Tag Archives: Compassion

Live From Guatemala: Day Two

Standard

Today was challenging. The lack of shock value I mentioned yesterday showed up today and I didn’t handle it as smoothly as I would have liked.

Honest, no-holes-barred, truth? I wanted to leave. I literally wanted to hop a plane and wave goodbye from 37,000 feet. To say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. Let me paint the picture for you.

We drove three hours towards the coast this morning. Yesterday we saw an urban Child Development Center not far outside the city limits of Guatemala City. Today, we traveled to see Compassion’s work in the rural, more remote communities.  With every passing mile, the lanes grew more narrow and the traffic lessened.  Within the first hour of our trip, well constructed infrastructure disappeared and the view consisted of hundreds of acres of sugar cane.

We arrived at the Child Development Center and were welcomed by balloons,  music, and a vibrant staff waiting for us. We were not there long before we split into groups and went to visit the homes of children enrolled in the center. Each group was led by a translator and a church volunteer.

A muddy entrance was bridged by two plastic crates. Once across, the view was heartbreaking. An adobe structure, in the shape of a rectangle with two walls missing served as the home for six people. It was no larger than 20 ft. by 10 or 15 ft. and the missing sides were covered with black tarps. There was a corrugated metal overhang over the entrance of the home where the family sat.

Immediately to the right of the home was their kitchen: a lean-to with a fire-pit in the middle of it. The view from the porch was of a small muddy yard, a half-dozen chickens pecking the ground, a rooster crowing (a few hours late), a dog that looked as though it hadn’t eaten in two weeks. Also in the yard was the family bathroom, which was a small adobe hut. Clothes lines zig-zagged their way through the few trees in the yard too.

As I turned my attention back to the house, we began to learn about the family. The grandparent’s of the two children enrolled at the Child Development Center owned the land and the home. The grandfather, born in 1925 couldn’t remember how long he and his wife had been married, when we asked. He chuckled. She sat behind him, further under the overhang and near the home door.

Holding a coffee cup in her right hand and covering half her face with her left hand, she looked as though she was born in 1925 too. Dark, leathered skin, grey silky hair neatly pulled back in a bun, arthritic hands and a eyes that starred nowhere. She never spoke. Never even looked our way. She barely moved. She was deaf.

The children, a boy and a girl, were only half siblings. They sat at the kitchen table, that was outside, as they ate their lunch. The boy’s father had died several years ago and the girl’s father was nowhere to be found. We were told she had never met him. The children’s mother was at work, laboring in the sugar cane fields. The only other family that was there was the grandfather’s son; the children’s uncle. He was only wearing pants. No shirt. No shoes.

Actually, the only shoes were on the feet of the children. Benefits of being in Compassion’s program.

The children were old enough that they knew we were Americans, but young enough to prefer playing with the chickens than answering our questions.  We spoke instead with the grandfather.

“How can we pray for you?” we asked him.

He raised his hands to heaven and brought them down to his chest as if he were praying. He said, “God bless you! I have no needs. I have a job. I can work and pay the bills. I have six children, one of which is my son here, and they all have Jesus in their heart. I am blessed. I am grateful.”

That was it. No mention of a bigger home so as it separate the six beds that filled the open space. No request for shoes for himself despite the fact that it appeared he hadn’t owned shoes in years. His feet were swollen, his nails were black and it seemed as though his skin was infected.

No “It would be great if we could have electricity or air conditioning.”

His children received salvation in Jesus Christ and that satisfied his heart. Physical needs were met, day by day. He literally asked for nothing more.

I have been more quiet than usual since that visit. The rest of the day’s adventures have simply been blurred by this man’s gratitude and faith.

If you would like to sponsor children from Guatemala, in circumstances similiar to this, please go here.

Live From Guatemala: Day One

Standard

The first day has already come and gone. Quickly, I might add.  Already there have been moments that I can not stop replaying in my mind. To be honest though, none of these “moments” have consisted of surprise, shock, or speechlessness when it comes to the scenes of poverty. Blame it on the day job.

I look at pictures of children all over the world nearly everyday. I’ve read hundreds of stories, interviews, and testimonials of kids, parents, and pastors alike. I knew this trip would hold little shock value. I don’t mean to sound hard-hearted. Please understand that I simply mean, when it comes to the issues surrounding and frankly, creating poverty, there’s little room for surprise.

Driving from the hotel 20 minutes through winding, nicely paved, roads to the child development center was a highway of irony. On the outskirts of Guatemala city lies one of the richest communities of Guatemala. Homes, or mansions rather, that you could barely see over the stucco gates rivaled Beverly Hill’s best. Mercedes dealerships and fine restaurants peppered both sides of the road.

But with a single turn, the scenery changed. The neighborhoods were not gated. Corrugated metal, cement cinder blocks and bed sheets for front doors stacked up along the hillsides. Homes were built on top of one another, literally. The floor of one home provided the roof for the home below it. The well paved roads became bumpy as we drove along uneven cobble stone streets.

The van parked and our leader said, “We’re here.” Everyone was quiet.

I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t nervous. I was. Reading about these places is simple; walking their streets is not easy.

But right in the middle of the depravity was Compassion’s church partner. Brightly colored and on a high-traffic thoroughfare of town, the Church’s doors were open.

That’s been the view of Adrianna and her two children, Daniel and Jaqueline, who are currently sponsored children.

We had to hike to their home, set on the side of a steep hill and built into the mountain. Their kitchen was outside; a pile of wood that cradled a large metal cauldron. Their clothes line hung next to their washer; a large tub next to a water spicket. And their front door was a pink bed sheet. Torn and frayed, it gently hung over the only entry to their home.

As we (me, two other visitors, and a translator) sat on their front porch, Daniel and Jaqueline passed around the letters and pictures they had received from their sponsors over the years. There was a big difference between the two siblings, however. Daniel, 17 years old, has been sponsored by the same family for eight years. They wrote frequently, sent him birthday presents, and even included him in their family’s Christmas Card mailer.

Jaqueline, on the other hand, has been enrolled in the program for the same eight years and has been sponsored by more than four families, none of whom wrote her more than a few times. And the difference between Jaqueline and her older brother was undeniable.

Daniel volunteered an answer for every question we asked of their humble family.  If his mother spoke, he chimed in too. He was articulate, well dressed, attentive, and unintimidated by our visit. When I asked him what he wanted to do when he was done with school, he grinned widely and chuckled before he listed a long list of goals he had for himself. Daniel was also among the smartest in his class academically and a gifted artist.

His sister though, barely spoke at all. It wasn’t that she was just quiet; she was shy. She was not as accomplished in her studies as her brother and when I asked her what hobbies she enjoyed, she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. She made little eye contact, slumped slightly in her chair, and when she passed around her small stack of collected letters, she seemed embarrassed. Her collection of correspondence was a quarter of her brothers.

As a Compassion employee, we are often told that the letters the children receive are of indescribable importance to their development emotionally and socially. The relationship that correspondence fosters between a child and a grown-up that believes in them, encourages them, and tells them to hope for a life beyond poverty is… well, it’s the Church. That’s the body of Christ doing her job. From one believe to another, life is given and hope is instilled. It is absolutely life changing for a child.

I, as a sponsor, so often struggle with what to write my little girl in Bolivia. “I think I asked this question last time. I don’t remember what I wanted to know about when I was 9 years old. How do I write something that resonates with her?” These are the questions I wrestle with. But the fact of the matter is this: Compassion’s sponsored children look forward to and treasure every letter you send them. They covet your prayers and they fervently pray for your welfare. They need you. They love you.

They need to hear that you need and love them too.

Sponsor a child in Guatemala.

Tis a Sweet Death

Standard

“I died,” she said after she read it.  Tis a sweet death I thought to myself. 

Perhaps it sounds masochistic, I don’t mean for it to.  I simply mean that, if the reality and truth of the Gospel unveils our eyes and breaks our hearts to the point that we finally understand what it means and could feel like to “die to ourselves,” then yeah, tis a sweet death.  Because in the removal of self from our pursuits and priorities, all that is left to behold, attain, and love is Christ. All that is left, when we’re no longer in our own way, is all that God is and all that He has waiting for us.

So what brough this up? What else? A kid living in poverty, talking about how blessed he is. My heart simultaneously broke my him as well as myself.  It broke for him because he is one of so many.  It broke for myself because I want to know the depth of his faith in my own life someday.  I want to know his peace.

If you have the guts and are willing to risk being wrecked, and I highly encourage that you take said risk, read this.

And watch this.

And then sponsor a child just like him.

Compassion Bloggers Take Over the World

Standard

Perhaps it's a sensational goal... I'll take the shot anyways.

And one day… maybe, just maybe… they’ll invite me to help. Until then, I want to make you aware of what’s going on in Kenya and how you can be a part of it.  You read that right– this is an invitation, an offer to change the world by changing a life. 

If you think I am exaggerating, I challenge you to read for yourself from any of these globe-trotting bloggers what God is up to in the lives of children living in poverty and why their lives will never be the same.

Brad Ruggles

LV Hanson

MckMama

Chris Giovagnoni

Shaun Groves

To meet the rest of the bloggers currently in Kenya  and read their stories, just go here.

For those of you who don’t like reading, I’ll make this really easy for you…

I Wish I Were Irish

Standard

Keith & Kristyn Getty came and sang at the office this week.  They’re Irish.  And they’re awesome. 

I heard them several times before when I was still at Liberty University.  They’re modern-day hymn writers.  Perhaps that sounds lame to you.  And while that may be your opinion, to which you are freely entitled, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that you’d be wrong in thinking that. 

You may have heard their song “In Christ Alone,” which is my personal favorite and if I could pick a song that was my “theme song” I would choose that one.  However, they sang one I hadn’t heard before Wednesday and now, I’m slightly obsessed.   Have a listen.

Heaven Save Haiti

Standard

I have never been there.  I’ve reported on it, but not from personal experience.  I have shared the stories, pictures, and testimonies of the people that the ministry I work for serves there.

I have heard the voices of mothers and the cries of babies from film that I’ve watched when I have been looking for material to use in a report.

I have read the accounts of lives that have been saved, rescued really, from abject poverty that runs rampant in the streets and even into the cardboard homes in which so many live.

And despite all of these first-hand accounts that I have seen and read, there is still a large part of me that doesn’t get it.

Am I moved? Of course.

Am I broken and disturbed because of the devastation? Absolutely.

Do I understand it? Can I make sense of it? No, not in the least. Who could?

What I do know is that God is sovereign.  He is bigger and He is better.

And He sees the people of Haiti. He is not punishing them nor will He leave them.  If ever there was a time for God to move in a miraculous and mighty way that only He can, I believe we will see it in the midst of this.

So what do we do from here? What do we do from the US?

Pray.

Pray in faith with hope.

by Jason Jeong

Isaiah 58:12

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.