Wednesday, August 22, 2012

So ~ What about Compassion??

I have to tell you about Compassion International.  I firmly believe it is imperative that you understand what Compassion is doing for the children in Peru ~ and around the world, I am sure, but I can speak from experience about Peru!

First, I went on this trip with a misguided sense of what Compassion does.  I've read blogs and followed Compassion-sponsored trips for a few years, yet I envisioned a school with a giant billboard, arrow pointing down at some sort of pale colored building, reading "Compassion School!"  Of course, this makes little sense, as much mission work is frowned upon in Peru (as in many other countries, as well).  So, it took some time to process the realities of what we were going to see and then what we did see.

Compassion is not a school ~ in the sense that children attend public and private schools for their readin', writin', and 'rithmetic, if you catch my drift.  No, Compassion partners with the local church, and focuses on four needs: spiritual, economic, social and physical.  At the project we visited, these areas are addressed in before or after school programs.

*screeeeeeeeeeech!*  (brakes, friends.  Puttin' 'em on for a lil demo-demo...)

This is my Nicole:

Oh my goodness isn't she adorable?  Look at that smile!!!  *I miss you sweet baby!*

Monday, Nicole and I sat for two hours doing this:

For two hours!  We sat and played with these little blocks - I can't think what they're called --- but they are very similar to blocks that we use in the US during intelligence testing.  For two hours I asked her about animals and colors and numbers, and home.  I discovered my spanish is just good enough to communicate with a 6 year-old ;)!  Three times adults came by and told me in perfectly fluent spanish (!!!) about Nicole's life.  I found a translator, and this is what I heard about this sweet angel baby:
Today Nicole is six. When she was three, she was a very hyperactive child. She was so uncontrollable her mother locked her in her room all day because she was not able to control her. Nicole would scream and cry and bang on the windows in her efforts to escape the room. The neighbors called the church and asked them to intervene. She began attending Compassion classes. But she would escape her classrooms and climb the walls of the church. The pastor was afraid for her safety. He asked the psychologist who works weekly with some of the Compassion kids to work with her. Meanwhile, the Compassion folks helped her father find a steady job. Now three years later, she sits, plays, and is super, super intelligent. Pastor Jose described her as, “intelligentissimo!” VERY smart!
Seriously ~ wow, right?  What would have come of this amazing human being if not for God's grace through Compassion??  Here's more.  Nicole clung to this petite tangerine.  Here's a pic of another little girl holding tight to a similar piece of fruit way past lunchtime:

Nicole hid her tangerine in her lap, behind her back, one time it sort of rolled away and she crawled across the floor to retrieve it.

"Why don't you eat your fruit?" I asked her.
"I save it for home," she answered.

Like a stab to the heart.  Here's what Compassion feeds these kids while they are at the project:

That is a huge plate of food.  Made from scratch, friends.  Compassion has strict nutrition guidelines the cooks have to follow ~ no pre-fab chicken nuggets or any ketchup considered to be a fruit in those kitchens!   The children receive a meal like this three times per week through Compassion ~ every day they attend.

Here's another - oh man my mouth is watering!

Look at these adorable ladies who cook for the kids every day ~ aren't they super?!

With our two crazy gringa friends ~ they sure had a good time together that day in the kitchen!  I loved watching them interact ...

But back to my story.  Why did Nicole save her fruit for home?  Because this may well have been her kitchen:

It was 10 year-old Melanie's.  And I can tell you there may be days when a tangerine from Compassion is all there is to eat in that place where Momma struggles to work for a few coins each day and five mouths to feed.

But there's MORE!  MORE FOOD!  MORE that Compassion does for these kids!

So I've told you how they feed these sweet children and teach them about Jesus and provide counselors and psychologists and even developmental screenings and medicines.  But also?  Also?  They help kids learn skills that will help them get jobs that will help them break the cycle of poverty.

This is a cooking class at Compassion:

And that food tasted sooooooooo amazingly good!

I had to fight them off like wolves I tell you...

Oooooh yeah.  You gotta know I loved that heavenly morsel to post that awful picture!  Aaaack.

Classes.  To teach the children job skills.  Classes in cooking, sewing, other trades.  A future.  A future that breaks the cycle of poverty.

That's what Compassion is doing in Peru.  That's what Compassion is doing around the world.  That's what God is doing through Compassion around the world.

And you wanna know how much it costs?  Seven icee mochas a month.  Yeah ~ I went there.  Pretty convicting.  $38 per month.

Here's where you need to go now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"How Was Your Trip?!"

She smiles at me from across the hall, 28 shiny faced kindergardners in tow.  She asks across the table over doughnuts at church and on the phone and in a text. 

The question is posed by people I love the most in my life.  Their genuine desire to hear my answer ~ unquestionable, to be sure; but how do I answer it ~ enough ~ when our expected interaction in the halls of school or the doughnut line at church or in that text message is a moment and I just need a lifetime?  How do I answer so that they will see my words not as my mouth forms them but as my heart cries out?

I don't have an adequate answer to their question.  I don't know how to answer any of them the way my brain says I should.  My words seem cold and flat against a warm fiery ember that burns and has always burned but snatches at the wind and catches a spark and feeds a flame.  I went to Peru to find a little girl named Keila.  I went to Peru and found Nicole and Natalia and JammiLuz and Diana and God ~ and then ~ Me.  And I can't wait to go back.  Right now - Today.

My prayer is that over time, words will come fast and God will fill in the blanks, but for today my words are broken and inadequate.  And I am not going back ~ Yet.  I am here in my comfortable home on this fluffy friese and the two inch pad and just wondering at the wonder of it all.  How God can be so big there where their needs are so great and yet here we make Him seem so small.  Yet He is Him.  The great I Am.  He doesn't need us to make Him big or small or anything at all.  He just is.  Why is that?  Why is it that we cling to Him as the plane crashes yet we turn away when the captain turns off the saftey belt sign?

Crazy.  It's a crazy upside down world where I have a heart full of love for my four babies here at home yet I have to fly to Peru to feel my heart swell big enough to fit them all inside.  That's what God did to me on this trip.  He tipped my world upside down and inflated my heart so that I could see His children are my children.

I am startled by the magnitude of His love for us, startled by the love He gave me for my four children here and all the beautiful little ones we met along our paths in Peru.  I am irrationally jarred by His grace and love.  I am so grateful for such a time as this, a time to reflect and narrate and think upon His blessings.

And I answer her.  I answer her with a tear in the corner of this eye and a smile that radiates through both: I am changed.

"How was your trip?" she asks.

"He changed me," I answer.  "And I can never be the same."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer's End: Peru

My prayer this evening is to write for Him.  So often I have evaluated and reavaluated blogging and motivations and time and inspiration.  Tonight, I lay on my fluffy friese carpet with the two inch pad and I desparately want to say something meaningful on my blog, and the best I can bring to word is: Him.

I sat with four young girls today and explained away the gifts their sponsored child sent them through me.  I arrived home just yesterday ~ literally 24 hours ago at this writing.  With delays in Lima and further delays in Miami, the coming home was challenge, yet full of time that I seem to lack here in the every day.

"It's like The Little Drummer Boy," I explained as we gazed at a styrofoam plate shaped and colored to look like a swan, at crepe paper twisted and sculpted into heart shapes, and at foam shapes pasted meticulously into fish and hippo faces.  The little girl who lives on the other side of the world from my daughter and her friends sent what she had to give ~ no gift fit for a king or for what I may have deemed right for these American princesses, yet she gave her best for them, and they ogled and giggled and loved every item, passing each piece around and deliberately choosing which one to keep.  They still get it better than I do.

I am reminded time and again that God smiles at me when I simply do my best for Him. Sometimes that's writing about my messes.  Sometimes that's writing about the babies He gave me.  And sometimes, it's writing about Peru and life and change.

For Keila in Peru and four young girls here at home, it simply meant a backpack of school supplies and a styrofoam plate.  Isn't that beautiful? 

I took 2,500 photos last week.  I promise I won't share them all.  But my goal before my trip to Peru  was to write and photograph all that I saw and did while there.  To care for people and to make a connection.  I wanted to learn what Compassion is doing in Peru.

My voice has been quiet on this blog.  As time sped away and I spent summer moments with my children, my words were absent.  This week, my prayer is that I can suggest to you through my words the powerful impact that is occuring in Peru through the Christ-centered Compassion organization.  I pray to get my voice back to write ~ with time and with inspiration.  I pray that you will be inspired to seek God's will in your life.  Maybe sometimes it is true to "Never mind searching for who you are.  Search for the person you aspire to be."   ~Robert Brault~  

Or better: Ask who He wants you to be.  And be ready to listen!
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