Giving Thanks with a Happy Heart (ICM Trip to the Philippines)

standard November 2, 2016 Leave a response

As we move into the month of November, our minds naturally start to anticipate the holiday season.  We’re thinking less about our exercise routine and more about pumpkin pie, caramel corn, and the obligatory roasted turkey.  It’s also a time when we are counting our blessings, and as Americans they are many!

I was the recipient of an immeasurable blessing this year when I was asked to attend a mission trip with International Care Ministries (ICM) to the Philippines.  ICM focuses on serving the ultra-poor in the Philippines, meaning men and women that earn $.50 per day or less.  You may be wondering, how is it even possible to support one person on $.50 per day, much less an entire family?  The answer is: it’s not possible. Thus, the extreme poverty.

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However, ICM has developed an ingenious program that they use to treat the serious problem of poverty that ransacks this beautiful land, and they call it Transform.  Transform is a 12-week program that addresses the needs of those in ultra-poverty on three levels:

1. Values: ICM works with a local pastor to find those who need the most help in the community and when they gather weekly the participants are taught the Word of God by the pastor and are presented with a chance to hear the gospel.  (I’m sure by now you know that this is HUGE to me and one of the main reasons why I am so attracted to ICM!)img_3871

(The Pastor bringing the Word out of Matthew 12.)

2. Health: This part of the Transform program focuses on the family’s wellness and sanitation. One of the leading causes of death in the Philippines is diarrhea.  Such an easy illness for us as Americans to remedy, but dangerously lethal for those living in poverty.  ICM gives health solutions and teaches the Transform participant how to guard against such tragedy.  They also administer Manna Packs (a fortified rice and soy blend) which can provide the family with several nutritious meals for the week.

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3. Livelihood: You’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is precisely what the Livelihood portion of the Transform program seeks to do. The goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among the participants so that they can have a sustainable source of income, whether it be by baking banana cakes and selling them in the marketplace or forming and participating in a savings group amongst themselves.

img_3870(A local savings group is being formed with the help of ICM.)dsc00058(ICM helps the Transform participants start and maintain a garden.)

At the end of the 12-week program a graduation celebration is given for those that participated in ICM’s Transform Program and it is a true reason to rejoice.  Not only are the graduates learning to fight poverty, but almost always new friendships have been formed within the group and the once unbearable weight of hopelessness is replaced with feelings of belonging and HOPE for the future.

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Proverbs 14:21 states, “Whoever shows kindness to the poor will be happy.”  

I love this promise in God’s Word for many reasons. One being that our happiness is directly dependent upon ourselves and the kindness that we give to others.  But also because kindness shown to the poor creates a perfect triangle of happiness between us, those that we choose to bless, and our Creator.  

This Thanksgiving it’s all about giving thanks with a happy heart.  We have so much to be thankful for and showing kindness to the poor is one way that we can spread happiness and hope.  Will you join me in partnering with ICM as they work tirelessly to provide serious solutions to serious poverty in the Philippines? If yes, then click below and allow your kindness to make you, others, and God happy!

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El Salvador: Land of Physical Poverty Yet Spiritual Wealth

standard September 30, 2015 5 responses

Last week I testified to God’s faithfulness to allow me to participate in a Mission/Vision trip to El Salvador with Compassion International.  I had mentioned that it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was! Just knowing that I almost didn’t get to go made the whole experience extra sweet and special for me.  I soaked in every moment.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”

Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

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El Salvador is a beautiful land with rolling hills and lush landscape, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Ireland of Central America.” But despite its geographical beauty, it is a place where poverty runs rampant as do the gang members.  The problem seems to lie in the educational system: public grade schools are conveniently located to the students, but the high schools are sparse, requiring extra transportation costs.  Many of the families cannot afford this extra cost so the child drops out of school making them an easy target for the gangs to pick up as a new initiate.

Our group of women could feel the oppression as we drove through the littered streets.  Gang signs were present on poles, marking their territory lest anyone else try to lay claim.  We were told to put our cell phones out of sight or else they would most likely end up on the black market.  An armed guard or police officer was stationed at most of the establishments we visited.  The average family monthly income in the rural areas of El Salvador is $120.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s only $1,440 per year to support an entire family.  Yet even through all the impoverishment, I saw a land of hope.  And that hope lies in the faces of the children.

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The first Compassion center we visited was extremely new, only a few months old.  Casa de Pan (House of Bread) is run by Carlos and Candy who have a passion for the children and love them with an agape love.  You could see the gratitude that Candy had for the Compassion sponsors and she teared up several times when describing how much this center means to each child that visits it. It is a place where they can come twice a week to receive a meal (of which they usually save as much as possible to take back to share with their families), tutoring for school, and a chance to hear about how much Jesus loves them.  Most of them do not hear from their parents that they are loved, much less that they are smart or valuable. The center tries to teach them that they have a hope and a future in Christ.

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(The children sang “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” in English.)

After we visited with different families in the community, we returned to Casa de Pan to pray over those running the center.  But oh my were we in for a treat when Candy started praying over us with the rest of the center members praying out loud at the same time. The Compassion interpreter did an excellent job of translating, but it didn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong that it was all we could do to try to keep it together.  We had been to church…in the purest way! Praying for one another, lifting each other up to Jesus, knowing that He will supply every need.  These people are desperate for the Lord and it spills out into their everyday life.  It was a rich moment that I hope never to forget.

The Prayer at Casa de Pan

As I was leaving, I slipped Candy a $20 bill and told her that it was for the offering plate.  She was crying and telling me “Gracias, gracias, gracias!”  It struck me that I had spent more than that on a pedicure before I left, of which the paint was already chipping off.  I am sure that the twenty dollars I gave her went a lot further and will have a much more lasting effect than a pedicure ever could.  Candy had told me that through the church she and Carlos feed the entire community on Christmas Eve.  When I asked her where the funds for that came from she said, “The Lord always provides.”   That’s what I would call being “spiritually wealthy,” wouldn’t you?

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If you are interested in sponsoring a child from El Salvador, please contact me or visit compassion.com/elsalvador.  Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.