Saturday, November 30, 2013

Compassion Joys: November

It's time for another Compassion Joys post! I'm linking up with Compassion Family. Here's some fun stuff that's happened in November:

 Compassion Family


This month we got two letters from Brenda, one from Mary, one from Victor, one from Carlos, and one from Mishel. We were also able to send a final letter to Joane, as her family pulled her out of Compassion's program. Hopefully we'll get first letters from Bonifas and Elisha soon!

Tanzania Trip Progress!

Since the Haiti ornament fundraiser has started, fundraising has picked up a little bit! I'm now at 40% funded for my trip, which is nice. I still need lots of help, though! If you know anyone who likes handmade, eco-friendly gifts that also contribute to a good cause, feel free to send them my way! I've sold almost a third of the ornaments I have!


I recently gave a presentation about Compassion to my Bible study group. I had been wanting to for a while, but the timing was right. I needed to clear up some misconceptions about child sponsorship programs, plus I wanted to be sure everyone knew about the other aspects of Compassion's ministry, such as the Child Survival Program and Complimentary Interventions. I think that a few people really paid attention and picked up some info they didn't know before, plus one person would like more information on the Child Survival Program, the correspondence program, and maybe even a sponsor child! Awesome!

More Surprise Presents!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be able to send some gifts to Brenda soon! I was hoping to get them out in the mail today, but had a mix-up in my work schedule. They'll go out on Monday instead. That's technically a December Compassion Joy, but I did my shopping in November! : )


We had three birthdays this month!

Carlos turned 17 on the 11th...

Mary turned 18 on the 25th...

and Said turned 15 on the 30th!

Guest Post!

Recently I was able to write a guest post on my friend Lizzie's blog! You can find it here- and you should check out the rest of her blog while you're over there! : )

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Greetings from Kenya

Mail Call Monday again already?? The time really flies this time of year!!

This week I got a nice letter from Victor!

5 October 2013
Dear Jessi, 
How are you? I hope you are all doing well together with your family. I want to tell you that we have opened our schools and learning is taking place as usual, but during the holidays I was still learning with my colleagues at the centre and I came out with something. 
I want to thank you for the letter you wrote to me, and that letter was so interesting because it teaches me more about your country. Besides that I want to tell you that our capital city called Nairobi was attacked by some robbers and many people were injured while some died and I hope you will pray for our country. 
I also want to thank you for the support you are giving me and I hope when I will be working, I will also do the same to others. 
May God bless you. 
Your lovely son, 

I love Victor's letters! He has expressed such an interest in learning about where I live, and what goes on in the US. I sent him  a letter telling him about our president back in September, and he also got a letter talking about Kentucky wildlife. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for some Kentucky magazines or thin books to send him, along with other information about the United States. It was good to read that Victor enjoys his time at the center and still learns there even when he doesn't have school!

This week I am also doing something fun- I get to send a package to Brenda!!! I'm so excited about it!

My friend Mrs. K. (I went to school with her son, and she was principal of the elementary school at my alma mater for several years) has said yes to God's calling in her life, sold her car and her possessions and took a position with the missions board a few months back. She will be living in Peru, and to the best of my understanding, she'll be helping missionary families best educate their kids- kind of like a homeschool advisor, I guess! Anyway, she is doing some language immersion in Mexico until February. I sent her a message recently asking if she wouldn't mind accepting a package for Brenda and mailing it in-country for me- and she said yes!

I am sending Brenda a really simple gift. She will be getting two presents from us in a nice holiday shopping bag. I was able to get a children's Bible in Spanish for Brenda, and had it imprinted with her name and a little butterfly....

...and, since she is always writing about dolls and drawing pictures of them in her letters, I am sending her a dolly! Can I just say that it is hard to find non-blonde dolls at reasonable prices? I would love to be able to send her a doll that looks Hispanic, but money is kind of tight. I *did* find a pretty brown-haired doll at Toys R Us, though! She's cute! I took her out of the box to make things easier, and before I put her in the bag, and then in the shipping box, I gave her a hug and kissed her on the forehead. : )

I am so thankful for the opportunity to send these things to Brenda! Please join me in praying that they get to their destination on time. Mrs. K is in Mexico until February, and she did some asking around about mail delivery- it can take quite a bit of time for packages and mail to arrive at the post office where she's living because they're up in the mountains. Just pray that the package will get there quickly and unscathed- at least that it arrives in time for her to pick it up and get it back in the mail. : ) I am also sending a surprise for Mrs. K as well! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Outgoing Mail

Last week was payday, so it's time (according to my own personal schedule) to send out letters to my kiddos once again! : )

This time around, the letters I'm sending are written on this really pretty printer paper I found at Hobby Lobby. It's regularly priced at $2.49, but was half off since it's "autumn." I really recommend their stationery department and holiday sections for pretty paper! I picked up some Christmas paper while I was there, too.

I'm sending out Thanksgiving letters this week, since it's almost Thanksgiving and I have the paper to match! All the kids are getting the same letter, because it's age-appropriate for all of them. Here's what I wrote, using Victor's letter as an example: 

Hello Victor!
I hope you and your family are doing well. How is your schooling? I am praying for your studies! My family and I are good. I was sick with a cough last week, but I went to the doctor and he was able to help me. Now I am doing better!
We are getting ready for a fun holiday here in the United State. On November 28, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a day for families to get together and remember we have a lot to be thankful for. Many families celebrate this holiday while sharing a meal together. Often, this meal includes eating turkey! Do you have turkeys where you live? This year, my church has made a goal to bring Thanksgiving dinner to 300 families in our community. I am glad that we are able to help in this way. Brandon and I will be having Thanksgiving celebrations with my family, and then with his family! I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. 
I think it's good to try to find something to be thankful for every day. This is a good time to practice doing that. I want to tell you some things I'm thankful for. I am thankful for Jesus, that I can have a relationship with Him and be with Him in heaven one day. I'm thankful for my church. I'm thankful for my family, and for Brandon's family. And I'm thankful for Brandon, too! I'm also thankful for you, Victor. I love you so much. You are a very big blessing to me, and I thank God every day for bringing you into my life. What are some things you're thankful for?
I hope to get another letter from you soon! Your letters are precious to me- I save all of them! I love hearing from you and learning about your life. I am praying for you every day!
Lots of love, 

I think that it's important to be sensitive about certain issues while talking about celebrations (and meals) with our kids, but that doesn't mean we have to avoid the subjects altogether. I was able to write to my kids about how this holiday is traditionally celebrated without saying "I will have such a big lunch that Brandon's grandparents will be disappointed when I don't eat any dinner when we go to their house." And I didn't even say what we'll be eating- just that many families traditionally eat a turkey. Hopefully I will hear back from some of the kids on this turkey issue- I really am curious as to how many of them have turkeys in their countries. : )

Along with the letters, I am sending a Thanksgiving poem on some cute little cards I found at the Dollar Tree. They had them in the teaching supply section- a packet of 10 cardstock cards on autumn-themed paper (I got a pack of each design), and they also came with envelopes. I printed out a Thanksgiving poem and glued it to the cardstock, then laminated it at work. 

The envelope also provides a handy delivery method for some other extras I'm sending to the kids this month. Here's a list of what everyone's getting:

  • Mary and Victor are getting little Christmas devotional books that Billy Graham wrote. They were just published this fall. Having English-speaking older kids means I can send them cool stuff like this! : )
  • Mishel is getting a pink notepad with a picture of a puppy and a Bible verse on it, which I found at Lifeway for an amazing price. The verse is in Spanish. I don't know what it says, but the puppy is cute!
  • Carlos is getting some Kentucky postcards and a cross-shaped bookmark. 
  • Said is getting a pocket-sized Bible-themed word search book (again, Lifeway!) Though he doesn't speak English, he can still search for the words. Each page has a theme (such as a chapter in Acts) and then the words are based on objects, places, and characters in that passage. It's fun and it encourages him to read his Bible!
  • Tasya, Prayer, Bonifas, and Jayid are all getting fall-themed sticker books
  • Elisha and Brenda, who are 7 and 6 years old, are also getting sticker books that are geared toward younger kids. All the sticker books came from Michael's and cost $1 each. They have great sticker books for all the holidays!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Haiti Ornaments!

The ornaments have arrived! In case you missed my previous post about these awesome ornaments, I am partnering with an amazing organization called the Apparent Project to raise money for my Tanzania trip. These ornaments are handmade in Haiti, and they're made from recycled materials. Each one is hand-crafted by a mom or a dad who is earning money to do things like raise their kids or move out of the tent city, thanks to the Apparent Project!

Each ornament comes with ribbon and two paper beads, plus a tag telling you about the artisan who made it. They make excellent gifts!

If you'd like to buy an ornament, you can do so by clicking the Paypal button at the bottom of this post, or up in the right hand corner of the screen. If you're paying with PayPal, each ornament is $10. This covers the fees associated with PayPal, plus shipping is included! If you're interested in paying with a check or cash, let me know and we can get in touch (ornaments will be $8 if you're paying by check or cash.) Out of this money, $5 goes back to the moms and dads who made the ornaments!

I have 150 of these super cute ornaments to sell in the next six weeks. They're the perfect Christmas present! You're helping lots of people, you're buying "green", and as a plus, they're pretty! : )

Here are the designs to choose from. Please let me know which one you want when you pay! Otherwise I'll just pick one for you!

 "Peace" star ornament

"Love" heart ornament

"Joy" tree ornament


Sweet Greetings from Kenya, Mexico, and Peru

Yay for Mail Call Monday!

This week I got four letters! That's more than I've been getting in a month lately. One day I got one letter, and then another day I just had a stack of three letters in my mailbox!

The first letter I got was from Mary. 

12 October 2013
Dear Jessi, 
How are you? I hope you are fine and your family. My family is fine and also I. I am also doing great because of God's grace. My favorite songs are Gospel and especially worship songs. Examples include "God will make a way", "Everyone needs compassion", "You are alpha", "Come and Rain", "How wonderful is your name", "May the spirit of the Lord come down" and others. 
At school I am doing great because it is a golden opportunity. At church we are all fine. We are lifting His name high because we have seen His mighty hand upon our lives. I will pray for her and also her family because God makes a way where there is no way. I always pray for you because you are such a great friend in my life and also I treasure you. 
The photos were great and I am proud for the photos because there are other animals I have never seen. Thank you very much for the book because it gives me hope. The book also strengthens my faith whenever I feel desperate. I also received the photo- it was such a great person and also your friend. The child is wonderful as I saw him on the photo. 
You also have a great name- when you take the first letters it becomes J² and also when you take the first letters of my name it becomes M². I also received the diary. It is such a beautiful one. Thank you for the support you have been giving me and may the Almighty bless the work of your hand. Remember that you are a friend among a thousand and I treasure you because I can't measure the support you give me because of the pleasure you give and the compassion. 
Yours faithful, 

I love love LOVE receiving letters from Mary! She's always so detailed and friendly. She's also very responsive- I sent her pictures from our zoo visit, and also pictures from my little buddy Anell's homecoming at the airport, and she wrote about both of these things. It was also good to know that she receives the extras I send to her. The book she's talking about is a little "Jesus Calling" devotional I got on clearance at Lifeway. I love that book- I hope someday I'm able to bring her or send her a copy of the full book! I'm glad she liked it, too. And it was good to know she received the journal I sent her for her birthday. It was pink and had a little songbird on it, along with a verse from Psalms about singing praises. Mary loves to sing, so I knew that journal was for her! And it was really cute how she discovered that little fact about our initials. : )

On Friday, I got letters from all of my Spanish speaking kids, which I thought was a neat coincidence! We got letters from Brenda in Mexico, and Carlos and Mishel in Peru. 

Here's Brenda's letter, which was called "My Community":

5 October 2013

My community is called Chimalhuacan
The population of my community is 800,000
A common job in my community is builders
A common type of transportation in my community is  buses
In my community the weather is typically it changes
People in my community speak the language Spanish
One fun thing to do in my community is to play outside in the parks
I want to thank you for the letters you sent me, and for praying for me and my family
In response to your last letter My family is well and yes, I'm going to pray for your family
Please pray for my family and my dad, my mom, my siblings, and my grandparents

Dear Jessi, 
I want to tell you that my birthday is on October 22. I will turn 6 years old. I'm going to spend that day with my family. I'm doing well at school. I will go to Kidzania on October 21, because the pastors are giving me that trip as my birthday gift. 

It was great to learn more about Brenda's community! I have read a little about her city before because her project was profiled in a blog post on Compassion's website. When I wrote to her this weekend, I told her I was glad that she is able to go to parks in her neighborhood. And it made me happy to learn that she got to go on a fun trip for her birthday!!

Here's Carlos' letter: 

2 September 2013

Dear sponsor Jessi, 
I greet you in the precious name of Jesus Christ. I want to tell you that my family and I are fine thank God. I have three siblings named Marcos, Zarahi and Samir. I also want to tell you that the weather in Lima is cold and rainy. In the zoo I saw a tapir. It is really nice. I will pray for your brother to be in good health. I would like you to pray for me to do well in my studies and in my communion with God and for my family. Well, I say goodbye with a big hug hoping to get to known you more. I wish you blessings. 

When I wrote to the kids about my trip to the zoo a few months ago (my first since my surgery), I mentioned that we saw the tapir, which is one of my favorite animals. Most of the time it's not out when I'm visiting! Tapirs live in southeast Asia and in South America- some even live in Peru, where Carlos lives! I asked him if he had tapirs where he lives, and it was nice of him to write back that he saw a tapir at the zoo. He's really sweet! This is our second letter from Carlos. He graduates from Compassion's program next November, and I hope to get many more letters from him before that time. 

And last but not least, here is our letter from Mishel: 

16 September 2013

Dear sponsor Jessi, 
I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Things are going well for me and my family. We do celebrate Father's Day at home and we make "Pachamanca" in the oven. We buy a present for my dad. Thanks for the letters you send. Do you celebrate Father's Day in your country? I wish you and your spouse a Merry Christmas. I say bye with a big hug and many kisses. 

Mishel's last letter told me about her Mother's Day celebration, and it was nice of her to tell me a little about Father's Day in this letter! She also mentioned another Peruvian dish. Pachamanca is meat (poultry, pork, or guinea pig) cooked in a pot in the earth! I've learned quite a bit about the food in Peru thanks to Mishel's letters! 

I'm so thankful I heard from my kids this week! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

News of the World

This week's prayer update will focus on one area of the world- the Philippines. My heart is just so heavy for these people right now. Spreading the word about what is going on over there is the best way to get people to pitch in and help, I think. So here are some specific things you can pray for:

  • Pray for the babies. Babies don't stop being born just because a storm is going on. I have never given birth, but I know that hospitals are involved, and electricity, and you need clean water and medical supplies and doctors and a hospital bed. So what happens when none of those things are available? Pray for the babies that have been born since the typhoon, and the parents that are doing their best to keep them alive. 
  • Pray for the doctors. I have always been interested in medicine, but I never pursued it as a profession because I don't think I could handle the stress. If being a doctor and working in a hospital is stressful everyday, can you even imagine what it's like right now in the Philippines? Doctors are really struggling with the conditions they're working in right now, and the horribly sad fact is that they can't save everyone. Pray for peace for the doctors during this difficult time. Pray that they'll be able to help as many people as possible. Pray that they won't get overworked, because that will end up hurting them in the long run, and patient care may suffer if they are pushed beyond exhaustion. 
  • Pray for the water supplies. People can't survive without water. It's a simple fact. Waterborne diseases are going to be a major issue in the coming weeks. There are also hygiene and sanitation issues, on top of regular old thirst. Pray that aid workers and the government will be able to help the people of the Philippines get clean water as soon as possible. 
  • Pray for the people in less populated areas. Though the storm hit some major cities harder than some other areas, the Philippines is still made up of thousands of islands, and many people were affected and displaced by the typhoon. This article tells about one "overlooked" island that has only received a pickup truck full of supplies- a few boxes of food and a half a pallet of water. Pray for the people living in these remote areas, that they will stay safe and healthy. And pray for the relief organizations, too, that they will remember these people and be able to reach them. 
  • Pray for the local governments. The government officials are overwhelmed. There is simply too much to do and not enough people to do it. Some regions are faced with a choice: distribute food, or clear bodies off the street. Not clearing the bodies creates a health hazard, it's incredibly sad, and it probably feels a little disrespectful to the people who have died. But the food needs to be delivered, too. The people of the Philippines are faced with some incredibly hard choices right now. Pray for the government officials and volunteers, that they won't be so overwhelmed. 
  • Pray for supplies. Many people around the world are willing to help the people affected by typhoon Haiyan, but it's difficult right now because roads and airports have been smashed to pieces. So people aren't able to get food and water in some areas, medical supplies are running out, and volunteers aren't able to get in to provide aid. Pray that supplies (and volunteers) will be able to safely make it to these people in dire need. Pray for "loaves and fishes" miracles for the food, water, and medical supplies. Pray that there is more than enough to meet the needs of the people. 
  • Pray for the families. As of this morning, the official death toll is up to 3,633, with thousands more missing, and even more people injured. Pray for the grieving friends and families. I feel so very sad for them. Pray for comfort and peace for them, and pray that they will be able to cope with their grief while their world is in chaos. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pray for the Philippines

I don't think that anyone with internet access is unaware of supertyphoon Haiyan and the devastation it brought to the Philippines this past week. Half a million people have had to leave their homes. At least a few thousand people have died before the storm. Many others are still unaccounted for. The people who live there are reaching a crisis point when it comes to access to food and clean water. I love the fact that so many people, like celebrities on Twitter, are urging others to donate to relief efforts. Obviously there are some concerns whenever you're about to donate money. You want to be sure you choose a reliable organization to give to. Personally, I think it's best to go with a group that's already established in the country where the crisis has occurred, and one that has a plan for helping people even after their most immediate needs are met. Compassion has been working in the Philippines since the 1970s, so you know they're committed to the people there and that they aren't just going to up and abandon them. Compassion has set up a donation page for their relief efforts. By clicking the picture below, you can learn more about what they're doing to help the people of the Philippines and what their action plan is for dealing with this crisis.

Help Children Affected by Philippines Typhoon 

Another way you can help is to pray. Need specifics? Here are some ways you can pray for the Philippines. 

  • Pray for stamina, speed, and wisdom for government officials (local, state, and national) in the Philippines. Pray for their decision-making and for discernment for them. Pray for the relief workers who are already in the country and those who will be traveling there soon. I can't even begin to imagine how exhausting the work ahead of them is going to be. 
  • Pray for the Compassion staff in the Philippines as they are working to account for all the kids and checking on all the centers. Compassion's centers are church-based. Pray for the congregations and pastors of these churches. 
  • Pray for good things to come out of this recovery period rather than bad things. People can get a little crazy in a disaster like this. Violence can sometimes occur. Looting can be a problem. Pray for the people of the Philippines, that they will have patience and strength and won't give into these temptations. 
  • Pray for the sick and injured, and those whose health will be affected by the storm in the coming weeks. Pray for good health for the survivors, that they will be able to avoid a lot of the health problems that occur after big storms like this. 
  • Pray for comfort and peace for the families and friends of those who have died, and for those who are still waiting to hear from their loved ones. I can't imagine how stressful that must be.
If you've been considering sponsoring a child, now would be an excellent time to do so. Click here to see a list of waiting kids in the Philippines. These children are all in areas that are confirmed to be safe from the storm, but even if they are physically safe and sound, they are probably still scared, worried, and concerned for the people of their country. Your love and encouragement will help these people bounce back from what many believe is the biggest storm in written history.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

News of the World

Here's your weekly update on what's happening around the world!

  • Philippines- The biggest news story on the planet this week has been the typhoon hammering southeast Asia. This storm, thought to be the largest in human history, has seriously been flogging the Philippines. There have been over 130 confirmed deaths so far, and officials are speculating that that number may rise to over 1,200. Compassion sponsors who have kids in the Philippines have been receiving messages over the past few days urging them to pray for the kids and families there. I personally haven't heard any updates on specific areas affected, but you can check in with Compassion's website, as I have been doing frequently. Pray for the safety of the people there- it would be amazing if the death toll is smaller than the Red Cross and other groups are estimating. Pray for the rebuilding and recovery. Pray for the families who have been evacuated, that their displacement will end soon. Pray for the government there and the organizations that are going to help with rebuilding efforts. And pray for the other countries that will be affected by the storm. 
  • Tanzania- Albinism isn't something we often encounter. Sometimes we'll see a movie featuring an albino character- but have you ever thought about the fact that albinism occurs all around the world- not just in white Americans and Europeans? In Tanzania, albinism is looked on with disgust and superstition. Some people believe that taking a body part from an albino person- a finger or an arm- and brewing it into a potion will make a person rich. I think other people are just freaked out about it. Parents with albino children are terrified because armed people will show up in the middle of the night to try to take their kids. The violence in these rural areas of the country has resulted in 71 deaths in Tanzania alone (attacks occur in other parts of Africa, but Tanzania seems to really be struggling with it.) Pray for the people of Tanzania. Pray that the people in these areas will open their eyes and realize that hurting people is wrong, that magic potions don't exist, and that looking different isn't really a big deal. Pray for protection for the people whose lives are endangered by these beliefs, and pray for the families of those who have been lost. 
  • Mexico- If someone asked you what nation has the highest obesity rate, you'd probably guess the United States. Yet Mexico recently surpassed the US in this area. The average Mexican citizen consumes 40% more soda than the average resident of the United States- and we already drink a lot of soda! The Mexican government is considering a lot of different ways to deal with this problem, one of which is a proposed tax on high calorie foods. One part of the debate regarding obesity that we have in the US is the affordability of high-calorie foods. Fresh vegetables by themselves can be kind of cheap, but when most families have parents that are working a collective 80+ hours a week to make ends meet, a lot of people aren't inclined to make a home-cooked meal. I think that some of these ideas may apply to Mexico, as well. They have a struggling economy and folks just want their families to eat. If sugary cereal is cheaper and faster than all the ingredients to cook a healthy breakfast, then obviously most people are going to go for the cereal. Pray for the health of the people of Mexico, especially the kids. Pray for wisdom for the government officials, that they will make good choices while trying to find ways to help their people get healthy. Our public school system is definitely far from perfect, but we have a lot more resources available to us, and those resources can be used to provide healthy lunches and other programs to help our kids. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

F minus.

Did you know that November is Adoption Awareness month? You might hear a commercial about it on your local radio station or even have an "orphan Sunday" at your church. Special offerings might be collected and someone may do a presentation about adoption, foster care, or other ways to be involved. In honor of this annual push for awareness, I have some news to share with you.

We, the church, the body of Christ, are failing. Miserably.

Did you know that the Bible speaks specifically about orphans? It goes above and beyond general platitudes about taking care of the poor and loving your neighbor. The book of James says that God our Father views "pure and faultless religion" as taking care of orphans and widows. Deuteronomy says that God defends the fatherless. The same book also instructs the Israelites to make provisions for people in need; orphans (the fatherless) are called out by name. Instructions to care for orphans are also given in Exodus. Job refers to caring for orphans while he is telling God about how he has been a righteous man. Proverbs tells us not to take advantage of the fatherless. The Psalms mention God's provision and love for orphans in a song about God's perfect justice. The Psalms also tell us how God "sustains" the fatherless and hears their cries. Beyond that, we know that children are precious to God. Jesus spends time with kids and tells the disciples that their faith must be like that of children. The Psalms claim children as being a reward to His people.

Scripture calls us to do a lot of things. Some things are hard- like loving your enemies and casting your anxiety on God. You'd think we'd have an easier time with actual, tangible tasks, rather than concepts. Orphan care falls under that category, doesn't it? Helping the orphans, caring for the fatherless? Yet what are we doing to accomplish that? There are over 143 million orphans in the world (compared to an estimated 2 billion Christians.) How many are we welcoming into our homes? How many adoptive families are we supporting financially- these people who have stood up and said "I will help these children. I will welcome them into my family." They are taking on a really difficult, life-changing task. How many times do we see an adoption fundraiser and pass it by? How are we helping children in foster care? There are thousands of kids who don't even need the commitment of a permanent home (though there are also thousands that do.) I know adoption is a huge commitment. But what about foster care?

So you can't see yourself opening your home to a stranger like that. Ok. It's understandable. What about mentoring? Kids in the foster care system need mentors. They're used to living in group homes and other situations where they don't get that much personal, one on one attention. Could you be a mentor?

If you don't feel comfortable interacting with kids in person, what about supporting an orphanage financially? Collecting contributions. Buying diapers and formula and medicine for these places that go through it like crazy.

If we as Christians were living up to God's expectations of us, there wouldn't be any orphans in the world. We would be trying harder. We'd be opening our homes and hearts. Or even our wallets. We'd be trying harder to support those who are doing what we think is impossible for ourselves by adopting. We'd look for ways to help parents keep their children, to avoid creating more orphans in the first place. We'd be making an effort to help organizations that offer prenatal care to keep mom's healthy; organizations that encourage and help fathers to step up and take care of their children when mothers can't. We'd do everything we could to ensure that every child without a mom or a dad (or who can't stay with their parents) knew that they are loved and cared for, even if they can't live with us.

I read in the news recently that a young man in the foster care system recently made a presentation to a church in his community. He was begging for a parent. Didn't have to be a married couple. Didn't have to have the same skin color as him. He just wants a mom or a dad. Just wants a parent. Just wants a home. Fifteen years old and he is begging his community to take him in. He promised he'd be good. Promised he'd try hard in school. We live in the wealthiest nation on earth, with the most expendable income and the most resources and the biggest houses and the most room, and this boy, who had been available for adoption for quite some time, was begging.

Church, we have failed.

There are some communities that are doing better than others. A while back I read that a famous pastor/author really stepped up his efforts to get this message across to his congregation. Parenting classes offered by the state were held in his church. After a while, there were no kids left in the area who needed to be placed with families. It's doable. We can do this. If you think you can't adopt a child, first of all I would encourage you to at least pray about it. There are a lot of myths surrounding adoption and there are a lot of options out there. I am blessed to be surrounded by families who have grown through adoption. My mom is adopted. I have friends who have done private adoptions of infants whose biological parents were unable to raise them- they have been involved in their children's lives since before they were born, and have held them since day one. I have friends who have waited painfully long times to adopt from overseas. Friends who have brought home babies from Ethiopia and a 5 year old from Haiti. Friends who have gone into the adoption process willing to bring home a special needs child. Friends whose adopted children are perfectly sound and healthy in every way imaginable. Friends whose adopted children have had struggles after getting a clean bill of health and coming home. Friends who have adopted from the foster care system. Single parents. Families of five. Interracial adoptions. Adoptions where, as a complete fluke, the child ends up looking like a little carbon copy of her mom. I plan on being in that group of parents someday soon. But maybe that's not for you. Maybe you can't see yourself ever identifying with any of those people. Will you please look into other ways you can help orphans? Check out your local foster care system and see if there's a way you can volunteer your time or money. Christmas is an especially good time for that, as many of these kids have been able to make "wish lists" for angel tree type projects. Pray for the babies and children in photolistings on websites like Reece's Rainbow and Adoptuskids. Ask your church if there are any families they know of who are currently adopting- then find out how you can help.

And you can't read my blog for very long without learning that I am passionate about helping kids around the world. One of my favorite ways to do so is through child sponsorship. Did you know that you can specifically request or search for children who are orphans that are waiting for sponsors? Maybe you would like to help an individual child but aren't ready or able to do that in person. Sponsorship may be right for you. Below are some kids who are currently waiting for sponsors that have lost one or both parents. In some cases, one parent may have passed away while the other is unwilling or unable to care for them. They end up in orphanages, group homes, or living with relatives. Please, please pray for the fatherless in the world. Ask God how He wants you to be helping them. Not "if", "HOW." Because I promise that He wants you to. I read it in a book.

Mulugeta is 8 years old. He lives in Ethiopia with his grandmother. 

Stella is 17 years old. She lives in Tanzania with her aunt. 

Fiona is 17 years old. She lives in Uganda with her uncle.

Ishimwe is 17 years old. He lives in Rwanda with his brother. 

Sweet Greetings from Indonesia and Mexico

It's time for Mail Call Monday again!

This week I was very happy to receive TWO letters! And they're both from kids that have had birthdays recently, which was a fun coincidence. Brenda and Prayer both had birthdays on October 22, and they're the kids I heard from this week!

The first letter I received was Prayer's.

23 September 2013
Hello, how are you Jessi?
We hope you and your family are just fine and get the blessings from the Lord. 
Prayer was so happy to read a letter from Jessi. Through this letter Prayer wants to say thank you to Jessi who have chosen and become the sponsor of Prayer. 
I'm the first son of three brothers. My brothers named Fanoel and Anugerah Wungkar. And now I'm in the sixth grade of Elementary School and me with my brothers and parents go to worship at Indonesia Bethel Church. My activity for everyday are schooling, playing and go to the project, 3 times a week. I'm so happy to go to the project because I can learn how to love God in there, and also be with my friends. The weather at my country sometimes is hot, rain, or cold, very cold. Once again I say thank you because you've been my sponsor. 
That's all from me. 
The Lord Jesus bless you with your family. Shalom. 
With love, 
from Prayer

Wow, Prayer's letter got here really quickly! That's the fastest I've ever seen an Indonesia letter arrive. : ) I was glad that Prayer wrote to me about his brothers- I asked the kids a while back if they could tell me more about their families. And it's great to read that Prayer's entire family attends church together. Reading that made me very happy! He's just the sweetest kid. Even though I've only heard from him a couple of times, I can tell he's going to be a great letter-writer, very kind and informative. : )

Next, we heard from little Brendita. This was a form letter called "About Me."

3 August 2013

My name means: strong like a sword

I'm the...1st child in my family. 

I am 110 centimeters tall. 

The color of my hair is black. 

The color of my eyes is brown. 

One thing I do really well is dressing my dolls. 

One thing I really like to do is play with the dolls. 

When I grow up I want to be a doctor. 

I want to thank you for being my sponsor and taking care of me and supporting me. 

In response to your last letter, I like the Bible verses they read to us (at the center.)

Please pray little duck, my dad, my mom and my sisters. 

Dear sponsor Jessi, 
I want to tell you that I am very happy and that I am doing very well at school and I have behaved very well and I've been taking care of all my family. Well, I say goodbye, take care. May God bless you! I love you very much!

If I ever get to send Brenda presents, or visit her, I'm definitely taking her a doll! I think she has mentioned dolls in every letter I've received from her. Also, I thought it was cute that she asked me to pray for her little duck! I will ask her about her duck in the next letter I send. Brenda is so cute! She also drew a picture for me. Notice that the feature of the picture is, of course, a doll. : )

Saturday, November 2, 2013

News of the World

Here's another round-up of news stories from the countries where Compassion works!

  • Kenya- Last week I mentioned the unrest in Kenya that started after a teenage girl was brutally beaten and raped- the perpetrators were required to mow the grass at the police station, then released. The story has gained a lot of media attention in the last week, and it can be found on the home pages for a lot of news outlets (CNN, HuffPo, NBC, etc.) Continue praying for girls around the world, that they will be protected from these stupid and sad acts of violence. And as the case gains international attention- and no action is taken by local law enforcement- pray that no one gets hurt as Kenyans protest this gross miscarriage of justice. Pray that calm attitudes and cool heads prevail, and that justice will be served. 
  • Honduras- Countries around the world suffer from the corruption of law enforcement. It even happens in the United States sometimes. Here is a pretty scary story out of Honduras. This police chief, who is active in the war on drugs (which we like) but has a pretty bloody and questionable past (so we keep him at arm's length), is greatly feared by almost everyone who lives in his jurisdiction. He and his officers have been accused of basically killing people to prevent more crime. It's scary stuff. I had no idea Honduras was so violent, but the article describes nights filled with gunfire, and residents waking to find bodies in the streets- left there by the "bad guys" (drug lords and gangs) AND the "good guys"- law enforcement. In the United States, we're not used to this kind of free-for-all law enforcement. We're used to warrants and Miranda rights and trials. The citizens of Honduras- guilty or not- run a really high risk of not having those privileges if they mess up. And we all know that a lot of these problems- gangs and drugs- arise because of extreme poverty. It's all so sad. Pray for the people of Honduras, that they'll stay safe. Pray for wise decision-making by political leaders and law enforcement. Pray for justice to be served. I feel like I'm saying that a lot lately, but justice is something I feel like our world is severely lacking. 
  • Indonesia- This one breaks my heart. I mean, they all do, but I haven't heart of many sex trafficking stories out of Indonesia, and this one's particularly sad. Sometimes we hear of kids being sold into prostitution by older family members because they need the money. Well, in Indonesia, a growing problem is children being sold into prostitution by other children. Fifteen year olds are running escort services and are making more money than their other family members put together. And what is their incentive to stop? They've grown up poor. They want a different life. They see this as a way out. A life-changer. Children being exploited by children. Pray for the kids who are being abused. Pray for the kids who are arranging these events, that they will be afforded other opportunities (like education and careers that don't involve taking advantage of others.) Pray for the morality of this nation, and all others, because we all know that Indonesia is not the only country where there are people who want to take advantage of kids in this way. Pray for organizations like Compassion who are working to protect these kids and lift families out of poverty. How do you even deal with that? What if you had to see this kind of thing every day? How does it not just crush your entire worldview, your faith in humanity? I'm sure it's hard to deal with. It's all just so heartbreaking.

Friday, November 1, 2013

November Letter-Writing Topics

We're almost at the end of the year! I can't believe it! Here are some ideas for letters to sponsor kids this month. : )

  1. Thanksgiving. Well, this one's pretty obvious. You can write to your sponsor child about Thanksgiving! Just leave out the parts about nationwide gluttony and midnight shopping sprees. : ) You can say that in the United States we have a holiday celebrating thankfulness in November. You can say that this is a time when many families come together and have a meal together. You can even say that traditionally, that meal involves eating turkey! Tell your child what you're thankful for (my kids are at the top of my list!) and ask them what they are thankful for. Many countries also celebrate a thanksgiving holiday, even if they don't take place in November, so your sponsor child may write back about that! There's also an abundance of crafts you can send this time of year- handprint turkeys, construction paper cornucopias. You can also make some artwork out of Bible verses about thankfulness!
  2. United States government. We don't have any elections this year, but November is when we tend to have the big ones. Why not write a letter about our government? Keep it super simple, and maybe stick to the older kids with this sort of letter. But there is quite a bit you can talk about. You can say that our country was founded in 1776 by people who moved here from Europe. You can say that we have had 44 presidents, and tell a little bit about the one we have now. You can say that the capitol is in Washington, DC, and describe where that is in relation to where you live ("it is located in the eastern United States, about 15 hours away from where I live!") And you could talk about the kinds of things that are in Washington, like museums and important government buildings and a zoo! And it's so easy to find coloring pages and other activities about our government, the presidents and everything else. 
  3. Veterans Day. This holiday is on November 11. If you know any veterans, you can write about this holiday and tell your kids it's a day that we honor people who have served in the United States military. If you know any veterans, you can talk about them. My alma mater has a really cool tradition- every year they have a Veterans Day service. They have breakfast for the veterans in the gym, and all kinds of people come. It was always neat to see which classmates had family members who served. The junior class serves breakfast- when I was a junior I didn't work with the food, but I was a greeter and handed out carnations for our veterans to wear on their lapels. Then they have a special chapel service, including songs sung by all the different choirs, and a presentation of an art piece that the art department works on for the first several months of the school year. They've done murals depicting the memorials in Washington DC, and for four years of the five years that I was there, they did murals for different branches of the armed services. And then they recognize the different veterans by asking them to please stand as different wars and conflicts were announced. Up until very recently we had a veteran of World War I who was still able to attend the services (he passed away my senior year, I think.) So if I write about Veteran's Day this year, I might write about those experiences I had in high school (and my brother in law is still at that school, and my father in law usually comes to the service!)
  4. Local holidays. There are several holidays in November that are celebrated in the countries where Compassion works. Children's day in India is celebrated on the 14th, which is the birthday of India's first prime minister. The Day of the Dead is a very popular holiday in Mexico, but I'm not sure how much a Compassion center would talk about that with the kids. November 10 is National Heroes Day in Indonesia, and Revolution Day is celebrated on the 20th in Mexico. 
  5. Christmas. This is just a reminder that if you want to send Christmas stuff to your sponsor kids, you will want to be sending them soon! I would recommend sending them no later than the 15th, the middle of the month. It takes time for everything to get sorted at Compassion, then things need to be mailed to the countries, translated, and delivered. Don't forget to label any extras you're sending, like activity books, with your sponsor info and your child's name and number!