*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 KNEW 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:
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!