Monday, September 30, 2013

Sweet Greetings

It's Mail Call Monday again!



This week I was very happy to get my first letter from Carlos!


As with the last few correspondence kids that have joined our family, I did not get an introductory letter from Carlos, so I don't know anything about his family, what he likes, or anything like that. And this letter was addressed to a Beverly at the very top- I don't know if that's his financial sponsor or if he accidentally got a different correspondence sponsor before me (that's happened before- and coincidentally, the person who got one of our kids by accident was also named Beverly!) But I'm glad to finally get a letter from him so I can start to get to know him better! : )


Dear Sponsor Jessi
I greet you in the precious name of Jesus Christ. I want to tell you that my midyear vacation from school is coming up. I also want to tell you that on Saturdays I am studying in Sidem Institute and I am learning a lot about the Office programs and it is very interesting. I also want to tell you that we will celebrate the Independence Day in July 28 and everyone will hang a flag on their house. I would like to know: how are you doing over there? Are you in good health? How is the weather over there? I would like you to pray for me and my family so things will go well for us. I say goodbye with a strong hug, waiting for your reply. 

Carlos


It's really cool that Carlos is studying office programs- I asked him in a letter if he was referring to the "office" programs on a computer- as in Microsoft Office. That will be an awesome skill to have! Carlos also drew a really neat picture. I actually started reading the letter before I unfolded it all the way- the translation was up near the top, but at the bottom of that section it said "drawing: warriors of Christ." I was extremely surprised and very tickled to see that Carlos had drawn a modified version of the autobots symbol from Transformers!! I am a big Transformers plan and this has just amused me to no end. I decorated his response letter with Transformers stickers, and I am affectionately referring to this drawing as "Jesus Optimus Prime."







Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bake Sale, Year Two

Last year I did a post about a bake sale my Bible study group and I had. We raised money for a local ministry that does outreaches to strip clubs, and also has Bible studies for the girls, has transitional housing for girls who have left the industry and need a place to stay, and lots of awesome stuff like that. I was so stressed out about the event, from communication issues to fears that we would totally bomb when it came to donations to panic because I had never done anything like this before. I prayed for a loaves and fishes miracle, and I got it. And I was amazed at God's faithfulness and the fact that He pulled of what I considered a miracle.

This year, our experience was not so good. Feeling confident both in our ability as bakers and salespersons, I asked my Bible study group to pray that we could raise $650 for another organization this year- a non-profit that houses and treats girls who have been removed from their families. All these girls have faced abuse- physical, sexual, or emotional. Sometimes all three. All of them have developmental delays and other issues as a result of time in and out of different foster homes. And the sad reality is that many of them will reach adulthood and go out into the world having spent their formative teenage years in a group home or a dorm with this organization, because folks simply aren't interested in adopting or fostering teenagers. People want brand new babies or cute little kids. After a certain point, the statistical improbability of finding either a permanent or foster home for these girls just falls through the floor. That stinks. But they are such sweet girls. Some of them have some issues, but don't we all? I've come to care about these girls because one of the group homes is just a few minutes away from the library where I work, and sometimes the girls get to take little field trips up to the library with a staff member or two. I love when they come to visit, and they greet me with enthusiasm and excitement. I have met many of these girls in my 8 years at the library, but I respect and listen to all of them, and it's a joy getting to know them.

Since these girls often come to Maryhurst with just the clothes on their backs, they need donations of clothes. And shoes. And toiletries and household items. Books and movies. Scrapbooking supplies for therapy. The list goes on and on. I would love to be able to fund a complete transformation for the home in my area. I've been there several times, and some parts of it make me sad. They definitely take very good care of these girls, but let's face it- if you rely on the government and donations to take care of them, well, the government never covers very much, and people *usually* don't donate the best of the best. Think of the last stuff you donated somewhere- was it brand new? Probably not. And that's ok. Anyway, back to the house- they have a TV/rec room type place for the girls. Inside there's a busted old couch, an ancient TV with a DVD player that only works half the time, an old desk, etc. The room has some really cool built-in bookshelves (I love built-in shelves!) but you known what's on them? An old set of encyclopedias, some old dictionaries and Bibles, and a few teen and kids books from oh, 15 years ago. So we really wanted to provide them with a bunch of NEW stuff. Our dream budget had categories for clothes and shoes, personal care items, books and movies, scrapbooking stuff, household things like new towels, sheets and comforters (which can be found at great prices right now since back to school/college clearance has kicked in) and I don't even remember what else.

So we baked a bunch of stuff and set up a cute table- purple and teal plastic tablecloths, a sign hand-painted by yours truly (it had a cupcake on it!), friendly faces. We had a crock-pot with wassail since it was cold in the morning, and a cooler full of ice cold water bottles for later in the day (all at fair prices!) Our stuff was packed really cutely- for example, my friend Helen (who works with my mom) baked pumpkin bread in these beautiful fall-themed ceramic pans with Bible verses on them. They looked amazing! And we set out the donation jar from last year to encourage people to give even if they didn't want to buy sweets (we did have savory stuff, too, like pepperoni rolls and homemade parmesan herb flatbread)- the donation jar was a success last year, too. I'd say we probably made at least $100 in just donations last year.

Now, I'm not going to dwell on some of the people we encountered yesterday. Dwelling on the negative just breeds bad attitudes and bitterness. I will say, though, that we encountered a lot of people yesterday who were stingy and/or had bad attitudes. I'm not saying I expected people to flat-out empty their pockets into our donation jar, but it's super inappropriate to try to HAGGLE at a CHARITY bake sale table! Especially since there were fewer than a dozen things on the table that were over 50 cents! Sheesh. It was pretty gross. Oh, and it was miraculous how Louisville, the city recently found to have the largest population of people least likely to eat ANY produce, is suddenly on a diet! "I don't eat sweet things." "Ugh, if only I weren't on a diet" (said the rail thin blonde lady as she walked by without even peeking at what we had.) "I'm diabetic." "That bread is too fancy for me." One lady actually made a grossed out face every time we told her what something was- and she was the one asking about them. It was weird. It was like, the least charitable group of people I have ever encountered (and please don't read that as a criticism of the people I go to church with- the market was open to the public.) We actually talked about the fact that people were so enthusiastic about giving last year, "for the strippers", but abused girls who can't live with their families that might one day wind up being strippers if they don't have love and support and an education and job training? Well, forget them.

The bake sale, though, was not a complete waste. We are still going to be sending quite a few new clothes to the girls (or clothing budget was originally $150, so we figured we'd go ahead and spend the whole amount we raised on clothes.) And honestly, I got a lot out of the experience. Yes, I came away sunburned and frustrated with some aspects of the situation. Yes, I was a tiny bit peeved that there was only one lunch choice this year (last year we had a few food trucks) and that booth really didn't offer any selections- they had pork sandwiches and plain chips and tea and two Coke products. Kind of frustrating for a person who is extremely hungry but is also trying to live a vegetarian lifestyle. But I digress.

Lately I have really been struggling with a lot of things. I can't tell if it's just my depression acting up which is leading to all these emotional problems I'm having, or if the emotional problems are the result of something else and then that feeds into my depression, but whatever's going on, it's not good. I skipped Bible study this week because I didn't want to deal with anyone. I cried for a collective six or seven hours on Monday. I haven't been sleeping. I've been very on edge and extremely emotionally volatile. Sometimes I get so worked up that, well, it's really hard to get calmed down. I have had spiritual doubts. I have felt very lost and alone. I have feelings of bitterness and feeling left out, and it makes me stupidly angry. I can't even count the number of times I have said out loud to myself this week "no one listens to me." And I've felt invisible. But my experience this weekend helped turn a lot of that stuff around. People took care of me on Saturday- my mom brought me some stuff I needed really early in the morning, even though she had to go to work; my mother in law gave me a ride to and from church and helped me carry all my stuff; everyone was really helpful setting up and manning the booth- I didn't get left alone; my friends brought me coffee when they ran over to the store to get some breakfast and cups for the wassail. And I had some good conversations- one on one, or with just a small group. I felt listened to. I know I was listened to. I finally opened up about my recent struggles. I talked about my Compassion kids, and the kids of my friends that were there. We talked about the good and the bad stuff going on in my life. We talked about spiritual struggles and all kinds of stuff. That's kind of a big deal for me, since I'm by myself a lot and my husband isn't super chatty (he's very quiet and sometimes I need to not be quiet.) It was just really cathartic for me, for lack of a better term. Therapeutic, maybe. So last year, God answered my prayer (in the affirmative) that the bake sale would go well. Maybe this year what I really needed was to be heard and to spend some time with people I like and feel like they like me back. I got that. That was an answered unspoken prayer.

One more thing before I wrap up this little update: there was a really awesome booth at the market, and I want to tell everyone about it. Denise, my mother in law, had left for a few minutes to go check out the other booths. She came back with a new shoulder bag made of really pretty fabric. She showed me the tag and it said something about Uganda. She also said there was a photo album down there. So when I was walking down to get me some lunch from the pork extravaganza (ick), I found the booth. I walked up and said "is this the Uganda booth?" and the lady working laughed and said yes. I told her I wanted to go to Uganda and get me a Ugandan child someday, and she said "well we have one and we think he's pretty great!" The booth was run by some folks from Future Hope Ministries. They raise money (and awareness) for a ministry in Uganda that takes care of orphans who live in the streets. I mean, the goal is to not have kids living in the streets anymore, obviously. So this local ministry sells crafts from Uganda to support this ministry in Uganda. The lady running the booth told me that the director used to be a street kid himself. And then he got help and an education and now he's helping others! It's totally the kind of story we sponsors LOVE to hear. : ) And if I had the money, I would have bought out the booth. They had tons of jewelry, a lot of it made from those amazing paper beads I love so much. They had hair bows and ribbons. They had keychains and fabric wallets and coin purses. They had aprons and laptop-style bags and shoulder bags. They also had flip flops- the soles were made from old tires that had been gathered up from the dumps and repurposed! And all the money goes back to the kids and the folks who made them. It was awesome. I bought a pair of paper bead earrings, a hairbow with cupcakes on it (which is probably intended for someone much younger than myself) and a braided bracelet. The braids are made of white thread interwoven with silver, and there are purple paper beads in it. Then there's a little metal plate that says "hope." I love it. I found about fifty bracelets and necklaces I wanted. I know that they are working on getting an online store up and running- and you know I will shop there when they do! Here's their website and the site of the folks they partner with. It's pretty awesome stuff- you should check them out!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sweet Greetings from Kenya

Happy Mail Call Monday!!!




This week I was so happy to get TWO letters. Since I have 10 kids, sometimes I get lots of letters, but sometimes things are kind of slow. We are in a slow period right now, so I am extra joyous whenever I find letters in my mailbox.

On Saturday I got a letter from Victor in Kenya. He is just the sweetest thing. My Kenya kids write their letters in English, which means they have more room to write!



27 July 2013
Dear Jessi, 
How are you? I hope you're doing well with your family. On my side I am doing well and God has protected me with our family. I receive the letter you send to me, and I was glad for it. Imagine it made me to learn a lot about your country and your family as well. I want to tell you that in my schooling I am doing as I can and hoping that at the end I will achieve something good. 
Beside that I want you to know that the subject I like the most and that is mathematics. In every exams I do I must make sure that I get above 65% and it make me know the career I would be in the future that is engineering. Imagine in the course of next week we will start our term exams and I know I will come out with good marks. 
I also want to tell you that last three months we elected our 4th president and he is trying his best to make our country one of the best country in the world. Here in our country, in this month where I live is hot while other parts is cold. I would also like to know about your country and soon I hope I will receive a letter from you. May God be with you. Goodbye!

Your beloved child, 
Victor Otieno


I just love Victor's letters! He is a hard worker, very ambitious and sweet. 

Then this morning I got a nice long letter from Mary, who also lives in Kenya. Mary has very neat, tiny handwriting, so her letters are usually pretty long- and I love that! 



15 August 2013

Dear Jessi
I greet you in the name of our Provider. I hope you are fine. I am great and fine. My family is also doing good. We honour fathers on 11th June and also not forgetting the mothers on 9th June. It is fun honouring them because they are special gifts from God. At school I am doing well. I am now in form 3 (grade 11) hoping that next year I will be in form 4 (grade 12.) In the music festivals we went to provincials and we became number 2 then we proceeded to nationals. 
At church we are all great. We praise the living God so that he cannot be angry and let the stones to praise Him. When I am in need I usually read this verse- Psalms 121: 1-2. It says I lift my eyes to the hills, where will my help come from? My help will come from the Lord who made heaven and earth. I am spending my August holiday at home. I want to be obedient to my parents because obedience is better than sacrifice. 
The country is fine and cool. Peace is around each and every person. The weather is cool and only a little rain is falling and also the land is green. My mother's name is Rahab Njari and she is loving. We do not grow crops but we go to up-country to help my grandparents. My parents are doing well. 
On November 25th, I will be 18 years old and have an identity card. I have lots of cousins and we like joking when we are together. The babies are blessings. We buy gifts for them and they are taken to the church to be dedicated. I enjoy being in school because it is a privilege. I learn English, Kiswahili, Biology, History, Agriculture, Maths, and CRE (Christian Religious Education.) Thank you for the book, photos, and stickers. I appreciate them. 
I pray for you and I am great having you as my friend. 
Yours faithful, 
Mary Mbari


Wow! Mary packed a lot of info in her letter! I was very happy to read that her singing competition went so well- Mary loves to sing and has told me so in just about every letter she's sent! I was glad to read about mother's day and father's day in Kenya. 

Victor's letter arrived on Saturday, which is when an upscale mall in Nairobi was seized by terrorists. The hostage situation and shootings continued through the weekend. It's kind of complicated, but here's a basic explanation: a little while back, the African Union sent troops into Somalia to deal with some extremist rebels there (Somalia has problems like that kind of often, it seems.) Kenya played a part in that. So this group in Somalia got mad about the other countries interfering in their business, and decided to strike back. This whole thing was very strategic- they went in to a mall in Nairobi, where diplomats, tourists, and Kenya's wealthy and important people hang out. Allegedly, they announced that Muslims should leave the mall, as this particular group is fanatically based. Then they started shooting. The last I heard, 30 hostages were still being held, and the death toll was creeping up toward 60. The president lost family in the attack- his nephew and the nephew's fiancee were killed. Military personnel and police have been working very hard over the weekend to get the situation under control and end the violence. It's all very heartbreaking. Please keep Kenya in your prayers as they strive to end this horrible situation. 




Outgoing Mail

Yesterday my mom, my mother in law, and I were having a conversation, and the topic of praying for our leaders came up. Whether or not you agree with a politician, you should always pray for them and for their decisions. And as a Christian, you can't ever really say that the wrong person won an election, because if you believe that, then you don't believe God's will is sovereign. Which is hard to deal with sometimes.

Anyway, between that conversation and the fact that Victor's most recent letter said he wanted to know more about my country, I thought I would make a list of different stuff about America that I could turn into letters. I wrote up the first letter this morning. It was about our president.

I opened the letters to all 10 kids by offering the usual greetings. In the second paragraph, I told them that I really like learning about their country. I told them that when I began sponsoring them, or writing letters to them, I read books about their countries from the library (that's one of my favorite parts about getting a new sponsor child- researching their country!) I told them that I also liked keeping up with news stories about their countries, so I can better know what is going on over there. This gave me the opportunity to tell Victor and Mary, who are in Kenya, that I am very sad about the recent terrorist attack there, and that I am praying for them. I told them that similar things have happened in America, and it is very sad, but Americans and Kenyans are strong people and they will work hard to rebuild and prevent something like this from happening again.

Next I told them a little bit about our president. I kept it pretty simple. I basically said the following:
"Our president's name is Barack Obama. He is 52 years old. He has a wife named Michelle and two daughters named Sasha and Malia. Mrs. Obama's mother also lives with them. They have two dogs named Bo and Sunny. Before he became president, Mr. Obama told his daughters that if he won the election, he would get them a dog! That is when they got Bo. He is black and white." I explained to the older kids that in America, presidents are only allowed to serve up to two terms in office, and each term is 4 years long. I said that our president will be president until the end of 2016, when we will choose a new president. I also told them a little bit about Mrs. Obama. I told them that she cares a lot about the children of our country, and encourages them to exercise and play. I said that she also has a project to provide healthy meals in our schools, and that she planted a garden. Then I told all the kids that it's important to pray for the people who work in our governments and take care of our countries.

At the end, I said "I hope you will pray for my president as I pray for yours." I even looked up the names of the presidents in all my kids' countries (Indonesia, India, Peru, Haiti, Tanzania, Kenya, and Mexico.) Then at the bottom I uploaded a picture of the president with his family. I put all of these letters on the world map stationery provided by Compassion with the online letter writing tool.

I'm looking forward to finding out what our kids have to say about this little US Government lesson.  : )




Saturday, September 21, 2013

Photo Flashback

I was thinking about my Compassion kids earlier this week, how we should be getting photo updates for some of our kids. We haven't had a new picture of Said in probably a year and a half, so we should be getting a new one of him soon (we also usually get a special picture of him with his birthday gifts when we send a birthday present- his birthday is in November!) I realized that there were a few kids on our account that we've only ever seen one picture of, so I should go ahead and ask Compassion for their previous pictures while I still could! So I emailed yesterday and asked for Carlos, Mishel, and Victor's previous pictures. I wish I had known about this awesome little bonus for my first several sponsor kids. I would have loved to have seen their old pictures! Anyway, these pics I got in my email are super cute, so I wanted to share them with you.

Here is the picture of Mishel we received when we began writing to her earlier this year, back in the spring:


And here is her previous picture, from before we knew her: 


I like that she's smiling a little bit in the picture! She looks pretty much the same. I wonder if that means her project updates pictures on a fairly regular basis? 

Here's the picture of Carlos we received when we started writing to him a few months ago: 


And here is Carlos' previous picture: 


Wow! He's grown up quite a bit! He looks like he was playing pretty hard before this picture was taken. : )

And this one is probably my favorite, because we've been writing to Victor since the beginning of this year, and I have only ever seen this stern picture of my tall lanky boy:


And here is Victor's previous picture: 


I just love this so much! I hope Victor is smiling in the next picture we receive of him. He is actually a very happy, loving kid! He sure did shoot up like a weed in the time between these pictures, though! 








Monday, September 16, 2013

Outgoing Mail

I spent some time this morning writing letters to my kids. It's been a little over a week since I mailed a packet of letters, along with birthday cards and gifts for Prayer and Brenda. This week, I had some fun things to share with them.

Each of our ten kids pretty much got the same letter this week. I started off by asking them how they are doing. I also told them a little bit about our weekend. I told them that the weather is really nice right now, and the weekend was fun. We went to a party for Brandon's uncle. His uncle Charlie recently retired, but that would have been kind of hard to explain. So I just said that there was a party for his uncle and lots of family members were there. And on Sunday we went to church and it was good. I asked the kids what they do on the weekends. I know some of them attend Compassion's program on Saturdays, and others attend during the week.

Next I shared the fun stuff! Recently I got to go to my friend Ashley's house to see her and have a playdate with my buddy Anell! We took them dinner on behalf of our Bible study group, and Anell and I read books and played. I told our kids a little bit about Anell and how he's doing. I have been telling them about him for months, asking them to pray for him before he came home, and then I told them about the airport party. I told our kids that he is speaking a few English words, like "mama" and "daddy" and "thank you." I told them that he has grown a little bit but he is still small for his age. I also told the kids that even though I'm an adult, I still feel like a kid sometimes! I like to play with toys and read kids' books. I asked them what they like to do with their friends. And I sent two pictures of Anell and I reading books together.

Lastly, I shared a prayer request and our plans for this weekend. My mother in law is traveling to India soon. My mom and I are picking up carry-out from a local Indian restaurant and having her over for dinner, as she's never had Indian food before (Brandon will be there, too, watching football!) So I told the kids that we will be having an Indian dinner this weekend, and that it's fun to try foods from other countries. I asked them if they would please pray for Denise, that she would be safe during her travels. In Jayid's letter, I told him that she will be in a different part of India from where he lives, but that I was really looking forward to seeing the pictures she takes while she's there. Jayid still doesn't know that Denise is taking a bag of presents for him!! That will be an awesome surprise.

Speaking of Jayid, I got his bag all packed. I had hoped to find a mini-backpack to send the gifts in, but I was having trouble finding one. Then this past week I found a mini backpack with the University of Kentucky logo on it! It is little and cute and blue and white. Everything fit in there perfectly. It's just about the same size as a gallon ziploc bag. The only real difference is that I can fit a little bit more at the top since there is a real zipper on the backpack, which will hold everything in. That meant I could fit a taller coloring book in there (it's just a regular-sized coloring book, but the ziploc bag wouldn't quite close with it in there.) I am including a letter for Jayid that says "SURPRISE!" at the top, and in the letter I explain that the bag has the logo and the colors of our favorite sports team, and that we are proud to share a part of our state with him. I am really hoping that they will be able to send a picture of Jayid with his gifts! : )

What have you written about to your kids lately? Have you found any cool extras to send along with your letters?

They are all our daughters.



I don't know this young woman, but I can tell  you about her. 

She lives in India. She's female. That means a lot of things. 

She's a survivor, for one. Gendercide of the unborn is a huge problem in India. Parents who learn they are expecting baby girls are aborting them at an alarming rate. The reason? They're daughters, not sons. This has become such a problem that there are now laws in India against parents utilizing ultrasound technology to learn the sex of their unborn children. This is an important part of the journey for expectant parents in the US- couples even have parties for their friends and family where they reveal the gender of their baby in clever ways, like cutting into a cake to reveal a pink or blue confection inside. Despite the laws that are in place to protect baby girls from sex-selective abortion, these laws are often not upheld, and on average, one unborn baby girl is aborted in India every minute. 

Not only has she survived the womb- she survived babyhood as well. The mortality rate for girls aged 1-5 is 75% higher than little boys. This cannot be a coincidence. 

This young woman has faced risk all her life. Because of the gap between the number of men and women in India (a result of the sex-specific abortions and infanticides), instances of violence against women in India have multiplied rapidly in recent years. It seems we can't go a few weeks without reading a news story about India- gang rapes, kidnappings, child marriage....this is what happens in a society where girls are devalued. Girls and young women are sold into sex slavery. They are kidnapped and forced to marry men who don't have wives because there are no women in their villages. 

And just because she has made it this far doesn't mean she's not still at risk. Dowries are illegal in India, but they are still expected in many areas. This means daughters are expensive to their families. And if the dowry is considered insufficient by the groom's family, the bride may be abused or killed. After the wedding, if she fails to produce a son, she may be abused or killed. 

Girls in India face an extreme and horrifying prejudice. Society tells them that they are worthless because of their gender, that they lack basic human rights like protection from sexual violence and abuse. But you can help change that. You can let a girl in India know that she has value and worth, that she is loved. You can help her reach her full potential by helping her receive an education, healthcare, and protection. You can change her world. Please consider sponsoring a girl in India today. 



Jhansi is 5 years old. Her birthday is November 11. 



Sayamma is 9 years old. Her birthday is March 14. 



Aaishwarya is 9 years old. Her birthday is June 1. She has been waiting 411 days for a sponsor.



Pratiksha is 9 years old. Her birthday is December 20. 



Manju is 15 years old. Her birthday is September 27. 








Sweet Greetings

Hooray for Mail Call Monday!



We're over halfway through the month and this is the first opportunity I've had to write a mail post in September! I was so thankful to receive a letter from Said on Saturday. And let me tell you, it was an important one. Even though I just sent a packet of letters last Wednesday, I had to sit down and write him back right away.

Let me preface the letter by sharing something with you: I have been confused lately. I am so excited about my trip to Tanzania. Ecstatic. If I'm feeling sad or sick or anything negative, I just think about my trip or look up pictures of past sponsor trips to Tanzania, and I feel better. But I have been confused about why I'm not going to Indonesia, because I was so certain that that's where God wanted me to go for my first trip. When I found out that the east Indonesia trip wasn't happening, my friend Blaire told me that all this just meant that one of my other kids needed to see me more. And that made sense- Tasya lives with two loving parents, has close family bonds and her family seems really stable. Her dad is a pastor and her mom is a teacher sometimes. She is just really grounded. Said, on the other hand, struggles in school, doesn't know who or where his dad is, and has to travel twice a year to do hard work in the fields, helping his grandmother plant and harvests her crops. The letter I got from Said this weekend is just a giant flag that says "yes, Blaire was right." March can't get here fast enough.



Dear Jessi, 
Praise the Lord Jesus indeed. I thank you for the letter you sent me. I have liked them. They are so nice. I and my family are fine and they all greet you indeed. We wish to see you face to face so we wish you to come visit us one day to Tanzania. I like school and I enjoy it so much. I thank God he has helped me to pass to advance to form one. In June I was 25th person among 165 students. I was so sad but I work hard so that in December I will score good number. I really like soccer. What do you like? In my family we are me, my younger sister called Imshi, another sister is called Huba and she died on 10 July 2012. I am so sad about it. So now we remain two. I and my younger sibling. I love you so much. May you have a good party. I wish  you the best and I love you all with your family. I hope you are all fine. I pray for you every day. 
May God be with you
Said


Wow. Let's talk about the sad stuff first. I had no idea about Said's sister passing away. He didn't talk about his siblings very often- I learned their names in the first letter I ever received from him. I know both sisters are younger than he is. And that's about it. Really, the most I've ever heard about them is "I and my sisters are doing well", basically. I wrote to all my kids earlier in the summer asking about their siblings, because I wanted to know more about their families. And this is what I found out. I opened this letter when I was on the phone with my mom, and scanned it briefly. I had to interrupt her to tell her: "um, I got a letter from Said. His sister died." I cried several times this weekend just thinking about it. My heart is broken for Said and his family. "So now we remain two" is possibly one of the saddest sentences I have ever read. I have added a prayer request to my list for my Tanzania trip: I would really like to meet Said's mom and sister. We are spending several days in a region closer to his home. It would be amazing if it worked out that one of the homes we visit is his. But even if we can't do that, I am going to bring special gifts for his family as well as him. I'm putting my mom in charge of packing a bag (maybe a pink mini-backpack!) for Imshi, and I had already planned on making a small bag for Said's mom (or Mama Said, as she would be called in her country.) 

But the happy stuff really needs to be recognized, too! I am so proud of Said for the progress he has made in school. When we first started writing to him, his performance in school was below average. He is listed as "average" now, but I got a progress report from his school last year, and his grades were pretty low by American standards. I always make it a special point to encourage Said in his schoolwork, and I am proud of the work he does. I know that under-equipped schools and crowded classrooms make learning difficult for these kids! But to hear that he is ranked 25 in his class- WOW! I am SO proud of him! I am a little sad that he felt that wasn't good enough, but I admire his tenacity and determination. When I wrote a response letter on Saturday, I made sure to tell him many times how proud I am of him. And the fact that I have been bragging on him to my friends and family. : ) Said also drew a picture on the letter, of the Lamb of God carrying a flag with a cross on it. It was a really good picture, but it's a little faint and hard to see on the scanner! 

I am so thankful that I received this letter from my boy this weekend!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fear not.


You could pick a handful of random posts from my blog and at least two or three of them would contain a mention of my anxiety. It's just a part of my life. It's there every day, and it sometimes affects decisions I make and how I live. So it's going to get talked about occasionally.

Lately, I have been having more issues than usual with my anxiety. I know where this is coming from. I have had an increase in stress in my life, but most of it is spiritual warfare. Sometimes you can't talk about this topic without sounding weird, but if spiritual warfare wasn't a real thing, then the Bible wouldn't tell us to always put on the full armor of God. You don't need a full suit of armor unless you're going to be attacked from time to time, you know? Anyway. I started having more issues when I found out that the trip to east Indonesia wouldn't be happening, and I decided that a change in location wasn't going to keep me from going on a trip. Since that day, I haven't slept through the night. Every night, one of two things happens: either I have night terrors and wake up four or five times (night terrors are just super intense, specific nightmares that keep you scared after you wake up), or I wake up once or twice, either in the middle of a panic attack, or feeling sick, which leads to a panic attack. I've gotten to the point where I just go ahead and expect to wake up, and I keep my "supplies" near my bed, ready if they're needed (more on that later.) One night I woke up from a nightmare and felt as if someone had just audibly said "you can't go" directly into my ear. I know that the things I'm dealing with right now are designed to scare me into not going on my trip, not doing what God wants me to do. And I'm not going to let that happen. But so far, my determination has not stopped these things from happening at night. Hopefully they'll stop soon.

In the meantime, I'm trying some new ways to deal with my anxiety in addition to my tried and true methods. I want to share them with you, because I've found them to be very helpful, and we all have times when we're scared or depressed and need a little help.

The new thing I'm doing has to do with my prayer life. My mom suggested that I pray for the kids in Tanzania when I wake up in the middle of the night, or when I'm having trouble falling asleep. I started making prayer cards- index cards containing information on the different child development centers in Tanzania. I'm looking them up on Compassion's website (gathering info from the pages of waiting kids), and I also posted a forum topic on OurCompassion asking sponsors to tell me stuff about the CDCs their kids in Tanzania go to. The cards with the most information kind of go like this: I put the number of the center in the top left corner of the card, and put the name of the center beside that. The next line tells where the center is. Then I start listing additional information, if I have it, such as the pastor's name, how many kids attend the center, and what special concerns they have (one sponsor told me that there is a very bad water shortage in the area where her child attends Compassion's program.) On the back, I'm listing names of the kids at those projects, along with their sponsors. For example, on the back of the card for 313, it says "Hannah- Magreth, 16 year old girl." And if another sponsor told me they had a kid at that center, that's where I'd list them. It will be really interesting to take these cards with me to Tanzania and see if I can match some names with faces, and let these kids know that I have been praying for them for months- and I don't even know them. : )

As I said earlier, I also have several tried-and-true methods for dealing with anxiety. I have mentioned some of them on here before, but they bear repeating.

The first and most important weapon in combating fear and anxiety is the Word of God. I hate memorizing things (at least, intentionally memorizing them.) I'm kind of terrible at it. But a few years back I filled a little spiral-bound notebook with special Bible verses (most of them from the Psalms), and I carry it with me everywhere. I mean that. It's always in my purse or my pocket. When things are bad, I can take out my little notebook and read the verses. Sometimes this means just reading them silently. Sometimes it means dwelling on a verse while I try to say it out loud (panic attacks are rough- sometimes it's hard to concentrate or you feel like you're going to throw up.) If I'm lucky, I only have to go through a few verses before I'm feeling better. If things are really bad, I make it all the way to the end of the book and have to start over.

The second thing is prayer. Enlist the help of prayer warriors. If you're really scared, sometimes you just can't do it on your own. It makes me feel better to know people are praying for me. If there's a random post from me on facebook in the middle of the night, you can almost bet that I'm up dealing with anxiety and am so desperate for prayers that I will  just throw out a request to the internet in general. I can also text my mom (if things are really bad, I might call her, apologize for being a pest, and beg her to pray for me on the phone), and several friends from Bible study. I can tell my mom to let our friends know that I need prayer, and though I usually don't hear back from them unless I speak to them directly, I know they are praying for me. Saying prayers out loud helps, too. It makes you feel braver and it helps you focus.

The third thing is music. People often tell me to play music out loud when I'm up in the middle of the night dealing with anxiety, but that's not really an option because my husband has to work early every morning and I don't want to bother him with the noise. I'm already being noisy wandering around the house trying to find a Sprite, my saltines, hard candy, moving to the living room where I can sit and read my verses by booklight, etc. My mom gave me her iPod shuffle when she got a new iPod (and then I got her iPod when she got an iPhone, lucky me) and I have loaded it up with two things: relaxing and/or empowering praise music, and some random secular songs that help me chill out (mostly Simon and Garfunkel, oddly enough.) Some of my favorites are as follows:

I hope to someday get back to the point where I don't need to take medication to control my anxiety- I went a few years in high school and college without taking anything for it. Then I had to get "as needed" meds, and then right after I got married, I had to add full-time antidepressants to the mix. Maybe someday soon I'll be able to drop those again and just have my pills for when things get really bad. But in the meantime, all of these things help me out a lot when it comes to anxiety, whether it's a full-on panic attack or just a general feeling of uneasiness and fear. 

And if you think about it, I would appreciate your prayers as well. I am dealing with a lot of exhaustion as a result of not sleeping well at night. I am going to talk to my doctor about taking something to help me sleep for a few months before the trip, in the hopes that it will help keep me from waking up quite so much. Unfortunately I can't get in to see him for a consultation for another two months. Your prayers- especially at night, around midnight to 4 am eastern time- would be greatly appreciated. I'm thankful for all the help I can get. : )

Definitions.

Unless you're living in it, "poverty" probably isn't something you think about very often. Often we develop blinders so we don't have to see what's going on in the world, or even in our own neighborhoods. We trust others- the government, our churches, local charities- to take care of the problem. Maybe we help out a few times a year, by giving to a food pantry or donating school supplies. We scan news stories about poverty in America and in other countries with detachment, and walk away from this information without being changed, without a sense of urgency, without the desire to do something about it. I want that to change. So I'm going to tell you some things about poverty.

We have things pretty good here in the United States. Let me preface my statements by saying that I am in no way putting down the poor in the US. I just need you to know how things are out in the rest of the world. And I want to dispel the idea that we should take care of things at home before helping others in other countries. We should be doing both.

Poverty in the United States means a lot of things. Sometimes it means living in government housing, or adult children moving back home with their parents. In Honduras, poverty means living in a one room "house" made out of cinderblocks and a tarp. In America, poverty sometimes means sending your kids to a school that's not so great. Overcrowded public schools with less-than-great teachers are common. In Uganda, poverty means telling your fourth grade daughter that she can no longer go to school because she has to stay home and work to help support her family. In America, sometimes poverty means kids getting a free or reduced lunch at school. If they're lucky, they go to a school that also offers breakfast. In some parts of Africa and central America, poverty means eating dirt to help stave off hunger. Dirt. Dirt mixed with a little oil and baked into cakes. In America, poverty sometimes means receiving government assistance to help take care of your kids. In Haiti, poverty means moms and dads making the devastating decision to give up their children and have them placed for adoption because they are too poor to care for them. In America, poverty sometimes means having a minimum wage job where you can't get ahead. Sometimes it means unemployment checks. In India, poverty means growing up in a brothel because your mom is forced to prostitute herself in order to make any money at all.

How did the world get this way? There are a lot of reasons. Part of it has to do with the decisions others make. Part of it has to do with governments and the way things are run. Part of it has to do with population growth- sometimes economies simply can't keep up with the number of people living in an area, such as in Kenya's case. And where there's poverty, there is sickness, desperation, and violence. Part of it has to do with cultural ideas. Part of it has to do with health and wellness. Actually, those issues go hand in hand. If you don't have any money, maybe you don't have access to clean water. Then you'll have to deal with the illnesses that come from dirty water. And poverty means not being able to afford the disturbingly inexpensive medications to treat these diseases.

But "poverty" doesn't mean "inescapable", or "unavoidable", or "hopeless." We can change the world, and we don't have to be billionaires or politicians to do it. We mustn't give up. There are so many ways, little ways that have big impact, that we can shake things up. I think the first way is to stop desensitizing ourselves to what's going on in the world. If you see an article or hear a news story about poverty, pay attention. We aren't going to change- or want to change- if we don't open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. The next step is to change the way we use our own money. We need to stop giving money to companies that take advantage of their employees by paying them unfair wages and keeping them in unsafe conditions. We should also start supporting companies that do more to lift people out of poverty, like the ApParent Project or FreeSet. Christmas is coming up in a few months. This is an excellent time to use your purchasing power for good, help others, and spread the word about organizations like these. A cute headband can provide three meals for a child in Uganda. A bracelet can provide income for a mom who just wants to keep her kids. A beautiful tote can mean a paycheck for a woman rescued from forced prostitution.

One of the most personally fulfilling ways to change the world is through child sponsorship. With sponsorship, you know the name of the life that is being changed. You have a relationship with the human being behind that name. Your words provide encouragement, love, and a sense of value. Your financial commitment makes it possible for kids to get more education, have access to healthcare, learn how to take care of themselves, develop skills and trades, and so much more. And it's not just the kids who are changed. Their families benefit, too. And when the kids get older, they take the skills they learned and the hope they gained and they have a real fighting chance of breaking the cycle of poverty. Then their kids, and grandkids, and great-grandkids benefit. And the world is changed. Don't believe me? Check out this independent study by a guy with way more education and credentials than I have. It works. It really does. And you can be a part of it. What's holding you back? If you're concerned about a long-term financial commitment, choose an older child who doesn't have much time left in the program- send them off into the world with a strong footing. Don't really want to write letters? Ask Compassion to find a correspondence sponsor for your child. Don't think you have enough money to sponsor? Take a look at your finances- a good hard look- and think about the ways you spend your money. My husband and I are saddled with a disturbing amount of student loan debt, medical bills, and a mortgage. I only work part-time and Brandon works his butt off to make what he does. We are not rich by any American standards. But we've made this part of our lives a priority, and we financially sponsor two kids. Hopefully as we pay off our loans and ditch the medical bills we will be able to take on more sponsorships. For almost all of us, finding $38 in our budgets is not as big of a struggle as we first think. $38 is a trip to the movie theater for a family of four- with one small popcorn to share. It's six drinks at Starbucks. It's that purse you saw on sale that you just had to have. It's a season of a TV show on DVD. It's date night at Olive Garden. It's doable. And it's world-changing.

These kids are waiting for sponsors. They all have special needs- a physical or developmental challenge. Will you be the one to change their world?



Sakinatou is 7 years old. She lives in Burkina Faso. She is visually impaired. 



Baraka is 10 years old. He lives in Tanzania. He is crippled in one hand. 



Karen is 10 years old. She lives in Honduras. She is deaf in one ear. 



Pranto is 11 years old. He lives in Bangladesh. He is crippled in both legs. 



Mary Grace is 17 years old. She lives in the Philippines. She has impaired speech. 










Sunday, September 8, 2013

Giveaway!!!

I'm doing a fundraising push right now as things have slowed down recently and I need to book my domestic flights soon (I've been shopping around and there aren't many seats left at a great price and for the time of day I need them.) So....we're doing a giveaway! Yay!

Every donation made to my fundraiser between now and September 15th will count as a prize drawing entry. Donations over $20 will count as three entries. And you can't cheat and donate a dollar several times. I don't know why anyone would do that, but we live in a strange world. Your donations will be totaled up if you do that, and still only count as one (or three.)

I'm giving away a copy of Beverly Lewis' new book, The Secret Keeper. The book just came out on the 3rd of this month. And it's AUTOGRAPHED. Beverly Lewis has a lot of fans out there (I know because they all come to my library), so I'm hoping this will be a success! : ) Please share this blog entry with your friends who may be interested in the book. If you don't want to win the book yourself, maybe you have a friend or a relative who's a fan of her books?



Anyway. Donations may be made one of three ways.

1.) By my fundraising page, here or by clicking that widget in the upper right hand corner of the page.

2.) In person (if you know me and live in my area.)

3.) By mail (cash or check, email me at craftycompassion(at)gmail.com for info.)

I will choose a winner at random around 9 pm the 15th, and will announce the winner here and on facebook.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You might get tired of me talking about Africa.

I am in a pretty good mood today, despite some pain I'm having with my hip/back (it's the crazy weather!) I am just so excited about this Tanzania trip. I hope you're excited with me. : )

Of course I am still waiting to get my info packet in the mail from Compassion, but I thought we could go ahead and start talking about the trip by discussing the basic itinerary from Compassion's website! I will be utilizing the wonders of Google images for this, as well.

So here's how the trip will go down!

March 8 and 9: I will be traveling to JFK airport- by myself! I've only flown a handful of times before, and definitely never by myself. I've also never been to New York! Hopefully I'll have enough time to find some tacky magnets at a souvenir shop to add to my collection. : ) It will definitely be interesting handling all my luggage myself, getting to the right terminal, and everything else. My uncle works for Delta (in another state), so hopefully I will be able to get a Delta flight and he can keep tabs on me and help me out if I need it (which he did when Brandon and I were coming back from our honeymoon and they tried to stick us on separate planes!)


JFK airport

Then I'll be meeting up with the rest of the folks going on the trip. We will be departing from New York and heading to AMSTERDAM for a layover! So not only will I have a brand new passport, but I will actually have stamps from TWO different countries on it! This is kind of fascinating to me. Keep in mind- I never travel anywhere! Compassion says that we will have a few hours in Amsterdam, enough time for "tea, shopping, walking, or relaxing." Maybe there are tacky Amsterdam magnets at the airport? Perhaps in the shape of windmills? It's my understanding that we'll be here in the middle of the night, basically, and then catching a mid-morning flight to Tanzania!


Not the airport, but still. I want a tiny pair of wooden shoes!


Our flight will land in Kilimanjaro Airport. Wow. Kilimanjaro. I can't wait to see it. I will probably cry. Also, I know this will sound weird, but as soon as we have access to actual African turf, I fully intend on taking off my shoes to step on the ground. I love Africa. Love it. If I wasn't married, I think I would be living there running an orphanage. I can't wait. And I will probably take a picture of my feet on the African dirt. : ) We'll meet up with Compassion Tanzania's staff and head to our hotel. 


Here's an informational video from our hotel!



March 10: We'll be spending some time checking out the Singida region of Tanzania, which has been a place of expansion for Compassion in recent years. There is a tremendous need for Compassion in this area, hence their expansion. We'll visit a nearby child development center and learn about Compassion's complimentary interventions (that's the help Compassion provides outside the sponsorship program- like if a child needs surgery or something like that.) The best way to explain this aspect of Compassion's ministry is that it's basically grants given to the churches Compassion partners with, for health and education and things like that. We'll be interacting with the staff because the kids only attend the centers on Saturdays. 

March 11: This will be an exciting day- we'll get to check out Compassion's child survival program in Tanzania! The child survival program helps babies and mothers- it's kind of like the precursor to the child sponsorship program. Not only will we get to see the cute little babies (I want to bring one home) but we'll also learn how the help Compassion provides to the moms, like literacy training, is impacting their lives!

March 12 through 15: We'll be learning about what makes the Singida region one of the poorest and most struggling areas in the country and how we can help bring solutions to those problems. We'll also be putting together a Vacation Bible School-style program to encourage not only the kids we meet, but the staff and adults as well. We'll be meeting hundreds of kids who attend CDCs in this area, and we'll also be visiting some homes of the kids who attend Compassion's programs. 

March 15 and 16: This is the cultural part of the trip (I love the fact that Compassion always has a significant cultural experience on their tours!) This is possibly the most exciting cultural experience one could imagine- at least, an animal lover like me. We'll be going on SAFARI! Ack! I want to shout about it. We'll travel to Maramboi Tented Camp in Tarangire National Park to spend the night, and then going on safari. Animals! In the wild! Some things this park is famous for: its "huge number of elephants" (oh my goodness) and tree-climbing lions. They also have giraffes, waterbucks, zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, and eland. Plus gerenuks. I love those guys. They are ridiculous. There are also 550 species of birds there, including hornbills (like Zazu in The Lion King!), lovebirds, ostriches, and who knows what else. Then we'll head back to Arusha, where the hotel is, and meet some of the incredible young people in Compassion's Leadership Development Program. 


A view from one of the bungalow-type thingies at the tented lodge



This is a gerenuk. 



March 17: This is the day we have all been waiting for. This is FUN DAY with our kids!!!!! They will be coming to the hotel we're staying at and hanging out with us. I bet we'll get to eat together, too! That will be fun. I look forward to spending time with Said!!!


An aerial view of our hotel. 


March 18: We'll have a tour of the Compassion Tanzania office, having devotionals with the staff and checking out the facilities there. We'll have time later in the day for shopping at the local market before going back to the hotel to pack up. Then we'll head back to the airport and fly home. We'll be getting back on the 19th. 

I am so excited about this trip. I know I've already said that, but still. It's amazing. So many dreams will be fulfilled through it: my desire to visit Africa, specifically Tanzania, where my hero Jane Goodall studied in the 1960s; seeing Kilimanjaro and the beautiful landscapes and the incredible animals of the country; visiting child development centers and spending time with the kids Compassion helps; and seeing Said, who is always telling me to "welcome to Tanzania." I am so blessed to have this opportunity. I can't wait. : ) 


Look what I did last night.



I got my code for the advocate discount yesterday evening, and as soon as I got home from work, I finished filling out my registration! : )

I also got my background check info filled out, and signed my release form. I can't wait to get my info packet in the mail!

I also got some good news about fundraising, too- I got the OK from a restaurant nearby to have a "spirit night" type fundraiser, where folks who dine there on a specific day and present a flyer with my info on it will automatically be donating 10% of their bill to my trip!

All in all, last night was pretty good. : )

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Real love.

I'm participating in blog month for Compassion, and we got our first assignment this morning. We've been asked to write what words of wisdom and encouragement we would share with our childhood selves.

I don't know that they could have started out with a more difficult assignment, honestly.

I don't know what I would tell my childhood self, if I had the chance. Anything I could tell Little Me would not change my circumstances. And  my circumstances were difficult. I most definitely don't want to turn this post into a pity party for myself, but I have to tell you, since we're on the subject- my childhood was not fun.

I definitely could have had it a lot worse, and I know that. I did not live in an abusive household. I was not homeless. I didn't have cancer or some other life-threatening disease. And my parents didn't split up.

But I was unpopular, from kindergarten all the way through high school, pretty much (though at the end there I did have a few friends.) I was bullied at multiple schools. My family didn't have much money. I didn't go hungry, but most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my mom (shoes from my cousin, since I couldn't wear her clothes) or school uniforms. I'm pretty sure I went a few years without even owning a pair of jeans. I didn't feel pressure to own popular clothing brands, but I know I definitely got made fun of for the old clothes I did own.

I got picked on a lot. And I was afraid a lot. My anxiety disorder didn't get diagnosed until right before I was in 5th grade. And a diagnosis didn't mean an end to my issues- it just meant we knew what they were called. They still set me apart and still made me miserable at times. And I didn't ever really feel close to anyone. I have already said on this blog that while my mom and I are really close now and very good friends, we did not get along very well when I still lived in my parents' house. We fought a lot. Part of it came from being in close proximity (we have very similar personalities), and part of it was just immaturity on my part. But I went a long, long time without a confidante, someone to share with. I probably had people who were willing to pray for me, but I didn't know how to ask.

I can't say that my childhood self would believe this message, but if I had the opportunity, I guess I would tell Little Me this: you have worth. You have value. You are loved. Life may be hard sometimes, but you're still alive, and it's ok.

I guess the moral of the story is this: my experiences and circumstances growing up have made me who I am today, and I turned out ok. They also made me very empathetic to some of the problems our sponsor kids face. While I did not live in the same kind of poverty they did, poverty makes you feel worthless and discouraged. Our kids value our letters because it's so important to them to know that someone cares, and is listening, and is praying for them. That someone half a world away loves them. And it's real love; how else can you love someone you've never met, if it's not genuine?

Below you will see some pictures of kids who have been waiting a very long time for sponsors- over a year. Will you be the one to encourage them, to love them, to show them they have worth and value?



Himanshu is 7 years old. He lives in India. 



Inda is 7 years old. She lives in Indonesia. 



Anderson is 5 years old. He lives in the Dominican Republic. 



Ivy is 8 years old. She lives in Ghana. 







Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bags o' fun

I still can't make any announcements on my prospective Compassion tour (still waiting to get a few ducks in a row), but I do have something else fun to talk about.

My mother in law is going to India this fall for work. She has gone to the Philippines before and was hoping to go again, but she is going to India instead. And I'm happy about that! I love India, and my mom and I are going to get carryout from our favorite Indian restaurant and have dinner with her before she goes. I can't wait to see her pictures and souvenirs from her visit!

Possibly the best part about all this is that she has agreed to take gifts for our Compassion kids! She will be traveling with a bag for my Jayid, my mom's girl Amisha, and our friend Blaire's girl Nisha. Amisha probably has the best relationship with my mom out of all her sponsor kids, and Nisha is very precious to Blaire, as well. So we are all very excited.

We are keeping our eyes peeled for mini backpacks or totes of appropriate size, but for now, the gifts are going in a plastic gallon-sized bag for each of our kids. They don't take long to fill up! For all I know, this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to send gifts to Jayid. I hope that some day I am able to send (or bring!) gifts to each of my kids. I have some special things in mind for each of them. Like Mary- Mary loves to sing, so I would bring her sheet music and music-themed stuff. Said would get art supplies because I don't think I've ever received a letter from him that didn't have at least one drawing on it. And Brenda would get a dolly and fruit loops, because she's little and likes fruit loops. : )

My bag for Jayid is almost full- I have room for just a few more things (some soap and a little photo album with pictures of where I live and my family and stuff.) Here's what else I have packed for him:

*Mechanical pencils (no sharpeners to worry about!)
*A pack of crayons
*A tiny coloring book
*Two Hotwheels cars
*A mini Magna-Doodle (it takes up the most space, but it's really cool.)
*A blue washcloth
*A Transformers toothbrush (I looked for superheroes, because he likes them, but the only superhero ones they had in stock were battery operated.)
*Cavity-fighting kids' toothpaste
*Werther's hard candies to share with his family
*Trolli crawlers (those neon sour gummy worms!) for my boy!

I am also going to include a letter for the field office staff telling them how much I appreciate them and the work they do. Jayid's package will be going to the EI field office, while Amisha and Shima's bags will be going to IN. I told my mom and Blaire it would be cool if they wrote notes for the staff there, too.

I don't know what all Blaire is packing for Shima, but my mom got some cool stuff for Amisha! Two things in particular stand out. She got a pretty pink headband that benefits Amazima Ministries (each headband buys three meals for kids in Uganda.) I have several of these headbands and really like them! You can buy them at Lifeway or online. Lifeway has also started carrying these pretty beaded bracelets made by women in Nepal. I definitely want one! Actually, the one I wanted is going in Amisha's bag! : ) Hopefully they will get more in stock!

Have you ever been able to send gifts to your kids? What kind of stuff did you send? What would you like to send to your child, if you could?