Let’s Talk Money

BBC Radio 4 aired a documentary recently, called “A Child to Sponsor”. The programme stated that child-sponsorship had been rejected by organisations such as Christian Aid, who say communication between sponsor and child makes it too costly to operate. Other organisations take the sponsor’s money and use part of it to develop a child’s community – to build a school, or provide clean water for a village. With Compassion, there are other causes you can give extra money to, like Compassion Water or the Malaria Intervention Fund, but your sponsorship-money does just that – sponsors a child.

It costs £21 a month to sponsor a child through Compassion. It used to be £18. I hadn’t expected the price-increase. The last was in 2002 (before I started sponsoring), so let’s say there are 2 increases every 10 years, just for you to be prepared. Your sponsorship should last about 15 years.

Currently though, it’s £21. At least 80% of that goes directly to your child, so a minimum of £16.80 every month reaches your sponsored child. The rest covers administration. This includes delivering letters, employing translators (Compassion always recruits local people to translate the letters, which then creates employment in your child’s community), taking photographs (we’re sent a new picture every 2 years), and various other expenses. Compassion compiles leaflets, profiles of children waiting for sponsorship, DVDs to show to church-leaders, etc. All this has a cost, but if you’ve read my previous posts about Cindy, you will have seen how letter-writing has built up my relationship with her and her family. I consider the admin cost of less than £5 per month a small price to pay for that privilege.

I would rather sponsor a child with Compassion, and know exactly where that money is going, than sponsor with some other organisation. How about you?

When Things Don’t Make Sense

Typhoons are common in the Philippines. In 2009, Ketsana made the headlines, closely followed by another – Parma. Parma hit with less severity than expected; surely an answer to many people’s prayers, but lives were lost and homes damaged at that time. I heard about parts of Quezon City (home to my boy – Russel) submerged underwater. With both Jennylyn and Russel in the area, I had 2 letters from Compassion, warning that my sponsored child may have been affected.

As well as birthday gifts, if they wish, sponsors can send other money throughout the year – child gifts, family gifts, or gifts to their child’s project. When I started sponsoring, I never expected to do this. I thought it was just for the very-wealthy. But after Ketsana, as I waited for news of my children, I felt that in this situation, I wanted to send a family gift. I sat by the phone and prayed. Which one should I send the gift to; Jennylyn or Russel? Or both? The answer came back: Cindy.

Then I asked God a question I don’t normally ask Him. “But why?” Cindy was on Bohol, nowhere near the typhoon. I got no answer. Aren’t parents like that – sometimes they explain why; other times we’re just expected to do as we’re told? Only later do we see the wisdom behind it. Well, the feeling persisted, so I phoned Compassion.

A few months later, the anticipated letter from Cindy arrived – 2 actually; one from her, one from her mother. Cindy said: “I am very happy at the moment I received your family gift … We bought materials for the repair of our house. We bought hollow blocks, cement, steel bars and tie wire”.

And in her next letter: “For now in our place the climate is cold because of the typhoon” (she asked had I experienced a typhoon). (A) I didn’t realise a typhoon further north would affect the temperature on Bohol, and (B) I had no idea their house was in need of repair. I expect that’s why God wanted me to send the money – so repairs could be carried out in time for the cold weather. He had amazed me – yet again.

Have you acted when it didn’t make sense? What was the result?

Happy Birthday to the Boss

Have you ever wondered about these big organisations? Who’s behind them? Are they just after your money, or do they really believe in what they’re doing?

Meet Wess Stafford – president of Compassion International. It’s his birthday today, by the way. I think you’ll find he answers these questions.

Happy birthday Wess, and keep up the good work!

Do I Have to Believe?

I started my earlier post on prayer by saying that as Christians, we know it’s important. As a follower of Jesus myself, I’m writing this Blog from a Christian point-of-view, but I just feel I should say this: A child doesn’t have to be a Christian to benefit from one of Compassion’s projects, and a sponsor doesn’t have to be a Christian to take on a child. With slogans like: “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name”, I think it’s fair to say the majority will be, but it’s not a requirement of sponsorship.

So how is Compassion a Christian organisation? Well, because all the projects are run by local churches, it means that when children attend a Compassion-centre, they are given Christian teaching. This is not extraordinary. You wouldn’t expect to go into a mosque and hear nothing about Islam, so neither should you expect to go into a church and hear nothing about Christianity. Compassion doesn’t force children to convert to Christianity, but in its projects around the world, an average of 440 children per day are asking Jesus into their lives! Similarly, Compassion doesn’t force sponsors to pray for their children, but they encourage this, and I expect many do.

So, do you have to believe in Jesus to sponsor with Compassion? My answer would be no, you don’t have to be a believer yourself, but in order to stand with Compassion, you do have to be sympathetic to the Christian faith.

Does that help?

Prayer for Sponsored Children

Prayer. As Christians, we know it’s important, but prayer for our sponsored children can be a challenge. They’re the other side of the world. We don’t know what makes them smile; what breaks their heart; who their friends are, but God wants to make a difference in their lives through us. We can choose to pray for our sponsored children, and for Compassion. There is a Prayer Calendar with daily prayer-requests. This may give you a better understanding of Compassion’s work, but when it comes to praying personally for your sponsored children, that’s between yourself and God. In most cases, it’s something we must discipline ourselves to do. But from my own experience, I also believe that when there’s an urgent need, God directs your prayers.

Once, a few years ago, I had a really strong urge to pray for Jennylyn in the Philippines. I didn’t know why. It lasted a few days, then it subsided.

I had a letter a month or 2 later. There had been a typhoon, and (I was impressed to learn) staff at the Compassion-project helped her family.

If you’re reading this Blog, you’ve probably got a few minutes to spare. Why not stop what you’re doing, and say a prayer for the children in your life?

Doors Closing

In 2007, I had an E-mail update from Compassion UK. There was an article in there about “The Untouchables” in a project in Bangladesh. Inside the project, they were portrayed as giggling children, full of hope. Outside it, they were the poorest of the poor. People would cross to the other side of the road when they walked by. If ever I sponsored another child, I dreamed of sponsoring at the Keshabpur Free Baptist Church (the project featured in the article), and changing the life of one of those children … but that dream was never fulfilled.

OurCompassion.org is kind of like Facebook for Compassion-sponsors. It’s a site where sponsors from around the world can meet to share letter-writing ideas and stories of our children, amongst other things. I met a lady on there whose child was at Keshabpur, and in 2010, I heard sad news from her: The project had closed. Suddenly, sponsors there were faced with losing their children. I suppose some could have been moved to a nearby project, and their relationships continued, but others may have left Compassion for good.

Compassion does all it can to ensure that closures don’t occur. They’re so focused on the sponsor-child relationship that one of their slogans is: “Changing the world – one child at a time”, so they wouldn’t want children or sponsors to suffer unnecessarily. But as well as being Christ-centred, child-focused and church-based, Compassion is committed to financial integrity. And if they’ve warned a project, worked with them, done everything they can – and things are still amiss, the worst has to happen.

I don’t understand why the centre closed. That’s a fact I can’t change, but what I can encourage you to do is pray for the children and families whose lives have been touched by this project.

Is there a closed door in your life you’ve struggled to accept? Perhaps you’re struggling right now. If you’d like to share in the comments, I can be praying with you.

Not Theirs; Ours

There must be several questions sponsors often ask. Something I’ve wondered myself is: What happens when your sponsored child receives a gift, and their brother or sister doesn’t? (Currently, we can send birthday gifts to our children, but Compassion doesn’t have the wherewithal to allow us to do the same for their families.) When explaining about Uganda, Peace gave a beautiful answer to this question. She said: “When a child gets something, it’s not their gift; it’s our gift”. I’ve also heard of people handing out bags of rice to a family, coming back a few days later and finding no rice left – because the family didn’t feel able to eat well themselves, without inviting the rest of the community to share their food.

There is a massive difference between children registered with Compassion and those who are not. Perhaps there is sometimes jealousy, but should this stop us? We were challenged last weekend: “Would that stop you buying presents for your children – if there was someone in your child’s class who didn’t get them?”

We can’t do it all, but let’s do what we can.

Manchester 2011

Just last weekend, I was in Manchester for one of Compassion’s 2011 conferences. First on my to-do list for this trip was to book the hotel-room, and I had a couple of questions. As I read Braille, not print, would it be all right to send the dinner menu by E-mail? They did. And was it all right to have someone show me round my room when I arrived, and take me to the restaurant for dinner and breakfast next morning? They agreed, and asked me to call nearer the time, so I phoned the day before. All sorted.

Arrival

I made it to Manchester. With the help of my mobile phone, a member of station-staff tracked down Darren from Compassion, who drove me to my hotel. When I checked in, the lady was surprised to hear he was just dropping me off, and didn’t seem to know what to do. In the end, Darren offered to take me to the room. “Please do,” she said, “I’m the only one here.” I felt for him – having to do what was really the hotel’s job, but he said it was a pleasure.

Left alone in the room, I slip off my shoes and make some coffee. Darren has shown me how to call the front desk, but I can just imagine the lady saying: “I’m the only one here. You can have room service”, and me having to pay extra.

Happily, there are others from Compassion in the hotel. One phones my room and says: “How are you fixed for tea? … I’ll take you down, that’s fine”. Phew!

Bedtime. The hotel-room is cold, and I don’t know how to work the heating. The duvet is fairly thin, and there are no extra blankets – well, not that I can find. I end up going to bed in my cardigan, hoping it won’t look creased the next day! I think to myself this conference will have to be VERY good to make it worth paying for the train, and the hotel with its problems.

God didn’t disappoint.

Miracles in Haiti

Our speaker in the morning was Andy Hawthorn, who’s just been awarded an OBE. When I registered for the conference, I didn’t know what he was going to talk about, but the country he focused on was Haiti. I had started sponsoring there just last year, and didn’t think I knew much about Haiti yet, so it was good to hear him. He and a friend were able to go there just after the earthquake of 12 January, 2010. Andy told us: “After an earthquake, you just want to bless people”, so they had given away their money. Then they went to a church … with (I think it was) 600 dead bodies piled outside it. The pastor had lost his mother, and lots from the church. As he swept up some of the mess, he wore a hat with the words: “Jesus is my Boss” on it. They wanted to give him something. Andy’s friend opened his bag to look for dollars, English money – anything they had, and there was a big wodge of money! They gave all of it to the pastor. Then they went to a child’s home and wanted to bless the family; friend opened his bag, and the same thing happened again!

We were also told about a girl whose feet were in very bad shape. They prayed: “Lord, we really need to find an orthopaedic surgeon”.

As they came into the airport, they saw a medical team, all gowned up. Andy said it was as if the Lord had taken them from some top American hospital and just dumped them in Haiti. They carried the girl to the bottom of the steps, where the team were, and asked them: “Do you know of any orthopaedic surgeons?”

They said: “We are orthopaedic surgeons”. Within minutes, the girl was on her way to hospital for treatment.

Peace

I can’t finish this post without telling you about Peace. Originally from Uganda, Peace now lives in the UK. She was sponsored through Compassion as a child, but some of the things she suffered beforehand were horrific. Given to a couple as their slave, they forced her to share a bed with a goat, and would put hot coals down her dress when she didn’t bring home enough firewood. She still has scars on her body from the pain inflicted on her.

Peace is now married, and mother to a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Her children are shown love at home, and will never have to go through what she went through. Isn’t that something to praise God for?

Have you been on a trip that inspired you? Would be good to hear some stories.