Walk with Compassion

The first annual Walk with Compassion in Tucson was held last Saturday at Brandi Fenton Park, and photographer Jodi McGinn created this slideshow to showcase the event.

There were 85 participants, and seven children were sponsored.

Compassion Thanks

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and with so many things in my life for which to be thankful, I’ve decided to focus in this post only on those which are Compassion-related.

This has been a very busy year for me as a Compassion sponsor and advocate. It’s been filled with many blessings, opportunities to serve, new friendships and new experiences. I’ll try to sum it up in the following list of gratitude:

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Logan with our sponsor children: Osmar, Winston and Hania in Guatemala. Logan sponsors Osmar on his own.

Guatemala Sponsor Tour: In July, I had the incredible opportunity to travel with my son Logan to Guatemala for a sponsor tour. This was my second Compassion tour, and it was every bit as amazing and special as the first. There are so many aspects of this tour that stand out, but here are the parts for which I am most thankful: meeting my sponsor children in person; meeting other sponsors, including many who are Compassion staff here in the United States; meeting the Compassion staff in Guatemala; experiencing the sights and sounds of this beautiful country; and most of all, doing all of this with my son.

There are no words to fully describe meeting your sponsor children in person. It is an experience filled with emotion, and the opportunity to see their facial expressions and movements, to interact with them and to meet their parents and project workers, really adds so much to the relationship. It is definitely the highlight of a sponsor tour.

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Sponsors and translators in Guatemala.

A close second, though, is meeting the other sponsors on the tour. They are, in a word, amazing. While they share a love for children in poverty with you, they come from all over the country, with all kinds of unique experiences to share. And long bus rides and many meals offer lots of time for sharing. Sometimes you are lucky enough to meet members of Compassion’s U.S. staff on these tours, and they can give special insight into the ministry, and always confirm to me what a great organization Compassion is. These new friendships are invaluable.

Meeting the in-country staff is really fun as well. These very special people are dedicated and hard-working, and they are a wonderful source of information about Compassion and their country. They love their country and its children, and they love us sponsors. On our last night in Guatemala, one translator said to me, “Thank you for loving our children.” To be thanked after being blessed so greatly all week by her was quite humbling.

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Logan and Favian, our formerly sponsored child and Compassion graduate.

Making this trip with my son, who is 14 years old, is something neither of us will ever forget. To share so many wonderful experiences was priceless. I deeply enjoyed watching Logan make new friends, interact with the children at each project, and take in all of the new things going on around him. Since returning home, I have seen the ways the trip has changed him many times. He seems to have a deeper appreciation for the many blessings in his life.

Logan Becomes an Advocate: After returning from Guatemala, Logan was on fire for Compassion and its ministry. Within a week, he decided to become an advocate. He sponsors his own child in Guatemala, and he corresponds with another child in Kenya. He is passionate about helping children who are living in poverty, and I am proud of him.

Sponsoring Gladys: We did not sponsor a new child while on the sponsor tour in Guatemala, but we did sponsor a new child two months later from one of the centers we visited. I had requested child packets from centers we visited on the sponsor tour in hopes of connecting sponsors to children from the areas I had seen in person and photographed. One of the five packets I received was for a little girl who looked very familiar. After looking through my trip photos, I found a photo of her with Logan, so we welcomed Gladys into our sponsor family!

Continued Close Relationships with my Children in Nicaragua: After meeting my four boys in Nicaragua on a sponsor tour in 2014, we have continued our relationships with great letters filled with love. They are truly members of my family, and I know they feel the same. I can’t wait to visit them again.

Letters: Letters are our connection with our sponsor children, and this year, I continued to write monthly to each of my children, and to receive many letters in return. It can be a slow process, but it is worth it to build these relationships. Our letters are a blessing to our sponsor children, but their letters equally bless us.

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Logan with the Compassion Experience truck.

Compassion Experience: In May, Logan and I volunteered at Compassion Experience. I had been waiting for Compassion Experience to come to my city, and was so excited to have this opportunity. I was thrilled to see how accurately Compassion has recreated sponsor children’s homes and projects to tell their stories effectively. For more information about Compassion Experience, click here.

Concerts: Another great opportunity to be involved with Compassion is in volunteering at concerts. Compassion partners with musicians who sponsor children and promote the ministry by encouraging others to sponsor as well. We volunteered at concerts by For King and Country and Matthew West this year, and more than 100 children were sponsored at each event! It is a lot of fun to see new sponsors connected to waiting children.

Sponsorship Anniversary: Finally, this fall marked five years since I first became a sponsor. When I chose my first child, I never would have imagined that in just five years, our sponsor family would continue to grow, and I would leave the country not once, but twice, to visit my sponsor children. This has been a wonderful journey with Compassion, and I look forward to seeing where it leads in the future.

If you are interested in beginning your own Compassion journey, please click here to see the many children who are waiting for sponsors. Contact me if you have any questions.

Happy Thanksgiving and God’s Peace!

Faith, Love and Family

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Our group with Michael’s family.

After an emotional meeting and goodbye with my newest sponsored child, Marlon, our group gathered outside to go on a home visit.

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A door to one of the homes.

This would be our second home visit that week, and it’s a unique experience, giving us sponsors the opportunity to see the home of a child attending the project we had just toured. It gives a better understanding of the child’s home environment and of the family’s needs. And once again, we were able to give the family a huge bag of groceries provided by Compassion.

As I waited to board the bus for the short drive to the home, a light-eyed boy in a purple shirt came up and hugged me. I told him my name, and used my shaky Spanish to find out his… Michael. I said, “Miguel?” thinking he was giving me the English version. And he said, “No, es Michael.” Venturing a little more in Spanish, I was able to find out it was his home we would be visiting that day, and that his sister also attends the project.

We arrived at the home to find that it was a cluster of small buildings on one lot, surrounded by a fence pieced together like a puzzle of sheets of metal and wood. There were 16 family members living there, including Michael’s parents and four siblings, his grandmother, and some aunts, uncles and cousins, and it looked like there were three separate small homes. Chickens pecked at the dirt near us.

Michael’s grandmother and aunt sat in rocking chairs outside, and we gathered around to visit with them and the rest of the family. The grandmother told us she had recently come home from the hospital, where she had been admitted for heart problems.

In the mish-mash of tin roofs and patched-together homes, two things stood out to me.

First, there was a definite love of God in this family. There were phrases spray-painted on the doors and walls inside the compound attesting to this, including one that said simply, “Dios” or “God” in English. An uncle sat outside throughout the visit, and seemed interested in discussing his faith. He wanted to know if any of us were pastors, and at the end of our visit, he led a beautiful prayer for us.

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Michael holding his sister.

Michael’s grandmother talked about their church, and told us that Michael’s father had recently begun attending with the family. She seemed pleased with this new development, and we were all happy to hear it. He seemed a little embarrassed by the attention. She shared with us that Michael’s sister has been baptized, and they are hoping Michael will be baptized soon. Then she asked each of us to tell her the names of our churches.

The other thing that stood out was a definite love of family. This group clearly cared for and respected each other. The teens were quick to bring out the chairs to seat their grandmother and aunt at the start of our visit, and they hovered around both ladies while we were there. Michael held his baby sister for quite a while as we all talked.

After prayers and hugs, we gave Michael’s family the bag of groceries and climbed on the bus to drive back to the project.

I had a good feeling that with faith, love and Compassion’s help, this family is richer than many.

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Carlos translates the conversation as we visit.

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Michael, his older sister and his father.

Seeing Kids Sponsored

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Table with child packets displayed.

Friday night, I had the privilege of volunteering at a Compassion table at the Michael W. Smith concert in Tucson, Ariz.

It was my first time volunteering, and my son and good friend went with me. It was an awesome experience!

Five children were sponsored before the concert even began, and at the last count toward the end of the evening, 75 children had new sponsors.

It was a blessing to me to see the emotion in new sponsors’ faces as they took that step of faith and chose to change a child’s life. I knew the incredible journey they were about to experience, so it was easy to share that emotion with them.

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Kerri and Logan volunteering at the Michael W. Smith concert.

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Seven volunteers in all worked at the concert.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please click here. And if you would like to look for volunteer opportunities in your area, click here.

There’s No Debating the Value of Child Sponsorship

On Monday, many in the world of child sponsorship were shocked when World Vision announced its decision to change its employee conduct policy, allowing gay Christians to work in its United States branch.

The World Vision U.S. board spent several years praying about and discussing this issue, according to a letter by World Vision U.S. CEO Richard Stearns. World Vision U.S. will continue to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage for all staff, and will continue to require every employee to agree to the doctrinal issues in the Apostles’ Creed or World Vision’s own Statement of Faith.

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“Thank you for your letter and for taking the time to write me. I’m sure you’re quite busy and that your family needs all of your time.” – Cristian, 5, Romania

Stearns pointed out in his letter that World Vision employees belong to more than 50 denominations, a number of which have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians.

Stearns wrote, “I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.”

And with that announcement, Christian leaders across the country were ready to voice their opinions.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, quickly issued a statement against World Vision’s new policy, calling it offensive. Others speaking out included Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and John Piper, retired megachurch pastor.

Child ambassador volunteers have resigned, and sponsors have canceled their sponsorships, while many have taken to social media to debate their opinions on World Vision’s decision.

As a sponsor and child ambassador myself, it has been heartbreaking to watch this play out.

This post, however, is not intended to change the reader’s opinion on World Vision’s new policy. I will not argue this issue. It has all been said before, and likely will continue to be hashed out over and over until the end of time.

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“I’m also very happy when I get letters from you. I’m looking forward to your next letter. May God bless you.” – Andrei, 12, Romania

While that debate rages, though, I will urge you not to cancel your sponsorships. Please, do not give up on these children, with whom you have formed loving, long-lasting relationships. And if you have not yet sponsored a child, maybe now is the time to do so.

This new policy will in no way affect your sponsored children across the world. Why punish them?

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“I would like to be friends all my life. No matter what will happen, I will be near your family all the time.” – Dragos, 13, Romania

These are real children, and much more than just a photo stuck to the refrigerator with a magnet. These are children who are living in poverty. They may have difficult home lives. Their sponsor may be the only person who affirms to them that they are loved.

No matter a person’s feelings on this new policy, I pray that sponsors will not let this come between them and their children.

Do you not believe that you are important to your sponsored child? Please read the quotes under the photos in this post. They are directly from letters from my own children, whom I sponsor through World Vision.

And for every Bible verse that backs up your opinion for or against World Vision’s new policy, I suggest there are just as many verses commanding us to care for the poor.

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4

UPDATE: World Vision has announced today that it has reversed its new policy. For more information, click here.

Compassion Bloggers visit Uganda

This week, the Compassion bloggers are visiting Uganda. It’s only two days into the trip, and these talented writers have already shared many wonderful stories.

You can follow along by clicking here.

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You’ll read about a young girl who is able to smile again after growing up on the run from the Lord’s Resistance Army. You’ll follow along as another young girl gives a condensed and humorous presentation of her daily life. You’ll meet a young boy who, despite a tough first impression, has a heart for leadership and ministry. You’ll be exposed to poverty, but more importantly, you’ll see Compassion making a difference in the lives of children and families, bringing hope, faith and love to the area.

Compassion’s goal is to find sponsors for 400 children in Uganda this week, and already 109 children have been sponsored. Would you consider partnering with Compassion to provide a child with education, healthcare, nutrition and the gospel? Would you consider bringing hope to a child in need?

Please click here and select Uganda to sponsor one of the 602 children waiting to hear they have been chosen.

Christmas Wishes from Romania

This week, I received Christmas cards from two of my World Vision sponsored boys in Romania, Cristian and Andrei. Each country has its own style of card, which the children send to their sponsors every year. Below are photos of both the front and inside of this year’s card from Andrei, and also the front of last year’s card from Cristian.

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Front of card from Andrei, 2013

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Inside of card from Andrei, 2013

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Front of card from Cristian, 2012