Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Blessings of Real Life

"And all of my todays seem like they're rushing by so fast
And every time I look around, I pray that it will last." ~Lincoln Brewster
As I was driving home tonight from band practice, I was listening to a song called “Real Life”, by Lincoln Brewster. I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it almost three years ago; but tonight, maybe because I had just spent an hour and a half hanging out with some of my best friends, it put me in a nostalgic mood. Have a listen and see what I mean.

So as I was driving home, with my high beams cutting through the darkness and raindrops pecking at my windshield, I thought about my life so far. I’m not old, although sometimes I feel like I’ve seen more than my share of both joys and sorrows, and had experiences that some people twice my age haven’t had. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, good times and bad. I’ve known sickness, health, friendship, betrayal, doubt, comfort, insecurity, and confidence. Maybe I’m an ordinary person; somehow, though, I wonder what I did for God to give me an awesome life like this. I’m living in a province that I never wanted to move to in the first place, attending a church that I ran from almost two years ago and that God brought me back to after the worst eight months of my life (maybe someday I will feel free enough to share about some of those valleys), and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m not that great of a singer (at least, in my opinion) and yet, I have the privilege of being in Driftwood Cross. I’m not a great speaker; but yet, I’ve been invited to speak as a guest in my church. I’m not a great leader; and yet, leadership opportunities are opening to me daily (I’m not free to share about some of them yet; that will come in the future).

The weird thing about me is, I’m not a “fitting in” kind of person. I’m not like anybody I know. But yet, I “fit in” better at Open Door than I do anywhere else. Maybe because we’re a church of “misfits.” Maybe, being different is how we fit; all of us. Maybe we’re like puzzle pieces; each of us has one particular place that we fit in, and nowhere else. Maybe.

Tonight, I sat in a living room with three men who are about as different from each other as different can be. We played music and sang, laughed and shared. Even just four short months ago, I never would have dreamed of this. I have a wild imagination, and anyone that knows me well will tell you so. But I never could have imagined this: listening to Bob solo on his guitar, watching Jim shuffle through a stack of papers and say, “How about if we play it like this?”, laughing at Larry making up song lyrics on the spot or rolling my eyes at his teasing, and feeling so overwhelmingly blessed. Maybe, to someone on the outside looking in, we would look like just any ordinary worship band holding a practice. But they would be wrong. This, is an ordinary miracle. The simple kind of ones that God randomly drops from heaven just because He loves His kids.

And, to someone like me, it’s the biggest privilege of my life. Being involved. Being a part of something. “Fitting.” Belonging.  Somehow. Someway. In a place that I thought I had left behind me forever, with people I thought I would never see again. But God moved mountains (and one very reluctant 21-year-old) and brought me home again. And now I sit back and sigh with contentment, and let these lyrics by Lincoln Brewster drift through my mind:

"This is Real Life, and it’s real good; it’s a place I took for granted, ‘cause I just never understood. And there is real pain, and there are real tears. But the way my Father loves me, is the reason I am here. This is real life.”

And every time I walk into Open Door, I’m reminded once again; life is short. We never know what twists and turns it’s going to make. We need to appreciate what we have before us, because tomorrow it could be gone. I’ve experienced that very thing too many times to ever forget it.

But that’s real life.

And it’s pretty good.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

15 Signs That You Might Be a Crazy Sponsor Parent

So you think you might have the makings of a crazy sponsor Mom or Dad? Here are some sure-fire signs!

1.       You have pictures of your sponsored child(ren) hanging on your wall or displayed on your desk at work, and their artwork is on your fridge.

2.       You find yourself looking at stickers, postcards, etc. and exclaiming, “Oh, my kids would love this!”

3.       You visit places for the express purpose of taking photos for your kids.

4.       The postal workers recognize you on sight.

5.       You have a panic attack if a regularly writing child suddenly stops writing.

6.       When someone asks you to name a place you’d love to visit, your sponsored child(ren)’s country/countries are the first thing you list.

7.       You are seriously considering visiting or have visited your child(ren).

8.       You dream about your child(ren) on a regular basis.

9.       You wish you could adopt your child(ren) if ever given the chance.

10.   When you get a new child, you run around screaming for joy.

11.   You brag about your kids and show their pictures to people at home, at work, at church, at school, and to random strangers.

12.   You constantly re-think your budget to justify fitting in another child.

13.   When your child mentions losing a parent or family member or being hurt in some way, you are ready to buy a plane ticket and head out there to find your child.

14.   You keep all of your children’s letters in a special place so you don’t lose them.

15.   You never stop praying for and looking for your child, even after they’ve been gone for years.
Have I left out something important? Comment below and tell me... I might create a "Part 2"! And feel free to share with anyone you think fits the label "crazy sponsor parent"!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Florence Niyonsenga!

Welcome to post number seven in the “Sponsorship Sunday” series! I hope you’re all enjoying having a closer look at our beautiful Rwandan children. Remember, sponsorship is only $40 CND a month (we also welcome American sponsors), and in return you will get regular photo updates, letters, and the knowledge that you are changing the world, one life at a time.

This lovely girl is Florence Niyonsenga. She is eight years old, and her birthday is April 22. Florence’s family used to live in the slums of Kigali, Rwanda. Her father is uneducated and has no trade, and her mother stays at home to care for Florence’s sister, who is disabled. The entire family was living in a tiny shack smaller than most modern bedrooms when our Shelter Them team discovered them in November 2012. Through donations from our wonderful partners in Canada, we were able to move Florence and her family into a much nicer rented home, paid for by donations. Florence’s mother has just completed a sewing class provided by Shelter Them workers, so she is now able to help provide for her family. Florence’s sister Olivia, who most likely has cerebral palsy, is now getting the care she needs.

This is what Florence looked like when our team first saw her. They thought she was a boy, because she was dressed in boys’ clothing! The family was so poor, they barely had food to eat and couldn’t afford proper clothing or medical care for Florence’s sister. All five members of the family slept on one thin piece of sponge mattress and used extra clothes to cover themselves.

This is beautiful Florence in her pretty new dress, after she and her family moved into their new home. Florence now has a chance to go to school and have a future. She’s had a hard life, but now she can start smiling, because she has hope!

Here is Florence’s whole family: Florence herself, her mother and father, her six-year-old sister Olivia who is disabled, and her five-year-old sister Kevine. Olivia and Kevine are also available for sponsorship. They are standing in front of their new house. Shelter Them moved them out of the slums in December, just in time for Christmas!

In the above video, you can see our Rwanda team, including Jules and Bright, moving Florence’s family from their old house in the slums to their new house in a much nicer, cleaner neighborhood. You’ll see Florence and her sisters in their new rooms, and hear a bit more about Shelter Them’s work in Rwanda. Our Rwanda team held a housewarming party for Florence’s family, with all of our Shelter Them children included!

Your sponsorship will make sure that Florence never has to go back to her old life in the slums, and she will now be able to go to school and dream about her future. And your letters will provide her with the encouragement and self-esteem she so badly needs after a life in the gutters.

If you’d like to sponsor Florence Niyonsenga, or if you would like to view the rest of our children available for sponsorship, you can visit us here: Shelter Them Child Sponsorship.

Feel free to share this page with your family and friends so we can find her a sponsor!

And don’t forget to visit the Path of the Carpenter on Facebook!


Friday, 16 August 2013

Fur-ever and Ever

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." ~The Velveteen Rabbit

As I type up this blog post, the most curious figure is sitting on my bed. A small, worn, almost threadbare toy. Or perhaps I should say friend. This shabby once-playmate of mine hardly resembles a cat anymore, having been so mauled and loved over the years that she’s nearly entirely lost her shape. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh. She’s looking at me rather accusingly at the moment, as if to say, “And whose fault is it that I look this way?” I always did say she had the saddest expression of any stuffed toy I’ve ever seen. It’s as easy as anything to imagine her stalking to the end of the bed, curling her tail around her haunches, and purring; perhaps because I’ve been doing it for over eighteen years.

Fur-Ears (please remember I was only four at the time) has a couple of interesting features. She has what I think is a ball-bearing inside her head, so whenever you move her, she makes a realistic purring sound. He body was filled with water or gel at one time, so she was squishy and cuddly, although she’s rather limp after all these years.

I remember the first time I saw her, fluffy and new with a pink ribbon around her neck, on a store shelf. “Oh, Mommy, Mommy! I want that! Mom looked at the kitty on the shelf, looked at me, and questioned, “Are you really going to play with it?” “Oh yes, Mommy! I promise I’ll play with it every day!” I begged. I kept my promise, too, right up until I deemed myself too old for stuffed playthings. Fur-Ears went everywhere with me. She slept in my bed, where I would make little burrows for her under the covers until I fell asleep. She traveled from Newfoundland to British Colombia with me, alternately sitting in my lap, “sleeping” on top of the luggage, or sitting in the rear window of the car so she could “see” the view. I never would have subjected her to the indignity of traveling in a suitcase; besides, she might have smothered!

Fur-Ears was also my schoolmate in my younger years and my mascot in later ones. Since I was homeschooled, my treasured pet sat right beside me as I wrestled with math problems, memorized verb endings, and studied science. My mother, who doubled as my homeschool teacher, managed to creatively work Fur Ears into almost every lesson. I believe it helped me learn; or at least, it made learning more fun, which meant I was more receptive to it. (I hated school.) I received many a handmade card or note signed, “Love, Fur-Ears”.

The first time I read the book The Velveteen Rabbit, I identified with it immediately. During the most poignant scene in the book, the little Rabbit asks, “What is ‘Real’? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” The old, worn-out Skin Horse replies, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real… but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

I think that’s why I keep Fur-Ears around, even after all these years. Even with her faded pink ribbon, pink paw-pads that have turned gray over the years, thread coming out of her ears and tail, plastic whiskers long gone (clipped off by Mom because they poked my face in the night when I cuddled with her), and floppy brown ears, there’s a certain wisdom in those green eyes that still shine despite the nicks and scratches. When I was a child, Fur-Ears was as real as any real-life playmate. And everyone knows, you don’t discard your friends just because they’re old and lose their beauty.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here as well, and perhaps two: An old, familiar friend is a wonderful thing to have, and we must always remember that no matter how shabby or worn-out or forgotten we may feel, there is Someone Who makes us Real, and who loves us despite the ugly and tattered parts of our lives.

“When you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter.” ~The Velveteen Rabbit.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Joshua Niyonziza!

Welcome to the sixth post in my “Sponsorship Sunday” series! Each Sunday, I profile one of our Shelter Them children looking for a sponsor. We currently have 22 children, boys and girls, ranging in age from 1 to 19, available for sponsorship. Most of our children are either orphans or have been abandoned or given up by their parents, so we provide a home atmosphere for them. Each of our children lives in a house with up to five other children and one caretaker, so the children have as normal a life as possible instead of living in an orphanage environment. Because we provide everything for our kids, each child will need four sponsors. Sponsorship costs just $40 CDN per month, and we also welcome sponsors from the United States!

Now, I know we’re not supposed to play favorites, but I have to admit that this little guy has captured just about everybody’s hearts. This is four-year-old Joshua Niyonziza, whose birthday is May 16. He is the youngest in a family of six, with two brothers and three sisters.

Joshua’s parents lived in poverty with their five children. When their mother found out that she was expecting her sixth child, their father abandoned the family. Joshua’s mother tried her best to keep her children together, even though there was no food and nothing to survive on. When the time came for her to deliver the baby, a neighbor accompanied her to the hospital. Perhaps feeling that something wasn’t right, this brave mother asked her neighbor to care for her children, should something ever happen. Unfortunately, something did happen. Joshua’s mother died as she was birthing little Joshua.

Joshua’s big brother, Elie, tried to be the man of the house and keep the family together, even though he was barely thirteen. The children were facing certain starvation, until the same neighbor intervened and contacted Shelter Them, explaining the children’s desperate need. Thankfully, people from all across Canada responded with open hearts and gave generously to provide for this broken little family. Joshua, his big brother Elie, and siblings Sandrine, Josianne, Josette, and Daniel now have a home with a wonderful lady named Clarisse, who has bonded with them like her own children. Clarisse says that having the children “has given her satisfaction and joy.”

Baby Joshua, when he first came to live at Shelter Them. Joshua and his siblings and their mama Clarisse make up what is known as the Kanombe Home.

Here’s our boy, Mr. Cool Joshua! The hat and glasses were “borrowed” from a member of the missions team that visited Rwanda last November.

That’s our Joshie! (after his face painting adventure!)

Joshua busts a few moves out in the yard. Check out the video below and watch to the end; this kid can groove! Future pop dancer right there! The lady with him is Jocelyne and Josephine’s mother, Mama Jo, who heads up the Shelter Them office in Rwanda. He really gets into it at the end.

What about it? Would you consider sponsoring our Joshua for just $40 a month? (approximately $38 U.S.) Your sponsorship will provide Joshua with a place to live, medical help, food, and education. As a sponsor, you will receive regular letters and photos, and you can even visit him in Rwanda! Will this little man be yours?

Joshua gives his future sponsors a big “thumbs up!”

If you’d like to sponsor Joshua Niyonziza, or if you would like to view the rest of our children available for sponsorship, you can visit us here: Shelter Them Child Sponsorship.

Feel free to share this page with your family and friends so we can find him a sponsor!

And don’t forget to visit the Path of the Carpenter on Facebook!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Isimbi Turns 10!

Today is a really special day! Our youth group’s sponsored child, Isimbi Divine A., hits the double digits today! We’ve sponsored Isimbi since November 2011, when she was eight years old.

This is the first glimpse we had of our precious girl. She was seven years old here. Such a beautiful, serious little face!

This is our most recent picture of Isimbi from Compassion Canada. She almost appears to be standing at attention here. Notice how everything she has on is orange? Even her flip-flops! But let me assure you, this girl can smile, even though it doesn’t show in her official pictures.

See? This is our girl with her little brother, Dilani, and her grandmother, Felicite. This was taken when my friends visited her last November.

Isimbi gave our team a special gift that she picked out herself: a picture of a woman holding a peace basket (also known as a friendship basket). The picture is made of banana leaves. Look at the hearts on the gift bag and the hearts on Isimbi’s dress… this girl is all heart! Isimbi is sitting with my friend Sherry here.

For her birthday, I sent Isimbi some paper goodies to help her celebrate. I also wrote her this letter:

 To our special Isimbi,

I wanted to tell you how excited I am that you will soon be turning 10 years old! I hope this letter arrives in time for your birthday and does not arrive too early or too late! Since it is almost your birthday, I want to tell you a very special story. It is the story of how you became our sponsored child.

Myself, and my two best friends Sherry and he husband David , lead a weekly meeting for young people. Every week, we gather together to learn about the Bible, sing, pray, and play games. The young people that come are from ages 12 to ages 19. We call ourselves, “Open Door youth group.”

One day, we prayed and decided that we wanted to sponsor a child. We knew God would lead us to one very special child. After a while, David and Sherry brought a picture to our meeting, and said that God had led them to a little girl in Rwanda, whose name was “Isimbi.” That little girl was you! Even though we didn’t know you, we loved you already.

After a long time, David and Sherry decided to go to Rwanda to visit you and your family. I was sad because I wanted to go as well, but I was happy for my friends who did go. Sherry and David were so happy to meet you, and your brother Dilani, and your grandma. They enjoyed it so much, and they also liked the gift you gave us, of the picture made with banana leaves. Thank you so much for choosing such a beautiful gift! When David and Sherry came back to Canada, where we live, they told us all about you and brought back some pictures of your family. We were so happy to see the pictures!

So that is the story of how you became our sponsored child. We love you so much! All of the young people from Open Door youth group think of you as their little sister, and me and my friends David and Sherry, we think of you as our daughter. So we are all praying that you have a very happy birthday, and that you know how special you are to us. We pray that God blesses you and your family, and keeps you all safe and healthy. We all wanted to send you a card for your birthday, and all of us wrote our names. I am also sending you some little things and stickers for your birthday. I hope you like them. May Jesus Christ be with you every day! We love you so much.

I want to dedicate a song to my precious girl on her birthday. So here’s “1,000 Miles” by Mark Schultz.

Lastly, in honor of Isimbi, I want to show you two children from Compassion International who need sponsors.

The first picture is Cheni Paulo John. He is a six-year-old boy in Tanzania, and he shares Isimbi’s birthday, August 8. Click here to Sponsor Cheni

The second picture is Nyirahabinshuti Goletti, a 10 year old girl living in Rwanda, just like Isimbi. Click here to sponsor Nyirahabinshuti 

Will you consider sponsoring a needy child today? Isimbi would tell you, “It’s worth it!”

Sunday, 4 August 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Kevine Uwimbabazi!

Welcome to the fifth official “Sponsorship Sunday!” This is the second month that I will be featuring children from our Shelter Them program who need a sponsor. Unlike most sponsorship programs, we provide everything for our children: Housing, food, clothing, schooling, medical care, etc. For this reason, each of our children needs four sponsors. Sponsorship only costs $40 Canadian per month. Shelter them is a Registered Canadian Charitable Organization, and you can visit for more details.

Today, I want to introduce you folks to a real-life Cinderella. Her story is heart-breaking, but at the same time, hope-filled. This lovely young lady is Kevine Uwimbabazi. She is 13 years old, and her birthday is July 1.
Kevine’s mother died when Kevine was only a baby. Her father married another woman, who despised the child of her new husband’s first wife. Kevine was literally kept as her stepmother’s slave, and was beaten severely from age 4 to 9. When Shelter Them intervened and rescued her, she had serious wounds on her legs and needed immediate medical attention. As you can imagine, she was also badly traumatized. Thankfully, Kevine now lives in a home with three other girls (Two who are also named Kevine!) and she will never have to go back to that abusive situation. Shelter Them has made it possible for Kevine to receive regular counseling to help her heal emotionally, and I’m happy to say that she is now blossoming into a shy, sweet young lady with a beautiful smile, as you can see!

Here, Kevine models her new school uniform. She is in Primary 2, since she had never had a chance to attend school before she came to Shelter Them.

Kevine with the new mattress she received last November.

And here’s Kevine sitting on her new mattress! In case you’re wondering, that’s my sponsored girl, Shakira, in the bunk above her!

These are two of our Kevine’s (we have four altogether!) and my friend Sherry, who runs the Newfoundland branch of the Shelter Them office with her husband, David. The young lady on the left is Kevine Uwumuhoza, who also needs a sponsor, and you can read about her here.

Sponsorship is just $40 a month, and will provide Kevine with continued counseling, a place to live, medical help, food, and education. As a sponsor, you will receive regular letters and photos, and you can even visit her in Rwanda! Will you consider sponsoring our “Cinderella”, giving her a better life, and showing her that dreams really do come true?

If you’d like to sponsor Kevine Uwimbabazi, or if you would like to view the rest of our children available for sponsorship, you can visit us here: Shelter Them Child Sponsorship.

Feel free to share this page with your family and friends so we can find Kevine a sponsor!

And don’t forget to visit the Path of the Carpenter on Facebook!