Because I’m Afraid That I Will Forget
I was washing some of my dirty clothes in the hotel bathtub this morning. Sweating profusely every day will make you go through what you packed in your suitcase in a hurry.
As I knelt over the tub and scrubbed the clothes, I was taken back to images of Filipino women squatting beside pails of soapy water, washing their families clothing by hand.
“When I get back home”, I thought to myself, “I won’t complain about my cruddy old washing machine and dryer anymore. I’ll remember how blessed I am to have them.”
And then in the next instant I thought, “No, I won’t.”
I will forget and I will take them for granted once again. I’m afraid that I will forget to be mindful of all that I have seen this week and go back to my regular day to day, focusing on what’s in front of my face instead of remembering what I know to be unbelievably important at this moment in time.
Isn’t that the way it goes? How easily and quickly we lose sight of the things of greatest importance because they are not the things of greatest urgency, or simply because they’re not staring us straight in the face.
This week, you may be following along with my posts or the posts from the other Compassion bloggers here in the Philippines, and you may be moved by them. They may be changing your perspective, or opening your eyes, or challenging the way that you spend your money, or creating a desire in you to want to reach out and throw someone a ladder.
You may want to act and sponsor a child, and I hope that you do it now. If you wait too long, the feelings may wane. These stark images of poverty will not be in front of you, shocking you to the realities of how much of the world lives outside our North American bubble. When they aren’t there anymore, will you still remember to do something about it?
But these kids? They do not forget what sponsorship means to them. They do not forget how it has changed their lives.
Did you know that every child that we have asked can tell us the name of their sponsors and where they live? I had no idea. They know how many children their sponsors have, and what they look like, and often what they do for work. They anxiously await each new letter from their sponsors and treasure each one of them.
Sponsors are not just cash cows.
If you sponsor a child, you mean the world to them. You can’t even imagine. Those who are older and more articulate can hardly tell us without tears in their eyes how much their sponsor means to them. You are being Jesus to them.
Today we met 4 of the most phenomenal, Jesus-loving young women I have ever met. Meet Maann, Myra, Kleng, and Faith.
If you’ve ever wanted to know what the results of child sponsorship are, look no further. This is la creme de la creme. These four are Leadership Development Program scholars, a rigorous program designed to offer further opportunity for children who have been sponsored and are showing excellent potential as they graduate from high school.
The students must first be recommended by their child development center workers, who have noticed academic potential, leadership ability and Christian maturity in them. Then, they go through an intensive application process. Once selected, they receive free tuition and school supplies to go complete a university degree while receiving training and mentorship in servant leadership.
The results? Nothing less than phenomenal. As these precious daughters of the King each shared their stories and testimonies and dreams with us today at lunch, I and probably half of the other bloggers could not stop the tears from streaming down our faces.
Don’t let the beautiful, put-together, confident faces in these pictures fool you. These girls lived in dire poverty. In fact, they still do. We visited two of their homes this afternoon. Walking into their slum, down a narrow, pitch black walkway barely wider than my shoulders, I was actually afraid.
I had the privilege of talking in depth today with Kleng. A pastor’s daughter, her father sacrificially served but never made enough to truly support his family. They lived in a one-room slum house, with no bathroom. Her eyes overflowed with tears as she remembered the hard times her family faced.
We asked whether living in the slums was really as bad as we North Americans envisioned them as being, or whether we were just imposing our own comfort levels on what we were seeing.
She said that it’s a devastating and dangerous place for a child to live. She talked about men with prostitutes, small children running naked and shoeless, and the many broken, desperate families. She fought to control her emotions as she talked about it.
She told us of a terrifying story that happened while they lived there, that I can’t even share with you. As a teenager, she had to be the one to work to provide for her entire family, because her father was out of work for a season and could not find a way to make any money. She said that it was a little bit hard to give up all of the money that she worked so hard for, but then immediately brightened as she said how kind of God it was to allow her the job so that she could serve her family.
If anyone might have a reason to struggle with doubting God’s goodness, surely Kleng would, right?
Instead, she told us repeatedly that none of it has ever caused her to doubt or fear, but only to trust in and praise the Lord for His goodness. She said, “Some people curse the Lord, but there is never an excuse not to praise Him”. I want to be like Kleng when I grow up.
I asked her if she (as a child who was sponsored) could speak to both current and potential sponsors and tell them what it means in the life of a child. Here’s what she said:
Before we stop blogging this week, before the images leave your mind, before you forget about the good intentions that you had, would you go and sponsor a child?
It only takes 2 minutes to sign up and it is a decision that you will never regret. If you can’t afford to do it by yourself (although it most of us are being truly honest, we could find a way to spare $38 a month), then do it together with a friend, another family, a co-worker, a church small group, a book club, a sports team. Make it happen.
The image I’ll leave you with is from Maann’s testimony presentation, an inspiring quote describing the type of person that she longs to be. Her dream is to become a director of a child sponsorship program, so that she can give what she received to other children. If this is an example of the end result of sponsorship, isn’t the investment worth it?
I know this week has been very different than the usual type of posts that I write. It can be overwhelming and emotional to read these kind of stories, and even harder to know how to respond.
I want to be like Kleng when I grow up, too. Beautifully written, Stephanie. And it’s been a privilege to journey with you this week.
I forget too often. I went to a Christian college and had chapel every day, where we heard about so many needs around the world… and rather than listening, I hardened my heart. I’m trying to listen now, seeking to finally obey. I get so wrapped up in my own “needs” and those of my family that I easily forget the desperate needs of others. Oh that God would move this heart (and that of my husband) to act! It’s so easy to blame my husband for not wanting to give, but I believe we’re in this same place of wanting to give, and yet forgetting and being lazy stewards of all we’ve been given. Lord, bring change to this family and all others who are in the same place! Grace and peace to you, Stephanie… don’t worry, you’ll never be the same.
@Amanda, Thank you for sharing so honestly, Amanda. It sounds like God is already doing a beautiful work in your heart. 🙂
I love hearing Kleng share her heart -thank you for doing that. I am so impressed with the LDP program. With this program, Compassion has gone above and beyond in truly raising up leaders of the next generation.
Every single LDP student I have met is just an incredible person – devoted to servant leadership and so full of love for God. We correspond with an LDP student in Peru, who I got to meet last year. When I get his letters I often wonder who is getting more out of this relationship – him or me! And just this week, by God’s grace and provision we have sponsored an LDP student in Honduras. I’m so looking forward to getting to know her.
@Jill Foley, I don’t think that any of us were prepared for how incredible these LDP students would be. They blew our socks off, and yes, they blessed us far more than we blessed them, I’m sure. These students are truly equipped to be Christian servant leaders in their communities. My husband and I would love to see if we can find a way to support an LDP student, either ourselves or together with friends.
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, One place to start is by requesting to correspond with one!
Even tho I’m a single mom on a tight budget, I am now sponsoring a little girl in India. (About a month ago I had read about them and was sad I couldn’t afford to adopt from there. But I can sponsor there!) I am going to look for ways to cut back a little more so that I can sponsor a child in the Philippines too. Reading these posts has made me realize how incredibly rich I really am. Thank you for writing about this. I too want to make sure I don’t forget what’s really important.
@Leanne, That is so inspiring, Leanne. I pray that God will show you how to “adopt” that Filipino child into your heart through sponsorship as well!
In less than 3 weeks we will be in the Philippines. My second trip. My husband and his first wife (she’s in heaven with my first husband) were career missionaries for 28 years in all areas of the Philippines. I was thinking of you and praying for you this morning. I don’t think you will ever forget what you have experienced there. I never have. It is a life changing experience. I’ve often said the slums of the Philippines makes our slums in the US look like vacation resorts!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I know it has been difficult but so worth it!
@Mariruth, It’s true. The Filipinos sometimes ask me about poverty where we live, and you can’t compare it, at least physically. But then again, I am frequently reminded that poverty is so multi-faceted and that people in North America experience true poverty as well, but it may look different.
I’m encouraged to hear that you have never really forgotten it. I pray that will be true for me as well.
Before we had kids, we spent 10 days in Honduras, working in a church daycare there and living in a Honduran home. You ladies have reminded me of that time, now 15 years ago. It is all too easy to forget. Thanks for the gentle reminder.
I appreciate that this blogging trip has been gentle to us readers. Honest, but gentle. Thank you.
Your walk has been an eye opening experience for me, not because I didn’t know or believe that situations you are covering didn’t exsist, but rather because I have been struggling with discontent. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I have a blessed life, with three amazing children and a phenomenal husband – but its all the little things, mostly ones that don’t matter that I get caught up in. The gimme’s, the petty behavior of others, we’ve wanted to sponsor a child or two or three for a while now and I know that we need to have a family meeting now, not tomorrow. My husband is just 6mos into self employment which can be scary, but the Lord has always provided for us, more than we could ask for. How can I not share that?
@Annie Page, I think we all struggle with discontentment at times. It’s what we do with it when we see that it’s there in our lives. Sounds like you’re on the right track. If you do choose to sponsor a child, I would love it if you would come back and share it with us!
I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been following with you and the other bloggers this week and have really been touched and moved by what you have shared. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, so that we all can have a better idea as to why we sponsor and how very important and life changing it really is.
My husband and I have been married for over ten years, but the Lord has not yet blessed us with children. I am content to wait on Him in this area, but do sometimes think about what it would be like to share our love with a little one. Your posts this week, Stephanie, have refreshed my burden for missions, and caused me to think that perhaps the Lord would have us share our love with children throughout the world through sponsorship. And what a thrill it would be to one day meet a sponsored child, whose life was blessed and came to know the Lord through our gifts, face to face! I hope to discuss this possibility with my husband in the very near future.
Blessings on you for sharing what God has been showing you, and for being willing to immerse yourself in such a place for the sake of Christ and His love.
@Erin, You can’t even imagine what it would mean if you could sponsor and then come meet that child! Sponsors are truly like second parents (or for some children, their only parents) to a child. Meeting a sponsor is a highlight of their entire life. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Erin! Your comment encouraged me this morning. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your time with these children and families. It is a huge encouragement for me to write to my sponsor children often, to tell them we love them and want the best for them. How amazing it would be to meet the children we sponsor. I’ll pray that your time there will plant a seed in your heart that grows and takes root and has a lasting, loving effect in your life.
@Barb, Thank you so much for your prayers, Barb!
I am so grateful to you and the other bloggers for giving us such a complete report on your experiences. I have little Fred in the Philippines (but north of where you are) and it helps me to understand what his country is like and what a difference Compassion is making in his life. I have tried to link to the posts of all of you on my own blog and on Facebook and hope I have helped to encourage others to look into sponsoring. Shaun’s report on bookkeeping was GREAT to help answer the questions of the skeptics.
I am sure your life will be changed forever, even as you “forget” the gut feeling of your experience.
@Bev, Thank you for sharing what we’re doing this week!
I also loved Shaun’s post and seeing that particular example with our own eyes was very affirming for us that Compassion stewards the money they receive with great care. My husband and I hope to write another more detailed post on some of the details of how Compassion works, their financial integrity, etc.
Thank you for going and thank you for posting. My heart is being stirred to sponsor another and to encourage so many friends and acquaintances who live and work here at Compassion offices in our city. I’m torn…feeling like we really do live in excess and opulence here, even if we live simply by N.A. standards.
@Rachel, I’m so encouraged to hear that, Rachel! I know that many of my readers also live fairly simple and frugal lives, as our family tries to do, and yet I am constantly being struck in the face this week but just how truly rich we are. If you do decide to sponsor, I’d love it if you would tell us about it!
This was a great reminder to write to our two sponsored kids in Nicuragua. We forget to do it quite often. Jesus loves all the little children of the world and has a plan for their lives no matter where they live.
“Some people curse the Lord, but there is never an excuse not to praise Him.”
Utterly beautiful, God-inspired sentence. She is beautiful; they are all!
Thank you so much, Stephanie! You’re doing wonderful work, for which I’m praising God.
@Christine, She is beautiful. I wish I could pack her up in my suitcase and take her home with me. 🙂
I didn’t sleep well from about 3 a.m. on. I had been up with my daughter and before I went back to sleep, I sat down and read a couple posts from you and one from Kat. I kept dreaming that I was on a blogging trip to Mexico (and that I understood Spanish perfectly!). I kept trying to figure out, half-awake and half-asleep, how we could find $38/month when I am about to become unemployed. Even without my employment, we still have so much. And we still have so many bills to meet. But, I’m working on a way and thinking about maybe doing it with someone else. Keep encouraging and being encouraged. Your trip will make a difference and is making a difference!
@Kari, I will pray that the Lord shows you how you could make the numbers for to be able to do it. God is always SO faithful to meet all of our needs when we respond in faith and obedience to the stirrings he puts on our hearts. I trust he will make it clear to you!
And thank you so much for your prayers this week, Kari! I’m eager to be back to participating in our MYM group when I return.
As a new subscriber to your blog, I have no words, except “thank you” for such a wonderful post. May we try not to forget
@shannon, You’re so welcome, Shannon. I’m so glad you’re here!
I wash my clothes by hand and line-dry them. Would I do it if we had 3 kids instead of one? Probably not. Although I manage it, it’s the only homesteading chore I despise and I often think how much work it must be for developing nation mamas with big families to have to do it–no choice in the matter.
@Emily, It definitely helps me to be grateful for the time and energy saving devices that I have in my own life. The moms and grandmothers here work so hard to care for their sweet families. But then again, so do most of the moms that I know in N. America, too! 🙂
Thanks for this beautiful post. I don’t think you will forget, truly. We came back from India in 2007 with our new daughter, and I cried the first time I drank safe, clean water from our kitchen tap. I STILL appreciate that one simple thing like never before . . . And now I know that when the Bible talks about the “rich,” he means me , , , and anyone else living with a car, a computer, running water, a house with more than one room, and schools for their kids. May we never forget that.
Beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you for all you are giving this week. And please don’t forget. No matter how easy it is to want to forget, we all need to remember and be reminded of how messed up this world is. Thank you for taking us out of our little bubble.
Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing these stories.
To be honest, I have gone back and forth about wishing I’d be chosen for a Compassion Bloggers trip. I love Compassion with all of my heart. Yet, when I think about it, I realize that it would be life changing. Life changing in ways that would be very hard to deal with when coming back to the “Life of Plenty” here in our country.
So, I am praying for all of you as this trip winds down. Praying for grace as you face re-entry into your life here at home. You will be forever changed. I would guess it will be very hard at times. But I can tell that you will be able to do something wonderful with that change.
Hi Stephanie! I’m an employee at Compassion, and I just wanted to let you know (and maybe you can tell the other bloggers too) how much these posts encourage Compassion employees! For me, it can be easy to get used to seeing what I see, and it’s good to have that layer of hardness ripped off occasionally by others who are seeing and experiencing thing for the first time. And for the employees who never get to visit, it’s so encouraging to them to hear how what they do each day in a faraway place really does matter, too. So thank you!
@Amber, Thank you so much for introducing yourself, Amber! We’ll be having a team meeting shortly and I will definitely tell everyone else what you said. 🙂
I have really enjoyed following your blogs this week. All of you have done an outstanding job. I really like the video of Kleng talking about the importance of a sponsor. She put it beautifully.
Praying for you guys as you come home.
Awesome, Stephanie. Kleng’s words were so wise. When she talked about what the sponsors give she listed about 3 or 4 things and money was the LAST. She recognized and appreciated the love and dedication of sponsors. She recognized the true poverty was spiritual and that sponsorship addressed the WHOLE child. I pray I show that love to my sponsored children, too.
Thank you for sharing with us this week. Praying for you.
@oh amanda, Thank you so much for your support this week, Amanda. Your comments, tweets and prayers have encouraged us all so much. It’s almost like you came here with us, except that you didn’t have to eat balut or wave your bum in the air while holding a balloon between your knees. 🙂
Well said, Stephanie. 🙂
Hi Stephanie, thanks for your post. it is so great to hear about the awesome work of Compassion. My husband and I sponsor 4 children in Kenya. One day we hope to take our 3 biological kids to meet their brothers and sisters in Africa. God chose our sponsor children in miraculous ways. If He shows us more, we’ll sponsor more.
I was just about to make some cards for my sponsor children, and I was wondering if you’ve kept in touch with the wonderful families you were visiting on the Compassion trip?
@Barb, Most of the families we are unable to keep in touch with as they already have their own sponsors (and unless a sponsor gives up the right to send letters to their child, other families can’t step in and do it). But, we have kept in touch with John Mark, receiving a letter from him and sending him a package with a letter and pictures from our family (including some fun prints of our time together with him in the Philippines). We’ve also recently signed up with a new little girl and will hopefully be able to send off a letter and family photos to her as well. We’re also still in communication with Compassion about one of the family’s we met, whom we would like to help with a surgery their daughter needs. It’s a work in progress, and we’re hoping that the surgery will go through this fall! 🙂
Enjoy writing your cards! It’s such a special thing for them to receive, and such a blessing for us to send.
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