Friday, September 7, 2012
Live to Give
Turning Talents Into Miracles
Hoops of Hope founder Austin Gutwein encourages teens to use their talents for God
Seattle: 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” (Thomas Nelson/August 7, 2012/208 pages/ISBN 978-1400319930), 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.
At eighteen years old, Gutwein speaks with wisdom and has the experience to reinforce his message. When Austin was just nine years old, he watched a video that showed children in Africa who had lost their parents to AIDS. Gutwein realized these kids weren’t any different from him—except they were suffering. Feeling called to help, Austin took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws to raise money for orphans in Zambia. On World AIDS Day in 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Through sponsorship from parents and friends, Austin raised over $3,000 that day to give hope to eight orphans in Zambia.
Over the past eight years, Austin’s efforts have created Hoops of Hope, the largest free throw marathon in the world. With an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating, Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5 million to build schools, medical clinics, dormitories for orphanages, and the only computer lab in Zambia.
Though written for ages 12 and up, “Live to Give” reminds readers of all ages that one person really can make a difference. Austin begins the book by citing a familiar story found in John 6: the little boy who gave Jesus the tools to miraculously feed 5,000 hungry people. The boy gave what he had, and God used what was in his lunch to fashion a miracle. Austin explains that young people today can do the same thing—let God take the characteristics that make them different, so often viewed as a negative during the teenage years, and turn that uniqueness into a miracle.
“For me, it was shooting hoops to raise money. [God] wanted me to give my time and my favorite hobby. For the boy in the multitude of 5,000, it was his lunch. For you . . . well, this book is meant to help you discover what that is,” Gutwein writes. “But there is one common theme throughout all of our stories: we all need to live to give because we were made for it. Nothing beats living this way! Nothing we could eat, drink, buy, play, watch, or win in life can compare to the feeling of giving ourselves away, using ‘whatever gift we have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace.’”
Throughout the pages of “Live to Give,” Austin offers advice on dealing with peer pressure, accepting rejection, and other obstacles that might stand in the way of impacting others. He also offers assurance that making a difference does not happen overnight.
Austin’s message is one of hope—that anyone, no matter what their age or skills, has a purpose and can make a difference that lasts forever. With Austin’s stories from Africa and words of encouragement, “Live to Give” will inspire the reader to turn that talents over to God, who can transform a lunchbox into miracle.
About the Author
Austin Gutwein was just 9 years old when watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, he realized these kids weren’t any different from him except they were suffering. Austin felt called to do something to help them. He took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws. On World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used to provide hope to 8 orphan children.
Over the past eight years, Austin’s effort has turned into the largest free throw marathon in the world with an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating in Hoops of Hope. Together, Hoops of Hope participants have raised more than $2.5 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.
Austin has been featured on the 700 Club, Hour of Power, NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, CBS NCAA Pregame Show, Time Magazine, Christianity Today and many others. He has had the opportunity to share his story of hope to more than 500,000 people on four continents.
In 2009, Austin was selected as one of the Top 10 Most Caring Americans by the Caring Institute in Washington, DC. That same year, Thomas Nelson released his first book, “Take Your Best Shot.” Austin’s second book, “Live to Give,” is scheduled to be released in August 2012.
In February 2012, Austin was recognized as one of ESPN’s 18 under 18, and he graduated from high school. He currently co-chairs Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s Youth Commission and will be attending Anderson University in the fall.
Learn more about Austin and Hoops of Hope at www.AustinGutwein.com and www.HoopsOfHope.org.
Title: LIVE TO GIVE
Author: Austin Gutwein
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Inspirational/nonfiction/young adult/social issues
God doesn’t need your help. But He definitely wants it.
God is God, and there isn’t a single problem that He can’t solve. But the truth is, God gave each one of us a talent—a unique talent—for a reason.
When you are willing to give God the gifts He’s given to you, He will transform them into something bigger than you could imagine. Something like what happened when the boy shared his humble meal with Jesus and ultimately fed thousands of people. Or Austin Gutwein, himself, when his hobby ended up an international AIDS relief organization.
In LIVE TO GIVE, Austin Gutwein challenges you to discover your gifts and offer them up to God, and see what plans God has for you.
LIVE TO GIVE is written by a young adult for young adults. The reading level is for twelve years old and up, so you don’t have to be a teenager to be impacted by this book. Even adults who want to be used by God will learn from this book. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, which makes it ideal for small groups and youth group meetings.
If you have a talent and want to use it for the Lord, then LIVE TO GIVE is a book that you’ll want to read. Or it’s a book to give your favorite teen to challenge them to give their talent to the Lord. Great, encouraging read that will leave you motivated. $14.99. 208 pages.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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)