Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A Plethora of Letters: Part 1

There's a quote that my Dad sometimes uses when things are gearing up or getting interesting. He says, "Hang on to your ears!"

That's about how I feel right now... after receiving nine (yes, you read that right, NINE) letters from my Compassion kiddos recently! After a system-wide glitch that caused letters to be "stuck" for several months, the floodgates have finally opened and the letters are pouring through! So be prepared for a long post... because there's been a LOT of happiness arriving in my mailbox!

I'm actually going to divide this post into two parts because it would be too long to read in one sitting!

Let's get right to it shall we?

First up were two letters from Papi, my oldest boy in Indonesia who will be graduating this month!



I also got a photo update of Papi... isn't he looking happy and handsome?!

A while ago, Papi had written that people were staying away from one of the beaches in his area because a crocodile had been cut loose in the area. I questioned him on this further, asking whether crocodiles were common in his area and were people afraid of them? His reply is, "There are many crocodiles here. Actually the crocodiles in our place are not disturbing, but since they are disturbed by people they turn fierce." Papi also said that he got the picture of the Cardinal I sent him and "it is very beautiful. Yes, God's creation is very beautiful." He then told me that the weather is "in transition here now. Sometimes it rains and some other times it is dry and hot." He also said, "I really hope we can meet one day." Me too Papi, me too!

In his second letter, Papi talks more about his family and said he enjoyed reading the letter I sent about my uncle who plays the saxophone. He says, "I know saxophone but I don't know how to play it." He then lists his uncle, aunt, and cousin who live in the area and how much he enjoys seeing them. He says that he most likes spending time with the children of his cousin because "they are active and smart, they are also dancing hip-hop, and I am very glad when they call me Uncle J (First letter of his real name) I feel as I am adult." (This made me chuckle for some reason, especially the part about hip-hop and feeling like an adult when he is called uncle.)



Next up are Ada's letters!

I love this girl so much.... she always squeezes as many words as possible into the writing space, and these letters were no exception!

In her first letter, she greets me in the name of Jesus and says she is doing well with her family. She says she has completed her Primary education and advanced to Senior 1! She also asked for prayers that she pass with good grades when she reaches Senior 2. Then she says, "I thank you so much for the letter you wrote to me, telling me about your news with your parents." She also says that she is praying for God to continue protecting me in the name of Jesus Christ.

In Ada's second letter, she asks how we are doing and says, "In the last semester I got good marks, 61%. I keep on praying for good marks. Please keep me in your prayers to improve on my marks." (This girl is taking her education seriously!) She also adds, "I thank you so much for the letter you wrote me with all the beautiful touching words. I also thank you for the decorations you sent me. (Stickers, coloring pages, etc.) I had a wonderful Christmas and my family was all well."



Moving on to Isimbi's letters! I am so grateful that Isimbi is sounding a little more "chatty" in her letters... I've been a bit concerned for her for a while now!

In Isimbi's first letter, she tells me that she is on her school holidays and is helping around the house by sweeping and fetching water. She also says that they are in the rainy season in Rwanda, and "we are preparing for commemoration period for our fellows who died in genocide 1994." (All of my Rwandan children take part in this commemoration and I'm so glad they do!) Isimbi also says that she is doing well in school and adds, "We are preparing for the Easter. I wish you a happy Easter. I love you so much." She then says, "I thank you for the letter you sent to me, it pleased me very much. I loved the calendar you sent me."

In her second letter, Isimbi shared that her school break went well and she has started her second term in school. She then says, "It is rainy here in Rwanda, it is so cold, how is weather over there?" She also adds, "I know you pray for me. I always pray for you to be protected by God with your whole family." She closes her letter by saying, "I thank you for the letter you sent to me, thank you for the toys you sent to me, I was happy for it, it is really good, thank you."

I am so glad that all the letters I have sent for the past six months have gotten to my kids safely, and it feels like a rainshower after a drought to finally hear from my beloved kiddos again!

I'll end this post here before it gets too long... I will have three more letters up soon!


Have you heard from your kids lately?


Monday, 24 April 2017

Holding On To Hope

Sometimes it's so much easier to struggle in silence. Sometimes it's so much easier to paste on a smile when people ask how you've been, where you've been, and find a quick and cliché answer. I'm a private person anyways.... I don't like talking about myself. Years of hurt have taught me that most people don't really care how you are... they just want to satisfy their own sense of curiosity. So when I hurt, I do it alone.

But I will say, this past year has been wonderful... and at times very, very difficult.

This blog is called The Path of the Carpenter for a reason... I started it to chronicle my journey as I follow the Carpenter of Nazareth, the man named Jesus the Christ.

But when self-proclaimed followers of the Carpenter leave you without a support system, without an identity, without a word in your defense, with your foundation crumbling... sometimes things start to look a lot different, and you begin to wonder if anything you ever believed was true.

When your head and heart go to war with each other, you start to feel like you're slowly going insane... like you are two separate people trying to co-exist in the same body. Your head believes in the Truth-That-Is, but your heart wants to run... as far and as fast as you can. Numb the pain. Scream for help silently. Rage at the world in anger, behind the smile on your face.

I have come as close to losing my faith as I ever have.

I'm being honest with you.

Not because I ever stopped believing in the Truth, but because I was driven from the place where I first learned that Truth. I've somehow made more enemies than I have friends, because I learned another "truth"... that Money, and Power, and Pride, are the gods of this world and some people will sacrifice anything for their gods... even their fellow believers.

Many times I feel like I've been flayed alive and laid on the altar.

And sometimes I've wondered what, exactly, I've been trying to hold on to.

And in the darkness, 8 little lights shining from the other side of the world, reminding me that I'm holding on to Hope.

Uwimana Hannah Photography

It's my daughter Isimbi reminding me that Jesus knows my name.

It's my brother Mbula asking me to pray for him to keep believing.

It's my daughter Ada telling me that my letters give her hope for a better a life.

It's my sister Shakira telling me that she loves me for ever and ever.



Somewhere in the world, there is Love. There is Peace. And there is Hope. For my kids in poverty, yes... but if only they could know, that the little physical provision I am able to give them, is nothing compared to the spiritual strength they give me.

Maybe you have a hard time imagining my kids, especially my tiny munchkin Miriam, forcing anyone to do anything, but yes... my kids have forced me to hold on to my faith. They have forced me to refuse to give up. They have forced me to see that there is still good in this world. And they have forced me to remain in contact with Hope Himself.... the Carpenter. Because of them, I have a reason to never give up. Because of them, I pray, and read, and study, even when I don't want to.


Because of my kids, I'm still holding on to Hope... and I don't plan on letting go.






Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Gift From God

Some days are hard.

I know we all struggle, but sometimes I feel like I struggle more than most. Sometimes there is just so much bad that it's hard to see the good. I'll admit it's been hard for me to see the bright side lately... car troubles that I can't afford to fix, stress, anxiety, anger from being constantly stressed and anxious, negativity from everyone around me, some health problems, and just general constant worry about how I'm going to make it through and keep my head above water.

The day before yesterday was like that. The official "First Day of Spring" arrived with 15 centimeters of snow and an ice storm to beat the band. I got stuck just trying to get home from work. My car isn't the most reliable to begin with, and armed with only "baloney-skins", which is what we call worn-out tires in Newfoundland, I floundered at the bottom of a hill. Trucks, jeeps, vans, and even little sports cars zoomed past me while I slipped and skidded, backed up, gunned her forward, slithered and slid, backed up, pressed on the gas and slid further backwards... the slushy ground was full of skid marks from trying to avoid the ditch.

Kind of like my life at this point.... sitting on black ice while the rest of the world is driving with studded tires.

To make a long story short, a generous stranger in a pickup stopped and offered to tow me up the hill... with a good set of chains and another gentleman lending salt, he deposited me at my front door in no time. But needless to say, I was worn out. Sick of winter, sick of fighting, sick of pretty much everything.

I practically crawled into my bedroom, too tired to even attempt to make dinner. I idly logged into my Compassion account, mainly to check and see if I had received any letters from my kids. But I stopped abruptly when I saw a little face that hadn't been there before.



And then I saw her name... and I burst into tears.

Gifty.

My own precious little Ugandan princess... my little angel sent as a sign of His grace.

My Perfect Gift from God.

She is six years old and lives in Northern Uganda... a place filled with hardships and suffering, with war and turmoil and terror and disease and poverty. And somehow, in a place where children are often thrown away, the Grace of God was enough to let a Ugandan mother name her child Gifty.

And somehow, God saw fit to "gift" this little warrior to me, on the very day that I so needed a Gift of mercy. God in His lovingkindness never fails.

Welcome to the family Gifty... I love you so much already!

And in closing, I quote these lyrics by John Schlitt:

"It's a blessing every day I get to see her face;
I could never ever ask for more than this,
She is such a gift.
Lord, thank you for the Gift." 

Friday, 10 March 2017

God Always Knows: Welcome Elijah!

Have you ever had a God-moment so big that you just had to stop and step back and try to take it in? One that filled you with awe, and maybe brought tears to your eyes? One that made you laugh and cry a little at the same time?

I had a moment like that recently.

But let me start at the beginning.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I sponsor a truly wonderful young man named Mbula in Kenya. You may also know that he will be graduating from Compassion's program very soon; this month, in fact. He has received his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (the equivalent to our High School diploma) and is beginning his studies in Computer Technology. To say I am proud of him would be a massive understatement!

So as Mbula is preparing to graduate, and as I am preparing my heart and mind for the fact that I will be "losing" him very shortly, I have also been praying about expanding my family again. I knew a long time ago that I wanted another correspondence child from Kenya, since my experience with Mbula and with my little girl Miriam has been exceptional! So I recently requested that my name be added to Compassion's waitlist for a child from Kenya to write to. Any age, either gender... I just wanted a child from Kenya.

But with that being done, I began to question my own decision. Wouldn't it be better, I thought, to request a correspondence child from a country I have never sponsored in before? And perhaps... perhaps, I thought, I could instead sponsor another young man from Kenya, in Mbula's honor. Seventeen would be a good age... Mbula was eighteen when I began corresponding with him, and twenty when I took over his sponsorship.

I went back and forth on it for a while and finally decided to leave the request as it was. If I got assigned an "itty-bitty", or an older girl (both of which would have been more than fine in my books!) then I would think about sponsoring another young man. Maybe from the Maasai tribe... I've always had a deep interest in their culture. I even saw a seventeen-year-old young Maasai man on the website that tugged my heartstrings... but he was sponsored the next day.

And that was when God decided to step in. I opened my Compassion account one evening to check for new letters... and saw a new face instead.



A young man.

Age seventeen.

Maasai.

Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor.

And here's the kicker... his name is Elijah. A name that when I was a little girl, I wanted to name my future son.

God ALWAYS knows!

And of course, the addition of Elijah brings my family up to the perfect number of 7.

Welcome sweet Elijah... my miracle son!

Elijah's previous Compassion photos




Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Why Compassion?

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you will know my passion for helping children in poverty. Although I have donated to and worked with several other organizations in the past, there is one ministry that I have chosen to become closely affiliated with. And that ministry is Compassion International.

I've often been asked the question, "Why?" Why Compassion when there are literally hundreds of other sponsorship organizations out there? And why do you choose to sponsor?

Today I want to answer some of those questions.

Photo from Compassion International Media Gallery.


INTEGRITY FIRST

I've always been a firm believer in the adage ,"Investigate before you invest." If I'm donating to any charity or organization, I want to know exactly where my money is going and how it's being used. I've heard too many stories of scams that used photos of abandoned, ragged children to garner sympathy (and subsequently, donor dollars). When I first started looking into Compassion, I was pleased to find that they have consistently gotten very high ratings by Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, and other third-party reviewers.

In the spirit of integrity, I love Compassion's decision to refrain from using photos of starving, skeletal children to raise funds. Although the poverty is quite obviously present in photos, it's not the main focus. The main focus is to portray all recipients, both children and adults, with dignity and respect. Compassion will even provide children with an outfit to wear on photo day if the families have nothing for the child to wear. These photos can then be treasured by the family and are not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

Children stand in the doorway of their house with life-saving malaria nets from Compassion.
Photo taken from Compassion International Media Gallery.

But there's more than just financial integrity, although of course that remains important as well. A program can be financially stable and still not have results. As they say, "The proof is in the pudding" as I have witnessed over and over again. This isn't about hungry children showing up for a feeding program. This is about children's lives being completely transformed from a spiritual, social, physical, and economic standpoint, helping them to become healthy, well-rounded adults capable of making a difference in their countries and communities.

I want to share with you this short video that touched my heart deeply. I can't help but tear up whenever I watch it, because it's so close to my heart. It's only about 8 minutes long and tells the story of Jimmy Wambua, who went from being an abandoned child on the street, to having his life changed through Compassion. You will witness Jimmy's first meeting with his sponsor, and finally, meet Jimmy's new sponsored child in Haiti. This video is for me, proof that Compassion really does work!



SEEING THE DIFFERENCE

For me, of course, the evidence that Compassion works is in my hands every day through my children's letters. I have one child in university, studying to become a civil engineer. I have another who just graduated high school and is hoping for college. I have three who want to become doctors, and one who wishes to become a teacher. These children would not even be in school if it wasn't for Compassion.

Mbula age 5 and now at age 21

In the above photo, you can see the difference that the years in Compassion's program have made to my "little brother" Mbula. He will be graduating Compassion's program next month at the age of 22. I have only to look at my children's photos and see the difference in their attitudes; chins held up, shoulders squared, smiles breaking through... to know that Compassion works.

Basomingera age 6 and age 12

If you would like to make a difference in a child's life, and release them from poverty in Jesus' Name, will you consider sponsoring today? You can contact me with any questions you have about sponsoring, or you can go directly to Compassion International or Compassion Canada to learn more!


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Waiting Children: The Valentine Edition!

Since today is a very special day, a day of showing our love in action, I want to give you all an opportunity to show the Love of Jesus to some very precious children! Click on each child's link if you want to learn more about them, their families, their community, and how you can help!

So what day is it anyways? Valentine's day of course!



And what is Valentine's Day? A day that's all about love!



Valentine's Day is all about finding your special Prince...



...or your special Princess! 



Valentine's Day is about giving your heart to someone special...



...and telling them how precious they are...



...and how dear they are to you...



...and of course, asking them, "Will You Be Mine?"



How do you celebrate? Do you give the traditional roses...



...or perhaps another special gift?



However you choose to celebrate Valentine's Day, ask Jesus to make you a blessing to someone today!



And I'm sure that you will have a very Happy Valentine's Day!




Monday, 16 January 2017

Pleased To Meet You: Papi

Welcome to the second installment of my new series... Pleased to Meet You!

Today I want to introduce you to my most recently sponsored child!

Name: Papi
Age: 21
Birthday: June 24
Country: Indonesia

The first photo of Papi that I saw on the website.

OUR RELATIONSHIP: I first saw Papi's picture on the Compassion International website. He looked like an intelligent young man, and when I clicked on his profile, I wasn't surprised to learn that he was an above-average university student! I started sharing his photo and information on Facebook, hoping that he would find a good sponsor to help him finish out his time in the program. After a while, Papi disappeared from the site, and I celebrated; he had been chosen! But a few weeks later, he appeared on the site again... his child info packet must have just been pulled to send to an event. I began circulating his photo again... and weeks went by. I couldn't understand why this handsome, studious young man was waiting so long! Finally, I began wondering if I was meant to be his sponsor. I struggled with it for a while... knowing that I couldn't afford another child. But it would only be a short sponsorship... three years at most... and I couldn't explain why I felt so inexplicably drawn to him. My "yes" came in the form of my parents, who offered to share his sponsorship with me! Now I know why Papi waited so long to find a sponsor.... he was meant to join my family!

ABOUT PAPI: Papi lives in an urban area of Indonesia, where he attends one of Indonesia's top universities to study for his degree in civil engineering. When not attending classes, he spends his time at home with his mother, who is a domestic worker, and two older sisters. In his free time, he loves to visit the nearby beaches and play with his two dogs! Although I don't hear from him as often as my other children, he is a great writer and his letters are usually several pages long!

Papi's current photo


LETTER EXCERPTS:

"I thank you very much for your willingness to sponsor me, Hannah."

"Each morning I must struggle to ride on the campus bus because public transport to campus is not many. It is one of our town cultures."

"My hobby is watching animated movies, walking around, and hanging out with friends."

"May I call you sister? When is your birthday? What do you do? How is the culture there?"

"Shalom. I am so glad writing you letter again. I really like to get and read your letters. I reply, How are you?"

"I am so pleased that you have given the whale photo and some data about them and I found it very nice. I haven't ever seen real whales yet like you have. I only see them from TV and pictures. How many years life of a whale?"

"I like reading books that tell about the life of a person (biography) who inspired many people. I like to know their struggle to reach their success. By the way what kind of books do you read?"

"I will always remember you because our mothers' names resemble. I also like blue color, pink, and green. I am feeling lucky because my family love me much, care, and support me all this time."

"I don't sing because my voice is not good and I don't know how to play music instrument, but I like listening to music, that is why I want to hear your band."

A drawing of Psalm 91:11 in Indonesian, by Papi


"I like being at beach especially when sun sets. It always becomes my favorite moment."

"Indonesian traditional food is Se'i. Se'i is smoked beef or pork. Really delicious."

"My dogs' names are Avril and Digo. They are so cute. They act cuddly while welcoming me everytime I got home."

"The beach here is made of rocks and sands. I couldn't swim. Here we have many beautiful beaches. But lately, many people were afraid of going to the beach because there was a wild alligator that was cut loose around the beach."

"I am happy to hear your story about Ken Taylor. I never heard about him before. I hope you can send me other stories from The Faithful Man and Woman that you know."

"By the way, I like Newsboys and I also like Planet Shakers. I like their song lyrics. This is my letter for now. Lord Jesus blesses you."