We tend to grow into what we see around us, which can be good if we’re emulating a positive role model. However, this truth is anything but good for Murthy, who is beginning to lose all hope.
Each morning, young Murthy follows his dad, a bonded laborer, to a rock quarry in India. As Murthy crushes rock, his limited future etches away at his spirit. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, the boy replies, “My dreams will never come true, so let me not have any dreams at all.”
Have you ever felt tempted to give up hope? Even though I have bundles of opportunities compared with Murthy, I’ve had my moments. My sponsored child Derrick has, too. He once urged me, “Please pray I would hold on to my dream of being a journalist. Every time I get any money I go to the Internet cafe and I write. But my friends say I’ll never make it.”
Derrick’s friends douse hope in ways we see every day in the countries where we work. While I doubt Derrick’s friends know Wess Stafford, he knows their point: “Poverty says to a child, ‘Look around you. Nothing works, nothing’s beautiful, everything’s garbage and … by the way … so are you.' The message of poverty … is, ‘Give up.’”
As individuals, we may stifle hope when we lament, “What can I do? I’m only a (fill in the blank).” Jesus confronts this sense of inadequacy, saying we can do “even greater things” than He did, in His name (John 14:12-13). So, a first act to having, and offering, hope is this: Agree with Jesus that we are called and able.
A second act is this: Help children through a local church. The Search Institute’s international research affirms that attending religious services at least one hour a week is one of 40 developmental assets that help a child flourish physically and spiritually. Every child in Compassion’s programs is invested with this hope-producing “asset,” attending a Compassion program at one of more than 6,210 churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America for four to eight hours each week. Research from the Search Institute indicates that a child’s total number of assets predicts thriving better than “poverty, family structure or other demographic differences.”
The third act? Affirm children, both near and far. Sponsored children who receive letters do better on the Search Institute’s self-esteem scale, and sending just one letter every six months makes a difference. Try this to strengthen and build hope in your sponsored child and in a child closer to home:
- Ask about and commit to praying over his dreams.
- Affirm one specific attribute that reveals God’s beauty in her.
- Tape a promise like that of Jeremiah 29:11 on a child’s mirror so he can see it when he brushes his teeth. When children are older and start to worry about pimples or body shape, such promises will continue to encourage them. For your sponsored child, mail it in your letter.
Acts of hope like these can make a tangible difference. In that same rock quarry in India, another indentured servant labors near Murthy’s father. This man does not mirror his environment. He rises above it. This man’s daughter, a Compassion-assisted child, spends her days studying computer science rather than pounding rocks. She knows caring adults who strive to love her as Jesus does. She and her father have hope.
Will my sponsored child hold on to his dream? Will Murthy find one? We might just be the generation to end extreme poverty, but only as we act out our hope.