Kids jostled in rows of white plastic seats, expectantly facing the front of the room. As we walked in, workers scurried for more chairs and kids stared, some frankly curious, some chattering with friends. Most were willing to smile if you smiled at them.
The kids did a presentation and sang songs before heading off to individual classes. Today’s group of kids was older than yesterday’s batay group. Apparently there are so many kids in some projects that the various classes have to use the facility on alternate days of the week, or at different times of the day.
We spoke with the supervisors of the project. They offered expense ledgers and child records for us to examine and answered all our questions about the way the project was being run. When someone referred to the pastor as the leader of the project, he shook his head modestly and gestured toward the sky.
No, it is God.
I am so impressed with the pastors of these Compassion projects. They have so much humility and so much love for the people they serve.
After talking with the pastor and the staff, we were sent to visit some of the classes. Then it happened. Three or four of us peeked into a classroom filled with teenagers. A few more chairs were squeezed in, and we settled in and looked around at a ring of bright expectant faces. We introduced ourselves and I asked the kids to tell us what they want to be when they grow up.
Hands went up immediately, and teen after teen told us their dreams for the future. Architect. Doctor. Accountant. Electrical engineer. And on and on.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, for the first time this trip, my eyes were overflowing. Because what I saw bouncing around this room as child after child spoke was the brilliant shimmer of hope.
They believed that they could do these things.
And, looking into their eyes and seeing the way they spoke and the way they carried themselves and the way they smiled shyly but proudly into my eyes, I believed it too.
That’s what Compassion has given these kids. Plans for the future. Not just fairy-tale dreams. But real plan. This Compassion project with its cattle-stall bathroom door latch and its rickety wrought-iron stair rail and its wonderful grace-filled pastor has equipped these children with the tools that they will need to go on and make something of their lives.
Their dreams may change. They still have some things to learn. Opportunities may lead these kids in ways that they do not now envision. But this Compassion project has given these kids the precious gift of hope.
I prayed over those kids before we left their class. I prayed that they would have wisdom and health and good decision-making skills and most of all an all-encompassing love for God. I prayed them everything good– all the best stuff that I hope and pray for my own children.
And here’s the really amazing thing. Because of what they’re gaining from Compassion, they have a shot at it all.
I know that skeptics are reading about this trip, wondering if we bloggers are being allowed enough access to truly get a feel for the project. Of course Compassion would want to show us its best side, give us access to only the prettiest stories. I know that some fluffing and primping has happened. As a mother of ten, I know it is not natural for a room full of preschoolers to all be wearing clean shirts at the same time. Nor would it happen by chance that nearly every little girl in the project would have a fresh hairdo on the same day. (I am a mom of 4 African daughters and I know a fresh hairdo when I see one!)
But here’s what else I know. In the last three days I have interacted with dozens of Compassion staff and dozens more children. We have toured three projects along with visiting the main Compassion office. At each stop there was a palpable concern for the well-being of the children. A genuine delight over children who have succeeded. A pride at the importance of the work that these people do.
One person may be able to fake that level of caring. Maybe even five could be convincing. But every person in the organization? I don’t think so.
I have been a Compassion sponsor for ten years. Sometimes as sponsors writing that Compassion check each month, we are too far removed from the actual work to be 100% sure of its efficacy. The best we can do at times is to pray that the money is being well spent.
I’ll be honest: I came to the Dominican Republic expecting to be happy about the work I saw being done here. But I tell you now that Compassion has far exceeded my best expectations.
The work being done here is exciting. It is effective. It is liberating children from poverty in the name of Jesus Christ.
If you will partner with Compassion by sponsoring a child, you will be allowing more children to grow up with that precious life-giving gleam of hope in their eyes.
More stories at Compassionbloggers.com