Compassion Bloggers visit Uganda

This week, the Compassion bloggers are visiting Uganda. It’s only two days into the trip, and these talented writers have already shared many wonderful stories.

You can follow along by clicking here.

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You’ll read about a young girl who is able to smile again after growing up on the run from the Lord’s Resistance Army. You’ll follow along as another young girl gives a condensed and humorous presentation of her daily life. You’ll meet a young boy who, despite a tough first impression, has a heart for leadership and ministry. You’ll be exposed to poverty, but more importantly, you’ll see Compassion making a difference in the lives of children and families, bringing hope, faith and love to the area.

Compassion’s goal is to find sponsors for 400 children in Uganda this week, and already 109 children have been sponsored. Would you consider partnering with Compassion to provide a child with education, healthcare, nutrition and the gospel? Would you consider bringing hope to a child in need?

Please click here and select Uganda to sponsor one of the 602 children waiting to hear they have been chosen.

A Long Way Gone

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“A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah is a heart-wrenching, auto-biographical account of a young boy’s struggle to survive the violence of Sierra Leone’s Civil War in the 1990s.

The story begins with young Ishmael and his brother and friends heading off to another village together to perform rap songs, which is one of their favorite pastimes together. Their youthful exuberance is forgotten as war breaks out, and they return home amid grisly and bloody violence, unable to find their families.

The boys set out together, searching for their families, struggling to feed and shelter themselves. They face unbelievable obstacles during this time, but most poignant is the unease and suspicion adults in other villages feel toward them. Where in peace time, the children would have been taken in, cared for and fed, instead the children are seen as the enemy in a war-torn world where even young boys are joining in perpetrating the violence ravaging the country.

After much personal loss, Ishmael is captured, handed a gun and pressed into service. It’s common for his superiors to ply Ishmael and other young soldiers like him with cocaine and other drugs while encouraging them to commit acts of unspeakable violence. Normally a good-natured boy, Ishmael is surprised by his own actions during this time.

A new stage in his life begins when he is chosen by a commander to leave the war with a UNICEF representative. Ishmael is taken to a safe home for boys just like him, where he spends months working through the violence he has experienced and his drug addictions. He is only 15 years old at this time. Though his parents are gone, his father’s brother is located, and he graciously takes Ishmael into his own family, which is a mixture of other nieces and nephews as well.

While living with his uncle, safe and in a stable family situation, Ishmael is chosen by UNICEF to represent the children of Sierra Leone at a U.N. meeting in New York City. His uncle, a loving and caring man, jokes with him about this opportunity, and doesn’t believe Ishmael really is traveling to the United States until he calls home from New York City to check in with his family.

Ishmael returns home to his uncle’s family to continue his studies, and just as it seems there has been a happy ending for Ishmael, the civil war, which had been isolated to the country’s more rural areas up to this point, breaks out in the city where he is living. Food becomes scarce, survival is once again a struggle, and Ishmael fears he will be recognized by his former fellow soldiers and pressed into service again.

He flees to the United States to live with a mentor, whom he met during his visit there, and finishes high school and college. Currently, he is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and speaks before many groups regarding children affected by the war.

This is a well-written story of human strength and endurance, made even more incredible by the fact that the main character is a child. It is difficult to read at times because it causes the reader to be emotionally invested in the lives of the children depicted. Ishmael lives through years of adversity and comes out able to put his experience to good use in helping others, and that is inspiring.

Love in Letters: Big Hugs and Lots of Love

I’ve fallen into the habit, when writing to my sponsored children, of using the same closing to my letter every time. I always write, “I send you big hugs and lots of love.”

So when I received this letter from 18-year-old Edwin in Uganda today, I was touched to see my own familiar closing. 

Edwin ended his letter: 

“God bless you and your family. I send you big hugs and lots of love.”

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Edwin, 18, Uganda

Edwin writes in English, and often shares many interesting details of his life. In this letter, I learned that Edwin’s grandparents celebrated “Golden Jubilee” in August, which was their 50th wedding anniversary. A church service including all the grandchildren was part of the celebration, and Edwin composed a song on a keyboard and sang it at his grandparents’ party.

Edwin also let me know that Manchester United is his favorite soccer team, and he listed some of his favorite players.

This young man is serious about his studies, and always asks for prayers that he do well in school. I look forward to seeing where God leads him in the future and am thankful to know him.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child in Uganda, please click here and enter Uganda in the search window.

From Serious to Smiles

From Serious to Smiles

This is Pedro from Brazil. I’ve been corresponding with this boy for about two years, and had only seen his very serious, solemn face in the first photo. It was a wonderful surprise when I logged onto my account last week and saw his beautiful face smiling back at me!

Pedro is 10 years old, and in his most recent letter, he wrote: “We have many things in common since history is one of my favorite subjects. History speaks of peoples who lived in a different time before us.” It has been a lot of fun getting to know this boy.