Last year, the Wall Street Journal featured an interesting article, Why Teens Need a Sense of Purpose. Simply defined, purpose is an act that is meaningful to the doer and helps others. Research found that purpose doesn’t have to be heroic, but it is correlated with success in school, resilience and good health.
Purpose is often unique to each person. But teens with purpose had one thing in common: there was a parent, teacher or friend who was their role model.
In the context of conscious discipline to pass on a spiritual legacy to your children and future generations, we share Julie Patterson’s story. Julie and her husband, Jeff, have sponsored Compassion children since 1985. When asked why their involvement with Compassion has grown over the years, it came down to calling and purpose.
Over the years, the Pattersons have sponsored 22 children. In the photo above, Julie (left) is pictured with Taciana, one of the many children the Pattersons have influenced.
Julie is a Speech Language Pathologist in the South Bend, IN, Community School Corporation. She uses her relational influence to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name through Compassion sponsorship campaigns. This is her story.
Jeff and I started sponsoring our first Compassion child when we were college students and newly engaged. We had been sponsors for a few years when our first daughter, Rachel, was born.
I knew I was going to be staying home with her for a while, and I felt a stirring that there was something more I could be doing to be involved in God’s work. We were involved in a church, but there was a sense of restlessness. I prayed about this for a little while when I heard about Compassion’s Volunteer Network.
Back then, I was a Display Representative going to businesses and churches to put up Compassion displays. Although I was comfortable with public speaking, I wasn’t looking to be out in front of people. I liked this small but significant role, but quickly I realized that God had other plans. Ocassionally I was asked to give a Compassion presentation here and there. That’s how it all got started.
When Rachel was two years old, Kathleen was born. As Jeff and I shaped our family values and goals, Compassion was a big component. Jeff and I had been on several international missions trips, and now we were wondering how we could live the gospel, tangibly, as a family. The world seemed small to us but so much bigger than the girls knew. We wanted to expand their world and at the same time define who we were as a family.
Jeff and I had a passion to be foreign missionaries. Even as the doors closed on some options, we still wanted to be part of spreading the gospel around the world. Sponsoring Compassion children became a way we could do that from Indiana. We always wanted to be actively engaged in what God was doing globally.
A Family Activity
In the early days, Jeff and I would represent Compassion at events in the midwest, and we used to travel for Compassion in the summers. We’d be on the west coast, the east coast, Colorado, Maryland. The closest friendships that the girls had were children from all over the country whose parents were also Compassion volunteers. We’d get together every year at Compassion events and obviously stay in touch in between. It was a family affair. It was our purpose. It was our calling. It defined our values and who we were as a family. It was also a lot of fun!
We realized our intentions had an impact on Kathleen when she was 11-years old. She insisted that she be able to sponsor a child on her own. She secured babysitting jobs and sponsored Mary in Kenya. For 12 years Kathleen was faithful to her calling.
When Kathleen was 21-years-old, our family went to Kenya. Kathleen and Mary met, and it was absolutely amazing. It was beautiful to see the two sharing conversation as young adults, and it was a significant moment to celebrate. Over the years we had met other children that our family sponsored, but this trip was all about Kathleen and Mary.
Little did we know that just months after we returned home Kathleen would become engaged to be married. Three months later Rachel would also be engaged. The next year both married. Looking back, our last big family trip together was memorable and meaningful.
In my professional life, I work with a lot of kids and families in the South Bend area. I see plenty of need. I can see why people may put foreign missions low on their list of priorities because there is so much need right here in the communities where we live.
My experience has been somewhat opposite. As I have connected with children in different communities and cultures around the world, it has actually opened my eyes more to the needs right in front of me. These encounters showed me that I can relate to and love children who don’t speak the same language—whose lives are so different from mine. This gives me confidence to find commonality with inner-city families that I meet through my profession. These families and I share the same city of residence, but we live in different cultures. Yet I can build relationship with them—one person to another. These are the kinds of connections that Jesus made when he walked the earth. And what an impact he made!
Our daughters have found their passions, calling and purpose. Jeff and I are so proud of each of them. Rachel and her husband live in Detroit. They love the city and are part of the revitalization of the inner city. Kathleen is an occupational therapist. She and her husband sponsor three Compassion children, and she shares her sponsorship stories with friends and co-workers.
We are grateful for the years that Compassion gave our family purpose in God’s mission—at home with our daughters as well as around the world with the children we sponsored. Today, Jeff and I continue to be a voice for Compassion in our spheres of influence.
Compassion’s work is meaningful to us. Not only does Compassion release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, but the ministry model helps build a spiritual legacy from generation to generation. The child development programs are housed in gospel-centered churches that operate under the accountability of church leaders. Tangibly, the program brings hope to the children and their families today and into eternity. This is our purpose.
I am a “regular” mom with a 9-to-5 job. And yet my purpose and calling is anything but “regular.” I invite you to join me to use your passions and abilities to help others—locally, globally, temporally and eternally. God has designed your purpose; I hope you will embrace it today.
NOTE: The Volunteer Network still exists at Compassion although we now call it the Mobilization Team. We would love to help you discover how you can invest your time and unique talents with Compassion. Call or email the person who invited you to this page to get the conversation started.