While I was in Ethiopia, a story was published in Compassion International’s magazine about my daughter Christina’s sponsorship of a child in India. Friends have shared it and I am grateful. Now that I have returned, I am sharing it as well and taking the opportunity to thank some very special people at Compassion for making this story a personal labor of love.
Here is a link to the online version of the story that Compassion printed in the summer edition of their magazine.
When I contacted Compassions Amanda Prieffer only months after our family’s heartbreaking loss, I was blessed by her heart for Christina’s story of orphan sponsorship. One of the first things that Amanda told me when I called was that I was going to be very proud of my daughter’s choice of organizations to be a part of. Those words have rung true time and again with everyone I have come to know at Compassion. From my initial contact with Kristin Kubitschek, to Amanda Preiffer, Karen Hamilton and writer Willow Welter. It was always clear that Compassion was far more interested in what God was doing in my life than they were about what my story had to offer them. We had conference calls that turned into sessions of prayer, Amanda and others always regarded our conversations as “sacred space”, and I will always hold onto those moments when God revealed himself to me through the lives of these remarkably kind and loving people.
There is a short story that I have to tell, and I am being careful not to invade anyones privacy but the story is too rich with meaning not to share. During one of the conference calls with Compassion, Amanda was leading us in prayer and prayed specifically that God would use this story to touch the hearts and lives of people and specifically for God to use my life to minister to others. During that prayer I felt a vibration from my phone but waited till after our conversation to check it. When I did, I was overcome with a sense of God’s affirmation at what I read. A very sweet family whose home I had stayed in almost a year prior, and from whom I had not heard since, sent me a text. I had stayed in their home in Oregon while my youngest daughter Carissa checked out a nearby college. I was only a few months into my journey of faith and my time with this family was one of those divine moments where I had no doubt God had intersected me with their lives for a purpose. Staying in their home (a place that I randomly selected through the Airbnb website) allowed me to hear their story. Over coffee she shared that her 13-year-old daughter was oxygen deprived at birth and was not supposed to live past a few weeks. Due to breathing issues resulting from brain damage, their daughter is severely disabled. This in no way keeps the mom and dad from being in love with their precious girls smile as she struggles to talk and sing. They live every day with the knowledge that this day could be their little girl’s last. They have no promise of a future with her here on earth, yet they love her and thank God for every day of her life. As I shared my story with them we both had no doubt that God wanted us to hear each others stories for a reason. I left with a sense of gratefulness for the years that we had with our daughter rather than bitterness over the years that were cut short. Likewise, they were encouraged to hear that the relationship of a lost loved one lives on and their story continues through the power of the cross.
These beautiful people sent me the following text during the very moment that Amanda was praying and it reads like this:
“Good morning Ronnie, I just wanted to tell you that through your amazing photos (I am quoting here) and testimonial stories we are now compassion sponsors to a young girl in Burkina Fosco. I took a percentage of last years Airbnb and put it towards a long-term commitment to this special girl. We as a family are also going to sponsor another. Probably a girl in Ethiopia. Will be deciding today which one God draws me too. Thank you! Meeting you just for that one night has caused a ripple effect of Christ’s blessing worldwide. Bless you Ronnie“
Time stamped to the moment of Amanda’s prayer. The impact could not have been greater if God had texted me himself with a word of encouragement.
Eleven years ago when Christina sponsored a little boy in India through compassion, she had no idea the impact she would have on others through the simple act of listening to her heart and responding. She just knew that there was a need, so she gave. As Christina’s father, I have watched in awe as this characteristic framed the way Christina lived her life. Christina loved with her whole heart, she saw beauty in everything and inspired those around her to do the same.
The world in which we live makes it tempting to “suit up” with protective armor everyday, allowing us to feel shielded from the pain of living in a broken world, from being hurt by others, from disappointment, judgement and loss and from what many might call the realities of life. But to do so also separates us from the joy of being who God designed us to be: loving, relational and full of hope in a God who will one day make all things right. Our trust lies in the God who created us, the God who allowed the sacrifice of his own son to enable us to have an intimate and beautiful relationship with the one that breathed into us the breath of life. The reality of life here on earth is that there is pain and suffering and there always will be. The reality of the cross is forgiveness, redemption, hope, eternal life and above all else – love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails….. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13