June 25, 2011

Snapshots for Saturday. . .

Our family ventured out to the zoo this week, so I thought I would just share some pictures of our fun under the absolutely gorgeous, Missouri skies!

First thing up was the polar bear taking a rambunctious swim.  I snapped this just as he was about to break the surface of the water before he pushed off the glass to do a back flip & make another round.

Next, off to the Australia & Asian exhibits to see the wallaby, kangaroo, red pandas and the BIG Kitty Kitty! 

The Red Panda -- below.

After lunch and a little nap, Leila Grace was ready for more zoo fun!

The greatest surprise for me was the African exhibits.  I've seen them all before, but since I now correspond with two Compassion  kids from Kenya, one who speaks Kiswahili, this welcome sign really caught my eye. Note, the word "bomas" in Kiswahili means an African homestead.

The Kansas City Zoo has done a great job in trying to create as natural a feel as possible for the animals on display... at least throughout the African exhibits.  Every brushy turn throughout the Safari area helped me gain a better understanding for the wildlife and some of the terrain that my Kenya kiddos might see each day.

These huts look so much like the pictures Gakii has drawn for me in her letters.

Below is another type of home common to the nomadic Masaii peoples.  The Kenya Regional Country Newsletter I just received today from Compassion International highlighted this very people group, and talked about both of these kinds of houses.

Ant hills?

What trip to the zoo would be complete without this guy?

Or the King?

Some beautifully colored birds... like this saddle-billed stork below...

. . . or this deliciously cute little lovely, the name of which I failed to record. 

And wouldn't you know it.... the batteries ran out before I could capture the zebra, the playful hippos, the new baby giraffe, or the rhino... which some little guy behind me on the trail dubbed a triceratops.  It's as much fun listening to the children as it is seeing the sights!  Love it.

The weather was perfect, and the animals gave us quite a show.  Such a rare treat!

I think my Compassion kids will enjoy seeing some of these pictures, too.  Off to start creating some Zoo Scrapbooks to send them in their next letters.

Good day at the Zoo... wouldn't you agree, Leila?

June 20, 2011

One Letter and the Chance of a Lifetime

I love to write!  Fun stuff.  Silly stuff.  Serious stuff.  Song lyrics I sing in the shower.  Crazy mind dumps that never make it past the wrinkled pages of some dusty journal. But my absolute favorite things to write are letters of encouragement to my Compassion kiddos!

A simple letter can help change the course of a child's life.

I listened intently as my sister-in-law Jill, a Compassion advocate, shared at our church some time ago about her family's relationship with one of their first sponsored boys from Haiti.  Throughout the seven years they sponsored Chirack, they wrote the minimum requested amount of three or four letters per year.

For the most part, Chirack's return letters didn't give them much detail about his personal life either. They conveyed a sense of duty... like a dreaded homework assignment more than a treasured opportunity to connect. Jill wondered if their letters really mattered that much to him, but she continued in her commitment to write.

During his early teens, Jill and her family sent a little extra gift in one of their letters to help Chirack go to a summer bible camp.  They really didn't give it a second thought.   Another letter completed and mailed; nothing special.

Then the response letter came, electric with excitement as he described that how he made a decision to put his faith in Jesus Christ.

After that Chirack's letters were different.  He opened up more, and shared about his life and dreams and how he was doing in school, and most importantly about the things he was learning about his walk with God.  Jill's letters changed, too.

So, just how important were those letters?  

January 12, 2010

Photo courtesy Compassion International

Photo courtesy Compassion International

Hundreds of thousands suffered death, injury and unbelievable trauma in the earthquake that devastated Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12, 2010.  Fifty-four Compassion assisted children were killed, including Chirack.  

Yet, one boy had the chance of a lifetime... the chance to meet One Man, Jesus, who became his best friend and savior before that day happened.  All because of the work of Compassion, coupled with caring project workers, a local church partner and a sponsor who kept a commitment to write.

Chirack's words echoed in my ears as Jill read an excerpt from his thank-you letter.  Her voice broke, and my heart ripped in two along with it.  Our congregation sat in stunned silence as the reality sunk in.  We listened to words penned by a boy no longer living on this earth, as he described the moment that changed his destiny forever.  A change we could grasp and celebrate because of the exchange of a few pieces of correspondence.

A letter… simple words on paper...  but with so much power in God's hands.

Your letters are very important.  
If you currently sponsor a child through Compassion, please write them today. Tell them how much God loves them and treasures them.   Encourage them just by letting them know they are special and you are thinking about them.  It may be the one letter that makes a life-changing difference.  Who knows?

Photo courtesy of Compassion International
Children living in extreme poverty battle horrible conditions and heinous lies that tell them they are not important... they're worthless they simply do not matter.   Imagine what it means to a child when their sponsor takes the time to ask about them, their family, their well-being, how they are doing in school, or share a favorite bible verse with them.  This simple act tells them that God thinks they are special because someone took time to care.

Need some help with ideas to write about?

OurCompassion is a great community where you can connect with other sponsors,  learn about letter writing tips, ask all kinds of questions, share ideas and grow in understanding your child's world and your role as a sponsor.

Here are some great reads to get your letter-writing juices flowing.
Blogging from the Boonies:  101 Letter Writing Topics

Compassion Family:  Another Round of Letters

Ava's Mom over at Child Sponsor Chat has this  especially unique idea you won't want to miss.

Write, write, write. . .
However you choose to do it, just write.  Use the power of your pen (or the on-line letter-writing feature) to encourage your child's heart and further the mission to release children from poverty in Jesus' name.

I love being a part of the bigger picture of what God is doing in the earth through the simple act of writing a letter.


June 13, 2011

Just a Little Squishy

Sleepover at Gramma's!  The air was electric with excitement as my two little princesses scurried to gather their jammies, bed buddies and toothbrushes.

The sleeping bags were rolled out on the living room floor, ready and waiting for our girls night in. I sniffed the fluffy pillows in their crisp, fresh pillow cases.  Strange.  It was like I was back at my own grandma's house eons ago.

Propped on top of some pillows in between their sleeping bags, we began to chat, and the fun began as the girls plied me with questions and came to their own conclusions before I could respond.

Ava started with, "Gramma, why do you wear glasses?  Because your eyes are really old, huh?"  Giggles and snickers erupted.

Audrey surmised, "That's 'cuz Gramma's OLD and we're … (giggle)… welp, not so old.  Gramma, you're really hairy!" she said as she brushed my hair back from my face.

Ava wanted to know how old I was when her daddy was born.  When I told her I was twenty years old…  way back then...  her little calculator brain started processing and she said excitedly,  "That's two rows of ten!  Audrey, that's pretty old!"

I leaned over and confided,  "And I've lived THREE MORE ROWS since then."

Her expression changed from challenging thought to horrified realization.  She gasped and half whispered apologetically, "FIFTY!  Gramma, you're REALLY OLD."   I think she was having second thoughts about staying the night, wondering if I might not make it to morning.

About this time Audrey popped up off her sleeping bag, and before I could stop her, she stuck her little fingers in my mouth and measured my front teeth.  "And your teeth are really long!"    She lay back down, giggling and nodding affirmatively, "Cuz they're really old…. And your NOSE is  r-e-a-l-l-y  long…. 'cuz it's old, too."

They pinched my face and examined my neck, and reassured me that my skin wasn't that baggy.

Somewhere in the midst of all this hilarity, Audrey decided she needed to include great-grandma in the conversation.

"Nana's hands are squishy," she blurted randomly.


I buried my head in my pillow, laughing so hard that I didn't realize she'd popped back up again and her pinching little fingers were poking and prodding the back of my own hand.  "You're not VERY squishy, Gramma.  Just a little squishy."

Next thing I knew she and Ava were both squeezing their way up my arm and all of a sudden Audrey accused me amid the giggles, "Aha, your elbows are squishy!"  

Aaaaaargh!!!  Nooooo!  Not the flabby grandma arms!  Wait, not fair.  My biceps were relaxed.  I swear it!  I am NOT squishy!

Oh, but reality has a bit of a sting, doesn't it. Up until now I saw myself as a rather youngish, still somewhat athletic person with grandchildren.  They see me as old... not so baggy... a little squishy... hairy... big nosed... long teeth (kinda creepy, huh?), but otherwise full of love and laughter.   a.k.a. -- Grandma.

Later as I prepared for bed and jotted some notes about our fun and silliness, I conceded that I may be getting old-ER, but I refuse to get old.   After all, I'm young at heart.  I still laugh at life!    I … have…  spirit… it's just in a gel-coated shell.

Like Caleb at 85, you'll hear my wrinkled roar,  "GIVE ME MY MOUNTAIN!"

(Just don't forget the heating pad, BioFreeze and a few ibuprofen... okay?)


A little merry heart time with Ava (age 6) and Audrey (age 4).

Proverbs 17:22.


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