Anne and the shower…

After I posted that little teaser the other day, I knew I was going to have to come back and fill you all in a bit on Mrs. Jackson.
It all started in Uganda, from what I hear.
Keely, the brilliant Compassion photographer, was Anne’s roomie.
One day as Anne is leaving the room, she hears a loud noise that kind of sounds like a human body falling. So, she walks back to the shower area and asks if Keely is okay.
Keely is not okay.
She has slipped and fallen out of the shower and cracked her head open, which resulted in multiple stitches across the forehead (given outdoors with bugs swarming around and no anesthesia….yeah. I threw up a little in my mouth too.)
Turns out, Keely is even going to have to have more surgeries to fix her precious face (she also broke her nose in several places).
Don’t be concerned. She is still gorgeous, inside and out.
Did I mention that wonder-Keely still photographed the entire Compassion trip, despite the injuries? Seriously. The girl is some kind of amazing. Boomama was on the same trip, and according to her they were trying to tell Keely it didn’t look that bad as the blood was dripping everywhere, because they didn’t want to freak her out.
You know, because of the third world country/stiches to the head combo not being umm, desireable.
Let’s fastforward, shall we?
Good.
So you all know that attempted shower killer Anne was my roomate in India, and to be honest, she doesn’t come across as dangerous. She’s sly, that one.
The way it works in our quirky hotel room is that you have to have a key card in a little holder to activate the lights in the room. It’s really weird, and may have all been a part of her plan…
I am getting ready to jump in the shower and Anne says she needs to run an errand (it’s all coming together now…). When she leaves, she somehow “FORGETS” that when she takes the key that’s plugged into the wall, the lights go off within a few minutes.
And did I mention that at that point, the room is PITCH BLACK DARK.
So I (innocent victim) have just stepped into the shower and the lights go off. Seriously, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face so there is no way this is going to be pretty. I fumble around the room, finally cover a portion of myself with a glorified hand towel after tripping over my shampoo bottles, and the doorbell rings.
Despite the fact that I am pretty much half naked and soaking wet, I decide that a funny prank would be to open the door so she can see what she has done to me.
So I did.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make proper usage of the peephole, which is designed to let you know if it is your dear, close friend or a LARGE MAN WORKING IN THE HOTEL.
I so wish I was kidding.
We did get a good laugh out of it though :) And I couldn’t have asked for a better roomate…I never told you all this (and seriously, please don’t make fun of me!) but I have a little something called a “woobie.” It was a pillowcase when I was a baby and now it’s just two nasty pieces of fabric held together with a safety pin. The thing goes with me everywhere I travel and I sleep with it at night.
She is my precious.
Moving on.
While we were there, I formally introduced Anne to woobie (they totally hit it off).
So one day we come back to the hotel room, and the beds are made. I realize that woob was in the bed, and I immediately throw back all of the covers in a panic.
Nothing.
I call downstairs to see if anyone has found some dirty cloth and a safety pin that used to be a pillowcase (“Pillowslip?” He says. That sounds pretty fancy, but okay, “pillowslip.”)
Well, we tried for the next several days to rescue the woobster, but it seems that she got gathered up in the bedding and went out into a trash heap.
I’m not even gonna lie.
I cried like a 3 year old. And then I laid on my bed and kicked and screamed “It’s not fair!” just like the girls have taught me so well.
And the best part?
Anne understood.
And that is one of the bazillion reasons I love Anne Jackson. Because she cares about what matters, and she cares about what matters to those she loves.
So, as I tell you a little bit about her here, I want to ask you to please be in prayer, as she is having surgery on her heart today. She has SVT (same as sweet Stellan), and the procedure is designed to alleviate the symptoms she has been having.
Will you pray for her? Her twitter name is @flowerdust if you want to follow her journey.
Seriously, you might want to be on her good side.
Just sayin’.
Love you Anne, and I am praying for today….
Ang

Her, here.

I’ve had a hard time reconciling in the past few weeks.
I hear this happens when you’ve been away.
I have been so emotional, and I feel like the Lord is challenging me to start doing things in a new way.  I haven’t blogged much because, as I said before, I am getting a little sick of myself :) I also haven’t blogged because I have needed to spend some time with the Lord, dealing with that little word and what it was going to mean for me.
Reconciling.
Because in Kolkata, I was her, and here, I am me again.
They didn’t know anything about me except that I had hands and that I was there to help, and it was a breath of fresh air to be used by the Lord in this way. Everything that I have tied myself to in life became beautifully, naturally, and completely irrelevant.
And I want to be her.
Here.
I have noticed a sad theme in many parts of the blog world, and it is disheartening to see people scrutinizing each other. Tearing down the good and building up the worst, endlessly searching for the thing that will make another person hurt.  It’s always the ones that are the most wounded who come searching, and what they find are others that are vulnerable. They all gather around and try to ignite a fire where God is at work.  I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had a few stop by to criticize me.  I am grateful it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it usually packs a punch. 
Like the email I received while I was in India, describing in vivid and incredibly inaccurate terms exactly how my children were dealing with me being gone. How they were crying for me, searching for me, desperate to know where mommy was.  She went on to say that I cannot save the world and that I needed to get home to my children where I belonged. 
I sat on my bed, computer open, with tears staining my face.
Was I hurt because my kids were in danger, or because I thought I might have done the wrong thing by going? 
No.
I am, first and foremost, accountable to the Lord, and I knew He wanted me on that trip.  Also, my children were riding a roller coaster in the Mall of America with their dad and his best friend “Uncle Dan,” and I think if you saw the pictures, you would agree that they were not traumatized :) .
I was hurt that a “fellow sister” would spend that much time analyzing me from afar, and instead of praying for me, she sought to hurt me. Her tone made it very clear that I was in the wrong, and stung with it’s imagery of abandonment and distress.  
I read it to my roommate Anne, and she nodded sympathetically.  She isn’t a complete stranger to those kinds of things, because she is a brave, authentic and brilliant woman, and she says things that might make you think. And trust me, not all people want to think.  They would rather criticize.
I’m not going to dignify this with further details, but I will say that apparently there are also people who are wounded enough in this life that they feel the need to try and tarnish the name of someone who has a ministry. Why? Because they don’t want someone else to get attention? Because they are jealous? Because they are lonely? I don’t know why. But it makes me sad, because that could have been a place where something beautiful grew instead…an offering the Lord would readily receive, but no. The ego and emotions win out again. I just hate that. 
I don’t want to be here, where Godly women prey on each other instead of seeking to build them up. It breaks my heart to watch firsthand the way that can undo someone who needed to be reminded that the Lord is good, and He is with us.  They need a cheerleader, a reason to hope, a glimpse of love. And the stranger heaps coals and sits idly by while that little string she pulled begins to unravel. It is one of satan’s favorite ways of distracting us; convincing us that if we bring someone down, we will be higher.  It’s as anti-Gospel as it gets, and it seems rampant these days.
I feel so burdened right now, and not many people have a place like this where they can come and speak freely, praying that those who read would hear her heart. So I am going to write for a bit before I go to bed and ask the Lord to work with my exhaustion, because He has already made it clear that He will not bring sleep tonight if I don’t write these words.
I just want to be her, here.

Do you?
I want to be the girl who walked into a home for Mother Teresa’s home for the dying, and despite the conditions, went over to a man who was probably hours from death and put her hands… His hands… on the fragile man’s arm as he tried to speak. I liked who I was there because I was hands on flesh, heart lifted in prayer, silently begging for mercy on a stranger’s behalf. When I finished, he pointed at the sky and looked at me as if to say, “I am going…” Oh Jesus, to know that he was with You now would bring me such unspeakable joy.
So how do we manage to combine the beautiful calling the Lord has on our lives while actually living our lives?  Because I can’t get back to Kolkata today, and I am desperate to touch the sick and calm the fearful. Do you ever feel like you want to make an impact but your life doesn’t feel big enough? It isn’t right-thinking, but it is natural.
A little more than a month ago, I hadn’t met the faces that taught me about her. This girl who lived inside of me and wanted to be better, not because of the accolades, but because of the most exquisite peace that came going where He led me. Trusting Him relentlessly, with great joy.
And I liked her.
Yesterday I was in a funk and as the trash guys came to get the trash, I reminded Todd to see what their favorite drinks were. In the summer, we leave out a cooler on Wednesdays for them, right by the trash can.  After shopping for the drink that each man wants, the kids help us put them in the cooler and then they play until they hear the sound of metal coming down the road, at which point they high-tail it to the front window so they can make sure they get their drinks.
I also love to order pizza if we have someone helping out around the house with broken cable wires or a malfunctioning appliance.  I love to talk to them and make them feel at home.  I didn’t really think anyone had noticed, but the next time the cable guy came, Ellie  disappeared for a few minutes and then popped her head around the door and gingerly set something down before nervously running back down the hall.
She was gone before I looked down to see the plate she had brought over for our “helper,” full of plastic pizza slices and a wooden milk carton. She had also included one piece of plastic broccoli and a slice of delicious looking decorative cake.  
And I realized that in some ways, ways I may have deemed small before, I can be her, here.
And so can you, wherever you are. Even if you aren’t a she. All three of you who are men who read my blog can take over the him, here side of this :)
I guess the bottom line is that I feel the most in the presence of the Lord when I am serving others, and my great desire is to glorify Him in doing so. It’s easy to feel that when you are a bazillion miles away and the air is thick with desperation. But then you come home, and if you are like me, you have a pretty good life, and you get comfortable.  
I think my highest calling is to be a Godly wife and mother, and that is what I try to focus on. But I also want to feel more like a “city on a hill” in my everyday life than I normally do.
Raise your hand if you feel that way too.
Good.
I’m not alone.
And also I’m so glad I’m the one who decides how many hands are up.
:)
I have started to realize that while I don’t know what God has for me in the future as far as traveling to other countries, I have a ministry in my own backyard, and I want to make the most of it. I bet you do too, and that’s why I’m writing. 
It might be something simple, like walking around the neighborhood with your kids on a prayer walk and as you pass each house, mention what you know of the family’s needs and then stop and pray in front of their house. We do this sometimes and it’s awesome. It’s not as awesome when your four year old yells to your 40 year old single male neighbor, “Hey Mr. Chris! Did you get a wife yet?”

The point is, we are supposed to look different than the rest of the world. We shouldn’t be the ones that waiters dread because we don’t tip after dinner, or the ones that roll our eyes when something is taking longer than we feel like it should.  Quite frankly, we just aren’t that important. 
We are supposed to be a refuge, and encouragement, a reflection of the One we serve.  I know it isn’t easy to do it all the time, and in fact, I think is pretty much impossible. But it doesn’t mean that as you walk through your day, you shouldn’t search for ways to do everything a little better.  Talk to your boss with respect. Ask the girl at the coffee shop what her name is, and make a point of remembering it. Offer to help when no one has asked. Teach your children by example. Listen for what someone is really trying to say instead of what you want to hear.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The reason I wanted to write this post is that I want to be inspired, and I want others to be as well. To that end, I would be so blessed if you would leave a comment with something that you do to be her, here.  And as you have the time, scroll through the comments and let the words of others plant seeds for you as well.  
I wrote as much as I could last night and then I fell asleep, so today I finished up and now I’m going to head out for the day. I can’t wait to come back and read what you all have to say, because I think we’re all in need of some good news.
Amen? 
If you want to get connected with some new ministries, these two are on my heart right now, and I think you will love them both. The first I have mentioned before, and if you click over to their site and blog, you will see what Baby Be Blessed is up to. I just love them and their hearts, and I can’t wait to tell you how they impacted our Compassion trip to India…amazing.  I also want to introduce you to a ministry I have recently learned of, and I think it is the coolest idea. It’s called Pass It On, Baby, and it is a great opportunity to help kids in need of clothing. Click here to read all about it.
You have no idea how the Lord will use you if you allow Him to fill the moments of your day that you see as mundane.  
I am happy to say that the photos I twittered several months ago were from a special wedding, and we were so excited to celebrate with “Mr. Chris” as he married an amazing woman we have been praying would come along.  
It was such a joyful evening, despite the fact that Todd did the electric slide with a fervor that made me want to hide under the table.
:)
I am so looking forward to hearing from you…
Much love,
Angie

Five Fingers


I have been in tears since I got a message from Shaun Groves yesterday. A large cyclone hit East India, and it has affected the area we were in just a few weeks ago.  I see things like this on the news constantly and while my heart is always moved, it feels so different to see pictures from Kolkata and imagine the people’s desperation as they are left homeless. When I woke up this morning I saw a post from Pete (if you are new to my blog, Pete and his family are friends of ours and he was on the Compassion trip with me), and I honestly froze in panic when I saw the images. We have very little information at this point, and I hesitated to even post about it, but my heart is breaking and I feel like I am so blessed to be able to come on here and type a few words and request the prayers of all my “blog-friends.” When I read through your comments and your emails, I am honored that you let me be a part of your lives-sometimes even the shadowed parts that you haven’t shared before. It feels safe to write to someone you don’t know from behind a computer, and it means so much to me…
I awoke this morning with a deep, deep sense of gratitude for what I have been given. I carry many wounds, but above everything, I serve a Father who is faithful to my cries and has given me more than I will ever deserve.  Out of one of the most desperate times in my life came this beautiful trip, to a place where I fell in love with the people and the culture. I also fell in love with two little children whom I miss already, Sangita and Mohit. As far as I know, Sangita’s area was not affected, but it looks like the storm hit right where Mohit lives. 
I cannot let go of those big brown eyes, and I am asking you to please pray for his safety and all of the other precious people who have been affected by this. The East India Compassion office (where we went) is closed for a bit and it sounds like there is no electricity in much of the area. I will definitely keep you all updated as soon as I hear anything else. Here is the link to Pete’s blog where you can see some of the pictures.
In the photo above, I have just met Mohit for the first time. I asked him (through a translator) to show me how old he is with his fingers, and he made a fist and sat still.  He is brand new to the Compassion program, and although he understood the question, he didn’t know the answer. I opened his hand to show him that he is five years old. As I counted each finger out loud while I opened it from the tiny fist, I thought about the fact that he has probably never celebrated a birthday. I want to assure you that if you are a Compassion sponsor, you have the same opportunity-to constantly remind children through your words and your financial contributions that they have worth.  When you write to your children there, remember that you are doing more than putting words on paper. The check does so much more than you can imagine.  
We have the opportunity to be hand-openers. Reminding them that they are loved and that God has designed them for a purpose. 
Thank you so much for walking with me, and if you feel led to sponsor one of these children, please click here
With love and hope,
Angie

Mohit the Brave

If it was 120 degrees outside, the museum was approximately, umm, twice that.
We made our way through a series of exhibits that looked like they had been discarded from a 1950′s science fiction movie and by the third one I stopped trying to wipe the sweat dripping down my arms and legs.  My left hand held Sangita’s, and Mohit held the pinky of my right hand.  He wasn’t ready to let me all the way into his world, but I think he was intimidated by the dark, winding exhibit and I loved the opportunity to walk with him.  It was my second time with him, and my heart was desperate to connect with him-the little boy whose teacher told me he hardly spoke or smiled.  In fact, the only way we could get him to smile for the camera was to tell him to show his teeth, hence the hilarious photos of him on my blog.  I was totally intrigued by him from the moment I met him because he had a streak of independence behind these huge, gentle eyes, and I wanted to see him laugh and play like a child. As we walked, I pointed to different displays and smiled, trying to get him to smile back. He didn’t. He looked at me momentarily and then stared straight ahead.  
Sangita immediately took on the role of big sister, despite the fact that they had never met and would probably never see each other again. She understood that I was caring for them both, so we were a little unit traveling around.  They actually spoke different dialects, but that did not prevent her from communicating with him as any big sister would.  As Mohit stared ahead, loosely holding onto me, I looked at Sangita, who had been watching me try to win him over with my dramatic pointing and over-the-top smiling.  I shrugged my shoulders at her and she covered her mouth in a stifled giggle.
He was totally not impressed with me.
And I took it as a personal challenge.
Unfortunately, my funny stories were lost in translation. But I knew that somewhere in there was a real smile, and I was determined to break through to him. At the same time, I wanted him to process the whole thing the way he needed to, because how weird would it be to meet an American woman (when you have never seen an American) who tells you that she is going to help take care of you and then, days later, takes you out to a science museum and proceeds to make goofy faces for six hours straight.
I think he was ready for a new sponsor.
But Sangita was highly amused by the whole thing, so it became a team effort. She would put her arm around him wherever we went, and if he started to wander off, she would give him the look that simply said, “Not a good idea,” and he would drift back to where we were.  When she thought he might be thirsty, she opened up his little bag, unzipped the front pocket and took out the only possession he had with him.  It was an old, dirty coke bottle that looked like it had been refilled for years, but it was his and he took great pride in it. She would unscrew the top gently, hold it to his mouth, and then wipe his face, put the top back on, and put it back into his bag.  He nodded slightly in recognition and then kept moving.  I squeezed her hand and smiled at her, and asked a translator to tell her how special she was.  Her face lit up.  She was so easy to love, and when I would let go of her hand to wipe my sweat for a moment, she would walk a little closer and let her hand graze on mine, not confident enough to take hold, but wanting to let me know she was there.  It made my heart swell to be able to meet these two children, so different from each other and from me, and yet, we made the perfect team.
After the exhibits, we made our way to the planetarium for a movie.  The room was filled with itchy, decades-old chairs that squeaked when anyone made the slightest movement.  It smelled like a combination of dust and smoke, and it was filled with the raucous sound of laughter as people settled in for what was sure to be the experience of a lifetime for some of the viewers. 
Mohit, on the other hand, sat down in his seat like he had been there a million times, and looked at me like I had just pulled a dead bunny out of my magic hat and shouted, “Tah-Dah!!!!”
The seats reclined completely so that you could look up at the giant screen, but he did not like the feeling of that at all. When I heard him whispering in a fearful voice to the translator, I asked if he was okay.  She said he didn’t want to lean back and he was feeling a little afraid.  I asked her to ask Mohit if he wanted to sit on my lap.  She asked him, and he looked at me like I had just shot the bunny in the magic hat.
No such luck.
And with every protest, every grimace, every solemn look, I just fell more and more in love with him because I could see what was hidden deep in his spirit. He was a boy, trying to be a man because that’s what he had learned to do in his world. And here I was, trying to teach him about how to be a kid.
Little did I know that he was about to teach me the lesson of my life.
As the lights dimmed, I saw his tiny hand grip deeper into the worn armrest and I looked at him helplessly. He didn’t want my comfort, but as a mother, it was all I could do not to gather him in my arms and explain it all to him.  I asked his translator to explain what he was going to see, and after she did, he nodded again, but he continued to sit straight up with his eyes boring a whole in the screen.
Suddenly it filled with light and instead of watching the movie, I watched him.
His eyes grew wide as images of Mount Everest filled the room, and at one point as the snow tumbled down the screen, he put his hands in front of his face repeatedly to protect himself. As the camera panned out and showed the whole mountain, Mohit jumped out of his seat and started speaking quickly. The translator settled him back into his seat and whispered to him. He seemed to accept whatever she said for a few minutes, but then he jumped up again and I could hear the agitation in his voice as he spoke.  She shook her head, which made him shake his head, and then he sat back down again.
I leaned my chair forward and asked her if he was afraid, volunteering to take him out of the theater if it was too much for him.
She smiled softly and spoke a sentence that I have been processing since that moment.
“Sister, he is not afraid. He just doesn’t understand why he can’t climb the mountain.”
I was speechless.
Despite the fact that he was five years old, he had just given me more to chew on than I thought I could handle.
Because the truth of the matter is that I saw how peculiar it must be for a child who lives in a village of devastating poverty to watch money be exchanged, only to walk into a crowded room and look at something you couldn’t even touch.
And the sad part was that it didn’t strike me as odd at all, because it is how I have lived my entire life.
I’m not a climber, after all.  
I have perfected the art of spectating.
In his economy, it was pointless, and as I took the whole scene in, I made a promise to myself that I pray I will be able to keep.
No more living from the third row.
The fact of the matter is that my kids would have been satiated by the graphics, just as I am in many other aspects of my life.
But it isn’t real.
And as I watched him move constantly as the screen changed, I smiled to myself.  He just wanted to climb it. And why not?
Nobody ever told him he couldn’t.  
I touched his head gently and prayed over him, but his eyes remained fixed on the dancing movements all around him.  I asked the Lord to help him grow into his full potential, and to give him the strength and wisdom to grow into a man who wasn’t intimidated by the climb.  
We shuffled out of the theater and eventually went to a large mall in the area to feed the kids. While Sangita looked around like she was in a dream, Mohit kept one hand on his bag strap, seemingly unfazed.  
He sat in the booth and told his translator that he would like to eat a lot of rice. A tray was brought to him that contained a heap of rice and about ten other kinds of food.  He dug right into the rice and ate some of the bread, but didn’t look real excited about the rest of it.  When Sangita urged him to try a piece of bright red meat (some kind of spicy chicken), he gently put his tongue on it and immediately his face contorted into an image of total disgust.  Sangita’s eyes opened wide, fearful that this may be taken as a sign of disrespect, and she looked to me questioningly.  I burst into laughter, so she did the same.  We giggled our heads off as Mohit smiled slightly and I reassured him that he did not have to eat anything he didn’t like.  I watched as a woman a few tables away tore her child’s bread into little pieces, so I did the same with his.  He nodded. 
Another woman brought over a tray of fresh bottled water and I remembered how Sangita had helped him drink, so I confidently opened one up and motioned to him.  He didn’t move.  He had to be thirsty, so I started to put it up to his mouth and he turned his head away slowly.  It wasn’t an act of defiance, but I couldn’t read the situation and I looked around for someone who could ask him what was wrong.  Before I had the chance, Sangita touched my arm and I watched her open his bag, unzip the zipper, and open his water bottle. He gulped it down and set it in front of him as he went back to his food.  
The next time, I left the fresh bottle alone and lifted his water to his mouth and he kept his eyes on me while he accepting the drink.  There were no words exchanged, just a simple understanding that permeated the silence.

I am not here to change you, or to take from you what is important.
I am here to respect what is yours and to care for you in the way that is comfortable to you.
As Compassion says, “We don’t want to mold children into people they aren’t. Our goal is to love them enough to see what is hidden in them and then work to help that blossom.”
In that moment, I think he understood my heart better, and as we finished our meal, I wiped his messy face while his eyes searched mine.  
As everyone started to leave, I put the top back on his water, gingerly opened his bag while watching for his approval, and slipped it back into the front pocket.  I replaced the front flap and snapped it shut. 
When we stood to leave, I felt his hand brush mine and instead of taking it, I simply extended my fingers to him.
This time, he took two.
 Angie

Speechless.

I can’t wait to tell you more.

But tonight, I am so emotional I don’t think I could do it justice.

Let’s just say it was an amazing day.

And once I have a chance to process this…






I will be happy to tell you all about it.

In the meantime, click here to sponsor a child.

That is, if you really believe it will make a difference…


Please pray for our safe travels tomorrow evening…we have been filled to the brim with the Lord’s goodness. I will be forever changed by this, and rarely have I found myself so honored to be a part of something like Compassion.

I will leave you with a quick video my roomie Anne filmed-the woman speaking is named Jaiashree, and she is the one who has been with us all week, inspiring us with her faithfulness in the midst of such desperate conditions.

Angie

I Have Been Ridiculed and Lied To.

In the event that you are following Melissa’s writing, you will know that Pete had a hard day yesterday. He was having some, ummm, digestive issues and pretty much passed out on one of our home visits. Which would be really sad to me had it not been for the fact that a few nights earlier, he had reveled in the fact that he could pump out a post in approximately two and a half minutes. He spent the remainder of the 5 hours in the conference room mocking me and Melissa for taking so long.

In fact (and feel free to contact him directly if you would like to address this), he told me that if I didn’t “write posts that were 50,000 words long,” it wouldn’t take me so long. I shot him a dirty look and listened to him tap what I refer to as his “Teen Wolf” fingernails on the table while saying, “Seriously. Do y’all think India makes our fingernails grow faster? I mean this is crazy!”

Melissa and I continued to work like good students while Mr. Wilson flashed his dimples and sang “Tally-Ho” for the 400th consecutive time.

Not that insulting me and then getting violently ill were related.

But it is possible.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Shaun Groves had given this whole spiel about how “Compassion is making a difference….” and “Compassion is saving lives…”

He led me to believe that an organization could transform an impoverished community simply by relying on the body of Christ to support the cause. He tricked me into leaving my family, traveling for 20 hours, and riding a rickshaw which will heretofore be referred to as the “deathtrap on wheels.”

Well, today we visited the poorest Compassion project we have been to so far, and I began to realize how ridiculous the whole premise of this trip has been.

It’s absurd, actually.

Because this is where these people live.

We sat in a HOME smaller than a twin sized mattress.

We watched people bathe in the streets, and saw countless prostitutes (some of them were children) as we wandered around the city that Mother Theresa called “hell on earth.”

And Compassion thinks it can come in and make a difference in this? For $32 a month?

And not only are they going to provide an education for these children, but they are going to teach them about Jesus? And bring joy to them by being the hands and feet of the church?

Maybe in some of the other places, but not here.

And as you will see from the following pictures, Compassion isn’t really making that big of an impact.

The kids in the program look just like the others.

They don’t have any sense of hope or purpose.

There isn’t a shred of joy to be found on their faces.

They are starving, suffering, and desperate like the rest of the people they sleep close to on the streets.

You didn’t really think that they would learn about the Lord when you sent that check, did you? I’m afraid I will have to expose the reality to you. To them, He is nothing but a faraway God who has forsaken them.

Not Someone to be trusted.


Not Someone to be worshipped.


In fact, this whole thing is just one big scam.

Although, there was 11 year old boy on crutches who makes his way to the project every day after he has led his Hindu family in Christian prayer. He also hung several pictures of the Lord around their home, right alongside the idols, in order to teach his parents about the God Whom he loves. The same God he prayed to when his brother was ill, and shortly after, had a miraculous healing. His parents now attend church.


And then there was another girl (who lived in the 24 square foot house, and slept on the floor, which we refer to as a sidewalk) who told us that she had joy in her heart because that is what Jesus wants us to have and she desires to be like Him. Then she proudly waved her hand around the tiny space that was barely tall enough for her to stand in and asked, “How do you like my home?” as if she were in a palace. Then, she told us how desperately she wanted a picture of her sponsor so she could show it to all the kids around and tell them who was helping her. She walked with us through filthy streets and held hands with Keely, and at one point she began to cry. When asked what was wrong, she explained that nothing was wrong, she was crying tears of happiness because she was so excited to meet real sponsors.


And I guess it would add to the drama of the tale if we had met the director of the program, who described the unlikely way that the church was established in the first place. He had come to know the Lord through a missionary, was put through school by an anonymous donor, and decided to spend the rest of his life as a pastor in service to the poor. With no money to his name, he made an offer on a property with the prayer, “Lord, if you give me this property, I will put a roof on it and make it a house of God.”

A short time later, the landowner explained that several others had made much better offers-one who wanted to build a cinema and others who had great plans and extensive budgets. To his surprise, the landowner finished by telling him that they had chosen to give it to him instead of the others.

Which would be great if they actually had the money to follow through on their offer. I imagine that at this point in the story, an unknown American missionary could die and donate the money they needed to build the church.

But of course, if that had happened, it probably would have been in newspapers.


And I bet a great screenwriter could introduce a heroine as well. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that the pastor (and now current director) was trying to figure out how in the world he was going to get kids in this place, in a culture where less that 1% of the people are Christians.

I have an idea.

Let’s have Mother Theresa play with kids every day near the church under a massive tree. Then, we’ll let it pour down rain while she searches for a place to provide shelter for them. She will knock on the door of the church and speak to the man we were with today, asking him to help her with the children.

And they stayed.

Now THAT would be a good story.

And it could only be written by one Author.

So before you decide to sponsor a child, think long and hard about where your money is going.


I am in complete awe.

And I have decided that Pete may have a point, and I am a better storyteller because of it.

Words just can’t convey what we are experiencing.

It is with utmost gratitude that I thank those of you who have chosen to make a difference here; it has been one of the most incredible days of my life.

Today I decided that I can’t be afraid to fly any more. I can’t stand the thought of leaving all of this behind forever. Thank you, Compassion. You have helped me see God in ways I never dreamed I would.

And He is worthy of all praise…

Angie

P.S. Pete’s doing much better today. In fact, his self-esteem received a much-needed boost when he came across a door that he had to crouch to enter…. :)

You deserved that, smartypants.

Remember the Part…

About you coming on a ride with us?

I had to post this because there is no other way to get a sense for the feeling of riding down bumpy roads in a rickshaw. We’re about to heard out for the day to the slums of Calcutta, and I will be back to tell you all about it later, but for now, check out Keely’s video from yesterday.

(And ladies, just a heads up. If you ever do this, make sure you have, ahem, proper undergarments:) )

It was crazy!!!!! Enjoy :)

And thanks so much for all of your kind words and encouragement-you have NO idea how much your comments give me strength.

Okay, ready? Jump on board!!!! (thanks for the video, Keely-you are a BRAVE woman!)

See you soon~
Ang

Child Survival Program

Yesterday we went on a home visit and met with the mother of one of the children who is sponsored by Compassion. As we asked her questions about her family life and how they have been impacted by her daughter’s sponsorship, someone asked her how many children she had. She answered gently, and it was a longer answer than it should have been. We looked to the translator and he explained that she had one but that she was expecting. Someone asked when she was due and the translator’s face changed.

“Oh, I am sorry,” he replied. “She isn’t expecting; she said that she had a six month old baby that expired.”

Expired.

I asked the translator to tell her that my daughter died last year, and as he spoke to her, she looked me in the eye and bowed her head briefly. I don’t know Bengali and she doesn’t know English, but there wasn’t a language barrier.

One of the things I love the most about Compassion is their dedication to serving the poorest of the poor from before they are born until adulthood. Today we visited what is called a “Child Survival Program,” and their purpose is to serve babies (starting when the mother is pregnant) up until the age when they are eligible for child sponsorship at age 5 or 6. It was the most amazing thing to meet with the mothers in the program today. Not only are they taught how to take care of themselves while they are pregnant, they are also educated about taking care of their babies, and have “facilitators” that come to their homes several times a month to check in on them. The facilitators weigh the babies and measure them, teach mothers the fundamentals of infant care and nutrition etc. As the babies get a bit older, they teach them how to play and interact with their kids in an age appropriate way, and all of the children’s milestones are recorded at the center.

The mothers told us that they really had no idea how to care for their infants, and repeatedly told us how much they had learned from the program.

Again, every child.

Every kilogram.

Every milestone.

Compassion is based on loving children as individuals, and to get to see that today was incredible.

I looked over several of the wall charts, and as I did, I thought about the way I have doubted organizations like this in the past because how in the world could they keep up with thousands and thousands of children?

And hanging on the wall in impeccable ink handwriting was the undeniable evidence.

It was so beautiful to see the way they care for these babies, and as a result, the way families are impacted.

As part of the Indian culture, women don’t have the rights that we take for granted in the States. They explained that they only eat leftovers after the family has finished a meal, and because they are so insecure about their own identity, they don’t know how to respond when they are spoken to. We asked if their husbands were resistant to them coming to the program, and they explained that they were initially against it, but once they saw the way their wives and children flourished, they gave their blessing.

So, in addition to receiving pregnancy care, the babies receive all of their vaccinations and health care, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. The women are encouraged to find their identity through various trades, such as sewing and making baby formula. I sat in awe as I watched them gather as a community in order to learn how to better care for their families while their fingers were busy with work. Several of them stood and gave their testimonies and it was so powerful to imagine that about a year ago, these women wouldn’t even be able to answer a question asked of them. And the beauty of it is that the women go home and teach their neighbors what they are learning, which opens the door for them to develop a skill.

I had no idea that this program existed until this trip, and I cannot tell you what an honor it was to sit among these precious women and hear their stories. Even before children are able to be sponsored, they are under the wing of Compassion, and to see the joy they radiate is difficult to articulate.

We were out in what looked like a jungle, and it had a really different feeling than that other projects we have visited so far. It was so remote and isolated that we had to drive for about an hour and a half by bus and then take a rickshaw for another half hour to get there. Here are a couple photos to give you an idea of what we saw.

Today was one of my favorite days, and it helped me to appreciate the way Compassion dedicates itself to sharing the love of Christ with babies before their mothers have even met them.

I love this organization, and I am completely humbled to have this opportunity, because I have been able to see it’s extensive reach firsthand, and I have loved on children that may not have survived without the help of Compassion.

Before we left, I gave the director of the center a bag of clothes and shoes that Nicol and Greg gave me before I left. They bought several outfits that they wanted me to share with children who would be close to Audrey and Luke’s age. I couldn’t help but wonder who would be wearing the shoes and dresses in a few days.

There is a brokenness in me that can’t be filled, so I won’t say that handing the bag was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, because it was symbolic of something I don’t have.

I will say though, as much as it hurt, there was a sense of redemption in knowing that my loss was being used in such a tangible way. I saw glimpses of her in the faces of children who have a chance to thrive, and it felt like fresh air.

I needed that today.


There are still plenty of kids left to sponsor here, and I’m praying that if you are one of those that the Lord has urged to do so, you will be inspired by our stories so you know that you are making a difference.

Thanks for taking this ride with us. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds…

Blessings and love,

Angie

Our Boy

I got an email from Todd last night titled “Our boy.” I had asked him to send me the information about our new sponsor child (we are sponsoring a little girl who I am praying I will get to meet on Friday, but right before we left I felt like we needed to sponsor another). I asked Shaun to have them assign me any child, and didn’t give any other specifics. I wanted to Lord to assign whomever He saw fit, and a few days before I left, I got the packet from Compassion. It was so neat to open it up and have no idea what to expect, and as soon as I saw Mohit’s picture I fell in love with his solemn little face and big eyes.

Today we visited our second Compassion Project, and as we watched all of the tiny kids reciting their school lessons and smiling at us, I was scanning the room to see if I could recognize his face from the picture. I didn’t see him, but I did see some of these precious little ones hard at work.

There was a large area where the older kids were broken into groups and doing various crafts, so we wandered in and started to play with them. It is so cool to see the way our team is put together because there is so much giftedness in all kinds of different ways. We all love to jump in, and it was such an amazing thing to scan a room full of faces and see each person connecting with the kids. Shaun and Keely were doing a mini-worship service with one group, Anne was getting artistic with another, Robin and Melissa were playing hand games with giggly little girls, and Pete was making frames with a group of boys.

I saw a little girl and a little boy come in together and as the little girl was introduced to Shaun and his wife Becky, I realized that the little boy behind her must be Mohit. His face was very solemn for such a five year old. Some of the teachers noticed me looking at him and then tapped him on the back and told him to come over to me. He looked up briefly and then began to walk over cautiously with his eyes to the ground. He is new to the program, and I think he wasn’t really sure who I was or why I was meeting him. There was a translator there and I asked her to tell him that I had a family at home in America, and that we would be praying for him and sending letters and drawings to him, and that I was so excited to meet him. He looked up at me again and then back down at the ground. I could sense that he just wasn’t sure what his response should be. He was the most precious child, and within moments, he completely captured me.

I couldn’t believe that I was sitting with a child that I will have the honor of sharing life with and seeing him grow in the coming years through Compassion. I would consider myself a skeptic about the way that “ministry organizations” work, and as dramatic as this will sound, something in me just clicked today. I got down on my knees so that I could be eye to eye with Mohit before I left, and through the help of his teacher, conveyed to him that he was a gift from God and that I was so excited to be a part of his life.

He nodded, eyes to the floor.

I told him that he was a smart boy, and that God was going to use his life in an amazing way.

He nodded again.

His teacher smiled and said several sentences to him, and when she was finished, he looked up at me and his entire countenance changed. He smiled the slightest bit, and maintained eye contact as I asked her what she had said.

“I told him what it really meant that you were here, and that you were going to be another mother to him.”

He got it that time.

And before I could wipe my face clean, I realized I had just found myself in the deep end of the water I have feared facing for so long.

It wasn’t a clever marketing scheme or a catchy slogan.

It didn’t look like a staged commercial asking for money.

It was the Gospel.

And it was sitting in my lap.

Trust me when I say that I could write for hours today about all of the things we saw and experienced. I don’t know that I could do it the kind of justice it deserves, because words fail me.

So I won’t tell you all the stories yet; at least not the way I normally would.

I’m not chasing after the perfect sentence.

I may not check for grammatical errors.

I might be a little bolder than I thought I might be in asking for your help.

Because today, I walked into a house made of woven straw, covered with newspaper. It was roughly the size of the smallest bedroom in my house and five people live in it. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, the little girl who lived there replied quickly in Bengali, “I want to be a doctor so that I can help the poor and needy.”

I saw stacks of letters sitting on Compassion office desks, waiting to be translated, each one carefully documented. I met the people who spend their time making sure that everything that is sent for a child is given to him or her, and the complete dedication of the people behind the scenes. I was completely in awe of the time it must take to translate all of those letters and the intricate system Compassion has in order to ensure that everything is in order and running smoothly.

I saw what happens when people decide to give, even in spite of the fact that they may never get to touch it in this life.

And it is nothing short of a miracle.

Here is a glimpse into the joy I got to experience, and the great honor of sharing three words with my husband that he has never heard before…

Toddy, guess what?

It’s a boy!!!

Love to you all~
Ang

Name

First of all, if you are one of the people that has been praying for me over the past few days, I want to thank you. You all have walked so far with me in the past year that I feel like I can be honest, and the truth is that about 24 hours into the trip, I decided this was one of the worst choices I had ever made. I sat on a rickety bed in a room with no windows or door keys and I cried my eyes out while Anne told me I was going to be okay.

Somewhere between the 16 hour flight, no sleep, and facing the thought of what I was about to experience, I really felt trapped. My brain just kind of went into survival mode and I couldn’t even think about hearing the kids voices or seeing Todd online because it forced me to remember that I can’t get to them.
Yesterday we went to see Mother Theresa’s home, and the orphanages that still stand in her name. There just isn’t a way to describe looking into her bedroom and imagining her there. It is a sparse, small room, and it is exactly what you would picture. Over her bed hangs a crown of thorns that she made with a picture of Christ above it, and she was said to have been staring at it when she died. Her eyes were fixed on Him and His children in a way that defies comprehension, and as I walked back down the steep staircase, I felt the Lord gently urging me out of my selfishness and reminding me why I was there.
A few minutes later, we walked through the orphanage for babies and children who have special needs. Almost immediately, I saw a tiny, newborn baby girl. I asked the nun beside me how old she was, and she told me they thought she was 2 or 3 weeks old. I asked what her name was, and the nun explained that they didn’t have names because the Lord took so many of them away. I watched her wriggle around for a few minutes, and then when she started to cry, I had to fight every instinct I had to pick her up. I laid my hands on her and they covered her tiny legs. Her crying hushed and she looked around, trying to find the source of comfort. I will never forget that moment, standing with my hands on a baby, asking the Lord to protect her. You know her name, Lord…

That looks good on paper.
But in the moment, looking around at dozens and dozens of eyes, it felt hopeless.
I think I needed to see it that way to deal with something that has been lodged in my brain for years. It’s almost easier to ignore the water than to dip your toe in it.
Because as soon as you do, you become acutely aware of all the eyes that are looking at you, needing help, and it feels impossible. I couldn’t post last night because I was so overwhelmed by it all. This morning Todd and I talked this morning via skype and I was trying to hold it together. I managed for a few minutes because Ellie seemed so happy, but when Abby saw me, her face crumpled up and we both started crying. After we had both gotten a little bit of it out, we started talking and then I made her giggle. It was such a relief, but all I wanted was to be near to her and comfort her. I felt so isolated. She told me that they had been praying for the baby with no name. I didn’t tell her about all of the others.
One was enough.
We went to the first Compassion project today and I can’t begin to tell you how it affected me. I have been mulling this post over, praying, asking the Lord to give me the words I can’t find. There are so many stories I want to share, so many things God allowed me to experience, and it has challenged me in a beautiful way.
It has been really easy for me to stay out of the water in a lot of ways, and my own cynicism has kept me safe there. But today, as we stood in a house made of bamboo and clay bricks and watched a woman tell us how Compassion had changed their lives, something in my soul settled.
As we left the second house, I got a couple pictures of the family and I fought back tears as her father adjusted her name tag to make sure her Compassion information was showing.
She had a name.
Compassion International is more than what I imagined. More than my mind would have let me believe. More than I can express to you in this moment of exhaustion. I can’t wait to share stories of the people we meet and some of the things we have done, but tonight (or, morning? afternoon?), I will leave you with this image of the before and after.
Don’t miss the subtle change.
I won’t.
And neither will they.
Angie