When I came to know Christ, I felt liberated. I truly felt I was a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) who was rescued from the sin and darkness of my life.
I have been following Jesus for several years, but in the last few months I have found myself coming back to the theme of liberation in my life. I can’t seem to get the definition of a liberator out of my head, and I think it’s because I’m learning more and more that because I have been set free, I can set other people free as well.
“lib·er·at·ed, lib·er·at·ing, lib·er·ates
1. To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control. (Webster)”
Two months have passed since my amazing wife Abbey and I set out on a journey to dig deeply into poverty. We boarded a plane from our hometown of Detroit and traveled to Florida where we picked up a short flight to the island of Hispaniola, where Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a border and a patch of ocean.
For five days we witnessed the firsthand effects of poverty and how Compassion was liberating children from poverty. It was amazing, sad, breathtaking. And it was disruptive.
Now “disruptive” is not how I would hope to describe most trips I take in my life. When I travel somewhere, I hope something good happens. I want to enjoy time with family and friends. I hope to relax.
But meeting the people Compassion works with has left a deep mark on me.
As we entered one child development center in the Dominican Republic, a small boy with yellowed and bloodshot eyes came shyly to investigate us. His name was Joel, and it wasn’t long before he latched onto my arm, treating me like I was his prized possession.
Joel is 6 years old, but looks like he might be 3. His younger brother is nearly a foot taller. There is obviously something wrong.
When Joel was younger, his mother noticed he wasn’t growing properly and didn’t have the energy most toddlers have. It didn’t take long to find out that Joel had major heart problems. But for a family living in a simple shack with barely enough money for food, there was nothing they could do on their own.
If there was a child with a major medical need in my family, we would figure out how to take care of the problem. If we did nothing, it would be considered neglect.
But when there are no resources, it’s often just a sad story. They do their best, but it usually isn’t enough.
With great joy I learned that through Compassion’s Complementary Interventions Fund, because of some major donors, Joel is able to get proper medical treatment.
He is being liberated and will have the chance to live life to its fullest. He’ll need surgery, and must take medication every day, but Compassion is able to step in and pay for it.
Our trip was disruptive because I am used to a life where having my needs met is something I easily take for granted. It’s easy for me to rely on myself. But meeting Joel gave me a clear picture of the ways Jesus’ followers need to work together to care for each other.
When we came home, it was with a passion to do even more. Our watch company’s motto is “stop watching, start doing,” and it’s so clear to me that when I really live that out, as a single person I really can liberate a child from poverty.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: EJ Swanson is a nationally recognized speaker and founder of I Won’t Watch. EJ and his wife, Abbey, sponsor Milvia.
Photos courtesy of Abbey Swanson.