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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Our Little Boy Is Growing Up

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It’s hard to believe that in just five weeks I’ll be in Kenya! I’m so excited to experience the awesome work of Compassion International first-hand.

We’ll be sponsoring our second child from Africa who I’ll be able to meet while I’m there. Our first little guy, Sabato, has been a part of our family for nearly four years. Letters, like the one below that we just received, are what make the child-sponsor bond so special.

**this letter was dictated by Sabato in his native tongue and then written and translated by Compassion workers – I’ve left the broken English intact**

letterSaboto greets you so much in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says he is very happy for the gift you sent to him. (we send extra at Christmas for a Christmas gift) He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much. He says he took his picture near with their center.

He asks do you like his suit and his shoes? He says he likes wearing his suit and his shoes during going to the church.

He says he continues with his lessons with all his effort and after school lessons. He also went to learn an extra lessons during evenings.

He says he likes going at the church on time in order to sing, to pray and singing the Lord’s songs. He says later on he plays football.

He says he loves you so much and he continues praying to God with effort in order to succeed in your activities. Lastly he asks you to continue praying for him so much in order to do all his effort in his lessons.

He says may God bless you so much and to pray for his country Tanzania. He says Goodbye.

We received this updated photograph of Sabato along with this letter…

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This photo is proudly displayed on our refrigerator next to pictures of our two girls. I smile every time I see it.

Sabato described Compassion best in his letter: “He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much.”

And that my friends, is what Compassion is all about.

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I’m Going To Africa!

It’s not often that the opportunity to do something that has been on your heart for years just falls in your lap. When it does, it’s hard to pray about it objectively because you kinda pray and ask God about it with the equivalent of the puppy-dog eyes that my girls know work far too often on me.

You see, while many people have prayed the, “God I’ll do anything for you…just please don’t send me to Africa!”prayer, I have always prayed the opposite. My heart has beat for this continent and its people for years.

So when I got a phone call from Shaun Groves, who works with Compassion International, asking me if I wanted to take a trip to Kenya with Compassion Bloggers in March…well, let’s just say I was more than a little excited! And not just the “I get to fly on a plane to an exotic destination” kind of excited – I’m pumped about leveraging the influence and voice God has given me through this blog to make a difference in a child’s life.

Children like our little Sabato.

We’ve sponsored Sabato for nearly four years. Because of a very small monthly sacrifice on our part he has been able to go to school and stay clothed and healthy. Because of the unique sponsorship relationship Compassion has developed we are able to write Sabato and receive letters from him. Chloe & Emily talk about him to their friends and even call him “their brother.” He’s become part of our family and we are an important part of his.

That’s why I’m so excited to take this trip and share the sights and sounds with you. I’ll be live-blogging from Kenya March 4-10 with a team of bloggers and photographers. I’ll be sharing more details about the trip and my fellow bloggers in the weeks to come but in the meantime you can follow our trip on Twitter. You can also promote help me promote the trip by embedding this widget on your blog:

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I’ve got a few little surprises I’ll be sharing along the way so keep checking back (click here to subscribe to my updates in an RSS reader or click here to subscribe by email).

Thanks for reading and helping me promote this trip. I’m so excited to share this adventure with you!…

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The Prison Of Thanklessness

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In the book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan shares a story from when he was in Uganda. In a little dirt-floored church one Sunday evening the village pastor asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. A tall, skinny African woman from the back danced to the front,

skitched“Oh, brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much,” she said.

“Tell us, sister! Tell us!” the Ugandans shouted back.

“Oh, I love Him so much, I don’t know where to begin. He is so good to me. Where do I begin to tell you how good He is to me?”

“Begin there, sister! Begin right there!”

“Oh,” she said, “He is so good. I praise Him all the time for how good He is. For three months, I prayed to Him for shoes, And look!” And with that the woman cocked up her leg so that we could see one foot. One very ordinary shoe covered it, “He gave me shoes.”

The Ugandans went wild. They clapped, they cheered, they whistled, they yelled.

But not me. I was devastated. I sat there broken and grieving. In an instant, God snapped me out of my self-pity and plunged me into repentance. In all my life, I had not once prayed for shoes. It never even crossed my mind. And in all my life, I had not even once thanked God for the many, many shoes I had.

Like Mark, that story just wrecks me. I’ve prayed about a lot of things but I’ve never prayed for shoes. It’s the little things that we take for granted. Things like a roof over our heads, the clothes on our back or the shoes on our feet.

I’m reminded of our little boy Sabato from Tanzania that we sponsor through Compassion International. We exchange letters with him regularly and have been following along with his progress in school. This last letter included this photograph of him.

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Did you notice his shoes? He’s wearing girl’s tennis shoes that are at least a size or two small with huge holes in both toes. They’re the kind of shoes we wouldn’t be caught dead with here in the United States. And yet he’s thankful for something to protect his feet (incidentally, we did send money for him to get a new pair of shoes).

How many little things do we overlook every day and miss out on the joy of recognizing God’s provision? This is how Mark Buchanan wrapped up the above story in his book:

Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn’t dwell, the place that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” Hebrews says, “and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root.

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