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!