Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keeping Track of Our Sponsored Children

I am participating in Works For Me Wednesday from the We Are THAT Family blog again today. 

Reviving a post from last year, I will share how we keep track of letters that we send to and receive from our Compassion International children.

With ten Compassion International children in nine different countries, I’ve developed a way to keep track of their information, letters we’ve sent and letters we’ve received.

For letters we send, I have a Word document that I update every time I mail something out.  There is a page for each of our children that has a header that contains: Child’s Name, Child’s Number, Country, and birthdate. Each time I write a letter, I type in:the date, a sentence or two that details what topics I wrote about or Bible verse I covered, details about the items I have included. A typical entry would look like this:

6/1/10   letter about hiking & Spring sights, Romans 8:1, soccer stickers, Noah coloring sheet

My goal is to write to each child twice a month, though there have been a couple of months where I only got one round of letters out. (Why do I put so much time and effort into letters to our sponsored child?  Read: Yes, Letters Really Are That Important!) I keep track of every letter we send for a few reasons.  One, it helps me keep tabs on what I’ve talked about and items I’ve sent.  Two, it helps me to get a feel for about how long a letter takes to travel from here to the child. When I get a reply that refers to a specific item, I can check the date it was written and get a round about idea of travel time.

For letters we receive, we have two binders.  One binder is specifically for letters from Precious in Ghana, because we hear from her about twice a month and we have a stack of letters from her that is almost an inch thick!  Binders are divided into sections for each child. The first page in each section is a piece of paper where I keep track of info such as: Name, birthdate, specific location within their country, average monthly income, family member’s names and ages, favorites (colors, foods, whatever they’ve shared), type of home, prayer requests, financial gifts we’ve sent and what was bought, etc.

When we get a letter from one of our children, I write the date received on the top right hand side and punch holes in it. I keep it next to the computer until I’ve emailed a reply to any questions the child asked. Then, I put the letter into the binder in the right section. 

I am not an organized person by nature, so I really have to make an effort to do things like this, but it helps me so much! Do you have a method for keeping track of your sponsored children?  I would love to hear about it!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Opportunity to Bless

Yesterday, I happened to come across a post on my Google Reader that inspired me.  One of my favorite art bloggers posted about a dress-drive for an orphanage in Haiti.  Even with my limited sewing experience, the free pattern that was provided seemed pretty simple and straightforward.

I love opportunities to get my children involved in service projects and sewing a simple dress or two seemed like a great way to teach my girls some skills and also help a few little girls in Haiti feel special and pretty. I shared the project idea on Facebook and through our local homeschool email list.

My friend Julie commented on my Facebook thread.  Julie is a Compassion International and Advocate, but her full time job is as the Medical Missions Coordinator for LifeClinic Haiti through LifeChurch in Allentown, PA. 

From their Facebook page (linked above):

Lifeclinic is a team of medical professionals and those interested in helping through other talents they may have to add to our teams, from the Lehigh Valley and beyond. We travel to Haiti to serve the Haitian people with quality medical care, services to children, food and clothing distribution through our Local and Global partnerships. We have been serving the sick and the poor in Haiti since Jan 2010.

lifeclinic Beyond the medical care and food and clothing, Lifeclinic provides comfort to the residents of the area that they serve.

They travel with other medical volunteers to Haiti 3 times per year to run mobile clinics in the largest slum in Haiti. There are over 400,000 people in that area alone that need their help. Lifeclinic treats children from tent cities, Compassion International projects, orphanages and also in different locations with Restaveks (child slaves).

Julie shared something that had been on her mind ever since she came across this photo of a sweet girl hugging a rag doll.

image She would love to be able to take some dolls like this down to the children of Haiti during their upcoming trips planned for October and February.

If any of my readers have the ability to sew and would like to make some lovey dolls to donate, please let me know!  If you can’t sew, Julie said that other soft dolls (like Groovy Girls) and Beanie Babies would also be nice to hand out to the children.

There is also a need for reading glasses from the Dollar Store as well as tubes of toothpaste.

If you would like to bless LifeClinic Haiti with some gifts, please leave a comment or use the Contact Form on the right and I will email you with the shipping address.

Please feel free to share this post through social networking or on your blog and to pray for the work of LifeClinic!

Thank you!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mail Call

As a new Blogging from the Boonies series, every Monday I am sharing any letters we’ve received from our Compassion International children.  I encourage you to share your letters from your children as well.  You an either link up a Mail Call blog post at the bottom my post, or you can share in the comments section.

This week, we received a letter from Johan in East India.  I also noticed an updated photo of him when I was on OurCompassion, so I emailed Compassion and asked if they would email the digital file of the new picture. (I love doing this so that I have a good quality image that I can upload to Walgreens.com. This allows me to send our children copies of their new pictures!)

johan2011 It is a bit of a shock to see just how much seventeen year old Johan has grown and matured since his last photo. 

The letter we received last week was written in English instead of Hindi.  Johan greets us and tells us that he is growing healthier and stronger. He is reading and praying every day.  He is in 8th grade and studying hard, asking for prayer for his exams which were scheduled to take place in August. Johan tells us that he is poor in English and Mathematics and asks that we pray for him to write well in the exam. He closes by telling us that he prays for us ever day and signs the letter, “Your Loving Child, Johan.”

As I have shared before, I was once intimidated to write to a teenaged boy.  It didn’t take long to come to love this opportunity to correspond with such a sweet and loving young man.  We are so blessed.

If you have been blessed with a letter from your sponsored child this week, I would love to hear about it!

Feel free to add this Mail Call button to your blog by copying it and pasting it into a sidebar widget or a post! (You may have to switch to HTML or “Source” to add code to your blog!)


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Praise

Our Monarch caterpillar project has brought to mind many thoughts about transformation, renewal and change. This song has been going through my head quite a bit.

Yesterday, our fourth caterpillar changed into a chrysalis and I was able to snap a series of photos from a different angle.  The following pictures were taken with 20-30 seconds in between each shot.

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Pretty amazing, right? 

Have a blessed Sunday!

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Links I Love

linksIloveEspecially for your weekend browsing, I’ll share some links that you, too, may love!

Kurt Willems from The Pangea Blog posted a really great video about Compassion’s new Water Of Life initiative. Check out his post and vide by clicking here and also read a bit more about the Twitter contest Compassion is hoping to win.  We need all of the votes that we can get, so if you don’t have a twitter account, maybe today is the day to start one!

Through Compassion International’s Facebook page, I stumbled upon a blog post on Living The Dream which touched my heart. Click on over to read Calling All Compassion International Sponsors!

It was through the @compassion stream on Twitter that I found this blog post which brought tears to my eyes. Nyaga is TOP of His Class goes to show how just a little bit of encouragement can inspire a child to try their hardest and accomplish great things.

My friend Jessica from Bohemian Bowmans shared a compelling post that is sure to make you think: I Believe in Jesus, so I'm a Christian, Right? Part of a series called Christianity Questions, this post really made me dig a little deeper and think more about the change  that needs to happen within me. Christianity is more than “Name it and Claim it”.

I’ve been happy to find a few blogs from some wonderful young ladies with a heart for Jesus.  Please check out God’s Gal , All For Jesus and Crazy About Compassion. If you have a minute, stop by and encourage these three young ladies.

I’d love to stop by and check out links that you loved this week.  Please share them in the comments section, or if you have a weekly post where you share them, link up to it below!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

(Not) Back To School

Every store is buzzing with the late August Back To School mania and my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of backpack toting children on their front porches.

I am reminded of how thankful I am for the educational choice we’ve made, especially as our Luna is at the age where she would be headed off for full-day Kindergarten.  I know that many, many five year olds are testing out their wings of independence right now, but it is hard for me to imagine putting her on a bus and waving as she moves on down the road.

In the past, we have been year-round homeschoolers and have kept up with a light amount of guided studies through the summer.  This summer, in all honesty, was just too busy and crazy to even attempt any such thing.

But, as there has been a noticeable coolness in the breeze, I’ve been motivated to get back to some planned homeschooling.  In the realm of homeschooling, there are many different “schools of thought” and styles.  If there was a line with complete unschooling on one end and highly structured “school at home” on the other, I think we would fall right in the middle.

I like to compare it to going on a family trip.  While I would certainly follow some travel guides and make sure to hit a lot of not-to-be-missed landmarks, I also would leave plenty of time to explore whatever happens to call our attention.

We do follow different guides to make sure we’re hitting on age-level appropriate milestones, we also have lots of freedom to veer off of the path to follow interests as they arise. Free time to play, create and just be a kid is very important to us. Unplanned and spontaneous learning happens every single day.

With Luna being Kindergarten aged this year, she has naturally been chomping at the bit to have time exploring letters and numbers.  Unlike Kaya who could read by the tail end of being three, Luna is just on the verge of wanting to know what those groups of letters on pages say.  This week, she has really been asking a lot about letters and letter sounds.

Just like my other girls at this age, Luna loves worksheets.

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Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations has some of the cutest printable preschool worksheets I’ve found.

IMG_8181 Luna has also been into number games and seems to have a knack for mental math.  By keeping our activities fun and geared toward the way she learns, I hope that she retains that love of numbers, like her Mama!

Kaya is in fifth grade this year and has already asked me to help her with more presentation type projects. Up first will be a poster on the life cycle of Monarch butterflies, inspired by our project of raising Monarch caterpillars.

So, we’re off to an exciting start!  I am so blessed and thankful to be able to spend this time with my daughters, guiding them, teaching them and being there as they accomplish new things and grow.

Happy (Not) Back To School!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday

Many blogs publish a "Works For Me Wednesday" post that shares a helpful tip or two. I’m joining in today because recently I have had a few people mention that they wish they had a way to keep up with all of the blogs that they like.

I keep up with my favorite blogs by using Google Reader. With Google Reader, you can click the Add A Subscription button and enter the URL of any blog you’d like to follow. Then, when new posts are published, they show up in your Google Reader feed. This eliminates having to hop from blog to blog to see if there are any new posts to read.

If you already have a Google or Gmail account, you should have a Reader button along the top of your account page. If you don’t have a Google account, it is easy to create one and it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to start using Gmail. For those who use Google Chrome, you might also like this free app that notifies you when new content is posted!

reader With Google Reader, you can keep up with a lot of blogs without missing a single post. If you want to go directly to a blog post, you would just click the title of the post and you’ll be taken to the site if you leave comment.

Do you use Google Reader or another method of keeping up with blogs? Please share!

This is just what works for me! ( I am linking up at We Are THAT Family today!)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Everyday Miracle

As part of our kick-off to the homeschool year, we’ve been raising a few Monarch caterpillars.  It has been fun to watch them grow from teeny tiny caterpillars that delicately eat small circles from leaves to big, fat critters that chomp through half of a milkweed leaf without stopping for a breath.

Their growth rate alone has been a miraculous thing to witness.

We were all excited for the day our caterpillars would molt for the last time and form into a chrysalis, so we read up on the process and waited for our caterpillar friends to start climbing and making a silk button to hang from.

IMG_8140 Mister Big was the first to get to work on spinning silk and crafting a button.

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Once the button was just right, one by one his front legs let go until he hung by his tail. For 20 hours, he assumed the same position, sometimes nodding his head and sometimes undulating like a worn out accordion.

Then we saw the signs that the pupation was going to happen soon.  Once animated antennae went limp and dangled lifelessly.

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When we noticed this, we went from casually checking on him to taking front row seats with baited breath.

Suddenly, he went from a “J” to an “I” shape and his skin started moving like there were waves rolling underneath.

Like a flash, the skin behind his head split open and we could see a day-glow green shape coming out.

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IMG_8150 The skin at the tail started bunching up like a sized-too-big sock.

In the matter of just a couple of minutes, the pupa wiggled free of the old caterpillar skin.

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It was hard to take in the miracle that had happened right before our eyes.  How could this  thing in front of us be inside of a caterpillar just moments before? And then, in the blink of an eye, a clear covering enveloped the pupa.  From a brightly striped caterpillar to a beautiful jade-colored jewel with gold button trim in just minutes.

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IMG_8161 Simply amazing!

I cannot help but watch the start of this incredible transformation and think of my own transformation process. It sure has been quite a process and not one that is simply finished with the shedding of old skin.  I am continually working through things from my “old life” and refining who I am now ~ A new creation in Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for letting us witness this everyday miracle, but even bigger thanks for the miracle you’re performing in our lives.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;

the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Cor. 5:17

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Mail Call Monday!

Mail Call Button

My Mail Call Monday posts come a little later in the day because Monday's are usually good for a Happy Dance or two.  I made the trek to the mailbox twice today.  The first walk was a bit early and the mail hadn’t come yet. The second trip was worth the effort and there was a cream colored envelope waiting for me!

Though we received a letter from our Precious last week, we were blessed with another letter today, too.  Even better, this letter came with a picture of Precious with the items she bought with her birthday money.

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With the money she was able to buy two school uniforms, shoes, a towel a tie and dyed material. 

I tear up when I look at her sweet face. When we first sponsored her, she seemed so scared and shy.

Compassion 033 As we have received photos of Precious with her gifts, we can see a change in her demeanor.  There is some confidence and maybe even a smallest hint of a smile. 

preciousfaceI look at this face and my heart wells up with love.  She is so beautiful.  

In her letter last week the project staff told us that she is doing great and she enjoyed her birthday because of the letter and gift we sent to her. She asked about the health condition of our Pastor and church members.  She asked for prayers for her parents’ business and asked how Jay’s job is going.

On a piece of paper separate from the fill-in stationary her letters usually come on, the project director wrote to tell us that her entire family is grateful for the sponsorship.  They want to thank us for the various gifts that we have been sending to her almost every month. (In this, she means things like stickers, crafts, pictures and so on.  We only send monetary gifts a couple of times per year.) We also learned that there is a new baby sister in the family who was born in May.

I was also excited to see some new sponsor stationary included with our recent letters.  Unlike the old plain sheets we used to get, the new stationary is decorated and colorful.

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Isn’t that neat?

So, have you heard from any of your Compassion International sponsored children lately?  Tell us about your letters in the comment section or if you’ve published a blog post with your letters, link up below! Feel free to grab the Mail Call button in my sidebar for your Mail Call blog posts!

Can’t wait to read about your letters!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Praise

I wish I had a video of our Pastor’s wife singing this song.  She’s amazing!

Have a blessed Sunday, friends!

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Links I Loved

This Saturday morning, I am preparing for a birthday party for my little Luna, but I wanted to share some links I loved this past week.

JD from Compassion Can shared about a different kind of Compassion sponsorship on her post titled Sponsorship: Before and Beyond Birth.

Teena from At His Feet shared an inspirational story of a young girl with a heart for children. To Think Like Claire

Mom on a Mission shared about a recent trip to the Philippines on the post titled Thoughts, Reflections…  Where Do I Even Begin?

I hope that you like these links and that you have a wonderful weekend!

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Colorado Casserole

I have a lot of “leftovers” from my trip to Colorado that I haven’t shared. I hope to throw them all together into one casserole post and hope that they turn out good!

My first day in Colorado, I was exhausted by the time 7pm rolled around. I had gotten up around 4 in the morning, travelled much of the day and I guess it took a lot out of me.  After having a delicious dinner with my friend Sherry and swinging to her house to meet her family, I was ready to get to my hotel room and lounge around a bit.

It was still light by the time I was putting on my comfy pants and laid down on the bed to watch Wipe Out.  Through the gauzy window curtain, I noticed a strange yellow glow.  At first I thought it was the parking lot lights kicking on as the sun was setting. But the yellow got brighter and brighter, enough that I decided to drag myself off of the bed and take a look.

It was the sky! I have never in my life seen clouds glow in this golden hue and it got brighter as time went by.

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It was pretty intense and just stunningly beautiful. 

The next day, I was blessed to be able to spend some time with a few people who work for Compassion’s International Partners.  Currently, there are twelve Global Partner Offices. (These are countries that have offices and sponsor children.) While all of these partner offices have the same goal of connecting children with sponsors, they all have different methods of doing things such as the letter writing ministry, promotions and so on.

I was able to get to know a few people from the offices in South Korea, Netherlands, UK, Canada and Australia.  After some presentations on Wednesday, a group of us went out to grab some dinner and then take a walk at Colorado’s famous Garden of the Gods.  (I did take a ton of photos from our walk, but will try to spare you from posting too many of them.  It was a gorgeous place, though!)

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From left to right: Lisa (who works with International Partners), Christina (who supervises OurCompassion among other things), Mina (Compassion Korea), me, Esther (Compassion Korea), Bryan (US technical projects), Martijn (Compassion Netherlands) and Joe (Compassuon UK).  This was a fantastic and funny group of people to hang out with!

IMG_7818 We did the typical touristy things like take a picture holding up the Balancing Rock.

Martijn did it with style.

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When a little rainbow appeared in the sky, we laughed about the double rainbow guy. “Whoa. What does it mean?”

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We drank from some of the notorious springs in Manitou Springs. (I only tried one and it tasted a bit like Sprite!)

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I really enjoyed getting to know everyone.  Out of all of the international partners, I spent the most time with Mina and Esther from Korea.  I loved hearing how Compassion Korea (which they call I Am Compassion) promotes the cause and what a great community of sponsors they have in Seoul, where their main office is.

IMG_7966These cute slip-on shoes are available on the I Am Compassion website and the designs are created by children in the Compassion program.

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The Korean office also has these cute coloring books available for purchase, ready to send to sponsored children.

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I also love these cute little paper animals that I found for sale on their website.

What makes Compassion Korea so special to me is that, if you remember the history of Compassion International, you know that the very first sponsored children lived there. In 1993, there was no longer a need for children in the country to be sponsored because things had changed so much.  In 2003, Korea became the very first country to go from being a sponsored country to a sponsoring country. Isn’t that something?

Well, I have a birthday party to prepare for and a million things to do today, so I will leave off here.  I’ll have to dish up one last serving of Colorado leftovers on another day.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this “casserole” post! :P

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