The church property where the Compassion program is hosted is an oasis. The small lot feels expansive compared to the cramped quarters of the slum. The entrance is marked by trees, vegetation and pink hibiscus; a stark contrast to the stench, filth, and garbage just outside the gate.
The pastor took the church more than 30 years ago with only 9 members. Located in a largely Muslim area, he prayed to ask God how to reach the community. He sensed the Lord leading him to hand out candy to children and eventually feed them.
More than a hundred kids showed up for the first meal. He and his fledgling congregation began serving the kids of the community.
Eventually, he sensed the Lord leading him to hire two Muslims to cook for the children. This provided inroads into the Muslim community and helped build healthy relationships. Because of this, the church is now seen as a source of hope and light for those in the community—both in the eyes of Christians and Muslims, a rarity for those who are often at odds. Today, the church has more than 720 members who are Christ-followers and continues to provide a meal for all the kids who attend Sunday school.
Twenty-four years ago the church began partnering with Compassion. Today, they have 293 students in the program who are fed, educated, and nurtu
red every Saturday. Through their child sponsorship program, Compassion makes sure that the student’s school fees are paid so they can stay enrolled, receive immunizations and medical attention whenever they become ill, develop social skills, learn about nutrition and sanitation, and hear the Gospel.
I wish you could have seen them sing about Jesus today.
Mid-way through the afternoon, we walked two dusty, garbage-strewn blocks through the slum to Ruth’s* home—a ten by ten, tin-walled shack. The single room lacked electricity or running water. The only light came from a small window. Whenever it rains, the uneven dirt floor floods turning to thick mud.
When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw two twin mattresses and a broken wooden chair lacking cushions that served as bedding and seating for all seven occupants. In the corner sat a handful of plastic cups, small bowls and various recycled containers. A pot heated by charcoal acted as the kitchen stove.
The dad had long disappeared.
On one of the mattresses six children sat ranging from ages 6- to 22-years-old. The middle son had contracted meningitis at a young age and now couldn’t speak intelligibly. Another son had a medical condition the mom thought was sickle cell, but unable to afford the hospital bills, hasn’t been able to seek treatment.
“His eyes are yellow,” I whispered to our host. “I don’t know anything about medicine, but doesn’t that mean his liver is failing?”
The host nodded.
The mattresses sat perched precariously on rocks in the corners where the bed’s legs were broken off. I hesitated to sit down for fear of breaking the bed, but was quickly assured by the mother, “It’s good—that’s the mattress the sponsor gave us.”
The mother shared how much a difference Compassion had made in their lives. “Because of them, Ruth can go to school and because of them we have a mattress and a fish business.”
I didn’t quite understand the fish business, so I asked her to explain. She pulled out a large plastic blue bowl she called a fish basin. It was so chipped and cracked, any American would have long disposed of it. But that bowl was worn from heavy use and that single blue bowl was crucial to giving the woman what she needed to sell dried fish and earn money to help feed her other kids.
When I looked at all of her children, one didn’t look like the others. That was Ruth.
It’s hard to explain. Physically, she was healthier, stronger, and cleaner than her brothers and sisters. But it was more than that. There was life in her. Through child sponsorship, people were actively engaged and helping her break the cycle of poverty.
I wonder if Ruth’s sponsor ever knew what a difference those small extra gifts at Christmas or a birthday were making in her child’s life.
The Africans have taught us that the worst part of poverty isn’t the illness or lack of sanitation or lack of education.
The worst part of poverty is a lack of hope, because when you believe you aren’t worth anything, you become nothing. [Tweet this]
Ruth had hope. Because someone gave her that hope.
Will you give a child hope today? Will you sponsor a child like Ruth and impact an entire family forever? [Tweet this]
Of the 293 students in the Compassion program that we visited today, 13 still need sponsors. We can make a difference one child at a time.