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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Compassion in Ecuador.

A few weeks ago, my wife Alice and I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Ecuador with Compassion International. If you've been to one of my concerts in the past couple of years, you've heard me talk about the work Compassion is doing. They are a child advocacy ministry which works to release children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. To see with my own eyes how this happens was a joy and made me even more thankful for the opportunity to invite people to join in this work.

Ecuadorian children go to school for a half-day, so one way Compassion has been able to care for them is to set up supplemental education through churches for the other half of the day several days a week. This not only helps them in their education, but provides a safe place for them to just be kids. There was a palpable sense of care when we visited these places, that the adults truly cared about these kids. Some of you will know what I'm talking about when I say that you can just tell when a child knows they are loved and cared for, and these kids just glowed with it. Even in watching their interactions with each other, there was a sense of childhood playfulness rather than the cruelty kids can often show towards one another. It was beautiful.

These guys are best friends and obviously cooler than me.

The kids loved Alice. Probably because she is awesome.

One, two, three, four: Alice about to throw down on some unsuspecting kid in a thumb war.

It was so refreshing to see how well thought-out and intentional Compassion is in everything they do. From meeting with families, to writing letters to sponsors, to buying the children special Christmas and birthday gifts, with there were systems in place to make sure that time and resources weren't wasted, so that that time and those resources could go to further care for the kids.

My friend Katy (kah-tee)

We were able to visit some homes of families who had one or more children sponsored through Compassion. Their living conditions were very poor, with some houses smaller than a dorm room. It was difficult to realize that some families with several kids might not be able to have more than one of them sponsored, because having a kid's sister or brother sponsored might mean that another family wouldn't be able to have any of their children involved with Compassion. But even having one child sponsored means that a family has a better chance for the future, since that child receives a better education and opportunities.

A family we visited in their home. The boy (on the right) is sponsored through Compassion.

One neighborhood we visited was basically a series of shacks on a steep mountainside, the floors of homes fighting the angle and not quite winning. There we visited mothers and children enrolled in Compassion's Child Survival Program. Several years ago, Compassion realized that many children coming into the main program were underdeveloped, and that by six years old they were already at too great of a disadvantage. They began the CSP in order to teach mothers (even before their babies are born, when possible), how to care for their children and give them the proper nutrition and basic health care. One of the mothers we visited is still a teenager, and without access to the rest of her family, had no idea how often to feed her baby, what to do when he was crying, etc. She shared with us how grateful she is for the Compassion worker who comes once a week to teach her these things, play with her little boy, and share the hope of Jesus with her.

The outskirts of a neighborhood cared for by Compassion's Child Survival Program

Michael, a child in the Child Survival Program

On the other end of the spectrum from the CSP, Compassion has also developed a Leadership Development Program which selects the most gifted kids when they graduate from the main Compassion program and gives them opportunities for higher education. These are people who are studying to become doctors, teachers, government officials, etc. We had dinner with several of them one night, and it was amazing to see that these young men and women, who probably would have grown up to sell Pepsi in plastic cups on the street (a very common profession) had they not been sponsored through Compassion, were talking about their dreams of changing their communities and country for the better. It was striking to see that all of them understood deeply that they had received so much, and were eager to give back-- not out of obligation, but out of gratitude. They spoke of Jesus and sharing his love as they cared for their communities. Words fail to adequately describe the positive domino effect Compassion is having in Ecuador and in other countries.

I hope that I've been able to give you a glimpse into some of what Compassion is doing, and why their work is so vital. Prayerfully consider sponsoring a child-- it is such a simple way to begin caring for the poor, who are close to the heart of Christ. More info can be found here.

Me and the beautiful Erica.

The Tugulinago brothers, who played on Caedmon's Call's Share The Well record.

This is my favorite fruit in the world. I don't know its name, but I call it boogerfruit. This pic has nothing to do with Compassion, but I had to include it.


Blogger Wes said...

I had some of that fruit stuff in Peru last summer. Delicious, in deed! I think they call it a "granadilla."

5:43 PM

Anonymous andy said...

dude, you met Los Hermanos!! Those guys are so awesome. Did you notice how much the oldest brother, the rhythm guitar player, looks like an Ecuadorian Springsteen? It's the underbite. You guys probably stayed the same place we did. How cool. I loved that place.

8:09 PM

Blogger Duda Mano said...

Hey Matthew!
Cool pics! It is great seeing that Compassion┬┤s work is doing so great in Ecuador.
Oh, and by the way... I think the fruit you showed us is called Maracujá (in portuguese) and Passionfruit, in english... but I could be wrong.

5:41 AM


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