Monday, August 31, 2015

Sweet Greetings from Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania!

Happy Mail Call Monday- the last of August!

We got SEVENTEEN letters this week! Bear with me as I share about them! :)

The first was from Elifagason in Tanzania.

Elifagason greeted me as beloved and says that his family is doing well. He said that they learned John 3:16 at the center and he has never eaten pizza. :) He asked that we pray for his country because they are having a presidential election this year, and he doesn't just want a good president, he wants the BEST president for Tanzania!

Next was a letter from Tamirat in Ethiopia!

This was our first letter from Tamirat! He seems very sweet. He repeated "please keep writing to me" three times in his letter, which was sad- I'm sorry he went so long without letters! Tamirat said he's really happy and he is spending the rainy season in Ethiopia working and helping his family. He said it's cold where he lives and asked about the weather here. He also wanted to know what I think he should learn, because he wants to learn about new things! He also asked if I have any plans to come to Ethiopia soon because he wants to see me face to face.

Next, a letter from Nkoyio in Kenya!

Nkoyio says she's doing fine and working hard in school. I think she attends boarding school because she says that her parents are good, and she's looking forward to school ending so she can see them. She also asked that we pray for her sports team so that they will win their games. :) Nkoyio asked that we pray for her studies so she can become a teacher, and said thank you for sending her letters.

We also heard from Gloria in Kenya, who attends the same center!

We received a form letter from Gloria a few weeks ago, but this one was a "big kid" letter filled out by her teacher. She said that Gloria is praying for God's protection for baby Lilly. She asked that we pray for her career and her studies (she's 8!) She shared that her favorite animal is the sheep and her father got her one and she really likes it. She has a younger brother named Koinari who is going to private school and he has learned the alphabet and is writing numbers. She seems so proud of him! She was excited about President Obama's visit to Kenya, and she loves the letters and photos we send- she said even her mother gets excited about the letters she brings home! She shared Psalm 23:1-5 and said she hopes God blesses us abundantly.

We also got our first letter from Emmanuel in Kenya!

Emmanuel sent a form letter about his family. He has one sibling named James. He spends the most time with his momma and no extended family live with them. He lives in a rural area and he helps his family by washing utensils. He says his family's faith background is Christian he likes playing with other kids at the center.

We received the same form letter from little Purity, who attends the same center as Emmanuel!

Purity shared that has one sibling named Vivian and she likes to go to church with her family. She helps her family by doing the shopping and she wants everyone in her family to have a good education. Her helper at the project says that she gets very excited when she reads my letters, and she wants us to pray that she has a good life!

Next was a letter from Celestine, also in Kenya!

Celestine says she's doing fine with her family. They had class elections recently and she was elected assistant class representative. She also participated in a rally for "Christian union" where they learned how they can help their brothers and sisters in Christ. They talked about lifting each other up in speech and praying for each other. She said they recently celebrated the Day of the African Child at the center, and asked if we have a similar holiday. She shared Jeremiah 33:3 and said that she is praying for us. On the back of the letter, she drew a lion.

We also heard from Motempa in Kenya!

Motempa says that her family is doing well and she's always happy to get our letters. She asked about our climate and says where she lives it's hot and dry. She also said that she remembers me in her daily prayers and asked that we pray for her studies. She told us to read Psalm 121.

Yet more Kenya letters- we also heard from Rose!

Rose thanked us for the small gift we sent, and she said she wants to tell us about her family. She has SEVEN siblings (holy cow) and she is the third oldest. She plays soccer with her siblings. Her family lives in a rural area and her grandmother cooks for them. She and all her siblings go to church every Sunday, and she asks that we pray for her parents, so they will go to church. She said that her family doesn't have money for school fees and they struggle financially, and she prays that we will pray for her family's situation and that through sponsorship it will get better. She wished me all the best as I do my daily chores, and signed her letter "yours lovely daughter." : )

Next, a letter from Fatuma in Kenya!

Fatuma is so cute. She asked how Memorial Day was, and said that Payneville, where Brandon's family's farm is, sounds like "a lovely place to visit." She also shared her excitement about the impending birth of my friend Kristen's triplets, asking for pictures and saying "Wooh!!" Then she said her mom is having a baby soon! They don't know if it will be a boy or girl, but she will let me know! She was looking forward to August holidays, hoping to have fun and visit a new place. Then she said "I love you and I think about you always. You are a great blessing in my life and I pray for you and your family always."

The last Kenya letter for the week was from Christine!

Christine started with "Good morning, my friend Jessi!" She said she is very excited and happy each time she gets my letters, and she hopes that the flooding in the midwest has stopped. She said it's cold and rainy in Kenya, and they are harvesting Maize. She asked if I like roasted maize and that her parents want me to come eat maize with them. She asked that we pray for her end of term exams, and she wants to become a doctor. She also asked that we pray for her country, because the teachers aren't paid enough and they are always threatening to go on strike. She also asked that we pray for her parents to have stable jobs and for her dad to know Jesus. She shared Isaiah 41:10.

We also got our first letter from Melat in Ethiopia!

Melat's letter was written to her financial sponsor. She said she hoped he was in "good peace" and she is doing very well. She gets to spend a lot of time with her family in the rainy season, and she plays handball with her friends. She also said she is doing really well in school and she hopes she does even better next term. She asked him to write her a letter (sigh) and said "ciao for now" which was really cute.

Then we heard from Brendita in Mexico!

 Brendita wrote a form letter about her family. She spends most of her time with her parents and grandmother, and they live in an urban area. She helps her family by taking care of her sibling, and she asked that we pray for her brother. She said thank you again for sending her toys over a year ago- she must really like playing with them! And she also listed some of the extra little things we have sent in our letters, and she was happy that I would be getting her letter. :)

We also got a letter from Tasya in Indonesia!

Tasya asked how we are doing and she trusts we are healthy and happy. She wrote that they had a wonderful Easter, and asked about our Easter celebrations. She wrote that she has never seen a tapir, and she likes dogs best because they are "so cute." :) Her competitions with the other centers were over, and she and her friends had a good time even though they didn't win. She participated in the singing competition and watched the drama competition. She asked that we pray for her exams, and listed all the specific family members of ours that she is praying for!

Almost at the end! We heard from Reine in Burkina Faso!

Reine said she really enjoys my letters and she likes learning about my family and she likes our anniversary picture. She liked seeing baby Faustina's picture, also, and said she is praying for Brandon's back. She said that her name means "princess," but there is no special story behind why her parents chose it. She also said she passed her exams, and asked if Brandon and I want to be parents. She drew a mortar and pestle on her letter.

We got another letter from Anahi in Honduras, too!

Anahi's mom wrote it, as she always does. It was a form letter about Anahi's medical check up, and the letter said that the doctor gave her medicines, vitamins and de-wormer. Anahi weighs 38 lbs and is over three feet tall. Anahi wanted to tell me that she is learning to read really well, and she and her family are praying for me, and they declare in Jesus' name prosperity for our family. It was also really cute because she opened the letter with "I greet you on behalf of my daughter. We thank you for your sponsoring; those are the most sincerely wishes from our heart. I wish that you are well. We thank God for your life. I write you this letter, on this hot afternoon, with love and affection." :)

Lastly, we heard from Jayid in India!

Jayid's letter was written by a project worker, as usual. They said that he's having lots of fun at the project, learning lots of new action songs like "There shall be showers of blessing." They're also practicing drama skits and taking self defense classes. Someone at the center apparently has a new guitar, and he likes to listen to it! Jayid asked that we pray for his father's health.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Project Letter: KE-508

Here's a letter from Purity and Emmanuel's pastor in Kenya!

My name is Reverend Geoffrey Ngari Hiuhu and I am the current parish minister at Kisauni Church and the Kisauni Child Development Center ministering to Purity and Emmanuel.

Please accept our profound appreciation for the noble gesture of sponsoring Purity and Emmanuel, which will make a difference in the future.

The community around us is affected with very many youths abusing drugs and joblessness and also with parents not caring for their children due to concerns of poverty. This has rendered the area insecure. But the impact of the Compassion Center on the children and the community is being realized, as we are leading many children to salvation and stabilizing their lives. The church is committed to nurturing and mentoring the children through the center and getting them to accept Jesus as their personal savior. Our mentoring program and the holistic development curriculum of Compassion ensures that they have positive growth in their lives and salvation.

The children in the center are more confident and sure of themselves than the other children in the village. It is also evident that the children are well mannered, healthy and clean. Recently, through the Compassion program they have been able to receive health talks and Bible quizzes, which are geared to sharpen their knowledge and their physical health and spiritual nourishment. The children are also able to conduct Saturday program devotions, sing, say memory verses, and read the Bible. The church also ministers to the community through providing quality education at an affordable rate. We have had children confess Christ as their savior.

It is always a joy to see the faces of the children light up as they receive letters form the sponsors and also the pleasure of writing and connecting to the sponsors through writing back. The children are able to know what is going on with their new families abroad and the sponsors can get to know the progress and status of the child and their families by getting to know their school progress, new additions to the family, etc. Sharing your happy moments, photos, and words of encouragement with Purity and Emmanuel is very important.

It is our humble prayer that you put us in prayers to be able to continue to minister to the children, their families, and the communities around us. Pray for the church to create a big impact in our effort to evangelize and to have children who grow to fear God and get to confess Jesus as their personal savoir.

Thank you for loving and sponsoring Purity and Emmanuel.

If you are interested in sponsoring a little kid in Kenya like Purity and Emmanuel, please consider sponsoring Japan. He has been waiting 9 months for a sponsor and lives in an area where HIV/AIDS and child abuse and exploitation are common. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sweet Greetings from Brazil, Tanzania, and El Salvador

Happy Mail Call Monday!

This week we received four letters! The first two were from Patricia in Brazil! 

Patricia's letters are so sweet! She shared a little more about her family, saying that her family attends a Nazarene church, and that they sing the "Happy Birthday" song at family birthdays! She also said that she loves writing to me and getting my letters, so she wanted to send me a picture with all of the letters I have sent to her! It was so neat to see Patricia surrounded by the letters, cards, and gifts I have sent her over the past year or so! :) 

We also got our first letter from little Kaue in Brazil! 

Kaue's letter was an introductory form letter, because he recently got sponsored! He shared a bunch of his favorites, like studying Portuguese, dogs, beans, and the color white! It was nice to hear from him so quickly! He sent hugs to his new sponsor in his letter. What a sweetie! 

Then we heard from Elisha in Tanzania!

We got an "About Me" letter for Elisha, which is funny since we've been writing to him for two years. :) He said he's 115 centimeters tall, and he is a good reader. He also shared that he still wants to be a doctor. And he drew some great pictures! He drew a Tanzanian flag, a pretty lady, a soccer ball, a mango, and a few other random things! 

Lastly, we got our first and last letter from Cristobal! 

Cristobal recently graduated early from Compassion's program, and hadn't received any letters from his sponsor since he was a very small child. He still wrote a kind goodbye letter, though, saying that he enjoyed all the benefits from Compassion's program since being registered at age six. He talked about the medical and educational benefits he received, and the fun things like going on field trips and staying in hotels. We sent him a small gift before he graduated, and he bought food for his family (he lives with his mom) and we got a picture of him with his gifts! He also encouraged us (or his financial sponsor) to sponsor another child who needs their love and support after his graduation. What a kind young man! I wish him every success in life. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Compassion Christmas Party!

We had a really fun weekend here at the Jones house- we had a Christmas party!!

Compassion collects Christmas cards for unsponsored kids each year, and I already have about 300 ready to mail (I spent a lot of my Christmas money on clearance cards after the holidays, and my mom found a bunch of steeply discounted cards at her store, too.) I have been asking friends, family, and coworkers for their leftover Christmas cards, and then I planned a party to work on signing them!

Ten people signed 330 cards last night! 

Christmas has always been my family's favorite holiday, and my family used to have holiday open houses every year. I planned out a menu with some of our favorite party foods, and made a facebook event to invite a few family members and Bible study friends. Almost everyone there has sponsor kids of their own, and I really miss seeing my Bible study friends since we stopped meeting last year. Not everyone I invited was able to make it, but it was still fun. My mom and dad came over a little early (I had asked my dad to make a cheeseball and chocolate chip cookies, two of my favorite Christmas party foods that I've never really been able to replicate as good as he makes them!) I set up our card table in the kitchen and made it a real card table- I added a plastic table cloth that matched the pretty fabric one I found on clearance at Target and put out all the blank cards I had, plus my gel pens and markers for signing them. My mom also brought some little paper angel ornaments that she found at Hobby Lobby. There's a place on each ornament for a name, so she said that we could color them and send them to my kids! We only got a few of those finished, but I think it will be neat to include them in the Christmas cards and tell the kids who decorated them for them!

I had such a fun time! I admit I was pretty worried about the evening, because I stress about these things and a few people I really wanted to be there didn't end up coming, but it was so much fun. My friend Steph came and stayed the whole time, even though she didn't know anybody but me, and I am so thankful for her and her friendship! She even stayed late and we watched an episode of the Golden Girls together. :) My aunt and cousin came, and I know my aunt signed at least 50 cards on her own (and a lot of them came from her house, because she gets lots of free cards in the mail every year, and she bought some a few weeks ago to contribute, too!) We were also joined by Helen and my dear friend Amanda for a little while- I only get to see Amanda once a year because she is a missionary to Japan! And after they got off work, Pat and Mary Jane came over, too (they are part of my Lifeway family.)

Me and Amanda! 

If you are interested in sending Christmas cards for the unsponsored kids, it's really easy! Just sign some cards (keep your message short and simple, as the cards won't go through the regular translation process), place them in unsealed envelopes (optional) and mail them to the following address by November 2:

Compassion International 
Attn: Christmas Cards for Unsponsored Children
Colorado Springs, CO

This is such a fun opportunity for fellowship, a great chance to share Compassion with your friends and family, and an excuse to celebrate the best holiday a little early! The yummy food is just a bonus. :) 

Some of our snacks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pastor's Letter: Mexico (ME-976)

Here is a pastor letter from the center our Maria attends in Mexico! 

My name is Alfonso Perez Gomez. I am the director of the Yaveh Yireh Child Development Center associated with the attached church that ministers to Maria. 

The activities that we do at the Center instruct the children on the right path towards our God and towards their future, teaching them that God is their only personal savior. We integrate the physical for their good development and health. They participate in recreation for their bodies and also for their socio-emotional development. We provide them with school supplies and fees for their education and intellectual development. We are developing them spiritually in all areas.

During this year we held a spiritual retreat, training for tutors at the Center for the preparation of their classes, integrating the teaching in a dynamic, strategic, and practical way. We celebrated Children's Day, Mother's Day, and we had gatherings with the children, also getting together with the mothers and caretakers. Also each children had a medical check-up, where illnesses were detected in some of them. Thanks to God these illnesses have now been treated.

"My Plan for Tomorrow" is a plan from Compassion that the children do when they are older so that they can plan for a good future and also so that they can have a healthy life physically and spiritually for Christ. We want to see the children as good professionals who love and serve God and their community. With all that we are offering the children through Compassion, they show a happy face and a smile in their everyday lives. Their lives are different now, thanks to you and other sponsors. The children now look different in their way of life, in their way of talking, their way of acting and respecting each other with their classmates.

For the children writing letters to their sponsors is very important because they express their feelings and also when they receive letters from their sponsors, in the same way it is very important for them. They get excited, because they know that there is someone far away who remembers them and does something for them. The children thank their sponsors for accepting them as another child in the family. For this reason and others, please keep up letter correspondence with Maria.

I ask you to pray for our children in the enter, that they continue forwards, that they have a good future and that they are good servants for God. I also ask that you pray that God gives us strength to keep the children moving forwards, that He gives us wisdom to teach, that He helps us to move forward with the center.

I thank God for you and ask that He continually bless your life.

If you are interested in sponsoring a little girl in Mexico like Maria, please consider sponsoring Virginia. She is 4 years old and has been waiting over six months for a sponsor. I love her little smile! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sweet Greetings from Kenya, Bolivia, Honduras and Haiti

Happy Mail Call Monday! 

This week, we only received letters on one day- but NINE letters arrived that day! That's the most letters I've ever received in one day! First up, a letter from Marc in Haiti! 

Marc said he lives in a community called Raymond and it doesn't rain very often in his country. He said they don't live near the ocean, but there's a lake and they catch lots of fish there. He also shared about the upcoming elections, and said that the president visited his area recently. He said in Haiti they don't have special traditions about new babies (which I already knew- the infant mortality rate is really high in Haiti) but they are excited and thankful when a new baby arrives. He said his favorite subject is biology and "of course I will go to college." :) He also said his grandmother passed away from a stroke (she had been ill and I asked what was wrong and how I could pray for her.) He asked that we pray for his family so that they can remain in God's grace, and said "May God bless your works!"

Next was a letter from Eduardo in Honduras, whom I am hoping to meet next year!! 

Eduardo said he is doing well and he wanted to share about his dreams. He hopes that he can visit the USA and Brazil and lots of other places, and he wants to be a car mechanic. He also wants to meet me in person. He wants to know about my dreams and if I want to visit Honduras. He asked that we pray for his family and said goodbye with love and kindness, and he drew me lots of pretty flowers on some nice pink paper! 

Then we had a letter from Celestine in Kenya! 

Celestine's letter was written to her previous correspondent, whom I know. She shared that she and her friends have attended a conference recently about the message of salvation, and she's learning a lot about God and faith at the center. She also shared that they are planting lots of crops, but most of them are maize because that's a staple food in Kenya (mmm....ugali!) She also drew a goat. 

Next was a letter from little Gloria in Kenya! 

Gloria wrote about her school, saying she's in third grade and her teacher is named Teacher Ben. She walks to school because it's really close by, and her favorite thing about school are the maroon uniforms. :) She also likes helping her mom wash utensils after school, and she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up so she can speak English all the time. How precious is that! 

Then we got our first letter from Mercy in Kenya! 

Mercy said "Hello Jessi, it is a great moment for me to receive your letter that you explained your self into details that has made me know about you more. I am happy to be part of your distance family. It is a great opportunity that you have granted me, may God bless you and give you a child. I am a strong believer in Christ and I will pray for you to get a child soon." How precious. That letter maid me tear up! Mercy's letter was short but so sweet. I'm really looking forward to getting to know her better. 

Then I got another letter from Rayza in Bolivia- the second one in a week!

Rayza's second letter was written especially for me! :) My prediction based on her letter to her financial sponsors was correct. Her letter was so sweet. She said she's turning 14 in December, she lives in Cochabamba, her dad's name is Ricardo and her mom is Miguelina. Her brother is Josue and she has two sisters named Camelia and Melani. "My family is fun and happy!" She said she really likes to color and play soccer. They don't have a library nearby, but they have internet access. She also said she knows about crocheting- her mom does it and she makes blankets, and she taught Rayza how to crochet! She sent her congratulations to Jess for having baby Lilly. She said in Bolivia they had a great Easter and their traditions involve eating 12 meals and they don't go to school, and they have beautiful worship songs. She asked that we pray for her studies, and said that she thought I was a pretty child! :) She also wrote that she's praying for specific family members, and talked about Bolivia's soccer team. She added "I am so happy because your friend Jess has a healthy and strong baby. The baby is beautiful. I will be praying for you and Brandon, so that you can have sweet children." She told me that her aunt has a baby named Benjamin, and she helps take care of him by feeding him and giving him baths, and she visits them every weekend. She also told me when Bolivia celebrates Mother's Day and Father's Day, and "I am grateful to God because my parents are very special." She said goodbye with many kisses and hugs, and she is waiting for my next letters! 

Next there was another letter from Kenya- this time from Austin! 

Austin said he hopes my grandfather is doing better and he is happy that we are praying for him and his family. He was glad to learn about what's going on in my neighborhood, and he is praying for Lilly and Jess to stay healthy. He said he helps new parents in his community by fetching water for them. He also said he is working hard in his mechanics course, and it's not raining so much in Kenya now, which is good because there had been some flooding. Austin also said that everyone in Kenya was excited that our president (whom he called Baraka Obama- and FYI, in Swahili, "Baraka" means "blessing"- it's a pretty common name!) would be visiting, and that they were doing lots of preparations to welcome him! He shared Psalm 37:5 and signed his letter "bye and God bless you, I love you, your child Austin." I thought that was sweet- he's not that much younger than I am! 

Another letter from Kenya that arrived was written by precious Mary! 

Mary greeted me as her sister and said she was so happy to read about Jess's new baby, and she liked seeing baby Lilly's pictures- she called her a baby angel! Mary said that she made average grades last term and she's finished a computer course as well. She also answered some of my previous letters, saying that her favorite animal is a cat, and that a good way to help new parents is to buy clothes for the baby. She also shared the following: "Thank you for your support for me and may God bless you abundantly. You are a great friend even though you are far but the letters make you feel as if you are near..... I would like to tell you that do not ever let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. When you feel down, remember to look up in the sky and pray to God and He will open the doors for you. God has plans for you ahead to make you successful and you will never lack." I love her so much! 

Finally, there was a letter from our sweet Victor, also in Kenya! 

Victor's letter was so precious that I need to share it in its entirety! :) 

Dear Jessi, how are you and your family? I hope that they are all doing well. Receive warm greetings from my family. How is Brandon doing? I am doing well in the Lord and I have seen his mercy throughout the years of my life. School is good and I am trying hard in my academic work. I am also very happy to have you guys as my best friends and am really praying for you and your family so that God may shower you with His blessings and protection. I also pray for your brother to get well soon in the name of Jesus Christ. My favorite animal is the lion. I really love lions very much, and that's good of you if you like walrus. To me I am scared of them, and they are very rare to find them here in Kenya. I will also be tall like Brandon when I grow like him and I am proud of myself, tell him I wish him a happy birthday and I would like to encourage him by a verse from Psalms 23. Actually the thing is, I really love music but I don't know how to play any musical instrument, I wish you would have been here to teach me a piano or a banjo and I would love to hear you playing it. Say hi to Gimli. I just request you to pray for me in my academic progress. Love, your son, Victor.

Last week's letters were such tremendous blessings! They arrived at the perfect time and were so full of love that I felt like the kids had each mailed me a hug. I can't wait to see what this week holds!