, Gloria and Jennifer will buy the bed locally. This will not only save them from carrying a bed all over the Serengheti, but also ensure that the bed is adaptable for Tangawizi’s family. Beyond the bed, we’re still hoping that the token of goodwill can be a means of connecting with Tangawizi’s family and community, and supporting them in the long-term. If there are immediate needs that Jennifer and Gloria can identify, we hope to take care of them promptly, as Lincoln has already raised more than enough to get Tangawizi a bed (see below.)

May 11th. The ladies will return to Nairobi. Lord willing, they’ll have been successful in the search.

Gloria gave us a break down of expenses for the trip:

“Prices are for Jennifer and myself together for a total of five days, travel there, travel back, and three days search. Based on the exchange rate of 85…

  • Car rental from Nairobi to Trans Mara and back and all the traveling while there: 17,500/= ($205.88)
  • Fuel: 18,000/= ($211.76)
  • Lodging: 8,000/= ($94)
  • Food: 5000/= ($58.82)
  • Interpreter from Swahili to Maa (mother tongue of the Masai): 3000/= ($35.29) – We will hire a Masai when we get there.

Total: 51,500= ($605.75)

And because I couldn’t resist: “Finding Tangawizi, getting him a bed, documenting the trip, and connecting two little boys from across the world: priceless!”

Lincoln has already raised $833.84 to buy Tangawizi a bed. Out of the extra funds raised, we want to (1) take care of any additional resources Tangawizi’s family might need, and (2) of course, pay our extremely generous couriers for offering to spend five days seeing this through. It’s worth mentioning that neither Jennifer or Gloria has asked us to pay them for their time. But for as kind as they’ve been, we want to offset costs they might incur for not being home for five days. If you’d like to connect with Jennifer and Gloria and help them reach the sick and poor of Kenya, you can help fund them at Project Agape Love and New Territory Ministries.

In twenty days these ladies will set out for Keekorok. That is exciting to type. We plan to have Lincoln draw a picture for Tangawizi and write him a letter. I’ll be sure to post both of them before the trip. Stay tuned!

We have more people to thank than we can even remember at this point. For everyone who’s donated, prayer, and spread the word…we thank you deeply. The more people have gotten involved, the more fun the story becomes. If you’d still like to get involved, you can do that in one of a few ways: (1) Sign up for updates in the “words & music” field to the right. I promise I won’t spam or send pics of naked Japanese people, and you can unsubscribe at any time; (2) Donate via PayPal at All extra funds will go to pay Jennifer and Gloria and buy essential resources for Tangawizi’s community; (3) Spread the word; (4) Pray. The truth is, finding Tangawizi in three days might be very, very difficult. The current rains in Kenya could also delay the trip. There are plenty of things that could go wrong. But I hold on to hope that God has something up His sleeve, and I’m confident our prayers will make a difference. All honor and glory and praise to God.


Cover bands catch a lot of crap from songwriters and artists. In his podcast “The Accidental Creative,” Todd Henry concludes every podcast with the tagline “Cover bands don’t change the world.” I’ve given cover bands plenty of grief myself. I used to be the guy shamelessly rocking original songs in the battle of the bands amidst droves of bands covering Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews and Chumbawamba and getting way more girls than I did. I used to think covers were the devil.

But now I’m not so convinced.

Want to know the name of the most famous cover band of all time? Their name was “Johnny and the Silver Beatles,” which quickly changed to just “The Silver Beatles,” who eventually became just…The Beatles. Yep, believe it or not the Fab Four started playing mostly covers. Lennon and McCartney started writing songs early in their career, but the majority of their early set lists and albums were filled with rehashed covers of popular songs.

Silver Beatles

the young Silver Beatles

When I realized this, I was a bit humbled about the whole “covering songs” idea. Like the Beatles, I think we can gain some things from covering songs:

Covering songs helps you understand songwriting on a more comprehensive level. I recently played with a brilliant sax player, who said he transcribes several famous solos every week so he can understand the style of great jazz players better. I read an interview with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo who claimed he did the same with Kurt Cobain’s songs. Learning or performing covers gives songwriters a small glimpse through the lens of a great writer. It’s like learning to draw by tracing first. When covering a hymn or a classic, songwriters can learn a lot about crafting lyrics, arranging, and chord structures.

Learning covers can kick-start your creativity. Once I learned a new song every week by an artist I admired. My songwriting and chord vocabulary matured more in that six month period than any other. I learned new chords, alternate guitar tunings, and creative song structures. I started experimenting with them immediately- the new tools were like creative crack. The new chords led to still more chords and voicings, and new melodies followed soon after. Ironically, learning cover songs led to my most prolific songwriting streak to date.

Covering songs gives your audience a way to ease into your original material. I don’t know many people who will sit through an unknown songwriter’s set of all-original material. By nature people gravitate toward the familiar, and drift away from the unfamiliar. Face it- crowds are tough, especially when you are showcasing original material. But peppering in covers into your set helps people get down with the originals.

The Beatles’ first audiences were not adoring fans. They weren’t even serious music fans for that matter. The Beatles’ first long-standing gig was for a rowdy bar in Hamburg, Germany. They did hundreds of gigs in less than a year playing 8 hour sets every night. The ruffian crowds were restless and sometimes violent, and demanded to be entertained.

Covering songs helps you gauge the strength of your original songs. I can’t tell you how much I learned from studying the songwriting of the Beatles. Their chord structures were complex compared to my cowboy chord songs. They loaded their songs full of melodies- my songs only had a melody or two. The Beatles had a wide, whacky variety of styles within their albums- all my earliest songs all sounded the same.

Covering songs can teach us humility, and reveal how much we have to learn. You have to be careful, as Seth Godin says, not to “compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” If you are mopey because you are a creative genius and nobody “gets” you, be careful here. But if you can detach yourself from the songs you write, an objective approach to critiquing your own music can become a healthy habit.

Covering songs enables new generations to breathe life into outdated arrangements or lyrics. Have you ever heard Jeff Buckley’s version of “Corpus Christi Carol”? Mind-blowing. You’ll cry like a little baby. And Wyclef’s adaptation of the disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” was remarkably cool. Re-imagining cover songs within your own creative context gives listeners a fresh perspective without demanding too much out of them.

There is a creative movement going on within the modern church to update old hymns. Who still talks in “thee’s” and “thou’s”? No one. Who still sings hymns strictly to a pipe organ? No one (except congregations that could be mistaken for senior centers.) Thankfully, this hymn-update movement is revitalizing old classics in a context that makes sense for modern ears. You can do the same thing with cover songs. glen_ledited

You gotta’ crawl before you can walk. And if the Beatles had to pay their songwriting dues, so do you and I. Take a note from Glen Hansard’s character from the film “Once”:

“During the daytime people would want to hear songs that they know, just songs that they recognize. I play (original) songs at night or I wouldn’t make any money. People wouldn’t listen.”

Do yourself- and your audience- a few favors. Work up a few unforgettable covers , and you’ll be a cover-song convert. Promise.



Several weeks ago I posted about worship leaders becoming “anti rock stars.” I wanted to get to the root of the question, “How do we resist the temptation to make celebrities out of our Christian leaders?” As a worship leader who grew up playing music on stages, the question has been a powerful theme and a constant tension for my life. I’ll admit it’s been hard for me to reconcile being a Christian with being in the spotlight.

As I learn what real servant-focused leadership looks like, I’ve had the opportunity to ask a few influential worship leaders if they might share their thoughts on the issue. Jamie Barnes and David Santistevan shared some great wisdom. Today I want to introduce you to Steven Potaczek.

Steven and his wife Amanda spent several years touring with the piano-pop worship band “1,000 Generations.” After landing back in Indianapolis, Steven now serves as the senior worship director at Grace Church. Steven also teaches production and songwriting at Anderson University, and produces records in his “spare” time.

steven coloredited

Steven’s a legit songwriter, too. Among plenty of other more prestigious accolades, he’s had a song on my current favorite show, “Parks & Recreation.” (But to my knowledge, Steven is not to blame for any of Tom Haverford’s R&B slow jams.)

A few months back I saw that Steven had started a blog,, which quickly jumped on the short list of blogs that I follow regularly. Steven writes with a refreshing depth, musically and spiritually. His blogs range from “embracing suffering” to “why it’s important to tune your church drums regularly.”

I connected with Steven through his blog, and asked if he might share a few thoughts. Steven gets ten bonus points for scrubbing toilets as a part of his first church gig. Here’s the full interview:

Nick: You and your wife met in college and started leading worship together and then gained popularity in the CCM market. Now are back to leading worship on a local level. Was there any amount of culture shock you faced, transitioning back and forth between local worship leading and the CMM market?

Steven: Holy cow was there ever. When operating properly, the church’s primary gauge of success is fruit. Without demonizing the entire CCM industry, the reality is that no matter how you cut it, it’s still an “industry.” It’s a business, a market. In business, the primary gauge of success often is financial return. So you’re going to often see a discrepancy between what the Church’s main priorities are and what the music business’ priorities are.

Steven onstage with 1,000 Generations

Steven onstage with 1,000 Generations

To be frank, the more success we starting having as a band, the less I enjoyed things. It’s not that the CCM industry is bad or wrong or anything; in fact, there’s a number of AMAZING believers there. It’s just that I started to realize that I wasn’t liking where our priorities were heading: we were getting more and more pressure to write “radio hits” and go to all these radio and retail conventions, do interviews, etc… That just wasn’t where our hearts were. Again, these aren’t inherently bad things, just something we weren’t sold out on!

Nick: You guys played a fair amount of big venues. How do you reconcile being on stage with loads of lights and sound and remaining a humble servant? Is there a tension there, even within the Christian music industry?

Steven: Yes, there is a tension there no doubt. Some people handle it really well, and others don’t. Since my wife and I were playing large shows on Friday night, and scrubbing toilets (we were janitors at our local church in addition to being worship leaders for a good number of years), it was hard to get too big of an ego! That said, large stages and lights aren’t problems, they’re solutions! When God is moving through an artist or worship leader, many are attracted. How we handle that attention makes all the difference though.

Nick: You’ve led worship in a real variety of places- more than most worship leaders. That must take some degree of flexibility? What advice would you give to worship leaders going into a new place for the first time?

Steven: The best advice I would worship leaders is that it’s not about them. People aren’t (primarily) coming to hear them, but to engage with God. Whenever I’m helping another ministry by leading worship, I’m always wanting to “partner” with them, asking questions like “how can we best come alongside what God is already doing in our congregation.” Flexibility, sure. The big key though is partnership.

Nick: What specific things get in the way of worshiping and leading well? Any stories you’d care to share about a particular worship-fail that you wish you could go back and do differently?

Steven: Let me first say this: there really are two kinds of “Christian” music: that which is regarding Christian lifestyle, and worship. Worship is a totally different beast than performance. Worship leading is about leading the people of God into the presence of God. It’s not about selling albums, garnering more fans, or anything like that. Those things can come as a by-product, but the focus as worship leaders is to lead the people of God into engagement with Him.

On my worship blog (, I write a lot about what gets in the way of leading worship well (for instance, see the article “The #1 Worst Thing To Do When Leading Worship”). In terms of my own worship-fails, I’ve had countless! I’m on a journey just like everyone else! I’m constantly growing as a worship leader and need to be fed good information from other leaders. That’s the whole purpose of me creating


Specifically though if you want some “juice:” I’m awful at remembering lyrics. I’ve botched them more times than I can count. On “Your Love Oh Lord,” I’ve sang “your faithlessness” and had to stop the song because everyone started laughing at me, and on “I Will Worship,” I’ve sang “I will lick” you (a mashup of “I will love you” and “I will seek you”). Yep, me and lyrics…

Nick: What books, blogs, or resources do you recommend for worship leaders?

Steven: Of course! Be sure to visit The topics range from practical spiritual growth to to leadership tips to using Ableton Live in worship. Additionally, a subscription to Worship Leader magazine is fantastic (pass on the monthly CD program though). As far as great books on the subject of worship, I’m reading an incredible book on worship right now by Dick Eastman called “Intercessory Worship.” Matt Redman’s “The Unquenchable Worshiper” is also terrific.



This is Jennifer.

jennifer BW

Jennifer is a friend of ours. We went to church with her before she moved to Nairobi, Kenya to become a missionary. While finishing her master’s in workplace chaplaincy, Jennifer spends her free time volunteering as a chaplain at Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest government hospital in Kenya.


Inspired by her experiences in working with the sick and dying, Jennifer started a ministry called “Project Agape Love” to improve the life of patients at the hospital. Think Mother Theresa, but in Kenya and with stuffed animals. Jennifer takes donations of things like toiletries and toys for sick kids. She uses music, singing, and dancing to “bring joy and entertainment to the patients.” She also works to build relationships between patients, inspiring them to support each other through their suffering. And Jenifer has future plans to start a support group for parents with terminally ill children & a patient choir.

In short, Jennifer is awesome.

The same day we put the word out that we were searching for Tangawizi, Jennifer emailed us and volunteered to be our courier:

When I first heard of Lincoln’s desire to help a little boy on the other side of the world whom he had never met, I was both inspired and intrigued. I immediately had the desire to help him in any way I could. I knew I could offer some insight as to the best way for Tangawizi to receive a bed, and I also had some friends here who knew the general area of the Mara pretty well, so I thought I’d give it a shot. God is the one who is in charge of this expedition; I’m just along for the ride!

We were stoked to have someone we knew and trusted that was so close to Tangawizi. Then, less than 24 hours later, “Gloria” posted on the blog:


I think that it is awesome that you are wanting to get Tangawizi a bed. Do not give up! I live in Nairobi Kenya and I will help you in any way that I can. If God has put Tangawizi on your sons heart then that is who should get the bed and that is the one that will get the message of such great love from a little boy and his family so far away…

It turns out Jennifer and Gloria are best friends. The two share a similar compassion for hurting people, and a love for Africa. Gloria has actually been to the Mara (where Tangawizi lives) and has a friend who is a tracker in the area. After a few excited emails and some talk about logistics, we were pumped to have a couple willing couriers, and a new friend in Gloria.


Ever since she was a little girl, Gloria dreamed of being a missionary in Africa. Four years ago, she moved to the Kayole/Sowetto slums. Gloria now travels among the slums and the jungle to find and rescue orphaned and abandoned little girls. Most of these girls, Gloria says, are “unwanted” because of their behaviors or severe medical issues. Some of them have even been used in the practice of witchcraft. Gloria brings the unwanted girls into her home to give them love, guidance, and medical attention. Gloria gives the girls a family. Gloria, it turns out, is also awesome.

gloria pic slumsedited

Despite having two willing couriers, we’ve almost given up hope that we’ll ever find Tangawizi, who apparently lives “in the middle of nowhere.” Through email, the Italian photographer who took the photo of Tangawizi has been kind and patient with my strange questions. He shared that he rented a car in northern Tanzania and drove around for a month in Africa, staying in hostels and cheap hotels. Somewhere in the Seregheti, he found a local tour guide who showed him some of the native villages where Tangawizi lives.

We’ve been pretty close to calling it quits on the Tangawizi search, talking to Lincoln, and donating the money to a great African charity that will buy some Kenyan kids some beds. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought, “This is all really silly…this is taking way longer than I thought…this was a dumb promise I made…we’re never going to find this kid.” Thankfully, Jennifer and Gloria have bigger hearts and more faith than I do. I told them it was doubtful they could find Tangawizi based on the info we have of him and the vastness of places he could be. Jennifer emailed back:

I’d like to urge you not to get discouraged. I know the information you’re discovering be a little disheartening, but keep the faith, brother. It’s not, by far, the first incident for me where something seemed insurmountable, but God found a way. He always finds a way….I fully believe that God would not have put the desire in Lincoln’s beautiful little heart nor the idea in his head if He did not intend for us… to carry it out together. Yes, the Mara has many people. The Massai are one of the biggest tribes in Kenya. However, God is bigger. God loves Lincoln and all of us. Whatever the outcome, it will be in all of our best interest because it is in God’s hands.

It’s an honor to have these two women volunteer their time, prayers, and encouragement to my family’s silly little project. It’s no overstatement to say that Jennifer and Gloria are heroes to me and Melissa. They are incredible people who embrace the call of Jesus to take care of the sick and poor.

Right now we’re working out the details of Jennifer and Gloria’s trip. In fact, Jennofer emailed me today to tell me they were meeting this evening to make definite plans. They hope to travel some time during April, and spend about three days searching for Tangawizi. I will write another update with the details of their trip as soon as we work those worked out. Stay tuned!

Once again, THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, prayed, & spread the word. More than once now, Lincoln has come home from church with check and bills stuffed in his pockets. To date, he’s raised $823.84! More than enough to pay for the bed, plus Jennifer and Gloria’s travels. Once Jennifer and Gloria find him, we hope to use the extra funds to support and sustain Tangawizi’s community on a more long-term basis. If you’d like to get involved with the story, you can do one of a few things: (1) Sign up for updates via email in the field to the right; (2) Donate via PayPal and help build a better community for Tangawizi and his family; (3) Spread the word via email, social media, and good ol’ fashioned word of mouth. (4) Pray: this entire story started with a little prayer, and I’m convinced that we’ve yet to see the end of God’s story here. It’s been exciting to see it unfold. I’m staying tuned as much or more than anyone else. I’m excited to see God show His hand, so to speak.



I was talking with a coworker earlier today about this whole whacky buying a bed situation.

“You know, children have a tendency to train our eyes to see the world in a different way,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.

The more I hang out with my kids, the more I’m convinced they know a few things that I don’t, or that I’ve forgotten. Somehow we grow up and lose our sense of imagination, excitement, and wonder. Somewhere along the line we adults “grew up” and got burned from helping someone. So we just sort of quit.

guitar BW pic

Lincoln learning a few chords…

But when we hang out with our kids, the side-effect is that we start crawling around and playing flashlight hide-and-go-seek again. We buy stuffed rabbit puppets and watch cartoons and buy ridiculous pink outfits. And the same is true with helping people. There is some sweet spot with a kid’s age- somewhere between them crying all the time and them getting sent to the principal’s office- where every kid has uniquely sweet moments. I’m convinced that I need to recover some of that.

So that’s why I’m doing my best trying to keep up with the documentation. My son is inevitably going to look back at the things he’s done in his life. When he looks back on this moment, I hope he can see himself as a kind person who does kind things. There are a lot of things Melissa and I wish for our kids. But if this moment became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Lincoln, we’d be the proudest parents alive.

The Scriptures use the word “Father” to describe God an awful lot. I have a friend who has a hard time making sense of that, because her father is so disinterested in her. Lincoln & Harper’s definition of the word “father” is going to be shaped largely by my actions. That’s a lot to live up to. It makes me really aware and anxious about my failures as a dad. But it also inspires me to try and reflect the kindness of God through my actions. I Hope that when my kids hear “God is like a father,” they’ll sort of get it.

The other reason this particular event is important to me is that I made a promise. I shook a hand. Even if that hand was a three year-old’s who would likely forget the next day, I feel like I should try my best to make good on it. I’ve broken small promises to my son before. One time I said I’d play trains with him on Saturday morning. But I’d stayed up so late Friday night that I just wanted to sleep in and let him veg-out in front of cartoons. I shudder to think that Lincoln’s trust in me is wearing thin when I do stuff like that.

Melissa and I made a resolution to become more responsible and dependable this year. Here’s to making good on that resolution…

Parents, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. The older my kids get the more I realize how much my actions affects them. A wise man once said, “It’s easier to build strong boys than repair broken men.” Any advice on how to do that well is appreciated!


After putting out the word that we’re searching for Tangawizi, we’ve received a lot of emails and messages similar to this one (from a missionary in Kenya):

“Interesting. A few observations here.

‘Tangawizi’ is the Swahili word for ‘Ginger’ … as in ‘ginger ale.’ It is almost certainly a nick-name, not a true given name.

Kekerook is in the Maasai Mara, which is the northern tip of the Serengeti. We do have some staff out there in that area, but finding an individual child with no more than a nick-name would be quite difficult, I’m afraid.

So, they have quite the task ahead of them, I’m afraid…”

The obvious had eluded me, but my wife caught it.

“Wait…’Ginger’? Is Tangawizi a girl?!?”

Tangawizi color

photo by Gabriele Galiberti

It would make a lot is sense when you consider what we know about Tanagawizi. After all, there is a pink blanket in the picture, and the shorts sort of look like a skirt. Lincoln’s grandma has resolved to just calling Tangawizi “Little T.” Many apologies to the Tangawizis of the world who we’ve been ignorantly calling a “boy.”

Unfortunately, none if this helps much in the search. Our friend April explained in another email:

“When we were exploring the possibility of establishing a child sponsorship program (in Kenya), it was so difficult to figure out which of the kids were boys or girls. And sometimes their names were very tribal/African so it’s not like I could guess well either!

They shave the kids hair and because of the poverty the kids wear whatever clothes are available to them. Some of the teenage boys in one of our homes was wearing pink girly pajama pants with pink crocks because that’s all that would fit him and then you’d have little girls with superman tees on. It’s sad…SO, I understand the aspect of ambiguity. Unfortunately, that makes it more difficult to track down.”

So that’s more bum news. The ambiguity of Tangawizi’s name and gender are going to make the search significantly more challenging. You can’t just scoot around southern Kenya with picture, saying “have you seen this child?” (Especially if you’ve seen Terminator II…)

Thankfully, we also got a huge piece of good news.

Melissa and I have a friend named Jennifer who works as a chaplain in Nairobi, which is about 150 miles from where we think Tangawizi lives. The same day I posted about searching for Tangawizi, Jennifer emailed us and offered to deliver the bed. Amazing. She also asked if she could document the process. Of course!

To add to the good news, it turns out Jennifer’s best friend Gloria knows her way around the Mara (where we think Tangawizi lives), and has a friend who knows the area and the language (Swahili.) Both women were touched by Lincoln’s quest, and believe God is building an incredible story between two little kids on different sides of the world.

So while the search may be difficult, we’ve got two willing participants. We’re excitedly working on some details with Jennifer and Gloria. We’ll update the progress of the travel plans as soon as possible. Stay tuned…

If you want to take part in the story, you can do so in a few ways: (1) follow the blog to see what will happen with Jennifer and Gloria’s journey to find Tangawizi. (Sign up via email in the “free words and music” field to the right); (2) donate to the fundraiser via PayPal @ (all donations will go toward the bed + travel expenses + Tangawizi’s community); (3) Spread the word via email, social media, and good ol’ fashioned storytelling; (4) Send us any information that might be helpful in locating Tangawizi. We’ve spent a lot of our free time int he last week Googling, MapQuesting, and trying to gather info. But between our family, jobs, and school our free time is pretty limited. Any info helps. Plus, who doesn’t like to act like a stalker/fake Google private investigator?


lincoln harper piggy bankeditedBWAs of noon today, Lincoln’s fund + piggy bank has raised $621.84! We’re blown away and having a blast watching the story unfold.

I feel like we’d be remiss if we didn’t publicly thank all of the super kind people that have either donated to Lincoln’s fundraiser or significantly spread the word. Much thanks and appreciation to:

Jordan Laycock, Brittany Gray, Paul Korolenko, Casey Cole (Thunderbeard Records), Angela Jackson Photography, Ross Shotlund (Enjoy the Ride Records),Hannah Simonton,  Ali Elizabeth Photography, Adam Hudson, Varunchai Roongsang (from Bangkok!), Ronnie Williams, Anthony Tatman, Dot + Hugo and the Miller family, Sarah Lay, Kurt Manner, Klariza Hudson, Lindsay Melling, Sean O’Connor, Chelsea Reising, QMIX, KORN, MOJO, Sara Beth Merz, Scott Riddle, Tammy Miller, Dianna Peters, Sarah White, Nikki Wylie, & Lauren Lembcke.

I’m sure we forgot a few names. There have been dozens of other people (friends and strangers alike) that have sent encouraging emails, shared wisdom, posted comments, and helped spread the word to find Tangawizi. Many thanks to everyone. Melissa and I were really moved by Lincoln’s reaction to the pic of Tangawizi. We mainly posted it to share with friends and family. We love the story and are having a great time with this family project. It’s awesome  to see so many other people join the excitement.

A couple of important bits of info that’s worth sharing:

(1) Any additional funds that get raised (beyond the cost of bed + courier + lodging + travel) will go toward Tangawizi’s community. He hope to communicate Lincoln’s message of kindness to Tangawizi, but we also want to connect with and support his community on a longer-term basis.

 We realize that Tangawizi might be part of a tribal tradition, and they may not like the idea of being offered “help” when they never asked for it. There may be traditions/culture in place that we want to respect. This is not “white people trying to fix the world”- it’s one little boy wanting to help and onnect with another. In some ways, I hope us “adults” can taint the story as little as possible. What we really want is to establish some communication, show our goodwill and interest in their community, and ask if there is any way we can support them. We’re currently working out some details with our couriers to send a letter from Lincoln and communicate this to Tangawizi’s family.

(2) We are aware that we may be approaching a point where soliciting donations needs to be reported for tax reasons. We definitely want to stay on the up-and-up with this. I’m looking into what those laws are. If we’ve breached that point where we need to be reporting, we’ll be sure to take the appropriate steps to do so.

We’re currently in communication with a small team of people who are willing to buy a bed in Nairobi, Kenya, and try to find Tangawizi. Details soon…in the meantime, follow Lincoln’s story and share it with friends!


Last night Lincoln counted the savings in his piggy bank.Lincoln BW

 It turns out Lincoln had quite a bit more than I realized. Between chores, collecting coins, and dollar bills that his grandparents occasionally give him, Lincoln has $19.84 in his piggy bank. We had a lot of fun shaking the coins out and counting it. Actually, we got to having a little too much fun. By the end, Lincoln and Harper were throwing coins around the room like Jack Nicholson’s “Joker” in the old Batman movie. But after the frenzy subsided, I asked Lincoln an important question.

Lincoln, I know you’ve been saving up for that Hot Wheels truck with all the cars in it. You know if you buy this bed, you’ll have to wait a lot longer to get that truck, right? Is that okay with you?”


The questions didn’t seem to phase him. Truthfully, I’m not sure he realizes what he’s sacrificing. That may be a lesson he’ll learn the next time we go to Kohl’s and he wants that Hot Wheels truck. But it reminded me that truly giving and loving always requires sacrifice. It’s one thing to raise money for a fundraiser. It’s another thing to give up all your money to see it happen.

Between Lincoln’s piggy bank, the kindness of donors, and a friend who gave him a twenty at church Sunday, Lincoln has raised about $350. It’s looking like our best route will be hiring a courier to buy and take the bed to Keekorok. Expenses will include travel, lodging, a few meals, and a fair payment to the courier. Plus, we’d love to support Tangawizi’s family in a more long-term fashion. So donations are still welcome and very appreciated. We’ll post more details soon. Honestly, it’s been difficult keeping up with “thank you’s”, responding to people with info, and our normal family schedule. Also, if you want to follow Lincoln & Tangawizi’s story, I plan to update this blog 2-3 times a week. You can subscribe by entering your email in the “free words & music” box to the right. (I promise you can unsubscribe later if you want!) We do have a friend in Nairobi who has offered to be a courier! Working out the details. More soon…



Last Friday I posted about my three year-old son Lincoln’s mission to buy a little boy in Kenya a bed. After seeing a picture on the internet of a boy named “Tangawizi” who apparently had few belongings and no bed, Lincoln was convinced we needed to buy him one. Despite my efforts to talk him into a more “reasonable” approach of donating some money to an organization that could help buy several kids beds, Lincoln was stubborn about getting this boy a bed. I shook hands with Lincoln, telling him that if he could raise enough money to buy the bed, Melissa (my wife) and I would find Tangawizi. Melissa quickly sprang into action and helped Lincoln make a flyer to raise funds for the bed. I posted the flyer on the internet on Friday.

lincoln smilingedited

The response was immediate and surprising. Since Friday, Lincoln has received $167 in fundraising, most of which came from total strangers. As we realized that Lincoln is close to achieving his end of the deal, we knew it was time to figure out how to find this boy’s family.

Lincoln has an awesome bed picked out. He was certain that he wanted to get Tangawizi a cot “just like the one he sleeps on at Grandma’s.” So we pulled it up on Amazon, and it turns out that cots aren’t very expensive at all. Melissa and I brainstormed other options, but it turns out that a foldable, portable toddler cot is probably perfect. Not that we could have talked Lincoln out of it anyway.

So that’s the good news. People who haven’t even met Lincoln have been so helpful and kind. People are eager to be compassionate when faced with creative and easy ways to do so. But there’s also a bit of not so good news…

Melissa did some research on shipping internationally. It turns out shipping anything to Kenya is way expensive. No surprise there. She and I have both stayed in England for brief periods and knew it would be costly, but it turns out Africa is much more so. Even shipping to large cities in Kenya looks to be as much as a few hundred dollars. Never mind small villages that likely don’t have postal service. Lincoln is still a bit confused why the dollars and cents in his piggy bank can’t just buy the bed and we “mail it there.”

I sent an email to the photographer who took the photo, Gabriele Galimberti. He responded this weekend. His email was very kind but discouraging for our search:

Hi Nick,

thank you very much for this e-mail and for the post in the blog! Unfortunately i can’t help you with this. Tangawizi lives in the middle of nowhere in Kenya and it’s kind of impossible to send him something. But i’m sure you can find a lot of organizations that give help for this kind of situations.

I’m sorry,



We knew this was a possibility going into it. I guess when we made Lincoln a promise that “if he bought the bed, we’ll find the boy’s family,” we didn’t realize how tough that might be.

So next we turned to World Vision, and awesome organization that Melissa and I have both worked with before we even met. World Vision is an organization that fights global poverty and is best known for their work with child sponsorships. Knowing that World Vision has bases in most third world countries, we crossed our fingers that they might have on near Tangawizi.

I spoke with a rep from World Vision, who talked with one of their specialists. It turns out that the closest base World Vision has to Keekorok, Kenya is in Nairobi, about 150 miles away. Melissa’s research showed the same: the closest probable “touch point” for anyone who could receive mail or internet lives about 4 hours away.


So now we’re faced with a difficult situation.

Is it worth raising and spending a few hundred dollars in order to see Lincoln’s vision through? Or should we take that money and put it directly into an organization who will use it more efficiently? Is this particular boy, “Tangawizi,” so important in the grand scheme of things?

We believe that it is. Lincoln is a stubborn kid. We try to teach him that stubbornness can be good, and like his namesake said, “Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” We talk about being “good stubborn” and “bad stubborn,” and it’s hard to argue with him on this one. I admit there is a selfish desire in all this, to teach my son a powerful lesson about helping others.

We want to teach him that compassion is always worth being stubborn about. We pray that people will be inspired by Lincoln’s story, and be moved to react passionately against poverty. Through the example of Lincoln and every little kid who doesn’t understand injustice, we hope to become more connected with the desperate poverty in third-world countries. And we have hope that we can connect with Tangawizi’s family and help on a more long-term basis.

So now we are putting the word out, and asking for the help of the internet community. Sure, Lincoln needs to raise some more money to ship the bed to Kenya. But the real need now is that we need to find Tangawizi. Thankfully, this doesn’t take asking people for money, or even that much time. All it takes is a few clicks and using technology as a tool to help connect two little boys.

I realize it’s a long shot, and that the chances of someone in Tangawizi’s area having internet access are slim. But I’m asking people to share this with friends who may have contacts in Kenya or northern Tanzania. We’re willing to pay a courier or tip well for anyone who can put us directly in contact w/Tangawizi’s family.

And remember, a prayer started this whole thing. We continue to pray that we can find the family, form a relationship, and help in whatever ways we can. We truly believe that God has a big heart for the underprivileged. We know He wants to act through our hands to help eradicate poverty and drastic social imbalance. Any prayers are greatly appreciated.

Lincoln has re-ignited our family’s passion for prayer and for putting a dent in global poverty. Any help is greatly appreciated!

If you want to donate to Lincoln’s “Buy Tangawizi a Bed” fund, the easiest way to do so is via our PayPal account @ (For the sake of accountability and full disclosure- 100% of the donations are going toward the bed + shipping. We’ll post pictures and updates as we progress.) Beyond donations, we could really use: (1) spreading the word to anyone who lives in Kenya or northern Tanzania, and (2) anyone with experience in international shipping, especially to Kenya.


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