Photos of Nicholas and Shadia Receiving their Gifts

The weekend after I sent the donations for Nicholas and Shadia, for which I got receipts and found that Joy keeps very meticulous records, I received lots of pictures of them receiving their gifts! I was almost in tears to see the joy of this family, who has so little and who has been through so much, receiving simple things but things that are so needed. I was glad for the opportunity to send money instead of a package, as I didn’t have to worry about high international shipping fees and I knew I could trust Joy to purchase the right sizes and items for them. She promised me lots of pictures to make me feel like I was there with them, and she certainly did send lots!

Here are just some of them with items they received:

Joy told me how happy the children and their mother were. Along with toys for the kids, they also got clothing, shoes, and underwear. And the family got food, which was very needed. Seeing the beautiful smiles on their faces made my heart so full. I now love and care so very much about this family on the other side of the world that I very likely will never meet. But we are connected through prayer, though letters, and through God.

Letter from Mugisha Isaac!

I received another letter from Mugisha Isaac recently!

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Isaac is 6 and lives in Uganda.

The letter used the How I Have Fun template. His favorite activity is playing, and he loves to play football (soccer). He usually plays with his friends and siblings. The letter says “Calvary greetings from Isaac. He thanks you for continuously praying for him and says he enjoyed the story in the letter. He also says he will also try to make a difference even now as he grows up and later on as an adult. He continued to thank you for supporting him. He concluded by saying you pray for him to keep with good health and also continue to perform well in class.”

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Introducing Nicholas and Shadia

I have developed such a passion for Uganda. This country and its beautiful people have definitely made its way into my heart. So when I heard of the small organization, Living Life in Abundance Ministry, run by an incredibly kind and generous woman named Joy who lives in Uganda and knows these families and their needs, I contacted her to ask for a correspondent. I told her I didn’t have any requests, and I’d be happy to have any child. She assigned me Nicholas, who is 3 years old. He and his sister live with their mother. They recently lost their father to HIV/AIDS. His first picture with his sad face and torn shirt broke my heart, but then I saw his smile, and I was happy that I could hopefully give him a little more to smile about. I sent off a letter and a couple weeks later, I sent a donation to Joy so that she could purchase gifts for him, whatever he and his family needed.

Well, when I had contacted Joy to ask for a correspondent, I had first contacted the wrong email address. Several weeks later, though, she replied to my first email asking if I still wanted a correspondent. I replied that I was assigned Nicholas, but would be happy to have another one if there were more children in need. I was thrilled to be assigned his sister, Shadia, so that I can love on this whole family even more! I quickly sent another donation so Shadia wouldn’t be left out with gifts. Shadia is 4 years old. I’m grateful God had planned this “unplanned addition” all along!

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Letter and Picture from Lucia!

I was thrilled to get a letter recently from Lucia, and a very sweet one that filled a page of stationery at that! But the best part was definitely a surprise photo attached! Typically, only a gift of $60+ gets a photo, although sometimes centers will send them for gifts of less. The gift that the photo was for was $20, so I wasn’t expecting a photo, but it was a wonderful surprise!

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Lucia is 21 and lives in El Salvador.

“Dear Alisa, Lucia greets you with affection and hopes that you are enjoying perfect health with your loved ones. On this letter Lucia wants to tell you how she has fun. At home she likes to color, run, do the cleaning, cooking, listen to worship songs, and make handcrafts to decorate the house. If she gets bored she likes to sleep on a hammock and swing. When she is outside she likes to write and go for walks. She likes to tell jokes with her friends. She would like to know: have you ever felt bored? What do you do in that case? She thanks you for the letter and the picture; she says that she is fine. On the computer she likes to draw and write and she thanks you for the blessing that you sent. She bought milk, cereal, beans, sugar, rice, soup, cookies, and salt. It was a great blessing for her and her family. Also she loves you and asks you to help her pray so she can learn more in her studies. She says goodbye wishing you lots of blessings.”

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This bubbly, lovely young lady has been a huge blessing to me so far. I know my sponsorship of her will only be for one more year, but I’m so blessed that God brought her into my life. And I’m so thankful that she has such a wonderful Compassion center that takes care of her and her mother and where she has friends and can learn and have fun!

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Letter from the Country Director of Guatemala

This week I’m sharing the Country Director letter from Guatemala. This one is especially near and dear to my heart, since I just traveled there in July, falling in love with the country and all Compassion is doing there. I will forever support and be an advocate for Compassion Guatemala, and I feel I’ll be back to visit one day, too. I hope so! I sponsor Evelin and Ingrid in GU.

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“Dear Alisa, My name is José Carlos Prem, and I have been the country director of Guatemala for eight years. I am a chemical engineer, and I also graduated from the Central American Theological Seminary.

Compassion started working in Guatemala after a terrible earthquake in 1976, and it was officially registered in 1989. We currently have almost 200 church partners that are helping us release more than 53,000 children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I want to express how very grateful I am for your thoughtful sensitivity in ministering to Evelin and Ingrid in Guatemala. I feel certain that your contributions represent a decision you did not make quickly or lightly, and I want you to know how much it means to Evelin and Ingrid. I am able to see firsthand the work of Compassion in the most impoverished communities around the country. I see how our children speak and show the love of Jesus to their families and those around them. I have also seen how a timely intervention can save a child’s life.

I like to ask our children what they like best about attending a child development center. Many say that they get to play; some say that they like to hear Bible stories. But one child told me his favorite thing was getting a plate of food and being able to ask for a second one if he was still hungry.

This child was able to see God’s love through a plate of food, or in this case, two plates of food. Hunger is just one of the many problems our children and their families have to overcome daily. It is an overwhelming reality, but we decided to focus on five of our most urgent needs: violence, child abuse, malnutrition, parents’ unemployment, and poor access to health care.

Official statistics show that in our country, one out of two children under five has chronic malnutrition. Guatemala is the fifth most violent country in the world, and there are more than 3,500 reports of child abuse every year. More than half our population lives in poverty, and there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people. These facts are devastating and may discourage people, but for us they are a reminder that there are still many things we can do to continue the work that Jesus started here on earth.

In developmental work, resources are not always enough to meet the needs. That is why we are working with strategic alliances. Some of these alliances are providing purified water to distant communities and offering vocational training, counseling, pastor training, and youth discipleship.

Thanks to sponsors, all our efforts become more meaningful to these children. They know that somewhere in the world there is someone who cares about them. Letters are especially important in fostering this bond. As children grow, they understand how important a sponsor is to their lives. I met a little girl who lost both of her parents. When her sponsor found out, she decided to become a motherly figure and a role model for her little sponsored girl. In two years, the girl received dozens of letters, and she told me she felt the love of a mother through her sponsor’s words. It makes our children feel special and loved when they know someone took time to think of them and write them. Please write your child as often as possible.

Please pray for our future plans as we move toward growth in the ministry. In the last four years, we have grown from 30,000 to more than 53,000 children, and in the coming years, we are expecting even bigger growth.

Thank you for following God’s direction and for expressing, through your sponsorship, your devotion to Evelin and Ingrid.

Thankfully, José Carlos Prem”

 

Those 5 most urgent needs that he discusses are very much hallmarks of what they focus on. They represent each one with a different color in order to help remember them better. During our tour, we focused on and learned more about a different social problem, as our leader called them, each day. Each day, the leaders and translators would all wear the color of that problem, to further drive home the point and help link it with memory. We also received a multi-colored hacky sack ball among our gifts from the country office, which has each of these 5 colors on it. It’s a great reminder now, being home, of the social problems whenever I look at it. In addition to being the fifth most violent country in the world, Guatemala also has the fifth highest rate of malnutrition in the world (and the four above it are all from Africa). I was surprised to hear that, as well as many other statistics, but it shows just how important Compassion’s work in this country is- and they are doing an amazing job!

Letter from the Country Director of the Dominican Republic

This week I am sharing the Country Director letter from the Dominican Republic. I sponsor sweet Elaina there.

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“Dear Alisa, My name is Kleber Lora, and I am the Country Director of Compassion in the Dominican Republic. I joined Compassion in 2005 after a time of prayer, asking the Lord for an opportunity to serve the impoverished. My wife Layla and I have three children. Our older daughter came to us as a foster daughter when we were asked to be a transition home for her for a week. That time became 10 years! Now she is a teacher in a Christian school and has three beautiful children, my grandchildren.

Making a difference one child at a time is what Compassion has been doing in the DR for the last 46 years. My heart rejoices, knowing that we have reached so many children. Currently, more than 60,000 are receiving help through 175 church partners, thanks to sponsors like you. I am so grateful for your love and support for Elaina.

Some of our country-specific struggles include a high mortality rate in children under five and a high mortality rate for mothers in childbirth. Nearly 40 percent of the population is living in poverty, and 15 percent don’t have access to adequate drinking water.

Loren Eiseley wrote a story, often retold, about a man on a beach. He noticed someone else bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The other person was throwing starfish into the ocean, because the tide had washed them onto the beach, and they couldn’t return to the sea by themselves. In most versions, the observer tells the thrower he can’t possibly make a difference. The latter replies, after throwing another starfish as far as he could, ‘It made a difference for that one!’

This story reminds me of a boy who was found walking without shoes by a neighbor. His mother and grandmother had passed away; his father, cousin and aunt were working. The child slept on the floor; he used to eat at his neighbor’s. Nobody was taking care of him. That neighbor, who used to be a tutor in a Compassion child development center, saw his need and talents. She brought him to church. He found a sponsor, and now he has become a responsible, obedient Christian teenager who plays the piano at church and dreams of going to college. Isn’t it amazing how God uses us to change the life of a child?

As the children hear the Word of God, they have the opportunity to receive Jesus in their hearts, and their families do too. Our impoverished communities don’t have safe places for the children to play; they find that place at the center. Also, the children receive love, care, curriculum classes, meals and vocational training that equip them for a better future. This brings hope to our hearts.

The center is like the second home for the children, but having a sponsor is a unique blessing for each child. Children wait with all their heart for their sponsors’ letters. A sponsor becomes a friend that encourages them, tells them that they’re loved, that they are in their prayers, and also asks them in detail about their life, parents and school. This is a highlight of the program. I encourage you to write as often as possible.

Currently, in the DR we have more than 300 churches applying to open a Compassion center in their communities. In 2017, we want to provide new sponsorship opportunities to thousands of children in need in partnership with at least 16 new church partners. Also, after implementing more than 20 water-purification plants in the last five years, we want to help provide access to adequate water in at least three new communities in the next year.

Thank you for your commitment to help those who don’t have a voice. Thank you for your effort and support that make such a difference to Elaina. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

In Jesus, Kleber Lora”

Letter from the Country Director of Colombia

This week I’m sharing the letter from the Country Director of Colombia. The director, Jose Carrasco, mainly serves as the South America area director, but helps as country director with some of the South American countries, too. He is a very busy man, I’m sure! I really hope to be able to go to Colombia someday soon to meet Luna, who I sponsor there.

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“Dear Alisa, Greetings in Jesus’ name! My name is Jose Carrasco. I am the South America area director, and I’ve been privileged to serve as the interim country director of Colombia since 2014. I was born in Peru. I am married to Laura, and we have two wonderful children, Jose Alonso and Natalia.

Compassion has been serving Colombia for 45 years. We currently have more than 240 child development centers in Colombia, and we are serving 77,000 children and youth. Through sponsors’ generous and selfless giving, children feel loved, cared for, nurtured and supported in many ways. You have made all this possible for Luna through your sponsorship and your prayers. You truly are making the difference in your child. Thank you so much!

Unlike a child who is not in a program, a sponsored child has a safe place to go each day. At the centers, children have the opportunity to learn about the love of Jesus and to identify their strengths, develop their gifts and talents, and overcome difficulties. They are taught, among other things, that they are special because they are children of God.

We do face struggles daily. Compassion serves Colombia’s most impoverished children and their families. The children are at high risk of sickness and even death in their early years. Every day, they are surrounded by violence, the absence of one of the parents, etc. They also face economic crisis, in which unemployment and the cost of living are extremely high, making life increasingly difficult for those who live in poverty. Lack of water and access to good medical attention is a daily struggle. Hospitals lack medicine and equipment. The families cannot turn to government education or its agencies, as these do not offer the help they require.

By God’s grace, we will continue to go forward and overcome any obstacle that presents itself. Compassion Colombia has improved its program and materials to better empower the church to fulfill its mission. Churches work hard and diligently to serve the children better through training, materials and mobilizing local resources. We are developing child protection networks and early childhood and youth development strategies so we can help more children to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. It happens when the church of Christ gets mobilized in prayer and action to intervene in children’s lives.

Nourishing the relationship between the sponsor and the child is of utmost importance. I encourage you to write letters. When a child receives a letter, it means more to a child than you will ever know. Your words really affect your child positively. Knowing that someone who lives so far away is praying and thinking about them makes children feel loved and appreciated.

I cannot express my gratitude for your sponsorship for Luna. Your giving has changed the destiny of your child, and that is priceless! My heart fills with joy as I express my appreciation and recognize your generous giving. May the Lord bless you and your family. We covet your prayers and promise also to pray on your behalf.

Sincerely in Christ, Jose Carrasco”