Small Talk

Over the last several days, we’ve met dozens of children, but I’ve never really been able to have much of a conversation.

I think this has a lot to do with expectations; being so concerned that I need to say something profound that will impact these kids lives forever, or avoiding saying something that would inadvertently damage them beyond measure. (No pressure, huh?)

Thursday was different.

In our last project visit, I had a chance to really just relax and have some fun. And after an intense game of volleyball, I took a seat on the stairs to have a drink and recharge.

Carmen sat down next to me and started talking.

I learned that she was eleven years old and has one brother named Pedro who is also at the project. She has two cats, named “White” and “Black.” She loves science & social studies, and she wants to be a lawyer.

I asked her why and she said, “I just like what they do.” (Seems as good a reason as any, I think.)

She asked me whether I play any instruments, and I told her about how I used to play the trombone when I was a bit older than she is now. We talked about music, drawing, family, our favorite colors, what I do for a living…

We just talked. No pressure, nothing seriously profound. Just a nice conversation.

I think it’s what both of us needed.

I wonder how often our expectations get in the way of us simply enjoying the opportunities and connections that God brings into our lives? To miss the trees for the forest sometimes. (Yes, I meant to say it that way in case you were curious.)

If I’d been stuck in that mode, I don’t know that I would have been able to enjoy this time with Carmen.

Her sitting down with me was a wonderful gift from God. Our conversation may not have been earth-shatteringly profound, but it made an impact. And I’m grateful for it.

Thinking Beyond Today

Did you know that if you ask the average child in this area what he wants to be when he grows up, he won’t be able to answer?

It’s true.

During Tuesday’s visit to a church in the Copan Ruins, the project workers shared with us that most of the kids have never really given it any thought.

They’re too busy just trying to get through the day to think about what the future might hold.

That’s why it was really encouraging for us to see “My Plan for Tomorrow,” a resource in Compassion’s curriculum designed to help children ages 12 and up to figure out what direction they want to go with their lives.

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"What the Children Need Most is…"

The other day, we were shown the project offices at the church we visited. After seeing the meticulous records and going through a whole list of questions, I asked a project worker, “If there was one thing you’d like us to tell Canadians [and Americans, too] back home, what would it be?”

She thought for a moment and said:

Pray.

“What the children need most is your prayers. They have a lot of issues and need a lot of help. They have medical problems and some have mental problems… but what they need is your prayers.”

This was not what I was expecting as an answer, but it’s so obvious.

More than anything else—even more than the financial support that sponsors provide—the children need our prayers.

One of the challenges I’ve come up to here (besides the language barrier) is that I’m being confronted with how lazy I am spiritually.

What I mean is that I too often take prayer for granted, or see it as the last resort after I’ve tried to white-knuckle my way through a situation.

But that completely misses the point.

It misses the point of the gospel, which pointedly shows us that no amount of white-knuckling can to what only Christ could. And because of His death for our sins, the Father hears our prayers.

So why not take advantage of this gift?

These kids need our prayers. We need our prayers.

And God is good and faithful to answer for His glory and our joy.

Tiny Smiles and Big Hearts

On Monday we had our first “official” visit to a Compassion partner church, The Ark of Salvation in San Pedro Sula. The children meet in the church while they’re building a new classroom facility.

This is one of the little faces that greeted us today. This girl, and all the children her age, were making puppets.
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Private, Precious Moments

Sunday, we began the first “official” day of our tour with Compassion. Today, we spent the bulk of the day at the Jehovah Jireh Church, one of Compassion’s partners in the country.

During the Sunday service, the pastor shared a short message, encouraging us to continue to be a blessing (Ayax translated for us).

Shortly before we’d arrived at the church that morning, Ayax told us that of the 41,000 children supported by Compassion in Honduras, at best, 180 receive a visit from their sponsor in a year—that’s such a small group of kids! But for those kids, it’s when, for the sponsor and for the child, the relationship really becomes “real.” There’s actually a flesh and blood person writing and receiving letters.

It’s a very special time, Ayax said. I had no idea just how special that moment would be for one of my team members.
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Receiving Grace upon Grace – Introducing our New Daughter

On Friday March 12 at 5:14 am, Emily and I welcomed our second daughter, Hannah Grace, into the world.

Probably the hardest part (for me) this time around was choosing a name. Names are really important. Biblically, they define people to some degree. The names of Naomi’s sons, Mahlon & Chilion, for example, meant “sickness” and “wasting away.” They died in Moab, leaving their mother without grandchildren. Naomi herself, after the death of her sons renamed herself “Mara” because the “Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

So, what you name your children is kind of a big deal. And for Emily and I, agreeing on a name was extremely difficult at first.

We initially wanted this baby’s name to convey an idea of strength combined with femininity. (Tall order? Maybe.) After batting around ideas for several weeks, we managed to agree on a middle name: Grace, meaning “favor” or “blessing.”

More time went by and we were short-listing names, crossing off others… Eventually we came to Hannah. I liked it, but didn’t recall the meaning of the name.

I asked Emily, “How about we call her Hannah Grace?”

Her response, “But ‘Hannah’ means ‘grace;’ wouldn’t that be weird?”

Then I remembered:

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
John 1:16

The last year has been an incredibly challenging one for us; ultimately all of our difficulties have worked out for our good though it’s not always been comfortable. But through them all, God has been with us and He’s been incredibly gracious to us, so much so that I think I take it for granted.

He’s poured out grace upon grace in our lives, blessing after blessing. And the chief blessing is that He has not only shown us how to live in the Law but that He came to live that life for us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That His perfect life was given to me in exchange for my sinful one by faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

Naming my daughter Hannah Grace is a tangible reminder of this for me.

God willing, the next several years are going to be exciting. Seeing my girls grow up, teaching them about Jesus and someday walking them down the aisle… To see this family grow into all that God has planned for us is going to be a wonderful gift.

"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!” [Read more…]