What’s Your Plan for Tomorrow?

*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


  1. beautiful, nester. you look so happy.

  2. During these trips, I am thrilled when the bloggers talk about the importance of our letters. This one part of Compassion’s ministry has become a passion for me. My blog and my interactions with sponsors focus on helping sponsors make the most of this ministry opportunity.

    Poverty tells lies…. “You’re worthless. No one cares about you.” But our letters can knock down those lies one by one. We can disciple and encourage these children, along with their whole families.

    My heart breaks to read of little ones left to fend for themselves and of the unthinkable living conditions. I wonder why it is that *I* have been given so much. All I can come up with is, that my purpose is to give and give and give some more….

  3. Thank you so much for sharing these words and pictures. My hubby and I sponsor two compassion children but often I have a hard time imagining what life might be like on the other side. I am encouraged to write to them more often, and encourage them, as you said! So thankful for this ministry.

  4. Truly makes us appreciate what we have doesn’t it.

  5. Wow! That is rough visit. Thanks for sharing your heart and letting it break and giving us a picture not only in photos, but in your words of what you are seeing!

  6. Makes me wonder how you can come back and do your regular blog stuff. Will it all seem shallow and meaningless? How can you not be changed after witnessing the life these poor people live. Puts so much into perspective!!!


    • those were some of my very thoughts when I was first asked to go, how can ANYONE who even reads this even buy a Starbucks coffee ever again, right? But also, I know that the reason I can afford to sponsor 3 boys is because of Nesting Place and the income–it’s my job and still in my giftedness. I love your question, have wrestled with it and it’s something I’m sure I’ll talk about in the coming weeks/months!

  7. Thanks for the reminder to write those letters! And that also reminded me to send my family gift too.

  8. I’m enjoying the tour as you meet the people. My parents came back from their first mission trip in Mexico with such tales of tiny little cardboard houses that my dad couldn’t even stand up straight once inside. Praying for you all.

  9. I’ve wanted a new rug for my living room. I’ve obsessed about it, endlessly shopping and comparing and saving. It’s literally all I’ve thought about for weeks.

    I feel so foolish and ungrateful. Thanks for helping me gain perspective.

  10. You are wrecking me. WRECKED.
    Thank you.
    So glad you could go.
    So glad you were forced to write about it.
    So glad I have you in my reader.
    But still wrecked.

  11. Oh friend… I have so few words. But I’ve been thinking about you nonstop and all day. I am praying for you, continually. I know it’s messing you up to be there in so many ways, but ultimately, it’s in a really good way. And it’ll seem more like that after shower and good sleep and all that stuff.

    Love you, dearest.

  12. Nester, you’ve been on my heart and in my mind the whole livelong week. I love reading about Compassion through your words. *You* are making an incredible difference! Praying for you and yours always…

  13. Dear Nester,
    I am so convicted to pray for you! What a journey! You and your words touch so many, many people. Preach on sister! Thanks for your perspective and just being real! Thank you for showing what a valuable organization Compassion is!

  14. seriously everyday i’m in tears after reading your posts this week. thank you for taking us along with you this week. prayers continue.

  15. Wow! I am your newest follower and have so enjoyed reading about your trip. My son, now age 22, went on a missions trip to Uganda for two weeks when he was a senior in high school. The group ministered at schools and orphanages, but also visited with the youth leader’s Compassion child in a nearby village. It was a life changing trip for my son. After reading this last post, I know our family needs to write more letters to our Compassion child. Thanks so much for sharing!


  16. O, Nester. Thank you for sharing this slice of your day with us. JJ Heller’s “Where I Land” came streaming through Pandora as I read your words, and I think the two were meant to go together {You’re different from the way I thought you’d be/But here you are in front of me/So full of light I watch it overflow/A lovely mystery/And I am lost for words/You’re more than I deserve/And when I cannot stand/You are where I land} And I’m just praying that for you & Mwajuma & her beautiful mama, and for the softening hearts of all those reading these words, that we would land in Him, and be moved to the actions His heart always prompts us to – to feed the hungry and care for the children left alone and to just love, love, love. Thank you.

  17. Courtney says

    I love your heart! Be strong.. God is working through you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine!

  18. Oh girl!

    Christian hands never clasp
    and He doesn’t give gifts for gain
    because a gift can never stop being a gift—
    it is always meant to be given.

    With you, love you, cheering you
    All’s grace,

    • oh my word, ok, everyone? don’t even read my post, just read Ann’s comment instead m’kay? thanks!

      Ann, {insert words that are moving and beautiful here that say something to the effect of how much I adore seeing your face pop up in these comments}

      much love

  19. I have wanted to sponsor a Compassion child for years now..but somehow getting my husband to be as excited and passionate about it as I am got in the way of actually sponsoring any children. I read this post, looked across the room at my hubs and said, “Let’s sponsor some kids.” “Mmmmk,” was his less-than-enthusiastic answer. But this time instead of being frustrated with him I just went to Compassion’s site and found 3 kids in need of sponsors. :) Mmmmk! Thank you for sharing your journey and encouraging others to get involved!!

  20. I have this recurring dream that I get up, go to work, have a great day and then get home only to find out that I forgot my kids were home alone. And they are hungry and scared. And now, you just told me that mama’s live that dream every day.

    I guess I knew it already. But hearing you tell it and seeing their pictures just makes it unbelievably real. I will never forget this. Or the blue nail polish. Or the giraffe. Or the bubbles.

    • just woke up, read this and I really thought you were gonna say “and then I get home and Shaun Groves is there and he tells me that I need to write a post and oh yeah the internet turns off at midnight”.

      But yes, your version is much more horrible. And is her very reality.

  21. You are doing such an amazing thing. Let the Lord hold you and keep you and carry your tears. I am inspired to write my compassion children more after this post. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to these precious people. I would be a total wreck myself…I guess that is a reflection of God’s heart for them too.

  22. After reading your updates from the last few days…I stopped being a sponsor slacker and wrote my child a letter today. We have only been sponsoring him for 2 months, but I had only written one letter. Thank you for showing me the importance of our words and encouragement to these children in need. You are a special person! I really hope that I will one day be able to go on a trip like this and see, firsthand, what you are witnessing and help spread the word about Compassion!

  23. These are the gut punch days, aren’t they? Holding your hand as you reel. Reeling with you.

  24. 7000 shillings is approx. $65. Sending letters to these children does not help much. Help them financially smh.

    • I just double checked, I was wrong her rent is 8000 shillings a month and here in Tanzania that will equal out to about $5 US.

      As for the letters, I think the photos speak for themselves–some of those letters were years old and Mwajuma keeps them all, clearly they mean so much to her. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to get a letter in the mail especially one from someone speaking encouraging words into your life.

      But if you feel the need to only give (because YES you are right also HELP THEM FINANCIALLY, I couldn’t have said it better myself :) and not as a sponsor who is committed to writing, here’s the link for that :: http://www.compassion.com/donate.htm

      thanks so much for reading!

    • When you stand in front of family after family with nothing but tiny, dirty “homes” and just one heavy rain away from losing everything, and then that same family pulls out a water proof envelope filled with stickers, letters, clean photographs, you know it means something to them. They don’t just save those letters in case a Compassion blogger might swing by to take a picture. They save those letters because they mean something to them.

      Letters help. A lot.

    • Just sending more and more money to a family in poverty isn’t a sustainable way to release them from poverty. Yes…they need money, but just the right amount so that they don’t become dependent on that money. Instead they need holistic development to help them overcome their situation. And that’s where the letter writing comes in – as a form of hope for the child and family. Through letters we can encourage them and give them hope. Sending letters helps more than we could possibly imagine.

  25. This is so much… really. I am sobered in this moment, realizing the frivolousness of how we spend — how we spend our days, our energy, our money. It’s not condemnation — no — it’s heartbreak for what breaks His heart. This, I need — this I want.

    This is the 3rd Compassion post I read today — and I did not go looking for any of them, just sorta stumbled upon them. But I am so glad I did, for in doing so I’ve found myself a bit closer to where God would have me be.

    This is something heartbreakingly beautiful… just wow.

  26. Thank you for sharing the importance of letter writing!

  27. I type through tears…You have no idea the impact your traveling, writing and openness is having! God bless you! I will be praying for you, your family, this ministry, and for God to use you mightily for His kingdom. Thank you for allowing God to use you to enlighten us.

  28. 1. I love it that Compassion has the new feature to upload photos to letters we can write online as well as picking out cute stationery! :)
    2. {hugs} to you. And a pray as you begin processing and continue even upon your return home- I think it’s harder then.

  29. Ruined for the ordinary. That’s what we call it. Ill never forget coming back from a 6 mo. missions trip. I went to the grocery store the first time and left in tears. We have so much…too much. I am praying for you and your team and know that whatever God is planting in your heart, He will use in a mighty way.

  30. Oh Nester…you’re pulling at my heart strings. Thinking about how Compassion gives these children and their families a future reminds me of the verse we all love, Jer. 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What a wonderful partnership with Compassion and every sponsor has with the Lord. Thank you for going, and being vulnerable.

  31. Oh Nester I am sitting here weeping as read this, wondering what I can do to get involved. Thank you for being so brave, for going all the way to Tanzania even when you were afraid, so that you could bring us this post, and let God work through the gifts he has given you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you continue this trip!

  32. I need to write my little guys more too…Thanks for the reminder of WHY it’s so important! Love reading about your trip!

  33. julie g. says

    Thank you for taking the time to share your journey. I’ve clicked on Compasison many times but had not yet committed. Then today after reading your moving post I clicked on a little boy born the same exact day as my youngest son – coincidence? I don’t think so. My husband and I often talk about how we could have been born to any parents, in any place in time, and in any part of the world. We have been blessed in so many ways and it is certianly time to share with others. Wishing you a safe journey and many thanks!

  34. My husband has been laid off for over a year and we have had to scrape by. My kids complain that we never do anything – no vacation, no treats, no new clothes. Even when he was working, we always needed to be very conservative with our money. They are good kids, used to not getting everything they want, but…I will have them read your post when they get home. I think it will speak to them in a way that I could never have related.

  35. So beautiful–in fact, I’m still crying writing this comment. The little girl we sponsor in Burkina Faso had a little sister (probably that 2ish, 18monthish age) that died last year. And I can’t help but wonder if she was alone, sitting outside with no one to care for her. Oh. Oh. Oh. It’s too much.

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t have much else to say. Thank you for being so transparent and bringing us with you on your trip.


  36. Thanks for sharing, Nester. My family has been talking about sponsoring a child. After talking about it for a while, reallize we kept putting it off cuz there are so many agencies and didn’t know which to choose. After a little research,I got overwhelmend and distracted. Back on course now; I do believe Compassion may be the one.

  37. *tears* When I was 10 years old I attended a Petra concert *snort* ;) and left having signed up to sponsor Junabell in the Philippines with my baby-sitting money. I picked her because she was the “cutest” from all the photos and I liked her polka dot dress. I gave faithfully every month until I turned 16 or 17 and became self-absorbed and preoccupied with the world. Thankfully, my mom took over her sponsorship. I’m now 34 with two little babies of my own and have been working in developing nations for the last 12 years. How much more I’ve come to understand! (Though still learning.) I think of Junabell from time to time and wonder how her life ended up. She’d be a grown woman now, perhaps with children of her own. Thank you for reminding me of this important ministry. I’m going to return to Compassion. And now, I will do it with a passion for letter-writing, thanks to your story. xx

  38. I am sitting here on a Saturday morning with my son watching television, waiting to go to lacrosse practice. I look out my dining room window where the sun is brilliant and the neighborhood is quiet, and I think about how the sun shines there and the view is so very different. I cannot help the tears from falling. The ache of gratitude for what Compassion is doing. Not just providing food. But loving. The photo up there of that boy reveals worth. It shows that he knows he is loved. This is the most important thing we can do. Ever.


    Compassion enables vision.

    I am in awe over such a profound mission and such great work being done. It’s more than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve GOT to get involved.

  39. yes… love hearing… as sad as it is… Compassion is changing their lives. Thank you for sharing!


  40. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of our letters to our child we are sponsoring.
    I have not been faithful to write or send letters. It will be a priority for our family now.

    I’m loving your blog posts from your trip.


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