I tend to be a little cautious when it comes to ministries like Compassion. I don’t doubt their motives, but I’ve sometimes had questions about effectiveness. Many organizations have lofty goals, but reality is never simple, especially in dealing with huge issues like poverty.
The brochure we got says that they’re Christ-centered, child-focused, and church-based. From what I’ve seen and heard this week, every one of those actually turns out to be true.
Christ-centered – Some other Christian ministries are very good, but they can’t always find Christian workers on the ground. The help they provide is still good, but there’s an element of the faith component that is lost. Compassion does more than evangelism, but they see Christ’s gospel as a crucial part of what they have to offer the children. I’ve been looking for ministries that integrate social action and evangelism, because the two aren’t always found together. These guys do it.
Child-focused – The kids here have a different life. When they are accepted in the program, they’re asked what they would like to do with their lives. For some of the kids it’s the first time they’ve thought that they have options. We read one child’s booklet today. He wants to become a firefighter or an accountant. Compassion reads that, and then looks for ways to, for instance, take the child to a fire hall. They make home visits when a child is absent from the program. It would be easy to lose track of the individuals among the 200-some kids at every project, but the children really do get individual attention and love here. The child you sponsor actually is the child that benefits from the projects on the ground.
Church-based – This is the real genius of what Compassion does. They take existing churches that already serve their communities. They hire from within the churches, which provides some economic help for that community. The churches are resourced to serve the area they already know the best. Compassion partners with the church, but it is ultimately the local church that loves these kids and works to improve the community. It’s not the experts imported in from elsewhere. This gives the church huge ownership over what they’re doing.
Whew, sounds like an infomercial. It’s not meant to be. It’s just refreshing to come and see stuff that they can’t orchestrate and to discover that the marketing material is right. Hard to be cynical once you’ve been here.
There are other child sponsorship programs out there that are also good, but there are some distinctives to Compassion’s approach. I like it. There is a genius behind what they’re doing, and it clearly is making a difference. You can check them out at their website.