Christelle Vermeulen is a Compassion sponsor, child advocate and mother of three. She is passionate about raising compassionate children and sharing Compassion’s ministry with others.
So it’s no surprise that her church in Hartland, Wisconsin is also filled with compassionate people — and saturated with Compassion sponsors. Eager to think of alternate ways to share Compassion’s work outside her church, Christelle put a God-inspired innovative idea into action.
In her unique way, Christelle is making a difference in the lives of children living in poverty around the world. This is her story.
Life in South Africa
In 2002 I was working as a clinical psychologist for the South African Department of Health. I truly enjoyed bringing help and hope to the people I served — those living in some of the poorest communities in the country.
I left this position when my husband, Chris, and I moved to the United States. I intended to continue my career once I became a permanent U.S. resident but the process took much longer than anticipated. In the meantime, I looked for ways to make a difference in the lives of others by volunteering, which led me to the amazing ministry of Compassion.
Life in Wisconsin
During this wait, the Lord blessed us with three children and gave me the space to be a full-time mom. I found our surroundings to be affluent, and God impressed on me the importance of teaching our kids that this was not the case for many people across the globe.
The fact that we live a privileged life was — and continues to be — a constant point of reflection. Chris and I feel strongly that whatever our financial status, we must use our gifts, talents and resources in compassionate ways to help others in Jesus’ name. And we must pass on this perspective to our children while they are young. Someone once said that our privileges are not for our pleasure but for our purpose.
Growing Compassionate Children
In order to weave this viewpoint into our children’s lives, we have intentionally looked for ways for our children — regardless of their age — to engage in meaningful activities. Our mission is simply to make a difference in the world in Jesus’ name wherever we are planted. Whether it is having a lemonade stand to raise money for pediatric cancer research, or contributing to projects that bring clean water to those who need it in the developing world, or packing Christmas shoeboxes — I have been amazed to see that even young children need little encouragement to understand a need and to help fill it.
Even though people often think kids are selfish, I’ve found that if we involve them in life they are quick to empathize and lend a hand. The key for our family is to provide time to slow down and think about the opportunities God puts in front of us.
I love the true story in John 6:1-14 — the boy who shares his lunch with Jesus. The lad didn’t say, “Oh, my goodness. There’s not going to be enough!” He simply brought what he had to Jesus and trusted Jesus to take it and use it. This story is what we remind our children of all the time: Use what you have today — you don’t have to wait until you are older to make a difference in the world.
In this context, our family has sponsored Compassion children since 2009. I love the fact that Compassion is not just about releasing children from poverty but that they are doing it in Jesus’ name. Sponsorship with Compassion is an effective way to help those in need while also introducing them to Jesus and His love for them. I can’t think of a better way to bring hope to others.
It was easy for our family to connect Compassion’s strategy with our purpose. And as I shared Compassion in my church, I quickly found there are lots of sponsors already. While my Compassion community encouraged me to get more children sponsored through my local church, I felt called to think of other ways to share the ministry.
God impressed upon me: Use what I have given you. Take your “small” and give it to Me to use. Let Me multiply it as I wish.
I prayed and asked God to show me how I can use what He has given me to share Compassion’s mission, and He did.
One of the things I love about volunteering with Compassion is that we share the philosophy to use whatever you have, wherever you are at. Since my passion is to give children the gift of giving, I created a children’s picture book and a website: Little Hands Helping. The ideas in the book and on the website provide an alternative to children living in a world that often promotes self-focus. The goal is to equip parents, caregivers and teachers with tangible acts that develop compassionate children.
All proceeds from book sales go directly to Compassion. At the same time, Little Hands Helping helps start conversations with others about gratitude, giving and serving. It’s a great way to share my passion and Compassion’s great work.
Do the Extraordinary
I don’t want to waste the time I am given. I pray that my life will count for something more than accolades, accomplishments, and accumulation. I want to live flat-out for His purpose, even in the seemingly mundane. We are often deceived by the lure of the world to do big things for God but all He asks is for us to love others wherever we are.
In reality I am easily sidetracked with life and busyness. Having a community of people — my church family and my Compassion family — that encourages me to evaluate my priorities and how I spend my time and energy is so pivotal. I can be distracted by what the world esteems important but my Compassion community helps me stay on track by asking: Do my activities hold eternal value? What have I done this week that is kingdom-focused? Did I take time to engage with my sponsored child through prayer and letter writing?
Make an Eternal Difference
God has called me to speak up for those children who cannot speak for themselves and to make them real to others by telling their story. My dream is to raise the next generation of advocates who will not be satisfied by living self-indulged lives but believe that God has equipped them to make an eternal difference in His world.
When God calls us to any task, there is often more than one way to accomplish it. My prayer is that we will slow down long enough to reflect on the eternal. Then instead of feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues facing us, start where we are and use what God has given us. Do the ordinary, and trust Him to make it extraordinary for His glory.
If you are interested in joining a Compassion community, please let us know! You may contact the person who sent you to this page, or enter "Compassion community" in the Comments section when you request that we contact you.