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.

Day 27: Music lovers unite, and another blog giveaway!

“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6).

 

Andy and I absolutely love music. Not only do we enjoy listening to music, but also we travel to churches, camps, conference centers, and wherever the Lord leads us to share the love of Christ and the message and ministry of Compassion International. I also teach private singing lessons, take piano lessons, and sing in a local college choir. As you may have noticed, music is very important to us. Today, for day 27 of our 31 days of compassion, we want to introduce you to some very gifted musicians who are using their ministries to speak up on behalf of children living in poverty. You may be surprised at whose music you have heard before, and you may find a new favorite or a few along the way too.

 

Our Compassion story began with music

 

It was in early December of 2004 when we attended our first concert as a married couple. That night of worship with Michael W. Smith, Point of Grace, and the Katinas was about much more than music for us. It was after Michael W. Smith shared a video that we chose to sponsor our first child with Compassion International. Looking back now, I reflect on how profoundly that night changed our lives forever.

 

Music makes a difference through the years

 

Since that blustery night almost nine years ago, we have joined Compassion’s advocates network. As Compassion advocates, we have been humbled to volunteer in partnership with such gifted musicians and bands as the Newsboys, Rebecca St. James, and Tenth Avenue North. These opportunities have given us the privilege of combining two of our passions—music and the ministry of Compassion—to spread God’s love around the globe.

 

Do you love music?

 

If so, today is your opportunity to show your support and appreciation to these gifted music artists for their partnership with Compassion International to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Choose an artist whose music you enjoy, or find one whose music is new to you. Purchase some of their music to support their ministry. Spend time praying for that musician or band. Pray for their relationships with God and family to withstand the public eye, and that their ministry would glorify the Lord and impact many for Christ. Pray that many children will be released from poverty as the message of Compassion is spread through your chosen musician or band’s ministry. If possible, contact your chosen musician or band via social media and thank them for their music and for partnering with Compassion to speak up on behalf of children living in poverty.

 

Our chosen musician: Shaun Groves

 

I remember my favorite song by Shaun Groves in high school being “Should I Tell Them?” That song challenged and convicted me as I was humbly reminded of Christ’s work in and through my life and walk with the Lord. Andy and I have since read Shaun’s blog for a few years now, and we have virtually traveled with him and other bloggers as they see the work of Compassion International firsthand.

 

When Shaun began work on his latest album, “Third World Symphony”, the anticipation in our home grew to unbearable heights. Since the release of Third World Symphony, Andy and I have been challenged and refreshed each time the CD is played—unashamedly loudly and on repeat more often than not. From the first note of “All Is Grace” to the very end of “Just as I Am”, Shaun paints beautifully vivid pictures that capture our hearts. With Third World Symphony, he has without a doubt connected the first and third world in a moving tapestry of song. The first time I heard this CD from beginning to end, I had to simply be still. Shaun had already struck me as a poignant storyteller through his blog, but I was not prepared for the stories that flowed through my stereo and straight to my heart. I learned much about poverty, wealth, the Lord, and myself that day. While I love every song on this album, “Enough” has left me speechless and in tears on many occasions. These songs are as prayers lifted from a broken yet hopeful heart on behalf of a broken world—prayers for mercy, justice and healing. These prayers are lifted to the throne of our merciful healer, the Lamb of God.

 

If you want a fresh take on music that will challenge and inspire you, then please purchase Third World Symphony from Shaun’s online store or through iTunes, and support his music and ministry. Moreover, would you join us in praying for Shaun and his family as he travels to sing, speak, and lead bloggers in advocating on behalf of the children of Compassion?

 

Blog Giveaway: Two copies of Third World Symphony for you and a friend!

 

We have two copies of Shaun’s latest album, “Third World Symphony”, to give to you and a friend. For your chance to win, please comment and tell us about the friend you plan to bless with this music. What is his or her first name, and why do you feel he or she would enjoy the music and message of Third World Symphony? Whether you write to enter this giveaway or not, we would love to hear from you. Have you been blessed by Shaun’s ministry and Third World Symphony?

 

Official contest rules:

 

• Previous blog giveaway winners are asked not to enter in order to give others a chance to win

• Only one copy of the CD per household, so please be sure your friend does not live with you

• Both CD’s will be sent to the winner’s address, and the winner is responsible for giving a copy to their chosen friend

• Contest entrants need to be 13 years of age or older, and minors should request parental consent prior to entering

• Contest entrants are asked to reside in the United States due to international shipping costs

• This contest will run through Friday, November 8.

 

It’s your turn. Music lovers let us unite on behalf of children in poverty. May we spread God’s love to the musicians and bands as they spread God’s love around the globe.

 

31 Days of Compassion

Day 15: Blog with a greater purpose, and join us in the Compassion bloggers network!

We are almost to the halfway point of our 31 days of compassion, and we continue to be blessed by your participation. It is such a joy for us to hear your stories and interact with you through comments, tweets, Facebook, and so forth. We are so encouraged to learn how much this series is challenging and blessing you.

 

Do you want to blog with a greater purpose?

 

For day 15, we want to invite you to join us as part of the Compassion bloggers network! In order to be a Compassion blogger, you do not need to blog only about the ministry of Compassion. You can blog about your family, cooking, crafts, ministry, or whatever you’d like. The Compassion bloggers network simply gives you the opportunity to advocate on behalf of children living in poverty around the world by using your online voice to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. If you do not already have a blog, this is a wonderful time to create one!

 

What are the benefits of being a Compassion blogger?

 

• The ability to change the lives of children through your gift of writing

• Knowing you are part of a network of like-minded bloggers who have the same goal as you of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name

• Writing prompts sent write to your inbox to keep your creative juices flowing

• A blogging month each September with weekly writing assignments, prizes, and a ton of awesomeness!

• A bloggers’ rewards program

• The ability to travel virtually with some of your blogging friends, or maybe even in-person to see Compassion’s ministry around the world

 

Are you already a Compassion blogger?

 

If so, please encourage others in the comments. Why do you think someone should join us and become part of the Compassion bloggers network? What has been your favorite part of being a Compassion blogger?

 

Are you ready to join us?

 

If you join the Compassion bloggers network, we would love to hear about it so we can visit your blog and welcome you! If you have questions about joining or about the network, please feel free to ask in the comments of this post. We or another fellow blogger will be happy to help to answer your question or point you in the right direction. Get ready to blog with a greater purpose, and join us in the Compassion bloggers network today!

31 Days of Compassion

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.

Walk the Gospel mile

Old Shoes

(Photo credit: Compassion International)

 

They have loved sacrificially and been cherished by many. Whether walking 4 miles with five-year-old Maria and her mother to get water each day, trudging through the mud-soaked earth on a rainy Saturday to take Carlos to his Compassion project, or serving as the “Sunday best” shoes for Ruth, Daniel, Cindi, Blessed, Hope, and Jole, the goal of these two servant-sized soles has always been to walk the Gospel mile. They have reached this goal many times over and have just one request as they step out of the limelight.

 

They are asking you to step up and walk the Gospel mile for a child whose feet and heart are weary and torn. The road is winding, muddy, and steep, and you may be worn and frayed in the end. However, you can protect a child from the shattered glass of life and the scars that poverty’s trash leaves behind. You can continue the legacy left by two soles whose inward light still shines despite the outward fade of time.

 

Marten

 

At age 4, Marten lives in Indonesia with his parents and 5 siblings. He has been waiting just a few days shy of a year for someone to be the feet of Jesus and walk the Gospel mile on his behalf. Is that someone going to be you?

 

Umasha

 

Umasha turned 9 on August 8, and she lives in Sri Lanka with her parents and 2 siblings. She too has been waiting just a few days shy of a year for someone to cheer her on as she succeeds in her education. Will you walk the Gospel mile with Umasha and let her know she can reach her dreams and make a difference for Christ in her world?

 

Lokhikanto

 

Lokhikanto lives with his parents and one sibling in Bangladesh in an area of high risk for child abuse and exploitation, and he will turn 6 years old on October 10. Lokhikanto shares his birthday with my husband Andy. Will you help this precious boy run to Jesus’ everlasting love?

 

Justine

 

Justine will turn 8 on October 31, and he lives in Uganda with his parents and 7 siblings. Justine is not presently attending school, and his community is in need of scholastic materials. HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and waterborne diseases are health-related concerns within this community as well. Justine’s parents are not always able to find work, and those who are employed as subsistance farmers in Justine’s community only make $16.00 per month. Will you step into this precious boy’s life and walk the Gospel mile on his behalf?

 

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Isa 52:7; Rom 10:15).

Three words of love

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Cor 13:3).

 

If you were to describe love in three words, what would those three words be? If I could give you three words to describe love, they would be:

 

Sacrifice

 

Love sacrificed his own life for you—for me—for Love. What would you sacrifice to share with Love about the king who sacrificed his throne and life for her?

 

Beautiful

 

If you are like me, you can think of at least one person who has demonstrated and exemplified beautiful love in your life. Who is your example of beautiful love? Would you honor that person and pass on their gift to tell Love that she is a beautiful gift from God?

 

Patient

 

1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient”. The Lord patiently waits with arms and heart wide open to receive each of us as his children. No matter what we do or how many times we make a mess of our lives, he is always there waiting. Love has been patiently waiting for 203 days, with arms and heart wide open, to receive the news that someone has chosen to end her wait for a sponsor. Will you be the one to choose Love and end her patient wait?

 

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:6-7, 13).

 

For the love of Literacy

“The more you read the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

 

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read and write. My literacy education began at a young age, and the benefits I have since experienced are numerous. I feel blessed to have the ability to read and write. There are 781 million illiterate adults worldwide, and 64 percent of them are women.

 

My love for reading and writing increased throughout my teens and early twenties. I exceled in any English classes, and could often be found writing songs and poetry or engrossed in a good book. Sadly, an estimated 130 million of the world’s 15- to 24- year-olds cannot read or write. Read more facts about education here.

 

Today is being recognized as International Literacy Day, a day set aside to raise awareness about the importance of literacy for education and job readiness. If you have reached this website and read these words thus far, I will assume you are indeed literate. Furthermore, if you have successfully completed your primary, secondary, or higher education, you understand the joy and importance of literacy.

 

For families living in poverty, education may be of lower importance or difficult to access. Instead of attending school, some children and teens work to help support their family. Children and youth registered in Compassion International’s program have access to educational opportunities. Such opportunities may include school uniforms, tuition and supplies, literacy workshops and support, and supplemental tutoring assistance. A recent study noted that Compassion-sponsored children are 13.3 percent more likely to finish primary school and 27-40 percent more likely to finish secondary school than their non-sponsored peers. At 38 percent, the most commonly noted benefit found through Compassion’s program was educational assistance.

 

The encouragement of a sponsor can be the boost a young person needs to reach his or her highest potential. Will you help a child or teen ensure access to literacy education? Such education would afford your sponsored child opportunities for higher education and a successful career to become economically self-sufficient. Through your prayers and words of encouragement, your sponsored child will know that someone is proud of their accomplishments and beside them in their struggles. Will you change a life for the love of literacy?

 

Jacimario

 

Jacimario lives in Brazil with his mother and four siblings. At age ten, he is struggling in kindergarten and could use your encouragement and support. The tutors at Jacimario’s Compassion child development center provide him with tutoring, but his community is in need of schools. This precious boy has been waiting 434 days for a sponsor. Will you be the one to watch Jacimario succeed?

 

Pawan

 

Pawan lives in East India in an area of higher child abuse and exploitation. He will turn six years old this coming Tuesday, September 10. What a birthday gift you could give this child by encouraging his love of reading, helping him as he struggles in preschool, and ending his 372-day wait for a sponsor! I am sure Pawan would thoroughly enjoy reading your letters!

 

Mariela

 

Mariela lives in a community in Nicaragua that is in need of schools. At age twelve, a time of vulnerability and transition in any young person’s life, this precious girl is struggling in primary school and would appreciate your prayers and words of love. Would you be willing to end her 282-day wait for a sponsor and help her Compassion child development center provide her with academic support, school uniforms and shoes? Beyond meeting these needs, you could be the one to encourage Mariela as she blossoms in to a beautiful woman and reaches her full God-given potential.

 

Alison

 

13-year-old Alison lives with his mother in the Dominican Republic. He is struggling in primary school, and you could come alongside his Compassion child development center as they provide Alison with courses in writing, spelling and literacy. If you or someone you know is a man who enjoys sports, and you believe this teenage boy needs a male role model as he enters into manhood, please prayerfully consider sponsoring Alison today.

 

Nadège

 

Nadège is 14 and lives with her foster parents and four other children in Burkina Faso. Nadège is visually impaired and receiving medical treatment. As someone who has always needed specialized educational services because of my visual impairment, I cannot imagine baring the added burden of living in a community with higher risk of child abuse and exploitation. Moreover, this community needs primary schools and although Nadège’s foster parents sometimes find work as subsistence farmers, they only earn an average of $10.00 per month. This young woman is in the midst of her tumultuous teen years, and your prayers and letters of love and encouragement may be what she needs to know she is not alone. Will you please let Nadège know someone cares and you are in her corner, even from the other side of the world?

Dear Me

Dear Me,

I have prayed all week about how I might write this letter to you. This is difficult to write. In fact, this is the third time I have tried. You may not understand why I want to talk with you and the things I will share, but I want you to remember these words in the future.

 

Forgive Dad for not being there. When you are eight years old, you will meet a daddy who will love you and never leave you, and his name is Jesus. Do not let your blindness stop you from reaching your dreams. Know those dreams will change over time, but they will become clearer through the years. Jesus says he has grate plans for you, so please believe and trust him. When you are twelve, you will feel called to music ministry. That picture may look blurry now, but the Lord will bring this calling in to greater focus when the time is right. Be patient, even though you and I both know this is easier said than done.

 

You will move more times than you or I would like, but you will make new friends along the way. Some friends will only appear for a season in your life, but others will remain even as I write this. Treasure family and the memories made with them. You are loved, even when deep inside you do not think so.

 

In school, you will be teased early on about your blindness. Pay no mind to the girls who say hurtful things, because they will apologize later. Remember that true beauty is found from within and you are the apple of your Daddy Jesus’ eye.

 

You will love any classes to do with writing and music, but you will not like history, science, or math. You will struggle in sixth and seventh grade to get the help you need, and mom will fight very hard for you. In eighth grade, you will move back to a familiar city to get the needed help with school, and even though you will miss your friends, you will be glad for the move.

As you go through high school, you may feel like no one understands the real you, and you will wear an invisible mask behind your beautiful smile. You will look for love and experience loss, but Jesus will never leave or forsake you. You will sing and write to heal and read to escape, and this is ok as long as you get up with your alarm each morning. You will move again in the fall of your sophomore year, and you will begin to realize what God called you both to do and not to do. As you near your high school graduation, you will make plans. Know that those plans will change, and do not be afraid of the changes.

 

You will marry the most wonderful man on Earth, and God will use your love for music and writing to fulfill his plans and dreams for your life. You will make mistakes along the way, but please do not hold on to regret.

Not long after you get married, you will begin to show children from around the world that they have a daddy who will love them and never leave them. You will write and encourage them to not hide behind their beautiful smiles, and to not let their circumstances stop them from reaching their dreams. You will remind them that God has grate plans for them, and to please believe and trust him. You will share your life with them and remind them that you were a child once too.

 

Dear Me,

I am proud of you, and Jesus loves you. Thanks for sharing his love with children just like you—just like me.

 

If you were to write a letter to your childhood self, what would you say? Although you cannot go back in time and actually talk to your childhood self, there are children who need to hear what you have to say. Will you share your life, advice, dreams, fears, and prayers with a child just like you—just like me?

 

Miranda

 

Not only does this precious 6-year-old from Indonesia share my first name, but she and I share a love for singing and both of our birthdays are in March! Will you pray Zephania 3:17 over this child and let the Lord use you to sing a song of love to her?

 

Sharitt

 

Beautiful 9-year-old Sharitt lives in Bolivia with her stepfather and mother, and she lives in an area with a higher risk of child abuse and exploitation. I imagine she is even more vonerable, because like me, she is visually impaired. Will you pray Psalm 119:105 over Sharitt and assure her that she does not need to be afraid?

 

Paskalina

 

This 18-year-old young woman lives in Tanzania with her mother and 5 siblings. Growing up without my Earthly father, I learned that Jesus is my Heavenly Father who loves me with an everlasting love.  The Scriptures say that God is the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). Will you share this good news with Paskalina and let her know she is never alone? Will you tell her how much her Daddy Jesus loves and wants to protect her?

 

Sandra

 

Sandra is eight years old and lives in Ghana with her mother. As of the writing of this post, this sweet girl has been waiting 402 days for someone to encourage her through prayers and letters of love. Will you be that someone who tells her she is special and her too long wait is over?

Compassion bloggers in Nicaragua

Being part of the Compassion International Bloggers Network, we love virtually joining each team of bloggers that represent this network as they travel a couple times a year to learn about Compassion’s ministry. Some bloggers travel with Compassion more than once, and others have never seen poverty and hope contrasted up close. This week, a team of bloggers is in Nicaragua and we wanted to share their trip with you. That’s right, you can travel to Nicaragua without ever leaving your computer.

 

First, if you are unfamiliar with Compassion International’s work in Nicaragua, read about it here. Once you have been introduced, take a deeper look through the eyes of these bloggers. We want to highlight a few posts that have captured our hearts this week.

 

Have you ever wondered if hope could be possible amidst the trash? Could life be treasured in the city dump? Read this post to get one blogger’s beautiful perspective and join her as she meets her sponsored child.

 

We all know that Scripture tells us to care for the orphans time and time again. Did you know that we can prevent the label “orphan” from being given to a child? Yes, we can. Yes, you can. Read this to learn more.

 

Last Sunday was Father’s Day. I grew up without my earthly father in my life, but I met my Heavenly father when I was young. I could never imagine my life without Jesus. I pray you are as blessed as I was by reading this post about a daddy’s love.

 

Now that you have seen the photos and read the words, would you please pray about doing more? Would you show 9-year-old Engels that he is treasured and loved by his daddy Jesus? Would you reach out and love 15-year-old Walter and let him know he can reach his dreams?

 

Thank you for traveling to Nicaragua. Be sure to follow the bloggers that are there for a couple more days. Also, please pray for these bloggers, their families, and everyone they meet. Please pray for the words, the strength, the grace, and the gentle reminders that they are helping to change countless lives.