Archives for November 2008

Sarah

On Monday we were invited to lunch at the Compassion project, where we had the chance to chat with the pastor of the church. This pastor was a precious example of a servant pastor in action. This man led the mother’s devotions. He showed people around. He was even seen helping to set the table for our lunch. He did whatever needed doing.

Every Compassion project in every country is sponsored by a local church. Sponsorship money from sponsored children goes to support the children in each project. But the church is also asked to foot a small portion of the expense of running the project in their neighborhood. Compassion feels that churches work more responsibly with Compassion when they are themselves invested in the work to a certain level.

It was obvious that this pastor was indeed fully invested in the work of Compassion. After lunch we lingered around the table as he took the time to answer all the questions we had about the work being done in his community. When the questions began to wind down, Steve asked the pastor to share some of the success stories.

The pastor, who seems like a very serious fellow, told some details about several different children whose lives had been changed by Compassion. But then, just as it seemed he was winding down, his face lit up and he said he had one more story for us. He called a little girl to his side, the one you see in the picture above with Steve. She must have been 10 or 12 years old. We’d seen her hanging around, peeking in the windows while we ate. She came obediently and stood close to the pastor while he told her story via a translator.

Sarah is one of several children in a family who several years ago made the difficult decision that they could no longer care for their children. They left Sarah with one of the pastors in their community where she lived for awhile. During that time, she developed problems with her left eye. The family brought her to the Compassion project, and Compassion arranged for her to be examined by an eye specialist. The doctor did a biopsy and discovered a mass growing behind her eye.

The mass was benign, but it was causing her eye not to function well. She had two surgeries that supposedly got rid of the mass.

But after two years it came back.

Through Compassion’s medical fund, the pastor was able to arrange for another, better specialist to look at her eye. This eye doctor plans in the course of two surgeries to remove the new mass and repair her eye.

All this story was told with a translator in a herky-lerky sort of way, as it goes with all translation, with Sarah standing soberly next to the pastor. I wondered how she felt hearing her story being told to a roomful of strangers, and felt a little sorry for her.

But when the pastor got to the part about her upcoming eye surgery, there came to be a lightness about her face. There were murmurs around the room as people listening were quietly rejoicing on her behalf, rejoicing that Compassion was giving her a chance.

And then Steve spoke.

“Sarah,” he said, smiling with infinite warmth in his voice. “What an amazing story God has given you!”

He paused as the translator spoke the words in Spanish. The translator was smiling as he passed those words along, and Sarah’s face lit up with a million candlepower smile in response.

Steve went on, deliberately, warmly. “God must have amazing things for you to do, Sarah, to have given you such an amazing story. He doesn’t give people a story like that for no reason. God must really love you! Do you know God loves you?”

Sarah’s smile grew even more brilliant and she nodded steadily. “Si.”

I pray that Sarah will remember Steve’s words for the rest of her life, and I thank God for the work of Compassion in her life.

I wonder what Sarah will do with her amazing story. And her beautiful smile.

———–

Sarah already has a sponsor, a woman in Australia. But there are many, many other children who don’t yet have sponsors, children who would like nothing more than to know that there is a plan for their future and that someone cares. If you would like to make a difference for a child like Sarah, click on the Compassion logo in my sidebar or visit the child sponsorship page.

Compassion. Sharing God’s love one child at a time.

That they may live

I got a good solid four hours of sleep last night and was up and ready to get moving by 7. Beats me how. Must be all y’all praying back home. After a buffet style breakfast, where I had a cheese omelet and a pancake (and looked cross-eyed at the juice and the fruit — no tummy troubles, please!) we all piled onto the bus and took off.

The air was humid and the sky overcast, with water in puddles on the ground from last night’s rain. The hotel overlooks the ocean. You can smell it. You can see it. But you can’t get to it. At least not easily– you’d have to cross three highways to reach the beach from the hotel. Needless to say, I have not attempted it. Steve promises that Nick and I will get to beach this week– probably on a bus instead of on foot. But I’ll take the ocean however I can get it.

The main road goes for miles with palm trees and blue ocean on one side, and city on the other. Buildings vary wildly in design, from mini-marts with barred windows, to American-style Texaco stations, to stucco arch-windowed hotels, to sheet metal shacks, to ancient fortifications built by Christopher Columbus (designed to stave off the original pirates of the Caribbean).

People swarm everywhere, walking, biking, motorcycling. Whole families ride on tiny motorbikes with babies sandwiched between dad and mom, all placid faced and comfortable. Tiny pickups zoom by, their beds loaded with bananas and eggs and people.

The first Compassion project was supposedly half an hour away, but ended up feeling further because of stopping along the way to pick up various Compassion workers who would help us with translation. As we approached the project, houses got smaller and sidewalks disappeared. We parked next to a playground fenced with barbed wire and rough poles. Inside the enclosure kids played on a rusty swing set and bounced a basketball into a wobbly basketball hoop.

Across the muddy road stood a little church. We were ushered inside just in time for a nutrition presentation by health ‘implementers’, Compassion volunteers who worked for this project. The presentation was put together for the 52 mother/child groups in Compassion’s child survival program. All these women were either pregnant or had babies under the age of 3, and had been chosen because of their need. The goal of this program is to keep moms healthy during pregnancy and to help them keep their kids healthy during their first three years of life.

The air was warm and wet and full of the smells of cooking and of people and exhaust from passing vehicles. Everywhere I looked there were gorgeous babies and toddlers. Babies squalled. Toddlers made cautious forays into stranger’s space, then ran bashfully back to their mothers. A mother pulled her baby from her breast, but replaced him with a smile when he gave a displeased squall.

The nutrition program began with the reading of the first 3 verses of Psalm 40, and some great singing that made me very much wish I knew the words. Instead I had to content myself with humming and hand-clapping — not terribly satisfactory.

The actual nutrition part of the program gave the mothers useful information, but also had its share of humorous moments. Check out Melanie’s blog for a rundown on the best moments. I found out later that about half of these women were single mothers, and almost half of them were under the age of 18. Compassion moms benefit from the program in many ways. But mothers that I talked to said that the best thing is the access to good medical care for their children.

After the program we were able to visit with the mothers involved in the project, as well as go on a couple of home visits with the health care implementers. There the workers checked the baby’s growth, talked to mothers about ways to keep their children healthy and safe, and read the Bible and said a prayer with the mothers. I was honored to be part of the group praying for these women who obviously cared so deeply for the well-being of their children. And I was deeply impressed by the scope of the work that Compassion is doing on behalf of some of the most vulnerable little ones in the world.

Click on the link on the left side of my page if you would like to sponsor a Compassion child in the Dominican Republic. Click here here if you’d specifically like to give assistance to the child survival program. Your help can mean life for precious little ones like the ones I saw today.

Most of these picture were taken by Keely, our trip photographer. Doesn’t she do awesome work?

Go here for links to the other bloggers on this trip or visit the child sponsorship page.

This group

We’ve made it to the Dominican Republic. It was a good flight- I got to sit next to Pioneer Woman’s daughters. In Santa Domingo so far I’ve seen palm trees and rain clouds and one roach. (Jennifer screamed– then I screamed– and she killed it. Bless the woman. She and I are roomies this week.) We have a lovely hotel with decent internet.

Skype was choppy tonight and I only stayed on a few minutes. But it was nice to see my family for a few minutes. It is rumored that we bloggers will have our own dedicated internet connection in a conference room tomorrow, and we’ll end each day with a group blog-party. Should be great fun.

I’ll have to tell you about the country tomorrow, since I’ve not seen much. But I’ve got a small feel for my travel group. They’re smart and funny and thoughtful — and glad to be here. As am I. I feel fortunate — and energized — to be in the midst of people interested in making life better for kids, people who’ve committed time and talents to a cause so central in my heart.

Brian said this evening that we were all ordained by God to be here. I am full of the awareness of that and so grateful for it. That knowledge was a comfort on Saturday when my husband and I said our goodbyes to each other. And it is an exciting challenge now as I look forward to this week.

I must sleep, as it is 2 AM here, and breakfast is at 7:30. But as God’s plan for the week unfolds I’ll be sharing what I learn with you.

————
My Group

The Bloggers
Melanie
Tim and his son Nick
Marlboro Man and his daughters
Jennifer

The Compassion Workers
Brian Seay
Shaun Groves
Steve Jones
Keely Scott, our photographer

Still in nice comfy America

My view at this moment

My view at this moment

Yes, I’m still here in America, where a moderately priced hotel lobby looks like this. (Yes, that really IS leopard print carpet.)  Where people expect to be comfortable and fed and provided with fast wireless internet. Sometimes they OK, I — even call the desk to ask what’s up, if, say, the internet doesn’t seem to support more than two pages loading at the same time. Spoiled me in my comfy little world.

But back to the travel story. The flight to DC was 3-1/2 hours, I think, right over lunch time. The only meal offered was a wrap type sandwich — for $9. Made me glad I’d grabbed the pizza. The plane managed to make good time, getting us to DC right on time. The plane de-boarded in a snail-like way. I was way at the back, and kept looking at my watch. My next flight was scheduled to board in 10 minutes. I was hoping the United ticket agent had been right about the closeness of the next gate.

Once freed, I dashed off the plane and was glad to see that my gate was only a few hundred yards away. I got there as people were standing to get in line to board. And onto that plane I went. The flight from DC to Miami was just under 3 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed my daughter’s ipod, onto which my son had downloaded the newest song by Shaun Groves.  (You can get it for free on Tuesday– I’ll tell you how.) Great song. I had to listen to it a bunch of times. I’m trying to decide if I’m brave enough to ask him to sing sometime this week after all the bloggers meet up. 

I also found myself lingering over the song “These Small Hours” from the movie Meet the Robinsons that I watched with my family on Friday evening. The words made me think of the way that I want to experience this trip, to be totally in the moment, however it unfolds, whatever I am experiencing.

Our lives are made in these small hours,
these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away, but these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

On the flight from DC to Miami, I happened to sit next to a little Asian girl who was probably 10. Her folks were a couple aisles back, and her dad called up to her a couple times, to make sure she was doing OK. She reassured him that she was fine but was full of reserve, reading Huckleberry Finn and clutching a teddy bear.

I felt sorry that she couldn’t sit with her folks, so I made small attempts at conversation during the trip, to which she politely gave brief answers and timid smiles, obviously not so comfortable with speaking with the strange lady. As the flight wore on and night came on, her head bobbed repeatedly until finally she tilted my way and I leaned my shoulder in to receive her sagging little self.

She slept for half an hour or so while I sat flipping through songs on the ipod, missing my own kids, and gaining comfort in the feel of her resting against me. I guessed she’d be embarrassed to awaken and realize she’d been sleeping on me. As I felt her stirring to awaken, I pretended to be asleep myself, not opening my eyes until a few minutes after she had hastily straightened herself and pulled her reserve back around her.

These small hours. I want to grasp them all.

Once off the plane, I grabbed my luggage and headed for the curb to wait for my shuttle to the hotel. All my flights had been short ones, but I had logged 13 hours either on planes or in the airport today, and suddenly realized I was weary.

The view last night

The view last night

The hotel was comfortable. My room had a lovely 10th floor view of Miami city lights, complete with palm trees that tickled my lil’ Idaho heart. Even more delightful was the fact that Skype worked beautifully. I was able to have a nice chat with my family, complete with video. However when the 3 year old asked if I was coming home tonight, I realized that perhaps we’d glossed over the length of time that I will be gone. Drat.

I slept late this morning — an unaccustomed luxury– and checked out at 12. Now I’m blogging in the lobby and thinking that soon it will be time to head off to the airport to meet the other bloggers.

4 pm is our meeting time.

Our flight out is at 5:50.

Dominican Republic, here we come.

Whether we’re ready or not.

Sunday

Give Me Your Eyes
Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me your love for humanity.
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

From Miami

I always imagine getting lots of actual writing done on an airplane. In reality the closeness and the noise and the early rising tends towards an inertia that makes it seem much easier to thumb through a magazine.

My first flight was at 9 AM — not too early. But I didn’t want to cut it too close, so I was up by 6:15. Our two 10 year old sons were the only ones awake to wave John and me off, and I’d purposely said goodbye to all the kids at bedtime, which made it a little bit easier to leave in the morning. Still, it was tough to say goodbye to John. Once I was checked in, we spent half an hour sitting on a bench just outside of the security check-in, chatting, putting off the goodbyes.

But then finally it was time. The first hop was to Denver, just a couple of hours from home, and it went smoothly. I had an hour to make the next plane, which I didn’t think would be any trouble in the lovely Denver airport. But when I located my correct departure gate I was concerned. I could tell by the numbers of people around the gate that something was not quite normal.

I’d grabbed a Pizza Hut mini-pizza on the way to my gate, and wanting to eat it while it was hot, I planted myself on the floor in the hall, hoping to make some sense of the chaos as I ate. Announcements over the loudspeaker periodically called individuals up to the ticket counter, where people were already lined out into the main hallway. Then the announcer asked for people who were willing to give up their seats for this flight, offering them a flight leaving half an hour later instead. The free round trip ticket they were offering as a perk sounded good to me. But I was already working with a very brief 45 minute layover in Washington DC, which had me concerned. No way could I afford to arrive half an hour later.

Then the ‘delayed’ sign flashed up on the screen. I groaned inwardly. People were called back and forth to the check-in counter. Another ticket agent again pleaded for volunteers to take the later flight. I began wondering just how far they’d overbooked.

Finally the delayed sign went away, and 10 minutes before the planned departure time, they began boarding people. I was in the last group getting on the plane. By the time I got on, it was packed. On the plane they discovered they still had two extra people, and once again they asked for volunteers to take the later flight. Two more people volunteered to get off the airplane and wait for the later flight. And finally everyone had a seat and we finally took off.

The couple who ended up sitting next to me clued me in on the chaos. Apparently they were in a church group of 37 people traveling together to Rome. Their first flight of the day had been canceled, which forced United to squeeze all 37 of them onto this plane. If they didn’t make this flight, they’d miss their flight to Rome, which took off a scant hour after this flight would get them to DC. Except due to all the confusion, our flight took off 10 minutes late. Now the big question in many people’s minds was if United could get us all to DC in time to make our various connections.

(I’m so tired now that I’m cross-eyed and my contacts are doing strange things. I’ll tell the rest of this story in the morning. But the title of this post should tell you that the day ended well.)