I sponsored my first Compassion child when I was 19. For decades now my family has sponsored children, received and sent letters and prayed for children in India, Brazil, Ethiopia, and now Peru.
I have always wanted to take a Compassion trip and meet our sponsored children, so when the opportunity to go on a vision trip was presented, I jumped at the chance. At the time, our church plant was in our first full building campaign, and we had decided that we wanted to partner with Stadia and Compassion in planting as well. What better time to help build another church than during our first campaign! We received word that there was an opportunity to build a church in the fishing village of Santa Rosa in northern Peru, a place of deep poverty with no church building in the community. How cool to be able to build there before we built our church in Michigan?
As I prepared for the trip, we were also preparing for a Compassion Sunday at our church. I knew the stories, videos, pictures and connection to the church in Santa Rosa would deepen our commitment, enthusiasm and engagement.
After meeting the Stadia team, we flew into Lima and met with the amazing national staff. I was so impressed with their systems, professionalism, and competency, but even more so with their hearts for children, Jesus and His Church. From Lima we took a packed domestic flight to Chiclayo. To this point both Lima and Chiclayo surprised me with how metropolitan and modern they were; that had not been my experience on some other trips abroad intdo Kenya and Honduras. The Peru national soccer team was playing for a trip to the World Cup and the whole country was in a week-long celebration of their team. I will never forget the night in the hotel watching the clinching game with Peruvians all around cheering on their World Cup qualifying team.
Throughout the trip we visited Compassion Project sites and saw the incredible work being done by the dedicated staff. We also made several home visits to experience life in those communities, and even visited a community of shanty homes where a church and project would be built in the next year or so. All were amazing and eye opening and beautiful. Seeing real children, in real classrooms, sharing about Jesus, laughing, learning; seeing children in their homes with their families and all the real difficulties that come with abject poverty and yet also renewed hope for a different future for their children. It put “skin” on 27 years of sponsorship.
But the highlight of the trip for me was the day we went to Santa Rosa. The church that we were helping to build was in the middle of construction. As we left Chiclayo for the drive to Santa Rosa, any sense of “modern” or “metropolitan” quickly faded in the rearview mirror. The dirt roads, the humble homes with their tin roofs and spartan furnishings (both of our home visits had no running water), put on full display the very real daily physical needs in the families of sponsored children. The Pastor and the mother church Pastor met us at the build site and gave us a tour the facility. Local men were hard at work on the building and curiosity seekers investigated all the commotion. We heard the story of the community and the dreams the Pastor had for the future of the church, the Compassion Project and the people of Santa Rosa. I was able to give a gift from our church to the Pastor, talk with him and pray for him and the ministry that was being built there. On the way back to our hotel that day I kept thinking “did that really just happen? Did I and our church just get to be part of that?”
Upon our return home, our church sponsored almost twice as many children as we had hoped to sponsor! Real kids in Santa Rosa that people from our church will visit and play with and love on future mission trips. That really did happen. And we really do get to be part of that. So can you.
Paul Urban, Lead Pastor
The Journey Church (Muskegon, MI)
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