A City Slicker Comes to Compassion

“So you moved from New York City … to Colorado Springs? Wow.” Full stop. “That must be a big adjustment …”

“Yes indeed,” I reply.

two young women smilingAnd that is the most common reaction I (right) get. What makes me chuckle though is the momentary look of utter confusion that passes over a person’s face as the “How” and “Why” questions begin to percolate, fighting their way to the mind’s surface.

It is as if my co-worker could, for the very briefest of moments, still get a whiff of the cab that took me to NYC’s LaGuardia Airport three months ago. The taxi driver was a cologne-toting, disco-listening, ’70s throw-back who threw even me for a loop, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a strange co-mingling of cab and cologne left on me.

But in all honesty, I chuckle at myself more than anything. Because I fully realize I do it, too, right back at my co-worker telling me he is from a distant town in eastern Texas or a one-stoplight town in Nebraska.

And I go shuffling frantically through the file folders in my mind to come up with something, anything, only to arrive at the “N” section out of breath. I find that my Nebraska file is empty — save for the dusty “Lincoln” filed in 1987 during the lesson on state capitals that I never mastered.

Slightly embarrassed, I refocus on my conversation partner, knowing that my sheepish smile is perhaps conveying an equally disconcerting non-meeting of the minds.

I chuckle, thanking God for humor and grace. And that’s what makes the world go round — God. I suppose that is how I landed here in the Wild West after all.

And by “suppose” I mean it was all Him, and by “here” I mean Compassion International’s Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

One of the best parts, right off the bat, has been realizing that these momentary non-meetings of the mind are so unbelievably insignificant in the face of a mission so clear and near to God’s heart — releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Over the last three months I’ve been learning about my co-workers. Nebraska, for example, is a brother and a friend who dispenses grace like orange slices at a kid’s soccer game.

The once shamefully empty file folder in my head is bulking up very slowly with remnants from his life and how God is continuing to make him a man after His own heart. I can now locate Nebraska on the map, and even the town where he’s from.

And this has been my experience thus far of Compassion-ites. Truly amazing. Amazingly talented. People of creativity, ambition, grace and, oddly enough, compassion.

Another amazing part about work at Compassion so far is knowing that in some teeny tiny way I’m able to do something for kids growing up in poverty — the ones struggling to fight the lies that tell them they don’t matter and will amount to nothing.

I played soccer with them in Brazil and lost miserably; I was blessed to visit them in Panama at their schools and was humbled at the loving reception; I was toured around cities in Tanzania by kids living and working on the streets. Kids on glue to quell hunger pains, but kids eager to hold my hand and show me their world.

I’ve seen their resiliency and determination in the face of impossible circumstances and I know that God is in their midst. That His presence is there.

So maybe the fax machine near my office intimated me on day three, and maybe I can’t find pizza with decent crust in this town, and maybe I’m still fumbling around in my new role here at Compassion, but the list of things that just don’t matter in light of God’s glory, continues to grow.

And hopefully I’m growing too.

So, in response to the “How” and “Why” questions on my cross-country move … I suppose airplane, moving truck and God don’t really suffice. But what I see in my mind’s eye is liquid grace trickling through God’s labyrinth, running together and overflowing. Joining New York, Nebraska and Compassion International.

And now, a 12-year-old girl in Colombia, Elizeth, I’m blessed to sponsor. Humbled for perhaps the billionth time in the last three months, I thank God. Daily.

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Why Me, God?

For about 35 years, once I first heard of such a possibility, I wanted to sponsor a child. But for most of that time, I simply could not afford even $10 per month.

About mid-2001, watching a commercial on TV for another organization, I realized I could finally afford to do something. But through which organization? Who could I really count on to use the money for the child’s benefit? Could I trust any of them, and how would I know? Having no answers, I did nothing.

I spent all of 2002 praying for God to show me what area of ministry He wanted me in. Almost every Sunday, I heard, “Find your passion and use it!” “Hmm…where can I get a ‘passion’?” I couldn’t have found a passion in me with a flashlight or a search warrant. So I prayed, and I waited.

Two weeks before Christmas, I walked out of church on a cold, gray day in a mood to match. I walked down three or four steps into the fellowship area and began to pass a row of ministry tables. Above and behind the first one was a banner saying something about Compassion.

I kept walking, but my inner skeptic wanted to know: “What are we being ‘compassionate’ about, today?”

a child packet for a child waiting for a sponsorI turned, looked down at a sea of packets, each with a photo of a child; the world stopped, along with all sound and movement around me. I knew what these packets represented.

I stood there, saying half under my breath, “I can do this! I can do this!” About the fourth time, a Voice inside said, “Yes, you can do this. This is it!”

A warmth started at the top of my head and flowed over me and through me, right down to my feet. I took home two packets, unsure about one child.

That afternoon, I went to Compassion’s website to look at more children. I didn’t realize how many photos they kept on there, and I quickly felt overwhelmed. “God, I can’t sponsor them all!” soon changed to “God, we’ve got to find sponsors for these kids!”

About the fourth time (what is it with four times?!), I heard, “Yes, we do!” Then I realized the “This is it” meant more for me than “merely” sponsoring. And I do not mean to minimize the importance of sponsoring!

So, as is true of so many advocates, if not all, I came into this ministry with a clear calling. There have been times when I have needed to remember that, when church doors refused to open, when people walked by the tables with hardly a glance, and I wanted to use a 2×4 on their heads to get their attention. (Thank God, I’ve grown past that!)

But let me mention some of the things that continually reaffirm the rightness of Compassion in my life, and as a real ministry in this world. (more…)

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