Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Compassion Insight #2 – Stories from the Compassion Projects

It’s fair to say I am not an investigative type of person. I don’t ask a lot of questions.

Me: I saw Fred Smith today (family friend from a few years ago)
Mum: Oh really? What’s he up to these days?
Me: I don’t know, I didn’t really ask.

As a result, I’ve often left a day at a Compassion Project not knowing too much more than when I went in, or else not written stuff down, then forgotten it. However, I have managed to retain some Compassion Project stories, and I’d like to share them here.

GU-400, Rain of Blessings
Each Compassion Project has a unique code and name in order to identify it. For example, 15 year-old Josefa in Guatemala attends GU-400, Rain of Blessings Project. Josefa lives in a Mayan community out in the mountains, and the Project was probably one of the more struggling, under-resourced ones I’d visited. When I visited the Guatemala Compassion Office, I met the president of Compassion Guatemala and he shared that for a few months, the staff of that Project had been meeting every week at a nearby Volcano, to pray for the children, families and sponsors. Since they had started doing this, many of the children had received an increased number of letters, gifts and visits. Rain of Blessings indeed!

CO-335 (above), So Few Caring For So Many
I was recently in Colombia, visiting Laura at CO-335, in South Bogota. Evidently, South Bogota is a fairly dodgy area, as evidenced by the fact it took us five tries to get a taxi to take the family from the mall we visited back to their home. No-one wanted to go there! The area is notorious for gangs and robberies, and even Laura and her brother had been robbed of everything including their shoes on their way to school one day. With this in mind, when I heard that the church attached to the Project has 70 members, and they care for 350 kids, I was blown away. As if I needed any more proof that Compassion is God’s business.

BR-458, Real-Life Loaves and Fishes Moment
Projeto Sementinhas (Little Seeds Project) is located just outside Fortaleza, Brazil, and it is where I sponsor Jessica, Christian and Ana Cristina. I have visited this wonderful place twice, exactly one year apart, in September 2012 and September 2013. Last year, they were rebuilding the church, and let’s just say it was a work-in-progress. Three unfinished brick walls, no roof, building materials everywhere, basically a construction zone. It was also the only place the kids had to play.

September 2012

September 2013

I was looking forward to seeing the progress, but I had no idea how magnificent it would look. I asked how they managed to do so much in a year, thinking Compassion or some other benefactor might have given a generous donation. I was not prepared for the answer: completely from church members tithes and offerings. I nearly fell over. I guess to understand my shock, you have to understand the challenges faced by the community, as told by the Pastor:
“Geographically, we are located in the border of two cities: Fortaleza (the capital) and the outskirts of Caucaia. It is an area with absolute extreme poverty. In one side, we have Maranguapinho River with its signs of degradation. It almost dries up during the dry weather season, and it suffers with the untreated sewage that is thrown in it and the industrial illegal effluent. In addition, many families live by its margins at the risk of getting their houses flooded, but also contribute to the dump of garbage in it. In the other side, the swamp areas are compromised because it is used as a landfill, and the uneven occupation on its margins. These factors contribute to a social chaos whose main victim is the child. Since it is a risky area, there is not industrial or commercial investment which generates a high rate of unemployment. Because of the disqualified labor, women search for jobs as maids or cleaning ladies while men stay at home "looking after" the children and the house. Most families are unstructured, and there is a high number of single mothers living with stepfathers. As a consequence, children get vulnerable and insecure. The idleness leads them to gambling, drugs and other social illnesses…”
This is a desperately poor and dangerous community. I know because I felt it and experienced it. The family of one of my sponsored children just recently moved back there, only because the work dried up and they couldn’t afford to stay where they were. And yet, God used the tithes and offerings of the church members of this community to reconstruct their church in one year. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus using five loaves of bread and two fish to feed thousands. Amazing.

The Highlight - BR-329, New Life Project

I know it’s not nice to play favourites, but I have to admit in my Compassion visits there is a clear winner. In September 2012 I visited Fortaleza, Brazil, where I sponsored ten children. I had some of my Brazil kids leave the program for different reasons early in the year, so in May I arranged to sponsor three more from the same area, since I knew I would be visiting them.

As God would arrange it, through my friend and advocate Beverly Yearwood, all three were from the same Project: 4 year old Larissa, and 18 year olds Monalisa and Alynne (both have since graduated). I was wondering how the visit would go, since we had not yet exchanged letters and didn’t really know each other well. What followed was one of the most impacting and profoundly joyful days of my life (since overtaken by the day I celebrated my birthday there this year).

It was a Saturday, and the place was full of teenagers, busy, welcoming and curious. It is an urban Project, and serves over 1000 kids with minimal space. We went into the main area, and there, waiting for me was a 15-piece band. This wasn’t just your normal guitar/bass/drum band, but they had flutes, clarinets, trumpets, saxophones and even a tuba!!

Something you should know about me is that music is a major part of who I am. I have taught it at school, I play drums, bass, guitar, keyboard and I sing. God has “ingrained” music into my soul, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than playing drums or bass guitar. A life-highlight for me was being able to get on the drums and play a couple of tunes with the incredibly talented teenagers of BR-329. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity like that pass.

I felt like I’d walked into a little piece of heaven among the poverty and danger that existed outside the walls of the Project. I experienced pure and genuine life, joy, hope, peace, music and dancing. The Compassion staff have huge dreams and vision, including a massive two-story building extension, and trust God for everything. Their gratitude for my visit, and even my life, was overwhelming and humbling.

The faith that I witnessed from the people in this place was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was defiant in the face of their circumstances. It was like the faith that knocked over the walls of Jericho; that enabled a shepherd boy to slay a giant; that Jesus says will “move mountains”. I learned from the people of BR-329 that we cannot limit God. We can trust Him and believe for the seemingly impossible because the God we worship holds the UNIVERSE in His hand. He is a big, mighty, magnificent God.

The church, which is connected to the Project have set up a little shop to raise money for a missionary to go to Senegal, in Africa. I LOVE THAT!! With all the poverty in Brazil, these people aren’t wallowing in it and feeling sorry for themselves – they’re looking to other countries where people might not know Jesus, and sending people there – SO GOOD!

This year I returned to BR-329 to celebrate my birthday, and it was a day of deep, glorious, pure joy (you can read about it here).

For now, please enjoy some more Compassion Project pics (and as much as I like to pretend everyone was super happy every moment of every day inside those walls, sometimes the sight of a white-guy-with-big-ears-and-more-hair-on-his-face-than-his-head-speaking-a-crazy-language-holding-an-egg-shaped-red-ball was just too overwhelming).

1 comment:

  1. What encouraging stories of God's faithfulness and work at these projects!!!