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Back You are here: Home Culture Cultural Angle Religion Local Christian Charity Shows True “Compassion”

Local Christian Charity Shows True “Compassion”

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Compassion International, one of the four largest international charities in the United States, calls Colorado Springs home. Recently, they have outgrown their global ministry center at 12290 Voyager Pkwy and expanded into the old LexisNexis building at 555 Middle Creek Pkwy.

Compassion is a child sponsorship charity that is geared toward individual attention for children in the program.

All of Compassion’s sponsored children live on under two dollars per day, the World Health Organization’s definition of poverty. Many of those children live in “abject poverty,” which means living on under $1.25 per day.

Mark Hanlon, Senior Vice President, USA for Compassion International, attributes Compassion’s success to the fundamental nature of the church. The organization functions through partnered churches in 26 countries. These churches offer resources for Compassion’s sponsored children and serve as program offices in the area.

“We believe that the church is uniquely called and poised as a body to do something about poverty,” said Hanlon.

There are over two thousand verses in the Bible concerning poverty, second only to the number of verses about love.

“Sometimes we as Christians get wrapped around a lot of the other things,” Hanlon said. “If you just look at love, and care for the poor, the oppressed, those are two very clear mandates and the church needs to get behind that.” 

Since the church is already an established entity in many communities worldwide, it allows Compassion to work with a pre-existing structure that people already trust. “What you really need is a strong, grassroots mechanism,” Hanlon said. “They care for those people in that community and they say, ‘Hey, I’m going to help you.’

“We believe that humans aren’t just physical beings, not just emotional, not just sociable,” said Hanlon. “We’re spiritual beings, so a lot of our program is holistic in that nature.”

The focus on holistic child development differentiates Compassion from other child sponsorship organizations. Other organizations tend to focus on community development, like houses and water projects, said Hanlon. “We believe that you need to build into the child, too. We believe that if you sponsor a child, it should impact that child first and foremost, but then you start seeing the ripple effects out from that. It starts impacting their family, their community, their country.”

The church is also a cultural entity. All of Compassion’s employees in the 26 countries they work in across Asia, Africa, and Latin America stand to preserve local culture. “All of our staff are nationals,” said Hanlon. “In Nicaragua, they’re all Nicaraguan. In Peru, they’re all Peruvian. So our goal basis is certainly to not change their world, not change their culture, not Americanize.

“In fact,” Hanlon added, “working with all the churches we work with, it’s better that nationals work with them than we as Americans come in and try to say, ‘Hey, how do we work through this?’ They understand their culture; they understand their world so much better.

“Our program is really not so much about eliminating poverty,” said Hanlon. “Poverty isn’t just economic. Poverty is a lot about opportunity and hope. If you have some hope, you can accomplish a tremendous amount—more than you think you can accomplish.”

Each church has, on average, 250 to 300 children involved in its program. When they foresee growth in an area, they must find new church partners to prevent overloading their existing locations.

“They’re small churches, they’re poor churches, they’re indigenous churches,” said Hanlon. “As much as we’d like to put a thousand kids in one church, we can’t, because they just don’t have the infrastructure.”

Today, Compassion has partners in over six thousand churches representing more than 60 denominations of Christianity.

Compassion International has growth plans for church environments in the 26 countries it already works in, as well as a list of prioritized countries where they plan to open more programs soon. Based on the strength of the church, political stability, and other criteria, they choose countries where they think they will find and aid the greatest need. Then, they open new programs in several nearby countries simultaneously.

Source: http://blogs.gazette.com

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