Some call it fate; others call it coincidence. But when a series of situations leads to a life-changing result, we know it’s the hand of God. That’s what happened to us when God introduced Inspire Church to Compassion.
It started during a trip to Hillsong Church in Sydney, when I felt compelled to personally sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic. Over the next six months, I grew in knowledge about Compassion and in faith about its ministry. I began to wonder if this was something God wanted our entire church to experience. What I didn’t know was that He was already orchestrating an experience that would forever change my life—and lead Inspire Church to where we are today.
About six months after I began sponsoring a child through Compassion, I had the opportunity to join 22 other pastors on an exploratory trip to see Compassion in action in the Philippines. It was a trip that ended up being so powerful that it now has it’s own name: “The Manila 23.”
First, let me set the context. There were barriers among us. We were all pastors of different denominations in Hawaii; our teaching and worship styles ran the spectrum. So when 23 of us arrived at the airport on the first day of that trip, there was a sense of apprehension in the air. Unity was definitely lacking. But during that flight over the Pacific Ocean, walls came down and differences were forgotten. There is no event or concert that could have broken down those barriers like the conversations on the airplane.
Needless to say, our experience in the Philippines blew my mind—and everyone else’s, too. I knew Compassion worked exclusively with local churches, but to see how intimately aware each indigenous pastor was of his community’s needs...it was amazing. That’s the power of Compassion’s ministry. When you pair the local church with God’s heart for the poor—the orphans and the widows—it’s a potent combination.
A Leap of Faith
The Manila trip was especially significant for me for another reason: two months before we left, I had decided to take a leap of faith and hold our first Compassion Sunday. I say “leap of faith” because though I knew this was something God wanted us to do, I had a vision for our church. And as part of that, I couldn’t deny that we had buildings to build and people to reach, and I was hesitant about our church’s finances going elsewhere. But at the same time, I wanted our people to take their eyes off themselves and see real poverty. I wanted them to experience the power of God working through the body of Christ as we all obey his command to serve children in need.
So, I leaped even further.
At the time, Inspire Church had around 700 people, so Compassion recommended that we try to get seven children sponsored on our first Compassion Sunday. I said no and that I wanted 200 child packets. The Compassion staff member explained that based on their statistics, an average church of our size would probably get about seven children sponsored. I responded, “We’re not your average church.”
I took personal accountability for all 200 child packets that we received from Compassion, which led me to make a deal with my church: if they got all 200 children sponsored, I would get up on stage in a grass skirt and coconut bra and dance the hula. Needless to say, we got 220 children sponsored on that first Compassion Sunday.
The Power of Obedience
As I look back on that time, the words of Proverbs 19:17 come to mind: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”
Since our church began partnering with Compassion, our giving has increased by an average of 25% per year. The increase in giving—which allowed us to build our new building—certainly wasn’t our motivation for giving back to children in poverty, but I do believe it is our reward.
In addition to seeing our church grow in generosity, another highlight for me over the last five years has been seeing our church personally respond to the needs of children whom they have never met, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Our people have grown closer to God through the process of obedience. They hear the need and are inspired by the Holy Spirit, then they go off and pray about it, come back and act. It’s all in the obedience, which is a key factor in discipleship with Jesus Christ.
See for Yourself
While some church families prefer to spread their impact around the world, Inspire Church likes to sponsor children in the nations we’re already working in, like Thailand, for example. We also started a church in the Philippines, so we sponsor additional children there. The Philippines is a great focus area for us because of Hawaii’s large Filipino population.
Today, Inspire Church has a weekend attendance of 3,000–3,200, and we currently sponsor 1,000 children. But I know it’s not just those 1,000 children who are benefiting from our sponsorship; we’re impacting 1,000 families, too.
Sponsoring children through Compassion is the best thing we do outside our own church.
For the church leaders reading this and thinking about partnering with Compassion, my advice would be to have no fear about financial sustainability. Let this act of obedience change your life, then watch it change the life of your congregation.