Guest post by Rev. Chang Soo Charles Lee
As we walked down the hill back to the church, we were silent, our hearts heavy. We had just met eight-year-old Maria and her grandmother, and we were humbled by the sobering reality of poverty. We were heartbroken by seeing a little girl living with hurt and pain that no eight-year-old should experience at her age.
Last November, I had the privilege of travelling to Peru on a Compassion Exposure Trip with pastors and church leaders across Canada. My church had already decided to partner with Compassion “to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name,” and the purpose of our trip was to experience the on-the-ground ministry of Compassion and see how Compassion’s ministry impacts the lives of children in need.
In short, the trip was eye-opening, heart-breaking, mission-inspiring and partnership-affirming.
Meeting Maria: eye-opening and heart-breaking
This trip was not my first time being exposed to the reality of extreme poverty, but when I saw children in dire physical and spiritual need, not only were my eyes opened, but my heart was also broken.
On one particular day of the trip, a small group of us had the opportunity to visit Maria, who is being raised by her aging grandmother. We went up the hills to find a very small home where Maria’s grandmother greeted us.
Maria was on her way back from school, so we briefly got to hear Maria’s story from her grandmother before meeting her: Shortly after Maria was born, her mother passed away and her father left to start a new family with another woman. Her grandmother took her in. However, she is immobile and cannot do much to provide for Maria. So, extended family members like Maria’s aunt and cousin have been supporting her throughout her early years and until now. They were the ones who introduced Maria to the Compassion program at a nearby church. Maria has been part of the Compassion program since she was six.
The wrinkles on her grandmother’s face showed the years of hard life she lived through. The tears in her eyes showed the deep pain in her heart for Maria.
As we were almost done hearing the story, Maria walked in with her aunt who had picked her up from school. She blushed as we greeted her. Her eyes were sparkling—but not with joy, more with brokenness. It was almost as though a small nudge could pop the bubble of her bottled-up tears.
After introducing ourselves to Maria and hearing her respond to our questions, we shared how God loves her and cares for her. She started to cry and her tears made me and our group members cry with her. As we prayed for Maria and her grandmother, we were heartbroken and able to feel God’s broken heart for her.
We felt the presence of God comforting Maria, her grandmother and all of us whose hearts were broken. We prayed for God’s blessing and protection over her and grandmother and for Maria to grow up to be the beautiful woman He has created her to be.
Meeting Melina: mission-inspiring and partnership-affirming
Our trip was not just eye-opening and heart-breaking; it was mission-inspiring and partnership-affirming. There are many “Marias” in the world, and the reason Compassion exists is to release those “Marias” from poverty and disciple them with the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we visited a number of churches that run a Compassion program, we were able to see how Compassion’s program has been making an impact in the lives of many children.
One of the most inspiring and encouraging parts of the trip was meeting Compassion graduates. On our second day, I got to meet Melina, who sat at my table over lunch and shared with us about her experience with Compassion.
Melina is now 25 years old and studying business administration, while also serving as an administrative assistant at her church, supporting the Compassion program there. Her smile exudes humble confidence and joy.
But this was not the way she was when she was growing up in a broken and dysfunctional family. There were many days when she would ask, “Why on earth am I living? What is the purpose?” She was in very dark place and her family was very dysfunctional, not unlike Maria’s.
She came into Compassion’s program when she was eight. Through the Compassion program and her sponsor’s persistent letters that affirmed the love of God, she came out of the darkness and she has grown up to be a beautiful woman of God.
An opportunity to participate in God’s transformative mission
I was able to witness how our God can transform the brokenness of eight-year-old Maria into the beauty of twenty-five-year-old Melina by the power of the gospel.
I praise God for his goodness and I thank God for using Compassion to bring the hope of Christ to Maria, Melina and hundreds of children who get to hear the gospel and experience God’s love. It is my prayer that our passion for God’s glory and our broken heart for people in poverty will move our hands to participate in His mission to release children from poverty in the name of Jesus.
Want to learn how your church can partner with Compassion to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name? Connect with the Compassion Church Representative in your region!
Reverend Chang Soo Charles Lee is the Lead Pastor of New Hope Fellowship in Mississauga, ON, an English-speaking congregation of Light Presbyterian Church. He is planning to take his church leadership team to Bolivia this November to see Compassion’s ministry there.