COMPASSION – Honduras & Nicaragua

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Compassion Trip-feature image

Both Louisa and I had been sponsoring children through Compassion before we met.  After we married, we decided to add more children to the list, that eventually grew to five.  This burden of child poverty was one of many things we loved about each other.

I have always had a great deal of compassion for those who are oppressed, bullied, not given a chance or those of us who have had to struggle through life.  I’m not sure why because I don’t consider myself to be in the above list.  In movies and stories I am intrigued when the unlikely team wins the game or when the person achieves their goals seemingly against all odds.

The following Bible verses (Isaiah 58:6, 7) have had an impact on me ever since I first read them back in 1984.

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.  Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.  Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

I wish I could say that I have always acted on them.  I have been through periods of time when I have ignored the convictions of Isaiah 58.

Louisa and I were married in August of 2010.  We had planned to travel to Central America to honeymoon and visit Compassion children, but decided we could not afford to at the time.  Four and a half years later (Jan. 2015), she suggested we go, especially because one of the girls was no longer a kid any more and had recently graduated from the child sponsorship program.

Compassion Trip-AsuncionWe have been sponsoring Asuncion since 2011.  She had written to us and asked if we would attend her graduation.  We felt honoured to have been invited, but could not go because of work commitments.  It did however, get us thinking.  If we wanted to meet AsunciÓn, it would have to be now or never.  This started six months of planning, preparing and anticipation.

The anticipation was not nearly as rewarding as finally meeting Asunción in person.  She has grown into a beautiful young woman.  I admired her gentle, yet confident demeanor.  She spoke of her love for God and her appreciation for all that He had done for her.  I could also sense a deep love and admiration for her mother, who had raised her by herself for most of Asuncion’s life.

She had seen pictures of Isabel and Jackson (since their birth ) and bonded immediately with both of them.  Asuncion gifted the stuffed animal (Puppy) that she had kept from her childhood to Isabel.

We first met Asunción at the Compassion Project in her town just outside of Managua, Nicaragua.  We toured the school and the neighbouring church.  Some of the kids had rehearsed a couple of songs and dance numbers for us and performed for us while we were there.  We then drove to Asuncion’s house and met her mother, Rosa.  We asked questions, listened to stories, looked at scrapbooks (that contained our letters and pictures) and listened to a song (sung by Asuncion) that she likes to sing at church.

Compassion Trip-TipitapaAfter lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed back to her house and sat out in the front courtyard.  Jackson watched the family pet rabbit and Isabel played with ‘Puppy’, while we further connected with Asuncion.  We watched a storm move in on us as we sat outside.  That made me realize our time together might get cut short and I had yet to take any photos.  I scrambled to get in a minimal amount of photos before we were rushed to say our goodbyes.  The rains came down so hard that they flooded the streets.  As we drove away, we watched the neighbourhood kids playing in the swollen streets of water.

Compassion Trip-MariposaOur destination for the rest of the day was in León (pop. 201,100), about 2 hours northwest of Managua, at the Hotel Mariposa.  The drive through Managua (pop. 2,225,000, Nicaragua’s capital city) was relatively smooth and uneventful.  This was my second day of driving in Central America and I think I had adjusted to the local driving habits quite well.  Aggressive is the word I would use to describe the way to blend in with all the other drivers on the roads.  The main road through Managua has many stops and starts — just the right conditions for the many people who set up shop in the middle of the street.  With a quick flip of the power window switch, we could purchase anything from fresh fruit and a beverage to clothing and souvenirs — all while waiting for traffic to start moving again.

The Hotel Mariposa has cottages (thatched roofs, attached outdoor bathrooms, two beds) situated in a wonderfully landscaped paradise, orbiting a central pool/outdoor restaurant.  Here we spent some time playing with the kids and reflecting on the first of three visits we were to make of our Compassion children.

 

Of all our accommodations, I was most exited about our stay at the Redwood Beach Resort.  As you could presume from the name, there would be a beach involved somewhere.  This was to be our retreat for a couple of days — a cabana sitting next to the Pacific Ocean.  The drive to the little village of Mechapa was smooth and leisurely, until the road ended.  To be precise, the road suitable for most vehicles ended but continued on as a pathway passable for tractors, motorbikes and trucks with high road clearance.  The last 12 kms of our drive took nearly an hour of winding our way around rocks, ruts and animals.

Compassion Trip-RBR CabanaOur cabana was one of six situated on the beach, just out of reach of high tide.  They were nestled amongst a grove of coconut trees that provided much needed shade from the hot Nicaraguan sun.  The wind was noticeably absent so we could not even rely on it at night for a cool, soothing ocean breeze.  Our cabana fan competed with the sound of the ocean for our night time lullaby.

Not only were we in an isolated part of the country, but the resort had only two other guests besides us.  While we were checking in, the resort owners  asked us if we would participate in the 4:30PM pickleball tournament.  I had never heard of the game, but agreed to play anyway.  After I had blown out my sandals and worked up a good sweat, we headed back to our cabana to grab our swimsuits and enjoy the warm ocean waters.  Initially, the temperature of the water was a little disturbing.  I am a Canadian boy who spends much time swimming in cool Canadian lakes, so this water seemed to me, closer to the temperature of a hot tub.

Compassion Trip-RBR walkingSupper at the resort is a little later than our punctual 5:00PM dinner time at home — we snacked before going for our 6:30PM supper.  The dining room is a large outdoor pavilion with a smooth stone floor.  We sat
in lounge chairs, overlooking the ocean, before our meal and chatted with the other guests, staff and the husband & wife owners, Mike and Stacey.  At one point during our conversation, Mike asked me, “How old was Jackson when he started walking?”  I quickly told him that Jackson had yet to walk and he suggested that I turn around and have a look.  There I saw Jackson, walking across the dining room floor, falling and quickly returning to his feet for numerous attempts.  I promptly asked Mike where I could buy the ‘I learned to Walk in Nicaragua’ shirt for Jackson?  After supper we headed back to the cabana to enjoy the hammock on the front porch and to watch Jackson continue to master the art of walking.

Eating supper at sunset in July is a rather strange experience.  I learned that in Nicaragua, they have an average of twelve hours of daylight all year round.  There are no long summer days, nor short winter days either.  So while we feasted on our supper, the mosquitos feasted on us — especially Isabel and Jackson who have not yet learned the art of mosquito detection and swatting.

Compassion Trip-RBR oceanDay five of our trip and we had nowhere we needed to go.  We had a whole day of rest and relaxation on the shore of the northern Nicaragua Pacific Ocean.  There was no time to waste.  We were waiting in the restaurant for breakfast as the staff were arriving.  What do you expect when you have two young kids?  We don’t sleep in until 9:00AM!  After breakfast we were off to play in the ocean.

I had been to the ocean only once, prior to this trip.  That was in Tofino on Vancouver Island some 25 years ago.  It has been awhile!  I did not swim there because it was too cold.  I was excited to be back at the ocean and be able to swim.  I spent a great deal of the day enjoying what the ocean had to offer: the smell of the salt water, the sound of the pounding surf, the feel of the waves crashing into me, the undertow pulling me off balance and the sights of the local fishing boats trying to break through the surf to get to the day’s catch.  I had desired to surf, but instead had to settle for playing in the waves with a body board.  The waves were a bit too strong for the kids to be on their own, so we held them as we let the warm, salty waves crash into us.

Compassion Trip-coconutLater in the afternoon, Isabel and I found some coconuts that had fallen out of the trees right outside our cabana.  I decided to try to open one with a clam shell that I found nearby.  After a half hour of scraping and slicing through the fibrous husk, I decided to find the resort owners to ask for a drill to access the coconut’s water.  When I asked for the drill, they laughed and promptly introduced me to Ramone (grounds keeper) and he gave me a machete and a lesson in coconut water extraction.  I know that you will cringe when you read or see the size of the machete and my bare feet, but I was told I was not to worry about lopping off a toe or two — it was my fingers I needed to mind.  After slicing through the husk of a ripe coconut and one final cut through the thin part of the coconut at the top, we were able to drink straight from the coconut and enjoy the sweet water from inside.  Isabel would not drink from it, so Louisa and I shared.

There were a lot of firsts for the kids during this trip – some they didn’t enjoy and some them did.  Collecting shells on the beach, riding in cars and taxis without child seats, swimming in the ocean, several air plane rides, playing in a hot spring , laying in hammocks, a subway ride, playing with kids who didn’t speak English, watching geckos in our room and playing pickleball were all things the kids did for the first time that they enjoyed.  Things they didn’t enjoy so much were drinking water from a coconut, mosquito bites or sleeping under a mosquito net and fresh papaya.

One of the things that we did not enjoy was being misled by the car rental company’s website.  I had thoroughly researched car rentals in Honduras and Nicaragua.  I even found out that some companies would not let you take their vehicles across  the border.  When we arrived at Toncontín International Airport in Tegucigalpa the car rental agency was conveniently located right inside the airport.  After checking in with them, they informed us that we needed to purchase even more insurance and that we needed a special document signed by a lawyer for us to take the vehicle into Nicaragua.  Suddenly our car rental price was rapidly escalating.  Louisa excused herself and went shopping for a better price from the neighbouring rental companies.  She found one with a better price, but they did not have a 4-door sedan (only a more expensive SUV) and we did in fact need the document signed by a lawyer and it was Sunday!  After a favour was called in, prayer, a lot of negotiation and a three hour wait, we were finally on our way.

Driving in these two countries was not as challenging as I had anticipated.  It wasn’t easy, but it was more than manageable.  I learned to blend in with the rest of traffic by failing to signal for turns and lane changes, passing vehicles even if there was oncoming traffic (they would just move over for me), trying hard to not be polite and courteous and merely slowing down for stop signs (which were scarce).

Compassion Trip-trafficIn city traffic, it was interesting to watch pedestrians walk in the middle of the road with no regard to cars zooming by, motorcycles weaving their way through stopped vehicles to get to the front of the line as we waited for the red light to change and the many bicyclists who would ride on any section of the road or sidewalk, whichever way they desired and ignoring what little traffic signs that did exist.  The seemingly chaotic and rebellious transportation practices, in Central America, seemed to work quite well for everyone.  From a Canadian perspective, it’s hard to understand until you experience it first hand.

Compassion Trip-borderSo after two days at the ocean, it was time to head back to Honduras where we would eventually meet up with Keydi and Carlos.  We first had a long drive to get back to Tegucigalpa, which included another border crossing.  The first border crossing — Honduras into Nicaragua — left us feeling like we had been taken advantage of because of our unofficial status ‘Gringo’.  We are convinced that they charged us way too much money.  We were at that border for three hours, bouncing back and forth between small, rundown shacks posing as customs and immigration for the two neighbouring countries and handing over money to anyone who told us we had to pay.  It was a bit humiliating and very frustrating.  If that were not bad enough, it was raining, we were nowhere near civilization and it was dark and we would not make it to our hotel until 10:30PM.  Not exactly what I had planned.

At least the border crossing back into Honduras was not in the dark.  It was however about 35°C and the lineups were long and there was no air conditioning anywhere.  For a fraction of the cost of our previous border crossing, we were on our way after about 45 minutes. I now appreciate how relatively painless and fluent it is at the airports to work your way through customs and immigration.

After a myriad of pit stops along the way, we finally reached Tegucigalpa (pop. 1,187,000) around 5:00PM.  This is where we would meet Keydi, our second sponsored child of the trip.  Switching the expensive SUV for the more affordable sedan (at the airport) only took about a half hour.  That was much quicker than when we first booked our rental car!  A quick stop for supper at Pizza Hut and we were off to find our accommodation for the next two nights.

As we winded our way through the heart of the city, the streets began to narrow and traffic slowed until the northern city limits met with the mountains.  The rest of the drive was on the winding road up the mountain, past many larger estates that had panoramic views overlooking the city.  Casa Xochicalco was one of them, but without a sign we had difficulty finding it.  All the homes were fenced and had gates so we could not even wander up to someone’s front door to ask for the location of our hotel.  We eventually found a gate that had a small marking on it (CX) and a door bell near the side of the gate.

My plan for travelling in these two ‘questionably safe’ countries was not to drive after dark.  This was the second time we found ourselves driving while the sun dropped below the horizon.  Both times were out of our control.  It also didn’t help that the sun sets so much earlier than I had anticipated.

Compassion Trip-flowerWe arrived at Casa Xochicalco around 7:30PM and were greeted by our host and owner Esperanza.  The B&B was (still is) Esperenza’s family home.  The guest rooms are now used for paying guests.  It is a magnificent two storey structure, primarily of stone, plaster and brick.  The name translates into ‘the House of Flowers’ (náhuatl language,  indigenous people of Central Mexico) and it is evident that the place lives up to its name.  The gardens and the house itself are teaming with flowers.  Along the main floor colonnade, grows a vine (Mysore Trumpetvine) with flowers that hang down below the trellised roof, so that you must weave your way through them as you walk to your room. These blooms seem to lower themselves down (from the vine itself) a few feet, sometimes even reaching the ground.  Since being built on the side of the mountain, nothing is flat except for the small area in the middle, where the pool is located.  The pool water was very cold – so cold that even Isabel would not swim.  It must be a combination of perpetual shade and the elevation of the  house up the mountain.  I just assumed that anywhere there was water to swim in Central America, it would be warm.

Compassion Trip-Casa XDay seven of our trip was a relaxing day with no travel and no visits.  After breakfast, Louisa decided to catch up on her sleep and headed back to our room, while the kids and I explored the building and the grounds.  This was a B&B that kids love!  So many stairs to climb, gates to open and close, open and close, plants everywhere, fountains to play in, pathways to walk on and very soft furniture to climb up in and play.  There was nothing the kids could break and no way they could escape out of the walled and gated hotel grounds.  I followed the kids around for hours, with my camera and had an informal portrait session with them.

We then stepped out for a drive down the mountain, into the city, to find a place to eat lunch.  For some strange reason, Isabel had earlier said that she wanted to eat some chicken and donuts.  I dismissed that request quickly because I did not think we would find donuts, at least not without a lot of searching.  When we drove to find some lunch, I spotted a Dunkin Donuts Shop and quickly veered into the parking lot to purchase a donut or two.  I think the idea of a donut was much better than the donut tasted.  It was worth it , just to see the look on her face as she got the donut she had so randomly asked for.

Compassion Trip-Casa X poolA leisurely hike in the mountains (Parque Naciones Unidas El Picacho) was our afternoon activity.  The kids enjoyed walking along the paths in the forest and the playground.  Back at the hotel we tried a swim in the pool.  I swam while the others sat on the pool edge and watched.  After a quick and simple reheated supper, we spent the evening in our room playing with the kids until it was time to go to bed.  This room would be a challenge for us to get a good nights sleep, because it had two single beds.  We had gotten used to the usual configuration of two double beds.  Louisa and I would each take a kid, so we could separate them hoping we could eliminate night time ‘horse play’.  It worked very well!  Sharing a single bed with your child that moves around in their sleep a lot is not very relaxing.

Compassion Trip-KeydiThe 8th day of our trip had arrived and was the day we met Keydi.  After breakfast we quickly packed up the car and headed back down the mountain, through the city and off to the City Mall.  This is where we would meet up with the Compassion workers and then follow to the Compassion Project to meet Keydi. As we wound our way through the busy, narrow streets, I tried to keep up and not loose sight of them.  We pulled up to a large 2-storey concrete structure that had a large wooden gate out front — large enough to drive a bus through.  Oddly enough, that is exactly what was on the other side of this gate.  We continued on past the bus, across a courtyard and up a flight of stairs to a second storey outdoor walkway.  There we met Keydi as she had been called out of her classroom to meet us.  Since school was open, we had a chance to see the Compassion Project in its full glory.  We toured the classrooms, staff offices and the kitchen.  Isabel and Jackson played with the school kids while we ate some tacos that the kitchen staff had been busy preparing for the kids’ lunch.  Isabel spent a lot of this time sticking close to Keydi and holding her hand.

As we walked through the city streets towards Keydi’s grandma’s house, Isabel remained walking hand in hand with Keydi — as if they were long lost sisters.  We learned that Keydi spent considerable time at her grandma’s house because she lived so close to the ‘Project’.

Compassion Trip-walk w KeydiThere were thirteen of us seated in the 10’ x 10’ concrete block room.  Along with Keydi’s grandma, there were her mother, brother, aunt, cousin and two Compassion workers (one brought her young daughter).  We all sat in chairs, on the bed or stood, while we asked questions, told stories and had show and tell.

I found Keydi to be respectfully shy.  She looked as if she was well loved by her family — based on the interaction of her extended family and showing up to support her for our visit.  It was a  pleasant surprise to see so many of her family members.

We must have been quite the ‘side show’ — all nine Hondurans and four Canadians showing up to eat at Pizza Hut.  Our tables stretched almost the entire width of the restaurant, by the time we were all seated.  The conversation must have been quite interesting to anyone who cared to listen in and the antics of the young children at the table would make it near impossible not to notice us.  After a couple of hours of food, conversation, connection and a bit of play for the kids in the indoor play-structure, we said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed on to our next stop on the trip.  We would have to get past the group of young boys who spotted us coming into the parking lot and took the initiative to self appoint themselves as our personal vehicle body guards.  They were quite persistent in trying to collect their pay before we left.

We were travelling out of Tegucigalpa and heading northwest to the town of Gracias about five hours away.  That would put us there around 7:00PM.  The freeway out of the capital city was the nicest bit of driving we had experienced to date — a smooth 4-lane highway winding itself up and down through the mountains.

Up until this particular drive, my system of navigating in these two countries had worked really well.  I was most concerned about Nicaragua because their buildings are not numbered, so it makes it impossible to use conventional GPS — city, street and number type of addresses.  Their address system was based on location to prominant city features, like well known buildings and geographical landmarks.  I had worked around that dilemma by locating our stops on google maps and converting the location into GPS coordinates and entering those into our GPS device.  I had also studied and planned routes and had a mental image on which to use to confirm what the GPS was telling us.  I was not taking any chances!  But wait, yes I was taking chances because I refused to pay for a Central America Map for our GPS device.  I had found a ‘free’ Central America map on the internet that I could use instead.  It did say they would not guarantee to be 100% accurate and I was OK with that — after all I had checked with a map before I put my trust in a freeware map of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Compassion Trip-CA7As we were travelling, I noticed the highway narrows down to two lanes, then a little while later the asphalt ends and we were travelling on a gravel road.  Nothing to worry about yet because we had driven on asphalt highways in poorer condition than this gravel road.  After awhile the road  widened and we realized it was clearly under construction.  When I usually encounter this type of construction, it goes on for a kilometre or two and then resumes to it’s normal state.  We chose to drive on this for awhile, especially since turning around and going the other way would have added a few hours to our drive time.  What seemed like an hour later of trying not to damage our rental car on this road, I was now concerned that this might and could go on for the entire length of road until we arrived at our destination.  At this rate we would have ended up at our hotel at 2:00AM.

Compassion Trip-CA7-2I wasn’t sure at that moment if things got better or worse.  The road had become too dangerous to continue driving on and was getting considerably darker.  I hopped out of the car to look ahead and discovered that the road had ended — the highway construction had abruptly stopped and we were not going any further.  My first thought was, “We are going to have to sleep in the car and in the morning, turn around and go all the way back around.”  My next thought was, “I wonder where that narrow, steep road goes to that I saw a little ways back from us?”  I managed to back up, turn around and find that road — more like a wide path.  Louisa walked down it to see what was at the bottom and discovered an asphalt, 2-lane road travelling parallel to the one we were on.  I can only conclude that they are clearing the land for a 4-lane highway to replace the older smaller one and I must have missed the point where I was supposed to stay on the old one and avoid the construction of the new one.  In my defence, there were no signs!  We made it to our hotel in Gracias (pop. 12,000) about 10:00PM.  In the dark, once again, we managed to navigate through a foreign town, find someone to check us into our room, brush our teeth and fall into bed.

Compassion Trip-GraciasSince we had nowhere specific to be in the morning we slept as long as the kids would let us.  Hotel Guancascos is built on the side of a hill and offers a sweeping view of the town from the outdoor restaurant.  Once again the kids were an instant source of attraction and activity with hotel staff.  As we ate our breakfast of freshly squeezed juice and tree ripened sliced fruit, the staff took turns holding and talking with the kids.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then spent time exploring the pathways that meandered through the gardens to the many rooms at this hotel.  Since Jackson had just learned to walk, he was eager to continue practicing his new found skill.  Wearing only a diaper, he walked down every path he could find with no concern if we were following him or not.  Isabel wanted to play hide and seek and Louisa wanted to catch up on sleep.  Isabel proclaimed that she wanted to walk the paths by herself without the usual parental supervision.  I let her think I wasn’t aware of where she was as I followed her from a distance.  This was hours of fun up until lunch time.  After our lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Aguas Termales Presidente (hot spring), just a few minutes outside of town.

Compassion Trip-hot springTucked away in a wooded ravine are three pools of varying size, depth and temperature.  The smallest and shallowest was just the right temperature for young children.  Beside it was a larger, circular pool with hot tub like temperatures.  Beyond both of these was the largest and deepest pool.  This one was long and narrow, following the shape of the ravine floor.  Each of these pools and surrounding landscape had been sculpted and shaped with rock and mortar to give it structure and durability for the masses of people who spend time here.  Jackson and Isabel quickly made friends here with the local kids who come on the weekends to cool off.  The boys splashed and hit each other while the girls wanted to hold Jackson and play with Isabel.  That was a very interesting observation of a difference between the genders.  The language barrier didn’t seem to get in the way of the girls’  interaction with our kids.

The evening was no different from the rest of our day — a shower when we retuned to the hotel, a little time spent in the hammock outside our hotel door, dinner and conversation with staff and then we watched some kids’ shows on the TV.  They did not seem to mind that they were in Spanish.  We met up with our translator (Joel) during dinner.  He had travelled by bus from Tegucigalpa and would stay over night and travel with us tthe next day, for our final visit.

Compassion Trip-CarlosnAfter a very early breakfast, we left with Joel and drove 45 minutes to meet Carlos in his home town of Santa Rosa de Copan (pop. 43,000).  The local Compassion staff and Carlos met us outside a well known B&B around 9:00AM.  As we exchanged hugs with Carlos, the Compassion staff discussed the plans for the day.  The first thing Carlos did when we arrived, was to look for Jackson.  When I took Jackson out of the car and before any greetings were exchanged, Carlos put out his arms as if to ask to hold him.  I gave Jackson to him and watched as he held Jackson like he was meeting a brother for the first time.

Carlos lives with his mother, older sister and his nephew.  They have a home on the outskirts of the city, situated near a ravine that contains raw sewage.  As we arrived the smell was immediately noticeable but not overwhelming.  We were welcomed into his house, offered something to drink and had a tour.  Carlos didn’t waste any time and showed me his soccer ball and baseball glove.  I asked if he had another glove and I soon found myself playing catch with him.  By now everyone had moved outside and was busy watching us kick the ball back and forth — with Jackson getting in a few kicks of his own.  Isabel found some trucks to push around while the adults watched the fun and games in the crowded dirt yard.  I took a group photo and we then drove to the Compassion Project.

Here was the church and school where Carlos received his education, both academic and spiritual.  We had the usual tour of the church, the classrooms, the kitchen and the staff office.  The latter is where they showed us all the records and documentation they keep on all the kids – from intake forms, gifts received from us and what was purchased with the money, health records, academic progress to spiritual development.

Compassion Trip-Carlos groupAll three Compassion Projects we visited were very eager to share with us how organized they were and how well they were taking care of the children and the money we were sending on a monthly basis.  I felt they were holding themselves accountable to us as if we were their bosses and they had nothing to hide from us.  All staff treated us like we were royalty and I never sensed that we were wasting their time.  Sometimes they would ask us for ideas on how to do things better.  I told them I might have ideas on what would work better if this were in Canada and I knew the local community well.  I told them I would not presume to know better how to run the Project.  Personally, both Louisa and I enjoyed the company of the Compassion Project’s staff (Millagra, Flora, Noemie, Joel) and would have loved to spend more time with them.  We got to know them better (in the few hours we spent with them) than we get to know most people we work with on a regular basis.  Elizabeth, at the Compassion Canada office was wonderfully helpful and patient with us as we spent six months of planning and negotiating with her.

Of all the places we could go out for lunch, we ended up at a Pizza Hut.  This  one had an indoor play structure as well as the one in Tegucigalpa.  The kids loved the pizza (Carlos’ favourite food) and climbing in the play structure so it wasn’t a bad choice after all.  Since Carlos was so determined to play with Isabel and Jackson, we got to spend more time with the Compassion staff.

Compassion Trip-JacksonWe left earlier than we would have liked to because we had a long drive back to Tegucigalpa.  Our return flight was the next morning.  Before we left the city, we had to stop at a local coffee shop and purchase some coffee to bring home with us.  Joel rode back with us to Gracias and stayed on there, while we pressed on to get to our next stop before dark.  Needless to say we did not return the way we came.  Nothing but smooth asphalt roads meandering through the mountains.  As usual, we did not arrive until after dark, but at least it was still early evening.

Louisa and I had no need to be convinced of the integrity of Compassion.  We didn’t need to know how much of a difference letters make to a child.  This was a way that we could be a part of fighting poverty, especially in the lives of children, all the while supporting the eternal spirits of these underprivileged kids.  I did not believe that having these kids meet us would improve their lives.  After all, it was such a brief visit and I don’t have that high an opinion of myself!  I did think meeting these kids would change something in me.  Through numerous letters over the years, we have gotten to know about each other, little by little as we both live our lives separated by a nonstop 61 hour drive.  Meeting Asuncion, Keydi and Carlos has given me a deeper appreciation for each of these kids.  It was exciting to meet face to face and to be able to embrace each other.  We don’t give in order to feel good about ourselves or to show others what charitable people we are, but it sure was nice to meet the people and see the difference we can make in their lives.  It is rewarding to see what happens when you give with no expectation of reciprocation.  Meeting the children helped to know these are real kids, in real neighbourhoods with real hurts and real families.  Intellectually I know they exist — we get letters from them — but meeting them in person changes the relationship that we have worked so hard to nurture and enjoy.

“Compassion connects you and the church in the developing world to end poverty in the life of a child, in Jesus’ name.”

These words are straight from the Compassion Canada’s website.  This is exactly what we saw as we spent time at the three projects.  This is particularly why we support the Compassion organization — the work is done by the people in the local communities and they do more than provide just physical assistance.  Well done!