Tag: Compassion International (page 1 of 2)

mirror mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall…..

Looking at mirrors with my 4-month old grandson entertains both of us. We point and giggle as we discover who is looking back at us. We talk (Ok, I talk) about the cute little boy in the mirror. I see new life with fresh potential. All things are possible. Prayerfully, this little guy will grow into a Godly man as well as a kind and loving husband and father.  Endless possibilities stare back at us.  Mirrors offer hope of somedays full of what ifs. Mirrors are the launching pad of amazing dreams.

Last year in Tanzania, I stood in front of new mirrors with Neema and her two friends. (Neema is the girl on the left, smiling from her hoodie.) I snapped this picture at their Compassion Center as I toured the new sanitation project filled with flushing toilets, running water, and shiny mirrors. Was this the first time they saw their reflection? Possibly.

Walking through the facility with Neema and her friends, we paused in front of the new  mirrors. I encouraged them to see the beauty of the girls smiling back at us. Could they see how God created them, each so unique and precious? Could they see what I saw?

Were they able to see a bright future? Could they see into tomorrow or next month or next year? Could they see beyond the poverty of their surroundings? Whom did they see? A future teacher, pastor, or doctor?

Neema and I connected during my visit; she never left my side. At the end of the day, I left her with a big hug and a pack of colored pencils.  I also tried to leave her with a hope-infused vision. Keep looking in the mirror and seeing a brighter future. Keep looking and seeing God’s immense love.  I pray she sees herself for all she is to God; His wonderful and perfect creation!

Mirror, mirror on the wall,  Who is the fairest one of all?   Neema, my grandson, and all of God’s beautiful children

 

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.

 

 

 

 

pray like it matters

While in Tanzania, my itinerary included a visit to the country office on Friday morning.  As we drove toward the office, my guide informed me that Friday was prayer day. He said it with an enthusiastic anticipation that I usually reserve for a planned shopping trip with dinner and ice cream afterwards. He knew what was coming and he was looking forward to it.

Compassion International battles poverty in 26 countries, working through 26 unique in-country offices. So on Friday morning, we headed to Tanzania’s country office which is located in the city of Arusha.  The plan was to join the staff for morning devotions before heading out to visit a Compassion Center nearby.

The Compassion staff gathers for devotions every morning. However, Friday mornings are special because they are devoted to prayer. So after a time of worshipping God through singing, we got busy praying.  We prayed and then we prayed some more.  We prayed corporately and we prayed privately as some of the Staff sought a quiet place in the room.  Some prayed standing, some kneeling. We paired off and prayed with a partner. If there was a way to pray; we found it and we prayed!

During corporate prayer, we prayed for a country where Compassion is currently serving approximately 137,000 children. This country is facing questions from the government about their program. Will Compassion be asked to leave this country? What would become of the children? Such heavy burdens.

We  prayed for the sponsors. Yep, we prayed for you and me (if you are a sponsor). I was humbled. Then these questions popped into my brain: Why are you praying for me?  Why are you praying for sponsors?  None of us live in or near extreme poverty that exists right outside this office door.  That didn’t matter. I was prayed for and all the sponsors were prayed for.

When it was time to pray with a partner, I looked around for my guide. Partnering and praying with my guide seemed like a comfortable choice. But he had moved to the back of the room during the private prayer time. Nearby, a tall lady with a warm smile looked my way. Yes, let’s pray together. So we stood, faced each other and joined hands.  And we prayed. IMG_9568

What struck me most was how she prayed; how everyone in that room prayed. They prayed like it mattered. They prayed like they knew God was in the room, standing amongst us.  They prayed boldly and with authority.  They prayed like they knew their prayers made a difference. They prayed like they knew God was actually listening.

They rocked my prayer world.  Do I pray like it matters? Not usually. Do I pray expecting God to answer? Uh….maybe sometimes.

Sadly, I have to admit that my approach to prayer is very vanilla and lightweight.  When I take the time to pray, I lob softballs to God. I use the excuse that I am just too busy to really pray. But I make time to check Facebook and play cookie jam on my phone. That must make God sad too.

Recalling that day, I realize what an honor and privilege it was to spend time in prayer with my Tanzanian brothers and sisters. They taught me so much as they demonstrated how important prayer is to them and their work. They know they serve a Big God and they talk with Him openly and honestly – like it matters.

A little bit of Heaven moved that Friday morning because God was listening.

Pray like it matters, because it does.

 

Let’s Walk Worthy!

photo credit: dailyverses.net

 

 

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!

 

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!

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!

 

Goodluck

What are little boys made of?  According to the popular 19th century English nursery rhyme, “Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails.”  Growing up with three sisters and raising two daughters, I am mostly ignorant about little boys in general.  They are a mystery to me. I understand dolls, playing house, and doing our hair and nails.  But in a few months, I will have the opportunity to spend time with a very special little boy, Goodluck. Time to learn about what makes little boys tick!

Goodluck lives in Tanzania, Africa. My husband and I are blessed to be in his life by sponsoring him through Compassion International. image

Developing a relationship through letter-writing is a challenge with a 4-year-old  boy. I imagine Goodluck would rather spend his time playing and not answering questions and I don’t blame him. From past correspondences, I know he loves football (soccer). His time at his Compassion Center would involve some play time and that is what little boys enjoy the most: playing (so I am told).

I envision him trying hard in football games but getting overpowered by the older boys. His time will come though.  Just keep trying, Goodluck!

When we meet him, he may be hesitant and quiet; that is to be expected. We hope to break down some barriers with a gift of a soccer ball. Will that bring a smile to his face? We hope so. We would love to bless him with some sneakers too! That would help him with running and jumping and playing! Little boys need sneakers, right?

While my husband and the rest of the Blood, Sweat and Compassion Team trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I am privileged to be able to spend more time with Goodluck.

I have the opportunity to visit his home and meet his grandmother and grandfather who are his guardians. It will be an honor to be welcomed into their home and spend time getting to know each other. Two very different worlds under one roof.  With the help of an interpreter, I will express my love and support for all of them. I will ask how I can pray for them. I will try to answer any questions they have for me.

This will be very precious time spent together. Sitting together, sharing about our lives. (The goose bumps are starting already.) Everything becomes so much more personal when we gather in each other’s homes. Less pretense; more reality. Where do they get their water? What meals do they enjoy? How does Goodluck help around the home? How is their health? Do they know Jesus and do they attend the local church?

I will be humbled and ashamed too. Humbled by their hospitality and friendliness; ashamed of my excessive, American lifestyle. I bet there will be tears. I will leave a different and changed person. I came, I saw, I loved. There is no going back after that.

Another day, I am scheduled to be at Goodluck’s Compassion Center held in the local church on Saturdays. I will get to see him in action! There will be singing and dancing! I may be brave and join in as we joyfully praise our Same God. Will I see him battling for the football during play time? If so, I will be his very loud and enthusiastic cheerleader. Go, Goodluck!!image

Goodluck turns 5 soon after we depart. I will leave him with a gift and this special card made just for him. (Thanks, Kathy Jo! You are awesome.)

Being so young, Goodluck may not remember this visit. But I will never forget it. When I take his little hand in mine, I will thank God for this precious little boy and I will know exactly what he is made of: Love.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

 

My Michelangelo

IMG_5806Mira lo que dibuje para ti   (Look what I drew for you)

IMG_5811I have a little Michelangelo who blesses me with his artwork. I love opening his letter and seeing his latest drawing – an original from the artist himself!

How beautiful and made just for me!

My Michelangelo is only 7 years old and lives on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. I may be a little biased but look out Sistine Chapel!

In my letters, I praise him and encourage him to keep drawing, coloring and creating! I have been neatly filing his artwork in a folder (in an attempt to take care of it) and that folder has been going on a shelf. Now I am realizing these masterpieces don’t belong hidden in a folder on a shelf. Art should be displayed for all to enjoy and appreciate especially this beautiful art made by such a precious artist!

What if when my holiday guests gather at the table, they look down to see a laminated placement featuring these pictures? Someone is going to ask a question. Art fuels questions and conversations. When the question arises,  “Who is the artist?” I can proudly say, “I know him well. Let me tell you about him and how you can help other budding artists around the world.”

What about designing a small card with the artwork on the cover and additional information on the back about Compassion International? There are lots of possibilities to showcase my little Michelangelo’s work. The story behind his life in Peru and his artwork  are both too important to be put away for safe keeping.

IMG_5817

So let’s display the creations of our Leonardo’s and Mary Cassatt’s.

Let’s look for ways to start conversations about our artists and see how God leads.

Stink, Stank, Stunk!

November 22, 2015

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Balloons are so much fun, right? Everyone loves a balloon! They are colorful and can be twisted into fun animal shapes. Balloons usually signal a celebration, a party, definitely a fun time! Children, especially, love balloons. Give a young child a balloon and you made a happy friend! IMG_5565

In October, I was blessed to be able to serve with Compassion International in the Dominican Republic. At 2 Compassion Centers, we  interacted with the precious children through 4 Bible School stations:  Worship, Bible Lesson, Activities, and Crafts. I volunteered to lead the Craft Team and had super support from the Team. Generous individuals volunteered to fill any remaining space in their suitcases with glue sticks, markers, pipe cleaners, coffee filters, wiggle eyes, and  lots more.

We organized all the crafty supplies into one suitcase and  we were ready to go! This is going to be fun!  The children, divided into age groups,  rotated to the 4 different stations throughout the day. The Craft Team  had an ideal location, I thought. We could glue and create under a nice shaded area with picnic tables. However, a large generator was loudly running which required us to scream the instructions to the children. Thankfully, someone eventually pulled the plug and the screaming stopped.

For one rotation cycle, we had a large group of 4-year-olds coming our way. They marched proudly towards the picnic tables where the creative magic was to happen.

But wait! What were they carrying? Balloons? Really? Who gave them balloons? We want names and there will be revenge! How will we get their attention?  Our butterfly coloring pages can’t compete with a balloon!  Now what will we do?

In retrospect as the leader, I made a bad decision.  Yep, we took the balloons from them.  Nicely. We tried to nicely take the balloons from their little hands. Have you ever tried to take a balloon from a child? Don’t. It was just one of my many moments of insanity. We promised them in English that we would hold the balloons for them until the craft activity was finished.  It didn’t matter which language we spoke or which language they understood, all that mattered was what they were experiencing: strangers were taking their balloons! Grinch had nothing on us. Now, hand over the balloons! th3MKVA464

There were many confused little faces, even some tears.  The children loved their balloons; maybe it was the first balloon they ever received.

Then with all the handling of the balloons between the children and the mean strangers (yes, it gets worse), the balloons did what balloons tend to do. They POPPOP-POP-POP The loud “pops”  scared the children, which brought tears. Then when they realized they no longer had a balloon, more tears. Yeah, we stink, stank, stunk!

What a disaster! How did this go so wrong so fast? We had pure intentions. We wanted  to bless the children with a fun creative craft that tied in with our Bible School theme.  Our hearts’ desire was to bless them and love them, not make them cry.

When this young group eventually moved onto their next station (Hey, Bible Lesson Team, good luck with the balloons during your lesson!), some with their balloon back in their hands- the few that survived this terrible ordeal. But some of the children left holding the remaining pieces of latex and a butterfly coloring page. They cared more about the pieces of latex.

If I had a redo, what would I do? Just enjoy the balloons. Just play with the children. Just cause smiles, not tears.

But God knew our hearts. He knew what we had intended to do.  I am very thankful God knew our hearts so I could sleep that night and not take up drinking.  He knew we meant no harm.

Luke 16:15 “….God knows your heart.”                Acts 15:8 “God, who knows the heart….”

God knew we didn’t try to stink, stank, stunk. And that will have to do.

Note to self: Do not take a balloon away from a child.

Keep walking and take a balloon with you,

Krista

 

Older posts