My Sponsor Wiped My Mother’s Tears Away

Jimmy Wambua with children

I celebrate my sponsorship with Compassion because through the relationship with my sponsor, I caught the fire of hope. Sponsorship puts hope in the hearts of children and in return these children serve the rest of the world with that hope.

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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.


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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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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Ask a Moody Scholar

We trust that as regular readers of our blog, you’re familiar with Michelle, Tony and Richmond — our first three Moody scholars. So we’ll forego the explanation of who they are and get right to the point.

Each one of them is going be in Colorado Springs very soon. And they’ll actually all be here at the same time, which is a rare occurrence.

What this means to you is that we’ve grabbed a sizable block of their time so we can serve as a proxy interviewer on your behalf, kind of like we did with the Ask Wess series of blog posts. But this is going to be captured on video.

Let us know what questions you have for them as former participants in Compassion’s sponsorship program and Leadership Development Program* graduates, students at Moody Bible Institute and emerging Christian leaders, and we’ll get you some answers.

We wanted to do this whole thing live, but the tool we are looking to use isn’t cooperating — at least for now.

We’ll choose the questions we ask from what you submit today and tomorrow.

P.S. If you’re new to the blog, you can learn a little bit about Michelle, Tony and Richmond by using the tags below “read these related posts.”

*This content honors our historical Leadership Development Program. To learn more about our current youth development opportunities, click here.

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Michelle Tolentino

Leadership Development Program graduate Michelle Tolentino talks about the value and meaning of Compassion’s programs in her life.

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A Conversation With Richmond Wandera

Do you remember Richmond? He’s one of the Wess Stafford-Moody Bible Institute Scholarship recipients Celina told you about.

Do you have 21 minutes? If so, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be impressed by this humble man.

Greg Nettle, senior pastor of Rivertree Christian Church, conducts the interview.

Watch Richmond Wandera and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

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God Heals

I’m an American mom who raised two sons, one stepson and one stepdaughter. We were your classic “blended family,” I suppose, and it wasn’t easy. Issues that come up for blended families can be extremely complex.

All four of my children were teenagers at the same time. It was challenging.

I would hear things like, “My dad lets me do … ” or “My mom cooks dinner like … ” It seemed my particular “momming” abilities (for my kids or my stepkids) were never good enough. Consequently, my self-esteem took a beating and I felt unappreciated most of the time.

I have to admit, the years of parenting teens left my heart wounded. The pains of these old wounds have stayed with me. I often wondered if I would ever be released from them.

Then, without expecting it, a special gift from God found its way into my life …  all the way from the Dominican Republic. (more…)

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The Favor

Hey! Remember me?

Well, I just wanted to share another quick story about what it is like to work with the Leadership Development Program* (LDP) grads.

Something that I have learned in my job is that I’m not necessarily supposed to meet every need but to find people who can. In that way, I serve more as a catalyst than anything else. I guess the way I see it is — if no one else can do it, then I am able!

man in yellow shirt and black jacketSo that is what happened when Richmond Wandera, LDP grad and Moody Scholarship recipient, was headed to the United States to begin his studies.

I had arranged all of Richmond’s travel plans but hadn’t been able to find someone to pick him up from Denver International Airport. However, my husband and I were available, so we headed off for what turned out be quite an adventure.

Richmond had been traveling all night with no rest. He flew into Denver from Uganda, by way of Belgium, to spend a few days at the Compassion Global Ministry Center before heading to Moody. All of the belongings he would need for the next three years were in his possession. He was leaving behind his family, and we would later learn, his girlfriend whom he intends to marry.

I made a sign that said “Welcome Richmond” because I didn’t know what he looked like, only that his skin was brown, and I figured he would look lost.

I pressed my way to the front of the crowd waiting for incoming passengers and proudly held up my sign, while my husband, Andy, sat back and laughed at me — not wanting to be associated with my dorkiness.

I actually saw Richmond immediately. He did look somewhat lost, yet he also appeared totally confident as he headed up the escalator and immediately saw my sign (he said later that my sign meant a lot!).

Andy and I got out from the crowd and both hugged and welcomed Richmond. We chatted politely about his flight and went to look for his bags, which we learned were lost in transit. Figures! We filed a claim for the lost bags and prayed they would be located.

Richmond was hungry, and Andy and I had waited to eat, so we attempted to ask him which kind of food he would like. He said Mexican, so we went to Chipotle — I mean, what better Mexican experience is there?

He was amazed at the amount of food and could not get over the fact that refills on Coke were free. (I’ll try to get him to tell you that story.)

It was at Chipotle when I realized that we were on holy ground, because Richmond was such a joy and a delight for us to spend time with.

After dinner we headed back to Colorado Springs. About 25 miles from the airport, baggage services called to tell us that Richmond’s bags were (miraculously) at the airport. So we turned around and went to get his bags.

Let me just tell you that by this point I was grateful I would get another 50 minutes with this guy.

Richmond is kind and gracious and had no problem answering all of my 1,000 questions, even though he had been traveling for who knows how many hours.

He shared openly about the struggles he grew up with and the help that Compassion brought to his family and his community.

I think as a Compassion sponsor it is a special thing to hear first hand about the work that Compassion is doing. That’s why, even as a Compassion employee, I felt it was such a blessing to be with Richmond.

All year long we send in our $32 a month and get our letters — but to HEAR it! To SEE it lived out in someone who has overcome! It was an overwhelming experience of joy, and I know my husband and I are forever changed.

The reality is that I thought I was doing Richmond (and God) a favor by picking him up from the airport on that day. What I learned is that God was doing me a favor by giving me time with one of His kids — one who He is madly in love with.

I hope that you someday too will have an opportunity like this . . . and I’m pretty sure that if you keep reading this blog — you may! 🙂

*This content honors our historical Leadership Development Program. To learn more about our current youth development opportunities, click here.

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We Shall Overcome

Recently, a great privilege and opportunity came my way. As it goes in the workplace, something happens or someone leaves, and all of a sudden you find out you have a new project on your hands.

My project was the first-ever Wess Stafford Moody Bible Institute scholarship that was awarded to three of our Leadership Development Program* (LDP) graduates.

Oh yeah, my name is Celina, and I work in marketing on the events team. Working with LDP graduates was a little out of my realm of expertise, but I was up for the challenge!

we-shall-overcomeAs I was being told about my role, three LDP grads –- Michelle Sheba Tolentino (Philippines), Richmond Wandera (Uganda) and Tony Beltran Morales (Dominican Republic) were headed to the United States, and nobody could really tell me what my role was actually going to be.

Everything with the Moody scholarship program is brand new territory for us. In the beginning, my job was to ask a whole lot of questions. And now, I realize that my job has been to break ground.

I don’t consider myself good at ground breaking, but every job I have had for the past 10 years has involved some sort of ground breaking. I don’t really like it. But I must be good at it because God keeps assigning me to it.

Anyway, the Moody scholars are here and have been for four months now, and I have to say that I think they are the most amazing people in the world!

They are smart; way smarter than me. They are kind. They are funny. And they know an aspect of God’s character that I will never know in all my days on this earth.


Because little children see His face, and although Michelle, Richmond and Tony have overcome poverty, they have seen His face in their darkest moments and lived to share it.

I have never met an LDP grad that hasn’t remained childlike in the best way.

I’ve met a student whose father was murdered. I’ve met students called ugly and useless by their families — rejected and scorned — and have all seen His face. And overcome.

The Bible says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Now, these three LDP graduates are earning masters degrees while sharing their testimonies all over the United States and Canada. They are overcoming, and we are blessed to be a part of it!

*This content honors our historical Leadership Development Program. To learn more about our current youth development opportunities, click here.

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Leadership Development in the Dominican Republic


César Antonio Beltran is the first graduate of the Dominican Republic’s leadership development program,* graduating summa cum laude with a degree in computer engineering in February 2008.

He has now traveled to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship at the Moody Bible Institute (MBI). Out of 47 students participating worldwide, César and two other LDP graduates received the Wess Stafford-Moody Scholarship last June.

While in Compassion’s child sponsorship program, César searched for his spiritual gifts by participating in almost all church ministries, and he realized that his field is working with the youth and adolescents. “With this in mind, MBI is going to prepare me specifically for this type of church work,” César says.

César’s parents see this learning opportunity as a result of his love for the Scriptures. “Since Tony (nickname for César) was small, he wrote Bible verses on a piece of cardboard and put it up on the wall,” recalls his father. “And many times, he met with his brother and his sister in his bedroom and they made contests of quick Bible search, text memorization, text analysis and things like that.”

Also, his mother, Ana Mercedes, explains:

“Tony took some very good Bible courses with a missionary who taught himwhat a Christian youth should be like and encouraged him and other youth by having them transcribe Bible books with their own handwriting. He gave them new Bibles for a prize.”


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