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.

 

From solver to servant: Rethinking the heart’s response

Puzzle pieces

Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

 

I am a solver

 

I will confess, I worry about situations, both big and small. When a problem arises, my natural tendency is to want to fix it right away. This tendency is present even amidst circumstances over which I have no control.

 

Poverty is one such situation that I cannot control, let alone fully comprehend. I cannot fathom lacking access to food, education, healthcare, or safe water and adequate sanitation. I cannot imagine the fear of wondering if my child will live past his or her fifth birthday, or if he or she will die from something that could have and should have been prevented. These are very real problems, and while I want to solve them, I realize I cannot begin to do so through my own imperfect strength. So, what then should I do? What then should we do, we who see the need yet must go against the grain of our natural tendencies of worry and problem solving?

 

I want to be a servant

 

Orphan Justice author Johnny Carr once said, “Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve. As we go through each day, our heart’s cry should be, Lord, where would you have me give, serve, and invest myself to bring hope to the poor?”

 

Instead of desiring to solve such a complex problem as poverty on my own, instead of being overwhelmed by the notion that I alone must save the world, it’s time I let the Lord do the solving and be willing to step back into the role of humble servant. It is time to remember that I can make a difference right where he has strategically placed me, without wishing I had all the answers. What does it look like to be a humble servant? Moreover, what does it look like to bring hope in the midst of hopelessness, light amidst the darkness, and truth amidst poverty’s web of lies and deceit? What does this look like in your life? Do you, like me, wonder what would happen if we each prayed the prayer found in Johnny Carr’s profound statement?

 

Maybe in response to God’s mandate to care for the poor you feel called to change the life of Marten, Mariela, Love, or Justine. Maybe you aren’t exactly sure what the Lord would have you do, but you are willing to take the next step and join us starting tomorrow and continuing through October in our 31 Days of Compassion. No matter what it looks like for each of us, let us seek to serve and let the Lord solve. May we, along with Johnny Carr, give, serve, and invest ourselves to bring hope to the poor. Let us turn from being a solver to being a servant, and rethink our heart’s response.

Does the mission satisfy?

I am starting a college course called “Introduction to Global Studies” next week, and I have been looking forward to taking this course for a while now. Andy and I believe that God has called us to further his mission and kingdom through our involvement with the ministry of Compassion International, hence this blog and website. Admittedly, there are those days when sponsorship and advocacy are not fulfilling or satisfying. There are those days when we crave more, but instead of desiring more of God and his calling, we reach out for more of this world and its enticing offerings.

 

While reading the introduction for my textbook, I was struck by this Scripture. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Do I hunger for more of the mission of God? Am I satisfied by taking part in the Lord’s work? Is knowing that I am making a significant eternal impact in the lives of our Compassion children fulfilling? If I were to take an honest look at myself, I would more often than not answer, “no”.

 

At times, I feel my labor is in vain and does not yield enough fruit, or that I am not making an eternal difference. I tend to only see the big picture and not enjoy the little blessings. In these moments, I am tempted to search for meaning and fulfillment by seeking significance in the world. It is easy to want more–more money, different employment, all in the name of doing more for God’s kingdom. I am not always content to sit back and rest in the assurance that God and his mission can satisfy.

 

What is the mission God has called you to? Do you hunger for more of that mission? Do God and his mission satisfy? Are you filled to overflowing in a way that you can do nothing but share?

“I left my heart…”

In honor of World Poetry Day, I wanted to share a poem I wrote back in October, when I didn’t even mean to. That’s right, I was not planning to write anything that night, but as the Lord would have it, I drafted this post 5 months in advance. Now if only I could always be this much of a planner!

 

October 10, 2012

 

As I sit in my office, and listen to the rain fall outside, my mind wanders and I begin to write.

 

I left my heart…

 

I left my heart broken

I left my heart bruised

I left my heart shattered

I left my heart torn

I left my heart wide open and bleeding love

Silent tears the only words it could pour

I left my heart in pieces at your feet,

And ever so gently, you picked it up in your hands to mend and mold

Now it’s not my heart, but yours.

 

So take this heart and imprint your words

that your little ones need to hear.

Take your gentle nail-scarred hands,

and wipe away their tears.

Father to the fatherless, hold them close

and drive away their fears,

When they feel forgotten and all alone,’

love them through the years.

 

Take this passion burning deep

to bless and love the least of these.

Thirst and hunger their silent cries

I cannot run frightened, deaf, and blind.

I must share of your body and blood

the greatest gift of sacrificial love.

The lies of poverty, they must cease

for in your name, this child shall be released!

 

 

 

If you have written or would like to write a poem in honor of World Poetry Day, we would love to read it. Maybe your poem is about poverty, or maybe it’s about your sponsored child. Whatever the Lord leads you to write, we pray this post and experience will bless you!

A gift of love from the heart

When we think of Valentine’s Day, some of the first things we think of are flowers, candy, special Valentine’s Day cards, and red hearts. The symbol of a red heart is not just associated with Valentine’s Day, but it is seen as a symbol of love. Have you ever wondered how you could give a Valentine’s Day gift of love that has an eternal impact for the kingdom of God? Have you considered releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name this Valentine’s Day?

Some of the children served by the ministry of Compassion International have been waiting for a long time to have a sponsor say, “I love you”. In fact, there are children who have been waiting more than six months for their special sponsor! The red heart symbolizes these children’s long wait. Will you end a child’s long wait today?
Five-year-old Jaren in Honduras has been waiting 197 days for a sponsor, and his birthday is today!
Yulianny from the Dominican Republic has been waiting for 228 days for a sponsor to change her life. Will you bless her on her birthday with a gift that will last forever?
Oumarou lives in Burkina Faso with his uncle and mother. This birthday boy has been waiting 198 days for a sponsor to say “I love you”! Will you be that special someone?

Desmond lives in Ghana and has been waiting 258 days for his special sponsor. What a precious birthday gift a new sponsor would be!

There are many other children who have been waiting for more than six months for a sponsor to share with them the love of Christ. No matter who you choose to love this Valentine’s Day, we know this will be a gift both you and they will never forget!

Meet Compassion

What do you think of when you think of the word poverty?

Dictionary.com defines poverty as “little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.” Poverty is so much more than this. Poverty is more than a lack of basic necessities.

 

 

Now that we’ve defined what poverty is, let’s talk about what we can do about it. We want to introduce you to a ministry close to our hearts, that is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name! Compassion International was started by American evangelist Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952 as a way to help Korean War orphans, and has since grown to releasing over 1.2 million children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty in 26 countries around the world. Compassion enables the children they support to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

 

 

“Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name” is not a slogan. For Compassion, it is their God-given mission. Learn more about the ministry of Compassion International by going here.

 

There are 4 things that make Compassion’s ministry distinct.

 

Compassion is Christ-centered.

 

Jesus Christ is at the center of everything that Compassion does. God’s Word gives us multiple mandates to care for the poor, and children are very close to the heart of God.

Every child registered in Compassion’s child Development sponsorship program has the opportunity to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, and each child is given the opportunity to know and build a relationship with their creator. Each child is given a Bible, and these children take home what they learn in the Compassion program about Jesus and share the love of Christ with their families.

 

 

Compassion is child-focused.

 

Compassion believes in a holistic approach to individual child development. Each child registered in Compassion’s child development sponsorship program receives regular medical checkups and access to education through tutoring, school supplies, tuition assistance or uniforms. Children are taught social skills, health and hygiene practices and vocational training. Children are also given access to nutritious food while at the Compassion project. Each child is taught about the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and given the opportunity to know and build a relationship with him. Children are also linked to a sponsor who has a one-on-one relationship with that child. As a sponsor, you have the unique opportunity to build a life-changing relationship with your sponsored child. By exchanging letters with your sponsored child, you have the ability to speak life into what otherwise may be a dark and desolate situation. You are able to plant seeds of hope in your sponsored child’s heart, and through your words of encouragement your child will know that both you and Jesus care about and love him/her very much. You may be the one person who tells your sponsored child “I love you.” As the sponsor of a Compassion child, you are the hands and feet of Jesus. For just over $1.00 a day, you can release a child from poverty!

 

 

Learn more about the benefits your Compassion-sponsored child receives for just $38.00 per month.

 

Compassion is church-based

 

Compassion International partners with the local church in your sponsored child’s community to provide culturally relevant age-specific ministry and care for each child involved in their program. A Compassion project, student center or child development center refers to the local church in that child’s community. The Christian adults in this church care very deeply for your sponsored child, and they want to see your sponsored child succeed. The church staff and volunteers make sure your sponsored child receives individual attention and that your child hears and knows of the love of Jesus Christ.  Each church partner is carefully selected by Compassion through a strategic process. Learn more about how Compassion partners with the local church and the church partner’s role and responsibilities.

 

Compassion is committed to integrity.

 

Compassion is committed to Biblical and financial integrity in everything they do. At least 80 percent of your $38.00 per month tax-deductible donation goes directly to care for your sponsored child, and Compassion acts in true honesty and humility with each aspect of their ministry. Learn more about Compassion’s commitment to financial integrity.

 

Along with child sponsorship, Compassion International has 3 other major programs that we’d like to tell you about.

 

CSP (Child Survival Program)

 

 

• 90 percent of child deaths worldwide occur within the first year of life.

• In developing countries, one in every six infants is not immunized against tuberculosis.

• Only 55 percent of the world’s infants are fully immunized against hepatitis B.

• Only 69 percent of newborns are protected against tetanus.

• Approximately 37 percent of deaths among children under 5 — 9.7 million worldwide in 2006 — occur in the first month of life.

• Each day, about 1,000 children worldwide become infected with HIV, the vast majority of them newborns.

• Although about 33 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women receive drug therapies to prevent the transmission of HIV to their infants, only 11 percent of HIV-positive women in sub-Saharan Africa who need antiretrovirals had access.

• Nearly 15 percent of babies in developing countries are born with a low birth weight compared with only 7 percent of babies in industrialized countries.

• In Sub-Saharan Africa 55 percent of children under 5 have never been registered; worldwide nearly 50 million children each year are not registered and begin life with no identity.

• Every day 1,500 women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth that could have been prevented. Each day 10,000 newborns die within a month of birth, and daily the same number of babies are also born dead.

• Nearly 30 percent of women worldwide give birth before age 18.

• Some 200 million women who wish to space or limit their childbearing lack access to contraception.

 

Reading these statistics above, you may be thinking that this is a hopeless situation. There is hope for these mothers and infants. Compassion’s Child Survival Program provides pregnant mothers in poverty with prenatal care, and when their baby is born these mothers are taught how to properly care for their new little one. Along with basic child care skills, these mothers are taught income-generating skills, budgeting skills and about the love of Jesus Christ. Just as with the child sponsorship program, the Child Survival Program is run by the local church.

 

 

 

LDP (Leadership Development Program)

 

After graduating from Compassion’s Child Development Sponsorship Program, some young people have the opportunity to attend college and grow in Christian leadership and discipleship through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program. These young people are overcoming their circumstances to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, social workers, teachers, pastors and more. Through the Leadership Development Program, these young people are realizing the dreams that God has placed in their hearts, and they are learning to be all that God has created them to be. They are receiving training in Christian leadership and discipleship and being mentored by a Christian in their community.

 

 

CIV (Complementary Interventions)

 

Compassion’s core programs highlighted above are wide-reaching. However, they can not possibly meet every single need associated with a child’s healthy development. This is why Compassion has created their Complementary Interventions program to assist in meeting these needs when necessary. The CIV covers:

• HIV and AIDS Initiative

• Medical Assistance

• Malaria Intervention

• Curriculum Development

• Health & Parenting Skills

• Education & School Fees

• Assistance for Highly Vulnerable Children

• Disaster Relief

• Providing Clean Water

• Income Generation

• Infrastructure Development (repairs or rebuilding of homes or Compassion church partner buildings)

 

Compassion International is making a global impact in the Kingdom of God. From before a child’s birth until university education, many children’s lives have been changed forever. These children have been released from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. These young people are now making a difference and changing their world. Will you join them? Will you join us? Will you make an eternal difference in someone’s world today?