Todd Isberner (left) meets his former sponsored "son" and family.
On a recent trip to the Philippines with Compassion International I saw what it means to be fully alive among the dead. I saw love that was full of laughter and fun, that mocked the harsh conditions of daily life. I saw love brimming with possibility and encouragement. It was gentle, gracious and generous in spite of the lie poverty speaks. I marveled at the contrast of people living amid pain and abuse and doing so with joy, enthusiasm and hope.
I visited one of the nearly 200 Compassion child development centers that reach out to Philippine children and families living in extreme poverty. This center, the Elohim Student Center (PH-254), is near a cemetery, where more than 1,000 "tomb dwellers" make shelters in a huge graveyard and live in cramped dwellings that look like a combination of catacombs and animal stables. These humble people defy the ugliness and death around them. They dream of a brighter tomorrow, of hopes and dreams and beliefs that their condition is only temporary, especially for the children.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV
And they are right. The Compassion-assisted children have self-esteem and a healthy confidence that shows they are destined for greatness. These precious little ones know they are loved by God, and this knowledge assures them that He will help fulfill their dreams and use them in great ways.
I met some of the "dream makers" in Compassion's Leadership Development Program. They are college students who, with God's help through Compassion, overcame all the obstacles and limitations of poverty. They know where they came from, what they survived, and today they are ambitious, hard-working, faith-filled achievers, studying to become doctors, engineers, pastors & leaders God will use to bring about positive changes to their communities, churches and country.
To spend time among Filipinos in particular, believers within the Compassion family is to be in the midst of walking miracles. People whose lives show that by combining the power of God's love with dedication, hard work and perseverance anything becomes possible.
So often the poor give us more than we give them & like life lessons that change us for the better.
" Be thankful to God, always. We have more than we need and plenty to share with others.
" Don't complain. We have it better than we realize.
" Treasure the people in your life and celebrate your friendships.
" Work hard, but enjoy the work. And use your talents to bless others.
" Dream big and believe God will help you achieve those dreams.
" Slow down and take time to enjoy the present moment.
" Laugh and play. And let that joy be your strength and healing.
" Never quit. Never lose hope. Never doubt that God will work things together for good because He loves you!
" Invest yourself in helping others become successful, which is easier to do than we think.
Compassion is all about investing in children through a long-term holistic child development model that fully develops a child's potential. Consider Elmer, a 7-year old Philippine boy my daughters and I sponsored 30 years ago. Until recently we never fully understood the depth of our relationship.
For years we faithfully sent our monthly support, wrote letters, and prayed for Elmer. But after he graduated from the program we lost touch. Seventeen years later, thanks to God and Google, Elmer found us, and I finally met my sponsored "son" and his family.
Elmer is now 37 years old, married to a beautiful wife, and has two energetic sons. He has a powerful, living faith that fuels his success. He owns his own studio photography business and is becoming one of the top photographers in the Philippines. And he uses every opportunity in his photo shoots to share Christ with others.
Elmer's life is proof of what God can do when we invest in others and use what God has given us to honor Him and join Him where He is working. My trip to the Philippines and my experience with Compassion and with Elmer is a modern-day Parable of the Talents. Jesus commends those who invest their talents, emphasizing that those who use well what they are given will be given more.
May you be as challenged and motivated as I am to use all that you have been given for the sake of His Kingdom.
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