Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sponsor Tips 101: Back to School


It's that time of year again! Wherever you go, the phrase cannot be avoided: "Back to School". This fills some people with great joy, either because they are excited to go back or their parents are excited to send them. Others of us are filled with great dread as we think of the mountain of assignments that lie before us. This year, as we prepare ourselves for Back-to-School, here are some ways we can encourage our sponsored children:

1. Write a letter about your first week of school or your child's first week of school this year. Are you/they excited to go back? Are you/they nervous? Why? Which classes do you enjoy the most? Ask your child what they enjoy most about school. If you have a prayer request related to your school year, share that with your child (example: "I find math class very difficult. Please pray that God will help me to understand the lessons"). You could also send them a picture of you or your child going to their first day of school. My mom used to take pictures of my brother and I every year on our first day of school! This year I might send my kids a picture of the crazy games we play on the first week of school to get to know everyone. We wear funny, bright-coloured outfits. That could make for an interesting letter!

2. Buy a Back-to-School present for your sponsored child. While you are shopping for school supplies for yourself or your children, why not pick up something extra to send in the mail with your next letter? There are some paper items that will go through in the regular mail, including thin paper notebooks, stickers, and postcards. Last year I bought these items for four of my Compassion kids, and wrote a letter with them explaining that I was getting ready to go back to school, so I sent them a present of some school supplies! Even though they may seem like small and insignificant gifts to us, they are greatly valued by these kids. One of the girls I sent this to wrote back and said she would think of me every time she used the notebook :)

Also, if you know anyone who is travelling to your sponsored child's country in the near future, you could add some extra things like pens, pencils, and erasers and give them to that person to deliver to your child!

3. Send a child or family gift to your sponsored child. When your family lives in extreme poverty, going to school isn't cheap. There are uniforms to buy, backpacks, notebooks...all sorts of things we take for granted that can make a huge difference in a child's educational experience. Why not bless your sponsored child at this time of year by sending an additional financial gift? They may use it to buy school supplies, or something else their family desperately needs (perhaps because they couldn't buy it in order to get the things their child needed for school). You can send an extra financial gift to your child on Compassion's website.

Those are my suggestions. Hope you find them helpful! Let me know if you have any other great Back-to-School ideas to share.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Helping the Lost get Found

This one is for all of you dedicated Compassion sponsors and advocates out there. I know that, even though we are highly committed to our roles with Compassion, some days we can find ourselves feeling a little discouraged. Maybe our friends aren't interested in what we have to say about Compassion. Maybe we've racked up a lot of debt in the past month and are worried about how we are going to continue to support our sponsored children. Maybe we face the problem of having correspondent child after correspondent child drop out of our lives because their financial sponsors stop supporting them. There are many reasons why we can feel this way from time to time.


Personally, I have been dealing with some discouragement lately. And, seemingly out of nowhere, I thought of a song I really haven't listened to much in the past few years. It's called The Lost Get Found and is by Britt Nicole. I had never thought of how the song can connect to our sponsorship/advocacy journeys until tonight. Here are some of the key parts of the song:

Don’t let the lights go down
Don’t let the fire burn out
‘Cause somewhere somebody needs a reason to believe
Open your eyes up now
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found

Why do we go with the flow
Or take the easier road
Why are we playing it safe
Love came to show us the way
Love is a chance we should take
I’m moving out of the way

Don’t let the lights go down
Don’t let the fire burn out
‘Cause somewhere somebody needs a reason to believe
Open your eyes up now
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found

So when you get the chance
Are you gonna take it
There’s a really big world at your fingertips

And you know you have the chance to change it

To listen to the full song on Youtube, click here


"Somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe." Children all over the world are living in extreme poverty. They need people to tell them "YOU matter! YOU are special! God has big plans for YOUR life! He loves YOU!" Whether we sponsor one child or one hundred, we get to be that voice of encouragement to them, reminding them of their worth and encouraging them to reach for their dreams, despite what the lies of poverty tell them. 

"Don't be afraid to stand out." I don't know about the rest of you, but sometimes I feel very different than most people my age, for sponsoring multiple Compassion kids and always trying to put money toward helping more. God has called me to do that, and I shouldn't be embarrassed if it makes me stand out a little. This is, of course, harder said than done. But it can be done!

"Love is a chance we should take." Twice now, I've added sponsorships even though at the time it was a risky decision. I had no idea where the money would come from to support these kids for the next month, and beyond that. And yet, to this day, God has provided. So if He calls you to this, He will help you through it. It's definitely risky at times, but showing His love to others is definitely worthwhile no matter the risk involved.

Fellow sponsors and advocates, when we sponsor, pray for people living in poverty, and raise awareness about kids needing sponsors, we are helping the lost get found. We are helping them find important things like healthcare and education but most importantly we are supporting the Church all over the world, who wants to help them find Jesus! Even though there are dry spells in our ministry, it is well worth it.

"So when you get the chance, are you gonna take it? There's a really big world at your fingertips and you know you have the chance to change it."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rosalie

Previously in this blog I have told you how Misgana and Blanca became a part of my Compassion family, but I have not yet written about my third sponsored child, Rosalie. Perhaps this is because the story of how she joined my family involved a longer decision-making process than the first two. But I think it's time for you to hear this story. I hope it encourages you in your own sponsorship journeys.

I am an advocate with Compassion Canada. Until recently, I decided to have child packs sent to me in the mail every month. A child pack is a packet of information about a child who is waiting for a sponsor through Compassion. It provides you with their picture, some information about them, and a form to fill out if you would like to sponsor them. I've had some adorable kids' pictures in these packs...like many others I'm sure, I've had a brief moment of wanting to add them to my Compassion family, just because they were so adorable. But I found that usually about 24 hours after receiving the child pack, that feeling would fade away. 


Then, one day in February, I received Rosalie's child pack. Something about her beautiful smile intrigued me from the start. So did the fact that she is below average in school. I don't see a lot of child packs for below-average kids. I knew she needed a loving sponsor. So I put her picture outside the door of my dorm room, hoping someone would see her and want to know more. I left it up during my school's annual youth conference, hoping one of the teenagers staying in the dorm would make her a part of their Compassion family. No such luck. I asked my small group, many times, to pray that Rosalie would have a loving sponsor, and soon. Unlike the other child packs I had received in the past, I knew I could not let this one pass the expiry date and be sent to someone else. She needed a sponsor!

I knew that she needed the encouragement that a faithful sponsor could give. Then a thought entered my mind: "what about me?" No. It was impossible. I barely had a dollar in spare change to my name. I was a college student who at this point could barely afford a donut at Tim Hortons when I went to town with my friends. I wanted her to be a part of my Compassion family, but there just wasn't any way to make it possible.

Then I got thinking some more. I live in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world! There is money everywhere, I just have to look for it. And look I did. I tried and tried to come up with a creative solution to my financial situation, but nothing was happening. In desperation one night, I cried out "God, if you want me to sponsor her then please provide!"

Somewhere in this time frame, I thought about recycling. In my province you can return used beverage containers (pop cans, plastic bottles etc) and get some money for them. If I saved up enough recycling, and could make at least 41 dollars a month from it, Rosalie could be provided for. I could also save the pop can tabs and bottle lids and make crafts out of them, to sell for additional financial support. It was a great idea, but would take time to get started. How could I help her right now?

Not long after this, I left my town for two weeks to do my teaching practicum in a city 45 minutes away from where I live. My parents had graciously given me some spending money, thinking I might need to buy my lunch every day at the university where I was teaching. Fortunately, this was not the case. My host family provided me with food for my lunches while I was there. I was determined to spend as little money as possible. I asked my parents if they wanted the leftover money back. They said no. I asked if I could do whatever I wanted with the remaining money. They said yes!

At the end of the two weeks I had about 80 dollars left over. That was enough to help me pay for a month of Blanca's sponsorship AND add Rosalie to my family!

As soon as I got home I filled out the sponsorship form and sent it in the mail. About a week later Compassion contacted me to inform me that Rosalie was now officially my sponsored child. I was so excited. I made a post on OurCompassion (a social networking site for Compassion sponsors that no longer exists) and I called it "She's Mine!" God provided, just as I asked Him to!

Three sponsored children on a college student's budget isn't easy. Like many of you other sponsors out there, I've had to make some sacrifices to support these kids. But in the long run, those little things won't matter. It is tiring work, cleaning and sorting out all the recycling. Some days it makes me quite exhausted. Other days it fills me with joy and it's almost like an act of worship, thanking God for the opportunity He has given me to be a part of Rosalie's life. Lord-willing, by this time next year I will have traveled to the Philippines to meet Rosalie and her family. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do!