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."



Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Pleased To Meet You: Mbula

Howdy! I'm excited to announce a new mini-series of sorts here on the Path of the Carpenter... Pleased To Meet You!

In this series, I will introduce you to each one of my sponsored kids in depth. I will be sharing photos, quotes from letters, fun facts, hobbies and interests, etc.

I just want to say that I totally got this idea from two awesome blogger-friends of mine; Jessi and Hannah! They have both done a series on their sponsored kids and I LOVED the idea! Jessi blogs over at Me and Mr. Jones, and Hannah blogs from Because of Shamim. I highly recommend that you pop over and check out their blogs; they have some pretty awesome content!

So with that being said, on to the first introduction!

Name: Mbula
Age: 21
Birthday: March 24
Country: Kenya

The first photo of Mbula that I received!

OUR RELATIONSHIP: On May the 15th, 2013, I put my name on Compassion Canada's waiting list for an older correspondent child from Africa or Asia. At the time, I had two 9-year-old girls, and really wanted the chance to connect with an older child. I especially wanted a teen boy from Africa, although I didn't specify that. On May 31st (my mother's birthday) Mbula showed up on my account! The teen boy from Africa that I wanted! He looked very stern and and handsome in his bright red sweater, and I was a little intimidated about connecting with him... I needn't have worried. From our very first letters back and forth, we have called each other brother and sister. He is the sweetest and most Godly young man one could imagine! And on September 25th, 2014, Mbula's financial sponsor dropped him, so I was proud to become his financial sponsor.

Mbula's photo updated a year after I began writing to him!

ABOUT MBULA: Mbula lives with both parents. He has three brothers (Kilonzo, Musyoki, and Mutua) and one sister (Betty). His family are farmers who grow maize and beans, and Mbula works hard to help them with the planting and harvesting. One thing I learned right away about Mbula is that he is a VERY passionate football (soccer) player. He mentions football in almost every letter and enjoys competing as an attacking mid-fielder. Mbula has also been a very dedicated student who's favorite subject is History. He recently graduated from High School, and he dreams of pursuing a university education and becoming a doctor!

EXTRA PHOTOS: In August of 2014, a sponsor friend visited Kenya and offered to take a gallon-size baggie filled with goodies for a few of us sponsors! I was happy to be able to send a polo shirt, wristwatch, toothbrushes, leather gardening gloves , journal with Jeremiah 29:11 on it, bookmark, and a Canada keychain. A few months later I received these fantastic photos of Mbula with his gifts, and got to see my boy smile for the first time!







LETTER EXCERPTS:

"In our family, we have three brother and one sister. I would not mind anymore if you would be my second sister in our family."

"My pastor's name is Pastor Matthew who is God's fearing servant and he likes doing God's will and following them."

"My brothers were very much interested in the letter that you sent me. Actually, it was very interesting and they appreciated very much."

"In our community, we are doing well although the rain was inadequate, we managed to put extra effort in the garden matters. We thank God for the little that we have got from our garden."

Mbula's very first Compassion photo at 5 years old!

"In our country we had an athletic games where we had some Kenyans participating in Moscow. In spite of tough competition they managed to win some of the games."

"I am very glad to know the meaning of your name and actually the grace of God is with you. According to me, my name was inherited from my grandfather according to our custom."

"I had a wonderful time since you started sponsoring me and you actually committed yourself in helping me. May you continue with the same spirit as you continue living in this world."

"I am very happy to hear that you have managed to be my sponsor. May the Almighty Lord bless you as you keep on sponsoring me. I also give thanks to my outgoing (previous) sponsor who was very helpful to me. May the Almighty God keep on blessing her very much."

Mbula age 13

"I would be very happy if you wish to visit us here in Kenya and enjoy good and attractive places with beautiful natural features."

"Hallo my sister, let me take this golden chance to salute you. I would greatly thank you for sending me a hand watch, gloves, diary, shirt, toothbrush and the letter that you wrote to me. I actually appreciated them and they are really helping me. Concerning T-shirts I usually wear it when going to church. I also shared toothbrushes among my brothers and my sister. They also appreciated you very much. I also use the watch in school and the diary in church for writing personal Bible verses."

"It is my hope that you are always trusting in the Almighty Lord as your personal Saviour. May He fully bless you and protect you in your life, and expand your territories."

"How have you been since I lastly wrote a letter to you?"



"I am very happy to know from your previous letter that your father is a French. I would also appreciate if you sent me a letter with a French words and their meanings."

"I greatly appreciate for your letter of a short story of a moose. I have really enjoyed reading it and it's my hope that our family members will enjoy reading and narrate it to others."

"It is my hope that God has made your life a beautiful moment, and you deserve to honor and believe in Him in your life."

"I am very glad to inform you that I received the gift you sent me. I really appreciated and thanked a lot. I was able to purchase the following items: 1 goat, 3 plastic chairs and 2 hens. I pray to God that you will keep on remembering me and any other person since we are all God's people."

Mbula's most recent photo; 21 years old.