Moved by Compassion – again

What an awesome Sunday!

I know that many who were at our Grace Church meetings in Chichester and Bognor Regis  on Sunday found the talk extremely moving. We were thrilled to have Noel Pabiona with us. Noel is the CEO and Country Director of Compassion Philippines and he was in the UK for just a few days – we were very blessed to have him and every believer should hear his talk – it could change your life. The stories he told reduced grown men and women to tears across both meetings (myself included). 15037356_219847288440359_8346825870935785774_n

Those in Midhurst were blessed too, listening to Clare Hartley from Compassion UK. She also spoke brilliantly on God’s heart for the poor. All in all it was a fantastic morning. I’ve put links to both of these talks in the text above – please do listen! You can also get them via iTunes or our Grace Church podcasts.

Supporting Compassion as a church

For several years now, as a church, we’ve been supporting the work of Compassion, one of the world’s leading child development and child advocacy organisations. Working with local churches they create a link between a child living in poverty and a sponsor – people like us.

Sponsorship gives the child access to education, health checks and the care of a local church-based Compassion project. Through these programmes, children’s lives are being changed, along with their families and communities. I’ve seen this in action for myself in Kenya and it affected me deeply.

Our involvement: individual sponsorship

Our involvement has been focussed on a specific area of the Philippines: Negros Occidental. We’ve promoted child sponsorship in this area, and though our church over 200 children have been sponsored so far. The children in the photos are ones that between us we’ve sponsored  – and there are others too …

Our involvement: child survival

Additionally as a church we’ve provided funding for a Child Survival Programme (CSP). The programme works through a local church in the Philippines  and aims to rescue, nurture and disciple infants for the first three years of their lives. They aim to reach the most vulnerable before they’re even born. They provide antenatal care for vulnerable mothers, ensure children are vaccinated and that mothers are given the skills they need to earn a living. It’s about giving children the best possible start in life.

Grace Church has sponsored one of these programmes for several years. It’s called the Kairos programme and it’s being run by Good Shepherd Church.

Why should I care?

There are many reasons we should care about the poor

  • We should care because Jesus called us to care for the poor!
  • We should care because the whole Bible is clear that God expects us to be generous and to look after the poor and the needy (Matt 6:2-4; Acts 2:45; Gal 2:10; Prov 19:17; Prov 21:13; Prov 22:9; Psalm 42:1; Psalm 41:1-3)
  • We should care because no one should have to live and die in conditions like this:

Putting generosity into action

I know that many hearts were touched on Sunday. Every child sponsorship pack that we had available to us was taken and we have a list of requests for more. It looks like more than 30 more children will get a sponsor following Sunday morning, and it’s still not too late – don’t let the moment pass you by

You can sponsor a child, for £25 a month, via the Compassion website here. Or if you want to do it with us in the area of the Philippines we’ve been supporting then contact us here and let us know directly.

Next summer Tobi Stathers, from our Chichester site, is doing a sponsored bike ride from John O’Groats to Bognor to raise extra funds for the CSP. Please do sponsor Tobi; we want lots of people to back him. The money given will be extra to the funding  we already give. There are sponsorship forms available at any of our meetings, or you can give via our website here – just send us a message to let us know what it’s for.

And finally remember this …

“Generosity is not something we do to be praised; we do it because we are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ”

 

Compassion in the slums of Kenya: Trauma and Transformation

Returning from my trip to Kenya with Compassion has left me with a lot to process. I’m not a total newcomer to situations of poverty, and I’ve visited both slums and a refugee camp in the past, but what I saw in Mathare slum in Nairobi was well beyond my previous experiences. At a personal level I would sum the trip up in two words: ‘traumatic’ and ‘transforming’. I am still processing what I saw and heard.

One leader, returning from visiting a slum family, remarked that he felt like he had been on, “a walk through hell”. Entering the slums to visit people in their iron sheet and tarpaulin ‘homes’ gives a fresh perspective on life. (We were escorted by armed guards).

The Compassion Child Development Centre

The Compassion Child Development Centre, run by a local church based in the slum, is turning child sponsorships into real life action. They are doing a fantastic job putting their faith into action and transforming lives and families, but the issues they face daily are hard to think about.

 On one wall we spotted a poster that teaches children how to respond to rape:

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch Blog

A friend asked a development centre worker about the poster, and we thought she replied, in a thick Kenyan accent,

17% of the girls growing up in the slum will be raped.”

Stunned we responded,

“Did you say seventeen percent?”

The worker replied,

“No! Not seventeen percent. It’s seventy percent. Seven Zero.”

I had to walk away and regain my composure at that point; just one of several occasions.

Trauma

That evening we heard testimonies from students who have graduated from the Compassion Leadership Development Programme and are now looking to be a blessing to their country and community. The final testimony was very moving. The young woman told us how her single mother had worked as a prostitute to provide for her and her sister; she told us about being homeless and sleeping in shop doorways and railway stations; and then she told us how she and her sister were sexually abused from 4 years old by an uncle who supplied food … and demanded to be paid.

Transformation

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogEnrolment in a Compassion Child Development Programme, with a sponsor from the USA, created a context for her whole family to be lifted out of extreme poverty. It also created a safe place where the abuse could be understood for what it was, and be disclosed to someone who could help. She told us how, when the centre taught them about STD’s, she realised what was wrong with herself and her sister. She was able to ask for help and both sisters were taken to a doctor and successfully treated. And now she has graduated from university. Trauma … and transformation.

Grace Church’s role in Compassion

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogAnd one more thing to add. As a church, between us so far, we have sponsored around 170 children in the Philippines. Seeing projects in action in Kenya, similar to the ones we support, was a great opportunity. Let’s keep up the sponsorship and the letter writing.

In a quiet moment I asked one of our Compassion representatives from the UK if this was the worst poverty she had seen. Worryingly she replied that the only place she had seen worse poverty was … the Philippines. Our trip there leaves in April 2018.

Let me know if you want to come and see not only the trauma, but also the transformation we are playing our part in achieving in that place.

Visiting a Compassion Child Survival Programme in Kenya

I’m writing this blog entry from Kenya.

As a church, for several years, we’ve funded a Child Survival Programme through Compassion in the Philippines. They send us regular news updates and you can check out what we do and what they say about it here.

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Rift Valley Kenya | Steve Petch's Blog

Me in front of the Great Rift Valley, Kenya

Yesterday I visited one of these projects in action in Kenya. It’s not the actual project that we fund, but it’s delivering the same thing in a rural area of Africa. To say it was an emotional experience is to understate it.

Compassion’s Kenyan project

This project is currently helping 35 mothers and 36 babies (one had twins). 7 are single mothers. The others are not single, yet only 6 of the fathers are actively involved with their children.

The project is at full capacity

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

Mothers from the project greeted us with singing on arrival

Since they started, maternal deaths have been reduced from a high rate to almost zero, and childhood deaths from preventable illnesses have fallen dramatically in this area too. These reductions are not just among the mothers receiving direct help, but among the wider community as mothers are urged to pass on to their friends some basic encouragements: have their baby at hospital and get your children vaccinated.

Local Church delivering Compassion

One thing that encouraged me was to see that the project is not being delivered by Compassion, but by a local church who they partner with. You won’t find a Compassion logo anywhere – just the local church in action, led by Pastor Paul. The whole community, people from all backgrounds, are being helped as this local church delivers good news to,

the neediest of the needy

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

Enjoying baby cuddles

I enjoyed cuddling babies, eating Kenyan food and being sung too. I loved the incredible African dancing. I was amazed at the way they teach the mothers practical skills to help them earn money. I was inspired by their levels of faith. I was challenged to hear about how they select only the very worst situations to help and about how many others would benefit if they had the capacity. I was moved by the gratitude the project staff showed towards us for visiting them.

A home visit to one of the mothers from the project was even more challenging – to say that this home was poor was an understatement (you can see her and her children and home below). Three children … husband gone … the project has been a life saver here. The food growing here is from seed that the project provided too.

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

A mother of three supported by Compassion

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

The house she shares with her children

Against a backdrop of the incredibly beautiful Great Rift Valley, is the horror of some serious poverty.

And against the backdrop of this poverty is the incredible beauty of Jesus’ church being what she is called to be:

good news to the poor

And that’s what we are funding in the Philippines too, so let’s press on in faith. We are doing good.

And in 2018 some of us will be able to go and visit that project too.

Personally I wouldn’t miss that for the world.

A genuinely life-shaping experience of answered prayer

When I was 11 years old I was taken to a Christian concert by a relative. It was a fundraising event run in aid of a famine in Kenya. Half-way through the evening a video showed the situation in the country. It was shocking footage and sitting in the dark I was quietly moved. Afterwards, I overheard my concerned relative, who I guess had spotted a stray tear on my face, saying quietly to my mother that perhaps I was, ‘a bit too young’. At the time I believed they were wrong, and with hindsight I still believe that; we are never too young to start to care about the needs of others – especially the poor.

Following this event I had one prayer:

“I want to visit Kenya and do something for the poor.”

That prayer never went away.

Bottle-caps

Panda Pops trip to Kenya | Life changing tip an answer to prayer | Steve Petch BlogWhen I was a university student the Panda Pops company (remember them?) did a special offer: win a safari in Kenya. You had to find a bottle with a winning lid. I don’t know how much I spent on Panda Pops that year, but I know it was a lot. Every bottle was bought and opened with prayer and every lid examined. I even pulled empty bottles out of public rubbish bins and checked them. Surely this was God’s chance to let me go to Kenya! Surely he could see that!?! But I didn’t win, and to be fair, a safari was not the goal.

Only passports

My answer to prayer came via another route just a few weeks after the competition ended, but ten years after I had first started to pray. I was visiting a church with Jo (my fiancé then, wife now) and we ran into my old Sunday school teacher and her husband, now in retirement, who were also visiting the same church that week. After hugs and greetings she asked if we would come and visit them in our summer break, and we said, yes, – not understanding what they really meant.

It turned out they were using their retirement to work as missionaries with the poor in rural Kenya, and I remember her saying,

“I mean visit us in Kenya … we are able pay for everything … you just come … you only need your passports.”

Talk about an answer to prayer! It turned out they were in their last year in Kenya and wanted to use that year to connect young people to God’s mission to the world – and it worked; Jo and I had a life-changing trip.

1993: A life-changing trip

So in 1993, Jo and I stayed with them for several weeks in rural Kenya (no running water or electricity or toilets.) We spent time with local people in their mud hut homes. We led some Bible studies. Jo (vegetarian) almost managed to avoid eating goat. We kept pigeons off the roof (our water supply) with a catapult. We helped to vaccinate rural Masai children against polio. We learned to drink Chai (sweet tea) flavoured with rancid goats milk and charcoal. We visited a local medical clinic and with funding from our home church were able to pay to connect that clinic up to the newly established mains electricity supply and buy them a fridge to store medicines. I was able to give basic pharmaceutical advice to the clinic and to a local doctor (having just graduated). We even ended up with a quick safari at the end of the trip. And it was also in Kenya that I preached my first ever Sunday sermon and felt God calling me to that ministry.

Steve Petch's First Preach | Life changing tip an answer to prayer | Steve Petch Blog

The detail of God’s care

Jo and I went to Kenya genuinely expecting God to call us there, or somewhere similar, more permanently, but that didn’t happen. We came home and got normal jobs with a sense of surprise that God hadn’t spoken to us in that way. But he had spoken to us and shaped us in lots of other ways. Not least he had shown us that we have a Father in heaven who hears our prayers and gives us the desires of our hearts; the detail of God’s care is awesome.

This week I am in Kenya again, this time at the invitation of Compassion UK to see the work they do. We’ve done lots of things with Compassion as a church as part of our GraceWorks initiative. Next week I’ll let you know how I got on.