Cuteness from Columbia!

While it has been some time since we last updated everyone here, we had to come and share our latest letter from Kevin in Columbia! We plan to update our children’s pictures in the sidebar soon, but in the meantime, enjoy this cuteness!

 

Dear Andy and Miranda,

Hello dear sponsors and Dusty (the first time any of our children have greeted our cat by name!)! I hope you are fine!

I tell you that we celebrated Christmas in this CDC with games, songs, rounds for children and a special service. The food we had in this celebration was broasted chicken, French fries and soda. I spent my holidays at home taking outings to the park and playing with my friends and sharing with my family.

Tell me: How have you been? Did my sponsor Andy already get a job? Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! I am really happy for this celebration. Thank you for sharing this celebration with me and for your care and dedication to me!

The Bible verse for you is, Psalm 25:2

Kevin

Kevin drew us a picture.

It is of an airplane that is colored red, white and blue and has an American Flag attached to the tail. It says, “I fly to visit my sponsor and Dusty!”

Oh my! I just cannot contain the cuteness! Have you received any letters recently that just made your heart melt? We would love to hear about them!

Seven Steps to Sending Your Letter Step 4: Snails Bring Extra Goodies!

In each of our letters of love thus far, we have shared extra goodies that can be sent according to Compassion’s mailing guidelines. In this, our fourth step to sending your letter, let us expand on ways to choose and purchase these extra gifts.

 

Choosing based on Theme

 

You may have noticed as you browsed our letters of love that each letter is based on a particular theme for the corresponding month. I have created an electronic document detailing each month’s letter theme, and listing each child’s name with the extra goodies being sent. Items may range based on each particular child’s age, interests, and so forth, but this allows for organization and future recollection of what has and has not been sent. This also helps when reading and replying to a child’s letter, as they respond to and thank us for specific topics or extra-included items. Moreover, my wallet thanks me for the strategic planning, as I can usually make one bulk purchase annually from each retailer. Thanks to the advice gleaned from other wonderful Compassion sponsors, we have found several specific online retailers to be very beneficial in our goodie search.

Please note: No affiliate links or official endorsements are being provided. These are simply our own personal experiences.

 

ChristianBook.com

 

This site has a variety of themed coloring books, stickers, bookmarks, postcards, bilingual English-Spanish flashcards and card games, printer paper, and much more. Items are very reasonably priced, with most items in my wish list ranging from $1.50-$7.50. Many items come in sets, allowing for sharing among children’s letters. Shipping, packaging, and delivery have always been exceptional.

 

Dover Publications

 

The most popular section of Dover’s site for us has been their Little Activity Books. These small and inexpensive books are fastened together with staples, making it easy to separate and distribute pages among children’s letters. Books come in a variety of themes, in such forms as stickers, bookmarks, paper dolls, and coloring pages. As with ChristianBook.com, shipping, packaging, and delivery of our Dover orders have always been exceptional.

 

Oriental Trading

 

Oriental Trading has been a great source for stickers and make-your-own sticker scenes, bookmarks, and more. Caution: Make sure that any non-paper attachments such as ribbons are removed prior to sending, in order to comply with Compassion’s mailing guidelines. If we recommend any items for which attachment removal is necessary, we will note this in the corresponding post whenever possible. One thing that we love about Oriental Trading is that for prices ranging from $4.00-$10.00, we can get anywhere from 12-48 items in a set, depending on the item(s) being purchased. This allows for not only easy distribution among sponsored children, but also saving extras for future use.

 

Rose Publishing

 

As one resource for answering the frequently asked question of what to send to older sponsored teens, Rose Publishing’s pamphlets on a variety of Biblical and Christian topics are worth considering. Please be aware of cultural appropriateness, and know that all titles are in English with some available in Spanish as well. While pamphlets are inexpensive at just $3.99 each, a neat feature of this site is their free weekly emails for downloadable E-Charts, providing samplings of some of the pamphlets. Discount emails are also sent, allowing bulk purchases for minimal cost. While we have downloaded and sent some of the free E-Charts, we have yet to purchase anything in hard copy from Rose Publishing. We would appreciate any feedback from those who have done so.

 

Choosing based on your child

 

As you correspond with your sponsored child(ren), you will learn their hobbies, favorite school subjects, favorite sports, and so forth. Additionally, some items you choose may be based on gender or age. It is possible to send specific goodies to a child based on a combination of your letter theme and that child’s personal interests. Here is a post by a fellow Compassion blogger with a document containing numerous links of interest to aid you in your goodie search.

 

Organizing your goodies

 

At the moment, all of our extra goodies fit in one storage bin, with a smaller box inside to hold smaller items such as the Dover Little Activity books, bookmarks, and stickers. I have labeled the Dover Little Activity books in Braille by attaching an index card with the title to the inside of the cover, as the covers will not be sent. I am known to use small zip lock bags or envelopes for goodie sets, and a Brailed index card is attached to or inserted in the envelope or bag for reference. Until our collection grows too large, I also have extra photo and printer paper, and labeling and mailing supplies stored inside our Compassion bin.

Let us not get too ahead of ourselves. We will discuss labels, photos, and printers next Saturday in the fifth step to sending your letter.

The treasured gift of life

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mat 2:11).

 

On this Christmas Eve, many of us are probably scrambling for that perfect last-minute gift. My husband left our home early this morning to brave the cold rain and busy stores and city streets to get just such a gift for me. My mind also reflects on another time when we give gifts, as I think of those close to us who are expecting their first child in the coming year. Again, we search for that perfect gift for the expectant parents and their new son or daughter. These gifts may only be treasured for a season, but during this time let us also remember the perfect and treasured gift of Christ.

I imagine the time of Christ’s birth was equally as busy, and the world receiving this miraculous gift was unprepared to unwrap it.

 

 

As we reflect on giving and new birth, I wonder if you would give a different kind of Christmas gift this year. In honor of Christ’s birth, someone you know expecting a child, or even your own child, would you give the gift of life and hope to mothers and their babies living in extreme poverty? Like Jesus’ mother Mary, these mother’s may feel unprepared to face all that lies ahead.

This Christmas, may we give and receive with hearts of worship to the king who came to give his life, and may our hearts be fit to be his home, as he brings peace amidst the chaos of this not-so-silent night.

A Week of Bittersweet Goodbyes

 

 

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

This is not the first time we have loved and lost, but that still does not lessen the ache. Just two weeks ago, I wrote our Compassion International children’s long-awaited update letters. Her letter was the last to be sent…

This week though, as I obsessively counted our children on the Compassion website, something was not right. I counted again… We were missing someone. Out of all of them, why did it have to be her?

I fought back tears and sudden breath-taking panic as I spit out the heart-wrenching words no sponsor wants to repeat as if they were grains of sand stuck helplessly in my mouth. “Um, we’re missing someone… She’s gone…” Andy knew exactly who, without me even mentioning her name, because my husband is just like that. He also knows me enough to know that I would not handle the ensuing phone call well, so without questions he picked up the phone.

Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, our precious Kate is no longer part of Compassion International’s program. We welcomed Kate into our Compassion family after watching the above video in May of 2009. After five beautiful years, her frequent and affectionate letters and words of love will be dearly missed.

 

That was Monday…

On Wednesday, after some tears and moments of raw vulnerability, we received an unexpected phone call…

 

In April of 2012, I needed a reason to continue teaching voice lessons beyond myself. Naturally, my reason came through an addition to our ever-growing Compassion family. His name is Miguel.

 

I came home from running errands this past Wednesday to Andy saying, “I received a call from Compassion today…”

Miguel was not supposed to graduate from Compassion’s program until 2016, but he apparently has the motivation I have lacked this past semester. While I counted down the days until my Christmas break began on December 12, Miguel completed two years of college in just one-year’s time! Therefore, he will be graduating in 2015—a year earlier than expected!

Thank you precious son for giving your sponsor mom and dad a few months of forewarning, and please know that we are so very proud of you!

 

As I shared with a friend recently, this is kind of like being a foster parent. While many are afraid to be attached to their foster children, anyone who has ever loved one of these precious ones will tell you that attachment is what they so desperately need. Child sponsorship is similar, in that it is easy and equally important to become attached, no matter how long God places these children in our path. For us, I can say that the blessings far outweigh the losses, and we truly reap the benefits maybe more than we even know. So, while this has been a week of bittersweet goodbyes and goodbyes-to-come, we rest in the knowledge that every word written, tear shed, prayer lifted, and penny spent is more than worth the price. We have loved and we have lost, and we plan to continue doing so as long as the Lord allows.

 

In honor of our precious Kate and Miguel, would you prayerfully consider sponsoring one of these Sunday’s special children?

Looking back and moving forward: Reflections on faith, restoration, and expectancy

We are going to stray from the normal topics a bit with this post, so please bear with me for just a moment. First, I will say that we have taken an unexpected hiatus from blogging for close to a year. There have been many other “unplanned” events throughout this year, from cancelling our Dominican Republic trip to move from Michigan to Virginia, and a change of direction regarding my education and ministry focus (outside of Compassion). It’s in these moments of the unplanned and unexpected that we should strive to see the Lord working—guiding with a steady yet all be it at times unseen hand.

 

Faith

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1).

 

In 2013, my “One Word” was “Faith.” I cannot begin to tell you how very important that word became throughout the year. Admittedly, I did not plan a word for 2014. Either I narrowly escaped it, or I completely avoided it altogether, already overstepping my self-imposed faith limit at the year’s-end. Nonetheless, it was not in my plan. As is often the case however, God had a different plan (Isa 55:8-9).

 

Restoration

 

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).

 

Without pealing back the layers and revealing the good, the bad, and even exposing the downright ugly, I can say with certainty that God has shown himself to be our restorer in 2014. No, this restoration is nowhere near completion, but there are fragmented glimpses as I find myself reflecting on what have been some of the most difficult months of my life. I have screamed, cried, doubted, and given up more times than I can count. I have been scarred and broken beyond my own imperfect recognition. As God repeatedly molds these shattered pieces of clay back together, I have begun to hear him whisper, “I am the God of restoration.” Some days, this has been the only thread of hope I have clung to, afraid that anything else would ever so quickly slip through my cracked and broken hands.

 

2015?

 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps 27:13-14).

 

So, what is on the horizon for 2015? I do not really know. More college classes, further ministry experience, hopefully employment, and hopefully more consistent blogging. I stand on the threshold of the coming year, expectantly waiting for God to move, yet afraid to plan for anything too specific. Maybe my one word for 2015 should be “expectancy”?

 

What has the Lord revealed to you in 2014, and what are you looking forward to in the upcoming year? Has God stretched your faith? Has he been restoring you? Are you, like me, expectantly waiting for whatever lies ahead? As we swiftly approach this new year together, thank you for your patience in these moments of prolonged silence. Andy and I look forward to a brand-new year, and we would be honored to continue doing our part in calling each of us to a life of compassion in 2015 and beyond.

 

Letter of Love for April: Easter and our testimonies of faith

Hi everyone,

We are back with another letter of love. We hope these letter prompts are helping to inspire you in your letter-writing ministry to your sponsored children. We are certainly excited to share them with you. Last month, we shared about our childhoods and introduced our families to our sponsored children. As we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Christ with our new church family here in Virginia tomorrow morning, my heart and mouth have been filled with praise and thanks as I prepare for my first time serving with our church choir for all three Easter services. In this month’s letter of love, we want to celebrate the Easter holiday by sharing our testimonies of how we joined God’s family.

 

Possible topics to include:

 

• Share your testimony of how you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior

• Share specific ways in which God has helped you since you became a Christian

• Share struggles you have faced in your relationship with Christ

• Share about your baptism, if you have been baptized (including what it meant to you)

• Share your favorite (or life) Bible verse and why it means so much to you

• If your immediate family (spouse, children) wish to share the above information, either include it or attach separate letters

 

Possible questions to ask:

 

  1. Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? If so, can you please tell us about it?
  2.  Have you been baptized? If so, can you tell me about it?
  3.  What is your favorite Bible verse, and why is it your favorite?

 

Possible extra goodies to send:

 

Giant Easter Stickers

Shiny Crosses Stickers

Religious Cross Bookmark with Live Photography

• Coloring pages

 

Your Turn

 

Have you shared your testimony with your sponsored children? Have they shared their testimonies with you? When we sent this letter last year, we received many responses. Our children shared their favorite Scriptures and answered our other questions as well. We hope this letter prompt helps you as you reflect on and share what the Lord has done in your life through his death, burial, and resurrection.

Letter of love for March: Family and childhood

Spring is desperately trying to poke its nervous head through the mounds of snow here and there, as we prepare to move from our home state of Michigan to the state of Virginia. We move in just two weeks, and I have become quite reflective as of late. Other than one year spent in Indiana, I have lived in Michigan my entire life. Along with reflecting on leaving my home state, I have also been anxiously anticipating the spring-like weather awaiting us in Virginia. I cannot wait to do my first happy dance of the year the moment my feet touch down on earth not hidden by snow. If you cannot tell, this winter has clung to us way too long.

 

What do you think of when you think of spring? Do you, like me, think of new life? If so, then you will enjoy this month’s letter of love, as we share about our family and childhood with our sponsored children.

 

Possible Topics to include:

 

• Share about the beginning of spring and how it reminds you of new life

• Share any special story surrounding your birth

• Introduce your family (parents, siblings, grandparents, ETC)

• Share your childhood hobbies

• Share about pets you had as a child

• Share favorite childhood memories of family activities, annual vacations, ETC

• Share childhood dreams and aspirations (what you wanted to be when you grew up)

• Share any difficult circumstances you faced as a child that you are comfortable sharing and how God brought you through them

• Share about people who were important role models in your life growing up

• Share about school (favorite and least favorite subjects, favorite teachers and why, ETC)

• Share about childhood friends and activities you did together. Are you still in contact?

• Share how childhood is an important time in development and encourage your sponsored child to enjoy this time of growth

• Let your sponsored child know you are praying for him/her to grow in Christ (be specific)

 

Possible Questions to ask:

 

  1. Can you tell me about your family (ask specifically about information not already given)
  2.  What do you like to do for fun?
  3.  Do you have any pets?
  4.  What do you want to be when you grow up?
  5.  Can you share about a time when God used you to minister to someone (think of 1 Timothy 4:12)
  6.  What is your favorite/least favorite school subject?
  7.  Can you share about your best friends?
  8.  Can you tell me about an adult who has influenced you in a positive way and how?

 

Scriptures to share

 

Psalm 71:5-6

Psalm 71:16-18

Psalm 139:14-16

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Isaiah 40:30-31

1 Timothy 4:12

 

Extra Goodies to send:

 

• A baby photo of you

• Photos of you growing up (maybe in a homemade photo album or collage)

• Photos from childhood vacations, special celebrations or milestones, ETC

• A homemade family photo album (label with names, relationship, birthday, hobbies, ETC)

 

You’re Turn

 

Have you shared your family and childhood with your sponsored children? If so, what did you share? Did you send anything extra or unique with your letter? What responses did you receive? Writing a letter about our family and childhood reminds us how we are not that different from our sponsored child, and it can bring us closer together too.

Letter of love for February: Valentine’s Day and sharing God’s love

Last month, we began a series entitled “Letters of Love”. Each month, we will share a topic or theme that you are welcome to use and share as you write letters to your sponsored children.

For our February letter of love, we are going to write about…
you guessed it…
Love!

 

Introduction and the sacrifice of love

 

Here in the United States, February 14 is celebrated as Valentine’s Day. To begin this letter, we shared about how this holiday is celebrated through giving cards and gifts to those people we love. We then reminded our sponsored children that while giving gifts is a kind way to show our love, there are other ways in which we can show love as well. We shared how Jesus is the best example of love for us all to follow. Using John 15:13-14, 17, we reminded our children of Christ’s loving sacrifice and shared how we should sacrifice time and our own desires to show love to others.

 

Guidelines for love

 

Using 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, we gave the Biblical guidelines for love and shared each of our strengths and weaknesses according to this passage of Scripture.

 

Questions to include in your letter

 

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses according to what you read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?
  2. Can you share with us someone who has sacrificed to show love to you?
  3. Can you think of a specific way that you can show God’s love to someone today and tell us about how you did this?

 

Prayer request to include:

 

  1. Will you please pray that God would help me to be more (insert weakness according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)?

 

Closure

 

Close your letter by encouraging your sponsored child to show God’s love to others according to Scripture, and let them know you are praying for them as they experience and show God’s love each day.

 

Extra goodies to send with your letter

 

Sweet Valentine Sticker Paper Doll (for girls)

Father’s Love Letter (Free download available in many languages and written from God to his child)

Dare to Love: 1 Corinthians 13 downloadable chart (for older teens)

Glitter Heart Stickers (12 sheets per pack, send extras for child to share)

Valentine from God Lenticular bookmarks (remove ribbon and send extras for child to share)

• Coloring pages, dot-to-dots, hidden pictures, mazes, origami, ETC (keep in mind language barriers and any questionable content)

 

Uganda

Uganda…

We first really learned about this beautiful country in Africa after connecting with a pastor who is serving in the capital of Kampala.

Uganda…

In honor of our new pastor friend, this is where we chose one of our first correspondence children through Compassion International.

Uganda…

This is where the Compassion bloggers were five years ago, and where they are again this week celebrating five years of blogging that changes lives. I mean, it really changes lives. These bloggers are:

Learning lessons about writing and life

Writing about a boy and his best friend

Sharing what Grace really looks like

Sharing how we can help to end slavery and

Reaching around the world through the World Wide Web to encourage sponsors like you and me

 

Wait, you are not a sponsor yet?

 

No worries. You can join us in releasing Uganda’s children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Be sure to follow and support the bloggers as they finish their week in Uganda and beyond.

Letter of Love for January: All about [your state]

As child sponsors, we each know how important it is to write to and build a relationship with our sponsored children. However, the ink of creativity can run dry and the letter writing dries up right along with it. At least one Saturday a month in 2014, we will share a letter writing topic that we have used in the past or plan to use in the future. Many if not all of our sponsored children attend the child development centers for activities on Saturdays, so we thought this would be a helpful way to be praying for our children while we put these letters and packages together. So, let’s begin writing our letters of love!

 

All about (your state)

 

We live in the state of Michigan in the Midwest part of the United States. On January 26, 1837, Michigan became a state. We thought our children would love to learn about Michigan. We have not yet sent this letter along, but it will go out very soon.

 

Topics included in the letter:

 

• Basic overview of state geography (including the great lakes and upper and lower peninsulas)

• Climate

• Lighthouses (very important and historic Michigan landmark)

• Common trees, plants, vegetables, and fruits grown in Michigan

• Famous celebrations (fruit festivals)

• Popular sports and outdoor recreational activities

• Symbols important to Michigan (state flag, flower, tree, and animal)

 

Possible Questions to include:

 

  1. Is your country divided into states similar to the United States?
  2. What plants, trees, and animals are near your home?
  3. What activities do people near you enjoy?
  4. Are there any rivers or other important landmarks near your home?
  5. Are there any symbols important to you and the people around you?

 

Goodies to include:

 

• Pictures of state symbols

• Map of the United States with Michigan highlighted

• State postcards

• State coloring pages found here.

 

Your turn

 

Have you or will you write a letter about your state to your sponsored children? What did or will you share? Any specific questions or goodie ideas you would like to share with your fellow readers and us? Please feel free to share and use or adapt this letter idea as you see fit. We would be especially interested in how our international friends living outside the United States use this idea. Thanks for writing with us, and please join us again in February as we write another letter of love!