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Admitting Failure

admitting failure I stumbled across this video, and I think it’s worth every second of the 13 minutes it will take you to watch it.

OK, did you watch it?

This video resonates with me because as a marketing writer for Compassion, my whole job is to tell the successes of the ministry. And it’s great; I love it.

There are so many amazing stories out there to tell, that each week I have to cull through handfuls of stories and choose just one or two.

But what about the not-so-happy stories? What do we do with those?

In telling just the happy ones, do we unintentionally insinuate to you that your experience is going to be all roses and puppy dogs? I know from past posts that many of you have experienced what have felt like “fails,” such as when a child left the program and you never found out why.

I don’t think any sponsorship is ever a failure. Regardless of what happens five years down the line, the love a child experiences through sponsorship (whether from you or from the child development workers) and the opportunity to hear the gospel is never in vain.

But what about the times when the tangible “outcome” [3] of sponsorship isn’t quite what we had hoped for?

One of my weekly tasks is to write the prayer requests that we send to our prayer partners in Canada. It breaks my heart every week to see the immense challenges facing the children.

Sometimes, we get prayer requests like this: “Pray for 15-year-old Jessica who is pregnant” or “Pray for Ian who is taking drugs” or “Pray for Daisy who was having suicidal thoughts and ran away.”

Sometimes we can paint a picture (intentionally or not) that if you sponsor a child [4], he or she is going to become a doctor or a pastor and live in a nice house and have 2.5 children and live happily ever after. But the truth is that these are humans, not automatons where we put a sponsorship coin in the slot and they come out shiny, happy people.

Just as we in the developed world can’t guarantee how our children are going to “come out,” we can’t control how a child in the developing world will “come out” (and who would want to, anyway?).

We need to be free to admit “failure,” because as the video says, that’s how we learn.

Maybe a 14-year-old boy left our program and got involved in drugs because he made bad choices, but maybe he also left the program because it simply wasn’t meeting his needs. (Or as they might say, “It was boring.”)

We need to be open to admit such a failing so we can fix the problem.

In this case, it might be that we really need some updated curriculum to engage adolescents in a way that’s fun, helpful and relevant.

(And guess what — our field offices are actually in the process of writing and implementing new curriculum for adolescents for this very purpose!)

But it also takes education — we need to educate you as the sponsor as to what the real needs are. And that takes honesty.

Many times the solutions to these issues aren’t “sexy,” as David in the video says. We might need a spreadsheet “sponsored,” or in this case, curriculum development paid for.

Just as it’s easier to get a well built than to get a spreadsheet sponsored, it may be easier to get a cute smiling child sponsored than it is to get a curriculum funded or a teacher trained.

This isn’t an ask to get you to start funding spreadsheets or curricula (though if you want to read about some of our Canadian office’s educational efforts [5], you can.) But it is to say: we need to be honest and open.

At Compassion, we fail. Things don’t always go the way we wanted them to or planned. We have to be discreet and discerning in what we share, but we also don’t want to paint the picture that we’re perfect. Because we’re not, and that perception only sets us up for even larger failures.

God has blessed us with amazing supporters who support us through thick and thin, and God continues to work through our ministry despite our failings, to our great honor. We humbly ask that you continue to walk alongside us as we strive, fail, and learn from our mistakes.