Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gratitude and Joy

I learned a lot about these two words from the people in Peru. From the Compassion Peru office to the Child Development Center Directors/Pastors to the volunteer teachers to the parents to the children, joy and gratitude were on every face and in every action, probably in every word, too, but I didn't understand them all!

I did not understand the depth of the importance of our visit until our first center visit on Monday afternoon. The forty of us sponsors and our translators arrived on two big buses. We arrived in front of a white stucco church with a beautiful iron gate to all of the children of the center standing outside, lining the path and entrance to the church, many holding balloons, some in native costumes, and ALL were cheering like we were the most famous person you can think of. They were cheering because sponsors, not even their sponsors, had come from America to visit them, to play with them, to learn from them, to love on them. What joy! And, yes, tears were falling as we got off the buses. We wanted to be cheering for them, to tell them that THEY are our heroes. All we could do was let the tears flow as we smiled and greeted the children, staff, and pastor.

As we toured the center and learned about what the children learn and do there, we were greeted with gratitude for our part in ministering to children. It is humbling to be thanked by a volunteer teacher who spends her time teaching children about health, relationships, and God when all you do is send a little money each month and sometimes write a letter.

As we visited homes of families who benefit from Compassion's ministry, more times than I can count, I heard "Thanks be to God for..." Our economic situations are much different, but I was reminded what it means to give thanks in all situations.

This mother touched my heart. She is a single mother and volunteer teacher. She spends three afternoons a week volunteering at the child development center, teaching children, because she is grateful for the way God has worked in her life. She wants a different life for her daughters. She knows that God must be part of that life. She is grateful.

I saw pure joy on this little boy's face as we played with this little yellow car. He loved rolling it back and forth and didn't even mind when the girl next to him snatched it before he could. His laughter was contagious. Like so many of the other children, he taught me about joy, completely enjoying the moment we are experiencing, while we are experiencing it.

I wish the words I am using could truly express what is in my heart. I cannot get on the screen what I am feeling in my heart. I am continuing to learn from these wonderful people and experiences what true gratitude and joy are. Maybe if the words form I will share them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Something I learned in Peru, well, was reminded of, children are children. It doesn't matter what the location, economic situation, family life, etc., children want to be loved, to be hugged, to play with people who are safe. The children we met live in conditions I could never have imagined had I not seen with my own eyes. They have family lives that are not ideal. They have parents who work hard to provide all they can. They have dreams. They love to learn. They love to play. They love to laugh. Do you know children like that where you live? I do, too.

I watched these precious children run to any and all of us, looking for hugs and a playmate, holding hands with people who don't speak the same language. They may really have no idea where the US or Japan are. They don't really care. They know that we care about them. That is all that matters.

So, we visited their classrooms, looked adoringly at their artwork, watched their amazing teachers interact with them. We let them guide us away from our groups to show us something special. We gave out stickers and bracelets and origami. We swelled with pride as they showed us what they had made. We were humbled as they gave us the precious items they had made, some specifically for us, some to be sold.

Our hearts were ripped open, wider than we thought possible. And, children crawled inside those rips, taking up space we didn't know we had. Smiles and tears mingled with pride and love as we spent time with these precious children.

God is doing something big. He is using unworthy people to help children rise out of poverty. He is touching hearts of people of 'wealth' to be His hands and feet and heart to children and families in poverty. And, it is working. Children are growing up healthier. They are learning trades and creativity. They are learning about their loving, heavenly Father.

God is at work. I am humbled, grateful, and filled with joy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Didn't Know

December 2010 when I signed up for the Peru Sponsor Tour, September 10-17, 2011, I had no idea what was in store for me.

I didn't know my world was going to be turned upside down.
I didn't know that the smile of a stranger could shine brighter than the sun.
I didn't know the meanings of the words grateful and joy.
I didn't know that one hug from Magally would rip my heart out of its comfort zone, forever.
I didn't know the ministry of Compassion International would touch my soul.
I didn't know that volunteers would sacrifice so much to be part of a child development program.
I didn't know that God wanted me to be part of this particular tour so that I could meet and learn from such an amazing group of people.
I didn't know the depth of God's love for me.
I didn't know.

Maybe I still don't know.
But, I've had a taste.
I've had a taste of sunshine, love, joy, gratitude, and friendship that comes from opening my heart.
I don't want to go back, Lord, to the time of not knowing.
There is still a lot I don't know.

This I do know.
I want to know.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer Fun... with friends

Although it has been a few weeks since I last posted, I am going to keep up with the summer fun with this post, too.

Two times this summer I have had the chance to go to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) with friends. I am so glad I got a season pass! It is about an hour away by train, probably shorter by car since it is between here and Costco and it takes about an hour to get to Costco! But, although I like driving, I am not so fond of sitting around in a car trying to get into and out of crowded parking lots and other such things, so I generally take the train.

The first trip was with the Ewing family and two Japanese families. One of the wives loves to plan everything out so she knew when all the shows were and which ones we should attend. The day we went was the day after a typhoon so it was amazingly uncrowded, providing us with opportunities to ride even the best rides twice in a row in the amount of time it usually takes for one ride. We even had hamburgers at Mel's Diner while we watched the light parade! It was a fun day. (No one said "Kiss my grits" though. Is that the right reference?!)

Noah and Kaho wait for the Jurassic Park riders

Waiting for the kids to return from their 3rd ride on Space Fantasy

Ah, brotherly love!

Waiting for the parade!

The second trip was a girls' day out and Hitomi's birthday! We had a great time! Several of us went on the roller coaster, twice. We got to see the monster rock and roll show which is Hitomi's favorite show. Ate yummy ice cream. And, once again, had hamburgers while watching the evening parade!

The day starts with pictures at the entrance with random people!
(Actually, their friend was taking the picture for us)

Must see Hello Kitty!

Happy birthday, Hitomi!

Waiting for the parade to start!

One of the floats

Both days were great fun with friends-and not nearly as hot as Osaka can be in August!