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The opulent ability to give

I‘ve written many times before about the benefits of living within your means. There’s a spirit of contentment that often emerges when you curb your spending habits. Your desires are often tempered as an unexpected byproduct. That brand spankin’ new car doesn’t seem quite as important. You can skip a latte or two and not get the shakes.

But what’s really cool about all this is that you don’t have to wait to be debt-free, or to reach some other magical goal, to reap the benefits now. As soon as you start living within your means, you have more freedom to give. You can give to things that really matter — things that reap a lot of rewards for not much money.

It’s day two of my trip with Compassion in the Philippines, and today, I went to Denise’s house.

I thought I lived in a small house. There are five of us, and currently we share about 1,100 square feet. We’re pretty maxed on space, and we don’t have needless stuff. What we have, we use, and our three kids share a room. We’re looking forward to moving out in a few weeks and hopefully enjoying one extra bedroom.

But we don’t live in ONE. ROOM. total.

Denise does.

Denise lives with her two brothers, her mother, and her father in — literally — one room. And not just any room… this room is about 8×8 feet squared. About the size of a typical American walk-in closet.

They lay out blankets at night. And in the morning, they fold them up next to the sewing machine, where Adalyn makes most of her children’s clothing.

They make breakfast in the hallway, where there waits a shared kitchen for five other adults and nine other children.

There’s another family the same size in the next room — Denise’s aunt, uncle, and cousins. Her grandmother sleeps in the shared kitchen.

There’s also a hole in the wall between their room and another family’s next door. The two families are not related.

I’ve seen a lot in the world. I’ve been blessed to experience a lot of cultures and receive hospitality in many minuscule homes.

But I don’t think I’ve witnessed poverty quite like this.

This precious girl that my family is sponsoring lives at the brink of despair. And not only that, there were throngs of children, emerging from holes and spaces in the corrugated metal walls as we walked by. Scores of little ones sharing with their entire family a room the size many of us store our clothes.

Analyn, Denise’s mom, told me her husband makes about $100 per month as a driver for local government officials. It didn’t take long for me, inapt at math though I am, to calculate how far my additional $38 to her family goes.

And as the rain started misting, Denise’s wrinkled grandmother gathered the laundry with a smile on her face, joyful because there were visitors in her home.

Analyn, holding my hand, apologized that she had nothing to give me to eat.

You and I, we need to budget our money so that we can be good stewards. I believe that God blesses our family’s work so that we can provide for our kid’s needs, and to occasionally, enjoy some wants.

But the mere fact that we have money to steward? The freedom to choose where our money goes? That’s a luxury. Our mere ability to give is opulence.

Denise’s family is renown in her little shanty, rooms on top of rooms full of families just like hers. Her neighbors clamored to glimpse at photos of my children, eager to see children not all that unlike them.

Might I encourage you to see which children in the Philippines, like Denise, aren’t yet sponsored? And would you prayerfully consider signing up to sponsor one?

As a family, we chose Denise simply because she’s a six-year-old girl, and we thought Tate would enjoy that. We plan to sponsor her for years, and these two girls can write each other, pray for each other, and get to know each other as faraway friends.

Today, she got to “meet” Tate and her kitten Pepper.

You might not be able to sponsor a child right now, and that’s okay. You need to provide for your own household, to be sure.

Kiss your children, and love on them as you provide. Thank God that you can. And when you do, remember Denise, her family, and the countless other children worldwide in abject poverty. Encourage your kids to pray for them with you.

If you’d like to hear more about Compassion’s financial integrity, you can read Shaun’s post today (it’s actually a really cool story). If you’re like me, you might want to know that the money you give actually goes where it’s supposed to.

Or would you like to just know what Compassion is? He recently wrote a good post about that, too.

Compassion Bloggers: Philippines 2011You can also follow along with the other bloggers I’m with, and tell your readers that you’re reading by pasting that button provided. We all experienced some pretty cool stuff today.

I’ll be sharing soon what, exactly, happens when you sponsor kids like Denise.

Do you have any questions about Compassion? The Philippines? I’d love to hear if there’s anything you’d like me to share this week.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Martine

    Tsh, it’s great that you and the other Compassion bloggers are here in Manila. I, too, have been serving the Lord through urban missions. In fact, I grew up doing mission work among the poor folk in Manila, and learned how to speak my native language just through missions to the poor. (We didn’t grow up here in Manila.)

    It is such a blessing to have you in our country. Thanks for touching our people, your sponsored kids, with your love.

  2. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies

    In 2009, we had the fears that many had when considering sponsorship. A one (modest) income family with children, could we manage to spare $38 per month? We took a leap of faith, one that God has blessed in ways we never imagined.

    Now, two years later, our Compassion family grows and grows. Our views on wants and needs has changed so completely that we are livin’ better on less income and still have enough to spare to send financial gifts to our nine CI kids from time to time. We. Are. Blessed. Compassion has become a passion for our family. It has changed us in ways we never anticipated. I know that our CI children around the world reap the benefits of the program and also our monthly letters of love and encouragement. When we get a letter back, we do a Happy Dance. This is more than just giving, it is growing a connection!

    The one time in the Bible where God says, “Test me in this” is when it comes to giving. To anyone who is unsure about taking that leap, I would have to say, just about every leap of faith comes with a moment of worry and trepidation. From our experience, I think it is a leap you will not soon regret.

    • Tsh

      Thank you for sharing, Michelle!

    • Sarah G

      What an awesome testimony. We’ve been considering growing our compassion family too : ) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    Tsh, this is amazing. Can you please fill me in on how you went about doing this, and what made you decide to do this?

    I admire you for this.

  4. Alisa

    “But the mere fact that we have money to steward? The freedom to choose where our money goes? That’s a luxury. Our mere ability to give is opulence.” Great reminder to me today. Thank you!

  5. Mandy

    This is just what I needed to read today! I am currently sponsoring kids through World Vision, but Compassion International is awesome, too. I’ve been wrestling with finances lately – how much to give and where. It’s so important for me to remember that I am rich, and the reason I am rich is so that I can help those who are not. I’ve had it on my mind lately to sponsor another child. Maybe now is the time.

  6. Helen

    Thank you, Tsh, for this wonderful post! I’ve been following your blog (and have your book on my wish list) with a “someday I’ll get down to simplifying” mindset. Your post today really spoke to me about making changes in my priorities now, not tomorrow! Thank you!

  7. Lindsay Sledge

    Thank you, well said. I sponsor a little boy in Africa and sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much that $38 means to them.

  8. Prerna

    OMG.. My eyes misted over and a lump formed in my throat as I read this. All the while I kept thinking, “why am I not doing this here?” I’m in India and we have LOTS of families like Denise all around us here. Now is my chance to live “opulent charity” and actually support a child from one such family. Am going to see if Compassion works with families here in India, else I’ll probably find a local charity that I can trust and work with them.

    Thank you, Tsh, Kat and all the other Compassion bloggers!

    • Cheri

      They do indeed work in India! How cool would it be to sponsor someone and be able to meet them.

    • Tsh

      That’s very cool, Prerna. And yes, they do have children in India!

  9. desiree

    What a wonderful post. I love compassion international! I love the boy we sponsor. We have sponsored him for almost 5 years and it has been amazing to see him grown into a young man of faith. It is such a huge blessing from God. 🙂 Good luck to you all in the rest of your adventures. -dez

  10. Windy

    Hi, Tsh. It sounds like an amazing trip. Is Denise in Manila or has the group moved on to another city? Our Lordylien is in the Philippines and I am loving seeing the pictures of her environment.

    • Tsh

      She is in Manila. Today we’re heading out to another city (I think), so we’re seeing other areas in the Philippines that Compassion works with, but Denise is here in the capital. And actually, the local Compassion center through which she receives her care is the largest one in the world. It was pretty amazing to see.

  11. We are THAT family

    Stunning post, Tsh. Thanks for asking the hard questions.

  12. dmd

    An awesome and inspiring post!

  13. Jessica

    Yes! This–> “You and I, we need to budget our money so that we can be good stewards.”

    It hurts to hear people say they can’t afford to give to missions or support a child through Compassion or stop supporting a child, because they don’t have enough money with a latte in hand.

    How often do we spend $5 here and there each month that could easily sponsor a child!

  14. oh amanda {impress your kids}

    “But the mere fact that we have money to steward? The freedom to choose where our money goes? That’s a luxury. Our mere ability to give is opulence.” <—that's it!

    We *do* live in opulence just because we CAN give. Thank you for the huge reminder!

  15. Lisa

    Great perspective on the resources God has given us and how to be good stewards to bless others. Thanks for sharing with us this amazing visit and ways that we can be involved in lives there.

  16. Jill Foley

    Great post! I took a step of faith 16 years ago while in college and sponsored my first child. I quickly realized just how far my meager $24 a month (yes it was cheaper back then!) went, but was unable to sponsor more children. So….I became an advocate. For those of you who sponsor and want to do more but can’t financially – consider joining Compassion’s Advocate Network!

    16 years have passed and our Compassion Family has grown to a number that I used to dream of. God is truly amazing and I give Him all the glory for what he has done in our lives through this amazing ministry.

    My own advocacy has taken a new turn this year and I am focusing on helping others make Compassion a family oriented ministry. I have a blog called Compassion Family and would love others to check and see if it’s a useful resource for them.

    Blessings and prayers to you and the rest of the team!

  17. domestosgoddess

    That’s fabulous. I’ve often thought that the only reason I would wish for riches is so that I could give them away again. In the meantime I make monthly donations to two charities here in England (one of which is international) and also work for free for a full day each week fundraising for a hospice for people suffering from life-limiting illness. I can’t tell you how enriching this is.

    May God bless your work and further your message.

  18. Leanne

    Thanks for this post. I had recently read of the plight of girls in India, and was saddened that I am both too poor and too old to adopt from there. But now, thanks to your post, I am sponsoring a little girl in India (close to my youngest daughter’s age). Thanks again.

  19. Jacque Watkins

    Thank you for sharing this with us, that we can live vicariously through you all and challenge our hearts to love as Jesus does. May many be moved to sponsorship in these days ahead…extending love in His name.

  20. Jeff Wise

    Thank you for the great post! My wife and I have been debt free for three years now minus the house and we don’t intend to go back. The freedom we feel is great and we have the ability to give more than we ever have before.

  21. Chris

    Thank you for the beautiful post. Giving has been on my heart so much lately. Compassion is a wonderful organization and we sponsor a little boy from Tanzania. Your experience has helped me have a visual of how he might live and how important that little money I send each month is. Thank you for reminding me that my home and everything I have are more than enough. Your post has really touched me…

  22. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. It’s so, so good to be reminded of our abundance. It puts many things in perspective, for sure.

  23. Hannah

    Tsh, this is so breathtaking, in every way. THANK YOU for sharing it with us and making it all the more concrete. Like you, we’ve chosen our Compassion children based on their age/gender similarities to our own children, and each of our kids consider them “their” Compassion kids. How wonderful it would be to meet them some day! Unfortunately, ours are spread more around the globe. Did you go on this trip to the Philippines because your child(ren) was there?

  24. Carole

    I’ve been following your blog since it’s launch which makes these Compassion posts more personal than just “any” bloggers thoughts. This post is inspiring and thought provoking all in one. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Susan {LilbearMe}

    “The freedom to choose where our money goes”…yes, I love this part the most. I never thought about this as a luxury. Wow, what immense blessings we have when we *get* to give to others. Beautiful post, Tsh…thank you!

  26. Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama

    “The freedom to choose where our money goes? That’s a luxury.” – what an observation! Thank you Tsh, for a reason much more exciting than “because Dave Ramsey says so” to keep at the budget 🙂

  27. De

    I can hardly grasp the stark contrast between the conditions and circumstances and the joy on their faces. What an image!

  28. Ashley Chand

    Hello! The link to sponsor a child didn’t work for me. Can you send it again? My husband grew up in the Philippines and the stories he has amaze me and remind me how blessed we are. We won’t are daughter to know this too!

    • Tsh

      Eek! It’s fixed now. Thanks for pointing that out. Here it is again, if it’s easier to just click here instead of scrolling through the post.

  29. Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    The opulent privilege to give… to choose to give away. What a lavish joy! That I too often take for granted.

    With you, Tsh… wearing my bracelet to remember a thousand times through the day.

    And the words and stories and pictures you are giving us? Are compelling, moving and necessary.
    *Thank you*….
    With you, friend… with you…

  30. Jennie

    Thank you for your post on CI. After reading your first post about meeting Denise I felt I needed to look into this for my family. With in 20 minutes I was sponsoring a child in Tanzania. Choosing a child was an easy choice for me. Our child was 7, the same age as my son and she had been on the CI list for over 6 months. She needed to be sponsored now. What a wonderful blessing this will be for me and my family. I have two young children and we are so excited to meet our new friend. My children are already talking about drawing her pictures and sending her letters and it has been less that 48 hours since we signed up. Thank you for your stories. You are doing a wonderful thing.

  31. Tammy aka @Tammy_Skipper

    I can’t believe how shaken I feel reading of the journey you are all taking there this week. I read this post yesterday, then today when I read what you said to Emily at Chatting At the Sky, I realized what I wanted to ask: how do you deal with that feeling of ‘guilt?’

    I took my daughter to gymnastics last night. What we pay for a month there would pay for more than one Compassion child sponsorship. But my daughter loves it, it is teaching her confidence, keeping her strong, challenging her. How do we balance what our opportunities are here with what our funds can do around the world?

    • Tsh

      Great question, Tammy. I’ll address this soon.

  32. Laura

    As of five minutes ago, we are now sponsoring an 11 year old boy named Samuel who lives in Ghana. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve heard of Compassion for years, but had never actually taken the time to think about it, learn about it, and contemplate actually sponsoring a child. I wrote up this whole email to my husband outlining why I wanted to do this and what I thought we could cut out to be able to afford it, thinking he would balk, but he barely even read it and said “I’m in, let’s do it.” I’m so excited to receive my packet in the mail!

  33. Jessica

    This post means so much to me…thank you. I visited the Philippines in 2007 as a leader for a group of teenagers on a summer mission trip. These pictures bring back so many memories. We visited people who had homes built in the town dump, we passed a lot homes similar to what you described. This is such a reminder to me because now that it’s several years later and I’m no longer involved in missions like I used to be it’s been so easy for me to get involved in life and forget that my life, even though we are not wealthy, is pure opulence compared to the reality so many other people around the world face today. I’ve been stuck in mediocrity and been blind to what I once experienced so clearly. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Thank you for waking me up and making me think about the world outside again.

  34. Jessica A

    Thank you for the wonderful post and sharing your experience visiting your sponsored child. I was born in the Philippines and had a sponsor family from Ohio until I was 10 years old. Then I was adopted to a christian family here in the US when I was 12. My husband and I have been sponsoring Roman from the Philippines for 9 years now and had a chance to visit him 5 years ago.

    I just recently reconnected with my sponsor family in Ohio thru Facebook. I have been looking and praying that someday we will meet again. They have made a difference in my life and I wish to do the same thing for Roman too.


  35. Erin

    It really puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it? Even when we live a very simple, frugal, North American life, we are so wealthy. We have a Compassion boy in Kenya–I would love to take my family to meet him sometime.

  36. Kristen

    We bought a home a few years ago that is much larger than we need. We knew it at the time, yet there were no other homes on the market in the good school district side of town. We could afford it and I don’t have any regrets except when its time to clean it. But I type this with a lump in my throat as I stare at my 8×8 closet-half filled because who needs enough clothes and shoes to fill an 8×8 space. Pretty soon I will put my two little girls down to nap in the same room that they share because they enjoy sharing. When I do, I will pass by the nursery that is waiting empty for the next baby to arrive, the office, the craft room, and two bathrooms. I have always known I was fortunate and I’ve been very grateful for what I have. Today learning about a family of five that shares a home the same size as my closet makes me feel so extravagant and compelled to help others. Thank you.

  37. Roberta

    I am just so amazed as to how proud these people are to have you in their homes. That and the fact that they take so much pride in their homes and how clean they are able to keep their homes and their clothes…especially considering the water conditions they have. I’m also happy to see how their communities support each other…in lieu of causing crimes and hurting each other. No running to the local pharmacy for anti-depresents like so many Americans (like many of my friends and family 😉 I’m finding all the bloggers home visits inspiring and hopeful!!!

  38. Tricia Kolsto

    Hi Tsh
    Because of your post I just signed up to sponsor two little girls. I am believing God will allow us to provide for them for many years to come.


  39. Meghan @ Spicy Magnolia

    I love this: giving is an opulent opportunity. And you know what, most of the people I’ve interacted with and met across the world who have considerably less means than our family, who live on $100 a month, know the joy of giving. Amazingly, they see it as an opulent opportunity in their hearts as well.

  40. Carter

    Hi Tsh, I want to thank you for this post because I have such a hard time getting certain people to understand exactly how poor people living overseas are. I hear a lot of people saying “no one ever gave me charity,” and “they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, like I did.” Your pictures and stories helped me show them that true poverty does not mean running out of money to pay your cell phone bill. This article will help me remind my children that even though we have “less than” some of our neighbors, we are still rich.

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