It occurred to me last summer as I walked into that home daycare for a little speech therapy. It was a revelation, really. Then, and only then, did I start seeing my job in a whole new light. Perhaps God was using these 14 years of home visits to prepare me for something else. Maybe that something else wasn’t about speech therapy at all, but more about helping fellow human beings discover their voice. Maybe it wasn’t so much about articulation as it was helping others articulate their best selves. Perhaps it wasn’t so much about language as it was about breaking down language barriers so the heart of human souls could be revealed. Perhaps it wasn’t so much about pragmatics and social communication as it was about developing authentic relationship.
I knew it right then and there.
The Lord had invested years and years into my adult life so I would be prepared. For moments like this.
You see, He knew from the very beginning. He placed a yearning in my little girl heart. A longing to love on others in far off places. A longing to do something for little ones in need. A longing to step right in the middle of extreme poverty. A longing to look long, stay long with the faces and know they were real, live human beings with hearts and souls, burdens and dreams.
He fed my little girl longings in the oddest, most unlikely of ways. Television commercials. Memories of those television commercials are the only way I know today, that this lifelong dream, this current reality is from Him and Him only.
For years and years, those television commercials continued to pop through my screen as I watched Little House on the Prairie and ate cupcakes with pink frosting, potato chips with french onion dip. In-between scenes of Laura Ingalls with Pa and Ma, the Lord showed me faces. Faces of a little girl with a pink shirt, boys walking through a dump, and a man with a gray beard who reminded me time and time again that I could sponsor a child in that far off place. Sally Struthers told me I could sponsor one child for “just 70 cents a day.” The date on that commercial is 1987. I was 11 years old. God was working already.
The years passed.
My little girl heart grew into a mama bear heart.
But the longings never left. Never.
Sally Struthers had long been replaced by new familiar faces. Brighter, more brilliant campaigns dazzled the television screen to fight global poverty. But the celebrity faces didn’t really faze this mama bear heart. Because a mama bear heart knows what a mama bear heart knows. Those commercials? Those kids living in extreme poverty? They were still speaking to me. God was still using them to remind my little girl heart what it yearned for most.
That is, until He spoke through a different screen.
Yes, He knows me best. Introverted. Visual. Communicates best through writing. Moved by emotion and story.
So television commercials turned into Twitter in August of 2010. Because God’s timing is perfect.
It was Ann Voskamp’s blog post in September of 2010 that changed everything. Ann was in Guatemala with Compassion International, visiting her sponsored child. She wrote this post, “How to Make Your Life an Endless Celebration.” And it wrecked me. Tears streamed down my face as I read her post. My little girl heart came alive in a new way. God began whispering. This is the way.
From then on, I was sold out for this organization called Compassion International. I believed in their mission to release children from extreme poverty and I knew this was a match for my little girl heart. So signed up to become an official Compassion Blogger. I also became a fiercely loyal follower of Compassion’s blogging trips to visit sponsored children all around the world. And somewhere along the way, I began dreaming that maybe one day, some day, I could go on one of those trips, too. Maybe one day, some day, I’d use my blog to be a voice for children living in extreme poverty.
Our family sponsored a little girl through Compassion International in August 2012. In December 2012, we became correspondents with a little boy who has since joined our growing family of sponsored children.
I began to feel a call on my life to do something more.
So on July 1, 2013, after much prayer, conversation, and financial consideration with my husband, I clicked a button that meant I would be traveling to Haiti in February 2014 to visit our two sponsored children through Compassion International. The sponsor trip was marvelous, beyond my wildest dreams. It fulfilled every longing my little girl heart ever had. Because of God’s faithful provision, I’d stepped into a world of extreme poverty and became a voice for the voiceless through my daily blog posts.
But He who begins a good work will carry it out to completion. God was not finished with me yet. In fact, He’d just begun.
On July 1, 2014, exactly ONE year after I’d clicked the registration button to travel to Haiti, I received a personal message from Compassion International. They wanted to verify my email address. They needed to send me something. I opened that message as I was getting into the car after a speech therapy home visit, and didn’t have time to respond because I was on my way to the daycare where I’d had that revelation last summer. So I made my way to the place of revelation. Tears streamed and holy goosebumps popped as I thought up all the amazing reasons Compassion might be contacting me on this seemingly random summer day. But I didn’t let myself get too excited because I am a realist, after all. Perhaps Compassion was contacting me in July because they needed me to pull something I’d written about the sponsor trip I’d taken back in February?
I got myself to a public library as quick as I could, and responded in the most proper way possible to verify my email address. I received an email back from Compassion International within an hour.
“We are all so grateful for your commitment to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. [We] also wanted to invite you on a sponsor tour. Another one…” And later in the email, “There are so many great stories that occur during the week of a sponsor tour, as you know, and we want to start exploring what it would be like to capture those stories through our bloggers.”
My heart raced.
This was nothing but God’s pure grace, divine favor, a miracle. Compassion International just celebrated five years of blogging trips, and now they’re beginning another adventure, inviting bloggers to join a sponsor tour.
I’d been chosen to be a part of this new adventure.
As I sat there in the car reading the words over and over again on my tiny iPhone screen, all I could do was pray over and over again “Dear Lord, I am humbled and grateful. Dear Lord, I am humbled and grateful. Dear Lord, I am humbled and grateful.”
After gathering myself, I texted my husband and asked him to “call me right away if you have time!” “You’ll never guess,” I said when he called. “You’ll never guess.”
Most definitely, yes.
I’ve been keeping this secret since July 1st. It’s just been me, my husband, Compassion and God himself that have known. I shared the news with one sweet soul one week ago, our parents yesterday, and my prayer and support team yesterday afternoon. And now, today, it’s your turn to know. It’s time to make the news public!
I’ve been invited to travel to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International and join a sponsor tour in January 2015. I’ll be traveling with a bunch of sponsors and TWO other bloggers. Kris Camealy, Sandra Heska King, and I will share stories throughout the week on our blogs. We’ll travel the beaten down, graveled up roads our sponsored children travel. We’ll see Compassion’s Child Survival Program in action, we’ll visit homes and Child Development Sponsorship Program projects, and we’ll see the most amazing fruits of Compassion’s efforts when we meet young adults enrolled in the Leadership Development Program. But most exciting of all? We’ll meet our sponsored children. We’ll meet them face to face. In fact, we’ll witness a whole host of sponsors meeting their sponsored children. And it will be beautiful, divine, holy.
The moments will be orchestrated by God himself. The stories, prepared in advance for us to tell. May our words be a vessel through which He speaks truth about the value of every human life.
As I drove away from that daycare yesterday, I remembered the revelation I had at that same daycare one year ago. Perhaps God’s been preparing me with these 14 years of speech therapy home visits. He’s wanted me to learn what it takes to enter in to others’ private space, others’ holy space and bring voice to the voiceless. He’s prepared me for a lifetime, really. My little girl heart has grown up into a great big mama bear heart. He’s fulfilling the promises He set in me from the beginning. That makes my heart beat hard, takes my breath away, gives me holy goosebumps. And brings wells of tears to my eyes. Because God is good. His promises ring true. Always and forever.
Similar to every major series I write on this blog, this post will serve as the landing page for my Dominican Republic trip with Compassion International in January 2015. All the posts I write about the trip will be listed and linked here, at the bottom of this blog post. You’ll find this Dominican Republic graphic displayed on the right sidebar of my blog homepage. Click on the graphic anytime, and you’ll be brought right back here where you’ll find all the blog posts in one place!
Other posts in the series about my trip to the Dominican Republic:
Have you always dreamed of sponsoring a child? Why not do it today? I promise, it’ll be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Maybe Dominican Republic’s your place? Or perhaps you’re feeling called to Africa, Asia or elsewhere. Check out Compassion’s website by clicking right here. A whole host of children are patiently waiting for a sponsor. If you could meet them face to face, I just know you’d understand what an honor it is to release them from poverty and give them hope for a better tomorrow.