Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thursday's This-and-That

Hello everyone! I have to confess I’ve been a bit slack in posting lately, simply because I’ve had such a busy and exciting two weeks! Before I share what I’ve been up to, I have to say that I borrowed the title of this post from Michelle W. over at Blogging from the Boonies. I’d like to invite you to pay her a visit as she shares lots of exciting letters from her many Compassion children! Now, on to my updates!

Outside my window: It’s raining steadily outside, and there’s a miniature river of water pouring down the trunk of the maple tree that stands right outside my window. I can hear a chickadee chirping merrily though! The temperature stands at around 13 degrees Celsius, which means that fall is finally setting in! Even though it’s the end of September, the leaves haven’t started changing colors yet. Here in Newfoundland, fall is generally late compared to the rest of Canada. There are a few brown leaves scattered over my lawn though, and the branches of my Mountain Ash tree are sagging downwards with the weight of its many clusters of red berries.

My Week in Review:  (Actually, this should say, “My Two Weeks in Review” since it’s been that long since I posted!) I’ve been keeping busy with band practices lately. Our church worship team, Driftwood Cross, meets together regularly to prepare for Sunday mornings and also to practice for the different events we perform. Here in Newfoundland, “Coffeehouses” are a regular event in many communities. Different performers and musicians gather together for an evening of fun, fellowship, and of course, coffee or tea and dessert. I always enjoy our practices as we always have such a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing together.

On the 22nd of this month, Open Door celebrated our first anniversary together as a church. I’m so proud to have been a part of this wonderful “community” since the second week of its inception. We’ve come a long way in just one year, and it’s been so exciting to celebrate the “firsts”: our first infant dedication, our first church barbecue, our first baptismal service, our first bake sale, our first Biker Sunday, our first Arts & Crafts show, our first Sunday School class, and so much more. We pray that this anniversary is only the first of many!

On the Compassion side, I got word that a letter is, at long last, on its way to me from my oldest boy, 18-year-old Mbula Timothy from Kenya. Mbula was assigned to me as a Correspondent on May 31st, and this is my first letter from him. I can’t wait to receive it and share it with you all!

This week was also the start of what I can certainly call my biggest venture yet: taking over as youth group leader! Open Door Youth generally runs from September to June, and we were a bit late starting this year since I needed time to prepare. We have a small group but we are a close-knit one. I’ve known these kids ever since I moved to Newfoundland three years ago, and it’s wonderful to see them growing and maturing. As I told them yesterday, this is a learning process for me as I’ve never run a youth group before, although I’ve always helped out. I’m really embracing the challenge and looking forward to stretching my wings and growing right along with “my” kids.

Coming up: Later this evening, we’re heading out to see Richard Roberts, the son of great healing evangelist Oral Roberts. I’m really looking forward to a wonderful, spirit-led time.

On Friday night, Driftwood Cross is also playing a Coffeehouse about an hour-and-a-half drive from here, which is the farthest I’ve ever traveled with the band. I’m really excited about all the opportunities that God is giving us.

Open Door Youth is also having a movie night next week, so I’m eagerly anticipating that!

I hope that you all are having a wonderful, blessed week as well. What are some of the highlights/lowlights of your week? Feel free to share in the comment section!

Until next time… See you on the Path!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Olivia Manirafasha!

Welcome to post number eleven of Sponsorship Sunday! Each Sunday, the Path of the Carpenter features one child in Rwanda who is being helped through Shelter Them, a non-profit licensed organization in both Canada and Rwanda. Sponsorship is just $40 Canadian ($38 U.S.) per month, and 100% of your money goes directly to your child. None is taken out for administrative or other purposes. Because many of our children are orphans or have been abandoned, we provide everything: food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, etc., for our children. For this reason, each child will require four sponsors. Our goal right now is for each child to have one sponsor by the end of this year.

Today I want to introduce you to a little girl who is very close to my heart. Olivia Manirafasha is seven years old, and her birthday is April 28. Olivia is our “poster-child” for Shelter Them; her picture appears on all of our child sponsorship packets and many of our posters, flyers, etc. Olivia is one of the most beautiful children you’ll ever see. Her smile absolutely lights up the world, and she never seems to stop smiling. She is the sister to Florence, whom you can read about HERE.

Olivia is also disabled. We believe she may have cerebral palsy. When Shelter Them’s mission team first visited her house, they found her scooting on her backside through the gutter, unable to walk. The photo above was taken outside of the hut that Olivia’s family called home. Olivia’s mother, father, and their three children were living in this tiny shack smaller than most modern bedrooms. Olivia’s father is an unskilled labourer, and her mother had to stay home and care for their disabled daughter.

The above picture shows the area that Olivia’s family used to live in. When the Shelter Them team visited, they were stunned at the sheer poverty this family lived in. The Team had given a wheelchair to Olivia’s family at a special presentation; they were overwhelmed to discover that Olivia couldn’t even use her wheelchair because of the narrow passageways between shacks and the dirty gutter running on all sides. This disturbing scene soon became a call to action: we had to get them out.

When the Shelter Them mission team returned to Canada, the call when out for supporters to donate the cost of a rental house for Olivia’s family, to get them out of the slums. Jules, one of the wonderful people who heads up the ministry in Rwanda, was able to find a beautiful house for “our” family. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better that the life they had before.

Above, you see Olivia’s Christmas surprise. Our Shelter Them team was able to work on the new house without her family knowing about it, and just before Christmas, Jules, Bright, Mama Jo, and the rest of our team surprised Olivia’s family with a brand-new home.  She has her own bedroom now, and her two sisters share a room. Mama Olivia and her husband also have their own room.

And here’s our precious girl herself, thanking everyone who made this possible. She is a bundle of joy!

And the best news of all? About a month ago we found out that Olivia is now receiving medical treatment and for the first time, she is learning to walk.

Will you continue the cycle by making sure that Olivia and her family never have to go back to living in the slums? Your sponsorship will help provide for her family and pay her medical bills so she is able to continue receiving help. Disability can be a death sentence in Rwanda… but with your help, Olivia is now looking forward to a future as bright as her angelic smile.

If you’d like to sponsor Olivia Manirafasha, 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!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

An Amazing Letter From Isimbi!

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but I received an incredible letter from our youth group’s sponsored child, Isimbi, that I just couldn’t wait to share! It’s in response to the birthday letter I sent her, which you can read about here. The last letter I got from her was a little generic, so this one absolutely blew me away with her detailed responses to things I had said in my last two letters!

Isimbi with her little brother (Dilani), grandmother (Felicite) Compassion Rwanda workers, and youth leaders David and Sherry (left) and Scott (right.) (Photo taken November 2012)

Here’s the letter, dated July 25th, 2013 (two weeks before her birthday, so I’m glad everything got there in time!):

“Dear Hannah, first of all I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. Back to me and my family, we are all fine and we thank God for his protection. I hope you are also fine with your family. Thank you so much for the letter you sent me and the birthday card. Thank you for caring. I am now studying and I know I will pass all my studies. (I had told her we were praying for her studies) Thank you for being a good parent to me. (I had told her that I think of her as my daughter. Cue the tears.) May God bless you abundantly! Send my greetings to all and tell them that I love them so much! Thank you! 1st John 4:8.

Thank you so much for the letter you sent me and for the birthday wishes you sent me. I was so happy and the nice flowers. (Her birthday card had flowers on it and so did the coloring page I sent with her name on it) I was so happy about this group Open Door Youth Group picture you sent me wishing me a happy birthday. I love you so much!

Isimbi A. Divine.

Needless to say, this is the best letter I’ve ever gotten from a child! I’m so glad that everything arrived safely in time for her birthday, and from the sounds of it she enjoyed everything a lot! I was so glad to see “Open Door Youth Group” written in plain English in among her Kinyarwanda writing. It shows that she actually did remember the full name of our youth group enough to write it in English, which is pretty impressive! (Can you tell I am just SO proud of this girl?)

Oh, and the Bible verse she included, 1st John 4:8, says: “He that does not love does not know God, for God is Love.”

Al I can say in conclusion is “Wow!”

Basomingera Turns 10!

My beautiful Basomingera Ada hits the double digits today! Ada is my correspondent child through Compassion International. I call her my “Miracle Girl” because God brought her to me in a very special way.

On January 8, 2013, I emailed Compassion and asked to be placed on the list for a child of any age or gender from Rwanda. I knew that when you ask for specific criteria, it can take a long time for the request to be fulfilled. But when I still hadn’t received a child by March, I was getting discouraged. By that time, I had already been asked to become correspondent to my youth group’s child, Isimbi, but I wanted a child that was all “mine.”

I happened to mention my dilemma on OurCompassion, which is the official Compassion forum for sponsors. Everyone seemed to be getting new correspondent children, and I felt a little left out. Then, to my surprise, another Compassion sponsor replied to me. This is what she said: “Hi Hannah, I just recently got assigned a correspondent from Rwanda. I just wrote an email introduction letter on Saturday so if it hasn't been processed yet, I would be willing to give you this girl to write to. Her name is Basomingera Ada. She is 9 years old and lives with her mother. The father is deceased. Let me know, if you want her.”

I was flabbergasted, that someone would offer to give up their newly assigned child for me. I was so thankful, I cried. I hadn’t even seen a picture of this child yet, but I loved her already. Basomingera Ada. My girl. Did she have brothers or sisters or was she an only child? Was she special needs? Where in Rwanda did she live? I had a hundred questions, but all I could do was wait as it took a few days for Compassion to switch her to my account and get me her information. Finally, I saw her sweet face for the first time. It was only a thumbnail sized picture, but I fell head-over-heels in love.

This is the picture that I first saw of Ada. My first thought was that she had the biggest, most beautiful brown eyes in the world. I immediately emailed Compassion headquarters and asked them to email me any full-sized pictures of my new “sponsor daughter.”

This is the first picture they sent me. Ada was seven years old in this picture. My heart broke to see how thin and sad and hopeless she looked, with her arms held close to her sides and her head lowered, and those enormous brown eyes looking like they were searching for someone to love her.

This is the second and most recent picture they sent me. She’s nine in this picture. Notice how her head is up, the shoulders squared, and best of all, an almost-smile on her face and a sparkle in those beautiful eyes. If anyone wonders if child sponsorship makes a difference, I challenge them to look at my Ada.

So, for Ada’s birthday, I sent her some paper goodies to help her celebrate along with this letter.

“To my beautiful Basomingera Ada,

I want to start this letter by saying how excited I am that you will soon be 10 years old! I hope this letter gets to you in time for your birthday and does not arrive too early or too late!

My beautiful girl, I am praying that God would give you a wonderful day on your birthday, and that you would know how special and loved you are. You are special because God made you and there is no one else just like you in the world! I want to share a couple of Bible verses with you. The first one is Jeremiah chapter 1, and verse 5. It says that before God formed us, He knew us, and before we were born, He set us apart. Also, Psalm 139, verse 16, says that God knew all the days of our lives before He even made us! This means that even before the world was made, God knew that someday there would be a little girl named Basomingera Ada, who would live in Rwanda. He knew where you would live, and had your family all picked out. God even knew that I would be writing you letters! Isn’t that amazing?! God has so many good plans for you.

You know, I remember when I turned 10 years old. On that day, I spent a lot of time playing with my best friend, who spent the day with me. We had a lot of fun. My birthday is on December 28, just three days after Christmas.

When I was ten, I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. My favorite thing to do was reading and going for walks. My favorite subject in school when I was 10 was science, and the subject I disliked was math. I always struggled in math. But I worked hard, and I was able to do well in all my other subjects.

What do you want to become when you grow up? I would love to know what your dreams for the future are. It’s good to start thinking about what we want to be, even though our dreams may change many times before we discover what God wants us to do.

Basomingera, would you like to play a game with me? Here’s how we’ll play: On your birthday, close your eyes and pretend I am sitting next to you. I will also close my eyes over here in Newfoundland and pretend that you are sitting next to me! That way, we will both be thinking about each other on the same day! I can pretend I am celebrating your birthday with you, and I can pretend that I am giving you a big hug! What would you pretend? Do you like to play make-believe and use your imagination?

I will close this letter now, but I will write you again soon! I love you SO much!”

I want to dedicate a song to my beautiful girl on her birthday. This is the song that was playing over and over in my head the night I found out that I was to be her correspondent. I hadn’t even seen her yet, but these words describe perfectly how I felt as I was waiting impatiently for a child.

Lastly, in honor of Ada, I want to show you another special girl from Compassion International who needs a sponsor.

This is Irumva Esther. She lives in Rwanda, like Ada; she is ten years old, like Ada; and today is also her birthday! I didn’t think I would be able to find another ten-year-old girl from Rwanda with a birthday today, but here she is. And look at the sad expression on her face, just like Ada’s in her first picture. She's also been waiting 405 days for a sponsor... more than a year! She’s just waiting for a sponsor to tell her how beautiful and precious she is… could it be you? Click here to sponsor Esther.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Wing and a Prayer

Last week, I was sitting at my computer when I was startled by a thud. It almost sounded as if someone had thrown something at my window. I got up and looked; and at first, I saw nothing. Then I noticed a tiny figure huddled on the ground beneath my window. With a sinking heart, I realized that a tiny yellow bird had flown into my window. I peered anxiously at him through the glass, hoping that he’d fly away; instead, he trembled a little and closed his eyes as if he were too weak to move. My heart broke.

Quickly, I called out to my parents, who were in another part of the house. “Oh, a little bird just hit my window and I think he’s got himself killed!” Both my parents hurried into my room and joined me in looking at our little accident victim. He was so tiny that at first I had thought he was one of those artificial birds that you glue onto wreaths and such. He sat barely moving, except for one wing which, I now noticed, stuck out a little from his side as if it were broken. My heart sank a little further. Despite all the stories you read about people taking in injured birds and caring for them, the reality is, it very seldom happens in real life.

After we watched for a minute or two, my father decided to go outside and take a closer look. My mother and I watched breathlessly from the window as he crept closer, and closer still. I called out through the window, “Don’t frighten him!” I was worried that the little bird would try to flee away and ultimately hurt himself more badly.

Amazingly, our little visitor never even flinched as my father gently lifted and cradled the tiny form in his hands and lifted him up to the window for us to see. In that instant, I sat literally eyeball-to-eyeball with a minute piece of nature, sitting still and sheltered in my father’s hands.

Careful not to frighten him more, I raised my camera and started snapping pictures, knowing that this story would be unbelievable otherwise. A minute or two later, my father attempted to put the little bird down at the base of a sheltering tree. Imagine our surprise when the tiny waif clung to his hand with his miniscule feet, refusing to be put down. After a few seconds, he succeeded in dislodging his “passenger” and setting him down in the deep grass.

I then decided to make my way outdoors and see if I too could have a close encounter with our little friend. I crept outside and rounded the corner of the house, dropping down to crawl on my hands and knees towards the bird, determined not to scare him into attempting what could be a disastrous flight. At last, I lay down full length in the damp grass and watched my little friend watch me.

Finally, after a minute or two had passed, I slowly, slowly reached out my hand, and just for one second frozen in time, I touched the downy softness and felt a tiny, warm body beneath my hand. His heart beat wildly beneath my fingertips, but he didn’t attempt to pull away, just looking at me calmly.

I removed my hand and stared at him. As I did, my eyes filled with tears; and if I ever prayed before, I prayed then. “God, if this bird dies from crashing into my window, I will feel guilty the rest of my life. The Bible says that you see the sparrows when they fall, so I know You are watching now. Please Lord, don’t let this bird die.”

Mere seconds after my prayer, I was startled when the bird blinked his shiny boot-button eyes at me and opened his beak wide, as if he wanted to speak. Then he looked at the sky, gave his head a little shake, ruffled his feathers, and darted away into the sky! As his tiny form disappeared from sight, my eyes filled with tears again; this time, tears of thankfulness. I am convinced that my Heavenly Father heard my prayer and somehow sent a healing touch to this little winged visitor.

Later, as I studied the incredible images on my camera that showcase my encounter, I shivered with amazement. The pictures, to me, symbolize God’s love and care for us. When life knocks you down and you feel like your wings are broken, unable to lift you above the storm, there’s no need to fear. All you have to do is rest safe and secure in your Father’s Hands.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29,31
*All Photos are my property, please do not use them without permission.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A First Letter from Basomingera!

Today, after almost six months of being Basomingera Ada’s correspondent, and after having to put in a letter inquiry after four months, I finally got a first letter from her! I call Ada my “Miracle girl” because her original Compassion Correspondent offered to give her to me after she heard that I was waiting and praying for a Rwandan correspondent.

Here’s a picture of my sweet girl. Doesn’t she have the most beautiful eyes? She is nine years old (and will be turning ten just four days from now!)

Ada’s letter was written by someone at her project, since she is not able to write by herself yet. It’s dated 24 July, 2013, which means it got here from Rwanda in six weeks. Here is the letter:

“Hannah, your child greets you in Jesus’ Name and she wishes you God’s peace. Thank you so much for the monthly support that you offer, your love and prayers. We also love you so much and always pray for God’s peace and blessings upon you. We miss you! She is now in Primary 3 (P.3) in second term. She is getting ready for her examinations so pray for her to pass them. In our family we are all fine, we wish you a nice time. Read Hebrews 6:10.”

I was so glad to hear that Ada has moved up to Primary 3. In her information packet it said she was still in Primary 2, which would explain why she is unable to write her own letter yet. (In comparison, my Isimbi is one month older and is in Primary 4 already! I’m guessing Ada’s family must not have been able to send her to school.) It’s so sweet that they say “We miss you” when I’ve never met them! (Hopefully that will change next year!)

Hebrews 6:10, the verse that they asked me to read, says, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” I love this verse! Even though sometimes it seems we get no results for our labour (for instance, writing to kids who never write back or don’t respond well) God remembers everything that we do to help His people!

I love my sweet girl so much!