Several years ago when I started sponsoring a child through Compassion, I thought I was doing a good thing. I made a small but noticeable donation to a nonprofit doing great work. Some little kid in India had a better life, I felt good for caring for the poor, the kid probably felt better because he had more food to eat, I was being oh-so-Jesus-like, and all was well with the world.
Then, I went. I went to where “the kid” lived. And I discovered something.
I discovered that this child sponsorship thing isn’t a game to make rich (or middle-class) people and poor people feel better about themselves.
I walked the prostitute-filled streets of Mexico City. I walked among the sick and dying lying hopeless outside the Buddhist temples in Kolkata. I walked between the standing puddles of water left over from floods that had brought down a string of houses in the Dominican Republic like a row of dominoes.
I saw poverty and the reach of its ugly hand. The beautiful young Latina girls who would sell themselves away for almost nothing because they needed money and, let’s face it, what were they really worth anyway? No one was going to rescue them.
The orphans of lepers and cripples in India, begging for food and being smacked upside the head by a passerby for being “bothersome.” Where would they go? They are no one, nameless to the world.
And the Dominican Republic … what is the DR if not a place for drug lords and dealers to get rich off the poor and addicted?
This is the world I live in, though I often choose to block out the images and pretend they don’t exist.
This is the world Compassion lives in. And they refuse to close their eyes.
Compassion releases children from poverty in Jesus’ name. They do not simply release children from the economic plight of poverty. They provide them with the hope that can only come from Jesus, the hope that says,
“You matter. You are precious. You are made in God’s image. You have a purpose. We refuse to let you believe that you are no one, that you don’t matter.”
Yes, they meet the physical needs. That’s imperative. But meeting physical needs in a life devoid of hope isn’t enough. Meeting physical needs by extending the hope of a life in Jesus, though — that produces transformation.
And so I discovered just that. Transformation. For while I saw what appeared to be endless lines of prostitutes along the colorful streets of Mexico City, I also saw young girls and boys who entered the doors of a Compassion child development center in a local church, received nutritious meals, health screenings and checkups, tutoring and life-skills classes, and were personally loved and cared for by families within the church.
In India I saw young children in school uniforms who sang songs and created beautiful works of art, who were no longer captivated by the lie that told them that just because they came off the streets, they were trash.
In the DR I saw hope and life in the eyes of young teenagers who were refusing to deal drugs or join gangs because they had another reason to live. That reason just happened to have a name. They called him Jesus.
I discovered that child sponsorship isn’t about making me feel better. It’s about transforming lives — in every sense of the word, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. And I became, in a word, humbled. Even a little humiliated.
For $38 a month (which has at times been pocket change and at times been a sacrifice), I get to provide the bridge needed for a child to cross over from the streets to the Compassion child development center, from the land of hopelessness to a place of love, hope and joy.
As a sponsor, I’m not a part of making someone just feel better. I’m a part of a transformation.
When I returned home, I quickly realized that so many of my own friends and family members were right where I had been. They didn’t know the reality of so many kids in our world today, the hopelessness that binds itself around the hearts of children because the kids are caught in the grip of poverty.
My friends and family didn’t know because they hadn’t seen it. Or, maybe they knew about it, but they didn’t know what could be done to really make a difference.
I was a little overwhelmed — how could I communicate all that was on my heart?
My journey of discoveries led me to Compassion’s Advocates Network. The Advocates Network is a team of volunteers who commit to speak up in their spheres of influence on behalf of children in poverty.
These child advocates create and share resources, provide coaching and training and spiritual retreats. They pray for each other and know each other by name. They get that advocacy on behalf of children is hard — and desperately important. So they encourage each other to press on.
Has your heart been broken by the reality in which your sponsored child lives? Do you want to do more on behalf of your child?
Become a part of our movement to see hundreds of thousands more children released from the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. Become a child advocate. I’d love to have you join me.