Thursday, October 31, 2013

Compassion Joys: October

 Compassion Family

I love reading everyone's Compassion Joy posts at the end of every month, and I've decided to finally join in! I'm linking up with Compassion Family. Here are some happy Compassion-related things from this past month. : )

Two new kids!

Bonifas is our new sponsor child (mom is helping me sponsor him.) He's 8 and he lives in Tanzania. And Elisha is our new correspondence kid. He's 7 and also loves in Tanzania!




This month we got two letters from Prayer, one from Tasya, one from Brenda, and one from Mishel. Brenda and Mishel also drew pretty pictures!

Tanzania Trip Progress!

On the 12th a local restaurant hosted a fundraising night for my trip with Compassion next March. It brought in about $40 total, but every little bit helps. I also had a few donations come in. I was able to book my domestic flights, and I found out that most of the immunizations I need are available for a really great price at my local pharmacy! I can't wait to get to Tanzania and see Said, Bonifas, and Elisha!


I posted some pictures of waiting kids in a recent post, and was able to find a sponsor for one of the girls who was waiting a really long time- my mom! My mom's name is Karen and I posted a Karen in Nicaragua. Mom picked her up and added her to her Compassion family. : )

Surprise presents!

My mother in law left for India on the 17th, and she will be there for 6 weeks. She took a mini backpack full of presents for my Jayid, and gifts for my mom's Amisha and my friend Blaire's girl Nisha as well. They should have been sent in the last day or so! I hope that the field offices are able to get the gifts out soon- Jayid's birthday is November 8, and it would be really cool if he got his stuff for his birthday!!!


This month, our Brenda turned 6 and Prayer turned 11. They had their birthdays on the same day- October 22!

New Pictures!

We got new pictures of Carlos and Victor this month!



Christmas fun!

Not only did we send our kids their Christmas goodies (cards and sticker books along with letters), I was also able to collect a ton of Christmas cards for unsponsored kids. Thanks to my friends and families' donations (plus my obsessive hoarding of cards), I was able to write out and send 178 cards for unsponsored kids! I filled up a whole flat rate priority mail box- and let me tell you, that thing saved me a lot of money on shipping! Anyway, my prayer is that every unsponsored kid will get a card this year. It would be even better if they got sponsors!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Christmas Ornament fundraiser!!!

Soon I will be starting a new and exciting fundraiser for my trip. I wanted to go ahead and tell you a little bit about it, as a preview! Just in time for the holidays, this fundraiser involves SHOPPING- and it's for an amazing, excellent cause!

Starting sometime in the next week or two, I will be selling handmade ornaments made by artisans who work for the ApParent Project. I have talked about this ministry a little bit before on my blog, but here's a refresher: ApParent project is a ministry that helps parents in Haiti. We all know that Haiti is a poor country- the poorest in our hemisphere, in fact. Sadly, because no one (almost) in Haiti has any money, parents there often give up their children because they can't afford to care for them. There are many ministries working in Haiti that try to reunite kids with their parents, rather than immediately shipping them off to North America (Children of the Promise, the excellent facility where my little buddy Anell used to live, is one of those good-guy ministries), and ApParent Project fits that description. Here's the gist: local parents in Haiti get jobs with ApParent Project and their suppliers, Market Haiti. They make crafts, and all the money from those crafts goes back to the artisans who made them. Because of that income, moms and dads are able to raise their kids instead of giving them up! It's pretty amazing! And each handmade piece comes with a little tag telling you about who made it. I have several bracelets from ApParent Project (which I bought from my friend Ashley when they were fundraising to bring Anell home), and I have saved all the tags. The most recent one showed a picture of a young man who is living in a tent, trying to raise his son. The tag tells you what they're working toward- whether it's a new home, an education, or whatever. It's just indescribably awesome.

So now on to the fundraiser part. I will soon be receiving a box of 150 handmade ornaments. A popular art medium in Haiti is metalwork from recycled materials such as oil drums. These ornaments are made from recycled metal. There's a loop of ribbon at the top, complete with some paper beads. And of course, there's the tag telling you about who made it! When the ornaments arrive, I'll be adding a PayPal "Buy Now" button to the top of my blog. If you'd like to purchase an ornament, you can do so that way, or get in touch with me directly. And now I will host a little question-and-answer session with myself, for details.

Q: How much will the ornaments cost?
A: If you buy an ornament (or more than one!) online, I am requesting $10 per ornament. This is what was recommended to me by ApParent Project staff. If you would like to mail a check, or live near me and would like to pay in person, just get in touch with me- there's a little discount. : ) The $10 per ornament cost DOES INCLUDE SHIPPING. Just FYI.

Q: Why would it be cheaper to buy the ornaments in person, rather through PayPal?
A: Because PayPal charges a fee. That's the easiest answer. So does WePay and GoFundMe, the other fundraising tools I'm using. For example, a $10 donation actually gets me $8.90. It makes things easier, but it does take a bite out of donations. Checks are totally fine, though, if you want to pay that way. And, like I said, the $10 covers shipping.

Q: How much money will go to the moms and dads in Haiti?
A: More than half. I will be sending back $5 for each ornament I sell- which is really awesome and it's a great way for all of us to help each other!

Q: What do the ornaments look like?
A: There will be 3 different designs- -50 ornaments of each. They say "peace", "love", and "joy", which are three of my favorite words! There's a sample picture at the bottom of this post.

Q: How long will this fundraiser go on? 
A: I will have the ornaments for 6 weeks once they arrive. After that time period is up, I send the money I've collected, along with my leftovers, back to ApParent Project.

Q: What would I do with an ornament, anyway?
A: I have compiled a list just for this occasion! Here are some people you could give an ornament to:

  • Your boss
  • Your coworkers
  • Teachers
  • Pastors
  • Neighbors
  • Your veterinarian
  • Bible study group leaders and other church-y friends
  • Your mechanic
  • Use them as stocking stuffers
  • Or Secret Santa gifts
  • Give one to your kids' babysitters
  • Hand them out to those hard-to-shop-for relatives
  • Buy one for the mailman
  • Or the garbage man
  • Or any other person who helps you out day to day
  • Keep some for yourself
  • Buy them all and donate them to a children's hospital (just a thought!)
Q: When will the fundraiser start? 
A: As soon as I get the ornaments. There was a slight delay recently because of a customs strike in Haiti- nothing was coming out of that place. But the strike has ended and the folks at ApParent Project (who work out of Florida) have been working like craaaaazy to get boxes packed and out to folks who are doing fundraisers. I was originally supposed to expect mine by Halloween, but things have been delayed by a week or two. 

So that's the deal! I'm really excited about this fundraiser! I hope I will be able to help you out with at least some of your Christmas shopping this year! : )

Here are the ornaments! Aren't they cute??

Monday, October 28, 2013

Outgoing Mail

No letters for me this week- but I do have some going out when I get paid on Thursday! Here's a little bit about what I'm sending to the kiddos this week.

This week, I'm sending out Christmas goodies! Since Christmas is about two months away, this is the best time to send Christmas gifts and cards to your kids. If you  have sponsor kids, I strongly recommend that you go ahead and send them some treats for Christmas now, so they get them in time for the holidays!

This year, I am sending out sticker books for each of my kids. Michael's craft stores already have a ton of Christmas stuff in their stores. They usually have some great dollar items (for you shoebox shoppers!), but this year, I haven't seen much there that will work for our Compassion kids. However, they ALWAYS have really amazing sticker books from a company called Darice. They do sticker books for all the major holidays, and they have a huge variety of sticker books for Christmas! Licensed characters, neon, an "alpine" theme, more traditional scenes, etc. I got some more mature looking sticker books for some of my older kids, some nativity books for the youngest ones (they are really cartoon-y), a Minnie Mouse one for Tasya (because she is always wearing a Minnie Mouse shirt in her pictures) and I specifically got a snow-themed one for Joane, who lives in Haiti. Ice does not form naturally anywhere in Haiti- even in the mountains! Snow is something she would never ever see. I know some of my other kids live in tropical, hot areas, but for most of them, they have a snow-capped mountain somewhere in their country. I just thought of Joane when I saw this book, so I picked it out for her.

My kids are also getting Christmas cards. I am sending out penguin Christmas cards this year, with a brief message inside. I got these cards last year at Lifeway, where my mom works. They are made of a really nice quality paper, so they should hold up in shipping and will probably last a long time. The younger kids are also getting nativity sticker scenes, which I found at Hobby Lobby. They're about $4 per dozen sticker sheets, but Hobby Lobby is always running their stuff 40-50% off.

Now, on to the letters. I am sending regular letters this mail run, not Christmas themed ones. I will send a Christmas themed one closer to Christmas, describing my family's traditions and what we'll be doing for the holidays. I found some really pretty paper at the Dollar Tree last week. It's just printer paper, but the borders are dark blue with yellow stars. I really like the paper!

In my letters this month, I've written a greeting paragraph. I mentioned that it is starting to get very cold where I live, and that on Wednesday, we saw a few snowflakes in the air- but they melted before they hit the ground! I asked each of my kids how cold it gets where they live. I know that some of them live in areas where it's constantly hot and humid, but there are some areas, like the mountains, where it can get cool.

In the next paragraph, I mentioned that a sad thing has happened recently, because my friend Jessica passed away. I mentioned this in all my letters except for the very youngest kids, and for Bonifas and Elisha (they got introductory letters this week.) I said that Jessica had some disabilities and she had been sick for a long time, but now she is in heaven and she is healthy and whole. I asked them to pray for my friend Laura, Jessica's mom, and her family.

After that, for most of my kids, I wrote a little bit about my Bible study group. Most of my kids are aware that I do Bible studies with some friends of mine. Sometimes I write about what we're studying, and ask them if they're familiar with the story or the topic. I usually get a response! Right now we're finishing up Priscilla Shirer's One In A Million. Here's what I wrote this time:

"My friends and I are doing a Bible study together about the Israelites in the wilderness. Have you read this Bible study? After they left Egypt and escaped from slavery, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before they reached the promised land. It was frustrating, but God took care of them the whole time! He provided food and water, guided their travels, and He never left them. God is always with us, even when we feel like we are in the wilderness." 

I wrapped up the letters with some affirmations for my kids: I reminded them that they are precious to me and I love them very much, and that I'm praying for them every day.

So that's what I'm taking to the post office this week! I am going to put everything in a flat rate envelope this morning, because my last package was so heavy, it cost more than $10 to send! What are you sending your kids for the holidays?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

News of the World

Here's your weekly update on what's going on in some of the countries where Compassion works!

Colombia- This is a news story about one specific family, but it brings to light two issues: what happens when families are faced with such abject poverty that it leads to desperation, and the kind of trafficking and exploitation kids around the world face every day. A Colombian woman was arrested this week after it was found out that she sold the virginity of her daughters- 12 of them- for about $200 a piece, to make ends meet. Girls are trafficked and abused all around the world, and I think that often it can be traced right back to poverty- girls being sold because their family needs the money, kids born into brothels and raised to grow up to be prostitutes because their moms can't buy food any other way. It's so sad. Pray for this family, but really, this could happen anywhere. It does happen everywhere.

India- Recent rains in eastern India have caused quite a bit of flooding, which has killed 16 people so far. My mother in law is currently in eastern India and told me yesterday in an email that it has been raining a lot there- she is safe, though. Pray for the people affected by this flooding, that they will be able to rebuild quickly and will be able to avoid some of the problems that come with flooding, which includes the rapid spread of disease. Pray for the Compassion centers in the area as they work to meet the needs of the people there, both physical and spiritual.

Dominican Republic- For a while now, the Domican Republic has been struggling with the influx of people from Haiti. Both countries share the same island, but economically, the DR is having an easier time of things than Haiti. Therefore, a lot of people from Haiti try to find work in the DR or even move there. This has led the Dominican government to crack down on immigration in recent years, just trying to keep things steady and regulated. It's understandable. Anyway, at the moment, many Dominicans of Haitian descent are about to be stripped of their citizenship, because when they were born, their parents were in the country illegally. They will lose their citizenship even if they have never been to Haiti or left the DR. It's causing a lot of political unrest in the region. Pray for the governments of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that they won't become hostile. Pray for the people who are facing losing their citizenship and identity. Pray for both nations, that their economies will improve, because they are really struggling.

Kenya- Again, this is another story that happened in one country but illuminates issues in all countries. In this case, we're talking about violence against women, gender inequality, and the mishandling of justice. A few weeks ago, a 16 year old girl was raped while she was on her way home from a relative's funeral. The attack was more violent than just sexual assault, however- she has been left permanently disabled as a result of the violence. There are fundraisers to raise money for her medical bills. The girl, who has been nicknamed Liz, was able to identify some of her attackers. Neighbors took the attackers to the police station. The police's response? Have the attackers mow the grass around the station, then set them free. Obviously people are outraged. Pray that justice will be served against the people who attacked this girl. Pray that girls around the world would stop being attacked like this, and pray that governments would realize it's in the best interest of everyone to protect ALL their citizens and give fair punishments for crimes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sweet Greetings

I completely forgot about doing a mail call post yesterday. My mind was on other things. So here is my Tuesday Mail Call Monday post.

I was very happy to get a letter from Tasya this week. The letter-writing changes implemented a year or so ago mean that I don't receive quite as many letters from her as I used to, but since she's getting older, the letters have a little more substance than some of her old ones (which I think were at times just written out of excitement because she got a letter from me- "hello mama! We are all fine here! That's all for now!" haha.) 

26 August 2013
First of all, I would like to say that right now me and my family are in good health. Are mama and family in good health? It's rainy season here now. People tend to get sick on rainy season, so I use my umbrella to go to school so that I won't get sick. A few days ago, me and my family planted several plants. I planted tomato, chili, rambutan and poki-poki. I am happy because the plants that me and my family planted have grown bigger. I also have a cousin named Safti. Safti is my class mate. And also Meidelin. She is my classmate, too. Both of them are 12 years old. I'm glad to have cousins like both of them who are kind to me. That's all of my letter. I'll be waiting for a letter again from Mama. 
May God always keep and protect Mama's family. 
With love, 

Well, if you're like me, you have no idea what poki-poki or rambutan are. I looked them up. Rambutan is a little tree grown in Southeast Asia. Its fruits are red and spiky. When they're peeled, they look like white, skinless grapes. And I found many recipes for poki-poki and they all included eggplant, so for now, I'm going to assume that that's a regional term for eggplant! Also, I'm glad Tasya wrote to me telling me about her cousins (I wrote about my cousins earlier in the year.) I think I'm going to decorate my response letter to her with some umbrella stickers I have. : )

In other sponsor-related news, I received an email last night from Compassion. I had submitted a few inquiries recently about getting another correspondence kid. I actually asked to be put on the list over a month ago, and after a month passed, on the advice of some fellow sponsors, I sent an email. And then I had to send another email when part of the response I received didn't quite match up with some other sponsors' recent experiences. So I got a very nice email from a staff member who picked out a little boy for me and went ahead and added him to my account! His name is Elisha and he's 7 years old. His birthday is September 10. And can you guess where he lives? Tanzania, of course! I just cracked up when I read that in the email. I was at work at the time and this gave my friend Jess and I something to laugh about. I went from expecting to spend a whole day with my boy Said when I go to Tanzania next year, to adding Bonifas to our account, and now we have Elisha! I was worried about how to keep ONE boy entertained (girls are easy- you can paint nails, play with dolls, and things like that.) Now I have three!!

Anyway, Elisha is super cute. I love the fact that he's wearing blue- he looks like a UK basketball player in the making! He looks like he's about to run out on the basketball court in those warm-ups. : ) I can't wait to get to know this little guy better!

Last but not least, we got a new picture of one of our kiddos last night! I logged into Our Compassion so I could see if any of my friends had kids at Elisha's center (he's at 606) and when I saw my account, there was a face on there I didn't recognize! Our Victor has a new picture!! We have had the same picture of Victor for the past year (the first one we received) so it was pretty surprising to get a new one! Here's Victor's old picture....

And here's his new picture!

He looks so grown up! : ) It's funny- I emailed and asked for Victor's previous picture (before we got him) and I think this picture looks more like younger Victor than the other one does! Maybe it's the lighting in the photo. No matter what he's wearing, he's still my handsome boy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

"There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning."

Today has been really, really hard.

This morning, right before I started running my errands, my boss called me and asked if I could possibly work this morning instead of this evening. I had a doctor's appointment this morning, though, so I wasn't able to make the switch. He was calling because my coworker Laura had called out because she and her husband were taking their daughter Jessica to the emergency room. This was not a good sign- I mean, it's never great when someone goes to the emergency room, but Jessica has had health problems all her life, and has almost died more than once since I've been working at the library. When Jessica gets sick, her parents wouldn't take her to the doctor because there's really nothing they could do. It's just the way things are. And I figured that a hospital stay might be coming soon because Laura told me last Thursday she didn't sleep the night before because Jessica was coughing so much. Fluid builds up around her heart, among other things, and that lead to the coughing and everything.

This afternoon, after I had my appointment and ran my errands, I came home and got frustrated after a phone conversation with my husband. When I hung up, I had a new text message from my best friend Jess, who works at the library with me. She said that she wanted me to know before I came to work that Jessica, Laura's daughter, was in the ICU and they had signed papers to let her go if things got bad. I called my mom at work and asked her to be praying, for Laura and her family, and also for me because I was just starting to feel so upset. I took the garbage out, came back in the house, and there was another text saying that Jessica had passed away. And then I cried for the next 35 minutes.

In all the time I have known Laura (which is a very long time), I have been aware of Jessica. I have met her on several occasions, like at staff parties and on the rare day that she would come to work with her mom and hang out in her office in her wheelchair (Jessica didn't really speak many discernable words, but oh my goodness, that girl loved to laugh!) And she was always happy to see everyone.  She loved animals and was the most tender-hearted person to ever live on this planet. Her mom never got to watch the news because the bad news in the world moved Jessica so much, it upset her really badly. And Jessica had kind of a sixth sense about animals. I remember one time Laura told me that they had taken one of their cats to the vet, and there were some kittens up for adoption. Jessica checked them out and started crying. Laura told the person working behind the desk that she knew one of those kittens must have had a sad story, and the staff member, very surprised, said yes, that one of the siblings out of the litter had died. When one of us would lose a pet or a loved one, Jessica would send an email saying that she knew that that person or pet was OK and happy and safe now. I think that maybe God gave her the ability to see and notice things the rest of us don't have, to make up for those abilities she lacked but we take for granted, like walking and talking and living a normal life.

All the other times Jessica has been sick since I've been working with her mom (the better part of a decade now), she has hung on by a thread and then rallied. There have been at least two occasions I can remember when we all thought she would pass at any time, and her mom said that Jessica didn't want to die in a hospital and she would carry her out of there herself so she could be at home. And that didn't happen. I'm having a hard time processing it. I guess I took it for granted that this very strong young woman, who has defied all odds and completely destroyed all the expectations doctors have ever had of her, is gone. I am so sad for her family. I am shocked that this all happened so quickly. And I know it sounds cliche, but I do think that the world got a little darker this afternoon. It had to. Jessica was such a bright, happy force for good. And now she's gone.

Anyway, we've been dealing with that this afternoon, and Jess and I just tried to get through the evening without collapsing into puddles of tears by talking about lots of random things while doing our jobs. While we fielded a few phone calls about what had happened, we learned that another coworker, my friend Linda, has cancer. Linda is my grandparents' age and is healthy as a horse. Probably more so. She is a vegetarian and walks to and from work every day. She does yoga and is just very zen about life. She has had some hard times but I have never seen her really rattled. And she still isn't rattled. But finding out that she has cancer is scary. The prognosis is really good, and Linda herself has a really zen attitude about it (I keep using that word....I should explain that Linda is a very peaceful person who, when she feels like she might have a stressful or upset day, recites Psalms from the Bible, Buddhist verse, and I don't know what else to herself on the way to work.) But still. This day was HARD. And there will be a lot more crying to come.

I'm writing all this to ask you if you will please pray for my friends. Pray for Linda as she begins this fight against a stupid disease that really should go away and be wiped out by now. Pray for Laura and her family as they deal with this unimaginably sad event. Yes, it was unlikely that Jessica would live to be an old lady. But knowing that it would happen someday doesn't mean it's still not hard to process and deal with. It doesn't make mourning any easier. Grief is hard, and it hurts. And I think that's all I have to say for tonight. I promise I'll be back tomorrow with some happy news, but I'm done for this evening. I'm turning off my computer and heading downstairs to do some praying and some crying and some processing.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I've had some interesting discussions about my trip to Tanzania lately. A lot of people are really excited for me. After I tell them where Tanzania is, they realize that it's one of those countries that has safaris, and that's cool. Kilimanjaro is there, and they've heard of that. And they know I will be meeting my sponsor child- or children, now that I have Bonifas. But since I'm not travelling with a church, like many "mission" trips, I don't know that they understand what exactly is going to go on during the trip. They know I'll be flying to Tanzania via Amsterdam, and that's a nice place to vacation. They know I will have a good time. But I don't think they realize that this isn't a vacation. This isn't me getting away to a beautiful country for some relaxation. The trip will be hard. Impoverished conditions. Language barriers. Unfamiliar territory. Being away from my family. Being with a group of strangers. Long flights. Huge time changes (Tanzania is 7 hours ahead of where I live.) Bumpy roads. Unreliable transportation. I'm not afraid of feeling/looking like an outsider (how many pasty white blonde girls do you think there are in Tanzania, anyway?) but I know it will be weird, at least at first. New foods. New culture. New everything.

And on top of that, there's the work. We aren't going as tourists. We will be working while we're in Tanzania. We're visiting one of the child survival program centers, visiting the moms and babies, and bringing them supplies and learning about how they are growing and living. We are going to spend several days in the poorest region of the country, putting on a sort of VBS program for the kids in an area where Compassion recently started working- so these kids most likely haven't had visitors before. There is so much exciting stuff on this trip- and I can't wait to experience it! But it's not a relaxing getaway. God has called me to serve. Advocating for others- for children and women in particular- is my life's passion. It is a desire that God has placed on my heart, and it is truly the thing that I feel most passionately about. And now God is telling me not just to advocate, but to GO and be with His children. It's a struggle. There are soooooo many reasons I could give for not going. I could say "I can't do that- I don't have the money." Or "I can't do that- I don't travel anywhere." "I can't do that- my stomach is so weird, I don't know what I'll eat." "I can't do that- I have anxiety and I'm afraid." "I can't do that- I don't know anyone going on the trip." But I haven't let any of that stop me. This is an act of obedience for me. It is so, so important that you understand that. This is God's plan for my life. And I'm doing everything I can to make it happen. Do I need help? Yes, definitely. Financial help, prayers, advice about travel....I need it all. I spend a crazy amount of free time researching airports I won't visit for another five months, making lists of what I need to bring, learning about customs and passports and visas and all these unfamiliar concepts. I've done purchase requests for all sorts of new guide books and cultural handbooks from the library, and am making my way through the ones they decided to add to their collection. And I'm praying for the kids I will meet, and praying for my friends and family, that they might be moved to look into sponsorship. A LOT of work is going into this, even five months out. And it will be hard work while I'm there. And I already know I'm going to come back a different person. No matter how hard I try to prepare my heart for the things I will see and experience, I know this will be life-changing. Being a sponsor to my kids has already changed my life in such a tremendous way- I can't imagine what's next.

I am sharing some pictures here of the Compassion bloggers' trip to Tanzania last spring. All these pictures came from their Flickr photo album from the trip. I'm posting these because I want and need folks to look beyond the picturesque postcard of Kilimanjaro and the opening scene of the Lion King. I need you to see real life where my boys live, and what I'm going to be doing next March. Please keep praying for the trip, and please, please consider donating via my fundraising page up in the top right corner.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

Compassion Bloggers visit to Tanzania May 6-12, 2012 to write about the ministry of Compassion International.

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News of the World

Here are some news updates from around the world- specifically the countries where Compassion works. I hope they will be informative and helpful to you, so you can known what to pray for in your child's country!

  • Philippines- as you may know by now, shortly after I wrote my last post about prayer requests, a massive earthquake hit the Philippines recently. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake has affected over 3 million people. Almost 150 have been declared dead so far, and as of Wednesday, 23 were still missing. Many buildings have been destroyed, including a large number of churches. Pray for the country, that they will recover relatively quickly from this disaster. Pray for the families displaced by the quake, and for the people who lost loved ones. The most damage and deaths occurred on Bohol island. 
  • Mexico- the people of Mexico's coasts have been dealing with a lot of bad weather lately, due to hurricanes and tropical storms. It's sad- earlier in the week I saw headlines on an American news site that basically said "we don't want to jinx ourselves, but there really wasn't a hurricane season this year!" But just a few weeks ago, hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel killed more than 100 people. Pray for the citizens of Mexico as they brace for more bad weather. Pray for few casualties and a quick response from government and aid organizations. Pray for the safety of the people who live near the coasts. 
That's all I have for now- the websites I check for international news haven't been posting much lately about Compassion countries. Check back next weekend for more News of the World!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good news!

A lot of people know I've been struggling lately. And by "struggling", I mean "severely depressed and experiencing a time of emotional upheaval." There's just too much going on and my spirit is out of balance. Things are looking up, though. Contrary to what my husband may believe, I am crying less. It's true! It's hard telling people you have issues with depression. It scares some people. Don't worry- I'm in no danger of hurting myself. My depression manifests itself as just overwhelming emotions. I hate stereotypes about women, because sexism is gross, but seriously- it's like really, really really bad PMS. Sorry if that's TMI, but it's true. There's a lot of crying involved, and overreacting. And if I stay in it long enough I get lonely and doubtful and worry about silly made-up stuff, like the thought I have had, at some random, sad times, that when people say they are praying for me, they really aren't. Stuff like that.

This stuff is going on because I just have so much stuff on my plate right now. You know, if life throws you one curve ball, or just a handful of difficult things to deal with, it's fine, and it's easier to cope. But sometimes it turns out that there are just too many heavy things weighing on your heart and soul, and it hurts and you have to lay your burdens down. Except they're glued to your body and a bit hard to shake off.

I do have a point to this post, I swear! And it's a pretty happy one. Really.

My point is this: since I have been getting better lately (even though I'm still struggling and still covet your prayers), I have been capable of searching for the good things in my day, and making an effort to focus on them. Like googling the contents of my brain and bookmarking some stuff to think about later. Does that sound weird? Probably. Oh well. It's my blog, I can sound weird if I want to.

And today, my mom gave me a new journal (sketchbook, really, but I will be using it for journaling and doodling) that says something about counting your blessings every day on the front. I've decided to use it as a sort of gratitude journal. Or even just a place to write down those little bright spots in my day, even if I'm not automatically thinking about being grateful for them. Here are some of the first things, written today:

  • Getting $10 for a bag of lame books at the used bookstore (every little bit helps when it comes to fundraising for my trip!) 
  • A friend at my mom's work giving me some money for the trip, which, at least on an individual basis, is definitely more profitable than the restaurant fundraiser we did last weekend
  • Getting to surprise my mom at work after the aforementioned trip to the used bookstore, which happens to be across the street
  • Having dinner with my parents and my husband at Shogun this evening. Free food is always good, and I like trying restaurants I've never been to before! I had some of my mom's sushi and a plate of teriyaki chicken (normally I would go meatless but the only appetizing stuff was deep fried, and I wasn't sure if I'd like the taste of that!)
  • Getting a bag of presents from my mom and dad. Dad spent his day shopping at flea markets and brought me some Webkinz (I have a bunch of these stuffed animals because they make toys of animals I like but no one else does, like sloths and walruses and red pandas!), plus my mom gave me a bunch of new journals and a bag of candy!
  • Having a day off from work
  • And last but most exciting....GETTING A NEW SPONSOR CHILD!
Now it's time for a story! 

On facebook, I have a photo album of kids waiting for sponsors. I will post a picture of a kid and include a short biography and a link to their page on Compassion's website, in the hopes of finding them sponsors. And every day, I go through the photo album, follow the links, and see if the kids have found sponsors. If they have, I'll delete them from the album. Two of my friends have found new sponsor kids this way! And it raises awareness about the kids waiting for sponsors. Anyway, since I found out I am going to Tanzania, I have only been posting Tanzanian kids in this album. I thought it would be cool if one of my friends found a sponsor child in Tanzania- then I could bring them a present when I visit! There is one little boy named Bonifas who has been waiting a looong time for a sponsor. I first posted him back in AUGUST, and he still hadn't found a sponsor.  He was on the "longest waiting" list, and it broke my heart to click his link every day and see that this happy boy still hadn't found a sponsor. I am always ready for a new correspondent kid, and would love to have more sponsor kids if I had the money (curse you student loans!!!) but I knew that if I could find the extra money in my budget, it probably needs to go toward my trip, or repaying the loan I will be taking out to cover the remaining balance (I know my God is a God of miracles, but I am also a realist and have doubts that I'll be able to raise $3,000 in the next 29 days.) Anyway. I really like Bonifas. He is just such a cutie. And tonight, when I was "weeding" the album to see if any of the kids had found sponsors (two had!) it made me sadder than usual that Bonifas was still waiting. I even emailed my mom about it. I told her how I just feel drawn to this kid, and if I had the money I'd take him on, even though I had decided a while back that if I ever got to pick another sponsor child, I'd either go with a girl in India, or a child in a country I don't have any sponsor experience with. He just...I don't know. He looks like he's looking at me. Me specifically. Not the camera. Not anyone else. Just me. And I figured she'd say we'd be praying for him to find a sponsor because in the last month or so, my mom has added THREE sponsor kids to her family (two with World Vision and one with Compassion- actually, the Karen from my previous post of waiting kids!) But she texted me and then called me (I missed the call) to say he's been taken care of. Mom snatched him up for me!!! She will be helping me out with the financial aspect of the sponsorship until I get my trip paid off and can work to take over that part (meaning I will be working on selling my crafts for basically forever), and I am seriously so excited and happy. Today, despite its happy parts, has been pretty tough. One of my pets is terminally ill and probably will not last through the weekend, and I'm really struggling with that, along with some other things. But gosh. Bonifas' smile can light up a room. I have loved this kid even before he was mine! And the super exciting part is that since he's in Tanzania, I will get to go see him in a few months!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It might be a little weird having to divide my visiting time between him and Said. And I will definitely need to be a super suitcase packer since now I will also be bringing a backpack for Bonifas, as well as a tote bag for his family (the one that I have for Said's mama is gigantic and might have to be downsized just a teeny bit now.) But God will work everything out. I know he will. And it will be awesome. 


So there's some happy news for you. I still would really appreciate your  prayers as I work through things day to day. And please keep praying for my upcoming trip and all that it involves! But join me in rejoicing that very soon, Bonifas and his family will probably be getting a visit like this one. I hope there's singing and laughing. Not because I'm special, but because Bonifas is, and I love him. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sweet Greetings

It may be late, but it's still Mail Call Monday!! : )

We only got one letter this week- I kept an eye on the mailbox for a long time before I remembered today is a faux holiday! This week's letter is from little Brenda, who likes to be called Brendita. The letter took a while to get here (it was written in June) because it was originally addressed to someone else- I assume her financial sponsor.Oh well!

Dear sponsor, 
I hope you are fine. I'm doing well, thank you so much for thinking of me. When I come to CDI, on Thursdays, I enjoy being here because I sing and have fun. I love the food and sometimes I can take it home. Thank you so much for your gifts. Today I received medical check. I got my teeth fixed and they gave me a brush and tooth paste for my mouth. 
Please pray for my parents. 
I would like to ask you: do you feel scared of Dentist?

I want to thank you for your letters and your prayers, the gifts, candy and toys. 


I get the feeling Brendita really likes food- she has written about it in every letter I've received from her! It's always fun to learn what days our kids attend the projects. I hope some day I'm able to visit Brenda at her center and have a meal with her! Also, it was good to read she's seen the dentist recently! In my reply to her letter I will tell her that yes, I was afraid of the dentist when I was a kid, but now when I see the dentist I pray and think of Bible verses, and that helps me be brave. I'll leave out the fact that I usually have to take a few xanax to get through a visit to the dentist's office. : )

Saturday, October 12, 2013

News of the World

I'm thinking of doing a semi-regular feature on here sharing some prayer requests. When you become a sponsor, or you adopt from another country, or someone you love is staying overseas, you become acutely aware of what's going on around the world. Suddenly the rest of the world's problems weigh more heavily on your heart. I thought I'd try to compile some news stories from around the world and share them here, so we can pray together for these people we care about.

India- A huge, destructive cyclone is about to hit India. Almost half a million people have been evacuated. You have to wonder how many more people need to be evacuated but can't go, for a variety of reasons. Please pray for the people in the path of this massive storm, that they will stay safe, that the after-affects of a storm like this (such as food and water issues) will be minimal, and that the government and non-profit aid organizations will be able to help quickly and efficiently.

Kenya- The country continues to deal with the aftermath of the devastating terror attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi a few weeks go. Suspects are still being identified, and according to some sources, some people are still missing. Part of the mall ended up collapsing, and there could still be people in the rubble. Pray for Kenya as they deal with this tragedy- they're normally a pretty peaceful country (and the ones behind this attack were not Kenyans.) Pray for the leaders of the nation, that they will make wise decisions about how to deal with this fringe group. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the incident. And pray for peace, too.

Haiti- I think we all know there's a long list of ways we can pray for Haiti. Here's a really specific one, though. Haiti recently had an outbreak of cholera. I remember my friend Ashley telling us another adopting couple they knew lost their son to the disease. The thing is, cholera outbreaks aren't really supposed to be happening in Haiti. At least, not where the outbreak was. It has come to light that it looks like some UN workers brought the disease to the country, and thousands ended up dying. Haiti has enough to deal with. They don't need another deadly disease outbreak on top of everything else. Well, from a lot of the articles I've read, the UN appears to accept responsibility for the outbreak, but they aren't going to do anything about it. Kind of like how members of the US military can't actually sue the military- it's a sort of immunity thing. The survivors and family members of the almost 700,000 people who contracted cholera in this outbreak are trying to sue the UN for financial compensation- and to be candid, I believe they deserve it. Just as the Native Americans would have deserved financial compensation when the Europeans brought over smallpox and syphilis and everything else. But I digress. Pray that a just agreement will be reached. Pray that, if they are indeed responsible, the UN does something to make it right. And pray for the families who are still grieving their loved ones. Pray for those who were left weakened or disabled from the disease. Their lives are forever changed by something that wasn't even their fault.

Peru- A truck traveling through the Andes mountains in Peru plunged down a ravine and at least fifty people are dead. Pray for the families of those who died in this terrible tragedy.

Mexico- An indigenous woman recently gave birth on the lawn outside a medical center after she was denied care. Not only was she turned away after coming into the building, but the nurses continued to refuse help (and refuse to ask doctors for help) even though this lady basically had a baby hanging out of her. Beyond praying for this new mama and the health of her baby, there are two prayer requests here, and they both reach beyond Mexico. One, indigenous people are frequently the victims of prejudice in the Americas. It's sad but true. People of indigenous heritage are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to lack an education, and more likely to be treated unfairly. Pray about the inequality that they face on a daily basis. Pray for the kids who are members of these tribes and hold this heritage, that they will grow up knowing they are beautiful and loved no matter what their background is. Pray that the next generation will be different than the last. Also, pray for the maternal care available to women in Mexico and around the world. These women face many hardships when their maternal care is compromised- premature or stillborn babies, underweight children, and other problems plague those women who don't have the same sort of medical care that we do here in the United States. Say what you will about healthcare in our country- no matter what's going on with it, your chances of dying in childbirth here are pretty slim. Not everyone can claim those statistics.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Six Twenty.

I have a confession to make: I used to eat a lot of fast food. More than my husband realizes. It was in the almost two year period that we lived in an apartment. We were surrounded by food  I mean it- surrounded. Our apartment complex sat in the middle of downtown Fern Creek. Our building was on the outer edge of the complex, almost in the very corner of the property, right behind a popular shopping center. In this shopping center, which was just a few steps from where I lived, is a Kroger, a Subway, and a Chinese restaurant. Also a place that sells "take it and bake it" pizzas. This shopping center is located next to another, newer strip mall which contains a Moe's and a sushi place. A small bridge connects that parking lot with that of a super WalMart, which in turn houses a McDonald's. And scattered in these parking lots you can find a White Castle, a Burger King, an Applebee's and a Taco Bell. That was all within walking distance. And then there were even more restaurants nearby- you'd barely have to get out on an actual road to reach an Arby's, a Dairy Queen, a Frisch's, a McAlister's Deli, a KFC, and a Chick Fil A. And that's just the fast food! It was so easy to run out and get food. And it seemed much more convenient than fixing something in my house. The crazy thing is, we were poor. Like, more than we are now. We had less money coming in and had really bad insurance and it was downright ugly at times. Plus we still had separate bank accounts so there was less financial accountability. Yet it was surprisingly easy to scrape together enough money to buy lunch at least once a week. Usually twice. It was just a big temptation to treat myself since I was home by myself all day and was used to buying lunch on campus or on the way to or from school. Old habits are hard to break.

It got to the point that at one restaurant I always got exactly the same thing and knew exactly how much it would cost. My meal, with the extra sauces I liked for my fries and the large diet coke, because diet coke is a magical and delicious beverage and sometimes just tastes incredible when it comes from a fountain, cost exactly $6.20. Every time. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to come up with $6.20 to throw away. Sometimes I'd have 4 ones and the rest was in change. And yeah, I felt bad about being that customer. But I got over it pretty quickly because I had my easy, convenient, impulse buy of a meal. It was amazing- I could feel like I had no money, and that I could and should spend my money on other stuff- I could put it toward a birthday present or spend it on books or makeup, not to mention more important things like paying bills or buying groceries. But I got fast food. $6.20.

It's a lot harder to have these little impulse buys these days. We may be making a little more money, but we also have a house and utilities and bigger bills to pay. We try to save more, for the future, for emergencies, for an adoption. For a trip to Africa. Plus we share a bank account now and I have that whole financial accountability thing (note: don't be sneaky with your finances in your marriage. It's bad all around. Despite the fact that it's harder for me to waste money on myself, I'm much happier sharing an account with my husband,) But unless my bank account reads zero dollars (and it has in the past), I bet I could come up with $6.20 to throw away if I really wanted to. $6.20 is easy. Spare change. A drop in the bucket.

I have 260 Facebook friends. At one point I had about 500, but I've narrowed it down over the years, eliminating people I never got along with, keeping some I've come to appreciate. Then I got rid of people I literally have no contact with- not only did we not speak in person, but we also never communicated online. Never liked each others statuses or commented on pictures. So that's 260 people with whom I have at least a tiny relationship. I also know that this blog gets about a hundred page views a day (I know this because I see it when I visit Blogger to make sure I'm not accidentally ignoring any comments.) Let's pretend that that number represents a hundred individuals, because I'm feeling good about my writing lately. Ha. That's 360 people in my online sphere of contact. 360 people who could potentially read this. If less than a third of you- just 100 people- donated $6.20 to my fundraiser for my trip to Africa, that would be $620. That's a big number. That's more than my rent was on that apartment I mentioned. That's more than one of my paychecks. More than one and a half of my paychecks, actually. More than I pay for 6 months insurance on my car. That number would have a huge impact. And I'm not asking one person to do it- I'm asking if 100 people can help in tiny individual ways and make a huge splash. Shock me to the point that I have no choice but to fall on the floor in awe and gratitude. Just $6.20. That's all I'm asking. $6.20 to make a few dreams come true- not just my own but my boy Said's as well. $6.20 to help me hug my son. $6.20 to love on some kids who desperately need it. $6.20 to meet some world changers. $6.20 to bring hope and encouragement. $6.20. That's it. I'm not asking people to send me on a vacation. This trip will be hard. Challenging. Heartbreaking at times, I think, but also soul lifting. Life changing. I'm going to help, to learn, to love. Not to relax. Not to get away. This trip isn't about me. It's about a boy named Said. A strong single mama, Mama Said. A girl named Imshi who has lost her sister. It's about the 63,500 kids who currently benefit from Compassion's work to end poverty in Tanzania. And it's about the millions more they've yet to reach.
$6.20. That's all I ask. Lunch money for one day. A Venti latte with an extra pump of syrup. A nice bottle of nail polish. An afternoon movie. $6.20. Rock my world.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Greetings

Yay for Monday Mail Call! : )

This week we received two letters! It was pretty exciting. I was surprised to open up a letter on Indonesia stationery, thinking it was Tasya, only to learn that it was actually from Prayer! This is our first letter from this cute boy. It was addressed to someone else, but he has received several letters from me since writing this one, so he should know who I am by now. : )

Hello [sponsor], 
How are you? I hope you and your family are fine and get blessed by the Lord Jesus. Time goes by. I am in the sixth grade of primary school now. It's only by God's favor I'm in the sixth grade. I got good scores as the result of the final test. I was the second bests in class. I thank God because he loves me. On the last school holiday I just stayed home. I played with my younger siblings and friends. I have a dog as a pet. I attend the project three times a week. I learn many things in the project. I will always pray that God continues to keep you and family safe. May the lord Jesus give you success in everything you do. Amen! 
That's all about my letter. 

It's great that Prayer's first letter was so personal and informative! I learned a lot about him even without an official intro letter. He is such a cute kid!

The second letter was from Mishel. A bit of background- in her first letter, she asked if I am married, and I said that I have been married for three and a half years, so she offers up her congratulations even though my wedding was a while ago! She also writes a response in regards to my updates about my grandfather and Brandon's grandfather (both called Pappaw) who have both been having health problems this year.

Dear sponsor Jessi, 
I greet you in the name of Jesus and wish you a happy birthday. Congratulations for your wedding. I am fine studying in a public school called "Los Angeles" of Pichanaki. I have two sisters and a brother. My mom is a housewife and my dad is a driver. All my family celebrated Mother's Day. My sisters made "Pachamanca a la Olla." That food is delicious. My mom Maria liked the food. Jessi, I will pray for your grandparents (Pappaw.) For pneumonia it is good to eat soup of ginger. I love you and thank you for your letters. 
Mishel Estefani

She is so sweet! I was glad to learn more about Mishel's family from this letter! She also drew a really sweet picture, which I will add to this post the next time I'm using my scanner. : ) Also, I looked up Pachamanca en Olla, the food Mishel likes so much. One website calls it "Andean harvest pit roast in a clay pot." This particular recipe calls for lamb and chicken, fava beans, corn, three kinds of potatoes (yams, purple potatoes and fingerling potatoes), ocas (which are a kind of tuber, apparently), lots of herbs, and a marinade created with several ingredients I've never heard of (which is kind of unusual), plus some that I don't think Mishel uses, like red wine vinegar. Anyway, it sounds like a food for a special occasion! I like learning about the kinds of foods my kids eat!

I'd also  like to ask you to pray for our Carlos, whom we are just getting to know. I am thinking he may have left Compassion's program. I check the website twice a day to see if we have any new correspondence kids, and also to see if anyone's pictures have been updated. I check the pictures by going to the "write my child" page, which shows everyone's headshots- it's an easy way to see all the pictures at once. Anyway, in Carlos' spot tonight there was a grey square that said "photo unavailable." His name is still on our account and I can still see his big picture under "my sponsorships", but this has happened before, when our correspondence kid Tae left the program. So I have a bad feeling about it. I am hoping that if Carlos is gone, and this isn't just a technical glitch, that it was for a positive reason, like his family's situation has improved or he was able to get a good job (as was the case with Tae.) We just sent birthday presents and a financial gift to Carlos because his birthday is next month. I also hope that if he's gone, he'll be able to get those, too. Anyway, I'd love it if you could pray for him. Hopefully I'll find something out for sure tomorrow (I sent an email to Compassion as soon as I got off work tonight.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Letter-Writing Topics

Wow! October is here already! It's time for another letter-writing post! Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Parents. My parents both have birthdays in October, so I am sure I will be writing about that. But even if your parents don't have birthdays right now, you can still write and tell your kids more about them. Tell them about their likes and interests. If they are married, you can share how long they have been together- or even tell your child how they met! I also think it would be fun to send both old and new pictures of your parents to your kids. I had this idea this weekend when Brandon's aunt wrote a facebook post about her 33rd wedding anniversary. She posted some pictures from their wedding, and then some recent pictures taken at their youngest daughter's wedding earlier in the summer. The pictures were a lot of fun to see! 
  2. Harvest  Festivals. Don't even bother writing about Halloween to your kids. Compassion does frown on it, and anyway, it's pretty hard to explain in acceptable and/or understandable terms. "We have a holiday where people like to dress up as scary things and then get lots of candy. Also there are skulls, ghosts, and vampires."'s not going to go over well, so just skip it. But you can talk about things that are sort of related. You can write about pumpkins and explain that sometimes there are special pumpkins that are used as art- these pumpkins aren't for eating, but they can be carved with designs and a candle is placed inside to light up the carving. If your church has a harvest festival, you can also talk about that, too-  just skip most of the Halloween ties. You could say "every year in October my church has a party for the local children. Some of them dress up in fun outfits. They play games and sometimes receive some candy or other small treats." 
  3. Fall treats. Discussing food with your sponsor child can be tricky and sensitive, but this is one way that you can talk about food without bringing up any awkward issues. Most of our kids have at least some familiarity with farming and growing fruits and vegetables. Have you ever been apple picking? This is usually the time of year that people do that! Same with pumpkin picking. Tell your child about some of the things people make with this produce. Apple cider and pumpkin pies are easy things to describe to our kids (how they look and taste, and most importantly, how they smell!) that won't sound insensitive. 
  4. Teachers. October is home to International World Teacher's Day, which I honestly didn't know what a thing. You don't have to tell your child about this little holiday, but you could still ask about his or her teacher and tell them about a teacher who had an impact on your life. 
  5. Local wildlife. Did you know that October is Squirrel Awareness Month? I didn't either until a few minutes ago, but there you have it. I actually wanted to share this topic with you even if it wasn't directly related to October. Recently Victor wrote to me saying he wanted to learn more about my country. I asked him what he wanted to know about, and then told him I would love to know more about his country. I asked him about the animals that live near him, and then I told him a little bit about what kinds of animals live near me. I listed things like deer, skunks, cardinals, raccoons, and of course, squirrels. Then I thought that Victor probably didn't know what half those things were, so I printed up a little guide. I found pictures of some local animals and labeled them, then at the top of the page I wrote "Kentucky Wildlife." I even printed it on cardstock so it would last longer. I am thinking about making other sheets like these to show other things from my state and country!

Outgoing Mail

I'm sure it seems like I've been doing quite a few of these posts lately, but I am sending some pretty cool extras in this batch of letters, and I wanted to share! : )

First, though, I wanted to talk about something I learned recently regarding letter-writing. There was a discussion on Our Compassion, sort of a social network for sponsors (it's mostly just forums, but still very handy and a nice way to make new friends) about correspondence kids, and somewhere in the jumble of responses was a question about how often correspondence sponsors are allowed to write. As far as all of us knew, there is no limit (though you can only write one online letter per day), but someone said they remembered receiving a letter a long time ago asking correspondence sponsors to just write once a month. While no one ever came up with any recent proof of any request like this, one sponsor whose family visited Tanzania earlier this year offered up some helpful information. She said that when they visited the field office, the staff said that because of the expense of translation and postage and everything else, it might be best if correspondence sponsors only write once a month or so. And when you think about it, this isn't a bad plan, because it puts less pressure on the kids to remember every letter they've received in a certain period of time when they go to write their responses! Now I don't think that I could just write once a month, but I am going to try a new system for myself- writing twice a month. I've decided to do send my letters on the weekends I get paid (which is twice a month.) That will be an easy time for me to remember to write, and it also works out pretty well for those times I need to send a big envelope via the post office! Right now I'm writing between 2-4 times a month (usually every week and a half or so, actually), so it won't be too big of an adjustment. But I thought I would share my idea for a letter writing schedule in case it helps anyone who might be reading the blog (and I thought the info from Tanzania was interesting- when I go in March I plan on hugging everyone who works at the field office and thanking them for taking care of my letters!)

And now, onto my letters for my kids!

This time around, I wrote three unique response letters for the kids I've heard from recently. The other seven kids are getting very similar letters, with some minor tweaks. I responded directly to Mary and Carlos' letters, asking them some questions and replying to what they wrote to me. I added a little something fun to Victor's that I plan on using for my other kids in the future. Victor told me he wants to know more about my country, so I told him I'd be happy to tell him more, and asked him what he wanted to know. I then told him I would love to know more about his country, Kenya. For starters, I asked him about the animals that live in his area. I then told him a little bit about the animals that live in my area. I said in Kentucky we have squirrels, deer, raccoons, skunks, and many kinds of birds. Then I made a little "field guide" of local animals- just a sheet of card stock with "Animals of Kentucky" printed across the top, and included six pictures of local animals (and labelled them!) I have thought about doing something like this before, but the impetus for finally doing it was the realization that "skunk" is a pretty funny word and I kind of doubt that a lot of my kids have ever heard of them! : ) I saved the document for future use with my other kids, and I hope to make more little "field guides" like this one for other subjects!

For the other letters, I opened with greetings and talked a little bit about the weather. I mentioned that we are enjoying the beautiful weather the change of seasons brings, and that the leaves on the trees will start to change colors soon.

Then I addressed school- I wanted to check in with my kids on how they're doing. I told them they are ALL very smart, good students and hard workers, and that I'm proud of them. I asked them what they have been studying recently.

Before signing off, I talked a little bit about our church service this weekend, which I thought was very good and provided an opportunity to talk briefly and simply (in terms easy to understand) about God with my kids. I also asked what they have learned in church recently, or at the center if I wasn't sure if they attend church.

"Today in church we heard a wonderful message. It was about the importance of showing love to all God's people, because that's what Jesus would do! Jesus was nice to everyone He met on earth, even if others were mean to them or ignored them. And we should follow His example!"

And now, for the fun extras! Mary, Carlos, and Said all have birthdays in November, so I am sending them birthday cards and extra special gifts. Carlos is getting a Spanish version of a little "Experiencing God" devotional booklet, which I found at Lifeway (there are lots of skinny Spanish books in their Spanish aisle!) Mary is getting a pretty notebook with a songbird on it. It has a verse from the psalms on the front that references singing, because Mary loves to sing! And Said will be getting a little origami book with a few sheets of origami paper- I found that at the Dollar Tree and it looks pretty fun! Victor is getting a Kentucky Derby postcard and a scripture card. Tasya is getting a little Dover paper doll book with princesses (and glitter!) Brenda is getting one of the English/Spanish princess storybooks I found at Target a few months ago- this one is about Belle and her horse Philippe! Mishel is getting a paperback storybook about Jesus feeding the multitudes, in Spanish, from Lifeway, of course. : ) Prayer and Jayid will be getting sticker sheets and postcards. And last but not least, Joane will be getting a cute little notebook I found in Target's dollar spot. The cover is made of that brown craft paper, with foil gold accents. They had several different designs and they all come in *exactly* at a quarter inch thick! 

I just love sending fun extra gifts to our kids! What stuff have you found recently to send to your kiddos?