31 Jesus-Benefits: Our Refreshing

“Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water” (John 4:6-7).

Day 11 of Write31Days and yesterday, we zoomed in on Jesus’ birth. Now here’s something He exemplified for us throughout His earthly ministry:

Finding refreshing in helping others.

Just for a minute, think of that well in the verses above as a Christian conference centre. There’s someone leading the worship, a speaker who’s helped and counselled for a while … Jesus comes in, worn-out after some time in ministry and in need of refreshment, but He plonks Himself down next to the most needy person in the room. They talk and as they do, the colour returns to His cheeks. He ends up revitalised, ready to go out again into the world He’s just drawn aside from.

As His followers, it’s the same for us. When we go somewhere to be ministered to, we may find we’re also ministering to others.

“Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’

“But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about’” (John 4:31-32).

A Special Week

I hope everyone had a good weekend. This week is a special one for Kristen, who blogs at Chasing Blue Skies. She’s one of those bloggers/writers you read, and you think of them as your friend (even though you’ve never met). Do you know any writers like that?

Anyway, Kristen’s written a book! (She’s already written a 31-day devotional for military wives, but this is a full-length, 10-chapter book for absolutely anyone.) And if you’re in the US, the paperback version releases today. I’ve been on the launch team and had the privilege of reading “Girl Meets Change” before its official release, and I’ve really looked forward to sharing it with you.

It’s a book about adapting to change, and includes personal and Biblical examples of people who’ve had to do just that. Perhaps you’ll learn something new about a story you’re already familiar with; I know I learnt something about the story of Lazarus when I read chapter 3.

You can go to this page if you want to read more about the book before you purchase, and why not send Kristen a message of congratulations on its release? While it’ll be an exciting time, we obviously don’t all have the same taste in books, but wouldn’t it be great if she had more positive feedback than negative? Let’s pray for Kristen and her family especially this week as her hard work finally hits the shelves.

Pulling out all the Stops

I don’t know how to add photos to this blog, but if I could, I’d put one of me on my 18th birthday with Joan and Carol – 2 special people who helped me when I was at school. I attended schools for the blind for the majority of my education, but the last 2 years I spent at my local school. Joan and Carol were the ones who supported me and made sure I could access textbooks, diagrams etc. The diagrams I used in science lessons were basically black lines drawn on special paper, then put into a machine called a Ricoh Fuser, which raised the lines and made them tactile. Because Joan and Carol are both fully-sighted, I’d sometimes find the odd Braille page in a book upside-down and we’d have a laugh about it, but really they were brilliant. I’m always thankful I had the opportunity to go to my local school; I only wish I’d done it sooner.

It must be very different for children in Compassion’s centres. There was someone to make sure I had what I needed for my studies, but a Compassion-child may not even have a textbook of their own. I know how much effort went into producing my books, and I wonder if you might do something to help someone on the other side of the world have that same privilege. Will you donate to Compassion’s textbook fund?

If you’re not in a position to give financially, how about giving your time and your prayers? Compassion works in 26 countries. Why not go to their website, pick one, and pray for children in that country as they return to school? You’ll make a real difference.

May Mementos and a Giveaway

Can you believe it’s the end of another month already? I didn’t seem to have much to alert you to in April, so I think I’ll join 2 months together.

Watch: Over Easter, the BBC broadcast a documentary fronted by the actor David Suchet. It was called “In the Footsteps of St. Peter”. I don’t know if you can get it on DVD, but I was impressed. For anyone who didn’t know much about Simon Peter, it might have inspired them to open a Bible and find out a bit more.

Book: One that really left an impression on me is “Hadassah: One Night with the King”. I’d heard Tommy Tenney’s preaching before, so when I saw he’d written a novel based on my favourite Bible-story, I had to read it. It gives us a glimpse of what Hadassah’s life might have been like before she was taken into the palace to become Queen Esther. Esther means ‘Star’, and I love how he picked up on that theme and took it through the book. One of my best reads so far this year.

Blog-Post: My friends, Nick and Crystal, are very driven people. I’ve never known anyone else run marathons whilst pregnant, but another of Crystal’s passions is social justice, and she and her hubby are adopting an eastern European girl with spina bifida. Of course, their hope is that with medical intervention, she’ll be able to walk and have a better quality of life, but they love her unconditionally and are keen to be her parents regardless. The charity they’re adopting with, Reece’s Rainbow, takes children’s security very seriously and doesn’t give out her real name; only a code-name – Abigail. This post by Crystal answers many of the questions they’ve been asked since announcing the adoption, so please pray for the family as they go through this process.

Plea: This must be the month for Abigails! I wrote about Abigaelle in Haiti earlier this month, and I’m sad to say she still doesn’t have a sponsor. It was her name that made this 3-year-old girl stand out to me. Abigail means ‘Of the Father of joy’, and I’m sure Abigaelle will be a gift from God to bring joy to whoever sponsors her.

Giveaway: I tend to read my Bible on the computer, but I did once buy myself a chronological Bible. It’s 5 MP3 CDs, which I think play in most CD-players. I personally didn’t get on with it because it doesn’t announce which book of the Bible it’s going into, but if you just want to hear the whole Bible in date-order, it might be your thing. If you would like it, please just leave a comment and I’ll choose a winner by the end of June. Feel free to enter whichever country you live in.

That’s it from me for this month, but what about you? What are you taking away from May?

On Books, Children and Earthquakes

I love reading.  It’s taught me more about life than I would ever have learnt otherwise.  I heard just yesterday about the second major earthquake in Nepal in a matter of weeks, and it was the book “Little Princes” that helped me understand a bit about the region where these people are.  I heard reports of several feet of snow avalanching down from Everest, and I pictured staff from the orphanage trekking over rugged mountains, searching for families of trafficked children with a mind to eventually reunite them.  It was good to get the update that all children and staff were safe.

 

The earthquake 5 years ago with its epicentre in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, doesn’t make me think so much about the landscape.  Instead, it’s people who come to mind:  A family man trapped under the collapsed Hotel Montana, so far from his wife and sons; a pastor standing in the rubble that was his church, wearing a hat proclaiming “Jesus is my boss”; children still sleeping in tents years later, some without even a bed.  Hearing this week that there was a new Compassion-centre actually in Port-au-Prince, it was these tent-dwellers I thought of, happy to know there would be help for those families most-affected.

 

If you’d like to sponsor a child in this new centre, how about Abigaelle?  She was born on new year’s eve, 2011.  Mercifully, she wasn’t alive when the earthquake hit, but her parents would have been.  Nevertheless they chose to bring this little girl into the world, showing us all that Haiti still has a future, and she’s part of it.

 

If you’re too late to sponsor Abigaelle, you can search Compassion’s website for HA889 to find more children in Port-Au-Prince.

Stories from the DR

I’ve really enjoyed the latest Compassion Bloggers assignment to promote their trip to the Dominican Republic. I’ve read along as trip updates daily came into my inbox, and alternating between Facebook and Twitter, I’ve shared a few of these:

Ruth’s story about the boy going blind who needed glasses costing 5,000 pesos (which may as well have been a million). Bri’s post about Marlo becoming the man of the house. Holley’s thoughts on ways to express love. Bonnie’s tear-jerker (or, should I say, reminder to keep writing those letters). Lisa’s son has special needs, and because of him, she found herself letting her guard down when she saw Jazmin. It’s been heart-breaking to read that several children in the town of Bonao were born with special needs due to a nearby nickel plant, which the corrupt government allows to remain, despite its effect on the locals.

If you’ve been touched by any of these stories (as I have), and if you’re not already, will you consider becoming a sponsor? If you wanted, you could choose specifically to sponsor a child from the Dominican Republic. I don’t sponsor in the DR, but mine are very important to me and I know writing to them makes a real difference. Will you do the same and share your life with a Compassion-child?

Inspired by Jeferson

I wonder about the tiny boy, standing there in the picture. As he makes his way home from a day at the Compassion centre, shirt sticking to him in the humid air, what’s he thinking? Other children’s faces have shone as they’ve torn open their letters, some of them having joined the group almost a year ago, just like him. One girl gazes in wonder at the animals and butterflies on her brightly-coloured stickers. In spite of his sadness, he smiles as he holds a pack of his very own. What a generous sponsor, giving her enough to share with her friends.

The house comes into view. His toddler-brother asks about his day in excited Spanish. The boy leans down to show him the stickers. His face lights up, but soon he’s telling the older boy: “I’m hungry.”

They enter the house together. His brother finds a place to stick the stickers while he prepares a meal. Much later, their father will be home. He might have stopped on the way to buy a few necessities, or to huddle in the warmth of one of the bars with others who share his plight. The boy only vaguely remembers his mother’s presence; he doesn’t know where she is now. He thinks of the kindly neighbour who sometimes brings them food, wishing his mother was like her. “You’ll understand one day, son,” his father says whenever he asks, too tired at the end of a long day to go into details, and the boy doesn’t press him. He’s tired too. He wraps the thin blanket tighter as his eyes close in the darkness.
* * *
That’s what I see in my mind’s eye as I think of this motherless 8-year-old, in desperate poverty of family, not to mention his physical poverty. Perhaps that’s why my favourite item in Compassion’s gift catalogue is the gift of caring for a waiting child. When children are registered with Compassion, the quest starts to find them a sponsor, so they need their picture taken. Perhaps they don’t own a pair of shoes, but I’ve never known Compassion to photograph a child barefoot. I have every confidence they’d want to make provision for these children until such time as they have a sponsor. If people give generously to you this Christmas, perhaps helping Compassion to care for a waiting child is one way you could give something back.

Just a thought.

Back-to-School

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good” (Proverbs 19:2).

I remember when I first started school. A member of staff came to me before lunch and asked: “Would you like to say Grace?” I had no idea what this was; I thought she was talking about grapes! So I told her I didn’t like grapes, trying to imitate the way she said it. Of course, she moved on to someone else, and I soon discovered Grace was the prayer said before a meal: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.” I said it regularly once I knew what it meant!

School can be a daunting time for children, whether young or much older. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences at their previous school and are frightened to go to a new place. Maybe they have to travel on public transport and it takes some getting used to. The train from where I live to the nearest city regularly fills with young teenagers going home from school at 3:30, and on Bohol in the Philippines, my Cindy does the journey on a motorcycle, probably with lots of others crammed on too (the maternal part of me doesn’t like to think about that).

When they get to school, the teachers are there to educate them in all sorts of ways. They might learn about the importance of hygiene or a good diet, as well as the more academic subjects. Compassion-sponsorship provides children with uniforms and school supplies, so they can attend classes with their peer group. Cindy says she reads books in English and Filipino (bilingual at 13 is pretty impressive), but I don’t know whether she shares with her classmates or has her own. If you’re a sponsor, why not ask your sponsored child about books? You could even send one with a letter.

Compassion are encouraging us at this time to think about children going back to school. Although back-to-school happens a couple of weeks later here, it’s never too early to start praying, and perhaps thinking what you can do for a child this year. If there are any children in your life starting back at school soon, why not share some names in the comments and we’ll pray together?

Springboard Friends

You know the ones:  They speak and it launches you into something new and wonderful.  I’m thinking today about one of those friends in my life.  I’ve known her a long time – nearly twenty years, actually.  I met her when I was at school and it was her job to support me.  It proves even the appointment of staff can be prophetic, because she certainly has over the years – not only at school (helping to put my work into Braille), but personally as well.

 

Carol was the one who asked me one day as we walked into the gym:  “When you have problems, have you thought of praying about it?”  (I hadn’t, and didn’t think it was for me at the time.)

 

She was the one who phoned not long after I had left school to invite me to a Marilyn Baker concert, where I first heard this song.

 

She was the one I met at an event in 2000.  A new Christian, but our time together was so short, I didn’t have a chance to tell her, so I wrote her a letter.  I remember one sentence read:  “Although I don’t go to church, Christianity is now a huge part of my life.”  Carol could have kept the letter to encourage her in her own walk with God, but she did so much more than that.  Within days of me writing it, she was on the phone, inviting me to the house group she went along to on Wednesday nights, which got me into church.

 

Carol baptised me along-with my pastor.

 

She inspired one of my songs when I had just come home after a hard time, and she talked to me about a plant needing to be in the right soil.  She’s prayed me through difficult seasons and celebrated the good ones.

 

And Carol inspired something else, which I’ll be forever grateful for.  As we ate lunch one day in 2005, she told me about a conference she’d just been to – with Compassion.  My parents had sponsored with another organisation when I was growing up, so I was very interested in what she had to say.  The idea of getting letters to me personally from my child really impressed me.  Carol had told me the website-address, so I went and looked.  My first Filipino girl was Jennylyn and I’ve been sponsoring children ever since.

* * *

Compassion have asked their bloggers to write this month about who (or what) first inspired us to sponsor a child.  If you sponsor, where did you get your inspiration?  If you don’t, will you consider investing in the life of a child?  I can’t promise that every child will open up to their sponsor and write screeds in their letters, but never doubt that what you put into somebody’s life can make a big difference.

Don’t get too Comfortable

“You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.  You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.  You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.  You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:4-6).

 

This chapter reminds us that life is not for our comfort; life is to live for God’s glory.  God doesn’t condemn Israel for eating meat or using lotions, but for living a life of excess, without even enough compassion to shed tears when fellow-countrymen come to ruin.

 

Is this so far-removed from us?  Maybe it’s easy to treat a home like a castle – to come into our four walls, to eat our food, snooze on our sofas and not to grieve … not to act … not to plead the cause of others.  Can you think of a situation in your country lately that you’ve actually wept for?