A little over a week ago, the whole world seemed to momentarily hold its collective breath as a child was found washed up on the beach at the Turkish resort of Bodrum.
He was a three-year-old little boy. His name was Aylan Kurdi.
After the initial shock and the swell of sorrow, the world went to work. His picture and story were shared millions of times on social media. The story of Aylan was covered worldwide by media and news outlets. Articles upon blog posts upon videos started to go up talking about what we can do.
But I don’t have to tell you. You already know.
My heart, maybe like yours, felt like it was thrown into a pinball machine. It pinged rapidly back and forth between rage, sorrow, and even guilt. I oscillated between complete shock, “How did this happen?” and then an absence of shock, “Of course this happened on our watch.”
I work with our Compassion Bloggers. Many of them reached out asking what Compassion is doing and how they can partner with us. But I had to let them know, I have to let you know, that Compassion does not work in Syria.
Part of me wanted to figure out some way we can dive into this crisis. Can we set up a fund and somehow get money to these refugees? But something I have come to love about Compassion is that we work through the local church. We serve the individual child. Our model is a one-to-one sponsorship model.
One sponsor connected to one child.
And didn’t Aylan show us the power of one child? His one life that ended too soon got the world’s attention. Since then the life of Aylan reinforced a few things I’ve learned as I’ve come alongside God to rescue children living in poverty.
Aylan reminded me of the wise words of Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International:
“Every child is a divine appointment.”
Every. Single. One.
And I thought about all of Aylan’s moments on this earth – all the moments that led to his lifeless body washed up on a beach. Moments can be powerful and I couldn’t help but wonder why his life lacked crucial, literally life-saving moments.
Aylan reminded me that God works powerfully through “the least of these.” That while the world may have dismissed him when he was alive, God used his story in a powerful way. It is just like God to use the powerless to change the world.
Aylan reminded me that one child does matter. One small child who had barely enough time on this earth to dig his feet in and get acquainted with it. His short-lived life has made me hope that we’ll never be a people that says, “It’s just one child.”
Throughout my years of working here, there is one question I get asked over and over, “Why does Compassion only work with the individual child instead of the community?”
While I know and believe in the answer, Aylan put a light on it. We work through the local church with the individual child because we believe in the power of focusing and coming alongside one child, to encourage, to protect, to teach, to nourish and to pray over. Meeting one child’s needs often means meeting the needs of their family and community through our Complementary Interventions program.
But most importantly, the result of helping a child become a fulfilled adult is powerful. They are now empowered and equipped to make a difference in their own communities – to change the world.
I’ve seen firsthand what our one-to-one model has done for children living in desperate poverty.
I met one boy who’s sponsor encouraged him to pray for a miracle in the life of his alcoholic dad. That one boy did pray and his dad received Christ and healing and is now a loving father.
I met one girl who lives in an impossibly disgusting and dangerous underground community. Even though people were dying every day in that cramped, disease-infested community it was the only place they could find that the government wouldn’t kick them out of. Thankfully one sponsor came alongside this one little girl and told her when she was in grade school that she was smart and that God has a plan for her life.
I read the letters myself as I sat next to her. Now she’s in college. She’s now one smart young woman, breaking the cycle of poverty in her family.
The list of these stories is miraculously long. They always seem to start with one sponsor that came alongside one child. And then eternity changes.
I’ve thought of Aylan Kurdi every day since his lifeless body broke into our lives. I think about how one child has changed history forever.
He reminds me of Edmon and Maria – two of our sponsored children. I think I’ll write them today because maybe in the midst of all their moments of yesterday and today and what will make up this week, they will need a moment of encouragement. A moment of hope. A moment of someone who believes in them.
If you sponsor a child and have said yes to the power of changing one child’s life, thank you. May Aylan be a testimony to a God who sees each of us individually and loves each of us with an unfathomable love.
May Aylan remind us that there is no such thing as “just one child.”