Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Letter Writing 101

If you are a Compassion International sponsor, I would guess you already know the benefits that your sponsorship dollars provide to your child. What you may not know is that as a sponsor, you have the potential to provide something crucial that money cannot buy.

A relationship.

With that relationship, you can show your child that they are loved, that they are important and that they are prayed for. You can provide encouragement, hope and inspiration. The way that you do this is by committing to write to your sponsored child.
Throughout my journey as a Compassion sponsor and a trained Advocate, I have heard a lot of questions about writing to our sponsored kids, so I have decided to dedicate a post to answer those questions and share the basics. (If you see text on this page that is a different color, those are clickable links that you can follow.)

How do I write to my sponsored child?

You can write to your sponsored child by logging into your account on the Compassion International website. Along the left hand side of your account page you will see a link that says “Write My Child”. This will take you to a page where you can email a letter to your child. (This email doesn’t go directly to your child, but it is sent to the GMC in Colorado, where it is printed in full color.) The online letter writing tool allows you to choose a colorful stationary and also upload up to three photos to your letter.

You can also write a letter on your own paper or use this printable Compassion stationary. If you use your own paper, please remember to leave half of each page blank for translation and also include your sponsor number, your child’s name and their identification number. If you are not sure of these numbers, you can always call Compassion at 1-800-336-7676 and the helpful operators will get those for you.
Your letters should be sent to the following address:

Attn: Child Correspondence Dept.

Compassion International

Colorado Springs, CO 80997-0004

How often should I write?

A good rule of thumb is to write about once a month. If it is helpful, pick a day of the month and write it on your calendar as a reminder.

Our family likes to write at least once a month to all 19 of our Compassion kids. I generally write a letter to each child online once a month and then write handwritten letters with goodies at least every other month. We get a lot of joy out of writing and also have the time and energy to devote to doing it this often.

Some have asked me if it is possible to write to a child too much, and my opinion on that is it could be possible. Consider a sponsor who writes once or twice a week and a child who receives mail just once a month. That would mean that the child receives 8 letters on one day. Depending on the age of the child, this could be just too much information to process and respond to. While an older child may be able to handle that many letters at once, some of the effort may be lost on a younger child and may overwhelm translators and project staff.

Please, do not wait until you get a letter from your child, before you sit down to write. It is important to remember a few things. First, it can take several months for a letter to travel from you to your child, and several months for a reply to make its way back. Second, in some projects their resources only allow them to help the children write to you three times a year. Even if this is the case with your child, your letters to them are so very valuable.

Why does it take so long for the letters to travel?

The letters have many stops along the way. Your letters are first sent to the Global Ministry Center in Colorado which processes an average of 100,000 letters from sponsors per month. Each letter is checked to be sure it has the proper information on it, is scanned in and then put with other letters headed for the same country. The letters are then shipped to their destination country, and sometimes can be held up in customs for weeks. At the Country Field Office, the letters are scanned into the system and wait for translation. Depending on the number of letters that need translation, this can also take a few weeks. Once they are translated, they are sorted by project. At this point, the are ready to be taken to each project. With some of the projects being remote, this could take weeks. Some letters travel by car, by bike, by donkey or by walking carrier and are delivered to the project. Some projects have one or two Mail Days per month and your letters will be delivered then. All told, this process can take months to get from point A to point B.

The children won't necessarily write back to you on the day they receive the letter. Many of the children need help, so they will write when that is available. Some projects have Letter Writing Day three times a year and will write then. Then, those letters travel back to the US the same way they got to to those countries. Again, it could take months.

Why is letter-writing important?

Poverty often gives children a feeling that they do not matter. Your letters go a long way to show your children that they really are important. While sponsorship dollars are necessary to keep the program running, it is the personal relationship that is built between the sponsors and children that start to break down the walls of hopelessness, despair and worthlessness.

In this last year, I have heard statistics of how many, many children who receive letters from their sponsors are inspired to try harder in their studies. I have spoken to a young man who was once a sponsored child and heard just how important the letters from his sponsor were to him. He even told me that, besides his Pastor, he feels his sponsor was the most influential man in his life. I’ve read articles and blog posts that bring home just how crucial those letters are. This blog post from Lisa-Jo of the Gypsy Mama blog is truly a must read.

I have also heard of the too-common heartbreak when children sit through mail-call at their project with hopeful anticipation, only to be devastated time and time again when their name isn't called. The whisper of, "You don't matter. You're not important." one more time.

Please take a minute to read a short story, The Delivery, written by my friend Caitlin. It brings to light the anticipation and heartbreak that can be found on Delivery day.

I don’t know what to write about. Can you help?

Along the right hand side of this page, you’ll see links to previous posts with letter writing ideas. There is also quite a bit of info to be found on the Compassion International website and the Our Compassion site. Ultimately, it comes down to sending love and encouragement. At the end of your letters, ask a few questions so that your child knows you are interested in their life.

Can we only send letters?

No, we are allowed to send things that could be classified as a "document" and that fall within the size restrictions. If you’re creative, you can send all manner of great goodies. See the link on my right hand sidebar about “Sending Goodies to Your Sponsored Child”. There you will find the requirements and some suggestions that your child will love!

What if I just am not into writing at all?

If you have the financial means to sponsor but have no interest in writing at all, please contact Compassion (1-800-336-7676) and ask that they assign a Correspondent Sponsor to your child. There are many people like myself who are happy to write to children who would otherwise not receive letters. (Only four of our children are financially sponsored by us, two are co-sponsored and the others are our Correspondent Children.) Compassion cannot assign your child a Correspondent unless you contact them and agree to it.

On the flip side, if you cannot sponsor any more children but have the time and energy to take on the responsibility of becoming a Correspondent Sponsor, contact Compassion and ask to be put on the waiting list. (Call them at the 1-800 number provided above or use the Contact Us button on the Compassion International website.)

What if I have other questions?

The phone operators at Compassion International have always been extremely helpful, so don’t hesitate to call them with any questions. You can also leave a comment here or email me and I will answer your question if I am able to.

I pray that this blog post is helpful and that you are inspired to write to your sponsored child. As with all of my blog posts, you are welcome to share this link with anyone at any time.

Also, feel free to follow Blogging From The Boonies on Facebook where I share more tips for your sponsorship experience!

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Mail Call Monday!

It has been a busy and exciting mail week! Not only have we received a number of letters from our Compassion family, I also received some other lovely items in the mail!

First, we received a letter from our handsome Rodrigo in Bolivia!

Rodrigo opens his letter thanking us for the letters and pictures that we send to him, sharing, “I really like to get these gifts.”  He goes on to tell us about the weather in his area and how his three pets like to play ball. Rodrigo shares that his entire family does go to church together. We had asked him about that because a year or so ago he asked that pray that his father would join the family on Sundays.

We learned that Rodrigo’s school year ended and they have an exposition at the church that is enjoyed by many. He says that they do a play and some dancing and “practice how to make money and other things.”

As usual, Rodrigo closes his letter “with a lot of affection” which makes me smile every time.

The next letter we received was from our lovely Alice in Kenya. We were excited to have a gift photo stapled to the letter!

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With a $25 birthday gift, Alice was able to buy an assortment of items, including clothing, shoes and school supplies. My little fashionista girls were excited to see that Alice bought a pair of “fancy shoes”. 

Alice also told us a little about the elections in Kenya and asked for prayers for her country. She also told us that she was doing well in school and that she was “number two position with three hundred and eleven marks.” I don’t know a lot about the Kenyan school system, but I think that means she is at the top of her class!

Another letter arrived from our Ncheshia in Kenya as well! It seems like most projects in Kenya are settling into the pattern of writing every other month!

While Ncheshia had a project staff write his letter, it was filled with a lot of references to letters and items we had sent to him. Ncheshia said he was really interested to learn about all of the different types of weather we have here in NY and he especially loved the pictures of fall foliage and of Kaya and Luna playing in fallen leaves. He told us that it does get cold in his area but they have never had snow. (I wonder what he will think of all of the snow pictures we have sent over the last few months!)

About the question you asked about the beautiful things in his home area, he says that he likes seeing the mountain ranges, hills and flowering plants, especially in the sunset.”

I can only imagine how beautiful those sights must be!

Now, aside from letters, I also received a few packages that were full of awesome goodness!

For Christmas, I received a gift card to spend any way I wished.  It is hard for me to actually spend money on myself, but after thinking it over for a few months, I made a few purchases for some things I had been wanting.

One of my favorite places to shop online is Come Together Trading Company. I love their fair-trade products and enjoy looking at the various wares made around the world.  I ended up ordering two Ugandan paper bead necklaces from God is Able and another beautiful necklace made in India.

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The aqua colored glass beads on this necklace seem to glow from within! It is so lovely!

Today, my custom pendant from Funky Fish Designs arrived in the mail!

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I have been wanting a stamped pendant for quite a while. When our Kwagala asked if she could call me Mom, I thought it would be nice to have something tangible that listed her as one of my daughters. A friend suggested Funky Fish Designs and as soon as I read their About section and saw their selection, I knew I wanted to order from them.

This pendant arrived just days within my order and the designer, Dawn, was even able to handle my request of having a lobster clasp at the top so I could attach the pendant to different necklaces.

So, all in all, it has been a fabulous mail week!

What about you?  If you’ve been blessed with Happy Mail, please share in the comments section!

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

On This Day…

 

February 14th is a day to celebrate …

Love

 

You might give someone special a …

Rose

 

or perhaps another type of ….

Gift

You might want to show someone how much …

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they bring into your life, how…

happy 

they make you.

No matter how you celebrate today, I hope that you have a ….

Valentine

in your life.

Maybe you’ll consider adding one of these sweet children to your family today.

(Click a picture to learn more about each child!)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reaping and Sowing

The minute my eyes fell upon the face of the little girl in the yellow dress, I knew.

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Her expression, a mix of shy and scared, drew my heart in a way that I knew she was the one.

Precious in Ghana would be the child that we chose to sponsor through Compassion. When I clicked the “Sponsor This Child” button, I cried.  Astounded and amazed at how my heart instantly made the crazy leap across the ocean and a love-bridge was built.

Truthfully, though, mixed in the pile of emotions was a hint of fear and trepidation. This commitment was not one I took lightly. Even from the beginning, sponsoring a child meant more to me than having a face on the fridge to pray for. I wanted to be a steadfast presence in the life of Precious and her family. I wanted to see this through.

My worry had to do with the financial commitment.

As a family with one modest income, without a lot of extras in the budget, the thought of keeping up with the $38 per month payment was a concern.

I took it to prayer and looked for verses in the Bible that could shed light on my thoughts.

One day, as I was reading, a passage in 2 Corinthians flew off of the pages of my Bible.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,

He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”

 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;  you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

And, do you know that way that a certain verse or passage will make repeated appearances in your life? That happened. On the radio, in Bible studies and conversations, bits and pieces of that same message were put in my path.

Those words have proven to be true.

Since that June day in 2009 when Precious entered our family, we have been reaping bountiful blessings in our lives when it comes to our involvement with Compassion.

Our family has grown to include nineteen beautiful children all around this world. Each and every one brings a joy to our lives and a smile to our heart.

Our family has been blessed in ways so numerous, it would be impossible to count them all.  While my initial concerns were about the financial commitment, we’ve managed to continue our sponsorships without missing a beat. There hasn’t been an increase in income, but I believe that the Lord has been able to multiply our blessings and provide for our needs through His grace and power. We have learned to see “enough” differently. We look for ways to bless others with the things the Lord has given to us.

The words in 2 Corinthians 9 have become engrained in my heart.

I am thankful for that little girl in Ghana who taught us lessons in sowing and that, through an act of obedience and faith on our part, she is growing and thriving and reaping bountifully as well.

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I am linking up with the Compassion Blog! Hop over to see other posts!

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday Snapshots

It is a beautiful day, here in our neck of the woods! The snowstorm that visited our area has brought the sort of snow that coats each and every branch.

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As evening fell last night, the bluish tinted light of twilight made it look especially beautiful outside.

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Thankfully, I don’t have anywhere to go today! We’re just enjoying our Saturday and the beauty outside of our windows. I expect that my girls will be heading out for a bit of sledding before the day is done!

Yesterday I shared some coloring sheets you can personalize.  I wanted to share one more link that I found today with an even bigger selection of personalized coloring sheets.

Hop on over to the Frecklebox website to take a look!

I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Favorites!

I have just a couple of links to share with you all today!

The first is to a website where you can create personalized coloring pages. It isn’t easy to find coloring sheets that say Ncheshia or Kazihizina!

Hop on over to the HelloKids website and check out the Print My Name generator!

The second link is to the Ministry To Children website! Not only do I use the website to help with creating Sunday school lessons or devotionals for my girls here at home, they have also provided inspiration when writing to our Compassion kids! Check out the links to Bible Lessons and Sunday School!

Do you have any links to share today?  Leave a comment and share! Maybe I will feature it on the next Friday Favorites post!

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Mail Call Monday!

Several Mondays each month, Compassion International sponsors link up to share the news from their sponsored children around the world.

I had thought that the mail would be slowing down for us in February after we received so many letters in January. However, we were blessed with two more letters in the past week!

The first was from Kwagala Deborah, the beautiful young lady that is supported by the Blogging from the Boonies community.  Uganda seems to be settling into the six letters per year schedule as we have received something from KD every other month!

As always, Kwagala thanks us for the letters and extras we have sent to her. She specifically mentioned the 2013 planner calendar we sent in October and I am happy that it went through without a hitch.  Before sending it, I wrote an uplifting message or verse on each month so that she will encouraged each month.

KD tells us that she finished her hairdressing course and I am so blessed that she is receiving training in something that could help her earn an income in the future.

In the letter, Kwagala says, “I was blessed and encouraged by your words full of wisdom and knowledge, in fact I feel so strong in the Lord. May the Lord bless you.”

Oh, He already has, Kwagala. 

To read those words brought a rush of love and joy to my heart.

Answering a question I had asked, KD lists some of the things she sees around her home and that, as the sun sets, she can see much beauty that reflects the beauty of God’s creation.

I love all of our Compassion children but I have to admit that there is a special place in my heart for our Ugandan daughter.  The pull to her was undeniable the minute I saw her on the Compassion website. If you haven’t already, read about how her co-sponsorship came about. It was an act of trust that God would provide. So far, He has done just that through the donations of this blog community.

Today, we received a letter from Bertille in Burkina Faso.

Tears sprang to my eyes once I started reading the letter which opened with, “I pray that your daughter Nico is doing well.” To know that a girl with troubles of her own is praying for our wayward daughter is such a touching thought. 

Bertille shared her recent standings in school and asked that pray for her studies and her friends that are not Christians. While the letter was very short, it was so nice to hear from our sweet girl and to know that she prays for our daughter that we miss so much.

What about you? Did you receive any letters from your sponsored children recently? If so, please feel free to share in the comment section! I cannot seem to get the old InLinkz widget to work on my new-to-me laptop with the updated Windows Live Writer! I’ll look for another method to link up but in the meantime, sharing links in the comment section will have to do!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Praise

We’ve had Tricia Brock’s CD in our car stereo for a few weeks now.

Yesterday, as I was driving to my sister’s, I looked in the rear-view mirror to see little hands raised up and praising God while sweet voices lifted up the words to this song. 

I had to blink away the tears so that I could continue to drive. What a sweet moment.

I hope that you have a wonderful Sunday, friends.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Favorites

I meant to get a This and That post published yesterday but the day got away from me.  By the time we got home from homeschool group at the YMCA and errands, I had used up almost all of my coherent thoughts for the day.

Today, I wanted to share a blog that topped my “favorites” list this past week.

Ronda shared so many wonderful pictures and and bits of info from her recent trip to Uganda and I spent a lot of time pouring through her posts. If you’re interested in checking that out, feel free to visit her blog - Along Unfamiliar Paths.

One other favorite from my week was finding a new picture of the baby of our family, little Akimana, on my Compassion account.

Our first picture of her showed and shy and sickly looking girl with an IV port in her hand.

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Her new picture shows how much she has grown! She looks so much healthier, don’t you think?

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I think she is as cute as can be and am blessed to see how she has changed since the last photo was taken.

So, did you have any favorite posts or moments from the week that you would like to share?  Leave a comment and share!

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