Tag: Compassion

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)

 

flashback

One year ago.

Flashback:  June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania                 

How much love can a heart hold? When blessed with the opportunity to love deeper and wider, my heart expanded just like my elastic waistband pants.  As the youngest and poorest surrounded me in Karatu, Tanzania,  I freely loved and kept loving. As the Grinch’s heart grew 3 times bigger on Mt. Crumpit, mine enlarged with each wonderful encounter.

 While my husband and his Compassion International teammates climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I loved the children everywhere I went. Each day was a holy appointment with Jesus’ favorite people: children. Back from a trip to a squatty potty, I veered off the path to visit with  children gathered around a rusty swing set. I bent low,  lifted up a child, and loved. These children were not part of the Compassion program. They needed a bath and love. They were dressed in ragged clothing and were perfectly wonderful.  My heart shifted into overdrive.

Flashback: June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania     

Surrounded by precious children; giggling and ready to be loved. I soaked in their love. I touched their faces and kissed their foreheads. We laughed together as I rubbed and rubbed convincing them my skin really is this color. Loving and laughing: what every childhood should be filled with.

Then they sang to me. Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. These small twinkling stars standing in the dusty earth of Tanzania sang about far off shining lights. Worlds apart but the same twinkling lights. I clapped enthusiastically during my private concert; thrilled and honored to be here.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky. Do they know they are more precious than diamonds? Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. 

 

Flashback: June 4, 2016       Arusha, Tanzania                      

My husband enjoyed spectacular views from above the clouds, trekking to 19, 341 feet at the summit.  A step closer to Heaven, perhaps. But my eyes beheld beauty of a different sort, yet no less amazing. Beautiful faces dotted with bright and kind eyes. An offer to hold their small hands, to touch and to know love. I reached out and connected. A perfect fit. Love never lets go.

 

Flashbacks, always reminding me.  Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Your Smile

See if you can name the song with these lyrics.

Advantage to the 40+ crowd.

When I see you smile, I can face the world,

Oh, you know I can do anything.

When I see you smile, I see a ray of light

Oh, I see it shining right through the rain.

When I see you smile, Baby when I see you smile at me.

When I See You Smile” was a #1 hit released by Bad English, an American/British rock band, on September 16, 1989. This song popped into my head when one of my sponsored children asked an awesome question.

Angel, my sponsored child from Mexico, wondered, “Why did you choose me?”

I didn’t have to think hard or ponder long, “Why did I choose him?I knew exactly why. So I wrote him and told him…..

It was your smile 🙂 

Angel’s smile. It is beautiful and pure. It melts my heart. It makes me smile; almost  giggle. ME1470100-Fullshot-200wIt causes me to want to write more  and advocate more and shout from the roof tops that there are more  children waiting. It reminds me to pray more. It encourages me to count my blessings more. It fuels my resolve to “keep on, keeping on” for all the children. It is a ray of light shining through the rain.

When I open my Bible (hopefully daily), I see Angel’s bookmark that I received with his packet. I see his picture with his smiling face. I see him smiling back at me and I smile! Yay! I love it! The tremendous love I have for this smiling, precious boy whom I have never met is of God and by God. That is so cool and goose-bumpy!

Why was he chosen? What a great question! Does Angel see other children who are not chosen? Does he have friends or neighbors who have been waiting and waiting to be chosen? How do children process all these difficult emotions?

Has your sponsored child asked you this question? Do you remember what drew you in and filled your heart? And from that moment, you just knew this child would be a member of your family? Was it their name, their birthdate, or perhaps their amazing smile? I would love to hear your reason of why.

When I see Angel smile, I am ready to face the world again.

 

Make it Special

Some of my most memorable birthdays are not  about a specific gift but about a specific feeling. I felt special. On my special day, I felt very special. That was a great feeling as a child. That is what has stuck with me. Not a gift that I eventually  outgrew or broke. But the lasting feeling of “I am special. ” Isn’t that how we should feel on our birthdays? The God of the universe created each one of us unique and special. I am His Handiwork and that makes me extremely special.

Psalm 139: 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Money was tight growing up but my mother always made sure to make our birthdays  special. I am the third of four girls. I am not the oldest or the baby. I was just “one of the middle” girls. Pretty easy not to feel special.

My birthday is in the fall which meant I even had to go to school, most years, on my birthday. But when I got home and finished my chores, I knew I could count on a special dessert. Following  our evening  meal,  I was tickled to be presented with my very own perfect-size birthday cake! While my sisters and I were at school and not underfoot, my mother had time to bake. She creatively used  3 small round aluminum pans from our play kitchen set. She stirred up some chocolate  cake batter and spooned it carefully  into the  greased and floured tiny cake pans.

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(The remaining batter was  put in a regular-size cake pan for my regular, non-birthday, non-special siblings.  zing-zing) When the toothpick came out clean, she knew they were ready. She carefully extracted them  and  stacked them one on top of the other. Then the creation was covered with vanilla icing and topped with one candle. Yummy! It was my very own special, tiny 3-tiered cake! I was special indeed.  A special cake for my special day. God created me special and my mother did this small thing to make sure I felt special.

Around the world, children’s birthdays come and go and they don’t know how  special they are.  Poverty gets in the way. But TODAY is a very special day for a young boy or girl because it is their birthday!  TODAY a birthday child is waiting to feel special and loved. YOU can help by clicking here Happy Birthday

TODAY you are changing a child’s life on his/her birthday! How cool is that? That is special cool!

A Joyful Walk Part 2

October 23, 2015

Dear fellow travelers,

What a joyful mailbox day part 2! I reached in to find 2 letters! One from our little boy, Goodluck, and our little girl, Hilda. They both live in Tanzania and attend the same Center.  But, wait, there is more……I also received a packet of information on  the latest addition to our family. A handsome young man named Wilmer from El Salvador. We will be corresponding with him. As his correspondent, we have the privilege of exchanging letters and developing a relationship with him. We  encourage him, shower love on him,  and share Bible verses with him. We are not his sponsors though. I love that Compassion gives this option. Some corporations or individuals are not letter-writers. No problem! They find people who are! So a big welcome to Wilmer!! He just celebrated his 12th birthday and his picture is already up on our wall. I have requested additional correspondent children so perhaps there will be more surprises in my mailbox very soon.

You may not think letter-writing is very important to your child. But I am telling you…..it is HUGE! If you ever have the opportunity to go on a sponsor trip, you will witness how the  children and parents value each and every letter as a precious gift. They truly do! On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, we were welcomed into a home of a single mom. She has 4 children. The two oldest girls are both in the Compassion program. One receives letters from her sponsor and proudly produced them for us to view. The other one does not receive any letters. She is 14 years old and that speaks volumes to her. She cried as the translator shared with us how sad she was. Why did her sister receive letters on a regular basis but she did not? Was there something wrong with her? Oh the immense hurt and pain in those tears!

Wrapping up our visit and upon returning to the Center, our group decided to take action. We decided that we will write letters to that young lady ourselves. We grabbed paper and pen and with the help of our amazing translator began pouring out our love and encouragement! (The representative from the Center would hand deliver them for us.) This precious child of God would know how  much she is loved.

So write, write, write.  The children, of all ages, matter and so do your letters!

A Joyful Walk

Walking to get my mail at my mailbox is part of my daily routine.  I may be splashing through rain puddles or plodding through  snow depending upon the season. Currently, I  am enjoying the colorful display of fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet.  Opening my mailbox and finding a cream-colored envelope with blue lettering from Compassion, always brings a smile to my face.  Who wrote to me? Is it from our dear little Israel in Peru or precious Angel in Mexico?  Perhaps it is from one of our children in Tanzania?

What news did they want to share with me? Are they well? Are they safe? How are they doing in school? How is their family? What news has traveled many miles and now I hold in my hands?  What will I learn about this special child? What prayer needs will be revealed? With my envelope in hand, this is no longer a routine walk, but a joyful walk!  I have the privilege of connecting and developing a relationship with a child and his/her family somewhere far beyond my zip code.  Exchanging letters with our Compassion children, moves our relationship from merely sponsorship into a deeper friendship. When you sponsor a child with Compassion (check out the link in  “Their Walk”), you too can experience a joyful walk from your mailbox when that cream-colored envelope with blue lettering arrives. Oh Happy Day! IMG_4913