We were especially blessed by the presence of formerly sponsored Compassion children, Ben from Kenya and Maria from Peru. That is to say: they were children who survived desperate circumstances and grew up to become two of the finest young people you could ever hope to meet, due to the determined love of their parents, the support of their local Compassion projects, and the faithfulness of a few special people who cared enough to pay $1 or so a day to sponsor them.
I felt called to become a Compassion advocate about seven years ago, because I felt a responsibility to help stem the terrible tide of devastation caused by extreme poverty and disease. More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year, and most of those deaths would be prevented with access to clean water, adequate nutrition and a few simple preventive measures like immunizations and mosquito nets. Those children are mourned by their parents and their communities, just like children in the developed world. And they don’t have to die. That’s what Compassion advocacy is all about.
Over the course of the weekend, we learned about Compassion’s complementary interventions such as the “Bite Back” anti-malaria initiative and “Water for Life” clean water program. We spent a lot of time talking about how important it is to encourage sponsors to write to their children, as Compassion’s sponsorship model rests solidly on the relationship between sponsor and child.
The highlight of the weekend for me was the campfire last night, and not just because I am kind of a pyro and mesmerized by flames. Our Northeast Region manager Doug West invited everyone to share their stories (advocates all have a million of them) which we did for a couple of hours around the warm glow of the fire. In the silence between stories, we could hear cows mooing plaintively from a nearby field, and crickets chirped loudly in the dark. Story after story, from Ecuador, Tanzania, India, Nicaragua, Togo: some inspiring, a few hilarious, and one or two clearly miraculous. We ended the night with prayer, and walked back in the darkness with our hearts on fire.
(To learn more about sponsoring a child or advocating for children, please go to: Compassion.com)