Saturday, October 24, 2015

Compassion Birthday Love

October is birthday month for my two Compassion kiddos.

By total coincidence, these two kids' birthdays are 6 days apart.

This is the 4th time I'm celebrating Happyness' birthday as her sponsor and I really can't believe it. Yeah, I had a little nostalgic Compassion big sister moment last week.

But seriously guys, remember when she was this adorable little 4-year-old with the cutest pink outfit and beads in her hair? 

We've both come a long way. 

For reference, here's what my Facebook profile picture looked like around the same time. Braces and all.

circa summer 2011

As for Johnrel, it's been just under a year since I sponsored this adorable little guy from the community where oceans rise. My sponsorship of Johnrel has been instrumental over the past year in learning more about my role in God's story of redemption for our broken world

Happy, happy birthday to these two precious kids. 
They have impacted my life and strengthened my faith in incredible ways.

And on that note... Birthdays are a GREAT way to connect with or choose a Compassion child. 

Both my little bro and my mama share birthdays with two of our kids... Jon shares a birthday with Bell Bradley from Haiti, and my mama shares a birthday with her long-searched-for birthday buddy, Maria from Ecuador.

Would you consider sponsoring a child? You can search for a child based on their birthday and see if a child somewhere on the other side of the globe shares your special day. Or choose a child who is celebrating a birthday over the next couple months... and be the greatest birthday gift ever.

Compassion's sponsorship model is about so much more than giving $41/month. Sponsoring a child with Compassion pulls us out of our comfortable worlds to reach across the globe to a child who becomes a part of our family... A child who you pray for and care for, a child whose letters you can't wait to receive and whose birthday you celebrate with joy. 

This is some amazing stuff, and I can't wait for you to discover what joy sponsoring a Compassion child can bring.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When A Writer Goes To A Taylor Swift Concert

I have many respectable and ambitious things on my bucket list.

And then there's the thing I got to cross off last Friday night.

Yeah, I went to see Taylor.

And guys, it was a lot of fun. 

I write about a lot of heavy stuff around here, but what you might not know from a random peruse of my blog is that I know pretty much every TSwift lyric there is to know. Just keeping it real.

But of course the writer in me almost always sees a blog post or at least some sort of analogy coming together before my eyes, even at the 1989 World Tour.

You see, every concert-goer had a wristband taped to their seat and waiting for them upon arrival. And these wristbands were, by some technological innovation, somehow connected to Taylor's every move. Coordinated with every beat and lyric, these wristbands turned the entire stadium and each individual concert-goer into a twinkling and colourful part of the ambience and lighting of the show.

It was pretty cool.

And you know, if you just looked down on your own individual wristband, you would find it just randomly turning on and off and changing colours. Not making much sense at all.

You might think it was broken, or be curious as to why it wasn't shining for longer than it did.

But then, you look up and realize this little wristband of yours is part of this bigger picture, blinking and shining at seemingly random times along with fifty thousand others to create a sparkling show of wonder.

And so this is my cheesy little analogy from going to my first Taylor Swift concert...

You might not be sure why life is the way it is right now. You wonder why the light is shut off and why it has been for what seems like forever.

But the reality and hope is this: We are part of this bigger picture called the Body of Christ.

And our story is just one part of God's story of redemption for this world.

So if you're in the dark, wondering what's next, take heart and know and trust that He has got this covered.

And yeah, when it comes time to shine?

Shine, and shine brightly.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dear Aylan (Part 2) -

You, little angel - I think you changed the world.

The last time I wrote to you we were all still reeling. We were just learning your name and your story and how we could have saved you and we were all shocked numb.

And I told you that all I could pray is that you did not die in vain. "That your death would, if not convict us, then embarrass us to action."

If I'm honest with you, Aylan? I wasn't feeling very hopeful when I signed off on that letter. I was angry. 

I was angry that we would forget you. 

But you know what? We haven't yet. 

There are people all over the world telling the story of your people, hearing the story of your people, and most importantly, welcoming the stories of your people into their own stories by opening their borders, their homes, their lives. 

It became real this week, Aylan. Mennonite Central Committee matched our church family with the first of two refugee families that we will be welcoming into Canada and into our lives in a few short months.

And yeah, we have zero clue what we're doing. 

Because there are fears and doubts and worries and just the straight-up inability to speak Arabic, you know? 

And wow, there's those nasty things people say on the internet about you and your people, little Aylan. How come we blame you for wanting a share of the security, the laughter, and simply the breath in our lungs that we take for granted every single day?

And then there's this huge task ahead of us of finding an apartment and doctors and people to show our new friends how to ride a Canadian bus and shop at a Canadian grocery store. And then there's preparing for the stories and the trauma that this family might carry on their shoulders after their long, long journey out of a war zone and into our lives. 

But here's the best part: we serve a Jesus who has filled our community with hearts to serve and gifts to share - doctors and teachers and expert-apartment hunters and people who know Arabic-speakers. And the most awesome people who are willing to spend their days finding and sorting furniture and household items to fill our families' not-yet-found apartments and others who are willing to clear their garages for a free place to hold it all in the meantime.

This is community. 

This is how we come together as the Body of Christ to respond to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. 

We're smack in the middle of history and when it's all said and done we want to be remembered as the generation who welcomed the strangers as if they were Christ himself, running into Egypt, fleeing Herod's slaughter as a refugee.

I remember reading an article back in Grade 10 while writing a history essay. It told the story of a boat filled to the brim with Jewish refugees and bobbing on the shores of Canada. 

And I remember being so angry, Aylan, because do you know what happened next? We turned them away. We listened to our fear of the other and we told them straight-up to turn around and they sailed straight back to their deaths in those horrific concentration camps. 

I remember thinking it - if I had the chance I would have let them in.

And here's that chance. Our chance to respond with love and open arms, so that a student much like me, writing her own history essay many, many years from now, will be able to say - 

I was a stranger and you welcomed Me.
Matthew 25:35

As we prepare to welcome two refugee families, our church community would so deeply value and appreciate first and foremost, your prayers, because yeah, for something like this? You can never have enough prayer. Secondly, we would be so thankful for your financial support and (for those in the Toronto, ON area) your tangible contributions. Learn more at All donations made between now and Thanksgiving Monday will be matched by a generous donor. Thank you. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dear Nameless Boy -

Edit: The boy has since been identified as 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi.

This picture of you ravaged the world yesterday. (Link includes a graphic image that I decided to keep off my blog in order to give you the choice whether or not to click and view it. I strongly encourage you to choose to view it, because the world needs to see - really see - this photo.)

You stopped me dead in my tracks and yeah, the world isn't sure how to go on.

But then we will.

And I'm sorry, sweet little boy.

I am so. angrily. horribly. sorry.

And that sounds pretty pathetic and oh how worthless it is to you now, but I somehow have to say this anyway, for the sake of those that will come after you.

I'm sorry that we will solemnly shake our heads at that photo of you - today's top story - at six o'clock and then enjoy laughter and family time at the dinner table at seven.

I'm sorry that this week we're ready to cry an ocean of tears, and next week you'll be but a distant memory as we, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, embrace the first week of school and the flurry of activity that comes with it - things you'll never have the opportunity to know.

I'm sorry that as my country's leaders campaign to become the most powerful person in this country, we are more concerned with scandals and with pensions and with daycares and with rich guys and a squandered 90k than we are with you. I'm sorry that you and your people aren't a big-ticket campaign issue and I'm sorry that my people don't care enough to demand that you are.

I'm sorry that we think you're the government's problem.

I'm sorry that being sorry just simply isn't enough.

Because sweet boy, I'm downright embarrassed to tell you that as more than 2500 men, women and children just like you have perished on the Mediterranean this year, here in my homeland - a place of luxury that you could probably only dream of - we've been "fleeing" our own homes to go on vacation. We've been up in arms about a lion. We've been seeing who can make and try the craziest foods at my city's annual exhibition. We've been arguing with each other over the saddest, most pathetic things.

Oh, I squirm while saying this to you - we've been living mindless lives instead of loving you until you're simply able to live.

We've filled churches on Sundays while you and your people filled boats and sailed straight to death - and are we really being the Church or just filling steepled buildings hollow?

Because we're full of empty good intentions and real-sounding excuses when we should be full of the love of Christ. 

And sweet boy, this is my apology, this is my outcry, but mostly this is my confession. 

Because while that mortifying picture of you should anger me and convict me until I'm nothing short of doing a radical thing like boarding a plane and personally escorting a family like yours to safety*, the embarassing truth is that I'm probably going to tap out this blog post, retweet a few links, maybe make a donation, and then forget while I go to university to learn how to save the world when what really needs saving is you.

Here is the truth, tiny little nameless boy: I don't have the answers.

My soul aches a thousand aches to say that. I don't have the answers. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to save you and I don't know how to end a war that is continually pushing more and more of your people into the same situation as yours.

And I will never understand any of this while I am on this side of heaven.

Here is where I would usually write something to the effect of What I do know is that I serve and cling to a Jesus who has already overcome all the brokenness in this world.

And yes. Yes, I do. I certainly, most definitely do. That is always and enternally humanity's blessed hope.

But for your people that are still bobbing on the Mediterranean, I'm not sure those words are enough - unless my people act on those words like they are true.

And for my people that are still mindlessly bobbing around our luxurious world, I think those words might be too much - we take them as a licence for inaction when we actually have a role to play in overcoming the brokenness of this world.

Nameless boy, I feel like weeping as I say this all to you.

And I simply hope and pray that you did not die in vain. That your death would, if not convict us, then embarrass us to action.

*So maybe that get-on-a-plane plan is not the smartest or most sustainable. But if you are feeling a little radical, this link is for you. Or, you can donate here to help Mennonite Central Committee bring the hope and love of Christ to refugee camps in the Middle East. Or, you can get involved with an organization in your city like Matthew House Toronto, people who are welcoming and supporting new refugees to the city. Or, there's this letter that Ann Voskamp wrote and this community that she's started over on Facebook… a whole bunch of people coming together to say that we will welcome refugees with the love of Christ, now let's figure out how.

Man, was this ever heart-wrenching to write. I think I'm a bit of a bad writer today for not having a better point at the end, but I just needed to get something out to shine a light on this. Yeah, it can seem bleak and hopeless, but I meant what I said: We serve a Jesus who has already overcome... now let's start acting on those words like they're true. At the end of this blog post, I still don't have the answers and I still don't know what to do. But we can start by doing what we can and doing it as though it were for Christ himself. Let's start there, and maybe - just maybe - we'll save some nameless boys and let them know that He knows their name.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Isaiah 43:1

Thursday, August 27, 2015

8 Reasons Why Youth Workers Should Use True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty

It's late August, and if you work at a church or school, you're gearing up for what you know is the real New Year. So, first off... Happy New (ministry/school) Year!

Now, if you're a youth worker looking for a curriculum to use at your youth group or school this ministry year, you're in luck, because you've stumbled upon the blog of a girl who happens to know of a great resource that was created just for you.

Last summer, I had the absolute privilege of working with a fantastic team from Compassion Canada to develop True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty, a youth curriculum video series about poverty, injustice and our part to play in God's story of redemption in the midst of it all.

It's pretty fantastic, and I think True Story would make a great addition to your curriculum line-up this year.

So, I give to you... 

8 Reasons Why You Should Use True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty

1. Let's get this out of the way: It's FREE. Like for reals, no-hidden-fees-and-no-strings-attached, zero-dollars free. Why? Because at the very core of who they are, Compassion is passionate about reaching youth through the local church, and that passion isn't limited to the youth and the Church of the developing world. So, True Story is Compassion's gift to the Church, because we know that today's youth, no matter where they're from, will accomplish great things for the Kingdom.

2. True Story is easy-to-use, adaptable and all available online. True Story comes with an incredible Leader's Guide that is designed to support you and your small group leaders every step of the way as you make this conversation about poverty and justice fun, personal, engaging and real. It's also super adaptable to fit the needs and structure of your group. Finally, it's all available onlineWe are so excited about True Story that we don't want anything to stand in the way of your group getting started!

3. Youth groups urgently and desperately need to have this conversation - because young adults are leaving the Church because of the lack of compassion- and justice-related conversations. I think most youth workers in the church can recall Hemorrhaging Faith. One of the biggest reasons youth left the church? The lack of compassion- and justice-related conversations and action. Christian youth (myself included) want to believe in a gospel that is about bringing hope to the darkest places of this world with both words and deed... so let's start talking about and acting upon the Gospel that is just that!

4. Is your group headed on a missions trip? This is a great prep course to do together as a team. Prepare your group to serve in the most broken places in this world by looking at God's heart and story of redemption behind it all... The story in which we get to play a part. 

5. Is your group of young Christians looking for "What's Next?" Maybe you just finished Youth Alpha or a similar course, and now that your youth are excited about Jesus, they're wondering what it looks like to follow Him in practical ways. What kinds of things is Jesus all about? Why is our world broken? What can we do as the Church? True Story is a natural next step in discovering some answers to those questions.

6. Week 5 is a serving-together opportunity, and it's gold. A whole bunch of head knowledge is useless if it's not put into practice, which is why on Week 5 of this 6-week journey, you and your group will roll up your sleeves and serve the poor, marginalized and oppressed in your community. Whether this is something you do together all the time, or you're terrified by this foreign concept, from my humble experience I personally think there aren't many things that strengthen faith, unite groups and deepen relationships with Jesus and each other more than serving together. 

7. You get to listen to my voice for 6 weeks! Just kidding. But seriously, I got to work with the most talented (and awesome) creative team on True Story's video segments, which are pretty sweet and are sure to engage your group with footage from all over the world. 

Want a taste? Check out our promo video:

8. Compassion and Justice issues are central to the Christian faith and they mean a lot to Jesus. And that's the bottom line here. Justice, compassion, serving the poor... This stuff is some of the most-mentioned stuff in the Bible, and stuff that Jesus preached and lived and simply assumed to be a part of every Christian's life. And I mean, if it means a lot to Jesus, I wanna take a good hard look at it, you know?

So now that I've convinced you, you're left wondering, How can I get my hands on True Story? Remember that "available online" bit (see: Reason #2)? You can get your copy of True Story at, where you'll find the entire leader's guide and 6 video segments available for download, plus a whole bunch of extra resources designed to make True Story the best possible experience for you and your youth group.

I will be praying lots for you as you start this conversation about poverty, injustice and God's invitation to the Church in the middle of this messy world, and I hope that True Story is just the beginning of a conversation, and eventually, a lifestyle of compassionate living.

There's a nifty little Contact Us button at the bottom of the True Story website.

Personally, I would love to connect with you on Twitter and hear all about your True Story experience!
I would also love it if you would hashtag all your True Story photos and experiences as #TrueStorySeries.
Plus, don't forget to connect with Compassion Canada on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why The Difference Truly Is Jesus

The last thing I expected to be knitting for our Guatemalan Compassion girl, Esperanza, in the week before we got on a plane to meet her was a baby beanie for her soon-to-be-born child.

But there I was, pulling the tiny soft-yellow loops through one another to make a little cap to keep tiny little ears warm in the mountainous Guatemalan countryside.

Just a week and one day before we stepped on that plane to Guatemala, the office of Compassion Canada called with the news... Esperanza is pregnant and married, and would be leaving the Compassion program effective immediately.

Our reactions moved and ranged from shock to confusion to worry.

Yet both we and Esperanza were still very much looking forward to our visit, and we stepped on the plane with expectant and hopeful hearts... knowing that we were headed into a very different culture, one our First World minds would struggle to understand, yet we were determined to try our very best. 

Fun Fact: I LOVE flying.
Welcome to Guatemala! :)

The length of the drive from Guatemala City to Esperanza's community should have prepared me for how truly far removed her home is from anything I've ever known.

But it didn't really.

Her home sits in a community that is 8 long hours away from Guatemala City.

On the road.
Driving into Cobán, Alta Varapaz, the closest city to Esperanza, a 2.5 hour, $10 bus ride away and where she has been only 3 times in her life (including once during our visit).
P.S. Take note of the election posters lining the road... Those would soon be nowhere to be found in Esperanza's forgotten community.

It is a community where the water pipes are only turned on once a week and the nearest city, shopping mall and McDonald's sits 2.5 hours away.

Even the country's presidential campaign does not reach Esperanza's community. With a fall election looming in Guatemala, we were bombarded with election posters everywhere we went... except for in Esperanza's community. Even the vote-hungry presidential candidates can't or won't be bothered with the people living in this remote region.

Our guide from Compassion Guatemala's head office, Ruth, would later express shock at how low both Esperanza and her husband, Hernan's proficiency in Spanish is. At their level of schooling, she said, they should be far more fluent in the country's national language.

But they weren't... not even the church's pastor, Javier, spoke Spanish; only their project director, Martin, did. So this led us to gather the story of Esperanza and her community through triple translation - English to Spanish to Q'eqchi' (the local Mayan language) and back again. It was quite the game of broken telephone! ;)

And as we sat in the church that is home to Compassion project GU996, with the centre's countless children peering through the window to stare at the Canadians, we gathered what we could of our Esperanza's story...

Within minutes of being face-to-face with this sweet girl for the first time!
P.S. #InGuatemalaIAmTall
P.P.S. Notice the kids in the window behind us? 
Okay, maybe not that tall. #NotSoLittleBrother
My parents with Esperanza, her husband, Hernan, and her mom, Doña Maria.

A mutual friend introduced her and Hernan, who is just a year older than Esperanza, at 18. The two, nearing the end of their primary schooling (the highest level of education available to them in their community), with him finishing Grade 6 and her, Grade 4, soon found themselves pregnant and married at 17 and 18 years old... The next "normal" life stage in their community, if you will.

Some of the precious kids of Esperanza's community...

Their story, under the lens of First World culture, calls for major edits. And while most people can agree, when presented with theoretical questions, that development and poverty eradication is best carried out in a grassroots, by-the-people-for-the-people manner, I think most of us are still quick to reach for our Western "values" when we hear a story like Esperanza's.

I know I am.

The first question in my long list of questions is Will she be able to finish her education?

And her community will look back at me with this: Will she be able to finish her subpar, 6th grade education? For what?

Well, even a 6th grade education can make all the difference, I'll say.

Because I'm a soon-to-be International Development student and I've read United Nations stats, you know. Duh.

And I'll be met with are-you-an-alien looks because why would a farmer's daughter, and now, a farmer's wife ever need a 6th Grade education to raise her baby and feed her family? Her mother and grandmother certainly did without one.

Well, I'll say, what if she one day has hopes to move to the city and pursue higher opportunities?

But you see, my projection of First World culture is fast crumbling because she can't even speak Spanish and finishing 6th Grade certainly won't help that, as evidenced by Hernan, so how would she be expected to survive in a city that has barely even heard of her native Q'eqchi' language?

I think you see where I'm going here.

All of this is so far removed from anything I've ever known. And in the world I grew up in, anything removed from what I've always known is wrong.

But that is simply not true. 

Yes, there are deeply ingrained, systematic issues and problems that are running rampant in Esperanza's community.

But so often we mix up what is inequality and what is culture. What is holding a people group back, and what is simply their way of life, something they can't afford to lose.

It is truly a fine line, one humanity will always be walking.

But when it simply comes down to it, what I believe and what I saw makes all the difference is always Jesus.

This overwhelming picture I've painted for you above... Man, there is overwhelming hope in it because of Jesus. 

There's Esperanza's father, who we met when we later visited her home, who asked us to join him in prayer for his family... Because sure, his daughter's story might look different from what he and his wife had hoped when Esperanza registered in the Compassion program, but because of how Compassion and the local church has touched his family, he knows that there is a God who loves his family more than anything. So he prays, and invites us to pray with him. 

Esperanza's father, Don Juan, Hernan, and my papa. 

And while Esperanza will be leaving the Compassion program, the local church that has been journeying with her all along will not be leaving Esperanza. That is the beauty of Compassion's program: It works exclusively and closely with the local church so that once a child leaves the Compassion program, they are already a part of a thriving and supportive church community that will journey alongside them for life.

Sharing some gifts... including the aforementioned baby beanie. :)

Because the reality is that it could take years and years and perhaps even a lifetime before Esperanza's community gains things like quality education and uninterrupted access to clean water.

And yes, we will work towards those things with tenacity, because they are basic human rights. But the hope we can offer now - as in right now, at this very instant - is Jesus.


The difference between hope and hopelessness is more than education, healthcare and social programs. 
The difference is Jesus.
Just two girls from opposite ends of the world who have the Cross, the Kingdom and the Love of Christ as our greatest hope.


This blog post would seriously have no hopeful conclusion without the hope of Christ. And that is why the difference truly is Jesus. That's not a line or a slogan. It is the essence of Compassion International's ministry.

Sponsor a Child with Compassion. No, it doesn't make everything "perfect", by any standard, including in our First World minds. But it inserts hope into the most broken places on this earth in the form of not only education, healthcare, and social programs, but most importantly, Jesus Christ.

ps Check out my mama's reflections on this day!
pps More photos from our trip to Guatemala can be found on Instagram. Man, that country is so beautiful!

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Saturday, July 25, 2015

15 Ways To Live Compassionately As A Family... From A Kid Who Was Just There

I turned 18 this year, and that makes it official: My parents have successfully raised me through my childhood. 

I, of course, appreciate every single sacrifice they made for me, but what I am most thankful to my parents for is that they have raised me and my brother in a home where living compassionately is part of who our family is and how we do life

It is messy, yes. But it is also full to the brim with joy, redemption and hope.

So I was thinking, through these lazy summer days, how do I best share our story of living compassionately as a family and encourage families like ours? 

And so here is my list of 
15 Ways To Live Compassionately As A Family
from a kid just on the other side of 18 who knows first-hand what it's like to be raised in a home where living compassionately is part of our DNA.

This list is split into 3 parts: Awareness, Action and Lifestyle. I'll explain along the way.

Ready? Here it goes:

Understanding why compassionate living is important to us, our world, and our walk with Jesus was so important to me and who I've become. 

1. Do Step Into My Shoes together! Designed by Compassion International for families, Step Into My Shoes is a curriculum full of resources to help your family understand poverty & what God wants us to do about it. Check it out:

2. Pray for the World. Here's a good place to start: We did this for a while when my brother and I were younger. Learning about the struggles of people all over the world and learning how to pray for something other than my own little world was an eye-opening, worldview-shaping experience. 

3. Devo Together. Do justice- and compassion-centred Bible time together. 
Here are a few suggestions: 

Christmas 2014 - Reading from Ann Voskamp's Advent Devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

4. Read Compassion-Centred Books. As a family or individually.
Here are a few suggestions:
:: Kisses from Katie - Katie Davis
:: Rhinestone Jesus - Kristin Welch
:: Overrated - Eugene Cho

5. Watch Compassion-Centred Movies. Documentaries that tackle a certain issue or ones you'd find in your local movie theatre that simply carry a compassion-centred message.
Here are a few suggestions:
:: The Blind Side
:: The Help

Pretty self-explanatory - Faith without works is dead... Engage your family in a living, breathing, moving faith.

6. Stop For Panhandlers More Often Than Not. This is probably the thing that my parents exemplified to us growing up that had the biggest impact on me as a child, because without thinking twice, they would interrupt our everyday life to buy a panhandler a meal. This is so normal to my brother and I that we eventually started doing it on our own. This gesture, however small, can have a big impact... both on the panhandler and your family. 

7. Sponsor A Child. This is where our family's story in compassionate living really started getting intense. It opened our eyes to this huge world of need and hopelessness, as well as the redemption and hope that is truly within grasp. We could no longer turn a blind eye. 

Big side note I'll add to this: WRITE to your child!!! It's a fantastic family activity and it means the world to your little one on the other side of the globe.

May 2012 - Writing letters to our Compassion children as a family.
[How many laptops does it take...? ;)]

8. Kiva. Kiva rocks. Basically: You make $25 loans to impoverished small business owners to help pull them from poverty. Choosing a borrower and reading their stories = Another great family activity. This two-sentence crash course definitely does not suffice, so check out to see just how awesome Kiva truly is.

9. Seek Out Opportunities to Serve Together. It will be hard to find places where kids are allowed or where you all have a role in which you thrive. Don't give up. Keep trying and searching for a place where you all can serve together because it is so. important. to serve as a family. It was invaluable for me to, from a very young age, serve and engage with people from all walks of life.

Here are a few places/ways our family has served together:
:: Self-Organized Sandwich Runs (Head downtown with bagged lunches or care packages and offer them to the homeless, along with a smile and some conversation.)
:: Local Food Bank(s)

Fall 2014 - Volunteering at a Compassion booth at a local event - one of our favourite family activities!  

October 2012 - My dad and brother bring a bagged lunch to a homeless man on one of our sandwich runs.

10. Give & Make Opportunities to Give. Ever since I can remember, we've had what we call a "Shoebox Bin"... When my brother or I brought home a small toy or trinket from a loot bag, happy meal, etc., we were to choose whether to keep it or place it in the "Shoebox Bin" - our year-round collection of toys to place in Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes come Christmastime. This instilled in me, at a very young age, the concept of sacrificial giving. 

This can happen in your home in a variety of ways... A change jar placed in the foyer [If your family is a little too old for loot bags and happy meals.], emptying piggy banks to contribute to relief efforts after natural disasters, or making a rule of setting aside a portion of weekly allowance to be given away. 

Christmas 2014 - Packing Christmas Shoeboxes is still a well-loved tradition in our family...
One we've come to share with many other families!

Intentional changes to regular things you do as a family helps distinguish between doing compassionate things and living compassionately...

11. Give Up Birthday Parties/Presents. For my brother's 10th birthday, he asked that instead of presents, people bring backpacks filled with school supplies for underprivileged kids in our city. For my Dad's 45th, everyone was invited to the local food bank to sort food together. These have been some of our most memorable birthday celebrations. 

September 2010 - My papa having a blast at his 45th Birthday Party at the Food Bank!

September 2010 - My brother, Jon, and his birthday backpacks!

12. Vacation Intentionally. If you can vacation internationally, go visit your sponsored child. If you vacation locally or do road trips, find places to serve. Dedicate even just one day of your trip or vacation time to visiting a local ministry to learn more about their work and how you can support them or pray for them.

Summer 2014 - Flying into Masbate, Philippines to meet our Compassion girl, Florianlyn.

Summer 2014 - Meeting Florianlyn!

Summer 2014 - Visiting a Habitat for Humanity build site where homes are being built for Typhoon Haiyan victims in Daanbantayan, Philippines.

Summer 2014 - Meeting our Compassion boy, JD, and a friend's Compassion boy, Jamson, in Cebu City, Philippines.

Summer 2013 - Visiting a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Summer 2013 - Visiting UrbanPromise in Wilmington, Delaware.

Summer 2011 - Our first trip to the Philippines to meet our Compassion child, Florianlyn, and our then-future LDP student, Rechelle.

13. Buy Fair Trade. Coffee, Chocolate, and Sugar are the biggest culprits for being produced with bonded labour, child labour, and slavery. Next up is clothing.

Here are a few places to start shopping:

And if you can't buy it fair trade, then buy less. Wear your clothes to the threads, use your iPhone to its bitter end [and get it fixed rather than throwing it out and buying a new one!], eat/drink less coffee, chocolate and sugar [pssst... it's bad for you anyways, sorry to break it to you. ;)]. And this brings me to #14...

14. Live Simply. One of the biggest things that my parents exemplified that allowed us to pursue compassionate living is saying no. I know, it's not really an exciting tip. But sometimes, we have to say no to buying the latest doodad or joining the latest extra curricular activity in order to say yes to God's call to serve and love the least of these. We had a rule in our house: We were each allowed one type of lesson or sport outside of school at a time. I believe that rule kept me [and definitely my mom] sane as a kid and it surely gave us time to say yes to various serving opportunities placed in our lives.

15. Make Compassionate Living Something You Can't Live Without. It'll get messy. You'll hate it sometimes. There will be many days where you wish you could simply go back to turning a blind eye to all the suffering in the world. Most days, it'll be easier to stay home and have family movie night or game night. But allow compassionate living to permeate your life. Allow pictures of/from your sponsored child to cover your walls, and compassion-centred events to fill your calendar, and social justice issues to fill your conversations. You'll soon find that, while there are still hard days, this lifestyle and the joy, hope and redemption it brings is something you can't imagine your family going on without. 

The bottom line here is this - Families and kids can make a difference together for their communities' and the world's most vulnerable and oppressed people.

I hope this list and our family's journey inspire you and encourage you even just a little... to let compassionate living permeate your family's life and bring you closer to each other, to the world's vibrant people and places, and most importantly, to Jesus.

In what ways is your family engaging in compassionate living?
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