Compassion Bloggers in Uganda

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My friends have been in Africa this week. I’ve read their posts through half-open eyes – not because I’m sleep-deprived but because their beautiful, heart-felt and heart-broken words are hard to read, hard to process, just hard.

Every time Compassion takes a group of bloggers on a trip, I find myself with a split blog reader personality. I want to read every word . . . and I don’t want to read a single word. It’s important . . . but it’s so hard. The stories are so moving . . . but they make me cry so hard. The Compassion blogging program has changed my heart . . . but maybe I don’t want to change anymore.

See? Split personality. In case you’re a bit the same (aka, cuh-razy) and find yourself wearing the read every word hat this weekend, here are the posts the group in Uganda has written this week:

The Nester

Emily Freeman

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Jeff Goins

Joy the Baker

Shaun Groves

Mark and I sponsored our first Compassion child – Elizabeth in Ghana – after I read along with a group of Compassion bloggers. Then another trip meant we added Elizabeth in Kenya to our family, too. If you’d like to sponsor a child through Compassion, go here. You won’t regret it.

Compassion in Ecuador :: An Interview

September is a big month for Compassion International. In an effort to raise awareness of the organization’s mission and services and to release more than 3,100 children from poverty, Compassion is working with bloggers around the world to share stories, insights and resources with our readers.

Whether by coincidence or providence, I was excited to learn last month – not long after I heard about Compassion Bloggers Month – that two of the pastors I work with were visiting Ecuador with Compassion and Stadia, a church planting organization.

As soon as they returned home, I pounced. Pen and paper in hand like the old-school reporter I imagine myself being, I requested an interview with Josh, my friend and recent Compassion trip participant. He was gracious enough to give me his time, and today I’m sharing a bit of what I learned from Josh.

Where exactly did you go on your trip?
We visited Quito and Manta, two big cities in Ecuador. We also visited a small community outside Quito.

Tell me about that small community.
Before Stadia planted a church in this community and Compassion began providing services there, it was literally off the map. It had no water, no power, no medical resources and no road – despite the fact that a few thousand people lived there!

Now, there’s a nice road so water can be trucked in. They have electricity now, and there’s a plan for water lines to be built to get water directly into the village. In addition, the amazing resources from Compassion’s Child Survival Program have radically increased the survival rate.

Did you see the same need throughout Ecuador?
No. Ecuador is not a poor country. It’s a country with a huge distribution problem. Ninety-five percent of the country’s GDP is consumed by merely 5 percent of the population. It’s incredible that just a few miles outside a modern, thriving metropolitan city, you can find such desperate poverty and need. Seeing that complete discrepancy of resources in such a small geographical area was shocking.

What did you know about Compassion before your trip?
I’d been a sponsor for almost 10 years. I first learned about Compassion when my sister began sponsoring a child right after she became a Christian. She couldn’t actually afford the monthly sponsorship, so she’d skip lunch a few times to have enough money. I sponsored a child then, too, and sponsored another child about five years ago. I knew my money went to my specific kids, but that’s about all.

What surprised you about Compassion during your trip?
I was really surprised to see first-hand Compassion’s attention to detail and accountability for making sure money goes to the right place. I also learned that they provide a hand up, not a hand out.

It was also really cool to find out that they work with local people. The Compassion workers in Ecuador are from Ecuador. As a matter of fact, many of the Compassion leaders there now actually grew up as sponsored kids.

What do you believe Compassion does well?
Compassion is excellent at raising up the next generation of leaders through children. Sponsoring a child is not just feeding him. It’s making sure he’s educated and has the opportunity to grow up, lead and effect change.

That’s what Compassion is doing – catalyzing long-term change within the country. Compassion’s Ecuador director was actually involved in politics previously. And instead of following a career that legitimately could have resulted in him serving as the country’s president, he chose to work with Compassion, because he knows that Compassion is making a long-term difference, while his nation’s government has too much turnover for long-lasting change.

Did your trip change how you see Compassion?
I believed in Compassion before, but now I’m even more confident in my sponsorship. I also want to encourage others to sponsor children through Compassion. I see now that child sponsorship through Compassion makes a long-term impact not just on one child, but on a family, a community or even an entire country.

How did your trip change you?
I’m definitely more aware of what I have. And I’m more cognizant of my lack of intentional behavior with the kids I sponsor. I want to write them more and send additional money when I can, and I’d even love to meet them someday!

Thank you so much for your time, Josh! I know you’re busy preparing for the launch of Restore Community Church’s Brookside campus coming up in a few months, and I appreciate you sitting down with me to share your insights from visiting Ecuador with Compassion.

By the way, Compassion is holding a Pinterest Contest this week! Here are the details. In short, create a “My Sponsored Child” board. Pin ideas for supporting your child (letters, crafts, etc.). And the pinners who get the most repins will win gifts for their sponsored children. Awesome, right?

If you’d like to join Josh and me in releasing kids from poverty, visit Compassion today and sponsor a child!

Have you ever been on a mission trip? How did it change you?

Teaching Kids About Gratitude & Giving

Bottles of ketchup at the grocery store
How many types of ketchup do we really need?

My daughter has always been observant to an uncanny degree. This means, first of all, that you cannot have “for grown-up ears only” conversations around her, make promises (or threats) you don’t intend to keep, or expect her to simply forget about the slightly traumatizing or embarrassing event from last week. (I know. Typical, right?) But it also means that as a two-year-old, she recognized the insanity of the suburban grocery store situation.

One day after picking her up from the babysitter, I said, “Okay, Annalyn, we’re going to go to the store now.” As we drove down the highway, she asked, “What store?” and I answered, “HyVee.”

All was well – until we pulled into the parking lot and started walking toward the store. Toddling along, holding my hand, she looked up and shouted, “NO! No, Mommy! This is the wrong HyVee!”

She was just two years old, but already she was realizing that in this suburban setting, we can find a grocery store on just about every corner.

Of course, as she was also learning, not all grocery stores are created equal. For example, the big box store where we usually buy groceries is a smaller version of the big box store a few more miles down the road. When it was first converted to a superstore with groceries, I was super excited. Driving fewer miles to buy groceries was a definite plus, but I was also relieved to shop in a store slightly smaller than the Atlanta airport.

Until I couldn’t find the right peanut butter. Or deodorant. Or soy milk.

See, it turns out that we traded miles of walking for a smaller selection. That makes sense, of course, and isn’t the end of the world by any measure. But you wouldn’t have known that from my initial reaction. “What the heck? How could they have all these other salsas but not the one I want? What is wrong with this store? Stupid store.”

Talk about first-world problems!

We live in a small house in an old, deteriorating neighborhood. Nearly every room in our home is broken in some way, and my car drives like it’s one gear shift away from a failed transmission. Every holiday, date night, birthday party and new outfit stresses out my budget and me. And we carry a much higher balance on our credit card than I like to admit. However, by the standards of a huge majority of people in this world, we are wealthy. Not just comfortable, but rich.

How, then, do I teach Annalyn a healthy perspective on all our blessings, as well as a grateful and giving heart?

We do it by talking about having a grateful heart, reading stories about thankfulness and sharing, praying before meals and thanking God for all He’s given us every night before bed. We send thank you notes for gifts, and when it’s appropriate, I point out how much more we have than others – and how that means we must share with others. (Okay, fine, sometimes it’s more frustration than an appropriate teachable moment. But can you blame me, when I hear the words, “Is that all?” for the umpteenth time in one back-to-school shopping trip?)

Another way we teach Annalyn about gratitude and giving is by sponsoring two children through Compassion.
Though her four-year-old brain hasn’t quite made the connection between “our girls in Africa” and her daily life, she does get really excited to write letters and send stickers and colored pictures for Elizabeth and Christine.

September is Compassion Blog Month, and I’ll be participating with sharing some thoughts and stories about Compassion with you once a week. Full disclosure: I write about Compassion to support an organization that I believe in wholeheartedly. But I also write about Compassion in hopes that you will sponsor a child and release him (or her) from poverty. Just $38 a month makes a world of difference to a child with nothing. For us, though, it’s merely doing without one weeknight trip to that grocery store down the corner.

How do you teach your kids about gratitude and giving? Will you consider sponsoring a child through Compassion?

On being a Compassion blogger

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you may have noticed that I occasionally write about Compassion International. For those of you who visit my actual site (versus reading in Google Reader or on your phone), you can see I have a big Compassion banner in my sidebar, too.

Why do I do this?

I share about Compassion because while I’ve never been on a mission trip with the organization, I am a Compassion blogger. And I am a Compassion blogger because . . .

. . . I believe in the work Compassion does to release children from poverty.
. . . I want to support my friends and fellow bloggers who travel around the world with Compassion.
. . . once my eyes were opened, I couldn’t NOT do something.
. . . writing about Compassion, sharing it with you IS doing something.

Another thing that makes being a Compassion blogger a rewarding experience (though I’d do it even without this!) is the support I receive from Compassion as part of the team. Regular e-mails with news and ideas for writing topics make blogging for Compassion easy. And now the new-and-improved Compassion Bloggers website makes it even easier.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming an “official” blogger for Compassion, I say do it now! Head over to CompassionBloggers.com, where you can sign up, mark your calendar for the next Compassion blogger trip, read about past blogger trips, and find banners to share on all your social media sites. Oh – and if you don’t already, you can sign up today to sponsor a child!

Are you a Compassion blogger? Do you write about a cause you’re passionate about?

Weekend Links: Compassion in Tanzania

Did you follow the Compassion bloggers’ trip to Tanzania last week? I missed the whole thing when I was out of commission for several days, but as soon as I could, I caught up. In case you missed it, too, here are all the posts!

The Nester

Gussy Sews

Minivans are Hot

Resourceful Mommy

Homeschool Creations

Big is the New Small

Shaun Groves

Click here to sponsor a child from Tanzania today.

This post will be linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife.