*UPDATED* Compassion Chat

*UPDATE AT THE END!*

This is going to be a long one, but stick with me to the end–there’s some good info here.

I haven’t written much about Compassion in the last couple of weeks, though it’s not because they’re any less on my heart.  Frankly, I wanted to speak to you more about their work, but I felt like you and I both probably needed a break from the intense emotion surrounding my trip

Life has returned to normal for me–or, at least, to the "new" normal.  I still find myself battling moments of frustration occasionally, though these days the frustration is more with myself than anyone around me.  I wonder, at times, if my life is reflecting the changes I want it to reflect?  Am I slipping into old thinking and old priorities?  God has been so faithful to drop me moments of encouragement at just the moments I need it. 

Like the e-mail I received yesterday.  I’ve actually received so many amazing e-mails from many of you about your own Compassion experiences–I could start a whole blog just excerpting your beautiful words.  But this one, from Suzanne, touched me so deeply I asked her if I could share a bit of it with you (the photo is of her Compassion child, Geofrey):

I am not a woman with much money. In fact, I have more debt than I have laundry. And with three kids with a penchant for sock wearing, that’s really saying something, you know. But I knew….I JUST GeofryKNEW when I saw those pictures that I would have to sponsor a child. I would find the money somehow, somewhere. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. I felt called to sponsor a kiddo. I picked a boy close to my own son’s age. I didn’t do it to make myself feel good, or to say "Oh look at me, I’m such a good person for doing this.." Not at all. I just heard God whispering to me. Probably much the same way he whispers to Geofrey, the litte boy I sponsored. Oh how I cried, clicking that button. I felt selfish for the merest of moments, thinking "I just clicked away $100 and I have debts to pay…" But then I felt peace, even knowing that yes, my debt will still be there, but a little boy will have his needs met. I felt like a momma, taking care of what needs to be done.

I myself am the mother of three kids with special needs. Each one different, but their difficulties range from Mental Retardation and Autism to speech delays. I have enough on my plate. But God whispered to me and said "Your heart is big even if your wallet is not."

Of course, stories like this are unbelievably touching.  However moved your heart may be, it’s still always prudent good to ask questions before you get involved financially with any charity.  Several of you have sent me some good questions, and I’d like to address a few below.  (For a complete list of FAQ’s, see the Compassion website.) I enlisted the help of my friend Brian Seay.  He’s on the U.S. staff of Compassion, and he went along on our trip to Uganda (you can read his blog here).  I’m quoting him directly; his words are in blue, my own are in black.

First, read these rankings and reports from independent charity watchdog groups:

Charity Watch
Charity Navigator
Ministry Watch

Why does Compassion focus on individual child development rather than broader community development work?

[From the Compassion website] During Compassion‘s 50-plus years of development work, we’ve seen various approaches to breaking the cycle of poverty in children’s lives. We’ve discovered that changed circumstances rarely change people’s lives, while changed people inevitably change their circumstances.

Community development is important work that addresses the external circumstances of poverty and is an important complement to our work. However, our primary focus is individual child development—an inside-out, bottom-up approach that recognizes the God-given value and potential of each individual child. Many of these children grow up to become positive influences in their own communities.

Why is only one child per family sponsored?  Does this breed some resentment within families?  What about within villages, where you have some sponsored children and some who are not—is this an issue? 

The major reason for this is practical based on the number of children in need and the project/church capacity.  The belief of taking 1-3 children per family (it differs between countries) and limiting it there is based upon ministering to the greatest number of families possible.  If you don’t have a limit on number of children per family, the number of families reached dramatically decreases.  I suppose there is potential for resentment but the fact is that all members of the family benefit from Compassion (food, medical care, etc.) and many times the church is ministering in some way to the rest of the children. 

In Honduras last month I visited a new Compassion project that was only accepting young children because of their capacity and supplies.  So, the church began a ministry for the pre-teens and teens that was in addition to the Compassion project at the church.

How long does it take to get a letter to/from your child?

Two to three months.  The letter travels from your home to the office in Colorado Springs where it is read for content and packaged with other letters headed to the same country.  Once the letter arrives in the country it is translated and delivered to the appropriate project.

Our own letters with our four kids in Uganda have actually moved much faster than this–the turnaround time has generally been more like six to eight weeks.

Can I send clothes or toys directly to these kids?

The sheer cost of allowing packages to be sent to a Compassion child is staggering.  Not to mention the customs rules and charges in the different countries.  I know the intent is good on the part of the sponsor, but Compassion does not have the capacity in manpower or finances to handle this. 

Any sponsor can give three different kinds of gifts each year beyond their monthly involvement.  The birthday and Christmas gifts are used to buy items for the child and his/her family.  You can also give a ‘family gift’ with a maximum of $300 per year that goes directly to the family.  The country and project staff work directly with the family to asses the greatest need.  I have seen examples where the family gift fixed a roof, bought a goat, or helped with food and daily supplies.

When I was in Uganda, I learned that Compassion will occasionally partner with other reputable relief-type organiazations, as specific situations arise.  For example, they’ve worked directly with Samaritan’s Purse to help with identifying children for Operation Christmas Child packages.

If you have a question not answered by the Compassion website, e-mail it to me, and I’ll see if I can get it answered for you.

Before I wrap this up, let me introduce you to Christine.  She’s seven years old, and she has six siblings.  She needs a sponsor, right now, today.  Let’s not allow this sweet girl to go through one more weekend without somebody stepping in to meet her most basic needs.  Click here if you want it to be you.  If the link doesn’t work, then–praise God!–that means someone has signed up for her!  (If it’s you, e-mail me.)  *UPDATED TO ADD* Hooray!  In under two hours from the time of the original post, a reader nicknamed "Zoom" sponsored sweet Christine.  Zoom wrote to me:

I am childless.  One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 54.  "Sing O barren woman, you who never bore a child, burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor, "  the scripture goes on to say " enlarge your tent" and some interpretations say " many will be your children".  Christine can become my spiritual child, and for that I  thankful.  Our sweet God fills the needs of a childless woman and a child that live half a world away from each other.   What a blessing.

One last note to this marathon post:  if by any chance you’re coming to the Aaron Shust concert in Broken Arrow, OK, tonight, I’ll be working at the Compassion table handing out packets.  Come by and say hello!

26 thoughts on “*UPDATED* Compassion Chat

  1. Robin-PENSIEVE says:

    Lovely…the link doesn’t work :), and for once, that’s a GOOD thing!
    Suzanne’s story is laced with beauty; then again, isn’t every Compassion story? The beauty lies within the lives who are touched.
    Have fun at the concert! Guess that goes without sayin’ ;).
    🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    Yay!!! The link doesn’t work!! Praise God! Christine will be taken care of!
    We adopted our Dominican Republic child when you had just gotten back from your trip. I hope that she gets our initial letter soon.
    Do the kids get to write back?
    I’m from the OK area, but now live in TX. I would love to go to the Aaron Shust concert though!!

  3. Linda Sue says:

    Good post, Shannon, I find as soon as we (DH or I) introduce the topic, somebody will ask questions. The basics need to be covered often because our society has been so heart hardened by scams and lousy stewardship. I encourage anyone to investigate all they want – Compassion holds up! We’ve received notes and pictures from our sponsored boys – showing a genuine change in their lives. Have a good time at the concert tonight and thank you for giving your time as well as your heart to Compassion’s work.

  4. suburbancorrespondent says:

    Wow – directly before I clicked on your post today, I had finally gotten around to sponsoring 2 children. My teen daughter had great fun picking out the children to help (and if you’ve been reading my posts about her, you know her good attitude is a miracle in itself). Then she ran to show one of her younger (hated) siblings exactly where the sponsored child lives on our world map. I call that Miracle #2…I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

  5. Kelsey says:

    Shannon,
    The Lord is going to bless you immensly. You are a great women with a huge heart and will some day change the world for all the children.
    God Bless!

  6. mombo says:

    I can’t make it to the concert tonight (I live in south Tulsa), but I committed to the Lord that when I got my new job, I’d sponsor a child. Well, I start on the 16th. We’re looking for a child in Tanzania or Rwanda because my daughter’s going there this summer and was hoping to meet her child. Kinda late, I know, but I’ve been looking for a job since August. It was the Lord who made me late!

  7. Jenny says:

    I’m with everyone else glad the link doesn’t work!
    Having sponsored Onesmus, it makes me look at the sun different. That is what I have told him in my letters, that when I look at the sun, its the same sun he sees. When I feel the sun on my arms, its the same sun he feels.
    Have a great weekend!

  8. Jaena says:

    We are sponsoring a child because of what we have read about your trip (or, more accurately, what *I* read and then summarized to my husband).
    We found a little boy, Kofi, who is was born on our son, Elisha’s, birth date – so they are “twins.” Elisha is so excited about this. The other night, our devotional asked for him to name something or someone that was “precious” to him and he said, “Kofi.” Pretty cool stuff! 🙂
    Thanks for inspiring and challenging us to make a difference!

  9. Erin K says:

    I did it! I didn’t sponsor Christine because somebody beat me to it, but I did sponsor a little girl named Susana. She’s adorable, and I’m so glad she’s “mine”.
    God’s been working on me since you went to Africa. It only took me six weeks to obey… Oh well – at least I did it!! 😀 Thanks for the nudge!

  10. Holly Smith says:

    We are adding two Compassion children to our other two this weekend in CELEBRATION of God’s wonderful work in our lives…bringing a wonderful job to my Chris after 4 months without! We have four children and have Compassion children that match the older two’s ages. So we are looking for two more.
    Keep spreading the word! And if you find yourself in the Springs area ever–give me a holler and we’ll have a little lunch!

  11. Lightening says:

    Oh wow! Such wonderful and inspirational stories.
    I just wanted to add that we LOVE the family gift option and include these as regular gifts (2 per year) to the families of our children. One of the reasons we do this is because we saw how life-changing these gifts could be (eg providing a goat which can help the family to help themselves out of poverty – something we’re a big fan of). The other reason is to reach out to the whole family of our children and let them know we care about them as much as we do the child we’ve sponsored.
    Sadly, we’re not so great at the regular correspondence and that is something I would REALLY like to work on improving as I know it is important.

  12. shana says:

    Can we just get a collective, Thank You Jesus. I mean, wow, wow, superwow at that updated ending. I am speechless about how God has linked these two humans from around the world and met both of their needs through each other. What a testament to his providence and goodness.
    We, too sponsored a child very soon after y’all got home. I chose Ken, a 14 year old from Uganda. We haven’t yet corresponded, I don’t have a recent family picture of us….and suddenly find myself speechless, but we’ve made the first start and he is receiving our monthly financial contribution.
    Please, do keep up the posts about Compassion…..both the inspirational ones and the informative ones.
    Shana

  13. Shaun Groves says:

    This probably sounds incredibly cheesy and hopefully not at all condescending – I can’t find better words at the moment – I’m simply very proud of you, Shannon. Very proud.
    And I miss you – all of you Uganda bloggers.

  14. Carolyn F says:

    I was so excited to return home this Friday and discover my first letter from Upendo (the 7 yr old girl I sponsored in Tanzania on 2/17)!! She wrote it on 3/5, so it took about a month for me to get it. I’ve written her three times so far, so I hope she has gotten at least one of those.
    The letter was so sweet and so thankful, it made me cry. I really needed that touch of love. It’s on my list tomorrow to write her back. I’ll have a scan of the pictures she drew me on my blog tomorrow!

  15. Daiquiri says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I just wanted to drop you a line because I got the neatest letter in the mail the other day, and I couldn’t help but think of you. We heard from our “Africa child” (as my kids call her)! I did a post about it, if you’d like to see her sweet picture.
    Why did I think of you, you wonder? It was your posts and your trip to Africa that inspired us to adopt a Compassion Child. Thanks from us and our new little girl 🙂
    http://www.calledblessed.com/2008/04/fingerprint-that-changed-everything.html
    Daiquiri

  16. maria says:

    Just to let you know, reading the posts about your trip got me to “click the link”. Upon doing so I found the toughest looking little guy imaginable. His expression reminded me of my oldest son at the same age. All business, no smile. Oddly enough it was my oldest’s 18th birthday, in honor of which, I sponsored him.
    So when you start to feel like maybe you haven’t made the changes you feel you should, know you helped change that little boy’s life. And gave my son something truly memorable for his 18th birthday.

  17. elena says:

    hi. I have a question and I hope you can help me. I read about Compassion on your blog and somehow I convinced my boyfriend to join and,together, help a child. the problem is that we are from Romania and from what I saw, Compassion doesn’t have an office here. can you please tell me what can we do in order to make this happen? thank you so much. hope to hear from you soon.
    elena

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