147 Million Orphans
Twitter/Lauren Akins

How '147 Million Orphans' Led Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins to Willa Gray

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the sweetest stories in country music has to be Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins' journey to parenthood. And their adorable, growing family has roots in an amazing organization called 147 Million Orphans.

It all started around two years ago, while Thomas Rhett's career in Nashville was in full bloom. His song "Die A Happy Man" was well on its way to being the biggest song in country music. Meanwhile, he and wife Lauren began discussing adoption after struggling to conceive.

Lauren told PEOPLE at the time that adoption is a cause near and dear to her heart (her mom is adopted). "If that's how the Lord wants to design our family, we'll roll with it," she said.

147 Million Orphans

Founded in 2009, 147 Million Orphans began with a mission of helping some of the most vulnerable people on earth. The name is a provocative conversation starter on the scope of the global orphan crisis.

Their mission, according to their website is simple in concept but broad in scope. The faith-based 147 Million Orphans provides food, water, medicine and shelter in the name of Jesus Christ.

Though not adoption agents, Gwen Oatsvall & Suzanne Mayernick founded the organization after their own experiences adopting children. The experience opened their eyes to the daily struggles of orphans. So they started 147 Million Orphans first with the goal of helping children in Uganda.

Throughout the years, the organization evolved from providing food and supplies to offering larger mission trips and ultimately long-term solutions. In other words, not just providing care to orphans, but trying to stop the root cause of the problem. That means creating income-sustaining solutions for families and community reconstruction.

Woman on a Mission

Akins began volunteering for 147 Million Orphans a few years ago. The organization's mission trips to places like Haiti, Honduras, and Uganda received a little extra notoriety thanks to Akins' Instagram account.

Her pictures with children in the countries quickly garnered tens of thousands of likes and comments. Now Akins' posts routinely gain anywhere from 300-500,000 likes and thousands of comments. You can even see the picture Lauren first shared that immediately won Thomas' heart.

More importantly, Akins' trips overseas helped spread news of the organization. Her and Thomas' personal story with Willa Gray, whom Lauren first met on a trip to Uganda, created some buzz in the music community as well.

In October 2016, Rhett hosted a benefit with artists like Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line. The event raised $250,000 for 147 Million Orphans. Akins now sits on the Board of Directors for the charity.


How You Can Help

The most immediate way to help is by donating money through the website. You can see a list of current projects they're working to support with cash donations. They include monthly costs like funding adult education, feeding orphans and rescue center needs, to fixed projects like a cattle farm.

You can also purchase shirts from the store or shop at partnership stores to get cool swag and donate at the same time.

And then, for those who want to get as hands-on as possible, 147 Million Orphans releases details of its serving trips overseas in mid-January. Typical costs for the trips is around $3,000. Follow the organization's Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates on the organization's work and how you can be involved.


This post was originally published on January 15, 2018.

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