Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest Post – Michelle Akins

Michelle Akins is the wife of Alan, mother of Brynn (14) and Jolee (10) and the pastor of children and family ministries at Newberg Friends Church. She never knew she'd grow up to be a Quaker who loves Zumba! To challenge her mind and body Michelle is currently training to run a 1/2 marathon. She is an advocate for children at home, in her community, and worldwide through her affiliation with Compassion. Michelle blogs at Compassionate Hope.

Michelle surrounded by children who live in a cemetery in the Philippines

Hope in Honduras
My family started sponsoring Anderson from Honduras about five years ago. His picture captivated us. So serious and precious. I remember staring at his photo and wondering what would make that cute little black haired boy smile? I hoped our letters and our love could help bring Anderson joy. I define joy as: deep peace in Christ, no matter the circumstance.
A couple of years later my older daughter Brynn decided she wanted to sponsor a child of her own. She chose a girl named Aviguel from the Philippines. Avi and Brynn are the same age. They have become good friends through the letters they constantly write back and forth. Last summer, for Brynn’s 13th birthday I took her to the Philippines to meet Aviguel. We went on a Compassion sponsor tour. Apart from becoming a mother, the trip was the most incredible, life-changing thing I’d ever experienced.

Michelle and Brynn in a jeepney in the Philippines


Brynn and Aviguel

I came home reeling from what I’d witnessed. My idea of normal and enough were forever changed. I can’t think of anything more powerful and bonding than going on a sponsor tour with your child. I believe it’s impossible to not be drawn together as you encounter poverty and hope face-to-face. However, as a wife, I was struck with how tough it was to come home from the Philippines not having shared the experience with my husband. He listened to our stories, watched endless videos and pictures from the tour but our hearts were still not connected when it came to how being in the midst of poverty changes you.
I found hope in Honduras. Soon after my return from the Philippines, I found out that a Honduras sponsor tour was happening just nine months later. My husband Alan agreed to go with me. This would be our 15th wedding anniversary gift to one another. The day we landed in Honduras was Anderson’s 10th birthday. The trip was everything I expected and more. God not only joined our hearts and minds in regard to poverty but it gave us 38 new friends from the tour and a deeper desire to serve Christ at home and abroad through our affiliation with Compassion.

Alan and Michelle with a baby in Honduras


Alan with Anderson and his aunt

We met Anderson at a water park on the last full day of our tour. His eyes sparkled with curiosity as we played together running from the water slides to the wave pool. His smile was wide as he opened the gifts we had brought for him. Anderson and Alan even spent time throwing a Frisbee back and forth in the hotel atrium. Anderson remained the serious and precious little boy we met through the Compassion website five years earlier. His mother had just recently left her four children to find work in Mexico. Anderson’s dad wasn’t part of his life. I hugged Anderson and told him I considered him my son. We prayed with our sweet boy. It was here in the midst of tears that again we found hope in Honduras. For Compassion along with Anderson’s aunt has committed to caring for him. Our letters to Anderson will continue, but now they will be filled with the memories we were able to make together. As we said our goodbyes I looked at Anderson’s face and there it was, joy.

Anderson enjoying a waterslide
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