Monday 8 April 2019

Please Won't You Be My Neighbor?

"So let's make the most of this beautiful day
Since we're together, we might as well say
Would you be mine,
Could you be mine,
Won't you be my neighbor?"
~Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood theme

I think if each of us was to pick a childhood television show that made an impact on the way we see the world around us, that taught us about loving people no matter what they might look like or what different abilities they might have, most of us might name Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Mr. Rogers and Officer Clemmons share a dip in a wading pool. Wikimedia Commons image.

As an adult, I still find myself looking up a few old episodes for nostalgia's sake. And each time I do, I am amazing at how forward-thinking Fred Rogers was for his time. In a time of hate and racial discrimination, a time when people disabilities were often institutionalized and seen as something to be afraid of, Mr. Rogers welcomed people with differences as friends and neighbors. Whether it was sharing a wading pool with a policeman of a different race, or asking a child to demonstrate how to use an electric wheelchair, how often did we hear him say those iconic words, "I love you, and I'm proud of you"? Mr. Rogers certainly followed Jesus' command to "love your neighbor as yourself."

I often think, what would our world be like if we all acted a little more like Mr. Rogers? If we shared our love with everyone we came in contact with, if we did our best to say something positive about everyone, and if instead of seeing differences, we saw "neighbors"?

Today, right now, we have the opportunity to be good neighbors to someone in need. Here in Canada, mosquito bites are an annoying (and itchy) but normal part of summer. In Awassa Tanzania, however, mosquito bites can be fatal. Every day, 3,000 children (that's almost the population of my community!) die from malaria; a disease that is both curable AND easily preventable! With insecticide-treated mosquito nets, children and their families can sleep safely and comfortably knowing that they will be protected from disease carrying pests.

In 2010, there were an estimated 655,000 deaths from malaria. To put that in perspective, that's almost six times the population of our capital city of St. John's! In one year!

A boy smiles from behind a mosquito net. Copyright Compassion International

For only 18 dollars, you can provide a child with a mosquito net and life-saving malarial treatment. To learn more, please visit Compassion: Malaria Intervention

"(And Jesus said) Which of these three seems to you to have been a neighbor of the one having fallen among the robbers? And he (the teacher of the law) said, "The one having shown compassion toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "You go and do likewise."

Sunday 18 February 2018

Pleased To Meet You: Isimbi

Welcome to the fourth installment of my series, "Pleased To Meet You!" I haven't done one for a while, but I am so excited to introduce a very special young lady to you all!

Name: Isimbi
Age: 14
Birthday: August 8
Country: Rwanda

Isimbi's very first Compassion photo at age 7!

OUR RELATIONSHIP: Isimbi will always be special to me, since she was my very first Compassion child! At the time, the leaders of the youth group I was attending had traveled several times to Rwanda. Since they had a heart for that country, they suggested that we, as a group, sponsor a child there. They called Compassion Canada and requested a child from Rwanda. The packet arrived, and on it, the sweetest, shyest-looking little 7-year-old girl. The youth group has since dissolved, but the former leaders continue to sponsor Isimbi, and they have given her over to me as a correspondent. What a blessing it has been to know this sweet girl in the five years she's been a part of my life!

Isimbi's second Compassion photo; 9 years old

ABOUT ISIMBI: Isimbi lives in the southern part of Rwanda with her grandmother, mother, and younger brother. Her mother often works away from home, and often Isimbi and her brother stay with just their grandmother. Isimbi is a very studious girl who enjoys school and really focuses on her grades. She is a very quiet, polite , and thoughtful girl, always careful to express appreciation for each and every item and letter that is sent. She has a sense of humour and enjoys funny things and spending time with her friends.

EXTRA PHOTOS: I am blessed to have several extra photos of Isimbi! When she was nine years old, a church team visited Rwanda and sent back some lovely photos! In the photo below, Isimbi (far left in the pink dress) and her brother (beside her in the white shirt) pose with some of their neighborhood friends.

In 2015, a good friend of mine also traveled to Rwanda and was able to meet Isimbi. In the photo below, Isimbi displays her beautiful smile and excitement at having a guest come to see her and her project!


"I thank God you choosed me among all the other people."

"Thank you so much for the letter you sent me and the birthday card. Thank you for caring."

"Thank you for being a good parent to me and may God bless you."

"Send our best regards to your complete family and we love you all so much!"

"I like funny things."

"When will you come to visit me?"

"My brother and my grandmother love you so much, and so do I!"

"I sat for my National Exams that end the Primary classes, please pray for me so that I may pass and go to high school."

"Are you doing well? I believe that you are also doing fine and the family. We are in holidays and planting sorghum and beans."

Isimbi's third Compassion photo, age 10

"I thank you for the letter you sent to me and Bible Verses. They inspired me so much. I was happy because God knows my name."

"I would like to thank you for having sent your friend to see me, I was indeed very touched and happy."

"I am helping my parent with some work at home like sweeping, fetching water, and different activities. In Rwanda, we are now experiencing a dry season. For you, which weather are you experiencing?"

"I thank you for the letters you sent to me, they pleased me very much, they contain beautiful photos and nice stickers."

"We are preparing for commemoration period for our fellows who died in genocide in 1994.I wish you a happy Easter. I love you so much."

"I loved the calendar you sent me."

"It is rainy here in Rwanda, it is so cold, how is weather over there? I'm doing well in school and I hope to pass well this term. I know you pray for me. I always pray for you to be protected by God with your whole family."

"I know a bit English which I learned from school. My best friend is M. and we attend together at the project Compassion. My role model is my grandmother and in the Bible my role model is Hannah because she endured the temptation."

"We had happy holidays and we will celebrate Christmas in the month of 12 and we have Christmas tree, I was glad to hear that you are volunteering by helping some children and may God continue to help you."
"I thank you for the way you take care of me and may God bless you."

"Thank you for the lovely letter you sent to me, I was so happy because of the questions you asked me. I love you and my parents love you too. Thank you so much.

Isimbi's most recent photo, age 12

Saturday 17 February 2018

Letters From The Newest Three

What is it they say about the best of intentions?

Well, I'm not going to give anybody any long excuses for how long I've been absent from this blog... I can only promise with all sincerity that I WILL try to do better in the future!

I recently realized that although I've shared many letters from my kids since I've started my blog, I haven't shared any of the letters from my newest correspondent kids! That will change today!

Let's start off with Elijah in Kenya, who was assigned to me in February of last year. It took a while for the letters to get flowing back and forth, but I've received 4 of them so far!
In his most recent letter, he says:

"First and foremost I greet you in Jesus' Name. How is you with your family? I am doing well, in my studies I was promoted to the next class. Pray for me next year I will be candidate for national exam. I hope you are doing well in all activities. How is the weather in your country? In our country the weather is cool and wet. How is your holiday? Mine is good. I hope to see you in future. Thank you for your support. May God blessed you and reward your work. Have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.

Elijah also drew me this great picture of a ball, house, and tree!

Next up we have Gifty in Uganda! Gifty has been a fun one to get to know... she has great tutors who help her answer all of my questions, and I have even gotten a personal letter written by the project director on her behalf, telling me all about her!

This letter was on the "What I Like Best" template. She says:

What I like to do best with my family is: I sweep the house, fetch water and wash dishes.
What I like to do best with my friends is: Fetching water and playing skipping rope.
What I like best about the project is: Food, prayers and singing.
The teacher I like best in school is: Teacher D. because she loves me and teaches well.
The place I like best to visit is: The United States of America.

Hello my special sponsor Hannah. I am fine and my families are doing good. I had a wonderful Christmas this year. Yes in Uganda we have turkeys. (I had told her about eating turkey at Christmas, and asked if they have turkeys in Uganda.) I am thankful for taking time to pray for my father. God bless you. I have not heard about Luke in Bible but I'm happy that you told me about him now. I love the photos you send for me. You and your parents looks wonderful. I think you look like your mother. I also look like my mother. (I sent her a picture of my parents and asked her which parent I looked most like, and then asked her which family member she looks most like.) You did a great work to award me with special certificate. (A "good job for showing love to others" award.) You are the best. Thanks I love you.

Gifty also drew this picture for me, labeled, "This is me wearing my best outfit."

Last but of course not least, we have a letter from Jessica in Ghana! I have received two letters from Jessica. Her second one was written by a project worker since she was unable to be present on letter-writing day, so I will just share the first one with you! Ghanaian letters are also written on a type of form letter, so I will type it out as it's written.

Dear: Hannah
Thank you message for sponsor: I'm thanking you for your sponsorship. God richly bless you and your family.
Child's new experiences at project/home/school/community, etc: I'm now promoted to J.H.S. two now and I'm the class prefect in my class. And I'm still the elderly sister in my family house.
Child's response to sponsor's questions: My friend's names are R., E., and C. Things I enjoy doing together with them are reading some storybooks and singing together with them. I'm in J.H.S. two now.
Prayer request from child: I want you to pray for me to understand whatever they teach me in my class and project too.
Prayer for my sponsor: I pray that God should give you the understanding and the knowledge to understand whatever you are doing.
Memory Verse: Psalm 103. Praise the Lord, my soul! All my being, praise his holy name!

And Jessica drew this beautiful flower for me!

I'm so thankful to be hearing from my precious children! 

Monday 7 August 2017

Pleased To Meet You: Basomingera

Welcome to the third installment of my series "Pleased to Meet You!" I'm really enjoying being able to introduce my sponsored and correspondent kids to you!

Today I want to introduce you to my second correspondent child!

Name: Basomingera Ada
Age: 13
Birthday: September 10
Country: Rwanda

The first photo of Ada that I received! 8 years old.

OUR RELATIONSHIP: Basomingera came to me in a very special way. At the time, I only had one correspondent child that I was writing to on behalf of our youth group (Isimbi). I really wanted another little girl from Rwanda, someone close to Isimbi in age, so they could be friends if I ever had the opportunity to travel to meet them. I had requested for my name to be put on the correspondent waiting list for a child (any age, any gender) from Rwanda, but as the months dragged by and there was no response, I began to fear that my name had somehow gotten removed from the list ( it had). Several of my friends had gotten assigned new correspondent children, and I mentioned that I had been waiting a very long time for a child in Rwanda. Imagine my surprise when I received a private message from a friend saying that she had just gotten assigned a girl from Rwanda, and would I like to have her instead? She assured me that she didn't mind at all going back on the list for a child from any country, but perhaps I would like to have this little one? Of course I immediately said yes! Although the only things I knew about her were her name, her age (9, exactly one month younger than Isimbi!) and that she lived with her mother, I somehow knew that this child was going to become very special to me. And indeed she is my "heart child." I love all of my children, but Ada has connected with me in a very close and very special way.

Ada, age 10

ABOUT BASOMINGERA: Ada lives in the eastern part of Rwanda with her mother, her two older sisters Anitha and Amina, and her brother Olivier. Her father is deceased. Ada is an above-average student in school who loves mathematics and dreams of being a doctor one day. She loves to write letters and crams as many words as she can into the space she is given! I call her my little chatterbox! She loves stickers and photos, the color yellow, and helping her mum with the garden. She is very affectionate in her letters and always thanks me repeatedly for the little things I send her. She is a young lady with some big dreams and big hopes for her future!

EXTRA PHOTOS: In April of 2013, a sponsor visiting Rwanda from the US offered to take a quart-sized baggie to Ada with some little gifts and toys from me! Several months later, I got this beautiful photo of her holding the little stuffed dog that I had sent her! Her big brown eyes never fail to melt my heart!


"I have my best friends, we share food and play different games together. My best friend is Sandrine."

"I miss you, I love you and I keep you in my prayers."

"I thank you for the nice letter you wrote me and many other letters you keep sending me and tell me that Jesus is a Friend who can never forsake me."

"I first of all greet you, wishing you the peace of God and thank you so much for your having accepted to be my sponsor. It reminds me of how Jesus loved me and accepted to be my sponsor."

"I am so glad to hear from you and know that I am part of your family."

Ada's very first Compassion photo at age 6

"My name Basomingera means to go deep in water."

"Have peace from God and a Merry Christmas. I thank God Who connected us. Me and my family there is no one sick. Continue having a Merry Christmas. I wish that you show me your father and mother and I wish them a Merry Christmas. I wish to be a doctor and I wish to see you. Merry Christmas."

"I thank you for being a good parent and i was happy for the good things you always do to me. I believe to have a better future."

"Thank you so much for taking care of me in my daily life. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers."
"i appreciate your letter and the photos that were many! And it was so nice. I wonder when did God give you such a love that you show me?"

"I am thankful to you for your letter, I am glad you love me. Here I have your three letters with encouraging words and giving hope to my soul and hope for a better life. A Compassion worker is the one who took this photograph of mine, which you sent back with stars and cakes which is good and it has given me hope."

"I always feel so glad to see photos which you send to me. I wish to see that church which you pray from."

"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. I continue to pray for you too, and may God bless you and family."

"I thank you so much for your letter you wrote me with all the beautiful touching words. In Rwanda, we do not have a Christmas tree. I also thank you for the decorations you sent me. I had a wonderful Christmas and my family was all well."

"How are you doing there? Am also doing well with my family no problem. Thanks for praying for me and I do pray for you as well."

"I thank you for the letter you sent me. I was so happy to hear that you receive my letters, and that your parents are doing well in Alberta. I liked your picture in a heart style. It shows how much you love me and that picture will always be a remembrance in my life. Thanks!" 

Ada's most recent Compassion photo

Monday 17 July 2017

When God Says Yes

There is a saying that you may have heard me repeat from time to time. It's just this... when God says Yes, don't say no!

What this means to me is, when God decides that He has a "mission", or something that He wants you to accomplish, He will make sure that you do it! There's no point in saying "No", or "Not now Lord", or "I can't afford it", or "it's too difficult"... believe me, God will find a way of gently nudging you (or hitting you with a thunderbolt, whichever you prefer).

I'm sure He chuckles at us.

Anyways, I have felt for a long time (more than five years, in fact) that God was calling me to sponsor in Ghana. And it just didn't happen right away for whatever reason... I ended up taking over the financial sponsorship of a couple of my correspondent children, and then requested other correspondent children from different countries, and Ghana just kept getting overlooked for whatever reason.

A few of my friends sponsor in Ghana, and some of them have had difficulties in building a close relationship with their children there... one of my friends has gotten the exact same drawing from her child over 20 times! I'll admit, that saddened me a bit. I'm a relational person... I'm all about the personal relationships.

"But God," I argued. "I have children in Kenya and Indonesia that write me amazing letters. The need is so great in so many countries. I have friends in Rwanda. I speak some of their language. I feel connected to my kids there. Why Ghana? I don't know anybody in Ghana. I don't know anything about the culture. Why Ghana?"

And my heart continued to be broken as I read about how common the practice of child slavery is in Ghana, and as I saw how rampant the poverty and how dire the need. During this time, my heart was really moved by the account of another Compassion sponsor who has traveled to Ghana several times to meet her children and raise funds for a library in her children's community... here's the link if you want to read for yourself. Compassion Can ~ Beyond Measure

And still I felt God wanted me to sponsor, or correspond, with a child in Ghana. "I'm having a hard time coming up with letter ideas now," I told God. "I have already replaced the two of my children that are graduating with new correspondents. Surely You don't want me to go back on the waiting list again?" And I put it off yet again.

And then, I checked my Compassion account to see if there were any letters on the way to me... and I saw a new face!

A 15-year-old girl. From Ghana.

Wait a minute... I wasn't even on the waiting list! Then it must be a mistake... she must be meant for someone else.

I refused to get excited. The office was already closed for the day, so I had to wait until the following day to find out if she was actually my child and if I could actually keep her. I told myself I wouldn't get attached to her... she may have been assigned to me by accident, maybe through a computer glitch or someone entering the wrong account number, and perhaps she already had a loving sponsor who wanted to write to her themselves.

And as I continued to tell myself I wouldn't get attached to her, I tried to ignore the fact that I had already fallen head over heel in love with her sweet, patient face. That night was a difficult one... I got about two hours of sleep as I tossed and turned, trying to convince myself that she might have been assigned by accident and knowing I would be heartbroken if she wasn't mine. I have never spent a more restless night in my life!

Of course, you already know that the news turned out to be good, or I wouldn't be writing this post! She was indeed mine... after my last child, Gifty, had been assigned back in March, someone simply forgot to remove my name from the waiting list. And of course, they were overjoyed when I begged (yes, I was desperate at this point lol!) to keep her!

So, I have my long-awaited child in Ghana... who has had only one sponsor for her entire time in the program and has never received a letter or gift. That has already changed, of course!

So without further ado, please meet Jessica, who sometimes goes by the nickname "Sister" at home. I have all of her photos since she was registered in the program.... isn't she precious?

Welcome home Jessica! 

Sunday 16 July 2017

Passing The Torch

Those of you who have followed my sponsorship journey for a while, know that I place a big emphasis on discipleship. I long for my children to grow into men and women of God, and who become adults with a passion for learning and a passion for helping others. I love sending letters with a moral or lesson that they can apply in their everyday lives.

With this in mind, I recently sent a letter to all of my children, telling them the famous "Starfish Story" and including the graphic above. If you are not familiar with this story, you can easily do a web search for it!
Along with the Starfish Story, I included this paragraph:

"The lesson behind this story is that every person has been gifted with the ability to make a difference in the world. Maybe your gift is telling others about Jesus. Maybe your gift is teaching and mentoring children. Maybe your gift is caring for the sick, or praying for others, or encouraging leaders (pastors, teachers, and others) or maybe your gift is making friends with people who have no friends at all. No matter what your gift is, I hope you know that no one is too small to make a big change in the world! 
I love you and I am so proud of you! God has big plans for your life!"

Of course, as many sponsors do, we tend to wonder if our children are grasping the lessons we try to teach; if we are making an impact at all.

And yesterday, I received this letter from my young man Papi, in Indonesia.

I sponsored Papi when he was 19... he is now 22 and preparing to graduate, if indeed he hasn't already. I am expecting to see him disappear off my account any day now, which is why I was so thrilled to receive a new letter from him! Papi was my first child to ask if he could call me sister, and we share a love of sunsets, the ocean, long walks on the beach, and the Newsboys.

I am always excited to hear from my Papi... but this letter, brought me to tears.

Dear Hannah,
Shalom. I am thankful for writing my sister again. I am blessed with your letter told me about the starfish. I see starfish here often. What you told me made me realize that God has a great plan for me through what He gives to me to make a big change in this world. I find out now that I am precious. I want you to know that what He gives to me is being a teacher. I want to be a teacher, not only to teach knowledge, but also to build a character building of my students, to make them to be a leader who fear of God. May God be with you and bless you my sister. Love, Papi.

Floored. Speechless.

If you have ever wondered if our letters make a difference, if we are really changing our children's lives... this. This is it.

I cried when I read his letter... because I felt that in someway, I had passed the torch. My greatest desire is to see my sponsored children, grown up and making an impact in other children's lives. And now, I am seeing that come to pass, right before my eyes. And by the way, Papi is an above-average university student who is just completing his courses in Civil Engineering... I would not be surprised at all to see him become a professor some day. And I could not be more proud of this wonderful young man, and amazed at the fact that God has allowed me to influence his life in some small way through sponsorship.

This is what makes the sacrifice ALL worth it!

Tuesday 13 June 2017

A Plethora of Letters

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!

Have you heard from your kids lately?