Monthly Archives: May 2015

Giving HOPE in Felix

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dscf9142.jpgThe day began like any other first day on a Compassion Sponsor Tour. I was excited to wake up after a long day of travel and a short night of sleep. I couldn’t wait to get started meeting some beautiful Nicaraguan children and loving on them. It didn’t take long before my heart began to take a different direction. I didn’t sign up for this.
We were on the bus heading to our first project: NI155 in Felix, a community near Leon. It was on the bus that our leader spoke some words that I wasn’t expecting to hear: “We just received word that the baby of one of the mothers at the CSP (Child Survival Program) we are visiting has died. We just want you all to be aware and sensitive to the situation as we don’t know what type of mood we will encounter when we get there.”
I was appalled. I was disgusted. I was even a bit angry.
I asked God, “How can this be? This baby was part of a Child “SURVIVAL” Program. How could he die? Why did he die? This is not right.” All of my indignation and frustration was a good indication of an “American attitude” in my heart. An attitude that God was preparing to deal with that day. An attitude that, I admit, I didn’t think I was carrying. In all it’s ugliness, it was rearing its head. Ready to strike.
So, I tried to wrap my head around a beautiful young mother living in extreme poverty, whose heart was no doubt reeling from the devastating news of the death of her baby boy. Did she have the same questions as me? Did she doubt the word “survival” like me?
We arrived at the church and were met by the pastor and staff of the project. This place was incredible. In all of my travels, I had never met a pastor like this one. His love and compassion for his people and their children was astounding. Don’t get me wrong, the other pastors I have met have been wonderful, caring and compassionate people, but THIS one surpassed them all. I found myself so thankful that the beautiful people of Felix had a man like him to serve them and teach them and lead them. I hope they know how blessed they are.
So many things happened that day. My heart was on a roller coaster. I still can’t wrap my head around the conditions I saw in that little community. Remember, I have seen poverty on other trips. I just wasn’t prepared for Felix. In this community, I saw homes made of three walls…read that again: THREE walls. That means a large opening in the front. Some of these walls were made of plastic sheeting, bedsheets, tin, wood…whatever the family found available. The heat was sweltering that day, as I would suppose it is most days. I am sure it was close to 100 degrees that day. It was probably good that I didn’t have access to the weather channel, because not knowing seems to make it easier for me to handle when it comes to temperature. It is what it is. Deal with it. This neighborhood, for all of it’s lack, was definitely NOT lacking natural beauty. The shade from the full trees was refreshing. The vibrant colors from the flowering bushes were breathtaking. The joy on the faces of God’s people was contagious. And then it happened.
We were preparing to make our way to the homes that we were visiting that day. My leader says to me, “One of our home visits is to the mother whose baby died last night. She had signed up for a home visit before er baby died and didn’t want to back out of the opportunity. We think it would be best for your group to go there. Try to make it not awkward, and just show her love.” Ummmmm…..okay? Help me, God. How am I going to do this?
So, I prepare my family group, telling them whose house we are going to. And encouraging them to “not make it awkward”. Right. Help us, God.
When we got to her house, we walked inside and on my left was a little wooden casket. Open. With a sweet baby boy lying in it. Deep breath. Don’t overreact. It’s going to be okay. Nobody else saw it except for our translator. And that was good. So, we are standing there in this grieving mother’s home. Her mother was standing by her side. And they greet us. Thanked us for coming. Now it is our turn to talk. we are all tongue-tied. This is so different than any other home visit I had ever done. Our translator suggested we pray. Good idea. When that was done, again, tongue-tied. I suggested songs…let’s sing some peace into this wounded soul. So we sang. After that, it was as natural as could be to give hugs. So, I approached the grieving mother and her mother and embraced them as we wept for the sorrow of losing their precious baby boy. With the temperature well over 100 inside their home, we had sweat rolling off of us even while we were standing still. And as we embraced and cried, the baby boy’s mother passed out. Panic set in as many moved around trying to find the best way to help her. Leaves were picked from a plant outside to rub under her nose. My friend was waving her fan frantically to get some air flowing toward the mother. Silent prayers were being said. And she came to. A few seconds later, she passed out again. This time we left the house to allow more air inside. We stood outside and prayed as her friends, neighbors and family members watched. Later they said she passed out one more time before she was brought outside to get some fresh air. They set her down on a rocking chair. As she was recovering, I was turning the bracelet I had made before my trip around on my wrist. This bracelet said one word: HOPE. I liked this bracelet as the beads I used held a very special meaning for me. And that’s when my ugly heart began rearing it’s head. God said to me, “Give her the bracelet.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “My bracelet? I made this for myself. I like my bracelet. I really want to keep it.” “Give her the bracelet.” “Umm. I really don’t want to.” “Give it to her.” So, I did what any selfish American would do…I asked the translator if it would be “offensive” to give it to her, because surely the translator would know much better than God!
Oh, how it turns my stomach to tell this part of the story. That ugliness. Was I really that selfish? It was a bracelet. A simple bracelet. A bracelet that could easily be replaced. But my heart wanted to hang on to it because it was mine. Did I really care about the pain this beautiful young mother was experiencing? Was I really wrestling over something so trivial? Yes. I was.
So, when the translator said it would be a beautiful gesture, I moved forward immediately to present the bracelet to the grieving mother. I slipped it off my wrist, knelt in the sand in front of her and slipped it onto hers. I pointed to the word and said, “Hope. Esperanza.” And her face broke into a smile. A smile of thanksgiving for the gift of “Hope.” And her mother looked at me and smiled and thanked me. And we hugged again.
And I saw why God wanted me to give that bracelet up. I saw that that bracelet was never for me, as I originally thought. And yet, in a way, it was. Because God showed me how He can make beautiful things out of ugliness if we allow Him. He showed me that to follow Him, I need to give up my right to my “self” and my “stuff”. He showed me that “giving HOPE” sometimes is a very tangible thing. He showed me that, as much as I thought I hadn’t signed up for this experience, HE had signed me up for it. He had His reasons for taking me to that young mother’s house. Along with her, I also found healing that day.
Not a bad thing to sign up for.

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Closed Doors and Open Windows

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Our children had the blessing of attending a Christian school.  One of them from 5th-12th grade.  One of them from 2nd-12th grade.  One of them from Kindergarten-2nd grade.  This school was very small.  It was a school where our children were nurtured in the Word and ways of the Lord.  It was a family.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was perfect for us during that stage of our lives.  Our daughter was a member of the last graduating class in 2008.  Closed doors.

My husband was a member of the Board of Directors for this school.  Making the decision to close the school was not easy, but it was wise.  The economy in our area just didn’t support a school such as ours.  For a few years, a local preschool program rented the building from the Board which brought in some income as the Board was trying to decide what the future held for a Christian school such as our humble little one.  In 2013, the preschool organization decided they wanted to buy the building.  Open windows.

The bylaws which the Board of Directors needed to abide by stated that any money left in the account when they disbanded was to be given to Christian organizations that had something to do with education.  Each member of the Board was allocated a certain amount and given the freedom to choose the organization that they wanted their portion given to.  My husband chose Compassion International.

Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) to be exact.  Compassion’s LDP is an amazing program!  I had personally met some LDP students while on sponsor tours and at the Advocate conferences I attended.  I desperately wanted to have the chance to pour into the lives of these dynamic young adults as they studied in University to become all that God intended them to be.  But I needed a major act of God.

And God did it.

My husband was given a check with a sizeable amount written on it.  All we had to do was choose our students.  It was fun to read through so many biographies of so many deserving students.  To pray and ask God which students He wanted us to have in our lives.  We knew we were going to Colombia that year, so we chose Reyner from Cartagena.  Ecuador also held a deep place n my heart, so we chose Marco from Machala.  We were able to help these two fine men through their entire college career.  And we still had money left over!  So, we chose Elkana from Kenya, who only had a little over a year left.  And we still had money left.  So each of them got money to use for a laptop computer or another necessity for their classes.

Recently, Reyner made the choice to leave the LDP.  It was his choice.  We were disappointed.  Closed door for him.  We hope he remains in school to finish out his dream, but that is a decision he will have to make.  We know that we poured ourselves into him through a visit with him and many letters.  We showed him Jesus every chance we could.  We love him still.  That will never change.  But we had some funds left over from his account that needed to be allocated somewhere else.  Open windows.

Again we looked through biographies and asked God who He wanted in our lives.  That is when we chose Rebecca and John, both students in Uganda.  They both only had a few months left.  Then another open window.

We learned that Marco, our student in Ecuador, would be finishing his studies MUCH earlier than anticipated.  Open window.

Back to the website to look at more students.  It was then that I saw Pablo from Nicaragua.  I could hardly believe my eyes!  Just a few months before seeing his picture on the website, I had met this young man.  I was on a sponsor tour in Nicaragua, and Pablo was one of the students who addressed our group.  To say he was a dynamic speaker would be an understatement.  I knew that we had to use the extra funds we had to sponsor Pablo.  So we did.

Never in my wildest Compassion dreams, did I ever expect to be able to have even ONE LDP student in our Compassion family!  But God, in His Ephesians 3:20 way, saw fit to add SIX of them to our hearts!

Sometimes closed doors can be really hard.  Even heart-wrenching.  I am so thankful that God opens windows to soothe the pain and heart-ache.

DSCF7234ReynerEC9800345-Fullshot-200w MarcoKE9800402-Fullshot-200wElkanaJohn-LDP Uganda 2015John Rebecca-LDP Uganda 2015RebeccaDSCF9312Pablo (in white shirt)

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for or imagine…to Him be the glory, both now and forevermore.”  Ephesians 3:20