God is Real–Part Five

How do I know God is real?  It simple: I’ve experienced Him in amazing ways.  Today’s example is pretty zany and funny.  I was in the Dominican Republic with my friend, Mindy, to introduce her to her sponsored child (I had already met him on a previous trip, and Mindy had become his sponsor).  We were headed to the Haitian border the next day but on this particular day we were returning from a trip by van into the country.  During a rest stop I went to get back on the bus, not knowing that they were hosing it down on the opposite side.  With a great whoosh! all the mud, grease and grime came flying up from under the van and splattered all over my khaki pants.  They were blackened from the grease and mud.

In the morning, after my shower, I said to Mindy, “I’m going to wear the same pants that got splattered yesterday, because I’ll just get them dirty again today,” and put them on.  She said, “Those aren’t the same pants; they’re perfectly clean.”  I looked down and she was right.  She didn’t believe they were the same pants, and we argued while I let her look through my luggage because I didn’t have any other khakis.  But they were now spotless.  She exclaimed, “Jesus did the laundry while we were sleeping!”  Now, I know that seems ridiculous, but think about it:  as we discussed, we were heading to child development centers to visit precious Compassion kids near the Haitian border.  Perhaps it was important that we appear clean and spotless, representing our Lord, and also give honor to the children, by giving them our best.  That was the only reason we could think of for the little “miracle” that day.  Our God is real!  But the next story is going to be amazing–watch for it on Friday!

For previous posts in my “God is Real” series, click below:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Four (pain)

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Exciting News!

I received some very exciting news yesterday!  Junior is returning to his project in the Dominican Republic!  I shared with you earlier about Junior’s tearful decision to leave his project, which left me quite concerned, since he had about three years left to complete his education.  I had the opportunity to speak with Junior’s Project Director and with the Project Facilitator for his area as well when I visited his country in October.  

It was really quite an amazing story.  I don’t want to go into personal details about Junior’s reason for leaving the project, but the fact that God brought his Project Facilitator to the Global Advocate’s Conference gave me hope.  When I found out he was present, I introduced myself to him.  He listened to my concerns about Junior and said he would follow up.  A day later, while I was visiting with Mindy and her sponsored children, a man tapped me on the shoulder (out of the clear blue) and introduced himself as Junior’s Project Director.  I was amazed!  I have no idea how he found me, as no one was there to introduce us, but we found a quiet place to sit and visit about my concerns.  He also promised to do all he could to work out a solution to the problems.  

julijrWell, one of these men e-mailed me yesterday to let me know that Junior has agreed to return to his project.  Not only that, he has accepted Jesus as his Savior!  This precious man has also promised to see that Junior has follow-up counseling and discipleship about his decision to accept Christ.  Junior is being placed in a technical school where he will learn skills that will make it possible for him to be financially independent as he enters adulthood.  Remember Compassion’s Outcomes for each student?  These are joyfully coming together for Junior this very week, because a Sponsor and a Project Director are not willing to “give up” on Junior.  I’m so happy for him, and can’t wait to get the next letter he writes.

All these matters have proved to me, again, that Compassion really does take their commitment to the child and to the sponsor seriously.  I’m so glad to partner with an organization that believes in the dignity of the poor, and that treats each child, not as a number or a face, but as a person, dearly loved by God.  I’ve seen this time and again in all my years as a Compassion Advocate and Sponsor.  The careful attention to detail and to the needs of each individual child is amazing.  Thank you, Compassion International.  Hope Lives!  Check out other stories about Hope at this site — great new stories here!

Meeting Junior

In a continuation of the story about our trip to the Dominican Republic in January, I need to tell you now about visiting our sponsored children, Junior and Francisco.  Nothing could have prepared us for what happened.

We spent a whole day with both boys and their mothers.  I didn’t realize Junior would be much taller than me now; he had been so small five years ago.  His mother, Rubia, came with him as she did last time.  Rubia and I are fast friends now — we’ve cried together, hugged and shared our concerns for our children.  Unknown to me until that month, Junior was leaving the Compassion project, and we would not see each other again.  I had known all along that he was special to me, but I had never dreamed I was just as special to him.  He cried nearly the entire day that we were together.  His mother and I cried just as much.  He and I cried on each others’ shoulders most of the time.  It was a very bitter-sweet reunion.  I told him I would never stop praying for him, and that God would fulfill his plans for him, wherever he goes.  Junior was especially sad that we would not be able to write letters to each other any more.  So was I.  You can imagine how difficult it was to part ways that day, but how grateful we all were that God had brought us together again one last time.

Mindy and Francisco had a wonderful day together.  They had taken us to a ranch where we could look at various animals, use the swimming pool, play games, or have a picnic lunch.  We found out that Francisco’s family were Christians now!  Remember how the neighbor had said, “They need to know Jesus?”  Well, they did come to know Him, and the family was doing much better.  The father still could not do the small appliance repair that he had done so well before his accident (which severely injured his hands), but Francisco was learning the skills from his dad.  The most special thing to me about being with Francisco and his mother, was that every time she walked past me she would put her hand on my shoulder, or give me a hug or pat my back.  She knew I was the one that had gone home five years ago saying, “This boy needs a sponsor.”

On our way home from the day, after Francisco and his mother gave a tearful farewell to both of us, Mindy and I were riding on the bus and looking through all the hundreds of photos and movies she had taken.  We giggled to see Francisco jabbering away in Spanish to the camera and then running to do a cannon ball into the swimming pool.  We laughed about Francisco’s first ride on the back of a small burro, and watched him being thrown about in the swimming pool by the wonderful young man that translated for us.  But in a few minutes, I heard Mindy gasp, and she said, “I just deleted all my photos!”  We couldn’t retrieve them, and they were lost forever, except in our minds.  After a few moments, the only thing I could think of to say was, “God has just brought you down to Francisco’s level of poverty.  He didn’t have hundreds of photos to take home from this day.”  She liked that.  It was true.  Now, those memories stay in our minds even stronger, perhaps, than if we’d had her photos to review.

Finally, Mindy had said the whole week that she wanted to sponsor an additional older child.  Out of the child packets available to us, she chose Oscar.  I had been trying all week to get child packets in her hand for the projects our group was going to, but she randomly chose Oscar.  I found out our group was not going to his project, which was #247.  Our bus was going to another project 30 miles away — we were on the way, and the group leader was standing in the front of the bus describing the other project to us.  I was sitting in the back of the bus praying, “Take us to #247…please take us to #247!”  But then I remembered this wasn’t right, and I said, “No, Lord — You know which child Mindy should sponsor.  You take us to the place You want us to go.”  I opened my eyes, and our bus pulled up to Project #247!  I jumped out of my seat & exclaimed, “Mindy — let’s go find Oscar!” — and the rest of the amazing, emotional story is told on a previous post here.  Oscar was sponsored that day by Mindy, and his life drastically changed.

This week, we hope to see Francisco and Oscar again.  Can you imagine our joy and excitement?  I look forward to seeing Francisco and Oscar’s mothers again, if they are able to come.  The children are always accompanied by a Project Director, Pastor or Teacher when they come to visit their sponsors.  Sometimes a parent accompanies them as well.  It will be a very special week, indeed!  We will keep you posted about our activities this week — and share more photos!

Travels With Mindy

I’m continuing my account of former visits to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International.  My friend, Mindy, had asked me to go to the Dominican Republic to introduce her to Francisco, the boy she’d sponsored for five years.  The sponsor tour was in January of this year.  Strangely enough, I was not excited about going — I wanted her husband to go in my place, but it was not to be.  Once we got there, however, God showed me every day why He wanted me to be on this trip.  One of the first things our guide said to us was, “You aren’t here by an accident…you were chosen by God to be here.”  It was just what I needed to hear!  It was even written in the journal that Compassion gave us for our trip.  

We visited a very poor area of the country, and saw our first three Compassion projects.  We met a very special Pastor whose daughter, Anabel, had been a formerly sponsored child (she’s a Doctor now).  When she was sponsored, he was an alcoholic and was not a Christian.  Through her sponsorship, the family came to Christ and he now leads a church and oversees the sponsored children in the project connected with his church.  Anabel’s husband is also a Pastor, and is building a large church with rooms for Compassion’s ministry.  Look how much can happen when just one child is sponsored!

We also met other formerly sponsored children that work at the Country Office, are Project Directors or are Pastors.  We met some very impressive students that are in Compassion’s Leadership Development Program — these young men and women truly have the potential to change their communities through godly leadership principles, higher education and servanthood.  I can’t begin to describe to you how special these young people are!  Here is a photo of five of the students with their Director (on the right), provided by Michael Patterson:

We also visited some very special Child Survival Programs, which were mentioned in a previous post.  I’m looking forward to telling you about our children that we visited — Francisco and Junior — but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Neighbors in Crisis: Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Let’s not forget our neighbors — Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both countries are in a major state of emergency right now. Let me ask you a simple question. If you were sitting out a hurricane, which house would you rather sit it out in?

Housing in Greenville, NC

Housing in Greenville, NC

Housing in the Dominican Republic

Housing in the Dominican Republic

Housing in Charleston, SC

Housing in Charleston, SC

Housing in Haiti

Housing in Haiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t place these photos here to make you feel sorry for these people. I place them here to make the point that these countries are in a very serious crisis right now. They have weathered not just one tropical storm, but three — Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav,  and Tropical Storm Hanna.  Meanwhile, Hurricane Ike is on its way this weekend.  In addition, the world is in a severe Global Food Crisis as well, and Haiti is one of the hardest hit areas of all.

When we were in the Dominican Republic in January, we met a family whose children had not eaten all day.  What would have happened to Oscar’s family if Mindy had not sponsored him on the spot?  His letters to her now tell about good meals at the project, support for the family, a tutor who works with him on his studies (this teenager had never attended school until now), and the fact that his baby brother (whom we felt would die shortly) was “doing better.” 

We were also in homes and Compassion projects near the border of Haiti, and then met some unsponsored children on the street.  When we asked our guides what theses children eat, we were told that when supplies are low, the mothers make mud cookies for their children.  Mud cookies are made of dirt, grass, salt and water, and are one of the worst items a desperate mother can feed her children.

I can’t help but think that these are some of our neighbors that Jesus spoke about in Luke 10:27:  “He answered:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 

How do we love our neighbors?  By coming to their aid when they are in crisis, in suffering and in desperation.  Here are several things you and I can do through the trustworthy ministry of Compassion International:

With that said, I do want to point out something that Ephraim Lindor (of the country staff in Haiti) said in a recent interview on the Compassion Blog.  This is what he was asked:  “How has the global food crisis affected children in Haiti?  Which would be the most important option for sponsors who want to help – to sponsor an additional child, to send a family gift to our child, or to send a donation to Compassion specifically for the food crisis?”   Here was his answer:

“The food crisis has affected most of the Haitian families especially the lower class with low income. Considering the unemployment rate (75 percent) and the lack of government capacity to respond to the crisis, we can assume that the children are the most vulnerable as many of them can no longer go to school and find food to eat as they should.

With that in mind, my personal opinion is that the best option would be to sponsor an additional child. The advantage of such a decision is that the child will have both, the opportunity to go to school and also to find food through the Compassion response to the food crisis program.”

 

So there you have it. The best response on our part is still to make that commitment to sponsor a child — support them financially, provide for their education, develop a relationship with them, and keep in touch through personal letters. If you haven’t sponsored a child yet, you need to begin with this crucial step. If you do sponsor children already, you might consider giving to the funds listed above, or sponsoring another child in need.

Finally, I would be glad to entertain any questions you might have about this ministry, so please let me know if you have questions.  I have sponsored children since 1988, and have been a volunteer Child Advocate since 1994.  I am convinced that this ministry is working with integrity, and that it works.

We Found a Body Lying in a Field

“There’s a woman’s body lying out in the field!”  This is what I heard as I finished reading my Bible yesterday morning.  I was staying with friends and volunteering at the Compassion International booth at the Downpour Festival in Great Falls, MT.  My friend’s husband, Jake, had rushed into the house to get a cellphone.  I dropped the Bible, grabbed my cell phone and rushed out with the others, dialing 911.  As we neared the body, I fully expected to begin doing CPR with my friend, Mindy, who works in a hospital and knows CPR well.

It was a young teenager, flat on her back with an open cell phone beside her head.  Another man had tried to awaken her to no avail.  Jake had tried as well, but she was unresponsive.  Bernice and Mindy sat down beside her, checked her pulse and began talking to her.  Finally, she looked up in a stupor and tried to get her bearings.  As we questioned her she began to talk to us and eventually sat up, but none of her answers made any sense.  Gradually, she began to become more coherent and could carry on a conversation, although she was not sure why she’d spent the night out in a field on her back.  Bernice was so sweet to her — saying things like, “I’m a mother myself, so I can’t help but be concerned about you and care about getting you some help.  Where is your mother?”  The girl tried to reach her mother on my cell phone, but there was no answer.

When the police arrived (for the EMT’s had decided from our report that she didn’t need an ambulance after all), they began to question her as well.  Sadly, she said, “I’m just a drunk who got lost out here last night and couldn’t find my way home.  Are you going to charge me with an MIP?”  She was 18 years old.

The police took statements from us and offered to take her home.  When we returned to the house, we stood in a circle and prayed for her.  We couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between this precious, troubled girl and the teens that were raising their hands in worship to the music of Jeremy Camp.  We thought of the ones that were rushing to our table to sponsor needy children.

We felt she most likely had a drug-induced condition, because we didn’t smell alcohol, and it had taken her so long to respond to us and to gain any coherency.  We even wondered if she’d been raped out on that hill, because she was buttoning up her pants as she sat up.  We wondered how a girl could be out all night and not have a parent reporting her missing, or even in range of a phone call.

We thought of the teens I wrote about here that we’d met the weekend before in Billings — the ones rushing out in an ambulance to minister to the homeless.  Totally unexpected, we’d had our own “EMT Situation” as well, except that this one almost literally came to us rather than the other way around.  We felt God had allowed this to happen right then and there so that we could lift her up (literally) and be praying for her.

What was my scripture that I’d abruptly dropped on the bed that morning?  “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”  Ecclesiastes 4:10 (ESV)

Will you please join us in prayer for this young girl?  We have no way to minister to her now, except by our prayers.  But given the fact that God placed her in our pathway, we believe He is reaching out to her to lift her up with His strong hand.  What would you pray for a girl in this situation that you know you’ll never see again in this world?

We Know Where They Live — We Know Where They Sleep

My friend, Mindy, and I just attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Billings, MT, to volunteer at the Compassion International table.   Several children were sponsored and some people asked specifically about the Leadership Development ProgramMichelle Tolentino’s testimony had a huge impact on several people.  We enjoyed listening to the speakers throughout the two days, and gained some real good principles for life.

When the conference was over, we left to look at another large church and found it to be open.  We saw an ambulance outside, and wondered if someone was hurt.  Then, since it didn’t look too serious, we went on into the church to have a look around.  Teenagers were coming to and from the ambulance carrying containers, holding doors for us, and being friendly.  When we left, I happened to notice what the ambulance said on the side.  Take a look below.

I said to the kids, “This is so cool!  Can I take photos?”  They agreed, and then I asked the magic question:  “What are you going to do?  What are you using it for?”  I figured it was for fun youth outings, object lessons, camps, etc.  I never expected the answer they gave —  “Oh, we’re going out to take food and supplies to homeless people.  We know where they live.  We know how to find them.  We know where they sleep.”

We were stunned.  “Are you kidding?” I said.  “That is what we’re all about — We’re Compassion Advocates, and we’re all about helping children in poverty!”  One of the girls said, “Oh!  Compassion International?  I just sponsored a child through Compassion a week ago, and I have a question for you.  How do I send in my payment?”  This precious young girl was not only helping the poor in her own town, but also abroad.  What a beautiful example!

Well, well.  God had engineered this meeting at the exact right moment — she had a question I could answer.  But greater than that was the example these kids were to us.  We were so touched by their service, that when they took off quickly (you could almost hear the siren wailing and see the lights blinking as they literally peeled out of the parking lot to help others in need) we could only sit in the car and cry.  Once we started to compose ourselves, we had the thought that we should’ve asked to go with them, or at least to have been “ambulance chasers.”  How blessed it would’ve been to watch this outpouring of love in action.  We actually went out looking for them, but could not find them.  They were with the poor and needy.  We know where they live.  We know how to find them.  We know where they sleep.  As it turns out, these kids go out at least two times/week for three hours each time. There was a street dance in town that night, but they weren’t at the street dance; they were being channels of love to others in need. 

This was a great example of leadership, one that will stay with us forever.  One fact that God brought to our mind is that adults are often willing to send money, but young adults go to the need itself.  I’m so glad God arranged for us to come across this example of Servant Leadership.  Would you like to follow their lead?

When I got home, I found this “EMT” outreach online, and they even have a great video showing their ministry.  Check it out — but better have a kleenex handy!