Their slogan is “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name” but I think Compassion International should rethink that.
I grew up with the erroneous idea in my head that I was poor. I vowed that when I grew up I wouldn’t be anymore. Not long after signing a record deal in 2000 the checks began to appear magically in my mailbox. And at the end of my third year of professional music making we tallied up our winnings and discovered that I’d made, after taxes, almost $200,000. With a third child on the way and still feeling, for some unknown reason, as if we were living like almost-poor people, we designed and built our dream house – not as big as this guy’s, not as fancy as that lady’s, but what we thought was on the large end of middle-class.
Then two things happened. First, I took the job as co-pastor to young adults (college aged folks) at my church and we taught through the book of Acts and then the Sermon on the Mount. Acts 2 and Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 5 made me shift in my seat and reevaluate my sacrificeless faith.
Becky and I decided to sell our house and find something smaller, ad do other small things like cancel our cable. We decided to simplify our lives so that others could simply live. But, with the for sale sign in the front yard and no buyers calling, we wondered if we’d made the right decision.
Then I went to El Salvador.
There I met Yancey, the first child we sponsored as a family through Compassion International. I pushed her in a swing. She rode on my shoulders through the marketplace and we shared a rainbow rocket pop. I traced her hand in crayon and she traced mine. I tickled her and she cackled just like my kids. We went to lunch and I bought her a hamburger. She only ate half and when I asked her if she was full she told me she wanted to save the rest so her little sister back home could eat it.
She fell asleep on the ride back to the hotel, her sweaty brown cheek squished up and buried in my t-shirt. And I prayed, asking God to forgive me for not giving away more of what he’d given me in my lifetime. “Forgive me” was all I could say holding a child who ate once every three days before Compassion saved her life, didn’t go to school before Compassion educated her, didn’t know she mattered until Compassion told her how much God loved her. Forgive me.
When Yancey kissed my cheek and told me good-bye at the bus stop that day I knew I’d never miss my house or my cable again.
Our house sold and we moved into another down the street, less than half the size. And we immediately received opportunities to use our extra wealth to help out those around us.
A bible study and a little girl flipped my life upside down. I’m not as worried now as I once was – I’ve seen the joy of the truly desperate and poor and believe their trusted God is my God too. I don’t want anything – I’ve had everything and been bored and thirsty for more, and I’ve had less and known passion and felt full. I’m not as easily upset – focussing my life on the third world has exposed the trivial trials of the first world for what they really are. I spend less – I see every starving child, their hair falling out, their tongues swollen and red, every time new technology is released, or I see an advertisement, or I stand before a cash register. I know for certain how much life my money can buy.
So I think Compassion should add a line to their slogan: “Releasing Americans from wealth in Jesus’ name.” They do this. They gently, lovingly, pry the hands of the wealthy off the stuff we’ve labeled “mine” and use it to care for the poorest of the poor in the name of a God who says everything and everyone is his.
I’m looking forward to traveling to Uganda this weekend with a bunch of fellow wealthy Americans in need of release. I’m praying we’re kissed by children and whispered to by the voice of God. I’m praying our minds and hearts are packed to the top with images and stories we’ll carry with us to the workplace, the neighborhood and the mall. I’m praying we’re released from our wealth, the trivial, our own hunger and thirst, and from the lie that our wealth was given to us for us and not the least in this world.
Pray with me.