Saturday, February 28, 2015

Compassion Advocacy Galore! (and it's only March)

"If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. (Isaiah 58:10-11)

I have been a sponsor and advocate (or "Global Poverty Fighter" as I like to call myself) with Compassion International for eight years now. As part of this advocacy I have written countless letters, visited many countries, talked to many people. As I have said before, I am not a Compassion employee or official spokesperson. Just a little guy who has seen how God is working through Compassion and the local church to transform lives and I want people to get involved.

In 2014 I spent ten months working at an orphanage in the Philippines called the Ruel Foundation. I was of the view that my years of Compassion sponsorship and advocacy were God preparing me for this role, which I initially thought would be a long-term thing. I had connected with the children and families through giving, writing and visiting, and now it was time for me to actually GO and literally be the hands and feet of Jesus, teaching and caring for the orphans. God provided sponsors for all of my Compassion kids and away I went.

As noble as this was, the bottom line is I was not prepared for it. While I grew to love the Ruel Foundation and the amazing work they do, personality and culture issues collided and I returned home after ten months, disappointed with the way things finished up.

During the year, one thing was obvious: Compassion still had a major piece of my heart and I could not let it go. I knew that to fully immerse myself in Ruel's ministry I had to try and "separate myself" from Compassion and I just could not do that. I had seen and experienced firsthand the way God was moving through the local church and Compassion in 26 developing countries, transforming lives, and I still longed to be a part of that through sponsorship and advocacy.

It didn't help that during the year I wrote my now-published book about Compassion and my travel experiences, and I also went on another incredibly impacting trip to visit my Filipino Compassion kids who were now sponsored by friends and family.

So I returned to Australia at the end of November 2014, partly disappointed about the way things finished at Ruel and also excited about the way God was going to use me in the lives of others. I returned to find the first print run of my new book "Go Into All The World" and my Compassion advocacy was up and running.

I contacted my friends and family who had sponsored my Compassion kids and let them know that if for any reason they were unable to continue sponsoring, I would be happy to take them back. Immediately I was able to reconnect with six of my previously sponsored kids, which was a blessing.

As soon as I arrived back in Australia I saw God's hand of provision at work. On the day I arrived back I popped into my old school, Heathdale Christian College, where I had both worked and attended as a student, and was offered seven days of work to finish off the school year. Considering I hadn't earned any income for ten months, I jumped at the chance. The funny thing was that it was actually my Mum's 5th grade class I was filling in for, since my Dad was having an operation and mum was taking some Carer's Leave. The kids had been praying for me all year in the Philippines and now I was their teacher for a few days!

The six weeks of holidays in December/January was a hard time of waiting, as I had no idea what God had in store for me in 2015. I couldn't wait for February to come around so I could start working again. In my impatience I started up a small business, DC Fun and Games, which basically involves going to schools, birthdays and community events and playing games (definitely my kind of job). I invested in equipment, registered a business name and built up a contact list.

The week before school started I was sitting at home watching the Australian Open tennis, when I got a call from my old school. I had made a good impression with the work I had done before Christmas and they had a job for a couple of days a week teaching PE. An hour later I was sitting in front of the senior staff in an interview! Now, I had previously worked in the PE department a few years back, so I knew all about it and I got the job. We are now four weeks into the school year and I have ended up working full time, since I have proven myself as a competent "gap-filler", which is just the way I like it. I have so far taught classes in every year level from 5-12.

God's provision didn't stop at employment. I've also had many opportunities to advocate for Compassion, speak at churches and promote my book.

On Sunday February 15th, about 55 people came to my parent's house and helped me celebrate with an official "Go Into All The World" Book Launch. It was a glorious summer day and I was able to share my heart for Compassion with some good friends. I put together a 40-minute video featuring some of the more impacting stories from my Compassion travels. My aim was to highlight what life is like for people in the developing world, as well as the impact God is making through Compassion and the local church.

On Friday February 20th I shared with 200 Grade 5 and 6 students at my school about Compassion during their assembly. I decided to share the stories of two of the kids I sponsored and visited who were the same age as them, so they could relate to it. I think it's important for kids to know a bit about what's going on in the developing world because it can be easy for us to be caught up in our own little bubbles and grow up not caring about the poor. I've been blessed in my role as a teacher to have many opportunities to share these stories with students and plant seeds of generosity and compassion in their hearts.

Through my publisher Ark House Press I was invited to record a TV interview with Wesley Mission in Sydney for their program "Impact TV", in which Rev. Dr. Keith Garner interviews people about their faith journey. They flew me up on Saturday February 21st and it was an enjoyable experience. During the interview I actually had a bit of mind blank and stumbled my way through the first couple of minutes. I had too many stories rattling around in the ol' noggin and wasn't able to have anything written down, so I initially struggled but I think it got better. It also finished sooner than I anticipated and all I could think about was what I didn't say. My interview will air on Impact TV on Sunday May 24th, 5.30am Channel 9 (Australia) and will be on the internet a week later.

The next day I had been invited to speak at my Dad's church, Essendon Church of Christ and share a bit about my Compassion journey. I also sold four books.

On Wednesday February 25th I was excited to have a radio interview with Matt Prater from Vision Radio Network (Australia-wide Christian radio) and History Makers Radio and TV. It was an awesome 15-minute chat for which I was much more prepared and was able to say everything I hoped to. A small part of the interview was aired on Vision Radio that night, and the full thing will be on History Makers Radio at a later date.

I also have some more church visits over the next few months:
* Berwick Salvation Army,                  March 29th
* Bacchus Marsh Life Church,            April 26th
* Wyndham Community Church,        May 3rd
* St Paul's Lutheran Church Box Hill, June 14th

I am just so grateful for the way God is using me to advocate for Compassion. I am hoping to see many children and families released from poverty in Jesus' name, and I can't wait to see what's ahead in 2015 and beyond.

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