Category: Compassion (page 1 of 2)

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!

hello goodbye

Hello goodbye. All in one day; more like 8 short hours. Meeting my 3 sponsored children in Tanzania in a few days will be a fast and furious ride on the emotional roller coaster. Hello goodbye.image

The Hello time will be a joyous time. Everyone will be full of smiles and anxious nerves too. Hello time will be introductions and hugs. Can’t go wrong with a hug and a smile; they easily cross all language barriers. Hello time arrives with a very full heart and a very long list of questions for my new friends. Hello time will include bubbles. No better way to break the ice than blowing bubbles together.

Hello time will be their small hands in mine. Hello time will answer the question, “Why did I travel so far?” Two precious little girls and a handsome little boy will be the answers. Hello time will be tracing their precious hands on paper as a treasured keepsake. Hello time will be a flurry of taking pictures and silly selfies. Hello time will be sponge time; soaking up everything about each one of them and their lives.

Hello time will be time together: playing, swimming, laughing, eating. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do it together. Hello time will be blessing them with a backpack full of goodies. The doll and stuffed bear I selected many months ago will have little arms wrapped around them. The deflated soccer ball will be full of air and kicked around by little feet.

Hello time will be a very happy time.

Goodbye time will come too quickly.  Goodbye time will bring tears for me. Goodbye time will be whispering in their ears, “I love you so much.” Goodbye time will be believing they understand my words and my tears. Goodbye time will be processing the hard fact I won’t see them again on this earth.

Goodbye time will be taking one more picture and squeezing in one final hug . Goodbye time will be remembering God holds them tightly in His capable Hands as I let go. Goodbye time will be waving as their bus pulls away. Goodbye time will be giving thanks for the many memories. Goodbye time will be praying specifically for my new friends and their needs.image

Goodbye time will be praising God for gifting me with  His beloved children that He calls Hilda, Jackline and Goodluck.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

photo credits:

fortheloveofhellogoodbye.tumblr.com

www.pinterest.com

 

 

for the birds

I could hear the small waves of water hitting the deck. Glancing outside, I found the culprit. A chubby robin was enjoying an afternoon bath.  The rotund robin was standing in the shallow bird bath joyfully splashing away.

imageFor most birds, bathing  plays an important role in feather maintenance. My robin friend was just doing some feather maintenance. With age, I have developed an appreciation for body part maintenance too.

With the warmer temperatures, the bird bath has become a busy gathering place for my feathered friends. I am enjoying a wonderful variety of visitors: the brilliant blue of the blue jays, the bold yellow of the finches, the radical red of the male cardinals, and the bobbing black heads of the black-capped chickadees.  They come to wet their whistles and enjoy a drink-break from nest building and caring for their hatchlings. Some stay long enough for a quick dip too.

With the enjoyment of this ever-changing bird show comes the responsibility of keeping the bird bath filled with clean water. Although the birds do not seem to have a discriminating taste as to whether their bathing and drinking water is clean or dirty. But it is important to me that they enjoy clean water. So every other day, I fill a pitcher full of clean water and walk outside to refill the bird bath. If the bird bath is not clean, I take the time to clean it before filling it with fresh water. The neighbors have probably dubbed me the crazy bird-lady.

It is important to me that my visiting, colorful guests have access to clean water. If you have a pet, you probably feel the same way. But today as I was pouring the water into the bird bath, I thought about the children and adults around the world that do not have access to clean water. What about them? Isn’t it important for them to enjoy a cool drink on a warm day? Isn’t it important for them to enjoy a bath in clean water to help wash away the dirt of poverty?image

When something is in abundance, I tend to take it for granted. Clean water is all around me; everyday, everywhere. No matter where I go, I can find clean water and a working toilet. Not so for everyone. Around the world, 748 million people lack clean water. More than twice as many, a staggering 2.5 billon, lack basic sanitation facilities, according to the WHO and UNICEF. These numbers serve as harsh reminders as to the importance and urgency for the upcoming Cause Trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for clean water in Tanzania.

One month from today, our adventure begins. My husband and I will travel to Tanzania with the our soon-to-be-new friends and Compassion International. Honestly, many fears and doubts have clouded my original excitement and giddiness about this trip. Why are we doing this? But when I take a drink of cold, clean water, I am reminded. When I enjoy the luxury of a warm, running shower and a flushing toilet, I am reminded. As I witness the birds enjoying clean water, I am definitely reminded. Clean water isn’t just for the birds; it is for everyone.

If you want to join in the cause for clean water in Tanzania, please click here

Thanks!

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

The Box

IMG_0562

She balanced the box steadily with great confidence. Obviously, she had done this before.  It had just rained, but her footing was sure and determined. It was not the man’s job to carry the box;  this was her role and she was the pro. The women transport their water containers and baskets with graceful harmony daily; they are my heroes.

We were walking through a rural area to visit a home in Tanzania with Compassion International.  Compassion practices hospitality. They donate a box of goodies to each home visited. The box contains bags of rice and beans; cooking oil and other staples.

It was a privilege to be welcomed into the modest home. There were no hesitations at the differences in our skin colors or our confusing languages. Nope. Just excited to get to know one another and become friends through the help of translators. There was time for questioning and answering. There was time for laughing, crying and praying – together. God is always the closest at these most precious times.

At the end of our visiting time, we presented the box. Their sincere gratitude and appreciation was humbling. Asante sana (thank you very much in Swahili)

After hugs and good byes, our group traveled back to the buses. I walked with a Pastor who had accompanied us. I chattered about the box and how it was such a blessing to the family. Pastor Joseph wisely responded that it really wasn’t about what was in the box; it was the love behind the box. The box was a reminder to the family (usually a mother and several young children) that they were loved. The box spoke loudly of love and acceptance. It was given without any expectations; the box was a love gift.

Love. Everything in life always circles back to love.  Love circles from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb.  Love circles from the valleys of my darkest sins to the mountaintops full of His forgiveness and grace.

My box experience took place in March 2014. At the end of May, I will return to Tanzania. I am looking forward to two very special home visits; those of my Compassion children. When the boxes are presented, I will joyfully look beyond the rice and beans to see the brilliance of God’s love behind the box. Asante sana

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

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