Category Archive: Compassion

New Year’s Dreams

Happy New Year! What hopes and dreams do you have for the year ahead?

One I suspect we all share is that Omicron deals with those who get it in a more gentle manner than have Covid-19 and Delta. We pray that this pandemic will come to an end this year. I look forward to not wearing a mask; to being less isolated and spending more time with family and friends (although we’ve been blessed to have some significant times together this year despite the pandemic). To going out to an evening of dinner, a movie, the theater, church, a party again with a sense of freedom.

Hondurans dealing with the aftermath of significant flooding and destruction of infrastructure

Beyond that hope, dreams become both corporate and individual. Do we want more–more profits, more stuff, better furniture, fancier cars, more of whatever makes us feel good about ourselves? These aren’t necessarily bad. But there are so many who have significantly less than we do here in America. And while there are enormous needs here, areas of deep poverty as well as those wracked by hurricanes, floods, and the seven tornadoes in Kentucky on New Years’ Day.

One way to address these needs is to give where we can. Organizations like World Vision (worldvision.org), Samaritans’ Purse (samaritanspurse.org), and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee, MCC.org) address needs for food, medicine, and education in poverty-stricken or hard-hit areas around the world. My brother, Arnold, has become involved with Living Water World Missions (livingwaterworldmissions.org), who focus on clean water, education, and relationships with Jesus. They say over one billion people lack clean water, and about 1.5 million children will die this year from preventable water-born illnesses.

According to the World Bank, the United States had a GNI (Gross National Income per capita) of $64,610 in 2020.

  • Bolivia has a per capita GNI of $3,200
  • Mexico, $18,170
  • Sub Saharan Africa, $3,005
  • And of the Sub Saharan nations, Burundi has a GNI of only $700. And that’s an average in each country, so we know there are people who have significantly greater, as well as significantly lesser, resources.

Many churches and organizations offer opportunities to go on short-term service projects to help build, serve those in need, and understand the significant needs faced by others. And we can pray for the many in other lands who suffer from hunger, persecution, dirty water, war, and tribal infighting.

Don leading a work crew at RSM with Geronimo

For ten years before Covid hit, Don traveled with a group to Rancho Santa Marta (ranchosantamarta.org) where he managed building projects, from a small medical/dental facility for visiting physicians and dentists, to part of a new gym used for their school of about 250 children, part of the high school addition to the school, and a home for the most severely disabled, older boys who live on the premises. I joined him nine of those ten years and we learned to love the staff and children, orphans, children who had been removed from their homes due to violence and severe learning disabilities. Victor, who just turned 46, has spent almost all his life at the Ranch, and will stay there for its remainder. Teenage Cassandra, who didn’t speak when I first met her, is now talking, even raising her hand to ask for prayer or share a praise in their worship service. You can read more about the Ranch in my 2019 blogpost at https://carolshope.com/2019/05/back-to-the-ranch/

I love this scripture from the prophet Micah.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NIV

Sounds simple, doesn’t it. But it takes courage to speak up for injustice; to express mercy, and to learn what it means to walk humbly with our God. I plan to focus on this scripture more during the year ahead, asking where God wants me to get on board with work He is doing around the world and in my own neighborhood.

May God richly bless you and yours in the new year; and may you rejoice in His blessings as you share them with others.

Set Free … by Music

Georg Friedrich Händel was born in 1685 in Brandenburg-Prussia.

At the tender age of nine years, Handel began composing church services for voice and instruments every week for three years. As he grew and his talent developed, he worked as a composer in Italy and then England, becoming a German-British Baroque composer well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. 

Handel became a very successful composer of big, bold musical arias and operas for London society. At that time, going to an opera was not the semi-formal, reverent event it is today. Instead, listeners walked about, eating and drinking, spitting, booing, and sometimes rioting if they didn’t like the song. Handel even started three commercial opera companies to supply Italian opera to the English nobility.

in 1737, exhausted by stress, Handel suffered what appears to have been a mild stroke which impaired the movement of his right hand. Fans thought he might never compose again. However, after a six-week course of treatment in Germany he returned to London to continue composing. Six years later he suffered another stroke. Again, Handel’s audience thought he would no longer write but, once again, he stunned them with a quick recovery.

Handel did quite well with his big, bold music until that style went out of favor. He lost everything and went bankrupt. He is said to have suffered from anxiety and depression. One of his friends, Charles Jennens, sent him a letter filled with Bible references about the Messiah, the Chosen One God would send to redeem His people. Not being a religious man, he set these aside for a time. But when he picked them up and read of the promised Messiah in Isaiah, the coming of the King in Revelation, he locked himself in his study for twenty-four days straight, hardly eating or drinking, to complete this oratorio.

After twenty-four days Handel’s servant heard weeping behind the door. Forcing it open, he found Handel inside, tears streaming down his face. “I think I did see all heaven open before me, and the great God Himself,” he said. He determined to conduct the premier performance of THE MESSIAH in Dublin around Easter of 1742, with the goal of freeing many locked in prison for debts they could not pay. The oratorio received rave reviews and exceeded expectations, raising 400 pounds and paying the debts of between 142 and 157 prisoners.

Imagine those 150-ish men and women bending over, leaving their cells, bodies likely stiff from lack of exercise, as they walked through a low-arched stone passageway into the outside air. Glimpse their joy as their debts were pardoned and they returned to their families to start anew.

This is what Jesus Christ came to give us–new life, hope, peace, love, and purpose.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10, ESV

What a picture of the redemption Christ offers us. For a sin debt we cannot pay, the penalty of which is death, He came to earth, born and placed in a lowly manger, and grew up to show us God’s character. He, the one person born without sin, then gave His life as a ransom for all who would receive this free gift.

So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life.

I John 5:12, TLB

Handel continued to share this oratorio, donating significantly to the London Foundling Hospital for abandoned children and infants.

Throughout his life he was known as a generous man. Never married, his will divided his assets among his servants and several charities, including the Foundling Hospital. And to prevent his loved ones from bearing the cost of burying him, Handel donated the money to pay for his own funeral. He was buried in Westminster Abbey a week after his death. 

It is said that when England’s King George first heard THE MESSIAH, and its closing Chorus, he stood in awe of the King of Kings. That began the tradition of standing during the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus.

In 2010 the Philadelphia Opera Company gathered 650 vocalists (in guise as shoppers) at the heart of a three-story Macy’s which had a large pipe organ installed in the center of the store. As the organ began the introduction to THE MESSIAH, the singers joined in for a fabulous flash mob. I hope you’ll take the six minutes to watch this, look at the faces of those who stop to listen, the hands raised in praise, the cameras taking in the sight and sound of this “Random Act of Culture”. I found it extremely uplifting, and hope you will too.

May you rejoice in the coming of Messiah, once as we celebrate Christmas and the babe born in a manger; and with the promise of His return in the future.

And He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!

Moldova and a Shepherd

They stood near the door of Safeway, a Safeway I rarely frequent. A man and his son. The man held a sign saying

Please help.

No money for rent or food.

Jesus loves you.

I wondered whether this was another scam, but approached them with a smile beneath my mask. “Do you know Jesus?”

It was the son who replied. “He’s my Lord.” I told them Jesus is my Lord too, and asked what they needed. The son told me they needed gift cards to buy food for the rest of the family at home. He and his father had just eaten.

“Ok, I’ll be back,” I promised.

Taking my groceries to the cashier, I asked for a gift card, then handed it to the boy as I exited the store.

“I am Carol. What are your names?” I asked.

The older man was Johnny; the younger, Dennis. He was thirteen.

brown concrete building
Photo by Marius Grigoriu on Pexels.com

I asked more about them. The family is from Moldova, the poorest country in Europe. It is located between the Ukraine (where my father was born) and Romania.

What made this meeting even more of a God-moment is that dear friends, Walt and June McCuistion, had a significant teaching ministry in Moldova for several years after the country declared its independence from Russia in 1991, during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As Moldova declared their indepence, Walt became acquainted with some of the country’s leaders (certainly divine appointments!).

“Coming out of communism, we have no system of morality. Can you teach us morality?” they asked.

Walt said he would, using the Bible as his textbook. They agreed.

We prayed for the country as it tried to find its way out of communism.

“We don’t want to be here, begging,” Dennis told me. “But my father lost his job two weeks ago and we don’t have enough to pay the rent and buy food.”

I promised Don and I would pray for them and their family, and for a new job for Johnny. They thanked me multiple times, asking God to bless me.

And He did! Sometimes I feel tight on money because of bills I know are coming; but this family needed that gift card so much more than we do! It was a precious God moment, given by a loving Shepherd who loves and guides me, and who loves this family who was doing what was necessary to care for each other.

I don’t often give money to people on the street or outside a store. But on occasion, and this was one, it seems the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, our Good Shepherd, puts it on my heart to respond. And when He does, I want to listen and obey.

One day Johnny, Dennis, and their family will be with Don and me, and many of you, in heaven. While many of us have enjoyed sweet repast with family and friends this week, Psalm 23:5-6 promises so much more.

clear drinking glass beside white ceramic bowl with food
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:5-6

I pray God’s goodness and mercy for this family now; but know that one day, the trials they face will fade in the presence of our good God, who Shepherds His flock with love and care. And what joy when we have the privilege of being part of His avenue of blessing to someone in need.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:10 NIV

Supply Chain Thanks

I looked at the rice shelf in the grocery store. Some empty spots. Same in several other aisles, although not as bad as at the beginning of the pandemic when people bought up all the food and supplies they could.

I walked to the produce aisle to select my bananas. If I don’t eat at least half a banana a day, in addition to taking Potassium supplements, I get severe foot cramps at night. So these are high on my “must have in stock at all times” list. I like them just a bit green, firm, when to me they are most flavorful. Not for me the soft yellow bananas that are best used to make banana bread!

copy space photo of yellow bananas
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

We still had three bananas at home, so I was hoping to find greenish ones. Nope, all yellow. I muttered, “I wanted greener ones.” And then I stopped, ashamed. There were lots of bananas to choose from. They just weren’t exactly what I wanted.

I am spoiled, as are many in America. I’m used to being able to get what I want, pretty much when I want it. How many in this world, even in this country, have the opportunity to do that? What right did I have to complain?

People in Haiti are suffering devastating loss of home, family, goods, and the means to live following a 7.2 earthquake that rocked its southern peninsula on August 14, toppling buildings and killing an estimated 2,200 persons. Approximately 12,000 more were injured and others missing. Think of the agony and hopelessness those families must feel.

Mud, water and debris after Honduran hurricanes
Christmas in makeshift street homes

And in Honduras, two major hurricanes within three weeks last November destroyed infrastructure, left mud, water and debris in the streets, and left many homeless. Yet there was hope as some built makeshift structures along the road, along with Christmas ornaments! My brother and sister-in-law have developed relationships with several Honduran families over the years and established a relief fund through their church, giving significant help to several groups in their rebuilding and clean water efforts.

As of Saturday there were about 170 cargo ships waiting to dock at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. These ports account for roughly 40% of U.S. imports. With the labor shortage and some people not returning to work, there is a huge surplus waiting for workers all along the supply chain. How many food products will be rotten before the ships can be unloaded, loaded onto trucks with enough drivers to deliver the supplies to their destinations, and employees to put those items on the shelf–from foods to mattresses to garage doors.

So I will be grateful for those yellow bananas that will begin to spot before we eat them. I will be thankful for what we have, and for the privilege of helping others in great need.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Prayer: Father, help me to have an attitude of thanksgiving for your grace, peace, forgiveness, and salvation. I pray workers will return to offload those cargo ships, and ease the supply chain here in our own country. Help me not to focus on my small needs but to look at the needs of others, to reach out and help where I can, both within and outside our own country. Be with the many who are suffering because of loss of life, home, security, provisions. You don’t tell me to thank you for everything, but in everything, because you are good, and you care for us.

A Little Girl and a God who Lasts!

Masks were off at outdoor church today! The breeze stirred as we sat in the sunshine, singing “We need a fresh wind, the fragrance of Heaven. Pour your Spirit out.”

person holding white dandelions
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Do you feel, as I do, that the heaviness of the past year is lifting just a bit? And yet, countries like India are still overwhelmed with Covid cases, with hospitals that can’t hold all the sick, with deaths there aren’t enough people to handle. India’s most famous guru, Ramdev, has decided to take the vaccine after berating doctors and saying ayurvedic medicine was sufficient. https://news.yahoo.com/ramdev-india-most-famous-yoga-140805662.html

I lost a friend to Covid two and a half weeks ago. The husband of one of my college best friends. Grief and sorrow continue. Do you need, as I do, to be reminded of hope?

Don and I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. There’s so much prophecy, and we don’t understand it all or know when some of the prophesied events will happen. But oh, chapter 40 is so rich it had me in tears the other day.

Isaiah begins the chapter with the familiar line Handel used in his Messiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (KJV) Isaiah writes that we need to prepare the way of the coming Lord, the Creator of everything we can see or imagine. THE MESSAGE says “Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…” He is a God of magnitude we cannot comprehend!

The prophet continues:

So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! … Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? … God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas–yes, like a tent canvas to live under…

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob (or Carol, or Sue, or Rod, or …) or whine, Israel, saying ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts … He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath, and he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:18-31 (The Message)
selective focus photography of woman in pink shirt
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

This is so precious to me. I’ve had a knee and shoulder replaced and have pain in the other parts. I don’t walk fast. I don’t run. But one day, in God’s amazing kingdom of justice and peace, I will run without tiring. I will pick up things without pain in my shoulders.

Dear friends of ours, Directors at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico, birthed three children. They have a very full plate running a Christian school with about 250 students from up to 60 miles away. They oversee five residences for live-in children who may be orphans, removed from their homes due to abuse, or have learning difficulties. But Rod and Tina adopted another little girl from India a number of years ago.

Recently the couple was asked by the Mexican welfare system if they could take in a little deaf mute girl. They felt having her in one of the residences would add another layer of complexity to the family structures they’ve developed there, so Rod and Tina offered to foster this child. Within a week, they were in love with her and have decided to adopt her as well.

person woman music pink
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

The God who created the heavens and all that is in them reached down to pluck this little girl up and put her in a home where she will be loved, taught, and hopefully helped medically. The family is checking into getting cochlear implants so she can learn to hear and speak and have a more normal life. But they have a short window of time. She is 5 and a half, and they evidently only perform these implants on children until the age of six. Won’t you join us in prayer for the MediCal and financial support they need to have this surgery done before their little one turns six?

Isaiah 40:27 (MSG) talks about this amazing God:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.”

It’s only when we hope in God that we can impact a world that seems hopeless–sometimes, one child at a time.

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God CARES. He LASTS. He doesn’t change. He hasn’t lost track of his children, including me. That gives me hope.