The Children of Ethiopia…and the Face of Jesus

ethiopian child 1I just returned from Ethiopia and that is why I’m writing this at 4:30 in the morning! Over the next few weeks I want to report what I saw and learned because I know many of you will be asking. I was invited to go with a group (18) of pastors and church leaders from across the USA to experience the work of Compassion Int’l  and its main focus of Child Development, or what many call the Child Sponsorship Program. By the way, when you sponsor a child through Compassion, you actually sponsor that child and her family. Other programs may offer you a picture of a child for prayer purposes, but the money you send in goes to the community in which the child lives and not to that child per se. This is not a criticism, but it is something many people do not know.  However, you do need to be careful of certain organizations that deceptively use child sponsorship as a fund raising method to generate income for their overall needs.  Check this out carefully if you really desire to sponsor a child.

The ministry of Compassion can be summed up this way: Child-focused, it is all about the development and the holistic well-being of the child; Church-based, each program (over 300 in Ethiopia alone) is operated in relationship to a local church as a part of its outreach to its community; Christ-centered, it is not a social welfare system but a ministry to the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of a child in the name of Christ (no matter what the religious affiliation of the child’s family—many Muslims and Ethiopian Orthodox are enrolled); Committed to integrity, in other words, there are systems of checks and balances that ensure financial integrity with 83.3% of all contributions used for direct ministry. There are regular audits for each country office, an annual audit of Compassion Int’l, and program audits to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in the life of the child.  

Next week I want to introduce you to some of the Ethiopian people I met. However, for now, let me tell you about some of the other aspects of Compassion with which you may not be familiar. There is the Child Survival Program which often starts with prenatal care for expectant mothers as well as education of these caregivers in order to protect their babies from disease and other health dangers. A child can remain in this program until the age of 2 and then is automatically enrolled in the Child Sponsorship program, where s/he remains until graduation from high school. Then there is the Leadership Development program which helps highly qualified graduates of the Sponsorship program to receive a university education in their country. In addition to their studies, these students receive Christian leadership training through a Compassion representative.  There are 240 young adults enrolled in this program in Ethiopia alone and over 2,000 world-wide. It is this program that is of particular interest to me because it positions these Christian young adults to actually change the face of their nation. Pastor Joel and I had dinner with Beretek (name means blessing), who was a Compassion sponsored child, raised by his mother in inner-city Addis Ababa along with 7 other siblings. This bright articulate Christian young man graduated from a university in northern Ethiopia though the Leadership Development program and is now an architect.

The face of poverty is deeply scared and pock-marked, and enslaves many through its ugly glare. This trip enabled me to see another face offering hope to those who would normally have none. I saw the face of Jesus being unveiled though the beautiful faces of just a few (about 500) out of the 84,000 in Ethiopia being saved and discipled, nourished and educated though the vital ministry of Compassion. Thank you Community Fellowship for allowing me the opportunity to see that face from a very different vantage point. Tune in next week…