I flashed back to February 1, 2009, which was the Sunday before Annabeth was born. I remember wondering why I bothered coming to church because all I could think, talk, or pray about was giving birth. Last Sunday I was completely consumed with thinking about my upcoming trip to Guatemala and I was literally good for nothing else. I realized it had been almost exactly nine months since I had been invited to join a group of bloggers on a trip to see Compassion International at work in Guatemala. And it was finally my due date! I was not getting a baby out of this experience, but I hoped I would be born new.
Curtis and I picked up our first Compassion sponsorship packet after a By the Tree concert when we were newlyweds. We have been blessed to partner with them in serving Marlon Alexander in Honduras for about seven years. Through his letters, we have been able to see him develop into a thoughtful and faith-filled young man. We were already fans of Compassion before I was approached about this trip, but I knew from my sister's experience with them in India that I would be blown away by how truly excellent it is.
In a nutshell, Compassion International is a child development organization that serves over one million children worldwide. Six hundred thousand sponsors are currently partnering with this organization to rescue children from poverty in Jesus' name. Compassion's aim is to be an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty, and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. This is largely achieved through monthly financial support from one sponsor to one child.
Our team arrived in Guatemala City last night. I'd never met any of the other travelers in person, but after only 36 hours, I already think the world of them. The bloggers are Lindsey Nobles, Ann Voskamp, Lisa-Jo from The Gypsy Mama, and myself. The Compassion staffers are Shaun Groves, Dustin Hardage, amazing photographer Keely Scott, and my lovely roommate, Mrs. Patricia Jones! My sister called me right before I got to the airport to tell me how much she had loved Patricia on her Compassion trip to India in April of 2009. She is a wonderful lady with an amazing family. I'm hoping some of her mothering skills will absorb into my being while I sleep six feet away from her.
Our day started off with a trip to Compassion's office here in Guatemala City. We got to see the various departments and meet the ladies and gentlemen who run the hub of Compassion's activity in this country. There are 142 child development centers here that serve a total of 35,000 children.
One of the most striking things about the office was that many of the desks were empty. The workers were busy out in the field! They did not have time to sit at those desks. I loved that. If you already sponsor a Compassion child, you can probably appreciate that my favorite part was meeting the correspondence staff. They were working hard at translating stacks and stacks of letters.
An hour later, we arrived at the Dios Habla Hoy (God Speaks Today) Student Center. All of Compassion's student centers are hosted in churches. Curtis and I are passionate about the local church and this aspect really appeals to me. More on that to come.
As we started filing into the church, the deafening cheers of one hundred and fifty kids filled the air. There was a sea of beautiful smiling faces, wide eyes and waving hands. It was very humbling to be shown such love. The children performed songs and recited memory verses they had learned. One by one, all the adult church members who volunteered in the program were introduced on stage. There were twenty of them.
The presentation ended with a rousing rendition of a song you and I know as Lord You Are Good by Israel Houghton. Oh my word, I was doing everything humanly possible not to fall in a heap on the floor in full-on ugly cry. The kids were dancing their hearts out and singing these words in Spanish: Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever...People from every nation and tongue, from generation to generation...We worship you for who you are...And you are good! Mom, I know you are reading this and I need you to know this was possibly the highlight of my life. Aside from the births of my children. But it was high up there.
We enjoyed getting to serve Pollo Campero to the children for lunch. It's like the Chick-fil-a of Latin America. I finally got brave enough to try out my rusty Spanish on some of the kids while they were eating their chicken sandwiches. They just grin at you whether you say something right or not. After lunch the children went to their classrooms and we went around visiting each one. The kids seemed very happy to be there.
Soon the children went home and we gathered with the project coordinator, the pastor of the church, and all the volunteer workers. The pastor spoke of how much the children meant to the church. The program is relatively new at only 16 months old. The church has eleven new families that became members after their children entered the program. A man who I believe worked as a tutor stood up and spoke with tears in his eyes. His older children serve there with him. A precious woman who is in charge of serving the food also spoke through tears about how much the children meant to her. She, too, serves there with her older children.
I think the most profound thing I saw today was the beautiful relationship between Compassion and the local church. I expected to see the benefits the child development program on the children. I did not, however, expect to see the children having such an amazing effect on the church members. The children are served there twice a week and the volunteers admitted it was hard work. But the joy, fulfillment and energy that their presence brings to the church was palpable. It was clear that the children were highly valued. I was so moved that families were serving God there together.
We have three more days to experience the Lord's work through Compassion here in Guatemala City. Please pray for our team to be a blessing to the children, to the workers, and to the families. Pray that we will allow God to have His way with our hearts. Pray that hope and new life will be born in the poor and the rich. Gracias, hermanas!