When I tell people that Compassion serves almost 2 million children living in extreme poverty around the world, those who are well-travelled sometimes respond, “I travel to the developing world all the time. Why haven’t I ever seen Compassion there?”
The answer is, they may have, but they didn’t recognize it as a Compassion program. Instead of seeing our logo, what they would’ve seen is a local church serving a few hundred children from its immediate community.
That’s because the local church is the heartbeat of Compassion’s ministry, both in the developing world and here at home.
The Church in the developing world
On any given day in communities all over the 25 countries where Compassion works, you will find our local church partners each welcoming hundreds of children through their doors as part of Compassion’s holistic child development program. Beyond that, you will find these churches going the extra mile to minister to children’s family members and tangibly care for their surrounding community.
Local churches have something that Compassion wouldn’t on its own: credibility amongst the local community, as well as a knowledge and understanding of that community. No matter how many charities come and go, the Church is always there, filled with local people who are committed to serving their neighbours.
We see the amazing effects of church partnership every day. Parents of Compassion children come to Christ because of the difference the local church is making in their children’s lives. Some of our church partners have been recognized by community organizations for the care they show to the larger community.
We see our local church partners become beacons of Christ’s hope and healing in communities around the world. We get to witness the Church be the Church.
The Canadian Church
But our passion for the Church isn’t limited to the developing world. Compassion loves to see the Canadian Church equipped and empowered to respond to poverty, too.
Many local churches in Canada are growing as beacons of Christ’s hope to their local communities. Saanich Baptist Church (SBC) in Saanich, British Columbia, is passionate about compassion and justice.
The church offers local serving opportunities, but Kenan Stolz, SBC’s youth ministry director, says this goes beyond programs. It is a way of life and a discipleship journey. He shares that neighbours are beginning to recognize their church members as “beacons of light.” They hear stories of neighbours asking church members for prayer in some of their darkest moments.
SBC partners with Compassion to extend their reach around the globe. Stolz says their partnership with Compassion informs not only the way they respond globally, but also how they serve locally. “When people are reminded of how so much of the world actually lives, they are also reminded that we are blessed to be a blessing,” Stolz says. While the physical needs might not be the same, the goal of sharing Christ’s hope remains.
“At the end of the day,” Stolz says, “if our people are not living out a life that is Jesus-centred and tending to the needs of the people around them, what’s the point? What’s the point of having a church, if people aren’t going to go out and live it in their day to day lives?”
Our desire at Compassion Canada is to equip the Church in Canada to do just that. That’s why we offer resources that help Christians gain a biblical understanding of how to respond to poverty and injustice at home and around the world:
- Step Into My Shoes is a seven-week family experience that will helps children and small groups gain hearts of compassion.
- True Story is a youth group curriculum that helps teens discover what God wants them to do about poverty.
- Our representatives help leaders around Canada learn how their churches can partner to end poverty in the lives of children.
We also offer events that will change your perspective on poverty. If you’ll be near Victoria, B.C., June 2 and 3, join us and International Justice Mission for Kingdom Come: Embracing the Call of Justice and Compassion.
There is half a globe separating the Church in Canada and our church partners in the developing world, but we are part of the same Body, each impacting our communities and the world with the hope and love of Christ.
By Alyssa Esparaz, Compassion Canada