Compassion Sunday is an annual event that provides sponsors and donors across the United States a chance to speak to their churches on behalf of children in poverty. The purpose is to draw the attention of the Church to the needs of the world’s poorest children.
Each year, dedicated volunteers present Compassion in churches across the country, and tens of thousands of children are sponsored through their efforts.
This year Compassion Sunday is April 18, but if you ever want to host a Compassion Sunday at your church you can choose any date that works best for you … and your church, as Debbi did.
My name is Debbi Akers. I have been an Advocate with Compassion in north Alabama for nearly 1 1/2 years.
As soon as I completed my Advocate training, my first thought was to host a Compassion Sunday at my church. I was on fire, passionate, and thought that was the obvious next step. I was wrong.
Even though the administration at my church was very welcoming of my passion and the ministry of Compassion, their calendar was already set in motion for the holidays and then for the beginning of the year.
Of course, once the first of the year rolled around, Compassion Sunday got pushed back on the church calendar again and again.
If you have ever been told “no” or “maybe next year,” please do not be discouraged. Time that you commit to God for His glory and for His kingdom is never wasted.
As I waited for a later date for Compassion Sunday, the passion God had given me for the least of these and for His ministry through Compassion could not be squelched. I felt that if I did not “speak up for those who could not speak up for themselves,” the rocks would start crying out for those who were suffering! So, I spoke.
I spoke to Sunday school classes, women’s groups, combined classes — anyone in my church who would give me a opportunity.
While doing all this speaking, I was blessed to have about 30 families sponsor me to go on an Advocates tour to Guatemala. After that life-changing trip, I spoke even more.
The beauty of having so many people support me financially on the tour was that they felt they “owned” me when I returned, and I had a duty to speak to their classes and groups and share about my trip!
God’s time was not wasted. He used what I initially perceived as rejection as a time of planting. Seeds were planted throughout my church, and my heart learned to trust Jesus like I probably had not done in a long time. I started to remember what it felt like to rely on Him again as He prepared the fields for harvest.
During that time of planting seeds, I made a chart. It was a simple chart where I kept the name, contact information, child name and reference number for each new sponsorship associated with my efforts. This has proven to be one of the most effective things I have done as an Advocate. As new sponsors came along, I simply add to this chart.
By the time I actually held my Compassion Sunday (Nov. 29, 2009), the list had grown to close to 70 sponsors — one child at a time!
In planning Compassion Sunday, I remembered something Wess Stafford once said about the reason many people do not get involved with charity organizations. He said they do not know where to begin and they do not know who to trust.
Well, having a Compassion Sunday shows people where to begin, but I needed to focus on showing my congregation that Compassion was an organization they could trust.
You can also view It Begins With You on YouTube.
I pulled out my handy, dandy chart of sponsors. If my congregation could see that the leaders and many longtime church members were trusting Compassion, it might make a difference.
I called Compassion and gave them the reference numbers from my chart. Compassion was able to provide me with a digital picture of every sponsored child connected to my church.
I made a simple slide show with those pictures. Each slide had the face of the child and his or her name alongside of the sponsor’s name. Our adult and children’s choirs sang “He Knows My Name” as the slide show was presented. My congregation felt like those children were “their” children.
We were then abundantly blessed to have Miguel Figueroa speak, as a formerly sponsored child and now Leadership Development Program graduate attending Moody Bible Institute.
None of these things could have taken place if the dates I had initially requested had been granted. God’s timing brought about a harvest that surpassed what I had prayed for.
We now have close to 200 sponsors at our church, and the sponsorship table is still up! Each week someone stops by to either ask about sponsoring, pick up some information, ask questions about a current sponsorship, or tell me about a letter received from a child. It is my act of love to sit at that table each week. To Him be all of the glory!
The little chart with sponsor information did not end once the numbers grew. It took on a life of its own. My trip to Guatemala left me with a passion even greater than the one I already had for finding sponsors. It is a passion for getting those sponsors engaged in the lives of the children they sponsor.
With the contact information in hand, I have been able to establish a monthly newsletter for the sponsors in my church. In addition, this past month I offered six different opportunities for members to attend a Compassion 101 class where they could come together and learn how to set up an online account at compassion.com, learn about letter-writing, gifts, trips, blogs and more.
Also, if there is a crisis in a country such as we just experienced in Haiti, I immediately know which sponsors to connect with. Or if there is a blog post that pertains to one of our sponsoring family’s child development centers, I can let them know. Basically, anything that I can do to advocate for the continuing relationship between the sponsor and child is made possible through a simple task of record keeping.
So my fellow Advocates and precious sponsors: Pray. Trust His timing. Pray. Take every opportunity, especially the seemingly insignificant ones, to speak up. Pray. Keep some records if you can. Pray. Enjoy His harvest. And give Him all of the glory.