Monday, November 17, 2014

Haiyan - One Year Later {+Giveaway Winner!}

So... Giveaway winner. I am please to announce that the winner of the Freedom Creations giveaway is Tara! Woot! :)

Today, we're heading back to the Philippines, as this month marks the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan...

-

The day my family and I roll into this coastal Filipino town, the sun is shining and the light ocean breeze is the type that lightly dances across your skin, providing a short reprieve from the humid air. A few storm clouds occasionally threaten to let loose, but our day stays relatively dry for a Filipino rainy-season day.



The ocean is calm and skies are clear today, and by the innocence of the lightly bouncing waves and rolling clouds, you'd never be able to guess the havoc those same waves and skies wreaked on this town just months before.




But Haiyan's mark is still evident in Daanbantayan. An occasional pile of wreckage, a home nobody has bothered to repair, or blindingly shiny roofs - replacements of the ones that blew away - are reminders of the infamous Typhoon Haiyan



In some ways, everything has changed for the people of this coastal town. Yet in other ways, life has gone on, and the resilience of the people of the Philippines has never shined brighter. 

We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant with a staff member from Habitat for Humanity Philippines, Love, who tells us first-hand about being one of the first NGOs on the ground after Typhoon Haiyan hit. 

I never cease to be blown away by those who implement the work on the field for organizations that I hear, speak, and write so much about back here at home. As someone who hopes to work in the field one day, it's both inspiring and challenging. As an advocate for these organizations back here at home, it's something I want to share again and again - give, volunteer, spread the word! Because there are people working so. hard. day in and day out and how could we not support them?!

We were able to visit some of Habitat for Humanity's build sites, and see the homes (at various stages) that will be given to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The willingness of the staff and volunteers to give of themselves is absolutely incredible. We can all learn from their servant hearts and radical generosity.





You see - amongst all the wreckage, there is hope for that broken and beautiful country. I believed that before Haiyan, and I will continue to believe that after. 

Yes, one year later, the scars still run deep. How could they not?

But one year later, this country has also begun a resilient rebuild. 

One year later, there is hope that can be found in the shambles, and that is a beautiful thing. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Here Comes The Cold! {Freedom Creations Giveaway}

Happy First Wednesday of November!

I don't know about where you live, but November brings the cold around here, and to be completely honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the cold winter months. 

But - one thing makes winter better (other than Christmas, of course), and that is Freedom Creations! :)

Winter brings Freedom Creations into full swing and to celebrate, why not have a little fun and get a giveaway going?

For those of you who aren't familiar, I started Freedom Creations last October. I sell handknit products, and donate 100% of profits to International Justice Mission, a human rights agency committed to ending modern-day slavery and violent oppression. You can track Freedom Creations' efforts on our IJM Just Act page.

So... Giveaway!

Here's what's up for grabs:


Orange Ear Warmer Headband
50% Wool, 50% Acrylic
Size: One Size Adult

Here's how to enter to win it:
- Like Freedom Creations on Facebook* [1 entry]
- Follow Freedom Creations on Twitter or Instagram* [1 entry each]
- Share Freedom Creations and/or this giveaway on any form of social media (feel free to use the graphic above!) [2 entries per share]
* If you already like or follow us, let me know and you'll for sure get your entries. Thanks for your on-going support! :)

Make sure to leave a comment letting me know what you did so I can enter your name into the draw!

This giveaway closes one week from today - on Wednesday, November 12th at 3PM (EST). I'll do a random draw and post the winner soon after! :)

In the meantime, have a fantastic rest of the week!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When Oceans Rise

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. 

As one of the many airplanes that carried me back and forth over the Pacific this summer descended on the Philippines, these words poured through my earbuds - over the plane's whirring engines and the wailing baby 6 rows up.

Oceans became a little bit of a landing tradition. 

You see, many places in the Philippines have the most gorgeous landings.

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Arriving in Cebu at sunset. Breathtakingly beautiful! #1000gifts #childhoodhome #latergram


You come in over the ocean and as you peer out the window, it rises towards you and you don't quite see land until the landing gear is touching it.

So, I mean, I'm definitely not a nervous flyer (quite the opposite actually), but these landings can be a little nerve-wracking, too.

Talk about trust without borders.

And so it is with all beautiful things - they're also a little scary, a little nerve-wracking.

Beauty requires trust.

We sang Oceans at youth group last night - When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace.

And I'm right back on that plane.

And I'm standing right there again - the tide slowly rolling in and out, its calming rhythm keeping time to the words I'm speaking to a rolling camera and countless teens back home all at once.

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Shooting the standup with @_godsgal4ever #standup #cebu #philippines #poverty #hope

But this beach is no Sandals ad. A slum is sprawled out behind me, and the curious faces of the Filipino locals - mostly children - stare at me from beyond the camera. Four Canadians and an American with a camera is no daily occurrence, I guess.


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#philippines

The watermarks are just visible on the stilts of these childrens' homes behind me, and the day before when we had visited their homes, we're told that their homes will sometimes flood during high tide.

When oceans rise...

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These adorable kids watched us film for two hours. #cebu #philippines

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#cebu #philippines

And me? I'm just numb. 

The reality of it all comes at me in waves. 

When our team leader - what a blessing she is - leaned over to me in the van on the way back to the hotel and said, "It's hard not to become desensitized to all this. But I just constantly remember how very real this is. This is their lives."

And when later that night my sweet roommate and I realized that those kids were still there - they are still there - sleeping in those potentially flooded homes.

And most recently, the staggering reality of that place hits me at youth group. While singing Oceans.

The words leave my lips: When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. For I am Yours, and You are mine.

I'm painfully aware of what I'm saying.

How easy is it for me to sing those words?

When oceans rise, my house doesn't flood. Plain and simple.

Of course my soul can rest - the floors of my home aren't soaked with those rising oceans.

Sure, I've got waves crashing at me but not quite as literally as those sweet Filipino children I met on that beach.

How is that fair?

I'm painfully aware that I'm angry.

I'm angry at my culture and my comfort zones and I'm angry at me.

Angry at how easily I'm able to sing those words and at how I so pathetically want need the comfort that allows me to easily sing those words.


To be painfully blunt, I'm angry at how much I don't care once those Filipino children aren't right in front of me.

I'm angry at all the ways I don't want to change for the sake of justice, and oh man - isn't it an ugly world where I can sing a beautiful song about rising oceans while a Filipino family's greatest trouble is a rising ocean beneath their home?

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.

Beauty requires trust.

And isn't that it?
 Those words I spoke on that beach to that rolling camera - the God we serve has a perfect plan to bring beauty to this ugly world.

All He asks of us is trust. 

He asks us to trust Him enough to say yes to our part in this plan, and that is all. That is our hope.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You may call me. 

Yes, God. Wherever You may call me.

I trust You, for I know that beauty requires trust

And in a world where oceans rise into those Filipino homes and into my life, I trust You and I. say. yes.

When oceans rise -

My soul will rest in Your embrace. 



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Well, There Goes September!

It happened... My first blog-post-less month in 4 years.

What?! How did that happen?

Honestly, I have no clue. Ha. But I realize I owe you an update since I very suddenly dropped it on you all that I was headed halfway around the world for the second time in two months.

We recently wrapped filming of this youth curriculum about poverty and Biblical justice here at home, after a weekend of doing some filming similar to what we were doing in the Philippines.

It was wild, crazy-God-beautiful, unbelievably tough, mind-blowingly fulfilling and so much fun. 

Each time I started a day of filming or shared a moment with a child in the Philippines or opened my mouth to speak, I could only think How blessed are we, that God would choose to include us in His Kingdom work?

Think about it guys... He doesn't have to, yet He does. That is the kind of God we serve.

I'll be able to tell more specific stories when the actual videos come out and I'm able to share them with you, which I absolutely cannot wait to do! [Really, this is the hard part for me now... Just waiting to see the finished product! ;) #patience]

But in the meantime, here are some photos [that you might've already seen if we're connected on Instagram or Twitter!] from our filming both in the Philippines and Toronto, from various team members. It was such a privilege to work with such an awesome team, who are all so passionate about Jesus and sharing His heart for the poor.

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Only two hours in... But filming has begun!!! #thisgirlisapro



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Sunset in Nagoya, #Japan, earlier today. Now happily resting in Manila, #Philippines. Thnx for the prayers, all!



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Happy to finally be in Manila!

The team. :)


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Jeepneys. #manila #Philippines #jeepney


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stolen from @allisonalley because I didn't bring my camera along yesterday. hello from cebu city, philippines! :) hit the ground running yesterday by going straight to that slum community from the airport to spend some time capturing stunning footage of the beautiful children that call that community home. what we saw was shocking, numbing, and absolutely heartbreaking, and i'm so thankful for the presence of organizations like @compassion and the local church in that community who are bringing the hope of Jesus to this community. thanks for all your continued prayers, friends! they are so needed and so valuable to us!! #thedifferenceisJesus

This place broke my heart. By far one of the most memorable places I've been. I still haven't stopped processing what I saw there, and I don't think I ever will.


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Shooting the standup with @_godsgal4ever #standup #cebu #philippines #poverty #hope



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Boys playing in the mud. #cebu #philippines #boys #mud


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#cebu #philippines


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Singing with the kids. #compassion #philippines

At our sponsored child, JD's Compassion Child Development Centre


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What happens when @allanspiers lets loose. #cebu #philippines #bustamove


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John & @_godsgal4ever spend a quiet moment colouring. #cebu #philippines #a5 #filmingtrip


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loved hanging out with the youth at PH926 at church this morning! love that faith in christ can unite kids from opposite ends of the world! #bodyofchrist @compassion


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interviewing the pastors - past & present - of the local church that is the heart & soul of PH926. blown away by the grace & faithfulness of God! #inspiring #bodyofchrist #localchurch #hope #light @compassion


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A portrait of John (or J.D, as he preferred to be called). #cebu #philippines #portrait #poverty #hope #a5

Sweet JD.♥


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Loved spending two days around these kids. #philippines


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JD playing some games on his mom's phone. #cebu #philippines #poverty #hope #a5 #angrybirds


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Standup #2 with @_godsgal4ever. #cebu #philippines #standup #poverty #hope


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"what does this button do?" #sothishappened #waysupercool #delta [photo creds plus befriending-the-flight-attendant creds to @allanspiers!:)]

Don't worry, I didn't fly us home. ;)


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toronto

Domestic filming...


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Shooting a standup with @_godsgal4ever. #toronto #ontario #canada


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#Graffiti Alley. #Toronto #filmingtrip @_godsgal4ever @allanspiers

Loved having one of my very closest friends and sister in Christ join me for an afternoon day of filming. :) #loveher


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The only thing she doesn't do is windows. #filmingtrip #latergram #Toronto


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Feeling accomplished! This team just completed the final standup shoot. One more day of filming tomorrow and than it's a wrap!!! #1000gifts #TheDifferenceIsJesus



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Working on the last few shots and then it's a wrap! Excited to see the final product. #YouthCurriculum #1000gifts #TheDifferenceIsJesus @compassion


Aaaannnnnddddd... Wrap! :) 

Thank you all so. very. much. for praying for me throughout this project. I wrote this in a thank-you note to people who have been praying, and I leave these same words with you all here...

I literally felt your prayers all the way through - I'm not exaggerating when I say that I don't think I've ever before in my life felt so covered in prayer and it was truly, truly a blessing to me. 
If you would, continue to pray over this curriculum - for the people who will be working on it from here on out, for the hearts that will hear its message, and for big impacts to be made through it, ones that we may never even hear about this side of heaven! :) 
Thanks again, so so so very much, guys. You would not believe the amount of times throughout this project I could only step back and say, "That was the prayer warriors' doing." :) 

I mean it when I say I'm not exaggerating. It was something else. :) 

I'll admit I've missed this blog, guys! Hopefully I won't stay away too long this time. Don't let me get away with it next time. ;)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-22

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Blog Post I Never [Ever] Thought I'd Be Writing

It's been hard to blog about the Philippines. I haven't really fully reflected on my trip because I haven't fully said goodbye-for-now to the Philippines yet. 

You see, right now feels like a little bit of limbo time in Canada smack in the middle of a summer spent in the Philippines. 

Because when I left, another plane ticket to Manila was already booked for me. 

I'm going back again.

That first trip to the Philippines was not planned.

This second one was even less planned.

I got confirmation of this just over a month ago, while I was still in the Philippines: I leave on August 19th for 10 days with a small, 5-person team from Compassion Canada to do some filming on the field for a youth group curriculum about what the Bible says about poverty, justice and what our role as Christians can and should be in the midst of our broken world.

You could say I'm excited. ;) 

I'm also in absolute awe of how God works. Because I once was going to spend those same 10 days in an entirely different country called Guatemala and the night that phone call came saying the trip had been cancelled - that was a sad one. 

But then I never would've been available for this. And there have been many other mountains moved to put me right here, preparing to go and I couldn't be more excited or more at peace about how this summer has turned out, because all I've seen so far is my God doing great things, and I know He doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. :)

And so, for the second time this summer, could I humbly ask a favour of you? Will you pray us there? Thank you so. very. much. Here are a few things you could pray for:

:: Safety & Logistics - Pray for safe flights, smooth customs checks, safety while travelling in-country, well-behaved technology, for the weather to be kind to us, and not too many tests of our flexibility itinerary/schedule-wise. ;)

:: Health - Pray that our vaccines hold up, for protection from any travellers' sicknesses and energy as we battle jet-lag. Personally, I'm fighting a bit of a cough right now, and being on-camera requires a strong voice, so I'm praying that it goes away and stays away.

:: Compassion Philippines - The Compassion Philippines staff does the day-in-day-out grunt work of facilitating Compassion's outstanding wholistic child development programs in the field, and I know they appreciate our prayers at any time, but especially when hosting a Canadian film crew on top of it all! You can pray in general for their programs as well as the staff that will be hosting us while in the Philippines.

:: Open Eyes - Pray that our team would really have open eyes and hearts to see the stories that God wants us to tell, the lives He wishes to use to touch us and vice versa, and that we would have the courage to fully have our hearts broken for the things that break His heart, so that we may fully experience and somehow relate through film the joy of the wholeness that He brings.

:: Kingdom Impact - Most importantly, please pray that God would just simply do His thing in and through us. May we accomplish valuable Kingdom work by His power and may we simply be vessels for the stories He wants told, the lives He wants touched and the work He wants done.

Here it goes... Philippines, Take Two. :)


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dear Filipino Church

I'm home. Have been for 2-weeks, actually! And I'll apologize now for the lack of posts from our trip! But I'm here now with this reflection & some photos...


Dear Filipino Church -

With your sweltering hot chapels and their futile electric fans hoping to provide some reprieve, and your benches or floors or plastic chairs jam-packed with vibrant souls.








Worshipping with you was the highlight of my trip. 

Thank you.

You kept thanking us when we visited. For partnering with you through Compassion International to release children in your community from poverty in Jesus' name.

But thank you.

Because it's just grace that God lets us partner in your work of freeing children from poverty.

And truth is, through this partnership - you've helped free us from our own poverty. 

I know it might be hard to understand - this world is just terribly, horribly hard to understand sometimes - but in our First World, we are impoverished in terrible ways.

What makes it worse is that this First World poverty is masked behind "good" things - wealth, comfort, luxury, success.

You see -  that joy, that authenticity, that hope that you worship with is something that is few and far between here in the First World. You sing like you actually mean the words on your lips. 



It's not that we don't. We try. We really do. We earnestly try to seek God and mean what we say and we have our moments but I think it's because we don't really know what it all really means and so the result is a very somber, sad, what-can-God-do-for-me worship. We have a cushy faith; we're comfortably secure in our wealth and blinded by our options and sometimes God is just one of those options. And I'm so guilty of this far too often.

So your radical joy, your earnest authenticity, your absolute, world-shaking hope - that was the most beautiful thing to me.  

In you, I saw an absolute dependency on God and one another as the Body of Christ, a life-giving, what-can-God-do-through-me culture, a joyful, hopeful worship.

Is everything good in your life? Absolutely not. Far, far, far from.

But He is good and that is enough for you.

In the face of heart-breaking brokenness, your answer always and simply is Jesus.

The beauty of that is what I thank you for.

It's saved me from a poverty so deeply rooted in the First World culture, that escape is slim and falling back into it is so. very. terrifyingly. easy.

So dear Filipino Church, you are beautiful.



You were a taste of heaven on earth and my response to all your Thank-Yous is Thank YOU.



And I wish my letter could end there. Yet there's a whole other side to you that I haven't addressed yet, Filipino Church.

Dear Filipino Church -

With your suffocating air conditioners aiming to recreate the Canadian winter and your thousands of cushy seats or pews.



Worshipping with you was one of the hardest things I had to do throughout my 3 weeks in the Philippines.

The last thing I needed after worshipping with your country's poorest churches was to run into you. Yet I'm oddly glad I did.

As heart-wrenching as it was, every girl needs a hard look in the mirror sometimes.

And as I sang with you with tears threatening their way down my cheeks at the injustice of this all, my heart broke for you and it broke for me and it broke for the whole First World Church, and Filipino Church, tell me - why are we so easily satisfied?

Why do you and I settle for flashy lights and checklist faith when joy - heaven on earth - is found just outside our doors amongst the poor?

Tell me why we're ok with this cruise control faith. Tell me why we spend millions of dollars on studies and buildings and excursions and workshops and all of it in attempt to get closer to God when He said it right there in Isaiah 58, to the Israelites -

Yes. You seem eager to find Me but here is where you'll find me: Amongst the hungry. The down-and-out. The poor. The weary.

If you have the choice between glitz and show for God or simply spending yourself on behalf of the hungry - choose the latter

And yet I understand, Filipino Church. I do. I get it.

It's easier. Checklist faith is far easier. Sunday service - check. Morning devo - check. Midweek Bible Study - check. Bedtime prayers - check. Tithe - check. Repeat.

When you haven't seen the other side of yourself, Filipino Church, you might be tempted to believe the enemy's lie that this. is. all.

And I'm here to tell you that this is not all. I've been to the other side, and I'm running back to proclaim it -

There's more! There is. I know you can't see it yet but just trust me - no, trust Him when He says that if you just let go of what you're so desperately holding on to from your First World life He will place something even greater in that unclenched, empty hand of yours.

I dare you to do this. It will be bold. It will be scary and terrifying and somedays you won't want this. It will require a lot of faith. But it will be worth it.

Because you know what, Filipino Church North American Church First World Church?

Let's be done with settling for a cruise control faith. Let's be done with being ok with a flashy lights, checklist faith.

And let's take this bold, Isaiah 58 style faith head-on.


Related: 
Dear Fellow First World Christian via A Mom on a Mission [My Mama! :)]
A Letter to the North American Chruch: Because It Is Time via A Holy Experience

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The People Behind the Stats


Hello from the Philippines! It has been a whirlwind and I've just been trying to take it all in through the jet lag. :)

I'm reminded of how absolutely beautiful and absolutely despairing this country is all at once - and oh how it has a story to be told and people to be loved.

I'm at least two posts behind on the blogging (let's be honest - since this post is going up several days since I wrote it, I'm way farther behind than that), but here's an attempt to catch up and somehow articulate just a miniscule part of this country's story.

Friday - one week ago today - we had the incredible opportunity to visit our newest sponsor child, John, and his family. John is from the same Compassion Child Development Centre as Jamson, who I wrote about before leaving for the Philippines, and we were able to meet him too and bring along a gift from his new sponsors! And can I just say those two are absolutely. adorable.



Let me tell you this - it really does happen like Compassion Int'l says it does. Every last bit of it. When you're tempted to err on the side of cynical, when you're tempted to believe those nasty things on the internet that people write about Compassion, when you're tempted to use skepticism as an excuse to say "NO" to a soul peering out of the window in the blue envelope, take my word for it:

It's real. It happens. It changes lives.

If you remember one thing from this post, take this: Compassion Int'l's Child Sponsorship program works and it works well. 

It allows people, individuals, souls, to stop being stats and start simply being, dreaming, loving.

Probably the most valuable thing I take from visiting Compassion's field is the way it reminds me that as much as I can regurgitate stats while advocating back home - poverty isn't about stats.

Poverty is about people. Real people. Image bearers of the Most High. People created with a divine purpose.

People like you and me. They love. They dream. They wipe their feet at the door, kiss their family hello. They're proud of their kids. They cry, they get angry, they laugh, they feel deeply. They ride the heights of hope and joy and the pits of hopelessness and despair.

My favourite photo from our visit with John is this one, of him and his teacher from the Compassion CDC sitting on the floor of his home as his parents look on:


Those are the real, beautiful faces behind those enormous stats. Two parents smiling wide at their animated son.

And I refuse to think of that beautiful family as a stat.

They're part of our family and the heights of their hopes and the depths of their sorrows and the reverence of their prayers are just like ours. They are ours.

And the sorrow I currently share with that family? It's the fact that the parents of the little boy pictured with John here are nowhere to be found:


His name is Lester. John's cousin, the son of John's mother's brother. John's best friend.

And the prayer I share with them? That this great kid would find a sponsor.

I was going to ask you to sponsor this absolutely awesome kid. He's shy, thoughtful and cute, and just looking for some hope.

Turns out, he was sponsored just a couple weeks before we left - not yet enough time for word to reach him.

And I can just imagine the joy that will be felt when he hears. :)

However, I am still going to ask you to sponsor a child. While I may not have met them, there are so many kids, with dreams and sorrows and hopes and joys and pain. And they need someone to believe in them. To love them. To tell them that they are loved infinitely by their Creator.

Sponsoring a child with Compassion gives children access to education, healthcare, nutrition and puts them in an environment where they are nurtured with the love of Christ and championed as more than just a stat. 

Because as we spent the day with John, Jamson and Lester, as we played tag, gave gifts, took pictures, ate ice cream and took them on their first escalator ride, one thing was absolutely sure, amongst the turmoil of their unstable worlds -

The adorable faces I looked into, the tiny hands I held, the energetic boys I laughed with - they are not stats. 

They're lives.

Waiting to be changed by someone like you.


Sponsor a child from the Philippines
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