Listen to today's episode, "How Passion and Mission Can Create International Change with Shawnee Penkacik" as Christian Nonprofit Strategy Coach, author, and mom of 12 Shawnee Penkacik joins Dori Durbin to share how bullying led to writing "Carleigh and the Bullies: I am Enough in Christ" as well as:
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More about Shawnee
Shawnee Penkacik is a best-selling author, key-team member at Infinitely More Life as the marketing and social media manager and more for Infinitely More Life and Mercy’s Light Family.
She is passionate about people knowing who they are in Christ and applying that to their daily lives to do great things for the Kingdom.
She is a wife to her amazing husband Jason and a mom to twelve amazing children. She can often be found with her Bible and a cup of coffee in hand.
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More about Dori Durbin:
Dori Durbin is a Christian wife, mom, author, illustrator, and a kids’ book coach who after experiencing a life-changing illness, quickly switched gears to follow her dream. She creates kids’ books to provide a fun and safe passageway for kids and parents to dig deeper and experience empowered lives. Dori also coaches non-fiction authors and aspiring authors to “kid-size” their content into informational and engaging kids’ books!
Buy Dori's Kids' Books:
[00:00:00.810] - Dori Durbin
So what would you do if you found out your child is being bullied? Shawnee found out that her daughter was being bullied and she wrote a book and it changed literally an entire nation. Shawnee Penkacik is a bestselling author, a key team member of Infinitely More Life, and the marketing and social media manager for Infinitely More Life. And not only that, but Shawnee is also the model mom of twelve children. I think you'll be very interested to hear the story of this mom who is busy beyond belief and reaching many. Let's listen in.
[00:00:35.530] - Dori Durbin
Welcome to the Power of Kids' Book podcast, where we believe books are the catalyst for making change and empowering kids. Today I have with me Shawnee Penkacik. She is a Christian nonprofit strategy coach and she has her own kids book as well. So welcome, Shawnee.
[00:00:53.370] - Shawnee Penkacik
Thank you for having me.
[00:00:54.930] - Dori Durbin
[00:00:55.830] - Shawnee Penkacik
I'm so excited to be here this morning.
[00:00:58.210] - Dori Durbin
Oh, thank you for making the time. And I really want our audience to know exactly what it means to be a nonprofit strategy coach, especially in the Christian world.
[00:01:08.340] - Shawnee Penkacik
Okay? So what I get to do, what I love to do is I help people take their nonprofit from a start up to getting out there and impacting the world through sharing their story. So my incredible business partner, Kerry Richard and I, together, we have this amazing business called Christian Rocketeers, where we help Christian nonprofit leaders take their nonprofit from 501 status to getting out there and making that impact that God has called you to make in the world. And what's incredible is we not only get to coach, but we do it every day. We have our own nonprofit Mercy's Light Family that is in Mombasa, Kenya. It is a maternity pregnancy crisis center that has girls ages 13 to 18 who have been victims of human trafficking, often by someone close to them. So stories that are just heartbreaking. One girl in particular, she was trafficked by her mother and her grandmother, and it was for something simple as a room. They needed a room. And they are sold into early marriage to older gentlemen and they often become pregnant. And when they become pregnant, they get kicked to the streets and these girls just want to get back home as quick as possible.
[00:02:20.520] - Shawnee Penkacik
And so Mercy's Light Family exists as a three year program to help them find hope, healing, and give them business and vocational skills to get out there and make a difference in the world and realize they're not just a piece of property, but they're created for so much more. So we're kind of different in the nonprofit space because we actually do the work every day and it's such a joy to teach nonprofit leaders how to make that impact in the world. And the results we're seeing from our clients are just incredible. One of our clients just bought land in the Dominican Republic to build a hope and Healing Center. And yesterday she texted us and she said, my pastor just handed me a $5,000 check for the Hope Center. And I had tears because these are the miracle stories you hear about. And just to be a part of that is life changing.
[00:03:11.930] - Dori Durbin
I can't even imagine the amount of change that you're making for just one individual, much less all of these people. That's incredible, Shawnee.
[00:03:21.610] - Shawnee Penkacik
That's incredible to be a part of. I'm honored that God set my path so that I could be a part of the work that he's doing.
[00:03:29.400] - Dori Durbin
I actually was reading up on your bio and thinking, how does she get anything done? You're so busy, but yet you still have twelve kids as well. How is that possible?
[00:03:38.650] - Shawnee Penkacik
I have twelve children. Yes, I have twelve children. They are ages 25 to three and a half. We have nine boys. Nine boys and three girls. Some are special needs, so our house never has a dull moment, always full of blessed ones. And often we've gotten kids involved in nonprofit work, so we have them write thank you cards. We have them help in other ways. I have some boys that are older now. They help with social media, so they'll create graphics and stuff, so it's empowering them as well. When you have a child with a disability, they're often told they're only going to do so much. And the great thing about my family is I've gotten to see my kids rise above the disability and really shine.
[00:04:25.420] - Dori Durbin
To have them actually part of what you're doing is phenomenal too, because you're just investing that much more mission and passion in their hearts and seeing that it's possible. So that's amazing.
[00:04:37.050] - Shawnee Penkacik
Yeah. And the amazing part of that is that was my business partner, Carrie. Carrie was like, let's get them involved. She's like, they can do stuff, but remember they have a disability. And she's like, no. She's like, look past the disability and look at what the possibility is. And when I started to look through that lens and just letting them shine, I saw so much more light and brightness in them, especially in my son, Jackson. Jackson was born with mitochondrial disease and has had a very difficult life. And thankfully, right now he's thriving and doing excellent. But in his early years, he was failure to thrive and he had a feeding tube and he had so many obstacles to overcome. And yet he creates my social media graphics for me. He just created a whole new series for us and he gets joy in that. Like, when I asked him to do it, he's like, okay, mom, give me the template and I'll run with it. I'm just so proud of him. And even in school he's excelling and he just made the AB on our own for the first time. So it's that reminder of we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and that nothing is impossible with God.
[00:05:51.550] - Dori Durbin
That's twelve examples right there, right for you, plus everyone else that you've already helped. And you were saying something about school and doing well at school. Was school part of the motivation or your desire to create a kids book to begin with, to tie everything together?
[00:06:06.920] - Shawnee Penkacik
So what happened was my daughter, Carleigh came home one day and she was bullied really bad in school. Carleigh has epilepsy, and she's also got a disability, a learning challenge. And people were making fun of her because Carleigh didn't dress the same way other people did. She liked her leggings and her shirts, and they didn't match, and you tried to make her match, and she still would go with the colors. And so we just creative, and she's very unique in her ability. And so it just broke my heart. And she came home, and she's like, mom, why do they pick on me so often? And our team was having Bible study at the time, and I was sharing the story with Carleigh. And Carleigh was like, Carleigh had written a children's book for Kenya. And she's like, hey, why don't we turn this into a book? And I'm like Carleigh. Really? It's a story of Carleigh, and I have a good conversation. Who wants to read this? And she's like, the bullying is a big bang. And in telling Carly's story, we've seen so many incredible things happen because it was a conversation that needed to happen.
[00:07:15.210] - Shawnee Penkacik
And so through my conversation with my daughter, of reminding her of who she is in Christ, reminding her that not let the bullies get to her, and to really focus on the fact of who she is, who God created her to be. And in that, it's been so incredible. And to see her, she just turned 18, and she's so proud. Like, yesterday when the book came in the mail, she's like she's like, posting her book on TikTok. She's like, Remember my mom wrote this children's book about me? I'm like Carleigh. Really? She's like, I am good about me. And she's so proud of the fact that she still has the Carleigh book, as we call it. And the great part about it is we not only have a version of Carleigh for here in the United States, but we have a Kenyan version as well that we share in Africa. So it impacts both sides of the world, which is incredible. Like I said, just taking that incredible conversation with her heartbreaking situation. She came home, she was crying, she was broken, she didn't want to go back to school. I remember being bullied in school.
[00:08:18.510] - Shawnee Penkacik
I was bullied something terrible on school. And so I could put myself in her shoes, just the heartache that I felt. And I didn't want my daughter to go through that. I wanted her to know that she was created for more, that her identity is not what someone says about her, but her identity is the creator who made her. Yeah.
[00:08:37.340] - Dori Durbin
And has she ever reflected on how having her story out there actually has helped probably hundreds of other people? Has she ever pictured that in her own mind?
[00:08:47.920] - Shawnee Penkacik
I haven't really grasped it to that extent, but I will say she's just amazed, like that her story and the conversation that we had just has helped not only her, but her friends too. Like she'll say, hey, I got this book and you might want to read it. My mom wrote it and I'm just going to laugh and I'm like, okay, you're sharing that your mom wrote a book. She goes, well, actually, my mom's wrote more than one book. My mom's wrote I think now it's about ten or so I love because it's collaboration and stuff like that. And she'll just go, my mom's a best selling author. And I'm like, Carleigh like tone it down a little. She's like, no, I'm really proud of my mom.
[00:09:30.340] - Dori Durbin
She's just so proud she can't stand it. That's awesome.
[00:09:33.510] - Shawnee Penkacik
Oh, yeah. And the great thing is it's allowed her to be able to. She helps in the nonprofit space as well, so she helps with a client of ours in the Dominican Republic and she's been able to learn again that rising above your story, rising above the fact that she has epilepsy and she loves sharing that she helps these children. When she gets the child sponsored, she starts she comes to me, mom, another kid was sponsored, that means this is happening. And the smile on her face is worth it all. She's so excited when she sees a child sponsored, she'll come to me and she's like, my social media post got this child sponsored. And this child gets to have an education because of this. And she just feels like she's making a little bit of impact in the world and that's made a huge difference in her.
[00:10:29.080] - Dori Durbin
That's such a positive thing for kids to be able to see that their contribution makes a difference in somebody else's life. For sure. Well, would you be willing to share some of your story?
[00:10:39.930] - Shawnee Penkacik
I'm going to start at the conversation. You look sad, what's wrong? Nothing. Carleigh said, it just seems like something. Tell me about your day. Her mom said, mom, both girls are making fun of me again. They don't like me. Carly cried, her mom hugged her. That's a lot to deal with. Then there's a picture of Carleigh and I eating popcorn. Cute. Kind of chuck it on the couch. I did make a friend today who gave me this book. Why don't we read it together? And then there's the book. You are loved. God's love for you is gigantic. He always loves you. And then it just starts that conversation between us that goes a little deeper, which is so impactful, just reminding us that God loves us and then taking her through that journey.
[00:11:32.520] - Dori Durbin
You have the mom and the daughter working together, sharing that time, which is exactly, actually what the Power of Kids Books podcast is about, is that connection and the fact that not only that, but she's reinforcing that. It's not about what everybody else is, but it's what God sees her as beings. I just love that.
[00:11:52.610] - Shawnee Penkacik
Yeah, it's amazing how it started as a conversation. And so these books start as conversations with your kids. Look at those conversations you're having with your children. Look at their experiences that they're having in life, and that can become a story that can help change lives. Because as you sit with them, as you listen, had Carleigh not have said, let's sit and write this down, and we took that time, we would have never gotten to this point with this book. And I'm just so thankful that she taught me to listen in more for those conversations because it's helped even more stories with my kids to come about. But we'll come down the road.
[00:12:36.690] - Dori Durbin
Tell me a little bit about the process, too, because I think a lot of times writers have thoughts about what they want to write, and it sits and it sits and it sits, and they don't actually act on it. And I know that her involvement got you to that point, but what did it take to actually get to the point where you had a book?
[00:12:54.790] - Shawnee Penkacik
It took a lot of meetings and a lot of conversations. It was a process. I think it was about a six month journey for us to get the book to where it is now. We wrote the story and then we refined the story, and then we submitted the story to there's, like a Children's Book association or board or whatever, and they revised it to get it to where they went in. And they're like, these are the points you need to hit more. These are the points you need to pull back from, you know, this story more tactful. And so then we went back and we made those tweaks to the story. Because you want to think of your story from a child's point of view. You know, we as adults, we think of big scale, but you have to think with little minds and the audience that you're trying to reach. And so as we honed in more, we got to some more impactful parts of the story. And then it was finding an illustrator where we found someone that did the illustrations. I will say find a good illustrator. Find someone that's going to really communicate your vision.
[00:14:02.360] - Shawnee Penkacik
We had several people come up with drawings to the book, and one person wasn't even close to what the vision was. And then the next person was, like, right there with the vision and what we were doing. So you want to make sure that you find someone that fits with what you want to portray in your book.
[00:14:20.930] - Dori Durbin
I always tell people I'm an illustrator as well, and I always tell people, your illustrator, whoever it is, should be able to take what you've written in your manuscript and expand on it so that there's more conversation, there's more time spent in that book. Having the right person to expand what you're trying to say is super crucial. And then you took your book, and how have you used it? How have you used it to contribute to your business, to your purpose, your mission?
[00:14:49.470] - Shawnee Penkacik
So the great thing about this book is every sale of this book and the Kenya book helps impact Mercy's Light Family. And so we've shared that with people that a portion of all the books that we sell goes to Kenya. And that impact is huge because you're not only reading this book for yourself and your family, but you're impacting the life of a young girl in Kenya at Mercy's Light Family, who has no hope. And so the thought of that, for me, is even more impactful because this book not only just helps I've read it to my daughter Felicity. She's ten, and so she got to read her sister's story, but it not only helped her in when she was being bullied, but yet it makes an impact as well. Yeah. And I think it's important for authors, I think, finding that other avenue of impacting, like you can write your book, but if you can be willing to give up just a small portion of what you're making from the book to make a difference in the life of someone else, that's even more impactful.
[00:15:57.410] - Dori Durbin
It gives you more reason to write, doesn't it? Give you more passion.
[00:16:00.780] - Shawnee Penkacik
And it does. Yeah. And for me, it makes sharing book it's not just sharing Carleigh's story, but it's sharing the fact that you read Carleigh's story and you're helping in Kenya. And the power of that the power of that change is what we need more of in this world. Yeah.
[00:16:21.720] - Dori Durbin
Now, I'm going to put you on the spot because I know if somebody asked me, I wouldn't be exactly sure, but do you know how many you've actually sold for either of the two of those?
[00:16:32.270] - Shawnee Penkacik
I don't, to be honest. I don't. Look at the Amazon. We have such a variety of the Imminent from Christ series that's over there, and we just want she just tells me, oh, a check came in for whatever, for the money. I will say that it's probably not a whole lot. I would say it's probably around maybe under 200 copies or so. But we do have them. When we do our conferences, we do a settlement conference because we've done and passed the M and FMC conference series. We are switching the gear for that in 2024 and doing a nonprofit conference instead. So God shifted our focus from we were just raising up women to know their identity in Christ to where he called us to go. Carrie has been helping people start nonprofits for 20 some years. And so she called me into that space, which was I was kind of like Moses. I'm like, yeah, you've got other people that you work with, other people that you work with that would be great for this. And she's like, no, God called me to ask you and invite you into this. And it's just been an incredible partnership, getting to work alongside her, getting to help these incredible women and men who don't feel that they can.
[00:17:56.470] - Shawnee Penkacik
They know they have a vision and mission for their nonprofit to change the world, but they need that extra rocket boost to get it to where it will. And seeing them get out there. We have people helping grieving families, families who have lost a mom or dad or lost a child make an impact in the world. We have people helping in foreign countries, uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, places you wouldn't even think of. So it's just so incredible. So I don't know the exact number, but I'd love to. So if I can find that, I'll let you know.
[00:18:34.570] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, I was curious, just because you do have so many books, the other books that you're referring to are adult books. And I'm going to say your brand is the phrase I'm enough in Christ. Is that right? Yes, that is right. And so I was kind of thumbing through Amazon and put your name in and saw that you were collaborating. And I think in that respect, too, I think that's really interesting that people might not realize that the art of collaborating with people who have the same vision to expand what you can put out there is something that is available to anybody as well. So I think all of your books, are all of them with the four of you or they kind of mixed up a little bit.
[00:19:17.860] - Shawnee Penkacik
They're kind of mixed up. So it started as I wrote. I used to have a podcast and I wrote my book with a friend of mine off of the podcast. Started out with how to stop believing the lies of the enemy. And then I was like, okay, I can write. And we'll see. Because I wasn't good in English class. So the idea of being a writer was like, this is not my forte because I got to be in English. Writing for me was kind of a foreign topic. And God was like, no, I want you to write. And I'm like, But I run on sentences and I used to get in trouble for them in school. So, like writing, really? And he's like, yes, editors for that. So when I realized that, that I could actually write and someone could edit the work and make it even more refined and better, that changed it for me. Because God was calling me to write. I just was too scared to step into the fact that he was calling me to write because I heard all those you know, how you hear those tapes in your head and me not doing well in English with one of those tapes in my head?
[00:20:22.550] - Shawnee Penkacik
That's for those people that passed English class.
[00:20:26.310] - Dori Durbin
You have that imposter syndrome, right? You have nothing to say, but it's not worth other people buying.
[00:20:33.290] - Shawnee Penkacik
Yeah. And you really got to push past that, especially with that giving you a vision for a children's book, whatever that is, I think of how the world needs more kindness. So books on emotions and stuff like that, but people have incited them that they could get out there and make a difference in this world, but often would hold you back to yourself. So my advice to someone that wants to write a children's book, sit down and write it. Sit down and just journal out. What I have a book that I wrote a while ago. Never published it yet, but it was like Emily in The Elephant, and it was a story to teach my son kindness because he wasn't being very kind at the time. Emily the Elephant, you know, met Charlie the Turtle and learned how to get along, and this is how we did. But it's those kind of stories that can change the trajectory of life for people. And I think about that with the Carly deck of how it deals with bullying. It deals with an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent in schools. And so getting people to step into writing more of that, impactful those heartfelt books and sharing more of taking your story and putting in a book, too, also helps impact.
[00:21:53.330] - Dori Durbin
And don't you think that some of that we're talking mainly about impacting the kids, but I think there's something healing for the writer too. Because you take a story that has been something that's been really heavy in their own heart, and you've basically empowered yourself or the writer to take a hold of that and turn it into something good that's actually beneficial to other people plus themselves. And I think that's the part that people don't talk about that really is important too.
[00:22:24.910] - Shawnee Penkacik
I agree, especially with the topic of bullying, because I was bullied in school. So this is a way of kind of rewriting that story in a way, because it's a rising above, rising above the bullying, rising above what people have said about you in life and instead knowing your identity in Christ, knowing that you're a child of the king, that you are chosen, you are loved, you are reading. You know, the book goes into that more in depth, but knowing that and then living that out, you know, that's what we're called to do. We're called to live out our identity, and people don't don't do that as much.
[00:23:02.460] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, I think it's scary. I think it's scary to take that first step and fear the fall out from making an effort or taking that risk. But I think what you're saying, is it's worth it?
[00:23:15.230] - Shawnee Penkacik
I would say have a friend like Carrie or have a coach, find a writing coach that can push you past that. Because once you push past that, there's so much more I had for you. I am so thankful that I call it setting at a table, because I sat at a table with her years ago where she invited me on this journey of being an infinitely more life and just started off with social media and all that god, screw this to and what he's done. And it's getting someone to get you to push past your limitations. And so I'm so thankful that I have that person in my life. And my husband, too. My husband, too. He was like, go to the conference, speak. And because I went to the conference and spoke, that's where the conversation with Kerry happened. Had I not have pushed past my own fear through having those cheerleaders alongside me, I don't know, but I don't want to know because God has done such incredible things through that. But it's been amazing and he is so good.
[00:24:16.720] - Dori Durbin
It's such an amazing journey, too, that you can step back and look at that and see where if you had made let yourself fall to that, let yourself be held back, you wouldn't be in the position that you're in now, helping so many people all at one time.
[00:24:32.470] - Shawnee Penkacik
It's scary when you think about it. But when you think about it's not about you, that's giving you something on your heart. And what I say is, if it's on your heart over and over again, that's the Holy Spirit talking to you and telling you you need to do something about this. So if you've got that tug on your heart and it's over and over again, I say you need to sit with the Lord and sit and figure out, you know, what that is, get it down on paper, write in your journal and really pour out your heart to God. And in that, greater things come. And so I really think we've got to listen more to what he's saying to us, and we're going to have better books than that. More books and more of those stories that are just conversations.
[00:25:21.610] - Dori Durbin
So you brought up something that is kind of in the back of my mind. You were talking about social media, and I think one of the things, too, is once you have that book, I think people tend to be a little bit scared. Like they've gone to a certain point, they've written the book, they've got it out there, but they kind of don't want to tell people just in case. So they don't do a lot with the social media. They don't push themselves out there because it feels like they're out there too much. So how do you get people past that? Because I think that's an important piece of it as well.
[00:25:56.370] - Shawnee Penkacik
I think what you need to do is remember that this book is not yours. The book belongs to one, the Lord first and foremost, and then your audience. He's called you to speak to an audience. You can't speak to an audience if it's not in front of people. You're not at a point unless you're a best selling children's author that has written hundreds and hundreds of books. People are googling you and buying everything you own. They're not going to know unless you get out there and share. So just share little parts of the book. Be willing to read the book to people. Go and read the book. Find opportunities to read it at schools and at libraries where they have story hour. Get your book in front of people. As far as social media, make some quotes about the book. Share the characters. We've thought of turning the character Carly, this little character here, into T shirts and stuff like that, for kids to really kind of catch on to the fact that they're like Carly. They can relate to the character Ashley, who is more of that bold character willing to get in your face and tell you, no, you're not what the bullies say.
[00:27:07.350] - Shawnee Penkacik
Or many kids can relate to the bully because they bend the bully for whatever reason. So it's the characters and sharing the characters because people will grab to the characters, they'll fall in love with the characters, and then from that, the book will take off on its own.
[00:27:24.210] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, that's great advice. Great advice. So we have just moments left. Two reasons that you think that every business should have their own kids book.
[00:27:35.810] - Shawnee Penkacik
Two reasons. I would say it helps share what you do in your business. So find an aspect of your business. For us, it is the nonprofit space. So our book does relate more to what we do. But find an aspect of what you do, whether that be teaching or whether that be an exercise coach. Write a book about exercise and physical fitness for kids and then you tie that back to your business. Because not only do you have the parents attention from that side, because we have that with the imminent from crisis the other series, but you get the kids involved too. And I would have never thought of getting my kids involved because I was always like, businesses over here, this is mine, and kids are over here. But incorporating the whole family has changed. Fabric my husband is my biggest supporter. I mean, he is amazing. He is like, get out there and do it. And I'm like, no, I'm scared. I don't want to do it. He's like, no, God told you he's calling you to bigger and greater. You need to step into that because you're not going to know if you don't do it.
[00:28:39.930] - Shawnee Penkacik
And so he pushes me to that extra step, and it's helped our family. I think that the books that could. Be written about business, your accountant write in a book about math. I mean, there's so many books that need to be written and so it helps your branding too, because you've got what you do for the parents and you've got something for the children.
[00:29:04.910] - Dori Durbin
I agree 100%. Well, I think we should send them to the best spot to find you. And what would that be, Shawnee?
[00:29:14.070] - Shawnee Penkacik
The best spot is Christianrocketeers.com is where you'll find the Christian nonprofit side of what we do. If you're looking for the book site, that email@example.com, and you'll find everything listed there, the conference series, everything like that, that's coming up. You'll even find we have a monthly scripture series where you can get empowered that way, where you just simply take the scripture worksheet, write up the scripture each day, and then we walk you alongside that too. And that helps change your life as well, because you get the word of God in your heart and then take it out and make a difference in the world.
[00:29:51.220] - Dori Durbin
That's awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your book, your ministry, and your just philosophy on being an author. I appreciate that.
[00:30:01.170] - Shawnee Penkacik
Thank you for having me.
[00:30:02.960] - Dori Durbin
Absolutely. Thank you, Shawnee. Don't go anywhere.
[00:30:07.000] - Shawnee Penkacik
[00:30:07.650] - Dori Durbin
So I wanted to pick your brain.
[00:30:09.130] - Shawnee Penkacik
[00:30:09.480] - Dori Durbin
Maybe what I can do is I'll message you when we're all done here. I have another one at eleven. I'll message you and see if we can chat maybe a little bit about the ads and anything else that they can help you with. Sounds good.
[00:30:25.280] - Shawnee Penkacik
Awesome. Thank you so much. Such a pleasure. Such a pleasure. Have a great day. Thank you.
[00:30:30.140] - Dori Durbin
I'll let you know when it's coming out too.
[00:30:32.200] - Shawnee Penkacik
Okay. Thanks so much. You're welcome. Bye bye to you both. Bye.