Last Updated on Thursday, 26 July 2012 14:07 Posted by Clash Friday, 27 July 2012 09:52
Austin Gutwein has a message to share with his fellow teens: God made each of you unique so that He can use you for a special purpose. In his book “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles”, Gutwein challenges that regardless of age and talent, God can use you to make a difference. Though He could do it all Himself, God created humankind with a mission: to take care of His creation.
Q: You start off Live to Give talking about how God does not need us, but He wants to use us to help others and take care of His creations. It’s a profound thought. How did you come to this realization?
A: To be honest, just reading about the creation of the world in Genesis made me realize just how incredible God is. God is so amazingly powerful, and the Bible shows us this many times. It just hit me one day while reading through the Bible, God doesn't need me, or any of us for that matter, but He wants to use us. Sure God could solve all the world’s problems without having to think about it, but each of us were created for a purpose. We are made in the image of a perfect God and when we use what God has given us to make a difference, incredible things happen.
Q: What are some of the ways that God used young people in the Bible?
A: God has been in the business of using young people for a while. For instance, the great King David was just a "shepherd boy" when God used Him to slay a giant with a rock. What modern day "giants" does God have for us?
Q: How do we figure out what our unique gift is? Can we always turn it into a talent for God?
A: It's simple. What has God made us good at? Or even if we aren't necessarily good at it, what do we enjoy? There are so many ways to turn our gifts into a work for God. There are always people that can be helped by your unique gifts. What are some examples? Say you are great at math—there are some people who could use a tutor. If you are good at creating art, there is a retirement home in your town that would love some artwork to display. Maybe you are good at music: the world is always looking for people to help others worship God with music. Even if you are good at jumping on a pogo stick, I am sure you have a neighbor down the street who would love a good role model to teach him/her. Whatever it is God has gifted you with, use it for it Him.
Q: You encourage kids to embrace their uniqueness – inside and outside. Why is that such an important part of being able to Live to Give?
A: We have all heard the phrase "cookie cutters" and the truth is, we aren't all the same. It is a great thing! I wouldn't love cookies if they all looked, tasted, and smelled the exact same. We all have many gifts and talents that are unique to us. That is what makes you, you! When we embrace it, we can do so much for God because we are happy with what God gave us.
Q: Explain the lunchbox analogy that you use in the book. How can adults, as parents, teachers, youth workers help kids and teens find what’s in their lunchbox?
A: The lunch box analogy is from John 6 with the feeding of the 5000. We are told of a boy who is pulled from the crowd by Andrew, and Jesus uses this boy's meal to feed the entire crowd. The miracle happens because this boy is just willing to let God use what he has. I believe the analogy applies to the gifts and talents that God has given us in our "lunch." When we are willing to let God use that lunch, miracles can and will happen!
Adults can help students find what is in their lunch by asking thought provoking questions and pointing out the gifts they have. The best way anyone can help is encouragement. Encouraging the youth to just do something, anything, to make a difference!
Q: What inspired you to start Hoops of Hope? How old were you at the time?
A: In the spring of 2004, when I was 9 years old, I watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, I realized these kids weren’t any different from me except that they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them.
I decided to shoot free throws, and on World AIDS Day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during my day at school. Friends and family sponsored me, and I was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used to provide hope to 8 orphan children.
Q: For those who may not be familiar with your ministry, can you tell us about Hoops of Hope and some of the projects you’ve been able to accomplish over the past 8 years?
A: Hoops of Hope is the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! You can join thousands of participants and teams from around the world that shoot free throws for children in need. Every dollar raised will go directly to the project you select to help these children. Every free throw will literally help keep children from becoming orphans.
Over the past eight years, Hoops of Hope has turned into the largest free throw marathon in the world with an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised close to $3 million. The efforts have led to the construction of the only high school in a rural region in Southern Zambia, four dormitories, two medical clinics, a computer laboratory, multiple water projects as well as the funding of a dormitory at an orphanage in Kenya and a school in India.
Q: Where are some of the places you have been able to visit and help out firsthand?
A: I have had the chance to travel firsthand to Zambia, Africa five times now. Each time I am blown away by the realization that something as simple as basketball is literally saving lives half way across the world.
Q: Have other kids/teens contacted you with their stories of making a difference? Is there one that really stood out to you?
A: Yes, many students have shared their stories with me. I love getting the chance to hear the message of Live to Give actually lived out in people lives. One story I love sharing is about a girl who decided to use her gift of knitting to knit 20 blankets. Those 20 blankets are now in Zambia providing warmth to new babies and their mothers. Because she used her gift, people have warmth. That is the true message, using what you have in your lunch to show God's love to the world.
Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles by Austin Gutwein
(Thomas Nelson/August 7, 2012/208 pages/ISBN 978-1400319930)