A Boy Named Ombeni

086His eyes sparkled.

He smiled ear to ear.

When we told him we were friends of his sponsor (she’s a Hearts at Home mom) and that we had come to visit him and bring him gifts, he lit up.

Ombeni is 17 years old. He lived in a mud and stick house in a small neighborhood of other mud and stick houses.  He attends the Compassion Center that also sponsors the Child Survival Program I shared with you yesterday.

Ombeni is studying welding. His hope and dream is to become a welder and his sponsor is helping him do just that through Compassion.

113When we sponsor a child, most of us are thinking of little ones who need to nutrition and education.  Ombeni was given that when he was younger. However, now he’s approaching adulthood and even though his sponsor is providing the same monthly $38, Compassion now adds job education to Ombeni’s program.

He’s definitely been given a hope and a future.

089Once again, I came face to face with a grateful mother. She asked us, through our interpreter, to thank Ombeni’s sponsor and to tell her that her family’s life has been changed.  We told her we would do that.

But I’m going to do more than tell Ombeni’s sponsor, I’m going to tell you that. From one mom to another.

I’m going to ask you to change a life. Today.

You’ve been with me this week. I’ve definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone here. Will you join me in stepping out of your comfort zone, too?

At the beginning of my trip, I asked you to pray about how God could use you to release a child from poverty. I’m now asking you to talk about this as a family, if you haven’t already.

I’m asking you to click on the box below and see what face causes a tug on your heart.

I’m asking you to share this week’s blog posts and pictures with your spouse. With your children. With your moms group. With your friends.

Please don’t put it off. Please don’t think that someone else will do it. Please don’t look the other way.

The need is real. You can do something about that need.  I’m asking you, from the bottom of my heart that has seen the difference child sponsorship makes, to do that today.

I’m heading home…but my heart will forever be in Africa.

I will never be the same.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

If you’d like to see the other blog posts from the Africa trip, you can find them here.

I cried at the sight…

031We pulled up by the church we were to visit.  Immediately, over 40 women, all with a baby in their arms or on their back, cheered loudly and ran out the door to greet us warmly.

We are heroes to them because we represent the help they’ve been given during their baby’s first year of life.

These moms are a part of the Compassion Child Survival Program.  I cried happy tears today because these are some of the first healthy babies I have seen all week!

Sponsored children can begin the Compassion program at the age of 4.  Several years ago, however, Compassion decided to create an initiative to give babies a healthy start in the first year of life.  They called this the Child Survival Program and it is also an outreach of the local church.

041Let me tell you that this is working. I saw it in the mother’s faces, the way they interacted with their babies and by how healthy the babies looked!

I cried when I addressed the mothers because I was touched that mothers are mothers no matter where they live. Some of us just have more opportunities than others.  Those of us who have more opportunities can bring hope and joy to a mom by partnering with her in providing for the needs of her child. That is what child sponsorship does!

These mothers meet once a week where they encourage one another, but more importantly are given education about nutrition, parenting, and the importance of stimulation and interaction.  They end up in a close relationship with one another…this becomes their very own moms group!

007The women were so proud of their resources at the church. They showed us their stimulation room and put their babies in it so we could see them play. This is such a new concept for these mothers!

After visiting the center, we visited one of the mother’s homes where she proudly showed us her sewing machine and the items she sews. Through micro-lending, which is available through the Child Survival Program, she was able to start her sewing business.  Now she has the ability to provide for her family.

My heart is very full today. I’m amazed at how something as little as $38 a month can literally change a life. Not just a life…but a family!

Will you be someone’s hero?

There’s a child that needs you. What you don’t know, though, is that you need them too.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

(You can see other pictures from our fifth day in Africa here!)

Where your letters go…

Letters.

They are a core component of the Compassion sponsor/child relationship.

When we visited Theresia on Saturday, she had a 9×12 manila envelope, damp from the stick and mud home she lived in, full of every letter and every picture we sent her over the years.

She pointed to every person in every picture and named them correctly.

Being here this week, I have seen how much the children cling to our words. They study our pictures. They are introduced to a world outside of what they know.

One graduated child told us that if he could ask his sponsor anything he would ask about his cat. Obviously his sponsor had written quite a bit about their pet cat and this young man just couldn’t understand the concept of living with an animal in your house.  We laughed with him at his confusion, but we celebrated with him all that his sponsor added to his life.

Today we visited the country office.  This is the headquarters of Compassion in Tanzania. Every person we met was absolutely committed to releasing children from poverty. We were astounded at their commitment to their mission and vision.

We also learned that this is where the letters go. The ones you write to your child and the ones your child writes to you both arrive in the country office where they are translated and then sent on.

10 people process an average of 1000 letters a week in the Compassion Country Office in Tanzania. They are all handled individually.

letters 3When a sponsor sends a letter, it first arrives in the USA office located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Then it is sent on to the country office where it is translated. After it is translated, it is sorted into a mailbox for the Compassion Center it needs to go to (there are 270 Compassion Centers in Tanzania!).

I loved getting to see the process in action today.  I know there are over 50 moms from Hearts at Home who have sponsored kids in Tanzania… if that’s you and you’ve recently written your child, I might have seen your letter being processed!

letters 1There are two ways to do a letter: online and mailed. We usually send them both ways to our sponsored child in Honduras. Online is very convenient and photos can be attached just like an email. However, I like to sent a letter in the mail when I can because I love to enclose stickers for him to use.  One of the country office workers said that you can also send cards and very flat books that fit in an envelope.

letters 2So what are you waiting for? If you have a sponsored child, take five minutes and write him or her a letter.

They cherish every word.

I promise.

I saw it with my very own eyes.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Our Day with the Maasai Tribe

387His name is Topiko.

His sponsor is Keli.

Two hearts knit together through child sponsorship. Two lives changed forever.

Keli decided to sponsor Topiko at a Hearts at Home conference. Her family has prayed for him, written to him, and sponsored him for just $38 a month.

His family has been incredibly blessed by his enrollment in the Compassion program.

407

Topiko’s mother in the doorway of her home.

Topiko, his mother, and four siblings live in this hut. They belong to the Maasai tribe.

A couple of weeks ago we found out the Compassion centers we would be visiting and we asked Compassion International to look and see if there were any children at these centers that had Hearts at Home mom’s who were sponsoring them.  Indeed there were!

389We contacted the moms and asked if they would like us to take gifts to their children. Of course, they were thrilled to do something special.

Keli said that Topiko wrote about his favorite things in his letters. He said he liked milk and he liked to play ball.  Keli decided to send him candy to share with his friends and family, Nestle Quik to put in his milk, and a brand new ball.

I think the look on his face says it all. He was sooooo proud of his gifts and especially of his new ball.

His mother was absolutely thrilled to have us in her home and she asked us several times to tell Keli how grateful she 390was for her family’s sponsorship of Topiko. She said that through Topiko’s involvement in Compassion, they have been provided mosquito nets, a mattress to sleep on, goats, and a solar light they can use in their hut, which obviously is very dark without electricity.

Even though Keli’s family is sponsoring Topiko, they unknowingly have a relationship with this mother.

One mother partnering with another mother to provide for a child.

It’s a beautiful relationship.

Would you be willing to do what Keli has chosen to do? Will you give your more than enough to a child that doesn’t even have enough?

I’m hoping to see 100 children sponsored this week through this trip. Have you been praying about how God might use you? Will you say yes?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

If you’re already sponsoring a child, please tell me about him or her if you haven’t already!

If you decide to sponsor a child in partnership with this trip, I want to know! I want to hear all about the child whose life you have chosen to change.

Oh and you have to see the rest of our pictures from today.  Here’s a sneak peek:

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You can find the rest of them here!

Church in Tanzania

Yesterday we went to church in Tanzania.  No, let me rephase that….we went to CHUUUUUURCH!  This folks know how to celebrate God!

Here’s a brief video of what we experienced: Church in Tanzania

photoWe also had to say goodbye to Theresia.  That broke my heart, however we’ve been so blessed by our time with her.

When I traveled to El Salvador several years ago, I saw the impact of the program on small children. It’s amazing what food and healthcare can do for a small child.

This visit has seemed to have more interaction with older children in the Compassion program and what I’m realizing is that once food and healthcare are established for a child, Compassion helps older children dream and then actually realize their dream!

We saw that in Theresia and we also saw that in two older children we spent time with tonight. Lucky is a 22 year old girl in the Compassion Leadership Development Program (LDP). Dennis is in his early twenties and has applied for the LDP.  They shared with us how child sponsorship changed their lives.

Dennis was the youngest of five. His older brothers and sisters were not in the Compassion program and had to stop school at age 14.  He said they were very smart and did well in primary school, but there just wasn’t money for them to go to secondary school.  (It costs more to attend secondary school in Tanzania and many families can’t afford it at all.)

Dennis, however, was in the Compassion program so when he finished primary school, his sponsorship paid for his secondary school!  He finished secondary school and is now headed for university hopefully through the Leadership Development Program (he has applied to the program, but not yet been accepted.)  Child sponsorship changed his life because it afforded him education.

Seeing the full scope of the life-change has been powerful on this trip. I can assure you that if you are sponsoring a child, you are changing a life.

I can also assure you that if you choose to sponsor a child, you will change the trajectory of their life.

And that’s the truth…I’ve seen it with my very own eyes.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

A Hope and a Future

She’s a beautiful woman now.

When we began sponsoring her, we believed in her possibility and we hoped for her future.

Today hope and a future are reality.

Theresia, now 22, is changing her world.

Where do I even begin to share about all that has transpired today?

L-R: Lisa, Theresia, Rhonda

L-R: Lisa, Theresia, Rhonda

We met Theresia. The tears fell freely as I hugged her and was so moved by the reality of this moment.  She was no longer a picture but a beautiful young woman who is now employed and on her way to breaking the cycle of poverty in her family.

Why? Because a group of moms in Illinois said yes to God seven years ago.

It works.  Child sponsorship changes lives. It changes families. It can change the world.

Today I learned that ten years ago, 35,000 children died everyday from preventable diseases.  Now ten years later, the numbers have dropped to 25,000 children who die everyday from preventable diseases. While 25,000 grieves my heart, the fact that 10,000 children are alive because of programs like Compassion encourages me that it makes a difference.

Today I had the privilege of seeing Theresia’s grades. I went through a binder of her health records. I read social worker notes from family visits that the Compassion organization made regularly to the home.  We talked with Theresia about the difference it made in her life.  Even more powerful for me was talking to her mother about the difference it made for her family.

Their home.

Their home.

Let me share with you where Theresia grew up. Going to her home was humbling. The family lives in one 10 x 12 room in a stick and mud “house.” There were holes in the roof, so when it rains outside, it also rains inside…onto mud walls and a mud floor. Theresia’s mother, Josephine, is a single mother. She and her daughters sleep in one “bed” which is really just a wide bench, while Theresia’s brother sleeps on a “love seat” sized bench.

Cook stove

Cook stove

This is the where Josephine prepares their meals.  She told us that she often only makes two meals a day when there isn’t enough food for three meals a day. Many times when we sent Theresia gifts for birthday or Christmas, part of the money was used to purchase food for the family. Josephine communicated her gratefulness for that.

Josephine has tried to support her family selling vegetables, however she said that did not meet their needs. Now she does her best to buy wholesale goods and to resell them to retail establishments making a small profit on her mark-up. It still barely provides for her family.  Josephine was 16 when she had Theresia. She is not educated and job opportunities for the uneducated are very slim.

Theresia is changing that for her family.

After graduating for high school, Compassion helped place Theresia in a higher educational opportunity. She secured a 1 year certificate in hotel management. She now lives about one hour away and works in a hotel. She is supporting herself and her family now.

Hope now blooms and a changed future is reality.

It works. Child sponsorship changes lives, families, and communities.

Tomorrow we experience church in Tanzania…although I must say I believe I attended church today based upon James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Have you been asking God how He can use you?

(You can find more pictures from our first day on my Facebook page here!)

I’d like for you to meet…

We chose her because we figured someday she’d be a mom.

That’s only appropriate for a bunch of leaders in a mom ministry, right?

1While many of our families sponsor children, seven years ago, the Hearts at Home team decided to pool our resources and sponsor a child together. One of our volunteers wrote to her regularly and shared her pictures, drawings, and letters as they arrived.

This is the first picture we ever saw of Theresia (pronounced Ter-ra-see-a).

She lived with her grandmother and two younger siblings for many years.

We were notified by Compassion when her grandmother died and Theresia and her brother and sister were then living with their mother once again.

2She drew us pictures…many that we still have.  She shared scripture with us in each letter. She told us about her life and her family.

In her letters, we learned that she loved art and memorizing scripture was very important to her.

14We sent money for birthdays and Christmas. Not much—$25  buys a lot in a third-world country.  Compassion always sent a picture of Theresia with whatever the money we sent had bought.  This picture on the right is one of my favorite pictures of her with a suitcase and outfit that had been purchased for her from a gift we sent.

We’ve watched her grow into a beautiful young woman over the years. She just graduated from the Compassion program and is now working at a hotel.

Compassion fed her body and her soul while she was growing up. Her life was changed because of our sponsorship through the Compassion International ministry.

Our lives were also changed because of our sponsorship, too. We thought outside of ourselves. We introduced Theresia to our children who would come into the Hearts at Home office with us and see a framed picture of her on a bookshelf.  We learned about another part of the world. And we were reminded that people are people no matter where they live.

Today we get to meet Theresia…face to face.  I can’t wait to share that experience with you on the blog tomorrow!

I need ask…once again…are you praying?  Are you asking God what He wants to do in you and through you during this trip?

I can’t wait to hear YOUR story!

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Love in Guatemala

While you’re reading this, I’m likely on an airplane somewhere between Europe and Africa. I’m sure my contacts have dried out and my teeth are feeling a bit furry…but I digress.

When I went to El Salvador 5 years ago, Debbie followed the trip on my blog.  Several months ago she emailed me and told me that she and her daughter were preparing to go on a Compassion Vision Trip to Guatemala to meet their sponsored child!

I asked Debbie if I could share the letter she sent me a couple of weeks ago after their trip. She graciously said yes.

 

Dear Jill,
I e-mailed you a few months ago to let you know that my daughter and I were going on a Compassion Intl. Sponsor tour in July.  The Compassion trip you took a few years ago was so impactful to me, especially reading your blog about your experiences each day and what it was like to actually meet your sponsor child.
imageSo now I can completely understand all that you were feeling and experiencing after just completing my first trip with my daughter, Nichole.  Wow!!!!  I cannot even begin to describe what an incredible trip we had to Guatemala.  I have been trying to put into words to my husband, family and friends what it was like and I can’t even scratch the surface in describing it!
We left July 13th for Guatemala and came back on July 20th forever changed by what we saw, felt, smelled, touched and heard!  We left part of our hearts with the Guatemalan people.  As we were sitting in the plane in Guatemala City, waiting to take off, I looked over at my daughter and at the same time we both said, “I don’t want to leave”.  We felt this strong pull to jump out the plane window and run back to our sponsored children!
image (1)While on the trip I had the awesome privilege of sponsoring another little girl!  Her name is Norma.  We met her Monday at one of the student centers and Compassion was able to get her to Guatemala City on Friday so we could meet her again along with our original sponsor child, Belsy.  It was one of the most incredible days of both our lives.
So now we are back, telling our story to whoever will listen!  I just wanted you to know that I’m thankful for that blog you did all those years ago which planted the seed in me to go on one of these trips.  I will never, ever be the same!
Trusting in Him,
Debbie Goumas

In a follow up email, Debbie told me, ”  If anything I have to say even gets one person to sponsor a precious child of God, I would be so humbled and blessed!  Did you know that only 1% of all sponsored children ever get to meet their sponsors?  That really surprised me!  God has allowed you to represent Jesus to these kids in Africa just like He did for Nichole & I in Guatemala!  What a awesome God He is!  How humbling for us!”

Any sponsor can take a vision trip with Compassion just like Debbie and her daughter did. That’s one of the things I love about Compassion!  The other thing I LOVE is that you can build a relationship with your child by mail!  For the past seven years the Hearts at Home staff have sponsored a young lady in Tanzania.  We’ve written to her. Prayed for her. Sent her something for her birthday every year. I can’t wait to introduce you to Theresia tomorrow!

Are you praying?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion