For five years now my family has sacrificed for me to travel the country singing and speaking on behalf of Compassion International. This week my wife, Becky, got to meet the children we’ve been working together for all these years.
I hoped Becky would blog something about her experience here in Kolkata this week – that you’d get to read somebody else’s thoughts for a change. But no such luck. “I’m not a writer,” she says over and over again. “I don’t know what to say?”
I tried to compromise. Really, I did. She’s an accountant by training so I made a proposal I thought would play to her strengths. “Look,” I said, “You don’t even have to use words. You could express yourself with a pie chart. Or a spread sheet!”
No deal. She won’t blog.
But Becky has been writing plenty to our three kids back home, sending an e-mail at the end of every day to our oldest daughter’s inbox. So I sorta borrowed those e-mails to share with you now. Shhh. Don’t tell.
Here’s a recap of this week from “Mommy” to our three kids: Gabriella – 8, Gresham – 6 and Penelope – 4. (With my favorite pictures of Becky from the week sprinkled in.)
Hey sweetie! Mommy and Daddy finally got to a hotel that gives us a chance to email, so I wanted to email you first! I hope you guys are having fun with Nonnie and Geedaddy. What have you been doing? Did you go to church? We didn’t go to church because we were on an airplane. Bummer. The airplane that we flew on had 2 seats on each side and 5 in the middle. That’s a BIG plane. We got to watch movies on a TV in the seat in front of us. Pretty cool. It was really hard though, sleeping sitting up. Our seats didn’t lean back far enough to lie down. I think I’ll get a good night sleep tonight because we are in a comfy hotel. Kolkata (the city that we are staying in) is super hot (120 degrees!) and really dirty. All the drivers here honk their car horns all the time, so the streets are very noisy. We got to see a little monkey family do some tricks. The baby monkey kept trying to run away, but the mother monkey would pull him back by his tail. It was really cute.
I miss you and Gresham and Penelope so much already. Be good and have fun! I love you.
Hey! I went to see some kids at a Compassion project today. There were LOTS of kids…300. When we got off the bus at the front of the project, there were some kids playing instruments, like a marching band. There were some little boys, probably 5 years old, that handed each of us a sunflower as we walked in. Then a group of them sang a couple of songs for us, one in English and one in Bengali (their language). After that, eight girls dressed in sparkly white dresses did a dance with bamboo sticks. They’d spin around and hit their sticks together to the beat. Then, some little girls dressed in red with flowery veils on, got little candles and did a dance with candles. It was very pretty. All those kids worked very hard all week to give us a good show. Just before we left, some girls showed us the karate that they learned. One girl broke two clay tiles with her hand…thru a towel that was on fire! Then the second girl broke two tiles with her head!
It is sooooooo hot here. The adults at the project told us that it hasn’t been this hot in India in 29 years! It is 120 degrees here today. Whew! Since we were so hot, they brought us a coconut with a hole cut it in it and a straw so that we could drink the juice inside. How cool is that?
After we saw the Compassion project, we went to see a couple of the kids’ homes. One little boy, who was 7 years old, lived in a stick house with his Dad, Mom, and little brother. It was just one room about the size of your bedroom, and they all slept in the same bed. They dug a hole in the ground outside to make an oven to cook in. Then we went to a little girl’s home. She lives with her grandmother and uncle because her Dad died when she was a baby and her mother left. They had a house built out of stones and clay. Everyone was very very nice.
I miss you guys. Hope you’re having fun with Nonnie and Geedaddy!
I love you,
You know what’s weird to me? I’m about to eat dinner, and you are just now getting up to go to school. I’m at the end of my Tuesday in India, and you are just now at the beginning of Tuesday in Tennessee! Hey, I’m so glad you wrote me back. It made me so happy this morning when I read it!
So today, we met Sweety at her Compassion project. She was SUPER shy. I tried to give her a hug, but she kept leaning away from me. She has such a pretty smile, and liked hearing that you guys were going to be writing her letters from now on. The girls at the Compassion project today said that they like Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers just like you do. So I began to sing “Best of Both Worlds” and they started laughing! The kids gave us some gifts that they made….a rope decoration for the wall, a vase, and a box to hold pencils. They learn to make things like that so that they can sell them to make some money for their families.
We also visited two of the kids’ houses today. They were both about as big as your bedroom. One family had lived in theirs for 15 years! The girl that lived in one of the houses we visited, pulled out all her letters from her sponsors so that we could see them. The letters are so important to her that she keeps them in a special box. We need to be sure we write Yanci, Joseph, and Sweety all the time!
Well, you guys have fun with Granda and Papa the rest of the week. I miss you so much, and will be so glad to see you when I get back!
I love you,
Hey you guys! I hope you’re having fun with Granda. How is your spider doing? Are you giving it food and water?
Today Daddy and I went to a place that teaches mommies how to take care of their babies. Some people live so far away, that they don’t have doctors who can teach the mommies or take care of the babies. Lots of children here don’t live past 5 years old because of things that could be taken care of if their mommies just knew what to do. So Compassion is helping mommies that way. I saw lots of babies and little kids. They were all pretty shy. I even made one cry because he didn’t want me looking at him. I felt so bad. Some of the older kids that Compassion takes care of danced for us. They were really good. I was imagining you and Penelope dancing up there with them because they had some moves like you do!
I love you,
Hello there! Only three more days until we’re home!
So, today we went to a place here called the slums. It is in the city (not the country part), so it is loud and dirty. I’ll try to explain it to you….so imagine you are walking down a very small road made of clay. On each side of the road there are rows of houses all next to each other, no space in between. The houses are only one room about the size of your bathroom, but the ceilings are only as tall as Granda (Daddy couldn’t stand up straight in them). The roof is made out of clay or tin tiles. There is nothing in them but a bench, a family picture on the wall, and a little shelf for your four cups and plates. All the clothes are kept in a blanket that is tacked up on the ceiling. So you cook your food outside on the street. You also take your bath outside by washing yourself off with soapy water in a bucket. The house we visited today was one of a little Compassion girl who is 11. Remember that it is only the size of your bathroom (without the bathtub, toilet, and sink) and her whole family of 5 people sleeps in there with no bed. The floor is clay and there is one window. It is painted a pretty blue color. She asked us how we liked her house. We told her that it was beautiful, and she started smiling. She said “My life is very happy,” and began to sing a song to God. You would think that she would be sad that she didn’t have more, but because she has God and knows her sponsor from Compassion loves her enough to send letters and money to take care of her, she is happy.
I love you
Only two more days since we get to see you! I looked through pictures on my computer last night to make sure I didn’t forget what you guys look like. Just kidding.
Today we got to hang out with Sweety for a long time. Remember that we had already met her a couple of days ago, but she was really shy and we didn’t have a lot of time with her. We took all the sponsored kids for our group to the Science Center. There is a huge T Rex at the front gate, then a whole dinosaur building right inside. We walked into a dinosaur mouth to get in. Sweety and the other kids were a little scared inside because it was dark and the dinosaurs moved. After that we saw a 3-D short movie. Sweety jumped when a giant squid reached its tentacles out at us! After that, we went to a mall to eat lunch. You know what? You know how Mommy and Daddy have to make you eat more bites sometimes when you don’t like your food? Well, Sweety didn’t like her food today, and the lady who was with her had to make her eat three more bites. Sweety said no, so the lady who was with her asked her, “Who gives you the food?” Sweety said, “Jesus.” The lady said, “Yes, so eat it.” Sweety said, “Jesus gave me too much.” Mommy and Daddy started laughing. I guess kids are the same everywhere, no matter where they are from or what they have to eat! She had never seen an escalator, so she and I rode the escalator up and down over and over and over. She didn’t want to stop, but we had to leave. We gave her the gifts in her backpack and told her goodbye. She asked if we were coming to stay with her. I told her we weren’t, but that we’d write her lots of letters and send pictures. I gave her a hug, and she left. You would have had a lot of fun with her. I can’t wait to show you pictures!
I Love you
Bringing Becky to Kolkata with us was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not just because I got to share one of my greatest loves with my greatest love all week, but because she got to share her adventures with our kids like this.
You don’t have to send e-mails home from India though to teach them how people live here. You don’t have to buy a plane ticket to expose them to poverty, boost their gratitude, and inspire them toward generosity. Sponsoring children is a great tool for teaching kids about this world God “so loved.”
Hows that work for us exactly? Well, when our kids are about five, we sponsor a child their age and gender. (You can search for children by age and gender at Compassion.com) Last week in fact we sponsored “Sweety” for our daughter Penelope – age 4.
Our kids write their sponsored children almost every month. They read the letters they get in return. They pray for their child and even contribute some of their own money toward their care. Our kids don’t walk on water. Not even close. They grumble when something they don’t like hits their plate and say “mine” as much if not more than your kids do. But they’re learning. They know the difference between hungry and starving now. And they can find Ethiopia, India, Uganda and El Slavador on a globe for sure.
Sponsoring a child is the next best thing to taking a trip to India together. And there’s no diarrhea.