Monday, November 23, 2015

Advent: Week 1

Light 1st purple candle, candle of Hope

Day 1: God's Promise: Hope of a Child from Prepare Him Room
* Reading: Isaiah 9:6-7
* Discuss: Meanings of Jesus' names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
* Song: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
* Activity: Names of Jesus ornaments (page 1)

Day 2: Angel's Announcement: A Visit to Mary from Prepare Him Room
* Reading: Luke 1:26-38
* Discuss: What was the angel's announcement? Who is Jesus' Father?
* Song: What Child Is This?
* Activity: Look through baby books and/or baby photos

Day 3: Fulfillment of God's Plan: Jesus Came in the Fullness of Time from Prepare Him Room
* Reading: Galatians 4:1-7
* Discuss: Why did Jesus come? To adopt us into His family! Talk about adoption.
* Song: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
* Activity: Talk about adoption and/or read books about adoption


Region of Focus: Africa

I am including resources for each country where Compassion works and am trying to link to Compassion blog posts, share videos and photos of Christmas celebrations, share recipes, give prayer requests and whatever else I come across that is pertinent. I tried to give some helpful resources so that you will be able to adapt the learning to your child's age.

We will be focusing on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, one country a day for six days, since those are the countries where we sponsor and/or correspond with a kid or kids! My plan is to find each country on a map, talk about our kid(s) who live there, pray for the kid(s) and the country, and to look at photos or watch a video. We might try to make a dish too, if there is a Christmas (or celebratory) dish from the country that doesn't sound too complicated.

Burkina Faso: "Some prepare a special Christmas Day meal of chicken or mutton, decorate their homes with Christmas trees and attend church. On Dec. 23, Pere Noel (Father Christmas) comes into town to give out presents."

Prayer Requests:
1) That the gospel will be heard more and that God will turn many hearts to Him.
2) For good school performance for the children.
3) For our registered children, who sometimes face bad influences in their neighborhoods.
4) For political stability and peace over the next few years leading to the referendum and presidential elections.
5) For God’s protection against malaria and from epidemics, including polio, meningitis, tuberculosis and cholera.

Resources: Compassion Blog: Christmas in Burkina Faso, Compassion's Burkina Faso page, Compassion's Burkina Faso Flickr Album

Ethiopia: "Christmas in Ethiopia is primarily a religious observance."

Prayer Requests:
1) That the church-based Compassion centers will make a difference in the way children and youths perceive themselves.
2) That children and youths will have hope for the future and be inspired to strive for the best.
3) For God’s protection over children who live in homes that pose a risk to their safety.
4) For children who are at exceptional risk, that Compassion partner churches can rescue them and stabilize their lives.
5) That parents will be positive role models for their children and will have the wisdom to protect them from negative influences.

Resources: Christmas in Ethiopia, Christmas Traditions in Ethiopia, Compassion's Ethiopia page, Compassion's Ethiopia Flickr Album

Ghana: "Children travel from house to house, singing songs that use imagery from local folklore."

Prayer Requests:
1) For caregivers to take advantage of all the trainings that are organized by the churches and Compassion Ghana to make their lives better.
2) For more Complementary Interventions proposals to be funded.
3) Against flooding in densely populated areas in the cities of Ghana.
4) For safer homes for rural-to-urban migrants.
5) For more job opportunities in cities.

Resources: Compassion Blog: Christmas in Ghana, Christmas in Ghana, Compassion's Ghana page, Compassion's Ghana Flickr Album

Kenya: "Christmas in Kenya is a time for families to get together. Many Kenyans travel great distances to be together. Kenyans celebrate with food, caroling, exchanging gifts and attending church services."

Prayer Requests:
1) For families in rural areas who are exposed to adverse weather conditions such as flooding and drought. School attendance and performance is greatly hindered by flooded rivers and subsequent crop failure.
2) For children in conflict zones. Families risk being displaced during tribal clashes and incidences of cattle rustling.
3) For children in urban slums who are exposed to insecurity, hazardous living conditions, and rising cases of child abuse and abduction.
4) For a drop in the high unemployment rate (more than 40 percent) so that families can take better care of themselves and especially their children.

Resources: Christmas in Kenya, Compassion's Kenya page, Compassion's Kenya Flickr Album

Rwanda: "Christians usually attend church and enjoy a special family meal."

Prayer Requests:
1) That God provides for the siblings of registered children as well, so that they, too, will have the opportunity to succeed in life.
2) That God breaks the cycle of poverty among the families of assisted children.
3) That children will stay focused on their education and resist the temptation to drop out.
4) For children’s protection from the many illnesses and safety hazards in the city slums.
5) That marriages and families will be strengthened and withstand pressures to break apart.

Resources: Compassion's Rwanda page, Compassion's Rwanda Flickr Album, Gift of Forgiveness in Rwanda (this doesn't share traditions, but it shares the story of a young man who received a Christmas shoebox from Operation Christmas Child!)

Tanzania: "A day usually spent with family and friends; most Christians attend church services also."

Prayer Requests:
1) That children who face challenges to their education because of traditional practices will be able to resist these practices and embrace education for a better future.
2) That communities will abandon the practice of early and family-arranged marriages to give girls the opportunity to pursue their education.
3) That families will have the economic means to support their children’s needs
4) That caregivers in the urban slums can find good, steady jobs so that they can adequately provide for their children.
5) For children’s safety in the hazardous environment of the city slums, especially those who are left unattended by their caregivers during the day.

Resources: Compassion Blog: Memories of Christmas in Tanzania, Compassion's Tanzania page, Compassion's Tanzania Flickr Album

Togo: Christmas Day is celebrated December 25.

Prayer Requests:
1) That children will stay in school, excel in their studies and reach their full potential.
2) That parents will find steady employment that will enable them to adequately care for their children’s needs.
3) Against malnutrition and hunger among children.
4) For an end to child trafficking and child abuse.
5) That children and families will be protected from the flooding that often occurs in some areas between June and September.

Resources: Compassion's Togo page, Compassion's Togo Flickr Album, Christmas "unique in West Africa" (and for older kids, click here to read a post about how Christmas traditions in Togo are typically mixed in with voodoo…what a good reminder to pray for Togo)

Uganda: "The Christmas season is the most important holiday of the year in Uganda and is very festive. Shopping is popular and usually begins the first week of December. Gifts, clothes and Christmas cards are purchased. Caroling is also popular."

Prayer Requests:
1) That God will protect children from negative influences that may lead them into harmful practices, such as drug abuse, petty theft and premarital sex.
2) That children’s caregivers will be there for them, to love them, be good role models and complement Compassion’s work in their lives.
3) That girls will have the opportunity to complete their education and not have to leave school for forced marriages.
4) That cultural practices that discriminate against women and children will be abandoned.
5) For children’s protection against illness and domestic violence.

Resources: Compassion's Uganda page, Compassion's Uganda Flickr Album, A Ugandan Christmas

All information about Christmas celebrations and prayer requests are taken from Compassion's website.

About Hannah Hinojosa...Hannah is a long time Compassion sponsor and writes about her sponsorship journey at Because of Shamim. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a part-time math professor and loves to read.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Birthday Folders

A couple weeks ago my friend and fellow Compassion blogger, Hannah, posted about what she includes in the birthday folders she sends to her sponsored kids. I just put together my 2016 folders and wanted to share what mine look like. 

This is a typical folder for a girl, ages 8-12. I think I found everything at Dollar Tree with the exception of the folder (which I bought on clearance after the back to school sales). Dollar Tree often has Christian themed goodies that ares suitable for sending to your kids. I think they are intended for Sunday School classes and/or VBS, but they work lovely for our sponsored kids. I included borders that are for bulletin boards, but thought the kids could use them to decorate their rooms. I also included a few sheets of sitcky post it notes (the stars and lined paper), a few coloring sheets, an origami project and sticker book, along with the flat, paper cut outs. 

This is what I included in a younger boys folder.... flat, paper cut outs, borders, sticker scenes, a sticker book and coloring pages.

And for the older kids (girls or boys), much of the same....

My girls LOVED putting these together. I'm sure our sponsored kids will love opening them and looking through what we sent to them. I hope so, anyway. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Advent Plans

My goal for this post is to share my basic overview for our Advent time. Then, one week ahead of time, I'll share that week's specific plans (i.e. next week I'll share the plans for the week of November 29).

Our church is using the Prepare Him Room curriculum for Sunday School during Advent. Since I am teaching the 3-year-old class for the first three weeks of advent, I thought I would incorporate the book into our family advent time. The only difficulty I ran into is that the book is geared for kids who are a little older. And I want to include specific time to pray for our Compassion children, so I am working out my own Advent plan, based on the book, and thought I would share it with you in case you would like to join us! Prepare Him Room has three lessons per week during the month of advent, so we plan on doing three lessons a week with my husband. I will do additional advent activities on the other days with the kids. There is no need to buy the book to follow our plan, but if you have older kids, you might appreciate the other activities and the story that are included in the book Prepare Him Room.

For our three nights a week, we plan to light a candle, share a passage of scripture and talk about it, do an activity and sing a Christmas carol based on the Prepare Him Room theme.

I also want to incorporate praying for our family's Compassion kids. We made sure to pray for the Compassion kids last year and we put each child's photo on our tree. I then took photos of the kids' photo on the tree and sent it to each child! It was a huge hit! So this year our ornaments will be a little fancier thanks to Kim's suggestion at Three Little Larks and I plan on sending the photo ornament to each child after we take our tree down. My goal is to focus on an area of the world each week. So we will look at Africa the first week, Central America the second, South America the third and Asia the fourth. Each week I'll include resources for sharing about that region and including it into your advent time.

For our daily activities, I am going to use Christmas Stories for Bedtime, or in Spanish, Historias de navidad para la hora de dormir. This book has 30 stories, so I plan on reading one per day, with two stories on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In addition to reading the stories, I will let the kids take out a piece of the Little People Nativity Advent Calendar that we have.

Additional resources (I'm linking to what I'm planning on using via Amazon so you can see it, even if I bought it from elsewhere): Advent candles, Nativity Advent Calendar, Nativity scene, Jacob's Gift, The Legend of the Christmas Stocking, A Tale of Three Trees (Spanish version), Clopper the Christmas Donkey (Spanish version), and the free printable Names of Jesus Ornaments.

I tried to tie in the Christmas books with the night's lesson, but you could really swap out for any Christmas books that you have on hand! So stop by next week if you want to see our plan for the first week of Advent!

About Hannah Hinojosa...Hannah is a long time Compassion sponsor and writes about her sponsorship journey at Because of Shamim. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a part-time math professor and loves to read.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What to Write ~ Happy New Year

A couple years ago I created and sent calendars to all my sponsored kids. As I've been going through all the letters some of my kids have sent me, I've noticed that they all mention how much they loved the calendar. So...that was my inspiration to send another one this year.

Last time, I added their photo to the calendar, but this year I just found a colorful template and added their name to the bottom. You can see my last calendar HERE, and this year's version below.

I also highlighted each child's birthday on their calendar and told them so in the letter. The letter was a simple greeting with quite a few photos of our activities and surroundings from the past few months.

What did you write about this month?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Children Outside the Gate...

Recently, I put together this photo collage to put up on my inspiration wall in my home office. It is now hanging on the wall right above my computer screen. It is the first thing that my eyes see when I look up from working on my computer.

All four are images of children outside the gate... and they are the reason why our family tirelessly advocates for Compassion.

If you are a reader of blogs, you might recognize a couple of the images above. Yes, I "stole" them off of Ann Voskamp's and Shaun Groves' blogs! ;)

But... they aren't just any random images... they are from two specific blog posts that have touched the very depths of my heart. 

The top left image is from Shaun Groves' blog. In his blog post, written while in the Philippines and entitled The Other Side of the Fence, Shaun writes...
At that moment that child development center may have been the happiest place on earth. And I was honored, amazed to just be there.
Then I saw them.
Then two. Then a whole crowd. On the other side of the fence.
We’ll never lift every child over the fence. Heartbreakingly true.
But what about one more?
The bottom left image of the girl in the tattered purple dress is from Ann Voskamp's blog. In her blog post, written while in Uganda and entitled How to Be Beautiful & Have a Beautiful Home & LifeAnn writes...
A little girl named Nancy stands in these purple threads between Beldesmond and Nigarulu.
I had asked their names and they had whispered them and their eyes seared me alive with their faces.
Nancy in her royal robes torn and we’re Esther inside the palace and who in this blasted world will sacrifice their blatant palace prestige for the worth of this child God thought of and dreamed into being, this girl with these eyes and dress and named Nancy.
The top right image is from our family's trip to the Philippines in 2014. These children are our Florianlyn's cousins and neighbours... they were fascinated by my boy's Rubik's cube! These are children who aren't registered in a Compassion child development centre... children who could be if there are people willing to sponsor them.

The bottom right image is from our family's trip to Guatemala this past summer. I saw him right when we were leaving our Esperanza's Compassion child development centre. He stood there, across the road and right beside our vehicle, longingly looking at the children inside the gate... inside the Compassion project that we just visited. It was heart-breaking for me to just leave him standing there. 

Recently, Beth Moore and Living Proof Live came to town! Our entire family {including our two brave men!} was at the event to represent Compassion Canada. I say our men are brave because the event was attended by about 5,000 women! #AFewBraveMen :)

Even though being there pretty much wiped out most of our weekend, after a full work week... and then waking up on Monday morning feeling like there wasn't a weekend and time ran way from me, I would not have it any other way!

Because, you see... 90 children who were once outside the gate found loving sponsors at that event... and they are now inside the gate! 

90 children released from poverty in Jesus' name!

90 children who will not only be released from their physical poverty, but who will also have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and His great love for them! #TheDifferenceIsJesus

I would give up any weekend, in fact any day or any thing, just to see one child freed from extreme poverty to live the life God intended him/her to live!

Friends, can I encourage you to consider the children who are still outside the gate? Check out Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell's video and hear them talk about why they love Compassion's ministry:

Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Friends, if God is speaking to you about releasing a child from poverty in Jesus' name, please click here and welcome one child who is still standing outside the gate to life inside the gate --- to abundant life that can only be found in Jesus.

Trust me, it will change your life! It has mine... :)
Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them. (Mark 10:14)

About Aimee Esparaz... Aimee is mother to two teens and is passionate about living out Micah 6:8 with her family. She is a sponsor and advocate through Compassion Canada and works in global marketing. She loves to read and garden, and blogs at A Mom On A Mission.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Joseph in Tanzania

January 1, 2006

We began sponsoring Joseph in March of 2011 and have received 41 letters so far. Both of his parents have passed away and he lives with his Grandmother. He also has a twin brother.

In almost every letter to us, Joseph "welcomes us to Tanzania". Oh how I hope we can go someday.

Joseph attends TZ 807 - Chamwino Student Center (3Km west of Dodoma)

He attends 1 day a week (Saturday) and it's located 1 km from his home. In 2012, this center was ministering to 253 children.  While at the center, Joseph memorizes verses and plays. He also eats spiced rice, oranges, beef and rice.

Joseph's community has about 600 residents. Work is mostly provided by petty business jobs and the mode of transportation is bus. 

He was able to purchase the following with $ we have sent: bag, shoes, sugar, soap, shirt, pants, necktie and shoes (as seen in the photo above)

Letter highlights....

Typical week....
  • typically get up at 7am
  • In the morning, I typically wash my face and go to school
  • I go to school on weekdays (Monday - Friday)
  • In the afternoon I typically collect water.
  • I go to the project on Saturday
  • In the evening I typically play ball with friends
  • I typically go to sleep at 8pm
  • My favorite day of the week is Saturday beause i am eating rice at the center. 

My hopes for the future...
  • I hope to learn about knowing God more.
  • I hope to visit my sponsor
  • I hope to be able to fix a car
  • I hope to meet my sponsor
  • When I grow up I want to be a doctor
  • When I grow up I want to get married and have children

Joseph greets you in the name of Jesus. He says that he is doing well with his family. He is very grateful to your letter which you sent him, and he feels happy when he sees your letter which you have written to him. Josephy says "May God bless you so much for remembering him with a letter."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bulu in India

March 5, 1993

We sponsored Bulu for 12 years (2002-2014) and received 95 letters from him! Often his letters were addressed to "aunty and uncle" and a few times he referred to us as his spiritual mom and dad.

Bulu attended Semiliguda Child Development Center (IN 281). He lived with his parents, sisters and grandparents and told us that his family were believers. His older sister was married and had twin sons. Another sister (Nilam) was also in Compassion's CDSP. His parents worked as day laborers.

At the Compassion project, Bulu was very active and attended daily. He mentioned attending the project school, Sunday school, Saturday club and church. He was obedient, punctual and God-fearing. He also attended VBS, the monthly assembly for children and parents, the Christmas programs, youth meetings and teen camp.

In one letter he told us he had fasted a whole day and prayed for us. We also learned that in March of 2012, drinking water was made available at his project. 

Miscellaneous info from letters:
  • Dec 2007 - wants to be a sports teacher
  • Feb 2010 - set up grocery store in the street to help support his family
  • Aug 2010 - becoming disobedient - not interested in studying (thankfully this was short-lived)
  • Nov 2011 - wants to become a police officer
  • In India, the tradition when you lose a tooth is to throw it on the roof
  • On birthday received new dress, chocolate and cakes
  • Bought with $ we sent: blanket, rain coat, shoes, uniform, school bag, bed sheet, watch 2 chairs (for guests and to study Bible), winter coat and 4 ft almira (wardrobe)
  • likes to play cricket
  • soccer is favorite sport
  • likes to run and do track events - high jump / long jump / shot put
  • project friend, Rahim's father died of cancer
  • project friend, Lipina, died
  • project friend, Sanel, died

highlights from letters...  (I noticed that the translators in India always began the letter with a personal message and then often translated the letter in third person rather than just translating the letter directly)

Bulu could change his life only by your kind help. So he is very faithful to you. Thank God that he gave an opportunity to be your sponsor child.

I'm always thankful to you and God to got you as a sponsor. Really a sponsor should be like you. Thanks a lot for your love, care, prayer and help. God bless you for ever and ever.

I know Jesus as my best and true friend who is always with me. Who decrease my sorrow and increases my happiness and have given his life for me and who will once again to take me with him. 

I praise God for showing me His love through this project.

and the best letter I think I've ever received....
I am very very excited and very happy because I received in my life Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in my heart that God has raised him from the dead. It is great success in my life. Thank you very much because only for your prayer and love my life is changed. Thanks to God because he saved me. I took water baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit on April 5, 2012. My family and church and friends are very very happy for my baptism. Please pray for my spiritual life growth. 

message from the director of child development center....

Greetings to you! I am Samanta, the project director of the Semiliguda Child Development Center that Bulu attends. The project is situation in the state of Odisha, India. Mot people in our community are tribal. They either work as day labor or in farming.

Children come to the project in the morning. They participate in devotion after which children disperse to their respective classrooms for study and learning from the Compassion curriculum. Children get help from the project staff in their academic lessons. After they get done with study time, they sped some times playing and then sit down for their meals. After they finish their meal, children go home to leave for their respective schools. Young children are taught stories from the Scriptures, memory verses and prayer. Older children lead the devotion and share form God's Word. We conduct exercise for children to keep their bodies fit. Older children are getting vocational training in computer, television, refrigerator repair and tailoring. 

We conduct parents meeting once in a quarter to address the issues of alcoholism, poverty, adultery and other social evils. Apart from this, parents are also trained on health, hygiene, cleanliness, value of education, and different types of diseases and their prevention. We observe special days at the project to educate children on the importance of these days. 

Before the project had started in the community, only five percent of children were going to school, but today all children in the community are going to school, and some are studying engineering, nursing and technical courses. Many children and their family have started coming to the worship service. Parents are happy to send their children to our project because they are safe and learning many things. Parents have learned to maintain discipline and hygiene, learning from their children. In the community, majority people are illiterate, therefore the parents did not send their children to school as they did not understand the value of it. 

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