Friday, September 15, 2017

Forever Bonded

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Madelina
National Day 2015
During a community outreach event the team was passing out bread and tea and dancing in the streets. There were two girls that approached me and began dancing with me. We spent the afternoon laughing, dancing, and taking pictures. After we returned from our trip we had a final debrief at Fork. We were told that some of the kids we had met were now available for sponsorship. As I flipped through the pictures I searched for a familiar face, and there she was. With those beautiful bright eyes. But something was different about those eyes since I had seen them last. They were sad and as I looked closer I noticed a black eye. Without a shadow of a doubt I knew I needed to sponsor her.
Fast forward to National Day 2016
I was filled with excitement to see my girl again. As we sat and talked with David he updated us on Madelina. He communicated that she was no longer consistently participating in the church or after school program. He had said he had seen her at the bar and had heard she was going to school in Oradea due to court order. Needless to say, it seemed she had a lot going on. I prayed I would get to see her and at least give her a hug. With 600 hotdogs, rolls, a bag full of cabbage, and some condiments we set off to the gypsy village with David, Geta and their team. As we walked closer children began to run toward us. All of sudden I saw her. I recognized those eyes. I touched her arm as she walked by. As she turned my eyes lit up and I exclaimed "hi!!". She looked back and smiled. She grabbed my hand and we continued to walk to where we were setting up the hot dog feast. She asked if I remembered her and her friend Andria. I told her I did. Following the feast she came running back up to me hand in hand with Andria. Pointing to her and to me as if she was saying see her remember her? Again I said I did. Before it was time to leave I had Timotoi, a man from David's church help me to invite them to the church on Sunday, as they were having a church service and we would be there. The girls nodded in agreement.
Well the day for the service came and I walked into the church anticipating seeing her face. There were children sitting in chairs on the stage. I scanned the room for those gorgeous bright eyes. But they were not there. She will come I told myself, they said they would, they will be here. But a little shadow of doubt sunk in as I remembered what David had disclosed. Maybe she went to the bar instead, maybe she wasn't even in town, maybe she forgot as it had been a few days. So the team got settled into their seats and the service began. The worship team opened with some songs and the children sang along. Then Geta, Davids wife looked at me from the stage as she sang and motioned toward the back of the church. I turned around and there she was! There was my girl and she was looking for me, as I could see David pointing me out to her. She swiftly walked past everyone and down the aisle to where I was sitting. She practically fell into my lap as we hugged. "She came!" Said one of my team mates. And I was so overwhelmed with joy, tears poured down my face. She looked up at me confused and I did my best to smile and try to explain I was just so happy she came. She continued to hold me and rub my back to console me. Through the entire concert she held my hand or had her arm around me. We smiled back at each other and though there may have been a language barrier, there was no denying the bond we felt in that moment. Andria walked in a bit later. She smiled and waved from her seat.
The concert ended and the church enjoyed a pizza party. Following the party, we hugged and rejoiced. I had the opportunity to give them both a small present. Included in that was a personalized letter full of encouragement, love, and compassion for them. As David translated the letters the girls eyes met mine. They smiled and I could tell these words spoke to their hearts.
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It is hard to put into words the emotions we were all feeling in that moment. What I do know is the Spirit was present and we will forever be bonded.
Written by Megan Flynn


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does Sponsorship Work?

12309984_532087092180_3762488192300389181_oThis is a question I am often asked and it is one that you really need to discover on your own.
Sponsoring a child is not just a financial commitment but rather an investment in God’s Kingdom. We are called to look after the “least of these” and children are the most vulnerable. They are often left without hopes or dreams. Sponsorship is a means where we can change that.

Through sponsorship, you are coming along side of one of our strategic servant partners and offering assistance in providing social, economic and spiritual resources to help a child have a future. These children often feel that no one cares for them and by connecting them with a sponsor they begin to experience hope and self worth.
I have been a child sponsor for over twelve years. I was a good sponsor in sending in my commitment and writing letters. However, it was not until I actually met my first sponsored child that I saw the difference that I was making. When we met she took one look at my wife and myself and burst into tears. They were not sad tears but tears of joy. Every time I looked into her eyes that day I saw the love she had for us and for what we were doing in her life. Through this experience I saw the love that Jesus has for each of us and I knew we were making a difference.
My life had changed.
I am a believer in child sponsorship and I desire to bring that same joy that I have experienced to others through the sponsorship program of Remember the Children. The children in Romania are the future of the developing church. By engaging them first we then can begin to reach their families and finally the communities. That is our impact model. We currently have two sponsorship programs underway with a third in development. We are working in Satu Mare where we are partnering with House of Hope. Here 25 orphans are being cared for on a daily basis. One of my sponsored children lives there and I got to meet him one night. Besides all of the hugs, the one thing I remember the most was when I sat down to tie my shoes. He jumped in and tied them for me. He just kept looking me in the eyes and smiling as he did so. My heart melted at that moment. We are also partnering with a church in Chimeghiu that has an after school program for the children in that area. They are reaching out and being a light in a rather dark community. Over the past two years I am seeing the difference that the church is making and know that through the sponsorship program the children will begin to see the transformational love of Jesus.   Shortly we hope to have the program in Santandrei, where we will be offering opportunities to the Roma/Gypsy children of two villages. Already, plans are developing to build a community center where we can begin to reach out to those families.
I encourage you to pray about making a difference in the life of a child. Find out for yourself if the program works and join with us. Our program is relational and it is not just about the dollars. It is about encouraging and offering hope to a child and it is my testimony that sponsorship does not just change one life but two. Would you be willing to make that investment and discovery?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Look into their Eyes


   You walk into the village overwhelmed by the poverty and the living conditions. One room homes with a single bed that sleeps five. A fire pit for cooking and a child’s swimming pool to do laundry in. Food graciously placed out as an offering but with flies swarming around. You wonder are you really making a difference in this place? Can anyone make a difference?
    I just returned from ten days in Romania meeting with several of the partners that we are working with. Our goal is to bring faith, hope and love to the children of Romania. All of our strategic partners work at spreading the gospel message through afterschool programs, vacation bible schools and discipleship programs. Monthly in the villages of Santandrei food bags are given out as a gesture of love. Simply the message is that we care. We are not asking anything in return except for chance to be there and to pour into their lives. By showing them the love that Christ first showed to us we begin to offer them hope in something better.
    Allow me to share a visit with you. As a group we pulled into one of the poorer villages. The children are the first to come out to see what we are doing or perhaps bringing. They readily great us with hugs and hand holding. The parents stand off to one side just watching us. We gather the children around and begin to sing some simple songs. Our partner here, Danny, has visited many times so they are familiar with the songs and readily join in. They enjoy the movements and laugh at some of our clumsy attempts to dance. Next we tell a Bible Story and share a memory verse. The children are anxious to repeat the verse and receive a treat. Next we have them do a simple craft to reinforce the story and then end with some games. If you look past the poverty you could be in any neighborhood in the United States. These are children just looking to be loved and embraced. If you look into their eyes you can see that. All they really want to know is that someone cares for them. Simply by spending some time with them you begin to build a level of trust and hope. You begin to be an agent of change in their lives. This is what our partners are doing in Romania and why we are coming along side of them.
     We recently opened a new sponsorship program in these villages. The picture above is Vanesa and she was our first sponsored child there. I had the privilege of presenting her a letter from her sponsor Melissa. All of the children gathered around as Danny read her the letter in Romanian. Slowly a smile crept onto her face and her eyes began to light up. She felt valued and you could see it in her eyes. A connection had been made and change was beginning. This is what our ministry is and it is making a difference in Romania.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Nelu

It was December 2013 when I first encountered the village of Santandrei in Romania. A common Roma gypsy community on the outskirts of the town it was there that I would discover what “being relational” could truly mean. I have always stressed the importance in child sponsorship as not being as much about the dollars but rather the hope that can be brought just by writing, communicating and showing that you care. We arrived in that village to bring coats and food bags to the community. It was everything you would expect from a village of “outsiders”. Luckily the chief of community, Nelu, was there to help keep things under control. My first impression of Nelu was that he was respected by the community and even if he wasn’t people listened to him. Danny is the local Romanian pastor who has been working in that village to bring the love of Jesus to the people. He is a light in a dark area. He told us that the local churches were fine with him bringing the gospel to the gypsies but they just didn’t “want those people in their churches”. That is the most vivid memory I have of that trip- those words broke my heart. Seriously what part of the gospel speaks of shutting a door?

I have been back to the village 5-6 times since that first village and have begun to see changes especially in Nelu. Often, he stood to the side watching unless he was needed to keep things organized. Over the years he has invited Andy and Danny into his home for coffee and to listen to their words. As a construction worker, he began to show pride in his home and creating upgrades that are certainly not typical in a Roma village. Danny makes weekly visits to the community to spread the word and deliver food bags, school supplies, and other items which sponsorship dollars help support.

It was within the past year that we heard Nelu had attended a revival and decided to accept Christ as his personal savior. Talk about a WIN! Here was the leader of the community deciding to make a decision that could be an example for everyone. He has changed his lifestyle and wants to make a difference in the village for Jesus. He has told Andy that he trusted Remember the Children and Danny because it was always “about the children”. This June he asked Andy over coffee why Andy had “never invited him to church?” Wow- that brought home a point and was quickly resolved. I was blessed to be in Romania on June 4th when Nelu got on the bus with us (and his daughter) and went to Impact Church. He worshipped and was welcomed. I noticed a difference this summer as he was very engaging with the team and hugged us as we were leaving. It just goes to show that taking the time to be intentional and relational can be life changing. Danny’s weekly visits, Andy’s coffee chats and Remember the Children’s ministry to the children made a difference. I have seen it firsthand and know that God has been glorified.
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As a postscript Andy made sure that Nelu now has a Romanian Bible to read and study with. I can’t wait to return in December and see my “brother in Christ.”
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One of the Few by Jason Ladd (Bookreview)

 Jason Ladd is a US Marine Fighter pilot that is seeking the truth found through Jesus Christ. Like most of us he is on a journey to find out really what the truth is and how that can make a difference in our lives. I must say that this is not typically the type of book that I would just pick up and read. However I can totally recommend it for anyone (Christian or Non-Christian) that is willing to take some time and truly explore what is important in their lives.
    For the Non-Christian Jason provides a strong argument for the Gospel and Jesus Christ.  Going point by point he makes a very strong case and at the very least should provide some insight and thinking about one's worldview. For the Christian it is powerful and serves to re-enforce our Faith. We are constantly in Spiritual Warfare and his comparison of our battles to that of a Marine's training and duty really brought the point home to me. I related to his personal journey and insights. Though I am a Christian I have my own fears and doubts and this book served to strengthen me. What a blessing.
     It should be noted that I as given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I was not required to write a favorable review (only the TRUTH) and I was not compensated. The comments are mine alone. The book is available at many retailers and in different formats. I encourage you to challenge yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We have a child!

      Several weekends ago Karen and I were asked to facilitate and staff the Ignite 2016 conference in Wildwood, New Jersey by Compassion. Expenses paid we were looking forward to a nice weekend away (at the beach) doing what we love (getting children sponsored). It was a rainy weekend but we still had fun. Sponsorships were going well and then Sunday came......
      This couple came up to our table and had decided over the weekend that wanted to sponsor a child. They had lots of questions that were easily answered and then they made our day. This was both of theirs second marriages. Their children from other marriages were grown and gone. They were not able to have a child of their own at this point but wanted to have a child together. They decided to choose a generic child packet. This is one without a specific child profile but rather an indicated country and then you pick boy or girl. They did not even want to do that. They wanted to leave everything up to God. Just as if they were having their own child they wanted Him to choose the sex and everything else. Both were actually crying that they were going to have their own "child" to call theirs. I gave both of them the premium for the event ( the t-shirt) and they ran to the bathroom to put it on. I grabbed them as they came out and asked for a picture. You can just see the joy and excitement that they had. I wish I could be there when they get their child packet. Three plus lives changed and this is just the beginning. I love that I get to do this and experience moments like this.
      Interestingly enough, after a weekend of rain, the sun started to come out and shine. I take this as one of those special moments where God is really pleased with His church. <><

Monday, July 18, 2016

Five Days / 8 Connections

      We specifically headed back to Honduras this year to see our 4 sponsored children and our LDP student.  We also wanted to host our final Quinceanera (for now). We decided to break from the norm and instead of staying at a typical "chain" hotel we tried a small boutique type hotel. It had only 23 rooms and is a little off the beaten path.  The neat thing was it was right by the Compassion country office and we got to stop in for a quick tour. From our arrival to departure it was a blessing. Our host Scarlett and her daughter Goldie made us feel right at home. In fact the best part of the trip was connecting with everyone we ever sponsored or were sponsoring. God made those connections happen.
Meet Sandra~ our newest sponsored child! We have only been sponsoring her for a year and she lives way north- close to Guatemala. We didn't think we would be able to meet her since she was so far from Tegucigalpa. Compassion made the arrangements and we had an amazing time with her. She has attitude and spunk. We ended up taking her (and her Dad) to their first movie ever, "Finding Dory". Great day!
From left to right> Jorge! Our 4th visit with him and he is growing into an amazing young man. Proof that sponsorship works. Fabiola is in the center. She is our LDP student, 24 years old, beautiful and about to graduate the University in accounting. Last but never least is Nataly. We choose her from a project center that is close to our hearts. Though we have been sponsoring her for about two years this was our first meeting. She just never stopped smiling or giggling.
Sophia and Jeyelly- If you read the prior post this was our opportunity to host the Quinceanera for Sophia. We last saw her three years ago and she has grown into quite the young women.  Our biggest surprise was getting to see Jeyelly after she had left the project two years ago. Such a God moment to have closure and know we were blessed.
Linda! Need I really say more? Those that know me understand she is the reason for my passion of
child sponsorship and my ministry. Without her, there would not be any volunteer work with Compassion or my actual work with RtC. She changed my life and we are blessed to be able to continue having her a part of our lives. She is getting married and we were fortunate to be able to have lunch together and meet her fiance. They make a great couple!
Finally Kellyn~ she surprised us. She has graduated from the program and we were only her Correspondent Sponsors for about about a year. We did meet her in 2013 and we are connected on Facebook. She found out we were in Honduras and messaged me. She wanted to come see us. She and her whole family took a bus into the city and we had a great dinner together. She just wanted us to know how important we were in her life and how much she appreciated us. Talk about humbling.

    So again~ a simple trip to be a blessing and we end up being blessed more. Sponsorship is truly about changing lives though it often is the Sponsor that gets changed the most!