Last December, Calvary Chapel Yuma, AZ, celebrated Compassion Sunday. Carla Murray and her husband, Jefferson, are members of the church, and they were the point of contact for the child sponsorship event.
Carla is a part-time online teacher and homeschools two of their three children. This is her story.
A Great Divide
As a sophomore at Northwest Nazarene University, I was studying Religion with a minor in Missions. I was hounded with images of the world’s ever-present needs. I felt strongly that America—in her abundance--needed to help the poor living in developing countries. And as a believer, I was sold-out to making disciples of Christ around the world.
That was 17 years ago.
Today I am still aware of the great divide between the well-resourced and the poor. And my passion is still to make disciples—locally and globally—as Jesus commissioned us to do.
Jefferson and I are making disciples within our family--that’s just about as local as one can get. We are also heavily involved in Calvary Chapel Yuma’s children’s ministry--more local disciple-making. But we sensed there was more for us to do.
What Our Church Wants—and the Challenge to Get it
So last summer Jefferson and I got involved in our church’s missions group. They were wrestling with the question, “How can we make the Great Commission tangible to each person in our church?” We needed opportunities in “our” Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Our church is not huge, and we don’t have connections to international mission opportunities. Ideas to influence Yuma for Christ are abundant, but we struggle to know how we can impact those around the world. But one thing we knew for sure: we needed to be more intentional about international disciple-making.
I had recently read a story in a Compassion publication about a U.S. church who focused their international mission efforts on a specific community in Sri Lanka. I learned that all of Compassion’s work is deployed through child development centers (CDC) hosted by local, gospel-centered churches. Members of this U.S. church strategically sponsored children from one CDC in an effort to make a difference in that indigenous church’s community.
This idea was intriguing to me. Our church could follow the same model. We could focus our international mission efforts in any of the 25 countries where Compassion works. We could choose to impact a unique community by sponsoring children from one CDC. Since Yuma is a border city, it made sense for us to focus on a community in Mexico.
Compassion Impacts Our Church
With help from Matt, a Compassion Church Engagement manager, Jefferson and I planned Compassion Sunday at our church. We requested and received packets of children needing sponsors—all from one CDC in Poza Rica, Vera Cruz, Mexico.
Matt also arranged for Kennedy Krezi to speak, a formerly sponsored child from Kenya. Kennedy’s moving story of rescue and hope through the Compassion program set a palpable presence in our Compassion Sunday worship service. God used Kennedy’s candid presentation to move the hearts of our church members, and 27 children were sponsored.
One couple felt the Lord’s prompting to sponsor a child. They were especially delighted when they found out that our focus was in Poza Rica—close to where they have family.
A young woman in our church was not present for Kennedy’s talk on Compassion Sunday. However, she connected with me later because she wanted to find her place in missions through the church. For her, Compassion child sponsorship is a perfect fit because she can have Christ-like influence on a child through prayer, letter writing and financial giving that allows the frontline church to actively disciple her sponsored child.
Our Church Impacts Children
Compassion’s ministry philosophy is what draws me to their work. Blending physical, social and economic care addresses a child’s immediate needs. Then, when children become teenagers they receive vocational training in an effort to release them from material poverty in a sustainable way. All of this is great—and necessary.
But what is essential for me is that all of this development is built on the foundation of Jesus’ life, teaching and example. And the fact that Compassion works with indigenous churches means they can deliver sustaining care to the children to help them overcome the hopelessness and lack of opportunity that they experience.
As members of our church become child sponsors, we are partnering with these frontline churches to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. In partnership with Compassion, we are making disciples of all nations.
The Children Impact Us
Jefferson and I desperately want our children to be aware of what life is like outside our comfortable bubble. Just yesterday, Garrison, our 5-year-old, threw a tantrum over a toy we could not purchase—evidence that we are still on mission!
But we have great hope that as he grows up with Ervin, our 5-year-old sponsored boy from Mexico, they will influence each other to know and understand God’s best for them. Our daughter, Alia, is also growing up alongside another Compassion child we sponsor in Mexico, 8-year-old Aimee.
Erwin and Aimee may think we are helping to rescue them from poverty, but Jefferson and I fully believe that they are rescuing us from our culture’s poverty of materialism and self-centeredness. Clearly we need each other as we continue to grow as passionate followers of Christ—and raise our children to be the same.
Your church is invited to present child sponsorship on any Sunday—like Calvary Chapel Yuma did in December 2018. Or you may join the movement on National Compassion Sunday when thousands of churches realize the spiritual influence and impact their members can have when they sponsor a child. Please let us know if your church wants to incorporate Compassion into your missions/discipleship efforts. We welcome the opportunity to do ministry together.