A COMPASSIONate Christmas, Part 5

(To sponsor a child with Compassion, just click here. For more of my posts about Compassion click on the category on the right.) I wanted to include some of my thoughts from when we were in the Philippines with Compassion last Spring. For those of you who read this regularly (thanks, Liza), I apologize for the re-read.

Today was our last day to really see any of the Compassion stuff. As I mentioned, we had a lot of filming left to do. Well, we rock-n-rolled and, despite the torrential downpour we experienced at one point, we made it happen.

To start the day we headed to yet another Compassion project, and this one was, of course, fantastic. We were greeted again by some of the children. The hung homemade ribbon necklaces around our necks and escorted us individually to seats for a program. The little girl who escorted me wasn’t much for conversation, but she was super-cute.

If you remember, this is one of the first visits Davao has ever had from Compassion advocated, so they really pulled out all the stops. There were a lot of greetings, a number of musical performances and a chance to build and paint the wall of a classroom, which our fearless event directors were more than gracious to undertake.

This was our first day to spend with Rafonselle, the one LDP student who has already been granted a visa for the summer. So we spent a good bit of time filming her with some of the children. I told her that we just wanted some shots of her talking to them or singing with them or playing with them or whatever really. She was awesome. She jumped right in, and you could definitely tell that she knew what it was like to be where they are now, and she looks at them differently than we do. No pity. No worry. No appreciation. No Fancy. She looks at them with hope.

After lunch we drove out to the middle of nowhere through some beautiful country. We haven’t seen much of rural Philippines, but we did today and there were moments where it could really be breathtaking. Our destination was some rice fields where we were planning on shooting Rafonselle’s interview. Through a lot of waiting for motorcycles to pass, we were able to get most of it done, until it started sprinkling. I should mention that before this occurred our van driver realized one of the tires was flat and left us out there to go take care of it. Roger was convinced that it would pass after a little while. It didn’t. Right as the bottom dropped out, our heroic chauffer comes bounding down the road to rescue us. We ditched the rest and came back to the hotel. Luckily we were able to finish it there.

With regards to Rafonselle, let me just say that our students this summer are in for a treat. She gets it. She really wants to meet Chris Tomlin, but as Taylor has said more than once, ol’ Tomlin “should be so lucky to get to meet her.”

After dinner tonight (we had pizza; can you believe it?) we spent a good bit of time just kinda debriefing our week. So, I feel like I might share a bit of it here.

In transferring posts from my old Xanga to this blog, I found one I had written a few years ago basically whining about how frustrated I was that my current ministry was to middle-class, suburban, white American kids. This made me think about how there was some moment during the last year-and-a-half that I just made a decision that I was no longer going to feel guilty about that. If God has proved anything throughout history and in my own life, it’s that He knows exactly what He’s doing. He’s not just making it up as he goes along. So, while I believe that He is big enough to handle me questioning Him, I can certainly try to realize when those questions and complaints are purely selfish in nature. My post about ministering to middle-class, suburban, white American kids was/is selfish. So, what has that led to?

Callie and I were talking earlier this week about what we do in response to everything we’re seeing. I said that one of the things I’ve realized is that there’s only so much I can do. That might sound simple, but for many of us I think it can actually be somewhat profound. It was for me. Here’s why…

There are a lot of problems in the world, a lot of injustices. As a Christian I have a responsibility to do something about this. It is incumbent upon me to give to the poor, care for the sick, feed the hungry, provide for the needy, make disciples of the world, care for widows and orphans, and basically, look after the “least-of-these.” But you know what? I don’t bear the burden of giving to every poor person, caring for every sick person, feeding all the hungry, providing for everyone in need, making sure every person hears the Gospel, caring for every widow and every orphan and ensuring that anyone who might be considered “the least of these” is looked after. Because that’s your responsibility too. We share that. If I tried to make a difference in the world by giving to every relief organization I come in contact with, going on every mission trip I hear about, promoting every awareness video or event, reading every book on how to heal the world’s ills, and jumping on every social-justice bandwagon that comes my way, I would utterly, miserably, and completely fail. So, what do I do?

I become obedient to that which God calls me, and I get other people on board as much as possible to fill in the gaps. This for me is what it means to be an advocate.

This past year I received an email from Compassion saying they were looking for more people for their advocates network. Now, I already do a lot with and for Compassion, but it’s all through Student Life, which, though a ministry, is also my job. So, I became an advocate to be a part of something outside of my work. It’s something I really believe in and something that works. That advocacy for me leads to action, as I hope it will for others. Advocacy is about action, not awareness. If I constantly talk to people about Compassion, but it never leads to them sponsoring, then what am I doing?

The other thing my refutation of guilt has lead to is a new and different outlook on what I experience overseas in developing countries. I don’t feel a lot of pity anymore. I actually feel a great deal of respect. This makes me uneasy because it seems such an unnatural reaction to seeing what we see on these types of trips or in the squatter camps of South Africa, but that makes me feel like it might be right. The Kingdom of God is unnatural. In fact, it’s supernatural in the purest sense of the word. God has such great affection for these people, for all people, and when I can catch just a glimmer of that, it changes the way I can relate to other people completely. I can be a voice for them, and when that voice, the way I tell their story, comes from a place of respect rather than pity or guilt, I believe it is more honoring to them and to the work that God is accomplishing in their lives.

Lastly, my decision has changed the way I feel about those middle-class, suburban, white American kids. They’re a product of their culture just like these Compassion children are. Neither are at fault for where they find themselves. For whatever reason that’s just where they are. So I can’t get upset with them. I can’t fault them. I have to be just as patient and compassionate with them as I would be with others.

I live for the moment that a student gets it. This is my purpose in life. God manifests that purpose in me in a variety of ways, and being an advocate and sponsor with Compassion is just one of them. I look forward to a lifetime of discovering all the others.

Tomorrow we visit a market to… well, you know… shop (nothing like finishing what I just wrote and then typing that sentence to test my resolve to not feel guilty). We then fly back to Manila for a final meal with some of the Compassion country staff before catching a few hours of sleep and then flying Japan for 24 hours in Tokyo and then back to the ‘Ham by way of Detroit.

Not sure if this will be the last post before then or not. If it is, I’ll be sure to post any more reactions I might have once I get back in the U.S. Until then…

Thanks to all of you who read this for journeying along with us.

Signing off.

To sponsor a child with Compassion, just click here.

Merry Christmas!