The Children of Ethiopia… Part 2

pic 2The most sobering moments of my trip to Ethiopia with Compassion International were the three home visits I made. I want to tell you about two of them. The first was to a home in a village about 26 km out of Addis Ababa; a mud hut with a mud and dung floor strewn with fresh straw to cover up the odor. The “living room” of the 10’ by 10’ house composed three-quarters of its area and was separated from the “bedroom” by a dirty frayed curtain. There were holes in the corrugated metal roof and all the cooking was done just outside under a shelter to the left of the doorway. They had no electricity. We spoke with a young mother (I’ll call her Martha) and her 3-yr.old daughter, Hope, who was in the Compassion program. The father was off working somewhere in the fields.

Martha was a sad woman who had already lost a child to disease. When asked what her life was like before Hope entered into the child sponsorship program, Martha began to weep and could not speak. She eventually said that she and her husband would have no more children because life was too hard. She shared her testimony of coming to faith in Jesus. She also admitted that her little Hope was her only hope for the future. I question whether this family will ever break out of the cycle of poverty. However, if there is a chance at all it will be through the development of little Hope as a sponsored child of Compassion.

My second visit was to an extremely poor slum area within the city of Addis. It was like a city within a city with cobblestone walkways spider-webbing their way throughout the development; an open drain (sewer?) running along the walkways. Everything was on a hill so that the water ran down from top to bottom. All of the homes were owned by the government and leased to the occupants. We visited a household headed by 20-yr. old “Frank,” his 11-yr. old sister Zabella and a 14-yr. old brother “Ernie,” whom we did not meet because he was in school. Their parents died of AIDS several years ago.

They live in a very small dirt floor home, with a corrugated metal roof and walls made of cloth and other material that flapped in the breeze as we sat inside. There was one small energy-saver light bulb hanging from the ceiling. “Frank” (pictured above with Zabella) works a construction job all day to support the family. After he cooks supper each evening, he attends computer night school. The family was raised Muslim but Zabella has become a believer in Jesus because she is a sponsored child through Compassion. She proudly showed us a shoebox filled with letters and pictures from her sponsored family. We were told how important these are to a child because it reminds them that they are not alone in their poverty; someone knows who they are, loves them and prays for them.

They did a coffee ceremony for us and gave us bread to eat. Zabella loves music and so she sang us a song. It was a song of thanks to God in which she asked what she should give Him for all He has done for her. The song finished, “I will give Him my heart.” I think there is hope that this young family will break out of the cycle of poverty and I think Zabella’s gift will be used to accomplish great things in her small community because of the opportunities afforded her by Compassion.

If you support a Compassion child, you are making a difference. If not, give it some prayerful consideration. Next week I want to tell you about a relatively new initiative that Compassion is taking which may just change the entire nation of Ethiopia.

The Children of Ethiopia…and the Face of Jesus

ethiopian child 1I just returned from Ethiopia and that is why I’m writing this at 4:30 in the morning! Over the next few weeks I want to report what I saw and learned because I know many of you will be asking. I was invited to go with a group (18) of pastors and church leaders from across the USA to experience the work of Compassion Int’l  and its main focus of Child Development, or what many call the Child Sponsorship Program. By the way, when you sponsor a child through Compassion, you actually sponsor that child and her family. Other programs may offer you a picture of a child for prayer purposes, but the money you send in goes to the community in which the child lives and not to that child per se. This is not a criticism, but it is something many people do not know.  However, you do need to be careful of certain organizations that deceptively use child sponsorship as a fund raising method to generate income for their overall needs.  Check this out carefully if you really desire to sponsor a child.

The ministry of Compassion can be summed up this way: Child-focused, it is all about the development and the holistic well-being of the child; Church-based, each program (over 300 in Ethiopia alone) is operated in relationship to a local church as a part of its outreach to its community; Christ-centered, it is not a social welfare system but a ministry to the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of a child in the name of Christ (no matter what the religious affiliation of the child’s family—many Muslims and Ethiopian Orthodox are enrolled); Committed to integrity, in other words, there are systems of checks and balances that ensure financial integrity with 83.3% of all contributions used for direct ministry. There are regular audits for each country office, an annual audit of Compassion Int’l, and program audits to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in the life of the child.  

Next week I want to introduce you to some of the Ethiopian people I met. However, for now, let me tell you about some of the other aspects of Compassion with which you may not be familiar. There is the Child Survival Program which often starts with prenatal care for expectant mothers as well as education of these caregivers in order to protect their babies from disease and other health dangers. A child can remain in this program until the age of 2 and then is automatically enrolled in the Child Sponsorship program, where s/he remains until graduation from high school. Then there is the Leadership Development program which helps highly qualified graduates of the Sponsorship program to receive a university education in their country. In addition to their studies, these students receive Christian leadership training through a Compassion representative.  There are 240 young adults enrolled in this program in Ethiopia alone and over 2,000 world-wide. It is this program that is of particular interest to me because it positions these Christian young adults to actually change the face of their nation. Pastor Joel and I had dinner with Beretek (name means blessing), who was a Compassion sponsored child, raised by his mother in inner-city Addis Ababa along with 7 other siblings. This bright articulate Christian young man graduated from a university in northern Ethiopia though the Leadership Development program and is now an architect.

The face of poverty is deeply scared and pock-marked, and enslaves many through its ugly glare. This trip enabled me to see another face offering hope to those who would normally have none. I saw the face of Jesus being unveiled though the beautiful faces of just a few (about 500) out of the 84,000 in Ethiopia being saved and discipled, nourished and educated though the vital ministry of Compassion. Thank you Community Fellowship for allowing me the opportunity to see that face from a very different vantage point. Tune in next week…  


the thinkerThis is going to be a busy weekend because it is my 105th class reunion from Wheaton College. I am looking forward to having about 20 of my old football buddies (and their wives) at my house on Saturday for doing up some “bangers on the barbie”- that’s Australian for a cookout. I spent some money reinforcing my deck so it will hold all that weight (not their wives). Then on Tuesday, I fly to Ethiopia for a week with Compassion International. All of that said, whenever I get overwhelmed with things I usually take them to the mat with God – that’s wrestling lingo for earnest prayer (Phil. 4:6, 7). And then I take a little time to just let my mind wander and my thoughts wonder about the mysteries of the universe. I would like to share with you some of the enigmas I have been contemplating lately; perhaps you have a few more you could share with me.

Why does the sun lighten our hair, but darken our skin?
Why can’t women put on mascara with their mouth closed?
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery?”
Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?
Why is a boxing ring square?
Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?
Why is it considered necessary to nail down the lid of a coffin?
Why is it that doctors call what they do “practice”?
Why are vegetarians allowed to eat animal crackers?
Why is it that rain drops but snow falls?
Why is it that when you’re driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on the radio?
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
Why is it impossible to swallow and spit at the same time?
Why isn’t there a mouse-flavored cat food?
You know that little indestructible black box that is used on planes, why can’t they make the whole plane out of the same substance? (Especially Ethiopian airplanes)
Why does God love someone like me?

Just a few thoughts- I guess you can tell its Friday.

For A Generation Yet Unborn…

8-week-unborn-baby_thumbI have been reading through Joshua these last couple of weeks and came to the very end of the book where I saw this verse (24:32): “And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This (the land) became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendents.”

To be buried in the Promised Land had been Joseph’s request recorded four hundred years earlier in Genesis 50:25. That means Israel had been carrying around this guy’s ancient bones for at least forty one years in the desert; one year at Mt Sinai after the Exodus and forty years wandering around before Joshua led them into the Promised Land. In other words, if a generation is defined as a thirty year span, it means Joseph’s request was remembered and acted upon by the thirteenth and fourteenth generation from his death.

What an amazing commitment that one generation had to another! Do a word study on “generation” in the Psalms and meditate on the awesome privilege and responsibility that one generation has for another- especially the older to the younger. “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord (Ps.102:18). “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation” (Ps. 71:18).

Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon in 1888 entitled, Holding Fast the Faith, in which he said: “Look you, Sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation and another and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His Truth today. We have come to a turning point in the road. If we turn to the right, maybe our children and our children’s children will go that way. But if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word.” (The whole text can be found at

Who are the young folks in your life: children, grandchildren, associates, kids at church or in the neigborhood? Are you taking initiatives to build relationships with them or do you fall for the cultural assumption that they don’t want to hang out with you because you’re old? Do you pray for them, encourage them in their faith, and take opportunities to declare to them God’s faithfulness in your life? You may not like their music, but if you love them their music will not be an issue. Have you ever thought of volunteering in the nursery or the youth program at church? Let us commit ourselves to being a blessing to the next generation and not a curse.

By the way, who are the older folks in your life: parents, grandparents, associates, neighbors? Do you realize how much wisdom and experience are rattling around in those old brain, even though the retrieval systems have slowed down? Do you take the time to ask them questions and then take some more time to listen to their stories? You will not have them for much longer. Soon you’ll become the old one and someone will be carrying your bones to their rest.