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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Child Sponsorship, World Vision, and A Compassionate Heart

One of the best moments of the New Year happened for me in a Bible study today when one of the members came in showing a picture of a child he adopted (sponsored) through World Vision. Essentially, he will send a monthly check of around $30-$40 to support a young Ugandan boy and his family. The money will ensure that the child is clothed, fed, educated, and receiving needed vaccines and appropriate health care. In addition to sending the check, the man can pray for his adopted child and write to the child.

The guy who is doing this is a committed Bible reader. Often he and I come to different conclusions after reading the same text. We sometimes engage in quite lively debates when our Tuesday group gets together. And, this man, my friend, is a regular reader of this blog, so I am certainly not talking behind his back. The fact is he is a bit of a provocateur. (I should add I use that term playfully and not in the confrontational sense.)

The reason I describe my learning of his decision to sponsor a child as one of the best of 2010 is I get to see his compassionate side. We have our entire church studying the compassionate life in small groups and in Sunday morning sermons. I am searching deep within myself and deep within the hearts of our members for the compassion Jesus had, especially with regard to disadvantaged people. We have had people who went on mission trips in 2009 share testimony. And in small group discussions we are trying to tackle the hows and whys of living compassionately and advocating for justice for all people.

My occasionally contrary and always thoughtful friend is taking every step of this seriously. After he and I had a spirited exchange (that carried over into several forms of media) regarding the Poverty and Justice Bible and the Green Bible, he went out and bought both. He's been critical of each, but not in an uninformed way. His criticism is valid because he shelled out the money for these study Bibles. And, now, he's revealed his own compassion by taking heart for a young Ugandan boy.

I am not arrogant enough to think for one minute my friend sponsored this child because of our church-wide emphasis. I believe he is trying to respond to the Holy Spirit's promptings. Perhaps this was his plan all along for 2010. Perhaps God would have led him to this regardless of what's happening at church. No, I don't think he's acting because of the direction we have set. But I am thrilled by what he's done because my big goal for this entire emphasis is to see more and more of our people live compassionately.

When you sponsor a child, you're helping and empowering. The comment was made, "Well, it's not like adoption," and that's true. But systemically, it might be more helpful. When one adopts a child, that child is taken out of his country. My little boy Henry has a great life now, but it is an American life, not an Ethiopian blood. My friend's sponsorship of his Ugandan child will help that child grow in body, mind, and spirit. Furthermore, that child is still in Uganda. He will grow up as an educated man with talents that can help transform his country. And he will grow up knowing (through the teaching of World Vision missionaries and his own church) that part of his provision all his life came from a loving Christian in America, one he never met.

So, I think sponsorship is a great act of compassion and one that has the potential to lead to transformation - both in the child and in the man sending the checks. I hope his action and willingness to share it with our group is a catalyst that provokes many others in our group and throughout the church to make similar decisions to do acts of justice and be moved by compassion in 2010.

And I encourage you, reader of this blog, to have your own honest talk with God about the ways you can live the compassionate life in 2010.

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