We traveled across town this morning to a project called Beth Shalom (House of Peace). The neighborhood is located on the side of a hill and is a rougher one. One of the Compassion staff, an ex-military man, said he wouldn’t come here by himself later in the day. A man stood outside the project sniffing glue; another drank rubbing alcohol mixed with a bit of water and sugar. At night kids come down from the hill with guns.
Compassion works through local churches, who partner with Compassion to run individual projects. This particular one has 297 children, which is on the high end. Because of demand and the job that they’re doing, this is going up by another 30 in March. We got to see some of the administration: they keep files on each of the children with correspondence to their sponsor, a list of each child’s dreams and hobbies, etc. I’m impressed with how well they manage these projects, especially considering how they are growing. They’re opening 60 new projects in Honduras. They usually take in 10,000 new children every year; this year they think it will be 14,000. They interview each child, provide medical exams, and love them. We were told to look into the children’s faces to see what they thought of the project, and it was clear that kids enjoyed being there.
We toured the project. The kids were making pizza and playing. They love to have their picture taken, and want to see what it looks like on the back of the digital cameras. One girl sang for Charlene. We watched them eat rice and beans, and heard that for some this would be the only meal they had today. Boys were acting like boys, hanging off the balconies and throwing rocks in the gutters. We tried to discreetly hand candies to a couple of kids, but anyone who tried this got mobbed with kids, some unsuccessfully hiding the candies they already had. Charlene was eventually reduced to handing out Altoids, eventually giving away an empty tin. We saw the kids dance, ate the homemade pizza, and then got to the toughest part of the day: four home visits.
Nothing can prepare you for the home visits. I wish I could show you the pictures. Greg, from the Compassion office in Canada, says that if he could show people these homes, they would never cancel a child sponsorship. There is no equivalent in Canada. The families seemed happy to have us. We felt humbled to be there. At one point I was viewing the pictures I had taken and came to some that I had taken of our hotel room. The contrast between what we visited and where we were staying was startling. I won’t forget those homes or families for a long time.
Standing in one family’s home, the mother asked us to pray for a Bible study she was helping to lead. It hit Charlene that one day we will be co-residents in the new creation. Our living circumstances couldn’t be more different now, but it won’t always be that way.
Poverty is complex. I remember hearing a Harvard professor speak of how our efforts to help often make the problems worse. In the middle of the complexity, and all of the questions we have in developed countries of how to help, it’s clear that Compassion is actually doing something. What we saw today was real need, and the church helping to meet those real needs in a very relational and material way. Our small bungalow back home suddenly seems like a mansion. My pride was humbled today. I was not worthy to see what I witnessed. It’s going to take some time to absorb it all.