Category: Compassion (page 1 of 2)

enough

  • Vote
  • Open a checking account
  • Enlist in the military
  • Change your name
  • Get married or divorced
  • Sign legal documents and contracts
  • Buy insurance
  • Apply for a credit card

Weighty privileges accompany 18th birthdays in the United States. On Saturday, our sponsored son in Tanzania celebrates his 18th birthday. How will Bilali spend his special day?

Since the loss of his father, he and his mother shoulder the weight of caring for 5 additional family members. Bilali’s struggles are daily and real. Yet, he writes of hope and thankfulness.

Hope-filled news.

  • My family and I are fine. 
  • I am doing well with my studies. 
  • I am also doing well with my Center studies: spiritual, social, and learning how to keep chickens. 

Thankfulness, too.

  • I thank God because He helps me. 
  • I trust you are praying for me that is why I am succeeding. 

From this soon-to-be-18-year-old, I hear education, health, income-generation, thankfulness, and spiritual maturity. I hear hope.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Bilali’s words and life resonate of perseverance, character, and hope. The kind of hope built by the sweat of perseverance and character-building choices from life within a still-developing country. Hope produced from need and sacrifice, not abundance. To claim hope in a world of need is where true hope lives.

I am humbled yet joyful to read of Bilali’s hopefulness in good health, positive grades, God’s faithfulness, and chickens.

On his 18th birthday, Bilali won’t open a checking account, buy insurance, or apply for a credit card. He won’t enjoy a cake piled high with gooey icing with 18 glowing candles. But I believe Bilali will spend his special day tending his chickens under the watchful eye of a faithful Father. Thankful and hopeful.

And with God, hope is enough.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Happy 18th Birthday, Bilali.

 

$15.95

It dangled from a peg with the displayed Christmas ornaments. The miniature, rainbow-colored xylophone with its tiny mallet caught my eye. I smiled as I pictured my eight-month old grandson, Cam, banging on his toy xylophone. He creates music only a grandparent can love. 

This Christmas, I decided to continue a tradition my mother began 30 years ago. Each year, she chose and dated an ornament for my daughters. When we decorated our tree, we unwrapped the ornaments and remembered. Seventeen years ago, my mother entered her Heavenly home. Now, the box of ornaments represents precious memories of her and Christmases together.

In Lima, Peru, 3,600 miles away, a nine-year old boy creates music with his xylophone. My husband and I sponsor Israel through Compassion International. Israel’s recent letter shared the news of his musical adventure with a xylophone. I smiled. There is something special about boys and xylophones.

I held the mini xylophone ornament in my hand and considered my choices. For $15.95, it could adorn my grandson’s first Christmas tree. But images of Israel and other children in need around the world came to mind.

The choice became clear; a new tradition born.

My husband and I explored Compassion’s Christmas gift catalog. For less than $15.95, a baby and mother can eat for a month, a child can be protected from parasites, or receive an age-appropriate Bible. All life-giving. All giving back gifts.

On the tree this year, amongst the cherished ornaments, will be one representing the choice to bless others. A dated note to Cam explaining his first ornament: a mother and her baby ate for a month.

Our tradition will remind Cam Christmas is about giving back not getting more. As he gets older, he will choose how to bless others.

There will be no mini xylophone on Cam’s tree this year. One day, we will share with Cam the $15.95 difference he made. A giving-back tradition.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

 

fumble recovery

The 1938 Chicago Bears earned an unwanted place in the NFL record books. They fumbled the football more times in one season than any other team. A whopping 56 fumbles. But the 1938 Bears also hold the record for recovering more of their own fumbles than any other team. Of those 56 fumbles, the Bears recovered the football 37 times.

Thirty-seven times, the Bears held the ball, lost it, but recovered it. Delight to despair, and back to delight. Such a roller coaster ride of emotions! The lost, now found.

I know the joy of a fumble recovery; his name is Bilali.

In 2014, my husband and I decided to sponsor another child while in Tanzania with Compassion International. If a child needed a sponsor, we would open our hearts.

At a Center in Singida, Bilali walked up the hill and into our hearts. He needed hope, love, and a sponsor. We were ready and eager to provide all three.

In our first group hug, we felt instant love for our new son. We cherished our time with Bilali at his Center and on sponsor day. Two days to hold him and love him. We thanked God for bringing this precious young man into our lives and family.

Four months later, what we once held, slipped away. We struggled to comprehend the words spoken by the Compassion representative on the phone. Bilali was no longer in the program. We mourned our loss.

Our delight slipped into disappointment and despair.

As the months passed, Bilali’s memory faded. At first, we prayed for him and his family. Eventually, we took his picture down. We filed it in a drawer along with his letters and pictures of our time together. Unanswered questions filled the silence. Why did God bring him into our lives, only to take him away? Why did we hold him, only to lose him?

With Tanzania never far from our hearts and minds, we explored Compassion’s website of unsponsored children on June 21, 2016. There, a very familiar face stared back at us. A little bit older, but a face we knew and loved. The face of a young man we once held in our arms on a hillside of Singida. Our son, Bilali. On June 21, 2016, we welcomed him back into our hearts and family.

We never understood why he left and we don’t know why he returned. The young man we lost, now recovered. Our disappointment shifted to delight and gladness. The lost, now found.

Jesus spoke a lot about the lost. In Luke 15, He told stories of a lost coin, sheep,  and a son. Important lessons to remind us to always search for the lost and rejoice jubilantly when they return.

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. Luke 15:6b (NIV)

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin. Luke 15:9b (NIV)

Bilali’s picture is displayed in our kitchen; our lost son returned. He is our recovered fumble. We loved, we lost, and now we love again. Time to celebrate and rejoice!

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15: 32 (NIV)

Batman and Jesus

Mother Teresa. Corrie ten Boom. Eric Liddell.

Parents, first responders, Sunday School teachers.

These names come to mind when I consider the question,“Who is your hero?

When my sponsored child from Mexico responded to the same question, I couldn’t help but smile. Angel’s response? Batman and Jesus. What a great answer! I love the honesty of this precious 8-year-old boy.

Batman and Jesus are the ultimate dynamic duo. I understand the connection in Angel’s mind. Both are good guys; both battle evil.

When I was 8-years-old, Batman and Robin were my heroes. I grew up watching the original Batman TV series that debuted in 1966. My still-treasured Robin mug is evidence of a slight crush on Batman’s sidekick. Together they battled crime and defended Gotham City from the villains. Good always prevailed over evil in each weekly episode.

I discovered the other half of this dynamic duo on my knees in a college dorm room. I recognized my need to be rescued by the True and Holy Hero.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51; 3, 4 (NIV)

Today’s headlines cause me to believe evil is winning the battle. But in His Word, I am reminded my Hero holds evil’s short leash.

It is written: As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God. Romans 14:11 (NIV)

In the end, Good wins. My Hero, Jesus, says so. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess.

In January, I travel to meet Angel in Mexico. I’ll kneel beside his wheelchair and surprise him with a Batman t-shirt and a Spanish Bible. Gifts to honor his heroes: Batman and Jesus.

Much of what happens in our world is evil and bad, but God specializes in bringing good out of it. ~Rick Warren

Jesus in a box

Maria and Carlos and their two children live on a hillside outside Santiago, Dominican Republic. Their home is pieced together with thin boards. Wide gaps allow sunbeams as well as thunderstorms to enter. This family of four share a bed under a simple tin roof.

Samuel lives with his sick grandmother in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania. My eyes worked to adjust to the darkness inside their hut. The guide asked if I would pray for this woman as we knelt beside her bed. How soon would Samuel be alone in this world?

Home visits are the heartbeat of Compassion trips. Stepping into homes, shrinks my world and humbles my soul. I observe the challenging living conditions of children and I am forever changed.

At the end of each home visit, a box is presented to the family containing staples such as rice, beans, and cooking oil. Items to fill their shelves and their stomachs.

Following a home visit in Tanzania, I walked to the bus with Pastor Joseph. I chattered about the box and how it blessed the family. He responded it wasn’t about the contents of the box, but the love behind the box. The box reminds the family they are loved. The box is a love gift: Jesus in a box.

Jesus visited people’s homes. He sat, ate, and loved people in their familiar surroundings. The Christ-centeredness of Compassion is demonstrated with every box presented. Jesus in a box exemplifies Compassion’s mission: Food to fill their stomach given with love in Jesus’ Name provides hope for their soul.

When they unwrap Jesus in cardboard, families experience love and blessings. They see Jesus. I witnessed this Spirit-fueled phenomena with Maria and Carlos. In the presence of their two children, they prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts.

Jesus came out of the box and entered their hearts.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

 

dominoes

Domino Day 2009 broke a world record.  It took 89 builders to set up 4,491,863 dominoes and a single touch to topple them.

One tap produced a huge chain reaction. One action caused 4,491,853 dominoes to fall.

Sometimes,  a single act or a single gesture is all it takes to cause a chain reaction. Then step back and watch out. One act of kindness causes another. One deed of compassion leads to another. One step of faith invites the next.

The Graney family from Oklahoma initiated their own chain reaction by a single act.  Read about the power behind their single act of love and generosity towards  a family in Kenya. You’ll want to share The Marvelous Mud House by April Graney with your children and grandchildren.

http://www.aprilgraney.com/p/the-marvelous-mud-house.html

Read and then step into acts of kindness, compassion, love, and generosity. Remember it only takes one gesture to make the next domino fall.

Let’s keep the chain unbroken.

 

more

I met this little boy while visiting a Compassion project in Tanzania.  After touring the facility and worshipping with the children,  it was time to eat. We served approximately 100 children a meal of rice, chicken, and fruit.

This little guy was not enrolled in the Compassion program. I don’t know the reason. But he, like others, stood outside the windows. It was rewarding and exciting to be sitting with the wonderful children enrolled in the program. But it was heartbreaking to realize there are always more children. There are always more children who are on the outside looking in. There are always more children longing for a warm smile and a loving hug. There are always more children with empty stomachs. Ugly truth: there are always more children in need.

I reached out and took his hand. I squeezed it and tried to convey as much love in that touch as possible. I didn’t see the cross in his photo until later, but it is there. The Cross is there reminding me to ‘keep on keeping on’ for all the children on the outside, like this dear little boy.  It reminds me there is much work to be done on behalf of the children living and dying in poverty around the world. The Cross reminds me, “whatever I do for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, I do for Christ”.

So I advocate and sponsor children with Compassion International because there are always more children. There are more lives to be touched, more smiles to be shared, and more bellies to be filled. If you look, you will find a child who needs you. Let the Cross guide you to him or her. Then there will be one less child standing on the outside looking in.

 

 

 

 

Big God

There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound. ~Diana Cortes

Pulkeria is my friend. An uncommon name for an uncommon lady. Our friendship shrinks the geographical distance between us. It also manages to minimize the cultural and language differences too. I was reunited with my dear friend during my second trip to Tanzania. We both squealed with joy at our reunion, like two teenage girls at a One Direction concert.

A single rose can be my garden….a single friend, my world. ~Leo Buscaglia

Pulkeria traveled 12 hours, one way, on a body-jarring bus. She lives in a coastal city where the temperatures are high and hot. As friends do, I teased Pulkeria about her many layers of clothing since the temperature on this day was near 80 degrees.  And as true friends do, she returned the teasing by asking me if I was cold throughout the day. 🙂

Pulkeria and I had time to catch up as we traveled throughout Arusha National Park searching for animals that I only see in zoos.  She had seen some of the animals before but I took pleasure in seeing the incredible animals through her eyes. It was a precious experience. She was enjoying the beauty of her country; away from the hard realities of poverty for one lazy afternoon. Between the giraffe and zebra sightings, we shared, questioned, and challenged one another. It is an honoring opportunity to be stretched by a true friend.IMG_7843

We laughed a lot too. Our guide and driver, both male,  would occasionally turn around when they heard giggling coming from the back of the safari jeep. We did what girlfriends do – we poured into each other’s life. It was a delightful day.

When I knew the day was coming to a close and the dreaded good-byes were on the horizon, I asked Pulkeria how I could pray for her. I will not forget her response. She said it with a sincere but heavy heart. She said she needed a BIG God. Her life was filled with so many challenges as a mother of 5 and as acting Director at a large Compassion Center that serves 300 impoverished children. Yes, she wanted and needed a BIG God. Big problems = Big God.

She shared how she struggles with trying to solve everyone’s problems and answering everyone’s questions. She doesn’t know how to balance her family, work, and life responsibilities. She realizes the only way to keep her family functioning, her marriage flourishing, and her Center running is to have a Big God in her corner 24/7.

Pulkeria needed a big God. A big God for when she looks into the hungry eyes of the many children that surround her. A big God when families at her Center come to her with marriage problems, when she faces her Center’s critical needs for more classrooms and modern toilets, and when a mother pleads for groceries to feed her family.

Pulkeria was stretching me again.  I wondered how big is my God? How big does He need to be? Without the complicated challenges of living in a still-developing country, perhaps my God doesn’t need to be super-sized. Do I really need a big God in my suburban life full of excess? If I live small, think small, dream small, then my God will stay small. My faith will be small.

Shame on me. Shame on me for limiting God and missing out on everything Big that my God has to offer: a big life, big dreams, big love, and a big faith. Shame on me for keeping my Big God small. Shame on me for confining my Big God to my small life.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Isaiah 40:12 NIV

No, there is nothing small about our God. He is only limited by my foolish and fearful restraints. Shame on me.

Yes, Pulkeria is my friend. I am thankful for this magical and profound long-distance friendship. Pulkeria will always have my love, my respect, my admiration, and my prayers. I pray she senses His Presence and sees the Shadow cast by our Big God. Then she will know her Big God is very close.

Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.  ~Washington Irving

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

tug of war

Writer’s block: when the words won’t come. That’s not my problem. I can think of words, plenty of words. Lots and lots of bottled-up words.  My struggle is how to convey the emotions behind the words. How do I connect the words with the myriad of feelings? There is a tug of war between my head and my heart. Facts vs. Feelings. To share, deeply share, will bring tears. A flood, perhaps. What will happen if I remove my finger from the dike? Will the tears ever stop?

My husband and the Compassion Team spent a week climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. My week was spent on the dusty back roads and in the modest homes of Tanzanian families. What I witnessed was too hard, too unfair, too sad, too lovely, too everything.  At times, it seemed more challenging than climbing to 19,500 feet. The Team had to struggle for each breath at the high altitude. On ground level, I was struggling to make sense of everything around me; leaving me breathless at times.

To remain silent serves no justice and ignores the significance of  my new friendships and my unique experiences. I want to tell their stories with dignity and love. Yet, I fear my one-dimensional words will sound empty, flat, vanilla, small, and lifeless. Have you ever experienced something so beautiful, so unique, so precious, so life-changing that mere words were totally inadequate? I hope you have or will someday. Maybe my responsibility is to humbly tell you whom I met and how they changed me. Perhaps it will cause you to pause and think.

On this Father’s Day, I will begin with Samuel. I met Samuel at a Compassion Center in Tanzania. A tall, lanky young man dressed in worn black pants, white shirt and black jacket.  Samuel spent the afternoon demonstrating the welding, woodworking, and sewing skills he had perfected at the Center. Then I had the privilege to visit Samuel’s home.

Samuel is of the Maasai tribe and he is the man of the house. His parents died when he was young. He currently lives with his very ill grandmother in their mud-dung hut in a small Maasai village on the outskirts of town. Samuel would be considered a ‘modern’ Maasai because he lives near a town and is not nomadic.

To get to the small village, we drove part of the way and walked the rest. I was invited into the dark and smokey home. I humbly offered a prayer through translation for the grandmother’s broken leg and infected eyes. Outside, I found Samuel near his chicken coop. He is also an entrepreneur; raising a flock of chickens. I asked my guide if he would translate a message to Samuel. I sensed the heaviness on this young man’s shoulders. He has to be the man of the house and care for his sick grandmother. When she dies, then what? What does his future hold?IMG_9409

I put my hand on his shoulder and I offered encouragement as best I could; relying on God to put His words in my empty mouth.  I spoke of God’s Promises, to never leave him nor forsake him. I praised him for his skills and his work ethic. I told him it was OK to be scared.  I told him how proud I am of him and all that he is doing as the man of the house. I told him he is loved.

I gave Samuel a hug and then I left. This is where it doesn’t seem right. This is the part that really messes with my heart and my head. Tug of war. Is that it? Isn’t there more I can do or should do? How do I process this experience?  How do I comprehend what I just witnessed in this village?

My heart takes a picture. I walk away but Samuel stays in my heart and my prayers. God understands my facts vs. feelings tug of war. He gets me and all my many struggles.

Samuel means “God has heard”. I must trust that Almighty God has heard. He has heard and He cares and He loves Samuel so very much.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

 

 

 

light wins

 Light finds its way in the darkness. Light wins over darkness. Always.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV)

Darkness will not prevail in this dark, 1-room home on a sunny afternoon in Arusha, Tanzania. Not this day. Today is a home visit. I am blessed to be welcomed into my sponsored child’s home.

I am invited in and we visit together as friends do. Chit chatting through translators. When you visit someone’s home in Tanzania, it is proper to bring a gift of food. I present the food box filled with flour, rice, oil and tea. (No sugar due to the shortage here.) I bring a doll, too because every little girl should have a doll.

I ask if they have any of my letters. Hoping they have kept some, of course. But unsure where they would find space to keep anything not truly essential. The young, unwed mother quickly retrieves a large envelope. Out spills a historical timeline of love and encouragement and hope. Very essential after all. My heart smiles.

image

How will we see the love letters in the darkness? Light breaks through. A beam of light pierces the darkness. Light and love always find a way. I am thankful.

We review together. Her beside me. She is the reason for these letters. She is the reason I write.

When I put a letter in the mail or submit one online through Compassion International, I assume my communications will find their way safely to her. But to have this precious child sitting beside me in her humble home with the letters on my lap, it is a holy and happy moment indeed.

I say to my guides, “Translate please. Tell them what this means to me and how it makes my heart so full of joy.” My tears are drowning my words.

She points to a picture of me attached to a letter from last year. ‘Yes, that’s me. But I am here now. I am right here.’ Together we see the pictures of the wintertime snows and the summertime butterflies.  Remember?

Then I unpack her letters that I have carried across many miles to show that I save hers.  Truly essential to me too. I savor every word, every simple picture drawn by her small hands.

Our love deepens.  A beautiful connection is forged in that tiny spotlight, sitting side by side. In the darkness, the letters are illuminated. Love shines through; my love for her and her family and Christ’s unconditional love for all of us. In that small beam of light, I feel the warmth of God’s love shining on us as I take her hand in mine.

“For I was once in darkness, but now I am the light of the Lord. Help me live as a child of His Light.” paraphrase of Ephesians 5:8

Let’s Walk Worthy!

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