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Help Fight Poverty

One Child at a Time

Valentine’s Day

FICTION

5

Guys

Answer Your

Questions

No Boyfriend? 51 Reasons Why It’s OK

Discipleship. Relationships. Self-image. and clean fun. For teen girls ages 12-15.

M

focus on the family’s

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FEBrUARY 2009

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Steps for a Smooth Shave


Show God’s love to others every day of the month!

1

Bake cookies for your Sunday school class.

Give a love offering to a missionary.

15 Sit by someone new at church.

22 Thank your youth pastor.

4

3 Write to your sponsored child.

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PHO T O S ISTOCK PHOTO

2

Work out with your mom.

10 Thank the cafeteria lady.

16

Hand write a letter to a sibling in college.

23

Ask your parents how they met.

Write a thank-you note to your dad.

Ask a cashier a question not related to work.

17

Give a single yellow rose to a friend.

24 Write a poem about God’s love for you.

11

5

Help a younger sibling get ready for school.

12

Deliver a singing telegram to your brother.

18

Tell someone what they mean to you.

25 Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk.

Donate your stuffed animals to a charity.

19

Pray for your friends by name.

26 Play Candy Land with a child.

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7

Invite a friend over for a movie.

Do your homework without complaining.

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13 Give a valentine to the newest person in your school.

Baby-sit for some new parents.

21

20 Vacuum the house.

27

Sing a song of worship in the shower.

Tip your server 20 percent.

28

Share the rest of your Valentine candy.

by Martha Krienke

Be a Valentine

February 2009

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briomag.com â?‰ february 2009


Jesus Loves by Martha Krienke

the Little Children A trip to Uganda, Africa, showed me that compassion is for everybody—whether the giver or receiver.

I

became a parent when I was 16. (Well, not really.) But I did get a child. (No, not like that!) I got a Compassion child through becoming a sponsor. I made this choice at a conference with my youth group the summer before my junior year of high school. After a tear-jerking video at a concert, Rebecca St. James gave a short plug for the program: “If you give $24 dollars a month, you can help a child in poverty.” I felt a knot in my stomach. I thought, My needs have always been met. What excuse do I have to say no? God’s prompting in my heart was very clear. So to ease my conscience (and get a free CD!), I decided to go for it. I remember approaching the Compassion International booth and trying to decide which country I would choose. India? Haiti? Philippines? I finally settled on Ethiopia. TV programs were always saying how poor and hungry people were in Africa, so that seemed like a logical choice. Then I had to decide which boy or girl I wanted. I overheard other people looking for a child with the same birthday or a cute smile. I scanned the packets, looking for someone similar to me, but there weren’t many little African blonds available! So I chose a girl with the most beautiful big brown eyes. Her name was Bezayehu Feleke, born Oct. 14, 1989. I’m not sure how or why I thought I could afford to be a sponsor with my minimum wage as a grocery store clerk, but I trusted that God would somehow provide. And He has! Bezayehu is now 19 years old.

>>>

Above: Bezayehu Feleke was 8 years old when I began sponsoring her in 1998. Now she’s nearly done with school! Right: I first heard about Compassion while attending a conference with my youth group.

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In desperation, Memory’s mom brought her to a Compassion project. Being accepted into the program brought Memory so much joy, she told me. Compassion provided her with the money to attend school, the opportunity to learn about Jesus’ love for her, a safe place to play with other children and a hot meal. She said some days she’d even sneak food home to share with her younger sisters. During the following year, Memory’s mom also died, so she and her sisters moved in with their aunt. Yet despite these painful circumstances, Memory excelled in school and grew in her love for Christ. She says her two sponsors, Jim Lewis and Sandy Thompson, loved her like their own child and gave her hope through their frequent letters. Now Memory’s earning an undergraduate degree through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program and is discovering how God has gifted her to make a difference. Hearing Memory’s story, I couldn’t help but think of Bezayehu just a couple countries away and who is close in age to Memory. Had she ever felt as though I loved her like my own child? Does she know me by name? I’ll get back to those thoughts in a minute, but first, there’s another person I want to tell you about.

With My Own Eyes Nearly 11 years ago, I heard about Compassion for the first time, and my heart broke. The idea of “releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name” sounded like a good idea, even biblical. Now after a trip to Uganda with this organization, I’ve seen that it’s a good idea—for children AND their sponsors. For example, let me tell you about a 19-year-old girl named Memory. Memory is a first-year student at Uganda Christian University, where she’s studying social work and administration. As we talked, she sounded like any other college freshman: She’s learning to get along with her roommate. She looks forward to visiting her family on break. She wants to finish her studies before getting into a serious relationship. But her childhood was nothing I could relate to. Memory’s dad died when she was 9 years old. Her mom was pregnant at the time and later gave birth to a son. But he died of pneumonia before his first birthday. Memory’s mom slipped deeper into depression and kept Memory and her two younger sisters at home, away from any church involvement. Memory describes that time as feeling trapped like a slave, and she often went to bed having had no food that day. 22

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Orphan and Widow Joseph is 9 years old and currently sponsored through Compassion. His dad is dead, and his mom has HIV. Joseph, his mom and two other siblings live in a three-room home. Not three-bedroom. Three-room. The four of them share two single beds that, thanks to Compassion, are both covered with mosquito nets to protect them from malaria. When I visited their home, they showed me their bathroom— basically four walls around a hole in the ground. I saw their kitchen where they cook over an open fire. Inside their home, the concrete floor was covered with plastic. They had a few pieces of artwork on the walls, but the one that stood out was hanging on a thin piece of yarn on a nail near the front door. It was a picture of Joseph’s sponsor—a person they had probably never met, may never meet, but someone who still means the world to this family. Before we left Joseph’s home, his mom gave me a


PHO T O GRA PHY JIM S CHER E R , CO U R TES Y OF COMPASSION INTE R NATIONAL

wall hanging that says, “We’re so happy and blessed to have you in our home. Be blessed.” (Then it says “feel at Jesus.” I’m not sure what that means.) But did you catch that last part? “Be blessed.” Now wait a minute—I thought the purpose of sponsoring a child was to bless others with food and an education. How can I be blessed? Why Poverty? I have to tell you that while it was great to see the work of Compassion in give Compassion your checking or savings account Uganda, I couldn’t help but also wonder why does God allow poverty in number, and they’ll take the money out automatithe first place? If He can feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, why are cally every month. The hard part, and the thing I hadn’t realized was so important, is building that little African girls like Memory going to bed without food? The problem with that question is that it assumes God is NOT at one-on-one relationship as sponsor and child. I’ll be honest and say work in these situations and has somehow forgotten the poor. most of the time over The fact is He hasn’t forgotten! He’s using His body of believers How to Help the past 11 years I’ve been disappointed in to love and care for other people right now! What about you? Do you want to join God’s Bezayehu’s average scores in school, and writIf I learned anything in Africa it’s that you and I have been work of caring for ing her letters is just another thing on my toblessed in order to be a blessing. Giving $32 a month is part others both physically and spiritually? One do list. But now I’m beginning to understand of it, but, even more way you can do that is that maybe caring for the orphan and widow important, it’s being through help to adopt an entire village in is about more than food and shelter. Could it an encouragement Guatemala. You’ll even be yet another way for Christ to form me to be and agent of hope for have the chance to meet your child when more like Him? To see others as He sees them? another person whom you participate in the To feel and show compassion just as He has God cherishes. 2009 Never the Same missions trip. For more already done for me? To me, giving information about That’s something I’d happily sign up for money is the easy sponsorship, go to briomag.com/compassion. again—with or without a free CD.  part. You can even

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51 Solo Reasons It’s OK to Be

Bummed because it feels like you’re the only one without a guy on Valentine’s Day? Don’t be! 26

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1 You’re more open to trying new things when you’re flying solo. Try guitar lessons, sign up for a pottery class, join a ♥

Bible study.

2

There’s more

time for others when you’re not sold out on one guy. Hang out with your family, visit

3

You can eat an artichoke-and-onion pizza and not have to worry about impressing anyone with your breath. 4 Concentration exists. Your mind is completely clued in to your homework, your weekend job, your chores and, most important (drum roll, please), your relationship with God! 5 You can wear your favorite pair of heels as much as you want! Who cares if you’re taller than all the guys in your class? 6 When you’re not in Coupleville, it’s easier to avoid stuff God would never be too thrilled with—like feelings of jealousy and lust. 7 You’ve got your ahead of you. Why rush into things? Just ‘cause every other girl you know has a boyfriend? Come on! Who really wants to be just like everybody else, anyway? 8 No worrying about what to give him on his birthday, Christmas and anniversaries. 9 No worrying about whether his buds like you. 10 No worrying about whether his parents like you. 11 Basically, just fewer worries. 12 If you ever held back in Foosball, people in nursing homes, shovel snow off your neighbor’s driveway.

whole life

Guitar Hero, Ping-Pong or grades just to make a guy feel good, you don’t have to any more. Let your full potential soar! 14 Got a zit on your forehead? Who cares? 15 No special guy means no special breakups. You get to avoid the crazy roller coaster so many others have gotten a bit queasy on. 16 knows you as you, not so-and-so’s other half. 17 When you’re happy being single, you’re able to set high standards for the kind of guy you’d like to go out with someday. 18 Your room’s a lot less cluttered. There just aren’t as many things to save when a guy’s not around. 19 The is all yours now. (And his backwash is long gone.)

Everybody ♥

20

Diet Coke

Telling the truth is much easier. Without a guy you’ll never hear yourself saying anything like, “Yeah, I live for

monster trucks,” “I’d love to go hunting with you this weekend,” or “Sure, the corner convenience store sounds like a great place to eat.” 21 ♥ No more straining to read between the lines to figure out

what he’s really saying. 22

Hitting the

mall with your girlfriends is tons better than with a boy, ‘cause they’re more

You can rent chick flicks as often as you want. 24 The dough you would have spent on little gifts for him can go toward something important, such likely to understand why it takes you forever to decide between lilac and sky-blue nail polish. 23

Compassion child in Guatemala. 25 Instead of listening to his band play at the local coffee shop, you and the girls can start your own band! 26 You know, sometimes boys have a not-so-great smell. 27 You have plenty of opportunities to catch as the little gifts for your sponsored

up on some bonding

time with your mom or sister or long-lost friend from camp. 28 You finally have a chance to fill your diary ♥

29

♥ You get to spend time watching “7th with stuff other than him—you know, dreams, goals, answers to prayer. Heaven” reruns. 30 ♥ Bored without a boyfriend? No need to be! Try creating your own board game. Hey, it was probably a

always

woman without a guy who created “Candy Land” and “Sorry!” 31 ♥ You’ve loved fairy tales, nursery rhymes and limericks? Now you can write your own children’s book! What are you waiting for? Get cranking! 32 ♥ When something cracks you up, like a great joke or a hilarious movie scene, you can and not have to be embarrassed about it.

laugh so hard that you snort 33 You don’t have to deal with someone who’s jealous when you’re friendly to other guys. 34 You can make personal Valentine cards for your gal pals without worrying about what kind of card to give a guy. 35 You ♥

get the entire couch, bucket of popcorn and remote control to yourself. 37 ♥ Don’t feel like wash♥ Finally! You have an opportunity to really get involved in church. ing your today? Who cares? Consider out in the nursery, teaching the kindergarten Sunday school class or visiting a senior citizen who hasn’t been able to attend in a while. 39 ♥ single day of spring break can be spent with the girls, and you don’t have to feel guilty about leaving him out. 40 ♥ No need to revolve your summer plans around him. God has BIG plans for you! Hey, maybe you’ll head to sunny Guatemala on ♥ No need to a life-changing missions adventure! 41 ♥ Still don’t wanna wash your hair today? Then don’t! explain why a brownie topped with chocolate ice cream, doused in chocolate chips and hot fudge served with a cup of hot chocolate is a great lunch. 43 ♥ ♥ You’re free to wear the jacket of without feeling like you should be wearing his. 45 ♥ There are enough things in life to say no to without having to deal with a guy who’s pressuring you to get a little more personal than you want. 46 ♥ You can start your Christmas shopping early! Hey, in one month all the winter stuff will be 60 percent off! ♥ You’ll probably have fewer all-around mortifying moments since you’re not spending time with someone you really want to impress. 48 ♥ Tired of the same ol’ same ol’ TV sitcoms? Why not create your own? 49 ♥ No more having to share half of your Twix. You can eat both candy bars yourself. (Two for me. None ♥ Have you been to the library lately? There are rows and rows of books there that’ll pique your infor you.) terest and send your mind and imagination into the lives of people from past and present. Find out more about other cool such as Amy Carmichael and Corrie ten Boom. 51 ♥ Nothing’s more than a confident single gal who truly loves Jesus and feels secure in who He’s created her to be!  february 2009 ❉ briomag.com 27

hair helping

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Every

42

You can hum the tune that keeps floating around in your head without feeling self-conscious. 44 your choice

PH O TO S ISTO C K PHOTO

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50

single women

attractive


The Myth of

Invinci

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ibility

by Trevor Williams

Death? Eternal separation? Eternal LIFE?

These truths seemed foreign to me. After all, I was nearly 16 and had my whole life ahead of me. Then I came face to face with reality.

I

n the fall of 2000, my sophomore year of high school looked promising. Junior varsity baseball was on the horizon, and the indignity of freshman year was behind me. I would turn 16 in October, meaning that I’d only have to endure a few months of embarrassment while riding with my friend’s big brother to school. In our school’s dirt-and-gravel lot, social politics determined the parking hierarchy. Athletes took the areas near the gym, and I was anxious to claim my own territory. I had a pickup truck but couldn’t drive it alone yet. My mom and I had bought the burgundy Chevrolet with some inheritance money. Now it sat in my driveway, waiting for the state of Georgia to turn me loose. Besides the three seats across the front, the extended cab S-10 pickup had the fold-down kiddy variety in the back. Soon, I’d be the one carting hapless freshmen and sophomores around. Besides plotting how we could use it to haul materials for unsavory pranks against our cross-town rival, I really didn’t have renegade plans for the truck. Even as a teenager my rebellious streak was small, more like a dot really. But for me, just like everybody else my age, the car represented an exciting new beginning. It would inaugurate a shift in the dynamics of responsibility in my home and kick-start the journey toward adulthood. Mom would still wield authority and impose limits, but I’d no longer be bound to her set of wheels. As all those with learner’s licenses felt, this was the first leg on a long race that passes through college and eventually leads to complete independence.

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First the Car, Then the Girl When the school year started, most folks were more concerned about making the grade on the social scene than in the classroom. The balance in popularity shifted weekly with each sophomore that gained a coveted driver’s license. The nicer the car, the quicker their star would rise. Two of my friends had September birthdays, a few weeks before mine. John, one of my best friends, went to a school across town. That didn’t help me much during the week, but on the two Fridays between his birthday and mine, I planned to make the most of his brand new Mitsubishi. I saw Michele, another friend, every day in high school. We had chemistry together but only the class. We’d grown apart since our first sparks flew in elementary school. Michele lived down the street from John in those days, and I always had a major crush on her. For two years we played the awkward game of grade-school romance, passing notes in the hallway and sending emissaries across the playground. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I got my chance to officially “date” her. Of course, that simply meant that we’d spend hours on the phone and hold hands at parties. I guess those were a step up from notes and playground diplomacy. But apparently I wasn’t a good talker or hand-holder, because she dumped me after what in middle school terms was considered a lengthy relationship: two weeks. I harbored no hard feelings. Maybe I was holding out hope that she’d give me another shot. Maybe I knew it wasn’t meant to be. Either way, we had a cordial friendship as we started our second year of high school. Michele didn’t need anything to add to her popularity. She was already the best-looking girl in the sophomore class and probably the entire school. Because she was nice, she’d be polite to guys. Because I knew that she was just acting nice, I could tell they didn’t have a chance. Michele’s defining feature was her smile. She had the straightest, whitest teeth of anyone I knew, and she grinned easily and often. Her smile, paired with deep eyes and sandy-blonde hair, could captivate even at a glance. She turned 16 on Sept. 18, and gaining her driver’s license a month after school began just gave her even more social capital. Good Times Gone Bad On a Friday night, some people from school were headed to the outskirts of our city for a party. I had other plans. My calls to John had hit the jackpot, and he invited me to take a ride. On the surface, we planned a trip to the movies, but this was more an excuse than a true destination. For five raucous guys who had played baseball together for years, this was a rite of passage, a move past the threshold that once separated boyhood and manhood. On our way home, we soaked up the moment, joking loudly and blaring music in John’s new CD player. The fact that we were exceeding the legal limit for passengers riding with a 16-year-old driver was far from our minds. Then the phone rang. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket 34

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to answer, practically shouting over the music. It was Kelly, my girlfriend at the time, and despite the background noise in the car, I could hear the anxiety in her voice. Someone we knew had been in a serious car accident, but we didn’t yet know whom. Sad to ruin the party, I relayed the sobering news to the guys, and we rode to John’s house to gather more information. His parents knew no more than we did, so we formed an odd little silent congregation in their bedroom, suspended between tragedy and relief that hinged on the news of the accident. The phone rang. No one moved except John’s mom, who walked over to pick it up. “It’s for you, John,” she said, gesturing with the phone toward him. The next moment still feels like a dream. I can see the scene unfolding in my head, like a movie clip unraveling in slow motion. The voice on the other end of that line would determine whether we stayed entranced in this vortex or if we could relax into our earlier exuberance. John pressed his ear to the receiver. His face went blank. A simple “No” was all he could muster. He lowered the phone lifelessly, as if some force had attacked his spirit and sucked out his emotions. He croaked two words: “Michele’s dead.” Reality Check Worst fears confirmed, I stumbled out into the driveway. The shiny maroon paint on John’s car showed a streaked reflection of the subdivision streetlights and the moon and stars beyond. Moments before, that car was a symbol of adolescent freedom and achievement, a four-wheeled ticket to the intoxication that came with controlling our own destiny. Now it seemed more like a dirty accomplice, guilty by its association with the hunk of metal that sealed Michele’s fate. I felt almost betrayed by these cars and the ideals they represented. They had validated the invincibility we felt as youngsters. They had sold us the lie that we had control over our lives and futures. But the accident exposed Michele’s car as the first impostor, a purveyor of a freedom that it couldn’t truly provide. The tears I shed in the driveway were obligatory, not felt. I knew I should be sad, but the impact of John’s solemn words was still too fresh for our minds to process. How could we understand in a few short minutes that the girl who brightened our chemistry class would no longer resist immature guys in the back row? How could I wrap my head around the fact that a beautiful girl whose hand I once held was now without life? In that moment, leaning against a car I now despised, I cried not for an emotion I was experiencing but because I subconsciously realized that when Michele ran that stop sign, an irreparable hole was ripped into our lives. Painful Truth That night, I prayed for Michele’s family. I knew her parents and brother, and I couldn’t imagine the pain they were experiencing. I thought about how it must exceed in severity the sick, empty feel-


PHO T O GR A PH Y D AVE HILL

Then guilt went for the knockout: Could I have prevented her eternal suffering by sharing with her about my relationship with Jesus? In light of this storm raging within me, I didn’t do well at the visitation. The whole setup was a horrible reminder of the impermanence of life and the uncertainty of existence. I don’t remember explicitly thinking about God’s redemptive plan as I viewed Michele’s body, but as I cried again I felt a strong sense that this isn’t meant to be. What had been a young, vibrant human body was now lifeless, devoid of the spirit that infused it with warmth and life. There was a stronger-than-usual sense that death and the pain it brings are symptoms of a fallen world, not the Creator’s intentions or indifference.

ing in my gut. I cringed at their loss and asked for God’s comfort, honestly wondering if even He could provide any solace in this tragic situation. I’m not sure whether it was through prayer or a painful moment of clarity, but focusing on God brought me to another petrifying realization: Through all the years I had known Michele, I had never taken the time to find out if she was a Christian. My heart’s reaction to this truth twisted the already painful ordeal into an emotional spell more potent than I could’ve imagined. Fear entered the ring first, pummeling me with a combination of blows aimed right at my weakness. Could this girl that I cared so much about be entering an eternal separation with God?

Joyful Truth Thankfully, even death isn’t beyond the redemptive power of God. I dragged myself, along with my heavy loads of guilt and pain, to Michele’s funeral at a large church. The contemporary auditorium had deep-red carpet on the floor and upholstered seats, which were more like movie theater chairs than pews. The place was packed and silent as the pastor confronted the congregation with a truth that Michele’s death made clear: Life is like a warm breath into cold air, visible for a moment and then gone. With his next words, the pastor showered my heart with a wave of relief. Michele, he said, had trusted Jesus as her Savior during her time in the church’s youth group. Grief and guilt subsided, but my spirit was restless. The Holy Spirit was working on my heart, instilling a purer but equally painful feeling: conviction. Without condemnation but with force, He reminded me that death is inevitable but indifference is not and that missed opportunities for evangelism don’t always end happily. I still don’t know why God chose to take Michele, but in His vast, cosmic purposes for this event, He set aside a small lesson for me. To honor Michele’s memory and His commands, I must throw lifelines to those who don’t believe. We never know when our last day—or theirs—will come.  Trevor Williams tries to savor each day—and never misses an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus Christ.

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