Sunday, 10 May 2015

At Every Beck and Call

Tumbling down the stairs in slow motion… sliding, falling, knees and elbows banging painfully off the bannister. Coming to a jumbled stop at the bottom of the stairs, I lift my head and howl, “Mommyyyy!”

Running for the bathroom in the middle of the night, kicking my feet free from entangling sheets, staggering in the darkness to hunch over the porcelain bowl, and I whimper, “Mommm!!”

Staring at a confusing mess of math problems rampaging across the pages of my math book, I hurl down my pencil and yell, “Mo-om?”

Headfirst in my closet, digging, rummaging, searching, clothing dangling off hangers and lying in piles. “Mom!”

Rushing home from the post office, waving a letter from one of my sponsored children, and I holler, “Mom! Mom!! Mom!!!”

Even now, fumbling through my recipe book, looking for non-existent instructions, I pick up the phone and punch in her number. “Mom?”

I’m sure there were plenty of times she got tired of running at my beck and call… but nevertheless, she was always there. Is always there. We who have moms take it for granted sometimes, that our moms are always just around the corner or a phone call away, to act as nurse, doctor, teacher, cook, taxi, and playmate… but let’s not forget the sacrifices that they make, to be all those things to us. The times when they want time to themselves, the times when they are tired, sick, hungry, or just frazzled, yet they still put us first.

Moms of the world, we salute you!

And to my own sweet special mother, a million thanks!!

Did you know you can help a Mom and baby in need? Click HERE to support a Child Survival Program through Compassion International!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

April Anamneses

That’s a pretty cool word isn’t it? Anamneses ? It means, “Recollections or remembrances of the past.” I love playing with words…

Anyways, on to this months’ letters! I got three letters, all from Mbula! Two were actually duplicates of a thank you letter he wrote; one was the rough copy, with words crossed out and spelling errors fixed, and the other was the actual thank-you letter. Both letters included the same two photographs, but the rough copy contained much bigger and better quality photos, so I was pleased with that!

I’ve already posted about Mbula’s thank you letter, but I’ll share one of the photos again here for anyone who hasn’t seen it… this is the first time I’ve ever seen my boy smile!

Anyways, the third letter I received from him started with a sweet greeting, “Let me take this golden chance to say “hi” to you.” (Eloquent!) He then greeted me and told me how he is doing, as well as adding, “I greatly appreciate the pictures you always send me.”

We’d been having a discussion about gardening, with me asking what types of crops his family grows, and telling him about my mother growing carrots in her garden. He responded by telling me they grow maize and beans, but do not actually grow carrots because of the “climatic conditions that are facing our land.” He added that they usually buy carrots “for human consumption”.

Mbula’s studies are going well, and he told me how he thanks both the Lord and me for providing for him. He requests continuing prayers for his studies, and said that he hopes the Lord blesses me, protects me, and “expands my territories!” (I may have to write a letter about the Prayer of Jabez soon!)

Have you received any exciting letters from your kids this month?

Friday, 17 April 2015

...And Then There Were Six.

I spend a lot of time on Compassion International's website, looking at all the beautiful children available for sponsorship. Every so often, I’ll see one that particularly touches my heart, and then I will often post their picture and story on my Facebook page, to help them find a sponsor.

Several weeks ago, a young man from Indonesia really jumped out at me. A very intelligent-looking young man with dark, compelling eyes. I clicked on his profile and discovered that he was an above-average college student, and my heart went out to him. It’s not too often that I see college students on the site, and even more unusual to see one with above-average marks. My first thought was, “Now here’s a young man who is working hard to lift himself out of poverty and he’s not letting it hold him back!”

I immediately started posting his picture around, waiting for him to disappear off the site, which would mean he’d found a sponsor. After weeks of waiting, he finally did disappear, and I celebrated… he’d finally been chosen!

Unfortunately, (or fortunately for me!) that wasn’t the case. A couple weeks later, he reappeared on the site… somebody must have requested his packet and then changed their minds. I couldn’t believe it… I was so sure that he would be snatched up quickly!

So I started posting his picture around again… and grew heartbroken as time went by and he remained on the site. Finally, I started battling with myself. Is there any way possible that I can afford to add a sixth child? Followed by my common sense telling me, NO. This is NOT a smart move. I grew more and more frustrated, realized that even if he WAS chosen by a sponsor, I would still be heartbroken, because I wanted to choose him.

And then my parents stepped in and decided to make it possible. They have a wonderful child of their own, and constantly encourage me in my endeavors to encourage as many children as I can. So, they decided to make it possible for me to encourage, and be encouraged by, one more child.

So now I know why nobody was choosing this young man… because he was meant to join my family.

So without further ado, may I introduce Papi, my sixth child (and my second boy, and my first from outside Africa!) He is 19 years old and lives with his mother. His hobbies are art and singing! (Like me!)

Papi also got his picture updated the DAY after I sponsored him, which is pretty cool! Here’s his newest picture:

Welcome to the family Papi… my “Mr. Miracle”! You were most certainly destined to be here! 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Mbula Says Thank You

I received a very special (thick!) envelope in the mail today! I usually wait till the end of the month to share letters from my kids, but this was too special not to share today!

Last August, a Compassion sponsor traveled to Kenya to pay a visit to his children there. He offered to take some gifts from a few Compassion sponsors for their children, and I jumped at the opportunity to send something to Mbula!!

I was allowed to fill a gallon baggie, which was quite a treat as I’d only sent quart-sized baggies to children before. I immediately started hunting for something that I thought my then-19-year-old would enjoy! I started with a green polo shirt, thinking it would be something useful. I added a watch, since I’d heard reports of children really enjoying watches as gifts. Then I chose a red journal with Jeremiah 29:11 embossed on the front. I figured that since his parents are farmers and Mbula often mentions helping with the crops, a good pair of leather gardening gloves wouldn’t go amiss. Then, I slipped in a bookmark and a souvenir keychain with “Canada” written on it, as well as a pack of toothbrushes.

Then I put the package in the mail, bound for the U.S… and waited… and waited!

I did end up having to do an inquiry, since months passed with not a word about the package. How thrilled I was when I heard that Mbula had received his package, and there was a thank-you letter on the way!

I’ve never enjoyed waiting for anything, but I have to say, my long wait was SO worth it. Because when I tore open the Compassion envelope that I received today, this is the first thing that jumped out at me:

My handsome boy, who at one point I was referring to as “Mr. Serious” since he hasn’t smiled in any of the 8 official photos I have of him, is smiling!! What a sweet, happy smile.

He also wrote me a lovely letter and shared with me what he has done with his gifts. He said that he likes to wear his new polo shirt to church, and he also brings his “diary” to church so he can write down his favorite Scripture verses. He also wears his wrist watch (he calls it a “hand watch”) to school each day! And my favorite part; he shared the toothbrushes among his brothers and sister! I had to chuckle, though, when he thanked me for the “soccer gloves”… oh well, if he can use them during his games (he’s an attacking mid-fielder) he’s welcome to them haha! He also included Psalm 37:4 in his letter… “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!”

There were two photos included in the letter, and I love the second one as well. My boy looks so cool and “rad”!

God bless you my sweet brother! Happy tears here today! 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Memories

I received a couple of awesome letters this month!

First up, a letter from 11-year-old Isimbi in Rwanda. She referred to a letter I sent a while back on the subject about names. She’s my third kid to mention it… apparently it was a really popular letter!

She says, “I firstly greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are you doing well? I believe that you are doing fine and the family. We are in holidays and planting sorghum and beans. I do home activities at home. I love you so much and your family and I pray for you to have a good healthy. I thank you for the letter you gave to me and Bible verses. They inspired me so much. I am happy because God knows my name. Thank you!”

Then I got a very exciting letter from 16-year-old Shakira, also in Rwanda! I don’t hear from her very often, so it was a real treat! It was the second letter she’s ever written in English, and she did so well with it!!

She asked several questions about how I am, how my family is, how I feel, how my life is, how I celebrated Christmas and New Years’, etc. Then she said her and her family are “cool,” which made me chuckle a bit. I had to wonder where she picked up that expression! Then she added, “I thank God because I have a beautiful sponsor, thank you for choosing me.” She then shared the results of her National Exam with me, which was awesome! She was really hoping to get promoted to the next level, and she made it! She told me that her purpose in going to school is to study hard. She also told me that she celebrated her birthday on January 19. (I shared pictures in an earlier blog post.)  Then she shared some song lyrics with me, which was pretty neat! I shared a song with her in my reply letter.

I also have a letter on the way from Mbula, and I was hoping it would arrive in time to be included in this blog post, but oh well! Next post!

Have you heard from your kids lately? 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Music Monday: No Doubt

Since my last blog post was about John Schlitt, the lead singer for Petra, I figured I'd share a Petra song today! This song is called No Doubt, and it is one of the most encouraging songs I've ever heard. I've gone through a lot of dark times, and this song literally was a lifeline to catch hold of in those times. Please share this song with someone who's down or discouraged this week... it may make a difference!

Monday, 2 March 2015

When John Schlitt Came to Town

It was late September, one of those brisk fall days when the sky is the deepest blue imaginable. The sun shone through the windows of St. John’s International Airport, illuminating the coffeeshop table where the four of us sat laughing until we had made a spectacle of ourselves.

“Okay, so… Jiggs Dinner? What exactly is that?”

“Well, you start off by putting all your vegetables in one pot…”

“Oh, so it’s like a stew.”

“No, it’s not like a stew. You put just one big chunk of salt meat in it, for flavoring… ”

“Oh, so it’s like a roast!”

“No, it’s not like a roast either.”

I laughed until my sides hurt as Sherry tried to explain to John exactly how to cook a “Jiggs Dinner”. To the curious onlooker, the sight must have been familiar enough… three “Newfie” friends trying to induct our American friend into the nuances of Newfoundland life.

“That actually sounds pretty good,” John admitted. “I would try that. But that other thing you mentioned, what was it again?”

“Scrunchions.” I supplied.

“Yeah, that. I wouldn’t touch that! Fried fat? Euuuugh.”

“And fishheads.” I added with a snicker. “Cod cheeks, to be precise.”

John roared with laughter. “Fried fat and fishheads? You guys are gross!!”

At that, we all broke into laughter.

Finally, I gasped for air and tried to get ahold of myself. The hysterical excitement of the weekend was ebbing away, leaving plenty of memories in its wake. After picking John up at this same airport on Friday night, life had become a whirlwind of welcoming meals, sightseeing, visiting, interviews, and concerts.

Oh yeah… maybe I should mention that our “visiting American friend” just happened to be John Schlitt, multiple Grammy- and Dove- award winner, international music artist, songwriter, and  lead singer for  the Christian rock group Petra.

John laughed when I introduced him like that on stage, but even though it’s quite an intimidating moniker, it doesn’t begin to describe the great guy he actually is. And I guess I really didn’t begin to understand how great, until that weekend.

You see, most folks get a “limited” view of John Schlitt. They see the TV interviews, buy the CD’s, attend the concerts, get an autograph at a meet-and-greet, and maybe get to chat for a while. But let me tell you, it’s not until you’ve crawled into a van with someone at 1 o’clock in the morning, hollered at their bed-and-breakfast window to wake them up, hauled their luggage (or as John put it, “holding the bags”), set up their sound equipment, stood with them in a fast-food lineup, took them sightseeing, and hiked cliffs and walked on the beach with them that you really get to see what they’re like. From the time the tall blond rockstar stepped off the plane and into our world, he became one of us.

Well, we tried to make a "Newfie" out of him!

“So, John, I hear you saw your first moose!” Those were my pastor’s first words to John. We had all met up at a restaurant the morning after John’s arrival for a “leadership lunch” which turned into a discussion of the previous night’s adventures. A one-hour drive from the airport turned into a dreamscape of black night, rolling white fog, and of course, the moose that dashed across the road in front of us.

“I sure did!” exclaimed John, still wide-eyed after his escapade. “Man, that was a big sucker! And I still say that it looked like a horse with… you know… funny-looking ears. I can’t believe people actually hunt those things here.”

As I pretended to scan the menu, I inwardly cracked up at John’s wonder of the island we live on. And of course, things were about to get even funnier.

An elderly gentleman who was on his way to a nearby wedding, finding with dismay that he was unable to tie his necktie properly, rushed into the same restaurant with hopes that someone there would be able to tie his tie. Noticing him going from table to table, one of our party recognized him and waved him over.

“This is John Schlitt from Nashville,” we introduced our rockstar. The “skipper” blinked at us and demanded, “Can ‘e tie a tie?” John, of course, proved to be an old hand and quickly knotted the tie correctly. Upon seeing this, another gentleman popped over and said, “My tie’s already done up, but can ‘e tie me tie the same way he done t’ other feller’s?” John acquiesced, although he later admitted, “I couldn’t understand one word they were saying!”

After the “Great Tie Caper”, we tried to settle down and finish our lunch. John munched his club sandwich and discussed American football vs. Canadian football with the men. Of course, he kept interrupting himself to tease me about my choice of lunch. Fish and chips are common enough fare… fish and mashed potatoes, apparently, are not. John tormented me about “Chips and mashed potatoes” for the rest of his weekend stay.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to Petra. John waved his fork in the air, punctuating his words as he explained to everyone that I was a “Pethead,” which means a die-hard Petra fan. (In John’s own words, “I love meeting Petheads! They’re so cool!”) During part of the conversation, John mentioned his solo album “Unfit for Swine.” “What year was that, Hannah?” he asked, turning to me. “1998.” I replied. Then I corrected myself. “No, I’m wrong. I’m wrong. It came out in ’96, one year after Shake, which was in ’95. I was thinking of God Fixation for some reason, that’s why I said ’98.” John dropped his fork and threw up his hands. “You see? You see?! She knows more about Petra than I do!” he complained good-naturedly. For the rest of the weekend, he referred to me as his “memory” and consulted me when he was unsure about the dates or obscure titles.

A much younger Uwimana Hannah with John... both of us fried after a concert!

One thing I learned about John that weekend is that he loves to laugh. He’s always teasing someone about something. He relates to absolutely everyone and gets along with kids and seniors alike. When he noticed that two elderly ladies looked very uncomfortable with some of his harder rock songs, he ran right down off the stage and hugged them in the middle of a song… to a chorus of “awwwwww”s from the rest of his audience. He calls everyone remotely younger than him “kiddo” and was immediately adopted by half our congregation. The girls in the youth group adored him and clamored for autographs and pictures. (Of course John, being the goof that he is, kept hauling me over and saying, “Hey girls, this is my “Pethead friend!”) I think everyone was shocked by how normal the “rockstar” actually is.

John takes time for a cuddle with his "littlest fan" Madison.

Then, of course, we went sightseeing. I’d been told by John’s booking agent that it wasn’t his practice to go “touring around” with his hosts… but after all, he’d never been to a province quite like ours either! He took everything in stride, reacting in typical wide-eyed amazement at our language, our sense of community, our history, our scenery, and our people. When we’d drop a tidbit of interesting information, he’d respond, “Really? That is so cool!” (Everything is “so cool” with John!)

John overlooking St. John's Harbour from the top of Signal Hill

One of our jaunts to us to Flatrock, a tiny historic village perched way up on the cliffs above the community of Freshwater. John was stunned at the sheer 800-foot drop down to the sparkling ocean below.

John at Flatrock

Before we left, he hollered to me, “Hold on kiddo!” and ran back for one more picture. “Don’t step backwards!” I yelled against the wind as he spread his arms and posed for one more photo, his hair flying in his face.

Neither of us realized, as I raised my camera to my face and captured him in time, that people all around the world would see that photograph.

A few months later, I received a copy of John’s newest album, the Greater Cause, in the mail. Hardly noticing the scrawling autograph on the front, I slowly opened the jewel case to reveal the same photo that I’d taken in Flatrock. And there, to one side, was the inscription, “Photography, Hannah --------“

Now, every time I pull out John’s CD, I marvel at the fact that people all around the world hold that photo in their hands… but what they don’t know are the hours of laughter and memories and poignant moments that prompted it.

So I chuckle to myself and lay down the CD case, and keep in my mind that anyone who’s ever visited Newfoundland gets it in their blood.

Yep, you’ll be back someday John. After all, you’re family! 

Here's John singing my favorite song, "The Cross Remains." He performed this one in Newfoundland when he came.