Monday, April 18, 2016

Ally Spotlight: The Hirsch Family

Hoffman Estates, Ill. — When recently asked to share how their lives are different than they were five years ago, Bright Hope allies Greg and Donna Hirsch of Palatine, Illinois reply, “Wow. Where do we start?”

The couple has been married for 23 years and have two children – Brie, a sophomore in college and Jack, a junior in high school. Had you met them five years ago, you would probably know them as a family that is very active in local volunteering through school and church.

“We’ve always raised our kids so that volunteering was a part of their lives – we’ve told them, ‘Always help people.’ It’s what we do,” shares Donna. Yet with all their involvement in school fundraisers, coaching their children’s athletic teams, and serving on ministry teams at church, the Hirsches wanted more. Donna reflects, “I said to myself, there’s got to be a better reason I’m here. All this volunteering – this isn’t it.”

Greg became involved with Bright Hope in 2011, helping coordinate a 5K run, and the next year the family was invited to take part in the pilot of Bright Hope’s JELLY program, standing for Jesus, Education, Livelihoods, Love, and You. From the very first meeting, something clicked.

Heart transformation through JELLY

Through the program, Greg and Donna and their kids learned about extreme poverty, raised funds for a clean water and a microloan program, and joined with other families to build out two shipping containers that would become a church and school in the village of Beganabe, Haiti. They saw incremental changes in their hearts and their priorities as they built relationships with the people of the village. The seeds of radical transformation were planted.

Then Greg traveled to Haiti with the JELLY team in 2012, and experienced a great shift in how he wanted to live his life. Compelled not by guilt but by their gratitude and newfound purpose, the family downsized to a smaller home, shedding the burden of their large mortgage so they could give more generously. Then Greg and Donna took lower-paying jobs so they would have more time to serve.

“Five years ago we were definitely on a different trajectory,” shares Donna. “Refocusing what our family is about, shifting from the stuff we were buying to God’s purpose for us has really been instrumental.”

A Spiritual Journey

They have also experienced great spiritual growth. “We have been believers for a long time,” shares Greg, “but we weren’t actually walking with God. Now there is a constant presence of God in our lives and a purpose.” In the past, Greg was reluctant to take on leadership positions at their church. Now he loves to use his gifts of leadership, and feels he is using his gifts as God has intended.

“Recently I’ve grown and have been able to move past things that I’ve been personally struggling with for 25 years,” shares Donna. “Without this shift I never would have been able to do that.

The spiritual growth through the Hirsch family’s involvement with Bright Hope has shaped their family dynamic. “This has come around a time when our kids are having to make really difficult life decisions,” shares Donna. “We have a different mode of parenting where we are supporting, nurturing, and guiding them to go where God’s leading and where they are gifted.”

And their children’s choices truly reflect the family’s mission for following God’s calling: Brie is studying Psychology with a minor in Global Studies, hoping to pursue a career in occupational therapy so she can help people with injuries or disabilities overseas to be able to continue to work despite their challenges. “It’s a mission for her – she has a true heart of needing to do something for the poor,” shares Donna. The experience has also deeply impacted their son Jack, who ‘wears his faith on his sleeve’ and plans to pursue a career in ministry.

Greg adds, “It’s been a wild journey. We now recognize and follow where we feel God is leading us. We’re excited to be on this journey with Bright Hope.”

Read more stories from Bright Hope's Ally Connection newsletter.