Because Love is the Most Important Thing

Wednesday was a sad day for me.  I had the unexpected news that Jennylyn had stopped attending her Compassion-centre, so I couldn’t sponsor her anymore.  According to Compassion, they visit a family on several occasions to remind them of the importance of their child being at the project.  Do you remember the post I wrote last June, giving an example of a child-letter?  How I loved that letter!  We seemed so close then, but things went very quiet after that and I had the feeling something had changed.

I don’t want to share too much personal information about Jennylyn or speculate as to why this has happened, but I thought you might be interested in the process of writing a final letter (Compassion do their best to make sure these reach your child).  One huge plus on the part of Compassion is that because I’ve written regularly to Jennylyn for several years, they’re willing to pass on my contact-details once I’ve signed a consent form, so perhaps we will stay in-touch, but that’s not guaranteed.  It might be difficult too without someone to translate for us, so I tried to put all I wanted to say into this last letter.

I wanted to get across how precious she is to me, so I wrote that I’d enjoyed her letters and told her a couple of my favourites.  I said I’d never forget her and would always love her.  Then I thought about what I wanted her to remember from her time at Compassion:  I wanted her to remember God and the love He has for her.

I’ve recently discovered that Bible Gateway allows you to search for verses in different languages, so I looked up a verse for her in Tagalog (the main language spoken in the Philippines).  I was thinking of my favourite Bible-verse, but it didn’t seem to fit, and I really felt to tell her God cared, so I decided on 1 Peter 5:7:  “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

* * *

I don’t know whether I got it 100% right, but in the end, letting someone know they’re loved and cared-for – isn’t that the most important thing?

If you like, you can join in Holley Gerth’s “Coffee for Your Heart” series too.  This week, she wants to see how we’ve gone about telling someone they’re loved.

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Typhoon Alphabet

“What more can I say about the Philippines than has already been said?”  I think that’s why I hadn’t written about it here, but yesterday a lady at church (who comes from the Philippines) told us something I hadn’t heard before.

I had seen someone call the typhoon Yolanda instead of Haiyan, which I thought was strange, but yesterday I found out why.  In the Philippines, they name their typhoons after women, starting every year with the letter A.  Typhoon Yolanda means that this year, they must have had 25 typhoons.  25 typhoons in 11 months seems unimaginable, doesn’t it?  It certainly surprised me.

I’ve just found out the island where Cindy lives is without electricity and may not receive it for another 40 days, so what can we do?  Well, we can pray.  We can ask for the power on that island to be reconnected so they won’t have to wait another 6 weeks.  God said He was concerned about suffering as long ago as when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and He loves the people of the Philippines, so we can ask Him to comfort them, and we can be a part of the relief effort by giving.  If like me you’ve heard on the news that the UK is sending £30 million in aid, maybe like me you wonder whether what you can give will amount to anything.  When I think about this, I think of a man who spoke at a road-show I went to.  He was a pastor who’d been in prison for his faith and received over 90,000 letters.  He asked us to imagine what would have happened if every one of those people thought their letter wouldn’t make a difference.

Please prayerfully give what you can.  I believe every pound helps.  I know there is concern when you give money about whether it gets to where it’s needed most, and that’s why I’d personally recommend Compassion – because they’ve worked with local churches in the Philippines for years and I know they have contacts in the affected area, so if you’re in the UK you can give here, or here if you’re in the US, or perhaps there’s another organisation close to your heart or you have a contact there yourself.  However you give, thank you, and if you’ve got family or friends in the Philippines, please know that you’re loved and supported in prayer.

Typhoon Haiyan

Status

Latest from Compassion UK:  We’ve just received an update from Noel Pabiona, the Director of Compassion Philippines, who has indicated the damage is enormous. Noel has predicted that at least 99 child development centres where 19,000 children are registered have been severely affected. Communication lines are still down, so we are still waiting on specific information regarding Compassion assisted children.
We will relay all information to you as soon as we are notified. In the meantime, please keep praying!

31 Days of Song: “Sometimes He Calms the Storm”

Not many words from me today because not long ago I read this (all about going through trials), and then this song came on while I washed the dishes.  I thought they went so well together.  What song came to mind as you read Mary’s article?

Sometimes He calms the storm; other times He calms His child, and then my favourite lines are:

“Sometimes fear is like white water, pounding on the soul;

“Still we sail on knowing that our Lord is in control.”

Don’t think the storms of life have to carry you away; you really can keep sailing, and God will steer your course.  Like our pastor said on Sunday, you can be unshakeable, even if you’re in a time of shaking.

Talking of shaking, I heard yesterday there’s been a bad earthquake on Cebu and Bohol in the Philippines (that’s the area where Cindy lives).  I don’t know whether she’s been affected, but please pray for her family’s safety.

A-Z: Philippines

P in the A-Z challenge is the last in my “Compassion Goals” series, and do you remember last week I was telling you about the Brazilian equivalent of Alex and Jonathan?  Well, I don’t know whether Jonathan’s sponsor is reading this blog, but if they are, I want to thank them for choosing him.  Alessandra is still waiting …

This week I want to focus on a place that’s home to a few of my Compassion goals:  The Philippines.  I’ve got kids there already, so I’d love to go and meet my girls, and the boy who wants to be a seaman when he’s older.  I’ve heard that sometimes you have to climb a ladder to reach homes in the Philippines (houses are built on-top of each other), then manoeuvre yourself through a hole to get inside.  I’m not sure how I’d cope with that, but if it was my child’s home, it would disgust me to stand at the bottom of that ladder.  I’d want to follow in their footsteps – to climb up the pile of shacks they’d been climbing for years, get into their space and meet their family and know how they live.  If I’ve sponsored a child and tried to get close to them, how can I not put myself out to identify with them?

I also have a special goal for my girl Cindy.  She’s not a teenager yet, but has always been very bright.  After child-sponsorship, Compassion choose a select group to progress onto their Leadership Development Programme.  There is one in the Philippines, and I’m hoping Cindy might be chosen.  LDP students sometimes go to the US or the UK to speak about Compassion and how being a sponsored child changed their life.  Perhaps if I don’t meet Cindy in the Philippines, I’ll get to meet her that way.

The Philippines is very special to me.  I’ve seen video footage of children over there, so I can imagine my kids in their projects with their friends and what a group of them would sound like.  I want to keep that connection and continually be sponsoring there.  I think when it comes to choosing another Filipino child, I’d like to sponsor in the same project as one of my girls.  Twice now, when there have been typhoons, I’ve heard that Jennylyn’s centre has provided for her family, and both girls’ centres are great at photographing them if I’m able to send any extra gifts.

What about you?  Have you ever visited a country like the Philippines, and would you like to sponsor there?  Well, how about Princess (that’s what my name means, and I love the name of her project), Sofia (from a family of 7 children), or Allan?  Allan is my dad’s name, and this Allan (like my dad) was born in December and likes swimming.  Again, I’ll leave the choice to you.

Thank you for reading about my Compassion goals these last few weeks, and for looking at the children I’ve selected.  Please keep the ones who’ve yet to find a sponsor in your prayers.  We were asked as Compassion Bloggers to ‘Change the story’ for children in poverty in the run-up to Compassion Sunday, which is this Sunday (21 April) in the US, so a very happy Compassion Sunday to you, and to all my fellow-bloggers who’ve been writing along-with me.

A-Z: Bicycles

It’s day 2 of the A-Z challenge, and today I want to tell you about 2 people whose names are Alan and Jill Coyle.  They may not be world-famous; they may not have got themselves into the history books, but they’ve made history in my life.  Alan was my pastor from 2001 to 2009.  Several of the songs I’ve written came straight from his sermons, and I can’t thank Jill enough for her prayers and understanding.  It wasn’t long after Alan retired that I left that church, but the people I spent so many years of my Christian life with are very special to me, and I still think of them as family.

 

So where do bicycles come in?  Well, Alan’s always been into cycling; now Jill’s caught some of his enthusiasm and this summer, God-willing, they’ll cycle the length of the UK – from the most north-easterly point (John o’ Groats), to the most south-westerly point (Lands End).  That’s over 1,000 miles!  Jill’s in her mid-60s and Alan celebrates his 70th birthday next year, so it’s quite a feat.  I’ve a feeling they’ll manage it!

 

You’ve got to be special to attempt that kind of challenge in the first place, but to do it for a good cause as well?  Alan and Jill’s friends run several projects in the Philippines.  These friends, Craig and Cristine, were the ones who first inspired me to sponsor a child in that country.  They told us that in Tagalog (the Philippines’ national language), the literal meaning of ‘How are you’ was have you eaten enough.  Can you imagine poverty being so deeply ingrained into you that the standard question is not “How are you today” but:  “Have you eaten today?”  Any ministry helping people in an environment like that has to be worth supporting, don’t you think?

 

Why not go to Alan and Jill’s website to see how you can support them?

Food Poverty?

I had the radio on yesterday and they were talking about an increasing number of people in the UK living in ‘Food poverty’.  If I remember rightly, they said 14% of people had no choice but to spend 10% of their income on food bills, and the poorest households spent more than that!  Is this what they call poverty?

 

I’ll usually spend more than 10% of my income on food bills, and I would never categorise myself as someone living in poverty.  I always have enough to eat, and enough to share.  Perhaps our media need to visit places like the Philippines, where a boiled egg is divided between 7 people, before filling our news with such rubbish.

Hey I Learnt Something

I hadn’t written to Jennylyn for a while, so this afternoon I put that right.  In my letter, I mentioned the hills near where I live, and my mind went to the forthcoming diamond Jubilee celebrations.  I tried to tell Jennylyn that over the weekend, people would go to the top of the highest hill and a beacon would be lit.  All would have been fine, except I realised I didn’t actually know what one was!  Was it like a torch that someone carried up the hill?  Was it something that was at the top all the time, but not always lit?  I had no idea, and it was only through wanting to explain it to a child in the Philippines that I found out.

So thank you, Compassion, for teaching a blind person about the town she’s lived in all these years!

Is there anything you’ve learnt that you thought you should have known already?

When Things Don’t Make Sense

Typhoons are common in the Philippines. In 2009, Ketsana made the headlines, closely followed by another – Parma. Parma hit with less severity than expected; surely an answer to many people’s prayers, but lives were lost and homes damaged at that time. I heard about parts of Quezon City (home to my boy – Russel) submerged underwater. With both Jennylyn and Russel in the area, I had 2 letters from Compassion, warning that my sponsored child may have been affected.

As well as birthday gifts, if they wish, sponsors can send other money throughout the year – child gifts, family gifts, or gifts to their child’s project. When I started sponsoring, I never expected to do this. I thought it was just for the very-wealthy. But after Ketsana, as I waited for news of my children, I felt that in this situation, I wanted to send a family gift. I sat by the phone and prayed. Which one should I send the gift to; Jennylyn or Russel? Or both? The answer came back: Cindy.

Then I asked God a question I don’t normally ask Him. “But why?” Cindy was on Bohol, nowhere near the typhoon. I got no answer. Aren’t parents like that – sometimes they explain why; other times we’re just expected to do as we’re told? Only later do we see the wisdom behind it. Well, the feeling persisted, so I phoned Compassion.

A few months later, the anticipated letter from Cindy arrived – 2 actually; one from her, one from her mother. Cindy said: “I am very happy at the moment I received your family gift … We bought materials for the repair of our house. We bought hollow blocks, cement, steel bars and tie wire”.

And in her next letter: “For now in our place the climate is cold because of the typhoon” (she asked had I experienced a typhoon). (A) I didn’t realise a typhoon further north would affect the temperature on Bohol, and (B) I had no idea their house was in need of repair. I expect that’s why God wanted me to send the money – so repairs could be carried out in time for the cold weather. He had amazed me – yet again.

Have you acted when it didn’t make sense? What was the result?

Prayer for Sponsored Children

Prayer. As Christians, we know it’s important, but prayer for our sponsored children can be a challenge. They’re the other side of the world. We don’t know what makes them smile; what breaks their heart; who their friends are, but God wants to make a difference in their lives through us. We can choose to pray for our sponsored children, and for Compassion. There is a Prayer Calendar with daily prayer-requests. This may give you a better understanding of Compassion’s work, but when it comes to praying personally for your sponsored children, that’s between yourself and God. In most cases, it’s something we must discipline ourselves to do. But from my own experience, I also believe that when there’s an urgent need, God directs your prayers.

Once, a few years ago, I had a really strong urge to pray for Jennylyn in the Philippines. I didn’t know why. It lasted a few days, then it subsided.

I had a letter a month or 2 later. There had been a typhoon, and (I was impressed to learn) staff at the Compassion-project helped her family.

If you’re reading this Blog, you’ve probably got a few minutes to spare. Why not stop what you’re doing, and say a prayer for the children in your life?