The Day I Signed up to be a Compassion Sponsor

I had heard that cry only twice in my life, but the sound is burned into my memory. This cry … this lament … pierced my soul. Instinctively, I understood an emotion so great, I knew no words existed to express it.

It was 2009. Atlanta. I was attending a very hip conference held in a ginormous arena with a bijillion other people. It was one of those gatherings you attend to get inspired and hear lots of interesting lectures from a variety of people.

Some speakers hawk their books; some, with all the cunning of a very successful salesman, give you advice on managing finances; many speakers offer instructions on how to live a better life. It is an energetic time with all the creative, special effects of a music concert. Sometimes they even use a smoke machine and have jugglers.

This segment was wedged between a couple of things that I cannot remember now, which is crazy because this particular moment is chiseled into my brain.

The stage lights came up and there was well-dressed young man with a mic in his hand standing at the edge of the stage with the emcee. He was introduced to the crowd as Jimmy from Kenya. Jimmy was a now grown-up, sponsored child of Compassion International and was going to share his story.

I was very familiar with Compassion. Many of the churches and groups I had been associated with displayed Compassion brochures. I had met several people over the years who had sponsored children.

child packets

One of my favorite musicians and poets, Rich Mullins, was an advocate for Compassion during his life. Many times, at conferences like this one, I had walked past booths with rows of info cards bearing photographs of children in other countries waiting to be sponsored.

I would glance at them, smile at the person behind the table of photo faces and continue walking by.

When Jimmy began to speak, I was intrigued. He had a beautiful accent, a gentle and very intelligent delivery, and I liked his sweater vest.

Jimmy told of growing up in extreme poverty in Kenya. He was a street child, a garbage picker at age four. He watched his infant sister die of starvation in his mother’s arms. He wasn’t being dramatic, he wasn’t overly emotional, he was just speaking his truth. (more…)

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One Act To Overwhelm Hopelessness

When the darkness of abject poverty engulfs a place, the devil takes over. But in the middle of desperation, you can intervene.

One act, one decision in Jesus’ name, is all it takes to allow hope to overwhelm the darkness.

See for yourself.

Watch One Act and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

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Letter Writing Ideas From the Moody Bible Institute Scholars

Four Leadership Development Program graduates now attending Moody Bible Institute share some tips on what you should include in the letters you write to your sponsored children.

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Life After Graduation for the Moody Bible Institute Scholars

Life after graduation Tony, Michelle, Richmond and Jimmy talk about what they will be doing after they graduate from Moody Bible Institute and share some ways that you can pray for them.

You can also view the Life After Graduation video on Vimeo.

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Living in Two Worlds

How difficult is it for the Moody scholars to transition between the poverty of their homes and life in the U.S.?

Watch Living in Two Worlds and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

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Who’s in Charge?

So, an emperor, a chief and a queen are all in a room together. The emperor is from Uganda. The chief is from the Dominican Republic. And the queen is from the Philippines. Who’s in charge?

Watch Who’s in Charge? and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

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God’s Agents of Change: Unscripted

In late July we interviewed our Moody Bible Institute scholarship recipients using questions you submitted here. We filmed the interview and will be sharing clips from the session with you over the next few weeks.

In this first clip, which is just over 13 minutes long, you’ll get to see how Richmond, Tony, Michelle and Jimmy interact with one another.

You’ll get a taste of the strength of their relationships with one another and with God.

And you’ll get a little insight into what Jimmy probably asked his sponsor when they met at Catalyst 2009.

Beyond getting to know them a little better, by learning what these agents of change are studying at Moody and why they chose their fields of study, you’ll also hear, among other things:

  • Tony speak about his call to serve teenagers
  • Michelle and Richmond share about their desires to develop strong Christian leaders in the Philippines and Uganda
  • Jimmy relate what life was like before he was sponsored

Enjoy.

You can also view the Agents of Change video on Vimeo.

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Emotional Appeals for Sponsorship: Right or Wrong?

When you watch the Catalyst 2009 do you feel it was manipulative? Is it all right to ask people to give, or act, in the middle of experiencing an emotional moment?

Nathan Creitz, author of ChurchEthos: “a blog that encourages thinking Christianly about the habits and customs of the Church and about our reputation with the unchurched,” says:

This video is worth watching for two reasons:

  1. To see God’s love at work through His people and to see the powerful story of Jimmy and Mark.
  2. To see how NOT to use such a moment to advance an agenda.

What do you think? Do you agree?

Let us know after you read Nathan’s entire blog post at ChurchEthos to get the context for his opinion.

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Catalyst 2009: It Could Have Been Me

As I write this, there are tears splattered on my keyboard and mascara smeared on my cheeks. I’m not much of a crier, perhaps being desensitized as a result of reading painful stories every day. But this video of Jimmy Wambua meeting his sponsor has made me cry like a baby. 
 


The reason why is I know Jimmy. Jimmy stayed at our house for two weeks, so he went from being a former participant in Compassion’s sponsorship program, an African, and someone with a different culture and accent, to being a friend. To a human.

 
As much as we don’t want them to, our differences — culturally, geographically, economically — can separate us. “Others” can seem so very other. So unlike us. So “unrelatable.”

Yes, we have compassion for them. But it’s hard to really relate to them. Understand them. View them the same as we view ourselves, our neighbors, our family.
 


But Jimmy is my husband’s age. The two of them sitting on our couch talking about girls made Jimmy so utterly real to me. He’s someone who despite all our differences is so like us.
 
Someone who simply had a sponsor who loved him, who told Jimmy that Jesus loves him, and set his life on an entirely new path. 
 


So when I watch this video, I don’t just see some African who some Canadian “saved.” What I see is myself in another situation, another time, another circumstance. I see that this could have been me. And I see that this can be my sponsored child.

You can also view this Catalyst 2009 video on Vimeo.

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Tables Turned: Meeting the Moody Scholars

I don’t know how they do it, but the sponsored children always seem to turn the tables on us. We visit a country to be a blessing to the children, and end up getting blessed as well, maybe more.

I have a friend who wrote to her child that she was praying for the family, and the child wrote back that they were praying and fasting for her weekly.

Last month, I stopped in Colorado Springs on my way home to Wyoming from Phoenix. I had heard that the Moody Scholars were going to be participating in Compassion’s chapel, and I attended because I greatly wanted to meet them.

Jimmy Wambua, the newest Moody Scholar, was asked to pray during the service. Now, I’m used to praying for children all around the world, but he was praying for all the sponsors. That was really special for me to hear.

Following the service, I was invited to join Tony, Michelle, Richmond and Jimmy (from left to right) for lunch, which was more than I had hoped for.

moody

I was excited to meet each of them because I practically had them on pedestals, like celebrities. Instead, they treated me like a celebrity!

And even though I had lots of questions for them, I ended up answering far more questions than they did.

  • How long have you been a sponsor?
  • How’d you find out about Compassion?
  • Would you tell us about the children you sponsor?

Lunch was anything but a solemn time. These students were funny, joyful, hilarious — teasing each other, and “breaking in” the new member of their group. (more…)

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Tony Beltran Preaching

About two weeks ago all the Moody scholars were in Colorado Springs, in advance of the new academic year at Moody Bible Institute. That was when we got to meet Jimmy Wambua, the newest Moody scholar, for the first time.

The four Moody scholars led worship during chapel, and afterward, Tony preached about the work God is doing in the world.

Now, here’s your opportunity to join us in chapel. The video is long, just short of 40 minutes, and Tony doesn’t begin preaching until the 8:30 mark, but if you have the time, we think you’ll enjoy getting to hear him speak.

Plus, those first eight minutes are good too. Jimmy, Michelle and Richmond share about what it means to be given an opportunity to study at Moody.

Tony Beltran from Compassion International on Vimeo.

You can view the Tony Beltran video, and several more of our videos, on Vimeo.

The video does works, but there is about a 10 second delay between pressing play and then seeing anything happen.

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A Different Perspective

Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to have one of the Leadership Development Program Moody scholars stay with us. man leaning against a wallYou’ve met Richmond, Michelle and Tony. Well, “Jimmy from Kenya,” as he likes to call himself, is our newest scholarship recipient.

With Jimmy from Kenya (a.k.a. Jimmy Wambua) as a house guest, we were treated to the first reactions to life in America from the perspective of someone who had grown up in poverty.

After the first couple of days, I asked him how it was going and what struck him most about life in America. It was the cheese.

“In America, you are so particular about what you want. You take me to Subway and they ask, ‘What kind of bread do you want?’ ‘What type of dressing do you want?’ ‘What type of cheese do you want?’ In my country cheese is cheese. It’s this or it’s nothing.”

The variety in general was a bit overwhelming to Jimmy.

“When I asked Mike for tea, he opened the cabinet and there was so much. Tropical tea, dessert tea, tea cocktail. Even in cars you have variety. You have a car for different kinds of weather and different activities.”

At every turn, we seemed to be asking him to make choices. And let’s not even talk about our trip to Walmart.

He was also quite struck by our home and our neighborhood. We live in a fairly typical middle-class American neighborhood and home.

Before he came, I had felt a bit self-conscious because the other hosts of the students were older with nicer homes. I secretly thought he’d be disappointed to stay with us. I know this is a silly worry considering he was coming from a one-room home without indoor plumbing, but I was thinking about the Joneses.

His perspective was different than mine.

“This is the home of a politician. These are the couches of a politician … . This is what I’ll call stinking rich. You live in posh environments, but you don’t feel they are posh.”

Jimmy stayed in our basement, which has an attached bathroom. He said,

“When you first showed me my room, I thought, ‘This must be the main part of the house, the best part of the house.’ Then I saw it was just the basement. In my country, I could work for years and still not have something as nice as your basement.”

I asked Jimmy if it frustrated him or made him angry to see people with so much. I always wonder that when visitors come — are they secretly judging us? Jimmy was gracious.

“Someone without my background who is struggling might be angry. But my feeling is biased because of Compassion. I understand why God blesses Americans — what you give. I believe that spirit of giving has gotten into American culture. You’ve been able to be content with what you have and give to others instead of keeping it for yourselves. Because of your generosity, God has blessed. God rewards you for listening to his call.”

I hope I can live up to Jimmy’s generous attitude toward us.

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