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Africa. When God Says Fly.

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Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.

We want life to go faster. Or slower.

We wish this would happen. Or that.

We want to press forward. Quicker.

We wish we could go back in time. And do it again.

We dream of better days, longer days, days fuller, days lighter.

We dream, scheme and believe BIG, bold things.

We think maybe, someday.

Maybe.

We have a hunch. Yeah, a hunch. If only, God. If God.

We want to believe those nudges are true. We want to believe it’s the Spirit speaking to our hearts, not earthly, fleshly, egotistical desires.

We just want confirmation that all this living and breathing and dreaming is real. That this life of ours is worth something more, more than mere existence.

We don’t want to simply survive.

We want to thrive.

We want to believe in a God who can do anything. A bigger-than-life God. A God who does things totally unexpected. A God who shows up in places and times least expected. A God who wants to surprise us with His glory, His goodness, His richness, His fullness, His plan for our lives here on planet Earth.

We want to know there’s more. That we’re part of a grander plan. A greater story.

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So when DropBox was simply too slow, when I had to go into church to upload a load of high resolution photographs from an all-church service day, when I “randomly” commented on the Africa photos in the corner of the pastor’s office that June 1st, 2015, then consequently got invited to join a mission trip to Africa, I was shocked.

I thought the dude was crazy. Me? Go on a mission trip to Africa in the fall? Ummm….No?! Not going to happen that quick. Not now. You might work like that, but not me! You don’t know me. I’m a planner. I’m a preparer. I like to do and know things in advance. There’s no way I’d make such a big decision in such a short timeframe. There’s no way I could ever find the money that fast, get child care that fast, get the a-okay from my husband that fast, get a blessing from our parents that fast. You know. There’s no way it’s going to happen that fast for me. Okay?

To be honest, I didn’t think the pastor’s initial invitation to go to Africa was all that serious. I really, desperately wanted to go to Africa in my heart of hearts. Of course, I was interested. As in, yes please? But now wasn’t the time. More like a couple years from now, or give me at least a year to get this thing worked out somehow? But five or six months from now?! Really? Serious? Is this for real?

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I got myself quiet.

And I got thinking about God’s timelines. How maybe we have it all wrong. How maybe I’ve had it all wrong. How maybe my timeline is SO off and SO wrong and SO not God’s. How he’s surprised me before; maybe He’s surprising me again. How I dreamed of traveling to Africa – not to sightsee, but to serve – for longer than I can remember. My Africa dream is so old, I don’t even remember when I started dreaming it. The dream’s just been there. Always. Forever. Then I remembered being invited to Africa by a different party, with a different nonprofit, in May 2014. And how I said NO, I’m already traveling to the Dominican with Compassion. Then I remembered the 2023 trip we visioned to Africa for our 25th anniversary. And I remembered the SINGLE reference to “Africa” on my blog’s Meet Amy page. I thought it was dreamy, but left it there on purpose, without any detail, without any knowing of what that “Africa” might look like. I left it in for hope’s sake. I left it in for the believing in someday, somehow, maybe when I’m much older and wiser and there’s something grand for me to accomplish there.

Is this all mystical-hogwash coincidence, or is this God working His plan?

I began to believe.

I also began to doubt.

I dismissed and diminished the pastor’s invitation to go on the Africa mission trip. I wanted to believe it could be possible. But I didn’t believe it could actually happen.

Reality set in.

I started blogging in July 2012.

Haiti in February 2014.

Expensive new camera in September 2014.

I stopped working as a speech-language therapist in December 2014.

Dominican Republic in January 2015.

Eye cancer diagnosis in January 2015.

Photography business launch in spring and summer 2015.

And now a mission trip to AFRICA in the fall of 2015?

How much more could I ask of my husband?

In my head, I knew it would be much better to discuss this in a year or two. That would be much better timing.

But in my heart, in my spirit, in my soul, I had a hunch this wasn’t about my timing, but more about God’s.

So I left myself open to the slight possibility of going to Africa in the fall of 2015.

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I received the initial invitation on June 1, 2015.

By June 17th, I had a solid and highly justified hunch the trip was NOT going to happen this time.

By July 7th, I’d given my answer in writing. NO.

On July 20th, God performed a BIG miracle.

I ignored that miracle until August 2nd, to be exact. I hadn’t been sure what to do with that miracle, but God knew EXACTLY what to do with it. He took it into His own hands. Clearly, I wasn’t moving this Africa deal forward with enough vigor. He was going to make this happen whether I liked it or not.

And that August 2nd, it was beautiful really. I’ll always remember the way she looked at me with tears in her eyes. (You know who you are, sweet friend.) The moment she knew in her heart of hearts that I was going to Africa.

And in the oddest series of events that occurred over the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll always remember the moment that same friend told me she wouldn’t be going to Africa. With the same tears in her eyes.

But I’d said, I’d written…

This wasn’t about getting anyone’s approval anymore. This Africa deal was between me and God, and God had made that abundantly clear.

By Saturday, August 29th, I said YES to Africa.

Things were definitely still in the air. Things were definitely NOT 100% clear. The near three-month journey from June 1st to August 29th had been rough, rocky and incredibly spiritually challenging.

But…

BUT….

I said YES to Africa.

Because God was in on this from day one.

There was no denying it.

I couldn’t shake this feeling I was supposed to go NOW. To Africa. In the fall of 2015. On this particular trip. For such a time as this.

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I’d given an absolute NO on July 7th.

God performed a series of straight up miracles.

And by August 29th, I said YES.

How could I deny what He’d done?

How could I deny His plans, His timelines?

This wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about my timelines or my pretty little plans or my best case scenario anymore. This was all about God. His Spirit nudging me again and again and again. His clearing the way. His making a way, whether any of us liked it or not. His desiring for me TO GO. To Africa. Now. As in. NOW.

Friends and family, I want to acknowledge that my retelling of this incredibly life-changing story has been incredibly vague. Much more vague than anything I’d normally share in this space. But this journey has been incredibly personal. This journey will become part of my life story, my lifelong testimony. I’ve documented it in a couple unpublished blog posts, and I’ve tucked away the details in my heart. I won’t forget. Someday, I’ll tell and it’ll make perfect sense and feel good and right in the context of a long-lived life. For now, the story will stay between me, two people who know all the details, and a few others who know some pieces. Some things are meant to stay sacred secret, between us and God.

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But this, THIS, is all you need to know.

I planned, wanted, and desired to go to Africa for my whole life, as long as I can remember.

I said NO to Africa twice.

God performed miracles.

And then I said YES.

Which means I’m going to Africa. On a mission trip. Soon!

I’m going to dive straight into details, because no surprise, I’m already running long on words.

  • I’m traveling with a team of 10 to Kenya, Africa.
  • We’ll be gone for 10 days, end of November into early December 2015.
  • All my travel mates are from Minnesota. 5 females. 5 males.
  • We’ve already met twice as a group.
  • Random awesome fact: My first cousin once removed is going on the trip and we had NO IDEA until we arrived at the first meeting and saw each other there! Who knew?! (Okay, so I’m not 100% on the blood relationship. Our parents are first cousins. So what does that make us?)
  • We’re traveling with a nonprofit called Love For Kenya.
  • Love For Kenya is one of our church’s 10 global mission partners, so our church’s mission funds will be covering a portion of our trip.
  • We’ll be staying in huts.

While we’re in Kenya, we’ll be working largely with orphans and widows. We’ll also be doing other ministry, outreach and service projects in the community as we feel called and led through listening prayer. Community ministry might look “as small as” providing encouragement, washing feet, feeding people and giving people clothing, or “as big as” building a home, providing mosquito nets and life-saving medications for a couple hundred people, showing the “Jesus film” to a thousand, and exploring uncharted valleys in an effort to reach people who have never been reached before. We’ll also be heading into the slums one day. It’s hard to say what God has in store. But these details, these possibilities, we know for sure.

The trip is structured, but leaves plenty of room for God to work His plan.

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For those of you who are safety minded, our trip will be led by Pastor Randy who’s led 90 mission trips. This will be his 17th mission trip to Kenya. Crazy cool, right? We’ll be 13-16 hours from areas that would be considered unsafe, and will have access to mobile phones. We’ll be together as a group at all times. And local Kenyan friends and partners will be journeying with us once we arrive in Africa.

I’m breathing deep. Sighing. Wondering how this could be true that I’m telling you I’m going to Africa. Now. For such a time as this.

One more important thing…

I will be blogging this trip, just as I did in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We haven’t discussed details yet as far as what that will look like and when, but I’ll definitely let you know. One way or another, you will be hearing all about this journey to Africa.

And I’m hoping, praying and planning on piloting a photography project I’ve been visioning and dreaming of since January. I’ve already talked to Pastor Randy, our trip leader, about this and he thinks it’s feasible within the structure of our trip.

Keep in mind, I said YES to Africa on August 29th. So we’ve only had 18 days to discuss details.

Speaking of this whole timeline – being invited June 1st, saying NO July 7th, saying YES August 29th, sharing with you all today, and leaving at the end of November – I could use a little help.

You see, I wasn’t planning on Africa.

We weren’t planning on Africa.

I didn’t know God had this in store for me…NOW.

I didn’t know He had this in mind for me…NOW.

I thought my Africa dreams were possibly far fetched, likely for later in life when things will be far more settled. For our 25th wedding anniversary? Yes. For an awesome 65th birthday when I join 10 wise writers and photographers on some awesome writing-photography adventure? Sounds amazing. But right now? Not so much. Didn’t plan that.

Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.

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So back to needing a little help.

Here’s what I could use…

A prayer team

If you’re willing to serve on a prayer team for my trip to Kenya, please leave me a message somewhere, anywhere, along with your email address. I would love some warriors to pray for travels, safety, health and God’s mission to be accomplished while we’re there.

Financial support

When I originally published this post on September 16, 2015, I made a humble request. I needed an additional $550 to fully fund my mission trip to Africa. Thanks to the generous gifts of family, friends and blog readers, the trip is now fully funded! I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you. (Updated 11/23/15)

Likers & Lovers, Readers & General Supporters 

I need some lovin’ on this, friends. I need some support. Will you encourage me, love me, support me, read the posts I write, lift me up in your thoughts and prayers? Will you encourage me in my photography journey so I’m ready to pilot the project I’ve been dreaming of? Will you be hopeful and expectant? Will you believe there’s a reason God’s sending me to Africa now instead of waiting until my 25th anniversary or 65th birthday? Will you set aside doubt, worry and disbelief for the sake of encouragement? Will you believe in this journey, this mission? Will you will believe with me and for me? I would so greatly appreciate it.

Thank you, friends. Thank you.

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I stayed up until 1:10 a.m. writing this and I’m in for a long day ahead. After the kids left for school this morning, the doorbell rang. It was our 4-year-old neighbor boy. When I opened the door, he looked me in the eye and whispered “Your butterfly is going to fly away now.” It was truly the most miraculous thing ever to me. I ran to grab my camera. The caterpillar my daughter put in a bucket weeks ago and had been keeping on our porch had just broken from its chrysalis. It was on a fern next to the bucket. Our sweet neighbor boy notified me just in time. We watched its first moments free, its first flight. It was amazing. Miraculous. God’s confirmation for me this morning. Fly, dear one. Fly.

All photo credits (except the butterfly) to Love for Kenya.

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Kenya_smallbuttonThis post serves as the landing page for my trip to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in 2015. All the posts I write about the trip will be listed and linked here, at the bottom of this blog post. You’ll also find this Kenya graphic displayed on the right sidebar of my blog homepage. Click on the graphic anytime, and you’ll be brought right back here where you’ll find all the blog posts in one place!

 

To read other posts in the series about my trip to Africa, click on the title below:

Africa. When STAY RIGHT BY ME is All God Asks.

One More Day and We’ll Be On Our Way

The Sweet Song of Shangilia Orphanage

God’s Good, Good Work

Home. A Blessing and Dream Come True.

Less Productivity. More Connectivity. The Lesson I Had to Learn in Africa.

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven

Good Love and Good Bye

Messy. Slummy. Safari Beautiful.

Africa. The Untold Stories.

Rachel Arntson - What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing. It makes me anxious to go back again someday. We will see.December 14, 2015 – 12:33 am

Nicole Bobda - Amy, I’m so so excited for you!! Thank you for sharing this, especially about God’a timing vs our timing. I LOVE Africa, but have never been to Kenya. So excited for you to have this experience. I believe it will be AMAZING!! Really looking forward to seeing your pictures and reading about your trip. God is with you!September 18, 2015 – 5:55 pm

Christy Davis - sooooooooo excited for you! God’s going to blow your socks off and I am so encouraged by your YES! :)September 16, 2015 – 7:45 pm

Amy - Thank you, Kris. Your words are humbling and honoring to my heart, my mind and my soul. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read, and to leave words of encouragement. God bless.September 16, 2015 – 6:12 pm

Kris Neff - Beautiful story from an amazing lady! 100% support you in every way! You filled my eyes with tears at your humble nature and such a spirit of loving all humanity. God only chooses the best for his work Amy, he knows what he is doing. Trust and Obey.

KrisSeptember 16, 2015 – 12:29 pm

Mama

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I bought her from a street vendor in Haiti.

Poverty stricken men begged for our business. They didn’t have to beg me a second for her. I saw her. I wanted her from the minute I laid eyes on her.

I bought her for $12. Didn’t barter a cent. She’s worth far more.

If she were to break, I would freak.

She’s pregnant. Expectant. Waiting on something more.

She doesn’t push or shove her way to delivery. She wants nothing more than to birth when the time is right.

She’s beautiful. Ripe. Swollen with new life.

Moves my heart so.

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She’s been on my dresser for a year and a half. I stare at her nearly every morning before I rise from bed.

Three weeks ago, I brought her to her rightful place. Downstairs. Where we move. Where we live. Where I write and ponder. Where she can be treasured, loved and remembered for who she was, for who is, for who she will be.

Expectant.

Lovely.

Full of promise.

Peaceful.

Mama.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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It’s true, you know. It’s really true.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I love taking pictures. Photography is the one thing besides writing that I’ve done consistently since I was a little girl. I just purchased my dream camera and lens in September 2014, and was particularly looking forward to using it on our sponsor trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. So you can imagine how upset I was when I realized I’d forgotten my charged camera battery in the hotel room on the most important day of our trip, the day we met our sponsored children. It had been a really tough morning for me the way it was. The fact that my camera battery was missing was the last straw.

Looking back, I realize that perhaps God was releasing me from photography that day. Yes, He knows, acknowledges and loves that I love photography. He built that love in me. But I think God wanted me to step away from the camera so I could give and receive whole-heartedly. He wanted me to step away from the camera so I could love, serve and just BE with my sponsored child, Meranyelis.

Here’s the awesome thing. God provided. In big and mighty ways.

God knew that I’d be devastated if I didn’t have any pictures from the day with my sponsored child. He knew how much I value those treasured moments. And He knew how often I’d refer back to those pictures, reliving our time together for months and years to come. So He put a photographer in my path that morning, a photographer who was willing to take photos for us anytime we wanted as we went about our day.

God sent Lairsz Johnston to photograph the day I spent with my sponsored child, Meranyelis. And boy, did Lairsz capture some amazing moments! I continue to be blessed by his art. Not only is Lairsz super funny, but he’s full of wisdom and willing to go deep at the drop of a hat. Thank you, Lairsz. You are amazing.

And thank God for sending Lairsz when all of my “perfect” plans seemed to be crumbling in front of my eyes.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this blog series about my sponsor trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International than to share some of the beautiful photographs Lairsz captured the day I met Meranyelis. These photos are a gift. They show my heart for children living in extreme poverty. They show the impact of sponsorship on a sponsored child. They show what it’s like to take a sponsor trip and meet your sponsored child face to face. And they show the heart of Compassion International.

This is what sponsorship looks like. This is what sponsorship feels like. This is Compassion International.

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Will you sponsor a child through Compassion International? It’s $38 a month to sponsor one child. Sponsorship releases children from extreme poverty, and provides them hope for a better future. As you can see from the photographs in this post, the investment is worth every penny and more. So click here, take a peek at all of the children who are waiting for a sponsor, and take a risk. Change a life. Become a sponsor.

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from my series.

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

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Karen Selby - Hey Amy, I was finally able to sit down and read all your posts. Thank You! Your writing is amazing and you reflected several things that felt when I met you and it is awesome to read the work God did in your heart as you progressed through this. The post about being empty reminded me of a time when someone said and I remembered and could find no other words except to repeat it when I needed it. God can only fill empty vessels. The giving and receiving is an area I am growing in and I will message you about the 3rd.January 24, 2015 – 9:36 pm

Amy - Thank you, Yvonne. It’s an honor to advocate for the children and Compassion. I’m tremendously humbled when I consider the fact that I’ve been able to experience two sponsor trips with Compassion. I’d take the trips again in a heartbeat, and will recommend them without reservation to anyone who asks me about my experiences in the future.January 20, 2015 – 8:59 pm

Amy - Thank you, Bri. It was a true delight to spend the day with her. Words don’t adequately express how good it was for my soul. That’s why I love the pictures. They say it all. :)January 20, 2015 – 8:42 pm

Yvonne Reynolds - Absolutely beautiful, the post, the photos, and your heart for Compassion! Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us!January 20, 2015 – 12:19 pm

Bri McKoy - I love how much you loved on and engaged your sponsored child, Amy! These pictures capture both hearts so beautifully! XoxoJanuary 20, 2015 – 10:53 am

How a Formerly Sponsored Child Taught Me Anything’s Possible

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On our last day in the Dominican Republic, Yulesi, Diana and Jonathan came to the front of the room to share their testimonies with our group. All three grew up in extreme poverty as children. All three had been enrolled in Compassion International’s Child Development Sponsorship Program. And all three completed the program successfully. Yulesi is in medical school and wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon. Diana will begin college in April and wants to be an ambassador. And Jonathan already obtained his college degree; he hosts groups who come to the Dominican Republic to meet their sponsored children and see the good work Compassion International is doing with children living in extreme poverty. As a child, Jonathan received from Compassion International. Now, he’s giving back to the organization by leading groups like ours.

The formerly sponsored children shared powerful words…

“I don’t care about money, I just want to show God’s love.”

“Financial support is important, but a single word can change a life.”

“Don’t conform yourself with what THEY do.”

“Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do.”

“Be yourself wherever you are.”

My heart was on fire. I wanted to know what was next. I wanted God to reveal His plan for my life. I wanted to continue this good work for Compassion and children living in extreme poverty. And I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that the future I desperately longed for would happen.

But here’s the thing. I’d just spent the week learning that God’s desire is for me to be fully surrendered to His plan. He doesn’t want me to know what’s ahead. He doesn’t want me to have my life perfectly planned out. He doesn’t want me to schedule and prepare and execute everything perfectly in advance. He just wants me to remain open, with a heart willing to listen, obey and serve. He wants me to trust that everything He has planned is better than anything I could ever imagine.

So I clung to the fire that rung true in my soul. I encouraged the formerly sponsored children who were now fully-functioning adults and leaders. I gave them hugs. We talked. And we took pictures together so we could remember.

All the while, I had an idea brewing in my mind. I wanted to know if it was possible, or if I was just dreaming up crazy things. I had a hunch that one of these three formerly sponsored children could provide insight into my idea.

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Jonathan said something to our group that struck a chord with my soul. So after we cleared the room and before we left for the afternoon, I just knew I had to pull him aside. I wanted to ask him a couple of follow-up questions, and I needed to know if my idea was possible or totally far fetched.

So I pulled Jonathan aside. Our interaction was two minutes long at most. Two minutes with Jonathan – a formerly sponsored child and now a successful, fully-functioning adult – was all I needed.

I asked him a couple questions about his presentation at lunch and quickly realized that I needed to be more straight forward. Within seconds, I cut to the chase and found myself sharing the idea with Jonathan. I just wanted to know if it was possible.

Jonathan’s eyes lit up as he confirmed, “Yes, it’s possible! I will pray for you. God bless you!” We smiled the biggest smiles. We hugged. And we parted ways.

I felt hope. I knew this day-old idea was possible. And I began wondering if it was from God.

Later, I asked Jonathan for a picture. Because I’m big on pictures for remembering. And I wanted to remember this moment just in case, just in case this was God’s idea and Jonathan, a formerly sponsored child, was the one who encouraged me from the start. I wanted to remember this moment for the future, for when I needed to be reminded that anything is possible.

The greatest gift we can receive from a formerly sponsored child is to know, without a doubt, that anything’s possible.

I traveled 2,000 miles to hear Jonathan testify to God’s truth…

Anything is possible.


Compassion International provides hope to children living in extreme poverty. Through their holistic child development model, they teach children that anything is possible. Will you sponsor a child today? It’s $38 a month and worth every single penny and more. Click here to check out the Compassion website where thousands of children are waiting to be sponsored. 

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from the series!

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

greensig

 

 

Vicki Thunstrom - I love this Amy! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you! :)January 19, 2015 – 3:29 pm

A Best Friend for Eternity

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When our group arrived at the Compassion Child Development Center, we headed straight upstairs for lunch. We’d spent all morning visiting homes, so we understood the reality of what it looks like to live in extreme poverty. Without a doubt, one of the most humbling gifts that comes from a trip to visit your sponsored child is witnessing joy and hope amidst extreme poverty.

We were told to find a table and seat ourselves next to a mama and her precious babe. Most of the tables were already full, but as I entered, I noticed a seat available next to a beautiful mama and her sweet baby girl. I sat without hesitation.

Mama’s smile was radiant. Her skin, dark ebony. Her eyes told the story of her life. And as far as I was concerned? She was glowing with love and authenticity. This was going to be amazing.

We went around the table and made introductions. Dominick translated for us. I told her about my family, that I had a husband and three children, 12, 9 and 3 years of age. She smiled warmly and told me that she, too, had three children, a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old, and 2-year-old Megan. Sometimes as mamas, we just need to know someone understands our life. Anna recognized herself in me, and I recognized myself in her. The connection was obvious from the start.

Anna and her daughter, Megan, participate in Compassion’s Child Survival Program. Compassion International is passionate about ensuring childrens’ well-being, even before they enter the sponsorship program. So mamas and babies receive support as they journey through the reality of parenting and living in extreme poverty. Anna and her daughter have been the recipients of this great gift. Anna knows this is “substance to get through.”

Throughout the meal, Anna shared her story of everyday life in extreme poverty. It was humbling to be in her presence.

Anna had the opportunity to take a nail painting class that Compassion offers for moms. So Anna paints nails and cleans houses as a way to generate income for her family as she’s able. After her 10-year-old daughter heads to school in the morning, Anna brings the two youngest children to a friend’s house where they’re cared for while Anna works. Anna pays for the child care, but can’t afford all-day care.

So mid-day, when the 10-year-old is done with school, she walks to the friend’s house, picks up the 5-year-old and 2-year-old, and brings them back home. From then on out, the 10-year-old is responsible for watching the younger two. There’s no one else to watch them while Anna’s at work. Anna’s family lives far away, and her husband’s family is “not aware when she needs help.” So Anna has to “figure it out on her own.” She taught her three children from a very young age to take care of each other. When they’re home alone, Anna locks the door and gives her oldest daughter the key. She tells them to stay inside, and they do. This might sound risky to us, but this is the day-to-day reality of surviving in extreme poverty. Anna loves her children and does her best to provide what they need.

Anna’s baby, Megan, isn’t in the sponsorship program yet. She’s only two. But Compassion provides food and medicine for Megan. They offer wisdom for Anna’s parenting journey, as well as as education and encouragement so she can provide and be the mama she wants to be. In another year, when Megan’s old enough to enroll in Compassion’s sponsorship program, she’ll be in a much better place than she would have been otherwise. Living in extreme poverty is more bearable when you have hope for your child’s future.

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“It’s good,” said Anna. “It’s just good.”

Anna revealed much of herself during our two hours together at lunch. We smiled. And we laughed. We discussed the hard realities of life in extreme poverty. But most of all? We felt joy. There was great peace in that place, at the table that day.

It didn’t take long for me to recognize that Anna was one of those rare people I’ve found in life that I know, without a doubt, could be a best friend – if only we lived closer. I sensed it in the deepest parts of me. This brave, beautiful woman living in extreme poverty was best friend material.

I imagined Anna and I chatting over lunch, with the kids running and playing. I imagined us at church together, singing together. I imagined this woman, with a life so different than mine, being my best friend.

I knew this was true. I knew this was right.

Anna lives in extreme poverty. I live in relative wealth. The reality is, we won’t ever be best friends here on earth. But God made us friends. He brought us together for one day on earth, so we could recognize each other as best friends in heaven. He promises unity in eternity, together forever, in heaven.

Then, we’ll know.

Then, we’ll go.

It’s time friend. It’s time to fellowship. As friends, best friends.

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I could barely contain my tears as I sat at the lunch table next to Anna that afternoon in the Compassion Child Development Center. I took it all in. God’s love washed over me. His vision for His people was clear. This is what heaven looks like. This is what heaven feels like. Moments later, Amanda, another sponsor on the trip, approached and shared quietly “I’m in heaven. I always loved Compassion, but now I’m sold.” I sat in wonder, tears readied to burst free.

A sentence came to mind as clear as day. I broke out my journal and wrote it, right there at the table as I sat next to Anna and Megan, so I wouldn’t forget.

This is a constant joy and grieving of what we see could be and will be, with what is.

Anna and I got up from the table, walked down the stairs of the Compassion Child Development Center, and strolled slowly down the street to her local church. I soaked in the moment once more.

We sat next to each other in a big circle of chairs at church. I was one foot away from Anna as she shared how Compassion has helped her so much. I was there to see little ones run wild and free, just like our littles back home. I was there to witness her friendship with other mamas and babies served by Compassion

We were there to hug good bye. We were there to bid farewell with love. We were there to go with hope.

We’re all living in poverty, really. We’re all in need of something greater to hold us together, to give us hope, to give us a reason to keep on living. For me and Anna, it’s God, sweet Jesus. Our love for Compassion International unites us. Compassion gives us “substance to get through.”

Between now and heaven, I’ll wait courageously, knowing God will reunite us someday. Between now and heaven, I’ll rest in peace, knowing Anna and her sweet girl, Megan, are in good hands with Compassion International. They’re in God’s good hands. Before long, Megan will be eligible for a sponsor. I pray her sponsor will fully grasp the gift they’ve been given. I pray her sponsor will know the beauty of child sponsorship, so it won’t be as much about the financial support as it is about the sharing of hearts through letters, love and friendship.


Will you sponsor a child today? The impact you have when you sponsor a child is incredible, immeasurable. Your sponsorship means so much to those living in extreme poverty. We can’t imagine what it’s like to live in such poverty, but we can extend a hand and say “I’m here. You can do this. We can do this together.” Let’s give. Let’s receive. Let’s live as friends, united with one purpose. To love one another. Click here to sponsor a child.

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from my series!

Be sure to check out my fellow travelers’ most recent blog posts! Kris Camealy wrote a beautiful post about hospitality amidst poverty with “Generous Hands Are Blessed Hands,” and Sandra Heska King wrote a sweet post about a 45-year old single man, Luke, who visited his sponsored child, titled “What Happens When Sponsor Meets Child.”

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

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Denise Korman - You are incredible woman. God bless you and keep you safe on your journeys. You and your family will be in my prayers in the next several weeks I pray that all goes well!January 17, 2015 – 5:42 pm

Denise Korman - Amy I am truly humbled by your efforts to help these people in need. No child should be hungry, have no clothing,Live in squalor just to get by day by day. Amy God has given you the well and power to help these people in these poor countriesJanuary 17, 2015 – 5:36 pm

Dominick Gonzalez - Oh, thank you for putting into words what can sometimes be so difficult to express.January 16, 2015 – 5:40 pm

Dominick Gonzalez - I have tears thinking back on our lunch and the time we had with this young lady, Anna, and her daughter. It was a divine appointment and a time of mutual encouragement.January 16, 2015 – 5:35 pm

Carol Femling - If I had the extra $, I would sponsor this little girl! Thanks to Compassion International for their help to people like this!! Great posting, Amy! Thanks for sharing! I am anxious to visit with you about your trip!January 16, 2015 – 2:48 pm