Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Going to the doctor... not taken for granted

Over the weekend or past few days I got into something that has made my eyes swell to ridiculous proportions. I look really pathetic. I woke up yesterday morning and could barely pull my eyes open and it has really only gotten worse since then.
Under my left eye is fabulous looking

Oh yea, its pretty!

Not that that is the point of the story. Although I am sure someone may get a nice little chuckle out of my poor swollen eyelids :P

I called my doctor at 3:15 yesterday and got an appointment for TODAY at 1:15 to hopefully get a some steroids or something to make the inflammation and allergic reaction chill a bit. Less than 24 hrs later and I am able to drive to the doctor and get some help.

One the other side of the world, there are children working on Lake Volta with absolutely no access to medical care. They are sold into slavery by their parents (not a judgment because I don't understand that kind of poverty) and are stripped of all rights a human should have. They get sick, they either get better on their own or become permanently disabled in some manner or die. Those are the options. Kids with an immune system like mine would spend their childhood very sick or they would die. Isn't that like... life altering to think about? Malaria kills children, yellow fever kills children, various viruses and bacterias picked up from the water they work in kills children.

This is just one of the many many reasons that getting children out of this situation is extremely important. George and his organization PACODEP, along with Touch a Life, take these children from a situation where all their freedoms are stripped and put them into a home at The Village of Life. They give them a home, an education and MEDICAL care. When they go to The Village of Life, they can stop worrying about not having someone to take care of them when they are ill. Illness isn't as scary as it used to be.

And that is something that we take for granted. Every. Single. Day. I know I have done it and will do it again. But today, I notice what a blessing that having access to medical care is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Get Personal

The News-Gazette is doing a blog segment called getting personal. I would love to tell you more about myself and invite you to browse my blog and see what we are up to. So welcome, welcome News Gazette followers.
Name, age, town of residence: 
Debra, 26, Urbana
Profession: Explain in one sentence what it is you do.
I am a stay at home mom of 2 beautiful boys and wife of one very handsome husband who is passionate about human rights
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
6:30ish and I usually get the toddler changed, eat breakfast, get into my workout clothes, check my email and hit the gym
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
I had chicken nuggets, yogurt and veggies with the toddler
Best high school memory.
Prom with my, now, husband
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
I have a very comfy pair of tennis shoes that I love. 
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
Breakfast with my family, church and football. 

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
The Bible
Where on earth are you dying to go? Why?

Africa! And I am in November to spread awareness about child trafficking and help at The Village of Life orphanage.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I have really only had one pet. Our dog, Jade. She is very sweet and gentle with our children
Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents?
Which one and how?
Not really. I am very different from my parents. I don't parent like them, think like them or act like them. 
What would you order for your last meal?
Probably would have my mom make me biscuits and gravy and my grandma make chocolate eclair. Steak medium well and a glass of GOOD wine. Oh and a baked potato with all the fixins.  
What can you NOT live without?
A camera
Who do you have on your iPod?
I don't have an ipod. But I listen to a lot of rock, christian  (especially with my kids), sometimes a bit of techno. Very eclectic in my  music preferences.
What’s the happiest memory of your life?
The moment my oldest son was put into my arms and I had a family. I was absolutely speechless and overwhelmed and just joyful. Speechless rarely happens for me.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom
would you invite?
Desmond Tutu and Somaly Mam for the conversation, Elton John for the entertainment, 
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Marriage isn't about feeling "in love", (because it doesn't always happen) it is LOVE as an action. 
What’s your best piece of advice?
Find a passion in life and pursue it full heart. Don't let obstacles hold you back or keep you where you are at. Teach your children to love others and serve others.
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
 I worked at a graphics shop and made like $5hr "under the table"... shhhh don't tell anyone
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
Well, I don't have a career yet really. But I am very passionate about human rights violations and child trafficking. The reason I have pursued this kind of work is because I have so much love and passion for trafficked children/persons that there seems to be no other choice. 
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I chew my cuticles so my hands are not the prettiest :P
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Prayer, exercise, and sleep. The problem will still be there so I do things to relax and then tackle the problem when I am more relaxed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Birthdays are for wishing!

Today is my birthday. If you found your way to my page because it is my birthday... Thank you whole heartedly for checking out this site and the things I am passionate about.

Birthdays are for wishing. My wish/prayer/hope today is that we can fund the school at The Village of Life. I believe it will happen! I am asking you to help :)

So please, if you can, make a donation and help us get closer to the goal. All of us each doing what we can, each of us just as important in the big picture. Each of us blessing and being blessed for having given to these children.

I would be honored if on my birthday, you gave of yourself to our children in Ghana. OUR children

A freebie... picture of the tattoo I got yesterday. My first and  a constant reminder of the love and support I have from my family and the love I will always return to them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Road to Ghana: An Introduction: The Trip

The Road to Ghana: An Introduction: The Trip: This is the initial blog post written by my dear friend JD that compelled me to join their efforts. This is a basic run down of what we wi...


Post by JD at compassioncan

There's a sweet little girl at church, her name is Madison. She is our Community Pastor's daughter, and she was in the Grade 2-3 Girls Small Group I teach at our church. She has such a beautiful heart, I love her so.

When I shared with the girls what was happening with God's precious children in the Lake Volta area of Ghana, and how God would help them, Madison became one of our prayer warriors, always asking faithfully and with hope each Sunday how our fundraising was going: "Which percent are you at now?"

Her face always a mixture of pure belief and concern, waiting with anticipation, knowing He promised to provide, waiting to see how He would, understanding the priceless freedom for these children was held in the balance.

Our recent conversation stood out in my mind today. I had shared that we had just passed her age in percentage, that we were getting closer to 13%. She was excited, but I could tell that she knew that with less than 2 months to go, that meant God had some pretty big miracles up His sleeves that He hadn't shown us just yet.

I bent down as I spoke with her, so that we could see each other eye to eye, and we made the decision right then and there that since we were past her age in percentage, we simply had to start praying for God to help us reach MY age in percentage. She grinned, I grinned, we did a high five, and we went our separate ways, promising to keep in touch.

To young kids, parents are like, ancient, you know?

Yesterday, I broke the news to her that we were still at 12%. It's hard to know what went through her mind, but she looked deep in thought. I told her that God would show up, we'd get there. We had to keep our eyes upon Him.

A few days earlier, I had been interviewed by a reporter doing an article on what God was doing through us for these children in Ghana, and at the very end of the interview, she asked "So, I've got to ask, $30,000 is a big amount... do you think you can pull this off?"

This question always catches me off guard. I know we can't, I know God can, but how do you explain that? I shared the story of Nehemiah, and said we can't, but God can, and He will, we have to believe this, we have no doubt.

Yet the question still played through my mind over and over again long after the interview was over, until the answer came to me the following morning:

"God never asked us if we could do it... He only asked us if we trusted that He could."

The answer was an unwavering, rock solid -- YES!

Today, I received an email sharing that we had just received a generous, unexpected, blow-your-socks-off donation into our non-profit account at Interlink. I do not know yet from whom, aside to simply know it's from Him, through someone whose heart He has touched for His children.


How do you begin to process this? How do you find the words? It's times like these that I'm so grateful that worship and praise needs no words... Our love to Him transcends all languages, all situations.

Just a few days ago, my thoughts were on Nehemiah's story, stone by stone, Jerusalem being built in 52 days... today,these children are many stones closer to this school being built. God is bringing His people together, beyond measure.

We didn't do this, He did.

All we can do is continue to serve, believe, trust, worship, pray and praise God through Whom all the blessings flow...


Set the record straight with Madison: I'm 36, not 46, but if she'd like to think I'm 100, I'm cool with that. :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lessons learned at the Travel Clinic

Today I went to the Travel Clinic to get my vaccinations for our trip to Ghana. I had a lovely conversation with the nurse who gave my my injections (yellow fever, typhoid, hep a and a polio booster in case you are curious).  The conversation ended with tears in her eyes and kind words about our trip and God's protection for us. I was blessed to have her today.

In the waiting room where I was waiting my obligatory 30 minutes to make sure I didn't explode from the yellow fever vaccine, I met a pastor. He was from Farmer City. We talked about serving people and his trip and my trip.

But the one thing that was confirmed in my heart is that... a mission trip is not about solely helping people. I mean, that is great and something God has called us to do. And it even has rewards that can't be measured. But that is not the only purpose. It is about changing my heart and helping me to see people how God sees them. It is about making me a servant of people not a servant of myself. It is about dying to self and living for Christ. It is about my heart as much as it is about these trafficked children. Or maybe, in some ways, it is MORE about my heart. It is more about changing my heart into the kind of person I long to be and know that I was created to be.

And God weaves that into the things he calls us to do. Uses the change necessary in my heart to bring friends and family together. To bring a church together. To rescue beautiful children and help to provide them with an education and HOPE. And on some level it all makes a little more sense to me now than it used to. It is about them, it is about me... but we are just the chorus and God is the director weaving all of these hearts together for both freedom and growth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Human Suffering

Have you ever taken the time to truly ponder suffering? I mean worldwide, large scale suffering?

Every. single. day. 18,000 children die from hunger. Over the course of a year that is 6,570,000 little people who die from starvation. Which, that is not even the tip of the iceberg as far as human suffering goes.

And how many people suffer with cancer?

How many people die of easily prevented diseases every year? 

What about persons who are permanently physically or mentally disabled? 

And what about the MILLIONS (246 million or 1/6 of the worlds children is the last estimate I saw) of children who are working as child slaves across the globe? 

It blows my mind to think about these things. There are a lot of people out there suffering. It is overwhelming. It is sad. It sometimes feels hopeless.

But as Mother Teresa said:
"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." 

And that is the essence of turning this world on its head. If each of us makes the choice to do small things with great love... the collective work will result in less suffering. Fewer children dying of hunger, fewer outcasts in society, fewer children being forced into the labor force and out of schools. 

All it takes is you knowing your calling and attacking it with much love. We can't change it all but we can impact our own parts of the world. That is what this trip is about for me.

It isn't changing the world. It is following my calling to help the people I feel called to help. And to help them with much love. It is taking Loving God and Loving Others to its logical conclusion. And we ALL have the ability to do that. We all have the ability to lessen suffering wherever we are. The world's suffering is overwhelming and I think that is kind of what Mother Teresa is getting at. I can't do it all but I CAN do what I do with great passion, conviction and love. 

So I just want to encourage you to not over-estimate your importance but also don't under-estimate it. You can't do it all but you can and should do what you can when and where you can.

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  ~Edward Everett Hale

May you be encouraged to do what you can do... always.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why go to another country?

Lately, it seems as if I have a lot of questions concerning why I am going to Africa. No, not about motives or the importance of what we are doing in Ghana or anything like. But WHY go away from your family and home to help when there are lots of people to help right here.

It is a complicated matter to explain my exact feelings on this but I am going to try my best.

It is about "The Big Picture" for me. I think so many Americans really have no real idea how people in the rest of the world live. Yes, we have poverty here. Yes, some kids are going hungry. Yes, some kids have abusive parents. Yes, some children live in filth and horrible neighborhoods. I am not disputing those things even one bit. I am also not saying that we don't need to help in our own back yard! I have a lot of goals and ways to help in my own community and country. I am passionate about education and our public education system and food in schools and making sure children are getting good nutrition when they eat 2 meals, most days, at school.

But when I went to Mexico after I got married... my perspective was permanently altered in a way that is hard to describe. We traveled down through Mexico on a bus to Comitan, Chiapas from Cancun. Cancun was like a very fancy and nice tourist area. UNTIL we got to the bus station where the people who live in Mexico and are not attached to the tourist industry were. We saw our first glimpses of poverty. And as we began our journey southward, we saw more and more severe poverty. No running water, homes built with wood and cardboard boxes, children playing in the dirt and helping with chores instead of going to school. Many meals skipped, many begging children, people in literal rags. No system to help orphans, the elderly, or the disabled. Many proposals of marriage to escape a life of extreme poverty. It is both soul breaking and extremely encouraging.

Why is that? Well because it HURTS to see so many people suffering. It is uncomfortable. It is odd having people look at you like you are wealthy beyond imagination. It is sad to get marriage proposals from young women and men wanting a better life. But, through the experience you learn a ton about humanity. About selflessness and hospitality. We built water tanks in Mexico for 2 months and every time we were with a new family, they would sacrifice their own meals to make sure we were fed well and taken care of. They would offer their very best with an extremely grateful heart. It made us feel thankful for our own comparative wealth and realize that even in very dire situations in the US, we are still very well taken of. It opened our hearts to other people and cultures. Gave me a love for travel and a heart for people.

A heart for people. God's heart for people being made clear. The BIG picture of what putting action to your words looks like. Before I experienced time away from the United States, I was very self-centered (certainly, I still can be). I cared about others but cared about myself and my own needs being met much much more. The people we came into contact showed me how to love people when it didn't directly meet my immediate needs. With no expectations. Just to care and to love and to help. These are things that *I* probably would have had a hard time learning without that experience. Now I have such a heart for people, especially children, that I feel positively convicted to go and help these children in Ghana. I am one person with 2 friends and a big and Mighty God. Maybe I can't change the world but I do feel like we need to do our part to change what we can change. And that is why I need to go to another country. Because I have been given the opportunity to make a difference somewhere and in a way I am passionate about. That is God! I can't speak for everyone else but this is where I need to be for me to pursue a passionate love of people and receive a passionate, pursuing love from God.

Me with a precious girl in Comitan the week we led a VBS
We can't do it alone though. We have had so much help along the way and are praying that we continue to get more help going forward. This school needs to be built. It will allow George and his NGO, PACODEP, to rescue more children from slavery and a hopeless existence on Lake Volta. It will provide education to these children who will then have the knowledge, power and redemption to change their country and be advocates for the children on the lake. It does more than just help 60 children who use the building to learn in. Much, MUCH more. Education is powerful. We don't think about how powerful it is sometimes because we just have it. Our kids turn 5 and go to school just like we did. Oh but education changes nations. And it will change the culture in the Volta region to educate these beautiful children. Christ and Education are their hope and vehicles for change.

Please consider making a donation to the school. I will be money that will never be thought to have been unwisely spent. It is money that, with every "brick" placed, will live on and do good, positive work for years and years and years to come. It is an investment in the lives of children who are going to grow up and change their nation. THAT is amazing.
Children who have been rescued from child trafficking on Lake Volta. A new life and a  renewed hope.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Convictions of starting kindergarten

I am sure you didn't miss the memo because I have hung it like a banner... my son started kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. He is in love. Three recesses a day! Oh my :) Rules teaching him how to be respectful of himself, others and property. Art class, library time, and parent volunteers. Reading new stories that hes never heard before or seen and illustrating his very own book (with an amazingly drawn American Flag. Backwards but awesome effort!). Looking like a tiny boy with his over sized bag on his back but proving that he is anything but a small boy when he comes home each day and tells me about his day. Community, friends, fun, learning. This is what kids in the United States do at age 5. Nervous parents usher their children out the door to school everyday with the promise and hope that they will learn the things they need to know to be successful, informed adults.

In other parts of the world though, things are not at all like this. Parents are trying to figure out how to survive and get enough food for their family. They need their kids to stay home and help them make money or they just live too far from school and can't get their children there. Unfortunately in some areas of the world, these families are exploited because of their struggles. This is the case in the Volta Region of Ghana. Tricky masters come in and convince parents that if they sell their children to them and allow them to work for them that they will make sure their child is educated and learns job skills to help them be successful. The money isn't great by our standards... about $20/year for the service of a child. But the promise that their child will be fed and educated and the fact that they can use this money to feed their other child is, unfortunately, a pretty promising offer. And so children are sold.
Children, the same age as my sweet son, are sent to work on Lake Volta for 14+ hours a day. They are made to dive deep into the lake and face drowning, eels, crocodiles and various other dangers of life in the fishing industry. These 5 year olds are the size of 3 year olds from malnutrition. They are beaten for making mistakes. And often the very young boys do not know how to swim but are forced to learn or never again rise to the surface of the lake. Refusal to do these things yield boat oar beatings or sometimes beatings entangled in embarrassment at the hands of other trafficked children. There is no hope. Their families don't have the money or resources to get them back or visit them. And they genuinely think that they are helping their child by giving them an opportunity for schooling. It is a lie and manipulation but desperate times make parents choose what they think is best for their kids using the resources they have.

And then the days start blurring together. Children on the lake don't remember what village they come from after a while or their birthdays. Little sleep, little food, work that adults find excruciating and difficult, no time for being a child. My heart breaks.

No, I can't change the world alone. But I believe that God calls each of us to use our lives and experiences to serve Him wherever we are and however we can. I am being led to Africa this November and my heart has already fallen in love with the children on the lake and with the kids at The Village of Life. I keep telling their story so more people fall in love with them. So that ignorance is no longer an excuse. The burden is now on all of our shoulders. We KNOW the horror of child trafficking and we all have to figure out what to do with that. I would ask for your prayers both for the trip and for how you can be involved in loving on OUR children.

The truth is, that since my son has been riding up on kindergarten and then beginning, the more I have thought about and mourned the fact that there are so many children who do not have access to the same things our children have. That has rocked my world. Absolutely to the core. And I can't just leave it at thinking because that feels so wrong. And that is the conviction of kindergarten for me.

Bloom Beyond The Books

Today an article that JD wrote is featured on Daysprings (in)courage website. Please go check it out. It is wonderful. Please join us and help build the next school on The Village of Life campus. Help formerly trafficked children gain the education and support they need to turn their country upside down. THEY are the future leaders of their country and THEY will be the advocates for the children behind them. Thank you so much!

And if you found your way to my blog from (in)courage or JD's blog. Welcome, welcome!