Called to show Compassion

This Sunday at Welcome Church we are launching our newest Welcome Works initiative: we will be partnering with Compassion UK to sponsor children in the nation of Togo, Africa. (To find out what Welcome Works is, click here)

I love what Compassion do. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s precious.

They work with the poorest of the poor to help lift children, families and whole communities out of poverty and to give them hope. They also work to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus, meeting their deepest need of all. I love that Compassion do all of this by working through local churches in the countries they serve.

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By sponsoring a child with Compassion you get to build a personal link with the child you are sponsoring: they write letters to you and you can write back; you can send them Bible verses and encouragements, and ask how you can pray for them; you get to see them grow up; you get to see the impact that of the gospel in action through your sponsorship.

Jo and I have sponsored children in the Philippines through Compassion for several years now, and we are looking forward to expand that to include Togo as well.

Why Togo?

In short: because the majority of children in Togo are desperately poor.

Togo is one of the least developed countries in Africa.

Without decent healthcare, under-5 mortality rates are 45 per 1,000 live births. Even those children who manage to survive those early years face countless obstacles including disease, malnutrition and limited access to medical care and education.

Less than five per cent of children who attend primary school in Togo go on to secondary school. Many families simply can’t afford the school resources and for others the need to send their children to work is too great. As a result, many children are denied the freedom of childhood, and a quarter of children are married before they are 18.

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Just stop for a moment

Re-read those last facts.

Let them sink in and touch your heart.

These are children, just the same as the children we may know personally. They think and feel just like the children we know. They have dreams and fears like they do. They need food, clothing, healthcare, education and hope, just like them. They also need to hear the good news of Jesus.

Why Togo? Because the need is so great, and Jesus told us to care for the poor – and it seems from the Bible that Jesus has a particular place in his heart for children. (Matthew 19v13-14; Matthew 18v6)

Compassion’s work in Togo began in 2009. Now, more than 197 local churches in Togo are reaching out to more than 50,982 children through partnership with Compassion. We are going to increase that number.

So this Sunday come ready to let God touch your heart, and come ready to step up.

Our church vision statement says that we want “to see lives changed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace in Action.” That’s what this is all about. We are going to take steps together that will change lives and destinies for children.

I actually believe this Sunday might be the single most important Sunday at Welcome Church since I arrived.

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.