Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Risk, Care, Dream, Expect

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In the weeks leading up to this trip I was pretty busy so my wife graciously helped me do most of the prepping and packing. She even gave me a cue-card explaining exactly what I had and where it was in each bag and suitcase compartment (yeah, I think she’s pretty amazing too).

When I arrived I found that she had written me several cards to be opened on certain days of my trip. This was the card I opened today:

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Those words really resonated with me.

This has been quite a trip. I’ve seen some things I just can’t comprehend and will probably spend weeks processing. Reading this card helped remind me why I’m here.

It also is a challenge that I would like to pose to you.

RISK more than others think is safe

Sure, I know that sponsoring a child is a risk for some of you. You’re committing to send $38 a month when your finances may already be tight. I get that. But these children are worth the risk….their future is at stake. You have the ability to change their life and offer them hope and a brighter future. The simple fact is that nearly all of us can manage to set aside $38 a month…that’s less than the cost of one dinner out.

CARE more than others think is wise

Sponsoring a child will open your heart up to a love you didn’t know you could have for someone you’ve never met. The first time you receive that letter from your sponsored child your heart will melt. I’m warning you, if you sponsor a child, you will never be the same. And neither will they.

DREAM more than others think is practical

How much of a difference can just one sponsor make? Until you’ve seen what I’ve seen this week you have no idea. I’ve visited homes and talked to families whose lives have been radically changed because of the generosity of a Compassion sponsor.

I met a Compassion graduate this week who grew up in Kwangware slum in Kenya. He entered the program at the age of 6 then went on to graduate, go to college and start his own business. This same graduate is now sponsoring 3 Compassion children of his own and volunteering at the Compassion project in the slums he grew up in.

All because someone dared to dream for him.

EXPECT more than others think is possible

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I agreed to this adventure to travel 8,000 miles around the globe. I knew this trip would change my life but I had no idea how much. Seeing the work Compassion is doing here in Kenya and around the world has inspired and challenged me.

I’m excited when I think about the 1 million plus children who have been given a brighter future because of Compassion sponsors. But I also know that there are over 900 children awaiting sponsors right now in Kenya alone and many more worldwide.

I have no idea how many children we can release from poverty this week because of this trip but I am dreaming big and expecting the impossible for these children.

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I’m asking you to take the leap.

Sponsor a child in need.

Don’t wait a minute longer…this is your moment to change a life.…

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A Father To The Fatherless

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Just when I thought my heart couldn’t break any more, we drove to our Compassion project today and saw this…

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roof after rusty roof of the Mathare Slum, one of the largest and most congested slums in the world. Over 800,000 people live within these 3 square miles. Garbage is piled everywhere and sewage flows freely in between the houses.

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And yet in the darkness of this slum we discovered a ray of hope.

We met Eliud Otieno.

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Eliud is an 18-year-old Compassion-sponsored boy. His older sister died when he was young. By 2007 he had lost both his mother and father leaving him an orphan, alone in one of the most filthy and impoverished slums in the world.

Thankfully, Compassion was there to help. They purchased the slum-shack he was renting so that he could continue living there. They stepped in and supplemented his food and provided financially so he could continue his education.

Eliud was eager to tell us about his Compassion sponsor, Nick Erskine, who lived in California. Nick has sponsored Eliud for 11 years. When we asked if he had any letters from his sponsor he immediately grabbed a stack of papers from the corner of his 10′ x 10′ shack.

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One of the letters was written after Eliud’s mother’s death.

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It was obvious that Eliud had a deep connection with his sponsor, a connection that continued to sustain him as an orphan living alone in the Mathare Slum.

We asked Eliud what he would say to his sponsor if he ever met him. He smiled and proceeded to deliver a message so moving that it had us all in tears.

As we left his home I noticed something written on the wall above his door…

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It was a prayer he said he prayed every day as he left his home.

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I was moved with the perspective this young man had while living in some of the worse living conditions I had ever seen. While many would consider his situation hopeless, Eliud recognized that God had graciously provided everything he needed. Nick, because of Compassion’s work in Mathare, is the answer to that prayer.

I think back on all the things I’ve prayed for in the last few years. Suddenly everything seemed so trivial when I stared at that simple prayer written on the cardboard wall of a shack in a Kenyan slum.

God loves me enough to feed me, bless me, and give me hope for the future. Amen.

Amen indeed, Eliud.

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I’ll never forget Eliud’s story and I hope you don’t either.…

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I’m Leaving A Piece of My Heart In Africa

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Last week I introduced you to Ivon Magoma, our newest sponsored child from Kenya. I met her briefly on Wednesday when we visited her project in the Kawangware slum but I got to spend the entire afternoon with her today at Nairobi Mamba Village.

She was a little shy at first but she began to loosen up after I pulled out pictures of my family.

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I couldn’t blame her for being shy and a little overwhelmed. Today was a day of firsts for Ivon.

Her first time at a restaurant…

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Her first time in a bounce house…

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Her first face painting…

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My girls have seen giraffes at least a dozen times but today was the first time Ivon had ever seen one…

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Her first time on amusement rides (or the African equivalent of them)…

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Her first time jumping with her very own “skipping rope” that I brought her…

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The first photograph she has ever owned of herself…

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For a few hours today, Ivon was plucked from the poverty of the slums and allowed to experience the fun and happiness every little girl should know.

Our day of fun came to an end all too quickly. When it was time to go I hugged her tight and told her that I was so very proud to be her sponsor. I assured her that we would write soon and that we would anxiously await her letters.

As I got on the bus to drive back tears welled up in my eyes. I had only known Ivon for less than a week and yet I felt a love for her that made my heart ache.

Today was probably the most fun Ivon had ever had in her entire life…and yet why is it that I feel like the fortunate one? How could one little child affect me so deeply?

Today I and the rest of the bloggers here with me got to witness first-hand the power of a Compassion sponsorship relationship. I’m leaving a piece of my heart in Africa with this precious child.

You may never be able to meet your Ivon in person like I did today but your impact in their life will be no less powerful. You have the opportunity to change a life, to release a child from poverty and give them the hope for a brighter future.

Don’t wait. Sponsor your child now.…

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Beautiful Kenyan Children Singing

There is something especially amazing about the beauty of children’s voices lifted in song, especially these beautiful Kenyan children we met yesterday at Compassion project KE-611.

This little girl wowed me with an impromptu performance. Her little head bob just kills me!

I had so much fun hanging with these kids at the project. I slipped back into my VBS days and had fun telling stories and playing games. How could you not have fun with such an attentive audience?

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One of the highlights was teaching them how to play “Duck Duck Goose”

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All of these beautiful children are currently sponsored by amazing people around the world…

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…but there are still so many precious children waiting for a sponsor. Children like little Igoki:

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Her birthday is coming up in just a couple of weeks. I can’t think of a better birthday present for her than to know she is sponsored.

There is someone out there for little Igoki…maybe that someone is you. Will you sponsor a child today and give children like Igoki the chance to break free from the cycle of poverty?…

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The Power Of One

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One of the things I love is Compassion’s one-to-one focus. What that means is that every child sponsored through Compassion is linked to just one sponsor. Through the sponsor-child relationship, a deep bond is developed as letters and photos are exchanged.

I could tell you about it…or I could introduce you to Samuel…

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and his brother Paul…

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Samuel is 8 years old. He is what is known in Compassion Sponsor sites as a Highly Vulnerable Child (HVC). 3 years ago when Samuel entered the Compassion sponsorship program he was so malnourished that he couldn’t walk or talk. The Compassion workers began providing Samuel’s family with vitamins and well-balanced nutrition. Today, Samuel is completely healthy.

We also met Samuel & Paul’s mother, Martha.

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Prior to Compassion’s help Martha wasn’t able to provide for her family. She didn’t have a job and consequently wasn’t able to feed her family of five.

That was then.

Today, because of Compassion’s Complementary Intervention assistance, Martha was trained and given resources to start her own business. She now is able to raise vegetables and sell them in the market to provide for her family.

All of this happened because of one sponsor.

We asked them if they ever received letters from their sponsor. Martha stepped out of the room and returned with several letters from Maggie & Cassie Goff, Samuel’s sponsor.

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These letters from their sponsor were a treasured possession to this family because they were from someone who invested into them from around the world. Because of Maggie & Cassie, their family can support themselves and Samuel can now walk and talk.

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As we left their home and walked back to the project, Samuel fell in beside me and slipped his hand into mine.

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I was privileged to come to Kenya and visit Samuel and his family in their home but I’m not the hero here. Maggie & Cassie are.

I looked down at that precious hand in mine, the hand of a child who just three years ago couldn’t walk or talk, and I realized that I am simply standing in for Maggie and Cassie. They are the ones who deserve to hold Samuel’s hand.

They have invested in his life and their investment has paid off. Samuel walks and talks because of them.

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So Maggie & Cassie, if you ever read this, thank you. I caught a little glimpse into the world of your sponsored child today. I read your letters. I saw the difference you made in their lives. I am so thankful that you made the decision to step up and break the chains of poverty.

Be inspired by this story. Who is your “Samuel?” Who will you sponsor? There are so many more just waiting for you to be a part of their story.…

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Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty

One of the common questions about Compassion (or any charity for that matter) is, “Where does my money go and what is it used for?” That’s a valid question and one worth exploring.

Let’s suppose you were given a sum of money to help a community who has been caught in the cycle of poverty for generations. What would you do? Sure, you could use the money to buy them food, clothing or medicine (all of which Compassion does) but if you only did that, where would that community be when the clothes wore out and the food was gone?

Compassion goes further than just simple food distribution – they focus on the whole person and give them the tools to help break the cycle of poverty themselves.

I could tell you how they do it…or I could introduce you to Caroline Otwoma.

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Caroline lives in a 10′ x 10′ shack with her husband and four children in the congested slums of Kawangware, a place devoid of hope.

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And yet in the midst of the poverty and hopelessness that surrounded her she welcomed us into her home with a bright smile on her face. Caroline was part of the Compassion Child Survival Program (CSP) that taught mothers the skills necessary to raise their family. Every week Caroline walks to the Compassion program to learn things like how to fashion a container for water so that she can have access to clean water to wash her hands.

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She was excited to show us how she has been able to learn a trade that helps support their family. Through a micro-finance loan she was able to purchase groundnuts to sell at the market.

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Caroline showed us how she first sorted through the nuts…

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then prepared the fire….

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before roasting the nuts in a pot.

She then packages the nuts into little plastic bag and seals them using the heat from a small candle.

She sells the little packages of nuts at the market and is able to make about 80 shillings ($1.05) a day.

As we left her husband proudly told us that his wife was working hard and that together they were changing their situation. He thanked us for coming to visit their house that they lived in “for now.” He said “for now” because he told us that he knew that they wouldn’t be there forever. The tools they had and the skills they learned were helping them break free from the poverty that surrounded them, one bag of nuts at a time.

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It is their attitude that gives me hope. They know that their situation isn’t hopeless as long as they have the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty. That is what Compassion does. That is what you do when you sponsor a child or give monthly to the Child Survival Program.

That is how the cycle of poverty is broken.…

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Safe In Nairobi

We arrived safe and sound in Nairobi around 9 PM, went through customs, picked up our bags and drove to our hotel. The flight over was loooonnng but for the most part uneventful.

On the first leg of the trip (Minneapolis to Amsterdam) I sat next to a documentary filmmaker who was on his way to Munich to pick up a special underwater housing for his video camera. The subject of his documentary? The Loch Ness Monster. He and his team are going to attempt to capture footage of the Loch Ness  Monster by spelunking into a cave that it supposedly lives in. Interesting fellow. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The reason he is knows where and how to capture footage of the Loch Ness Monster? His psychic told him.

Sunrise at the Amsterdam Airport

We had a short layover in Amsterdam. Cultural boundaries are definitely different here. I was making use of the restroom at the airport and half-noticed a custodian cleaning in the bathroom. It was only as I was walking out that I realized it was a lady custodian who was in there while I was going to the bathroom. I don’t know about you but I prefer bathroom visits to not be a co-ed activity.

After we arrived in Nairobi a free Wi-Fi signal was found so the iPhones flew out to check emails and update Twitter statuses.

Tomorrow we start right off by visiting a Compassion project first thing in the morning. If you haven’t already grab one of my trip banners for your blog or web site to help spread the word.

More to come soon. Thanks for reading!…

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

Wow, I can’t believe this day is finally here! I’m leaving this morning for a long flight to Nairobi, Kenya (via Minneapolis and Amsterdam) with the rest of the Compassion Bloggers. I’ll be arriving in Nairobi around 9PM Kenya time. I’m terrible with keeping time zones straight so I made up this little time zone reference chart:

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Geeky, I know, but I’m a visual person so that helps me figure out when I am in the world.

In other news, we received the packet on our new sponsored child from Kenya just in time for the trip! Meet our new beautiful little girl, Ivon Magoma:

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I’m so excited to meet her this week! She’s 9 years old and has a birthday the day before my oldest daughter. Her packet said she has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. She enjoys playing jump-rope (we packed one to give her) and singing.

I’ll be talking more this week about what Compassion Child Sponsorship is and how it works (click here to read about Sabato, our other sponsored child). You’ll have plenty of opportunities to sponsor children while we’re there but if you simply can’t wait, you can click here to find a precious little child of your own (clicking that link helps me track how many children were sponsored because of this trip). Only $38/month covers all their medicine, education and basic necessities (less than the cost of one dinner out a month).

Anyway, I’ve only got another hour or so before I have to leave for the airport. Probably time enough to sneak in Leaving On A Jet Plane one more time on the stereo…it always makes Lisa cry before I leave on a trip.…

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