Each year when Compassion Sunday rolls around, I get so excited at the thought of churches all over the country rallying together to speak on behalf of children in poverty. It makes me proud to think of people like you and me, some who are terrified of speaking in public, standing in front of their church and telling their sponsorship story. I love the thought of hearts being tugged as families walk to the sponsorship table and look at the faces of children waiting for a sponsor.
But until I met Pastor Larry, I never considered the impact of Compassion Sunday on the churches in developing countries around the world.
I met Pastor Larry on a recent trip to the Philippines. As we walked through the streets of Manila, small crowds gathered around to greet him as we winded through tight alleyways strung with drying laundry.
We had a schedule to keep, yet Pastor Larry took time to shake people’s hands, look them in the eyes, and ask them about their children. The area his congregation serves is an impoverished and overcrowded one. The need is so vast that I was overwhelmed at times as we visited families whose homes were stacked on top of each other, with no airflow in the sweltering heat and with very little privacy.
Without a doubt, Pastor Larry’s church is being the hands and feet of Jesus to the poorest of the poor.
As we walked through the neighborhood, we visited the families of a few children in the Compassion program at his church. Pastor Larry explained:
“Through the children, we are reaching out to families. Seeing their children having hope, being changed, experiencing love … they [the families] are also being reached through their children. And through the families, we are connecting now and we have a connection to the communities. And so, that’s the effect … it’s a ripple effect.”
The Compassion center opens the door for Pastor Larry’s congregation to invest time and build lasting relationships with families and the community as a whole. They learn their stories, pray with them, meet urgent needs, and are ultimately able to share the gospel with them.
By hosting or participating in Compassion Sunday, you and I are making a statement that we believe in the local church, both at home and around the world. Pastor Larry explained:
“Hosting a Compassion Sunday in your church is not just helping Compassion; it’s helping pastors like me to minister to the poorest of the poor in my community.”
Our churches are coming alongside men and women who know the heartbeat of their community, who know the history and the things that will lead to sustainable change. Together we are expanding the reach of local churches in some of the darkest places on earth. This is real and lasting impact.
Maybe you have already registered your Compassion Sunday event, perhaps you’re still on the fence, or maybe you just can’t make it happen this year. Whatever camp you fall into, I hope Pastor Larry’s testimony will inspire you to continue investing in the work of the local church. We serve a God who “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people” (Psalm 113:7-8, NIV).
The mystery of this is that God often uses us in our humanity and failures to be the messengers of this work. I hope all of us will search our hearts and be willing to sacrifice our time and energy to see the poor raised from the dust, freed from captivity, and living in communion and relationship with our Heavenly Father.