3 Things I Didn't Know About Compassion International

Last week I went to Kenya on a vision trip with Compassion International and I came back to the States with more perspective than I left with. Having worked with Compassion for the last 6 years through Student Life, and this being my second vision trip with them, I wasn't sure what I would learn through this experience, but I learned a lot. Here are three take-aways from my time with Compassion in Africa.

Children running behind our van in Danodra.

1. All Compassion children write letters.

Compassion believes that the most important aspect of your sponsorship is not the giving of your money. The most impacting and lasting thing you can do for a child in poverty is to give them hope by building an encouraging and reciprocal relationship through letter-writing. After visiting 7 Compassion projects in the last two years and speaking with children about their sponsors, I know this to be true.
Here's how the system works: First children are selected by the local church that is running the project because of their great need. The church in that community will always select the children with the most need first to become apart of the Compassion project and once chosen they are immediately getting the benefits that Compassion offers.  Next, a single packet is made for each child and distributed in developed countries in order to get that child sponsored. Once that child is sponsored another needy child can be selected, and the process begins again. 
While at project KE-320 last week in Mathare Valley slum, we met with the Project Director and had a question and answer time.  It was very informative, but it was something she said to us in passing that really laid heavy on my heart. She said that all the children at the project write letters. Only about 90 percent of the children there actually have sponsors, but when it comes time to write letters to sponsors every child sits down with a pencil and paper and writes to their sponsor; whether they actually have one or not. 
The Project Director said, "These children don't need any more rejection in their lives, they get plenty of that from living in slums". She told us about how much the letters sponsors send mean to the children and how sad the others would be to know that they did not have a sponsor. These children are not rejects. All who are in Christ have been chosen by the Everlasting Father to be His sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ. I want these kids to be writing to a real person who will show them the love of Christ. 

2. The children go on mission trips!

Once the children are old enough, Compassion projects often take the children to do mission work in the rural areas of Kenya. Again, this is something I didn't know about Compassion, but it fits so well into their purpose as a ministry that I feel as though I should have known. Many of these children are living in African slums with their households earning around a dollar a day and Compassion is teaching them how to give of themselves to those that are less fortunate. Compassion is not in the business of teaching children how to take handouts; they are teaching children to give out of the abundance of their hearts.
Vision like this can change a country. 

3. Compassion cannot do it on their own. 

The more time I spend at Compassion projects and in poverty-stricken areas, the more confident I am that Compassion cannot reverse the cycle of poverty alone. Hear me correctly, Compassion is doing exactly what they say they are doing, "Releasing children from poverty in Jesus' Name", but unfortunately that is not enough.
At the Compassion projects, the country staff does an incredible job of training children. They teach them life-skills and do all that they can to help the children achieve their goals. I love Compassion's training model and am always impressed by the way the project staff conducts the training. When students graduate the Compassion program they have an high school education and job-skills to earn a living. Again, I'm sorry to say that this not enough. 
You see, in Kenya and many other developing countries there is no middle class. There is the upper class and then there is poverty and unless your sponsored child is able to enter Compassion's Leadership Development Program and go to the university, the chances of them finding a life outside of their slum is very slim. While the Leadership Development Program is permanently getting children out of the slums and poverty, one could argue that the majority of those university students actually become a part of the problem. 
Follow me here, the upper class has been oppressing the lower class in Kenya for decades and with no middle class the only option for a college graduate is to align themselves with the oppressors by taking a job within this structure. There has to be a better answer. There has to be a bridge built between the upper class and the slums. Entrepreneurship has to rise up out of the slums and those with money have to reach down and lend them a hand. I don't see how the full potential of Compassion's ministry will ever truly be seen without a deterioration of the status quo in Kenya and other developing countries. And I don't mean changes in government policies. 
Compassion is laying the groundwork of hope in the midst of poverty, which is the foundational ingredient for a healthy economy. They are raising up a children rooted in God's Word and with dreams of being doctors and lawyers, but only about 5 percent of Compassion children have the opportunity to be an LDP and get the degree required to make those dreams a reality. I've been told by LDP students that many of the Compassion children who don't make it into the Leadership Development Program live hard lives and many fall into drugs and alcohol. 
My dad was a youth minister for years and saw the same things. High school students that he poured his life and the Gospel into threw their lives away after graduation, but in a slum those chances go way up. 
Compassion the best global disciple-making organization that I know and your money is being well-spent, but I don't want you to think that your $38 a month alone is going to end poverty worldwide any time soon.
God wrecked me with this reality last week in Africa and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.  Praying Matthew 9:38 over my life and yours. 

Matthew 9:35-38
35  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”


City dump in Dandora. Probably a square mile of waste. People dig out scrap metal for a living. This is also the favorite site of many drug dealers and users. These are the best shots I could get before a man came yelling at me not to take pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective on Compassion in Kenya. I have been sponsoring a boy from Kenya since 2011 and I love to read about people who have been there and seen the work happening in these childrens' lives.