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?

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!

Finally! Announcing the winners of the “Third World Symphony” CD giveaway!

Back in October as part of our 31 days of compassion, we invited you to enter for a chance to win two copies of “Third World Symphony” from Shaun Groves—one for you and one for a friend. Now that our college final exams for the fall semester have passed and Christmas break has come in all its restful glory, we are finally able to announce the long-awaited winners! Thank you for your patience.

 

The winners are: Linda T (and her friend Michelle)!

 

Linda, if you will email us at: compassioncalling1 [at] gmail [dot] com with your address, we will get these CD’s mailed out to you as soon as possible!

Thanks again for your patience, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

We are looking forward to 2014 and what the Lord will do through this blog and the ministry of Compassion International. Thanks for helping us to make 2013 such a memorable year! Be sure to join us next year for some exciting series, and maybe even another contest or two!

Seven Steps to Sending Your Letter Step 3: The Basics of Being a Snail

A while back, we began a series of seven steps to sending a letter to your Compassion International sponsored child. Each Saturday in November, we will continue and finish this series in anticipation of a 2014 full of monthly themed letter writing topics you are welcome to use and share. If you are in need of letter writing topics before January, read step one of this series for some ideas and to learn about the letter-writing schedule we use. Continue to step two to find a detailed walk-through of Compassion’s online letter writing tool with a bonus topic included!

 

As we have said in the previous posts of this series, please remember that we are located in the United States and International Compassion offices may have different rules and guidelines to follow. Please also keep in mind that everything we suggest here, while it works for our Compassion family and current situation, may not work for your Compassion family or situation. We are not official Compassion International employees, but we do all we can to ensure that our information is accurate to the best of our knowledge.

 

Today, let’s begin our discussion of sending snail mail packages!

 

While writing a letter online is certainly convenient and fun, the ability to send letters in the mail and include extra paper gifts is just as exciting for the sponsor as it is for the sponsored child—I promise! You know you are a child sponsor when you go to the store and do a happy dance while trying not to scream in sheer delight at finding that perfect paper gift for $1.00 or less! You may even purchase more than necessary and laugh at yourself a year or more later when that item is still well stocked! Warning: This can get dangerously addictive, so please do not blame me! 😉

 

Compassion has mailing guidelines we need to follow

 

As you review the above guidelines, keep in mind the following additional tips that may aid you in your package-sending process.

 

Tip: Make sure your and your sponsored child’s numbers are on everything you send

 

We will discuss an efficient way to label the items you mail in a future installment of this series, but for now, here is what you need to know. To ensure timely processing and accurate delivery, your sponsor number and your sponsored child’s number should be clearly written on every item sent in your package, including the letter itself. If you are unsure of how to obtain these numbers, view your online account or contact Compassion’s global ministry center at: (800) 336-7676.

 

Tip: Clearing up confusion about size restrictions

 

As mentioned above, Compassion has a list of items we can and cannot send, and there are size limits on the items being included in our packages. While there is some confusion as to whether the entire package or each individual item must meet the size restrictions, we have been told by Compassion staff in response to multiple inquiries that each item in the package can be no more than ¼” thick and with dimensions no larger than 8 1/2’” x 11”. The mailing envelope in which you send your items can be larger, but we will discuss mailing itself in a future post of the series later this month.

 

Tip: How to send books and booklets while still meeting guidelines

 

As noted in the above link, we are no longer able to send books and booklets. This is due to the increased possibility of these items being stolen while in transit to our child, because the books and/or booklets are worth monetary value. In order to send books and booklets, de-bind the book or booklet and send a few pages at a time. Additionally, you can remove the cover if it is a small booklet and staple the pages together if not already otherwise attached. Please note: Books should be in a language your child can read, as letters and cards are the only items translated as far as we understand.

 

Tip: Ask before sending to avoid mailing delay and possible extra cost for Compassion

 

If you are unsure if a particular item will go through according to Compassion’s mailing guidelines, please ask before sending it as part of your letter package. Sending items you are unsure about may delay an entire shipment of sponsor letters in the child’s country for months, and Compassion may incur additional costs associated with working to get the letters to the sponsored children.

 

Do you have any tips or questions about Compassion’s mailing guidelines?

 

Please feel free to ask your questions or share your tips in the comments. If we are unable to answer any questions, we will be sure to find the answer or point you in the right direction. If you have tips or questions regarding other aspects of sending letters to our sponsored children, please keep them in mind for the corresponding post in the series or comment on a previously appropriate post. This will help us to stay organized and provide the most effective series possible for you and your fellow readers.

 

What’s next in the series?

 

Please join us next Saturday for step four of this series! We will discuss theming, outlining, and scheduling letters. We will also share cost-effective tips for choosing extra paper gifts, and organizing them for easy access.

Day 30: Give a gift with blessings beyond the wrapping this Christmas!

As we wrap up the month of October and our 31 days of compassion series tomorrow, it is hard to believe that we will soon enter the holiday season. Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Admittedly, we have not. As we each consider the gifts we will give this Christmas, have you thought of giving a gift that will bring blessings beyond the wrapping? Have you thought of giving a gift in honor of someone to help release another from poverty in Jesus’ name?

 

Give a gift this Christmas from Compassion International’s 2013 gift catalog!

 

Instead of making snowmen just to get out of your driveway, dealing with holiday traffic both on the roads and in the stores, and standing in line long enough to memorize the fruit of the Spirit, why not take a moment to bless more than one person with your Christmas giving this year? You can spread God’s love around the globe and honor someone you love with the same gift. Show compassion to someone this Christmas.

 

Possible gift ideas

 

Below are just a few of the possible gift choices you have and how you can personalize these gifts for someone on your Christmas list.

 

Mothers and infants

 

In honor of your mother, a friend who is expecting or has an infant, or someone who cares for infants through ministry or employment you can:

 

• Feed a mother and baby for a suggested donation of $14.00

• Give the gift of a newborn care package for a suggested donation of $34.00

• Provide an infant with a year of medical care for a suggested donation of $55.00

 

Healthcare

 

• In honor of your dentist, give a child dental care for a suggested gift of $20.00

• In honor of your doctor, provide treatment for illness or injury for a suggested gift of $40.00

• Partner with others to provide lifesaving surgery for a suggested donation of $100.00

 

Safe Water and Sanitation

 

• In honor of your plumber, provide a Compassion center with bathrooms for a suggested gift of $25.00

• Provide water wells for a suggested gift of $30.00

 

Education

 

• In honor of your librarian or book club, provide adult literacy for a suggested gift of $22.00

• In honor of a college student or professor, develop a future leader for a suggested gift of $40.00

• In honor of a student or teacher, provide textbooks for a suggested donation of $40.00

• Partner with others to provide students with vocational training for a suggested gift of $25.00

 

Income generation

 

• Honor someone with chickens by providing chickens to a family for a suggested gift of $42.00

• Honor a small business owner by partnering with others to help a family start a business for a suggested donation of $25.00

 

We pray that you will take this opportunity to bless and honor someone by giving a gift with blessings beyond the wrapping this Christmas season. We would love to hear how you are sharing the gifts of Compassion catalog with your family and friends, or the creative ways in which you are honoring others this year.

31 Days of Compassion