Category: Compassion (page 1 of 3)

the horse rider

As the chickens strutted around our feet, we introduced ourselves to the mother and her three sons. Jorge,  (pronounced Hor-hay) was enrolled in the local Compassion project. Under the warm Mexican sun, our lives intertwined as we listened, prayed, and enjoyed their chickens, turkeys, and Jorge’s pet turtle.

Through our interpreter, Jorge shared his dream to be a horse rider. We questioned if he meant a jockey. No, a horse rider or cowboy (vaquero). Life atop a horse appealed to this young man.

When asked about his experience at the Compassion project, Jorge ran and returned with his Bible. His name printed in large letters down its spine.

With his permission, we circled verses. We took Jorge’s Bible in our hands and recalled verses of love, hope, and second chances. Ink around Holy Words that carried us through challenges and tough times.

Tammy, a California sweetheart, shared 2 Corinthians 5:7, For we live by faith, not by sight. Her childhood engrained in her, “If you can’t see, you can’t believe. Not true these days as I follow the Lord. It is an amazing verse for me.”

Bronwyn, my author-friend from Arizona, circled the twelfth chapter of Romans. “For me, that chapter began a life-changing turn in my life.”

My pen landed at Romans 15:13, my life verse. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” A hope-infused verse I claimed during dark days when tears flowed often. I signed my name and added, Jesus te ama (Jesus loves you).

We poured ourselves onto the thin pages. Our stories written in the Book filled with His Story.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

The ink-marked verses stand as reminders for Jorge. Visual reminders of a Sunday morning when strangers visited his family and his pet turtle. And circled words highlighted God’s love for a little horse rider.

beauty remains

I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. ~ Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

We  unwrapped the fragile ocean jewel and placed it in front of him. A delicate sand dollar with five tiny doves hidden inside. Our sponsored child, Angel, wrote of his dream to visit the ocean so we carried the beauty of the ocean to him.

As we presented our gifts to Angel,  we witnessed pure joy. In this age of beeping gadgets, simple pleasures widened his eyes and broadened his smile. Beauty is found in the eyes of the beholder and Angel’s eyes found beauty in everything. Our time together felt like Christmas morning filled with wonder and amazement.

With a small air pump used to inflate his soccer ball, he blew air at our faces. Giggles erupted. Pleased with those results, he shot a blast of air into an empty candy wrapper and squealed as it sailed through the air.

We blew bubbles together. When my husband captured one on the wand, Angel studied it as a true wonder of life. A shimmering delicacy. Then he popped it and a chain reaction of laughter began.

For six hours, we experienced the beauty of life through Angel’s eyes. Fun and new; bright and hopeful. Then Angel turned toward the sound of children running and kicking a ball. Our trinkets and treasures provided amusement. But we couldn’t give him what those children had: use of his legs. The moment passed. His smile returned; his resiliency rebounded. Angel, you are our hero.

One glorious day it will be different. With Jesus as his Forever Friend, Angel will walk, run, hop, skip, and jump around Heaven. No handicaps or limitations. No wheelchair; nothing to hold him back. When Angel takes his first step, it will be the most beautiful sight indeed.

How weary we grow of our present bodies. That is why we look forward eagerly to the day when we shall have heavenly bodies that we shall put on like new clothes. 2 Corinthians 5:2 (TLB)

Angel taught us to enjoy life’s simple pleasures: seashells, air pumps, and bubbles. Through his eyes, he reminded us to see beauty not misery.

campfire communion

We came in search of heat and sweet treats: roasted marshmallows. I squatted in the dirt beside the small fire. In his wheelchair, a Mickey Mouse blanket warmed Angel’s legs. He watched as the flames transformed the marshmallow into darkened goodness.

I slid the melted glob off the stick and offered it to Angel. I opened my mouth to demonstrate, comer (eat). After some hesitation, he dived in. The sugary sweetness and stickiness delighted his senses. When it was time to clean up, I volunteered to help.

With a wet wipe, I washed Angel. Gently, I took his face in my hands. His eyes revealed his trust. I wiped away the marshmallow remains from his brown skin. I held his small hands in mine and cleaned 10 little fingers inspecting between each one. Beside a small fire on a Mexican mountaintop, a campfire communion.

A sticky marshmallow shared instead of bread. With no water or basin, wet wipes washed little hands and a smiling face. I cleaned and cared for Angel with love. Holy, honoring, and humbling as the flames flickered before us. In this remote place, two worlds, two generations, two languages collided in the sacredness of communion. Serve like Christ, care like Christ, and love like Christ.

Our sponsor day ended. Sorrowful adioses echoed through the pines. I retreated to my bus and Angel to his. We traveled back to our lives, forever changed and forever connected.

When I take the bread and drink the cup, I will recall the precious time spent with Angel. Where roasted marshmallows and wet wipes, when offered in love, represented the heart of Christ. Where I experienced the intimacy of His Great Love, beside a campfire on a Mexican mountaintop.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 (NIV)

preparation

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is deflated soccer balls, bubbles, crayons, and Spanish lessons on You Tube. Hola, me llama Krista and Jesus te ama. Preparation week culminates with a Chipotle burrito and a Walmart run for play-doh and Pepto Bismol.

Evidence of months of preparation surround me. Clothes, shoes, and personal items packed amongst a collection of toys. Final preparation for our visit to meet Angel, a special little boy in Mexico. Angel is confined to a wheelchair but has a contagious smile.

With suitcases packed and checklists accomplished, I pause to consider a deeper level of preparation. Is my heart ready?

Lord, prepare me. Prepare my heart to love. Prepare me to be a blessing. Prepare me to love my bothers and sisters with a heart like Yours. 

As Simon Peter requested a total-body cleansing, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9 NIV), I seek complete-body prep work.

Prepare all of me, Lord.

Prepare my hands to grasp little fingers. Prepare my eyes to see the lonely and encircle them with love. Prepare my feet to travel where poverty lives and offer hope. Prepare my voice for giggles and prayers. Prepare my mind for the lessons You have for me. 

When I kneel beside Angel’s wheelchair, prepare me to communicate a love he feels and understands. Prepare and bless our time together. May our gifts keep his smile burning bright. Prepare words of hope and encouragement to his family members. Then prepare me for my final good-bye and hug. Yes, Lord, please prepare me. 

I’ve spent 5 months sharpening the ax, now it’s time to go cut down the tree. Jesus te ama. Adios. 

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)

Due to this trip, my next posting will be Thursday, January 25th.

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.

 

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