Poverty

As I consider the countries in which Compassion works, my thoughts go straight to Haiti at this time. I’ve just been reading an article which suggests the number of casualties was overestimated by English-language media, but nevertheless, there has certainly been loss of life and much damage to infrastructure. For those in the west of the country, who’ve been camping out in tents and still haven’t recovered fully from the earthquake of 2010, Hurricane Matthew must be devastating.

When I hear about loss of livestock, I think of the teenager I write to, who bought a goat with some of his family’s money. I pray they’re safe and well, and I’m thankful that an organisation like Compassion exists to help. They work with the local church in their partner-countries to ensure that provision gets to those in desperate need. If you keep up with me on Twitter, I’ve just retweeted that £17 will provide a Haitian with a basket of essentials. Living here in England, with a welfare system that treats me as a blind person very well, I can say I have the essentials: A roof over my head; food on the table; water in the tap … If you’re in the same boat and feel your needs have been amply supplied, why not lend a hand to someone who’s not in your position?

“The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Whose need is God using you to meet today?

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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?

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?

Concern for Justice

A fountain is something I’ve wanted for myself as long as I can remember.  I used to live near a friend who had a conservatory with a fountain just outside it.  You could sit there listening to the birds singing and the water bubbling …  I joked that for me, the commandment:  “Do not covet your neighbour’s house” should read:  “Do not covet your neighbour’s fountain.”

 

I love water-features, in garden-centres or in formal gardens, and here God talks about justice flowing like a river, and goodness like a never-ending stream.  He repeats His displeasure at the oppression of poor people, and assures Israel of His presence with them if they would do good.  Any worship-rituals the Israelites performed were worthless to God while there was no love of justice in the land.

A Better World

“For the many crimes of Israel, I will punish them. …  They walk on poor people as if they were dirt, and they refuse to be fair to those who are suffering” (Amos 2:6-7).

 

Seeing an end to oppression is really important to God.  These verses tell us walking all over people, taking advantage of them, is a crime in God’s eyes.  I’m sorry if you’ve been a victim of that, but I’m sure it doesn’t go unnoticed.  In our dealings with people, if we considered not only the law of the land but the words of our God, this world would be a better place.

How to be Poor

It’s amazing how, when I read some of these chapters, I discover a theme running through them:  Today’s seems to be poverty.

 

“The plans of hard-working people earn a profit, but those who act too quickly become poor” (Proverbs 21:5).

 

“Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and perfume will never be rich” (Proverbs 21:17).

 

Last but not least, perhaps one of the most important verses in this chapter:

“Whoever ignores the poor when they cry for help will also cry for help and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).  This might bring to mind people you’ve helped, but maybe you’re also remembering that person asking for loose change – the one you found an excuse not to help.  Thanks to what Jesus did on the cross, forgiveness is there for our past mistakes, but from now on, let’s think about the poor and not shut our ears to them.

Lies or Truth?

“A witness who lies will not go free” (Proverbs 19:5, 9).  It’s rare for a phrase to be repeated like that, but there seems a lot in this chapter about lying.

 

“It is better to be poor and honest than to be foolish and tell lies” (Proverbs 19:1), “so it is better to be poor than to be a liar” (Proverbs 19:22).

 

In an earlier chapter, we’re told dishonest words crush the spirit.  I don’t know if lying has got you into trouble:  Maybe it’s to get attention, or to get something you want … but though the reasons might be very complex, please remember the people it affects, and remember their deep sadness/their crushed spirits.  Maybe they long for you to trust them with the truth.

Mocking the Poor

“Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished” (Proverbs 17:5).

 

I was at a ‘Networking’ event just recently.  I remember feeling so out-of-my depth when I first heard the word networking, but it’s just a fancy word for meeting reps from different organisations and having a chat.  Anyway, someone was telling a housing officer about the council estate she grew up on.  She said it was a rough area, ‘But I was brought up properly’, as if she was a cut above the rest.  As a food bank secretary, I’ve had conversations to try to raise awareness of how a food bank works, but I still get the impression from some that they believe there shouldn’t be a food bank in a middle-class area such as ours.

 

That kind of attitude breaks my heart – that living somewhere which looks affluent from the outside should somehow distinguish us from everyone else, and from this verse I’ve read, I’m sure it breaks God’s heart too.  Please, don’t sneer at someone poorer than you; don’t be ashamed to have them on your doorstep, but give them some support, and remember the same God who created them created you.  They’re as precious as you are.