"We in the American church can become self-centered rather than assume our biblical responsibility to help people in need," says Senior Pastor Kirk Pancratz, whose church members sponsored more than 200 youth through Compassion Sunday events.
It's been more than 10 years. But Kirk Pancratz remembers the bombing of Oklahoma City's federal building like it was yesterday. Though it was a horrible tragedy, the event served as a catalyst to his church's decision to do more outreach to those in need.
"The bombing burst our bubble," says Kirk, Senior Pastor at The Church of the Harvest. "It opened us to the hurts of the world. It unlocked within our congregation a great heart to help others in need. Immediately, we mobilized to help in the cleanup efforts to provide supplies, including food, basic necessities and prayer."
Expanding Their Love
From hosting summer youth camps for inner-city youth to embracing 400 Hurricane Katrina victims -- providing, housing, food, job networking and counseling -- the church has expanded its outreach ministry.
But Kirk said the church's commitment to outreach wasn't completely realized until partnering with Compassion to host a Compassion Sunday event.
"If a pastor wants to move the heart of his church toward outreach, he'll partner with Compassion!" he says. "I'd heard of Compassion at concerts but while attending a church conference with my wife, Nancy, in Sydney, Australia, in July 2004, a moving Compassion video was shown that conveyed the effects of one church partnering with Compassion in Africa.
"I saw the powerful difference made through the local church and I knew my church could hone in on a region and do the same!"
After the trip to Australia, Kirk came back to Oklahoma and shared his vision with other church leaders. "I told them if we can affect one child, we can bless their family. If we affect all the children on a block, we can affect an entire neighborhood; ultimately, we can impact a whole city through Compassion child sponsorship!'"
Compassion Sunday Launch
With his staff excited about overseas outreach, the senior pastor obtained a list of the most in-need areas in the world from Compassion headquarters. Following discussion and prayer, Brazil was chosen as the focus of the church's sponsorship efforts. A Compassion Sunday weekend was planned during the church's annual conference in October.
Dedicated church volunteers also helped to organize the big event, ordering free Compassion Sunday materials that included child sponsorship packets and videos. Meanwhile, Pastor Kirk adapted the Compassion Sunday sermon guidelines to fit the church's focus on Brazil. "I was especially impressed with how the Compassion staff worked with us at the level of our passion," he reports. "They let us tailor their video to include a map of Brazil and footage from the country to make it more personal."
As a result of the church's Compassion Sunday campaigns, The Church of the Harvest members now sponsor more than 200 Brazilian youths, with a goal of sponsoring 50 more by December. "It's been wonderful to see how God uniquely connects hearts to individual children. The simple act of sponsoring a Compassion child opens up a flood of generosity," Pastor Kirk concludes.