When I saw on my advocacy page that the Experience was going to be coming to my city, I freaked out- I was SO excited. I didn't expect it to ever come here because Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and several other big(ger) cities are so close by. It's the same reason we're never getting an IKEA- we're pretty big, but not quite bit enough for a lot of things, and they assume we'll just travel to them. Anyway, I immediately emailed my mom and asked if we could sign up to work (I needed a driver.) So she took off work, and we registered to work the mid-day shift.
We were pretty busy most of the afternoon, and it was super hot today so the air conditioners in our tent thingie were working overtime, but I was so glad to serve with my mom and help out in this way. Compassion has given *me* so much, and there aren't a lot of events in my area that I'm able to help at because of my driving issues, PLUS this was just super exciting because I really wanted to walk through the exhibit!
I just love this photo plastered on the side of the trailer! It reminds me of Tanzania!
For most of the afternoon, my mom and I were stationed just inside the tent, setting folks up with their iPods and getting them ready to enter the exhibit. Later in the afternoon, we were able to walk through one time. My mom went in first, and when our other volunteer returned, I headed in after her.
In case you're unfamiliar with the Compassion Experience, it's an interactive walk-through thing telling the stories of actual Compassion graduates in different countries. At this set-up, you can walk through and learn about Ruben in Bolivia, Julian in Uganda, or Brinda in India. I really wanted to see all of them, but I went for Brinda first because I wanted to listen to her talk. :) I have seen videos of Brinda before, and I love listening to Indian accents and love the culture and would really like to adopt from there someday. Anyway, I started walking through this recreation of Brinda's life. The "tour" starts out in Brinda's home before she was registered in Compassion's program. Her home is filled with icons and idols, and she describes some of her culture's traditions. Like, children should be quiet and somber because if they draw attention to themselves, like by laughing and playing in front of other people, they are welcoming bad luck (or the "evil eye") because staring at children is bad luck. And she tells us that girls in particular are taught to be invisible. They are seen as not having much worth or value. When I heard her talking about girls being "invisible," I started getting choked up. And I thought to myself "you are going to want to sponsor another child, but you can't right now. You can maybe ask for some more correspondents when you get home, though." And then we continue journeying through Brinda's story. How her family became Christians not long after her grandmother's miraculous recovery from serious illness- a recovery that was prayed for by Hindu priests and Islamic imams, before Brinda convinced her mother to pray to the Christian God, whom she calls Daddy. And then she tells us about her sister's surrender to Christ after the family fasted and prayed for a financial miracle regarding her schooling. Brinda used a phrase at this point that really jumped out at me: she said that when acting on faith, she put everything she had in her outstretched hands and offered it up to God. And something clicked in my head. I struggle with the fact that I don't hear from God very often. The past year or so has brought on more doubt and skepticism for me than I've ever experienced in my life, and I struggle with it. I'm being honest here. But in that moment, picturing Brinda's outstretched hands in my mind, having faith that God would deliver and make a way for her sister to finish school, I felt this sense of certainty just smack me upside the head. It was as real if someone had walked up and poked me in the middle of my back. I knew that if I walked out to the room full of child packets and saw a teen girl from India, like Brinda, I would be her sponsor. I didn't know where the money was going to come from, but I'd put what I had in my outstretched hands and offer it up to God.
My mom was finishing up in the "waiting kids" room (yes, she did take home another kiddo) and right before she walked back out to her post, I saw her. Vandana. The only teen girl from India in the room. And she had these braids. And this dress that looked like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz." And I said "ok, it's her" and walked over and filled out the form. And thus, Vandana joined our Far-Away Family.
I had barely looked at Vandana's information packet, but registered a sense of familiarity with her child center number. I didn't *think* that I had a kid at her center, but maybe one of my friends had a child there. Or maybe her center was one of those that another advocate or blogger posted about frequently. But that didn't seem right.
I finished out my afternoon working in the packet room (which was pretty awesome, because I got to talk about all my kids and make some letter-writing recommendations) and we headed home an hour and a half after my finding Vandana. I was very tired and hot and a little worried about telling my husband about us sponsoring another child and ready to sit in the air-conditioned car while my mom drove us home. While she was on the phone with my dad, I opened up the packet again and stared at that center number. And then I thought I had it figured out. I used my phone to log into my mom's Compassion account, and let out a loud "HA! Oh, do I have something to tell you." As soon as she got off the phone, I told her why that number seemed so familiar- my Vandana attends the same center as my mom's Amisha. Her very first sponsored child, whom she's had for 6 years. Amisha, who asks about me and Brandon "all the time", according to mom. Amisha is the apple of my mom's eye, when it comes to her sponsor kids (and she says I'm going to "show her up" when it comes to letter writing, which is both not true and also very funny.) If that's not a God thing, I don't know what is.
If you live in or around Louisville, I would strongly encourage you to come out to the Compassion Experience this weekend. It's free. It's good for families and couples and single people and the elderly and tiny children and anyone and everyone. It is interesting. It is educational. It is moving and inspiring. You can learn more here.