purifying fire Most of the time, when I read the verse below, I walk away thankful for God’s faithfulness and His promise to forgive in the midst of mistakes.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1: 8-9, NIV).

I just realized that I have often skipped over the other part: John says that God is also just to purify us from unrighteousness.

Have you ever watched purification in progress? Think about a precious metal like gold. Gold is purified in only one way: with fire. And we’re not talking an outward brush with the flames.

Purification comes from being plunged into the heart of the fire — the place where fire is harshest and turns blue — and being kept there until that which is being purified loses any resemblance to what it once was.

Having been purified, the gold can be molded according to the will of the goldsmith. It only loses contact with the fire when its final shape has been formed.

When we, as believers, confess our sin, God not only promises to be faithful (which He always is) and to forgive us (which He always does); He promises to engage us in the painful process of purification in order to cleanse us from the sin that is tearing us apart.

In my role as a child advocate, I have sometimes encountered people who say they will get involved with Compassion or get involved in caring for the poor when they find “a program that actually works.”

What they usually mean is that they will get involved when they find a program that is perfect.

The problem is that there is no such program. People are messy. If you are going to minister with and to people, or let others minister to you, you are going to get dirty, dazed and confused.

Compassion is an awesome ministry. It is committed to integrity, and to be church-based, child-focused and Christ-centered. I have seen it uphold each of these standards and am proud to advocate for the work they do.

But sometimes things happen. I met a couple at an event who had been writing to their sponsored child regularly for three years. Their sponsored child, a young girl in Central America, wrote them three times a year but never responded to any of their questions. They were questioning whether the girl ever got their letters, and consequently, they were questioning the authenticity of Compassion.

I explained to them how some child development centers engage in reciprocal letter-writing, helping their kids respond to letters from their sponsors as soon as they are received. Some centers make a very conscious effort to ensure that kids answer all the questions in the letters they receive, and some children take the initiative to write and respond to letters all by themselves.

But sometimes, none of these things happen.

Some of the older centers are working toward reciprocal letter-writing but aren’t there yet; some kids have never written a letter in their life and simply don’t know how; other kids can’t sit still long enough to write a response, even though they might be overjoyed at receiving your communication. Occasionally, that relationship between sponsor and child takes a really long time to build.

Can I just encourage you to not lose heart when you encounter someone who is looking for a “perfect program”? And if you are that person who has experienced frustrations in your sponsorship, please don’t give up.

As someone who has been a child sponsor for more than a decade and has traveled to four Compassion countries to meet children whom I sponsor, I am here to tell you something really important: This ministry of releasing children from poverty is working, and it is also imperfect.

Frankly, it is always going to be imperfect. If you haven’t yet had a reason for a measure of frustration, you probably will at some point.

This work is imperfect because it involves people. Compassion is not program-focused (though program models are used) – it’s intensely, insanely, beautifully child-focused. And sometimes, all of the questions in your letters don’t get answered. Sometimes a child drops out of the program and you don’t get an explanation. Sometimes, you feel frustrated because you want something to work better.

But though imperfect, Compassion presses on, fully committed to its core values in order to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name and fully committed to changing and improving its work in the same way that God models for us in I John 1:9: through faithfulness, forgiveness and purification.

It is good and right of us to expect excellence, but there will still be times when we feel frustrated.

I, for one, am thankful that being committed to opening our hearts and lives to God’s purification process is so much better than a pursuit of perfection. I am thankful that we get to be a part of releasing children from poverty, even at those moments when it gets frustrating.

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  1. Thomas Foy
    Dec 21, 2010
    at 9:01 am

    I am also an Advocate, though much less seasoned than Tiffiny, and I often have questions about letter writing and hear from people who get disappointed. The story that most pains me is that of one lady who stopped sponsoring because her 5 year old compassion child was not handwriting letters to her. It’s so important that we understand that compassion runs on a global scale with realm messy, imperfect people and therefore it’s not going to be perfect, but compassion always puts the needs of the child first in Jesus’ name which is why it’s an organisation that I am honoured to represent.

    • Irene
      Dec 21, 2010
      at 11:51 pm

      That’s so terrible for that child! Hopefully someone else picked up the sponsorship quickly. My 7 and 8-year old children don’t handwrite their letters yet but they draw beautiful pictures for me. I know they’ll start writing when they’re ready.

  2. Dec 21, 2010
    at 9:53 am

    Thank you so much for this post – it is what I needed to hear today. I’ve been a sponsor for 17 years and an advocate for 15 and have had many wonderful experiences with Compassion. When the difficult, hard, frustrating situations arise, it’s so easy to focus on those and lose sight of the years and years of good.

  3. Dec 21, 2010
    at 5:07 pm

    I think people are extra-nervous these days for two reasons:

    1) People are worried about being scammed. They’re worried that the organization they’re sending their money to may turn out to be a scam and they’ll find out they’ve been duped. Sadly there are a lot of charity scams out there, so people are wary for good reason.

    2) With a tough economy, people want their money to go to something that is effective. When you don’t have a lot of extra money to begin with, you want to know that what you’re contributing to is a program that works.

    I, personally, am 100% behind Compassion International — it is no scam and it is very effective. But I understand that people need to be reassured about an organization before they can get fully behind it. I would just encourage sponsors with difficulties or questions to contact the customer care line for assistance before considering discontinuing a sponsorship!

  4. Chuck Guth
    Dec 21, 2010
    at 6:40 pm

    I am fortunate in having met 3 of my sponsored children in Honduras. I have a relationship with them in that aspect and have seen the difference that Compassion is making in their lives. I have seen the other side of the coin also when not having them respond as I would expect them too in letters. It is important to remember that it is a different culture and different expectations than we might have. However imperfect that we are, we are still making a difference in the children’s lives. We need to remember it is about them and not us.

  5. Dec 28, 2010
    at 6:48 pm

    I have never had the chance to meet my sponsored child but I fully trust that Compassion is working in their life using my donated resources. I have great satisfaction and tenderness when I get a letter from my child and it’s great to know that I am shaping his life and that he is passing The Light along. I’m fortunate to have the resources that I do and I have no problem giving them to Compassion for the great work they are doing.

  6. […] 7. Purifying Fire: Burning Away Our Impurities […]

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