Tuesday, 25 February 2014

15 (More) Signs That You Might Be A Crazy Sponsor Parent

For those of you who enjoyed my post “15 Signs That You Might Be A Crazy Sponsor Parent.”… here’s Part 2! (Read Part 1 HERE!)
This is the Compassion Edition of “15 Signs” with suggestions from my friends over at the Our Compassion Forum, the place for Compassion sponsors to gather!
From Victoria A:
1.       You hold your wedding outside on a 97 degree day so that it won’t interfere with the timeframe or budget of your already-planned sponsor tour.
2.       You convince your new spouse that a sponsor tour to a third world country can actually count as a honeymoon!
From Kelli J:
3.       You’re disappointed when you don't receive a letter from your child even when you just heard from them last week.
4.       You devote multiple pages in your scrapbook to your children.
5.       You refer to your parent's sponsored children as your siblings and your parents refer to your sponsored children as their grandkids.
From Trisha P:
6.       The most exciting part of your day is when the mail truck comes.
From Michelle R:
7.       Your heart melts when you see a pencil smudge fingerprint on a letter from your child....  and you press your finger to the print to "touch" that child.
From Erin C:
8.       You’re constantly on the Compassion Forum to talk about your sponsored children and to hear about others.
From Emily J:
9.       You count down the days 'til it's time for a photo update.
From Amanda W:
10.   You refer to your sponsored children as your kids in public and in private.
From Joan C:
11.   You keep looking for and finding kids you want to sponsor on the web site.
From Kayla G:
12.   You jump down almost a full flight of stairs in your eagerness to open a letter.
From Andy and Miranda:
13.   You look at your child's weather online and wish you could move to their community because it's warmer/colder there than it is in your city.
From Lizzie:
14.   You want to name your future child after your sponsored child.
15.   You decide to like washing dishes because your child says their favorite thing to do is wash dishes!

If you’ve done any of these things, or if you have your own “Crazy sponsor parent” moment to share, please feel free to comment below, or share it on the Path of the Carpenter’s Facebook Page!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Misfits and Mat-Carriers

It’s Sunday morning again, and I sink down into the farthest seat in the second row on the right-hand side of the building. I’m a creature of habit, and there’s a certain comfort to being in that spot… out of the way, but close enough to clearly see what’s going on.
Leaning forward, I rest my chin in my hands and listen intently to Pastor Jesse. He’s re-telling the story of the paraplegic in Mark 2:1-12, in true Pastor Jesse style. “So here they are… here they are, carrying their friend in on his mat, and they’re pushing and shoving and finally they go, ‘Oh no! Oh no!’ Because, you see, there were so many people crowded into that house that they couldn’t get in. Can you picture that? So what do they do next?” He pauses for impact before asking, “And you know how the story goes, don’t you?” He nods knowingly. “They carry their friend up on the roof. I’m not sure how they did it… maybe with ropes or pulleys or something, but they make it, and then what do they do? They start digging a hole, right through the roof!”
I tilt my head on one side as Pastor Jesse explains, “We all have a mat. Some of us have gotten pretty good at pretending it’s not there… in fact some of us devote our whole lives to ‘mat maintenance.’  And we look at others and say, ‘Oh, your mat is bigger than mine.’ Or, ‘Mat? What mat?’ But the truth is, we all spend our lives sitting on a mat… and we all need friends, at some point, who will carry our mat to Jesus.”
I can’t hide a smile at those words… because many of my “mat-carrying” friends are sitting right here in the same room with me. The funny thing is, I never would have dreamed that I’d become so close to so many of them in the seventeen months since I first came to Open Door.

I remember the first few weeks of Open Door… we were a baby church, in its earliest stages of infancy. I walked in through the doors just the second week of its inception, and I’ve been here ever since. Although at first, I had a hard time believing that I’d ever fit in.
You see, I was, and am, a misfit. Oh, not in a bad way… I just tend to not be like other people. And that’s fine with me. First of all, I stand out physically, with my copper-colored hair. I’m also painfully shy, as most people realized when I spent my first months at Open Door standing with my arms crossed over my chest and my back pressed as firmly to the wall as I could get. In a crowd of bustling, loudly chatting people, I can get overwhelmed pretty quickly. It took me weeks before I’d even venture away from the wall in order to snag a sandwich or a cookie, before retreating to my “safe spot” against the wall.
Even now, after a year and a half, I still stand against the wall. Although now, it’s become a standing joke among the “Open Door crowd.” If I happen to stand against a different wall, someone will invariably ask me, “What did you do, switch walls?” or comment, “Oh my, you’ve moved!” One man even laughingly “posed” me against the wall. “Take a step to the right… now this way… back a little bit… perfect!” Pastor Jesse has teased me about this often enough… and as a fellow introvert, he occasionally joins me.

I’m not much of a talker either… even when someone that I know approaches me with conversation in mind, I tend to fumble for words, forget what I intended to say, and rarely make eye contact. (This despite the fact that I have no trouble writing long, wandering blog posts about whatever comes to mind.) But the odd thing is, it’s easy to talk to people at Open Door… because it’s okay to be weird here. I’m surrounded by fellow introverts and shy people, as well as by confident, outgoing folks. We all tend to balance each other out in some way.
After seventeen months at Open Door, I have discovered my “safe place.”
I love Open Door for the plain and simple reason that the people here love me unconditionally and accept me for who I am. They are my “mat-carriers” who take me to Jesus when I need them to.
I recall one service where I broke down and cried in the middle of Pastor Jesse’s sermon. Unashamed, I rested my head on my knees, wrapped my arms around my head, and sobbed like my heart was broken… because it was. But nothing meant more to me than the lady who was at that time a perfect stranger to me, who sat beside me, wrapped her arms around me, and cried right along with me. That, to me, is what Open Door is all about. Although she was hurting herself, she carried my “mat” to Jesus.
One Sunday, I found myself unable to sing with the band because of a bad sinus infection. Amid much good-natured teasing from close friends, quiet Jim passed by, patted my shoulder, and said, “I feel your pain.” Although he couldn’t have known it at the time, those few gentle words meant more to me than a host of get-well wishes. And it’s another example of what makes Open Door tick… whoever you are, you will find someone to empathize with you.
Someone once asked me, “So, where do you go to church now?” When I mentioned Open Door, they gave me an odd look and said, “Isn’t that where all those druggies go?” I merely looked them in the eye and replied, “Yeah… and those addicts are all friends of mine.” You see, there are no boundaries at Open Door… we’re all misfits in some way. From people on the most limited income, to those who appear to have it all… at Open Door, you can’t tell one from the other.
And that’s simply because at Open Door, being a misfit is how you fit.
Seventeen months… and yet I’ve done it all with these people. I’ve cried until I had no tears left… and then gotten up to sing with my nose still red and my voice scratchy. I’ve crawled on the floor, hiding from a mischievous three-year-old. I’ve sung, prayed, served communion, set up chairs, and yes, even preached. I’ve laughed until my stomach hurt and I was panting for breath. I’ve stayed up until the wee hours talking with friends. I’ve even ridden a motorcycle here. And through it all, these mat-carrying misfits that I’ve come to adore have carried me to Jesus.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Monday Mail Call: Catch-up Edition

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to blogging lately! I’ll blame it on the winter blahs. Anyway, I’ve received three beautiful letters from my kids since the start of this year, and today is a good day to get caught up and share them with you!

My first letter of the year was a card from Shakira, which arrived (hand-delivered by Mama Jo I should say!) on January the 11th. It was my first time hearing from sixteen-year-old Shakira, and she made me a beautiful card! Here it is:
She also drew me a colorful flower inside, adding that she hoped it made me happy because it made her happy!
Shakira wrote that she was happy to have known that I chose her. She told me she loved me so much and added, “God continue to give you many blessings and protect you from temptations.” Then she told me that she wished to have my picture, and she closed by wishing me a Merry Christmas and happy New Year.
I love how she is not shy at all about asking for my picture! (There was a mix-up with the Rwandan post, and I recently found out that she just now received all the letters that I’ve written to her – five at one time! She must have been excited!) Of course, I immediately wrote again and sent her even more pictures.

Then, on January the 15th, I received a quick note from Isimbi. She shared that her family and her are alright, and that she is going to pass in primary 5 soon. She then tells me that she’s happy to write to me and shared her exam results with me. She asked if I was doing all right, and told me her family was preparing for Christmas, and asked if I was as well. She then wished me a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year as well, and thanked me for the coloring pages (“pages of Jesus”) and stickers I had sent her.
I was thankful to hear from Isimbi again; as my youth group’s sponsored child and my first correspondent child, she will always have a special place in my heart. We also celebrated our “1-year anniversary” on January 21st… I have been writing to Isimbi for one full year! Time sure does fly!

My most recent letter was from my Kenyan brother Mbula, and it arrived on February 4th. And speaking of Mbula, I just realized that I never shared his second letter with you all… whoops! Anyway, this was his third letter; and like the others, it was brimming with information and answers to my questions. I love the relationship I am developing with this Godly young man.
In his letter, he told me that he hoped I was going on well with my family. He then told me that he was happy to hear about my grandmother and that he is praying that she will live longer. He also thanked God for being with her all over since she was born. (She is 92 now.) He told me that his family is praying for me and that they are remembering me every time. Then he told me, “My brothers were very much interested with the letter that you send me. Actually, it was very interesting and they appreciated very much.” (I have the feeling this is in response to a letter about a historical community I sent him, with pictures and a flyer with lots of details.)
Mbula then told me his siblings’ names (He has one sister and three brothers!) and he thanked me for my appreciation of the Kenyan athlete Wilson Kipsang. (He broke a world record in running recently) Then he thanked me for the Christmas gift I sent him, and asked what I do and what my favorite game is as well as requesting further prayer for his studies. Finally, he closed by wishing me a merry Christmas and a prosperous happy new year.
I love the fact that since Mbula is 18 (well, soon to be 19) and he writes in English, we’ve been able to develop a great friendship so quickly. He seems to be a very mature, conscientious young man. In only his second letter to me, he told me that his hope was that I was praying for him to continue being saved by God the Father, and that I should remember that God is my portion so I must keep his words and commandments. He also told me that he was praying for me to continue being God’s servant. I have said this before and I’ll say it again… I am so blessed to have Mbula as my correspondent “brother”!
Have you heard from any of your sponsored children lately? Feel free to let me know; I love your comments! J