This organization reaches abused and neglected children — with blankets and toiletries
God had given Pebbles Thompson that one word, and she had been holding onto it for a year.
She'd analyzed it. She'd Googled it. She and her family had prayed for more revelation. But all she had to show for it were the same three syllables.
Then, in February 2008, while praying in the shower, Thompson had what she calls her "burning bush moment."
"God spoke to me," she says, "and He said, 'Pebbles, you're missing the point. It's not about the pajamas. It's about what they represent. And in those dark times, late at night when they're afraid, I will be their light.'"
Mental images of abused children began flashing through her mind, and Thompson began to realize the needs facing the abused and neglected children in the Fargo, North Dakota-area. After being rescued from their homes, many enter child advocacy centers feeling undervalued and with few possessions to their name.
For the next two days, each trip into the shower would bring more revelation, and each day Thompson confided in her husband, Darin. By the third day, he jokingly told her to quit taking showers.
The Thompsons met with the Fargo Police Department and medical professionals, sharing the idea to put together "Bags of Hope" that would contain practical yet meaningful items for these children.
These groups said it was exactly what they needed, and they hadn't even known it.
Today, what began in a North Dakota shower has become Project Ignite Light, a growing nonprofit organization that touches thousands of abused and neglected children in the states of North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota each year.
With the theme verse Micah 7:8 ("though I sit in darkness the Lord will be my light"), the nonprofit has given more than 10,000 Bags of Hope since 2008, with the help of thousands of volunteers and donors across the country. Each Bag of Hope includes:
- a fleece tie blanket
- pajamas, socks and underwear
- 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner
- a toothbrush and toothpaste
- fruit snacks and a water bottle
- a flashlight
- You Are Special by Max Lucado
- a zipper tote bag
- for teen girls, deodorant and a personal journal
These items, Thompson says, have more than just practical purposes. The flashlight helps children with their fears of the dark and gives them a sense of control. The shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste help children feel clean again, physically and emotionally.
"It's not about the pajamas. It's about what they represent. And in those dark times, late at night when they're afraid, I will be their light.'"
The backpack provides a sturdy way to transport belongings, since many children come in bearing trash bags and will end up moving four to seven times while in foster care.
Volunteers distribute these bags at child advocacy centers, restocking each center as needed.
Thompson says the ministry not only reaches children, but it also opens doors to the entire foster care community. That's why her vision is to have each community working for its own children.
"We know that we could be a shipping distribution center, but we would lose the ministry aspect," Thompson says. "If each community is there supporting their community's children, it connects communities to their personal kids, and so they become the spiritual benefactors."
From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, Project Ignite Light is launching "Pajamas with a Purpose," a campaign to help raise awareness and restock its supply of pajamas, an item it constantly needs. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to post a photo on social media of themselves or their family wearing their favorite pajamas using the hashtag #projectpjparty and tagging Project Ignite Light's page. Then, they are asked to consider donating a pair of pajamas.
Project Ignite Light is also developing a training program to help churches around the nation minister to the children in their areas.
The Thompsons currently live in Rogers, North Dakota, with their four children, dedicating themselves full-time to their ministry. Pebble Thompson says while it's not what she would have seen herself doing seven years ago, now she'd never give it up.
"If God had said, 'Pebbles, here are five different ministries, take your pick,' I would have wanted to be the next Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore," Thompson says. "I'm so glad He knew better because this is exactly where I know I'm supposed to be."