Monday, February 25, 2013

Go out Weeping

This weekend was my first self-initiated Compassion International advocacy event. It was actually a crazy weekend, full of dancing and teaching, and I was a bit (okay, a lot) stressed out, but it was fun.

Friday night I performed in a World Dance showcase, and I was able to take some Compassion brochures and a handful of child packets with me. I couldn't stay at the table the whole time, so the child packets were only out during intermission when I could be there, but the brochures were out the entire show. I didn't expect a big response, but I was hoping to raise awareness, so I printed some Compassion posters and hung them along with a generous number of brochures. At the end of the night I think about 10 brochures were gone, and I had one person pledge to go online and make a one-time donation. I was actually really pleased with that, considering I wasn't expecting much attention at the event.

On Saturday morning I taught a liturgical dance workshop at our church's women's ministry retreat, and I was graciously allowed to set up a Compassion table at the event and to speak for a few minutes at the beginning assembly of the day. Now, I had all these grand visions in my mind of standing up and delivering a heart-changing 5-minute presentation, followed by women rushing to the small table I had set up outside the door, fighting to grab up the 10 children I had available. 

Ummm. Yeah. Not so much. Instead of delivering some well-spoken, pithy but gripping message about the plight of children in poverty and how little it takes on our end to make such a big difference on their end, I stood up, started speaking, and just as quickly started crying.

Now, let me just say, I speak in public a lot. Not only that, I perform in public a lot. I get nervous, like anyone does, but I don't normally burst into tears. In this case, however, I was so burdened for these children and so desperately wanted to find them sponsors that I just couldn't help myself. My heart was (is) broken for them.

The women at the retreat were very, very gracious and loving towards me. They are my church family, and I love and appreciate them. Even among them, however, I learned that the hard part about advocating for children in poverty is watching people walk past.

As people passed my table on both Friday and Saturday, my emotions went from eagerness to hopefulness to sadness and finally to anger. I began to feel anger towards those who would smile at me but who looked like they were uncomfortable that the table was there, and who would try to avoid looking at the sweet faces on the table. At the end of both days, I found a sponsor for one child, and had raised $61 (through selling some small pieces of handmade jewelry and some random donations) for Compassion's Child Survival Program. It was a far cry from my dream of finding 10 sponsors.

I was really feeling downcast on Saturday afternoon. I felt a bit like I had let Jesus down, and let Compassion down. I felt like I hadn't done enough, especially after reading about other regional events with 50 or 100 sponsorships. I mentioned my day on the sponsor site, and several sweet women lifted me up in encouragement with some really fitting scripture and some poignant insights.

The reality is, this isn't about me. I was making advocating for these children into a competition of sorts. My advocate trainer, ironically, warned me that it was an easy trap to fall into but I really didn't think much about it until this weekend. I can't convince people to sponsor children. I can't change hearts. Only GOD can do that. And His timing may not match mine.

In fact, the whole weekend brought to mind my own Compassion sponsorship experience. I've been staring at a Compassion child on my mother's refrigerator for 4 or so years now, and until recently I never even asked her about him, much less showed an interest in sponsoring a child myself. I was not in a place mentally to commit to a relationship with a child until now--until I had a child of my own and realized the precious value of these beautiful kids. Until I knew the love of a mother for her sons and daughters and could feel so painfully how difficult it must be to see your children suffer because you can't afford to feed them. God planted the seed of Compassion through my mother, but it was through His cultivation over time that I have reached this point in my relationship with the organization.

Now I understand that I may not have found 10 sponsors this weekend, but I found one. One child will receive a letter soon telling him that after an excruciating 6 month wait he finally has a loving sponsor.  His new sponsor told me that she was introduced to Compassion a year ago or so at a concert, but that the line at the table was too long, and she didn't want to make her friends wait on her while she found a child. She said she felt led to sponsor and was just waiting on an opportunity. God put me in her path on Saturday, in His perfect timing, to give her that opportunity. His seed grew and flowered in His time. One child is worth the effort. Jesus knows that one is always worth any effort it takes, that is why he is willing to leave the whole flock just to find the one lost sheep.

I hope that this weekend I have planted some seeds in the hearts of those who passed my table on Friday and Saturday. Whether it's at our Compassion Sunday event in April, or sometime 4 years from now, I know that the seeds that were planted will flourish and grow according to God's schedule. I know that the harvest will be sweet.

Most importantly, I know that my job is not to change hearts or minds or to be convincing or to be "the best speaker I've ever heard". My job is just to show up. To serve as I've been led to serve. To plant the seeds in the garden. God will do the rest.

"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying precious seed to sow, will doubtless return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them."

(Psalm 126 v 5 & 6)


  1. Your post is so true!! And I completely understand the range of emotions that you've gone through (and the tears during the presentation). But I always have to remind myself that the world is changing for one child--and that child is immensely precious to God! And I believe that you are planting seeds. For years at my old church I presented Compassion...the first year, we had about 2 kids sponsored....the next, about 8, the 3rd year, about 15 (it was a tiny 15 was a lot!)! Many of those who had avoided making eye-contact the 1st year ended up sponsoring the 3rd. Thanks for the reminder in Psalm 126:5-6....I need that reminder frequently in my advocating.

  2. Thank you so much for the encouragement! I will be giving the same people an opportunity to sponsor at our Compassion Sunday event, so I am hoping that we will have a good turn out then :)

  3. That child will be soo blessed!! :) On an Advocate call, I heard that it takes on average seven times of Compassion being presented to someone for them to take the step and sponsor a child. I wish you all the best on your CS! So exciting :)