Ottawa churches partner with churches in Guatemala to release children from poverty

These Ontario churches are working across differences and denominations, uniting to respond to global poverty in tangible ways.
  • By: Alyssa Esparaz
Pastor Jeff Jantzi receives a gift from a Guatemalan boy at a Compassion centre.

The Ottawa Compassion Collective was “born out of relationships,” says Pastor Jeff Scott of WestVillage Church in Ottawa, Ontario. It started in conversation with friend and fellow pastor Jeff Jantzi of The Gathering Ottawa, when they were both presented with opportunities to partner with Compassion and invite their congregations to sponsor children. “As Jeff and I talked ministry and missions, it just naturally came up—why don’t we do this Compassion together?” recalls Scott.

Today, the Ottawa Compassion Collective consists of nine churches representing six denominations. It’s a picture of kingdom partnership, as these churches unite despite their diverse denominational backgrounds in order to make a difference for children in Guatemala. As Jantzi says, “When churches commit to working together towards the same kingdom goals, our differences don’t matter all that much. The mission matters more.”

Pastors that joined the Collective later on speak about their decision to join as if it was a no-brainer. “We jumped at the opportunity,” says Pastor George Sinclair of The Church of the Messiah. “This not only meets the real needs of the poor, but it is a wonderful way to model working in unity with churches in different denominations.”

A group of Canadian pastors and Compassion staff with Guatemalan Compassion staff and graduates.

Members of the Ottawa Compassion Collective in Guatemala in 2018, meeting alumni of Compassion’s program.

Pastor Matt Rudd of Calvary Baptist Church says the same. “The vision [of the Ottawa Compassion Collective], combined with the way Compassion ministers, captured our hearts. Agreeing to be part of the Collective was an easy decision.”

Together, members of these churches sponsor almost 100 kids and in the past year, have raised several thousand dollars for Compassion’s COVID-19 relief efforts. And they’re just getting started. Each of these pastors and churches believe wholeheartedly in Compassion’s mission and are prayerfully optimistic about the impact they can continue to have in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Aligned on the mission

“At The Gathering, we chose to engage in this project because we believe in the ministry of Compassion. It works,” Jantzi says simply.

For each of these pastors, it was the distinctives of being Christ-centred, child-focused and church-driven that compelled them to choose Compassion. “Each of these distinctives really stood out in visible ways,” says Rudd. “And each one is important and critical to the work they’re doing.”

Of course, the Christ-centred approach of Compassion’s ministry is of utmost importance to these pastors. “I love the fact that [Compassion is] unashamed of the gospel,” Sinclair says. Scott echoes this: “It’s in Jesus’ name they do what they do—this isn’t just lip-service, but real devotion to the Great Commission.”

Also a highlight is Compassion’s focus on the local church. “I love the way they work in partnership with local churches,” says Sinclair.

A group of Canadian pastors and Compassion staff with Guatemalan staff and children at a Compassion centre at a local church.

Members of the Ottawa Compassion Collective at a Compassion centre at a local church in Guatemala in 2018.

“While there are many great missions agencies deserving of our support, we chose to engage with Compassion because of their commitment to empowering and working through the local church,” says Jantzi. “They do not send a bunch of white people down to ‘save the day,’ but rather they work through the local church—empowering and enabling them to be the church and to be a holistic gospel presence in their neighbourhoods.”

“This is something I love especially,” says Scott. “It is not us here in Ottawa deciding what their communities need, but the local church who is reaching out on the ground and touching the lives of their neighbours with the love of Christ.”

It’s something they saw for themselves when members of the Collective travelled together to Guatemala in 2018 to visit some of Compassion’s local church partners and see the work firsthand.

“It was beyond doubt once we saw it up close and spoke with the pastors and saw the ministry happening,” says Scott. “[It was happening] by and through the true Church: regular Christian people serving with their gifts and a heart for Jesus to reach and help their neighbours, just like we are seeking to do here.”

For Jantzi, meeting children in Compassion’s program that his family and his church sponsors confirmed the difference that it makes. “My family started sponsoring [Mario in Guatemala] when our oldest child, who is now 14, was a baby. It meant a lot to be able to meet Mario, as we had been praying for him for a long time.”

Jeff and Kim with Andy and Mario.

Pastor Jeff Jantzi and his wife, Kim, with Andy, left, and Mario, right.

“Our kids ministry also sponsors a kid, Andy, who we also got to meet that same day,” Jantzi shares. “Andy has a really tough story with both his parents dying when he was younger. We could really see the difference sponsorship is making and the ways that God is using it in his life. For Andy, it’s probably the difference between life and death.”

Mutual transformation

One of the most powerful things about the Ottawa Compassion Collective is not just the difference it makes around the world, but the statement here at home. Engaging with Compassion—and each other—leads to transformation all around.

“I’ve loved connecting with other churches in this mission and finding ways to ‘be the church’ together here in Ottawa, along with churches in Guatemala,” says Jantzi. “And the more I commit to ‘being the church’ with the broader church, the more beautiful I see ‘the Church’ being, distinctives and all.”

It’s indeed an opportunity to experience the fullness of the Church in new and fresh ways. “Jesus prayed that His followers would be one (John 17:22-23) and explained that by our love for one another, the world would know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35),” Scott says. “The Collective allows me to experience and practice [that], not just in Ottawa, but across the world.”

Jeff with the National Director of Compassion Guatemala. Both are wearing plaid shirts and have their arms on each other's shoulders.

Pastor Jeff Scott with the National Director of Compassion Guatemala.

For these pastors, engaging with Compassion is the kind of mission engagement that blesses disciples and transforms their own congregations. “It’s been a blessing to mobilize our own church to start meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in Guatemala—not as saviours, but as partners,” says Rudd. “[It is] a picture of gospel love in action.”

“God also uses sponsorship to change us,” Jantzi explains. “As we commit to giving, praying and writing letters, God meets us in the process. Ultimately, it’s about relationship and caring for those in need. That’s when the real change happens, both in us and in the world. Sponsorship is good for our own discipleship journey with Jesus.”

Mission and the Church post-pandemic

So much about how churches do church and mission has changed in the past year. As these pastors have navigated the changes and uncertainty, a deepening and renewed passion to recognize our need for each other, both locally and globally, has emerged. As they consider life beyond COVID-19, their hopes and prayers reflect this.

Jeff and Kim with a group of Compassion children all wearing green uniforms.

Jeff and Kim Jantzi with a group of children at a Compassion centre in Guatemala in 2018.

“If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that our world is actually quite small,” says Jantzi. “As a follower of Jesus, I can’t just care about my own local church family—I need to care and be invested in what God is doing across the globe through His Church as well. When one part of the Body hurts, we all hurt. I pray that we will all feel and care more deeply about the needs and the pain of the global church, and ultimately that more will commit to doing something about it. We need each other!”

“[I pray] that we will remember what it means to be outward-focused and engaged in the mission of God,” says Rudd. “In many ways, I think the pandemic has unfortunately produced a spirit of self-preservation and complacency. Lord willing, we will forsake these attitudes for the sake of those in need. It is no less than what Christ did for us.”

Scott’s prayer for the future of the global church rings with similar themes: “That we would partner together in new and more creative ways and work across borders and denominations with the same togetherness and urgency that we’re seeing now. I pray that we would live and invite others into true community that we have all discovered we really do need—with each other, and ultimately, with Jesus.”

Jeff and Ruth with two Compassion-sponsored girls who are wearing traditional Indigenous dresses.

Pastor Jeff Scott and his wife, Ruth, with two girls they sponsor in Guatemala.

The values of the Ottawa Compassion Collective are certainly ones the world needs as it navigates this continuing pandemic and one day emerges from it: unity, community, generosity, diversity and a global perspective. “We are better together,” says Scott. “We can do more together, and ultimately, I believe it brings joy to the Father’s heart and His blessing when we work together.”


Learn more about why pastors across Canada love partnering with Compassion.

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Feature photo caption: Pastor Jeff Jantzi receives a gift from a Compassion child during a visit to a Compassion church partner in Guatemala in 2018.

Photos submitted by Jeff Scott and Jeff Jantzi.