Today we went to The Compassion Experience downtown.
The Cowboy and I have sponsored kids around the world since we got married, 16 years ago. Writing a check every month for $38 is really the easy part.
I'm about to be really honest here. The hard part for me is going beyond the check and engaging in a family's life. Technically Compassion International sponsors "children." But today at this mock set up of kids lives who have been through the Compassion program, I saw their stories from a Mama's point of view.
And if I'm really honest, it broke me. At the end of the "tour" through little Carlos's story, one of the Compassion workers asked me how my experience was, and I wept. In front of a total stranger, I wept.
Yes, I wept because my reality is that I never have to wonder how I'm going to put food on the table for my kids. I never have to question whether or not they will have a warm bed to sleep in. When they are sick, I can take them to the doctor. And for all those things, I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude.
But what broke me the most was the lesson I learned from these Mamas and Papas. These parents live in a perpetual awareness of their need for Christ. They KNOW who their PROVIDER is. And their lives are this beautiful testimony of how the Lord wants to use our lives to bring glory to His name every single day. They know that Jesus is the ONE who sustains.
It's easy to forget where my help comes from, when I'm constantly forgetting that I ever even need help. Does that make sense? I'm struggling to find my words here. Today I had the thought of, "thank God that Joey and I can provide for ourselves." Today I felt audacious. I felt arrogant. I felt like I had forgotten where my help comes from. I felt like even though the families in these stories have little in terms of tangible things, they have much in terms of spiritual things. They know the things that are so hard for my North-American self to remember. They know Psalm 121 in their bones.
One of the lives that we journeyed through this morning was that of a little girl named Shamim. She got malaria when she was ten and wasn't able to receive treatment quickly enough so she became deaf. Half way through her story she talked about how she doubted that the Lord even loved her. If He loved her, why would He let such a difficult thing happen to her. She questioned why she was even alive and what she could possibly do with her disability.
Then at the end of her journey she talked about how she discovered that the Lord didn't mess up in allowing her to become deaf, but rather He had a tremendous purpose for her life. Through Compassion she was able to learn sign language. Day after day for several years they patiently poured into her and modeled perseverance and faith to her.
She is now grown and has a ministry of her own where she educates and loves on kids in her community with disabilities. There are currently 45 kids that are a part of her program and she is able to love on them in a very personal way because she understands first hand what it feels like to have a disability and feel like nobody cares. A large part of the program is simply speaking life and truth and purpose into these kid's hearts and minds. She hugs them every day and tells them that they are loved and valued.
On our way home I had the best conversations with my kids. Even my Jed shouted from the back row of the van, "Mom, when I heard that Carlos's dad had died and that he was only seven years old and had to go to work, my eyes got droopy and my heart felt sad. It made me glad that we got to eat muffins and yogurt for breakfast and not just a half of one egg. I'm glad I have you as my Mama and that you don't drink to much alcohol so you won't die."
He's five. I have no expectation that he will be able to perfectly articulate what he saw and how it made him feel. Going to an even like The Compassion experience is not going to turn my kid into a world changer. BUT, I believe with all my heart that it is a powerful way to plant seeds in my kids.
My older kids each took away something different. There are days when we're doing school that my kids just want to complain. Days when they think that school is too hard. Days when they view their writing assignments as a form of punishment.
Today on our way home my oldest looked at me in the car and said, "I'm not going to complain about my schoolwork anymore. Today I realized that my education is a gift." He got quiet and bit choked up. Then his Mama got choked up. There are moments when your kids discover something important on their own, and those moments can be some of the best moments for a Mama's heart to witness. I have no doubt that there will be a day when my boy finds himself complaining again about school. That's human nature, and that's ok. But today there was a shift and tug on my boy's heart and I'm thankful for that.
My girls both talked about how thankful they were that they felt safe in our house. They were thankful that they didn't have to worry about coming home to dark house after working all day as a seven-year-old, only to go to bed with an empty stomach, listening to their drunk parents fight and freak out. My girls told me how big God is and how He gave hope to Carlos by answering his prayers for him and his mom. My Hal said with the biggest smile on her face, "Mom, God gives people hope!" Indeed He does. And these real-life testimonies of God's faithfulness impacted my girls today.
What is the Compassion Experience?
"It's a free event that features an interactive journey through the true stories of children living in developing countries like the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic.