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 compassion.com. If you or someone you know is interested in changing the life of a child - consider sponsoring a child through Compassion.
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. www.shaungroves.com/shlog/comments/stories_of_compassion_international_its_your_turn/