Saturday, November 21, 2009

day three.

sorry about the delay in posting. as it turns out, of all the things I could have contracted in Peru, I came home with what my doctor thinks is strep. Not sure how or where I got that, but I'm already feeling better than I was last night, so hopefully it's short-lived.

On Thursday, we got the opportunity to bookend the day with the bookends of the programs offered by Compassion International. We started the day heading out to one of the Project sites in Lima that has what's called a Child Survival Program. This program is offered to mother/child units instead of children. Everything Compassion does is very holistic in nature and this program is no exception, offering a wide range of care for pre-natal moms through moms with children up to about 4 years old, when they can begin to register for Child Sponsorship. These kiddos were outside the church when we arrived, anxious to greet us in their yellow Jesus shirts!

The home that I visited Thursday was the roughest of the trip, and belonged to a family with two children. The baby was sleeping when we got there so we didn't get to meet her, but her older brother Kevin, below, is 3. He's adorable and has been in the program since March. The Promoters with Compassion visit them in their home often and have provided some toys along with educational posters to put on their walls to help establish a corner of the home that's his 'play' area. As you can see, they also provide a poster with his name on it, which is very sweet.
So, as you can see if you look closely in the pic below, this home has a dirt floor. Most of the walls are made of cardboard, and the ceiling was made of sheets of plastic with what I presume was bamboo thicket on top of it. There IS electricity in the home if you can believe it, but the only thing this particular home had was a single florescent light hanging from the ceiling. The mom was incredibly grateful for our visit, and gave Spence and I beautiful crochet scarves that she had made as a token of her appreciation for our visit. unbelievable. Her husband lives there as well, but he leaves every day to work around 6a.m. and returns around 9p.m. He does odd jobs around the community as much as possible to provide for the family.
Little Kevin was a hoot. His favorite toy (he didn't have any toys at all until they joined the program) is a little xylophone that he loves to play while they sing songs. He's not much into singing :) but they're working on that. When they joined the Compassion project in March, he was only able to say 'mom' and 'dad.' Now he's able to communicate much more, and also can identify colors and numbers and shapes! If you'd like to pray for Kevin, his mom is most concerned about the fact that he's been falling and hurting himself a lot lately. You can see the cuts on his face in the pics above. Just to give you an idea of the environment around these hillside homes, I took some video of our trip back down the mountain after our home visit:

In stark contrast to the Child Survival Program, we were able to have dinner with some kids involved in the Leadership Development Program at Compassion on Thursday night. This was an unbelievable experience, as it points to the ultimate picture of success in Compassion's mission. Elizabeth, below, is just one example of this, and has been in the Compassion program since she was only 5 years old. She's bright, articulate, and is currently attending college studying Elementary Education. She'd like to be a 4th grade teacher when she graduates and hopes she will employed by the public school system in Peru, where she can affect change in the country and culture in which she lives for the better. Elizabeth was at my table, but all of the kids in the highly selective Leadership Development Program were inspiring to say the least. They represent what we all want for our children, and the vast effect Compassion can have on an individual life.

I can't tell you how much this trip has solidified my excitement about what Compassion International is able to do in the lives of these kids and their families. It's simply astounding how far they are able to stretch sponsorship dollars, and the trip was able to show me how the relationships established with sponsor families literally is able to transform these kids' lives--not only for their time here on Earth, but for eternity as well. They approach their mission holistically, releasing children from all kinds of poverty--emotional, physical, economical and spiritual. In addition--and this is my favorite part--they do it using the local church! On the entire trip, with visits to three different sites, I never saw even as much as a Compassion logo on a sign anywhere. The care, the supplies, the visits, the education, the food, it's all given to the children by the indigenous population in their community. We as sponsors provide the resources, but the local church is on the front lines. Awesome.

When we give our $$ to charitable organizations, I think our biggest fear is that we may never know how effectively our funds are being used to make an actual, palpable impact on the world. I don't know what else to say except that I saw it with my own eyes in Peru this week. I heard it with my own ears. I hugged these children, laughed with them, prayed with them. They dream dreams just like my own 6-year old does, and Compassion in an amazingly effective way, helps those dreams come true.

Needless to say, it was an amazing trip. One I will not soon forget. Thanks for listening.

Thinking about sponsoring a Compassion child?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

late night, early morning.

ok, so I'm way excited to unpack this final day here in Peru for you all... I have more stories, more pics, more thoughts. Unfortunately, it takes a while for me to process stuff and get it into presentable form, not to much the import/upload of photos. We have to be leaving the hotel no later than 4:30a.m. tomorrow so I absolutely have to get some rest. I promise to blog soon, if not tomorrow in Miami during our layover, then as soon as I can.

This much I will say: God is good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

day two.

So today can be prettily easily summed up by two things: an eye-opening home visit and lots of time with the kids at another Compassion Project. We arrived to the church and were welcomed with a full out concert from the students. The kids absolutely cling to you, and you'll be able to see that in a few of the pics below. We visited a home on the hillside, visited some classrooms and then had a crazy afternoon on the patio playing soccer & volleyball (about 10 games of each happening on top of each other with pretend lines, nets and rules). My camera broke today, so I have limited pictures, some taken from my cell, but I'll walk through the day a bit with captions:

This is the Compassion Project we visited today. It's at Iglesia Biblica Bautista

some of these kids just love to cling to you and take pictures :)

This was a classroom for 4 and 5-year olds. They loved having their picture taken!

one of the hillsides where we visited homes.

This is Carolina and Carlos and their mom. Spence and I walked up what seemed like a mile of concrete stairs and rocky paths to get to their home. They told us they make the trip at least three times a day. Unbelievable.

a view of a some of the roofs way up on the hillside.

this is a view of an adjacent hill from near the top of our climb.

The mentors visit families up on these hills multiple times a week as well, which is incredibly cool to me. I got the opportunity to talk with Spence last night a bit more about what is provided by the sponsorship dollars that come in for these children. Food, education, supplies, books and a whole lot of love is provided for each and every one. Hearing the kids and their families talk about how Compassion has impacted their lives is staggering. The detail and thoroughness of the files on each of these kiddos is equally as impressive. Bottom line: this organization has figured out how to literally transform families in the communities they serve, and it's nothing less than inspiring to witness.

Tomorrow we close out our trip with the beginning and the end of the Compassion Programs... the Child Survival Program kicks off our day and we'll wrap up having a meal with the college kids from the Leadership Development Program. Until then... Many blessings.

Thinking about sponsoring a Compassion child?


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

day one.

ok, so getting to Peru was certainly a bit more of a challenge--at least in terms of time--than we thought. After waking up at 3:30am, an early flight to Miami, an extended layover (7 hours) and then maintenance-induced delays, the 5.5 hour flight and 45-minute drive to the hotel landed heads on pillows around 3am. I'm certainly not complaining, though, as the hotel is clean and comfy, much more so than most would endure on actual foreign mission trips. Not much sleep in preparation for day one, but we'll make it up.

Today we visited one of the Compassion Projects here in Lima, Peru. The purpose of today was twofold: 1) to educate us on the impact that Compassion Projects can and do have on the lives of the children involved in them and 2) to love on the kids. :) These are just a few of the beautiful children that were awaiting our arrival.

The kids in this area DO have a public school option apparently, so the education offered here is above and beyond what they receive at school, including the ever-important teachings about Jesus Christ. One of the coolest things I saw all day was this tiny little room where some of the teens were hand-making silkscreens for shirts and such. Their creativity was awesome, and with very little to work with. These are just a few designs I grabbed pics of. The first says "Hip Hop" and is a stencil cut out of paper... the second, a complete shirt they had made. I asked what the shirt said and have a general idea, but if you're spanish savvy, please feel free to post a translation :)

After meeting as many of the morning kids as we could, we headed out to a home visit and were able to give a basket of food and supplies to a beautiful family in need and pray for them as they graciously allowed us into their home. We headed back to the church (the Compassion Projects are all local churches) and were treated to a wonderful lunch prepared by the staff there and a small presentation from the afternoon students!

After we wrapped up lunch and the festivities, we just tried to get around to as many little ones as we could to talk with them, engage them, find out more about their experience with Compassion and such. That's when I met Rebecca and Donna. Rebecca caught my attention first as she had an insatiable curiosity about all of us that led to a myriad of wonderful questions (thank GOD for the wonderful translators there). She was sharp, with a bit of an edge about her, and ended up following me all the way to our bus as we left. Among the many things we were able to talk about were music, famous people, favorite countries and our families. Donna took the conversation to another level when she sweetly and selflessly asked how they could pray for me... I gasped a bit, answered her, and reciprocated. She asked that I pray for her father Jose--that he would change--that he would ask Jesus into his heart. Rebecca asked for the same for her father Moses. The only words I could come up with as we closed our conversation were that of assurance, something I felt they wanted. I simply promised that I would pray for them and their dads, and that I would never forget them! Once on the bus, I was able to shoot one last shot of my two new friends, Donna on the left and Rebecca on the right, waving 'goodbye' to me.

More tomorrow, as day two brings a second Compassion project, more home visits and hopefully more pics to show you.
God bless.