Saturday, February 24, 2007
Today I want to share a little bit with you about the ministry I am most passionate about: Compassion International. There are lots of wonderful organizations out there to help feed the hungry, and a number of good child sponsorship programs, but Compassion is simply the best! With many ministries, I often feel like, "What difference does my tiny contribution actually make anyway?", but not with Compassion. You can't change the world -- but you can change the world for one child, and you actually get to watch exactly what your involvement does in the life of that child as he or she grows. Not only are physical needs met, but the child's spiritual needs are met, as well, and that is, after all, what truly changes their life.
Compassion has no set way that they work, or set things that they provide for their sponsored children. It's very flexible and variable, depending on the country, the community, and the particular needs of the child and family. They may provide anything from basic necessities such as food, clothing, or housing assistance to other needs such as medical care or schooling. They partner with local evangelical churches in the areas where they work and let that local body make a lot of the decisions about what is provided and to whom, but they very closely monitor how the funds are used and how the programs are run to ensure they comply with Compassion's goals and remarkable financial integrity.
What I really love about the way Compassion works now is that you can actually select the child you wish to sponsor on their website. Years ago, you could choose a gender and a country, but that was it -- they selected the child for you. Now you can actually browse through pictures of all children awaiting a sponsor and choose the one you want. You can search by country, by age, by gender, by birthday, or even children with specific disabilities or who are orphans. What you "get" is an information card about your child with a picture (which is updated on a yearly basis) and a minimum of two letters per year from your child, or in the case of a very young child, from a teacher or family member of the child. Some children choose to write more often. You have no limitations on how often you write your child, and you can even send your letters via email to be printed and translated for the child, if you wish. It doesn't get much easier than that! You can send flat paper-like gifts such as stickers and bookmarks along with your letters if you like. You also have the option of giving your child birthday and Christmas gifts -- you supply the amount of money you want to give (limited to $25 and two gifts per year) and the child's Compassion workers will use the money to buy something your child needs or wants.
Now, I want you to meet my Compassion children.
Staurin is 15 years old, and lives in the Dominican Republic. When I first began sponsoring Staurin at the age of 8, his picture showed a very somber child, and his information card indicated that he was performing below average in school. Staurin has blossomed into a wonderful young man. His grades are excellent and he plans to get further schooling when he finishes high school so that he can become an engineer. He has two older sisters and a younger brother, who sometimes like to send pictures with Staurin's letters, as well. Staurin nearly always has something exciting to share that he has just learned in Sunday School, such as a favorite verse or Bible story, and asks in every letter how he can pray for me. His mother always sends her love.
Angie is a real sweetheart. She is almost ten years old, and lives in Colombia. Angie was only 4 when I began sponsoring her, so her teenage sister and her mother sent the first few letters, and they were both such kind and gracious people. Now, of course, Angie writes her own letters, and she writes often!! She sends pictures of herself and her little sister from time to time on her own, separate from the yearly pictures that Compassion sends, and I have so enjoyed watching her grow. She is always so compassionate and thoughtful in her letters, and she thanks me constantly for supporting her so that she can go to her Compassion center, because she enjoys the activities they host for the children and the friends she has there so much. She dearly loves Jesus, and even at her young age, has written me that she is seeking the will of God for her life. Last Christmas, as I was shopping for dolls for my niece, I so wanted to be able to send Angie a doll, but of course, due to customs regulations, I couldn't do that. How happy I was to receive a letter from Angie soon after Christmas thanking me for the beautiful doll I gave her -- her Compassion worker had selected a doll for her with the Christmas money I sent!
Marsabi is my newest little girl. She is four years old and lives in Mexico. I chose Marsabi because she was born on the same day as my niece. My plan is that as they grow up together, they can be penpal friends, and this will help my niece to realize in a very personal way that there are children who are not as fortunate as she is, but we can help those children.
I urge you to visit Compassion's website today at http://www.compassion.com today and look through the pictures of children awaiting a sponsor. Each child has a story of their own, and you can be part of it. The cost is only $32 a month. You remain a child's sponsor until they age out of the program (usually at 18, but those attending college may stay a little longer), although if circumstances should at some point cause you to be unable to keep that commitment, you have the option of leaving the program and Compassion will find another sponsor for your child. If you have children, what a wonderful way to teach them to care for others, and to learn about another part of the world. You could do as I did and choose a child the same age as your child so they can grow up together, write letters, send pictures, share their interests, and have a friend somewhere across the world. Trust me -- it's a decision you'll never regret.