In June 2009, I visited my first Compassion child who lives in Indonesia. It was not only a time of joy and blessing but also an eye-opening encounter that deepened my awareness on what poverty really is and who the poor truly are.
Although what we can muster, when we try to help them, is so token compared to what Christ did for us, such experiences invite us to reflect on the love of Christ from a new angle.
Visiting sponsored children is much more than giving great family gifts and feeling a sense of satisfaction for the contribution made to relieve material poverty. Poverty is multi-dimensional. The children and their families in developing world may suffer from physical poverty and thus may look inferior to us in their outward appearances, but often they have a lot to teach us on how to reduce our spiritual poverty that we may not even know existed.
A poor farmer once said to a Western visitor; "You are poor. You have God, and things that take your eyes off God. I have only God." It is not a coincidence that the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 starts with blessings for the poor who depend on God for their needs, which also comes with the greatest promise of all - the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. So from whom can we learn how to abandon our idolatry, greed and prideful self-sufficiency? Who can show us a life marked by humble and wholehearted dependence on God truly look like?
In July 2010, I had the privilege of visiting my second Compassion-sponsored child in Ethiopia. The Compassion project worker told me that over 90% of the people in the region are Muslims. Subsequently, the majority of the children in the project, including my sponsored child and his family, were Muslims.
The project worker went on to explain that there was some resistance toward the Compassion program at the beginning. But when Compassion showed the benefits of the program to the community through 'deeds', not just 'words', people started to accept and sent their children to the program.
This reminded me about the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus showed us who our neighbours really are – anyone in need regardless of their race, politics, class or religion! Not everyone is our brother or sister in the faith, but everyone who is in need is our neighbour, and we are called to love our neighbour!
In that little village in Ethiopia, I was deeply challenged to reflect on God's heart for the lost. When I entered my sponsored child's home, his mother warmly greeted me and started to roast coffee beans in a charcoal fire. She also prepared popcorn. Looking around the poverty-stricken house, I could not fail to be moved by her generosity. The family had absolutely minimal to even survive on, but generously offered everything they had for the guests.
I realised how small my Compassion sponsorship really was in comparison. It was said that generosity shown by the poor often humbles even the most generous among us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was no surprise that the rich taste of original Ethiopian coffee I received that day was the best coffee I've ever had in my life.
I came back to Australia with a renewed spirit. It is my prayer that you who read this testimony will be encouraged to visit your sponsored child one day and change your life and life of others forever. All it takes is your will to love your neighbour as yourself. Finance or busyness of life should never be the hindrance to what truly matter to life. A good friend of mine once told me "when there is vision, there is provision".
Daniel Jang from Newcastle, New South Wales has worked for Compassion Australia for the past 2 years. He is currently preparing to join the ship MV Logos Hope, bringing knowledge, help and hope to the people of the world.