USA (MNN) — Working with college students to show them “there’s a way to make disciples of all nations in a very tangible way” is the job of Jared Brown, Director of Collegiate Partnerships and Regional Director of Marketing for Compassion International. When Compassion partnered with Passion, a conference raising up a generation that leverages their lives for what matters most, Brown says the mission was, “Let’s do together what we couldn’t do apart.” Little did he and the Compassion team know the impact that would be made on the lives of vulnerable children in just one day.
Doing together what we couldn’t do apart
55,000 young adults gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for the Passion Conference. Brown said what happened next was an act of God. “To provide a little bit of background, that 18-25 demographic is probably the hardest to get to sponsor children,” he explains. Normally, at a concert or church event, about two percent of those in attendance will respond to the Compassion invitation for sponsorship. For adults 18-25, that number is one-half of one percent because most think they don’t have the resources to participate.
“At Passion, it was somewhere around 13 to 14 percent of the audience responding. That literally is God and the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and lives of those young adults to do what they did. And what they did was say, ‘We want to account for all the remaining kids that were on the sponsorship list, that needed a sponsor.’ And so there were just over 7,000 sponsorships.” Passion attendees sponsored waiting children in Tanzania, Rwanda, and El Salvador. Though the original plan had been to focus on three countries, the response was so overwhelming that waiting children in Indonesia were also sponsored, along with 850 kids in Bolivia.
“Now those kids are accounted for,” Brown continues. “Yes, they’re accounted for in their country and the church knows them and the church is taking care of them, but someone across the ocean is saying, ‘I know you and I love you.’ And so they begin to build a relationship. If you ever get to go and meet a child who has a sponsor and you ask about letters, it is a joy for them to get their letters and show you.”
Sponsorship has far-reaching impact
Brown says the impact is far greater than to the 7,000 children sponsored. “That’s not just 7,000 kids that are impacted – that’s families that are impacted. So, you’ve got to at least quadruple that number to realize the impact you’re having. And then you really need to do it times five, because [of] the sponsors as well. So at that point, you’re getting up to 35 – you could even say 40 or 50 thousand people whose lives are going to be different because of sponsorship.”
And the impact of sponsorship doesn’t end with those who have been selected. “Two thousand kids being sponsored in Tanzania are now opening the door for Compassion Tanzania to go out and get more kids to bring into the program. Now they’re able to grow the ministry even more because, in one day, these 18 to 25-year-olds said, ‘We’re going to account for these 2,000 kids, we’re going to account for the 11 that are in El Salvador and we’re going to say let’s grow the ministry that Compassion can do in these countries with these local churches. That’s what’s so amazing and I don’t think the people understand it – we’re now going to be able to do more work with more kids almost immediately because of what these college students did.”
Doing together what can’t be done apart is at the heart of Compassion’s ministry model. “The way Compassion partners with the local church is really two-fold,” says Brown. “In the field, in our 26 countries that we work in, all the work we do is through the local church. We’re going to partner with a pastor who is known in the community, who has a good reputation in the community.” Compassion then equips that pastor to hire local staff to manage the Compassion programs offered to each child.
In the United States, Brown says, while events like Passion are important, “at the core, we’re partnering with people who believe in Christ – the Church – to be part of a one-to-one relationship with a child, where they become a sponsor and invest in the life of that child. We need people to come in and be part of that partnership with us, and we’re saying to churches overseas and in the U.S.A, ‘We need you to be able to do this work.’ We believe that God’s plan to reach the world is the Church, and that’s why we want to make sure that we’re doing it that way – it’s not about the name of Compassion, it’s about the name of Jesus.”
People often ask what a monthly donation of $38 does in the life of a child. Brown shares that Compassion focuses on four primary needs – physical, educational, social/emotional, and spiritual. “It’s allowing them to have healthcare, it’s allowing them to have food. If something needs to be taken care of in the home – whether they need a mattress or they need shelter for the roof because it’s caving in, it’s going to help take care of those things. It’s going to help pay for them to go to school or provide tutoring or books or uniforms. And a lot of people don’t realize, unless you get to walk in their shoes, that poverty really does strip you of your self-worth. And so that money ensures a social worker is in that church to help the kids process through what it means to live in poverty.”
And caring for immediate physical needs opens the door for hope. “We want to meet those urgent spiritual needs,” Brown continues. “Why can someone be in poverty and say, ‘I have nothing but I have all the joy in the world?’ [It] is because of Jesus. Jesus does tell us to go and take care of those who are in need, and so…let’s meet those three immediate needs right now, so we have the ability to step in and say, ‘Christ has done this for us and we want to do this for you.’”
Blessed to be a blessing
Brown says the letters sponsors write to their Compassion children are the greatest form of encouragement and discipleship. For many children, the first time they’ve been told that they’re loved is when “I love you” is penned in a sponsor letter.
“It’s not because their parents don’t love them – their parents love them very much, but it’s not something that is often said with words in that way. Sponsor letters are often filled with affirmation and prayer as the children are exhorted to stay in school and celebrate their worth and value through Christ. They’re saying, ‘Hey, we believe in you, we believe you can do this,’ and it’s that picture of God where we’ve never been able to really see Him – kind of like a sponsor – but He gives us so many blessings. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. The word ‘sponsorship’ has gotten a bad rap, because people think, ‘Oh, you just want us to give money,’ but we want you to invest your life. That’s what we’re asking – that you would invest your life into somebody.”
Churches and individuals can join the work that was started at the Passion Conference by visiting makehistorytogether.com to sponsor children from Bolivia. Waiting children from other Compassion countries may be viewed and sponsored through Compassion.com. Church engagement resources are also available online.
“Ultimately, everything we do, we want to be about the glory of God,” shares Brown. “Isaiah 26:8 says, ‘Yes, Lord, walking in the ways of your Laws, we wait for You, for Your name and Your renown are the desire of our hearts.’ We want to make much of Jesus’ name and much of His renown. We want to be about His glory.
“People can be praying for favor in our countries. We’re always navigating that we’re doing things to honor God and at the same time to honor people. We just want to make sure that we are bringing glory to God but we’re loving people well, we’re serving people well, and that makes much of Jesus. So pray, first and foremost, that we be faithful to Jesus. Second, that we would love people well in these countries and in the U.S., and that God would send us more sponsors. We currently have 1.9 million kids that are benefiting from the program, but there are over 400 million that we could impact right now. So saying, ‘God, please bring the resources, bring more people that say [they] want to invest [their] lives.’ That would be a huge prayer we would love to have answered right now.”