Cristel Isabel wipes the sleep from her eyes and can hear the neighbors fighting next door again. Their little home in the urban area of Nicaragua is tightly connected to many similar homes in the street. There is not much peace and quiet here. There is not a lot of space either. Many of her chores need to be done outside their home because the little house is so cramped. Her mother will again go out in search of recyclable materials at the dump to sell today. She feels her tummy growl and hopes that there will be something to eat today.
Christelle Maria wakes up in her warm house in the Lake Country and looks out to the trees lining the driveway. She loves this yellow house with the white picket fence, the huge backyard and the trees. When they bought the house she didn’t even care what it looked like inside. She was sold when she saw the trees. She wakes her kids and starts breakfast. What will it be? Oatmeal? Bacon and pancakes? Raisin bran or maybe a protein smoothie with berries imported from across the globe?
The story of the two of us.
Cristel and Christelle.
I know God answers prayer.
When I was still in college my favorite contemporary Christian artist was Louis Brittz. He had this song called Clothed with Compassion and started the song with a prayer that I have prayed several times as well.
“Lord, show me what breaks Your heart and let my heart be broken too.”
Well, God obliged….
We have sponsored children through child sponsorship programs for several years and chose someone close in age to each of our kids but haven’t chosen someone for our youngest Lene’ Isabel yet. On her birthday a few years ago I decided that it was time and as I opened Compassion International’s website for sponsoring children, the very first little child I saw was Cristel Isabel Martinez. Well, it is not like I know a million Christelles out there. And with a middle name the same as my daughter’s it was a done deal. We sponsored this little girl and God has used her to highlight the answer to my prayer several times.
You see, this little girl sharing the same name did not ask to be born close to a dump in Nicaragua. Just as I didn’t ask to be born in my family in South Africa.
I did not somehow do something special when I was born to be able to live in a safe house with infrastructure and state of the art hospitals and schools, neither did she do something horrible for her to be born in extreme poverty.
I would sit in the rocking chair with my healthy, fed baby and feel tears roll down my cheeks knowing that this, all of this, was just grace.
And it was not just by accident.
It was not just my right.
It was not because I was spectacularly talented or more obedient or hardworking. No one will convince me that the little kid scavaging through the dump for hours each day looking for a piece of scrap to sell or eat is not working hard.
Why do I have so many options and they don’t? Surely it is not just so I could have a cushy nice life while another mother holds a listless baby in her arms a mere plane ride from me without anything to give her sick child?
I was wrestling with God about this and asked Him to not just break my heart about this because tears alone will not get the job done. He needed to give me a plan to help more than the few kids we were sponsoring. Helping 4 was not enough. Advocating and getting more sponsored was a bit better but still there is more to be done.
Then this dream started budding in my heart. I did not want our kids to grow up entitled, with the false assumption that they somehow deserve so much and that they had the right to have everything they were blessed with. No, I want them to realize that their blessings are a trust to make a difference in the world for God’s glory.
I love the quote that says, “Our privileges are not for our pleasure but for our purpose.”
This is how LittleHandsHelping was born.
We need a generation of advocates.
We do not need a few people feeling the urge to be socially responsibly cool because it is the latest hype.
We need a generation that looks around their immediate environment and the larger world and are ticked off and refuse to let it be unchanged. We need a generation that will look at what they have in their little hands and use that to help the world we’ve been entrusted with. We need a generation that refuses to shrug their shoulders as if it was not their responsibility or problem.
As Christ followers it is our business.
It is unacceptable to sit around waiting for the world to find solutions.
This is our watch.
So right there in the middle of the night about three years ago the start of a very simple story emerged and was penned down.
I had the entire book in my mind. Little hands helping wherever they were. These little hands did not wait to be asked or prompted. They were observant, moved and empowered to do what their hands found to do. It wasn’t complicated it was simply born from the attitude, “What needs to be done?” and then to do it.
Of course I needed an artist. I cannot for the life of me even draw a stick figure without subtitles! Over the next few months I interviewed a few candidates because I wanted to have “little hands” do it. I wanted to give a young artist who has never published before the opportunity to work on this so that they could use their gift to bless others. I’d almost given up hope of finding someone when I got a call from my husband giving me the number of a family he met at work that have an artist in the family.
Enter Leah German. A spunky, amazingly talented, then 15-year old!
When I saw the very first portrait she illustrated of a friend, I was sold! She agreed to the project and started working hard in creating magnificent art pieces for this book. You will look at these illustrations and find it hard to believe that they’re not photos. We are super excited to give you a sneak peek of the book that we pray will be ready for publication by June 2016 and will be God willing, available for the Christmas Season!
LittleHandsHelping has a twofold purpose. God has taught me that you can be poor with a house filled with the latest gadgets. We have plenty of evidence of the scars of this kind of poverty in our affluent society. I do not want my children to be poor by thinking life is all about them. We want to equip parents to “give their children the gift of giving.” Joy springs forth in our hearts when we bless people around us that are worth more than getting 13 gifts at a birthday party. By empowering our children by giving them the gift of giving the natural outflow will be that children living in countries with extreme poverty will be equipped with skills so that they in turn can break the cycle of poverty for the generations to come.
We will keep you posted as the project develops and hope you too will join in making a difference wherever God planted you. Because in the end….
This is the Story about All of Us.
This is the Story for the Glory of the One Who knows each one of us by name.