Am I getting nobler, better, more helpful, more humble, as I get older? Am I exhibiting the life that men take knowledge of as having been with Jesus…?
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13 ESV
“Outsiders define us by what we do, not by what we say or by what we believe.”
Steve Bowen as quoted by Doug Pollock in the book “God Space”
When most people say they love someone, they do not mean “I’ve made a commitment to place your needs above my own.” They usually mean “I like the way you make me feel or what you do for me.”
James MacDonald (not a perfect quote)
This is probably my favorite story/illustration of all time. I believe it is a story that circulates around YMCA day camps and the like as group devotional material. I had heard it sometime in the past but my brother retold it in a mission trip prep meeting in 2015 and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it again.
The Old Man and the Starfish
One day an old man was walking along the ocean shore, and thousands of starfish had washed up on the beach. As far as the eye could see, there was starfish upon starfish upon starfish. Sadly, the tides were receding and all of these starfish were being left behind on shore where they would eventually die. Then, one by one, the old man began leaning over and picking up the starfish and tossing them, one at a time, back into the ocean.
Watching this scene from a distance was a young man. Concerned at the futility of the old man’s effort to save more than a few of these starfish, the young man approached him. “Old man!” he says, “Why are you bothering to toss these few starfish back into the ocean? There are so many of them! You want be able to rescue them all! What you’re doing won’t amount to much. Why waste your time? What you’re doing doesn’t matter!”
Hearing the young man and reaching down for yet another starfish, he turns to him and holds the starfish for him to see and says, “It matters to this one.” And he tosses it back into the ocean and then reaches down for another.
The lesson is obvious. Our world is full of problems and needs. More problems than any one person could overcome on their own. We will never solve all the worlds problems or provide aid to all in need. But instead of being overwhelmed with all we can’t do and give up, we can look to the person and need nearest to us and do what we can for them. What we do will matter to that one.
Day 3 was more of the same. Impressed. Wow. Conviction.
We left the city today and drove about an hour and a half into more rural parts. We past Mayan ruins and fields of volcanic rock leftover from some eruption from like 1500 years ago. We arrived at another Compassion Project to another rock star welcome. The focus of our visit to this project was not the Child Sponsorship Program (CDSP), but the Child Survival Program (CSP). This program is for women with children ranging from in the womb to about 3 years of age. Once a child reaches 3, they are eligible for the sponsorship program.
This project had about 35 mothers and children who are receiving assistance with prenatal health, medical checkups, groceries, sewing training, stimulation opportunities for the kids to help with their development, and more.
After a great welcome, worship, power point presentation about the CSP, and tour of their facility, we were taken to visit one of the mother’s and her son at their home. The situation was the much the same as yesterday, but even more dire. The young mother, 22, who was married, looked wonderful, and dressed well. We saw her at the project before we visited her home. The home she lived in did not belong to her or her family. It was borrowed. It was a tin shack. Maybe 12×12 in size. She lived there with her husband and son. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law lived next door in a similar situation. They had something of an outhouse they shared. They really had next to nothing. Her husband worked loading trucks somewhere, for very little and inconsistent income. They depended on rainwater for most of their water, or had to walk nearby to a neighbor who must have had access to some running water.
This sweet young girl welcomed us to her home. It was so hard to sit and listen to her story, and see her life situation, especially compared to all we have in the United States. Why are we blessed with so much, and she with so little? Am I being a good steward of the resources God has given me? Am I grateful? Am I generous? Can I do more? I certainly have done nothing to deserve all the God has blessed me with.
But thank God for Compassion International. This young girl is receiving so much value from her involvement with the program. Her son is helped in so many ways. Right now, the CSP is not a one-to-one sponsorship program like the CDSP. They are piloting a one-to-one sponsorship for the CSP program now, and it is quite likely to be offered as such very soon.
If you’re not sponsoring a child already with the CDSP program, please do so. $38 a month. You will change a life.
Getting a head start on the day two report, I haven’t done the Day 2 “devotional”, but it does ask the question again, “What ONE WORD best summarizes this day for you?” The answer so far would be, “wow.”
Today we went to a Compassion “project.” All of Compassion’s projects are connected with a local church. This is really a strength of Compassion, and also a strengthening tool for the local church. Since the churches help find the children and facilitate the projects, it helps to build the churches credibility in the community by providing such a powerful service. Compassion offers the churches an opportunity to serve the communities with not just the good news about Jesus, but also the ability to build a bridge into people’s lives by meeting real needs.
After the police escort, we arrived at the project to the cheers of about 300 people, mostly whom were children. The church sponsoring the project also has a Christian school, and most of the kids in the school are a part of the project (sponsored children). We were welcomed like rock stars and ushered to the sanctuary where Pastor Daniel gave a short message and kids performed numerous dances, and songs, and more. You might note in the picture that all the kids look really normal – well dressed, clean, happy. (I’ll come back to this in a bit.)
We toured the school, and learned about how the Compassion funds were being used to support these children. We were even welcomed to look at various files of different sponsored children to see all the records of what support the children were receiving.
After lunch, we went to a home of one of the sponsored children. This was really the big “wow” moment. Like I said before, at the school, all the children, workers, teachers, etc., looked just like you and me. But going into the home is where you really see the poverty. In this case, I’d have to say the condition of the home was worse than what I typically saw when I lived in Mtwara, Tanzania. The home was clean, but there was very little furnishing. The home was of a little boy named Allen. Allen, 7, with red hair like my son’s, lived there with his mom, sixteen year old sister, thirteen year old brother, mother, and grandfather.
The ceiling of the home was corrugated (sp?) metal/tin. Much of which they told us was provided by the church and Compassion project. There was some electricity – they had a refrigerator and stove, and a light or two. But electrical wires ran exposed along the walls. The floors of course were concrete, and the roof leaked when it rained.
All of the family were well dressed. They looked so sweet and happy. The mom grew up in this same home, and I asked her about her favorite childhood memory. She shared about going up the hill to an open field to play baseball. Unfortunately, she said that her children were unable to do this as the crime and violence were too great now and her children couldn’t roam free as she did.
I’m certain that I cannot adequately describe the heartbreak of their living conditions. I have so much. They have so very little. And what they lack the most is hope. There is little to no hope that they will see much change in their lifetimes. But Compassion is making a difference.
So I have the privilege of being on a trip to El Salvador with a team of pastors to see the work of Compassion International. In our trip book, provided by Compassion, it has a daily devotional and place to journal your experience. It asks the question, “What ONE WORD best sums up this day for you?”
For me, the answer is “Impressed.” Day one was spent touring the Compassion office in San Salvador and learning the inner workings of Compassion. I was impressed by several things.
I was impressed by the dedication and passion of the staff. They have a huge staff of people. They have to because this operation is massive. For one, they translate about 3000 letters A DAY from sponsors writing to the children in El Salvador. But beyond the people overseeing the translation, all of the staff (and we met most of them who shared anywhere from 5-20 minutes about their role with Compassion) were so passionate about the program and the impact it is having on children and families. Color me impressed.
I was also impressed by the organization and apparent and potential impact Compassion has. It was really powerful to me to hear and see how Compassion is using my sponsorship dollars to change lives.
This is Compassion’s mission: In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.”
They have three programs that serve children and families – from birth to about 25 years of age.
Child Survival Program – Work begins with pregnant mothers to help with the health of their unborn child, and then walks with the mothers through the early years of childhood to educate about health. They also connect the mothers with the good news of Jesus through Christian teaching, and attempt to connect the mothers in the community to one one another for support and community building.
Child Sponsorship Program – This is where our sponsorship money goes – to developing children lives in four areas: spiritual, physical, social/emotional and cognitive/educational. My families $38 a month is used to help with one specific child – giving them opportunity in an impoverished environment to succeed.
Leadership Development Program – This program provides scholarship money and training for graduates of the Child Sponsorship Program who show exceptional leadership skills. They receive both university training and Christian leadership training.
I could say so much more – but time is short.
I have so much respect for this man and his wife. I’m so glad they share their lives so we can learn/be inspired by them. Go here and read the article.