What do a bunch of bloggers do in the airport?

We got to our gate to wait for our flight out of El Salvador. I went into the bathroom, and when I came out I found this:

bloggers

Apparently there’s wi-fi.

So what did I do? I joined the party!

Seriously though, before we leave El Salvador, I just want to recognize all of you who’ve faithfully read our posts and engaged in this week with us. It’s been such a blessing to me.

You can find all of our posts about the Compassion Bloggers page, or go visit the fine bloggers who have accompanied me this week:

Heather Whittaker

Kelly Stamps

And our wondeful trip leaders:

Shaun Groves

Patricia Jones

And of course our fantastic trip photographer, who has worked like a mad woman this week! All of the photos on my site from the trip have been her work. She is a gracious, hardworking, servant-hearted woman.

Keely Scott

Thanks again to all of you. If there was no one to read and act, there would be no reason to do any of this.

November 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm 7 comments

You’ve been cordially invited to break your heart.

Child sponsorship has always seemed like a very safe way to help another person. Most of the time you never look them in the eye.

But today I met our family’s sponsored child. All the safe distance of sponsorship was completely obliterated. Now all the “ideas” of sponsorship were humanized into a six-year-old boy. His name is Hector.

hector2
The first crack came as the elevator doors opened at 7:15am. Before I even saw him I knew: my heart is already breaking. I could feel it—the tears rushing into my eyes, the heat in my face, the tightness in my chest. I came around the corner where he was waiting for me with his eyes closed, a nervous smile on his face.

You can see what happens next. In true-to-Molly fashion: it was loud, there was lots of talking, and I basically just freaked out. And of course, tears.

He opened his eyes and rushed into my already-full arms. But there was room for him. Crack #2.

We made our way to a couch and exchanged muchos regalos (many gifts). He had made a photo book for me, and a calendar with pictures of him for all of 2010. I had a soccer ball for him and a backpack full of fun and practical items.

gifts

Then something spectacular happened. Because of the common grace of the internet, an uncommon event was able to occur. We were able to video chat with Abraham, Orison, & Morrow! Watching him interact with my other children… another crack. It was getting bigger and bigger, and we hadn’t even left the hotel.

chat

We spent the morning at a sports day. Wherever I went, Hector came. And his hand was always in mine. As we walked around I tried to take all the mental pictures I could. With each one, more cracking.

We played, we laughed, we ate snacks… I felt like I was hanging out with one of my own kids.

Then after lunch, the inevitable happened. I had to say goodbye. At this point, the one-half of my heart that was now hanging by a fiber came completely disconnected. How do you say goodbye? How do you tell someone (who’s six) all the hopes and dreams you have for him? How do you share the thankfulness you feel to them for sharing their life with you?

goodbye1

goodbye2

I felt crazy as I just wept and wept over the goodbye. And as I’ve thought about it this afternoon, it felt in small part like saying goodbye to another one of my kids. At one point his mother told me to calm down! I mean, she said it lovingly, but isn’t that hilarious? She’s obviously not used to me, the emoting machine.

goodbye3

Hector was added to our extended family a few weeks ago. I got one morning with him. And then, a goodbye. And who knows if I’ll ever see him again. I hope and pray that I do. I kept having fantasies all afternoon of Abraham & I venturing down to El Salvador for Hector’s graduation. And if I don’t see him again on earth, I hope and pray that we will see each other in heaven. There, God-willing, I will see all of my children, even my sponsored children. And we will rejoice, every tear wiped away.

So I guess, sponsorship can be an easy way to help a kid out. But it’s not going to be easy if you engage with more than your wallet. If you engage with your heart and your time, it’ll hurt to not see their smile, hear their voice, watch them grow up. It just might break your heart.

hector

November 12, 2009 at 10:17 pm 112 comments

Mothers becoming Moms: Child Survival Program In Action

As you know, I’ve been really excited about witnessing the Child Survival Program here in El Salvador. It’s a very new program, but is already having fantastic effects for the ones involved.

The project we visited today is one of five that are currently operating in this country.

babyline

I witnessed about 15 mothers caring for their babies. The women ranged in age from 15-35 years old. Most were first-time mothers, a couple were mothers multiple times over. But the need was the same for all of them: they needed education. They needed to be equipped with skills. They needed to learn how and why to embrace these children.

The women are broken up into groups by the age of their children. We witnessed them being given instruction in infant massage and stimulation. We witnessed them being encouraged to play with their children.

masssage

They also spend time in direct instruction with a CSP “Implementer” or “Survival Specialist” who instructs them Biblically about God’s view of children. We heard them learning truths that are kind of old-hat for most of us: children are a heritage from the Lord; your children are gifts from Him…. Things that may tend to seem tired and trite if you’ve heard them too many times.

Imagine hearing it and embracing it for the first time. Imagine hearing it and embracing it, even if you had next to nothing, materially, to give this child.

We heard them learning basics of mothering, such as: if your baby is crying, do you punish him or pick him up?

And while they were having some sit-down time apart from their babies, they twisted our arms to hold the babies.

sleepy

Many of them shared that they feel extremely thankful to be a part of this ministry. They testified to the effects they see in their children, as compared to other children not in the program.

mom&baby

One woman told me, when talking about her 15-month-old, “He didn’t used to play. Now… he plays!”

The women are learning to take joy in their children. And that, to me, is what turns any old mother into a mama.

Zulma

pregnant mama

You can support Compassion’s Child Survival Program for $20/month, or make a one-time gift. Or just visit the site and poke around. I pray that you’re as blessed by their vision as I am.

November 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm 20 comments

A Hero’s Welcome Given by Heroes

As I approached my first Compassion International project visit yesterday, I had no idea how it would go. I’ve heard from our trip leader that each one is so different, depending on the country staff who run the project, that there’s really no way to give us a definite idea how each project will be.

Well… yesterday’s welcome set the bar pretty high.

greeting1

I got off the bus and there was joyful music playing and children lined up, gauntlet-fashion, on both sides of the church. A young boy approached me (one of the guys on the left there) and escorted me into the building and to my seat. I felt like the stinking prom queen!

You see, this project is in a very rough neighborhood, overrun with gang activity and violence. Many of the children’s parents are involved in gangs or drugs or alcohol. And this particular project has been in operation for five years and never had a visitor from the outside—no sponsor visits, no other Compassion tours, nothing! This was the moment they’d been dreaming of and planning for for five years!

As I walked down their man-made aisle (literally!), I thought my face would break from smiling. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I just tried to record that moment in my brain and heart.

entrance

We were entertained with traditional El Salvadoran dances.

dance1

Scripture was read over us by one of the children, one who became very dear to our team members who visited his home later in the day.

marco

They sang for us in their sweet little voices. And they sang LOUD! It was awesome.

singing1

And… they prayed for us. They prayed for us. All the children gathered around us and squeezed in like an anaconda. I had a gaggle of giggling girls at my waist, whispering to me about “tus ojos” (your eyes), because they rarely see green-eyed people. They were seriously all sweetness and I wanted to extend my go-go-gadget arms to get around all of them at once.

prayer

They spent the entire morning blessing us. I was stunned and overwhelmed all morning. Here they are with nothing. Here they are working seven days a week with these children. Here they are going on home visit after home visit into the drug-infested neighborhoods. And treating us like we’re heroes???

I think we all know who the real heroes are.

November 11, 2009 at 8:15 am 17 comments

More than just beautiful faces…but beautiful faces nonetheless.

1109ES-  394
This is Blanca. We visited her home this afternoon. She just seemed to show up at my side multiple times during the day.

Christina
Christina. Another one who kept finding her way to my side throughout the day. She noticed my lipstick and wanted some.

Boys 1

Girl 1

Isabel
Isabel. That meek smile accompanied me throughout much of the day.

Girl 3

Joslynn Tamara
Joslynn Tamara. This is her in her home. She’s been attending the project for a couple years now. Through her attending the project, her entire immediate and extended family are now walking with God, free from addiction and living in the light of his Presence. Her mother is now walking with Jesus and tutoring at the project. Her mother wept as we prayed for them before they left, that they would continue to walk with Jesus and remain faithful to his work in their lives.

Oscar the poet
This is Oscar. He came up to me and told me he wanted to recite a poem for me. And then… he did another one. I asked him, “Do you like to rhyme?” He enthusiastically nodded. I asked him to say a Bible verse for me and he couldn’t remember one on the spot. So I told him, “When you remember one, come find me, okay?” A couple hours later, he made good on it. He found me in the director’s office and recited Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you…” He became a special buddy of mine today. And who could resist that smile?

maricella
Maricella. Mother of Blanca (picture #1). This is her in her home. She welcomed us there, even though she was nervous. Jesus came and met us there, though. She told us of her history of gang membership and the tattoo on her forehead because of it. And she now can’t find work because she won’t be trusted. Even though in Christ, she is a new creation…. My heart broke for her.

My first day of interacting with people on the receiving end of Compassion has been nothing short of amazing—their stories, their homes, their openness to our presence, their excitement for Compassion and the effects it’s had on their families. My heart is somehow broken and full at the same time. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

November 10, 2009 at 11:03 pm 18 comments

“This child deserves to know Jesus!” -Brother Guillermo

We all made it safely to El Salvador today (with all of our luggage)! Thanks to all of you who prayed for us and thought about us throughout the day.

First thing’s first: flooding. I mentioned that Hurricane Ida had passed through and substantial flooding had killed around 100 people. Many people have lost their homes, and some of the Compassion projects have incurred damage. Some of the Compassion-sponsored children have lost homes or been evacuated from their homes because they’re in areas at high risk for further landslides.

Thankfully none of the projects that we’re scheduled to visit were damaged. That makes things a lot easier, itinerary-wise, for our trip leaders (as you can imagine).

Today was a full day of travel and then meeting up with our tour guides. We drove through downtown San Salvador, had a wonderful lunch, and then went to the Compassion National Headquarters.

Compassion El Salvador office

They’ve been in this new building for about a year, having moved from a bunker with no windows for offices. It was a beautifully-maintained, well-run, organized office! What a blessing to this hardworking staff! I seriously have never seen an office of people so happy. We met every staff member and they just basically kept one-upping each other on the happiness scale.

We had a presentation by Brother Guillermo, the country director for Compassion El Salvador. And wow, what an awesome, Godly man!

Brother Guillermo

One thing that you should know about Compassion in El Salvador is that they have just added a new program, the Child Survival Program, this year. As Brother Guillermo was sharing about that and showing a couple stats and pictures, he said something that stopped my heart. He was showing a picture of a baby girl, probably about 3 months old, and he said in such a sincere, passionate voice:

“This child deserves to know Jesus!”

The tears filled my eyes as he said it again:

“This child deserves to know Jesus!”

And of course we, as sinners, have no rights to God. But that he loves us so much despite our sin that he still gives us access to Him is staggering. That we can share in his love, his grace, his joy, his peace, his wonderful plan of salvation… it’s amazing to me again today.

I’ve seen and heard so much already about Compassion’s model for their programs worldwide. They focus on the development of 4 key areas: physical, cognitive, socio-emotional, and spiritual. They are deeply invested in meeting these needs for their children. They have project managers that are continually evaluating each project to make sure they’re addressing all of these areas and they operate a training department to help the churches and projects in their weaknesses to achieve their goals. It’s so cool!

I just want to encourage you today to think and pray about sponsoring a child from El Salvador. They deserve to know Jesus.

November 9, 2009 at 10:54 pm 22 comments

What do you not know about child sponsorship?

First, I need to be honest about something:

I’m running around like a crazy person trying to pack for El Salvador. It’s 9 PM and I’m leaving at 3:30 AM. So…..

Abraham is ghostwriting this for me. Thanks, babe. //No problem. Happy to do it.//

*               *               *

One thing the folks from Compassion told us as we talked about this trip is that we can ask anything we want to. Nothing’s off limits.

I know there’s a lot I’ll want to find out, but I’m not entirely sure yet what I’m going to be curious about.

So I thought I’d ask you: What do you want to know about Compassion or child sponsorship in general that I can try to find out for you?

I imagine that some of you out there already sponsor kids and would love to know a little more about how it works. And there are others of you who don’t sponsor kids because you have unanswered questions—maybe even problems.

Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can find out for you!

November 8, 2009 at 10:06 pm 29 comments

Hurricane in El Salvador: Please pray!

Just got a link from our trip leader, Shaun Groves, sharing the news that there was a hurricane in El Salvador last night, and that 91 people are believed to be dead.

Read the story here.

Of course we have no idea at this point how this will affect our trip. Almost certainly, children and families sponsored by Compassion have lost the little they had in the last 24 hours.

So pray for us. Pray that we can love people well in the midst of their disaster, if that’s what we come up against. Pray that we will trust God in ways that are beautiful and attractive to the people that we encounter, even as we proclaim that we trust in the God who controls the winds and waves.

November 8, 2009 at 8:02 pm 9 comments

Compassion Countdown: 4 days til El Salvador!

*Warning: this is a disjointed, brain-dump post as I try to organize my thoughts and life before my El Salvador trip*

In some ways, I’m totally in denial that I’m leaving the country and my family in four days.

In other ways, I’ve been anticipating and preparing. For example, I’ve been trying to make some freezer meals for Abraham and the kids to help them along the way. They should be well-stocked with spaghetti sauce and wild rice soup. I figure if I get one more meal made, that should be sufficient (taking leftovers into account). I mean, I’m only gone for five days. And if they get really desperate they can always order pizza or make scrambled eggs.

I’m going to meet our family’s sponsor child while I’m there! I’m so excited about that. I have yet to get gifts for him and his family. What I learned in our team meeting the other day is to think practically, and to think about the whole family. Toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, deoderant, and maybe some small items like photo albums and little toys for the kids.

I think I’ll get our little guy a soccer ball with a pump for a special gift. That way he can use it with his friends and siblings and everyone can enjoy it.

I had a good idea last night to bring some of my extra stashed yarn and needles along to give away to women/moms there who knit! And if they don’t know how to knit, maybe I’ll give a knitting lesson! Good thing I’ll have a translator! And some things can be done through demonstration, so how cool would that be???

And of course I chose yesterday to paint my laundry room. I am such a random weirdo. I mean, who does that? Apparently I do. I think I respond to stress by choosing to take on more stress. Actually, painting feels more like an accomplishment. So maybe it’s that I take on projects that I can control when there’s so many other things out of control.

And who psychoanalyzes their painting? Apparently, I do.

November 5, 2009 at 11:54 am 23 comments

A Halloween Treat for Y’all

Orison went trick-or-treating for the first time tonight.

I wish I could’ve bottled up some of his enthusiasm and zest as he ran, full-speed, from house to house.

I wish I could’ve apologized to all the people whose doorbells were rung in rapid-fire fashion as he waited to scream “Trick or Treat” with all the excitement a four-year-old body can handle. He didn’t seem to hear me when I said, “Only ring it once!”

He dressed as a cowboy, and he was the cutest little cowboy there ever was.

There’s another pretty cute cowboy in this town, too, and they joined forces for a little croonin’ before bed.

(Yes, they both have *real* cowboy boots!)

Happy Halloween, y’all!

October 31, 2009 at 10:51 pm 22 comments

A Follow-Up on My Last Post: Infant Mortality Video

I watched this video this morning over at the Compassion blog. It seemed fitting, especially since I just posted about the Child Survival Program.

I couldn’t help but tear up, allowing the gravity of the topic to land on me for a few minutes. The reality that 9 million children a year die before their 5th birthday—my son turns five in a few weeks, Lord willing.

For me, having lost a child to something I couldn’t control, it hits even harder. I mean, I can do something about diarrhea. I can help people learn how to sanitize bottles and breast feed their babies.

You don’t have to feel the same way, but this is a very exciting ministry to me.

October 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm 10 comments

One of the Reasons I’m Stoked for My Compassion Trip: Child Survival Program

As some of you know, I’m heading to El Salvador very soon (12 days!!!) as a blogger for Compassion International. As the trip draws closer, I’m getting really excited about the work I’ll be able to witness, and humbled that I get to catalogue it here.

Many of you know about Compassion’s work, and like many of you, I thought until a couple months ago that Compassion was exclusively a child sponsorship program.

Oh friends, we were sooooo wrong.

Turns out there are three unique programs targeting different stages of child development.

The youngest children served by Compassion are still in the womb! Compassion provides a beautiful ministry called the Child Survival Program. It offers:

  • csp-weighprenatal care and infant survival training for mothers and caregivers, as well as spiritual guidance and education, such as literacy and income-generation training
  • ongoing health screenings and immunizations for the children
  • child development training for mothers of children under 4

Awesome, huh?

This is a program that I’m very eager to see first-hand. Most of us here in the States take our childrearing skills and education for granted. Our mothers were educated and had resources to raise us. And now we are educated and have resources to raise our children. As huge as that is, conceptually, we take it for granted.

I hope you’ll read the post, Child Survival 101, and learn a little more as I start my journey. That way, when I’m actually in the country, you’ll be all caught up on what I’m talking about and we can focus on the stories, the people, and the lives that matter so much to God. Some of them are being knit together even now.

Thanks for being interested in my trip to El Salvador. And if you have questions about the Child Survival Program that you want me to ask when I’m there, post them in the comments! I want to go as an ambassador for all of you!!!

Can you tell I’m getting excited?

October 28, 2009 at 12:52 am 14 comments

Blogs I Read: Improv Everywhere

I’m sure many of you have heard of the sensation that is Improv Everywhere. Basically they set up all kinds of hilarious improv scenarios in the midst of everyday life and surprise the heck out of people.

One of my fanatasies in high school was for an impromptu musical to start in the hallways of McDowell High School—people everywhere bursting into spontaneous song and dance. Can you tell I was a musical theater person? It really wasn’t cool back then, but I’m glad for Improv Everywhere making my dreams come true vicariously.

My favorite:

Their blog is cool because you don’t get bombarded by tons of stuff, you just periodically get a laugh at their newest, creative scheme.

Other Blogs I Read

October 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm 27 comments

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