Inspiring and Transforming
Part of our mission statement at River of Life Church addresses world transformation. As we considered how to make a difference locally and globally, the Lord gave us this definition: Inspiring believers to go into the world and produce transformation. We find it simple and challenging at the same time!
Our international missions efforts includes supporting missionaries in Thailand, Ukraine, Belize, the Caribbean, and scattered throughout South America. We pray for these folks and support them financially but on a whole it wasn’t necessarily inspiring for our believers to engage in any kind of individual transformative activity.
As we thought more about having influence around the world, children seemed to be a recurring element. Years ago people used to say that children are the future of the church. To some extent this is intuitive. But transforming the lives of children is the single most effective way to transform the life of the church today. Children are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today.
At River of Life Church, we know that if we invest in children now and help them reach their potential, they have the ability to influence their peers. There is no greater witness of God’s transforming power than for kids to reach other kids with the good news of Christ.
Inspiration for believers and transformation of children: Our church leadership was sure that as these two essentials came together we would impact the world — sustainably, relationally, eternally.
I’ve been on other mission trips. But when I went to Guatemala with other pastors, I was impressed by the comprehensive administration and nurturing relationships at Compassion International’s child development centers. Hosted by indigenous gospel-centered churches, 61,333 Guatemalan children attend 211 child development centers throughout the country.
Neighborhood children living in extreme poverty come to the church for age-appropriate programs that are contextualized for the Guatemalan culture. The child development curriculum teaches topics such as basic hygiene, how to get along with peers, leadership qualities — and most importantly — about their Savior who loves them immensely and invites them into relationship with Him.
I saw the transformative elements from cradle to young adult at these child development centers. Sometimes the church — through the Compassion center — can even influence a child prenatally. Pregnant moms come to the church for classes that teach literacy, trade skills and early childhood development. But I was most impressed by the Bible teaching and the opportunity for these moms to begin — or continue building — a spiritual legacy that could be handed down for generations to come.
Elementary-aged children through high school students were learning concepts and skills that will help them rise above material poverty. But beyond that, the spiritual sense of them knowing Jesus and the His revelation to them is absolutely life-giving.
Each child registered in the child development center has a file folder. Every physical exam, every class they attend, every financial gift given from the sponsor, every developmental milestone is recorded in detail for accountability. Incredible!
A Transforming Journey
I returned from the Guatemala trip full of inspiration. We reserved The Compassion Journey — an experience that chronicles the challenges of poverty through a child’s perspective. Our church members walked through the powerful exhibit. Many sponsored children afterward because they were inspired to participate in the transformation of the next generation!
Planting seeds and reaping tremendous harvest in the lives of people is a strength of the partnership between Compassion and indigenous churches. Everybody wants to be able to sow, give and invest in something that has a high return on investment; this is the path that River of Life Church has chosen to fulfill a portion of the global mission that God has entrusted to us.
Making a Difference
Years ago, if asked to dream up a plan to inspire River of Life believers to go into the world and produce transformation, I doubt I would have had the imagination to articulate Compassion’s work through the Church.
Yet today it is no surprise that Compassion is providing “job training” for our folks to minister to kids in Guatemala by encouraging us to share faith stories through letters to our sponsored children. I cannot think of a more practical — and personal — way to impact the world that produces transformation in the child and in the sponsor in Jesus’ name.