Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion

How do you summarize a week that was truly life-changing into a few paragraphs?
In fact, how do you even put into words that which you are more passionate about than anything in the world?
I do not know but… this is my attempt to try.

From Oct 5 to 11, 2008 – I was in the Dominican Republic on an International Advocates Conference with Compassion International. It was the first-ever International conference. There were just over 300 advocates gathered for it. For those of you who don’t know – an advocate is someone like me who commits to the cause – in this case – we have committed to speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves – children. Specifically children who are being ministered to through Compassion International. Compassion is helping children in 26 countries around the world. The bible very specifically says that God’s heart is for the poor and that if we are to follow Jesus – we are to care for the least of these – children. And that is what Compassion does. It is apparent on these trips that Compassion is literally changing lives, communities and countries – one child at a time. It is my passion to do whatever I can to help these little ones. Because even if one child is helped – it is worth it. 

In the DR, we had amazing worship led by Graham Kendrick. For me, worship was one of the highlights. There were folks from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Korea, Holland, UK, etc. and all of the staff from the DR – all joined together for one common purpose – Compassion! Worshipping together with brothers and sisters from around the world was uplifting and wonderful – I found myself often looking around the room and thinking “this is what heaven is going to be like, only much bigger!” I met so many of the folks who came and I have to say – it was the most amazing group of people I’ve ever encountered. Hearing the stories of how they began sponsoring children and where that journey has taken them – it was truly encouraging. And it became clear that not only are we helping to change lives but all of our lives have been changed too. We all truly understand that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. 

A good portion of the conference was spent in the hotel – we heard from amazing guest speakers who gave testimonies and encouraged us in what we are doing. We heard from the president of Compassion, Dr. Wess Stafford, and he shared with us the history of Compassion and the future plans and goals. He also shared with us much encouragement and thanked us for giving our time to this ministry. What a humble, compassionate man. We heard from each country represented at the conference and what that particular country is up to in regards to this ministry. And we had breakout sessions on various topics including: How to get into churches, sharing/exchanging ideas, how Compassion works and presenting Compassion. All of the sessions were great – I got so many new ideas that I would have never thought of and I learned a lot about Compassion that I didn’t know. And throughout all of this – I met and got to know a lot of the advocates. I made friends immediately upon arrival in the DR airport with two girls named Katie and Rebekah – both from Canada. None of us had ever met before but the 3 of us were pretty much inseparable throughout the week. It was so awesome getting to know them and sharing with each other the excitement for this ministry. We had lots of laughs and even sang a little karaoke one night in the hotel.

On Wednesday of that week, those of the advocates who had children they sponsored in the DR got to meet them. About half of the advocates had sponsored children they got to meet – many of them had more than 1 child. It was a busy day – with all of us, DR staff, translators and children – there were about 750 people at the hotel. It was a bit chaotic but nevertheless, went over smoothly. I did not have a child in the DR so I signed up to do glitter painting – sponsors brought their kids over to our station and we painted faces and arms with glitter stencils. It was very fun. My friend Katie had her sponsored boy there and it was neat to see them interact. She had a great time with him and he even sang to her. Precious. I took lots of pictures of all the happy children and their sponsors. It was a fun day.


On Thursday evening, LDP students came and sat at each table for dinner. LDP is Compassion's Leadership Development Program that sponsored children can qualify for and if they make it into the program - they have an LDP sponsor and are put through college to get a bachelor degree. This program is amazing - it is truly the fruit of the ministry. To see these men and women be able to go to college and in turn - become leaders in their countries - is awesome! The girl who sat at our table was precious. She thanked us over and over and told us to always be reminded of how much of an impact sponsorship has in their lives. She spoke of her sponsors and how much they mean to her. She even started to cry as she spoke of the loving letters they wrote her over the years and how much she knew that they loved her and believed in her. It was truly a joy meeting her.


Two of the days we did project visits where we broke up into 13 groups and visited the churches that are partnered with Compassion. The project visits are always the most wonderful but also the hardest – because it is there that you see first-hand the living conditions and poverty. But it’s also there that you see hope and joy and get to meet the families that Compassion is helping. At the first project I visited, a lot of the children were not there. But we did meet some of them and were able to interact a bit. I brought some stickers and passed those out – it was a great way to break the language barrier and connect with them. And also to get them to smile. The children love having their photos taken so I got lots of pictures. I spent some time hanging out with a 15 year old boy named JuanLouis and he showed me some programs he uses on the computer. We drew pictures together in a paint program. And we typed some words on the screen and a translator helped us to write the words in Spanish and English. It was neat. He seemed like a really great young man – full of potential and love for the Lord. At this project, we broke up into 5 teams and went to see the homes of some of the sponsored kids. At the home I visited – we talked to a mother and her 3 children. Two of her kids are sponsored and she thanked us for helping children through Compassion and told us how happy they are to have the help of Compassion. Her oldest daughter brought out letters and photos of her sponsors and told us how excited she gets when she receives them and how happy it makes her to know that they love her. She said she hopes to meet them someday. As we walked back to the project, we passed many people and were greeted very warmly. 

The second project I visited was on the last full day there – Friday. This project has a CSP – Child Survival Program, as well as the regular Child Sponsorship Program. CSP is a Compassion program that helps mothers who are expecting to learn how to care for their babies and it offers them health check-ups, pre-natal care and once the children are born – it helps them in caring for them up until the children are of age to become part of the Child Sponsorship program. We were able to meet some of the mothers and children in the CSP program – totally adorable little ones. Several babies and toddlers were at the project that day. There were also lots and lots of sponsored kids at the project this day. We toured the project and visited the children in their classrooms. They were all doing art projects, including an art visual of precipitation. We got to interact with them and they showed us their work and poised for lots of pictures. I put stickers on their hands and they gave lots of smiles. We then headed upstairs to the 3rd floor and the children performed many dances for us. Including some young boys who were doing flips and break dancing. That was really cool. It was so much fun dancing with them and playing with them. They are beautiful children. As I looked around the room during the performances at all the children around me – I just kept thinking over and over again “these children are all worth saving!” So many times in the world, children are ignored. I am so honored to be a part of a ministry that is doing something to help them. They are all worth saving. They are ALL full of potential. As one of the guest speakers at the conference said – they are God’s secret agents! These children literally can change the world – they are the future! At this second project, we visited the neighborhood. The home we tried to visit – no one was home. So we just walked around the area a bit and came across a church. The pastor was there and welcomed us in. His daughter is a sponsored child and he spoke of all Compassion has done for his family. The church itself was pretty much outside – you stepped up into a little outdoor area that had like 15 plastic, worn chairs and a makeshift podium. It was hard to believe that was the church but at the same time – it was a good reminder that we don’t need a fancy building to have “church”. We simply need the Lord – and He is there in that church just as much as He is in ours back home. As we came out of the church area – dozens of children were now surrounding us, wanting us to take their pictures, give them handshakes and high-fives. I got tons of pictures of their precious faces. I loved interacting with them and seeing their smiles. In the midst of poverty – there is joy. And where Compassion is, there is hope. And that is why I am a part of this ministry. This is what the Lord has called me to. I don’t do it simply because He has called me though, I do it because it is my heart, my passion. I simply cannot NOT do it – when you’re passionate about something, truly passionate – you speak out, you tell people about, you can’t even help it. And this is that which I want to share with you and with all that I come into contact with. My hope is that you too will sponsor a child and change a life. We often hear the numbers and feel like the little we can do is not enough – but I tell you – it is enough to that one child. It is not only enough, but it is everything – it is giving them a hope and a future. And we know that God has a plan for us all that includes a hope and a future. It starts with these children. 


If you would like to sponsor a child, click on this link:
On this web page, you will see photos of actual children who are in need of a sponsor. Sponsorship is tax-deductible and costs only $32 a month (basically less than a coffee at Starbucks per day). It is a one-on-one sponsorship so the child you choose will only be sponsored by you. You can write to and receive letters from that child. And there is the opportunity to visit him or her too (which I highly recommend). You can search by country, birthdate, age or even by the children who have been waiting the longest for a sponsor.

If you are interested in giving to the Child Survival Program or any of the other programs Compassion offers – there are many ways to give one-time donations too. Visit: for that information.

Friday, August 1, 2008

God speaks in Dreams

This was so awesome - I had to share it. My friend Robin has been thinking about sponsoring a child through Compassion for awhile but didn't want to do so until her husband was on board with it. Anyway, so the other night - she has this dream that her and I are walking in a convenience store and hear a little boy crying. She goes searching for the boy and finds him, picks him up and tries to comfort him while looking for his parents. She doesn't find the parents but she comes across a child packet for him and realizes he's a Compassion child in need of a sponsor. So she wakes up in real life and remembers exactly what the kid was wearing and what he looked like and felt very strongly that this was God's way of telling her she needed to do this. So she told her husband about it and he said that they should do it. So she went online to and three pages into it - there he is - the little boy. 6 year old Fernando from El Salvador - wearing the same shirt in the picture that he was wearing in the dream. That is the coolest God moment ever!!! She sponsored him. I'm so excited!! God is so awesome.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A new door opens!

God is so awesome.  I have been thinking and praying for months about how God could further use me to spread the word about Compassion International. My roommate even confirmed that she felt in her spirit like my role with Compassion was going to get bigger. I didn't know what that would look like exactly but I felt it in my spirit too. Well, about two weeks ago - I got a call from the TN area coordinator who oversees all of the area advocates. She said that the advocate network has doubled in size in the last year (which is awesome) and she wanted to know if I would pray about and consider becoming an area coordinator for Nashville. Well, my spirit jumped right when she asked - it was one of those "aha" moments where you're like "ok God - this is what you were preparing my heart for".  I probably could have just said yes right then and there but I wanted to pray about it just to be sure. I did and continued to feel nothing but peace about taking this role. It is a volunteer role where I'll be overseeing all the advocates in Nashville, keeping in touch with them and putting together team meetings a few times a year, encouraging and helping one another. It's totally right up my alley since being social and keeping in touch with people is my thing anyway. God is so cool how He uses our specific giftings. I just love it. I have gladly accepted the position and will begin training very soon. I am very excited. 
After I said yes to the offer - I got an email inviting me to join Compassion for a National Advocates Conference in the Dominican Republic in October. This was another cool thing because for months I had thought about going to Colorado in Sept for a Compassion group tour reunion retreat. But i just hadn't felt totally sure that God wanted me to go. I signed up but had put off sending in the money to do it. And I had just felt like I was waiting to decide. I also thought about going to Kenya with my church this summer but didn't feel peace about doing that either. Once I got the email invite to the Dominican Republic and realized this would be a great trip to help me in the role I was accepting as the AC, it just was yet another cool moment. It then made sense why the Kenya thing didn't happen and I hadn't felt sure about Colorado. I love how God works! Anyway, I was able to say yes to going on the trip and already booked my flight for October. I have been wanting to visit some more countries and this will be a great chance to get to know some of the people I'll be working with in my  new role with Compassion - I am so excited about this.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another life changed!

I just found out today that my chiropractor got online with his wife and 2 daughters and sponsored a child through Compassion International. Last time I went in for my appointment, he asked me about Compassion and said his family wanted to sponsor a child. So I emailed him the link and they went online and sponsored a little girl the same age as one of his daughters. I'm so excited! It's really an honor to be able to spread the word about Compassion and to know that spreading the word means that seeds will be planted that could put Compassion on someone's heart which could later result in a child being sponsored. That's another life changed in Jesus' name. That is awesome!!! I love this ministry. And I know that my chiropractor and his family will be blessed by it just as the child they sponsored will be!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My trip to the Philippines with Compassion

2007 was filled with lots of great memories but the top highlight was most definitely the trip I took in January to visit my sponsored child in the Philippines. It wasn't just the highlight of the year though, it was one of the highlights of my life!!! What an eye-opening, life-changing experience.

To see poverty first-hand is much different than seeing it on tv. We definitely saw poverty in the Philippines. Manila was especially bad. There we saw five and six person families living in one very small room often times with only a candle for light and most of them were near a river of sewage that overflows into their homes when it rains. In one home, we had to crawl in through a hole and we could only sit on our knees and our head was touching the ceiling. And yet a family of 5 somehow managed to live there. It was worse than I had thought.

I had been told to expect bad conditions but you can't really prepare for it until you see it for yourself. But what I hadn't been told and surely didn't expect was that in the midst of extreme poverty - there was joy. I didn't expect to be welcomed into those homes with pride. Every home we visited, we prayed for the families and all they wanted us to pray for was - health and God's continued provision for their families. They were so thankful for Compassion for helping their children too. We heard that time and time again. We were welcomed in like family and treated with so much love. It was mind-blowing.

We visited 6 different churches that are Compassion projects. We worshipped together and played. The children had been preparing dances and songs for us for months. They were so happy just to touch our hands or play a game with us. Many of them have never met a sponsor before in person and so even though we weren't actually the sponsors of these particular children - we sort of felt like we represented their sponsors. It seemed significant for them to see that we were real people who cared about them. And I know it made an impact on all of us sponsors to see the difference Compassion is making in their lives and to be a part of that. I felt more purpose in this than I ever have in my life. It's a glorious feeling to realize that God is using me to change the life of a child!!!

I always knew my $32 a month was going to a worthy cause but until I saw it first-hand, I didn't REALLY know the extent of it. Besides medical care and school supplies and teaching the kids about Jesus and how much He loves them - there was something I hadn't considered: hope. Compassion gives these children hope - hope for their future and the ability to see that future open with possibilities. And with that hope - they are free to dream and look beyond the poverty that is around them. It is awesome! I can think of no other word to describe it. And so, I sponsored two more children while I was there. And this past Christmas, I sponsored 1 more - all 4 of them are from the Philippines. And in the future, as I can afford to, I plan to sponsor more.

In addition to the amazing time I had visiting the church projects, playing with the kids and getting to know the 12 other sponsors from all over the US that were on the tour - there was the whole reason I went in the first place... to visit my 9 year old sponsored child - Franklin. I got to spend an entire day with him. We went to a place that had bowling, an animal farm, a pool and everything all in one location.

Although Franklin didn't speak much English - we were able to communicate a little bit. But it didn't matter too much cause you can communicate alot in just playing with a child. We played frisbee and bowled - it was his first time. He picked it up so quickly. I taught him how to take pictures with my camera and he loved that. And I really just fell in love with him. He's a precious boy. He's very polite and yet shy at first. But he made friends with two of the other boys very quickly. It was so neat to watch him play and laugh with the other kids and just to get to see his personality come out. When I gave him a yo-yo - he quickly showed me that he knew how to use it and then looked up at me with these eyes that just spoke that he so wanted me to be proud of him. And I am!!!

I have always thought I wanted to adopt someday and this feeling of love toward him just confirmed to me that I do have the capacity to love a child no matter what. It doesn't matter to me if they are blood related. We are all family in Christ anyway! And I can't really even describe how it felt to just have that instant love when I met him. It was so precious. Not everyone got to see their child a second time but we visited Franklin's church project toward the end of the trip so I was able to see him again. And I actually got to visit his home (photos of it to the left) and meet his entire family. It was so great. What a huge blessing. His mother had prepared an entire table of baked goods for me. The family was so sweet and welcoming. And although we couldn't speak the same language - we communicated plenty with hand shakes and hugs. I thought it would be hard to leave Franklin and come home but after meeting his family and seeing the love between them - I knew he was in good hands.

I also got to meet one of the new children I began sponsoring - 5 year old Dhanilyn. She was too young to fully know what was going on but her mother understood and was very excited that her daughter now had a sponsor.

The other little girl (Lara Jessa) I am now sponsoring was not at the school the day we went but I left a gift for her anyway. I hope to go back and see all 3 of them in a few years. Franklin will be learning more and more English so it'll be neat to go when he's a few years older and I can sit and talk with him about his dreams for the future. In the meantime, I get to write and receive letters from all of them. It has taken on a whole new level of excitement to get their letters now that I have been there and met two of them. It's so neat. I love the ministry of Compassion International.

Which brings me to another thing that came about in 2007 - in November I became a Compassion Advocate. Which is a volunteer who basically helps to be a voice for children in need. I just volunteered at a concert in December where 12 of us worked at the Compassion table and helped people get signed up to sponsor a child. 47 kids got sponsored that one night. Now, that is exciting stuff!!!! This is what I am passionate about. Actually, I can't really think of much else I feel more strongly about than Compassion. Especially since my visit to the Philippines. Which is why I must add a link here for If you or someone you know is interested in changing the life of a child - consider sponsoring a child through Compassion.

I support Compassion's Christian child charity. You can too. Sponsor a child today.

I'll end with this really cool story that I heard from one of the other sponsors on the trip.:
A man was on the beach picking up starfish from the shore and throwing them back out to sea when a little boy walked up and asked him why he was doing this. The man said that he was saving them from drying up and dying in the hot sun. The little boy looked down the beach and saw thousands of starfish and said "Do you really think it matters if you throw a few back when there are so many?" The man picked up another starfish, looked at it and threw it back out to sea and simply said "it matters to that one".

What's your Compassion story? Tell it in your blog and link it to this website where others are linking their stories.