15 December 2017

Releasing children from poverty – Compassion in Jesus’ name

We hear a lot about poverty. Through the media we are saturated with shocking statistics and desperate messages that can seem overwhelming. But do we ever think about the message that poverty sends to the poor themselves? Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, has said, “Poverty is a mindset with a cruel, destructive message that gets whispered into the ear of millions by the enemy himself – give up! You don’t matter! You’re a failure. Nobody cares about you.” There’s no message of love or hope here. Although we only see the outward consequences of poverty, it does its greatest damage on the inside.

Compassion Ireland is a newly registered Irish charity and we have joined a family of 12 other Compassion partner countries. Together we are an International Christian Child Development Ministry working across 26 countries in the developing world to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Compassion is Christ-centred, child-focused and church-based, believing that the church is uniquely positioned to identify and help those living in extreme poverty. We are committed to the emotional, physical and spiritual development of children living in these circumstances.

Compassion Ireland believes that the most strategic, long-term way to tackle extreme poverty is to connect one needy child with one sponsor, thus building a lasting relationship based on prayer and letter-writing in addition to the financial support. The relationship aspect of the sponsorship is of utmost importance to Compassion. The child, of course, doesn’t receive the money directly into their hands as it is used to meet their needs, but what they do receive are letters and photos from their sponsor across the world.

These letters mean everything to these children and are often considered their most sacred possession. Why? Because they contain genuine words of encouragement, care, kindness and love. Words these little ones may have never heard before. Words of God’s unconditional and unending love for them. Words that have the power to encourage an unshakeable, hope-filled faith in a loving and faithful God. Words that will begin to change their mindset and cause them to think, “I matter” – and a child who starts to be changed on the inside starts to take the first step out of poverty.

This is exactly the testimony of Michelle Tolentino who was registered in a Compassion programme in the Philippines. She grew up in the city of Manila living in a tiny wooden shanty with 17 relatives. “It was normal to see neighbours fighting, half-naked men drinking liquor and women gambling while their naked children played near open sewers,” says Michelle. But when she was sponsored through Compassion the words of her sponsors spoke an entirely different message: “The first thing they wrote to me was that Jesus loves me. Through their letters I learned that God is my father. I finally found in God the love that I longed for, and this became evident through my sponsors. They always wrote to me to say that they are proud of me even if they don’t really know or have not seen me. That meant a lot growing up. My parents never said things like that to me.” And the proof is through a life completely changed – at 24, Michelle became the youngest Marketing Head for Asia’s first Gospel theatre group.

1.2 million children like Michelle are now supported through our programmes. For just 70p/€1 a day, another child can be released from desperate poverty through Compassion Ireland’s sponsorship programme. Visit our website at www.compassion.ie and read more about how you can transform the life of a child living in extreme poverty. You can also follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook!

Compassion Ireland currently has two staff members – Olly Van der Flier, National Manager and Lisa Fitzsimons, Assistant National Manager. We’ve had an exciting time launching Compassion in Ireland. There have been events, conferences, a trip to Peru to visit Compassion projects and presenting our work at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit in Dublin. We would love to hear from you with any thoughts or questions about Compassion’s ministry.

Lisa Fitzsimons

Assistant National Manager