Sunday, January 31, 2016

Compassion Joys: January

And just like that, the first month of the new year is behind us! Wow! Here are some Compassion-related things we are thankful for as January comes to a close!


We received quite a few letters this month, which was fantastic! We heard from Victor, Rose, Austin and Festus in Kenya and Carlos in Peru twice, and received one letter each from Anahi, Angelina, Bijay, Caleb, Celestine, Christine, Emmanuel, Eyo, Gloria, Merlyn, Motempa, Nkoyio, Prayer, Purity, Rubby, Tasya, and William! That's 27 letters!! Fantastic!

New Kids! 

This month we welcomes a few new correspondents to our far-away family! We received Elan and Anggi in Indonesia toward the end of the month, as well as three Ethiopian kids from a large corporate sponsorship- Jemal, Sumeya, and Nejat! Welcome to the family!


We had NINE birthdays in January! Two of them we found out about right before they happened, since they were for our new kids! Happy birthday to Mjay in the Philippines (13); Mishel in Peru (15); Sithum in Sri Lanka (11); Marc in Haiti (19); Kevin in Peru (9); Enal in Indonesia (16); Ruth in Honduras (14); Nkoyio in Kenya (18); and Sumeya in Ethiopia (8)!


We also had lots of sponsor-versaries this month! We celebrated one year of writing to Fatuma, Thanakan, and Estha; two years of writing to Caleb and Eduardo; and three years of writing to Brenda! These kids are such a blessing and we love them dearly!

Photo Updates! 

Two photo updates came through this month! We got a new picture of Festus in Kenya, and a much-awaited picture of Kajal in India! They've both grown up so much! Festus is a handsome young man, and Kajal is still our pretty princess. :)


I found out this month that we will be able to send some gifts to a couple of our kiddos! We will be sending bag of gifts to Maribel in Bolivia and Kevin and Milder in Peru! Both of these opportunities come from baggie exchanges- I am taking gifts to Honduras for some sponsors, and they are taking gifts to my kiddos on their own trips. :) The Peru opportunity is especially neat since we received Kevin and Milder as correspondents after we got to send gifts to our other two kids there, and my friend Mrs K will be leaving Peru in a couple of months! I'm glad I get to send some gifts to these two cute little kids!

Our presents for our Indian girls arrived safely in England, much faster than I expected! I'm so thankful they got there quickly and arrived in one piece- and I'm thankful that Shelley agreed to receive them and take them to India with her in two weeks!!! I can't wait to hear about her trip! :)

Trip Update!

Speaking of trips.....I got registered for the October 2016 sponsor tour to Honduras!! As you know, this is something that God has been throwing at my heart for several months, and it was so exciting to finally get to make the down payment and fill out my registration forms!! I would so appreciate your prayers for my fund-raising as I calculated that I will have to raise $10 a day until the final payment is due. Thanks to my baggie fundraiser, in which I am collecting monetary donations in exchange for carrying gifts for other sponsors, the last week of January and the first few days of February are covered (I made a checklist!) but I need to get to work on my crafts and remember to share my fundraising page so I can check off the days after that! :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sweet Greetings from Haiti, Kenya, and Bolivia

Happy Mail Call Monday- the last one of January!

This week we received five letters, and they all came on the same day! The first one was from Benji in Haiti.

It had been many months since we heard from Benji, so it was so good to hear from him! Benji told me about his schooling and said his favorite classes right now are Creole and "experimental science." I asked him what they do in that class, and it gave me the opportunity to tell him about my cousin and her work in the field of science! He also said that he wants to be a historian when he grows up, which made me very proud. Benji asked me if I like to read the Bible, and said that he hopes we had a very happy Christmas!

Next up was another letter from Festus in Kenya!

How nice to already have heard from some of our Kenyan kids twice in the new year! Festus' letter said much the same as his last letter- he wants to do better in school and he shared some of the challenges that he is facing at home which make concentrating in school a little more difficult. Please join me in praying for Festus and his family- they have nine children, which is a lot of mouths to feed under the best of circumstances, and I believe that being hungry might be having an impact on Festus' learning. He also said they have no books at home, so I am going to be sure to send him some paperback non-fiction books soon so he can practice reading (and learn some extra stuff) when he's at home!)

We also got a letter from Victor in Kenya!

Victor shared a little about the teachers' strike in Kenya (saying that the students are experiencing "grievances") and asked that we pray for the schools to reopen soon. He also had some very kind words to share about the impact that we are having on his life through letters. I love this boy so much and it is my earnest prayer that we are able to meet someday!

Our last Kenya letter from the week came from Celestine!

Celestine must have been in a bit of a hurry- she normally has quite a bit to share, particularly on the subject of theology and what she's doing at church, but we received a form letter about her favorites (which is still very nice to have!) Celestine shared that she enjoys eating ugali and playing handball, and her favorite activity is reading. She loves purple and her best friend is named Anastacia, and she likes dogs! She also said that her favorite character in the Bible is King David. Celestine thanked us for sending her "beautiful" pictures, and requested that we pray for her grandmother, who is sick.

Lastly, we got a surprise letter from William in Bolivia!

I say that William's letter was a surprise because he was not expected to stay on our account as a correspondent for very long! We received William as a correspondent mid-October, but his graduation date was listed as October 1! So I have been writing to him faithfully, with the expectation that he would disappear from my account any day. After getting his letter, I asked about his graduation, and was told that he probably will be in the program for a few more years, but that the Bolivia country staff just might have missed this information on his records! So we are doing an inquiry and hope to hear back soon. William seems like such a friendly young man in his letter; He said he's in good health and he's enjoying studying at college! He shared Psalm 35:27, and asked that we pray for his studies!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Happy dance!

Well, we're almost a month into the new year, and I haven't done the best job sticking with one of my goals- updating this blog more often! For one thing, I don't feel like I've had too much to say. Even though I haven't had many hours at my second job lately (there aren't many classes or events offered in the winter, meaning less need for childcare at the church) and I should have more free time, I feel like I've been really busy. The days are just flying by so quickly!

But I did drop by today to share one bit of exciting news- I am officially registered for my sponsor tour to Honduras later this year!!! Woohoo!!! Registration was supposed to open January 28, but every once in a while I've stopped by the group tours section of the website to see if it's opened early- and today I hit the jackpot!! I am ridiculously excited. There was quite a bit of shrieking going on in my house as I ran to my dresser to dig out my passport for the registration form. And more shrieking as I got the email saying "registration confirmed." And a little bit of cringing as I transferred the money over from my special savings account to make the down payment (letting go of money is hard, even if I'm totally planning for it!)


I'm so happy!

So now it's time to buckle down and get on the ball with my scrimping and saving, and my fundraising! I have a few things planned for throughout the year, but most of the money will be raised through my paychecks from my second job, and my crafts I've been making. I have been feeling a little bit bogged down with projects lately because some of the stuff I've been working is so BIG, and it takes so LONG, and I get tired of looking at it. This is really good motivation to just get it done! :)

I would truly appreciate your prayers for this trip and my fundraising efforts- God led me to plan for this trip and I know that He's going to be the one to release the funds for it, but I have some struggles with patience and trust, to be honest! And if you have any good ideas for fundraisers, let me know. :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sweet Greetings from India, Honduras, Ghana, Kenya, and Burkina Faso

Happy Mail Call Monday!

We received quite a few letters this week, which was very exciting! The first was from my little Anahi in Honduras!

Anahi sent a form letter about herself. Her eyes are brown, her hair is black, she is the first of two children, she is really good at making up stories, and she loves to play! As usual, her mom Celina wrote the letter. Celina says that Anahi is about to finish the second grade, and she is very excited about it! She also said "she says thank you for the letters that you've sent her where she hears many funny things about your life and also your family." I'm glad she thinks we are funny! Anahi also recently went to the dentist and will have to have surgery to take out one of her baby teeth. Celina says that she was scared at first until they explained that a grown up tooth would grow in its place! We were sent long distance hugs and kisses and they said "we love you a lot and wish you the biggest and most delicious blesings for you and your family. God keeps you and covers you with his precious blood." I love this family so much!

Next, we heard from Angelina in Ghana!

Angelina said that her family is doing well, and she has been learning about how to help people at the project! She asked that we pray for her family to become Christians, and she shared one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 John 4:19. Angelina also drew a really impressive diagram of a human heart, labeling all the atria and ventricles and everything! She's so talented!

We also received another letter from Bijay this week, which was very surprising!

Bijay seems like such a sweet young man! He said that he and his aunty are doing well and he is so happy and proud that I am in his life! How very kind! He recently had a health checkup at his project, and everything was fine with that. His project also had some kind of Bible school event in October, and he learned new songs and verses and received good teaching! He asked that we pray for his studies, and he signed the letter "yours lovely!"

Later in the week, we also heard from little Emmanuel in Kenya!

Emmanuel's letter was written on big kid paper by a project worker. He greeted us with "jambo" and responded to some of my questions. He told us that he has been baptized when he was a baby, and the "pastor poured some water on his head!" He has never heard of an alpaca but he liked seeing the picture, and he is happy that I am writing to lots of kids! He asked that we pray for his family and friends.

We also got our first letter from Eyo in Burkina Faso this week!

I recently took over letter writing responsibilities for some of my mom's kids, and Eyo was one of them. I got a "getting to know you" letter, since she was transferred to my account. Eyo is so cute and sweet. We learned from her letter that she is now living with her aunt, and she lives close enough to the project that she can walk there very easily! Her favorite color is green, her favorite subject is handwriting, and her favorite animal is the donkey!

One of the other letters we received this week was from Fatuma in Kenya!

I can tell that Fatuma has been practicing her handwriting, because she was trying to make it look fancy (making it a little bit harder to read! How cute!) Fatuma is really good about responding to my letters. She said she has not been baptized but wants to be someday. And she had heard of alpacas before and liked seeing the picture of me with one! She also said that her mom recently gave birth to a new baby named John. She was looking forward to the Christmas holidays and told me to "stay blessed!"

A letter from our Festus in Kenya arrived the same day that we got a photo update of him!

Festus shared that he placed in the top half of his class, and is studying hard to do better next time. He and his family plan ground nuts and maize, and he goes to church every Sunday to worship God! He also told us that he has three sisters and five brothers, and they all live at home! Wow!

Next up was a letter from Purity in Kenya!

Purity shared that she was very happy that I am interested in the Swahili language, she also liked seeing the alpaca picture that I sent, and she was really excited about Christmas!

We also heard from Rose in Kenya this week!

It was good to hear from Rose because we hadn't received a letter from her since this summer! Rose is so sweet and I really like her letters. She loves to learn, so I have been sending her some paperback nonfiction books. She really likes reading them! Rose said that her schools didn't open on time in August because there was a teacher's strike, and she asked us to pray about that. She also took the time to say hello to my friend Hannah and she is happy that Hannah prays for her- and she is praying for Hannah! Rose finished her letter by writing down lots o fher favorites. She likes to eat rice with beans, she loves playing legball, she likes cooking for her family, and she interacts with lots of friends, but her favorite friend is Mary Karisa! Cows are her favorite animal because they give milk, and she likes green because "it is the best color." She also likes the story of David in the Bible because he showed a lot of courage by fighting Goliath!

Lastly, we got our second letter from Rubby in Ghana!

Rubby said her family is doing great, and she is very thankful for my letters! She also said that she recently started sharing Bible stories with other kids at the project! She said that she would really like to hear about the weather in my country, and under her prayer requests, she wrote "It is my dearest prayer that Elohim will empower me to be a partaker of his glorious kingdom!" Wow! She also drew a picture of a dog! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Passing Understanding

"The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace."

Last year was tumultuous. I actually had a pretty good year, but gosh, there was so much going on in the world that was disturbing and upsetting. Horrific. My heart seemed to break over and over and over again. There were terrorist attacks and natural disasters and mass shootings, just to name a few incidences. And on top of all the chaos making headlines in the news, violence and hatred seemed to pop up a lot in my everyday surroundings. I had to take a break from social media for a little while over the summer (and change a few things when I came back) because my mind and heart were so heavily burdened by the things I was exposed to on a daily basis. It's bad enough to hear about bad things in the news- but to see people I know (or people I don't, really) cursing each other, spreading hatred and bigotry, preying on people's was overwhelming. I couldn't take it anymore, so I had to tune it out.

Toward the end of 2015, though, I started to realize something. One of the things that God wants most for us is peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We are instructed to seek peace in our personal conflicts. Even when dealing with our own thoughts and fears, it comes back to peace. Now, other than a weird fascination with the hippie movement I had in middle school, "peace" has never really been something that's featured largely in my life. Growing up with an anxiety disorder and coping with clinical depression really kept me from giving too much thought to the concept, other than "I've heard of that, must be nice for the people who have it." When yet another mass shooting claiming the lives of innocent civilians took place just before Christmas, I turned to my Bible for comfort (or a Bible app!) I wasn't afraid. I'm still not afraid of terrorist attacks, or bad guys with guns, whatever you want to call them. But I did notice how intensely fear affects people. Mostly it made people I know angry, and sometimes a little hateful. The things that were said in the aftermath of the San Bernadino shooting regarding our fellow human beings demonstrated a real lack of peace- and a lack of a desire to foster it, too. But these ideas really contradicted what I was reading in my Bible. We are told not to fear, to love our neighbors, to pray for our enemies, to turn the other cheek. Peace, peace, peace. I shared some of these verses in the hopes that some frightened or angry friends and family might see them and pause. Take a deep breath. Think about what Jesus calls us to do in these situations. Pray, instead of shouting. And that's when it hit me. I knew what my word for 2016 was going to be.


In 2016, I am seeking peace. I want peace for myself- a nice calm mind and spirit. Some ways I'm working on this are spending time every evening reading my Bible. I got myself and two lovely friends pretty journals with reading plans printed in the front, and having the plans and knowing friends are reading along, too, has really helped me stay accountable. I know we're only two weeks into the new year, but I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far, and I'm encouraged by that! I'm noticing new things in often-read passages, and I'm making it a point to share a verse with my instagram followers and facebook friends every evening (I try to find pretty, stylized prints of them through Google!) I also started reading Jesus Calling: Morning and Evening, which was a Christmas gift from my mom. I have owned a copy of Jesus Calling for several years now, and I love the deeply personal way Sarah Young brings the words of the Bible to life. The nice thing about this updated version is that there is a devotional for the morning, and the evening, as the title suggests! There have been two days so far where I forgot to read the morning devotional in the actual morning hours, but I have faithfully kept up with it before bedtime, and I'm a little proud of that, too. :)

Not only do I want peace for myself, I want peace in my household, and peace in my world, too. I'm trying really hard to be conscious of the way I speak to my husband, and apologize if my tone gets harsh at times. I want to do as much as I can to make the world a better, more peaceful place, too. Sometimes that means sharing a news article with some good news, contradicting widely held prejudices or misconceptions. Sometimes that means ignoring a stupid comment or a rude post (I have a tendency to want to argue with people when I feel they're wrong. My moral compass, or whatever you want to call it, can be overbearing at times- I don't like it when things are wrong or unfair, and sometimes I feel compelled to fight about it.)

Perhaps most importantly, I want the people I love to have a little more peace, too. Several friends and family members have been facing many trials over the past weeks, months, and even years. My prayer is that I will be receptive to their needs and will be able to help them, even if it's in a small way, to have some peace. Maybe that means helping them move past a tough situation, or providing some comfort in a time of loss, or even just being an encourager when they share their frustrations and fears with me. I want my sponsor kids to have peace, too, and am specifically praying for more of that in their lives. This year I'm going to be working on some new project ideas for things to send them, and really trying to speak peace into their lives and specific situations. Most of my letters are about *my* life and what's going on with me, because I like to write several times a month (of course, response letters are written in direct response to letters I've received from them!) But this year, I want to try to get a little more info out of them regarding their hopes, their worries, and even the situations in their neighborhoods and countries. I want to better know how to pray for them and encourage them. I want them to have peace in their hearts and rest easy at night, even if their father is in jail, or their mother lost her job, or they're sharing a bed with multiple siblings, or they're concerned about their school performance or their future.

I'm really enjoying reading others' blog posts about their goals for the new year, and thrilled that very few of them seem to be the tired old favorites like "lose weight" or "spend less." There is so much more to life than the size of your clothing, or how much money's in the bank. :) Did you pick a word for 2016? I'd love to hear about it!

And just because I love you, take a look at this little cutie. Ashini lives in Sri Lanka and attends the Peace Makers child development center in her community (see what I did there?) Please join me in praying that this precious little girl finds a sponsor soon!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sweet Greetings from Indonesia, Peru, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and the Philippines

Happy Mail Call Monday!

I was so glad to hear from some of our kids this week! Our first letter is from our sweetie Merlyn in the Philippines!  

Merlyn is such a cutie and I love her to pieces. She puts lots of smiley faces in there. Merlyn said she is glad that I'm sending her so many letters. She also said she was glad that we made Christmas cards for the kids who don't have sponsors! She asked about "friend sister Hannah," and wants to know how many kids she sponsors, and sent her regards to her and the rest of our family and friends! She asked that we pray for her mom to have strength and energy to do her job, and asked that we pray for her because her eyes hurt. I asked in my reply if she needs glasses! She also said that there was a typhoon that hit her country recently, but Jesus protected them! She closed with "please take care always, sister Jessi! I love you! Bye!" 

We also got a surprise letter from Carlos in Peru! 

We have been hearing from Carlos a lot lately! This was a special letter that I had not received before- there was a printed letter from the project saying that they were celebrating Sponsor Appreciation week, and there was supposed to be a photo attached in an envelope (the envelope was empty- hopefully we will be able to get another copy!) Carlos also wrote his own letter, saying that he was thankful for all the things that I was able to send in his little backpack over the summer (he called the candy "snacks" which I thought was really cute, for some reason.) Carlos also mentioned El Nino in his letter, making him the third or fourth kid of ours around the world to talk about it. Carlos also said that he just finished up his first semester of technical college!!!! I am ridiculously proud of him! 

Earlier in the week, we heard from Reine in Burkina Faso! 

I like the BF letter templates- there's a free writing space, and then some prompts on the back! One of the prompts is a "question for my sponsor" and Reine always asks which country I live in. :) I will tell her again that it's the United States! She said that she is enjoying wearing her glasses and she would try to send me a picture of her wearing them (I hope she's able to!) She also sent her congratulations to my friend Jess on her baby, and said that her favorite animal is a dog. She especially enjoyed reading the letter I wrote about the Kentucky Derby, and seeing pictures of the horses! 

This week, we also heard from Caleb in Uganda! 

I knew this letter was from Caleb before I opened it, because I saw the word "crops" written in there. :) Caleb told me that his family only grows enough to eat themselves, which is an answer to a question I'd asked him. It's always nice to get responses! With the small financial gift he received recently, Caleb purchased rice, a new shirt, a hen, a dress shirt, and a soda! He also told me, in response to a letter about Bibles, that his family shares a Bible! Caleb's letter was written in August, three months before my friend Amy traveled to Uganda and dropped off some gifts for him and Amelia! Hopefully in his next letter I will get to hear what Caleb thought of his gifts, which included a Bible of his own. :) 

We also heard from our Indonesian kiddos, Prayer and Tasya this week! 

Prayer wrote that his family is doing really well, and he's always happy to hear from us! He said "I am so thankful to have you who always pray for me and my family." Prayer said that his family celebrated Easter at church, and they took eggs to church and wrote Bible verses on them! He also got to watch an Easter concert on TV at the project! Prayer said that his favorite food is "jagur" porridge, and he's never had pizza. He said his favorite animals are dogs and chickens, because they are really funny! Prayer also shared that he likes playing guitar, and asked that we pray for rain for his region because they are having a water crisis. 

Tasya said that her family is also doing really well. She said "I don't know about your friend, but I do love that baby Lilly. That baby is sooo cute!" How sweet! Tasya said she enjoys babysitting and has even babysat for her neighbor's little kid before. She has also watched her cousin's little baby (who smiled a lot!) but she can't watch it right now because they are away at their grandfather's house! She said she is praying for Lilly and for me and my parents. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sweet Greetings from India, Peru, and Kenya

Happy Mail Call Monday- and Happy New Year! After some technical difficulties, I'm finally getting this posted! :)

As the holidays came to a close, three more letters trickled in. The first was our first letter from Bijay in India! 

Unlike Sukumar's letter, Bijay's was written in Hindi. I'm glad to know which language these boys know, so I know what sorts of gifts I should send them! Bijay's letter was short but very sweet and affectionate. He also seems really excited to finally have someone writing to him, and said he is praying for us and asks that we pray for him, too. Based on the language he used, I am guessing that Bijay is a Christian, which is wonderful!! 

On Saturday, we got two letters. The first was from Carlos in Peru! 

Carlos also wrote a short letter this time, but he said that his sister celebrated her QuinceaƱera recently!! How neat! Carlos hasn't written about his sister before- and in this letter, he said that she's the only girl in the family, so she's very spoiled, but he loves her a lot. :) Carlos asked that we pray for his studies!
Lastly, we heard from dear Victor in Kenya!

Victor shared that his end of term grades were C's, average. I think this is great, but Victor is so hard on himself- he is always saying that his grades aren't good enough and he's going to try harder! My encouragement and praise for him is always tempered with reminders that trying his best is what's most important, and I am very proud of him and love him no matter what his grades are. Victor said that he has enjoyed reading more about my country from my letters, and he asked that we pray for Kenya because of the bad weather they have been experiencing recently. Mary's last letter mentioned the impending El Nino, and Victor said that some areas have had flooding and some people lost their houses. We are definitely praying for their recovery efforts!!