My next (ninth) Compassion trip is in the process of being organized, and I cannot express how excited and expectant I am about what God is going to do. In late September I am planning to visit Honduras for the first time and Brazil for the third time, culminating in celebrating my 35th birthday at Project BR-329 on October 1st.
Honduras is the one Compassion country in South/Central America I have not yet visited, and I sponsor three girls there: Paola, Jeilin and Helen.
My previous trips to Brazil in 2012 and 2013 have been well documented. I now only sponsor one child there (Larissa), but will be spending a week visiting five Projects and ten children on behalf of sponsor friends from Australia and the US.
There has already been subtle opposition:
- In the most recent “Top 50 World’s Most Dangerous Cities” list, San Pedro Sula came in at #2 and Fortaleza was #12.
- The recent Zika virus is currently in the news, and has been prominent in both countries.
- The value of the Australian dollar has been decreasing, making it much more expensive to travel.
However, I forge ahead without any fear, worry or trepidation. Why?
"How can I turn away from the hurt of the world when I bear the Light of the world?" (Brianne McKoy)
Over the last nine years I have sponsored 67 kids with Compassion and visited 32 of them in 12 countries. I have spent thousands of dollars and travelled thousands of kilometres for the sake of a few hours with these precious children and their families. I have been met with deep affection and sometimes no response at all. I have seen their homes, communities and churches. I have taken them to supermarkets, restaurants, malls, zoos and fun parks, often for the first time. I have cried with them, prayed with them and revelled in their child-like joy and excitement.
In return I have received so much.
Such generosity and hospitality from those who have little to give. I have had parents give up their day of income earning just so they could meet me. I have had a father share with me the sweet liquid from a coconut which he would normally sell to feed his seven children. I have received gifts galore: drawings, paintings, photos, bags, drink bottles, t-shirts, hand-made scarves. All given with such love!
To me, the whole thing is a picture of the grace and mercy of God. Unearned, undeserved but given freely, generously and extravagantly.
So what can I do in response but try in my own small way to pass on and model that extravagant and generous love of God? Since 2009 I have chosen to spend four of my birthdays (this year will be #5) overseas visiting my Compassion sponsored children in Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines. Birthdays are generally self-indulgent days which are "all about me," but I was trying to flip it on it's head and make it "all about them."
In 2012 I took all ten of my sponsored kids plus their families to a fun park in Brazil and in 2013 I returned and celebrated at one of the Projects with a jumping castle, trampoline and cotton candy. To give these kids a day of joy, freeing them from the challenges of their daily lives and allowing them just to be kids, even for an afternoon was a profound privilege.
My single motivation as a Compassion sponsor and advocate has always been this: to share the love of Jesus with them. Not to raise myself up as some sort of hero or saviour, but to represent The One who alone can put an end to their sadness, hurts, fears and worries. The only One who can give them love, joy, peace, faith, freedom and hope for the future.
“He must become greater, and I must become less.” (John the Baptist, John 3:30)
It’s all about Jesus, and as a Christian I am His hands and feet. He has equipped me, in partnership with Compassion and His church, to bring His light to the dark places.
In my travels I have come face-to-face with poverty and the impact that it has, not just on a person’s circumstance, but their soul and their whole outlook on life. I have been smacked around by it, angered by it, paralysed by it. Taunted by it, in my well-meaning quest to ‘save the world’: “You’re just one person. What can you possibly do to stop me?”
In reality, Satan is just bluffing. He knows that the love of Jesus is real, life-transforming and relentless and we demonstrate it through our actions. Through our regular letters, children are given words of life, hope, encouragement and love. If we are given the opportunity to visit, they know that someone cares enough about them to travel, often halfway around the world, to step into their lives and physically BE WITH them. Just like Jesus came to earth from heaven, God in human flesh, to BE WITH us.
So, just in case you’re still wondering WHY I and many other sponsors do what we do: it is worth every dollar spent and every kilometre travelled to share this message with my sponsored children and their families:
You are loved. You have infinite value and worth because you have been created in the image of God and you are special to Him. You are a supporting actor in His eternal story and He has created you with special gifts and talents that He wants you to use for His glory. Trust in God and never give up.
God-willing, I look forward to sharing this very message with many people in Honduras and Brazil in September.