Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion

How do you summarize a week that was truly life-changing into a few paragraphs?
In fact, how do you even put into words that which you are more passionate about than anything in the world?
I do not know but… this is my attempt to try.

From Oct 5 to 11, 2008 – I was in the Dominican Republic on an International Advocates Conference with Compassion International. It was the first-ever International conference. There were just over 300 advocates gathered for it. For those of you who don’t know – an advocate is someone like me who commits to the cause – in this case – we have committed to speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves – children. Specifically children who are being ministered to through Compassion International. Compassion is helping children in 26 countries around the world. The bible very specifically says that God’s heart is for the poor and that if we are to follow Jesus – we are to care for the least of these – children. And that is what Compassion does. It is apparent on these trips that Compassion is literally changing lives, communities and countries – one child at a time. It is my passion to do whatever I can to help these little ones. Because even if one child is helped – it is worth it. 

In the DR, we had amazing worship led by Graham Kendrick. For me, worship was one of the highlights. There were folks from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Korea, Holland, UK, etc. and all of the staff from the DR – all joined together for one common purpose – Compassion! Worshipping together with brothers and sisters from around the world was uplifting and wonderful – I found myself often looking around the room and thinking “this is what heaven is going to be like, only much bigger!” I met so many of the folks who came and I have to say – it was the most amazing group of people I’ve ever encountered. Hearing the stories of how they began sponsoring children and where that journey has taken them – it was truly encouraging. And it became clear that not only are we helping to change lives but all of our lives have been changed too. We all truly understand that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. 

A good portion of the conference was spent in the hotel – we heard from amazing guest speakers who gave testimonies and encouraged us in what we are doing. We heard from the president of Compassion, Dr. Wess Stafford, and he shared with us the history of Compassion and the future plans and goals. He also shared with us much encouragement and thanked us for giving our time to this ministry. What a humble, compassionate man. We heard from each country represented at the conference and what that particular country is up to in regards to this ministry. And we had breakout sessions on various topics including: How to get into churches, sharing/exchanging ideas, how Compassion works and presenting Compassion. All of the sessions were great – I got so many new ideas that I would have never thought of and I learned a lot about Compassion that I didn’t know. And throughout all of this – I met and got to know a lot of the advocates. I made friends immediately upon arrival in the DR airport with two girls named Katie and Rebekah – both from Canada. None of us had ever met before but the 3 of us were pretty much inseparable throughout the week. It was so awesome getting to know them and sharing with each other the excitement for this ministry. We had lots of laughs and even sang a little karaoke one night in the hotel.

On Wednesday of that week, those of the advocates who had children they sponsored in the DR got to meet them. About half of the advocates had sponsored children they got to meet – many of them had more than 1 child. It was a busy day – with all of us, DR staff, translators and children – there were about 750 people at the hotel. It was a bit chaotic but nevertheless, went over smoothly. I did not have a child in the DR so I signed up to do glitter painting – sponsors brought their kids over to our station and we painted faces and arms with glitter stencils. It was very fun. My friend Katie had her sponsored boy there and it was neat to see them interact. She had a great time with him and he even sang to her. Precious. I took lots of pictures of all the happy children and their sponsors. It was a fun day.


On Thursday evening, LDP students came and sat at each table for dinner. LDP is Compassion's Leadership Development Program that sponsored children can qualify for and if they make it into the program - they have an LDP sponsor and are put through college to get a bachelor degree. This program is amazing - it is truly the fruit of the ministry. To see these men and women be able to go to college and in turn - become leaders in their countries - is awesome! The girl who sat at our table was precious. She thanked us over and over and told us to always be reminded of how much of an impact sponsorship has in their lives. She spoke of her sponsors and how much they mean to her. She even started to cry as she spoke of the loving letters they wrote her over the years and how much she knew that they loved her and believed in her. It was truly a joy meeting her.


Two of the days we did project visits where we broke up into 13 groups and visited the churches that are partnered with Compassion. The project visits are always the most wonderful but also the hardest – because it is there that you see first-hand the living conditions and poverty. But it’s also there that you see hope and joy and get to meet the families that Compassion is helping. At the first project I visited, a lot of the children were not there. But we did meet some of them and were able to interact a bit. I brought some stickers and passed those out – it was a great way to break the language barrier and connect with them. And also to get them to smile. The children love having their photos taken so I got lots of pictures. I spent some time hanging out with a 15 year old boy named JuanLouis and he showed me some programs he uses on the computer. We drew pictures together in a paint program. And we typed some words on the screen and a translator helped us to write the words in Spanish and English. It was neat. He seemed like a really great young man – full of potential and love for the Lord. At this project, we broke up into 5 teams and went to see the homes of some of the sponsored kids. At the home I visited – we talked to a mother and her 3 children. Two of her kids are sponsored and she thanked us for helping children through Compassion and told us how happy they are to have the help of Compassion. Her oldest daughter brought out letters and photos of her sponsors and told us how excited she gets when she receives them and how happy it makes her to know that they love her. She said she hopes to meet them someday. As we walked back to the project, we passed many people and were greeted very warmly. 

The second project I visited was on the last full day there – Friday. This project has a CSP – Child Survival Program, as well as the regular Child Sponsorship Program. CSP is a Compassion program that helps mothers who are expecting to learn how to care for their babies and it offers them health check-ups, pre-natal care and once the children are born – it helps them in caring for them up until the children are of age to become part of the Child Sponsorship program. We were able to meet some of the mothers and children in the CSP program – totally adorable little ones. Several babies and toddlers were at the project that day. There were also lots and lots of sponsored kids at the project this day. We toured the project and visited the children in their classrooms. They were all doing art projects, including an art visual of precipitation. We got to interact with them and they showed us their work and poised for lots of pictures. I put stickers on their hands and they gave lots of smiles. We then headed upstairs to the 3rd floor and the children performed many dances for us. Including some young boys who were doing flips and break dancing. That was really cool. It was so much fun dancing with them and playing with them. They are beautiful children. As I looked around the room during the performances at all the children around me – I just kept thinking over and over again “these children are all worth saving!” So many times in the world, children are ignored. I am so honored to be a part of a ministry that is doing something to help them. They are all worth saving. They are ALL full of potential. As one of the guest speakers at the conference said – they are God’s secret agents! These children literally can change the world – they are the future! At this second project, we visited the neighborhood. The home we tried to visit – no one was home. So we just walked around the area a bit and came across a church. The pastor was there and welcomed us in. His daughter is a sponsored child and he spoke of all Compassion has done for his family. The church itself was pretty much outside – you stepped up into a little outdoor area that had like 15 plastic, worn chairs and a makeshift podium. It was hard to believe that was the church but at the same time – it was a good reminder that we don’t need a fancy building to have “church”. We simply need the Lord – and He is there in that church just as much as He is in ours back home. As we came out of the church area – dozens of children were now surrounding us, wanting us to take their pictures, give them handshakes and high-fives. I got tons of pictures of their precious faces. I loved interacting with them and seeing their smiles. In the midst of poverty – there is joy. And where Compassion is, there is hope. And that is why I am a part of this ministry. This is what the Lord has called me to. I don’t do it simply because He has called me though, I do it because it is my heart, my passion. I simply cannot NOT do it – when you’re passionate about something, truly passionate – you speak out, you tell people about, you can’t even help it. And this is that which I want to share with you and with all that I come into contact with. My hope is that you too will sponsor a child and change a life. We often hear the numbers and feel like the little we can do is not enough – but I tell you – it is enough to that one child. It is not only enough, but it is everything – it is giving them a hope and a future. And we know that God has a plan for us all that includes a hope and a future. It starts with these children. 


If you would like to sponsor a child, click on this link:
On this web page, you will see photos of actual children who are in need of a sponsor. Sponsorship is tax-deductible and costs only $32 a month (basically less than a coffee at Starbucks per day). It is a one-on-one sponsorship so the child you choose will only be sponsored by you. You can write to and receive letters from that child. And there is the opportunity to visit him or her too (which I highly recommend). You can search by country, birthdate, age or even by the children who have been waiting the longest for a sponsor.

If you are interested in giving to the Child Survival Program or any of the other programs Compassion offers – there are many ways to give one-time donations too. Visit: for that information.