Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Post – Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson and her husband Josh are both Compassion advocates. Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom and lives in West Virginia. She blogs at Random Thoughts.
I sponsored my first Compassion child, Karla, in my senior year at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was a huge step of faith for me and my husband, Josh. We made so little every year, that we didn’t have to pay state or federal taxes and we were graduating soon after and had no idea where, or even if, we would be working.

Karla when we sponsored her                                              Karla at 16 ~ when she finished the program

I had heard about Compassion many, many times before the day we decided to sponsor. I had thought to myself, “When we are settled and financially stable, I would like to sponsor a child.”

At that point, though, I was very anxious about what the future held for us. But I had seen the Lord providing for us in miraculous ways while we were at Asbury and felt the Holy Spirit nudging me as I heard Malachi 3:10 in my head,
“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Let me back track a little to give you some context…
My husband and I grew up separately in two very different parts of Maryland. He lived in the city of Baltimore and I lived in the very rural town of Oakland on the Western “panhandle”, as it is known. Though we both lived in very different surroundings, we both were from low-income families, at least to U.S. standards.

When I was growing up, I was only slightly bothered by all the things I didn’t have. I knew that I didn’t get the Cabbage Patch Dolls or the other toys that were on every other kid’s Christmas lists. But I never went hungry and always had clothes on my back, even if they weren’t the popular style.

What did bother me, especially as I got older, was that I felt I didn’t have a lot of options in my life. Every opportunity seemed to be barred by money, or lack thereof. My parents didn’t tell me to dream big, because they had learned to have a lack of hope as well.

But Josh chose to overcome our circumstances with faith. He believed that God had a plan for us and that God could provide. I was not so sure! But I was in love and deep down in my heart, I yearned to have hope – as awkward and audacious as it felt to hope for something that seemed so far out of reach.

So shortly after we got married, we packed up what little we had and moved 300 miles away from the only home I had ever known to attend Asbury. I spent almost every mile crying. I didn’t cry because I didn’t want to go with my husband. I cried because I thought that we were completely crazy to go to this school when we could barely afford to pay for our meager wedding.

The first six months I was miserable. I had decided that I would not allow myself to put down too many roots because we were not going to be able to afford to stay after that first semester, so I didn’t want to get too connected.

And just as I feared, when we got our next financial aid offer, it seemed that it was truly going to be impossible for us to stay. But then in a period of a couple weeks, God blessed us with better jobs, better financial aid offers, and some monetary gifts from people who didn’t even know our circumstances. Also, we found a much-needed church family. This not only convinced me that we could stay for that semester, but that we were going to make it to graduation. I could not deny the absolute presence of God putting everything in place.

This happened continually while we were at Asbury. But then when it came time to think about the next chapter in our lives, I began to feel apprehensive again.

So when I heard the Compassion presentation before my last semester started, I knew I had not lived the life I did by accident. And I knew that God had not blessed me to keep the blessing to myself, but to be a blessing to others.

I knew what it felt like to come from circumstances where I felt like I had no hope or no future and to find that God could do immeasurably more than I, or even my parents, could have hoped or imagined.
There have been times in the last 13 years that we have fallen on rough times. My husband lost his job unexpectedly in 2008, right after we had purchased a house and a van. But we have decided that paying our sponsorship is not an auxiliary expense, like paying for a monthly gymnastics class or the cable bill. It is our sponsored child’s life that is on the line and we cannot take that lightly.

We want our sponsored children to know that they do have hope…and it is not just for a better life here on earth. We want them to know that there is an all-powerful, loving God who knows them and wants to give them what they need and maybe even more than they could ever hope or imagine.

Picture 2 for blog entry 1
Jennifer with Xiomara and Elias in Peru

Since first becoming sponsors to Karla, our first sponsored child from Peru, we have sponsored a total of 5 children over the years and I have been an advocate with Compassion since 2004, when my first child was born. I traveled to Peru last summer, where I met Jill, and Josh, who became an advocate in 2006, traveled to Guatemala this August. We have two biological children who are a gift from God and we try to integrate our relationship with our sponsored children into our family life on a daily basis.
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