One Sunday our pastor announced to the congregation that anyone who was interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion International could go to a table out in the lobby to get more information. After the service, I made my way through the crowds, over to the table where photos of children were lined up in rows. Scanning the table, I saw one photo of a little African boy with a very serious expression. Instantly I knew that he was the child I wanted to sponsor. There was something about this serious boy in his red shirt and blue shorts that looked too big for him that created an instantaneous connection with me and I rushed back to my wife and son to show them the photo of this boy from Rwanda. My wife was surprised. "I thought you would pick a girl," she said. My son's first reaction was, "Can we go and visit him?"
On that child profile that we got, we had personal information about him and we read all of it. To the side of the profile was Matthew 18:5, " . . .and whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes me." In welcoming this African boy we were welcoming Christ. This was not just sponsoring a child, this was a form of worship. It was a call that Jesus had made to us and we heeded Him. Over the 9 years since we first agreed to sponsor him, we have written him and he has written back. The last letter came with a photo. In this photo, he had gotten much bigger and there was a huge smile on his face. I loved that smile. The photo is up on our refrigerator so we see his smiling face everyday. I smile when I see his smile. And I pray for him and his family. We pray for him every night in our prayers. This is not some nameless child in Africa but a child our family loves deeply. All of us wish we could just wrap our arms around him and hug him tightly. He is precious to us. In his own way, he is partially responsible in leading us on the path to international adoption.
The dictionary defines compassion as the "Deep awareness of the suffering coupled with the wish to relieve it." Matthew 9:36 tells us about Jesus, "He was moved with compassion." What's interesting about this word compassion was that it was not found in classic Greek or in the Septuagint. Compassion was instead coined by the evangelists themselves since they couldn't find a word that fit with the deep expression of love that they wanted to convey. Jesus' whole life and ministry was filled with compassion for others. He came as a servant, which is a very unpopular word in modern culture where we long to be served and noticed. His actions stemmed from His love and compassion for humanity. Jesus identified Himself with the poor, needy, and forgotten. And He called his followers to do the same.
It has been nine years since we first started sponsoring a child and our family is grateful for the opportunity to do so. We are not only helping to change his life but he is doing so for us as well. He has connected us to a child in a family in a community in Rwanda, Africa that we are daily praying for. He is not nameless and his name and face are what we see when we hear any news about his country. This child has opened our hearts to love others in another place in the world that we have never visited. In his beautiful, smiling face I see Jesus.
So often we want to help others but don't know how to. I'd ask each of you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Here is a link that will connect you to children who need sponsorship. When you look at them, see our Savior and heed His call to care for the least of these.