the house made by compassion :: day 3

I kept my hotel key in my pocket all day today. At first it wasn’t on purpose, just a convenient place to keep it after eating breakfast. Later, as we sat listening to the children sing at the Child Sponsorship Development Program about an hour away from our hotel, I noticed the outline of my keycard in my pants. I started to take it out and put it in my backpack, but something stopped me, and so I left it.

Five hours later, I was on a boat with one of our Compassion trip leaders in a more rural area than yesterday. It was a boat made of styrofoam, fastened together with boards between. It was big enough for three of us to sit on (very carefully) and one person to push in the back, standing with a bamboo stick. It was the only way to get from the road to Emily’s house. I thought it couldn’t get worse than Rose Ann’s house in the city yesterday. Turns out, it kind of can. If you add water.

I keep saying ‘boat’. It was so not a boat. It was more like a raft made of organized trash. You wouldn’t let your kids float on this in a pool, much less have it be the only thing standing between you and a cesspool of water filled with trash and feces. Do you see it there in the picture? Look close.

There on the left is the boat, and I’m guessing on the right is extra materials incase that one falls apart. This boat is important in Emily’s family. It is the only way for them to get into their home and back out again. Sometimes the children just swim over. I said a prayer to the Lord to preserve that boat/raft, and not just because I was on it. They need it. If you have a hard time picturing how that works, Kat has a video up on her blog that shows our visit today.

So as three of us sat statue still balancing on top of the raft, we looked at the row of corrogated tin roofs we were floating towards after leaving Emily’s house. And someone pointed and said “In that whole row of houses live kids who are sponsored by Compassion.” Soon, we start just referring to those type of homes as “Compassion houses.” After that, whenever someone pointed saying That’s a Compassion house, there was a collective sigh of relief.

Because now, I know what that means.

When we got on the bus to drive back to our hotel, I sat numb and bleary eyed, not sure what I was feeling. And Tsh looked at me and said, Just be sure what you’re feeling isn’t guilt. Don’t feel guilty for what you have, thinking you have everything and they have nothing. It isn’t the case.

She’s right. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. Because I was there. I can’t explain it but I also can’t deny it. They have more difficult lives than I will ever know. And some of them die from Malaria or measles or other preventable diseases. But if they meet Jesus, at least they will not die from despair.

It is the only thing that kept me upright today. Because walking through that water in knee high rubber boots, being led by a barefoot boy who was holding our shoes is not something that makes sense. I have been picked up by my ankles and shaken upside down. I have been flipped over like a pancake and flattened like gum on a tire. I have been lost and found and lost all over again.

As we sat in Emily’s house with her brother, sister, their grandmother Lola and their mother Susan, Keely asked what we could pray for them about. We do this at every home visit, and every family asks for the same two things: They ask for good health, and they ask for daily bread. So that is what we prayed for.

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Lamentations 3:19 – 22

And I pat that key card again in my pocket, considering all it represents. Will you join me in praying for good health and daily bread for this family? Would you consider sponsoring a child in one of the homes that isn’t a Compassion home in order to make good health and daily bread a realistic opportunity for someone else? Pick yours out today.


  1. brandy says


    Thanks so much for sharing your experience…your words and pictures and insight are just amazing.


  2. says

    Reading this today does bring guilt to my heart, but not because of what I have and what they don’t. More because of what I have and forget to be thankful for, while they have nothing and are so thankful for everything! Praying for you beautiful ladies as you minister and are ministered to!

  3. says

    I have this lump in my throat as I just sent a picture to Twitter of me sitting in a nice booth at Panera writing today. Clueless. Oh friend, may we be moved to act not simply moved with sympathy. Love you. Praying and believing that He has you there with great great purpose.

  4. says

    Oh Emily, I know how hard it is to see all that. Several years ago we visited some friends who work with street kids in Brazil, and they took us to a favela to meet a family (very similar to what you’re doing). The poverty wass overwhelming, and later when we talked to our friend (a missionary) about our guilt, he said we should not feel guilty. He reminded us of the place in scripture where Paul says that some are called to go and some are called to send. My husband and I are senders. We take our responsibility very seriously. It’s great to go and see what we’re supporting, but we need to do all we can on this end to send others.

    Tsh is right. Guilt is not productive. What you’re doing–getting the message out–is very productive. Hang in there!!!

  5. says

    This is what keeps me up at night:

    “Because walking through that water in knee high rubber boots, being led by a barefoot boy who was holding our shoes is not something that makes sense. I have been picked up by my ankles and shaken upside down. I have been flipped over like a pancake and flattened like gum on a tire. I have been lost and found and lost all over again.”

    Poverty doesn’t make sense. Wealth doesn’t either.
    Praying that Jesus helps you sort it all out.
    Praying that for me too. Still.

    • says

      Following closely, praying fervently, crying often and feeling Him push me into more and more action. Thank you Emily for opening yourself up and sharing every single emotion and feeling… and I am praying Kristen’s prayer with her. Love and grace girl…

  6. says

    Praying exactly what Kristen is praying… and saying.
    And once you’ve been there — there is, thankfully, no going back.
    The world doesn’t make sense — and now, all of a sudden, it does.
    What we are here for… Why we are here.

    And what we’re feeling — no, not guilt.

    Just the stirring of the call of God.

    Love a thousand times over, Emily.

    He’s taking us to the best places through these roads…

    Walking with you, sister…
    All’s grace,

  7. says

    I feel your waiting, sense the breaths you are taking without yet knowing how this is changing you, how it will change you. Your eyes are open, your heart is open, and you share that open here, opening us. I wonder, what beginning is this that He is working?



  8. says

    Its an odd feeling, isn’t it? To not know what to feel inside. To feel God knocking on your soul with his requests and you feel empty handed. I’m praying for you. And I’m praying for them. God has never left us empty handed or empty hearted, He is faithful to give what we need for His glory.

    One step at a time, Emily.



  9. Steve Jones says

    Tears a streamin. Your story today (and Kat’s) makes my heart hurt. I love how Kat said it, “Because I saw what I saw and I’m not going back…” Thank you for being willing to be “shaken upside down” and then share it with us. And thank you for giving what this is costing your heart.

  10. says

    Just sitting here sort of speechless looking at your photos, reading your words… praying continually for you all on this trip, that God will continue to move and stir hearts and bless all of those who are there, who read these updates, who hear the stories, and more. It is amazing how God works- how he is working even now, as you all minister, and are ministered to…. praying praying praying! Many blessings and grace to you, and the rest of the bloggers there with you. And of course, for the people of the Philippines. <

  11. says

    Praying for their boat. Praying for your heart and head to wrap around this in a mighty way, a way only God can wrap a head and heart around something so foreign.

    Keep on truckin’, sister. You’re doing great. He is moving!!!

  12. says

    i was ok with you walking in rubber boots. i was ok until i saw him barefoot and holding your shoes. that’s when the tears came.

    you’re so right that it doesn’t mean that we have everything and they have nothing…even though it feels so much like that. but so much of the time, i think we’re the ones missing it. we’re the ones so desperately trying to grasp what they have had all along… contentment and peace, and the knowledge that only one thing is needed.

  13. says

    There just are not words to accurately describe what you see, let alone what you are feeling and we cannot begin to understand it without being there. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to understand and trying to make things better for you and others. Times like these are when we really know how deep our faith really is because it’s the only thing deep enough to sustain us. You are there for a reason and on days like this it may be hard to even imagine what that purpose it…but in time you will. So while you wait…continue to share your journey and we will hold you up as much as possible. Bless you all. Fondly, Roberta

  14. says

    There is a fine line between the feeling of guilt and the feeling that we must. DO. something.

    A week and a half ago, after tossing and turning thoughts, I bought a used Canon camera on Craigslist. I love the camera and had been pining for one for years, but I also see it through the eyes of Compassion. I paid just under a half a year’s sponsorship for it.

    I do feel a twinge of guilt for buying myself a “want” instead of fulfilling a “need” for someone else. But, I hope that some day I may take the camera on a trip to visit one of our Compassion kids. Perhaps I can document and tell a story like your team is. Moving hearts.

    I thank you for sharing these words and images. We are praying for you all.

  15. says

    I’ve been wanting to comment on each of these posts, because they’ve meant so much and I can’t get them out of my head. But I didn’t know what to say. Thanks for being there and sharing it with us.

  16. says

    “Because …being led by a barefoot boy who was holding our shoes is not something that makes sense.” I so understand this! When I spent time in Nepal after college, the orphanage children made pictures for me. Out of the ONE piece of paper they had for the week. I felt like crap, like I was taking something – stealing from them, even. But the local pastor rebuked me and said “do what you can, but let them do it too. Serving others gives them dignity.” That hit me hard. Praying for strength for you and supernatural wisdom about when to let them serve (and to wholeheartedly allow it to minister to you) and when to serve them. Such a tough rope to walk! Hugs, girl!

  17. says

    thanks for sharing. no words, really, but love Tsh’s perspective and also the perspective that in many ways the people you are among may be more blessed than we will ever know for they are able to know and depend on the Savior in a way that we would not even think to do. So may you be blessed on your trip by their love for Jesus and for you, just as they are blessed through the efforts of Compassion and the love of Jesus.

    Praying for health, daily bread, and sponsors.

  18. steph says

    Thanks so much for your blog. I am following the tour as I have two sponsored kids from the Philippines and I love it! Your Emily is beautiful! Thanks for bringing these pictures and these sweet words and this great verse. Praying friend.

  19. says

    Thank you for going and wading around in the muck, it helps those of us here know that maybe we are actually the ones wading in the trash. And that’s not guilt talking, just perhaps a reality for this first world girl…Love you Emily.

  20. Sissy says

    Sometimes it is the words, and sometimes it is the pictures, but it is always Jesus. Thank you, Emily.

  21. says

    Thank you for showing us Emily’s house.

    You know, I think I mostly agree with what Tsh said…guilt is not a helpful reaction. It doesn’t do anyone any good. But I think maybe the root of that guilt, or the truthy bloom of it is important. I think it’s ok to start to see the disparity between us and everyone else and realize that it’s really not alright. I just don’t want a scapegoat anymore. I don’t want to console myself with “it is what it is”, because it’s ways more than that. And way less.

    Keep this stuff coming, Sister. We’re right here.

  22. says

    The Lord is using this suffering that you are seeing to help bring awareness to others!! I just sponsored another compassion child 3 minutes ago because I felt compelled by the words from your post today!!

    May the Lord continue to use your experience first hand to help more of the Philippines to become filled with Compassion Houses!!


  23. Lisa says

    I’am enjoying following your journey in the Philippines! I sponsor a child there….Dymel. As I’m learning from her about life there and watching your journey there it gives me hope that one day I will be able to go meet Dymel. May God continue to bless you and keep you safe….your in my prayers!


  24. says

    i realized that i quoted this on twitter but never came back to comment. this struck me to my core, emily. you are doing beautifully and i’m SO proud of you!

  25. says

    With tears strolling down my cheeks, I can say only that your words are powerful. Powerful for me, who has waded through such an experience. It takes me back, and returns me to that place where I want to stay. So powerful too, for those who can not imagine such poverty.

    May God bless each blog post that your team writes, multiplying those who are willing to sponsor.


  26. says

    These posts are like a tuning fork, reorienting my focus to where it needs to be…prayer, gratitude, Jesus. Each day I look forward to what you have to write. It is all just amazing and surreal and I’m not even there.

    Praying for you!

  27. says

    This is an amazing week. I appreciate your words & your pictures. With humble prayers for health & daily bread. Be blessed as you go ~

  28. says

    Oh my…that home on the water? Or rather, in the water? I’ve never seen or heard anything like that.

    You are doing so well, Emily. You are. And you will take what you have and know and do many, many more good things.

    Much love to you…

  29. says

    If it helps at all in the least little way, all of your stories that I am following for the first time has finally galvanised me and my family into action and we will be sponsoring a child within days. It isn’t that I haven’t even witnessed this kind of poverty or tried to help before. We have lived in two third world countries over the last four years. But the commitment of Compassion has touched our hearts and we are looking forward to contributing in our own small way with them. Bless you all for the beautiful way you are telling your stories.

  30. says

    What a beautiful work God is doing in so many ways… in those families, in the hearts of you and your team members and in the hearts of all of your readers! I love World Vision but now you are opening my eyes to the work of Compassion. Wow. I want to sponsor a child. This is just incredible.

  31. says

    as always, love reading your journey here. love seeing this desperate part of the world through your eyes. even though i’ve never been, it gives me a taste of it.

    love the phrase-“the house that compassion built.”
    and, i am sitting here, chewing, like you, on if that is a statement that could define my own days.

    praying for you all as you continue on the journey. thanks for the gift of sharing it.

  32. says

    All I can think of (all I could think of) is “His ways are not my ways…his ways are better…” and it became a sort of mantra, the kind you tell yourself but don’t feel in your gut. It’s belief because God said so, not because it makes one lick of sense.

    Praying for you this morning friend. Your words are good. :)

  33. says

    This post is so beautiful…those beautiful people are rich in ways that we are not. Seems like as we share our financial wealth with them, they share their social wealth-the wealth of warm smiles, close relationships and time well spent-with us.

    Thank you so much for bringing us with you.

  34. says

    Hey Emily. Sitting here, totally ovecome. By your post, my own memories of my trip to Ecudaor with Compassion, the phrase “a Compassion house” and the nearness of our Lord who cares so much for these people.

    For me, there was also the phrase “a Compassion kid.” I would see all these children in abject poverty and I saw no way for their lives to improve. Then I would be told, “That one is a Compassion kid.” And the sigh of relief – knowing that one would get some extra food, education, healthcare, love – and most importantly, an introduction to Christ who saves.

    Praying for your trip. Hugs ~ Rachel

  35. says

    Em – why are they living in the water? I hate that they have to go across dirty water to get to their house, what happens when it rains, how do they stay safe from thunderstorms? Ugh… I have 2 children in the Philippines and had no idea they could be living like this… My eyes are filled with tears and my heart is cracking at the thought of this…

    • says

      When it floods, all their stuff gets wet (we asked). It didn’t used to be this deep, but there was a flood last year in September and the water rose higher. They aren’t safe from thunderstorms. Or tsunamis. Or typhoons. They aren’t safe.

      It is heartbreaking. But. There is still hope. Somehow, they’ve got it.

  36. NCJill says

    Did you know that you are one of the few people who can make my eyes well up and “leak” on a regular basis Miss Emily? I love that about you and your beautiful writing. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. I’m gonna go hug my Asian Princess. Love and sweet prayers to you, friend.

  37. says

    Such an amazing story. Thanks so much for posting. There is no question we have been blessed in the US to be a blessing to others.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your trip with us!

  38. says

    The pictures are gutting. But the Jesus? He’s beautiful. And I see him there.

    Thank you for keeping your eyes open this week so we might see Him and them, Emily. You are our window. May God bless you for it a thousand times over. May the cracks of this week seep Jesus grace over you for the rest of your life.

  39. Jane Salise says

    I grew up dirt poor in the Philippines. But I was OK with being poor because we have Jesus. Now that I am in the US, I live below my means so I can help my siblings who are still there. Thank you for what you are doing for my people. May the Lord bless you.

  40. says

    It is always a great feeling when I see people like you even here in Cambodia. There are a lot of people from Europe and USA who teach these kids some basic english so that they can survive in this tourist world
    Thanks again all you people who are helping others in some way or the other

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