Tag: Compassion International (page 1 of 2)

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.

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)

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!

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