Most of my world travels have been second-hand. I’ve traveled to places through the stories, pictures, and films of those who have been there. Sadly, I don’t think I ever listened too well. . . . consequently, I never really understood. Then again, I don’t think there’s any substitute for actually seeing and experiencing things for yourself. And now that I’ve returned from one of those “see it for yourself” experiences, I bear great responsibility to talk about it. Maybe my attempts at explanation will make more of an impact on others than the explanations of others made on me. I hope so.
So, we’re back from Africa. What began as a dream among friends a few years ago is now in the past. But even though some jet lag is the last vestige of our physical travels to linger, we are all hoping that what happened in Africa doesn’t stay in Africa. We want the trip to live on in and through our lives. The picture of the little girl that I snapped in a small Rwandan village is seared into my brain. Hers is the face of poverty. She is not a Compassion-sponsored child. Someday, maybe that will happen.
Over the next few days I want to share with you some of our experiences through stories and pictures. There are far too many stories and pictures to share, but I’m going to pass on the cream because it’s not only significant for those in our little group who experienced Kenya and Rwanda first-hand, but significant for all of us who follow Christ.
Two weeks ago we left for Africa at the invitation of Compassion International. Lisa and I drove to Philly to meet up with Duffy and Maggie Robbins. After a short flight to New York, we hooked up with Marv and Lois Penner. The six of us flew together to Brussels. There we met the rest of our group – Chap and Dee Clark, Doug and Cathy Fields, Rich Van Pelt, Jim Hancock, and Compassion’s Mike Johnson. Before loading up for a lengthy flight to Kigali, we shared our gratitude and disbelief that our trip was finally happening.
And happen it did! Our mission was to learn more about God’s mission through the work of Compassion International. Our days were scheduled morning, noon, and night. We were on such sensory overload that we still don’t know when we’ll be able to finish processing everything that happened during our ten days together. Thus, my attempt to make some sense of it for myself by sharing it with you in “real time” over the next few days. I’ll be blogging each day with some highlights, sights, and thoughts regarding what we saw, heard, smelled, touched, and yes. . . . even tasted.
Since Monday the 11th was a travel day, let me get ahead of myself and pass on something about Compassion. . . and nothing I have to share has been scripted or expected by the folks at Compassion. I have a relatively long history with groups like Compassion. I started sponsoring a child when I graduated from college back in 1978. We’ve continued to do so through a variety of Christian sponsorship and relief organizations. To be honest, it’s been easy and not something that I’ve put much thought into. That has changed (more on that in a few days). Sure, writing that monthly check takes a little bit of work. And, it feels good to do something for a needy kid. But oh how I was missing it. Here’s a few things I learned about Compassion on our trip. . . .
Most importantly, Compassion is Christ-centered. The Great Commission is at the root of Compassion’s calling. The Word of God is the guide for all Compassion does. New life through the incarnate Word – Jesus Christ – is the message taught to each Compassion child in a culturally relevant way. Compassion is about the whole person, not just the physical person.
Compassion is also child-focused. Children are everywhere – EVERYWHERE – in Africa. Compassion is all about those kids. Each child’s needs – physical, economic, social, and spiritual – are addressed through Compassion’s projects throughout the world.
Compassion is church-based. Every project we visited was administered through an organized and responsible group of local believers. This is so, so significant.
Compassion is all about integrity. Yesterday in church several of my friends asked about our trip. Many of them sponsor Compassion children. The question everyone asked was this: “What do you think of Compassion as an organization?” My answer: “Unbelievable!” Compassion is a ministry committed to excellence and integrity. Those commitments are evident in their people and their programs. If there’s a chink in the Compassion armor, I have yet to find it.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve seen things that I never imagined possible. Several in our group – including myself – wondered out loud: “Why was I born where I was born? Why have my children been born where they have been born? Why have I been given so much?” The answer came immediately: “I have been given what I’ve been given as a steward. It’s that simple.” The Scriptures have come to life and they are bouncing around in my head. The reason for the blessings I’ve received is simple – “to him who has been given much, much is required.” I now know that being among the poorest of the poor has a way of making the scales fall from your eyes.
Now, what am I going to do with that?