It’s 10:50 AM on a Saturday, I’m flying home in hour 10 on the long journey back from Quito, Ecuador. The trip this past week took me to Compassion project sites across the Andean region of the country, in the capitol city and then south as far as the highlands surrounding Riobambas. After 5 days, I’m back on a plane to Ohio, and I’ll be traveling to Pennsylvania in an hour for weekend events.
This trip has been a whirlwind of faces, impressions, experiences, statistics, and relationships, where I’ve been able to glimpse for a brief moment some of the realities of the families and individuals we’ve met this week. I’ve seen for the first time in my life absolute poverty firsthand—a single mother with absolutely no skills trying to care for her 4 children… an 11-year old girl dreaming to one day become a veterinarian as today she makes the decision to go to school and a Compassion program while her mother goes to the bars and leaves her isolated and alone in their city home… a little boy who with his other brothers and mother share a mattress they found on the street and huddle together for warmth each night…
The story that haunts me still is that of Rosa and her husband and their granddaughters. She’s clearly older than she remembers, but she says she’s 51. Her husband is no more than 4 ft tall, bending over a wooden cane. They care for their two granddaughters who are 7 and 11, who lost their single mother a few years ago when she died of poverty related conditions. Rosa’s body is ravaged by osteoporosis and arthritis, to the point where she can neither cook, nor clean, nor work their two small plots of land. Instead, their 11 year old granddaughter takes cares of the daily chores, the planting and harvesting of the crops, and the cleaning.
Rosa breaks down as we talk to her. She knows that when she dies, the future of these children, these two beautiful girls, will be uncertain. Our translator breaks down as she shares Rosa’s hopes for the girls. Later we ask the girls what they want to be: the younger one hopes to be a teacher. The older one wants to be a doctor.
In their red Andean tunics these girls live in impossible situations with impossible choices. There is not the choice between options, but the choice between necessities. Like the others we’ve met on this trip, these families live on the brink of disaster, on the brink of hopelessness, a brink that could easily become the abyss of their realities if not for an organization like Compassion.
Because of Compassion, children, mothers, families on that brink have an assurance that there is a hope and a future for them and those they love. Through programs at local churches, those in the most helpless of states are cared for and provided for by people in their own country with a vision for ending spiritual and physical poverty; aided by resources through Compassion, these churches create programs that provide food, training, vital resources, and above all, the love of Jesus shown through the simple reality of compassion as one person affects one person’s life. Taking that one-to-one vision even further, children are sponsored by a single sponsor or sponsor family from around the world, where that child has the opportunity to be invested in financially and spiritually through the child sponsor relationship.
What gives me hope is that Rosa’s two granddaughters are sponsor children. Because of this, they are in a program where they receive a hearty meal 4 days a week; both also go to school, have medical examinations, learn to read, and be children for those 4 days a week. There is a place where those children can be who they were meant to be, and there is a community filled with individuals who will ensure both children will eventually have the chance to be the people they dream today of becoming.
These are impossible circumstances, situations where simple solutions do little to still our fears, calm our anxieties, give us easy answers to help us sleep better at night. For Rosa and her family, there are still so many unknowns as to what the future holds. There is still the daily struggles of absolute poverty. But for her granddaughters, there is a hope and a future. There is a group of people who will see them to the end and make sure that their lives are better because of the truth of who Jesus is—in word and in deed.
We land in the next couple of minutes and I’m back to my own journey. But the reality is I can’t go back the same after what I’ve seen. There is so much to still process, and I won’t soon forget any of it.