Actions Have Consequences

My mom has sponsored a Leadership Development Program (LDP) student for nearly three years. This bright young woman, let’s call her Cecilia, said she was grateful to be a part of the leadership program. She was working hard toward her goal and was banking everything on LDP.

Cecilia had no doubt that she’d “make it.” She was full of confidence. She was determined. All of her effort and focus was directed toward the Leadership Development Program. She was celebrated for her bright future, and happiness was a sure thing.

But then she made a choice. She had sex out of wedlock. Cecilia got pregnant, and she’s no longer part of the leadership program. Actions have consequences.

My mom thinks it’s ironic that when her girl most needs compassion, Cecilia gets none. I understand that point of view. But my point of view is that Cecilia didn’t get asked to leave the leadership program because she got pregnant; she was asked to leave because when she joined the program she agreed with its values and promised that her behavior would reflect them.

If Cecilia was married and got pregnant, she’d still be in the program. But that’s not what happened.

The good news is that Cecilia and her boyfriend are in love, and they’re planning to get married. Unlike many of Cecilia’s childhood friends, who didn’t have the opportunity she did and who had babies when they were teenagers, Cecilia has learned skills and developed strong relationships over the 10+ years she was participating in our programs.

Cecilia has not been abandoned. She’s been equipped. She’s been equipped to successfully navigate the challenges that will come throughout her life, including this one.

But let me contrast Cecilia’s situation with what’s happening in my “little brother’s” life right now.

L.B. is growing up in poverty here in America. It’s not the same variety as what Cecilia has lived through or what any of our sponsored children are experiencing, but it’s just as devastating. It doesn’t matter what poverty looks like on the outside because on the inside poverty destroys.

L.B. is 15, and his life mirrors the stereotypical inner city African-American struggle. The day-to-day emotional abuse he receives from this world has brought him to a defining moment in his life.

Last month, he accepted an offer to live with a married couple who were friends of his family and who wanted to invest their time in him. The couple has no children, has been married for more than 10 years, and are closely involved with a community center focused on helping kids in the inner city.

This couple was willing to do something they had never done before, for any kid. They were willing to bring L.B. into their family and to assume legal guardianship for him.

L.B. moved in and agreed to submit himself to their authority and obey their decisions. He was free to leave at any time, but if he made the decision to leave he would not be accepted back.

L.B. agreed. And then as most conflicted people do, he tested the boundaries. He made a conscious decision to disobey, and in anger said he wanted to move out.

The circumstances weren’t quite as sterile as how I’ve portrayed them, and I don’t have all the details, but there was a threat of violence. And it wasn’t the first threat. Actions have consequences.

What should be the consequences for Cecilia and L.B.?

Is it as simple as compassion for Cecilia versus the preservation of integrity for our programs?

Is it as simple as mercy and a second chance for L.B., or does his life have a better chance of being redeemed through justified discipline?

Unlike Cecilia, L.B. doesn’t have the skills or relationships to weather this storm. He hasn’t been equipped … yet.

L.B. isn’t being abandoned by this couple. They will still be involved in his life, just not as his guardians. However, I bet poverty is telling L.B. that he’s being abandoned.

Our ability to take ownership of our actions is a necessary skill in escaping any strain of poverty — physical, emotional or spiritual. Actions have consequences. It’s something God showed us through Adam and Eve.

Thankfully our story didn’t end with the eating of the apple. God meted out justice, but He also had mercy on us. Consequences don’t mean we’re not loved. They usually mean just the opposite.

10 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Chris Giovagnoni July 9, 2010

    This is what Leadership Development Program (LDP) students commit to when they join the program.

    1. I must demonstrate evidence and character of a mature Christian.
    2. I must diligently excel in my academic performance and demonstrate extra curriculum accomplishments.
    3. I must make significant contributions in my University/College, Church and Community,
    4. I must witness for Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord to my course mates and peers.
    5. I must contribute part of my “out of class” time to participate in LDP learning activities.
    6. I must submit myself to the LDP committee, Disciplinary Committee, mentor and LDP specialist’s guidance.
    7. I must truthfully keep the LDP mentor and specialist informed of my challenges as I seek to achieve LDP outcomes.
  2. Amy Wallace June 29, 2010

    It’s too bad that this happened, but we would never learn if we didn’t face the consequences of our actions.

  3. Juli Jarvis June 27, 2010

    This is a tough issue to deal with. I have two friends that have lost their LDP students for the same reason. One of them was only one semester away from becoming a Medical Doctor, I believe. I know the sponsor felt hurt at first, and as though the money had been wasted, but of course we know that is not the case, as God can even redeem “what the locusts have eaten.” The other student had just met her sponsor and then chose to run away to be married, losing everything the sponsor had paid for her. She would not even answer phone calls from Compassion, as I understand it, and my friend desperately tried to get a letter to her just to say “I still love you.”

    I don’t know; I sort of would like to see them be able to complete their degrees if the sponsor is willing to continue supporting them. After all, grace is grace, even for leaders. But I know it’s complicated. I’ve also gone through two different church situations with pastors that were involved in sexual sin. Only God knows their hearts and where they are with Him. That is what matters most. And He will take care of them as they are willing to remain connected to Him and seek forgiveness and direction. It’s not our job to “fix” anyone with grace OR consequences; it’s God’s job.

  4. Bob June 23, 2010

    Like the rest of us, Cecilia is a sinner. Unfortunately her sin was judged unacceptable by other sinners and she was condemned, cast out — Unforgiven of an “unpardonable sin”. Fortunately for us, we wear Jesus’ righteousness, and although we sin beyond count each and every day, our sins, past and present are forgiven; our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father irrevocable. Cecilia’s plight is sad. Like so many churches today we delight when we see sinners brought to Christ, while at the same time we turn our backs on those that slip and fall around us.

    1. annabelle June 24, 2010

      forgiveness and removal from consequences are different. even with forgiveness, we still bear consequences.

      LDP students are expected to be leaders–after all it is in the title. Imagine if there was no consequence for church leaders caught in sin. Sin would run rampant among church leaders, and our churches would be in shambles. similarly, LDP students, as leaders, must uphold high standards and must face appropriate consequences if they choose to defy the authority they once submitted too.

      she is an adult, chose to do adult activities, and is now bearing the consequences. while it is sad, it is fair

  5. Mike Stephens June 23, 2010

    Well, I recall God defending the prostitute in the bible, but He did douse Sodom and Gomorrah…hahahahahahahaha! at the end of the day “OUR GOD IS AWESOME” and HE REIGNS FROM HEAVEN!!

  6. Amanda June 23, 2010

    I understand that the LDP students should have consequences for their actions. If Compassion didn’t follow through – what type of message would they be sending to the other LDP students? I do feel bad for the young lady who had to leave the program though. I hope she continues to stay close to the Lord…and uses this as an opportunity to grow.

  7. Becky June 23, 2010

    I recall one sponsor mentioning on OC that their teenage daughter (through Compassion) was pregnant (14 or 15 years old, I think). There was no mention of the child leaving the program. I presume that is because children do not have the same code of conduct as the LDP students. I surmise there is some code of conduct (obviously a child who causes physical injury to other kids or program facilitators wouldn’t remain in the program and as mentioned in the above comment) but how does it differ between LDP and child sponsorship program?

  8. Michael Patterson June 23, 2010

    Shortly before going to visit the children we sponsor in the Dominican Republic I learned that one of them had been released from the program. Compassion’s staff in the DR still arranged for us to see her. They treated her with grace, and told her that she would be welcomed back to the Child Sponsorship Program if she would only follow the rules she had previously agreed to.

    It was very difficult to know that because of her choices she would be losing so much in terms of education, spiritual growth, mentoring and relationships. Yet Compassion’s staff handled her situation with firmness and grace.

    Compassion does a great job of handling these situations. We have managed to have occasional communication with this child and know that our relationship with her has had a positive impact.

  9. Lauren June 23, 2010

    Actions do indeed have consequences. This very sort of thing is on my mind often for my kids. My girls are 10, 11, 11, and 12; My boys are 13 and 18. I am praying for them to hold onto their sexual purity and I am also praying for their communities on this very thing. A great thing also is to pray for the one who someday will be a spouse, with God’s blessing, for each of the kids we all sponsor. Lauren

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