For about 35 years, once I first heard of such a possibility, I wanted to sponsor a child. But for most of that time, I simply could not afford even $10 per month.
About mid-2001, watching a commercial on TV for another organization, I realized I could finally afford to do something. But through which organization? Who could I really count on to use the money for the child’s benefit? Could I trust any of them, and how would I know? Having no answers, I did nothing.
I spent all of 2002 praying for God to show me what area of ministry He wanted me in. Almost every Sunday, I heard, “Find your passion and use it!” “Hmm…where can I get a ‘passion’?” I couldn’t have found a passion in me with a flashlight or a search warrant. So I prayed, and I waited.
Two weeks before Christmas, I walked out of church on a cold, gray day in a mood to match. I walked down three or four steps into the fellowship area and began to pass a row of ministry tables. Above and behind the first one was a banner saying something about Compassion.
I kept walking, but my inner skeptic wanted to know: “What are we being ‘compassionate’ about, today?”
I turned, looked down at a sea of packets, each with a photo of a child; the world stopped, along with all sound and movement around me. I knew what these packets represented.
I stood there, saying half under my breath, “I can do this! I can do this!” About the fourth time, a Voice inside said, “Yes, you can do this. This is it!”
A warmth started at the top of my head and flowed over me and through me, right down to my feet. I took home two packets, unsure about one child.
That afternoon, I went to Compassion’s website to look at more children. I didn’t realize how many photos they kept on there, and I quickly felt overwhelmed. “God, I can’t sponsor them all!” soon changed to “God, we’ve got to find sponsors for these kids!”
About the fourth time (what is it with four times?!), I heard, “Yes, we do!” Then I realized the “This is it” meant more for me than “merely” sponsoring. And I do not mean to minimize the importance of sponsoring!
So, as is true of so many advocates, if not all, I came into this ministry with a clear calling. There have been times when I have needed to remember that, when church doors refused to open, when people walked by the tables with hardly a glance, and I wanted to use a 2×4 on their heads to get their attention. (Thank God, I’ve grown past that!)
But let me mention some of the things that continually reaffirm the rightness of Compassion in my life, and as a real ministry in this world.
- Letters. From Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya, I get letters from my girls, thanking me for gifts or just for loving them, telling me what they’re learning and that they and their families pray for me. Compassion strongly encourages sponsors to develop strong relationships with their sponsored children. Not every organization does.
- Compassion people: staff members, other advocates and sponsors, leaders in the U.S. and in country offices. Some have become good friends, and all are absolutely committed to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His ministry of Compassion, to the poor and to His children.
- Compassion conferences. Imagine being with several hundred people who come together with one mind, one heart, one passion and one purpose. We worship together and share stories about our sponsored kids and about our advocacy. Speakers, usually including
- . Mingling with children, handing out candy and stickers, sharing many hugs, meeting and listening to child sponsorship graduates and leadership development students, all reinforce the truth that Compassion’s ministry works and makes a difference in people’s lives and communities. And other, perhaps, than holding your own newborn child for the first time, can anything be better than hugging your sponsored child?
- Direct evangelism. I know that all of my girls are hearing how much God loves them, about the sacrifice that Jesus made for them, and they are learning from His Word. Tausi, in Tanzania, accepted Jesus into her heart at a Compassion-run Bible camp, a couple of years ago. Her next letter to me began, “Praise the Lord!!” and I knew my prayers for her had been answered.
- Another changed life—mine! Confession is good for the soul, yes? Here’s one: Never having had children of my own, I was comfortable with only a few children, over the years. But my first sponsor tour changed me. Ever since then, my immediate response on seeing a child is to smile. At church, in the grocery line or wherever, a smile, a wiggle of the fingers, and my day is brighter. Now, in the face of a child, I see the heart of God. And, once my heart was opened to my first two girls, my whole world view began to expand, and with it, my heart.
My advocacy has grown, as well, as I’ve moved out of my comfort zone. For four years, I contacted precious few churches. Then, last year I heard one minute of a sermon on the radio. The preacher mentioned things he’d never heard a dying person say: “I wish I’d spent more time at the office,” or “I wish I’d spent more time surfing the Internet” (ouch!).
I began to ponder what my regret would be, if I were on my deathbed, right then. It hit me hard: “I wish I had contacted more churches!” My blood froze. I didn’t want to die with that regret; could I continue to live with it? Nope.
Then at the Advocates Conference in August, Wess showed a clip from a movie in which Harrison Ford had to take a literal step of faith over a deep chasm—and large chunks of rock swung out to support his feet.
Wess talked about continuing to walk in the direction God has shown us, and I knew I had to pick up that 50 pound. telephone, when I got home. God has helped me to get over myself, somewhat, and keeping our mission in mind, to take one more step, and then another.
Why Compassion? really isn’t my question, because a Higher Authority told me, “This is it!” If it is your question, I hope I’ve provided some reasons.
My question has been, “Why did God choose me for this?” I seem to have been an unlikely choice, but I’m sure part of the answer is that I needed this ministry.
We know that child sponsorship changes the life of everyone who is involved in the relationship. Child advocacy also changes us. It is probably more accurate to say that following God’s lead will always require us to grow. But He is right there, with us.
Go ahead: Ask me what my passion is; I would love to tell you!