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 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…
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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~
“Oh, I am sorry,” he replied. “She isn’t expecting; she said that she had a six month old baby that 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.
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,
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 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.
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…
Love to you all~
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.