Monday, May 30, 2011

From "Kind of..." to Seminary

I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't believe in God. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't born a Christian (you can't's a choice you have to make), I just don't remember a time when I didn't believe. But at eight years old I told Him that He could have my heart and a few weeks later I stood in water up to my chest with knees knocking as I looked out at a packed Sunday night service from the baptismal of a small church in south Mississippi. I remember nothing about being baptized other than my feelings right before and after as I stood, dripping, in a tiny dark changing room somewhere behind the sanctuary. I was so young. There was no possible way that I could fully grasp it (I still can't, can anyone?) and there was a lot that I had wrong and got wrong (and still do). I knew what had been done for the world, myself included. Jesus was my Savior and I was going to try to live a good life and obey all of the rules. Those 10 commandments shouldn't be too hard to keep, right? And keeping the Golden Rule should be a breeze.

I made it through the rest of elementary and middle school without too much trouble and except for that piece of candy I stole from the local drug store once (or twice), I had the commandments pretty much covered (and maybe that happened before my 3rd grade year..if so, we'll forget I ever mentioned it). Junior high wasn't easy, but I tried the best I could and I walked into high school a relatively good girl. For the most part I stayed that way, with the exception of weekend nights that usually included wine coolers and back roads with my bad influence boyfriend (hey Danny) and my new friend Mr. Marlboro Lights. I rarely opened my Bible (in fact, I think it went untouched for years), prayed only when something was going wrong (which was often, so at least I was praying a lot though it was more like begging for what I thought needed to happen) and by then went to church only when I felt like it which was seldom. But I still tried to be good and I would have told anyone that I was a Christian if they asked. I was, just one that was sliding downhill rapidly without even realizing it because I had never fully gotten it. I loved hard and could make a list pages long of good things I did for others. I spent more hours volunteering at a nursing home, working with children that have special needs, helping young Girl Scouts and thinking up ways to help low income families in town than I did anything else. Doing good was good enough, or so I thought.

At 19 I found myself married to someone that was also a Christian though he was much further down that hill than I was and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't drag him back up to even my spot on the downward slope. So, for once, I truly turned to God for help. My new marriage was going to end before it had a chance to begin and we needed some kind of intervention. In walked religion.

Looking back, I am totally embarrassed by my behavior during those days. I became one of those people that gives Christianity a bad rap. I finally dusted off that Bible, read it cover to cover in less than a month and acted like I was a theologian because of it. I assumed the role of judgement passer. I went to church every Sunday out of requirement instead of desire and spent about 10 minutes of my day in "quiet time". I would never have even looked at one of those wine coolers and made sure those that did knew how wrong it was. I had new checks made with different Bible verses on them so everyone would know where we stood. I traded in loving hard and doing good for long nights of studying college algebra and the New Testament after long days at school and work. There just wasn't time to do it all. I don't understand how so many people can live that way their entire lives because it didn't take me long to crash. About a year and a half was all I could take. The only good that came of it was my marriage was on stronger ground, though it had nothing to do with me and my religiously obsessed self. Either God worked a miracle or we just started to grow up. All I was during that time was a modern day Pharisee and one with little knowledge at that.

From one extreme to the other, I put the Bible back on the shelf, skipped a few Sundays here and there which led to skipping months at a time because it was my only day to sleep late and the list goes on and on.

I even answered, "Kind of...," when someone asked me if I was a Christian once. It was an all out Peter moment. Kind of? As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted them, but didn't try to take them back. Had I known the guy asking was a pastor, he would have gotten a different response for sure. Who was I? I didn't know myself and while I knew of God, I didn't know Him. I said I trusted Him, but I didn't.

By this time my only prayer was for a baby and I wasn't getting what I wanted. As if God were a genie in a bottle I made my wish known all day every day and when that wish wasn't granted, I threw the bottle against the wall and turned my back on it.

But somehow, someway, He kept sneaking back in (actually, I never think He left), slowly chipping away at the heart that had turned to stone and one day He shattered it. The pieces fell at His feet and I crumbled with them.

Knowing that Jesus died for everyone in the world is great, but do you know that He did it just for you? Do you know that "For God so loved the world" means He loves you specifically? You! ME!

Me? It wasn't until I fell in love with a child that was years from becoming ours that I was able to take His love personally and now I know that if you do not take it personally you will never begin to understand what it is like to know Him.

That is when trying to follow the rules of religion turned into a relationship with Jesus.

It took a while for it to really begin to grow (it will never stop growing) and we went through a lot together (still do and always will). Sometimes I'm surprised that the tears I cried didn't drown the seed. I have never been so mad at God as I was after I began to take His love for me personally. I mean seriously...why would He make me deal with illness and infertility and lost adoption paperwork and getting stuck in Guatemala by myself with a baby because the US wouldn't issue our pink slip to take him home? And how could He look at me during all of those years of extreme drama in my life and still call me to what He has?

I have been Danny's wife for almost 13 years now and Tommy's mom for 4. Along with that, God called me to a life of international missions, working to alleviate poverty in an effort to prevent children from becoming orphans. I thought that would be it. Isn't it enough? But He has more in mind and even though I resisted it for a long time I'm giving in now and can't wait to start the journey.

Still a wife and a mom and the director of our ministry that continues to evolve, change and grow and someone that will still travel to Guatemala frequently (possibly more often than I do now) and all the while feeling the tug on my heart to Cambodia grow stronger by the day, I am also getting copies of old transcripts and exploring scholarships as I prepare to step into the role of a full time seminary student. I will begin in January. My first goal will be to receive a BA in Christian Ministry and will then work to get a MA in Missiology. I am excited and nervous, but this researcher and writer by nature is ready to get started. I have a feeling that I am going to love being in seminary despite the challenges it will bring to every aspect of our lives and I cannot wait to see what He has planned for all of this.

Finally I feel like I am in the right place. I haven't "arrived" and never will. There is always more to learn and never will I know Him to the extent of what He is. And even though I get a little closer to Him every day, I can never be close enough this side of heaven. I mess up a lot, much more than I want to admit. Oh how I mess up. I am no super Christian and I will forever wonder why He would allow someone like me, with my many quirks and flaws, to have the privilege of living the life He has called me to. And as long as I am on this side of heaven I will always wonder why He loves me (and the rest of us) so much that He freely extends such grace and mercy when I certainly do not deserve it. But here's the thing and this is what is so different about a relationship with Jesus v. simply following the rules of a religion...

He truly has my heart. He is not just a part of my life; He IS my life. I am deeply, passionately in love with Jesus and am willing to do whatever it takes to follow Him. For now that means taking care of my family, telling His story, caring for those He loves in Guatemala, advocating for the most vulnerable children and families in the world and now on to seminary. Because He loves me so I am able to love others beyond the way I could humanly love and feel no desire to try to take on His job of judge. I am better because of Him. Without Him I am nothing. Without Him I can do nothing. During all of the times when I have to turn to Him and say again, for the millionth time, "Forgive me," He does without blinking and I can so clearly hear Him say, "My grace is sufficient," in those moments when I start to believe that I am too weak to handle it all.

I have gone from being a "kind of Christian" to a sold out follower of Christ. I never had any intention of it going this far. I'm glad He did though. After all, you're either hot or cold...a fan or a follower...a Christian or not...there is no in between even though I spent a long time living like there was. I'm glad His plans are better than mine because if you would have asked me years ago if I had any desire to go to seminary, I probably would have laughed in your face. And forget heading up an organization...not one like this anyway. If I did direct one, I wanted to be building orphanages. I just wanted to adopt kids and go on a mission trip sometimes and spend all of my time being a soccer mom. I imagine He spent a lot of time laughing, too, while I made my plans for life that didn't include much of Him. He knew all of this was coming.

"Yes, but...!"

I just can't get away from it. Not that I'm trying to, but if I were it would be impossible to escape it. We are currently studying the book of Luke in our Sunday morning ABF class. I just finished Not a Fan a few days ago (oh my the book's good...). We are halfway through the study of Paul's life and ministry in our weekly women's Bible study. There is a common theme in all of it. Say yes and go. Why am I not shocked that this morning's devotional would be any different?

From My Utmost for His Highest - May 30 (Oswald Chambers)

"Lord, I will follow You, but..." (Luke 9:61)

"Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do? Will you hold back? If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender. Yet we tend to say, "Yes, but - suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about...?" Or we say, "Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn't go against my common sense, but don't ask me to take a step in the dark."

Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ's statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis - only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God."

I can't count the number of times some have said, "God gives us common sense and you're not really using it right now..." And that's just said because I'm a mom that goes to Guatemala sometimes. Um, OK. I guess they're right. God did give us common sense, but sometimes He overrides that and says that we have to go against it. To be honest, I don't always rule out my common sense to follow Him because taking leaps of faith into the dark, no matter how many times you've done it before, is frightening and along with flying, I'm afraid of the dark.

I think it's time that we take the word "but" out of our vocabularies. I'll start....

Yes, Lord. Just yes. Whatever. Wherever. Whenever. No but.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Rain pelleted the glass. Dark clouds raced overhead. I couldn't see the wind, but I knew it was there. "Surely this flight will be delayed," I thought, as I rested my head against the back of my seat. If there is anything a person that is scared of flying hates more than just flying, it is flying through a storm. The wheels began to turn and as I felt the plane begin to slowly make its way to the runway, I closed my eyes to pray. "Lord, please be with us in this storm." (Add a little bit of panic or a lot and those last minute silent, hidden freak-out prayers and you will have an accurate picture of what I look like on any given flight, especially stormy ones. You can't tell from the outside because it appears that I have it all together when flying, but if you could see underneath you would know that I am not at all internally calm in these situations. I'm trying to turn this fear over to Him. Really I am. I just haven't been all that successful at it yet.) When I felt us begin to race down the runway I opened my eyes so I could watch as we left the ground (kind of like a train don't want to watch, but you just have to...the same with flying for me...I don't want to see how high we go or if we start to crash, but I can't help myself). I was still praying as we made our way quickly toward those dark clouds that I knew would cause my fingers to go numb because of how hard I would squeeze my arm rests through the turbulence. The plane began to bob and shake through the clouds. "I should have driven 12 hours to KY and 12 hours back." But then I would have missed it.

Have you ever gotten to the other side of a storm and seen the sun reflecting off of those clouds?

Have you ever flown above a storm and been able to see it underneath you?

For the rest of the flight it didn't matter that I was on a plane. I had no fear. How could I? When the presence of God surrounds you and fills you to overflowing, fear vanishes. And as the Holy Spirit begins to speak ever so quietly to your heart, there is nowhere else you would rather be.

In the air, high above one storm and flying around another that I could see right outside my tiny window, was the most incredible display. I have never seen the sun so vividly reflecting in so many places at once, bouncing off clouds and wing tips. I have never seen clouds look so eerie and so beautiful at the same time.

A long time ago the Lord began to stir my heart about something and ever since I have run away from it, giving what I thought were good, logical reasons to avoid it when really all I was doing was making excuses to try to get out of it. It wasn't that I didn't want to follow Him completely in the direction He was calling me to, but I was afraid and too busy and knew that it would be so, so hard to get through. I didn't tell anyone about it, not one single person, for a few reasons. One, I knew I would never go through with it, so why would I tell someone that I was intentionally avoiding Him? That would kind of look bad, wouldn't it? Two, I was praying through all of this time (really just trying to convince Him to change His mind), but I knew that those I could tell would be mostly one sided...either completely for or against it...and really all I needed was His opinion on this. I was already trying to avoid it so I didn't need anyone else telling me why I should ignore the call as well if this was really His will. In the end, while I was at the Summit, I realized that I could no longer ignore it, so I stopped running away from it, turned around and ran straight to Him, knowing that this would stir my life up in ways that I never imagined. If I thought I was busy before, this would blow my mind. If I thought I couldn't possibly add one more thing to my plate, this would prove that I could. And the storms that would come...oh the storms....

But on a short hour and a half flight, He made it so very clear that yes, storms will come. Sometimes He will lead me around them and I will be able to see them and praise Him for taking me the long way around. Sometimes He will lead me straight through them and I will praise Him for carrying me during those times. And always, always, no matter if we go around or through, He will be there the whole time and once I make it to the other side I will see the beauty of it all and know that He never lets go.

Life was made for only for Him. And this life will soon get a lot crazier than we ever thought it would be (and no, this has nothing to do with adding more children to our family). I can't wait to see what storms will come, what storms we'll dodge and what He will ultimately do with this. For now I'm hanging on to Him for dear life because the ride after you say "YES" gets a lot bumpier...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not a Fan

"Faith is better understood when you see what it's like than when you hear what it's about."

That was the opening to the final session at the Summit and I think Kyle Idleman, a pastor at Southeast Christian Church and author of Not a Fan is right. It's hard to describe faith with our words, but living it is another story. But how do we live our faith out loud? We have to follow Jesus, of course. That's easy enough, right?

Let the quotes begin.

"If we are truly following Jesus, most of our stories won't be of comfort and convenience because taking up your cross daily is neither."

"Jesus puts us at a crossroad. We have to make a choice. We choose to be comfortable or we can follow Him."

"We live in a snuggie culture."

His went on to explain his laugh out loud statement.

We want to be comfortable. It's human nature. And even if we are already comfortably sitting on the couch, cozied up under a blanket, watching TV, remote in hand, if something else comes along to make us more comfortable, we want it. We want that blanket with arms that allows us to change the channel easier so we don't have to go through the discomfort of pulling our arm out from under the blanket to change the channel, messing up our comfortable position and having to get every thing just right again only to, sure enough, have to change the channel again a few minutes later. Along comes the snuggie. And we just have to have it. "We live in a snuggie culture."

"So what do we want? A snuggie or the cross?"

"Are we merely fans of Jesus or true followers?"

Do we walk around proclaiming one thing and living another? Are we standing on the sidelines cheering for Jesus and cheering on those that are actively carrying their cross while staying behind the lines and returning to comfort after they pass or are we in that line of followers?

In Luke 9: 57-62 we read about the cost of following Jesus. One man approached Him and said he would follow Him anywhere. Jesus basically tells the man that He is homeless. Apparently the guy didn't want to follow Him that far into anywhere. Jesus tells another man to follow Him. The man tells Him that he needs to go bury his father first. And another man that says he wants to follow Him wants to first go tell his family good-bye. Are the last two wrong for delaying Jesus? If we're honest, wouldn't we all want to go back to bury our fathers if needed and surely we would all want to tell our families good-bye, but when Jesus says "go" and we say "no" or "not yet, maybe later", that says a lot about which group we are in. If we say no or not yet when He is telling us the time is now, we are on the sidelines just cheering Him on and that is the wrong place to be. In His words, "No one....who looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God."

Idleman talked about how the growing orphan crisis is not something we can ignore.

"Someone once asked when he saw so much poverty and injustice, "Where are you God?" And then he realized that was the wrong question. The question should be...where are God's people?"

There are so many people involved in fighting poverty and injustice. There are so many caring for orphans and advocating on their behalf. But there is not enough.

"It isn't enough to be a check writer. It isn't enough to pray for those that go. It isn't enough to cry sometimes because you've been moved by something. If you aren't actively living it out, it's time to re-evaluate our life and ask, "Are you just a fan or a follower of Jesus?"

That leaves so many of us, myself included, in a pretty scary place. I claim to be a follower, but so often I act like I'm just a fan.

Being a fan isn't good enough.

Being a servant, the get down and dirty servant, living out a life different than what we may have planned for ourselves, being uncomfortable more often than not...that's when you just scratch the surface of being a follower.

Along with a few other books from the Summit, Not a Fan sits on top of the stack waiting to be read. I kind of feel like it's glaring at me, but to be honest I'm afraid to open it. It's one of "those" books. But in the next few days I will jump in and I am sure I will be stirred.

I know that I will be reminded that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and if we are true followers, we will follow His lead.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday is November 6th this year and it is not too early to start planning your event. While at the Summit, I committed to being a Louisiana State Coordinator and International Coordinator for Guatemala for Orphan Sunday.

So what does that mean?

It means that if you're one of those pastors that I know here in Louisiana, you can expect a call from me soon because we need to get as many churches involved in this as possible and the same goes for the pastors I know in Guatemala. I'll be getting in touch with others as well. And I may even be calling on some of my ministry friends in Mississippi to get something going. It also means if you are one of my friends here and have shown any interest whatsoever in orphan care or orphan prevention, I will be calling on you to help by spreading the word and possibly to help organize events at your church.

If you have any questions about Orphan Sunday or want to get involved, please contact me. Events can be as simple as recognizing the day in your church bulletin that day to as large as you want it to be. Whether you are in Louisiana, Guatemala or anywhere else, I would love to help you get started in organizing an event as churches and ministries from around the country and even the world join together that day to plead on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children.

When Helping Hurts...Again

Yes, I am talking about it again. I'm not about to stop now.

Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts presented at the Summit both in breakout sessions and a general session. Shocked does not explain the word for me when I found out he would be there and the two people sitting on either side of me during his general session can attest to the fact that while he was speaking I was just a little happy and squirmy and had to really fight to keep myself seated. I guess that's just what happens when you talk about something for so long and people look at you like you're crazy and then finally, finally you get to a place where a lot of people of understand and those that don't probably want to and one of the people that helped give you the words to describe what you're talking about is up there saying it all again. Yeah, it was kind of an exciting night. I won't rehash the details of everything he said. Read this blog for a bit and you'll get the idea, but I will recommend again for those that have not read the it.

OK, enough of that. I just had to take this opportunity to recommend it again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wisdom from Indigenous Leaders

If you disagree at all with my last post, you will certainly have a problem with this one. My session at the Summit with indigenous leaders from around the world made me want to jump up and shout "Amen!" just as much as it made me squirm in my seat and want to crawl under the table. To say that I appreciate their honesty would say too little. We all need to hear the truth of how we are perceived when we go into other countries and we all need to know the truth about how the leaders of those countries view us and our efforts. For church and ministry leaders that have never heard any thing like this before, it's a hard pill to swallow, but if we want to help, we have to listen. There is no way to sugar coat this Q&A session.

When asked how we appear to church leaders and the local people before true relationships and partnerships are formed we were told,

"You appear arrogant and unbiblical." (This is the super short version of a rather long explanation of how awful we often appear because even though it is not usually our intent to appear as though we are trying to be saviors, we so often do when we refuse listen to the indigenous people and their ideas and instead go in with our plans to save them.)

When asked what local church leaders would want us to do and not do in their communities we were told,

"Empower us and encourage us. Do not try to fix us. Do not do things for us that we are capable of doing for ourselves if only we had a little help. Do not walk in front of us, but walk with us. Become our friends first. Build trusting relationships that will last. Work with the local churches because after you are gone we are what remains."

The question was asked, are orphans the problem or a symptom of a bigger problem?

"Orphans are a symptom of a bigger problem."

What is the problem and what should be done to solve it?

As much as my heart is in the prevention of orphans, the answers that came for this question were difficult for even me to hear and process.

"Orphans are a symptom of poverty which creates so many other symptoms as well. Sometimes you have to overlook the symptom to get to the causing factor. You cannot solve the problem until you get to the root of it. If you go to a doctor and complain of a toothache, he can give you medicine to make your pain go away for a while, but that doesn't fix the problem that caused the ache. Until the tooth is fixed, the ache will continue to return. It would be best to fix the tooth first so there will be less pain in the present and the future. We do not want to put a band-aid on this. We have to address the causing factor of the symptom."

Ouch! I would love to hear your opinions about that.

Finally, the leaders were asked what they want us to remember.

"Our children are not projects. We are not projects. We are people, human beings, created in the image of God, just as you are. We do not need to fixed, but we do need to be encouraged and supported by you as you help us help our countries."

I wish that I could type word for word every thing that was said in this session because from each leader came such wise advice on how we should and should not handle ourselves in their countries, what we should and should not do. This session will forever be one of those that remains invaluable to me.

Is Adoption Making a Dent in the Orphan Crisis?

Florence Muindi, International Director and President of Life in Abundance, spoke during the first general session of the Summit. Her message was simple and oh how I love being in a room with someone (or in this case so many) that have the same thoughts as I do about the orphan crisis and where we went wrong when we were honestly trying to help.

We had just heard that in the last decade, the number of orphans has doubled and now, depending on who you talk to, that number is somewhere between 140 million and 160 million children that are classified as orphans because they have lost one or both parents. (It really stings to give the official definition of an orphan because it means so many of our children in Pueblo Nuevo are considered to be orphans because they are fatherless.) Does that bother anyone else? That in just 10 years the number of orphans has DOUBLED? Does it make you wonder why and what can be done about so that it doesn't double again over the next decade?

Florence Muindi's message was right on. She spoke of how we must lift up the local church. We must empower and help restore the dignity that has been lost. We must work on curing the orphan crisis and the only way to do that is through preventing children from becoming orphans in the first place. She said that we must lead those we work with to a dependency on God alone, not dependency on us. "We are called to the ministry of redemption," she said, "and we must keep the local church at the center."

Mind spinning not believing what I was hearing in the opening session of this Summit and trying hard to keep my seat and my mouth closed because I was overflowing with joy and excitement about what was being said to our group of 1300+ and feeling OK about what I was thinking.

Is adoption even making a dent in the orphan crisis? No. Obviously not. If the number of orphans has doubled in the last 10 years, that proves that it is not.

Is building more orphanages a good response to the crisis? No. Again, the number continues to grow even with the building of new orphanages.

There are children that need to be adopted and should be, but let's face it, in that large number of 140 to 160 million, most of those children are not even eligible for adoption. Most of those children have not even lost both parents. Most are still living with one of their parents or other family members. There is absolutely no reason that these children should be adopted. Feel free to debate this. So many believe that is better to remove children from their poor situations by adopting them and bringing them to the U.S. than to help create better situations for them in their home countries with their families. Adoption has it's place and if a child is truly without parents, without any family, without a community and church to care for them properly, then yes, he should be adopted. But still, it doesn't make a dent in the crisis.

And orphanages. I always think of the movie Field of Dreams when I hear of a new orphanage being built. "If you build it, they will come." It doesn't matter how many orphanages are built in countries all over the world. Every one of them would fill up in a short amount of time. Whether it is with true orphans, children that have been removed from their parents due to abuse or children that are not orphans and not abused, but their parents just cannot afford to care for them, they will all fill to capacity. It's just a matter of time. Does that help slow the increase of orphans? No. Orphanages do serve an incredible purpose (if they are truly serving the orphan, not causing them more harm as some do) and there is a need for a large number of orphanages in the world.

Some are called to adopt. Some are called to build and work in orphanages. I believe that with everything in me. But while we are called to things, we must be aware that neither of those is slowing the orphan crisis and there is something that we can do about it.

Prevention. If we truly care about orphans, it is the only option. There is not just one way to go about it, but it is the only way to stop that number from doubling again.

Christian Alliance for Orphans - Summit VII

The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit was held last week in Louisville, KY and I was blown away by it. I attended the Summit a couple of years ago and while I was also moved beyond words then, this one was much different and there will be an explosion of blog posts about it here because I just cannot keep to myself some of the things that truly shook me to the core. This year was different for me because it seemed much broader. In addition to adoption and orphan care, there was a great deal of focus on orphan prevention through poverty alleviation and you know that that thrilled me. Great connections were made, I finally met people that I've been talking to through email and by phone for years, learned a lot that will be beneficial to the ministry of AAB and was refreshed through the renewing of passion for the fatherless.

The first day of the Summit, in the opening general session, I knew it was going to be good.

"What started as pity has now become compassion," was one of the first things said during the opening prayer.

Oh how true that is and thank you, Lord, for changing our hearts so that we no longer pity the poor, the orphan, but have true compassion instead.