This post was originally published May 7, 2012, during my time in Tanzania with Compassion International. Currently Compassion is in the Dominican Republic with a group of bloggers, sharing the story of how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Please follow their journey in the #compassionbloggers hashtag and through the Compassion site then join us Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Twitter as we tweet live with the blogging team.
Please also join me in remembering the time that I spent learning about the work Compassion is doing in Tanzania. This was my second day…
“He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:14-16
In the last forty-eight hours I have learned enough about the people of Tanzania and the work of Compassion International to inspire months of posts, and yet tonight as I sit here in Mwanza, I am struggling to choose the right words to convey this experience, to choose the right moments to share. I want all of you to see what I have seen – how desperately people need the relief that Compassion brings, and how completely the lives of sponsored children and those around them are changed by the work Compassion is doing. But I fear that my words won’t be enough, and there are so many children still needing a sponsor…
As I relive and reflect on my day, it is those children I keep coming back to in my mind. Their eyes wide with curiosity. Their smiles at first tentative, and then open, filled with laughter. We began our time with them this morning in the Africa Inland Church Tanzania, Buhongwa, as the children led us in worship, sharing songs in their native Kiswahili and sharing testimony in the English they are studying. One little boy, James, stood before us – these strangers from the other side of the world – and without a moment of hesitation or fear read from the Gospel of Mark, reminding us to receive the kingdom of God like a little child. I sat among the children and looking into their faces, I asked myself what it means to experience the love of Jesus like a child.
To me it means turning to the Lord for the strength that He provides…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.” Philippians 4:13
It means rejoicing in the Lord with singing and dancing…
“Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!” Psalm 98:4
It means embracing the hope for relief here on earth and the promise of a life everlasting…
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
The idea of seeing the world through the eyes of children, many of them learning about Jesus for the first time, all of them living a life of extreme poverty, took hold as we learned more about the Compassion International Child Development Center in Buhongwa. This center is itself young, opened less than two years ago. When the Project Director, Samson, spoke to our group in his office, he spent just as much time sharing the team’s vision for the future of the center as he did sharing their current day to day operations. There were logistical hopes – to create classroom space, an office where the Center’s staff could all work at once, an enclosed kitchen with adequate food preparation – as well as hopes for the children and their families. These plans include developing more Saturday programs for the currently sponsored children, creatively holding their attention and inspiring them to learn. They also include continuing to reach out to the parents of the Compassion children, offering everything from parenting information to a sympathetic ear to a prayer during a particularly challenging time of need.
In every word he spoke, every idea he explained, every smile he shared, there was Hope.
After spending time at the Center, we ventured out into the community to meet the family of one sponsored child. Following an illness that left her with scarring, the child’s mother was abandoned by her husband. She returned to the home rented by her mother, moving herself and her five children into the small home already occupied by seven others. Their income is provided by work they find on a day to day basis, often in the local farmer’s fields. For her, Compassion means being able to send a child to school, the costs of the uniform and fees covered. It means her child receiving care when she is ill. It means development of and caring for the whole child, not just day to day survival.
When this child’s mother spoke to us, it was with her head lowered, her eyes down.
Yet her words were lifted up, filled with Hope.
Sponsoring a child through Compassion International brings Hope to the 1.2 million children sponsored as well as their siblings and their families. Choosing right now to sponsor a child through Compassion International will bring Hope to one of the roughly 100,000 children currently waiting to receive a sponsor.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of Hope.
Want to sponsor a child from the Child Development Center we visited today? Visit the sixteen available for sponsorship right now. As each child finds a sponsor, this page will be refreshed with other Compassion children waiting for a sponsor. Please also read the reflections from my fellow Compassion Bloggers at CompassionBloggers.com.