The Real Heroes of Social Justice

I’ve been home now for a little over a day and have been thinking about how to wrap up my thoughts on this trip. There’s so much that I could write about. More experiences with children and families, why writing letters actually does make a difference… But the thing I keep coming back to is social justice.

Social justice is a weird animal.

Why? Because there is always a question of “who is the hero?”

Photo by Yuri Fortin, Compassion Honduras

There are a number of answers one could give; more often than not, though, the answer will be (overtly or covertly) a way of saying, “We are!”

It’s a real challenge for every organization.

Who is the hero of social justice organizations? The program? The supporters? The fundraising model?

You?

Want to know something that’s really, really freeing?

NGOs are not the heroes in the lives of kids like these. Neither are the programs, the supporters or the funding model.

So, who is then? [Read more...]

Being a Small Part of God’s Plan

Friday was the day that we got to visit with our sponsored children.

For a lot of people on the trip, there was a great deal of anxiety. Meeting your child is a big deal. So few children and sponsors ever get to meet, so I can understand why it means so much.

I met Jocsan almost four years ago, when I first came to Honduras. He was shy, a little withdrawn, but a really sweet kid. After we parted ways last time, I’d hoped I’d get to see him again someday.

Friday was that day.

This time, though, it wasn’t just Jocsan; it was his sister, Loren, too.

Loren is nine years old and she was very shy. She was quiet almost the entire time that we were together. Not that I blame her; the experience is incredibly overwhelming.

“Here’s the Canadian who sponsors you! Be excited! And… Go!”

That’s not what happens.

photo by Yuri Fortin, Compassion Honduras

Armin (my interpreter) and I met the two kids and their mom at the Wonderland water park in San Pedro Sula. They’d travelled all the way from Tegucigalpa, roughly a 4.5 hour drive (with a lot of winding roads). They got permission from their school to take Thursday and Friday off for this, but their mom, Bessie, said that even if they hadn’t, they still would have come. [Read more...]

Small Talk

Over the last several days, we’ve met dozens of children, but I’ve never really been able to have much of a conversation.

I think this has a lot to do with expectations; being so concerned that I need to say something profound that will impact these kids lives forever, or avoiding saying something that would inadvertently damage them beyond measure. (No pressure, huh?)

Thursday was different.

In our last project visit, I had a chance to really just relax and have some fun. And after an intense game of volleyball, I took a seat on the stairs to have a drink and recharge.

Carmen sat down next to me and started talking.

I learned that she was eleven years old and has one brother named Pedro who is also at the project. She has two cats, named “White” and “Black.” She loves science & social studies, and she wants to be a lawyer.

I asked her why and she said, “I just like what they do.” (Seems as good a reason as any, I think.)

She asked me whether I play any instruments, and I told her about how I used to play the trombone when I was a bit older than she is now. We talked about music, drawing, family, our favorite colors, what I do for a living…

We just talked. No pressure, nothing seriously profound. Just a nice conversation.

I think it’s what both of us needed.

I wonder how often our expectations get in the way of us simply enjoying the opportunities and connections that God brings into our lives? To miss the trees for the forest sometimes. (Yes, I meant to say it that way in case you were curious.)

If I’d been stuck in that mode, I don’t know that I would have been able to enjoy this time with Carmen.

Her sitting down with me was a wonderful gift from God. Our conversation may not have been earth-shatteringly profound, but it made an impact. And I’m grateful for it.

Future Leaders for a Nation

From left to right: Alexa, the program specialist, Karen, Luis and Maricella

Wednesday night we had dinner with three of Compassion Hondura’s Leadership Development students and the program specialist. These young adults are exceptional graduates from Compassion’s child sponsorship program who have been given the opportunity to get a university education and become Christian leaders in their communities and country.

Karen joined the sponsorship program at nine years old and says it was a place of great blessing. She graduated from the program at 18 and is now studying Psychology at the National University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa.

“[Psychology] lets me serve Christ and talk to people about Him, [and] to tell people how valuable they are to God.”

Luis is 20 years old and is studying to be an industrial engineer. He joined the sponsorship program at 7 and graduated at 18. “The tutors taught us to be clean and healthy, but I may have been coming just for the food. I got to like it and had fun. I only had one sponsor, a Presbyterian Church in California. Many people wrote me often.”

Leaving home to continue in his studies is hard for Luis (to get the courses he needs, he has to move to another school). The church he grew up in was where he learned about Jesus. It was where he was baptized. “But I’mm going to miss my mother and her cooking,” he said with a smile. “My mother is a great cook.”

“I want to graduate and the first thing I’m going to do is buy a house, because ours is in bad shape. When I get my degree I want to work, help my family and build my house.”

Maricella is getting a degree in international commerce. Her story is one of the most tragic; her older brother died two years ago at the age of twenty-one of a degenerative disease; her younger brother is confined to a wheelchair by the same illness. She wants to graduate because she feels that she’s the only hope there is for her family, her church and her community. She wants to own her own business so she can help her family.

What stood out to me the most meeting these students is their commitment to serving Christ, helping their families and loving people. It was inspiring to see these young men and women who had nothing growing up and now have an opportunity to help change the direction of their nation.

I think they can do it.

Pray for them.

Thinking Beyond Today

Did you know that if you ask the average child in this area what he wants to be when he grows up, he won’t be able to answer?

It’s true.

During Tuesday’s visit to a church in the Copan Ruins, the project workers shared with us that most of the kids have never really given it any thought.

They’re too busy just trying to get through the day to think about what the future might hold.

That’s why it was really encouraging for us to see “My Plan for Tomorrow,” a resource in Compassion’s curriculum designed to help children ages 12 and up to figure out what direction they want to go with their lives.

[Read more...]

"What the Children Need Most is…"

The other day, we were shown the project offices at the church we visited. After seeing the meticulous records and going through a whole list of questions, I asked a project worker, “If there was one thing you’d like us to tell Canadians [and Americans, too] back home, what would it be?”

She thought for a moment and said:

Pray.

“What the children need most is your prayers. They have a lot of issues and need a lot of help. They have medical problems and some have mental problems… but what they need is your prayers.”

This was not what I was expecting as an answer, but it’s so obvious.

More than anything else—even more than the financial support that sponsors provide—the children need our prayers.

One of the challenges I’ve come up to here (besides the language barrier) is that I’m being confronted with how lazy I am spiritually.

What I mean is that I too often take prayer for granted, or see it as the last resort after I’ve tried to white-knuckle my way through a situation.

But that completely misses the point.

It misses the point of the gospel, which pointedly shows us that no amount of white-knuckling can to what only Christ could. And because of His death for our sins, the Father hears our prayers.

So why not take advantage of this gift?

These kids need our prayers. We need our prayers.

And God is good and faithful to answer for His glory and our joy.

Tiny Smiles and Big Hearts

On Monday we had our first “official” visit to a Compassion partner church, The Ark of Salvation in San Pedro Sula. The children meet in the church while they’re building a new classroom facility.

This is one of the little faces that greeted us today. This girl, and all the children her age, were making puppets.
[Read more...]

"I Just Want My Husband to Be Saved"

This is Fanny. She’s 46, married and has five children. The youngest is in the sponsorship program. Her husband sells eggs from their home.

Our visit to Fanny's home

Her four-year-old son is registered in Compassion’s program at The Ark of Salvation Church down the street.

We came to her home to ask a few questions about how having her son in the program has affected her life. She and her oldest daughter are Christians, and she is glad that her son is now going to a church.

as we talked, we asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about. Her answer was simple:

“I just want my husband to be saved.”

And we did.

First Corinthians 7:14 says that “the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.” Because of her influence and consistent Christian lifestyle, there’s every chance that his heart would soften to the gospel and he would be saved. It would be amazing to see this happen.

To see this family united in Christ.

I believe it can happen.

Fanny and her family

“I just want my husband to be saved,” Fanny told us.

I want that, too.

Private, Precious Moments

Sunday, we began the first “official” day of our tour with Compassion. Today, we spent the bulk of the day at the Jehovah Jireh Church, one of Compassion’s partners in the country.

During the Sunday service, the pastor shared a short message, encouraging us to continue to be a blessing (Ayax translated for us).

Shortly before we’d arrived at the church that morning, Ayax told us that of the 41,000 children supported by Compassion in Honduras, at best, 180 receive a visit from their sponsor in a year—that’s such a small group of kids! But for those kids, it’s when, for the sponsor and for the child, the relationship really becomes “real.” There’s actually a flesh and blood person writing and receiving letters.

It’s a very special time, Ayax said. I had no idea just how special that moment would be for one of my team members.
[Read more...]

Travel, Tortilla Soup and Treats

Saturday was the first of our big travel days on this tour of Honduras. We flew from Toronto to Miami and finally to San Pedro Sula, where we arrived very late in the evening.

San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, is the industrial hub of the nation, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Ayax, a colleague from Compassion Honduras, shared with state of the city, as we drove to our hotel. Even though it’s dangerous, even though there is so much poverty, there is still hope.

Why?

Because of the Church.

The Church is here and God is working through her. Children are meeting Jesus and they’re telling their families about Him, too.

It’s amazing.

This is just a small portion of the items we brought for the kids - we ended up with four suitcases, four boxes and six bags worth of gifts!

After we arrived at the hotel, we set to work putting together packages of gifts for children at the church projects we’ll be visiting. With all 22 of us working together, we got it taken care of pretty quickly and then enjoyed a small meal before bed (in my case, tortilla soup, which was delightful, in case you were wondering).

Perhaps the biggest treat of the trip so far has been meeting the Compassion Honduras staff—including my old friend Alexis.

Alexis is the third from the left in this photo; Ayax is on the far right.

He and I met in 2006 when I was here on a missions trip; he was one of the four translators who worked with us. We also joined Compassion’s staff pretty close to the same time (within a few months of each other). He’s an amazing guy who loves the Lord and also really loves Compassion. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with him and all of our staff throughout the week.

Blogging with Compassion: Returning to Honduras

Four years ago, I went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on my first (and so far only) missions trip. Our team went to put on a day camp for kids at eight locations over five days. Most of these were Compassion partner churches.

A few months before I left, I’d started sponsoring a young boy named Jocsan (pronounced “Hock-san”). He was six, going on seven, at the time.

During that trip I got to meet him.

[Read more...]

Help Haiti Live Feb 27 – Benefit Concert for Earthquake Relief

One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International ’s Haiti disaster relief fund. The concerts are sponsored by Gaylord Entertainment Company, They will be ticketed and also streamed live at HelpHaitiLive.com.

With extraordinary need still existing in the devastated country, Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Amy Grant, Big Kenny, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE, Brandon Heath, and a to-be-announced special headliner will participate in two concert events, live from Los Angeles at the historic Wiltern Theater and at Nashville’s famed and Gaylord-owned Ryman Auditorium. Produced to inspire live concert and on-line audiences to financially support the relief work of Compassion International in Haiti, all talent and production fees have been donated, along with streaming services (Livestream.com), allowing proceeds to go toward Compassion’s disaster relief fund.

“This cause has been something our employees have taken very close to heart in recent weeks, and they’re thrilled for Gaylord to be involved in such an inspiring event. We’re also proud to support the generous efforts of all the artists who are donating their time and talent to make this concert a success,” said Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Company.

Tickets for each event will range in price from $25-75 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster locations beginning Monday, February 15th, as well as through The Ryman box office: 800-745-3000 or ryman.com, and through Live Nation for The Wiltern at http://www.livenation.com/venue/the-wiltern-tickets

Nashville/Ryman Auditorium, 7:30pm cst:

Hosted by Big Kenny. Performances by Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Jars of Clay, Mat Kearney, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, Brandon Heath.

Los Angeles/Wiltern Theater, 7:30pm pst:
Message from pastor Francis Chan. Performances by Special Guest headliner, Amy Grant, Leann Rimes, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE

All money raised in response to the Haiti earthquake will be used immediately to re-equip Compassion’s local support structure and to provide for the immediate needs of Compassion-assisted children and families. Compassion has been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Haitians for more than forty years and will continue to serve them in this time of extreme need. Already Compassion International has supplied more than 15,000 families with clean water, food, blankets, temporary shelter, medical supplies and counseling.  Donations will lay bricks, feed, educate, clothe, heal and rebuild Haiti for many months to come in Jesus’ name.

God Has Positioned Us For a Time Such as This: Wess Stafford on Haiti

An Important update from Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International:

Relief and recovery efforts are underway in Haiti, and long after many organizations are gone, Compassion will remain, as Wess said. Compassion has been serving the people of Haiti since 1968 and 65,000 children are being sponsored in 230 church projects, where they get opportunities for learning, regular health checkups, dental care, and take advantage of a host of other programs based on the needs of their communities. Most importantly, every child gets the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, to grow in faith as they are mentored by volunteers from their own communities and gain the skills they need to bring an eternal solution to poverty. Please give to help with Compassion’s recovery efforts in Haiti.

To gain some additional perspective on this tragedy, please watch the CBC’s interview with Barry Slauenwhite, President of Compassion Canada, who was caught in Tuesday’s earthquake.

HT: Compassion Blog

The Morning After in Haiti

Update: A video from CNN – “The earth actually split:”

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.4454392&w=425&h=350&fv=]

more about “CNN“, posted with vodpod

Also, my co-worker offers some thoughts on the Compassion Advocates blog.


Yesterday, Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake outside the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Troy and Tara Livsay are missionaries in the country; they posted the following on their blog:

The few things we can confirm – yes the four story Caribbean Market building is completely demolished. Yes it was open. Yes the National Palace collapsed. Yes Gov’t buildings nearby the Palace collapsed. Yes St Josephs Boys home is completely collapsed. Yes countless countless – countless other houses, churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses have collapsed. There are buildings that suffered almost no damage. Right next door will be a pile of rubble.

Thousands of people are currently trapped. To guess at a number would be like guessing at raindrops in the ocean. Precious lives hang in the balance. When pulled from the rubble there is no place to take them for care Haiti has an almost non existent medical care system for her people.

I cannot imagine what the next few weeks and months will be like. I am afraid for everyone. Never in my life have I seen people stronger than Haitian people. But I am afraid for them. For us.

A pastors’ tour from Compassion Canada arrived in the country about an hour before the earthquake hit.

I was supposed to be on that trip.

Not sure how to feel about that right now.

Compassion and other organizations are already assessing the damage and taking part in relief and recovery efforts. Please give to help with these efforts.

But just as importantly, please pray for the people of Haiti. I can only echo Troy and Tara’s comments, which I’ve reprinted here:

The horror has only just begun and I beg you to get on your knees – I truly mean ON YOUR KNEES and pray for the people of this country. The news might forget in a few days – but people will still be trapped alive and suffering. Pray. Pray. Pray. After that – PLEASE PRAY.