Michelle and I spent the past week in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic with an organization called Compassion International. We have heard of their great work, and have partnered with them recently at one of our conferences.
We have already been on many mission trips to some of the poorest areas of the world, but we prayed that God would use this trip to do a continuing work in our hearts.
The Dominican Republic is an island nation in the Caribbean that is connected and next to Haiti. During our trip, we traveled to various projects and towns to see the work Compassion is doing in these poverty-stricken areas. This trip had a more personal feel, where we felt we actually got to know individuals in need on a personal level. We played with children at schools, and visited a handful of families in their homes.
We were absolutely amazed at the scope of Compassion's work. Several of the experiences that most amazed me:
1. The opportunity to meet our sponsored child.
In one home we sat in, in which 12 people lived, the Compassion staff let us know "this young girl doesn't yet have a sponsor." Michelle and I said right then and there that we would like to sponsor her. Her name is Diana.
We had an opportunity that less than 1% of Compassion sponsors ever get: to meet our child. And the even rarer opportunity to meet her right from the start.
She totally won over our hearts. No longer was my desire to give to the poor a vague one, she now had a name. Because of her sweetness, we pretty much would've joyfully given her anything she asked for.
2. The thankfulness of sponsor children and families.
The children and families we met we're delightful. Their needs were greater than any that I've seen with the American poor, and their attitudes and thankfulness for the tiniest of gifts was astounding.
The sponsor children were especially grateful for letters from their sponsors. They have so few people speaking hope into their lives, that these letters from their sponsors mean the world.
3. The depth of what a sponsorship does for a child.
Over and over again we met and talked with young adults who had been sponsored children, and had grown up in impoverished living conditions, but who are now studying to be doctors, chiropractors, business leaders and church leaders.
It was mind boggling for me to think that these young leaders that were so well spoken, and had such bright futures, and who were already serving being change agents had grown up in the conditions of poverty that we had witnessed.
Sponsoring a child through Compassion is literally breaking the cycle of poverty in a family that has lasted for generations.
Then these sponsor children grow up and are becoming change agents in their nation to raise a standard and help many others break out of these cycles as well.
4. The intrinsic partnership of Compassion with the local church.
Compassion is Christ centered. They are breaking children from poverty in Jesus' Name.
All the daily education and disipleship, feeding programs, medical care and sponsor gifts are done through projects. Every project is set up and run through the local church.
These children are being educated in essentials such as nutrition, and how to get a good job as they get older. They are also being discipled for Christ from as early an age as 4 years old. Often, they end up coming to Christ, along with the rest of their family!
The local church is able to provide ongoing care in a city for generations to come, and the community is forever grateful to the local church for the care provided these children and their families. This is an priceless partnership.
Every child sponsored is building up the local church.
5. The breadth of Compassion to totally transform a nation.
In the Dominican Republic alone, Compassion has 45,000 sponsored children being fed, medically cared for, educated and discipled. In Haiti, there are 70,000 sponsored children. In India, there are 150,000 sponsored children. In total, 26 nations are focused in on for sponsorship in this way.
I was amazed at what God was doing with individual sponsor children who are now graduated from the program and transforming their nation.
What can God do with 45,000 of these children in a single nation? Compassion is one of the greatest evangelism and discipleship models I have ever seen. It is transforming nations one child at a time.
There are several things that every American Christian should be involved with: giving to your local church, supporting missionaries and evangelists, responding with support to those hit by natural disasters, filling up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child at Christmas time, and sponsoring a child through Compassion are right up at the top. We highly encourage you to get involved in this.