Meeting Ashley & Arita: Why One Country Road Paved With Dirt Led to a Waterfall of Joy

Originally published Wednesday, 18 February 2015.

We are driving to the countryside today, where it’s green and luscious. Away from the sweat of the city, the polluted river and the constant honking of car horns cluttering the air.

As rice fields opened their arms to usher us away, even the heavens seemed to open a sky full of freshness for us to breathe.

It seemed like the second day of my Compassion Trip in the Dominican Republic was going to be a natural respite from the burdens of urban life.

But, poverty isn’t a location.

Poverty is injustice. Poverty speaks hopelessness – like a continuous revolving door of critical voices that threaten to extinguish God's light in a child --

You're not important.  Things will never change. You'll never change.

Poverty robs us of the simplest gifts God created for all of us to enjoy.

Let me tell you what I mean.

When I heard we were going to a Special Needs Compassion Center located in Bonao – where children who are blind, deaf and mute areloved on by tutors and teachers, I thought, “Oh, what a beautiful place for children with special needs to receive food, instruction and care.”

I didn't know the real reason this city was chosen by Compassion and it lies under the dirt of Bonao.  

The Voice of One

Compassion makes sure any Service Center they build is only 30 minutes walking distance for the children and families in need.

So, why is this Special Needs Compassion Center specialized to care for marginalized children located out here in the boonies?

The government hasn't authorized any official studies -- but something terrible is happening.  Almost all of these Special Needs Compassion children with defects were born in the same town as a manufacturing plant for a poisonous metal: nickel.

Nickel is a toxic carcinogenic metal that severely damages reproductive health causing birth defects and neurological deficits -- by poisoning the water, soil and air that families, little boys and girls consume.

These children are voiceless and powerless to a corrupt government run by greed that allows the nickel plant to stay.

But, through Compassion, little boys and girls -- who can't see, hear or speak the name of Jesus -- hear The Voice of One who calls them all His: Jesus.

Jesus is speaking the language of love to these children and their families by saying -- "You are loved. You are cherished." Through everyday people like you and me.  Compassion Sponsors.

Meeting Ashley

I met Ashley this morning, when she came to sit beside me during worship at the Compassion Center.  When we were motioned to get up, sing and jump up and down to the music, I hand-signed "Let's jump!"

Ashley smiled but kept shaking her head. I thought she was shy.  I kept signing over and over again "Let's jump!" even as we stood up.  But, her hands kept saying No.

So, I figured she'll join in later as we begin jumping.

As I placed my arms around her to encourage her to jump, we almost fell down together to the floor.

Ashley is crippled in one leg.

The Face of Jesus

She had sneaked in to sit next to me so quietly unnoticed, I didn't notice her limp.  Ashley stood up so strong with her good leg and I was so busy signing her to jump, I didn't even notice she CAN'T jump.

My heart just about died and stopped beating.

As I nearly burst into tears knowing I must have wounded this beloved child of God, guess what Ashley did?

She just grabbed onto my neck and hugged me. And she laughed without making a sound and smiled in her bright shining eyes joy singing loudly her heart with Jesus.

She knows you love her, Bonnie.  Jesus whispered into my ear.  You are the face of my love and her Compassion Sponsor today.  

Can you imagine how happy a little boy or girl who has been waiting -- who feels hopeless in the revolving door of suffering -- will be when they are finally sponsored by you?!

That child will see the face of Jesus through you. And I promise you, she AND her family are going to be leaping for you!

Meeting Arita

Later, Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less and I went to meet Arita and her 4 year old son CompassionChild JoElvis.

The first things Arita told us:

1) She introduced her baby-hugging husband Elvis as the father of both JoElvis and year-old cutie pie sister Yolanny.  This is a really BIG deal in the poverty stricken communities.  The exception. Arita beamed with pride at her treasured possession: love.

2) They are grateful for JoElvis' Sponsor because without Compassion, JoElvis will soon go blind in both eyes. They live day to day -- many days start & end with no income -- even though Elvis spends the whole day walking the streets to find manual labor jobs.

It was a hopeless situation. They could have never afforded any medical care, but thanks to Compassion's special fund for surgeries, the doctors say Elvis will see again!

3) Because of Compassion, Arita's mother and grandmother walked over to meet us in the one room shack & grateful waterfall of thanksgiving cascaded onto us, flowing down to carpet the floors with joy -- pure joy! 

Ruth and I could hardly get a word in edge-wise -- Grandmother had lots of Jesus stories to tell us.  She came to pray for us!  What an unexpected blessing! Pour it on, Grandmother! She and Jesus are tight!

This family is rich, flowing in love and dreams for the future fueled by their Compassion Sponsor!


The more I experience the joy of Compassion Children, the more I see the poverty of the little girl broken in me.  I know what she needs is more compassion -- not less. Because compassion poured out in brokenness leads to joy.

On days I feel trapped by the revolving door of critical voices -- when I feel things can't change -- that I can't change -- I will remember the face of Jesus. In the children who live along a country road.

I will whisper to the little girl in me -- what I saw in the eyes of Compassion Sponsored children today.

You are loved. You are cherished. Just rest.

Be the Face of Jesus to a little boy and girl who cannot escape the revolving door of poverty -- without you. 

Sponsor a child today!

When you welcome a little child on my behalf, you welcome me. - Jesus in Mk9:37

Let's Celebrate!! Children You've Sponsored This Week!

Three friends in our Faith Barista community who posted they just sponsored a new Compassion Child!  So exciting!

If you sponsored a Compassion child this week, I'd love to celebrate with you!  Email me a picture of your child & you at -- not to trumpet our good works (no way!) -- but as a testimony to what Jesus is doing on this #UnscriptedCompassion trip!

Thank you for being courageous to be God's love letter & enter a little girl's story as her sponsor!!

Jennifer De Witt for picking Jonifer in the D.R.

Deb Manwarren and her daughter Emma chose Yulani in the D.R!

Chastity Hargrove chose 3 yr old Ma Eloisa from the Philippines!

Sponsor a child today!  Click here to see all the chilren who are praying and waiting for a sponsor -- EVERY DAY -- in some cases more than a year.  Let's be God's answer to their prayers!

Sponsor a child & receive a special Lisa Leonard Necklace created just for this #CompassionBloggers Trip!  I cannot begin to describe how much love these children have for their sponsors. You are their safe haven.  Your love is Jesus.


{Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's Online Spiritual Whitespace {Face}Book Club. It's free!  You can join anytime by simply liking Bonnie's Facebook Page.  Order a copy of her book and grab a journal!  Find out more & read about it here}



By Bonnie Gray. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, named as the Top 6 notable new religion authors.  Bonnie blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

For inspiration to create space in your life to breathe, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest.  This memoir-driven guidebook for rest will nurture your heart to draw closer to God. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." - Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestselling author of Unglued

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