In 2008, at age 11, I made the decision to sponsor a girl named Aviguel through an organization called Compassion International. As a sponsor, I committed to give a specific amount each month to support Aviguel and to develop a relationship with her through letter-writing. In 2010, I had the privilege of taking a trip with my mom to Aviguel’s home country of the Philippines. During this first international experience, my mind was opened to the reality of what life looks like for many people throughout our world. I also learned a great deal about Compassion’s ministry and returned home with a desire to become more deeply involved. Seven years later, I continue to sponsor and serve through this organization because I believe in the work they are doing.
Compassion’s mission is to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” Their approach to achieve this is based on a holistic development model. In the 25 developing countries where Compassion operates, this work is done through church-based centers, which are always staffed and run by local people and volunteers. This means that when Compassion-enrolled children participate in their Compassion center activities, they are going to a church where the program is run by people who know their culture, speak their language, and genuinely care about their well-being.
I am grateful for the privilege of serving with this organization, but on the U.S. side of operations. I serve in the role of event representative, and the work I do varies widely depending on the event and location. Often I serve as a volunteer at concerts that have chosen to partner with Compassion. I help sign up new sponsors, assuring them of Compassion’s goals and values and answering any logistical or financial questions they might have.
Other times, I travel and work as an Event Facilitator. This may mean I spend the weekend with the Compassion Mobile Experience, where families experience the life of a formerly sponsored child through an immersive exhibit. At these events, I help educate people on Compassion’s ministry and assist in signing up new sponsors. At other events, I may represent Compassion at a conference, training local volunteers for their roles in assisting with the event. Recently, Compassion introduced a Virtual Reality experience, which allows people to take a “tour” through Haiti as they hear the story of a formerly sponsored child. I have led this VR experience at a variety of conferences and festivals.
One of the things I have learned since becoming more involved with Compassion is how many people it takes to run an organization of this scope. The type of representative work done here in the U.S. is crucial to maintaining and growing the organization, but as I type this, I can’t help but think about the hundreds of people around the world who truly make Compassion’s impact possible. Right now, perhaps in El Salvador, teenagers are being taught farming techniques and receiving business training from their local church center volunteers. Perhaps program staff in Indonesia are teaching mothers of malnourished children about health, nutrition, and food preparation, so they can better care for their babies. Perhaps in rural Thailand, a group of church volunteers have coordinated a medical care day where several doctors have chosen to serve to enable children who would not otherwise have the resources to receive a health check. Perhaps a woman in Uganda is spending her Saturday afternoon tutoring young children because she believes in their potential. These scenarios are just a small example of the ways people are living out love through the ministry of Compassion. These people are the ones doing the day-to-day work of caring for, providing for, and educating their villages and communities.
This weekend I will travel to North Carolina to work at a church where our Mobile Experience will be set up. People will experience life in the developing world without spending a penny on travel. The work that will be done there is important. Educational and inspiring conversations with families will enable more children to find sponsors. At the same time, all around the world, children from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, will gather for their Compassion programs. They will be greeted by name, by familiar faces and skin tones the same shade as theirs. They will dance and sing and play and laugh. They will learn new skills and new concepts. They will be fed. All of this happens because of the numerous volunteers in their own communities who choose to give their time. A woman named Aracely, who serves in Bolivia as a director of a child development center, puts it this way: “…Sometimes we have to go the extra mile. [The volunteers] don’t have to come but they are willing to do it. They have the calling to serve.”
May I remember this as I serve with and represent Compassion on this side of the map in order that children around the world might be released from poverty, be known, welcomed, and loved.