The Question I’ve Been Afraid to Ask

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

(Anonymous) -a quote from A Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearn, President of World Vision.


God is changing me.

I haven’t arrived at some super spiritual place or been given a blueprint to change the world. Frankly, I’m a mess on the inside.

(As is my house and, oh, the laundry, people. Apparently having your heart wrecked creates more housework).

But I’ve heard God specializes in messy people.

During the past week, I’ve experienced The Ugly Cry more than I’d like to admit. (I was tempted to even live in my garage, naked, like a friend of mine was after returning from one of his first overseas trips, but thought that might be scary for the neighbors and my children).

Instead, I’ve prayed and I’ve let Truth invade me. I can see clearly that I’ve become like my culture, living for myself, my family. Wasting a lot of time and money on things that simply don’t matter to me anymore. Choosing ignorance over truth. Pretending poverty wasn’t my problem or my responsibility.

I’ve asked God to reveal a new normal, to take this personal revelation and my everyday life and mix them together, creating something entirely different. And I’ve given Him the heavy burden that comes with such a revelation. His burden is easy and His yoke is light, so it’s a pretty good exchange for me.

My husband? He was a mess while I was in Kenya, letting God do a good work in him. Turns out we just make a giant mess together!

What does all this look like practically?

Well. Less for us, more for others. We had a family meeting and talked openly with our kids. We asked their opinions, talked about Matthew 25:31 and what that might mean for our family. (It’s also probably not a coincidence that after working diligently to be debt free, as of this week, we don’t have a car payment anymore. We just didn’t know God already had plans for that money.)

Children are amazing. They voiced their own ideas and concerns and thoughts. I think they naturally want to give, they just usually follow the lead of their parents. Ouch.


So. This week, I got up the nerve and asked God, “Why do you allow poverty, suffering, and injustice when You could do something about it.”

And He asked me the same question.

I’m working on the answer.

**The Compassion Blog is such an outstanding resource for sponsors. I wanted to pass it along since I’m learning so much from all the articles!

WFMW: Letter Writing Tips

One of the most unexpected and amazing parts of my trip to Africa was learning just how important a sponsor letter is to a child.
Every Compassion child I met had reread the letters from their sponsors until they were nearly memorized. The letters were prized-possessions.
If you’re a new sponsor, you will receive a packet with a little bit of information about your child, like the one I received right before I left for Africa:
(Ephantus in Kenya)
While in Kenya, I met a boy named Anthony, a recent graduate of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), who had been a sponsored child for more than 20 years:
Anthony is a young business owner whose smile could light up a room. He was joyful and kind, articulate and thankful to Compassion and his sponsor. But he had one regret: in all the years of rising out of poverty, he never received one letter from his sponsor. He said every Saturday he would long for his name to be called, so he could learn more about the family who had changed his life.
It never happened.
Anthony was still overcome with gratitude for his sponsor. “I prayed for him everyday,” he said in a quiet voice. “I still do.”
If you sponsor a child, I cannot urge you enough to start a relationship with them. It won’t just change their life, it will change yours.
(meeting Ephantus, our newest sponsored child)
Tips on writing letters to your sponsored child:
  • Tell your sponsored child about yourself.
  • Let your kids write letters, as well as you.
  • Write often. Our family is planning a Compassion day each month, where we sit down and write each of our kids.
  • Ask questions: “What is your favorite color, class, activity?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Tell me about your day” “What did you learn at your Compassion project?” etc
  • Send pictures of yourself, kids, pets
  • Include newspaper clippings, pictures from magazines, etc
  • Attach coloring sheets in your letters
  • Send postcards, flash cards, paper dolls or any flat item you can think of that kids enjoy
  • Draw pictures and include them with the letter
  • Include stickers, band-aids, valentine’s
  • Send recipes and ask questions about their food
  • Small notepads and hair scrunchies can be stuffed into envelopes
  • Ask them what you can pray for
  • Share your needs with them (these kids know how to pray!)
So, if you sponsor a child thru Compassion, World Vision or another program, write letters!!

Do you have any ideas to add to this list? I’d love to read them! Compassion International has a couple of forums where people can share ideas. (Want to rescue a child from poverty by sponsoring them? click here)

Thank you for joining me for WFMW! {You can read the guidelines here.}Have a Works-For-Me Wednesday tip you’d like to share? I’d love for you to join us! A special thank you to Shannon for hosting WFMW for the past two weeks!

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Out of Africa

I don’t know who I am.
It’s a startling realization to not recognize yourself: My own voice sounds hollow. My eyes hold a distant stare, remembering all I’ve seen in Africa this past week. My thoughts keep me awake at night.
Just days after I returned, I found my husband carefully watching me. “I don’t feel like I know you,” he said softly, beckoning.
“I don’t feel like I know me either,” I said.
And I cried.
I feel more than guilt for such an easy life, accessible food, clean water and abundance. I feel aware. The blinders are gone. I can’t pretend I don’t know how the poorest of the poor live. I can’t act like there aren’t children who go to bed hungry. I can’t ignore that 30,000 children die each day from preventable causes.
I can’t stop thinking about Vincent, living as an orphan and father, in squalor. When I close my eyes at night, his face is what I see. I see him in his “home” that’s not fit for an animal.
I see the joy of the Lord in his eyes. Peace. I see Jesus.
I think that is what is so hard. I cannot reconcile his lack of every basic need and such fullness in his heart and life. The two don’t mix.
In America, in my town, in my home and heart, I complain about a dirty house, yard work, needing a “break” from cooking or my children. Every basic need is met, PLUS more luxuries than I can count.
With so much, how can my joy be incomplete?
How is it that I can see true peace in one of the largest slums in the world, where the smell of death is prominent and it’s rare in the most blessed nation?
I’m not sure how to mix these worlds together; how to show my spouse all that I’ve seen and all that my heart holds, or parent my kids without guilt.
I don’t know how to find myself again. I don’t know how to return to my everyday life when children still need to be sponsored. But I’m trying.
I am so thankful for this place, although foreign and uncomfortable, I’m not alone. God is right here with me, leading me into new places.
I may be out of Africa, but it will never be out of me.
I’ll be privately reflecting this week, but will still be hosting Works For Me Wednesday this week and also The World’s Largest Nerf Party this Friday (giveaways, included! There’s still time to have a party with your kids to celebrate Mason’s defeat of cancer!).

Kenya: Day 7: It’s Time to Leave Africa

My duffle bag is packed, waiting by the hotel door.
In just a few hours, I’ll be leaving Kenya, flying thru the night to Amsterdam.
We had a debriefing meeting with the Compassion blog team last night and we cried as we started decompressing and processing all that we’ve seen.
Our leader, Shaun Groves, told us a story about a man named Everett Swanson. In the 1950’s, he was visiting a friend in Korea immediately after the Korean war. There were thousands and thousands of orphans left without parents and homes during this country’s devastating time.
Everett Swanson saw children piled up in the doorways of homes, trying to stay warm. They were abused by the guards who tried to scatter them because they were a nuisance. Everett watched as a guard picked up a child by the wrist and ankles and threw them into the back of a truck.
He said to his friend, “No one, no matter how small, should be treated this way.”
And he wept for the children.
His friend looked at him and said, “Now that you’ve seen, what will you do?”
Now that you’ve seen, what will you do?
Now that you’ve seen, what will you do?

Everett Swanson returned to the United States and started Compassion International.

Compassion is now reaching one million of the poorest children in 25 countries.

I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to return to my normal life. I don’t know how to take what I’ve seen and experienced, smelled and touched and live the same way in my perfect little bubble.

Now that I’ve seen the face of a Maasai woman with my own name and learned of her hardships, walked thru the dark alley of hell, called Mathare Valley, touched the face of an orphan named Susan, learned that one of my own sponsored kids is living in dire poverty with a crippled father, watched an angel dance, I have to answer the question that burns in my heart and keeps me awake throughout the night….

What will I do?

Two of our sponsored children live in Africa. I’m leaving my heart with them.
Many of you have sponsored a child this week. I am so thankful that you saw the need, heard God and acted. I am grateful that you carry this heavy burden with me. Some of you are asking the same question I am: What will I do now that I’ve seen?
For those of you who’ve read along, but haven’t been able to sponsor yet, I implore you to talk about it as a family. There are still children waiting to be sponsored.
During the next several days, I will be reconnecting with my family. There will be a lot of hugging and crying and figuring out how and what we’re supposed to do. Will you pray for me as I process all that I’ve been exposed to?
I love y’all.

Day 6: Maureen

Maureen grew up in a one room shack with dirt floors and one family bed for six people. The poorest of the poor. Breakfast and lunch were a luxury and dinner usually consisted of porridge without sugar. She didn’t know what it felt like for her stomach not to rumble.
Once after going several days without food, she and her sister decided to go look for some in their Nairobi slum. They found rotten vegetables and rotten fruit and thanked God for it. “I was around 6 years old. It was a breakthrough,” she says.
Maureen was invited to register in a Compassion project and got a sponsor when she was seven years old. Her life slowly began to improve. She says at first she only went to the Saturday project for food. It was the first time she’d had a balanced meal, which is enough to prevent malnutrition. She would pretend like she was going for seconds and fill her bag with food for her three other siblings. Compassion dropped off monthly food supplies to her home and paid for her school uniforms, shoes, education.
After some time as a sponsored child, she asked Jesus into her heart. “I let go of my bitterness and God came into my life.”

Maureen is a special young woman. She is now 24 years old. After completing the child sponsorship program, she interviewed and was accepted into Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program, designed for bright students with leadership skills who want to go to the University. There are 275 LDP students in Kenya (one of them is the man from the video yesterday who met his sponsor at the Catalyst conference). It costs $300 a month to sponsor an LDP student. This pays for their college education and gives them a living allowance.
She will graduate in May with a degree in Education. Her eyes welled up with tears when she mentioned the sponsor she’d never met. She said, “Do you know them? They are well-known because they sponsor sixty LDP students.” I quickly calculated $18,000 in my head and thought I misunderstood her.
“Yes, it’s true,” they are great donors to Compassion and they write us all letters. They are creating a legacy in us.
I spent a lot of time talking and the more I got to know Maureen, the better I began to understand the beauty of Compassion International and the total picture. It was so fulfilling to see this young girl escape poverty and learn that she used her LDP monthly allowance to move her entire family out of the slum and better their life.
We exchanged email addresses and she said, “Are you on Facebook, I’d like to friend you.” I laughed at the unexpected question! and said yes, of course.
When she was asked, “What would you say to your sponsor if you could right now?”
She answered confidently, “I’d tell them I’m a hero because of them.”
I have now seen the ends and outs of Compassion International. I have never been more impressed or blessed with a ministry that answers the high calling of God. It’s the real deal. If you still haven’t sponsored a child, this is your day. Don’t neglect the tug you feel in your heart. It’s God.

Day 5: Today, I Went to Hell

Armed guards (or bouncers, as Kenyans call them) walked us down a descending, muddy trail into Mathare Valley, one of Kenya’s largest slums, where 800,000 people live in an approximate two mile area.

Bile rose up in the back of my throat as my senses were overwhelmed with raw sewage and the smell of depraved humanity.
Silent tears streaked my face as we walked tightly in a group at a fast pace. We were told to “get in the project and get out” as quickly as possible. No cameras allowed (expect by our professional photographer, Keeley, who took pictures from her hip, under her jacket).

I simply do not have words to describe what I saw today. In my wildest imagination, I could never create these images. It was dark and oppressive. Evil and dangerous. The children looked so unhealthy, sick, desperate. The living conditions are not for the living.

Mathare Valley is a hell hole.

It is littered with young prostitutes, lonely orphans, vile pornography and extreme violence. Drug use and addiction, alcoholism are very common. The Compassion International project is deep in the center of the slum. We walked through absolute filth. I had to cover my mouth and nose several times to stop gagging.
I saw so much hopelessness. Where was God? How could He allow so much suffering?
The Compassion project is in the middle of this mess. The minute we entered the gate, I burst into tears, nearly sobbing. I felt such relief to be in a safer place. I immediately noticed the Compassion kids looked different. I saw something that was lacking in the rest of the Mathare Valley slum: it was hope.
There are nearly 300 children in this project, one of three in the area. Some of the beautiful children sang to us and performed a drama. Out of all the Compassion projects we’ve visited, I found it unbelievable to discover the most talented, gifted children in the worst of conditions.
It was like watching beauty rise from the ashes.
We went to the home of one of the boys who sang to us. His name is Vincent. He is in a child-led home, which is Kenya’s way of saying, he is a total orphan and there are no adults in his home. He is both brother, father and mother to his sibling. Vincent was orphaned as an 8 year old child and is now 18.
Compassion came alongside him and saved his life. Compassion gave him a job of delivering food, so he can provide for his brother. Vincent’s home was the most pathetic we’ve seen. It was just a dank, dark space, the size of a walk-in closet. It leaked rain water on us as we talked with him. There is no electricity, no running water. He does his homework by a small kerosine lamp.

We asked Vincent to describe a typical day: “I get up a 4 a.m. every morning. I get myself ready in the dark and then wake up my brother and he gets ready for school. I drop him off and then I walk an hour and a half to school, each way. I get home at 6:30 p.m. and I bring food home from school for my brother and I to eat. I do my homework by candlelight and then start again the next day.”
I asked him, “Are you afraid?”
He said that he used to be, but then he found Jesus. “I am not afraid with Christ in my life.”

There wasn’t a dry eye. We were simply overwhelmed by this amazing young boy, alone in the world, brave and strong, a Christ-follower. He smiled when he was asked what he did for fun. “I like music,” he said quietly.
Today, I went to Hell.
But I found Jesus in the midst of it, helping Vincent and his friends find a way out.
Even now, after being back at the hotel for two hours, I feel like I’m in shock. I will never forget the smells and images of Mathare Valley slum.
There are five children in the one Compassion project we visited who need a sponsor and countless others in the surrounding areas. Today, I saw what Compassion does. It simply and profoundly saves children from death. It gives them life.


Day 4: My Rescue

They said her village was too far away.
Too remote to travel to Nairobi to meet me at the city amusement park.
But by some miracle and communication error, she came.
Makena, one of our family’s sponsored children, traveled with a Compassion social worker by motor bike for two hours, bus for an hour, and finally by car to join our newly sponsored boy, Ephantus. They came to meet their sponsor. Me.
It was a double blessing.
Makena, 7, experienced one hundred firsts today, including leaving her primitive village and riding in a car for the very first time. Ephantus is six and is from an urban Nairobi slum.
I cannot describe the unbelievable connection I had with these children. To them the word sponsor is equivalent to our word hero. They both said my name whispered in their mother tongue with reverence.
It was both humbling and empowering: Sponsorship rescues them from poverty, but it has rescued me from wealth.
Today, I became a mother again. The translator told these two children from different tribes and parts of Kenya, they were now brother and sister. Because of me. Tears mingled with laughter as we all experienced new things….
…..riding on a third world ferris wheel
….like petting a baby crocodile
….riding a camel
…….and holding a crocodile egg
I fought back tears when I learned that Makena’s father was seriously injured in a land dispute recently in his village and was left for dead. He survived, but is crippled and unable to care for his family. I was told “the mother is strong,” but I ache for her as she is both mother and provider to Makena and her three siblings.
But these kids aren’t some distant strangers who will get an occasional letter and $38 a month from an American. This is my family. These are my people. Sponsorship is so much more than a financial commitment, it is a relationship. Relationship breeds love. I love these children. I weep for them. I want Ephantus to have new shoes. I want Makena to have a new dress, since her best one is ripped. I want the best for them.
When it was time to give my sponsored children gifts, I was empty-handed because I had only prepared for one. I was thankful I had stuffed Ephantus’ new backpack very full and brought him two soccer balls.
I quickly emptied my polka dotted bag and split the items. I’ve never been more proud to carry my things in a paper sack.
A brother and sister born out of compassion:
Compassion International has joined our hearts and lives forever, here and in eternity. I thought I was sponsoring children to help them.
Turns out I was the one needing to be rescued.
Perhaps, you do too. Click here to sponsor a child.
I strongly urge you to watch what happens when a sponsored child grows up and becomes an adult and meets their sponsor for the first time after 19 years of relationship. (Make sure you
watch it to the end).

*Did you know Compassion allows you to give family gifts to your sponsored child up to $1000 a year? Compassion International meets with the family to decide how the money should be spent…a new roof, beds, etc.

the really good photos are by Ryan Detzel and Brad Ruggles and the thought behind this post was inspired by  Shaun Groves.

Day 3: Why I’m in Kenya

Today we traveled far outside the city limits to visit the Maasai people, a nomadic tribe indigenous to Kenya. More than three hundred women and children met us at the road and walked us into the Compassion project.


The Maasai tribe is known worldwide for maintaining their strict cultural and ritual traditions and resisting modern ways. For centuries, women, especially have suffered in their male dominated world. Polygamy is very common, with men having 3 or 4 wives and dozens of children.


“Female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages of 13-year-old girls to men decades older than them characterize the lives of 99 percent of Maasai girls. A gender-oppressive culture, few and understaffed education facilities, and long treks from home to school and back across the vast savanna plains full of wild animals are some of the challenges girls in my community endure to access education” a quote from one of the Maasai women who grew up as a sponsored Compassion child. (You can continue to read her amazing story and how Compassion saved her from this traditional life here).

The Maasai Compassion project we visited exuded joy. Sheer happiness. It is unbelievable how much Compassion has helped this tribe as a whole.


Today, I saw hope.

I saw a classroom full of children, excited to learn about Jesus! They were knowledgeable, engaged, interested. Happy!


We were honored to serve 300 children lunch. It’s tradition to work for your food, so we served some of the children before we ate:

We traveled to the home of one of the Maasai women, ironically named Kristen


She is the third wife of a very old man. She has seven children, one of whom is registered in the program, but waiting to be sponsored.

Her only income to support her very large family is selling her beadwork. She sells a single beaded necklace for 100 shillings. That’s the price of a Coke.

I am wearing a bracelet she spent hours making while I’m typing this post.


The tiny, dark kitchen where she prepares food for her family is the size of a closet:

We brought several weeks worth of food as a thank you for letting us visit her home. (LV demonstrating how the natives carry food on their head).

I fell in love with the colorful Maasai people today. They shine Jesus.

I wasn’t invited to Kenya to blog Compassion’s relief efforts because I’m special or because my blog is a certain size.

I wasn’t asked to come along on this life-altering journey because I am a good writer or gifted in any way.

This isn’t about me.

I am in Africa because of you.

You are the reason I traveled 33 hours across the globe.

I am in Africa because of them.


I left my home and family to tell their story.

I’m just the person in the middle. I’m the narrator of a God story. A conduit.

You have the hard job. You have to weigh my words, take courage and let them seep into your heart. You have to make a choice.

This is about this child needing a sponsor today, right now:

Proceed to our secure online form

This is about you.