Preserving the Family Meal Table

“There is no life experience that replaces the connection and significant created by eating together at the table. Whether young or old, when a person experiences trauma, temptation, or embarrassment, being invited to the table makes them feel valued and restores their sense of significance.” – Devi Titus, The Table Experience

“Come and get it!” was often the call resounding through our home at the dinner hour. I have many a precious memory from our family dinner table as a child to a young adult. It was often a challenge to gather all eight children plus mom and dad around the table. Family togetherness at dinner was a thing my mother preserved. It may have been only 3-4 nights each week, but they were special sacred times together, especially our weekly family night every Friday evening.

Sometimes it may have been buffet style, at other times it was a more formal pass the plate around the table, or a picnic out on the back deck or lawn, or simply take and bake pizza, but in every case the preservation of love and relationships were cherished. Many times it was simply served on paper plates, but that mattered little, as we were together. Food has such a powerful way of bringing us together. Turn off the distractions, the technology, and build your health as well. It is an opportunity to slow down and focus on what is most important – our relationships. It is one way to preserve and protect the family.

Preserving Laughter & Relationship

Conversation and fellowship over the meal provides wonderful opportunities for family bonding and planning. The ability to share our lives with one another face to face not only strengthens our own identity but also fosters security, love, and affection. Use the time to ask each other about their day, to laugh at our mistakes, and encourage one another. Plan family trips, church activities, ways to serve others, or any other upcoming events. Eating together can have such power in building a strong family unity that will make a difference in this day and age.

Preserving Thankfulness

Why not make the table a place to cultivate thanksgiving? Go around and ask each family member what they are thankful for, or something that they are thankful for that transpired that day. This is a simple way to share the events of the day and conclude it in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, which not only encourages one another, but draws the attention back to acknowledging the Source of our lives.

Preserving Prayer

The dinner table is a powerful opportunity to come together and pray on behalf of others. Set up a world map next to your table with missionaries or other people on your heart as a reminder for prayer. Designate a night each week with a prayer theme. Perhaps pray for neighbors on Mondays, your nation on Tuesdays, etc.

Preserving Hospitality to Your Own

Preserving the dinner table is an opportunity to demonstrate hospitality to those dearest to us. Put a little thought into your table setting. Make it special with candles, cloth napkins, cloth place-mats, a simple bouquet of flowers, or something meaningful to your family. Serve a favorite meal. Or designate one night a week as a special celebratory family night. We love having homemade pizza every Friday night followed by some fun family outing, games, or movie night. Be creative. It need not be every meal, but making an extra effort on occasion can really bless your family. They need to know that we love and care for them just as we would others.

Preserving Working Together

Meal preparations were often a family affair at our home. Mom would have an assigned helper for the meal or my sisters and I would take an evening meal once a week to prepare on our own. More often then not, there were multiple of us in the kitchen cooking together. This not only helped build our nutrition and cooking skills but also assisted in building our relationships as we prepared meals side by side. With younger children in tow, it’s fun to include them in meal preparations as well. From simple dicing with a safe knife, to setting the table, it is easy to find a job for eager hands to complete. For more ideas and inspiration, read Cultivating Learning in Everyday Activities- in the Kitchen.

That being said, it doesn’t have to be dinner time for these goals to be accomplished. Strive for one other meal during the day to which you could sit down face to face with each other. Or if one member is not available, don’t throw in the towel altogether. You can still cultivate peace and relationship even if one or two are absent.

It’s beneficial for the body and soul.

“Every soul has its unique nuances. Each of us is uniquely formed in our mother’s wombs…However, there is one thing we all share – the need to connect. To dine with someone is to connect with that person. The table experience with your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues – and even your enemies – has the potential to begin bonding human hearts in a new way, a deep way that brings spiritual connection, a bonding that life’s circumstances should not break. During meals hurting hearts heal, sad hearts are made glad, depressed hearts get new vision, and divided hearts come to peace.” – Devi Titus, The Table Experience

Further Resources:

Dinner Table Conversation Starters
The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier & Happier
by Miriam Weinstein
The Table Experience: Discover What Develops Deeper, More Meaningful Relationships
by Devi Titus

How do you maintain a regular time of eating together as a family? Any hints you might share?

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Four Secrets to Thick, Creamy Yogurt Every Time

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden

Yogurt is one of the simplest traditional foods and a staple in the real food kitchen. Everyone should make their own. The problem is, many have tried to master this simple technique only to have it turn out runny, flavorless, or sour. Eventually they return defeated to the expensive, overly sweetened, store bought version that is all-too-often stripped of good fats.

I have been making yogurt for sixteen years and only in the last six months been able to obtain consistent results with a yogurt that is creamy and thick as custard. (See  the photo – my yogurt is so thick it can stand on its head!) My kids crave it and even my husband will eat it–hooray!

If you have not been satisfied with your yogurt attempts so far, I encourage you to check out these tips and see if there isn’t something here that was missing from your previous attempts. Many of my friends have finally achieved the goal of making their own yogurt by following this step-by-step recipe and keeping in mind these tips…

The Four Secrets to Thick and Creamy Yogurt Every Time

  • Keep it fresh! Get new starter every month or so. You can use your own yogurt for starter several times over, but if your yogurt starts turning out runny or has a funny consistency, it’s time for new starter.
  • Keep it clean! Sterilize the jars you will incubate and store the yogurt in. You want to have control over what bacteria and cultures are growing, so always start with a clean slate.
  • Respect your starter! Don’t beat it to death – let it retain some of its form and dignity and it will work well for you every time.
  • Let it rest! A long incubation time gives the yogurt a full flavor and thicker consistency. Don’t be afraid to leave it overnight!

Yogurt in 10 Simple Steps

1. Pour 1/2 gallon of milk int a large, heavy bottomed sauce pot. For vanilla yogurt, add 1T. vanilla extract and 1/2 c. maple syrup, honey, or sucanat.

2. Heat milk to 180 degrees, or until it bubbles and forms a sking. Turn of heat.

3. Cool milk to 120 degrees. or until you can keep your finger in the milk without burning yourself. Place pot in sink of cold water to speed up this step.

4. Meanwhile, sterilize 2-3 qt. jars by pouring boiling water over them and letting them drain.

5. When milk has cooled, scoop one cup milk into a small bowl and gently swirl in 1/2 c. yogurt (any fresh plain yogurt from the store will work or you can use a yogurt starter)–no stirring!

6. Pour starter mixture back into pot and swirl gently. You are introducing the starter to the milk, not incorporating it.

7. Pour the milk into sterilized jars, if you see chunks of yogurt, you know you did steps 5 and 6 right! Try to divide these chunks between your jars.

8. Cap jars and set them in the pot you warmed the milk in. Fill pot to rim of jars with hot tap water and leave in sink or on counter.

9. Let yogurt incubate 10-18 hours.

10. Move jars to fridge to chill.


Note from Trina: This recipe is from my new ebook, Real{Fast}Food. It’s full of time saving tips for the real food kitchen, teaching you how to plan better, cook faster, and eat healthier! You’ll find lots of great recipes and techniques to get you through the busy summer months. For more information, visit Real{Fast}Food.

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Easy Summer Meals: Burritos w/Homemade Refried Beans

I love easy simple meals that are full of healthy ingredients but don’t require a lot of time or energy to prepare! Burritos is one of those that provides a well balanced meal with lots of flavor and as much variety as you desire. You can add meat of any kind and spice it up with a little taco seasoning mix, or keep to a basic flavorful refried bean for the frugal minded. There are numerous recipes out there for refried beans, but here is our concoction to get you inspired! We make a large batch of refried beans at one time and I freeze them in smaller batches for future easy meals (lunches or dinners). I will put quart size mason jars of refrieds in the freezer for easy access. This cuts down on your work and makes it more simple.

Refried Beans

8 cups dry pinto beans
1 1/2 Tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
dash of hot sauce or 1-2 jalapeno, seeded
pepper, season to taste

1. Soak your beans overnight in a crockpot with fresh filtered water and 1-2 Tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or lemon juice. This helps to de-gas the beans and break down the phytates that inhibit proper digestion.
2. Rinse the beans and fill your crockpot again with fresh filtered water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Turn on low for 5-6 hours. Keep an eye on them and add more water if needed.
3. After the beans are soft, drain and reserve about 1 cup of the liquids.
4. In a large stock pot, saute your onions and garlic. Add the cooked beans and just enough liquids to make a smooth paste. With a hand mixer, blend up the beans till it reaches your desired consistency. Add more liquids as necessary. Add your salt, cumin, hot sauce, and season with pepper to taste.

Our favorite toppings include: salsa (our fermented salsa is a huge hit!), sour cream, raw cheddar cheese, tomatoes, limes, lettuce, and guacamole! For a gluten free variety, we serve on brown rice or corn tortillas! Simply heat them up on both sides in a pan with a bit of butter or olive oil and you have a wonderful pliable tortilla to fill with goodness.


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Cooking: An Instrument of Comfort

Photo Credit

Welcoming our new monthly contributing writer, Emily Pastor.

“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this,” he said.

~“A Small Good Thing,” by Raymond Carver

We are surrounded by hurting and weary people. Some are in our families, some are friends, some are strangers. We all face times when exhaustion and loss characterize our own seasons in life. During those times, it’s hard to overemphasize the important role that food plays in providing comfort and healing.

When I walk into my kitchen, I often consider the importance my cooking plays in physical health, but easily forget about it’s role in the emotional health and security of my family. As a health-conscious mama it’s easy to fixate on preparing frugal and healthy meals for family and forget about the comforting aspect of food. I can get so caught up in finding the healthiest ingredients, serving faultlessly rounded meals, and making sure we all get enough good fats that I forget about the hearts and souls finding refuge in these meals. Cooking can be an instrument of comfort through familiarity, routine, and provision.

Comfort of Routine

Routines revolving around meals provide security and comfort. Have you ever noticed that most families have dinner seating arrangements that never change? Whenever we go over to my parents house for dinner, my grown siblings and I still sit in the same spots. We each have a place and the comfort of knowing we belong.

Last year I took a trip to visit my sister-in-law and niece while my brother was deployed. My sister-in-law’s meal routines really impacted me. For each meal, she set the table, put out cloth napkins, prayed before the meal, and enjoyed the menu of the day. These simple routine acts surrounding meals provided a comforting and enjoyable routine three times a day.

While routines establish security and comfort, they also provide a safe stage for creativity and change. The routine of setting the table is a fun routine that can change with the seasons, the holidays, or with whatever inspires your creativity. Asking table questions provides a routine that opens up constantly different, meaningful, or fun conversations each night. Prayer centers the focus of the meal and provides an outlet for constant changing praises and requests.

Comfort of Familiarity

When I think of comfort food, random meals come to mind: bean burritos, chicken pad thai, deli sandwiches, cheap chinese food. Even though each of those meals differ greatly, they all share a thread in bringing back memories of familiar and happy times. Bean burritos remind me of leisurely lunches growing up at home. Pad Thai reminds me of the early days of marriage when my husband worked at a Thai restaurant. Deli sandwiches remind me of summer. Cheap chinese food was my family’s favorite meal to eat out growing up. Some of these meals are more “healthy” than the others, but the comfort is in the feelings and memories they bring back. Everyone’s comfort foods are different and they hold memories in the smells, tastes, and textures of those foods.

While I don’t want to downplay the importance of healthy food, I’ve realized that sometimes an “un-healthy” meal can be more “nourishing” than a Sally Fallon endorsed entree. Sometimes a bowl of macaroni and cheese feels more nourishing than a bowl of steamed vegetables. Sometimes cinnamon rolls bring more peace than soaked whole wheat bagels. While not all comfort food is “un-healthy,” my point is that we should take into account our friends and family’s comfort foods and cook in such a way that reflects our love for them and their tastes. Serving familiar foods to loved ones is a tangible way we can say, “I know you; your tastes are important to me.”

Comfort of Provision

When I’m having a hard day, I love being invited over for dinner. I really don’t care if that means driving 40 minutes away…if you invite us, we’re on our way! There is comfort in someone meeting your most basic needs. For me the comfort of that meal means more than just enjoying food with friends and family. I feel the comfort all through the day as it gives me time for a nap instead of meal prep, more time to sit and chat after dinner instead of dishes, and a little more breathing room in my food budget. Providing meals for others is a practical way we can help meet not only the physical needs of others, but social, emotional, and financial needs as well.

What foods do you and your family find comforting?

What are your family’s established mealtime routines?

Who in my life is in need of some comfort that a meal could help provide?

Whether it’s in a warm cinnamon roll or a steaming bowl of soup, my hope is that we realize the healing power of our cooking when we use it as an instrument of comfort.

In my opinion, that’s no small thing!

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Simple Healthy Summer Meals

Photo Credit: Kirti Poddar

Note from Lindsay: My heart is full this week as I process all the intense images and knowledge I gained this past week in the Philippines. My body is also taking its precious time to adapt to the time change. Sleep has been avoiding me. I’m just trying to take it easy and pray for the Lord’s grace to just focus on my priorities this week. Going to launch right into our June theme where we will be sharing about cultivating simplicity and intentionality in the kitchen. Join us!

Post by Contributing Writer, Michele

Summer is usually a time of impromptu gatherings with friends, overnight visitors, and busy children’s activities in our family. On those hot summer days, standing in front of the oven is the last place I want to be, but everyone still needs to be fed.

To keep from resorting to ice cream for dinner (most of the time), I love having some frugal, simple-prep meals/ingredients on hand, using a combination of “once-a-month” meal preparations, a slow-cooker, and fresh produce.

Beans & Grains

Cook up a big batch of beans. You can put them in the slow cooker, if you just can’t bear to turn on the stove, and put it in your garage or shady porch to cook during the day.

I usually find black beans or chickpeas/garbanzo beans pretty versatile for summer meals. Store extras in freezer containers or baggies (stack bags flat in the freezer) for future meals. You can do the same with grains, such as millet or brown rice. (Cooked rice is perfect for making a fried rice to go along with a stir-fry!)

Some fun summer bean meals:

Photo Credit: roland

Blender Meals

On a hot day, a nutrient-rich smoothie can be a welcome side to a meal. You can make a Green Smoothie or a Fruit Smoothie, adding in plenty of whole milk yogurt or kefir. A chilled, blended soup can be refreshing on a hot evening, such as:


When talking with fellow “real food” blogger friends last fall, most of us mentioned the favorite “busy day meal” trio of Popcorn, Smoothies, and Omelets (toss in some garden veggies!). Stuffed Deviled Eggs, Omelets, or even a “breakfast for dinner” of scrambled eggs & soaked waffles are simple, nourishing meals that won’t heat up the kitchen.

Photo Credit: sporkist

Batch Grilling

Not just for burgers; use the barbecue grill, and cook up a whole chicken, big batch of meats, or veggies while the coals are still hot! Leftover cold grilled chicken or beef is perfect for summer salads (such as Southwest Chicken Salad) or sandwiches. Grilled veggies or sausages are delicious in an omelet or soups, as well as Grilled Veggie Sandwiches.

Photo Credit: coanri

Fresh Produce

You may be gleaning produce items from your garden on an as-needed basis (such as lettuce, tomatoes, or carrots). But if you have a veggie drawer or fruit basket full, prep them into salads or veggie trays for quick snacks or appetizers (perfect for those drop-in guests!).

Use a melon baller to make quick work of a large melon, and toss together a fruit salad. A bowl of a nourishing homemade creamy dip is a great option to have on hand, too, with your veggie trays.

Cold salads can be made into meals, too! Stir in some shrimp or canned salmon, and serve in a wrap or stuffed into a bell pepper for a fun picnic meal.

You don’t have to do all your prep-cooking on one day.

Just make extra when you do cook a meal, and put it in the freezer- alongside the Strawberry Ice Cream! What are your favorite summer meals?

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The Hands and Feet of the Gospel

Our Philippines experience comes to a close today. It is a bittersweet moment, for I have truly seen the love of Christ in action and don’t want to forget the beauty of this work. Since the age of sixteen, I have dreamed of coming to the Philippines after reading my first missionary account of a nineteen year old girl who served here. One door opened after graduation only to be quickly shut. And now, this week, that dream was fulfilled and I got to witness firsthand the dreams of others being fulfilled.

I have witnessed extreme poverty, simple faith, joyful worship and abundant laughter.

I have seen children given hope, the love of Jesus, and the ability to grow, flourish, and make a difference in their nation.

I have seen solid national churches partner together with the work of Compassion to bring the hands of Christ to their communities.

I have seen numerous volunteers within the church who tirelessly serve (the majority of which are unpaid) to serve for the benefit of these children. They are passionate for the well-being of these children and willingly give numerous hours per week to their care.

I have seen empowered young people flourish through their youth and into their adulthood who want to love Jesus and in turn pass on the gift to other children. Four beautiful girls that graduated from the sponsorship program and currently students in the Leadership Development Program who are on fire for the Lord partner together to sponsor another and volunteer in the program. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

I have heard the power of the gospel in the life of Maan:

I have seen families come to Christ as their children are helped through Compassion. Mothers, fathers, siblings.

I have experienced impoverished family’s warmly welcome us into their homes and the sharing of their lives.

I have seen Jesus as I’ve entered the homes of Maan…


Mary Rose…

and Florence and Rosa…

…all of which exhibited a glorious beauty, a peacefulness, a joy amidst their obvious poverty.

I have seen Jesus as I have prayed over these families and have received the blessing of these children’s prayers.

I have seen Jesus as I have danced, played games, sang, and worshiped alongside these precious people.These children are not removed from their poverty situation, but rather given a fresh perspective. They are given the tools to be instruments for change and transformation within their community. Ultimately, it is all Jesus!

I am blessed that this child in my womb was able to come along and be blessed by so many hands.

There is no doubt in my heart that this is a good work. The eternal difference made by sending our resources on ahead to our eternal home by loving on little children. It’s beautiful. The transforming affect of the gospel is taking place through the ministry of Compassion and the power of Jesus’ love.

And to top it all off…I had a orangutan pet my belly as if she knew there was baby there in the most unique third world zoo experience. Yes, I will agree that dressing up a monkey is just not humane…but it was sure funny!

My life is changed. Why? Because I want to make a difference. I want my life to count for something. I want to be a blessing to the nations with my time, money, and resources. I don’t want to waste this precious life that I have been given. I have been entrusted with a gift – the ability to love and be loved. I want to live simply in order that I might give generously.

I will go home tomorrow and look forward to sharing with my own four year old daughter about the precious journey we are embarking on in sponsoring Angel. We will commit to praying for her, loving her, and cheering her own, Lord willing, throughout the duration of her experience in the sponsorship program. I pray for the complete 16 years of her time in the program! She will be our adopted daughter. She will be a part of our family. She will grow up with my daughter. My daughter will have a tangible way to pass on the gift of God’s grace to a child in need even when we are world’s apart.

I will go home tomorrow empowered with fresh vision to pursue our family mission of living simply in order to give generously. I want to add more children to our international family!

Compassion is just one way to make a difference. It does not have to be limited to this. But may we all take a step forward today in going forth in Jesus’ name to the nations.

Now that you know…what will you do?

As much as you’ve done to the least of these…you’ve done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)

Live simply in order that others might simply live.

Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

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The Power of a Letter

Who would imagine the power of a written letter? When I was preparing to move a few months back, I remember digging out my memory box. I uncovered all the letters from my childhood received from my father, mother, and friends. They were so special to me. I had stored them all in a manila folder for years. I had kept these cards for a reason. Why? Here is a glimpse into their contents:

“I’m so proud of you.”
“I love to see how you are growing in virtue.”
“Thank you for being so reliable. We count on you. You are a huge help to our family.”

Such sweet encouragement that I am so loved. They inspire me to this day.

On Day 4 in the Philippines, Mrya sits across from us at the lunch table, a sweet young lady of 19, a member of the Leadership Development Program of Compassion International, and shares about her greatest struggle:

“My struggle is that my sponsor is not replying on my letters. It’s really hard. I want to know them more and more. I want to share our journey and what happens in our lives.”

Her face aches with longing. She wants to know about her sponsored family. She wants to hear about their lives, their dreams, their home, their family. Myra graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program and was selected to be in the Leadership Development Program, which is in an aggressive, advanced academic, and leadership training course. She has overcome incredible odds and needs the support and encouragement to thrive in this challenging stage.

Out of 57,000 sponsored children in the Philippines, only 7,000 receive a letter from their sponsor in a month’s time.

Meann (pictured above), on the other hand, had a satchel full of letters and photos and she beamed from ear to ear as she displayed them to us. Each one she had treasured and kept secure in her memory box to review for years to come. She proudly told us about each of her past sponsors and identified them by name.

The financial aspect of sponsorship is obviously essential, but the written letter goes beyond the physical and offers that emotional affirmation that encourages a child to persevere, to dream, to press on towards completing their goals, to know they are loved by you and by the truly Important One, King Jesus.

A letter offers hope, encouragement, affirmation, spiritual inspiration, and friendship. All of which are instrumental to the holistic healthy development of a child.

A study in Ethiopia revealed an improvement academically of 20-30% growth from children who received just two letters a year over those who received none.

How long does it take to write a letter? In our day and age of technology, we have lost touch with the beauty of the written word.

Verbal affirmation is valuable, but the written word is a keepsake. It is something that can be reviewed again and again. When they are discouraged they can look back upon your words to lift them up again. When they are scared they can see that you are praying for them and they are loved from afar.

What Can You Do?

If you sponsor a child through Compassion, I want to thank you for your commitment to this child. It does make a world of difference as we have witnessed first hand. But would you stop and take a moment today and write your child a letter? Include your children in the process. Let them write a letter. Let them experience the impact of corresponding with a child in a foreign country. What a sweet way to expand your child’s worldview, culture, geography and heart for others.

It only requires a piece of paper, pen, a stamp, envelope, and thirty minutes of your time. Include verses, tell about your family, ask about their life, cheer them on. Compassion even makes it easier for those who prefer email. You can write online and it will be forwarded on to your child.

If you don’t sponsor a child, may I encourage you to do so today. Start building a relationship that could impact a child for a lifetime. Or consider the opportunity of being a child correspondent. You can sign up to be a friend to a child around the world.

Lastly, who might appreciate a written card or note of encouragement in your life right now?

Take a moment and write a note and drop it in the mail. Write a gift of grace to another. You never know the long term impact your encouraging words can have. Write to your children. Even if they are too young to read. These will be such a gift to your children when they are grown and gone.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 13:3

For further help on writing letters to your sponsored child, visit the FAQ page. You can write online and/or print stationary from the Compassion website.

Hear more stories of our adventures in the Philippines on the Compassion Bloggers site. You don’t want to miss it!

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The Beauty of Third World Hospitality

Day 3 in the Philippines sees us riding upon a pedicab being escorted down the narrow streets of a community in a large wet marshland with ponds of water scattered about on either side. It is an area succumb to frequent flooding in the rainy season. Houses all around lie a foot deep in dirty slim water with tires and strips of wood to provide stepping stones into their homes. Clothes hang to dry over the water by thin strands of rope.

In one spot the entire road is covered with water with no passage through beyond a cement sledge border running the length of the road upon which people hobble along to reach their homes. Fishing (called milk fish) is the livelihood of the community along with pedicabs escorting people from here to there.

We come to a small wooden tin roofed house built upon two foot high stilts. Underneath lays a sludge of wet marsh. Outside their door is a pile of paper trash of receipts from which the children sort and recycle for supplementary income.

Upon entering the approximately 12 foot by 15 foot home, divided into three small rooms, we are warmly greeted by a vibrant mother and her three young children. There is no furniture besides a bunk bed, dresser and kitchen counter with one office chair for seating.

The father works insane hours as a driver in a distant village. He leaves at 4 o’clock in the early hours of the morning and often does not return till midnight or 1 am the next day. Yet they express thanks to have the extended family and help of neighbors living next door. They share community meals together.

Their home flooded in October of 2009 when a three foot high wave of water filled their home. They were completely stranded and slept upon the upper level of the dilapidated bunk-beds that the children slept upon. They simply had to wait it out. But in their struggle the expression on their faces is one of thankfulness. “We were blessed because we had milk fish swimming through out home that we were able to catch and eat.”

Mary Rose is the oldest daughter at fourteen who thrilled us with her love for singing earlier in the day. Her love for Jesus was clearly displayed on her countenance. She entered the Compassion Child Sponsorship program at age five and testifies of the impact it has made upon her life. She heard about Jesus and chose to give her life to Him. She can now dream. Medals and certificates cover the wall displaying the family pride in their daughter for her success in school and church. She dreams of becoming a teacher and loving on children in the way she was loved. She loves the exuberance of children and wants to help them. Even at the tender age of fourteen, she is already serving by teaching other children in her community through volunteer teaching in the Compassion program. She is a beautiful young lady rescued from her poverty and given an opportunity for a future, and she wants to pass on the gift she has received.

Throughout the duration of telling us their story, the smiles never leave their faces. They are so beautifully content. They thank us incessantly for coming to their home. They spent the day talking among their neighbors of how greatly they anticipated our arrival.

Yesterday, we visited another amazing family of 15 (extended family all living under one roof) cramped into a 250 square foot home. When we asked our host what she had been doing that day, she excited expressed, “Nothing really. We were just waiting for you to come. We were so excited for you to come.”

This family could offer us no more than a simple wood floor or old office chair to sit upon and yet they gave it so freely. They have nothing to give beyond their love and welcoming smiles. How can I ever again be intimidated by the thought of extending hospitality to others in my own home when I see such joyful love extended amidst such poverty? We reside in a culture with such abundance and yet we shrink back at the thought of the uncomfortable nature of opening our homes and lives to others. Here are families that greatly anticipate our arrival and thank us repeatedly for visiting their homes while I stand as one who stresses over the fear and details of welcoming in another.

Today I was loved upon in a way that I will never soon forget. Even in their poverty, they freely gave us their love. Isn’t that what true hospitality is all about? The simple extension of our hearts and hands to show the love of Christ to others? We might not have huge resources to give, and yet we all have a home, a heart, and hands to extent to others. Eight of us sat crowded around their floor but no one gave it second thought.

We have been given so many gifts. How can we pass on what we have without thought to size or substance?

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I Just Want My Child to Be Healthy

“I just want my child to be healthy,” is a most frequent prayer request among the mothers and families we have visited with here in the Philippines. With 24,000 babies under the age of 5 dying each year around the world from common childhood diseases, most of which are preventable in our day and age…this is reality. With the enormous cost of health care in these developing countries, the burden is enormous. Tuberculosis affects families all over the Philippines…and with large extended families living under a tin roof it spreads in rapid succession from adult to child.

Before us stand nearly 20 different young mothers, on Day 2 in the Philippines, with a wealth of small children that come weekly to participate in the Child Survival Program of Compassion International where mothers with children in utero to age 3-5 years are given the skills necessary to develop and thrive in a poverty stricken nation. They ran up to us, greeting us with such exuberance, and wrapped cute bracelets around our wrists. What an overwhelming blessing to be so warmly welcomed despite the fact that we are foreigners. We who intended on being a blessing are instead recipients of Jesus’ love that is not limited by color or nationality.

How frequently I take for granted the simple knowledge we have as mothers into the importance of basic child development and health. We have such easy access to health care that my children’s health is rarely a concern. We have such enormous access to hands on materials to help equip our children, even the simple things of crayons and paper to allow them to develop their creative instincts. These simple blessings are foreign to these women before they enter this program.

These precious mothers have no knowledge as to the impact of lovingly touching and holding their babies, to the hands on experience of developing hand and eye coordination through drawing and other creative play to basic health knowledge of nutrition. I was dumbfounded to hear that in some countries, mothers will not even name their babies for the first year, nor look them in the eye, or really love on them in the likely event that they will die within that time period. Fear of health is so consuming to them and understandably so.

At this program we witnessed mothers learning basic health and nutrition skills. They were given hands on instruction on how to prepare a healthy meal and the gift of the raw materials to take home to prepare it for their family.  Homemade clay was assembled to give them opportunity to sit down and play with their little children in their basic development. Mothers are taught how to start income generating skills of opening their own little storefront at the entrance of their homes to sell snacks, small sanitary supplies, and other cheap items. Through this means they can help support their families. They also have access to health services with regular child check-ups and vaccinations.

They have the same basic needs as our own family. They love their children and desire the best for them. Our children need love, nurturing, health, and developmental play experiences and most importantly the love of God in just the same manner.  These mothers long for support and community. They need fellow mothers to come alongside them and encourage them in their role. They desire companions in the journey. And here in this place they are joining forces in becoming more empowered and knowledgeable mothers in nurturing their children.

One mother of four young children shared how their family was struggling to survive financially when her young infant son came down with pneumonia. With tears filling her eyes she shared how Compassion came alongside her and offered her medication. Through their involvement in her life, she began attending Bible studies that they offered. Her husband was very anger at first but as he witnessed the transforming changes taking place in her life, he wanted it to. They both came to a saving knowledge in Christ Jesus. All from simply extending a hand in offering a little health care for a child.

The children we observed were thriving. They were healthy and happy. They snuggled with their mommies. They delighted in doodling and coloring. Thankfulness abounds on these mothers faces. Just to have a little support, to be a recipient of love extended, to be taught and have the ability to learn. They are simple gifts. Simple needs. And we can be the hands and feet to meet them. What a joy to observe the national church mobilized to meet these needs in their community.

Don’t miss out on hearing the stories of all the Compassion bloggers here. Do you desire the opportunity to be the hands and feet? Sponsor a child for just $38 per month or help rescue a mother and child with a $20 monthly gift.

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Achy Bones & Beautiful Faces

My body aches from lack of sleep in relation to jet lag, swollen pregnant feet from the heat and frequent standing, and my physical body is screaming at me, “what were you thinking traveling overseas at 30 weeks pregnant? Didn’t you realize you wouldn’t have as much energy with your 3rd pregnancy as you had with your previous ones?” I lay sprawled out on the sidewalk awaiting our taxi ride to our hotel. I was seriously starting to question my intelligence. 15+ hours in flight had certainly taken its toll. Every time we landed I had this crazy sensation that I was going into labor. Such strange tightening, spasms, and dizziness.

I questioned…“why am I here?” It was at this moment that I looked up.

All around me I saw faces. Petite, oval, dark, beautiful faces. Beautiful unique faces. Each one fashioned with such intricateness. Each one filled with such yearning. I am shocked to see the huge smiles and welcomes etched across them. I am filled with such a love for these precious people. God loves each and every one of them. He has a plan for their lives and wants me to love them too. I see the longing. I see the hunger. The mad rush of bodies outside the airport communicates the rush and speed of life. Nothing slows down. It rapidly speeds on towards death and separation from God apart from the manifold grace of God. These faces need Jesus.

Her tears are etched across my soul. A poor Grandma, retired and aged without possible income beyond the $28 monthly pension her husband receives. Here she sits before me struggling to raise their only grandchild. Angel is an adorable girl of four with pigtails in her hair and a cute little ballerina skirt around her waist. A precious life that was abandoned at 2 months old by her mother on the doorstep of her Grandparents home. She hides her face in her Grandma’s skirt as we greet her. She is shy, reserved, and quiet and we hardly heard a peep out of her throughout our time together. But slowly…the smiles started to imerge. Playing with sand, going down a slide, savoring a small cup of strawberry ice cream, and enjoying her favorite chicken and gravy. Here she was…four years old. Just like my own precious daughter. Angel loves playing house, hide-and-seek, and babies. Sounds like my own Karis.

Grandma Ida keeps calling us Angel’s new Papa and Mama. At first I am turned off by her declarations of us…but then I begin to see more clearly. This little girl needs lots of love and nurturing. And though we may be thousands of miles away, we have adopted her in some way today. She has stolen a place in our hearts. We have the awesome opportunity to pray for her by name. We can express God’s love for her again and again in our letters. Letters that have power to communicate love, affirmation, and a friendship across the miles. We learned that such letters can improve their educational wellbeing as well as their over overall development. Grandma Ida’s eyes filled with tears as we prayed over them in our parting and partnered with Grandma in the loving nurturing of Angel.

The Lord has graciously given us the opportunity to invest in her life. To provide the means for giving her the holistic services in her emotional, physical, economical and spiritual well-being in order that one day, Lord willing, she might become a responsible and fulfilled Christian adult. That falls right in line with our desires for our own children. Why not adopt her as our own? This is why Compassion International exists. I look forward to exploring how Compassion fulfills that in 56,000 children here in the Philippines as the  week continues.

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