I had a chance to sit down with Jeff Arnold over lunch and talk about what he does for Compassion — to give you a little peek into behind the scenes at the ministry.
Jeff is a videographer. Here’s just one of the things he might be doing on a typical day:
See more videos from Jeff Arnold on Vimeo.
Jeff’s pretty passionate about what he does — I even got him to cry during the interview! (If you want to know what brought tears to this tough guy’s eyes, read the last question of the interview.)
So what is it you do here at the ministry, Jeff?
I’m the eyes and ears for sponsors through video and photography. I travel along with photographer Chuck Bigger to each country to get stories of sponsored children.
In your year and a half working for Compassion, how many countries have you visited?
Ten: El Salvador, Indonesia, Greece, Philippines, Colombia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
What did you do before you became such a world traveler?
Before, I was an independent contractor for music videos and documentaries. I got to work with artists who were really good at what they do. It was a lot of fun, but at the end of the day it was just entertainment; it didn’t change anyone’s life. At the end of the day with Compassion, you’re making a difference in kids’ lives.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned through your job?
I knew about Compassion before, but I had no idea the difference they make in so many kids’ lives around the world. What I’ve learned most is it’s not just some organization, it’s changing kids’ lives drastically around the globe.
What are some of the most memorable interviews you’ve done?
There’s a kid named Junior in Ecuador. He’s about 16 or 17 now, and Compassion has been helping him since he was 4 or 5.
He lives in a rough neighborhood. We went to get b-roll of his neighborhood at 10 at night. There were people doing drugs, playing cards, and as we were filming, a swat team drove by us in full riot gear.
That moment I realized what a difference we make in Junior’s life because he’s not like the other kids in his community. He has vision and hope and dreams for his future and that drives who he is.
Lia in Indonesia was another one who impacted me. She has learned about business and has challenged her mom who has a small food cart business. Now they have two carts where they’re selling food instead of just one. It’s another story of something small that makes a huge difference.
What experience has impacted you the most?
In Africa, we’ll see kids at a Child Development Center who look healthy, and then we go to their neighborhoods and see the other kids.
Kids enrolled in our program just look completely different; they look healthy. But then you hear their stories of how they live with their grandma because their parents died from AIDS. Africa is hard to come back from. We go back and forth between two different worlds, and the people here have no idea what you’ve seen.
How do you process that?
Talking through it with my wife when I get back is really helpful. Chuck and I talk it over on the plane before we get home. Chuck has helped because he’s been taking pictures for the ministry for so long, and he’s been through the same steps I’m going through. It’s a tough road we walk.
What’s the best piece of advice Chuck has given you?
Always bring toilet paper. He calls it mountain money.
Many people might think you have the ultimate dream job. What do you say to that?
Try traveling 100 to 150 days a year, being on and off airplanes. Your time zones are all messed up, and it takes three to four days to get adjusted.
It’s an amazing job, but it comes with responsibility and a lot of hardships you don’t plan for. It challenges your faith and makes you ask God tough questions. But it also strengthens your faith.
How has working here changed your life?
It has helped me learn how to pack in 30 minutes. It also changed my worldview and outlook on what I need every day to survive versus what I think I need.
What one thing do you want to say to the sponsors?
Write your child! Seriously. It’s gonna make me tear up because we see so many kids who just want to get a letter from their sponsor and they just don’t.