Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post!

First, I want to thank you all for the love and encouragement sent to our family following a difficult week. We had one of those “triple whammies” that left us shaken but thankful for the solid rock of Jesus as our foundation.  I plan to get back to blogging now that the storm is passing, but today I wanted to share this sweet guest post with all of you!

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My name is Mya and I am 9-years-old. I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. This year Santa brought me baking items and I started my own blog: Cupcake Bossette. I have started a baking business and I am earning money. I hope to be able to help with gifts for our friends through Compassion International.

My family and I sponsor two children with Compassion International. Our first friend is Aaron from Burkina Faso. He is 12-years-old. We have been sponsoring him for over a year now and he writes us letters. Our second friend is from Nicaragua. Her name is Stephania and she will be 9-years-old soon. I am learning about Stephania and her family.

My mom and I wanted to send Stephania something special. Mom said that if we make something it is more special than if we buy it because we took the time to make something. For my birthday I got tracing paper and we decided to use it to make paper dolls. First, Mom traced a paper doll with a black pen. (We used this book.) Then I took over the project. I used colored pencils to color the dolls.

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After I colored the dolls I used stick glue to cover the back of the tracing paper. Then I glued the dolls to the back of a cereal box (the brown side). I smoothed the dolls down and the paper stuck very well. Mom said we could send the dolls like this, to compassion, but I wanted to see what they would look like. I cut out the dolls with scissors and then made a strip that will serve as a stand for the dolls.

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Finally, I took tracing paper to create the clothes. Mom said she will take the outlines to a Xerox shop so we can make copies of the clothes. I plan to color them and make designs on them with my colored pencils I will not cut them out before I send them because they could get lost in the mail to Nicaragua. Mom said it would be a good idea to send a Xerox copy of the clothes without color too, so Stephania will be able to color some for herself.

This was a fun project to do with my Mom and I hope that Stephania in Nicaragua will enjoy the paper dolls. Now that I have them done I am glad we made them instead of buying them. It took time to make them and we talked about Stephania while we made them wondering if she will like them.

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Mya, thank you so much for sharing this cute idea with the BFTB community!

If you would like to submit a guest post to appear on Blogging from the Boonies, please feel free to contact me with your ideas.  You can email me at mjw4compassion@gmail.com.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy, Happy Mail Call

Today I got one of those letters that just brings tears to my eyes.

I was excited to find a cream colored envelope tucked into the stack of mail in the mailbox.  I tore into it and was excited to find a letter from our Rodrigo in Bolivia.

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Rodrigo’s letters are always such a joy to read.  He shares so many details about his life and this most recent letter was no exception.

Hello, it is a pleasure to write to you again and to know about you. In this opportunity I will tell you that I played with water with my friends and had lots of fun. I also play in the soccer field. It is the sport I like the most.

By the way, I got sick and was not able to go to church and to school.

I play a lot in school with my friends. I pray for you and your family. In Christmas, I travelled to a town named Cantapa and I played with my cousins and uncles. I also tell you that I was baptized and my uncles and aunts all came and we celebrated a lot with them and with my family and cousins.

(Cue the tears….  What a blessing!)

I got a present and it was a toy car.  I liked it very much and was very happy. Iam nine years old and my birthday is July 7th. I thank God very much.

Thanks for the letters you have sent to me.  I am so happy learning about you. It is a blessing to write to you. May God bless you,

Love, Rodrigo”

The news of Rodrigo’s baptism fills my heart with happiness!  I am just so thrilled!

Also, when reading about Rodrigo’s love of soccer and joy over getting a toy car, I can’t help but think of the care package I was able to send last month.  A friend was travelling to Bolivia so I filled a gallon ziplock bag with a soccer ball, hand pump, matchbox cars, art supplies, pencils and pens, a calculator, a harmonica. some candy and a few other things.  By now, I would imagine that he was already given the package at the project and I wish I could have seen his face when it was given to him!

I love mail days like this!  Have you heard from any of your Compassion International sponsor children lately?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Two on My Heart

Today I want to share two Compassion International children that are on my heart.

The first is a young man named Yaw.

Yaw (Click the picture to visit his profile.)

Yaw is 13 years old and lives in Ghana with both parents.  My heart sank to see that Yaw has been waiting 381 days for a sponsor.  Such a very long time to wait. Too long.  Click here to see Yaw’s profile on the Compassion website. Let us pray that he will be chosen very soon. 

Next is a beautiful little girl who attends that same project and school as our beloved Precious in Ghana.

Emmanuella (Click the picture to visit her profile.)

Emmanuella lives with her mother and she is eleven years old.  She has been waiting 231 days. I can’t help but wonder if she is friends with Precious.  Do they sometimes jump rope or play ampe together? Maybe she can even be spotted in this post by my friend JD, sharing details and pictures from her visit with our Precious. Some day, I may even get to meet her!

I am praying over these two children and hoping that their wait does not drag on much longer.  Please join me in praying over them!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

My Day in Review

Like most other mornings, within a few moments of waking, I headed to the kitchen for some coffee. My girls got me a sweet new mug for Mother’s Day and I smiled while pouring some brew into it.

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I set my mug down on the table, fired up my laptop and got to work on unloading the dishwasher while the computer started.

I was putting something into the cupboard when I caught a flash of a travel mug falling and before I knew it, it had smacked into the sensitive outer corner of my eye, right on the bone. It hurt.  My eyes watered and I nearly cried.  And, somehow in the process of impacting my face, that rude wake-up call put my nose out of joint as well. (Figuratively speaking….)

Every blink hurt and a headache crept in and a storm cloud appeared over my head.  For some reason, I decided to tackle the big project of swapping over summer clothes for winter clothes and purging the clothes bins in storage.

Bad idea.

I spent two hours of my morning aggravated, frustrated and annoyed.  I was in the completely wrong mindset and I just couldn’t seem to shake it. As I was tackling piles of clothes and sorting and redistributing them, I noticed the dust bunnies in the hallway and the toothpaste smeared all over the sink. Can we say overwhelmed?

Eventually I managed to finish up the work I had set before me and the pain in my eye faded. Only then did I think to talk to the Lord about my attitude. Why do I do that?

The tension within me started to unravel and the storm cloud over my head started to dissipate.

We headed to the park for our homeschoolers’ softball practice. I was able to enjoy time with my Mama-friends and confess what a crabby apple I had been.

Watching the kids play ball is such a treat.

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While we were at the park, a friend blessed us with a year membership to the zoo. Our family had been talking about how neat it would be to have a zoo membership and we’ve been excited for the newest exhibit that focuses on Africa and the Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania.

We got home to find a treasured cream colored envelope in the mailbox and a letter from Precious in Ghana. This form letter focused on the topic “My Project” and she shared the kinds of food she ate there and the typical activities. Listed under favorite activity to do at the project…..   cleaning.

I read that and thought back to little temper tantrum I had this morning and swallowed hard. Perspective.

Precious also told us that she is doing well in school and likes math.  She said that she liked the picture and description of our Christmas tree and had never heard of bringing a tree into the house to decorate it. The last sentence of her letter was, “She will remember Nico in her prayers.” How incredibly touching it is to know that our sweet girl in Ghana is praying for us.

The rest of the day was spent catching up on chores, making dinner and holding back the Mama-tears as my baby wiggles and jiggles her first loose tooth. If that thing doesn’t come out tonight, it sure must tomorrow!

To top it off, my heart was lifted by my sweet friends on the Blogging From The Boonies Facebook page. I am just so blessed by the comments and support by this blog community! Many thanks to each of you!

So, while my day started off with a bang (literally) it ended with many smiles and reasons to be thankful. Tomorrow morning I think I may wait until I’ve at least finished my coffee before I attempt putting away the dishes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Going Green

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I’ve got a bit of a stubborn streak.

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So when something becomes all the rage, there is something inside of me that decides it is not for me. I tend to drag my feet when it comes to following trends.

It took me a while to get to joining Facebook. Even longer to get around to joining the world of Twitter. I pretty much decided I wasn’t even going to take a look at Pinterest. Then I caved.

I know, it is a character flaw….  I’m working on it.

When my Facebook news feed and Google blog reader started putting green smoothies in my line of vision, I sort of skimmed past them. While I really love fruits and veggies, I thought all of these frothy green smoothies I was seeing looked kind of, well…. gross.

A few weeks ago, I broke down and decided to try making one.  I had spinach and fruit on hand so I pulled out my little food processor and gave it a whirl. Unfortunately, my hand-me-down food chopper was too small to hold very much and the blades were not sharp or powerful enough to really do the job.

My husband took one look at the concoction in my glass and said, “Um, that doesn’t look like a smoothie, it looks like a chunky!”

He was right.  But, I’ll be darned if that chunky wasn’t tasty.  Even if I had to sort of chew it.

For a few mornings in a row, I mixed up a chunky and drank it down.  It was yummy, filling and gave me a nice boost of energy.

Last week, I was doing some errands and found myself in the small appliance section of a store.  I stood in front of the blender display and had myself a mental battle. As I’ve said before, I don’t spend money on myself easily.  I nearly tortured myself when I found a good deal on a Canon camera last year.  I want it, I don’t need it, I want it, I can’t spend that much money on myself. I ended up buying that camera and I love it.

You see, in my mind, every purchase is compared to Compassion International currency. In my heart, I know we truly have everything we need and I know how our donations through Compassion change lives.

Back and forth I went in the store aisle. $40 is a month’s sponsorship or a decent sized Family Gift. I walked away and came back.  (I wonder if the people in the security room thought I was kind of sketchy…) I took a deep breath and put the big box in my cart.

(Now you know I am stubborn and  slightly flaky. )

Can I just say?  I love my new blender.  I really, truly do.  Every morning since then, I have had real honest to goodness smooothies!

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My smoothie of choice is made of a big handful of baby spinach, frozen fruit (like peaches, mangos, pineapple, grapes and strawberries) sometimes some sunflower seeds and a splash of almond milk.  Today I also threw in some sliced carrots.

I pop the top onto my new Ninja and let ‘er rip!

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After a minute, I end up with a sweet and delicious green start to my day!

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In the last few weeks of my smoothie (and chunky) drinking, I have noticed that I feel like I have more energy.  I don’t seem to crave sweets quite like I used to, in fact my snacking is down all around.  I’ve lost a few pounds, too.

My five year old is also a big fan of the green smoothies, although my ten year old isn’t convinced.  You can’t taste the spinach, but I think that the color throws her off.

Have you joined the green smoothie movement?  If so, what do you like in yours?  I’m starting to experiment a little with ingredients and I’d love your suggestions!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Are There Tissues in Tanzania?

I’m still faithfully following all of the blog posts and videos that are coming from the Compassion Bloggers in Tanzania. (Click the picture below to see!)

Compassion Bloggers: Tanzania 2012

Yesterday I stumbled upon these two videos.

 

I can’t watch these videos without tears streaming down my face.  Oh, so beautiful. 

Which got me to thinking, do the Compassion Bloggers stuff their pockets with tissues before they head out for the day?  I can’t imagine there are many boxes of Kleenex out in the African bush.

What posts from the CI bloggers have especially touched your hearts?

Yesterday’s post from The Nester just might be my favorite so far. 

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Giving Financial Gifts through Compassion International

Are you following the Compassion Bloggers as they experience Tanzania?  If not, you should be!  Click the widget below to see their recent posts!

Compassion Bloggers: Tanzania 2012

As usual, the posts have been filled with a mix of beautiful and heart-wrenching images and the stories have brought Tanzania to life in my mind.

A few of the recent posts have touched on the topic of giving financial Family Gifts to sponsored children.

In Which I Cry Again by Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations shares how a yearly Family Gift has been able to help Doto’s family build up their house.

This post from Amy of Resourceful Mommy shares the same story.

Then this morning, I woke up to find an email asking me more about Financial Gifts, so it seemed like the perfect time to post on the subject!

Your monthly sponsorship payment goes to pay for the programs that your child participates in. This covers educational opportunities, medical check-ups as well as various programs that happen at the church.

But sponsors also have the opportunity to send financial Family Gifts, Child Gifts and Birthday Gifts.  Remarkably, 100% of your financial gift money will go to the child or family.

Now, Compassion doesn’t just hand the cash to the family and walk away.  Instead, the project staff will meet with the family and discuss what needs the family may have.  Then, they work together to make decisions on the best possible ways to use the money.  Every bit of the gift is accounted for and the project staff goes a long way to make sure that they are maintaining the standard of financial integrity that Compassion demands.

The Compassion website has a page with Give a Gift FAQs that answers many of the most common questions. I’ve also been asked several questions about gift giving.

How much do most sponsors send for Birthday Gifts or Family Gifts?

There really is no set answer to this question.  In my experience I have learned that some sponsors don’t ever send financial gifts. For birthdays, many people send between $10 and $25. (Remember that these gifts also take 2-3 months to get to your child, so mark your calendar 3 months ahead if you want to be sure your financial Birthday Gift will arrive on time!)

As for Family Gifts, I know that those who give these will do so in a variety of different ways or amounts. Some give a Family Gift once a year and some give them quarterly.  Some sponsors send $100 a year and some send $25, or anything in between. Some sponsors will look at their child’s information to find the place where it lists the average monthly income, then they will give some multiple of that number.

As for our family, we have decided to send $25 to each of our children for their Birthday Gifts.

Family Gifts, however, are a bit different.  We’ve decided to let the Lord lead us in giving.  Each of our Compassion families will receive at least one Family Gift per year but the amount depends on many different factors such as the area’s average income, the number of parents in each family, the needs of the family as we understand them and so on.  Again, we keep ourselves open and let the Lord lead.  I am so blessed that my husband has a giving and generous spirit and is the one who often approaches me with a number and asks me to divvy it up as gifts.

What do families buy with their financial gifts?

We’ve been blessed with some pictures, which I will show you.

 

This was the first financial gift that we sent to Precious and her family. The gift was $100 and her  family was able to buy large bags of sugar and rice, some canned tomatoes and soap and bottles of water.  They kept some of the supplies and used the rest to sell and trade at the market. The benefit if sending financial gifts is that, often times, the family can use the gift as an income generating opportunity.

 

 

 

 

With a $100 Family Gift, Bertille in Burkina Faso was able to purchase a bicycle, a school bag, some clothing, biscuits and drink mix. Bertille’s father is deceased and her mother is sickly, so this bike will not just be for fun. Bertille can now run errands quickly, carry items from the market and earn income running errands for others.

 

 

With a $25 birthday gift, our Yishak in Ethiopia bought his very own goat!  Oh, how this picture made us smile and also made us think.  A teenager in the US might buy a teeshirt or some songs on iTunes with a $25 gift.  But Yishak was able to buy something that could provide for his family.  We’re not sure if the goat is male or female, or if it will be used to stud out or provide milk or meat, but we do know that this gift has the ability to provide.

A goat! I love it!

 

 

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A $50 Family Gift for Mkapa in Tanzania was able to buy a trunk to store belongings and a padlock to keep them safe. It also bought a blanket, shoes, school bag (Bob Marley! Ha!), 12 notebooks, a big bag of maize flour, rice and sugar, a flashlight and batteries, soap and cooking oil.

 

 

 

 

Many of the projects where our sponsored children attend do not have access to cameras, but we’ve been told that some of our other children have been able to purchase clothing, mattresses and blankets, food items, bicycles, chickens, toys and special sweets among other things.

I also have heard of families being able to completely build a new home with a Family Gift of $200 or less.  That is just amazing, isn’t it?

How do I give a financial gift?

One way to do this is to log into your account on the Compassion International website.  On the left hand side, you will see a link that says Additional Giving.  There you can choose a child, what type of gift you’re sending and an amount.

Another way to do this is to call Compassion at 1-800-336-7676. The ever helpful phone reps will walk you through your donation.  If you have correspondent children, you do have to call your gifts in because there isn’t a spot to give online for correspondents.

As a sponsor, you certainly do not have to give financial gifts to your sponsored children, but it is such a wonderful gesture that is sure to be appreciated. 

Do you have any questions about financial gifts?  If so, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below.

If you have given financial gifts, what are some of the most memorable items your families have purchased? Share with the BFTB community!

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Anticipation and Ache

The Compassion Bloggers have packed their bags and taken off again.  This time, they are on African soil, visiting Tanzania.

Compassion Bloggers: Tanzania 2012

Since we started sponsoring in the middle of 2009, I have eagerly followed the posts that come from the Compassion Bloggers trips.  I have read every word, gazed on every picture, laughing at times and also leaving a mountain of crumpled tissues beside my laptop. The stories are so compelling and moving.

For each trip, Shaun Groves chooses a half dozen bloggers and whisks them away to the countries where Compassion works. For days, I keep one eye on on my Google Reader tab, checking to see if a new post has popped up.  I am filled with anticipation, waiting for another installment.

If I am completely honest, I am also filled with an ache deep inside. There is a pull on my heart and every single day I find myself thinking of how I want to be able to travel and see Compassion at work in the field.  It is an ache that I wrestle with at times as it can flirt with jealousy when others are able to do what I dream of doing. I wonder if my desires dance with the selfishness of “I want”.

When conflict rises in my heart, I do all that I can to give it to God.  He knows my passion for Compassion and love for my children. He hears my prayers and can open the doors if He sees fit. I look within and set my sights on accepting the need for patience and grace.

In the meantime, I pray for those who are able to take these amazing trips around the world.  May their words and images touch hearts and prompt others to take a step of faith and sponsor or perhaps a call to action and write to their sponsored children.

Will you join me in following the Compassion Bloggers and praying over them? Share links to their stories and perhaps you, too, can help spread awareness and touch hearts!

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Three Random Things

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1.  I have an addiction to line dried bedding.  I simply love crawling into bed at night, to the smell and feel of sheets and blankets that were dried by fresh air and sunshine. When the weather is nice, I may strip the bed and wash everything a few times a week. During the chilly winter months when outside line drying isn’t feasible, I really miss this!

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2. I don’t feel like I’m fully ready for the day until I have put on my favorite scent, African Musk, and have picked out some African beads to wear around my neck or wrists.  God has placed a love for Africa in my heart and I thank Him for that each day. I love these necklaces from the Vintage Pearl and have them on my “someday wishlist”. Aren’t they nice?

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3. We’ve been experiencing what is called a “butterfly irruption” in our neck of the boonies these last few days.  I first noticed it yesterday as I walked to the mailbox.  In the six or so minutes that it took me to walk to the box and back, I counted over sixty Red Admiral butterflies hurrying north.  We’ve had lovely weather in the last two days, so it has been nice to sit on the porch and watch the butterflies flit about and listen to the orioles sing.

Do you have three random things to share?  Either leave a comment or link up to aq blog post!

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday’s This & That

This morning…  I woke up to the sound of the new day’s greeting song of the birds.  There is something so lovely about the way our feathered friends chatter back and forth as the sun rises. We slept with windows open last night, which makes me smile.

As soon as Luna woke up, she ate her breakfast and headed outside to play with her frogs.  We have a little frog pond which is home to about twenty or so.

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Around the house… the girls are getting a little bit of sit-down learning done before they head back outside to ride bikes and enjoy this gorgeous day.  Jay and his friend are in the basement woodshop working on some timbers that will go on the front porch of the cottage they are building.  In between the sound of the wood planer and the banging of mallets, I hear the two of them laughing.

This past week… has been a busy one.

On Saturday we joined our church family in Spring Cleaning our church. We spent hours on the random cleaning tasks that don’t get done on a regular basis. I also had worship practice.  I sometimes play the djembe drum with the worship team and it is very rewarding to use a talent that was a part of my “former life” as a hippie in a way to worship our Lord.

On Monday, our local homeschool community started learning how to play softball.  I was thrilled with the large turnout of homeschooling families.  We met a few new people and I think everyone enjoyed learning some of the basics of the game.

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On Tuesday, Kaya and Luna had their second weekly horseback riding lesson. Words cannot describe how very thrilled they are to be able to have some time with horses and learn to ride. 

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The farm we’re going to has many rescued horses. The ones that the girls ride are very calm and gentle.  I never realized that there was so much to learn when it comes to riding a horse.  It is a lot more involved than hopping up in the saddle and going!  Kaya is working very hard to remember all of the things that her teacher is showing her, like body positions and how to steer and command the horses.

In my prayers… are the Compassion Bloggers.  In just days, Shaun Groves and a group of bloggers will be travelling to Tanzania.  I’ve followed several of the Compassion Bloggers trips since we started sponsoring and each trip brings home stories that have deeply touched my heart.  Starting May 6th, be sure to follow the posts and share them with friends and family.  Seeing the work that Compassion is doing around the world is one of the best ways we can share how effective and powerful this ministry is.  On the link I shared above, you can also find buttons and widgets to add to your webpage. This post from Shaun Groves also has a variety of buttons and widgets for you to use.

Lastly today, I’d like to share a little birthday girl from the Compassion International website.  Little Fransisca from Ghana turned six today and she has been waiting a long 276 days for a sponsor. Please click her name in green above to see her profile and pray over her.  What a gift it would be to find a sponsor for her on her birthday!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week!  Thanks for stopping by!  Feel free to leave a comment, they are a real blessing to me!  Also, don’t forget to join the BFTB community on Facebook by clicking the F on the right hand sidebar!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Midweek Mail Call!

I meant to put up a Monday Mail Call post, but a busy schedule prevented that from happening. I am so blessed to have so many fun things on our calendar, but then I come home and struggle to prioritize my time between all that needs to be done here.

Often, blogging gets pushed back to when I happen to find myself with a little bit of time as well as a few moments of quiet in the house. My girls both seemed to need some down time, so I sent them to different rooms to rest.  I’m able to sit down after getting some of the to-do list checked off, so I can share two recent letters from our Compassion International family.

First, a letter from Alice in Kenya!

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Alice is twelve years old and wrote this letter in English!

Dear friends,

How are you? I hope you are fine with my sisters Niko, Kaya and Luna. I am saying thank you because you are my sponsors and then I am happy because I have friends outside the country. The reason I wrote this letter is to inform you that here in our project we are doing well. We have been given many things like shoes, socks, school bags and maize seeds. I would like to tell you that the exam we did I was number ten with three hundred and fifty nine marks. I was happy and even my parents were very happy. My talent is running. What is your talent? I would love to know what your house is made of. May you please pray for me to live many years and I will also pray for you and your family. God bless you.

Alice”

I am so happy to read that she did really well on her exams!  We will be sure to tell her how proud we are of her when we send the next letter!  I was also happy to hear that the project provides maize seeds to the family and we’ll be praying for their crops!

The next letter simply astounded me.  It was from our newest young man from Kenya. Ncheshia’s letter came just 24 days after we sponsored him.

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Ncheshia waited over a year for a sponsor, so I think that perhaps the project had a First Letter already filled out and ready to send as soon as they got word of his sponsorship.  Our name and sponsor number were filled in with pencil while the rest of the form-letter was filled in with ink.

In his letter we learned the name if Ncheshia’s family member and best friend. We were told that he lives in a village and he is good at athletics. His favorite song is Lord, I Know You Are My Answer and he enjoys the story of David and Goliath.  Even if this letter wasn’t written specifically for us, we are happy to learn a bit more about this handsome boy.

Have you received any letters from your Compassion family lately?  Feel free to tell us about them in the comments section!

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