Sunday, December 18, 2011

Subtle Advocacy

I'm a Compassion Advocate.  So what, right?  I hesitated to become an Advocate because in spite of the fact that I'm a teacher, I don't like speaking to large groups.  Actually, it's worse than that - I panic.  (Teaching is different. It's sort of like being a singer or actress who is shy but has no problem taking the stage.)

The school where I work is currently moving to a new building (yes, in the midst of the school year).  I now work as technology integrator/tech support, so it's my responsibility to make sure all the technology is set up and ready for the teachers to teach the first day after Christmas break.  Besides computers, we have SMART boards, SMART document cameras, and SMART slates.

I found a Ning network for SMART users.  When I completed my profile for it, I included this blog as my website.  I almost changed it because this is not a technology blog, but I thought maybe I could reach someone on that site.

The next morning, I awoke to a message from another member of that Ning network who is also a Compassion sponsor.  He read my post about letter writing and said that it was a slap in the face for him because his family sponsors two children through Compassion and two more through another organization, and he might have written four letters EVER.  He has decided to write once a month and work up to twice a month by summer and asked me to hold him accountable.  I cried.

I am so excited for those children.


That day when I went to work, I told my partner that story.  She and I share webmaster responsibilities for our school, but only one person can get the stipend, so my plan was to give her cash when I get half the stipend at the end of January.  She said that she had been intending to tell me that she wants her half to go to Compassion because she and her family don't really need anything, but the Compassion children do.  I cried again.

Those are two of the best Christmas gifts I could ever receive.


If you feel that you need to write more often, check the Compassion website where you will find a great letter writing tool with really fun stationery.  You can even upload pictures.

Do you want to sponsor a child?  Click here.  It will change your life.

Cute from Colombia


I received a letter this week from Alberto in Colombia.  The letter is about his family, so he drew a picture of his siblings.
I love the babies, and I love the special features on his sisters.  LOL.
Alberto is only 7, but he's quite good at drawing.  Maybe one day he will be a famous artist.


A Blessing from Mexico


This is Isaac and his mom.  Esta es Isaac y su mamá.

I sent Isaac a family gift a few months.  I feel a special desire to help him since I learned that his family is part of an indigenous Mexican tribe that is discriminated against.  His father has to work in another place because he cannot find work locally.  Isaac always asks me to pray for his father; I thought it was just because he didn't like for his father to be gone.  But I've learned that those from the indigenous tribes who seek work elsewhere are treated badly, so Isaac is actually concerned for his father's safety.  (I guess I feel a special desire to help each child for a reason unique to that child.)

I've also learned that children are not valued in Isaac's culture, so I would like to give Isaac a big, fat hug.  I try to do that through my letters and gifts.

When I received the letter with this picture, I cried.  I have been sponsoring Isaac for two years (he was my first), but it still amazes me to think that my support can help a child and his family so far away from me.  I am astounded to think that I actually purchased those items for them.  And I'm quite impressed that they obviously have electricity in their home.  That makes me happy.

The amount of money I sent would not have purchased all those items, or even half, in this country.  So think about sending family gifts and see how much it blesses you.  It will do so much for the children and their families.
  
I can imagine the women of the village gathering at Isaac's house for coffee.  :)

Last Minute Gifts?

Gifts of Compassion
So . . . Christmas is in one week.  Don't you get stressed and sometimes even frustrated while trying to find a gift that's "good enough" for people who need nothing?  For instance, I bought a Coach coin purse for my niece.  I shop on Amazon, so I didn't pay full price, but it still wasn't cheap.  Yet it looks like a wimpy gift to me.  I wonder if it will be good enough.  She has so much.
 

Well, I have a solution - Gifts of Compassion.  For that same niece, and for others on my "list," I also purchased several items from the Gifts of Compassion catalog.  I mean, I purchased the gifts in honor of those people, gifts that will go to those who have no need for a coin purse of any brand because they have no coins.

If you're still looking for gifts, Gifts of Compassion is the perfect choice.  You can print the cards at home that you will give to those you honor with your purchase, and you can help those who really, really are in need.  What better way to celebrate the birth of the Messiah than to give to those who are hungry and thirsty?  In doing so, you are giving to Him.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Smile - Una Sonrisa

My friend's sweet son, Champion Smiler
I love to make people smile - especially children.
This week at work (a middle school in Virginia Beach), I was able to make a special boy smile.  He had been given an HP mini laptop by Assistive Technology, but the lady who gave it to him had not logged off.
Keeping with the brilliant design of Windows, a person cannot log into the computer in Windows 7 if someone else is logged on.  I can log off users at my school, but not from the AT Department.
The boy was given the laptop because he is visually impaired.  He's a sixth grader, so it's his first year at the school.  He was quite concerned because he wasn't able to log on, and the laptop is loaded with software, including large print textbooks, that he needs for school. When I was able to get the computer to the log in screen for him, he looked at me with one of those sweet smiles that only a child can give.  Wow.  It must have been such a relief for him to have what he needed to be able to function.
That made me think about my children (what doesn't?) and how they must feel when they receive a gift from me, even something as small as a sheet of stickers.  I so often wish I could be there to see them open the cards and letters, but even more to see them shop for their birthdays with the money I send.
I have two pictures of Michelle smiling because of gifts she received, and I have a picture of Isaac smiling while standing in his mother's garden.  I look at those often because I can get a small glimpse of what my sponsorship - and especially my correspondence - can do for these children. 
I have those pictures hanging on my refrigerator, and I have copies of them at work, where I so often need a smile.
I want to keep sending smiles to my children, and one day . . . I want to see them smile in person.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

María Fernanda

I finally received a letter from María (not sure why she uses the accent there) only to find that she goes by her second name, Fernanda.  I should just begin calling my new Hispanic children by their second name because that always seems to be the case.
Fernanda lives in Honduras and is 14 years old.  (I feel like I should be typing all this in Spanish instead of English.  Ha!)
Her favorite food is three milk cake.  I think I would like to try that.  Sounds yummy.
Her favorite thing to do is to go shopping.  I love that!  I am reminded over and over that these children have the same interests and desires as other kids even though they live in poverty.  
She is my correspondence child, so I really hope that her financial sponsor sends her money for her birthday so that she may go shopping.  
I think Fernanda is beautiful and that she needs beautiful ribbons for her hair.  
Here is the very cool picture she drew for me.  I wish I could draw this well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From Owlhaven

This is an excerpt from the blog titled Owlhaven.  The post is called "Orphans, poverty, my place?"  Please read the entire entry on her blog.


I asked Shaun [Groves] how he wrestled with this issue.   Here’s what he wrote:
      “I battle the Schindler syndrome, yes  - struggling with not doing all that could be done, looking at even the smallest comfort in my house and wondering how many more could be saved if I did without it. How austere, how simple, how generous am I to be?
      “We sold our dream house and moved into one much smaller but many third world homes could fit inside its walls. We support a local food pantry and homeless mission with time and money but we still throw out leftovers and expired groceries. We sponsor three children and one college student through Compassion International but when I’m losing my battle with addiction we could sponsor a couple more with what I spend on morning soft drinks. We’ve adopted recently but we have space and love for many more.
    “I wish God gave us a program, some rules to follow when it comes to simplicity and generosity. To keep us from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism. But instead of a program God gave us a Person: Jesus. And all I know to do, Mary, is to spend time with Him, in real intimate relationship with Him and other Christians who know the details of my life –  regularly, constantly. And in that relationship to do much more listening and pleading for direction than I do talking. To prepare more than I plan. To create margins, leftover time and money and energy, so that I’m free and ready to give or go as He leads me.
      “A wise mutual friend of ours, Brian Seay, taught me that God’s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someone’s need and my ability. I stood in an Ethiopian orphanage looking into orphan eyes and found God’s leading there. I have an ability that matches their need. I had a neighbor who had a medical need but couldn’t afford to get treatment and I had extra in the bank that month – God was telling us something wasn’t He? And on and on we go, with hands and eyes open, looking and listening for the intersection of our ability and the needs of others.”
~~~~~~

This morning, it was raining very hard here in Virginia Beach, so hard that one section of 1-264 had eight feet of standing water!!  As I drove by one business on my way to work, saw a sprinkler system watering the lawn.  In the pouring rain.
My first thought was the children in developing countries who need that clean water for drinking, and it was being wasted on a saturated lawn.

That's how I think now that I'm a Compassion sponsor.  Would you consider becoming a sponsor?  Just click the graphic at the top.  Save a child's life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Writing Too Much? Seriously???

First, I wish I could post here every day, but time just does not allow.  Mothers often tell me that they wish they had the free time I have.  HA!  Not only is that a slap in my face, it's so not true.  Don't get me wrong, being a mom is tough and takes a ton of time, among other tons of things, but a lot of moms seem to have more time to work on blogs than I do, and I really do have important things to do even if I'm not a mom.


Anyway, that's my first soapbox.


Second is that I've been having a discussion, begun first by phone and continued online.  I called Compassion to inquire about a correspondence child.  I had heard nothing from her in the five months since she had been assigned to me, which is okay, except that I wanted to assure that I was still supposed to be writing to her.  In checking the records, the lady on the phone told me I write to my children too often.  She also gave me a rather lengthy explanation of letter timing, which I already know (I do sponsor more than one child).


Man, did I feel stupid!!!  I write to my children every week.  I used to write twice a month until Jack asked me to write more often because he felt so sad and lonely and wanted to get to know me better, so I began writing every week.  
Let me clarify a few things:

  1. My letters do not need to be translated because I write in Spanish, except for my boy in Haiti and my correspondence girl in Uganda.
  2. I do not always ask questions in my letters.  Many of them are to explain holidays and customs in the US.
  3. My letters are not long, except when I answer a child's letter.
  4. I often (like today) just send a card with a picture I've taken (usually of the Atlantic Ocean).
  5. My children thank me for writing to them so often.
  6. Jack says, "Sus cartas son hermosas."  "Your letters are beautiful."

Some people have said that my letters would be overwhelming to the children because there are so many.  So I asked myself, "If I were a child in poverty, and I received mail once a month, would I rather receive one letter or four?"  I don't know.  Somehow I just can't accept the "overwhelming" idea.


I have decided to be sure that I stick to short letters and to send cards perhaps twice a month without much more than a scripture and a reminder that I'm praying.  I also told the children that I do not expect them to answer every letter I send (just to make sure I'm not overwhelming them).


But I will not stop writing every week unless Wess Stafford himself knocks on my door and tells me to.  For one, I think the children would be hurt if they suddenly received fewer letters from me, and even more importantly, in all my prayer about this situation, I am confident that I am doing what God wants me to do with my letter writing frequency.


So that's my second soapbox.  I don't expect anyone else to write every week, but as an Advocate, if a sponsor asked me if writing every week is too much, I certainly wouldn't say it is.  These children need all the love they can get.


If you're a sponsor and you don't write for whatever reason, please read this post:
http://blog.compassion.com/the-real-ministry-of-child-sponsorship-lies-in-letter-writing/

Letters are important, even if you send too may of them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small Blessings

I like to listen to the Virginia Beach Police and Fire scanner online. Some people think I'm strange, but I like to know what's going on around me, and when I used to work at a school 30 minutes away, I listened to it on my iPhone as I drove home so that I would know if there were backups from accidents or other issues that I needed to avoid. 
Late last June as I was driving home, I listened as many rescue workers spent hours trying to save a girl whose leg had become caught in a boat propeller. As soon as I heard the call, I began praying for her, and I didn't stop praying until I heard that she was in the ambulance (with the propeller still in her leg) on her way to the hospital. This is the initial story: http://hamptonroads.com/2011/07/girl-rescued-propeller-va-beach-had-been-tubing
I didn't hear much more about it because her family wanted to shelter her.  I even saw a post on Facebook by either the above newspaper or a TV station asking for information about her.  That really angered me.  I mean, leave the poor girl alone!!
This weekend, I was thinking about her, and I was sort of disappointed that I would never know how she was doing.  (That may or may not be hypocritical.)
Today, a girl walked into my computer lab (I just transferred to this school) to get a new password.  She was wearing a boot on her left foot, so I asked her what happened.  She said, "I got my leg caught in a boat propeller."


Weighty pause to let your brain catch up.


She told me about the nerve damage she had sustained and the many surgeries she had endured.  But there she was, walking normally except for the limp from the boot.  I told her that I heard the call on the scanner and that I began praying for her as soon as I heard it and didn't stop until I knew she was safe.  I also told her that I had been thinking about her and was so happy to be able to meet her.  (She also mentioned that the media had stalked her home.  Errrr!!)
It wasn't until later that I realized I broke the law by talking to a student about prayer, but I hope, no matter what she believes, that what I told her makes a difference in her life.  
The look of surprise on her face when I said it makes me think it already has.
http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_news/va_beach/girl-injured-by-boat-prop-to-come-home


Monday, September 5, 2011

From Francis


I received a letter from Francis on Friday, which is perfect because I write to my children every Friday.  I've had a bit of an online discussion with other advocates about whether writing to my children every week is too much, but I just can't wrap my mind around "too much."  Since I write in Spanish, only two letters (Haiti and Uganda) need translated, and even if the children only receive letters once a month, I'm sure they love receiving four at a time instead of one or two.  Or none, which is tragic.  So I will continue to write every month until I know God wants me to stop . . . if that day ever arrives.
I did tell them in this week's letter that I don't expect them to write to me as often as I write to them.  Since Peru is reciprocal, I don't want Jack to feel obligated.  But Jack is the one who asked me to write more often, so I would never cut back on my letters to him.
Francis tells me about her little brother who was 9 months old when she wrote in May.  She said he has two teeth and smiles a lot.  :)  She really loves her little brother.  She also has two older sisters, and she is very sweet with them, too.
She said she is learning about working as a team and how that can help her to accomplish more.  She also has had a cough, but has syrup to help her with that.  Even though I don't want her to be ill, I like knowing that my sponsorship is providing her with that medical assistance.  She writes much more, but those are the highlights.  Her letters are always long for one so young.
I'm posting the picture she drew.  Her pictures are so detailed and always very happy.  I'm fairly sure she includes a butterfly in every drawing.
I love my Francis



My Lifelong Goal

I don't think I realized it until lately, but goal for my entire adult life has been to help children, including teenagers, know that they matter, that they are beautiful, that they never need doubt themselves.  My parents never said those things to me.  Actually, they called me a troublemaker and other names I wouldn't repeat anywhere, especially here.  That's probably one reason I have always avoided cursing, not because I think I'm better than others, but because of those memories.  But I digress.
As a teacher, I try very hard (not always successful) to encourage students and never to say anything that would make them feel bad about themselves (my heart breaks when I think of the times I have failed).
This weekend, I went to Walmart.  I never go to Walmart for several reasons, but I was close on Saturday, so I went.  I saw one of the little girls who was in my Vacation Bible School group in July.  I was so, so happy to see her again, and she smiled at me the entire time I talked with her. She has such a sweet spirit.  I told her what a great person she is, although she has parents who tell her that daily.
On Sunday, I worked at our church at what we called "Oasis Place After the Race."  The Rock and Roll Half Marathon was held here in Virginia Beach on Sunday, and since our church is right at the oceanfront, we are prevented from having our first two services.  So we set up an "oasis" where the runners and their families--and anyone else--could get food, water, prayer, communion, music, and best of all . . . the children could make pinwheels.  That was my job.  For two straight hours, I helped children make pinwheels.  Nonstop.  We were quite popular.
With every pinwheel, I did all I could to encourage each child about the good job he or she was doing, and to compliment the children on their appearance and their skill at following directions (so different from high school students!  Ha.).
I asked one little girl if anyone had ever told her she was pretty.  She said, "Yes," at which her mother chuckled.  I said, "Well, that's good because you are, and I want you to promise me that you will remember that for the rest of your life, no matter what."  She was probably only about three years old, but I do pray that somehow what I said to her will make a difference in a dark and lonely time later in her life.  Because we all have those times, don't we?
So that little rambling story pretty much tells the reason I am passionate about being a Compassion sponsor and a Compassion advocate.  I want children to feel loved and important.  Because they are.
One of the little girls who made a pinwheel

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Learned about Isaac

Isaac is the first Compassion child I sponsored.  Well, I actually began sponsoring him and Francis on the exact same day.
Even though he was only 8 when I began sponsoring him, he has always written his own letters.  (That's a bit unusual.)  The good thing about that is that now that I've learned un poco español, Isaac and I are on about the same level, so I like reading his letters without the translation.  (I can almost do that with the others, but not as completely as with his.)
At first, Isaac hardly wrote much.  I contributed that to his age and the fact that he was writing on his own.
Recently, I received this country newsletter.  If you are a Compassion sponsor, you have received similar newsletters about your children.  I find them very helpful in understanding the children and their lives.
In Isaac's case, I learned that he is a part of the indigenous tribes of Mexico and that the people of those tribes face discrimination from other Mexicans.
Isaac always asks me to pray for his father because he has to work in another place.  I know that many of my children live in areas where there is not much work to be found, and that their parents have to go elsewhere to find work, so I didn't consider that unusual.  I just thought Isaac understandably missed his father.
From this newsletter, I learned that when people from Isaac's culture have to go to other towns for work, they are often treated very badly, so it's not just that Isaac misses his papá, but he is concerned for his safety.
I also learned from this newsletter that children in Isaac's culture are not valued.  How heartbreaking!  For his birthday, he was given a pot, while my other children bought shoes, clothes, toys, and so on.  I couldn't understand why until I read this newsletter.  It also explains why Isaac didn't write much--he probably didn't think what he had to say was important to me.
Since I've gained all this information about him and his culture, I have tried to be even more loving and encouraging in my letters to Isaac.  I want him to understand that he's special.  I hope I can make a difference in his life and his self-esteem.  Most importantly, I hope I can help him to realize how special he is to Jesus.
I am very thankful for these country letters.  They have certainly made a difference for me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Sweet Isaac

I received a letter from Isaac in Mexico today with this picture enclosed.
Oh my goodness!  Don't you just want to squeeze him?
Isaac just turned nine, and I love his cute smile.  Boys always have a hard time knowing how to smile for pictures, but they come out looking adorable.  
On the back, he wrote, "Estoy en jardin de mi mama, hay flores, platanares."
That means (although not written perfectly), "I am in my mom's garden, there are flowers, bananas."
I will not correct his comma splice. After all, I just learned his language.  :)
I'm so happy to receive a picture of him other than the official Compassion pictures.  He is only the second out of my eight children who has sent a picture.  I love the fact that I can see him at his home, and I totally love the banana trees, being the fan of all things tropical that I am.
Isaac wrote a rather long letter; I've always been impressed with how well he writes even though he's so young.  He's been writing his own letters ever since I began sponsoring him, which was about 18 months ago.  It's unusual for one so young to write himself.  The cool thing about that is that I've been able to see him mature as a writer.  Oh brother, there I go being an English teacher again!
I write very often to my children--once a week.  At first I was afraid that was too much (how crazy is that?), but they thank me often for sending "muchas cartas."  I pray the letters help them to feel loved.  He says that it is the rainy season where he lives and wants to know if it ever rains where I live.  Hmm--there's a tropical storm headed this way at the moment, so yes.  
This is the part I like the best:  He says his family is happy because they know me through my pictures.  I often think of just the child and me and forget that the family is also involved.  I imagine how good his parents must feel to know that someone in another country loves their son.  :)
Sponsorship rocks.  That's about all I have to say about that!
Even though Isaac writes his own letters, he always draws a picture.  This is the first one without a mountain, but he always has a horse (or maybe it's a donkey), and I think this one might also include a rabbit.  I love it.  I'm glad to see that he has drawn a sun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bite Back!

I recently became a Compassion Advocate (more on that at a later time, I'm sure).  Do I feel inadequate?  Reference Moses--You sure you picked the right one for this job, Lord?
For my first official event as an Advocate, I decided I might have a yard sale.  One problem--I live alone, and therefore, didn't really have enough "stuff" to make a good yard sale.  Someone on OurCompassion suggested I ask friends for donations, so I posted a request on Facebook.
To say I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends is a vast understatement.  I was amazed at all that I had for the sale.  Of course, that meant a lot of work organizing and pricing (and I'm a perfectionist, so that was fun), but because I had to work four ten-hour days the first three weeks of August, I actually had the day before the sale to organize.  I still didn't get much sleep.
Then there's the little issue I have of anxiety.  I'm really quite afraid of talking to people I don't know, and having a yard sale meant talking to people all day long.  Yikes!  But I put that in the back of my mind and went on with it.
I decided to give the proceeds to Compassion's Bite Back program.  My goal was to raise at least $200.


I raised $200.


I've never had a yard sale before, but I've been told that's a pretty good profit.  Our weather in Virginia Beach had been in the 90's that week, and we'd had a lot of smoke from the Dismal Swamp fire in North Carolina (that stuff can choke an elephant), but the high temperature on the day of my yard sale was only in the mid 80's with an amazing ocean breeze blowing across my screened-in porch, where I held the sale.  No smoke.  No heat.
I'll admit, I was quite nervous when I spoke with the people, and there was a steady stream of people from before 8 AM until noon.  I'm sure they didn't notice my anxiety, but I sure did!
God clearly had His hand on this event.  For the weather to suddenly be so good, for so many people to graciously donate items, to be able to reach my financial goal . . . it was all awesome.
I have only two regrets--no one sponsored any of the five children I had available, and I now have enough stuff to have about 12 more yard sales!
But the important part is that the profits from the sale can buy 20 mosquito nets, and since on net can protect a family of 4 from mosquitos and potentially malaria, that's a potential of 80 people helped by my sale.  That rocks.
I had some Bite Back stickers.  One lady told me she would put that on her car because, "we really need to get rid of the mosquitos in Virginia Beach."  Okay, so she didn't quite get it, but at least that sticker's out there traveling the city.
And with that in mind, here's a video from Compassion that will help you to realize the severity of the malaria problem and the importance of the Bite Back program.  (If you'd like to contribute, let me know.  You'll be saving lives.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I Learned at Vacation Bible School



Have you ever read Too Small to Ignore by Wess Stafford?  If not, you must.  One really important point that he makes is how trusting children are of adults, and the important responsibility we have to care the children and NOT to break their trust.
I was reminded of that time and again this week when I was a Crew Leader at Vacation Bible School for a group of five-year-olds.  Another lady and I had twelve of those sweet children in our care.  What amazed me is that they immediately trusted us.  They had never seen me before in their lives, but I suddenly had all the answers and the power to protect them.
Our theme was PandaMania, which I loved because it had a tropical flavor to it.  One young man dressed in a panda suit and walked around the church.  Most of the children loved him and ran to hug him whenever they saw him.  I had one little girl in my group named Whitney who was scared to death of the panda.  Every time we saw him, she said, "Oh no!  The panda!" and clung to me while she either buried her face in my legs or covered her eyes with her hand.
One day our Bible story was about Peter's denial of Christ.  First we heard about some of Jesus' miracles while we were sitting in our normal story room.  Then we had to pretend that we were followers of Jesus after He was crucified, and we had to find a secret place to meet.  As we walked through the hallway, we had to plaster ourselves against the wall if we saw a Roman soldier or a Jewish religious leader (just robes hanging on the wall, but it was pretend, you know).  Whitney and another girl were terrified.  Each girl had to hold my hand, and when we saw a robe hanging on the wall, they pulled me into a corner.
And then don't you know . . . the Panda showed up!
When we finally made it to the secret (rather dark) room, the girls were still petrified, and then Peter showed up.  They kept saying, "I'm really scared" as they clung to me with grips of steel.  
I felt so bad for them because their fear was real.  They were so very afraid.  I felt quite heroic being able to hold and protect them.  I hope I made a difference.
The thing that struck me the most is that they trusted me to protect them from those very scary situations . . . and they didn't know me until a few days before.
I've always been angered by child abuse.  If I ever were given free reign to mete out justice on someone guilty of child abuse, I wouldn't stop.  Just thinking about it angers me.  When I looked at the sweet faces of those trusting 5-year-olds (okay, I know they're not perfect; I saw that, too), I can't imagine how anyone could ever, ever hurt a child.
I thought of the Compassion children I sponsor and the scary things they face each day -- much scarier than a pretend panda and robes hanging on the wall.  I can't be there with them, not like I was with the children last week, but they still trust me.  They trust me to pray for them, to care for them financially, and to be their friend, to develop that friendship through writing.
Every time I looked at those children in VBS, I thought of my Compassion children, and I remembered that they are trusting us, that their need is so great, and that Jesus has commanded us to care for them.
I am so grateful for those children who trusted me and allowed me to care for them.  And I am grateful for what I have learned from them.
video



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nancy or Michelle?


I received a letter from Nancy Michelle on Saturday.  Her first name is Nancy, but when she first wrote to me (her mother writes for her), she called herself Michelle.  In this letter, she called herself Nancy.  Haha.  When I replied to her, I said, “Hola, Nancy Michelle.”  That way, I’ve covered both names.
So . . . any guesses about what the animal is in the picture she drew?  I say a pig.  A very classy pig with false eyelashes.  :)
She thanked me for her birthday gift again.  She also thanked me for writing to her a lot and said that she receives more letters than the other girls.  YES!!  No, this isn’t a contest, but I am glad that my letters make her feel special.
She (her mother) also said, “Te felicites por esforzaste mucho en las clases de español ya que lo haces por ella.”  That means that she is thanking me for my efforts in Spanish classes because she knows I am doing it for her.  How awesome is that?  What a blessing this little girl is to me!  To think that I can make someone feel so special so many miles away is beyond my comprehension.  Only through God is this possible.
She also sent a picture of her singing in school.  She’s in the back left.  All these little girls look so sweet, “pero mi Nancy Michelle es la más hermosa.”


Friday, July 8, 2011

Birthday Gifts


I received a letter from Isaac thanking me for his birthday gift.  I sent him $25, and he received a pot.  That makes me kind of sad because I want him to have something fun like the other children I sponsor.  The children usually get to pick what they want, so I hope that’s what he wanted.  I hope it made him happy.
This is the picture he drew for me.  I love his pictures.  I just don’t usually know what everything is in them.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Letter from Alberto


Alberto can draw well for one so young.

I received my first letter from Alberto this past week.  It is the introductory letter that is always the first letter.  The picture above is what he drew for me.  He’s only 7, so I think that’s really very good.
His first name is Camilo, so that’s what I’ve been calling him, but he goes by his second name, Alberto.  He lives in Colombia.  He has two sisters and three brothers!  I’m excited to be his sponsor because he had been waiting over six months (which could actually mean a couple of years) for a sponsor.  He’s SO cute; I’d like to squeeze him.  :)
His teacher says that he is “muy juicisoso y obediente”--very wise and obedient.  
I really look forward to getting to know Alberto better.  I hope I can be a blessing to his very large family.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Magic Trick for Kristen



Some skeptics have asked me how I can trust Compassion, how I know that my money really goes to the child.
If you’re one of those people wondering, or if you just want to see how your money is used, you have to read this blog post.  It’s so encouraging.
And it makes me want to help even more.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Los Zapatos


I’ve seen many people on OurCompassion.com post pictures that they’ve received from their sponsored children who are holding gifts they’ve purchased with money sent by the sponsors.  I just posted on the site on Friday that I wish I could receive pictures of my kids with gifts.  They always thank me for them, but I don’t get to see pictures of them with what they bought.
On Saturday, I received a letter from Michelle, and on the back are these two pictures of her!   (Trying to decide what else to wish for with results like that!)  In the first she is holding a backpack that she received at the Compassion project because of my support.  The backpack has Minnie Mouse on it.
Her birthday isn’t until June 13th, but she already received the money I sent for that and went shopping.  She bought three pairs of shoes and the pink socks she is holding in the second picture.  Notice the glitzy pink shoes.  I love it.  It warms my heart and makes me smile to see her with the shoes.  With the money I sent for Christmas, she was given a pair of shoes, so now she has almost as many shoes as I do!  (Okay, I’m SO not a typical girl where shoes are concerned.)
Michelle is definitely a GIRL’S girl.  
It’s not that I think sponsoring is all about enabling the children to get material things, but just think of how good you feel when you wear something new—or drive something new.  Now imagine (although we really can’t) living under the oppression of poverty, where many children have no shoes at all, and being able to have three new pairs of shoes (well, really four, counting Christmas).  
Hope—that’s what those shoes represent to me.  Michelle has hope that she can break the chains of poverty and one day not only buy her own shoes, but help others to do so.
I love the picture that she drew, although I’m wondering why the book is floating in the sky.  LOL.  I’m guessing that’s a Bible.  I can tell that Michelle is a perfectionist because she erased and redrew so many things.  I love the heart.  That’s an awesome thing.  
She will turn 6 next month, but she seems to include a lot of details for one so young, especially all the different colors.  I can imagine her painstakingly picking up each crayon to make the picture just right.
I can’t stop thinking about the look on her face—not just the happiness, but the sense of accomplishment, that a little girl in poverty can be just a little girl … with pink shoes and pink socks and a pink backpack.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Ripple Effect


Yesterday was a jackpot for me.  I received a letter from Gethory (Haiti)--my first one besides the introductory form--and another letter from Jack (Peru)!
The drawing is from Gethory.  He’s only 4, so he clearly is not able to write his own letters yet.  When children are too young to write, they draw a picture to certify it’s actually their letter.  Gethory’s uncle wrote his letter for him.
The letter is full of thanks from his family for my support of Gethory.  They clearly view it as support for the entire family.  I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions that most of these children live in, but in Haiti, I know the conditions are exceptionally bad.  It must be amazing to them to have the financial support from Compassion.  I really can’t comprehend it.
The letter says that Gethory and his family are happy to greet me, my whole family, and all of my friends.  So anyone who is reading this has just received greetings from Gethory and his family in Haiti.  That’s awesome.
Gethory says he “goes to church in order to praise the Lord.”  Wow.  Picture that little 4-year-old boy praising God in Haiti.  Sweet.  He asks how we celebrate Easter in the U.S. and if I like that holiday and why.
He will be graduating to kindergarten soon.   :)
Jack writes his own letters because he’s 15, so I don’t get drawings from him.  I can pretty much read his letters since they are in Spanish, except that he doesn’t have the greatest handwriting.
Jack wrote to thank me for the money I sent for his birthday, which by U.S. standards is not much.  He was able to buy a pair of sneakers, a pair of sandals, and a pair of shorts.  He wore his sneakers to school, and all his friends were “asombrados y maravillados”--amazed and surprised. :)  I love imagining how proud Jack was to go to school with his new sneakers.  Just think of how we feel when we wear something new that we really like.  It must be even greater for a child in poverty to have that experience.
Jack asks how we celebrate birthdays in the U.S.  (I sense a theme here.  Ha.)  He always ends his letters with some sort of “abrazos y besos”--hugs and kisses.  This time it is a “strong hug and a beautiful kiss.”  I pray that I can one day give Jack a strong hug in person.
The sermon at church on Sunday was titled, “One Little Pebble in the Big, Vast Sea,”  a part of the theme, “What is your ripple effect?”  I sometimes feel as helpless as a little pebble when I see the many needs in the world--earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the flooding Mississippi, horrific tornados in the Midwest . . . what can I possibly do?
Well, I can make the family of a little boy in Haiti happy because of my sponsorshp, and I can provide a new pair of sneakers for a proud and loving teenage boy in Peru.  There are a couple of ripples.  I’ll keep working on more.


Monday, May 16, 2011

¡Gracias!


This video shows you how you can make a difference.  If you know Spanish (and can block out the translator), you will know how grateful this mother is.
I love the way the mother looks at her daughter.  I love the sweet daughter.  And I love the baby obliviously playing in the background.  Haha!
This is what you do when you sponsor a child.  You change lives.
I don’t know about you, but that works for me.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I've Learned from Being a Compassion Sponsor


There are a lot of things that are really stressing me out right now.  First, I’ve been ill for a week.  It’s nothing bad, just bronchitis, sinus infection, and so on, but man, is it ever frustrating!  I haven’t even gone to work all week, and this is not a good week to miss.

Secondly, the economy is really getting me down.  Okay, like I’m the only person affected, right?  I know I’m not, and I’m not even affected as much as most people probably are, but it’s depressing.  I haven’t gotten a raise in … … three years?  Four years?  Not even sure anymore.  Yet, my water bill, my sewage (yuck) bill, my electric bill, food prices have all gone up.  And let’s not even begin to talk about gas prices.  Wow.  That’s especially depressing.

We’re supposed to have this great health care “reform” in the country, yet I keep getting messages from my pharmacy and my employee benefits office about the rising cost of health care, and how that will adversely affect me.  This is reform?

Oh wait—I forgot I’m getting a 1/2% raise next year.  Yep.  HALF.  I should be thankful for that, right?  Well, the city council decided last night to take almost $24 million dollars away from the school system.  Seriously??  The reason?  Partly to give a 2.5% raise to city employees.  Hellooooo!!  Not only does that not allow school employees to get more than a 1/2% raise, but it cuts staffing and increases class size.  The last two don’t affect me personally, but they certainly will affect the quality of education for kids in our city.  That would be our future, brilliant people on the city council.

Oh but that’s not all.  The city council also decided that each of us will now have to pay $10 a month for trash pickup and that our sewage bills will rise each year.  That may not seem like a big deal except that those two things negate my big 1/2% raise.  Thanks.

Seriously.  It’s demoralizing.  And it’s kind of scary.

But then … I think of my Compassion kids.  They don’t have sewage bills.  Oh that’s right—they don’t have sewage systems.  Or trash pick up.  Or water service.  Jack’s father died, and the father’s family kicked him and his mom out of their house.  Isaac’s dad has to work in another place because there are no jobs in their town.  Francis and Michelle don’t even have their fathers in their lives at all.  Gethory lives with his grandmother and three siblings. 

It is beyond my scope of comprehension to be able to even begin to imagine the conditions in which these children live.  Not only do they live in abject poverty, but they live  with the imminent threat of gang violence and drug traffic daily, some more than others.  I have a Glock to protect myself in case someone might happen to break into my house.  I’m confident it wouldn’t take much to break into the shacks that serve as the homes of those children.

I’ve discontinued my cable TV service, my Starbuck’s visits, my Diet Coke purchases, and my visits to Pittsburgh in order to save money.  (That last one is HUGE.)  I’m still stressed, and I’m a little concerned, but nothing I face can compare to what those kids and their families face every day.  That realization doesn’t make my situation easier, and I’m still very concerned about the city and national governments, but it sure does put it in perspective.  I’ve always told myself in situations like this that God has blessed me richly and that there are people who don’t even have enough money to have the problems that I do, but now I have faces to put with that thought.  And I will continue to trust and to sacrifice to bless the lives behind those sweet faces.

That’s just one important lesson that I’ve learned from being a Compassion sponsor, and I’m just beginning.