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Compassion International, India

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
Compassion International, India

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
Compassion International, India

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
Compassion International, India

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