On an autumn day along Peru’s historic Incan trail, a vision was born in the heart of a pastor from Indiana.
As Jeremy LeVan hiked the scenic Peruvian trail, he reflected on his recent visit to a Compassion child development center at a local church in Lima. He had been inspired by the church’s ministry to at-risk mothers and babies living in extreme poverty through Compassion Survival.
It gave him a remarkable idea about the future of his own church’s ministry:
What if he could rally his church to help mothers and babies by funding Compassion Survival at one church in an impoverished community?
Jeremy was eager to return to Epic Church so he could share his experience with his church family and invite them into the journey.
Catching a Vision
It didn’t take long for Jeremy’s passion to ignite compassion within his congregation. Before long, the church was fundraising for Compassion Survival at Nazarene Church in Chillanes, Ecuador. This support would help that community’s mothers and babies receive critical care for their minds, bodies, hearts and souls.
In addition, Epic Church members began sponsoring children at Nazarene Church’s Star of the Morning Student Center. Jeremy and his own family decided to sponsor a sweet 6-year-old girl named Dayana.
Shortly after becoming her sponsor, Jeremy was able to meet Dayana while he visited the church and center staff. A deep connection was beginning to form.
The Passion Grows
Jeremy’s passion for helping children became contagious. In only 2 1/2 months, the small Indiana church of 300 raised $25,000 for Survival. And in the first year, they sponsored more than 100 children at the development center!
It was no longer just Jeremy’s passion, it was their passion.
Partnering with Nazarene empowered Epic Church to minister to at-risk babies and mothers on a larger scale. It provided the necessary care to help them reach their first birthday and beyond.
Groups from the church began to take trips to visit, learn and minister in Chillanes.
On a few occasions, Jeremy was able to bring his wife and two kids along to connect with Dayana and her family. Through these experiences and consistent letter-writing, the two families formed a trusted bond.
On their second visit, Dayana’s mom began opening up to the LeVans. She told them of Dayana’s learning difficulties and how school had been very challenging for her.
Jeremy could relate to these challenges because he had similar difficulties growing up.
“I was able to just go there with her and share how you can give that over to God — entrust that to Him, and He’ll walk with you,” Jeremy reflects.
The Impact Is Real
Epic Church has seen God do so many amazing things through this partnership.
When Jeremy first visited Nazarene Church, he learned a shocking statistic. Each year, about 400 children die from preventable diseases in their community.
Jeremy had graduated from a high school that size. And picturing his entire high school passing away every year put that tragedy into perspective.
Today, 400 children are enrolled at the center, and staff and resources are growing.
“We’re seeing progress numerically, spiritually, in the buildings, and in the infrastructure,” Jeremy says.
The pastor of Nazarene Church, Italo Gonzalez, sees this impact firsthand.
He shares, “The community here recognizes the value of the Survival. Thanks to its help, they see that our mothers and babies are well assisted, and that they’re special to the church and the donors. Even the local authorities recognize the valuable work of the Survival.”
Moms registered in Survival not only receive life-giving care, they also receive biblical teaching and discipleship.
One of these moms, Martha Beatriz Gavilanes Ocampo, loves this aspect of her care.
She shares, “My [Survival implementer] teaches me the Word of God and I share it with my children and husband. Every day we are improving as a family. I am also grateful to them for what they teach us in the workshops and health talks.”
Testimonials like these have turned Jeremy’s whole church community into a band of true child advocates.
Kids Helping Kids
The passion for global outreach has permeated Epic Church. Families are now seeing firsthand the difference they can make for children in need.
“It’s cool to listen to families in our church say, ‘Instead of our goal to go to Disney World, our goal is to save up enough money so that one day we can go visit our Compassion child,” Jeremy shares.
Even the kids are getting behind the mission! Many of the children at the church are now partnered with a child at the Chillanes center. Many of them write letters, pray, and even give their own money to support their friends in South America.
Jeremy’s kids love hearing from Dayana, and they pray for her every day. During their last visit to Dayana’s, they had the opportunity to help Dayana and her mother both make decisions to make Jesus their Lord and Savior! This was a huge answer to prayer for their family.
At school, his 11-year-old daughter, Caitlin, was asked if she had $100 what she would do with it, and she replied by saying she would sponsor a kid through Compassion!
“For her, her values were centered in, ‘How do I make a difference for God’s kingdom?’”
Helping children in poverty has truly become part of Epic Church’s DNA.
“For us, it became a normal part of life. You help people. You’re a blessing to be a blessing.”
Some may have doubted the impact two small churches in Indiana and Chillanes, Ecuador, could make when united together.
But one vision by one person, one family, or one church can eternally alter the futures of children in poverty!