Chico Accepts Christ

This week, I witnessed one of the most precious moments I’ve experienced since working at Compassion. I’m traveling as a writer with about 25 sponsors on a Sponsor Tour in Guatemala. On Monday, a few of us visited Chico’s home.young smiling boy sitting in plastic chair

Chico is an adorable 9 -year-old sponsored child. He and eight other family members live in one house with no electricity. His mother, Miriam, does what she can to support her family.

“I work all day, every day to take care of my children. I make tostadas and sell them. Since their father left me, it’s up to me.”

Making and selling tostadas brings in about $10 a day.

While we interviewed the family, Laura, a sponsor from Virginia Beach, Va., asked Chico if he knew Jesus. After our interpreter, Carlota, asked Chico the question for us, she started to cry. I couldn’t figure out why.

Carlota explained that Chico’s answer was no, but that he was ready to invite Jesus into his heart. He had heard about Jesus at his development center, but hadn’t committed his life to Him yet. So, right there in the middle of their kitchen, Laura led Chico in a prayer of salvation.

She explained to Chico that when someone invites Jesus into their heart, angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10). She told him, “The angels are having a big party for you, Chico, right now.”

Chico’s smile at that moment will stay with me the rest of my life.

If you’re part of Compassion’s ministry, you were a part of this moment.

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With God All Things Are Possible

Hey! I have new photos of Amisi. I was so blessed to meet him on my trip to Uganda last month.

Amisi coloring
He’s such an ambitious child! As soon as I gave him his new coloring book, he was on a serious mission to get every page colored.

Amisi eating ice cream
I bought him some ice cream, but he wasn’t crazy about it at first. He’d never tasted anything so cold. Once it melted though, he became a fan.

I was told the outfit he’s wearing, along with his shoes and socks, were purchased through the Christmas Gift Program.

Amisi and Robyn
Amisi is so full of life and joy. It’s hopeful to know he’s receiving health care, food and educational opportunities. And most important — he’s learning about God’s love. To be just a small part of this is such a blessing. Even though he’s only 5 years old, I pray he remembers my visit through the years and knows that I adore him.

During my visit, I also gave him a banner that says, “With God, all things are possible.” As he grows up, I hope he clings to this message. I can’t wait to see how God works in his life. He may be living in a poverty-stricken African village now, but with God, the possibilities for his life are endless.

Have you visited your child? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and tell me!

And if you have any photos, add them to our Flickr group. Be sure to include brief descriptions and I’ll share some of them here in a few days!

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A Mosquito Bite Away

One of the things that shocked me when I visited Uganda last month was finding myself scared to death of mosquitoes. It was the strangest feeling to be afraid of something so small — something we usually think of as just a pest. But in Africa mosquito bites don’t just make your arm itch — they kill.

Malaria, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, is killing one million people a year. Most of these are children under age 5 in Africa. That’s right. Malaria, which is preventable and treatable, is killing more than 750,000 children a year in Africa.

Catherine's homeBefore visiting Uganda, I never really understood how mosquitoes managed to claim so many lives. But when I visited homes there, I understood. Many of the houses don’t have doors — just sheets covering the openings. And the windows are usually bare, too. So at night, the mosquitoes help themselves.

Catherine, a single mother I met in Uganda, told me that before Compassion gave her an insecticide-treated mosquito net, she did everything she could to protect her 10-year-old daughter, Irene. But her efforts were in vain.

“Every night, I tried to cover Irene with a blanket, but she would still get bitten all night long,” said Catherine. “I wanted so badly to buy her a net, but I couldn’t afford it.”

Irene helps her mother cookAnd when Irene got malaria, Catherine certainly couldn’t afford doctors’ bills. “Before Compassion, I would go pleading to doctors for help and beg to pay later,” she said.

Thank God that Compassion intervened! Through the ministry’s Complementary Interventions Program, Irene is now getting medicine and sleeps under a quality net. Today, she’s healthy and thriving.

You can make a difference and help protect vulnerable children like Irene! Since today is World Malaria Day, take a minute to learn more about this disease and see how you can join the fight!

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True Community

Leaving Uganda will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve fallen in love with the people here. They are the most welcoming, generous and humble people I’ve ever met.

One lady I visited gave me a beautiful hand-made basket as a gift. It took her several months to make it. She filled it with eggs and avocados. Why does this stand out so much? She is a single mom, HIV-positive and struggling to raise two sons on about 80 cents a day. And yet she insisted that I take the gift. It will be one of my prize possessions.

The people of Uganda are also the most joyful people I’ve ever met, which is interesting considering most of them live on less than a dollar a day. One man I met told me, “In Uganda, you may not be able to afford dinner, but you’ll still wake up with a smile on your face the next morning.”

I asked our guide, Ezra, how people here remain so full of hope. He explained that everyone in Uganda takes care of each other. “People know their neighbors and look out for one another,” he said. “If someone is going through a hard time or grieving, he will be surrounded. No one goes through anything alone.”

In the U.S., we might have material possessions, but it seems they have something many of us don’t — true community.

Robyn Spencer, a full-time writer for Compassion International, is currently on her first Compassion trip to Uganda. Robyn is experiencing Compassion’s life-changing work first-hand, so she can educate sponsors and donors when she returns home.

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Saving Lives and Offering Hope

Late last week, I interviewed three families affected by AIDS. One was headed by a father raising three children on his own — he is HIV-positive and lost his wife to AIDS. Another was a 13-year-old girl who lives with her aunt — both are HIV-positive. And the third was a 12-year-old girl who lost both of her parents to AIDS.

Most of my days here have been full of positive, encouraging stories, but there are still a few that make me cry. But I’m so thankful Compassion is providing these families with medical treatment, food and counseling. The father I mentioned above is in a Compassion support group. “It makes me feel happy to have a place I can go and feel accepted,” he said.

We also talked with Patience, who heads up the health program at one of Compassion’s Uganda child development centers. “HIV is still on the rise in Uganda,” she explained. “More people are getting infected every day,” she said. “The other problem is that when caregivers are infected, the children are affected. We make sure that children in our program who are vulnerable to HIV are tested. We also make sure that the child is loved.”

Say no to AIDSOne woman told us that she is alive today because of Compassion. “They found me on my deathbed,” she said. “They took me to the hospital and had me tested. I found out that I’m HIV-positive.” Compassion is currently providing her with antiretroviral therapy. I asked her what she would like to say to those who give to Compassion’s AIDS Initiative. “Please tell them thank you,” she said. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here.”

If you’ve given to Compassion’s AIDS Initiative, thank you for your support. You are saving lives and offering hope to those who need it most.

Robyn Spencer, a full-time writer for Compassion International, is currently on her first Compassion trip to Uganda. Robyn is experiencing Compassion’s life-changing work first-hand, so she can educate sponsors and donors when she returns home.

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AmisiLast night was one of the best nights of my life. I got to meet Amisi, my 5-year-old sponsored boy; the Uganda office was kind enough to coordinate our visit.

I have to say, Amisi has to be the cutest boy in the entire country. Of course, I’m sure I’m a bit biased. I was worried he would be scared or overwhelmed by Kampala since it’s such a large city. But he was so excited. As soon as he saw me, he ran to hug me. He loved the coloring books, stickers and his new ball, but nothing could compete with the doors in the hotel lobby that automatically opened. He’d never seen anything like it. He was squealing and laughing so loud I was afraid we’d get kicked out of the hotel!

He knows a few English words. He knows, “Jesus,” “Thank you,” and “sponsor.” He also knew enough to laugh at me as I tried out a few words in his native language.

I really didn’t think he would understand who I was, but the project director said he’s been telling all of his friends that he was going to meet his sponsor. He was excited all week.

If you are a sponsor, I would encourage you to check into visiting your child! It means so much to them — and to you! If you don’t already sponsor a child, please pray about it today!

Read all of Robyn’s posts from Uganda.

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My Biggest Fear

Photo of a Ugandan child taken by Keely Scott during Uganda blog trip - February 2008All of us have had a few highlights in our lives that changed us forever. Right now, I’m in the middle of one. I’m in Uganda gathering stories for Compassion. It’s my first trip to a developing country.

There’s only one problem. The thing that I was afraid would happen has happened. I have fallen head over heals in love with every child I’ve met. At each village we visit, children run up to you, wrap their arms around you, and before you know it, steal your heart.

Because poverty is so overwhelming, always before, I tried to distance myself from the stories. Without meaning to, I guarded my heart. But now these stories have faces and I’m completely attached.

But the surprising thing is, I don’t feel helpless. And that had been my biggest fear—finally coming face to face with poverty and feeling powerless to do anything. But I keep hearing from caregivers and children how much their lives have changed through Compassion’s programs. I can’t help but feel hopeful.

One mother today told me today how thankful she is that Compassion pays for her son’s malaria medicine. This has saved his life. Another told me there is no way her daughter could go to school without Compassion helping with school fees. Dickson, a student enrolled in the Leadership Development Program, said, “I hope Compassion sponsors and donors know their support is not in vain. You are helping to transform lives.”

So if you’re a sponsor or donor out there, I want to pass on these messages of hope. I pray they encourage your heart as much as they did mine.

Robyn Spencer, a full-time writer for Compassion International, is currently on her first Compassion trip to Uganda. Robyn is experiencing Compassion’s life-changing work first-hand, so she can educate sponsors and donors when she returns home.

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