Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Road to our Esperanza...

In just a little while our family will be setting foot on a land of majestic volcanoes, lush rainforests and ancient Mayan ruins. And... we are most excited to soon be face-to-face with our Compassion daughter, Esperanza

Esperanza whom we didn't choose. Esperanza, whose name means hope, whom God chose for us

Yes, we are headed to Guatemala!

Guatemala... where we thought we would go last summer until God changed all our summer plans and sent us back to the Philippines instead, where our hearts woke up and broke afresh for those things that break God's.

Guatemala... the first destination we are headed to, as a family, where we know no one and where we do not speak the language. 

Ah, yes... that oh-so-familiar outside-our-comfort-zone place where God somehow seems to always call for our obedience, our yes!

Since our family started answering God with this wild nod of a yes over these past few years, it is changing everything. Among other things, it has changed the way we spend our vacation time... that's for sure! 

As Jennie Allen so eloquently wrote in this must-read guest post on Ann Voskamp's blog today, "... something is happening — not a feeling or love of adventure or desire for glory but something within us that is from God, a call to more: to die — to live. My heart is bleeding and I can’t make it stop. So we are praying and willing and dreaming of living for heaven instead of the American dream, and it is changing everything. And I am strangely okay with that."

Yes, I am indeed strangely okay... strangely okay.

Our family vacations have turned into a pilgrimage of sorts over the years. I wouldn't have chosen to use that word myself — pilgrimage nor did I know how to adequately describe our transformation, until I read this blog post on Compassion International's blog recently.

It was only after reading that blog post did I realize that God has been transforming the way we spend our vacation time in order to disciple us and grow us into the people He created us to be.
When your desire is to see, to know, to touch, to understand — with an openness of mind and heart — that is a pilgrimage. And like all pilgrimages, you cannot remain the same at the end of such a journey. Pilgrimages lead you to reflect on your own identity and purpose.
A pilgrimage leads to changed and restored relationships. It’s a result of not visiting the poor, but visiting with the poor.
Visiting with the poor becomes another expression of the love of God and of community. And this idea is deeply ingrained in God’s desire and gift for wholeness.
It’s a mutual embrace of life as it can be.

Today, I was at my hairdresser's place for a haircut. As we chatted about life, she shared some of her family's current struggles. She, being originally from the Philippines, knows poverty first hand. She said something to me that I think is oh-so-profound.

She said, "When one has never seen how poor people's daily lives look like, one can quickly become self-absorbed."

Yes, this is so. profoundly. true.

And something clicked in my mind. 

It is why this pilgrimage of sorts has become an important part of our family's summer. It is to keep us in touch with the poor, so that we can mutually embrace each other's life.

Mind you, we don't head to an international destination every summer. Some summers we've spent right here at home or near home, yet they have been pilgrimages just the same — sandwich runs for the homeless, painting homes in government housing communities, delivering snacks to inner-city summer camps, spending a few vacation days in an inner-city neighbourhood.

These summer pilgrimages have shown us esperanza, hope. It has shown us "... a mutual embrace of life as it can be." 

It is a truly beautiful, sacred thing.

We are beyond excited to hop on that plane. I have a feeling that Guatemala will take a hold of our hearts in a very special way.

We will meet our Esperanza and we will witness esperanza... hope. 

In addition, we will also be visiting El Oasis Girls' Home, a Kids Alive International ministry.
The Oasis in Guatemala is an amazing ministry that comes alongside girls who have been abandoned or abused. Most were forced into child labour, experienced physical and sexual abuse, and, unfortunately, all too often all three.
At The Oasis, they come to live in a safe environment of family units with Guatemalan house-parents and begin the process of restoring hope. The girls attend school (many for the first time) and have access to therapy to heal emotional scars. Central to their restoration of hope is the knowledge that they are loved, protected, and they are introduced to Jesus who can provide the true healing that they need.
Since my girl started Freedom Creations a couple years ago with the hope of making an impact in the fight against modern-day slavery and oppression, and have since donated over $2,000 to International Justice Mission Canada, we have always had the desire to personally visit such a ministry.

And God has, literally at the very last minute, arranged for us to do just that! Check out this video to learn more about the ministry of El Oasis Girls' Home:

I am excited, actually beyond excited. Yet, to be honest... I am, at the same time, scared of the many unknowns and of how our hearts will be broken afresh.

But I am keeping my eyes on Jesus because He is our blessed esperanza and because broken is the most blessed you can be... and I am looking forward to that wild joy that will follow this yes!

Where will this summer be taking you, friend...? 

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

As She Walked Across That Stage...

This mama-heart of mine exuded with so much joy I thought it might explode. My first-born child, my baby girl, the one who made me a mama... she walked across that stage and just like that, she's graduated from high-school.

Where exactly has all that time gone to?

Don't blink. Parents of younger children, don't blink... because time waits for no one. It truly flows like a relentless river.

These 18+ years have flown by and this mama is deeply grateful to have had a front row seat to this God-story, to my girl's life where God's grace has been and continues to be powerfully at work in. 

So many beautiful memories... and so many more to look forward to!

I am so incredibly proud to call this amazing young woman my daughter. I am one blessed mama. God's grace truly is astoundingly beautiful. For someone as broken as I am to have been entrusted with this gift of such an extraordinary young lady as a daughter is beyond all I have ever asked for or have even dared to imagine.

He truly gives good gifts. This. astounds. me.

Yesterday she graduated from high-school with an award for her community service work and another one for her love of the French language.

And, edited on July 2, 2015 to add this... that, one week after her graduation ceremony, she got a call from her Principal letting her know that she's graduated as the top student of the Class of 2015, thus is the recipient of this year's Governor General's Academic Medal!!!

This award, along with all the other academic awards, wasn't announced at last week's graduation ceremony due to the unusual school year we had because of the teachers' strike, causing marks submission to be delayed.

All glory be to God alone!

This Fall, she will attend the University of Toronto to pursue an education, and eventually a career, in International Development, entering Canada's top university {and ranked 4th in the world} as a C. David Naylor University Scholar and a President's Scholar of Excellence, to live out her passion to speak out for those who are denied a voice.

These are undoubtedly incredible achievements and I am super proud of her! Trust me... just check out my innumerable #proudmama posts on social media. ;)

Yet, what truly makes this girl stand out is her God-given big heart for compassion and justice and that beautiful contagious smile which lights up an entire room when she enters.

This is a girl who, since the day she could walk and talk, always had the desire to help others. "Mama, me help?" was a regular request of hers.

This is a girl who, at just 12 years of age, listened to God's prompting and ended up propelling our family into a lifestyle of compassion and justice.

This is a girl who, at age 16, was recognized by her peers as someone who embodies living out peace in her everyday life.

This is a girl who, at age 17, agreed to collaborate with Compassion Canada to produce True Story: What God wants us to do about povertyin order to reach her peers across this vast country of ours and across the globe with the message of God's story of redemption.

Best of all, this girl... my daughter, has changed the way I look at the world. 
In my daughter's eyes I am a hero. I am strong and wise and I know no fear. But the truth is plain to see, she was sent to rescue me. I see who I want to be in my daughter's eyes.
In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal. Darkness turns to light and the world is at peace. This miracle God gave to me, gives me strength when I am weak. I find reason to believe in my daughter's eyes.
~ Martina McBride.

My story changed when this girl entered my life... and I have not looked back and I have been blessed beyond measure because of it. God has used motherhood to disciple me in ways that I will always and forever be grateful for.
Christian discipleship is a decision to walk in his ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that the way integrates all our interests, passions, and gifts, our human needs and eternal aspirations. It is the way of life we were created for. ~ Eugene H. Peterson.
You don't realize your story is changing you until you look back. ~ Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
I am feeling all sorts of emotions as I realize that the time has come for this story's next chapter to unfold. 

Yes, transitions and change have always been hard for this mama to face... so I am choosing to find comfort and strength in the reality that God loves her infinitely more than I ever can! 

My dearest Alyssa...
Words aren't adequate enough to express just how much joy you have brought into your daddy's and my life. Everyday, I thank God for you. You. are. a. gift... a grace-gift.

I love you so much... and count it pure blessing to walk this journey as your mama.

And girl, have I told you lately just how incredibly proud I am of you? #proudmama :) 

You are an extraordinarily special young lady. No doubt. God has gifted you in ways that astound me. His grace is wild... His love is extravagant. 

As an image-bearer of our Heavenly Father, may you continue to be Jesus' hands and feet... to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release prisoners from darkness, to comfort all who mourn. 

May you continue to be an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.

And may you know, with all your heart, that... you. are. His. beloved! 

That... you. are. eternally. His!

Go now into the world and dream God-sized dreams, my baby girl... because He has already blazed the way for you!

And may this always, always, always be true of you...
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ~ Galatians 6:14
With all the love that your mama has for you...

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Merely His Vessel...

She said these words facing the rolling camera... 
God has used gifts and interests I already have to bring hope to dark places. ~ Alyssa.
I listened to my girl say those very same words as I watched the pilot video clip a few months after that segment was originally filmed on that beach where oceans rise, and this mama couldn't help but weep... deeply grateful for God's grace which truly is a beautiful thing!

Watch that same video segment with me here...

This motherhood gig, it surprised me... it surprised my man! And while many might say we did good raising this girl and her baby brother, I can't hardly even start to agree.

Because you see, their Heavenly Father did good as it's only purely solely by His grace alone and He. is. always. good.

This motherhood gig, it wasn't really my gig to start with. I am merely His vessel.

It was His gig all along! 

And by His amazingly wild grace, He's allowed my girl to be a huge part of this amazing project called "True Story: What God wants us to do about poverty" --- a video-based curriculum made available for free by Compassion Canada to churches, schools, ministry groups, families... and anyone who wants to use it, really! And everything, I mean everything --- videos and accompanying resources --- are all downloadable for free from the website!

Earlier this month, True Story officially launched!

The week it launched, I had the honour of writing about it on the blog, Compassion Family. And that weekend, my girl and I embarked on a road-trip to represent Compassion Canada in promoting True Story at three youth conferences!

First Event: Pitch and Praise

Second Event: All Ontario Youth Convention

Third Event: Overflow Youth Conference

I prayed and she bravely shared her story to 4,000 of her peers... 
Of once living a boring check-list faith kind of life and then experiencing an overwhelming helpless faith and of finally discovering the beauty of living out God's story of redemption and being empowered to spread His love, light and hope to this broken world.

And God used her greatly over that weekend... 
More than what we asked for or even imagined... not only did many youth groups express interest in True Story, we had the immense joy of seeing 76 children, yes seventy-six!!!, released from poverty in Jesus' name at those three weekend youth events!

I am humbled. Floored. Deeply grateful for grace.

On that same weekend... 
The men in our family were on a road-trip of their own for my boy to compete at the National Capital Region 2015 speed-cubing competition where he got his very first FIRST PLACE podium finish since he started officially competing!

Here's the video of that first-place solve {wearing his Compassion shirt and lanyard, no less!}:

You know that quote I started this blog post with above?
God has used gifts and interests I already have to bring hope to dark places. ~ Alyssa.
It isn't only true in his sister's life. It is also true in this boy's life.

God's goodness and His faithfulness truly never cease to amaze me. I am continually awed that He would invite us to join Him in life-changing Kingdom work. 

I am awed that He can use something such as speed-cubing to build His Kingdom!

In recent days, God has allowed my boy to be a part of an amazing initiative --- helping out at a Rubik's Cube club in an inner-city community, inside a local public school, through the ministry of UrbanPromise Toronto, a ministry that our family has long loved and supported!

And it is UrbanPromise Toronto's hope that such clubs can be established in all three communities where they minister at --- to help them "reach a child, raise a leader, restore community." And they would like my boy to be a part in making that a reality!
To reach children in Toronto Community Housing with the love of Jesus, and raise them into leaders, who restore their community.
Don't you just love UrbanPromise's mission and vision statement? I do!

I am excited for what this next season holds for our family in terms of being Jesus' hands and feet. God has been intensely showing us, in more ways than one, how He would like us to continue joining Him in His Kingdom work.

And as He's clearly shown us in recent months and days, He is actively using gifts and interests that my kids already have to bring hope to dark places.

And for that, this mama is deeply grateful and is thoroughly enjoying this wild ride. 

After all, it's His gig and not mine.

I am merely His vessel...

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

One Proud Compassion Mama

When I woke up this morning, I scoured my Facebook news-feed and stalked my email inbox with eagle eyes hoping for photos and perhaps even videos to either be posted or to appear in my inbox.

You see, because April 30 is a very special day!

A couple weeks ago, I posted this on Instagram...

And yes, today is Rechelle's graduation day from Compassion International's Leadership Development Program (LDP). She will be among the last sponsored children to graduate from the LDP as Compassion transitions from this program to focus on youth development in order to benefit even more young people in the developing world!

And since Philippines is twelve hours ahead of us, when I woke up this morning the graduation had already happened {while we were sleeping}.

This is the first photo of
Rechelle that we ever saw.
We first met Rechelle four years ago. It was during our first trip back to the Philippines after twelve years of not being back, the trip that broke my heart anew... for the things that break God's

One week before our departure date, God made our path cross with Rechelle's in a way that only He can. You can read that story here.

We arranged to meet Rechelle in person and at the end of that meeting, we knew that, despite the steep cost of LDP sponsorship as compared to regular child sponsorship, we would be sponsoring her. You can read that story here.

I can truly say that sponsoring Rechelle has turned out to be one of the best decisions we've ever made!

Then last summer, we visited her again.

2011: At the Compassion project where Rechelle grew up as a Compassion sponsored child.

2011: Inside Rechelle's house.

2014: At the same spot, inside Rechelle's newly rebuilt house after it got destroyed by an earthquake.

2014: At Rechelle's church.

These four years of journeying with Rechelle as her sponsor family have been pure gift, wild grace! Being a part of her life has blessed us immensely... more than words can ever describe. We are looking forward to more of doing life with her... as we continue to correspond with her directly after her graduation from Compassion's program.

As details of her graduation date were released, we were sad that we couldn't attend in person. We wrote her our last official letter through Compassion and sent her a graduation gift, accepting that we've done all we can to make her graduation day special.

Little did we know, God was going to surprise us with so much more! We quickly realized that my parents are going to be in Cebu on Rechelle's graduation day. We submitted a request for them to attend the event on our behalf and it was quickly approved. We were overjoyed!

But God wasn't done just yet with His surprises!

We were volunteering at a Compassion Sunday event not too long ago where Compassion Canada's President/CEO Barry Slauenwhite was the guest speaker. Upon chatting with him and his wife, I learned that Barry is going to be the guest speaker at Rechelle's graduation! How awesome is that?!? I was over-the-moon tickled by God's lavish love!

Not only were my parents going to be there for Rechelle, Barry and his wife will be too! 

Only God can arrange details such as these... much like how He made our path cross with Rechelle's four years ago

So this morning...
My eyes stayed glued to my computer monitor... and that first chime came. An email. Photos. Another email. More photos. Yet another email. Videos!  

I can't even begin to describe how much of a gift it is, being able to see the photos and watch the videos. Oh my... I couldn't stop the tears! I was beyond overjoyed!

I am truly one proud {Compassion} mama!

Here she is, friends... our Compassion daughter, Rechelle, graduating from Compassion's Leadership Development Program.
Young people selected for the LDP have distinguished themselves in the Child Sponsorship Program through service, academic excellence and leadership. They have committed their lives to Christ and to serving Him. The LDP offers these students the opportunity to refine their gifts through a university education and targeted Christian leadership training. 
Students who qualify for the LDP have demonstrated academic and extracurricular excellence and have successfully met the selection criteria established by the LDP Advisory Committee in their country of origin.
Rechelle with my parents.

Rechelle with my parents and her mama.

Rechelle with Barry and his wife.

Rechelle with her Compassion LDP mentor.

And speaking of being a proud mama... here is Rechelle and her proud mama during the graduation march!


Friends, Compassion child sponsorship works!
Our Rechelle is proof... a child released from poverty in Jesus' name! Friends, do it --- sponsor a child with Compassion. It will be the best decision you make!

It has changed our family's life in ways that are beautiful beyond my comprehension. It is life-giving and joy-inducing. It is a YES that you will not regret. 
God calls me to do thanks. To give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received.
I could be the joy!
This is what makes us content - the contented, deep joy is always in the touching of Christ - in whatever skin He comes to us in.
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. (Isaiah 58:10-11)
It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God.
Empty to fill.
Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.
Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

That Wild Joy

It has been a whirlwind month and a bit since our family said "Yes! Here I am... Lord, send me..." to an opportunity to serve the least of these, one that is absolutely outside my comfort zone.

This quote by Kristen Welch has been an invaluable encouragement...
Our yes to God should scare us.
Not to keep us immobile, but to keep us dependent on the One who asks us to say it in the first place.
Fear keeps us moving towards God.
Yes, there is fear in obedience. But peace keeps us on the journey.
And the joy that follows our yes to God is wild.
And, throughout this month I have indeed experienced that wild joy!

I am currently sitting in the hospital's surgery waiting room as I tap out this blog post. After waiting for almost a month, little Ochro is finally getting his open heart surgery today. It will be a long five to eight hours of intense waiting but we are trusting our Heavenly Father to bring Ochro through this surgery safely and successfully.

A photo posted by alyssa (@_godsgal4ever) on

As I sit here and wait beside his beautiful mama, as she takes a nap in preparation for a long night ahead... I am totally in awe of just how beautifully brave she is.

And this is why I am writing today. 

This beautiful new friend of mine has taught me a few things about being brave and about having faith and about choosing gratefulness. 

And... this beautiful new friend of mine is the reason for a big portion of that wild joy that followed our yes to God.

Little Ochro, his mama and my girl!

You see, when our family first said yes to this opportunity, never in my wildest dream did I expect that, at the end of this journey, not only would little Ochro go back home to Mongolia with a new heart but that his mama would, too!

This is the wildest joy... because Jesus became real to this beautiful new friend of mine, this very brave mama, right here in Canada, thousands of miles away from the comforts of her own home, a traditional Mongolian ger, in the middle of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Right here --- after she had the opportunity to watch the Jesus Film in her native language.

Right here --- where a Christ-following interpreter, a volunteer with Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project, invested in her and patiently answered her many questions.

Right here --- while being in community with Christ-followers who are being Jesus' hands and feet to her.

A brand-new heart... for my beautiful friend. Such wild joy. Such amazing grace.
Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone — and see — a new life has begun! ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17, The Voice.
I have literally witnessed this mama's transformation... from full of anxiety, to full of joy. This is what our Jesus can do and is still doing today, friends! 

Just. So. Beautifully. Amazing.

To top it off, we will have the immense joy of seeing her baptised before she heads back home to Mongolia! 

But as beautiful as this story already is, I can't hit the publish button until I tell you what my new friend has taught me in this short time that I've known her.

She's taught me what it means to be a brave mama...
This is a woman who calls the Gobi Desert home, who herds animals as a livelihood, who lives a nomadic lifestyle. 

At first, she couldn't fathom getting on an airplane, not to mention flying halfway across the world to a strange and foreign land where she doesn't speak nor understand the language. At first, she didn't want to come. At first, she wanted to send her son here with a relative. 

Yet, she finally chose to be brave, to step out of her comfort zone... so that her son could have a new lease on life. This is what brave mamas do.

She's also taught me what it means to rely on faith...
In this First World which we call home, we rarely find ourselves in situations where having faith is all we have to rely on. Our overly educated brains are always one step ahead of us. If not, Google always has an answer to our questions. It is not so for my friend. 

While I frantically google information so I can read about this particular open heart surgery for tetralogy of fallot, she just simply trusts that the surgeon will do his best job. 

While I queried the ER doctor over and over about little Ochro's recurring blue spells (also known as tet spells) which were becoming intense last week before today's surgery and about the risks of stopping all of his medications, she just simply trusts that he is getting the best care there is.

As our pastor was saying a prayer over little Ochro and my mind wandered in a few different directions thinking about the surgery risks, I look over and saw her simply trusting and fervently praying along. This is what simple faith looks like.

Little Ochro is not camera-shy at all. Here, he is having fun with CityNews camera man, Steve Boorne,
as he filmed segments on behalf of The Herbie Fund.

Lastly, she's also taught me what it means to choose gratefulness...
As little Ochro's original surgery date got cancelled and subsequently kept being delayed, days turned into weeks. I became increasingly impatient with each passing day and my first-world attitude of entitlement started to rear its ugly head. 

My friend, on the other hand, waited gracefully and patiently, and regarded all the medical care that little Ochro is and will be getting as pure gift. 

She exudes gratefulness... despite being away from home for almost two months now and will be here for yet another month because of the delay, despite being able to talk to her husband only once during these two months because their home in the Gobi Desert is not reachable via telecommunications, despite being terribly homesick. This is what choosing gratefulness looks like.

After just four hours in the operating room instead of the estimated five to eight hours, little Ochro is now safely out of surgery and his heart repair is a success. Thank you, Jesus! Please continue to pray for him, friends... that his recovery will be swift and smooth so that they can return to their family soon.

As much as we would love to visit Mongolia one day, the reality is that we may never see each other again in this lifetime after our friends return home to Mongolia, but I will always remember this beautiful new friend of mine and the joy that she's brought into our family's life and the valuable things that I've learned from her. 

And little Ochro will definitely forever have a special place in my heart. I so love this little man... he gives the tightest, most endearing hugs! And I can always lay claim to the fact that I taught him how to take his very first selfies! ;)

And it is wild joy knowing that there will be a day when we will all be worshipping God together again in the same place on the other side of eternity!

Oh, yes! --- Yeses to God can absolutely be scary, but the joy that follows is truly wild. I am so glad our family said, "Yes! Here I am... Lord, send me..."

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

More Thoughts on Lent... on fear, on babies getting heart surgeries and on saying yes

Literally just two mere days after I wrote this blog post about my thoughts on Lent this year and made this declaration...
I want that — I want to be counted as People of the Cross, carrying around the Cross in my head — because that’s the only way there will be real love in my hands and feet and heart.
So the People of the Cross will pray that our faith in our Saviour is worth laying down our life for our Saviour. We will pray that we don’t live lives of cheap grace but of costly Christianity.
Too long The People of the Cross have crusaded for safe lives, too long we’ve wished for comfortable lives, too long we’ve wanted easy lives of Vanilla Love instead of Cross-shaped Love.
But the People of the Cross — we are done with safe lives of comfort instead of living dangerous lives that speak of the comfort found in Real Love who hung on a Cross."
~ Ann Voskamp.
... that God made my path cross with an opportunity to serve the least of these that is so outside my comfort zone that I literally cringed in fear. And then, I heard Him whisper, "My daughter, this is how I am leading you to make good on your word. Just trust me and follow my heart... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Yes, that oh so familiar unforced rhythm of a grace that can only come from Him.

You see, I might not have made plans for what our family would do for Lent this year, but my Heavenly Father had a plan already in place for us.

Friends, please meet Undrakh and Ochirkhuyag...
So, that opportunity to serve that made me cringe in fear? Yes, it's to take on the role of "hospital mom" for these two adorable baby boys from Mongolia, for these next eight weeks, as they come to Canada for heart surgeries via the ministry of Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project.

Will you join our family in praying for these two and also for the other children who have heart issues who are listed on this webpage? The surgery dates have since been changed... Ochirkhuyag's surgery is now scheduled for Tuesday, March 24 and Undrakh's is still unscheduled. {Update: Undrakh's surgery happened on March 26 and Ochirkhuyag's surgery was on April 21. Both boys are doing very well after surgery.}

For more up-to-date information, you can follow Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project on Facebook as well.

So, let me explain the cringing part...
I asked, "Why me, God?" Why did that appeal-for-help email have to land in my inbox? Isn't there someone else more qualified to do this than me?

You see, those who know me in real life would tell you that I am an introvert... that being around people all the time de-energizes me. Saying yes to this will require me to be constantly interacting with people, and lots of them, in these next eight weeks!

Also, driving all over this big city of ours isn't my most favourite thing to do. Saying yes to this will require me to be driving all over this big city a lot in these next eight weeks!

I get easily queasy dealing with and hearing about medical procedures, let alone details about heart surgeries on babies. Saying yes to this will require me to attend all the medical meetings and be in on all of these details before, during and after the surgeries during these next eight weeks!

I have literally not been sleeping well this whole week just thinking about these next eight weeks... it literally feels like as if my own child is going to have heart surgery. 

Yet, God gently whispered this... "for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

And to that I say, "Yes! Here I am... Lord, send me."
Our yes to God should scare us.
Not to keep us immobile, but to keep us dependent on the One who asks us to say it in the first place.
Fear keeps us moving towards God.
Yes, there is fear in obedience. But peace keeps us on the journey.
And the joy that follows our yes to God is wild.
~ From this must-read blog post by Kristen Welch.
Honestly, I am just a small, small part of an awesome team of God's people who have come together to make these babies' surgeries a reality.

As I take on the role of "hospital mom", on the ground here in town is an awesome family who is hosting both babies, their mamas and their translators... six people whom they hardly know, strangers really, in their home, for these next eight weeks!

Now, that is something that's off-the-charts out of my comfort zone. I am blown away by this host family's generosity, compassion and lavish love.

I am also deeply grateful for the people who are on stand-by to help me with transportation, for our pastor who is willing to provide pastoral care, for people who have lent us baby car seats, for the hospital staff who has been so awesome already, and for an army of prayer warriors!

My thoughts wander to more of Ann Voskamp's words that I quoted in that same blog post that I wrote about my thoughts on Lent...
The People of the Cross repent of wanting to be greatly known for anything other than for loving greatly.
The People of the Cross repent of loving our agendas more — instead of interrupting our agendas because we love Jesus most.
We repent of loving You, Lord, so little because we have loved ourselves too much.
What if... The People of the Cross do more than Give Up something — but to Take Back something?
Take Back taking up our Cross,
Take Back our time so we can turn back to our First Love,
Take Back our hypocrisy and our complacency and our apathy and Love Lavishly,
Take Back our excuses for not committing to Give Back every day in some tangible, real way — to the local food bank, to a woman’s shelter, to the refugees and the foreigners and the Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and to the forgotten neighbour next door with her meowing stray cat.
Maybe now is the time —
Now is the time to Take Back what it means to humbly and genuinely live the love of The People of the Cross.
~ Ann Voskamp.
Ah, yes... yes, I remember what I wrote... Lent is not going through the motions of the supposed-to-dos... of eating pancake dinners and of reading devotionals and of giving up something.

It is more than that. Way more than that...

It is a time to repent, of loving myself too much... and loving God so little.

Two more days and we will be at the airport to meet Ochirkhuyag and Undrakh and their mamas and their translators. As I run around today and tomorrow doing errands in preparation for their arrival, I am relishing in the fact that God would invite unqualified people such as our family to join Him in doing His work, to be His hands and His feet to the least of these.

It is sinking in now, truly it is... that this, this is exactly what it means to observe Lent and to live as People of the Cross... {and I am paraphrasing Ann Voskamp}:
When we want to be greatly known for nothing else but for loving greatly.
When we interrupt our agendas because we love Jesus.
When we repent of loving God so little because we love ourselves too much.
When we take back taking up our Cross.
When we take back hypocrisy and complacency and apathy and Love Lavishly.
As my son and I spend a big chunk of his March Break next week at the hospital with Ochirkhuyag and Undrakh attending a flurry of pre-op appointments, I will be holding on to this truth...

... that "the joy that follows our yes to God is wild."

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!