Moderator Visits Work of Compassion in Kenya

Published on Tuesday, 17 October 2017 10:03
Vision Trip ‘If we all kept the step outside our front door clean, the world would be a cleaner place’ That was the answer from a former sponsored child, who is now working to improve the lives of people in his neighbourhood and community when he was asked to answer the cynic’s question "what difference can it make sponsoring one child?" In so answering, he echoed the aim of Compassion to "change the world one child at a time". I recently had the privilege of being part of a church leaders vision trip to Nairobi, Kenya to visit projects run by Compassion. My wife Catriona and I were part of a team of 11 from the UK who visited projects run by local churches in Nairobi and its environs. Compassion is a leading children’s charity. At their heart is a relentless passion to empower every child left vulnerable by poverty. They focus on the physical, spiritual, socio-emotional and economic areas of a child’s life. Their mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, primarily through a Child Survival Programme, sponsorship and a Respond Ministry (for emergency need) Working in partnership with local churches in developing countries, they link a child in critical need with a caring sponsor. Each sponsor enables them to provide exceptional care for their sponsored child through every stage of their childhood The organisation is Christ-centred, child-focused and church-based What made Kenya different from Scotland? Just about everything! Everywhere we went, we were met by people who were polite, cheerful and seemed genuinely pleased to see us. That was humbling, especially when we visited some of the poorest ‘houses’ (corrugated iron room with a bed separated by an old curtain or polythene sheet) in the shanty town districts. We were welcomed with gentle and warm greetings, and the only awkwardness seemed to come from us, who felt uneasy knowing the luxury and opulence of our lives back home, in comparison to what we were witnessing. The level of poverty was harrowing, but the beauty of the people, and the level of faith in Christ that many of them had - despite their circumstances - was profoundly paradoxical and challenging. The traffic in Nairobi was crazy! The rule seemed to be ‘there are no rules’ and most seemed cool with that. The driving seemed hostile but the drivers still smiled and were quite laid back – unlike the snorting road rage we often witness at home. Then there were the children who sang. Every project and school we visited, we were welcomed and serenaded with song – and dance. They giggled and smiled as the group of gawky Westerners tried to get-with-the-rhythm, but there was no cynical mockery, only an instinctive recognition that God gave them something uniquely African, that their white visitors could only marvel at. We didn’t have much time to spare – we were only three days in the country. But we did visit a market. A market where we had to haggle with the stall owners. It was uneasy entertainment. They had so many beautiful things to sell – remarkable craftsmanship with wood, precious stones, cloth and fabric – but haggling seemed so culturally alien to a couple of reticent Scots. But we ended up on first name terms with a couple of traders who laughed at our accents, but gladly took our money. Friendliness is always a powerful marketing tool! What about Compassion – The Organisation? We were very impressed by their professionalism, accountability and integrity. We loved that they partnered with local churches who run projects in the poorest and most deprived areas around Nairobi. We were impressed that their motivation and vision is the love of Christ and the good news that he cares for us – body and soul. It is not band-aid charity, nor does it pretend to be the solution. But Compassion is developmental, they do see children growing up with the support and love that can make a difference – and they do see young men and women who have come through the Compassion sponsorship programme passionate to invest in their families and communities - educated, healthy and often with a living faith and love for Christ. In the Free Church, we believe that mission through the local church is God’s primary way of building His Kingdom - - in Scotland, or anywhere in the world. Compassion agrees. We also recognise the injustice of poverty but often feel paralysed by the vastness of the problem – what difference can we make? Well, let's change the world one child at a time as a starting point – that’s a memorable strapline. And as a denomination, we want to be flexible when we think of International Mission. There are opportunities for local churches in Scotland to partner with local churches in many different parts of the world – not just Africa. But probably, even more significantly, individuals in churches can develop relationally based financial support with the poorest children, pray for them, write to them and offer them friendship, In Jesus name. It will not only impact one child but potentially a whole family and community – and who knows what Gods plan for that child will be. One step at a time. - Moderator Rev. Derek Lamont For details of how to sponsor a child visit www.compassionuk.org              

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