Questions about Compassion

A student of mine recently interviewed me for a speech she's giving on Compassion at her college. I thought I'd post the interview:

How did you hear about Compassion International and when did you begin working with them?
I was teaching and performing for the Gospel Music Association's Seminar in the Rockies in Estes Park, CO, during the summer of '99. While we were there Bebo Norman and some of the other performers talked about Compassion, and my wife, Joyce, and I immediately knew we wanted to sponsor a child. While filling out the form for Riquelmys, a six-year old boy in the Dominican Republic, I mentioned to the Compassion representative that I toured with one-man plays and would love to help people sponsor kids after my plays. They called me later to set it up.

How many Compassion children do you currently sponsor, and how many have you sponsored in the past?
After Riquelmys we sponsored Roxanita, a seven-year old girl, in Bolivia. She moved to a village that didn't have a Compassion site, so when I was in Honduras on a Compassion artists and speakers retreat I sponsored Wendy, 13, and got to meet her the next day. Compassion people brought me by her home, but our schedule was a bit off, so we missed her parents. The home was quite small, but from the outside it looked tidy. We visited several homes, and they were almost all neat but sparse. Invariably the sponsored children would pull out a beautiful book filled with every single letter they'd ever received from their sponsor. There's a video of the trip at RichDrama.com/Compassion, which includes a girl joyfully sharing one of her letters and my visit with Wendy.

Can you describe the family lives of these children?
The last we knew, Riquelmys' father is a farmer, like mine! His mother maintains the home and he has five brothers and sisters. Roxanita's mother also maintains the home, and her father is "sometimes employed."

What is one thing that has touched you the most about corresponding with your children?
I'm constantly touched by the love for us and God that our kids express in their letters. One memorable note included a prayer request from Roxanita for her parents. She said, "They quarell a lot, and I'm sad for this." Joyce and I prayed heartily and later received a letter saying they were doing better. It was shortly after that we found out that her family moved outside of Compassion's reach. We continue to pray for her every night.

Was there anything that you found difficult or frustrating about working through and with Compassion International?
Nothing at all. I've been impressed by their work on every level.

How have you and your family grown because of this experience?
Sponsorship is something that gives a clear picture of specific lives in developing nations. It helps us pray for the world with much greater specificity.

If you had the resources, would you sponsor another child right now?
Joyce is now in grad school, otherwise I'm sure we'd sponsor our fourth child when we go on our next Compassion artists and speakers retreat in Guatemala. If anyone has a sponsor child in Guatemala we can take three dimensional gifts, film the child receiving them along with a greeting to the sponsors. If anyone's interested in this unique opportunity and doesn't have a sponsor child in Guatemala, go to RichDrama.com/Compassion, click on a Compassion link and select a child from Guatemala. Once you have a child sponsor number send an email to Rich at RichDrama dot com (spelling it out keeps it off spam lists) and we'll sign up to visit that child. Because we divide into groups and each group sees a limited amount of sites we'll request visits in the order we receive requests.

How do you see God working in the lives of your sponsored children?
That's the neatest thing about the whole process! Roxanita shared that she wanted to be a part of a program that helped others grow in their relationship with the Lord, called pequeña manada (small flock). She said, "I decided to serve the Lord, interceding for others. It is a small group of children that pray on Saturdays at 10am."  All of our sponsor children have expressed their growing love for the Lord and those around them. At one of the sites in Honduras I asked the pastor how many of the students accept Christ as Savior. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Todos."  (All of them.)  At another site, after performing a short piece entitled "La Gente Que Jesús Conocia" (The People Jesus Knew) I asked if any of them wanted to know Jesus more. You can see their response on the video: Todos.

How have you seen him/her grow as a person through your correspondence?
As we write to them about our love for the Lord we see that love grow in them as well, especially as they offer up precious prayers for us.

Can you share an excerpt or two from a received letter that touched your heart?
Wendy writes, "I want to tell you that I always pray for you both so that you will be well where ever you are." Travelling as much as I do I really appreciate that one! Riquelmys often says, "I close with a kiss and a strong hug for you and your family."

What would you say to a college student who is looking to serve through Compassion?
I remember what my finances were like in college. I would have loved to have had someone sponsor me back then! But I've seen many children sponsored after college performances. Sometimes students make enough from part-time jobs or they partner with parents or room mates. A couple of times I've even seen whole dorm floors go together. Students can also volunteer for Compassion. I saw a Michael W. Smith concert at Radio City Music Hall for free that way. Look for more information through the links at RichDrama.com/Compassion.

Is there anything else that you can say or share that would help someone better understand the cause of Compassion International or possibly even consider joining with Compassion and sponsoring a child of their own?
I kept a journal on the trip to Honduras. It has a lot of insights into the way they care for children so tenderly. Check it out at, you guessed it, RichDrama.com/Compassion.

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