*photos courtesy of the ever so funny and wonderful Keely Scott

Oh mercy, how are you?

I feel like we haven’t talked in forever.

Can I just tell you that when you are on one of these trips you get up early, eat, leave for a Compassion site, laugh really hard, pee in a hole, sob uncontrollably and try to hide it, hug on the most joyful children, get back, eat dinner, shower, then you forget your google password that you’ve had for 4 years then you continue to forget it for 45 minutes, once you remember it you try to put words together in a manner that makes sense and is compelling, hit publish, try to tweet your husband and sister, put your breathe right strip on so you don’t wake your roommate because it’s hard for her to throw a shoe at you through two mosquito nets and then fall asleep because it’s 2am and you have to get up in five hours and then you get to do it all again. All that to say,  it’s killing me not to respond to more of your comments super fast–especially the questions–responses are coming, promise.

But for now, let me try to put some letters together in a manner that makes words…

each child had his own binder full of information

The church/compassion office we visited was the most established, longest running site we’ve seen this week.  The difference a few years can make is stunning.  They even had a room with glass in the windows with computers for teaching the children!  That brought tears to this momma who knows the power of the ‘puter.

Every compassion site has a focus on vocational training for each child. So as well as getting food and Bible teaching and health services and loved on by parents and volunteers they also learn skills that they will use the rest of their life. Skills like sewing, farming, leadership in the community and sometimes like at this site, computer skills.

Then, we visited little 10-year-old Mwajuma’s house.  She quietly led the way, and we finally walked up to a little U-shaped area of four or five doors covered with sheets opening into concrete rooms.

But the very first thing you noticed was the two tiny toddlers outside.  They were just toddling around by themselves, one had some bread in her hand.  Neither one was older than 3, maybe 2 and a half and 18 months I can never tell?  They looked too close in age to be siblings but not close enough to be twins.  We waved at them and I figured the mother would call for them or something but they just followed us about 8 feet to the door where little Mwajuma was leading us too.

She went inside her house but her mom wasn’t there so she ran off to look for her. Meanwhile the toddlers watched us and smiled and acted all precious and toddlery.  Nearby there was another mom sitting outside with a baby and a young boy washing out bowls, just every day neighborhood happenings I guess.  About three minutes later Mwajuma came back with her mom.  Immediately, the toddlers ran to her--ohhh, she was their mother too. They are siblings.

We walked inside. And I do not have words.  There are none.  It was the smallest home? room? enclosure? I’ve ever been in. It’s about the same size as my youngest child’s closet.  Only I’d rather live in his closet. Kelly and Keely and Mary, our guide, along with Mwajuma, her two siblings, her mother and another Compassion volunteer–that’s 8 of us–barely even fit.  I sat on a stool but my shoe came off and there was no way I could get it back on until we got up to leave, there was no room to really move.

Mwajuma in her home

The room rents for 7000 shillings a month–I think that’s about $3.50.  There’s no mattress to sleep on, it looked like rags and some clothes filled the wooden bed frame.  I guess the four of them sleep on that one makeshift bed.

So as we talked (actually, Kelly and Keely talked because they are good at that and have composure and can think and make people feel so comfortable, and I sat there in stunned, introverted, I cannot breathe,  hold-back-the-tears-silence) Keely asked about the two toddlers, who keeps them?  It turns out that the mom needs to go buy fish at 5am so she can resell them in the market in the evening.  So she leaves the children and then I guess Mwajuma leaves for school later in the morning and at times, like today, the tiny toddlers, are just kind of there to fend for themselves for a little while. LITTLE BABIES.  There are neighbors around but it seemed normal to just leave your children and trust they will not wander off and if they do that someone will bring them back.

I guess that’s what one does when eating depends on leaving.

Momma also leaves at night to go to the market to sell her fish. She usually gets home at 10.  This mom has to leave her tiny children just so she can go make enough money for food and rent. When she came home after Mwajuma went and found her for us, the tiniest baby wanted to nurse and be held and wanted her mom. It was heartbreaking.

And I’m still processing it all and will be for a long time.  I don’t have any fancy finished shiny words that make it ok.

But then, Mwajuma got out her letters from her sponsor. Actually her mom had them in a crisp white envelope (you can see her holding it two photos up) and I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world anything could be so crisp and clean in such a dusty, dirty place. She had a stack of letters from her sponsor family in Germany who had corresponded over the years encouraging her to study hard and attend the local church and to help her mother.

They asked questions about her favorite subject, science and she even had a stack of photos of the family.  She proudly passed them around so we could look at them. Those letters were the most cared for item in their home, they were treasured and I suddenly really saw the power of sponsor letters.  And I suddenly wondered why I haven’t written our sponsored boys more. WHY?! And I suddenly vowed to write them immediately when I get home.

When Keely asked what Mwajuma wanted to do when she grew up she immediately said she wanted to be a doctor. And you know what? I believe that she can be.  And you know what’s even better?  Mwajuma and her mom believe it too.  Her mom just nodded when she talked about her love of science and growing up to be a doctor.   I think they are so convinced that can happen because every year Compassion helps the children set goals and also if you are lucky enough to have a sponsor who writes you letters, you are getting encouragement from them as well.  Once a child turns 12 they fill out an official paper called “My plan for tomorrow”. I know a lot of adults who could use a little “My Plan For Tomorrow” worksheet–and these children are already encouraged to think about their future at such a young age.  It really can change the course of how a family envisions their future.

Here’s an example of a child’s binder full of all sorts of records for classes and health and their family information and well-being and their goals and their “My Plan For Tomorrow” sheet.  Every Compassion site is incredibly organized and they tell us to pull any folder we want and look through them and ask questions.

We took some photos together, Keely left them a Polaroid photo of their family for them to keep and then we walked back.  And after leaving a situation like that, seeing how shockingly horrid the living conditions are, knowing that no one should have to live like that I could hardly stand it or deal with it.  And then after talking with Keely she reminded me that the only reason we can possibly begin to deal with it is because of the fact that they have the one thing that can make it better and they are getting that through Compassion.

They have a future.  Not just food for now.  Not just a handout, but the tools that Compassion equips the children with through their sponsors make all the difference in helping create a generation that is moving away from poverty one child at a time.

Compassion and Sponsors :: Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus’ Name

Click here to start the releasing and sponsor a child

The world’s way of pursuing riches is grasping and hoarding. You attain my riches by letting go and giving.

–Sarah Young, Jesus Calling