Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Most enjoyable

Last night was awesome! And we didn't even get to see the concert...
As I mentioned previously, JT and I were there as volunteers for Compassion, and as such, we were responsible for staffing the table and helping in any other ways necessary. And since the show was a sell-out, there were no seats available for any of us - and there were well over a dozen volunteers at this show. But this is what happened anyways.
We headed out around 4:00 because I knew we would be going through 'dahntahn n'at' during the start of rush hour. It was a smart move because we also knew we'd have to stop somewhere to eat, which we did at 5:00ish. We stopped at Wendy's. From there we were only a few minutes away from the church where the concert was taking place.
We arrived shortly before 6:00 and the security people let us in and escorted us to the Compassion tables. There were a few volunteers already there, but the Event Coordinator, John, was still having dinner with some of the other concert/event staffers. So we just mulled around and started to talk to one another about the children we sponsor, where they live, how long we've been involved with Compassion, and so on... It was unfortunate that JT kinda drifted away for a few moments at this point because he isn't a sponsor through Compassion. He has a child through a different organization, so he was a little out-of-the-loop for this conversation. But he was still excited to be a part of this.
I know I've mentioned before that when JT and I get together, there are always tons of jokes being hurled about at lightning speed. JT is quick with his sarcastic wit and I am the perfect straight man to set the jokes up. We are a great team. And last night was no different. Even better was the fact that there were a few people among the volunteers that actually "get" our twisted, warped and oft times demented, sense of humor. We were getting plenty of laughs.
Sometime before 7:00 John came to the table to tell all of us what was expected, and to fill in the first-timers on just what's going on with an event like this. He also informed us that there would be a "packet pass" between performances. More about that later.
The focus of the event was actually going to be orphans. Both Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman are supporters of Compassion's ministry. But Steven also has a heart for orphans - having adopted 3 of them from China, himself, and has his own ministry that focuses on that. That's how this tour came to be called The United Tour - both artists have brought together the ministries that they are passionate about. From what we were told, every child packet at the event was a child who had lost a parent. There were also several child packets with little green dots on them that represented children who had lost both parents - many of them to AIDS. These were the priority children, but their info packets were not allowed to leave the table unless they were sponsored and paid for that night. It was just too important to risk their info being lost.
John started everything with a prayer and then left us to do our thing. Several of us began to wander about with child packets to try to get peoples interest in any way possible. Some were, but many would simply avoid us. That was sad, and I'll be sharing more about that later on, too.
In any event, JT and I found a decent location, near the cafe - Yes, the church has a cafe! - and we stood beside the cafe with child packets in hand, and at times called out like the vendors at a sporting event "Kids here! Getcher kids here!" or "Children here! Getcher children here! They're fresh, They're crunchy and delicious!"(that one was JT's - I had nothing to do with it). Yes, JT and I started out with the sick, twisted humor right away... Oh, it gets worse, much worse, later on.
As the start of the concert drew closer the crowds thinned in the corridors. So JT and I headed back to the tables to just hang out. We weren't too disappointed about missing the concert because there are several screens in the main lobby area that were broadcasting the concert for the viewing pleasure of those not inside. Unfortunately, there was no sound available - there were speakers, but no sound. No explanation was given for this. But we didn't really mind since we were having fun just being involved.
At some point in our non-activity, JT really got started with his witticisms. I was rolling on the floor laughing, and so were a couple of the other volunteers. It was great. And it only got better. JT and I kept coming back to something that was said when we recorded my review of Creation for the podcast. The line that JT coined was "If you don't sponsor a child, you're dead inside!". JT talked about putting it on a T-shirt, until he came up with a better gimmick. "If you don't sponsor a child, God will kill a puppy." No! That's not the worst of it!
It came time for the packet pass. Those of us who were picked to do this headed into the auditorium and waited for the speaker to do his thing. With a packet pass, a speaker will share something about Compassion's ministry and will even talk a little bit about their own experiences with Compassion. When they finish they ask anyone who feels lead to sponsor a child to raise their hand so one of the volunteers can give them a child packet. Packet passes are usually inspiring enough to generate a good response, and it's always done in a positive way - and not to provoke a sense of guilt in anyone. Compassion would rather people be moved to sponsor a child out of a sense of compassion (Duh! hence the name), or even their desire to serve Christ. Rather than out of guilt or some sense of religious obligation. It's a good approach that works well. I personally handed out 6 child packets to people who raised their hands.
Afterwards, there was a brief intermission and JT and I headed back out to the stairway leading to the cafe. We were bound and determined to get as many people as possible to see the child packets we had. And being as big as we are, it's kinda hard to miss us.
It was at this time that I got the only picture of the evening.



This is me with Rose. Rose is the producer/co-host of a locally produced, but nationally syndicated conservative, radio talk-show called The War Room. She's been in broadcasting for quite some time and has many awards to vouch for her talents - including a few from MTV for a Christian video show that she used to produce called Litemusic. She is one incredible lady and I was blessed to finally meet her face to face after years of listening to the show. What was really great was that she didn't seem stand-offish as some people in the media can be. Instead, she spoke to me like she was catching up with a long lost friend. She liked my hair, I showed her my Ink-n-Fire. As we talked I explained to her that I haven't been able to listen for nearly a year because of where I'm located in my building - I can't get no reception. So she told me to send her an e-mail and she'd hook me up with a free subscription so I won't have to miss it anymore. What a wonderful lady! I also managed to bless her by telling her that I can see (hear?) the impact that her faith has had on the host of the show, Quinn. And I could tell that this was her calling and the purpose that God has for her. We hugged each other and I went back to pimping the child packets...
Perhaps "pimping" wasn't the right choice of words, but you know what I mean!
Intermission ended. Now, allow me to say things are about to get really demented because it was around this time that JT took the puppy thing a bit further. It was no longer God who was going to get the rap for killing puppies if children weren't being sponsored. JT started to joke about being the one who would do it. He suggested having a box of puppies by the table with a sledge hammer beside it, and on the box a note "Sponsor a child or else..." Or one that said "Don't make me..." Yes, it was sick and twisted, but worth every laugh between us and the handful of other volunteers who heard it. Believe me, this was not the kind of stuff that we wanted to be loud about. It could have had a negative effect on any future involvement with Compassion, and we both love this too much.
We lingered some more, joked around some more, talked with the other volunteers some more, and waited til the concert ended. At which time we would have one last rush of people and then we could start packing up all of the materials.
When the show finally ended JT remained in the middle of the corridor with another volunteer as I stayed at the table helping people to fill out forms and answer questions. JT was amazed by how people reacted to his being there. He noticed that many people would look him right in the eye as they approached, until they saw the child packets in his hands. Then they would turn their eyes to look at the wall rather than continue to look at JT. Now, he did say that some of the people would walk by and tell him "Oh, we sponsor a child in..." and then name some country, or they'd name some other organization. And that's cool. But we can't figure out why people would simply turn and look away. Wouldn't it be easier just to say "I'm sorry, I just can't afford to do this right now.", or something to that effect? or would that have been lying? Was it simply a matter of knowing in their hearts that anything they said, other than "OK", would've just been an excuse?

I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound judgemental here, but this troubles me deeply in my spirit. In fact, it troubles me enough that I've got tears welling in my eyes as I type this. I am a single parent (for the most part), I have a mortgage that eats up all but $40 of one of my bi-weekly paychecks, I have a car payment and enough utility bills to leave me with less than $150 of my other paycheck to live on for the month - and I sponsor a child! I know that I am wealthy by comparison to these kids. And not only do I sponsor a child, I add the $8 for the HIV/AIDS initiative, and I give money to the child that my church sponsors (in addition to my tithe). I also volunteer my time and make the trips, at my own expense, to wherever it is that I can be a part of a Compassion event because I know this is what Jesus told His disciples they should do! I also know that I can't afford to sponsor another child, yet, so this is my way of helping other children to become sponsored. Yes, Compassion pays for my admission to the events I go to, but I'm still responsible for my own gas and food while I'm there. This is by no means a free ride. This takes commitment, and sacrifice. I'm not saying that I'm any better than anyone else, but I know this is what Jesus said would distinguish His flock from everyone else in the world. These kids have nothing. We live in the most blessed nation on earth, and we have people, who call themselves Christians, who aren't doing anything to share those blessings with those who are truly in need. It saddens me, and I'm sure it breaks God's heart even more.

But I'll get off my soapbox now.

We ended the night with 65 sponsorships, out of a crowd of about 1500. That's pretty good. And I am thankful to God for every one of them. That's 65 children - and their families - whose lives will be changed eternally, and 65 people - and their families - who will experience the joy of helping a child to live to his or her fullest potential. That's what makes all of this worthwhile for me. And I can tell that it had an impact on JT too. I can't wait for the next event...

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