31 Jesus-Benefits: Surrounded

At first glance, you might say today’s benefit is similar to yesterday’s:

His protection.

“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him” is a verse that’s come to mean a lot to me since I’ve started travelling on public transport. Standard procedure is for a member of staff to take me to a seat, and leave me there until it’s time to board my next train. In an unfamiliar station, it sounded like there were a couple of drunk guys nearby. They were pretty loud and I felt vulnerable, but with just my white cane and not a clue where to go, I couldn’t walk away, and into my head came that verse: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him.”

I thought about it more afterwards – this being surrounded: In front, behind, to the left and to the right.

What’s that?

It’s a cross-shape. The LORD surrounds us with a cross for our protection.

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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?

Living Generously: “Go Into all the World” Book-Review

Happy new year to my lovely readers. Praying for God to bless you with His peace and joy in 2015. Last January I pointed you to a very good book, and this year I’m doing the same.

As soon as I heard there was a book coming out by a man who’d sponsored 50 kids, I was excited to read it. I’m in a group for Compassion-sponsors on Facebook, so I kept up-to-date with the book’s progress, and David very kindly sent me an advanced copy in exchange for a review on my blog.

As a Compassion-sponsor who already knows about their 3 main programmes – for mothers and babies, for children being sponsored and for students, I found the long and detailed explanation at the beginning slow-going. If you’re a long-time sponsor like me, you might want to flip the first 30 pages and get straight to David’s stories. Once you do, it’s difficult to put this book down.

One standout for me was that not all the stories are stereotypical. When I read about a house in Bolivia with running water, a cooker and a TV, I wondered whether it ever crossed David’s mind to stop his sponsorship, but when I consider there are only 2 stories like this out of more than 30 visits, I realise how important sponsorship is. I am impressed that he included these details instead of trying to paint an unrealistic picture.

David’s character shines through the pages of this book. You might imagine someone who sponsors 54 kids on a teacher’s salary, visits 31 of them in 12 countries and then writes about it to be arrogant or prideful, so I really enjoyed reading the section on ‘Divine economy’ where he makes a point of saying: “Everything I have and am comes from God.”

I had intended to highlight my favourite story, but I can’t choose just one. I’ve heard about the impact letters had on a translator in Colombia. I’ve admired the attitude of Olga’s mother, and I’ve loved the way David related to Katherine’s family – commanding such respect from them that both parents confided in him and then, when he had to finance his own volunteering, thoughtfully finding Katherine new sponsors who could be role-models for them.

If you love children, and if you love Compassion, I think you’ll find this book very precious. It could be especially beneficial to someone who doesn’t use the Internet and won’t have read many accounts of sponsor-visits before. I’ve certainly been inspired and am delighted to own a copy.

5-Minute Friday: Reach

Kate Motaung has got me writing again with her Five Minute Friday prompt, and my 5 minutes for this week starts with an unusual question:
* * *
Who remembers S Club 7? When I was in my early 20s, they released the song “Reach”. It wasn’t a Christian song, but its message is optimistic:
“Reach for the stars;
“Follow that rainbow,
“And your dreams will all come true”.

For some strange reason, that song was the first thing to come into my head when I saw this week’s prompt, maybe because I’m in a good mood (Friday’s a favourite day of the week for me), so why don’t we ... reach for the stars?

What’s the big dream in your life – the thing you would reach for, if only ... I have lots of them. I’d love to go up Table Mountain in a cable car with my South African friend; to take my Filipino boy to a theme park in Manila called Enchanted Kingdom; to record more of my songs professionally; to have a paid job; to ...

But it’s good to have those dreams. When you want to do something, it’s good to be able to ask yourself: "Why not?" Sometimes answers to that question aren’t slow in coming, but when we still dream, when we still ask, it means there’s a part of us that’s alive – that’s reaching – that’s trusting for better things around the corner.

“With every step you take, think about what He wants, and He will help you go the right way” (Proverbs 3:6).

“Atlas Girl” Book-Review: Travel and Family

This fast-moving book is much more than the travelogue I was expecting.  Yvonne hardly gets a mention in the synopsis, but the mother-daughter relationship is an important facet of Emily’s story.  If you struggle with flashbacks, the constant time-shifting (1998, 1981, 2002) could be a problem, but each chapter-title includes the month and year.

 

Perhaps along-with others who haven’t travelled extensively, I looked forward to getting a flavour of so many different countries, but I also loved the personal aspect – how Emily wrote so honestly about her marriage, how God showed His care for her again and again.  I was sent a free copy of “Atlas Girl” by Revell for reviewing purposes, but it’s a book I might well have bought, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed.

Story Behind the Child: Allan

“We don’t want you on our team!  You’re too slow!”  He still heard the words in his head as he watched his friends play on the field.  The boy who said them had been cruel, but it wasn’t far from the truth and Allan knew it.  Tears stung his eyes at the time, but he bravely stood and watched the game before going home to his family and acting as if nothing had happened.  Now he was watching again, but he didn’t feel so hurt today – because he knew there was a place he could play, where it didn’t matter that he walked with a limp.

“Allan, what’s wrong?” a tutor at the centre had asked one day, as he stood on the side-lines looking sad.  Allan explained and, seeing the hurt on the boy’s face, he gave him a reassuring tap on the shoulder.  “You like soccer?”  Allan nodded vigorously.  “Well, here everyone gets to play.  We’ll put you in as goalkeeper.”

Allan never forgot that first game of soccer – how he couldn’t stop smiling, and the ride home on his bike couldn’t pass quickly enough.  “I did it!  I played soccer and I stopped the other team scoring!” he shouted as his bicycle sped into view.  His parents could hardly believe their ears, but his father smiled as he went to meet Allan.  Cycling and soccer.  Neither seemed fitting for a cripple, but they were top on Allan’s list.  Sometimes he would wince in pain as he rode, but today the boy looked happily exhausted as he climbed off his bike and leant on his father’s arm to walk to the house.  Allan flopped down by the fire and his mother handed him a piece of hot toast.  He told them more as he ate and they listened, full of admiration for the love and compassion his tutor had shown him.

* * *

The story is only imaginary, but Allan is a real Guatemalan boy.  He’s nine years old and crippled in one leg.  You could sponsor Allan or another like him.  On Compassion’s website, you can select a child with special needs and be a supportive influence in their life.

Story Behind the Child: Fiski

It had been raining nonstop for days, but today, the damp was furthest from Fiski’s mind.  He imagined himself walking down that dirt track, caped in mud up to his ankles, but clutching a precious message from someone special.  His friend, Melki, knew all about these messages because he’d had one just a month before.  “Happy 7th birthday, with love from your sponsor.”  That morning, Fiski had walked into the centre full of hope.  Just days ago he, as an unsponsored child, had joined in the Christmas celebrations with all the others.  Today was his birthday!  Surely there would be a card waiting for him?  But there was no card; no news that he finally had a sponsor.  He rounded the corner, pushed his little shoulders back and held his head high, as raindrops dripped cold onto his neck.  There was still hope.  No child could spend two birthdays without a sponsor!  There would be someone – next year.

* * *

The story is only imaginary, but Fiski is a real Indonesian boy.  Born on 27 December 2005, he was an unsponsored child on his 7th birthday, and in fact, he’s been waiting 442 days (that’s nearly 15 months) for a sponsor.  Will you end the wait for Fiski and make sure that, on his 8th birthday, he feels loved and cared-for?  On Compassion’s website you can sort the children by longest-waiting, and find the ones who’ve waited over a year for someone special.

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 Note to Compassion-sponsors

2 Corinthians 9:12, 14 (CEV) – “What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God’s people with what they need.  It is something that will make many others thank God. …  Now they are praying for you and want to see you, because God used you to bless them so very much.”

 

Have your sponsored children said they want to meet you?  Where are they and do you think you’ll visit?  I’d love to visit the Philippines, but although I sponsor a boy in Haiti, I don’t seem to want to go there.  Not sure why that is.