Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creating Compassionate Connections by Crystal Kupper

I'm here because of Compassion. I can't believe I'm actually seeing this! Those were the thoughts rolling through my brain as my family took in the new-to-us sights -- normal behavior for our first Compassion International trip.

Except, our journey wasn't to a slum in Mumbai, a barrio in Mexico City or the savannah in Kenya (although we did see quite a few zebras!). Instead, it was to Edinburgh, the capital city of decidedly First-World Scotland.

No, Compassion has not opened a center for miniature kilt-wearers. Let me back up a bit. Nearly five years ago, I was living in the States and volunteering as a Compassion Advocate (a title I still proudly hold). I signed up for Our Compassion, a social networking site for Compassion's global network of volunteers. I soon "met" Debbie, a Scottish advocate, and we clicked. 

We  started e-mailing, messaging and writing letters and cards. We mailed presents for each other's children (Debbie has four ages 20 to one; I have three from six on down to one). When she unexpectedly lost a baby -- right around the time I was due to give birth to my own, a boy named after her oldest son -- I grieved and prayed. When she became pregnant again, I rejoiced. We shared updates and photos of our Compassion kids. And, in time, our own children began writing each other and developing a relationship across the oceans.

My Jack and Debbie's Jude
So when I found out that the Air Force was sending my family to England, I knew where our first weekend trip would take us: up north to visit and meet Debbie and her family in the flesh.

The Collins family - plus my two sneaky boys

And last weekend, that's exactly what we did. Debbie was just as lovely in person -- with an equally charming Scottish accent to boot -- as she is in her writings.

Me and Debbie (on left)

On our day together at the zoo (hence the zebras), we talked about everything: marriage, motherhood, our Compassion ministries, social justice and why exactly tennis commentators only identify Andy Murray as Scottish when he loses, never when he wins. We laughed over shared jokes, empathized over world heartbreaks and giggled at our kids' antics together. Because, after all, when you throw two Judes from two countries together with a bunch of giant penguins, something funny is bound to happen.

That night, as we celebrated Scottish Jude's eighth birthday at his favorite restaurant, Debbie and I marveled over the fact that none of this would have happened without Compassion.

The Kuppers would not be in Scotland.

Jack and Scottish Jude would not be pen pals, excitedly discussing their latest favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

My second child -- "American Jude," as "Scottish Jude" calls him -- would probably have a different name.
My baby daughter would not be rocking the latest Scottish fashion trends, and I would have no idea what a tam-o-shanter is.

Most importantly, I would not have the friendship -- the consistent source of encouragement and wisdom -- that I have found in this beautiful, Christ-like woman.

Compassion is about releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name, yes. Absolutely! Debbie and I, along with our families, are incredibly passionate about that. But it's not just the sponsored kids who benefit when ordinary people like you and me decide to sacrifice $38 a month.

It's the advocates who make meaningful, lifelong connections, who bounce ideas off each other and find ways to increase their sphere of influence for the least of these.

It's the little ones who watch their parents work for, write to and pray for their sponsored kids -- and then someday grow up to do the same, like I did, creating entire Compassion generations full of passion and energy to serve the globe. P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

It's the cross-cultural relationships that cause both young and old to know how very big and small this world can be. It's the discovery of faraway countries, cultures, ways, needs and people.

Because of Compassion, sometimes, they meet.

About Crystal Kupper....Crystal is a passionate sponsor and advocate for Compassion. She is a military wife, mom to three kids and is a freelance writer, currently living in the UK. You can find her blogging at Crystal Kupper

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