After three days of traveling from Birmingham to get here, we were finally able to visit the Compassion project at Care and Share Mission in Bhubaneswar, India. Three of our elders, Keith Anderson, Dennis Blythe and Cory Varden are here to visit a couple of the churches where we support Child Survival Programs (CSPs) and explore how we might be able to enter into an even deeper partnership, and I'm lucky enough to be along for the ride.
Today we visited the Child Development through Sponsorship Program at Care and Share Mission. This program is different from the CSP we support. It is for children age 4 and up. The support for these children is provided through one-on-one sponsorship. Here in East India the children attend the project Monday through Saturday. They spend time learning from the Bible, singing songs, working on their academics and taking various skills classes including art, toy-making and henna tattooing (a few of us even served as practice subjects). In addition to this regular education, they also receive a meal, medical care, training in personal hygiene and any supplies, uniforms or tuition they might need for school.
There are 283 children in the project at Care and Share Mission, and only nine of them come from Christian families. The majority of the rest come from Hindu backgrounds with a few whose families are Muslim. However, Compassion is having a tangible impact on each of these families as well as their children.
The Project Director, whom I will call P., told us of how this region can be hostile to the gospel and Christians. He shared with us a story about how a couple of years ago there was a great deal of persecution of Christians within this region. Many churches were being attacked, and their buildings being destroyed. Care and Share Mission heard that they were about to be targeted by the extremist groups carrying out the persecution. Needless to say, they were both concerned and afraid. They weren't sure what they were going to do but began to pray fervently for God's protection and deliverance.
The people of the community also heard that Care and Share Mission was going to be targeted. So, the families of all the children who attended the project, most of whom were not Christian, went to the church grounds and literally surrounded the facilities. When the persecutors came, they told them that the church was good and doing many good things, especially in caring for their children. The families said, "This is our project as well as theirs. We stand with them. You will not harm them." The persecutors left and families continued to help protect the church, even going so far as to take turns sleeping there at night.
As I listened to P. tell this story, I couldn't help but be reminded of our memory verse for this week, which comes from the Sermon on the Mount that Bart preached from on Sunday.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:16
Care and Share Mission truly is a city on a hill for their community. The good they are working in the lives of children and mothers is shining so brightly that others who do not yet know God see the immense value and want to protect it at all costs. And through this work many of the children, and through them their families, are not only being impacted in the name of Jesus but are hearing the gospel and coming to faith in him. God is receiving great glory here, and it's a privilege and honor that we are all able to be a small part of it.
P. let us know that, out of the 283 children in the project, 12 are still without sponsors. I was thinking that perhaps some of you might want to help rectify that problem. We have with us the sponsorship packets for four of those twelve. They are all four-year-old boys, Amona, Ashis, Manaj, and Sujit. You can see their pictures below.
Here's what sponsoring one of these boys would mean: For you it would mean committing to giving $38 a month to Compassion, to praying for them (you'll receive more information about them when you receive their packet), and to writing them letters however often you choose (you'll also receive letters from them). There are even more opportunities to be involved in the life of your child once you sponsor, but these are just the basics. For them, sponsorship would mean the opportunity to continue in the project at Care and Share Mission, to know that someone they've never met halfway around the world loves them, and to hear the gospel, learn about Jesus and be given the opportunity to respond in faith as they grow.
Since we're here, we're even going to try to let those children know who has chosen to sponsor them and will do our best to take pictures of them for you and film a message to you from them.
All you need to do at this point is look at their pictures below. Then, if you want to sponsor a particular one or any of them, simply leave a comment to this post letting us know and include in your comment which child you'd like to sponsor (or no preference if you'll take any of them). Be sure to give us your name and an email address when you leave your comment.
This is just one opportunity for us to join Care and Share Mission in letting our light shine.