Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Million Reasons Why

In my experience, people usually have one of two motives when they ask you why you do something. The first is genuine curiosity, usually because they're considering trying something out for themselves. "Why did you pick that particular vacuum cleaner?" "Why do you go to that church?" "Why did you upgrade your phone so soon after getting your last one?" The second reason is usually a questioning of motives. They might be trying to find out what makes you tick, or they might think you have some sort of secret plan in mind. But have you ever noticed that, if you're doing a "good" thing and someone asks you why, it's almost always the second reason?

We don't ask why people apply for promotions when they are happy with their jobs, but we ask why they'd pay for the car behind them in the drive thru lane. We don't ask why a family of three needs a four bedroom, 2,000 square foot house, but we ask why people give up their weekends for community service. We don't question our friends if they share their purchases on social media, like makeup that requires a carefully timed pre-order or a subscription box to have snacks delivered to your door each month; but they will ask you why you're loaning money to a stranger on Kiva or packing a bag with Christmas gifts for a child who "may not really need them."

People ask me why I sponsor so many kids, and why I write to even more. I think that when people ask me why, they're falling into that second category. Not maliciously, but they really don't understand why anyone would do that. They might think it's kind of weird. They remind me I could pay off my bills a lot sooner if I didn't commit so much of my income to sponsorship. They wonder aloud how I have time to take care of my responsibilities AND write a hundred letters every week or so. They ask why I can trust a large charity to use my money wisely when they've been burned by non-profits themselves in the past.

The answer to all of those questions is the same. Why? Because I've seen what Compassion is doing. I saw a glimpse of it in the letters I received prior to March 2014, when I took my first trip with Compassion to Tanzania. But I really, truly saw, with my own eyes, on that trip and the one that followed, in Honduras last October. Why do I give so much of my paycheck to Compassion? Because with my money, they're giving life. They're feeding hungry bellies and hungry souls. My money is buying food, providing medicine, keeping people safe.

Why do I spend so much time each week writing letters? Because the recipients of those letters are living, breathing human beings who deserve to be encouraged, prayed for, and dearly loved.

Why do I write to so many kids? Wouldn't just a few be enough? Because I've held the hands of kids who are living with unimaginable burdens, dealing with things no adult should live with, let alone children. And I've heard them talk about their friends and classmates receiving letters, while they receive none. I've heard the project staff share that some kids pray to God to receive letters, ask why their sponsor doesn't love them, confide that they worry God doesn't care, either, because he doesn't answer those prayers.

Why do I trust Compassion to be good stewards of my money? Because they've been doing this a long time- more than half a century, actually- and they do it well. Because I've seen the facilities and the offices and the homes of the beneficiaries and I know that smart people are using that money in smart ways. I've spent time with the office staff, the project facilitators, and the pastors who are dedicating their lives to eliminating extreme poverty by making life better for these children, making sacrifices of their time, their skill, and often their own money to lift them up.

Why do I do these things? After seeing what I've seen, how can I not? How can I ignore the teenager shoving half eaten pieces of chicken into her bag to take home to her hungry siblings? How can I ignore the little girl giving a tour of her neighborhood, casually pointing out who's been murdered at which home? How can I ignore the young lady who shares that she was used in local witchcraft practices and rituals- some that resulted in death- before the project rescued her and showed her Jesus? How can I ignore the boy who humbly opens his tiny home to visiting sponsors, admitting that he lives there by himself, in the dark, because his family moved on and didn't want him to join them? How can I ignore the family of seven living in the earthen house roughly the size of my kitchen? I can't. Knowing what I know, I can't NOT do anything. My heart, my conscience, my faith won't let me.

I hope that someday all my friends, family, and acquaintances will go from asking me "why" out of incredulity and start asking "why" because they want to get in on this themselves. Maybe it's time I start asking why not? Why don't you carve out a little space in your budget for an embarrassingly affordable commitment? Why don't you take a look at the children waiting for a sponsor sometime, praying over them and keeping your heart open to the possibility that God might want you to welcome one of them into your family? If you're already a sponsor, why not take the time today to write a letter or card, or even send an extra gift to your sponsor child- you'd be amazed at how far even $10 can go! These days you can't even get a fast food meal at some restaurants for that amount of money. Why not skip the carry out or the coffee run, just once, and provide your sponsor child with a new pair of shoes, school fees, or food for their family?

If you have your own "whys," know that you can always share them with me, and I'll do my best to answer them. If I don't know the answer, I'll find someone who will! And in the meantime, indulge me and take a look at these sweet, precious faces of kids who are waiting for their own sponsors. Maybe you're the answer to their own "whys."

Patrick in Rwanda has been waiting 416 days for a sponsor.

Richard in Tanzania has been waiting 365 days for a sponsor. 

Leidy in Colombia has been waiting 307 days for a sponsor.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"What's-a goin' on." -Bret Michaels

Hello! I know I've posted a few project letters from Compassion recently, but not much else. I ran out of steam with my writing challenge- the prompts were getting weird, like "list ten things you want," as in a shopping list. I didn't like it so I didn't keep up with it or seek out something else to replace it. Sorry to disappoint. I had decided that I would check back in and share about my letters every other month, or maybe quarterly, since January was pretty slow for letters from our Compassion kids. It will be like an extended "Compassion Joys" post! :)

As for the rest of my life, things have been kind of a mess lately. I keep wanting to come back and blog, and then it doesn't happen. I think it's like when you're feeling down and really want to talk to someone but you don't want to burden them or put them in an awkward position. Or, conversely, if you're having a really good time and want to share it with someone but you don't want to sound like you're bragging. Sometimes it's just hard to share what I'm thinking and feeling.

Right now, life is weighing rather heavily on me. We are a bit stalled in the adoption process as we haven't yet been able to work out our schedules to take the parenting classes, which is our next step. I am really hoping we will be able to do this in April, but Brandon says he still doesn't know if he can make that work for his work schedule. I say he probably could, since he's the boss, but what do I know? It's also worth noting that when we do attend those parenting classes, it will be full steam ahead, so to speak, for pushing our paperwork through. That means we'd be looking at a matter of months until we received a referral and got to meet our kids, assuming the social workers found a match for us quickly. Since we stated in our paperwork that we are willing to take 2-3 kids, and up to age 9, we have broadened the field for who we might be matched with, meaning the odds are in our favor to be matched quickly. That is SO exciting but also a little intimidating! That means we have to be as ready as possible by the time we start those classes. And in our case, it means replacing my car. We both drive older cars (1996 and 1999!) that have their own issues, cosmetic and otherwise (pieces are literally falling off of Brandon's) and mine doesn't even have a back seat. I have to have a back seat in order to have kids. And buying a new (or new to us) car is a big financial commitment. We are just now getting used to frequently having enough money to both pay our bills and feed ourselves, and I for one experience quite a bit of anxiety thinking about adding a new bill to pay when we've been working so hard to eliminate bills (paying off student loans and medical bills.) You might be thinking "hey, just wait until you have kids! They're expensive!" And that's kind of the point. I just need to calm down about a lot of it and trust Brandon to take care of us and also be careful about my spending. I'm getting there, but it's still new and I feel shaky with it.

One thing I was really looking forward to this year was getting a new job. I really, really thought I was going to get a new job. A full time position opened up at my branch, and I applied for it and was so close. But another employee in the system who has been in the system longer than me also applied, and my boss gave the job to her. She met with me after she made the decision and told me she really wanted me to have it, but felt this was the most fair thing. I took the news better than I thought I would. I feel frustrated because the last time I was in this position, I had the experience and deserved the job over the person who got it, but I wasn't liked (for reasons beyond my control. Those reasons being that I worked for an incompetent loon and the other person who wanted the job is a she-demon. But I digress.) This time I was liked and appreciated and valued, and.....I lacked the experience? Twelve years in the same job, doing excellent work and being appreciated by my boss doesn't stack up well enough against a mystery person who interviewed well and has more experience. The person who got the job is so sweet and friendly and I really like her as a person. But I wrestle with this sometimes. I'm not mad at her at all. And not mad at my boss, either. Just frustrated that things at some other libraries are bad enough that my coworker felt she had to get out or she was going to die, so she moved over here, knocking me out of that place. I struggle, too, because I have wanted this for over a decade and it would be a life changing opportunity. I would have had all my debt, save my mortgage, paid off in about a year and a half. What would I have been able to do after that? What could I have accomplished? I could sponsor more kids, donate more to my preferred local charities, help family members in need, pursue more adoptions without hesitation. And it drives me a little crazy that this "dream" of mine is something so attainable, by many standards, and it still dangles just outside my reach. It might sound a little dramatic, but over and over in my head, for the past month or so, I just keep hearing "you can't win."

I've been struggling with my depression since I got the news that I am staying in my current position at work. But for whatever reason, it's not because of the job, really. I don't know why, but missing out on this has caused the burden in my heart about being childless to grow exponentially. It HURTS. It's so heavy. And I don't know what to do about it. I am hiding a lot of photos on Facebook right now because I have these moments, or days, when I cannot stand seeing anything about anyone's life. It's not always that way, but it's happening more than I want it to. It's not bitterness, I don't think, because I'm not mad about it, but I am sad about missing out. Like if you had a bunch of friends who were excellent chefs and bakers and they were always posting about what they were cooking and eating, and you had crazy weird food allergies that meant you couldn't have ANY of that right now, and you really loved them before and KNOW what you're missing out on. It's just too much sometimes, and I don't want to see it. "I really thought I'd be having cake for my birthday, and birthday cake has always been my favorite part of those celebrations. But I can't have cake anymore, and everyone around me is posting photos of their cake. It's making me sad so I don't want to see it right now." Only times a thousand, because family is more important than cake. If you have kids and we are friends and you feel bad reading this, please don't. I'm still liking photos (sometimes!) and caring about your life. But at the same time, I am growing really weary of my life not being the way I feel it is supposed to be. It's incredibly irritating that God has placed these desires on my heart and then continually holds the realizations of those desires out of reach.

So my depression is bad right now. Not "I'm not leaving the house" bad, but "I'm super emotional all the time and everything is either irrationally irritating or irrationally heartbreaking at the moment." I keep getting choked up when I think of sad things that have happened to a fandom character or the fact that my dog is getting old. Completely out of the blue. Or I want to tell people off for stupid little things. I'm definitely ready for this cloud hanging over my head to dissipate or move on or even shrink a little bit. I want to feel normal again, whatever normal is. And I want to be content. I worry sometimes that I sound discontent. I'm a little impatient, for sure, but it is really hard feeling stuck in one place when you know- KNOW- that God has something else planned for you. Bigger and better things. And you don't know WHEN they are coming and it feels like it's already been an awfully long time.

So that's my update for now. If you are the praying type, I'd really appreciate your prayers. I feel like I ask for them a lot, and that I ask for the same things over and over again: peace, contentment, happy feelings if things don't work out the way I think they will. I know it's redundant, but I really do want and need that, and I hope you'll keep praying for me while I wait.

Project Letter: GU-996

We recently received a letter from Bauner's project in Guatemala! All the photos are from Compassion's website.

My name is Javier C., pastor of Iglesia Bautista "Palestina," which partners with Compassion to (the project where your sponsored child attends. We are located in the region of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Cordial greetings! I wish you blessings in all that you do.

As a pastor, I thank you for your monthly support to Bauner. He receives it with smiles and even tears in his eyes. All our beneficiaries have their own Holy Bibles, uniforms, school supplies, and delicious food received in their classrooms. We thank God for what you send Bauner.

We live in a region of hot weather. Our population speaks Queqchi and their educational level is sixth grade; just some students reach ninth grade. The main sources of income are corn, achoite (annatto) and chili farming. We count on water, electricity, transportation, and general dwelling. There are asphalted roads where heavy transportation travels. However, we are mainly affected by thefts, family problems, and violence.

My vision for this church is to be a united church, with love to the neighbor, firm in their Christian faith, reaching all families everywhere through Gospel preaching. My vision for this center is to show the way of truth in Jesus, teaching registered boys and girls how to generate income for their families and good health practices.

Compassion's program has impacted our beneficiaries, since they are now responsible, know Jesus, love God, and are respectful wherever they go, different from those children who are not part of the program, who are irreverent, don't know Jesus, and misbehave everywhere. Last year 30 children came to Christ at the center.

Regarding the health area, 27 beneficiaries are recovering from a contagious disease and we are helping them through medical treatment and follow ups, thanks to your help. Another girl had a surgery due to a hernia, and thanks to God all of them are now stronger and healthier. Their parents are also very grateful to God and to sponsors.

We have 273 registered children, and 89 of them are attending regular services at church. 88 beneficiaries have sponsors, and 28 families belong to the Baptist church and are now active members.

Letters between children and sponsors are very useful, since they can be in direct communication with one another. Children are able to thank their sponsors for their monthly contribution, with their own words, and learn about their health, job, etc. Boys and girls become really excited when they receive a letter and are encourage to participate in activities in the center. However, those who don't receive any correspondence feel sad and ask why their sponsors don't write to them. Please make a time to write often to Bauner; just a few lines means so much to them.

I ask your prayers for the provision of the necessary funds to solve the problem of the church's land. Pray for the 27 beneficiaries who were affected by the virus to be strengthened and completely healed. Also pray for jobs to those parents who don't have a job. Thank you very much for your contribution to our children. Thank you also for reading this letter. May God bless your paths and your family.

If you're interested in sponsoring a child from Bauner's project, please consider sweet little Sonia! She has two siblings at home and helps her family take care of their animals! Read more about her here.