The Measure You Give, The Measure You Get

I met him on my first trip to Kenya in 2010. He is one of the children we sponsor through Compassion International.

I visited his home with my family last summer. It was there I discovered that changing a life changes yours.


Yesterday, we returned to Ephantus’ home where 7 people live (they’ve taken in two cousins since last year). It is the size of a large walk-in closet. Ephantus has grown taller, his missing teeth are in and his smile is just as contagious.

After visiting his Compassion project, we walked the winding path to his home avoiding raw sewage with every step.

We met his mother, Mary, the same and different as last year. We hugged and talked and inquired about their business and spoke of her improved health. She reached into her bag and said thru Maureen, our translator, “I have something for you. My 14 year old son wrote you a letter.”

She pulled out a piece of notebook paper so thin you could see thru it, it was worn from the waiting.  She handed me the note from the brother of our sponsored child, someone we have never met and only knew from an occasional mention in a sponsor letter.

I started reading it aloud to the small group gathered in the neat home and the lump in my throat doubled when I saw my name. I handed it to my husband to continue reading. By the time he finished, everyone in the room was wiping eyes.

Hi Kristen,

I am writing this letter to inform you that we really appreciate all the good things you have done for our family. I really love the ball which you gave to my brother Ephantus and even the bag you gave him. As you go on doing this, may God remember you and your family. I wish one day you will be rewarded by God because it is not easy for a person to volunteer and sponsor a person. I wish that one day we will meet there in your country. I like your family for writing letters to Ephantus. I like the horse which your son was riding. Thank you for your kindness. My sister says the dress which you wore in yellowish in colour was shining as gold.

My heart is filled with joy like butter exposed to heat. As you go in the USA tell your family that I thank them for contributing in all things. I prayed for you when you fell sick and my prayers were heard. May God bless you in a mighty way and bless your family. As you read this letter, I will be in school. So you won’t find me in our home and be able to thank you for the pictures you send to Ephantus. They are beautiful.

The measure you give, the measure you get. God bless you.

Love,

Joseph

The powerful words of a boy we didn’t know we were having an impact on us left us speechless.

We often wonder what we are to do in this world. How do we make a difference? Do our few dollars a month really matter?  As I sit here in Kenya, far from home, looking at my surroundings, I’m convinced they do.

It’s not the size of our contribution that matters, it’s that we contribute.

We must do something. 

I couldn’t have said it better: his words a gift:  the measure we give, we get.

There Will Be a Response

Africa is beautiful. When people ask me about my trip, my reply is, “It was heartbreaking and hopeful.”

Wild animals roam freely (like the baboon that jumped out of the tree and stole a sugar packet from the breakfast table at our hotel!) The Compassion Kenya staff laughed at us when we asked them to pull the van off the road, so we could photograph a herd of wild zebras. (They laughed harder when I squealed and pointed like a girl at the zoo).

One of the most amazing sites was a herd of elephants near the road.

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We were told by one of our Kenyan friends that elephants love each other deeply. If one of their own dies, the other elephants mourn the loss. They grieve and can be heard crying for miles. Mother elephants are distraught over the deaths of their babies. They honor the dead by trying to bury the body with branches and leaves, so it won’t be destroyed by other animals.

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Elephants seek out the lost and even in death, they honor them by collecting the bones of the dead and place them in an elephant graveyard. Each year, around the same time, the elephants travel back to this place to mourn.

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Simply put, they remember…. so they won’t forget.

They remember the death and the time of pain. They weep for the lost. Then they carry on, but they do not forget.

This week has been a time of remembering for me. I have been reading the posts from the Compassion Guatemala Blogger Team and so much of what I felt and experienced has come back in soulful rush of emotion. I have wept for the lost and rejoiced with those found.

Ann has one line in this amazing post that rocked me to the core: “Once we have seen [poverty], we are responsible–we will respond. One way or the other.”

I’ve been out of Africa for six months. My response is coming Monday (Love Mercy). I pray you will take this prophetic word and respond with me. One way or the other.

I did more than snap pictures of wild animals in Africa; I learned from these great beautiful beasts.

I want to remember…..

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so I don’t forget.

Her Name is Precious

My three year old picked her  pretty face out of a sea of brown faces.

“I WANT HER!” she demanded as only a toddler can.

There was smudge on my computer screen and on the face of a 19 year old girl from the Philippines. Her name: Precious.

It was just a week after I’d returned home from Africa and our family sat crowded around the laptop laboring over each face. My husband chose Mohammad from India, my son -a boy named Nad from Vietnam, my oldest daughter chose Uwimana from Rwanda and I wanted Millicent, an orphan from Kenya.

The pictures arrived and took priority on our fridge, we have monthly letter-writing sessions and pray for each of the kids.

From the moment Precious’ picture arrived, my toddler insisted on it being at the bottom of the fridge, so she could reach it. The picture is smudged with dirty fingerprints along the edge. We’ve reread Precious’ letters in her perfect English and clear handwriting over and over to our youngest.

We always laugh when we read the part of the letter where Precious has written her favorite things: “My favorite food is chicken, My favorite color is purple, etc” because our daughter pipes up loudly, “MY FAVORITE FOOD IS CHICKEN TOO! MY FAVORITE COLOR IS PURPLE.”

At bedtime and sometimes dinnertime, our little girl prays for Precious. It varies, but she prays that she won’t die, that she’ll have food, and that Jesus will live in her heart. She tells everyone that Precious is her best friend. “Pwecious lives in da Phiwapines. I’m going to Africa to meet her next week.” (She’s a little sketchy on the geography and timing of it all).

They  are an unlikely pair: a three year old American with everything and a 19 year old Phillipino young lady with very little.

But they have been united through Compassion International forever.

The other night my little girl was singing all the songs she could think of, including “Jesus Loves Me.” She ran out of songs and asked me tell her another. I sang “Jesus Loves The Children of the World.”

Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

She jumped up “Mommy, that song is about PRECIOUS!!”

Yes, yes it is.

—————

Today, a group of bloggers left for Guatemala to set some kids free from their devastating poverty. Will you follow their journey and pray for them? Open your hearts to the stories? Consider rescuing a child from poverty?

Compassion Bloggers: Guatemala 2010

A Bed, A Bag of Rice & A Business

His name is Francios (said in my best French accent which sorta sounds like fancy Texan).

He’s six:

He’s one of the Compassion children our family sponsors. He lives in Togo, Africa. In the last six months, he’s written us five letters!

God blessed our family with some extra and we were able to send Francios a family gift a couple of months ago. Compassion allows you to send a financial gift every year to your Compassion children.

Last week, when my daughter opened a Compassion envelope, she gasped. I could tell it wasn’t an ordinary (although always special) letter.  This photograph was accompanied with a letter of thanks from Francios’ family:

With our family gift (small by American standards), this precious family bought there first bed! (There are 5 in the family) They bought rice and supplies and most importantly, they started a business! (selling used clothes)

One of my favorite things about Compassion is they don’t just help people out of poverty, they give families the tools to help themselves. They meet with the family when a family gift is given and help them decide how to spend it best.

This financial gift -that we’ll never miss- might have changed Francios’ family.

But it changed mine more.

__________

Rescuing children from poverty is one of the most inspiring and beautiful experiences our family has ever shared together. It’s never too late to sponsor a child. You can do it today.

Make Yourself at Home

We showed up at the Student Life Camp as they were unloading for their 9th week of camp. It was really amazing watching these college kids empty four large Penske rental trucks and set up for more than 1,000 kids. When I complimented one of them, they said, “Oh this is a small camp. This is easy.”

Compassion had agreed to let us visit with Maureen and even though she was free to let others do her setup work, she asked our family if we minded hanging around while she performed her duties. (A true example of her heart and work ethic!)

We were happy to just watch and thrilled when they let us help. My hubby did a little drilling:

My kids helped with the packets of the children needing sponsors:

Everyone pitched in and constructed a replica home you might see in the slum, where Maureen grew up.

After she gives her compelling and touching testimony, she stands in the doorway of this mock home and answers questions.

People are moved at the image of this beautiful girl who has been rescued from poverty.

As I helped Maureen hang some “fact cards” on the interior walls of the home, she said, “This would be a nice home in the slums of Africa.” I remembered Vincent’s home and I silently nodded my head.

Once the home was completed, our family of five gathered inside. The average size of a family in Africa is usually at least five and I wanted my kids to see what it felt like to live in such a small space:

As I sat there with my family squeezed into the small, one-room dwelling, the nicest home on the block, I thanked God once again for His gentle reminder, this tangible example of perspective.

I’m pretty sure my family will never forget it.