Our DNA is Missions
Missions is part of the DNA of International Church. Our beginnings go back to 1966 when a missionary planted this church. Today we are still passionate about training and equipping people to take the gospel to all corners of the earth.
In fact, for more than 35 years International Bible College and Graduate School were byproducts of the church. Throughout the years the school trained approximately 500 people for missions and ministry.
This rich legacy of missions defines our purpose. We want all people in all places to know and worship Jesus Christ. Yet, God has been stirring my heart that our missions efforts are incomplete. Almost all of the missionaries we support are planting churches, developing national leaders and focusing on evangelism. It’s all great stuff!
But we weren’t doing much for those who have so little in the world. There was a hole in our cultural engagement. We skew strongly toward vertical reconciliation with God but needed help pursuing horizontal reconciliation with fellow citizens around the globe.
This led us to engage with Compassion International. There are obvious benefits to the children that our members sponsor. But there is significant value to the sponsor as well. Here is one story of transformation from International Church.
A Defining Moment
One of our church leaders experienced transformation in the wake of our partnership with Compassion. The Lord has done a lot of growing in this man’s heart and life over the last three years, and I am blessed to see the transformation.
Lately, God has been inviting him to consider how he allocates his finances. In his own words, “I was spending a lot of money frivolously — and just on me.” So he is learning to steward money in a way that includes God.
At our monthly leadership meeting, we were discussing how The Compassion Journey and Compassion Sunday had affected us personally and our church as a whole. This leader shared with us that he didn’t sponsor a child that weekend. But later that week he was in a parking lot when he saw someone push the “close trunk” button on their vehicle before getting in and driving away.
He suddenly had fresh eyes. He viewed that button from a new perspective. On Compassion Sunday, he heard Compassion Alumni Amor Chung speak. She shared her story, and one statement stuck with him: “As a child our family lived in a literal toilet bowl when it rained because sewage would back up and come into our home.”
The Lord used an ordinary moment — the accepted convenience of the “close trunk” functionality — as a defining moment for this man. The huge disparity between his world and Amor’s world made him indignant. He went home, considered his budget, and went to the Compassion website to sponsor some kids.
Curious, I asked him how many kids he is now sponsoring. He quietly responded, “Eight.”
Of course, the number amazed me. But what really delighted my soul was that he surrendered more of his financial world to God. This is the kind of transformation that only God can do. And it is glorious!
This is just one example of how the teaching at International Church is enhanced through our partnership with Compassion; together we affirm and provide opportunity for God’s Word to embed into our hearts and meet us in our daily lives.
This leader’s story highlights the kind of horizontal reconciliation that complements our church’s passion for vertical reconciliation with God. Through child sponsorship we are helping fellow citizens in our world thrive. And because Compassion implements its program solely in partnership with indigenous, gospel-centered churches, we know the children are hearing about God’s saving grace regularly.
Compassion fits right in with the values we are developing: Becoming gospel-shaped people who engage the world for human flourishing. We call this cultural engagement, and it is not just telling people about Jesus. It’s living like Jesus. We are pursuing justice and the welfare of people wherever God places us — across the street and around the world.
In our quest to grow in this area of missions we began teaching on this cultural engagement theme for the months leading up to our Compassion Sunday. And then we incorporated The Compassion Journey into the day’s activities.
The Compassion Journey
The Compassion Journey is a walking experience that consists of six learning stations. All the contents for the stations arrived at the church in a large crate. We followed the simple instructions, and within a few hours we were ready for participants to learn what life is like for Kevin, a 9-year-old boy living in abject poverty in a Kenyan slum.
As my family and I walked through each station we experienced Kevin’s environment: his living conditions, his hardships, fears and even loss. We live so far from this kind of poverty that it takes a hands-on, interactive experience to grab our attention. We live in relative luxury, security and opportunity that much of the world does not know.
My 7-year-old daughter, Megan, was clearly uncomfortable with what we saw. But in a good way she was moved with compassion. She saw a hut like the one Kevin lived in — small and with a mud floor. Now She knows that not every child lives as she does. Not only did she see a different culture but she identified with another child who is just like her but lacking material necessities we take for granted.
The last station on The Compassion Journey is the World Impact Center. It’s an opportunity to put faith principles into action by sponsoring a child with Compassion. It’s also a space for us to respond to the Lord’s invitation to participate in his global plan of transformation — in a child’s life and in a sponsor’s life.
At International Church, we’re grateful for Compassion’s partnership, especially when it comes to helping us expand our vision in the lives of people like our church leader and children like Megan. Compassion is a trusted ministry partner who provides a holistic missions perspective for our church — the vertical reconciliation we are passionate about as well as the horizontal reconciliation that God calls believers to as global citizens.
And in the midst of this significant work, God graciously invites us to be transformed into his character. God’s economy is amazingly efficient!