Today was such a great day! This morning we visited the East India Compassion Office and were able to see how they do their ministry. First though we were involved in their staff devotional, where we sang hymns in English, Bengali, and Hindu. Roger, our president then led us all in a devotion on Mark 2:1-12 about Jesus healing the paralytic. He pointed our three take away thoughts from the passage: 1) in verses 3-4, it talks about the four men who brought their friend who was paralyzed to Jesus; they were a team and worked together to bring him to Jesus. This was then compared to the ministry we each do and how we are each a team with individuals working together to bring people to Jesus. 2) in verse 4 it says the friends dug a hole in the roof to lower their friend to Jesus since there was no room to get him in anywhere else. This reminds us to do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus at any cost. 3) After verse 4, the four friends were not mentioned again in the story, instead it is about their friend and Jesus. Jesus focuses His attention on the paralytic and not on the friends who brought them. This reminds us that this ministry we do is not about us but about Jesus and whom we are blessed to minister to.
It was really incredible to be together with the Indians at Compassion and our American staff as we worshiped the same God. This is something I will not forget.
So I have mentioned Compassion a lot and realize that not everyone reading this may know what they do or who they are. Compassion International is a non-profit, non-denominational ministry that is ‘helping release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” They do this through different programs. The Child Survival Program (CSP) is a program that helps mothers-to-be with preventative prenatal care. This is for mothers and children age 0 – 2.
The Child Development Sponsorship Program (CDSP) is the next program for children age 4 – 22. This program reaches out to the poverty-stricken families, specifically a child, in different communities and provides basic needs such as education, health care, food, and spiritual guidance. All these things are provided through the local church where a social worker, project director and accountant work together with the country’s office to help each child. Each child is to have a sponsor, someone who ‘steps in the gap’ and points them toward Jesus, someone who believes in them and tells them they matter. The sponsor also provides for the child monetarily, $38 a month, of which around 80% goes directly toward the child sponsored. The other 20% goes to the general fund which helps support the children who do not yet have a sponsor. Every child in the CDSP receives all the above benefits, not just the sponsored children. The sponsored children though get the benefit of having a relationship with someone who cares for them and wants the best for them. This relationship is very special and often times children call their sponsor sister, brother, uncle, or aunt. In some cases children in the CDSP do not have parents and their sponsor in a way becomes like a parent to them.
The other main program in Compassion is called the Leadership Development Program or LDP. This program is for students who have been through the CDSP and are now seeking a college degree. LDP students are sponsored as well and it usually is around $300 a month to sponsor them. LDP students not only go to college but also get training in leadership and discipleship. This is the program Student Life brings their interns from for the summer Compassion representatives. Each Student Life Team has an LDP who will get the chance to share their story of how they got into Compassion, how they came to know Jesus and what their life is like today. It is a very unique and neat opportunity to have these students with us on our camp teams. The LDP students are also the main reason we are here in India. We are meeting the possible students who will be working with us and seeing what their lives are like here so that when they come to the United States we will be able to relate to them better because we have been to their home.
Compassion also has a program called CIV which helps meet the needs people in the other programs might have, such as clean water, epidemics, emergencies, etc.
Other than the LDP, we work the most with the CDSP. At each of our summer camps we provide the opportunity for people to sponsor a child. We walk step by step with them through the process and are very transparent about the program.
It was actually at the first ever Student Life camp I went to as a family group leader with my church that I heard about Compassion. That week I felt led to sponsor a child, so I began to sponsor Mariam Nazareth Solis Parodi from Nicaragua. She was eight years old when I began sponsoring her and I sponsored her for 2 ½ years. During this time we exchanged letters and encouraged one another. This past summer as I was working on a Student Life summer staff team, I began to sponsor another girl, this time from Kenya, Nyokabi Faith, who is 13. Most of the time when you sponsor a child and you correspond with them through letters there is translation involved. But with Nyokabi, she speaks English and is old enough to write to me herself so that is very special. Right after I began sponsoring Nyokabi, I got the sad news that Mariam’s parents took her out of the program because it was not safe for her to walk to the church where the Compassion project was held. I was literally devastated as I felt I had lost a little sister or niece. Mariam is no longer getting the benefits of Compassion as her parents removed her from the program. I pray for Mariam still and pray she will come back to the program one day or better yet know Jesus from her short time we knew each other.
So I was back to sponsoring one child but felt that the Lord had asked me to do more. Then this trip to India came up and we were shown packets (information and pictures of the children needing sponsors) of kids in the CDSP at projects we were going to visit. If we sponsored these children, we could possibly meet them! I began to pray and see if this is what the Lord wanted me to do. When I looked at the pictures of all the children one little girl stuck out to me – her name was Shinia Parveen, an eight year old from Kolkata. I did not immediately sponsor her but instead kept praying and coming by to see her picture in the office. It was not until the Friday before we left for India that I decided to sponsor Shinia. By this time, I found out that her project got taken off the itinerary and that the likelihood of me meeting her was slim. That was okay though as I was still able to bring her and her family a gift and the Compassion office would give it to them. So Saturday night after getting into Birmingham late from Atlanta, I went to Walmart and filled a tote bag with items to give to Shinia and her family.
Once we got to India, I talked to Keith our Compassion representative and came to the conclusion that it was still a long shot for me to meet her. So this morning I took her bag with me to the East India office and planned on leaving it there for her project facilitator to take to her. Then this afternoon we went to a local project where three of our LDP candidates grew up and we visited with the children. After our first visit, Sam, our in-country Compassion liaison came up to me and asked if I’d like to meet Shinia! The Compassion office had worked it out for Shinia and her mother to get to the project, an hour and a half away from their home so we could meet! I was shocked and so excited at the same time! I then went to meet this small, shy, beautiful little girl. Words cannot express how excited and happy I was (still am!) I am so honored to be able to be someone in Shinia’s life – to point her to Jesus and let her know I love her and am praying for her. I spent about two hours visiting with Shinia and her mother. Communication was limited as Shinia speaks Hindu at home with her family and then Bengali at her school and Compassion project. She knew very little English. Sudi and Nehe, two of the LDP students helped us translate, but mainly we sat in silence, me beaming and her huddled on my lap. I gave her and her mother the gifts I brought them, which was a really neat time. Shinia absolutely loved the teddy bear I got her and never put it down. She also enjoyed the bubbles and coloring book and crayons. I have posted some pictures – but many more to come.
After we played with the toys I got her, it was time for Shinia and her mother to go home. I had the chance to pray for them both and got a hug and a smile from Shinia before they left. My biggest prayer for Shinia is that she would come to know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Shinia was wearing a necklace that indicates Islam so I do not believe her family are Christians. I am so happy she is in Compassion where she will hear about Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for her.
It was such a blessing for me to be able to meet Shinia and her mother. It is something I never thought possible but through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). I would encourage you to pray about sponsoring a child. Sponsoring a child through Compassion is fulfilling God’s Word in Matthew 28:19-20 by making disciples of all nations. Compassion shares God’s Word and love to people all over the world and when people hear God’s Word and see and feel His love, lives are changed forever. Please go to www.compassion.com to learn more or ask me – I’d love to help in anyway I can.
After saying goodbye to Shinia, I went with our team and visited a home of a boy who is in the local Compassion project. We met his family and learned how their lives are affected by Compassion. This family’s house was one room with a loft above. It was about ten feet by seven feet with six people living in it. It was very modest but did have some electricity. It was very humbling to see. This family, though they do not have many material things, does have hope and joy because their son is involved in Compassion where he is getting provided for. Compassion helps the family by providing food and general items needed in the home. They are also helping by providing for all the education and health care costs for the boy. It was good to see all this first hand as now I can explain better to others about Compassion and how they are using the funds provided. I can be a better advocate because of what I have experienced.
We finished the day by going to a local mall for a dinner filled with Lebanese and Mediterranean food – my favorite being the hummus of course! During dinner we got to know the LDP students better and enjoyed fellowship together as a team. I can’t believe the second full day here is gone! So much has happened in such little time – I’m eager to see what else the Lord has in store for us! Now off to bed – sorry for the long post but I’m not much for short and quaint – I’m an all kind of details kind of girl!