Last night my ten year old son, Jeremy, and I returned from our Compassion trip to Colombia. There we met our wonderful Compassion child and her amazing family. Karla lost her mom five years ago in a motorcycle accident and is being raised, along with her two sisters, by her grandmother and father. Because of the help of Compassion International she is being fed, educated, seen by a doctor at least twice a year and getting spiritual training in the message and mission of Jesus.
Along with Karla we were able to meet some of the excellent Colombian Compassion staff. From the visionary and passionate Director, Carlos Escobar (no, not that one), to our affable host and guide, William W. Valero Guerrero, to the loving project directors and teachers to the friendly translators, they were an amazing team.
I cannot describe the full impact of this experience. But I will do my best to share three lessons I walked away with after a week in Colombia with Compassion:
1. The hope of Jesus shines even brighter in poorer countries.
The families who were ministered to by Compassion were among the happiest I have ever met. In spite of the mud floors and patched-together-with-anything homes, these families, many of whom had been reached for Jesus through the Compassion centers, shined the light of Jesus brightly and boldly.
Try holding up a diamond to the sun and it will get lost in the glare. But put that same diamond up against a black background and it will dazzle you with its brilliance. I was dazzled by the brilliance of the hope of Jesus beaming through the diamond eyes of those we met on our trip. It was amplified because of the dark background that many of them were up against.
These families were poor but it was obvious that they didn't feel poor and they sure didn't act poor. Instead they were generous to us in every way. It was obvious that what fueled them was, not just a response to the generosity showed to them by Compassion sponsors and staff, but a response to the generosity of the Lord Jesus Christ toward them through "his indescribable gift" 2 Corinthians 9:15.
2. It makes a difference when you write a letter to your Compassion child.
When I saw the children cart out their stacks of letters from their Sponsors, as if they were some hidden treasure, I was immediately filled with guilt. Yes, our family sponsors two children. No, we are not good at sending letters to them.
That is about to change. Our family has made a renewed commitment to keep in contact with our sponsor children.
As Leonardo, one of the translators, explained to me, "The $38 a month makes a huge difference to these children. It provides help on several levels: food, health, education, job training and spiritual development. But the little children don't understand the full impact of all this when they are young. What they know is that they did or didn't get a letter from their sponsor. The letters have a HUGE impact on the children."
If you sponsor a child through Compassion make a commitment along with me to make letter writing (as well as sending pictures, drawings from your kids, etc) a regular part of your family habit.
3. The opportunities to advance THE Cause of Christ are huge in Colombia!
What is THE Cause? It is the last and lasting mandate of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 to "Go and make disciples of all nations...." Yeah, yeah, I know it's normally called "The Great Commission" but, if we're honest, that 300 year old moniker has lost its luster. At Dare 2 Share we call it THE Cause. Here's our vision for THE Cause in the USA:
But what about THE Cause advancing in Colombia? That would be awesome! I can't help but think of Viviana, a teen going through the amazing Leadership Development Program of Compassion. She was raised in one of the Compassion projects and is now getting next level leadership training from Compassion.
Viviana, standing in her dirt floor home alongside her loving family, opened her Bible and preached to us. She told us that she loves Jesus and loves the gospel. At the university that she goes to she is told to keep her mouth shut about Jesus but she responded, "I can't keep my mouth shut about Jesus! I open my mouth and the gospel comes out!"
We wept as she told us the story about a man who tried to mug her on the way home from her project. She didn't flinch or run. Instead, she opened up her mouth and shared the gospel with the assailant. He was the one who ended up running away.
What's exciting to me is that much of the Dare 2 Share training material IS being used internationally! But more people need to know about it. I showed some of the Compassion staff our free evangelism training that is in English AND Spanish and they were so excited! My prayer is that they will use the Dare 2 Share online materials to train every teenager in every project to share the gospel of Jesus Christ! My prayer is that those teenagers take the gospel to every teenager at every school in Colombia!
Viva LA Cause (or technically "Causa")!
I can't keep Viviana out of my mind. What could that young dynamo do if she were trained and equipped to share her faith and then make disciples who make disciples? Pray with me that the Compassion staff in Colombia can figure that out and then go for it! Pray with me that God would allow us to serve our dear brothers and sisters in Christ in any way that we can to advance the message and mission of Jesus to every young person in Colombia!
My boy Jeremy was deeply impacted by the Compassion trip and especially meeting our sponsor child Karla. But, at one point, I noticed that he was filled with some trepidation. He had heard about the guerillas (aka "rebels") that had invaded towns from time to time. I assured him that the military had it under control. But one night he got especially nervous at a road side open diner. "I am having a bad feeling daddy." Looking out in the dark at the trees he said, "I wonder if we are about to get attacked." I told him that God was on our side and, in a worst case scenario, I would fight off a guerilla to save him. He didn't seem convinced.
It was only two days ago I realized he thought they were gorillas (primates) not guerillas (rebels.) He had built some Rise of the Planet of the Apes scenario in his mind where the military and primates were in hand-to-hairy hand combat fighting for control of the town. He was relieved to realize that guerillas were only bad guys with guns.
Fun times. Crazy times. Cause times.