When Changing a Life Changes Yours

It’s going to take some serious time and thought and probably tears to unpack the amazing experience we had our last day in Kenya yesterday.

We took 586 pictures and cried a bucket of tears if that gives you any idea.

There’s so much to share, but one story is begging to be told, so I sit on the floor of a cold London airport in the middle of the night/day depending on which time zone you’re in. I seem to be in the middle of both…

A year and a half ago, when I traveled to Kenya for the first time with the Compassion International Bloggers, I met Ephantus, one of our sponsored kids. He was quiet, timid even, only six years old and probably one of the cutest kids in Africa.

March 2010 with the backpack full of goodies I brought him:

I knew we had to reserve one day of our trip this year so my family could meet Ephantus and our three other sponsored children in Kenya. With our very hectic schedule, our last day was reserved for this “family reunion.” And much to my delight, this time we would visit Ephantus’ home.

As we left the safety of the Compassion project in the center of his slum, we followed the stench of raw sewage (a defining factor of slum life) that coursed it’s way into the heart of the homes.

My kids meeting one of our sponsored kids for the first time made my heart nearly burst. It was better than I’d imagined and so much like meeting a brother…

The first thing I noticed outside of Ephantus’ tidy one room home they’d occupied for the last twelve years, was the backpack I’d given him last year, hanging on the clothesline:

Meeting his sweet mother, Mary, was precious as we all (Maureen and two Compassion employees) crowded into the 10×10 space:

She couldn’t wait to thank us for sponsoring her child and especially for the family gift we sent last year. Please know that I don’t share this with you to boast, I simply must tell you this story because it’s powerful and has so little to do with me.

Compassion International allows you to send a family gift up to $1000 US dollars. We have 11 kids, so this is not possible, but when I received the advance for my book last year, we were able to send each of our kids around $250. Throughout the year, we’ve gotten updates of cows and roofs and food that has been bought…

I was shocked when Mary pulled out beautiful necklaces and handbags she was making to support her family. She said she’s started her small business with the money our family sent:

(a little nose picking for your enjoyment)

But nothing could have prepared me when she took me by the hand and led our family down the rutted path to her “business”:

She stocks and sales fresh fruits and vegetables, jewelry and even flip flops from her “store” that our family gift help her start a year ago.

Mary took me in her arms and said in her best English, “Your gift has changed our life.”

(the fragile bridge over sewage to Mary’s store)


“I am able to feed my family because of you.”

Of course, we all know that my family has little to do with this –the work and integrity of Compassion International and the hand of God is to blame.

Mary hugged me tightly and said, “Thank you for changing our lives. Please pray for us.”

I said the same thing to her.


Change a life (yours included) and sponsor a child with Compassion International for just $38 a month….when you can, send a family gift, big or small it is life-changing.



There’s not a shy bone in Ephantus now!


  1. 3


    We too sponsor children from Compassion as well as one child from Children International whom we started sponsoring 15 years ago it seems. I think it would be a dream to see them. I even asked my husband about how long a flight to India would be. I love receiving photos of them and letters as well. I believe it would be such a wonderful thing to fly and visit these people on vacation rather than take a vacation to the US.

  2. 4


    Oh how wonderful! I am a new Compassion Advocate and this post was just a joy to read! I love Compassion and how God uses the ministry!! What a blessing.

  3. 6

    Deb Wilson says

    Amazing. Im praying for your travels home, and as you adjust. Thank you all for sharing your trip with us.

  4. 7


    Weeping! What a mighty God we serve! Thank you for being His servant and His messenger.

    I just received an invitation to visit our sponsored child in Haiti, but the cost is $1500, which I just can’t come up with in 24 hours. Please pray for my sponsored child. He had been living with his mother (no mention) of a father, and then his mother passed away soon after I started sponsoring him. He now lives with his grandmother, little brother, and (I think?) his father… My heart breaks for him, and I want so much to help him.

    Thank you for taking me with you on a trip I wouldn’t be able to go on otherwise :)

    Blessings to you,

  5. 8

    Sheryl Travis says

    What a beautiful story! We have sponsored Compassion children in the past and are now supporting ZOE Ministries. We also gto to tour and meet many orphans in Kenya on our recent trip there whose lives have been changed through ZOE. It was an incredible experience, and I am so glad you got to set aside a day to see one of your African families meet your American family. What an amazing and life changing experience for all!!

  6. 9

    Karen says

    How blessed it is to be a part of the amazing tapestry HE is weaving! God just kissed you and your family on the head!

    • 9.1

      Karen says

      I sent the link to my husband. This was his reply “stop. STOP. *STOP*” (he didn’t want to be crying at work! :-)

  7. 10


    This was so amazing to read. I started crying the loud kind of tears, and my four children, ages 2, 4, 7, 9 came running. They were amazed to see this and hear it. Thank you for each of your updates. They have meant so much. Thank you for your radical obedience to the Lord’s call to care–to live out your faith sacrificially.

    We are still dealing with underemployment–two years +, but we do correspond with a Compassion child, and hope to add more. We send her little gifts as we can. My kids love that experience and want to know when I will write a book so we can send big family gifts. :)

  8. 11


    Kristen, I first started following you when you were on your way to Kenya (March2010)

    My whole life has changed because of you, Compassion and God. Our whole life has changed.

    Praying for you…

    What a powerful story! Amazing for your children!! For all of you.

    Word fail me.

    Love you

  9. 12


    Do not see my previous comment. So you may have two comments from me.

    Love the pics! So amazing… awesome seeing your children there with your sponsored child and his mom!

    I first started following you in Mar 2010 w/ that Kenya trip.

    My life has been forever changed!

    Love you

  10. 13


    thank you so much for sharing. we have sponsored a child for a few years now. love to see the impact, especially first hand. wiping my tears now…

  11. 15


    Of all things, the backpack is what gets me. How preciously children in such places treat their belongings, while we in the U.S. are often so careless.

  12. 17


    Weeping for the exquisite beauty of it all! Glory to our Father!! Thank you for being His Hands and Feet and Heart! And what an incredible thing for your children to learn to Love like He Loves at their young ages. Precious!

  13. 19

    AmberK says

    He.is.so.good!!! Thank you for listening to Him, Kristen. His calling to you is blessing us all.

    Many Prayers and BIG Hugs sent to you!
    Amber K

    This was just so, so good to read.

  14. 20


    Oh yeah. this did me in. I’m crying good, and my five year old son said, “what, mom?” he peeked is head around my computer screen and saw the picture of your kids holding hands with your sponsor son… he said, “oh”… and i’m so proud he knows just by looking. :)

    I was under the impression that we could only send our child’s family $300 twice a year. ??? I’ll have to look into it now. Maybe things have changed recently? Maybe a different region.

    Thank you for writing this.
    but thank you more for doing what you do.
    after what you’ve been through, it is SUCH a bright witness and testimony that you (let God) persevere in you.

    You are Blessed.

  15. 21


    What joy for your kids to see the impact we can make in this world when we cooperate with God! I am already thinking ahead to their futures . . . wonder how this trip will have ripple effects in their lives?

  16. 23


    Thank you for sharing this special story, even while you are trying to wade through emotions from your trip. It has blessed me this morning, and I smile thinking about all God is doing through Compassion. I hope one day to meet my sponsors kids…what a gift you received.

  17. 25


    I don’t comment often but have followed you since your trip with compassion. Thank you…for sharing these words and pictures. We have a child we sponsor and 5 more that we write and build relationship with…sometimes being so far removed I loose touch with how this partnership effects everyone involved.

    What your family is doing, what God is doing is so stirring my heart. I don’t know what that means but just wanted to say it outloud. I pray for you and the Maternity house.

    Signing off in tears of gratitude. I cannot imagine what it was like to hug that mama’s neck and know that God was at work using her and you from two completley different worlds, together for His plan.

  18. 26


    Thank you for sharing these stories. It is reassuring to see Compassion at work. I also started following you during the Kenya trip of 2010. It’s an amazing story of why I started sponsoring. I felt led to sponsor and knew nothing about the trip. I started googling and my feeling was reaffirmed when I found out about Compassion and the trip they were on. I sponsored one and now sponsor 4!

  19. 27

    Crystal says

    That’s so precious! I dream of the day when we will be able to visit our children and (hopefully) hear the same thing. I can’t wait!

  20. 28

    Heather says

    Inspired. Truly inspired. We only sponsor two children. Only two. You have 11? Wow. I can do so much more. God can use me for so much more. Thank you for sharing.

  21. 29

    Audrey says

    I wanted to let you know that your stor(ies) has changed my life also. Things financially are getting better for my family, and I have been talking to my husband about the possibility of sponsoring a child (and donating to Mercy House) as soon as we get things worked out for our family. Thank you for all of the good things you do for this world.

  22. 30


    It is so great that your kids are getting to experience how God is working through you. They have evidence right before their eyes that God uses “ordinary” people to do what seems impossible. I hope we can raise enough money to take each of our children to visit our sponsored child someday. In the meantime we’re trying to find the finances to sponsor a second child and give family gifts. I’m very grateful God gave you the gift to write in a way that carries us along with you and inspires us to join the journey!

  23. 32


    Going to sound a bit crass—but here goes: I’ve been blogging for years and years. I took down a blog a long time ago when I returned to work so that my words would never be held against me :) The whole experience just left me tired and I tend to stay away from “power bloggers” like you because well….they all seem the same to me once their blog gets big enough.

    But YOU are different. You are remarkable, honest, and real. And not just in it for ad revenues, or so I suspect. Thank you for the gift.

    My one and only comment :)

  24. 35

    Mollianne says

    After reading your post today, I went to the Compassion site and sponsored a child in Kenya. My One Word this year has been Grace and I found a 6 year old girl, named Grace, who had been waiting for over 6 months. She is now part of my heart and my family. Thank you for helping melt my heart with your words and passion. Bless you, Kristen!

  25. 37


    I love it! I Love It! I LOVE IT! What a powerful witness to the Hand of God! Thank you for sharing your story. I have visited your blog in the past, but never commented… until now. I had wondered if Compassion International REALLY was trustworthy and faith-filled. Your post has answered some of my questions. We have so little ourselves, but we have a calling… need?… push from the Lord?… to share with a child like you do and aren’t sure. We will pray specifically about this. Blessings to your family. In Christian Love, Diana ♥

    • 37.1

      Laure says

      I am a volunteer with Compassion International and I can tell you that it is a ministry of profound integrity.

  26. 41



    this gives me goosebumps and tears. i miss my little friends and my precious ladies with their veg stands on the side of the road. :(

    glad yall have had such a fruitful trip. praise GOD!

    now do i get to meet you? 😉

  27. 44


    Kristen, words can’t express how this blessed me. The last picture was priceless. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall and I can’t wait to hear how your trip went, about your kids, and about your heart. I am so glad you were able to go despite all the challenges. Love you so much! Thanks for caring for the least of these!

  28. 45

    Jocelyn says

    Today has been an emotional day for me and I am now sitting here in the quiet of my home with tears of joy and amazement streaming down my face. To see her store in the midst of sewage… a beacon of hope in the middle of… sewage. My heart is running over to see you guys sharing in that moment with her. Praise God!!! And to see your kiddos holding hands with their “brother”… I cannot even imagine how you felt because sitting here just looking at the pictures I am feeling so many indescrible feelings of joy! What an amazing day for you guys! I am sure you DO have a lot of emotions, memories and images to unpack… all of you!- and I am praying for you guys as you do that.

    • 45.1


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  29. 46


    I am in tears. I met my sponsored child (through Hope Enterprises) when I visited Ethiopia with my husband three years ago. I never thought I would ever meet him — and I was will never forget the interaction and bond with his dear family. Despite language barriers, despite distance, we are connected by the Father. This was solidified for me when Kuffa’s mother invited us into their small straw hut and brought, from their one room, the photos of my children that we had sent to them by another mission team a year earlier. My family was in her home. Her hands were touching the faces of my children, while I hugged her son who was in front of me. I am so grateful for how God makes the world, in His immense love, feel, to some degree, more small. Thank you for this reminder.

  30. 47

    Melanie says

    Last year, I read your posts about your trip and those posts prompted me to sponsor two girls in Kenya. So, you have helped not only 11 families, but countless more with your words and pictures. You and your family are a blessing to many, as are they to us.
    Thank you for being real, for being genuine, and for being what God wants us to be.
    Safe travels.

  31. 48


    I am so thankful for your ability to go on this trip and your willingness to share the journey with us. Sponsoring Compassion kids is such a surreal thing to us…all the details, writing and receiving letters from a girl we have never met (and can barely fathom what her life is like…) You have not only given us a glimpse into their world, but you have also increased my faith in this organization and in the sponsorship of people and groups globally. Thanks for encouraging and inspiring us to live out our faith a little louder!!

  32. 50

    Deb says

    That’s it. That’s the moment we all long to see! To know that we didn’t stand by and do nothing when God’s work called to us. We can do something. God takes our little fishes and loaves and multiplies and multiplies and multiplies for his kingdom work. Thanks for sharing your moment with us and for inspiring us to go and find God’s work for each of us.

  33. 53

    Emily Johnson says

    What a beautiful story God has written in these 2 families!! And what a wonderful way to wrap up your trip. I am sure all of your lives are changed forever. So glad you’re doing what you’re doing and that you are able to share it with us!

  34. 54


    What an awesome story. A small seed sown creates a garden of blessings! I pray that one day we will take a trip to meet our Compassion chld in El Salvador. I am sure it is exactly like a family reunion. God bless you.

  35. 55


    Absolutely, positively beautiful! The pictures are amazing! (Even the nose picking…) =D I love Compassion and all that they do! I pray we will be able to meet our children one day! What a great way to start my morning! Be blessed!

  36. 56


    {LOVE} My heart is full! Thank you so much for sharing! Our sponsor child received a sewing machine with our family gift last year. This was especially special for me because of my love of sewing…but thank you for a peek on the other side of giving. Reminds me to pray over our sweet sponsor child in India even more….

  37. 57


    I am amazed at the wisdom this mother had to start a small business with your gift. She is blessing her family and you also be letting you know that your gift has been multiplied. Lovely photos and so happy your family could meet the children you sponsor.

  38. 58


    Wow! What an amazing story…thank you so much for sharing it. I’ve sponsored a child through Compassion for almost 15 years…and I didn’t even realize we could send money for the family!

    Someday I hope my little girls get to meet their “big brother”. It will be such a special moment.

    Again, thank you so much for sharing this encouraging story! I’m so excited to have stumbled upon your site!

  39. 63


    tears. what an awesome story!!! AND i just went home at lunch and saw that i received our very first letter from one of our sponsored girls in ethiopia. more tears. and smiles. :)

  40. 65


    Beautiful story! I sponsor a little girl from the Philippines and it has given me so much joy. Thank you for helping me realize how much a family gift can mean to a family in poverty. That will be the next thing on my list!

  41. 66

    Carol Morgan says

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this post. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to support someone but I always wondered if that child would get help or if it was split up to a bunch of diffrent people. I just checked out the website and will be talking to my husband about this when he gets home. Thank you so much again.

  42. 67

    Melinda P says

    I started following you just a few weeks ago before you were about to go to Kenya, just before your health delay. All the Kenya stories have been very touching, I’ve gotten pretty emotional. But this post just about killed me. I grew up in a 3rd world country (my parents were missionaries) and have witnessed and walked among extreme poverty like this. The smell of sewage and the sight of devastating poverty will always be imprinted on my mind. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. Thanks for sharing this!

  43. 69


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