How a Year of COVID-19 Has Changed Us Forever

In early March 2020, I was on a storytelling trip to El Salvador for Compassion. One minute we were loading the van to head to a child development center, and the next we were packing our bags to rush to the airport — urgently called home as COVID-19, a seemingly distant threat, suddenly became very real.

In a matter of weeks, the world felt like it had shut down.

In the year since, my days have been spent at home, sharing stories about how the pandemic is affecting children living in poverty. These stories (told by our incredible local photojournalists) will stay with me forever.

Yhovana’s is one of them. When COVID-19 hit Bolivia, her husband lost his job. She works at a farm. One day, desperate to feed her children, she looked down at the bucket of chicken guts she fed to her employer’s pigs. She had no choice. “I collected the nicer intestines to bring home,” she says, “to cook and eat.” When Compassion’s partner heard, they delivered groceries. Because Yhovana’s family needed food, but they also deserved dignity.

Another is a grandmother in Brazil. She had just been handed a basket heaving with food by Compassion’s local church partner. She was all alone. Concerned, the pastor asked if she needed help to carry it. Her response brought tears to his eyes. “It would be heavier if it were empty,” she replied.

Mother and children  all sitting together on a blanket outside their home. Two of the chilren are wearing dark pink dresses with flowers on them.

Or Tribin, a mother in Bangladesh (pictured above with her children). Even before the pandemic, she and her husband struggled to earn enough to feed their little girls. In what was the most challenging season of their lives, she says the pandemic has taught her to believe in miracles. Compassion’s partner keeps providing for them at just the right time.

If these stories broke my heart, others made me laugh. In the Philippines, a teenage boy rode a water buffalo with a karaoke machine blaring to spread joy and raise funds for COVID-19 patients. In El Salvador, a family coped with being cooped up at home by creating their own stationary bicycle — using their bodies. Their youngest boy, little Josue, was the wheels.

A boy and his carabao (water buffalo) karaoke challenge. They are walking down a road and people are holding signs as they sit in a cart pulled by the water buffalo.

Mostly, though, I am left in awe of people’s courage, dedication and capacity to continually pour out love upon vulnerable families. In 2020, the world shut its doors and closed its borders. Yet people like Compassion’s church partners opened their hands and their hearts. In dozens of different languages, they said, “What do you need? We are here for you.”

You were part of it. In a year that many of us would like to erase, truly beautiful things happened. Compassion sponsors and donors empowered our incredible local partners to be the hands of feet of Jesus. In the Japanese art of kintsugi, broken pottery pieces are repaired with gold. By embracing the flaws and imperfections of the pottery, this art form creates a stronger, more beautiful piece. Although 2020 was a year that often felt broken, I saw how God filled the cracks with bright, shining gold.

Here is some of the gold from the year the world changed. These moments represent prayers answered, lives changed and lessons learned. They show what is possible when together, we rise as one.

1. We showed up for one another

Girl wearing a white dress with a blue pattern. She is standing on a wooden stairway between two houses in the slums, where she lives with her family.

We were separated by distance but fought to remain united. Friends celebrated graduations and birthdays by driving past homes, balloons streaming from car windows. Teenagers taught grandparents to use Zoom. Neighbors dropped encouraging notes in mailboxes. Loved ones waved from pavement beneath hospital windows.

When vulnerable families needed health care during the pandemic, Compassion’s partners were there. From April 2020 to January 2021, they supported 970,660 cases of medical care.

Being separated was hard. It caused excruciating pain to many. But distance couldn’t stop us from showing up for one another, and time together now is all the more precious.

2. We realized the church is more than a building

A child is seen here smiling at the camera and carrying a large bag of food. There is a brick wall and trees in the background.

From the beginning, the church has always been more than a building. But in 2020, when many couldn’t access attend services in person, this truth really shone. Churches all over the world adapted by shifting online, moving services outdoors and providing support in new ways to continue being the hands and feet of Jesus. 

When their church doors closed, Compassion’s partners taught children virtually, prayed for families over the phone and even delivered birthday cakes at a safe distance. They distributed a staggering 10,614,674 food packs to vulnerable families — each pack representing a full belly and a weight off an anxious parent’s shoulders.

3. We learned to smile with our eyes

Girl standing in front of her home. She is wearing a black and gray striped shirt, yellow raincoat, and a face mask.

It was a skill most of us didn’t realize we needed. When face masks were introduced, suddenly we had to express ourselves using only the top half of our face. 

In some developing countries, the prices of face masks and hand sanitizer skyrocketed, making these simple tools of self-protection out of reach. Compassion’s church partners distributed more than 7,128,706 hygiene kits, helping to protect precious lives.

4. We saw God’s faithfulness

In all of the challenges, we saw God at work. He inspired the Filipino teenager in his quest to create smiles, he showed up on Tribin’s doorstep through faithful center volunteers and he walked alongside the Brazilian grandmother as she carried her food basket home.

He made pathways through the wilderness and rivers in the dry wasteland, just as he had promised. If you haven’t seen this in your own life yet, take heart. He is still working.

The past year has been one of widespread change, quarantines and challenges. But let’s remember the ways God filled the cracks with gold.

Mother and children

42 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Margo Sterling June 14, 2021

    I have been supporting two little girls, one in Mexico and the other in Nicaragua. I try to write encouraging letters to them but have missed receiving their letters. Nevertheless, it is such a wonderful thing to hear what my money is doing for others. I am amazed at the ways these people, even teenagers, have used their imagination to reach out in ways that would never have occurred to me. But then . . . . I don’t have a water buffalo either!!! Thank you for sharing. I am very encouraged.

    1. Nicole June 15, 2021

      Hi, Margo! Thank you so much for continuing to write letters and pour love and support into your sweet girls! As a fellow sponsor, I definitely understand how hard it can be to not hear from our kiddos as often as we used to. We are so glad that you are encouraged by this blog post and we hope you will hear from your girls soon! ?

  2. Bonita Power June 1, 2021

    We are the hands and feet on the ground, through Compassion Int’l, and God redeems those things that were taken away during this pandemic. Love and mercy, grace and faithfulness, God never fails his children. He is the lifter of our heads and there is joy in the morning/mourning. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories that witness to God’s faithfulness and the devotion of the Compassion Int’l workers, here in our CI offices and on the ground at every CI center around the world. Always investing in their future, a life of raising children and families out of poverty.

    Thank you,

    1. Jesse June 1, 2021

      Hello Bonita! Thank you for sharing such kind words. God truly never fails to provide, care, and bring peace to each one of His children. God bless you!

  3. David Robinson May 31, 2021

    Loved reading this again as it was sent out in an email today. We worry about our Compassion kids but know God has them in the palm of His hands. Letter writing is difficult but I just try to encourage even though we don’t know what is going on in their lives. God repairs brokenness with gold. Thank you for this reminder!

    1. Jesse June 1, 2021

      Hello David! Thank you for your message! As a sponsor myself, I understand the worry you mentioned. It is so hard sometimes to not know exactly what our sponsored children are going through. However, you are right, God truly does repair brokenness and out of that brokenness His glory shines through. Praying that your letter writing experience gets easier and that your children share more with you! If you have any questions or need anything please feel free to email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist you. God bless!

  4. Mike and Debbie April 18, 2021

    My husband and I sponsor 3 children. It is Heartwarming to hear our children are being taken care of despite covid. We pray every night for God to watch over them and their families. Thank you God for compassion. Thus experience has enriched our lives so much.

  5. Ann-Marie Patton April 15, 2021

    Outstanding article! The church IS so much more than a building and smiling is a gift from God…so having to figure out how to do it differently has been interesting but a great challenge because you really have to work with your eyes to make that happen!

    I am such a HUGE fan of Compassion International and support it with great pleasure! I hope someday to become a bigger part of it in God’s time!

    Thanks for writing from the heart and sharing real stories of real people that are navigating through this scary time with dignity, compassion, love, and faith.

    God’s blessings to you!

    In Him,
    Ann-Marie Patton

  6. Susan April 1, 2021

    What wonderful stories, warms my heart, thank you for sharing.

    Thanks Be To God!

  7. Amelie Julien March 27, 2021

    To God be the glory.
    I’m so glad to hear all you guys are doing for the kingdom of God.
    I’m very happy I’m one of you to spread the love of God on this earth.
    It feels so good to help someone that you never know because there’s a special blessing.
    I encourage people like me to do the same thing.
    Together we can change someone life one by one.
    May God continue to bless compassion.

  8. Vanessa Frazer March 26, 2021

    THANK YOU for sharing these stories!! Wow! So grateful to have the privilege of contributing the resources God provided❤️Love Love Love Compassion!

  9. Rosie March 25, 2021

    Thank you for the reminder that even when we don’t feel that we have contributed much, our small effort as sponsors can be used by God to bring hope, food and encouragement to the children and their families. Please thank the Compassion partners who risk their own health and lives to continue to minister to the families and the kids. Those on the ground are the true heroes! Praise God for their dedication!

  10. Connie Claros March 25, 2021

    Beautiful stories; real actions showing the love of Jesus for all children and their families. Thanks for sharing Compassion International and may God continue to bless your work.

  11. Bernadette Bailie March 25, 2021

    Thank you for sharing these stories. Hope everyday through faith.

  12. Marvin Yarbrough March 25, 2021

    I wanna give the glory to God. How God established compassion and how he is blessing and guiding this awesome ministry. Thank you for all you do compassion workers and volunteers and those who support with prayers and financial giving. This is truly a miracle working organization that is bless by our Lord and Savior. Thank you. Jesus Christ our Lord.

  13. Darlene Hilyer March 25, 2021

    Thank you for sharing these encouraging stories! Compassion is a blessing to so many. We are thankful to be a small part. Thank you for all you are doing to provide for these precious children and families.

    Love and prayers, Darlene

  14. Melva Hunter March 24, 2021

    Thank you for these heartwarming stories. They brought tears to my eyes. Thank God for the wonderful workers at Compassion International who bring hope and love to our kiddos throughout the world. The Compassion International family is a real testament to the spirit of giving.

  15. Nancy Parks March 24, 2021

    Thank you for the sharing these stories. We pray for the children, their families and for Compassion International.
    Mike and Nancy Parks

  16. Adriana Hidalgo March 24, 2021

    This makes me happy.

  17. Carol March 24, 2021

    Thank you “Compassion “ for loving our children, and for your Godly faith that carries on with these boys and girls. I am excited about hearing from our little girl i in Nicaragua soon. God bless you and prayers for involved to stay safe and believe God is always with us. C. Christy

  18. Marsha Robinett March 24, 2021

    The young lady I am helping is Bermide. She is a lovely young lady and seems to be growing fast. I appreciate the opportunity and it is truly a blessing. Thank you.

  19. Diane March 24, 2021

    GLORY TO God!

    Thanks for sharing those powerful stories and testimonies of how God in His faithfulness continues to provide and protect the children , their families and each and everyone of you during theses most challenging times in the midst of COVID-19. It warms my heart to hear that our beautiful and wonderful sponsored child is being provided with all that they need to maintain their dignity in spite of everything going on there.

    Be encouraged continually in the Lord!

  20. Mary March 24, 2021

    In this blog you emailed to me today I am blessed and motivated more. Seeing the hope in all the people, struggling but helping one another, it is truly admirable and encouraging. Bless all the people and the workers in all countries, and all praise and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  21. G.E.Lausch March 24, 2021

    While we cannot be in these countries to help eye-to-eye, we are both happy and gratified to be a part of Compassion’s support team. We are very happy to help!

  22. Julie March 24, 2021

    AMEN and PRAISE GOD! I Beautiful, brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes!

  23. Kim Rivera March 24, 2021

    What wonderful stories of how our kids & Compassion got through Covid. Truly God’s angels working through Compassion & it’s donors! I know when I read this to my husband we’ll probably both get choked up! Thank you for these beautiful stories! We love Compassion!

  24. JoAnn S March 24, 2021

    I too was touched by the stories. Thank you for sharing these. I am truly blessed to be able to sponsor a child. And I thank the others who have come alongside these families. God is so good!

  25. K.Rivera March 24, 2021

    What wonderful stories of how our kids & Compassion got through Covid. Amazing how they seem to know their neighbors…a lost art in many places, like America. It is so easy for us to get caught up in our own problems. We in America often have no idea how hard it is for the poor in other countries when our poor live so much better as here they can get help from our gov. Giving to our 2 girls is 1 of the BEST & HAPPIEST donations we make, & staying w/them since they were very young, getting to see them blossom, is the BEST! Knowing that through Compassion they learn about the love of Jesus for each of them & that they are worthy in God’s eyes matters most! Love is an action word! We must also giving food & help, & letters, etc. I always tell others about Compassion. I pray more people help children via Compassion.

  26. rita norfleet March 24, 2021

    Thank you to Compassion team. Churches, staff snd volunteers. These are some great stories about God showing up. Blessings to all and to our sweet sponsor children, their families and communities.

  27. Elizabeth March 24, 2021

    I am so glad you shared these stories. They are very encouraging to hear. I am thankful for them and for God. Thank you for all you do.

  28. Bill Edwards March 24, 2021

    Thank you for sharing notes of stories and encouragement!! God is Faithful and works through each of us to care for those in need!! Praise to God!

  29. Clay and Mary Hall March 24, 2021

    We thank Zoe for her wonderful message of hope and encouragement. We sponsor a girl in Columbia and sincerely miss exchanging letters on a regular basis. It is hard not to know for sure how she and her family are doing. We are praying that God’s mercy and grace will continue to comfort the family of the child we sponsor, as well as the many, many other families to whom Compassion ministers. It was also fun to learn that Compassion provides chickens for families and children to raise. It gives a much needed focus for the children, as they learn useful skills. Thank you Compassion and Zoe. We are encouraged!

    1. Anna March 24, 2021

      We are so blessed that this blog post gave you hope and encouragement, Clay and Mary. We pray that your precious sponsored child would be able to send a letter soon. Many of our church centers in Central and South America are still administering food, water, hygiene kits and medical assistance through home visits or community distributions, but the sweet kiddos are not able to gather at their centers. Because of this, letters have been significantly delayed. We are praying that the distribution of letters in these areas would be able to return to normal soon. God bless you for all that you do for your precious children, and we are so grateful to have you both in the Compassion family! ?

  30. Kim Marie Hedrick March 24, 2021

    Thank you for this encouraging, joyous commentary! God’s plan for his children is always for good and to give us hope and a future! This truly touched my heart and brightened my day! It is so true that God and his church are not limited by four walls…..we are His people called to do His work…..not just at church but for everyone we meet. God bless you all in the Compassion family!

  31. Alma Mullaney March 24, 2021

    Thank you for posting this. I have sponsored “my Gloria” for over 10 years. She was very young when I first “met” her on a Compassion Sunday at my church, only 4 years old, I think. She could not write or print, but she drew pictures and they were sent to me. I still have every one of her letters ! In her letters, she tells me what this support means to her and her family. When she receives birthday or Christmas money, she lets me know what she bought…ie: a dress, a goat or a pair of shoes. She always includes a bible verse and greetings from her parents. I know that Compassion is working and what is given to Gloria….she receives. I see God working in Gloria and through Compassion.

  32. Darla March 24, 2021

    As I have experienced the Covid 19 Pandemic in America, it has reminded me that we still have so much for which to be thankful. I think of the limited sources that Compassion children and their families have had for adequate food and medications, and often clean water. These restrictions on top of the Covid 19 Virus! But our God is aware and He sends hope through the compassionate volunteers and partners. And even though we are not there to provide help and hope personally, our prayers and financial donations to the children we support can and do make a difference. Thank you for sending these wonderful reports of hope and even laughter!

  33. Catherine Hoelzer March 24, 2021

    Great stories! Thanks for sharing

  34. Diana Eck March 24, 2021

    The spirit of Jesus is alive and well in the hearts of his servants, Amen for that.
    He will never leave or forsake us, keep the faith and he will get us through.

  35. Elaine Jones March 24, 2021

    Thank you for sharing these wonderfully encouraging stories! Praise God for His steadfast love and mercy.

  36. Kathy Coleman March 24, 2021

    When I read these incredible stories of faith it brings tears to my eyes. Not tears of sadness but tears of JOY. God is so faithful to bring hope to the hurting and vulnerable. I praise Him daily. Thank you Compassion for all you do. Where I can’t you can and God will ring the increase. THANK YOU

  37. Penny L Lozon March 24, 2021

    This is why I support Compassion International. Thank you so very much for sharing those stories. Brought tears to my eyes to read.

  38. Barbara Fillion March 24, 2021

    I am grateful to our Lord and Saviour for His loving care during the pandemic to all the Compassion children. Our God is faithful and will never abandon His children. To God be the glory who “works for good to all who love and serve Him.”

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