Archive for the ‘Compassion International’ Category

The Best Christmas Present You Can Give This Year

There are two ways you can give a thoughtful, meaningful present this year:

  1. Instead of buying something that needs to be dusted and will eventually end up at the local Good Will Store, how about buying a mosquito net, a chicken, a goat, water filters, farm equipment, soccer balls for the kids, clean water projects and much more?  Compassion International has a new “gift” catalog where a plethora of gifts can be purchased for communities who really need them.  And of course, you know since it’s Compassion Int’l, you can trust that the money is spent on that which you request.  It’s part of that integrity thing they value so much.   Here’s the link to the Gift Catalog.
  2. You can also sponsor a child – one who desperately needs you – one that can be a part of your very own family.  So many to choose from:  Start Here. Or look to your right.  See that child on the banner?  He (she) is waiting right now.  Or you can choose by country (27 of them), by age, by gender, handicapped, orphan…….where is your heart?  Where is your passion?  Is it so hard to choose to love a little child with our excess?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Mr. Dowdy, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Jones

The fact that we continue to live in a fallen, troubled world is hard to overlook.   Even as a child in 1967, I could see that the world was broken and confused.  I watched my father, a U.S. Marine, go to war more than once.  My young mind often wondered, “Will He come home this time?”

My childhood was not ideal. The relationship between my mother and father was more than strained, and as a young child, I was not immune from the effects of a loveless marriage.

Yet, by the grace of God, I can look backward today with gratitude and thanksgiving.  My mother did her best to take us to church each Sunday morning.  It was often an embarrassment to be “that child whose father was never present.”  While many did indeed cast a judgmental eye my way, there were others whose eyes radiated with acts of love and kindness towards me.  Those names remain impermeably imprinted upon my heart and mind even today, over 40 years later.

Every Sunday, Mr. Dowdy steered the wheelchair of his disabled wife up to the front row and sat with her during the service.  He didn’t speak often.  It wasn’t his way.  But every Sunday summer morning, he walked quietly up to me and pressed a huge, beautiful yellow rose from his magnificent garden into my young hands.  He knew I loved yellow roses with just a hint of orange on them.  Even though he never said it, I knew that he had been saving the very best rose out of his garden just for me.

His gift said, “I love you.  I care about you.  You have worth.”  He never once spoke of my father, who was less than a father should be.  Instead, he gently showed me what a real father could be.  Through his quiet and faithful actions, this fatherless child could understand the concept of being loved for no other reason than I existed.

Mr. Davis’ demeanor belied his age.  The moment he stepped into the presence of a child, he became like the very best childhood friend any child could ever imagine. My father would not have dreamed of playing with me.  He would never have picked me up and twirled me around in the air, laughing and chuckling genuinely with glee.  But Mr. Davis did.  Mr. Davis taught me to feel joy and every Sunday morning, I experienced belly-laughs while securely dangling from his large, safe hands.

Imogene Jones taught our Wednesday night girls’ auxiliary.  She shared her love of missions with me and expanded my horizons to see beyond my ‘self.’  One evening we were studying a map of Africa.  I remember hearing a voice from somewhere deep inside of my head which told me that one day, I would go to Africa.  Mrs. Jones allowed me to dream as only a child can dream.

Four years ago I went in Tanzania to meet two of our children whom we sponsor through Compassion International.  It was as if God gently breathed into my ear, “I told you that one day you would come to Africa.  And now, you are here.”

And as only God could do, He knew I would love Amani and Witness from the deepest place in my heart, a heart molded by God through Mr. Dowdy, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Jones.

Three people. Three people I should have forgotten about long ago.  A teachable moment; a beautiful flower; a genuine touch of love;  these things saved the heart of an innocent child, then transformed it into a heart driven to serve God.  Their hands became my hands.  Their words became my words.  Their acts of kindness hopefully will continue to shared with others through me.

Would you, like Mr. Dowdy, craft the heart of another to love the fatherless child based on no merited favor of any kind?

Would you, like Mr. Davis, mold the heart of another to feel through the eyes of a child who could not understand unconditional love?

Would you, like Mr. Jones, instill a heart of compassion with the heart of another to love the poor; those who suffer both financially and spiritually?

These single acts of mercy did not originate from the heart of man.  They originated from the author of mercy – from the very heart of God.   But God…. being rich in  mercy…. because of the great love with which he loved us…. showed this one child, the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards me in Christ Jesus.  What a tremendous gift to receive such mercy from our real Father through the human hands of his very own children!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

Ephesians 2:4-7

Highly Vulnerable Children

Many of you know I volunteer for Compassion International.  Sometimes we need to read the stories about others to see the world in its proper perspective.  This story, written by Tigist Gizachew from Ethiopia, speaks about the highly vulnerable children that Compassion serves.

vulnerable children It was broad daylight when the silence of a village in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, was broken by the screaming of women, crying for help to save a mother’s life. The woman was attacked by her own neighbor with a piece of iron, over a dispute about a man.

For these women, whose livelihood depends on the income they make as prostitutes, this kind of conflict is nothing new. But that day it ended with one women dying and the other going to jail for life.

In the middle of it all, a 6-year-old girl along with her three siblings lost her mother. Yordanos was left with no one to care for her; orphaned, as she knew nothing about her father.

Immediately after her mother’s death, when her sisters went to the streets, Yordanos was taken in by an old lady in the neighborhood. For the young mind of Yordanos, it was difficult to grasp why her life suddenly turned upside down. It was something she never fully understood.

However, when the old lady whom she started calling grandmother began to care for her as one on her own children, Yordanos gradually came out of her shell.

A few years passed with Yordanos pursuing her elementary education and grew into a beautiful teenager. Life was good under the care of her new grandmother, until her grandmother’s son, who ran their motel business, died suddenly. One day, when Yordanos came back from school, her grandmother gave her an order to run the motel after school.

Yordanos’s new task involved collecting money from customers who rent a room for the night, staying up until midnight to lock up, and calculating the day’s earning. Yordanos, at an age where she should be spending more time with her friends studying and playing, became exposed to a life which no child should ever be exposed to. Most of the customers were the local prostitutes and their clients.

“I used to rent rooms for all kinds of people: people who were drunk, people who were drugged and old people who came to cheat on their wives. I used to see my friends play, and I envied them.

“Forget my schooling; it was hopeless as I had no time to study. Moreover, my grandmother started mistreating me. She would beat me if I refused to wait on customers for one night.

“Because I used to work without eating, I started to steal from my grandmother.”

Destu was born from a father who spent most of his life in and out of prison and from a mother whose livelihood depended on prostitution. Destu and her little brother grew up witnessing violence between their parents when their father was out of prison.

In addition, the daily misery of poverty was unbearable. Their mother’s meager income was mostly spent on “Chat” — a local herb with a drugging effect.

“I know little about my father because he spent most of his life in prison. The few times I have seen him I remember him not as a good father who is interested in his children but as a person who abused our mother. You know, my mother, even though she has her own shortcomings, cared so much for us. She loved us and protected us from so many things.”

The dreadful life Destu and her brother led became more painful when their mother was diagnosed with AIDS.

“I never expected that to happen. I guess I was too young to expect it. My mother was a good person and didn’t deserve this, but it happened. Shortly after my mother was diagnosed with AIDS, our father also went and checked his status. He was also found HIV-positive.”

Destu and her brother lost their parents and were left under the care of their aunt, who was also a prostitute. Destu assumed the responsibility of raising her brother and managing the house since their aunt was never at home to care for them. Destu was burdened by too many responsibilities that were putting pressure on her education.

“I was unable to study with an empty stomach. I had to care for my little brother, which involved finding ways to feed him. It was all too much for me.”

Four years ago, Compassion began a pilot program called Highly Vulnerable Children (HVC) in Ethiopia in hopes of giving a loving home to children like Destu and Yordanos so that they could grow up and realize their dreams. About 35 children are now receiving family care and support in the six cottages established through the program. These children are given love and care from their foster parents, and traumatized children receive counseling as well. Their basic needs are fulfilled, and their foster parents also follow up with their education and spiritual life.

The Dire Dawa Vision Cottage is one of the cottages that support nine children who needed immediate intervention. Mr. Girma and his wife, Mrs. Etifwork, have two children of their own. They have lived most of their lives in Dire Dawa town. Their exemplary Christian life and their heart for orphaned children were the reasons the church approached them with the offer for the opportunity to be foster parents to these children.

“God has given me and my wife a calling which is to help the fatherless. When the church came to us with this offer, we didn’t hesitate to take these children in. Of course, we prayed about it but we knew that this was God’s calling for us.”

Yordanos and Destu are among the nine children taken in by Mr. Girma’s family who have shown significant change in their holistic development.

After Yordanos started living with her foster parents, she finally had the chance to grow like a child. She played with her peers and began to pay attention in school. The child who was always failing in her grades became a rank student within a year. She accepted Jesus and put her past, which influenced her behavior, behind her.

Today, Yordanos is a different person. She is a devoted Christian and a great student with a clear purpose for her life.

“God gave me this family because He loved me and wanted to use me for His glory. Had it not been for the HVC program, I would have ended up like my sisters — in the streets with illegitimate children. Now I can be whatever I want to be and I am determined to make my dream of becoming a medical doctor a reality with the help of God.”

As for Destu, life took a total turn for the better and her constant worry about taking care of her brother was put to rest when she joined the foster family along with her brother. She immediately began to excel in school with the close follow-up of her foster parents. Her grief was gradually replaced with happiness as their caregivers gave her the love and attention she lacked.

“I was emotionally scarred and was very afraid of my future as well as my brother’s future. I was sure that we would be thrown in the streets when my aunt who was also HIV-positive dies. No one really cared about us. It’s a miracle that I’m even in this kind of environment where people give me love and attention. I feel so emotional because I have been telling myself that I don’t mean anything to anyone. But that’s different now. Thanks to Compassion, I have found people who care about what I eat, what I wear, where I go, what I would be when I grow up, and they support me.”

Each child’s who lives at the cottage has a different story, but they all have something in common: They were neglected and abandoned with no one to care for them. But now, life is bright and full of hope for great opportunities that await them.


We acknowledge that all children in our programs are vulnerable and face a certain degree of risk, but some registered children face much greater risks than others.

Thus, the “highly vulnerable children” in our programs are the registered children who are at greatest risk of physical, psychological or social harm relative to the other registered children in the program.

Have you ever considered the difference YOU could make in the life of ONE child?           Visit www.compassion.com.

You can read more stories at the Compassion blog here.

Crisis in Haiti

Photo by Kretyen (Creative Commons License)

The recent catastrophe in Haiti has resulted in chaos and devastation to an already impoverished country.  Compassion International has over 65,000 children that we serve in Haiti.  One-third of them live in the hardest hit area.  65,000 children attached to 65,000 families.

Compassion already has the means in place to help immediately with our Global Crisis Fund.  Because we are already there in Haiti, we are praying for contributions above and beyond to help immediately with the extreme need.  Would you consider a donation?

Photo by treesftf (Creative Commons License)

Here is a direct link to take you right to the correct page so you know your contribution will go exactly where you want it to go.  While all aid is important, aid with a spiritual connection speaks even more loudly in a world devoid of God’s love.

Those who were in need …. who were desperate….need even more just to survive.  Would you search your heart and use the wealth that God gave you to help others?

I just looked at my granddaughter as I am writing this, realizing that she was fortunate, by God’s mercy, to be born in affluence.  My prayer is that we will humble our affluence into generosity.

Safari

The Handsome Warthog

No trip to Africa would be complete without going on safari.   Compassion International knew that about our mindset and scheduled a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater for our group.  What an exciting day!  We boarded several vans specially outfitted for a sophisticated safari.

Early in the morning, we left Arusha and headed towards the crater, traveling on a long, solitary highway dotted by an occasional Maasai young boy or two who were herding their cattle towards greener pastures.

The word Maasai means ‘my people.’  Ezekiel told me that the Maasai believe that God gave all of the cattle on the earth to the Maasai, so it is not unusual to hear that the local Maasai have ‘acquired’ a random cow or two along their journey.

The route from Arusha to the crater first crosses the high desert plains (similar to southern Colorado).   Keep in mind that a “highway” is to Tanzania as a “road” is to us!  The landscape was brown and dry — winter was approaching.  Winter at the Equator only gets down into the 50 degree range so it really wasn’t cold to those of us from the Northland.

The flora during this part of trip was interesting — acacia trees and an assortment of other plants, most having thorns of some kind attached to them.

The Beauty of the Acacia Tree

I love the acacia trees.  Light and airy, their thorny branches stretch their tendrils out across the plains as if to embrace the whole world with them.   Weaver bird nests hang upside down on the branches of the trees.  The nests are elaborately woven and the bird enters from the bottom of the nest.  God’s design is amazing, each need carefully provided for by a Creator who knew the need first.

An hour or so into the trip, we started to climb a tall ridge and the flora became more diverse and green.  I believe the driver told us that this was the east wall of the infamous Rift Valley, made famous by Mary and Louis Leakey, whose excavations uncovered some of the earliest remains of stone-age man in the Olduvai Gorge close-by.  Both wildlife and the Maasai live symbiotically together in the crater, a unique feature of this preservation area.

As we crested the ridge we entered a landscape of rolling green hills.  This is where we encountered the infamous baobab tree.  I read somewhere that the baobab tree can live for several thousand years.  It is leafless nine months of the year and looks like an upside down tree (imagine the roots on top of the tree instead of leaves).  The circumference of the truck at ground level is immense!  Sprinkled over the landscape were small, red-earth, rustic dwellings.  This was rural Tanzania.

We passed the small town of Karatu, to which we would later return for a night’s stay in a wonderful, wonderful “hotel.”  It was the kind of places that dreams are made — African wood poster beds covered with white linen (including mosquito nets, of course!)  I was so enthralled with the landscapes as they passed by that in no time at all, we arrived at the crater…..well, we arrived at the long road leading up to the lip of the crater!

View from the top of the crater

Slowly we climbed up a winding two-lane road.  The vegetation was thick during the ascent and as we reached the top, the view that emerged was amazing!  There we were — standing on the lip of an ancient volcano looking down into a primordial crater!  The word that comes to mind is: spectacular.

Then came the descent….we began to creep down a series of skinny, pot-hole laden switch backs.  I couldn’t hold myself back and stood up the whole way down…just to enjoy the view!   (The tops of the vans open up so that we could stand up through the vent and observe the various animals we were to encounter. )  The crater floor is immense and I felt like a tiny ant in comparison.  The crater floor covers approx. 102 square miles, if the info I gathered is correct.  The altitude of the crater (from the same source) ranges from 1020 to 3587 meters (approx. 3400 to just over 11,000 feet.)

We had arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater towards the end of the migration season.  It’s possible the crater would have been much more alive with wildlife had we arrived a little earlier in the season.  However, we saw an amazing array of wildlife even so late into the season and it felt very, very alive to me.

You’d think a safari would be an extreme  wilderness experience — at least that’s what I thought.  It’s actually quite civilized.   There we were – driving all across the crater along several well-worn and rutted dirt paths which crisscrossed each other throughout the entire floor of the crater.  A plethora of vans, just like ours, sped quickly along the checkerboard created by the dirt “roads” in the crater.  Tourism is important for Tanzania, and the safari is an important source of revenue for the beautiful country.  The volume of vans crossing the floor of the crater told me just how popular the safari is to the tourism of Tanzania.

Our driver clung to his radio.  As soon as any animal was spotted, the radios became furiously active and suddenly, every van rushed to find the lone cheetah that was discovered.  Then we were off to find the elephant — the rhino — the hippos — the warthogs and more.  Each driver communicated with all of the others in the crater so that they could immediately drive their people to the animals which were discovered hiding in the tall, brown grass.

I think my favorite animal was the warthog.  You just have to love the warthog and after seeing them run through the tall grass, tails held high and straight, I couldn’t help but smile.  We also enjoyed some mother lions and their cubs, who decided that the shade provided by our vans was much more preferable than the hot sun on the treeless crater.

One of my favorite stories is about a handsome, elderly elephant we encountered.  His solitary presence on the floor of the crater told his life story.  Our driver said that normally elephants have companions with them and would be over on the sides of the crater at this time of year where the vegetation was more abundant.  The fact that he was alone in the middle of the crater was an indication that he had come down from the hills to die.   Thus, this picture is one of my very favorites from the trip (I’m an animal lover…).

The Old Man Going Home

Young Elephants

It was with great sadness that we left the crater.  We were all windblown and tired but I doubt there was a person in the group who didn’t enjoy this experience.  (Thank you, Doug!)  We slowly climbed out the other side of the crater only to encounter a tribe of baboons blocking passage on the road, a temporary obstacle which provided several minutes of jovial entertainment and photo shoots.

Writing these stories is a way for me not to forget.  And I never want to forget the people and places of Tanzania. The people?  Because they whisked us into their homes and into our hearts.  The places?  Because the beauty of God’s creation was magnified in my soul and has taken up residence there.   Thank you, God, for the beauty You created — in both people and places that You, a Holy God, have made.

Now for some random pictures for you to enjoy!

The Group

Home

After writing my last blog post about Amani and Witness, all I can think about is my trip to see them…..so you may get a few more stories out of me!

One of the things I enjoyed the most during my trip to Tanzania were the home visits.  The Compassion International country staff (locals who work for Compassion within Tanzania) took us into different homes each day while we were in their country.  We saw a wide variety of circumstances and surroundings.

We saw entire homes that could fit inside of my small, spare bedroom.  Most homes fit that category.  Homes with dirt floors.  Home with mud walls patched with ragged burlap food bags, yet decorated lovingly with items we would cast away.  Homes with no running water.  Homes with no beds.  Homes with one half-twin sized bed shared by all in the home.  Homes with no windows.  Homes with no doors.  Homes where the children stayed….alone.

Homes where family members suffered from AIDS and a crippled child struggled to drag his limp body alongside of us.  Homes where single mothers raised children alone.  Homes that had a HEIFER cow or goat present.  Homes hidden beneath a banana tree and within a foot of the home, a few straggly stalks of parched corn struggled to grow in the midst of drought.

Homes where pain was present each and every day.  Homes with sewage running through a crevice carved into the red dirt street just steps from the entryway.  Homes where the children walked through the sewage to walk that mile or two to the well — just so they can bring dirty water back….home.

Homes where genuine joy was present – in the midst of extreme difficulty.  Homes where pride of ownership gleamed as brightly as the smiles on the faces of those who lived there.  Homes where we were provided the refreshment of food – at the expense of their own personal meal for the following day.  Homes where we were presented with gifts that were made to sell for profit — yet sacrificially given to us out of love.  Homes where we were courteously escorted inside and welcomed with open arms.

Homes where Christ was exalted above all else.  Homes where the father prayed to be the best man he could be for his family.  Homes where aunts, grandparents and extended family offered meager housing for homeless or orphaned children.  Homes where praise and thankfulness for blessings (blessings?) were offered.

Visiting a home in a third world country is an amazing experience — one that will sadden your heart and gladden your heart all at the same time.  I didn’t get the idea that anyone wanted our pity.  Not in the slightest.  Instead, they wanted to share their lives with us – a mutual exchange of ideas and friendship.

It has occurred to me that all throughout the New Testament, Paul and the other apostles were continually asking for prayer for their fellow workers — for their fellow servants in Christ.  As I write this, it is so crystal clear to me that everyone I met in Tanzania is my fellow worker.  They serve Christ within their circumstances, as I do here in America.  It’s the word “fellow” I want to focus on — a term of equality.

It is my prayer that we will develop a mindset that does not look down upon the poor (even though I know we do so although with the best of intentions) — but that we will look up to them instead.  It is my prayer that we will see them as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, created by God for a special purpose….a purpose which glorifies Him.

The poor know what it is like to survive….and to die.  They know what it is like to struggle in the midst of impossible circumstances.  They know what it is like to beat the odds.  They understand the value of an education….and kindness…and grief.  They know what it is like to totally trust God as their Sovereign King.

We can learn a lot from the poor.  Valuable things.  Things we don’t understand.

Witness' Amazing Smile

Amani's Handsome Smile

A Remembrance

It’s been over two years since I met Amani and Witness in Tanzania.  It still feels like yesterday for me.  Two and a half years later and the teens I met are almost young adults.  I miss them.

It’s hard to leave something valuable — and my time spent with Amani and Witness was priceless.  It was revelatory, exposing truths to my heart that I could possibly not learn in any other way.

There are many precious memories I brought back from Tanzania.  One specific memory comes to mind.  You see, when you take a trip with Compassion International, there is one special day where each sponsored child is brought to a central meeting point to meet their sponsor.  Some travel many hours on rough dirt roads to meet that special person who loves them enough to support them.  Each child and sponsor anticipates their joint meeting and the moment that it occurs is a grand homecoming of sorts — brothers and sisters in Christ finally united in a flood of tears and hugs.

I experienced the joy of that reunion with Amani and Witness. I remember scouring the crowd of children — looking for those faces I had memorized from their pictures — but Amani found me first.  He’s not hard to pick out in this picture.  I didn’t even realize that he had found me when I took this picture but the excitement on his face is hard to miss.

We spent the day enjoying each other — getting to know each other.  Compassion supplied translators for each sponsored child so I was lucky to have two translators of my very own – one for each child.

Amani’s translator was named Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was an amazing African man who was studying to be a doctor.  Not only did he translate for me, but he taught me about the culture and life of Tanzania.  I love to learn and he was the perfect translator for me!  God knew!

However, it was something that Ezekiel said to me on that day that I will forever cherish.  He said, “Because you have taken the time to visit Amani, he will now work hard to overcome his circumstances.  He knows now that  you are real and that you must love him very much to come visit him.”

Imagine the depth of that statement!  It wasn’t about the money, albeit the money we send is essential for his survival.  It had to do with my time.  Time spent traveling across the world to meet him.  Time spent every month writing letters of encouragement to him.  Time sharing God’s Word with him so that he could become the man of God that he was intended to be.

Our visit was over far too soon.  After I said goodbye to Amani and Witness, I remember stepping back onto the bus and sitting down into my empty seat.   I remember looking out the open bus door straight into Witness’ eyes and seeing tears well up from deep within her beautiful, brown eyes.  As our eyes made contact, she turned away so that I could not see her cry.  Witness has a quiet, precious soul that speaks loudly of grace without using too many words.

I looked over towards Amani (who was 14 at the time) and saw that he was crying with some difficulty.  Huge sobbing tears were streaking down his face.  He was almost convulsing as he wept.

Then Witness, this gentle young woman I had instantly come to adore, quietly wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at me with what I can only describe as pure, undefiled love.  It was at that moment I knew what our sponsorship really meant to them.  At that moment, I learned a deeper meaning of the word “love.”  It was love of the purest sense.  Genuine and real.  Sacrificial and meaningful.

There is much more to the heart than just feeding it with nutrients.  The heart also needs the sacrifice of your time.  It needs the constancy of your words and prayers.  It needs to know the contentment that only a Holy Savior can bring.

I am looking forward to our trip to Ecuador this summer to meet Kevin and Mayra.  I can’t wait to hold them in my arms and tell them that I love them.  And the amazing thing is that they love me also.  Isn’t God good?

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