Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Joy, Beauty and HOPE! (A Guest Post)

My name is David Chalmers, and I am a 30-year-old elementary teacher from Melbourne, Australia. I am single and childless, and yet my life revolves around other people’s children. This has, in the past, been a difficult place to be. I am an uncle to 5 and teacher to 19. I have done childcare, holiday programs, coached junior basketball, Sunday School. Most importantly, I am a Compassion sponsor to 49 precious ones from all 26 countries where Compassion works. For better or worse, God has given me a soft heart, which is continually being wrecked as I immerse myself in the lives of my Compassion kids, and live out God’s purpose for my life.

I wanted to share the on-going story of one of my kids, who has had more of an impact on me than many of the others. I started sponsoring Ana Cristina at the start of 2011. She was a captivating 10-year-old in a pretty blue dress, and she had a shy smile on her face. I would only discover the significance of this later on.

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Cristina lives in Fortaleza, Brazil, which I understand is one of the worst places in the world for child prostitution, and the related evil that comes with it. She is one of 6 children, and her mother was 13 when she gave birth to her oldest child, Cristina’s older brother. I received a letter from the pastor of Cristina’s church, giving details about the community. They are surrounded by a dried up river full of untreated sewage and effluent on one side, and a swamp on the other, which leaves them at risk of flooding when it rains. Because of this there is no industry or commerce, which means there are no jobs, which means there is high unemployment, alcoholism, violence, drugs, gambling, unstructured families... Hell on earth basically.

It was then that I looked at Cristina and wondered: “How does a person manage to smile while living in those circumstances?” I am still at a loss to answer that, but my guess would be that that person has the hope of the love of God and trusts Him to provide for their needs. At the time the letter was written there were only 13 out of 123 children at the Project who were sponsored, but they have since formed a partnership with a church in Queensland, Australia, which is great.
Part 2 of this story happened in August 2011. I received a letter saying that Cristina’s uncle had been killed, and they had moved away for a while. That was it. I prayed fervently for the next two weeks, and in mid-September woke up one morning to an email with Cristina’s name in the subject line. This is what I read:

Hi David,
My name is .... and I work for Compassion Australia.
Two weeks ago my husband and I visited our sponsor boy in Fortaleza, Brazil and also another Compassion project in the area – BR458.
Throughout the course of the day, one of the young girls at the project came up to me and shyly through the translator showed me the letter her sponsor wrote her. She said her sponsor was from Australia. I took a photo of her holding her sponsor letter.
Upon returning home and investigating further, I have discovered it was in fact your little sponsor girl Cristina!

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I attach some photos of beautiful Ana Cristina and her project and hope that you enjoy!

It was such an amazing experience to visit her project (BR458). In fact, it was one of the highlights of our four week holiday! The community that Cristina, Rocy and Jessica live in is fairly horrific. Raw sewage runs through the streets, there is no electricity and worse, houses are small and fairly ramshackle and worse, there are a lot of people that have no hope. Drugs are a huge problem in fact, one of the boys in the project has recently lost his father in a drug debt related murder.

In the community, the children are taught that they were born poor, they will die poor. In the project, they learn that they are valued, that God has a purpose for their life, and that they can dream big. They go home with aspirations of becoming a doctor, or a teacher – in a community where playing cards and drinking at 11am on a Monday morning is normal practice... Then, as they change, they start to change their parent's attitudes. As a result parents are giving up drugs, trying to find work and some are even giving their life to Christ. To see and hear about this project first hand was just miraculous – God is at work! And - the project staff are amazing! The project director is also the church pastor, he attends the project 5 days a week and just does life with the kids, does pastoral care in the community, writes sermons for Sunday mornings (where the church has grown from 12 to 120!) and somehow finds the time to do large jig-saw puzzles which he then raffles off to raise money for the project and the church! His love and the love of the other staff towards the children was palpable – I was blown away!

I just felt the project was such a beacon in the community. There, the children were able to be children! They were joyful, hopeful and happy.

I was blown away by God’s grace and mercy in this situation, and He continually reminds me that as much as I love these kids, He loves them more, and has His hand on their lives.

Part 3 happened two weeks ago. I had only received one letter from Cristina in the last year, but a letter came from Cristina’s monitor, saying that the family had a tough time, and had moved away. “Not again!” I thought, and lifted her up in prayer. Not even a week later, I received another letter, this time from Cristina herself:

Dear sponsor Mr David, How are you? Thank God, now we are ok. After some bad people killed my uncle we had to move and we a bad time and I had to leave my school and I lost my school year but now everything is back to normal. When I was living with my Aunt I was studying thank God, now I am back to the Project. Thank you for the Christmas present that I could buy clothes. Thanks also for the letters and pictures. Pray for me and family to the Lord protect us. Kisses, Ana Cristina.

Part 4 of this story has not happened yet. It is 80-ish days away (and counting!!). The love that God put on my heart for Cristina inspired me to sponsor 9 more children from the same area. In January this year I acted on the desire of my heart and organised a trip to visit my Brazilian children. They are from three separate projects, so I will be visiting the projects and the houses over 3 days, then on October 1 (which is my birthday), I will be meeting my ten children, plus their siblings and guardians, and taking them to a fun park in Fortaleza.

I felt compelled to take this extra step of inviting all the guardians and siblings because I am positive God is going to do something incredible in all our lives on that day, and I get a front row seat, which is pretty cool. I don’t know where all the parents are at in their relationship with God, so I guess this is my way of sharing with them God’s extravagant love for them.

The trip is all paid for and organized, but can I ask you to pray for protection for both the kids and myself, that God might squash any barriers or obstacles that come up in the next couple of months.

God has used sponsoring children with Compassion to change my life, and give me a purpose. It is an honor and privilege to serve Him in this way. He is continually teaching me that amongst the poverty and brokenness of the world, there is joy, beauty and HOPE when we trust in God.

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