While we were visiting one of the last centers on the tour, a few of the kids stood up to give their testimonies. In many ways, the testimonies by all of the kids were the same. They talked about the ways that they had been helped or changed in the four primary areas Compassion works to help: physical, socio-emotional, cognitive, and spiritual. That means the kids work on health-related stuff (hygiene lessons, for example), relational issues (whether it's obeying your parents or how to be a good friend), educational (tutoring and other lessons) and growing in their faith. We heard that list repeated many times throughout the trip.
Then Innocent stood up to tell her story. I have no idea how old she was. It's hard to tell with these kids. I'm guessing maybe around 13. She was small. She started out by telling us that her life has changed for the better since she was registered with Compassion in 2009. "When I started coming to the center, I was a stubborn child." And we all laughed, because it's cute when kids admit that they're stubborn. We never guessed what would have come next.
"The devil used me in many ways that I had no control over. I killed many children."
Innocent went on to describe that when she was younger, she was sent to kill people- children in hospitals, children in their homes, parents and elders. Witchcraft was mentioned. It was unclear to me as to whether this was the method used for what she was describing, or if it was physical, in-person. I don't want to think about it. I didn't want to ask about it. Innocent went on to say that she knows that she had no control over the things that happened when she was younger. And she told us that she doesn't belong to the enemy anymore. She belongs to Jesus. She has been released from those shackles. Bought and paid for by the redeeming blood of Christ.
If Compassion hadn't been there, if they hadn't partnered with this church, and made the resources available for Innocent to be registered and begin receiving the benefits of the sponsorship program, where would she be now? Would she still be used as an instrument of the destroyer? Would she ever get the chance to know Jesus?
I know that many of us are aware that our sponsor children live in areas where people practice other religions, like animism and local religious practices. I think that since we aren't used to that kind of stuff in the Western world, we don't think much about it. If we get a new sponsor child, we may assume they're already a Christian. Or if they're not now, they will be soon. We may assume that if their families aren't Christians, that they are indifferent at best. I know that I have read about local religions being practiced in some of the areas where my kids live. But I never thought about the people that those other religions affect. I assume my kids are safe and I think I forget about everyone else. I forget about the kids that aren't in the program. The families that aren't near one of these churches. Because I hadn't seen any of their faces, I just didn't think about them. But now it's personal for me.
I can never come close to describing what it was like being in that church, hearing Innocent's testimony. In fact, it was while I was journaling about her testimony later that afternoon that I had to call my mom, and just burst into tears. Remembering it hurt too much. Thinking about how scary it all was hurt too much. And I was so afraid, for all the other children. How many millions are living in areas where there are no Compassion projects? There are almost 70,000 children registered in Compassion's program in Tanzania. Do you know how many children live there, though? The population is over 45 million. Over half of those are children. The majority of them are under the age of 15. Over 20 million children...how many of them are safe? And that's just in Tanzania. Evil can be found in every country and every continent. It's a scary thought.
Before I got home, I knew I needed to share Innocent's story. I needed you to know that it's not just economic bondage that these children are dealing with. Compassion's mission is to "release children from poverty in Jesus' name." But that's not all they're doing. They're releasing children, and their families, from the grip of evil. They're protecting them not only physically, but spiritually. They're partnering with local churches to serve the earthly needs of the people, but they're also equipping the church to give people a chance to know freedom in Christ. I think that I needed you to know that these kids face bad things bigger than dirty water and a lack of education. This is the real world for them. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that Innocent was not the only person at that project affected by this stuff. I mean, each project has 200-250 kids. She can't be the only one. Remember this when you're praying for your sponsor kids. Remember to pray for their spiritual well-being. Remember to tell them to put on the full armor of God. Remember to pray for the project staff, too. They'e warriors on the front line.
Below you'll find some kids who are waiting for a sponsor. They all live in areas that we visited during our trip. If you're unable to sponsor a child at this time, please be praying that these kids find sponsors soon. The more children that are sponsored, the more that can be registered and begin receiving all the benefits of Compassion's program!
Pius has been waiting 499 days for a sponsor. He is 15 years old, and his birthday is January 30. He lives in the Katesh region. He has 7 brothers and sisters. Families that are able to earn income in this area usually earn an average of $10 per month.
Happy is 18 years old, and her birthday is November 11. She lives in the Iringa region. She is still in middle school but her performance is above average. She also attends a Mennonite church. Families in this region that are able to earn income usually make an average of $10 per month.
Christina is 17 years old, and her birthday is November 25. She lives in the Kisaki region. Christina attends center 814, which I visited on our trip! She lives with her grandparents and three other children. Families in this region that are able to earn income make an average of $3 per month. Also, you can click here to read about the day that I visited Christina's center.
Hamidu has been waiting over 6 months for a sponsor. He is 10 years old, and his birthday is September 24. He lives with his mom and five siblings. Hamidu lives in the Singida region, and attends center 901. I didn't visit this center, but I believe that the other half of my tour group did. Families in this area that are able to earn an income usually make about $48 per month.
*Innocent's name has been changed for her protection