STACEY GAGNE – One of the things that I’ll never forget about Ethiopia was the coffee. DELICIOUS!!! I brought back my own clay pot and several bags to share with friends and family and co-workers here… and it’s all going too quickly. We were served deliciously strong and perfectly sweetened coffee pretty much everywhere we went. The coffee ceremony is not only a show of hospitality, but part of their culture and tradition. Great time and care is put into preparing the beans and serving the coffee… I was served popcorn, roasted barley and coffee served in beautiful little glass tea cups in a tiny tiny little one room home that is smaller than my office. (We also were often served soda in glass bottles… which seemed to taste much better to me… but I digress…)
When we visited one of the churches, where the Yeka Meker Church Child Development Center is held; “PK” the Project Director there, shared about how they use coffee as an opportunity to share Jesus with the parents of children who are involved in the Child Sponsorship Program.
I love that the ministry of Compassion International is reaching into individual families with the Gospel. As families see their children receiving the tangible benefits of child sponsorship, they are also receiving the more lasting benefits in the seeds of truth being planted along the way.
STACEY GAGNE – Yesterday I was going through a bunch of video clips from my trip to Ethiopia. I was reminded of many things including the dinner and then panel time we had with the Leadership Development Program students. I had the opportunity to have dinner with a young man who we called “Serious” (that was the meaning of his name which I couldn’t pronounce). He was a very charming and intelligent 21 year old and we had a lot of fun chatting at dinner.
Serious grew up through Compassion International’s Child Development program from age 6 because of his sponsorship. He shared with me and my friend Joe how he had been so blessed by the ministry of Compassion. It became especially intense and important to him when he was 16. At age 16 his mother passed away and he was left alone. He was in the midst of preparing for his National Exam and so this was a really crucial time in his life. He shared how Compassion was the only one to provide for him, support him through this time and enable him to pass his test and go on to University. When he graduated from the Child Development Program he received a new sponsor for his Leadership Development Program from which he is a recent graduate. He studied Animal Science at university and is anxious to find a job in his field that will help him help his community.
During the panel discussion time, Serious shared with the group that through Compassion he and the other LDP students realized that they have value. That as they received love and care through the programs offered through their sponsorships Compassion became a part of their “background” and story.
I’m so thankful that someone decided to take a chance and sponsor Serious and help him move into a life filled with possibility!
STACEY GAGNE -
Yesterday at church we were singing the worship song “Forever Reign” and tears came to my eyes when we sang the lyrics ” … the riches of your love will always be enough”. It reminded me of the quote “The opposite of poverty is not wealth, the opposite of poverty is enough”. It reminded me of the fact that my idea of what a home with “enough” looks like has changed both in the spiritual and the physical.
I saw the riches of God’s Love on display in the faces of so many children in Ethiopia. I saw the light of hope. I saw how God is providing for basic needs for these children through their sponsors and the volunteers at the churches. They are learning about Gods love for them through scripture and through the ways they are being provided for by Christians who’ve never even met them. They are learning about God’s love as they are fed, clothed, educated and cared for.
Oh God shower the riches of your love on these kids! I am anxious to see how God will use our audience once again to bring His “enough” into the lives of many children next week during our 26 Hours of Compassion. Please join me in praying for this.
STACEY GAGNE -
On our daily trips around the city of Addis Ababa it was common to encounter people begging for money. Sometimes they would be trying to sell us something and others they would yell “Money” or approach our vehicle hoping for some spare change. I wished that I could help out each and every one of those people… but of course there are many reasons why me giving a few birr (Ethiopian currncy) to every person that asked was not going to work for many reasons.
The children, of course, were the hardest to pass by. On our first day we did some sight seeing and a little gang of boys followed us around trying their hardest to get us to give them money. At that point I hadn’t even changed over any of my American dollars so giving them money was literally not an option. Another day 2 boys approached the van while we were stuck in traffic and asked for money then began singing the chorus “This is the Day”. I had to wonder if they even knew what it meant … and it broke my heart.
I can tell you that there is an obvious difference in countenance between the children out on the streets and the children in the program. Their home life situations are probably quite similar… but there is a light of hope in their eyes. The children in the Compassion projects are being taught ways to earn a living such as wood working, sewing, among other life skills. They are being instructed that there are better ways to survive than begging. They are being cared for, fed, and clothed. Most importantly, they are being shown the love of God both tangibly and through scripture.
I am confident that Compassion International is making a difference in the lives of children and their families because of what I’ve seen in Ethiopia and therefore trust it’s the same way around the world. This, to me, makes sponsoring a child an obvious choice.
STACEY GAGNE - You might wonder what happens when sponsors designate money specifically toward a special gift for their sponsored child… be it for Christmas, Birthday, etc. The children have the opportunity to choose how that gift is used so they can choose a toy, clothing, candy… you name it. One story I was told while in Ethiopia by Salam, one of the staff in Addis Ababa was of a child who was given their birthday gift money and asked if they could please use it to fix the door in their home rather than shopping for a specific gift. WHAT! I was amazed and immediately in tears when she told me that story.
Our group noticed that when we handed out candy at one of the projects, some of the children were breaking up their one little twizzler strip into tiny pieces to share with the little ones who were not “getting in on the action”. They only received a small piece of candy to begin with, yet they shared it.
When I handed Senait (my sponsored child) her goodie bag and pulled out the 3 lollipops that were inside, she immediately gave 2 of them to the little ones nearby and only kept one for herself. I am certain that this child does not get candy very often, so sharing this treat was a real act of selflessness.
It was moving to see how people share in this culture. Those that have little share what they do have because they don’t know the next time they will have it to share again.
In thinking about these facts, I realized that as we invest into the lives of these children through Compassion International; we are not only impacting them, but their families, neighbors and villages, too! What an opportunity to help build up a community!
WJTL’s Stacey Gagne gives us a tour of Faith Bible Church in Ethiopia, a new project partnering with Compassion International.
STACEY GAGNE – While we were visiting one of the Compassion sites I was hanging around outside while students were coming back to the church/Compassion project from their schools. I tried to “start conversation” though there wasn’t an interpreter nearby. I started goofing around with them and then one of them noticed that I had a journal similar to their notebooks from school. While we were communicating (and they were laughing at me) they started to peek into my open purse and noticed the camera and other “goodies” in their. The bright orange Post-it notes caught someones eye, so I pulled them out. It turned into a frenzy of excitement as I began to hand out a post it note to each child. Not a packet, just one little sticky tabbed square each. Word got out and children told their friends and suddenly I was like a type of Santa Claus with my cool orange post it notes.
Wow. The little things are treasures to these kids. For those of you who are current sponsors of children through Compassion International, your letters and little goodies like stickers and coloring pages are treasures … not to mention the many gifts and supplies these children receive because of your sponsorship. For those of you who are not yet sponsors, please pray about it and consider sponsoring a child during our 26 Hours of Compassion October 19 and 20. There are so many children out there who God wants to use us to touch!
After spending a few hours with the child she sponsors in Ethiopia through Compassion International, it comes time for Stacey to say goodbye.
STACEY GAGNE -
It’s a testimony to the Body of Christ that a group of media people go on a trip together and then share their resources. Before we packed our things to head to the airport; our team passed around a zip drive and downloaded pictures, videos and sound bites to share. All of us share the common goal to inspire others to get involved with the ministry of Compassion International and see beautiful children get sponsored… and families exposed to the Gospel.
I will miss my new friends.
STACEY GAGNE - I had the opportunity to live the dream of Compassion child sponsors everywhere by meeting the little girl that I am sponsoring. Nothing could have prepared me for it. We were all sitting in the office hearing from the site director when she was brought in. As soon as they pointed out that I was “the one’… she came right over beside me and leaned up on me. All day we held hands. We toured the site together, played bubbles, jump rope, talked about ourselves through an interpreter (though she started out very shy… just like her mom). She’s very kind… there were 3 lollipops in her goodie bag that I gave her and she gave 2 away immediately. That is the way it is here, though… when you have, you share…
Senait’s mother is only 22 and she is 7, so she was a very young mom. Her father is not in the picture. I know that this support is going to be crucial for her as she grows up and am so excited and honored to be able to be a part of the life of this beautiful beautiful family.
Saying goodbye was very difficult. VERY difficult. You’ll see evidence of that in the video that was taken once that is posted… but I am happy to know that she is being taken care of despite the circumstances she lives in. I am anxious to see/read updates as she receives more assistance, clothing, food, education, and love from the people there. I look forward to the day that she can write to me and tell me what she is learning and I hope to find out that she and her mom decide to follow Jesus.
I’m sure I’ll have more to share as I continue to process this life changing day and week.