Friday, February 2, 2018

A visit to our sponsor children

We have recently returned from a trip to Thailand, where we had the privilege of visiting our Compassion sponsor children. We had one day spent with two children, both of whom attend the same project in the slums of Bangkok. (A second day, visiting a third child had been planned. One week out however we heard he had left the project.  Sad for us, but good news for him, as his mother had found work and was able to take him back to another province.)

It was a wonderful day. We met the children (who I'll call Mr N and Miss N, both aged 13) along with the Project Director (PD), who was our host for the day.  After learning about the project and exchanging some gifts, we walked up the back alleys and beside a waste water stream to Miss N's house - a one room wood panel structure, probably 6x3m. Her grandmother looks after five grandchildren there, of whom Miss N is the oldest. We all sat on the floor and talked, aided by the helpful translation of the PD, and then played Uno together.

After that we headed out to a restaurant for steamboat lunch, chosen by the children.  At this point the awkward barriers started to come down as the kids (Thai and Australian together) chose what they wanted from the picture menu and shared it together at their table.

However, the highlight for all the kids was the time at a waterpark for the afternoon. A large floating inflatable world where Miss N, her younger brother, Mr N and our Mr 14, Miss 12 and Miss 10 quickly learnt that play together in water is universal joy in any language. There were laughs as people fell, encouragements and urgings to climb up higher, and fun with all trying to balance on inflatables at the same time. My husband and I joined in for some and enjoyed watching as well.

When we told people in Australia about this trip there were three main reactions:

  1. The majority were interested and excited for us. Most people we know also are child sponsors or see the value of it, and while they were possibly surprised that we were going they thought it was good. 
  2. A few, particularly those not from Australia, had no idea what we were talking about. Friends from India and Singapore had never heard of child sponsorship before. 
  3. One neighbour expressed absolute surprise that the children on sponsorship pictures were real children that you could meet, not just children used in photos. 

As we reflected on our emotions and thoughts afterwards as a family, here are some of the range of things we felt and the things we can now talk about with others:

Impressed with the project and the work Compassion are doing, and particularly the PD. She has a real heart for the children, she walks the streets encouraging children to come and showing parents that the project is good for their kids. She knows the kids personally, as well as their families and situations, and cares deeply for them. Over the course of the day we learnt how she came to Christ and how it changed her life. Key staff like this are essential to Compassion's work, there will be many children in a centre, but the staff hold it together and set the tone.

Encouraged. To see the project staff so clearly love the children they are entrusted with, as well as wanting to tell them about Jesus and model Christ, is a marvellous encouragement. Our PD spent all her time on the site, which was a church and preschool as well. She ran the project on Saturdays, went to church there on Sundays, worked there mid week, and lived on site. We were reminded of 1 Thess 2:8 "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." (NIV84)

Conflicted. As I walked into our shining marble hotel lobby afterwards, only about 1 km from the project, I started weeping. All I could see was Miss N's house and how about 20 of them would fit in that unused space alone. Then we came upstairs to a hotel suite that was larger than her home and a buffet dinner than probably had more food on offer than her family would see in a month (she and her brother devoured every bit of food offered on the day). It's appropriate to feel this. I knew we would. And we should.

Guilty. This is not the purpose of a trip like this, but it's inevitable that you are challenged by the marked disparity between wealth and poverty in the world and how we are those who live in wealth.

Excited. We’re even more excited about Compassion and their work. They’re doing great things, and we’re proud to stand behind them. We’re thrilled that we know these children and their families personally.  God works in every people and nation and we saw evidence of that.

Confident. I didn't really understand before the link between Compassion being Christian and how that affects who they sponsor. My conclusion is that it's a little like some Christian schools. There are Christian leaders, matters of faith are spoken of, taught about and prayed about, but there is no requirement to be Christian to participate. Our PD estimated that 10% of the children in the project had made a commitment of faith, but the benefits of the program are open to all. I am now even more confident that the help goes to families in need, the truths of Christ are taught, but receipt of the benefits does not require an expression of faith.

Prayerful. We can pray for those we do not know personally and we should bring the world and all its variety to God. But the joy now is that our prayer for Miss N and Mr N and their families will be personal.  A day is only a small taste of their reality, but it's a day more that we had before. We've laughed together, we've prayed together, and now we can keep praying for them.  More than that, we've realised the importance of the staff and particularly the PD, and will ensure we are praying for them as well.

The whole day was a remarkable privilege for which we are very thankful, and we will definitely consider going again in the future.

Our group at Miss N's home

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wendy. Your reflections are very helpful. Out of the blue I thought how lovely it would be to do a Compassion trip and then two days later got an email with their 2019 trips! They are running a family trip to Indonesia next July. Sadly no group trips planned to South America where our children are. Anyway, just praying and thinking it through at the moment. Love Cathy Brooks-Lloyd