This is our last day in the Dominican Republic. Tomorrow morning we will head for the airport and from there we will fly for home, leaving the developing world and returning to the developed world. As much as I’ve enjoyed this experience, I can’t deny that I’ll be glad to be home. I’ve been to many homes here in Dominican Republic but I don’t know if I’ll remember any of them more vividly than Julia’s house. I wrote about Julia yesterday, describing the kind of poverty she had experienced as a girl—poverty that forced her to wear a borrowed dress just to have her photo taken for Compassion’s sponsorship program. Now a university student as part of Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, tears spilled from her eyes as she remembered the shame of poverty. Today Julia lives in a slightly nicer home—though dark and musty and sad by our standards, it was positively luxurious compared to many we saw and compared to what she had known as a child.
We sat in Julia’s living room, on benches and chairs and the floor, and asked her mother about what Compassion meant to her, having seen it support two of her girls. She had no words. Tears filled her eyes, and ours. I guess words really weren’t necessary. We asked Julia about her sponsors and she told us of Roger, the sponsor in New Zealand who had supported her from age six all the way through her graduation from the Sponsorship Program. For twelve years Roger had supported her, written her cards and letters, sent her gifts, and even written her asking for advice on whether or not he should ask his girlfriend to become his wife! For twelve years he had prayed for Julia and she for him.
“What would you tell him if you could talk to him?”
“I love you so much. I still read your letters and cards and still have the pictures you sent to me!”
“What does Roger mean to you?”, we asked.
“He is my superhero.”
A superhero. It was not the only time this week I heard the word. For all the talk of the extraordinary men and women who have made such a difference in the lives of children, when I went to the homes of the girls and they proudly showed off the letters and photos they had received, the sponsors, whether from America or New Zealand or anywhere else, looked awfully ordinary to me. And I guess this is what Compassion is looking for. They aren’t looking for the rich and the famous, the notorious or the renowned. They are looking for ordinary people to play an extraordinary role in the lives of children who so desperately need help. They’re looking for a few ordinary superheroes.
I’ve been here for four days now and have seen Compassion in action. I’ve seen women being trained in how to care for their children. I’ve seen projects where the children receive an education and receive the good news of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen future leaders who are attending university through the Leadership Development Program. I’ve seen a water filtration system built to supply an entire neighborhood—thousands of people who drink water that leaves them with fungi and lesions—with pure, clean water. I have met Compassion staff who were sponsored children themselves and who are now dedicating their lives to serving children through the organization that so ably served them.
I came to Dominican Republic on something of a fact-finding mission. I do not sponsor a child. I’ve thought about it many times, but have never had confidence that Compassion is what they claim to be. But having seen it in action, I now have no doubts. I’m willing to stake my reputation on it. When I get home we will be visiting the web site as a family to choose at least one child to sponsor. Frankly, I’d like to have each of my kids sponsor one child (though I still need to talk this over with Aileen!). Compassion is all that they claim to be—more even. They were true to their word and allowed me to open every filing cabinet, look behind every door, and so on.
Today I want to encourage you to consider sponsoring a child. You know the pitch—for the price of a cup of coffee a day you can make the difference in the life of a child. I know now that this isn’t just idle talk. You really can (and will!) make a difference. But don’t just sponsor a child—write to him, have your children write to him, pray for him, send him a birthday gift. These things will get through to him, they will mean the world to him, they will change his life.