It’s all in the Timing

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Samuel, 6, Colombia

Sometimes I’m just going along, living my life, and suddenly God’s Timing jumps up and surprises me!

I don’t know why it’s always a surprise when it happens to me. Maybe it’s because as I get bogged down in the details of the day-to-day, it becomes easy to forget that God is working in my life. His timing is always perfect, and that doesn’t necessarily relate to our imperfect lives and world.

Regardless, it’s always a pleasant surprise when it happens.

One time, it went like this:

It was a typically relentlessly hot August afternoon. I was at home, hanging out with my kids, hiding from the afternoon sun on our couch and watching movies, waiting until the worst heat of the day had passed so we could spend the evening swimming. I heard the mailman drive past outside, and being a Compassion sponsor, I can pick out the sound of the mail truck like a mom who zeroes in on her child’s cries on a crowded playground.

Naturally, I slid on my flip flops and headed outside to check the mailbox in hopes of hearing from one of my sponsored children. The possibility of finding a cream-colored Compassion envelope in the mailbox was definitely a small price to pay for braving the desert heat.

And this time, I was rewarded for my effort! I rushed back into the house, plopped back down on the couch, enjoying the cool AC, and tore into the newest letter.

This one was from Samuel from Colombia. He was 6 years old, so his tutor at his Compassion project or his mother always helped him to write his letters. As I unfolded the letter, I was surprised to find several pages stapled together. Samuel’s letters up to this point rarely filled half a page, so I wondered what was going on.

As I began to read, I realized this was no ordinary letter. It was two full pages written by Samuel’s tutor in July, and she had some bad news to relay.

Samuel’s mother had suffered a stroke and was currently hospitalized. She suffered paralysis on her left side. And Samuel, who was living with his aunt temporarily, at the time wasn’t allowed into the hospital to see his mother for fear of upsetting him too much.

Samuel’s tutor let me know that she was picking up Samuel each day, bringing him to the Compassion project, feeding him lunch and taking him to school and back home. She also let me know that Compassion had been notified and was offering all the support and help possible.

As I took in this bad news and tried to comprehend what this all would mean to Samuel, I continued to read. I ‘d barely gotten through the explanations of his mother’s medical issues, when the letter’s tone turned thankful.

It turned out, within days of Samuel’s mother going to the hospital, the family gift I had sent to them back in May had arrived. It was only $100, but it came at a time when this woman, who already struggled to support her child, was facing a scary health problem, an unknown amount of time in the hospital and likely mounting medical bills.

Samuel’s tutor described how she and the Compassion project director visited Samuel’s mom in the hospital, and that she was able to recognize them. She said they told her about the gift, and that Samuel’s mother “expressed a faint smile of gratitude.”

And I sat there in my living room astonished that such an easy act for me, logging into my account and sending that gift to Samuel two months before, had arrived at just the right time for this family. It was clearly God’s Timing at work.

I couldn’t know in May what this single mom in Colombia would be facing in July, but God knew, and he used that simple act by one of his children in the United States to bless one of his children in Colombia at just the right time.

I’m thankful for that special glimpse of God’s Timing, and humbled that he would bless me by involving me in some small way. It occurs to me that the gift I sent in May not only helped Samuel, but it also helped me.

Receiving news like that, I definitely would have wanted to help out in any way, but what could I really do for Samuel with so many miles separating us? I could have sent a gift right away, but financial gifts generally take two months to arrive. I could send Samuel letters, cards and stickers, wishing him well and letting him know I’m praying for his mother, but again, those would take a couple of months to arrive, so would have no immediate effect.

With God’s Timing, I could rest assured that I had done all I could do, and all that was left was to pray for Samuel and his mother and leave the situation in God’s hands.

Gift-Giving Impacts Families

What can you do with $100? Pay your cable bill? Take your family out for a nice meal? Buy a new outfit?

I’m sure you can think of many ways to spend $100, but what do you have left when that money is gone? Is it anything that made a lasting impact on your life? More important, is it anything that made a lasting impact on someone else’s life?

Take a look at what you can do for someone else with $100.

Roxana from Guatemala was able to purchase groceries and clothing.

Esteban from Nicaragua, who lives with three young brothers and their single mom, was able to purchase a stovetop with two burners.

Paula from Colombia purchased food for her family.

Zainabu from Ghana purchased items that her mother could use to make food to sell at the market.

Compassion allows sponsors to bless their children with monetary gifts above and beyond sponsorship. These can be birthday gifts, family gifts or even general gifts. The gifts can range anywhere from $10 to $1,000, and one hundred percent of the gift goes to the child, with no money taken out for administrative costs. Compassion restricts the amount of money you can send to your child in order to avoid creating dependence in the child’s family or jealousy within the community.

When you send a monetary gift to your child, it is changed into the child’s local currency and transferred to the Compassion office in his country. A Compassion representative then meets with the child and his family to decide what items are most needed before going to purchase the items.

It can take up to two months for this process to take place, but when the gift money is spent, the child will write a letter to you detailing the items purchased. Sometimes, depending on the resources available in your child’s center, you will receive a photo of your child with the gift, too.

These gifts can help your child’s family tremendously. The average income in the communities of the children pictured above varies from $42/month (Ghana) to $147/month (Colombia), so giving a monetary gift is a great opportunity to help your sponsored child.

“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which he has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17

Learning Compassion

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Ryan with photo of Paula.

As the holidays approach each year, I am often dismayed by my children’s greed. Wish lists and letters to Santa fill up pages with wants and more wants.

At our house, the lists look something like this: video games, iPods, LOTS of Barbies, and on and on and on. Somehow even “gift cards” pops up on those lists, just in case the wants aren’t satisfied.

Even Charlie Brown laments the commercialism that often overshadows Christmas in his famous holiday show.

I’ve noticed this consumerism in the kids doesn’t only manifest at Christmas, though, so this year, I wanted to find a way to chip away at the entitlement that seems to be coursing through the veins of “kids these days.”

I know, I know, every generation’s parents think their kids are spoiled and don’t appreciate what they have, and I’m sure a lot of that goes along with being a child. I’m sure everyone from my generation heard the famous “kids are starving in Africa” line at dinner, just as our parents heard about the kids starving in China.

So like any good parent, I told the “when I was your age” stories and the “walking to school in the snow uphill both ways” tales. But words never seem to bring home the point like actions do.

While I wasn’t willing to send my children on uphill marches through the snow to prove my point that they actually have it pretty good, I was ready to find something that would have more meaning in their lives.

In September, while reading one of my favorite blogs, the writer took a trip to Guatemala with other bloggers. The trip was sponsored by Compassion International, a charity whose motto is “releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”

The bloggers spent a few days touring Compassion-run projects around the country and writing about their experiences. I was deeply moved by the stories and photographs that resulted from this trip, so I started researching Compassion. In just a few days, I’d made the decision to sponsor a child.

I couldn’t believe how many children there were on the web site or how specific I could get in my search. I could narrow it down by region, country, age, disability, orphan, HIV/AIDS affected, gender and even birth date.

Finally I chose a 10-year-old boy from Guatemala named Anderson. I showed his photo to my children and explained sponsorship. I wasn’t sure what their interest levels would be, but am happy to report that it went over quite well.

They had all kinds of questions about Anderson: where did he live, what was his house like, what did he eat, what was he like. I read them the brief biography from the web site and told them the only way to find out more was to start writing to him.

Then each of my three oldest boys sat down and wrote a letter to this boy in Guatemala. A boy they’d never met, but had already piqued their interest. My 9-year-old even sent him some baseball cards from his own collection.

We have sponsored a few more children since then, including a 5-year-old girl from Colombia, hand-picked by my own 5-year-old daughter. I was thrilled to witness my daughter’s thoughtfulness when she picked out stickers from her own stash to send to a little girl she has never met.

In three short months, these sponsorships have impacted our family in many small ways. They’ve made us more conscious of how we spend our money and more thankful for our blessings, to put it mildly.

They also have provided many teachable moments, like when my daughter wanted me to make a video of her doing a ballet dance to send to our Colombian girl.

I said, “Honey, she doesn’t have a TV.” That reminded me that what may seem obvious to us adults isn’t always so clear to the kids. Her look was one of disbelief, then horror, as she empathized for a moment with this little girl who lives without a television.

Do I dare tell her this little girl likely lives without a lot more than television? Do I tell her that thanks to our meager contribution, she gets a couple of meals a week, some tutoring, some healthcare and spiritual guidance?

That hardly seems like enough to me, and I’m sure the unfairness of it will be too much for my Kindergartener to grasp. It’s too much for me to grasp.

“She doesn’t have a TV,” I repeated, “so why don’t you draw her a picture of yourself doing ballet instead?”

As she bounced off happily to draw her picture, I thought, there will be plenty of time for her to understand the reality of the situation.

For now, she can do what she can, which is caring about somebody else.

(This story was written by Kerri and posted in December 2010 on another web site, http://www.parentingfortherestofus.com, a blog about parenting with several contributing writers).

Too Small to Ignore

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Sometimes when a book relates upsetting stories, and especially when those stories involve children, I have to take frequent breaks from reading. I have to put it down and walk away so that the pain coming from the pages reaches me only a little bit at a time.

Wess Stafford’s book, “Too Small to Ignore,” was definitely one of those books.

It took me quite a while to get through it. It was well written, but the stories of child abuse and children in poverty were very difficult to read.

Stafford was a child of missionaries who spent part of his childhood in Africa. There, he essentially led two lives.

One was the idyllic childhood in the small African village where his parents were working. There he enjoyed learning and growing in a close-knit community, watched over by many loving adults. It was there that he also witnessed poverty firsthand. As a child, he saw many close friends in the village die, giving him his first glimpse of the destructive effects of poverty.

The other life Stafford led was at the unspeakably abusive boarding school he attended each school year with other children of missionaries. Here children were punished, beaten and abused daily in unfathomable circumstances.

Stafford used these situations in his life for good, though, committing his life to helping children in poverty. Today, he is the CEO of Compassion International, an organization that serves children in 26 countries, with a strong commitment to Christ, children, church and integrity.

Despite the difficult obstacles Stafford faced as a child, he has become a champion of children everywhere. He urges readers to rethink the importance of children and their role in our lives, putting them first, treasuring them and pouring our time and love into them, whether they are our own children or children in a faraway village.

As he explains the effects of both financial and spiritual poverty on children, he challenges the reader, “Now that you know, what will you do?”

This book is eye-opening, thought-provoking and inspiring, and I highly recommend it.

Why the Sad Faces?

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Jose, 4, of Bolivia, attempts to stand still while being photographed.

If you’ve ever browsed through Compassion’s photos of children available for sponsorship, you may have wondered why so many of the children look unhappy.

It’s not a marketing ploy to tug at your heartstrings, and while these children are living in poverty and maybe in difficult family situations, that’s not usually the reason for sad expressions.

In reality, it’s just difficult to get a child to stand still for a photo. On photo day, there are many children standing in line waiting to have their photos taken. Compassion has some guidelines for the photographer to follow in posing the photo as well, so it can be challenging.

Follow the link below to see a wonderful video of our sponsored child Jose in Bolivia on picture day a couple of years ago. He was four years old at the time, and you can see for yourself what these photographers go through to get a decent photo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvibzb3-m94

This video was taken by a sponsor who visits Bolivia regularly. Compassion updates children’s photos every 18-24 months.