Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Multiplied A Thousand Fold

We are a pencil in the hand of God. It's not about us. Our lives speak, our actions speak, far louder than our words. ~ Fred Katagwa, as quoted in the book What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart.
The words struck me deep...
"A pencil in the hand of God." I sat in the waiting room of the dentist's office this past Monday morning reading What's Your Mark? as my kids had their routine cleaning and check-ups done. I scrolled through page after page of stories, of everyday ordinary people, of people just like you and me, all making a mark for God's Kingdom... in Jesus' name. Inspiring stories!

And I smiled... because just a few days before, on Friday... an email appeared in my inbox from Stephanie at Compassion Canada, an email reminding me that beautiful God-stories can unfold if we are willing to be that pencil in the hand of God.

The subject line caught my attention right away... Compassion - Completion Report. I excitedly double-clicked to open up this long-awaited email and I. just. could. not. stop. smiling. as I read the attachment that came with it.

As I read the report, tears started to stream down my face to join that unerasable smile because even though it's right there before my eyes, on hard copy... I couldn't {actually, I still can't} believe that God actually used our family to make this permanent facility for Patnubay Child Development Centre {a Compassion project in Masbate, Philippines} a reality!

Friends, here is our story...
Two years ago this very month, in July 2011, God sent us to the Philippines on a self-guided missions immersion trip. Normally, this wouldn't be such a big deal... but to this family, it was. You see, we were comfortable, very comfortable, with our North American Christian lifestyle. Hubby and I didn't see a need for a missions trip to a third-world country... we were already making a difference, right here where we are... and to us, that was enough!

In fact, if you asked people who know us, they would tell you exactly that... we are a family that's actively involved in local missions, making a difference in the lives of the marginalized right here in our very own city.

But God had other plans... and we were in it!
It wasn't easy, but it was right. "If you want to make a mark," Gary says, "go where people are having the hardest time believing God is good." Leave where you are. Go there. ~ from What's Your Mark?, Gary Haugen's story.
Seeing the Philippines had a profound impact on our entire family...
It had been twelve years since hubby and I were last there. Even though we both grew up there, we didn't really see or realize the extreme poverty that surrounded us. We were brought up to live in the security bubble of our upper-middle-class existence. We were oblivious to the suffering that was right outside our doorstep.

Street children. Manila, Philippines.

When I was seventeen, my family moved to Canada. Hubby came a few years later. We got married and happily settled into a comfortable North American Christian lifestyle, still oblivious to the sufferings of our fellow brothers and sisters back home and in developing countries all over the world.

Even when we went back to the Philippines in 1999, with our girl who was just a toddler at that time, we went as tourists... resort-hopping, shopping to our heart's content, eating all the Filipino foods that we missed... never once thinking of or even looking at the suffering that was right before our eyes.

But God is truly gracious...
He would use our girl to open up our eyes to the plight of the world's extreme poor. She was just 12 years old that Christmas back in 2009 when she asked for nothing else but a little sister from Compassion Canada. That was when our journey of sponsoring children started... and we haven't looked back since!

Two years later, we found ourselves in the Philippines... with both of our kids in tow, not really knowing what God had in store for us... just willing to be that pencil in His hand.

We met our Compassion sponsor child, Florianlyn.

We met Compassion LDP student, Rechelle, who we decided to sponsor right after our meeting.

What we saw forever changed us, breaking our hearts for the things that break God's heart.

My girl and Rechelle, inside Rechelle's house.

My kids and Rechelle, at the Compassion project where she grew up!

Our family and Florianlyn's family, inside her house.

Slums, a very common sight in the Philippines.

People... families... living on the streets, another very common sight.

Forever changed...
It's not an easy place to be... forever changed... but I agree that it is the most blessed place to be.

When we were at Patnubay Child Development Centre where Florianlyn belongs to, the Pastor shared with us a dream they have... for a permanent facility to better serve the 272 Compassion children and their families.

It's merely a dream because they did not have the funds to make it a reality.

The dream...

All they had as classrooms were these...

God's still small voice...
The permanent facility would cost about $30,000.00 to build. Somehow, hubby and I couldn't shake the feeling that God was asking us to give a substantial amount of money towards it.

A fairly substantial amount to us, yes... but still not quite enough to complete this building.  

It felt to us like the little boy's five loaves and two fishes... you know, that story from the Bible... it was all we had, yet it wasn't quite enough.

We committed that sum of money to God and waited to see what He would do with it.

What came next nearly knocked me off my feet. My first reaction? "Not me, Lord. Not our family! We are not qualified to organize something like that!"

An opportunity was dropped on our family's lap... to put together a benefit event... with all proceeds going towards the Patnubay building project. It was a lot of hard work... many sleepless nights... many nerve-wracking days complete with me having ugly melt-downs

My sister and her choir, the reason this event came to be in the first place!

My friend and fellow Compassion Advocate, Ann Voskamp, who so graciously agreed
to partner with our family to make this event a reality! She and her family are truly inspiring!!! ♥

Our family and Ann, at the conclusion of the event.

To this day, I'm not really sure how we pulled everything together... it is truly a testament of God's amazing grace! Yes, only by His grace alone...

The event raised just enough money to top off our donation to reach $30,000! The total amount turned over to Compassion Canada was $30,158.42!!!

A few days after the benefit event, it was time to write our cheque... you know, that substantial amount we felt God was asking us to give. I'd be lying if I told you it was easy. Writing a big cheque to give away hurts. But I think the beautiful thing is this: Doing Kingdom work, the expression of Biblical justice, is supposed to hurt. Loving with a cross-shaped love hurts... just look at Jesus' example.

Forever changed is not easy... but it is the most blessed place to be.
Writing that cheque meant curbing our family's eating out budget. But "millions of people go to bed hungry each night. In fact, about 1 billion people today are chronically short of food, many slowly starving to death."1
Writing that cheque meant no big family vacations for at least a couple of years. But for many of our fellow brothers and sisters in the developing world "there aren't any vacations from the hard work of daily survival."1
Writing that cheque meant delaying our home renovations for yet another year. But "nineteen thousand children under the age of five die every single day of largely preventable causes simply because they are poor. That's almost 8 million children every year, one every four seconds..."1 simply because they don't have adequate shelter to ward off simple diseases.
Writing that cheque meant delaying replacing our 16-year-old car for some more time. But "783 million have no access {to clean water} at all. Instead, they walk miles each day to dip their buckets in filthy, bacteria-ridden water that makes them sick and kills their children."1
{1. Chapter 4: Magic Kingdom, Tragic Kingdom, and the Kingdom of God. Unfinished, by Richard Stearns.}
You see, when we finally get the proper perspective for why we give away, though it still might hurt and it's supposed to, we find joy! It becomes the living out of thanks, thanks-living!

This past year, our family has found real joy in making meals together... eating healthier as a result. We have come to realize that giving of our time in serving the marginalized is as much fun, if not more fun, than a family vacation. We have come to appreciate our home as it is, and have been surprised by God's provision so that some of our planned renovations can indeed happen. We were happily driving our old 16-year-old station wagon and was content to drive it to its grave when God literally led us to a newer car, and provided us with enough funds to buy it!

Richard Stearns has this to say about Kingdom work, in his most recent book Unfinished:
It's about the thousands of daily twists, turns, detours, and choices that make up the very fabric of our lives. It's about a life well lived for Christ by those who know their destination and take seriously the role God has given them to play as full participants in his kingdom work.
So, back to that email I received last Friday...
Our meager offering, our five loaves and two fishes, God has multiplied one thousand fold... through us, weak and unqualified people... just because we were willing to be that pencil in His hand. He truly does make the impossible, possible.

To see this report, two years to the very month our family stepped foot on that bare land where this beautiful building now stands... is. just. so. utterly. amazing!

We serve an awesome God!
To Him be all the glory, honour and praise... great things He has done!
It doesn't matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.
You can do it. Jesus did. He is the example, the eternal Truth we love because he loved us first. We serve because he served first.
~ Jeremy Cowart, What's Your Mark?

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


  1. Aimee - thank you for sharing! What an incredible God-ordained journey.. where so many lives have been changed and blessed. You are inspiring!

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Stephanie! Our family's still so awed that God would use us in this way. Such wild grace!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Aimee! Inspiring! I had no idea!

  3. What a wonderful story of listening to God - following through and trusting Him for the miracle.
    I am following you from A Holy Experience.

    1. Thank you, Janis. God's miracles are beautiful, His grace breathtaking!