Changing a Child’s Life through Child Sponsorship

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Did you know that nearly 22,000 children die every day, most due to things that can be prevented like hunger, disease, and poverty? Did you also know that nearly 72 million children do not attend school? Child sponsorship is a way to for you to make a real and lasting difference for a special boy or girl in need. My family sponsors a little girl from Ecuador named Marianela. Marianela will turn 17 in July and I have been sponsoring her since she was 8 years old. I have been able to see her grow up. Because of my sponsorship she receives Christian education, medical check-ups, health education, nutritious foods, field trips, and homework help. When I hear statistics like the ones you just read I think to myself, “Not my little girl!” My family has been able to help Marianela by removing the obstacles that poverty has put in her path. We also get to have a relationship with her through the letters that we write. She always draws me a picture on the back of all the letters and those are special to me.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. As a sponsor for $35 per month you’ll demonstrate God’s love and transform a child’s life! God tells us in Matthew 18:5 that “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes Me.” He also tells us in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Please pray and see if God is calling you to become a child sponsor.

I would like to share a short story about a family in Ethiopia whose lives were changed by sponsorship. Tsehay, 7 lives in Ethiopia. She has five brothers and sisters and her mother has taken an orphaned child into the family. Tsehay’s mother struggled to support the family by selling firewood but earned very little. The children had to go to work tending cows in the field. Their mud-brick hut had a cracked roof that leaked water during the rainy season. Life became so much better after Tsehay’s oldest sister was sponsored through World Vision by a woman in Nevada. Her gift made it possible for the family to build a new home and even enjoy electricity so the children could study after dark. Today, the children have access to assistance such as school fees and supplies, basic healthcare, and improved nutrition. For Tsehay’s family, sponsorship was an answer to prayer. “I knelt down and prayed to the Lord, ‘Please deliver me.’ That’s how sponsorship came,” says the mother of Tsehay. Would you like to be an answer to prayer as well? If you would like more information about child sponsorship you can visit World Vision’s website at www.worldvision.org/sponsorship. You may also call them toll free at 1-800-806-4468 or talk to Nicole Gardikis at church. A presentation was done at church on January 22nd about child sponsorship. If you missed that presentation we still have two children in need of sponsors. A child is waiting—for you.

(article by Nicole Gardikis)

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First Week of Advent – Some Ideas

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Isaiah, one of the prophets of Advent, who foretold the coming of King Jesus.

Sunday, November 27th marks the first Sunday of Advent this year. Advent is made up of the four Sundays before Christmas and is a season of waiting and preparation. We remember what it was like to Israel to wait for their king. We prepare our hearts to receive Jesus today. We remember that we too are waiting for the return of our king Jesus. (Read What is Advent? for more background on the season of Advent.)

The following are some suggestions for celebrating Advent with your family. The ideas in this post center around the tradition of lighting the Advent wreath which is normally done on the Sundays of Advent. We’ll include scripture readings, songs, and activities to accompany the lighting of the Advent candles. I provide only a few ideas, because I’m interested in what you come up with.  Feel free to share your ideas by posting a comment on this blog.

Advent Week #1

Theme: A suffering people wait for a promised king.

Background: Isaiah 9 was written during a dark time in Israel’s history.  Their kings had failed them by leading them to sin against God by worshiping idols, gods made of wood and stone. God’s judgment was imminent. Shortly after this was written, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried off most of its inhabitants to live in a far away land. Isaiah was sent to Israel to announce this dark future, but even with God’s judgment, there is a glimmer of hope.  That hope is what we see in Isaiah 9.  A promised king, what the Jews called the Messiah (the anointed one), was going to come and save his people.

Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7.

Discussion:  Ever been promised anything but have had to wait a long time to receive it? What are you waiting and hoping for this year for Christmas? What do you think it was like for the people of Israel who saw foreign armies come destroy their cities and take them live in a far away land? How badly do you think they wanted a king? What did they hope that this king would do for them? What does Isaiah say about this new king?  What will be like?  What will he do?

Light the Advent Wreath:  Light the purple candle opposite the pink candle. (For instructions on making an advent wreath read What is Advent?.)

Advent Song:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Activities: 

  • Focus on a group of people who, like Israel, have had their lives destroyed by war. Discuss what it might be like for those children.  Ask what you think these children might want King Jesus to do for them. Find a catalog that gives gifts to children in poor or war-torn areas and have the children pick a gift to donate.  Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision are both organizations that provide great on-line “gifts for the poor” catalogs.
  • Have the children draw pictures of the promised King in Isaiah 9.
  • Do you have other activity ideas? Share them by posting a comment.

Prayer: Pray for the children of the world who really need King Jesus to come and save them.

Daily Bible Readings:  Here are some Bible readings you can share with your family during the week that go into more detail who about the promised King Jesus.

  • Genesis 3:14-16.  This is the first mention of promised king in the Bible.  God announces to the Serpent (Satan), that a child of Eve  (or descendant), will destroy Satan and the evil that has corrupted the world. “You will strike his heel” (the crucifixion) and “he will crush your head” (Jesus’ death and resurrection).
  • Psalm 2.  This psalm is a description of the power of our promised king Jesus.
  • Daniel 7:14-15. A vision of King Jesus’ ascension from heaven’s perspective.  Notice that Jesus’ kingdom is a forever kingdom.
  • 2 Samuel 7:11-14.  God promises Israel’s King David that a son (descendant) will rule over a forever kingdom.  Throughout the gospels and Christmas stories Jesus is called the “Son of David”.  
  • Jeremiah 23:5-6.  Jeremiah, God’s prophet predicts that a “Son of David” will come to rule and protect God’s people.
  • Micah 5:2-4.  The king promised to Israel will be born in Bethlehem.  Remember where Jesus was born?  This king will also be a shepherd, a protector for God’s people.  Do you remember when Jesus said “I am the great shepherd.”

Christmas, presents, and the poor

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Ralph, a young Filipino boy, receives a shoe box from Operation Christmas Child in the dump outside of Manila.

All of us as parents have felt that uneasy tension at Christmas.

The flash of joy in a child’s eyes the moment they rip open a gift, and the nagging question of where are we going to put all this stuff, as you drive home from a family Christmas party.  Giving is a central part of our holiday celebrations, but how does this square with the fact that Jesus was born a homeless refugee?

The tradition of gift giving at Christmastime is not a pagan tradition, but comes from the story of the Three Wise Men in Matthew’s gospel. Here you have the clash of wealth and poverty in the story.  A young working class family visited by three fabulously wealthy court officials bearing extravagantly expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  A God who created and owns all the wealth in the universe is now a member of a family gripped by poverty.  Jesus does this to give us an opportunity to receive His Father’s inheritance through his self-sacrificial love.

The question for us is not how we eliminate gift-giving from our Christmas family celebrations.  Gift giving at its best is an expression of love. Our love for our children should be a reflection of Christ’s greater love for them and thoughtful gift-giving can be beautiful expression of that love.  But how do we keep in front of our families that God’s gifts to us is not all about us?

I think small traditions can play a big role in reshaping our children’s understanding of Christmas and recovering the holiday from the crass commercialism that assaults us every year.  One such tradition is the Operation Christmas Child program organized by Samaritan’s Purse.  Operation Christmas Child marks the opening of the Advent/Christmas season for our family.  Each year our kids get involved in shopping for small gifts, stuffing the shoe boxes with the gits and carrying the haul down to church.  From there the shoe boxes are shipped to poor children all over the world.  What do the kids learn?  There is great joy in taking a small portion of the blessings God has given us and giving them away.  They don’t have to wait until they are adults to make a real difference in the world.

This is something your family can do on their own, you can learn how to pack your own shoebox at Samaritan Purse’s website.  You can also participate in the “PUCC family and friends” events where we will be wrapping, sorting and stuffing the shoeboxes on Saturday evenings from 6-8 PM (October 15, 22, and 29) at the church.  These events are inter-generational and open to people of all ages.

Giving gifts to the poor in honor of one of the kids is another way to reintroduce the concept of sacrificial love into our Christmas celebrations.  Each year we “buy” gifts such as a goat for a family in Nigeria, a microloan for a single mother in Honduras to start a business, or a water purification system for a family in Bolivia.  What we do is try to match the gift to the child.  For example one of our daughters constantly drinks water.  We might give the water purification system this year in honor of her.

Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision are two organizations who publish catalogs that make it make it convenient to give  honorary gifts to the poor.

What are some of the traditions you’ve tried to introduce your children to the ideas of generosity and love for the poor?  Leave us a comment and share what has worked for your family at Christmas time.