Readjusting to the First World. {A Guest Post}

Two weeks ago, I traveled with Compassion International to Tanzania and in the course of 5 days my heart and emotions were completely transformed. And I can’t seem to find my way back.

 

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to process all that I heard and saw in Tanzania. Part of the problem stems from the fact that I poured so much of my heart and emotion into my writing while I was there that I’m having a hard time writing since I’ve returned. I have actually wondered if maybe I have written all that I can. After seeing and experiencing all of that emotional energy in just one week, I’m not sure if I have much left to write about.

 

But than I remember the kids – children who exude love, who pray with urgency, who laugh freely and live life under the banner that it’s all about Jesus. Kids who have nothing and everything and greet life with wide, bright smiles. Children who were made in His image. Children who have hope despite conditions that look entirely hopeless. I think about these kids and I know that I can’t stop writing because this life and this world are full of beauty.

 

I want to capture every moment that I can and record it as a love song to the Creator who still works miracles. Some of what I see and write will be only for me and my God. I’m in a stage right now where I need to journal all the emotions rather than blog about them. I can’t process the inner most workings of my heart on the internet because I end up writing with a filter. An edited prayer loses it’s power pretty quickly.

 

So I spend my time thinking and remembering and writing privately and asking God to replenish the well spring of my words. There are still things to share and stories to tell. Stories like the day I sat on a cold, hard bench and watched as a group of children held their hands up high, moved their feet to the beat and sang with passion, “It’s all about you, Jesus!”

These are children who have so little. Many of them live in mud huts without power and electricity, without the flashing lights of the outside world telling them there’s more. They get it so much more deeply than I do because they aren’t distracted from the Truth. It’s all about Him.

 

It’s all about Jesus.

 

And so I sit and I remember and I talk to my God and ask Him to speak through me that I may encourage others the way those children encouraged me. For now, the fountain feels dry but I trust that with time I will find the words again.

 

Are you interested in sponsoring a child in Tanzania? You can do so here. I promise that though it seems like something so small and insignificant, it isn’t. Not to the child who receives your support. To that child, your sponsorship is hope for a future.

 

 

Kelli is a freelance writer from Tampa, Florida who chronicles the daily joys and hilarity of life as a minivan mom on her personal blog Minivans Are Hot.
*all photos by Keely Scott

Have you sent a gift to your Compassion child’s family?

 

We’ve been Compassion sponsors for more than 2 years now, and I’ll be the first to admit that the first year or more we weren’t very good ones.  Sure, our $38 were directly deposited to Compassion without fail every month, but that’s about it.  We only wrote the 2 or 3 times a year that we received a letter from our child and if I’m being honest I probably wouldn’t have written at all if it weren’t for Compassion’s diligence to make sure my child wrote me quarterly.

 

But then I “met” Michelle.  Michelle is passionate about Compassion. (Um, compassionate even?)  Thanks to her inspiration we now sponsor 3 children and correspond with a 4th.  She’s taught me loads about writing letters to my children and going that extra mile to make them feel special and affect their family for the Lord.

 

Earlier this year she brought to my attention that each child had “hunger months” listed in their community information on the Compassion website.  She suggested that we consider sending a family gift a couple of months ahead of time to help the families of our Compassion children during these months between the harvest times when families typically go hungry.  When you designate a monetary amount specifically as a family gift, all of that money goes directly to the family of your child, unlike your monthly sponsorship which aids the project they are a part of.  So I’ve done just that with each of our children this year.

 

Well, this week we got a letter from Kakra’s family in Ghana – a first for us.  We’re used to getting letters from our children, but we’ve never received a letter from a family. (And on notebook paper no less, not simply the official Compassion stationary).  They thanked us for our gift.  They said they are most grateful for our love and concern for them and that they are blessed to have us as their child’s sponsor.  They said the money was added to the mother’s trade capital and has helped to increase her profits, which has helped to pay for Kakra’s classes and other needed things.

 

And along with the letter came a picture.  The first look we’ve ever gotten at the rest of Kakra’s family.

 

Our girlie is on the right.

 

Kakra is a twin, and her sister is on the left of the picture.  Typically, only one child from a family is allowed to enroll in a Compassion project, so Kakra is probably the only child from her family in the program.  I haven’t called Compassion to confirm this yet, but that’s the general rule.  And if that’s true, then the differences in the twins appearance make sense.  Look at how Kakra’s color looks healthier, her face rounder, the bags under her eyes less.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of her participation in the program, those extra meals and extra love making her stand a little taller, with a little more self-confidence in her eyes.

 

I’m thankful that we get to be a part of Kakra’s life that extends to her whole family.  Love Compassion.

 

Want some first hand evidence of how Compassion works and what it does?  Then follow some Compassion Bloggers on their trip to Ecuador this week.  And bring the tissues.

 

*Since Compassion has revamped their site, they no longer list “hunger months” in your child’s community info, but they do list “illness months”.  Won’t you consider sending something a bit extra to your child’s family during this time of the year?

 

-Jessica

Don’t know what to send to your Compassion sponsored child? Send this. Stat.

My beautiful hippie friend over at Blogging from the Boonies has made me privy to yet another awesome goodie to send to our Compassion Kids.

 

 

HotPrints will let you print 4 free picture books a month.  You do have to pay 2.99 shipping for each book, which technically makes them not free.  But still makes them a hella good deal.

 

I ordered just one the first time, as an experiment.  I wanted to make sure the quality of the print was good before I committed to shipping more than one.

 

For reasons I’m not sure of, it took the first book a really long time to finally make it to my doorstep.  Like a month or more.  I literally thought it wasn’t going to come, that it has gotten lost in the cracks somewhere. (And yet I didn’t bother contacting hotprints because I’m lazy, it was only 2.99, and I didn’t care that much)

 

But it DID finally show up one day, to my surprise.  And I loved it.

 

So I quickly went back to the site and ordered 4 more (since by then another month had rolled around).  It works out pretty great for me, because I have 4 Compassion kids.  I decided to keep the first one on hand to show people in case I get a chance to do some freelance advocating for Compassion letter writing in person. :)

 

And apparently, Hotprints just wants to keep me on my toes, because this time the books came within a matter of days.  Surprising me again.

 

Squeeee!

 

I designed them all differently.  Hotprints has a ton of choices, and it’s really easy to drag and drop your design.

 

I made a soccer themed one for my little Brazilian Luan.  Because what 6 year old in Latin America wouldn’t go gaga for futbol?

 

 

And I made various pretties for my girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 14 pages worth of pictures (and there are many different design choices for number of pictures per page, also.  I went with 2 large pictures for every page) but the book it still very thin.  Well within the quarter inch regulations for Compassion goodies.

 

I can’t WAIT to get these in the mail to my kids.  They’re going to absolutely love them.

 

-Jessica

 

Will you consider sponsoring an older child?

I got a letter from 20 year old Shila in India today.  image

It wasn’t a profound letter.  It wasn’t even terribly interesting, to be honest. She basically just listed every event her church has had for the last quarter.  “On Dec 8th we celebrated Christmas, On 1st January we had celebrated the new years day, on 26th Jan we had celebrated republic day…”.   No descriptions of the festivities, just a listing of them.

But still, I stared at the letter, and marveled at the fact that this young woman in India wrote this thing to me on March 21st, and now I was holding it in my hand.

And I spent a long time studying her text.  I study Shila’s handwriting more than any of my other Compassion kids.  It’s so precise and round and pretty.

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I also got a letter from Compassion recently telling me that Shila would be graduating from the program this year and encouraging me to write to her even more in her remaining months.  I knew this would happen.  I specifically chose Shila because she was the oldest girl listed in India on Compassion’s site.  I’ve never gotten a picture from her other than the one listed in her profile, and she’s never shared anything life changing with me about her life.

But I can only hope that, when describing me, she has a different story.  I hope that the letters, and pictures, and scriptures, and stories I’ve sent to her have made a positive and lasting influence on her existence.

I did not know this when first sponsoring her, but I’ve since read that the maximum entry age into a Compassion Project is 11.  So every child above that age that you see available for sponsorship has been dropped by a previous sponsor.  Possibly many.  I don’t know Shila’s sponsorship past (although if you contact Compassion, they will give you a brief history on your child).  So I don’t know how many sponsors have dropped sponsorship of her, or how few letter’s she may have received from a less than committed sponsor as a younger child.

All I know is that at the age of 19, we became “Aunty and Uncle” to the girl without a smile.  The oldest girl in the program.  I hope our faithfulness to Shila has meant something to her and helped ground her for the hard life ahead of her still.  It’s an odd feeling knowing one day soon we wont’ be able to correspond with her anymore.  That we won’t know the end of her story.  But I’m thankful for the part we’ve been able to play in it.

Are you sponsoring a child yet through Compassion?  If you’ll really commit to letter writing, to the community of other sponsors online, and to the wealth of knowledge out there to make your sponsorship experience special – it can really change your life. 

It’s only $38 dollars a month.  What can it hurt?

  

-Jessica

Cheap Christmas Cards For Everyone

 

Okay people, put on your frugal panties,  because we’re going on a cheapskate’s ride to Christmas this morning. Cheap Christmas cards? Oh yeah.  We are going to fill all our Christmas card needs for $1.00.  That’s right, just one dollar!

 

First, go to the Dollar Tree and pick through their selection of card boxes that are 2 for a $1.00.

 

I picked this neat Bethlehem-y one.

cheap christmas cards

 

Make sure there’s a simple, sappy message inside that you can expound on.

cheap christmas card ideas

 

While you’re already at the Dollar Tree, search through their sweet collection of decorative printer paper. Forty sheets for $1.00!

cheap christmas newsletter

 

Now, if you so choose, write a brief run-down of your year for friends and family who, basically, don’t have facebook.

cheap christmas stationary

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Now, if like me, just the thought of the levels of coordination and cooperation that would be necessary for a bonafide, Christmas-Sweatered family photo leaves you with a bit of a headache, then find decent pictures of everyone from your year and crop some heads! Now pick a program to collage them bad boys together somehow. I did my simple simple version on photobucket.

 

Then I saved it as a picture file and copy and pasted it into Word so that I (my more technologically inclined husband) could adjust the size a bit to the length of my cards. And then we printed multiples on one page.

 

simple christmas collages

 

The results can only be described as a Bowman Bookmark.

photo collage bookmark

 

Whatevs. At least it’s practical.

 

Now add all of our card components to their envelope. Added bonus, the Dollar Tree paper is so cheap and thin that it’s see-thru! Which adds a little pizazz for everybody.

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This is for my newlywed friends Chad and Jennifer.  Guess what Two Year Old calls them?

And now … TA-DA!

 

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Using one box of cards, and half my 40 sheets of printer paper, these puppies cost me $1.00 total. Minus shipping. But very honestly, I whittled down the recipient list greatly this year. And more than half of them I’m going to hand deliver. So very little .44 sticky pieces of paper were needed.

 

Am I going to win any Better Homes and Garden awards for this? Nope. Do I care? Double nope. Are the grandparents going to care? Extra nope.

 

I gots Cheapskate Christmas spirit, y’all!

 

-Jessica

A Christmas Card Drive Of Epic Proportions

Still in keeping with this week’s randomly inspired Compassion International posts, today I want to tell you about CHRISTMAS CARDS!

You heard me right. Christmas. Cards.

Compassion is promoting a Christmas Card Drive of Epic Proportions right now. See?

Now, I double <3 the idea of sending Christmas cards to unsponsored children.  And the above link is one way you can do it.  Design a card for as little as 1.99 and Compassion will get it into the hands of an unsponsored child by Christmas.

BUT.

I am lucky enough to have an Advocate Savvy interweb friend, Michelle. And with this post, she taught me about how I can send cards myself to Compassion’s headquarters and they’ll still translate them and get them into the right hands at the right time. Which is a much more economical option.

Sooooo, I rounded up all of those 2’s and 3’s of cards that get leftover from the packs each year. You know the ones that I’m talking about. I had 10 years worth of Christmas card leftovers, and I decided a Compassion kid needed them this year.

But, by this point, and after my letter writing blog from yesterday, I had the correspondence bug. So I went to the Dollar Tree. The holy mecca of all that is cheap and papery. And I found packs of 16 Christmas cards, 2 for a $1.00.

That’s right, 32 cards for $1.00!

It’s alright.  Be impressed.

So I decided that I definitely needed the Wild Thing’s help if I was going to get all of these cards written without giving myself irreparable arthritis.  Plus, it was a good way to get them involved in the whole process and to talk to them about the kids from Compassion’s programs and why we help them.

Here we are, all ready to write our first set of cards.

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We kept the messages simple, because the cards already came with messages, and we left the tops of the cards blank to leave room for translation.

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And we decorated them with stickers.

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Except for these little…happy devils. I decreed them off limits.

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Cut us some slack, we’re workings wholly off of Dollar Tree materials.

Nine Year Old’s had the best details, of course.

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Four Year Old decided he wasn’t going to nap, so I tried to get him to draw hearts inside of a few cards.

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A for effort, sweet Four Year Old … A for effort.

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Still writing…

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Creative up to the last card.

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And then finally….

Finished!

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45 cards (Dollar Tree and leftovers) that cost me altogether one dollar.

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Packaged up and ready to mail.

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To:
Attn: Laverne, Sponsor Correspondence Team
Colorado Springs, CO 80997
P.S. This is my bonafide and official “office”.  

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Impressive, no?

If you’ve caught the Compassion Correspondence bug like me, then maybe you want to fish out those leftover or Dollar Tree cards too, and send them to a child still waiting on a sponsor.  The deadline to have them in to Colorado Springs is November 30th.

So get a jolly move on!  :)

Compassion Letter Writing

In keeping with this week’s impromptu Compassion posts, I thought I’d model a post after an awesome post by Michelle today.  Michelle is a Compassion Advocate and has recently and greatly influenced my letter writing for the better.

After learning about this nifty little link to a Compassion Letter Form, I decided to make me some purdy stationary like Michelle. I had a pack of decorative printer paper lying around that someone had given me probably a year ago. But I never use decorative printer paper for anything. So I was glad to finally find a use for it.

Then I printed off a picture of the Wild Things and of Husband and I, and also included a pack of fall motif stickers that we already had stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

And BAM!

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Check out my pretty star fish printer paper!  Whut whut!

By far, the most beautimas letter that I’ve ever sent. Yay! This if for my Compassion Sponsor Child Ana. She’s 15 (16 next month) and lives in Columbia. I’m also making one just like it for Shila, that I told you about a couple of days ago.

Further inspired by Michelle’s guide to extra goodies that can be sent within a Compassion letter, I got on christianbook.com and browsed their bargain bin of items less than $1.00.  Such as this bookmark and even this little gift bag that can lay flat in the envelope, but then she can use later to hold goodies, or give away perhaps.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on the letter writing inspiration and share what God taught me today from the Boonies about being a good Sponsor. :)

And if you’re not a Compassion International Sponsor, then I would encourage you to head on over to their website to learn more about this upstanding Organization, and to consider joining them in the work they do to rescue children from poverty.  It’s such a small sacrifice on our part, to make such a big impact in the life of a child.