There’s a five-year-old boy half a world away who needs heart surgery. I know many of you already sponsor children through Compassion International, but when a need like this arises, our $38/month sponsorship just can’t cover it.
Watch the video if you have time. Put yourself in the place of these parents. If the generosity of others was your only hope to save your child, what would that mean for you (and for your faith?) if people who didn’t even know you made it possible?
I’ll admit that the cynic in me says things like, “We can’t fix every kid’s heart in every country…tons of kids go without the medical care they require to make it to their next birthday…what’s the point of saving just one?…it’s like trying to shovel the ocean…”
But then I remember Fatao’s mother. I remember myself in the aftermath of Felicity’s death, wishing that if I’d just known she needed my help in there I would’ve cut myself open right then and there. No woman should have to face burying her child. And though I know millions of parents outlive their children every year, I want to help one not face that horror. I think that matters.
As many of you know, last weekend I traveled to Birmingham, ALABAMA!!! (A couple times during the weekend I’d think to myself, “This is really surreal–I’m in Alabama….)
Did you know that the license plates say “Sweet Home”?
Growing up in the North and not traveling much as a child, it’s still weird to me that I get to go on trips and see new places (especially places that are so different than ones I’m used to). I love that! I was the navigator for my little duo (me & Shannon, formerly/presently of Rocks in My Dryer) and it was so delightful for me. And no GPS, I’ll have you know! I like the adventure of exploring a new place, and even getting a little bit lost.
There’s something about cell phones and GPS systems that makes us rely less and less on each other and more on satellites and Google. Now, I’m all for those tools, don’t get me wrong, but I like having to stop and ask a random gas station worker for directions. I like getting to have that conversation about where I’m from, what brought me to Alabama, etc. It keeps life interesting!
Your prayers were answered! My time in Birmingham was exhausting in a good way and refreshing in all the right ways. Spending time in the Word and being with new and old blogging friends was amazing. I was in awe most of the time, marveling at just how good God is, allowing all of us to be together and get to know each other better.
And some of the best news came on Saturday night at our little (awesome) Compassion get-together dinner. Through the blogging trips that Compassion has done, 5,000 children have been sponsored. That means that God has worked in 5,000 of you to change the life of a child in poverty, probably someone you’ll never meet. But you will change their life!!! It was such fantastic news.
Here’s a picture of our group (the ones who were able to make the trip to Birmingham):
You can pop over to Shaun’s site (the guy in at the top left of this picture) to get descriptions of everyone in this picture. But let me say this: I love these people. LOVE them.
And My Man (taking my cues from Beth Moore here) kept the home fires burning through the weekend like he (almost) didn’t even need me here. He hauled all four children to the Christmas tree lot and brought a beautiful tree home and set it up so that I’d be surprised when I got home on Sunday night! And making room for a Christmas tree required some furniture re-arranging in the living room, which he did beautifully! Seriously, my man…he’s incredible.
I wish I had more time to tell you about the weekend. But as I type there’s some people who need me.
This weekend I have the privilege of traveling to Birmingham, AL for a Beth Moore event called Deeper Still.
The main reason I’m going is because there’s a group of Compassion Bloggers doing a reunion during/after this event. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:
Getting to meet one of my blogging mentors (seriously, she helped my blog so much) Shannon, along with TONS of other awesome people who’ve done Compassion Blogger trips.
All of my blogging teammates from my El Salvador trip will be there!
Meeting some of you??? If you’ll be there, come say hello. I’ll probably be lurking somewhere near the Dayspring booth at times.
But, as you all know, I have 4 children, 2 of them infant twins. So how am I making this trip happen? Well, it takes a village (or a small army sometimes). I’m very deeply thankful for:
My amazing husband, who’s braving all four children alone. I have full confidence in him as I leave, and I’m so thankful for that. AND, the fact that he wants me to go and have fun. If the tables were turned I’d be whining and probably annoyed that he was leaving. He makes all kinds of joyful sacrifices on my behalf, and I’m so thankful. Love you, Abraham!
My awesome in-laws, who donated their frequent flier miles to help me pay for an airline ticket. With twins arriving, times are kinda tough for us financially, and my in-laws are always so generous and gracious. Thank you, John & Noel.
My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law taking care of all four children tomorrow while Abraham’s at work. You are so great with them, and I don’t have to feel nervous about their care at all.
My friend Shannon in Minneapolis, who’s driving the car pool both ways tomorrow and taking care of Morrow during the morning kindergarten time. Shannon, you have such a gift of servanthood. You’ve made this transition to twins so much easier by loving and serving us. Thanks for helping me get this time away.
Also, I’m really looking forward to time in the Bible. Since the babies have come, my times there are brief and infrequent. In no way do I feel like my roots are deep, and I don’t feel very strong. I feel like I really need this time for the sake of my soul.
Please pray for my small army and for me as I travel. As much as I am excited, it’s hard to leave. I’ll miss my family!
And hopefully I’ll be seeing some of you in Alabama (which is a state I’ve never visited, so I’m getting to add a state to my list! YAY!)
Before I took off for El Salvador with Compassion International, I asked you guys if you wanted to know anything about child sponsorship. You really rose to the occasion, and sent some really thoughtful questions. So thank you for that.
Initially, I was going to respond to them individually, but as I talk to more and more people about sponsorship, I think the questions and issues raised are more global, and so deserve a more public forum for answering.
Spending the week with Shaun Groves, our trip leader (and an awesome guy), I got to ask all the questions I could think of. He was so gracious and always helpful. Turns out, when he went on his first Compasssion trip, he went as a skeptic, since he had previously been involved with a different childrens’ organization that didn’t use their money the way they said they did. He was won over by Compassion International, and now travels around and devotes most of his career (and a large percentage of his heart) to their ministry.
I sponsor a child in Kenya and wonder about the theology that she’s taught. How does Compassion choose which local churches to work with? Are they mostly theologically uniform, or is there some diversity of belief about what might be called “non-essentials” among the projects?
Compassion International sets up their child sponsorship “projects” through local churches. That’s the only way they do it in every country they work in.
In the early days, Compassion had to go looking for church partners. Now, most of the time, churches come find them, because their reputation is so upstanding and the local congregations see the benefits of hosting a Compassion project and want that for the children in their neighborhoods!
So if this was the burning question you had that’s keeping you from sponsoring, and you feel satisfied with this answer, go ahead and sponsor.
Or if you’ve just been undecided or forgetful or apathetic or confused (really, you can just insert any of those adjectives here & you would’ve been describing me a few months ago)… go ahead and sponsor.
No matter how much I wanted to, I didn’t wake up in El Salvador today. My week with Compassion International is over, and I’m grieving that.
I got home Friday night around 11pm and woke Orison (our then-4-year-old) and he greeted me very drowsily. In the morning he didn’t even remember it! But when he woke up Saturday morning, he was FIVE! That’s right, I got home just in time for his birthday.
We spent the day pretty quietly together as a family. But Abraham and I were so tired that by about 5pm we both knew we needed to get out of the house or we were going to be miserable until bedtime. In some random moment of insanity, Abraham suggested that we take Orison to ride a few rides at the Mall of America (something he’s only done a couple times and would be totally thrilled by).
So… it was Saturday night at the Mall of America. Not for the faint of heart, my friends. I don’t think we’d ever been there on a Saturday night before. It was so.stinkin’.busy. So full of people with waaaay too much.
As we were talking toward the amusement park area, I told Abraham, “I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach.”
“Literally?” He asks. (All too often I’m actually sick to my stomach, so he has to make sure….)
“No… more heartsick.”
“So, you’re sick to the stomach of your heart?”
I mean, the day before I was still seeing tin-roofed, dilapidated shacks that people call homes. The day before I was still in the thick of El Salvador and it’s poverty. And I was still there in my heart and mind. But somehow my body was travelling through the Mall of America.
Walking paradox, no?
I keep thinking about objects in space, and how they have to very carefully calculate how the object will reenter the earth’s atmosphere, or else any number of catastrophic ends will result (blowing up, exploding, catching on fire). Perhaps a trip to the Mall of America wasn’t the best reentry strategy.
I’ve already cried a few times today, my emotions just barely below the surface. I feel okay with that, though. If I were just pushing it all down and refusing to let it touch me, that would be unhealthy. My mentor tells me, “Don’t be afraid of tears. Tears are often a sign that the Holy Spirit’s at work.”
So that, for now, is my reentry strategy. Try to let the tears come as they need to. Remember what I saw. And try to avoid the Mall of America.
And of course our fantastic trip photographer, who has worked like a mad woman this week! All of the photos on my site from the trip have been her work. She is a gracious, hardworking, servant-hearted woman.
Child sponsorship has always seemed like a very safe way to help another person. Most of the time you never look them in the eye.
But today I met our family’s sponsored child. All the safe distance of sponsorship was completely obliterated. Now all the “ideas” of sponsorship were humanized into a six-year-old boy. His name is Hector.
The first crack came as the elevator doors opened at 7:15am. Before I even saw him I knew: my heart is already breaking. I could feel it—the tears rushing into my eyes, the heat in my face, the tightness in my chest. I came around the corner where he was waiting for me with his eyes closed, a nervous smile on his face.
You can see what happens next. In true-to-Molly fashion: it was loud, there was lots of talking, and I basically just freaked out. And of course, tears.
He opened his eyes and rushed into my already-full arms. But there was room for him. Crack #2.
We made our way to a couch and exchanged muchos regalos (many gifts). He had made a photo book for me, and a calendar with pictures of him for all of 2010. I had a soccer ball for him and a backpack full of fun and practical items.
Then something spectacular happened. Because of the common grace of the internet, an uncommon event was able to occur. We were able to video chat with Abraham, Orison, & Morrow! Watching him interact with my other children… another crack. It was getting bigger and bigger, and we hadn’t even left the hotel.
We spent the morning at a sports day. Wherever I went, Hector came. And his hand was always in mine. As we walked around I tried to take all the mental pictures I could. With each one, more cracking.
We played, we laughed, we ate snacks… I felt like I was hanging out with one of my own kids.
Then after lunch, the inevitable happened. I had to say goodbye. At this point, the one-half of my heart that was now hanging by a fiber came completely disconnected. How do you say goodbye? How do you tell someone (who’s six) all the hopes and dreams you have for him? How do you share the thankfulness you feel to them for sharing their life with you?
I felt crazy as I just wept and wept over the goodbye. And as I’ve thought about it this afternoon, it felt in small part like saying goodbye to another one of my kids. At one point his mother told me to calm down! I mean, she said it lovingly, but isn’t that hilarious? She’s obviously not used to me, the emoting machine.
Hector was added to our extended family a few weeks ago. I got one morning with him. And then, a goodbye. And who knows if I’ll ever see him again. I hope and pray that I do. I kept having fantasies all afternoon of Abraham & I venturing down to El Salvador for Hector’s graduation. And if I don’t see him again on earth, I hope and pray that we will see each other in heaven. There, God-willing, I will see all of my children, even my sponsored children. And we will rejoice, every tear wiped away.
So I guess, sponsorship can be an easy way to help a kid out. But it’s not going to be easy if you engage with more than your wallet. If you engage with your heart and your time, it’ll hurt to not see their smile, hear their voice, watch them grow up. It just might break your heart.
As you know, I’ve been really excited about witnessing the Child Survival Program here in El Salvador. It’s a very new program, but is already having fantastic effects for the ones involved.
The project we visited today is one of five that are currently operating in this country.
I witnessed about 15 mothers caring for their babies. The women ranged in age from 15-35 years old. Most were first-time mothers, a couple were mothers multiple times over. But the need was the same for all of them: they needed education. They needed to be equipped with skills. They needed to learn how and why to embrace these children.
The women are broken up into groups by the age of their children. We witnessed them being given instruction in infant massage and stimulation. We witnessed them being encouraged to play with their children.
They also spend time in direct instruction with a CSP “Implementer” or “Survival Specialist” who instructs them Biblically about God’s view of children. We heard them learning truths that are kind of old-hat for most of us: children are a heritage from the Lord; your children are gifts from Him…. Things that may tend to seem tired and trite if you’ve heard them too many times.
Imagine hearing it and embracing it for the first time. Imagine hearing it and embracing it, even if you had next to nothing, materially, to give this child.
We heard them learning basics of mothering, such as: if your baby is crying, do you punish him or pick him up?
And while they were having some sit-down time apart from their babies, they twisted our arms to hold the babies.
Many of them shared that they feel extremely thankful to be a part of this ministry. They testified to the effects they see in their children, as compared to other children not in the program.
One woman told me, when talking about her 15-month-old, “He didn’t used to play. Now… he plays!”
The women are learning to take joy in their children. And that, to me, is what turns any old mother into a mama.
You can support Compassion’s Child Survival Program for $20/month, or make a one-time gift. Or just visit the site and poke around. I pray that you’re as blessed by their vision as I am.
As I approached my first Compassion International project visit yesterday, I had no idea how it would go. I’ve heard from our trip leader that each one is so different, depending on the country staff who run the project, that there’s really no way to give us a definite idea how each project will be.
Well… yesterday’s welcome set the bar pretty high.
I got off the bus and there was joyful music playing and children lined up, gauntlet-fashion, on both sides of the church. A young boy approached me (one of the guys on the left there) and escorted me into the building and to my seat. I felt like the stinking prom queen!
You see, this project is in a very rough neighborhood, overrun with gang activity and violence. Many of the children’s parents are involved in gangs or drugs or alcohol. And this particular project has been in operation for five years and never had a visitor from the outside—no sponsor visits, no other Compassion tours, nothing! This was the moment they’d been dreaming of and planning for for five years!
As I walked down their man-made aisle (literally!), I thought my face would break from smiling. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I just tried to record that moment in my brain and heart.
We were entertained with traditional El Salvadoran dances.
Scripture was read over us by one of the children, one who became very dear to our team members who visited his home later in the day.
They sang for us in their sweet little voices. And they sang LOUD! It was awesome.
And… they prayed for us. They prayed for us. All the children gathered around us and squeezed in like an anaconda. I had a gaggle of giggling girls at my waist, whispering to me about “tus ojos” (your eyes), because they rarely see green-eyed people. They were seriously all sweetness and I wanted to extend my go-go-gadget arms to get around all of them at once.
They spent the entire morning blessing us. I was stunned and overwhelmed all morning. Here they are with nothing. Here they are working seven days a week with these children. Here they are going on home visit after home visit into the drug-infested neighborhoods. And treating us like we’re heroes???
This is Blanca. We visited her home this afternoon. She just seemed to show up at my side multiple times during the day.
Christina. Another one who kept finding her way to my side throughout the day. She noticed my lipstick and wanted some.
Isabel. That meek smile accompanied me throughout much of the day.
Joslynn Tamara. This is her in her home. She’s been attending the project for a couple years now. Through her attending the project, her entire immediate and extended family are now walking with God, free from addiction and living in the light of his Presence. Her mother is now walking with Jesus and tutoring at the project. Her mother wept as we prayed for them before they left, that they would continue to walk with Jesus and remain faithful to his work in their lives.
This is Oscar. He came up to me and told me he wanted to recite a poem for me. And then… he did another one. I asked him, “Do you like to rhyme?” He enthusiastically nodded. I asked him to say a Bible verse for me and he couldn’t remember one on the spot. So I told him, “When you remember one, come find me, okay?” A couple hours later, he made good on it. He found me in the director’s office and recited Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you…” He became a special buddy of mine today. And who could resist that smile?
Maricella. Mother of Blanca (picture #1). This is her in her home. She welcomed us there, even though she was nervous. Jesus came and met us there, though. She told us of her history of gang membership and the tattoo on her forehead because of it. And she now can’t find work because she won’t be trusted. Even though in Christ, she is a new creation…. My heart broke for her.
My first day of interacting with people on the receiving end of Compassion has been nothing short of amazing—their stories, their homes, their openness to our presence, their excitement for Compassion and the effects it’s had on their families. My heart is somehow broken and full at the same time. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.