A Letter from Jesus

It’s awhile since we’ve had a Compassion-related post, so if you’re new to this blog, you might wonder why ‘Compassion’ features in the title. Compassion as an organisation seeks to bring children out of poverty through child-sponsorship. Maybe you’re sceptical about child-sponsorship and thinking: How would they make sure my money got to the right place? To answer that, Compassion is Christ-centred, child-focused, church-based, and committed to financial integrity, so Compassion’s centres are run by local churches – those on the ground, who are best-placed to know the specific needs of their communities. My own Compassion-family are all around the world and I love them dearly.

One area I’ve never sponsored in though is South America. I’m delighted to be a Compassion-blogger and this week, some of my fellow-bloggers have gone to Ecuador. They’re there primarily to put their experiences into words – to share with anyone who’ll listen what it’s like in one of the 26 countries where Compassion works. Perhaps their posts are aimed at newbies, but as a seasoned sponsor myself, I find them just as encouraging. Ashley met a man whose sponsor had asked what his dream was (I think I’m going to ask my eldest that), and Ruth’s post on the theme of letters reminded me of something Paul said in the Bible.

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone,” says Paul. “You show that you are a letter from Christ sent through us.” Every time we show love to someone, we’re a letter from Jesus straight to them. My fellow-bloggers get to show that love in person this week in Ecuador; I get to do it through child-sponsorship.

And the exciting part?

You can too. Bri wrote that she waited too long to sponsor her first child. I know it takes some thought because it’s a long-term commitment, but please, don’t wait too long. Maybe now’s the perfect time to choose a child and start writing those letters of love, from your heart to theirs.

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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.

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.
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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.

Children of God

Compassion’s asking this month that I write about what it means to be a child of God. Well, lately when I listen to music on my phone, I always seem drawn to this song (called “Children of God”). I love to hear Scripture sung, and this is straight out of Peter. I suppose it’s what being a child of God means to me:
“We are the children of God – LORD You have spoken.” Once we’ve believed in Jesus and become children of God, that’s who we are. God has welcomed us into His family and won’t let us go.
“We are the children of God – we are the chosen.” If like me you can remember the specific time you became a Christian, perhaps you think it was your choice, but Jesus clearly tells us it’s the other way round.
“Called out of the darkness and into the light, declaring Your majesty.” This line blows me away. Maybe sometimes you feel crushed and darkness doesn’t seem very far away, but if you keep bringing your problems to Jesus and trusting that He’ll help, you will overcome and then you can declare God’s power to those around you.
“A holy nation, we are the children of God.” I watched a DVD at church yesterday about someone who’d just had an encounter with God. She said: ‘The first thing I noticed was that God was holy and God was good. The second thing I noticed was that I was so not holy and not good’. I know what she’s saying, but the amazing thing is that when we follow Jesus, we’re being made holy. “Those He justified, He also glorified”, says Paul. God’s done this for us already and it’s being worked out as we live our lives on earth.

That’s what it means to me to be a child of God. What does it mean to you? If you’re a blogger, maybe you could join other Compassion bloggers and write about it this month. If you’re a sponsor, why not include it in a letter to your sponsored child?

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.

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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.

A-Z of Compassion: Zeal

For sheer dedication, for staff so polite,

For conferences organised here and worldwide;

For bloggers who write without any sleep,

For being a voice for those who can’t speak,

Thank you Compassion.

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And thank you to you out there if you’ve joined me for this year’s challenge.  Clicking on the A-Z of Compassion tag will show you all the posts in this series, so please share if you’d like to; it would be lovely to see some more children sponsored.