Sunday, March 22, 2015

Losing my heart in Bolivia!

After returning from my May 2014 trip to Honduras to visit my Compassion children, I vowed to never forget the wonderful experience I had been blessed with, and prayed that God would continue to use me to fulfill His plan for my life, to reach “the least of these” wherever they may be and to release children from poverty in Jesus’ precious name!
  
That “wherever they may be” led me back to my “heart” country Bolivia in mid-September 2014 to meet 20 sponsored children.



Although I have been on previous sponsor tours and individual visit trips, this experience in Bolivia was life-changing to say the least. Twenty-one days of awesome God moments, the emotions of which I will be processing for a long time. Visiting each child in their home, meeting each family and touring each project centre was so enlightening, as I had a chance to witness their day-to-day struggles, but also to see the dedicated love, care and encouragement shown to them by their project staff and pastors. I came away so comforted knowing that each one of my sponsored kids are in great hands and are learning to be servant leaders through learning about God's Word and applying it to their lives.




What really touched me was the warm reception I received at many of the projects, with all the project kids lined up to greet me waving handmade Canadian flags and red and white balloons – I even had the red carpet rolled out for me on one occasion! I have never felt more honored in my life! It didn't matter if I had sponsored the child for only 2 months or 13 years, the joyful reception was the same. One teen boy (Benjamin) I had only sponsored for 5 weeks when I met him, but you would have thought it was 5 years! His project director told me he had a tough home life, and had waited so long for a sponsor, always asking "when will it be my turn to have a sponsor and receive letters?" So when I told Benjamin to expect to receive lots of letters from me, the beaming smile on his face was priceless, and made me think "now, this is why I do what I do!"


Accompanied by Juan & Josue
Benjamin

Other highlights were: (1) spending the afternoon with almost a dozen Leadership Development Program (LDP) students at their study centre in Cochabamba, including reconnecting with Bryan, an LDP student we met during our 2013 sponsor tour. It was the first time they had ever heard the testimony of how sponsorship impacted the sponsor! Needless to say there were many tears shed, as they were also very open during their testimonies of their family life struggles growing up through the years and the positive impact the Compassion sponsorship and leadership programs had had on their lives. If the future of Bolivia is in the hands of these fine young people, I have no doubt that Bolivia will be in great shape for years to come!





(2) visiting a Child Survival Program in El Alto de La Paz sponsored by my church in Calgary, spending 5 hours with moms and babies, and seeing the beaming smiles on the faces of the moms, many of whom have come to know the Lord Jesus through their involvement with Compassion. I was also so touched by the dedication of the project's sponsorship coordinator Franz, a former sponsored child who grew up in this project and who now oversees 600+ sponsored children in the regular sponsorship program.



Sponsorship coordinator Franz

Jesus states in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”. Feeling so grateful for the honour and privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus in blessing and giving hope to the beautiful Dominican, Honduran and Bolivian people in 2014, sharing the overabundance of blessings that God has poured out upon my life! God was so good to me in 2014 and I cannot wait to see where He will take me next! 

2015 will see me staying closer to home, that is, until October 2015 when I will be joining a Compassion U.S. sponsor tour travelling to Rwanda, Africa to meet 11 sponsored children. I plan to stay on in Rwanda for a few days after the group returns home to visit other ministries in the Kigali, Rwanda area.

Stay tuned for more trip updates! In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about sponsoring a child through Compassion, please contact me via email at: judy_8494@hotmail.com or by clicking the link below, which will take you directly to Compassion Canada's website.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Journey with Compassion Honduras – Creating Memories at HO133, Villa Verde!

May 24th saw me bidding farewell to my dear friends Juanita and Nelda in Tegucigalpa, who had graciously opened their home to me during my stay in Tegucigalpa. I boarded a plane heading to San Pedro Sula in NW Honduras where I would be meeting a group of U.S. Compassion sponsors who would be partnering with local missionaries (Allen Sowers and his son Russell) on a work team at a Compassion project in Villa Verde, Gracias.



We endured a 4 hour drive with our entire luggage to Hotel Guancascos in Gracias, Lempira which would be our headquarters for the next week. We soon learned we would have to share our space with little lizards and huge flying grasshoppers who invaded our restaurant space on a daily basis!! The joys of being in beautiful rural Honduras!


We got settled in at the hotel, then I spent a wonderful time of bonding with my teammates for the week, all of whom I had only previously known through Facebook communications and other Compassion sponsor blogs! It’s so much better to meet and experience ministry together face-to-face. Sunday, May 25th saw us visiting an awesome feeding program at a church way up in the mountains of rural Mercedes, Honduras followed by an afternoon spent loving on beautiful children during our visit to a girl’s orphanage in Santa Rosa de Copán. I will share about the unforgettable memories of these two ministry experiences in a separate post.

On Monday evening, May 26th, after a day spent familiarizing ourselves with the Villa Verde area, we then went to the hotel dining room for dinner, where we would be meeting our Compassion translators and driver for the next three days. Was I ever in for a wonderful surprise when I saw Gerardo walk toward me to give me a big hug. He was my driver for two of the three individual child visit days I had just experienced in Tegucigalpa, and I was so thrilled that he would be our driver during the next three days in Gracias!!

Due to the number of sponsors who would be meeting their sponsored kids at project HO133, our child visits would be split over the next three days, my official visit day with Rony being scheduled for Thursday, May 29th. This meant that three of the sponsors were busy getting their gift bags ready for their child visits the next day. The other two-thirds of us spent a good deal of time planning our activities to be held at the project over the next three days, while a rotating group of sponsors would be having an official visit day with their specific child(ren).


We spent an awesome time at the project running a VBS (Vacation Bible School), as well as doing crafts and other activities with the kids. I even had an opportunity to meet children I had advocated for and to give them gifts on behalf of their sponsors! That was so special. Although they were sad that their own sponsors could not be there, they were happy nonetheless to receive a few small tokens of love in the form of gifts from them.

As a few of the project’s older kids were helping us out during the VBS crafts time, I had the joy of meeting my sponsored teen boy Rony early in the week, as well as his former and current tutors, Karen and Delia. They are wonderful women of God who invest so much love and care into these kids’ lives! Rony was thrilled to receive a Spanish Bible from me with his name engraved on it.



Then the big day came when I would officially meet all of Rony’s family!! I had spent the evening before readying all the gifts I had brought for them and made sure my camera’s batteries were fully charged! As I was accompanied by two other sponsors (Deborah and Amanda) who were also meeting their sponsored kids’ families that day, we first went to meet Amanda’s Mario and his mom in their home. We were so moved by the love Mario’s mom showed us in preparing a wonderful meal for us out of the little she had, a token of her gratefulness towards her son’s sponsor! We humbly accepted her wonderful gift of hospitality.



My fabulous Compassion host Isaac accompanied me to Rony’s home while Deborah went with another translator to her Yolani’s home.



I was welcomed warmly by Rony’s mom Clemencia, his sisters Paula and Maribel and his father Otilio, a hard-working farmer and dedicated father. I sensed God wanted me to encourage Rony’s father, and a resulting strong bond developed between us that day. Now it was time to go pile into the van to head to the waterpark. The only problem was that there were now 22 people to be stuffed into a 12-passenger van; only in Honduras, they say! But we made it work! Three sponsors and their sponsored kids and families did not want to miss one moment of our day together! It was such a joy to watch the parents’ faces as they watched their kids having fun! What priceless moments of pure joy!

I had brought Rony’s gifts in a backpack, but to get to his swimming trunks and tank top, he had to pass through ….. his 2014 FIFA World Cup replica soccer ball!! He was thrilled to say the least, and they ended up using his new ball to play water polo with the whole group of kids!





I even jumped into the pool to join in on the fun, and left my camera in the trusty hands of our driver, Gerardo, who captured some fantastic photos for me! He was an invaluable part of our team, and an awesome young man of God!


After sharing wonderful fellowship over a delicious lunch ....


.... it was time to give Rony the rest of his gifts. I had left the best for last and asked him to take out the last item – lo and behold, it was a FC Barcelona original away jersey with his name on the back! He took so much pleasure in modeling his new soccer jersey and we took many pictures together. 


He was also opening up more in conversation, and overcoming his initial meeting jitters! His best friend Lázaro had come along for the Fun Day and it was a joy to have him join in all the activities with Rony!



After visiting the mini-zoo at the waterpark and wolfing down ice cream, we once again stuffed ourselves in the van, now joyously chattering with each other after spending an incredible afternoon together. The van dropped off Rony’s family near their house and it was time to say good-bye to his wonderful and gracious family! That was a sad moment, but I know it won’t be the last time we see each other!



Back at our hotel, we had a debrief meeting after having dinner. So many wonderful tidbits of information we shared with each other about our child visit days, so it was a real bonding moment! I was emotionally drained by this time; and needed some time to process everything I had experienced thus far. I truly believe God was busy giving my heart “stretchy walls” to allow me to accommodate the awesomeness of the experience and the resulting emotions!!

Friday, May 30th came much too soon! It would be our last day in Gracias! We shared breakfast for the last time with our wonderful Compassion translators Isaac, Joel and Robbie, as well as our fabulous driver, Gerardo. Many photos were taken and goodbye hugs shared, with promises to stay in touch.


We then headed up to the HO133 project with Allen and his son Russell for our last day working with the children at this wonderful project. I also had the awesome pleasure of meeting Oscar, the former project director at HO133, who had invested so heavily into the lives of the children and youth during the previous few years.




There was one special 8 year old boy Willians who I had made a strong heart connection with all week. We had actually chosen each other, a first for me! He unfortunately was not registered in the project as he was too old during the last enrollment time, although not past Compassion’s maximum enrollment age. I made myself a promise to check into how he could become officially registered at the project to enable me to add him to my sponsor family. As of the time of writing this post, we are still going through the arduous paperwork process which could take another month or so! If God wishes it to happen, it will, in His perfect timing!




The time came for the highlight of the day – Melania, who was sponsored by my teammate Megan, was celebrating her quinceañera, a coming-of-age party for every 15 year old girl growing up in Latin America. It is an event only surpassed in importance by a wedding in the Latin American culture. I was honoured to act as the translator for Megan during her tribute speech to Melania. 









It was a joyous occasion enjoyed by all, with seemingly the whole community in attendance! The tutors even had special gifts that they presented to each member of our team, with mine presented to me by Karen, the former tutor of my sponsored teen boy Rony, and the mother of my soon-to-be sponsored boy Kennet, a 3 year old “boy wonder”! 



As Rony is graduating next year, what better way to keep the continuity going than by sponsoring the son of a person so near and dear to him! Rony and I shared a tearful goodbye, with him telling me that I was the best sponsor he had ever had and promising each other that we would continue writing lots of letters! I promised to send him all the photos that we had taken together with his lovely family and we committed to praying for each another every day!



All that was left was to pack our suitcases, which did not take too long, as we had given away all our gifts! I was even able to pack my two smaller suitcases into my largest one, as I had virtually nothing to bring home except for my clothes and a few small souvenirs! Mission accomplished!!

With a heart full of gratitude to God for opening the door for me to minister to the wonderful people of Honduras, I fell fast asleep with incredible memories flashing through my mind. I would never forget this wonderful experience I had been blessed with, and I pray that God will continue to use me to fulfill His plan for my life, to reach “the least of these” wherever they may be and to release children from poverty, in Jesus’ precious name!

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If you would like more information on child sponsorship and/or how you can be an agent of positive change in the life of one of these precious children of God, please email me at:  judy_8494@hotmail.com or click on this link à http://www.compassion.ca/advocate/judymyers.