The Phrase that Changes Everything

If you're in a hard place today, know that your "And then God..." is already on the way. http://holleygerth.com #coffeeforyourheart

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She sends an email sharing about abuse and heartbreak. Her story takes a turn with one phrase:

“And then God…”

She pulls me aside after a conference session and tells of depression and darkness. Then a smile comes to her face as she shares:

“And then God…”

She stands at the front of a Compassion International Center in the Dominican Republic and speaks of a childhood filled with poverty before declaring:

“And then God…”

I’ve had at the privilege of hearing women all over the world share their hearts. Their stories have taught me there is one phrase that changes everything:

“And then God…”

If you’re in a hard place today, know that your “And then God…” is already on the way. And if you’ve seen Him come through for you already, I’d love for you to share your story by leaving a comment on this post. How would you fill in the blank below?

“I was ________ and then God ________.”

XOXO

Holley Gerth

p.s. I got to hear so many “And then God…” stories while I was in the Dominican Republic last week. Thank you for going on that journey with me. It meant so much to have your encouragement and prayers! Together we helped over 150 children get released from poverty in Jesus’ name! And if you missed the posts last week, you can still be part of a child’s “And then God…” story by sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

 

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Welcome to the Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up! You’re an encourager so I’m asking you to pour out a little love with your words every Wednesday {link-up goes live at 5:30am CST}. Simply write an encouraging blog post and then share it here. Don’t have a blog? You can still write an encouraging comment. If you’re reading this by email, go to holleygerth.com to see all the fun and join in too.

Pretty please use this button in your blog post so others can easily join in with us {html code in right sidebar}. And when you link up your post, take a moment to leave an encouraging comment on the one that’s linked up just before yours. Thanks, friends!

 

I’m having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

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The Answer to People Who Say God Doesn’t Exist…

Dominican Republic Compassion International Blog Trip

I’m borrowing words to share with you today.

Words from someone who knows what it’s like to not only survive difficult circumstances but come out thriving on the other side of them.

Someone who has been told “you are a mistake” and then learned from God that they are a world-changing miracle.

Someone who believes in the power of love to lead us out of the lowest points in our lives and take others with us.

Jonathan {on the right in the photo below} is a Compassion International sponsored child who went all the way through the program, including the Leadership Development Program, and has been with us this week in the Dominican Republic as our host. The following words are from a letter he wrote to his sponsor. As soon as he read them to us today I wanted to share them with you because you love like Jesus and it makes a difference…

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

What am I here for?

That was the question I asked myself many times when I was lonely, sad and empty, without purpose. And it was at that very moment that God used Compassion International to help me understand that, yes, I have a purpose and a reason to exist. This is what 80% percent of the children living in third world countries think–that they are nothing and that they have no future.

I wanted to start this letter that way because I wanted you to know that my life has really changed.

A very famous atheist said one day: “God does not exist because if God existed there would not be so many hungry children on this earth, nor so many diseases and catastrophes in the world.” My answer to that atheist is this: ”Millions of children, including me, have been released from material and mental poverty that undermined their lives through wonderful ministries like Compassion International.”

You are the protagonist in this love story–you are responsible for this change.

God has made man in His image and likeness and has given man the tremendous power to create; create Love, Faith, Hope, Dreams, Desire, Families, Communities, Cities, Nations, Opportunities and Compassion.

I will never be able to be grateful enough with words for your love for someone you never met before, someone who is not your family, your son or your nephew, or your grandson but someone that you loved without knowing him.

This is the answer to all those who claim that God doesn’t exist. You’re the answer.

And God is pleased with your work, God is happy because you have given more than what you had just like that widow who gave all she had. “In truth she has given more than all of you,” said Jesus.

You are the hands of God! And that’s why I no longer pray as I used to do before. I heard a pastor say: ”Do not ask God to feed the hungry if YOU have enough food in your pantry.” The truth is that many times we ask wrongly, because we ask God to do things when in our ignorance we forget that we are God’s response to the misfortunes of others.

This is why Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’’ John 13:34

Thanks again for writing. I treasure every one of your letters not only in a chest but also in my heart. I take time to read them over and over again because they are like oil of joy in times of distress.

I will never forget your prayers for me and for the coming generations–you left personal things to leave a legacy to the world.

With much love,

Jonathan Almonte

{this is an excerpt from Jonathan’s letter–you can read the entire letter here}

Thank you for the difference you’re making and the ways you’re sharing God’s love wherever you are! Like Jonathan’s letter said, you are changing the world…one life at a time.

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Compassion International kids see sponsors as part of their families. If you’ve ever thought about adoption, consider sponsoring.

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Here’s an exciting update about what you’ve done this week: There have been 96 kids sponsored so far on our trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International! Woo-hoo! That’s like 5 kindergarten classes of our daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons being released from poverty in Jesus’ name. So wonderful! You can see all their sweet faces here. I think we could get over 100, don’t you? :)

Dominican Republic Compassion Bloggers

Read more posts from my fellow travelers on this trip: Bonnie Gray, Bri McKoy, Lisa Leonard, and Ruth Soukup.

How to Get Rid of the Darkness in Your World…

Day 47 What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days by Holley Gerth

One evening as I sat at my desk and tried to write encouraging words my thoughts kept being interrupted by news headlines: violence, disease, tragedy, corruption, poverty. Feeling completely overwhelmed, I finally paused and asked God, “How do I get rid of the darkness in our world? It seems impossible to even make a difference.”

Have you felt or asked the same?

In an instant it seemed I heard the whisper of an answer in my heart, “The only way to get rid of darkness is to add more light.”

And hope flickered back into being within me.

The same question I asked that evening came to mind as I stood in a tiny shack in the Dominican Republic today. The Compassion Bloggers had come to see a grandmother raising three children, including one with special needs. As she shared her life it sounded much like the news headlines I’ve already described. Yet this time the story wasn’t on a screen–it was standing right in front of me.

As I listened and marveled at her strength, inexplicable joy and deep love, I glanced up toward the single window in her home. I noticed a word was written on it and I leaned in to read it…

Jesus Compassion Bloggers

Jesus.

Yes, of course.

He was right here in this place, this moment.

He always has been.

He always will be.

That is the hope we can find on our darkest days and even in the deepest poverty.

I think the enemy tries to make us feel overwhelmed when we hear about or see poverty and other difficulties in our world because then we become paralyzed by guilt or fear. Or if that approach doesn’t work, he might try to convince us we have to destroy the darkness directly–in other words, become antagonistic and negative in the name of “justice.”

But we can’t let ourselves fall into those traps. Instead we need to stay focused on the only real solution to darkness: adding more light.

That’s something we all can do. Wherever we are. For whoever God places in front of us. Because we all have the Light of the World within us.

Simply ask God this: “How do you want me to add more light to my world today?”

It might be through loving your family.

It might be through serving in your community.

It might be by sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

Whatever it is, do it…because it only takes a spark to start setting your world ablaze. Don’t let guilt win. Don’t let cynicism convince you nothing can change. Don’t tell yourself, “The little bit I have to offer can’t make a difference.” Let me assure you, with Jesus it can.

You are here at this time in history for a purpose and no one can take your place. Be who you are, give what you can, do what only you can do.

Let’s drive out the darkness together. Starting now.

XOXO

Holley

p.s. If you haven’t already this week, will you pause and ask God if He wants you to add more light to this world by sponsoring a child through Compassion International? If He says no, just carry on with the ways you’re already shining and know I’m cheering you on {no guilt!}. If He says yes, click the image below to light a match that will brighten a child’s life, family and community more than you can even imagine…

Central-America-Girl-300x250_DominRep.jpg-1

Super-Exciting Update: As I’m writing this, 62 children have now been sponsored through the Dominican Republic Compassion Bloggers! You can see all of them here. Thank you! Our team would appreciate your prayers as we wrap up this week. It has been both hard and wonderful to be here. Read more posts from my fellow travelers on this trip: Bonnie Gray, Bri McKoy, Lisa Leonard, and Ruth Soukup.

There is Always a Way to Say “I Love You”

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

My husband Mark and I walk through the door of a Compassion International center in the Dominican Republic and are quickly surrounded by a group of enthusiastic kids. In place of loud chatter and giggles, their hands fly as they welcome us. They use sign language to say, “We’re so glad you’re here. We feel special that you came.” Then they begin to teach us the phrases they think matter most including, “I love you.”

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

These children are part of a program for deaf and mute children. Some of their classmates can hear as well as speak so they share their hearts with us in their own ways too. In Spanish they exclaim, “Te amo” (I love you) with grins on their faces and outstretched arms.

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

Later in the day I’m invited to sit on the porch of a local family who has been through deep tragedy and smiles are harder to find. The mother and father were killed in a motorcycle accident leaving four children behind. The grandparents have stepped in to raise them. Compassion has been their lifeline since two of the boys are deaf and have been able to join the Compassion program and school–the only one for children like them in the entire country.

Compassion Family - Day 2

A family staying strong and united through tragedy but still struggling. The youngest, Daniel, is holding the chicken–he’s deaf and dreams of growing up to be a veterinarian.

When we get up to leave I give the Grandmother a You’re So Very Loved necklace {the one you’ll also get if you sponsor a child}. I point to the heart hanging from my neck as well. Through the translator I say, “See, I have one too. And when I wear it I will think of your family and pray for you. Because we love you.”

Abuelita

In Spanish.

Through sign language.

By sharing a simple gift.

Love has endless ways of being expressed.

And the more time I spend with Compassion the more I realize this is really the heart of what they do. Yes, they meet needs in all four areas of a child’s life—spiritual, physical, emotional/social and cognitive. But all of it really comes down to what Jesus said matters most:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matt. 22:37-39

We all have the same mission: love. And yet how we fulfill it varies with each one of us. God will use your strengths, skills, gifts, experiences and resources to touch the lives of others in ways only you can.

Today I met a tutor who has quietly and faithfully helped deaf children for twenty-four years.

I watched a grandmother’s protective love wrap like a blanket around her family even in the middle of her own grief.

I saw love in dozens of small eyes who welcomed us into their world.

And if I stepped into your life today, I’d see you love in your own wonderful ways too.

A family's treasured possession--a letter from their child's sponsor. It's tattered and covered with fingerprints from being handled so much.

A family’s treasured possession–a letter from their child’s sponsor. Tattered and covered with fingerprints from being handled so much.

We can each come to God every day and ask Him: “How do you want to say ‘I Love You’ through me?”

It’s a question that brings God joy to answer. Because wherever you are and whoever you’re with there will always be a new way to say “I love you.”

XOXO

Holley Gerth

This post is also featured on (in)courage.

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One way you can say “I love you” is by sponsoring a child through Compassion International. After talking with sponsored children and their families I can assure you the $1.27 a day you give is about so much more than resources and opportunities. It’s about expressing God’s love to those who can feel overlooked in this world and saying: “I see you. You matter. There is hope and a future for you.”

Here’s a fun idea too: You could sponsor a child in honor or memory of someone special. Marilyn left a comment on yesterday’s post saying that’s what she did and I thought it was such a wonderful idea! You could even give the free Lisa Leonard necklace you’ll receive as a gift to that person–yet another way to say “I love you.”

Necklace and Compassion

Super-Exciting Update: As I’m writing this, 43 children have now been sponsored through the Dominican Republic Compassion Bloggers! Each one will hear “I love you” in their lives in so many new ways because of you. You can see all of them here. Thank you!

Read more posts from my fellow travelers on this trip: Bonnie Gray, Bri McKoy, Lisa Leonard, and Ruth Soukup.

first three photos by Compassion, all others by Bri McKoy

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Welcome to the Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up! You’re an encourager so I’m asking you to pour out a little love with your words every Wednesday {link-up goes live at 5:30am CST}. Simply write an encouraging blog post and then share it here. Don’t have a blog? You can still write an encouraging comment. If you’re reading this by email, go to holleygerth.com to see all the fun and join in too.

Pretty please use this button in your blog post so others can easily join in with us {html code in right sidebar}. And when you link up your post, take a moment to leave an encouraging comment on the one that’s linked up just before yours. Thanks, friends!

 

I’m having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

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Sending You Hope and a Dream from the Dominican Republic…

I met a God-sized dreamer in the most unlikely of places today. Her name is Carla and she lives in a tin roof house with curtains for doors in the Dominican Republic. At the end of our time together, she apologized for not having a grander place to share with us. Through the Compassion International translator I told her, “This is a house of love. And that is worth more than anything else.”

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

When I asked Carla about her dreams she talked of her children. Getting them out of the dangerous neighborhood where they live. Seeing them grow up to pursue their passions. One of her sons is in the Compassion program. He has two brothers and a sister. Carla is studying to finish her high school degree. Her oldest son, who has learned to read and write through the program, helps her with homework.

Behind Carla’s house is a river that rises whenever it rains too much. It washes away everything they have. The family survives because they have two things: land that belongs to them that they can come back to and a way to get to higher ground. Something in her story resonated deeply with me because I know what it’s like to try your best and do battle when life’s storms come anyway. Don’t you?

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

Carla’s story also brought to mind these words:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matt. 7:24-25

Here’s what’s true: All believers have land that belongs to us–the firm foundation of Jesus. And we all need help getting to higher ground. I imagine someone, somewhere has done that for you…

Maybe a teacher who saw your potential.

A mentor who challenged you to be your best.

A boss who gave you an unexpected opportunity.

A family member who just wouldn’t stop believing in you.

A friend who whispered when the clouds gathered, “You’re going to get through this.”

One of the best ways to show appreciation for what we’ve received is to pay it forward. Not out of guilt but out of full-heart gratitude. We are all poor. We are all rich. And we all need each other. {click to tweet}

Where would we be if no one had come for us when life started raining and the waters started rising?

I saw that question in a new way today through a woman named Carla.

A mama.

A doer.

A fighter.

Someone who has hopes, dreams and fears for her family. Someone who hears the thunder of life and still keeps believing. Someone who has weathered her share of storms and come out stronger. Someone a lot like me. Someone a lot like you.

Dominican Blog Trip DR-707 188

I hope we can all meet one day–you, me, Carla and her children. Whether here or in heaven. I picture us joining hands, grinning with joy at God’s goodness and grace, maybe whispering, “Can you believe we’re really here?!”

I’m trusting this will be part of the scene too: the skies will finally be the most brilliant blue and we’ll be standing strong and tall together on higher ground.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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Will you sponsor a child through Compassion International today? When you do, you’ll not only impact the life of one child but an entire family and community, too. To choose your child, just click here.

If you can’t afford to sponsor a child on your own right now, you can ask others to join you: family, friends, a group at church, coworkers. That’s how Mark and I started sponsoring kids over a decade ago. If you want to do this, God will make a way–and you don’t have to do it alone. Ask Him to show you who can partner with you. {And if you sponsor a child today you’ll get a limited edition You’re So Very Loved necklace by Lisa Leonard.}

Necklace and Compassion

As I’m writing this, there have been 29 children sponsored through the Dominican Republic Compassion bloggers! Picture a parade of 29 happy little faces climbing the hill of hope to higher ground. You can see them all here. Thank you!

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