21 July 2011

Over the past several months we have been talking with Oliver about the needs of the people around him and around the world. It started with little opportunities - like the Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmastime - and continued as we filled bags with food from our pantry to donate to a local mercy ministry.

At first it was very uncomfortable for him to talk about kids not having food or beds or ipods - he would cover his ears and ask us to please stop talking about it.

I worried that we were raising a child who didn't care to hear about the needs of others, but I quickly learned that I am actually raising a child with a sensitive heart - one that hurts when he hears about other people hurting. Chats like these are uncomfortable for him, but it is clear to Ryan and I that this is a conversation that we very much wanted to continue with him.

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One afternoon a few weeks ago I invited Oliver to sit on my lap to watch a few videos with me on my computer. I told him that the videos were of kids his age in other countries and that the places they live don't look very much like the place we live.

He wanted to see.

We watched the first video for only a minute or so before I heard Oliver quietly speak up, "Mom, can you please stop dripping on me?"

It turns out I get pretty uncomfortable when I see people hurting too. We both agreed that we wanted to do something to help.

Ryan and I had recently become familiar with an organization called Food for the Hungry(many of y'all are probably familiar them already) and loved the way they operate by equipping communities to work together to ultimately become independent of outside help. Their plans to serve villages into sustainability appeals to us very much.

After watching those videos with Oliver and talking with Ryan, we decided that our family would sponsor a child.

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One afternoon last week I loaded the kids up in the car to pick Ryan up for lunch (our van was having some work done but we still wanted to see Daddy at lunch time!). Since some of our best conversations take place in the car, I took this opportunity to chat with Oliver about our plan to sponsor a child.

I reminded him of our conversations about kids that are hungry and have no food and about the videos we watched together a few weeks earlier. I told him that there was something we could do to help and he was very eager to hear more.

We picked Ryan up at the office and once we were home, we all sat down in front of my computer to begin the process together.

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We talked to Oliver about what it meant to sponsor a child. We would save money together every month to send to him so that he could eat and have clothes and books.

{This is the cool thing about Food for the Hungry (FH) - the money we send actually takes care of the child and their community. FH goes into villages for a set amount of time (usually 10 years or so) with a plan to get them on their feet and to a place of independence. They equip the leaders, minister in the churches, and teach sustainable skills so the communities will ultimately be independent of our support and dependent on their God-given talents and callings.}

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We asked Oliver if he wanted to sponsor a boy or a girl (of course he chose a boy) and we let him look through the pictures and Ryan read to him about each of the kids.

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Oliver chose a 12-year-old boy named Kendy from Haiti because his description said his favorite activity was playing soccer. We weren't surprised.

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I have to say, I had a feeling that Oliver would grasp most of what we were doing and probably be mildly on board for it, but this boy took ownership of our child immediately.

Once we had picked Kendy to be a part of our family, I let Oliver get down off my lap while I finished up the logistical details online. Before I knew it he had run into the kitchen, grabbed a bunch of food out of the pantry and he was stacking it on the table to load into a box to send to Haiti!

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"Oh, babe. Kendy would probably LOVE Craisins and PopRocks, but I don't think this is how it works. You're right that he needs food, but I think the best way to help him is by sending money so that he can buy food where he lives."

"Okay. What kind of food does he eat?"

"I don't know, but I'm sure we could write to him to find out! Did you know that there's a way on here to buy chickens to send to him? Maybe we could save a little extra money every month and send him some chickens for his birthday."

"Oh, yes! Two chickens! One to roast and one to lay eggs!"

"That sounds great! Very clever! Let's just plan to save a little extra for that, okay?"

I hear him reply something as he disappears upstairs and then, before I can wrap things up online, he returns from his room and I look up from my computer to see this:

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"Maybe we could put his picture on it!" is Oliver's suggestion for our new official Kendy Savings Bank.

Minutes later Kendy's sweet face is plastered on an orange ceramic elephant bank from Urban Outfitters and I am making sandwiches for our family's lunch.

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As we ate, we thought about Kendy and what he might be eating for lunch that day. We prayed for him together as a family - the first of many times we will bring his name before our Father in Heaven, and we thanked God for this new relationship with a little boy in Haiti, and for the opportunity to give a little of what we have to help him and his community.

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And since that day last week the conversations just keep on coming. We have talked more about what it means to be truly hungry and about how Kendy will learn about Jesus - even how we can tell him about Jesus! We pray for him at night and wonder what Kendy's bed is like. And we keep putting money away in that bright orange elephant.

Food for the Hungry currently has 12 children from Haiti on their website that are waiting for someone to sponsor them for just $32/month (is it just me or can you not help but think of Sally Struthers any time someone says how much it costs to sponsor a child? I'm a child of the eighties...) There are over a dozen countries to choose from, but what if we focused on just one? Guys, what would it be like for all of these children to be sponsored this week? What if we as a community here worked together to support that community so many miles away?

Wouldn't it be grand!

If you don't already sponsor a child, I want to invite you to consider child sponsorship for your own family - not just because of how it will change you (because it will!), or because of how it will train your children to look at the world (though it will do that too), but because of how it will affect the life of a little person whose story and situation makes us want to cover our ears, because their hurts make us hurt. And we can be Jesus to them, one child at a time. You can click here to learn more.

Do any of y'all sponsor a child/children? How have your kids responded and how have you talked with them about it?

18 comments:

Claire Wise Photography said...

Beautiful. Your family has hearts filled with love for others Raechel.

keight dukes said...

i guess my fear of you returning the orange bank was unfounded. LOVE that it is being put to this specific use. i have a big heart for haiti and love this idea. i think we may be able to take on a kiddo!

Rush Family said...

I love seeing a child's compassion. We just returned from being in Haiti for 5 weeks. 5 weeks of the Lord allowing us to feed them physically & Spiritually. What an opportunity to teach our children to give & to have compassion - we watch as our 5 year old wrapped his leftover lunch to give to one of the boys outside, our 3 year old would give crackers and capri suns (& even his half gone freezer pop!) to our wonderful old guard, and even our 15 mo. would go with Daddy at night to give plates of food to the chicken guards. This post touches my heart in so many ways- a great encouragement that other believers are fulfilling 1 John 3:17. God has been so so very good to us!!!!

Shandell said...

How wonderful! I went to the Philippines with Food for the Hungry in college. Great organization!

Brenda said...

What a great story!! I love how you are raising your children!! You are an inspiration to so many! I went to Haiti last January and the first thing I did when I got back was started to sponsor a child. I will be traveling to Haiti again this coming January for another week!! A small piece of my heart is in that country!!

Megan Brueseke said...

I love this! I'm going to talk to my husband tonight to see if we can do this with our 4 yr old son. What a wonderful way to help and teach our children compassion at the same time.

wardfamilyramblings said...

My kids are too little to talk to yet (correction: too little to talk back to me when i'm talking about it) but I really want to do this when he is older. Our family has a heart for Africa and my sister in law works for Africa Inland Missions so I can't wait til the kids are old enough to talk to about it. I'm also thankful for all the families I know who are raising little men of God because I know there are little girls like mine who are going to be needing them in about 25 years :) Hearing this also challenges me to be raising my own son to care about others, even if he's only 18 months old now.

Bethany said...

For my birthday a few years ago my husband sponsored two kids through Compassion International for me. It was a great gift and he actually purchased a trip through them to go meet one of our kids in Honduras. (Unfortunately, due to some unsafe political issues going on that year our trip was cancelled).

While talking about Compassion our kids one day our son David said "Well, you each have a kid to sponsor - I want my own". So we went through the same process you did and let him pick out a child to sponsor. He talks about her often and we now sponsor three!

We get letters from our children every few months and it's so neat to hear from them and see what God is doing through their families and communities to help them. For Christmas last year we gave each family a cow and a couple goats. I admit I don't write them as often as I should and your post today has encouraged me to do so.

Thanks for posting this.

Seagers said...

I love this. We have 3 kids we sponsor, and for Christmas, my almost 4 year old at the time, got a world map. We hung it in our hallway where we keep our other "learning board." We put their pictures up next to the country they are from, and our son loves to look at them, which allows us to talk about them. I love the piggy/elephant bank idea though! Get a map!!!

Taylor said...

So sweet. You guys are doing such a great job of shepherding your kids' hearts!

Ashley said...

What an an amazing heart your sweet boy has, and no doubt it's partly from his parents' example and guidance. You guys are such an encouragement to me as a parent and surely many others.

Andrea said...

So amazing the way God has knit Oliver's heart together!

We have four sponsor children - two have the same birth day and birth year as our two oldest. Often Brianna and Reese will talk about going to see Lilian (in Honduras) and Diego (in Mexico). Just this week, Brie said we should help bring Lilian's family to the US and then help them with housing, food, etc. It will be interesting to see what God does in this area and hope we will be able to meet them on this earth someday.

Sarah said...

You have one incredible boy there :)

Sarah-Anne said...

i'm with sarah: you have an amazing, tenderhearted, comppasionate little boy on your hands...and it's the fruit of your parenting, friend!! you are an amazing woman of God & i want to me like you when I become a mom. :)
and yes, i know: you weren't fishing for compliments on your parenting/yourself in this post, you wanted to get the msg out there that kids are hungry & they need help, but I just had to say what i did! :D

Penny said...

I love that you're raising a sweet, compassionate, little fellow. :) My husband and I sponsor two children through Compassion International. I would encourage every one to do this. We have sponsored a little guy from the Philippines for several years. John Dave writes the sweetest, most humbling letters I've ever read~ many times he's made me cry by telling me how he's praying for ME! Makes me cry writing that! And we've only been sponsoring Latifa in Tanzania since Oct. 09. Actually, the day she was assigned to us we received word that my husband's workplace was closing in two months. When we prayed over our expenses, trying to decide where we could cut back, if worse came to worst, our sponsorship was not.on.the.table! There was no way I was giving up those children. God has made a way for us to continue sponsoring these children~ even through a transfer to another state, then early retirement and another job locally. If anyone out there feels the call to sponsor, trust me~ HE WILL MAKE A WAY!!! You can't afford to miss this blessing. God bless you for encouraging people to take up this cross, Raechel. :)

Sara said...

I don't sponsor any children directly and I don't have any of my own. But I do sponsor a village in Africa through GHNI :) and I love seeing their progress through the website that is set up for them.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

An evangelist friend of ours have started 3 orphanages in Africa and India. We sponsor one of those children at the home in Kenya. His organization is Compel Outreach and it is amazing to realize that we can help a child be clothed and fed for only $30 a month.

Jaime Leigh said...

Inspiring Blog & your little Oilver just melts my heart with his compassion and love he has showed at such a young age. Some adults could learn from this young mans heart!