I don't think I ever aced a geography quiz.
When I was a freshman in high school, our history/social studies class focused on geography. My teacher did at least one quiz a week, with fifteen questions, and that thing was the bane of my existence. Studying more would have helped some, but the truth is, I've never been great with maps. I assumed I never would be, honestly.
Then I started sponsoring a child. In July 2010, six months after I got married, I decided I wanted to sponsor through Compassion. My mom already had two kids at that time, and I wanted to experience sponsorship for myself. After checking with my husband (and after having spent two or three weeks already browsing the photos of waiting kids online), I sat down one morning and brought up the list of kids who were waiting longest. I must have looked at thirty different kids, but I ended up choosing Tasya because her little biography said she liked to read. Reading has been my favorite pastime almost since I was born. My mom is a reader. It's a big part of who I am. I even work at a library! So I chose Tasya, because she was the only kid I ever saw who listed "reading" as a favorite activity. After I completed the process and sent my first letter online, I realized that I had no idea where Tasya lived. My email said she lived in Indonesia, but I didn't know where that was (other than Asia, presumably) and to be honest, I may have told some people that she lived in India. I've heard of Bali and Java, Sumatra and even Sulawesi (because we have Sulawesi babirusas at our local zoo), but I don't think I realized where they were. Tasya and I bonded really quickly- her first letter described the joy her parents felt when they learned she had a sponsor, and I was immediately welcomed as a part of the family. By the second letter, Tasya was calling me "mama" in her native language. A year later, we added three correspondence kids (back then, there was a limit), and now our far-away family consists of three sponsor kids and nine correspondence kids!
Having a connection to someone who lives in another country is probably the best geography lesson I've ever had. Now I not only can locate Tanzania, Kenya, Haiti, Indonesia, India, Mexico (that one was easy), Peru, Thailand, and Uganda on a map, but I can tell you the capitals, major cities, and demographic details like the average lifespan, common health problems, the state of education in the country and any special issues they may face, like gender inequality. My world has expanded in a big way. I pay as much attention to the news in the countries where my kids live as I do local news. These are my sons and daughters- I know where they live. I know what's going on there, and the problems they're facing.
I love my kids, and write to them often- usually between two and four times a month. I always assumed that our relationship would be limited to letters. Since this is Lizzie's blog, I won't take up too much space here detailing my personal life, but I have an anxiety disorder that has, throughout my 25 years on this earth, severely limited where and when I travel. I have never been further from "my old Kentucky home" than Florida. Until very recently, I have only ever traveled with my parents or my husband (and even then, we've only taken one trip together- our honeymoon.) Beyond that, I simply don't go anywhere- all because of my panic attacks. I don't drive on the interstate. I don't go very far from my home, even though I've lived in my city of almost a million people my whole life. I never thought that seeing my kids face to face would ever be an option for me. But lately, God has been calling me outside my comfort zone. I kept being drawn to verses like the great commission ("GO" into all the world, not just staying home and writing letters) and song lyrics and phrases ("we are the hands and feet of Jesus", "break my heart for what breaks Yours") that are like a physical push, shoving me out of my comfortable little bubble and out into the world, so I can love my kids and the people around them in person, rather than on paper. I never dreamed that I would travel to Africa for a mission trip-type experience, let alone by myself, but that's where I'm headed next March. I'll be traveling with Compassion to Tanzania, where my boy Said lives (and after making my reservation for the trip, I've since received another correspondence kid there AND started sponsoring another boy there, as well. You can't tell me that they came into my life by coincidence.) I am stepping out in faith in a big way, trusting Jesus to get me there, to provide the financial means to go, and to keep me sane during this whole crazy process! And I cannot wait to see my boys face to face, to hug them and tell them I love them in person. Lizzie speaks truth in her blog title- love is an action. We love these children by sponsoring them, writing to them, and praying for them. Now I'm ready to act on that love in the biggest adventure of my lifetime!If you would like to put love into action and support Jessi on this amazing adventure of hers, please visit Compassion Tanzania Trip by Jessi Jones - GoFundMe