Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting together

Today I attended my very first Team Meeting with the other Compassion Advocates from this area. It was a great experience. In addition to meeting Joe, our Area Coordinator, and several other advocates, we also had Mark, our Regional Manager from New York, in attendance.
I have to admit that at first I wasn't sure what to expect from the meeting. You see, I've served as an Elder at my church for many years. And I've seen my fair share of meetings where business and finances and whatnot are discussed. But this was not one of those kinds of meetings.
Of course, we opened with prayer and some scripture reading, and even had a worship song to sing along with. It was Kutless', Better Is One Day, a song which I have found myself listening to quite a bit of late. Sometimes I think it's strange how this song can wring the tears from my eyes no matter where I am or what I'm doing when I listen to it. But then again, that is the awesome power of worship when it comes from the heart.
There were three new advocates among us, myself being one of them, so we all had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to everyone else. And as an icebreaker everyone was asked to share a funny story about ourselves. I shared the story about Bob and his "Get Compassion" sign from our Friday night adventures at Creation 08. At this point, Barb - one of the other advocates who was at Creation, remembered where she knew from.
Persistence was the focus of this meeting. Several of the advocates shared stories of how long it took them to make any headway with finding support from their churches for the ministry of Compassion. I found this somewhat odd since The Revolution Church fully embraced my involvement with Compassion and sponsored a child almost immediately. Perhaps I'm just specially blessed to have P.Dave as my pastor, and such a great congregation - as small as we may be - to be so supportive of the individual ministries that we're all called to.
Another focus of the meeting was the encouragment to take a trip to visit a Compassion project any time the opportunity arises. Several of the other advocates spoke of their experiences while on these trips, but the most amazing tales were those shared by Mark. He admits that he's been on more than 20 trips, and has seen things that would really change anyone's perspective of what it really means to live in poverty. I know I've said it before, here in America, our idea of poverty means having only one TV and basic cable. In the rest of the world it means wondering if you're going to eat at all today, or if the water you drink is going to make you sick, or if someone you know will die from starvation or disease. And Mark's stories brought those points home like a sledgehammer.
Mark spoke of meeting a family that lived in what couldn't even be called a shack. It was, for all intents and purposes, a box-spring, a sheet of aluminum and some wooden planks. And inside the family's "home" there was a little table and a stool. The family treated him as an honored guest, offering him the stool and one of the drinks that they had just received from the project that Mark was visiting at. But he realized how important it was to allow them to do this for him. It was their way of giving back for what they had received.
Another story he told was one in which he met a little girl who was sitting outside on the edge of the town with her little brother laying asleep across her lap. He noticed that she seemed sad so he tried to make her smile. He offered her a lollipop and she took it with some hesitation. He tried to speak to her a little, and she did understand a little bit of english, but not enough. But after much trying he did manage to get a smile out of her. After a few more moments one of the guides from the project saw him and asked what he was doing. He explained that he was just talking to the little girl. The guide then looked over and said very sadly "Oh, her sibling is dying." Mark had no idea the child was dying of AIDS. And after all his attempts to make a little girl smile while her little brother was dying in her arms.

This is the harsh reality for nearly 2/3 of the people in the world. Here, in the most blessed land on earth, we complain about how long we wait in line at Wal-Mart. Forget the fact that we can have practically any convenience, any luxury, we could ever wish for in a matter of minutes, we want it ten minutes ago. Meanwhile, there are people on the other side of the world, who have close to nothing, but are willing to share whatever it is they do have - even with a wealthy stranger. It's heartbreaking.

I must confess; it took me way too long to get involved with Compassion. This was a ministry that I've known about for years, and I did nothing about it. For years I ignored what I knew was happening in the world, all because I was convinced that I couldn't afford to take on the financial responsibility of the monthly commitment. I was convinced that I really couldn't make a real difference in the world. After all, I was only one person. But I finally came to the realization that I could no longer afford to do nothing. I came to the realization that if I really believed what I claim to believe, then I need to live as if I do - and that meant finally getting involved with a ministry that is doing great things.
So, this is why I do what I do with Compassion. I've got a lot of lost time to make up for. And even though I know I can't afford to sponsor more than one child, for now, I know that my efforts will help other children to find sponsors.

One final note; I recently received an e-mail notifying me that there will be a trip to Kenya, where my sponsored child lives, coming up in February. I'd love to go, especially after all of the stories I've heard from the others. But I also know how expensive the trip is, and I just can't afford that right now. But I do hope that someday I can make the trip. And can you imagine the blog posts I'd have after something like that?

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