Surprise Blessings

During our 5-hour stay in Bogota between flights, we had the privilege of stopping by Compassion’s country headquarters.  We had very little time, and had been delayed by typical city traffic, unfortunately, but what a special treat it was.

The friendly faces of two men were wonderful to see, and Leo (on the right), who guides and coordinates all visits of Sponsors to Colombia, was eager to show us around and introduce us to other staff members, and to tell us stories of Compassion’s work here.

First, we met several employees in the sponsor/donor relations department.  They minister to 91,000 children in Colombia, and these are the ones that handle letters, photos, visits from sponsors, and the details of the child survival program, among others tasks.

Each sweet person here shared about their jobs and about some of the specific children involved in this ministry of “Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus’ Name.”

We saw where the letters are sorted to go to various child development centers across their country.

I think this is the very box where my letters go, when I write to Gerlan!

Thankfully, thousands of letters stop in these bins on the way to children that are eager to hear from their sponsors, and the number is growing, as the Compassion app (on phones) and online accounts have made it so much easier to send letters.  The ones that are sent digitally from your account or phone, are printed in the partnering country, just like these were, so they can be translated and handed to the child in person.

About this time I received the first surprise of the visit.  They introduced us to Luz Ariana, Manager of Support Engagement.  She manages all the other people on this floor, including Leo, who has the job she previously held.

Luz is a formerly sponsored child!  The moment I heard that, I asked to have my photos taken with her, because she’s a beautiful example of the difference that Compassion’s ministry makes in a child’s life.  Here she is — beautifully released from poverty and giving back to the very same ministry that rescued her!

If that wasn’t enough, the next desk we stopped at was another formerly sponsored child who is responsible for Child Protection.  She works with highly vulnerable children, working out the legal matters that need to occur, protecting them, speaking up on their behalf, and finding ways to prevent more atrocious acts of endangerment.  These may be children that are being abused, involved in child slavery or trafficking, critically ill or malnourished, or any other dangers that so often afflict the weakest, most vulnerable of all.  What a huge responsibility she has, but I know that her heart is big enough to meet the task, and that her trust and confidence is in the Lord, who knows and sees all, and has power to change the direction of a child’s life for the good.

Oh, how honored I felt to meet her, too!  She said that the photos on the walls throughout the building constantly remind all the employees of the reason for their work: these little faces are what it’s all about.

If that was not enough, we had another surprise coming when we went upstairs to the financial department — a third formerly sponsored child is working in this area.  There were many other employees that we met–techs, mechanics, administrative employees, and others–but at this point I don’t think I saw much more than these three — precious, capable, formerly sponsored children!  And this sweet, young girl, had a photo of her sponsor on her desk that she was quick to show us!  She wants to remember where she came from, who supported her in her release from poverty, and why she works on behalf of so many other children facing the same struggles that she faced growing up.

Aren’t these three girls beautiful?  Oh my, this really made my day!  I’m so very thankful for this ministry of Compassion International — for the integrity, perseverance, careful attention to detail, and for the fact that it’s always about individual children–not a number, not a face–but an actual, living being who was created with worth and value, and who we have the privilege of supporting through sponsorship, and developing a relationship with along the way.  How very grateful I am to all of you who sponsor.  If you don’t sponsor a child yet, and would like to, you can contact me or choose one here and I know their life (and yours) will never be the same!

 

Gerlan’s Project

It was a real blessing to visit the Child Development Centers Gerlan has attended.  We met the Project Director and others at the first project he attended, and then went by car to a new one that was “mothered” by the previous one (where he now attends).  This is an area that is not safe because of all the gangs in the community.  Even Gerlan cannot return home after dark; he goes to his brother’s home when necessary (we had hoped to go to his home but were advised that it was not safe).

The project was placed here to provide a safe place for sponsored children to hang out, learn, and receive benefits, such as meals, immunizations and tutoring.  The children started arriving shortly after we sat down with Gerlan and his mom.

The man in the blue shirt, above, is William.  He also spent the day with us and is Gerlan’s mentor.  He and his wife mentor about 90 teens; their work is so critical and special.   William is an important friend and support for Gerlan and many others.  He also said that Gerlan had changed a great deal after he was sponsored.  This is another young man that I met; he is one of Gerlan’s friends in the teen program.

As the children arrived they were given meals provided by these loving cooks.

What precious children!  Some of them sang a song for us!

This is William’s son, Joseph, and he is a born leader.  He had us in stitches.  I have no doubt he will be a Pastor or Project Director (or tutor like his dad) some day.

Everyone jumped up to play with a soccer ball in the courtyard.

Soon it was time for us to say farewell, but I will never forget these kids, safeguarded and protected by the presence of the Compassion project.  I had a chance to speak in a church soon after I returned home and six little kids from this project were sponsored, praise God!  There are more waiting; I can get child packets from this project if you’re interested.  Just let me know.

 

 

 

Not a Mistake

Children need to hear that they were created for a purpose; that they are not a mistake.  This is the message in the following video from the Dominican Republic and Compassion Canada:

Slave Fisherboys

This video from Compassion Australia is sad but powerful and hopeful in its message.  Thankfully this young man was rescued from child slavery and became a sponsored child instead.  Take a look:

Verified

The truths of the Bible are verified by many witnesses, as can be seen below:

For forty days after Jesus had suffered and died, he proved in many ways that he had been raised from death. He appeared to his apostles and spoke to them about God’s kingdom.  — Acts 1:3 [CEV]

31 Then for many days Jesus appeared to his followers who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. Now they are telling our people about him.  — Acts 13:31 [CEV]

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sinsaccording to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third dayaccording to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve.After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.  — 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 [NIV]

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.  — John 21:24-25 [NIV]

Sometime in our future there’s a party to end all parties.  The Lamb of God will invite us to a bash that rings out the old life forever and rings in a new unity with Him.  Hatred, fear, and pride will go suddenly stale, as we feast on love, joy and praise.  What a day that will be!  Hallelujah!  — One Year Book of Psalms

Finally, here are some Easter quotes from kids to brighten your day.

Have a great Resurrection Sunday this weekend!  It’s true!  He is risen!

 

Risen

The Easter story doesn’t end with the tomb; it ends with a miracle:

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body.Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.

12 Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. 13 They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.

14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.  Mark 16:1-14 [NLT]

33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”  

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.”

40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  — Luke 24:33-41 [NLT]

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  — John 20:24-29 [ESV]

 

Crucified

Here are the facts about Easter.  See for yourself:

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.  — Mark 15:16-20 [NIV]

22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.  — Mark 15:22-24 [ NIV]

29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.32 Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.

33 When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  Mark 15:29-39 [NASB]