Milvia lives just outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. In her neighborhood, violent tropical storms drive rain through the holes in rusty tin roofs. Puddles collect on the dirt floors, and water runs right out the door.
It isn’t the best environment for a child to grow up in.
Enter EJ Swanson, a speaker at various youth events and churches throughout the US, became interested in partnering with our team of speakers and artists. He started by sponsoring Milvia.
When Milvia’s sponsorship packet and photo arrived at the Swanson home, EJ and his wife, Abbey, both felt connected to Milvia through her smile. But when EJ visited Milvia’s home in the Dominican Republic and saw the conditions she was living in, his heart jumped in all the way.
“When I stood in Milvia’s tiny, nearly un-liveable house with walls leaning sideways, spiders in the rafters, and a muddy floor, it really hit me. This is the way most of the world lives, and we stand by and don’t do anything about it.
“Sooner or later, someone has to stop watching and do something!”
EJ knew Milvia’s involvement with our ministry would help meet her basic needs, but he wanted to make a gift to the family to help fix their home quickly.
Because EJ speaks regularly at camps and conferences across the country, he saw an opportunity to meet two needs at once – in a practical and visible way. He could raise some money for Milvia’s family, and he could help disciple students at the same time.
“I speak to a lot of younger audiences, and I want them to really get it – that Jesus can change their lives and change others through them. And part of that means not just standing around and waiting. It means actively doing things to love Jesus and love people.”
EJ decided to begin selling fashionable watches to students, asking them to “stop watching and start doing,” and the response floored him.
The funds to help Milvia’s family were raised so fast that EJ found himself looking for more places to give money. The idea turned into a new business called “I Won’t Watch,” and since November 2011, iwontwatch.com has been able to send more than $25,000 to the ministry.
“It’s been really fun to see this take off because I really believe we can end extreme poverty in our lifetime. It has to with everything about how we live.
“I wear a watch for lots of reasons: I want to know what time it is, the color may match my shoes, and it’s a fashion statement.
“But I have choice in the process – I can buy my clothes and other things in a way that I know helps someone, instead of just being about a higher profit for the business owner.
“And it’s very exciting with “I Wont Watch” to know I’m able to channel money through Compassion and know it’s actually making a difference.”
EJ Swanson is just one example of a Christian speaker who is using his influence to help people understand Compassion’s ministry.
I’ll share more about EJ’s story throughout the month of July, but you can see the whole list of speakers who work with us here: compassion.com/speakers.
Photos courtesy of Abbey Swanson.