from my journal...
Despite the short night of sleep (we arrived at our hotel shortly before 3 am), I woke up ready to experience Compassion in Peru. We started our day by visiting one of the CDSP (Child Development Student Programs) student center and church. As we arrived in the neighborhood, we saw several teenage boys running in the streets waving and shouting to welcome us. We pulled up to the church and there was a big banner that said WELCOME SPONSORS - surrounded by the student center workers and the Compassion children. I got very emotional as I realized my dream of 17 years was coming true. I was really here, in a church filled with children and adults who were working with and benefiting from Compassion International's ministry.
We were ushered in and the service began. This was a special service for us and was student led. Children took turns welcoming us, thanking us, praying, reading Scripture, leading worship and leading the Bible lesson. Of course it was all done in Spanish, but we had some translators with us.
Ian, our trip leader, working the crowd
It was amazing to watch the teens lead worship - to see their love for Jesus flowing out of them. Their faces shone as they worshiped God with abandon. I was especially drawn to one of the boys. He was just having so much fun worshiping God and I couldn't help but watch him. The music wasn't great, but the worship was so real and genuine that you knew God was there.
Me with some children sitting on me and around me...there were not enough chairs for everyone, so the children were more than willing to sit on our laps.
After the service, the children were dismissed tot heir classes. Prior to the trip, I had requested child packets for the projects we were visiting (I even introduced you to the children before I left). My intent was to meet these unsponsored children, learn more about them and then find them a sponsor.
I had one packet from this particular center - 5 yr. old Emanuel. As the children were leaving, I asked a staff member if she knew this little boy. What happened next could only have been orchestrated by God. This woman looked at me and said "This is my son."
Children around me started looking at the packet and getting excited. As more and more children gathered around me, someone went to get Emanuel. Within a couple minutes, his entire family was standing in front of me - his three siblings, his mother and his father (who had the day off work).
I was trying to explain that I would try to find a sponsor for Emanuel, but then I remembered I had asked God to make it clear to me who I should sponsor on this trip. I realized this was an incredible way to begin a relationship - standing before me was his entire family. I could meet them all and get to know them.
His mother, Elisa, works with the teens, and I was able to talk with her quite a bit. Although she works on staff at this particular student center, the family is still very much in need of assistance. The father's work is not steady, and much of Elisa's work is volunteer. I realized that by sponsoring her son, I will be supporting not only their family, but also the ministry of this church and Compassion student center. As you can imagine, being the head teacher of the teens is very draining, very demanding. As we talked, Elisa explained to me how encouraging it is to know that I am supporting not only her son, but also her in her work with the teens in this project. Compassion allows 2 children per family to be sponsored. Emanuel's older brother, Pablo who is 18, also has a sponsor.
Me, Emanuel, Elisa (mother), Alexa (Emanuel's sister), Pablo (Emanuel's brother) and Ronald (father)
Me and Emanuel
After the children went upstairs, we had the opportunity to hear from the pastor of this church and each student center worker, including the teachers for all the age levels. We were better able to understand how that CDSP works.
Then the children came back and put on a program for us. Little Emanuel sat on my lap, and his sister Kristi sat next to us. Emanuel's older brother, Pablo (18) and sister, Alexa (10) were both part of the program. During this time, Emanuel's father had gone home to get the family photo album to show me, and they gave me 3 photos to keep.
Emanuel, me, Kristi (Emanuel's younger sister) and another girl
Our new little boy
Emanuel, Alexa and Kristi
I finally got a smile out of him!
This is the pastor of the church that hosts this Compassion Student center and Soledad. Sole works for the country office and organizes sponsor and advocate visits. She was with us the entire week and is hugely responsible for our wonderful experience.
Elisa, Emanuel's mother, works with the teens.
Compassion Staff - before we left we gathered around the staff and prayed for them. I was able to stand next to Elisa and hold her hand. It is very rare to meet a child's entire family, so I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.
Soon after the program ended, we had to leave. I got about a dozen hugs from Elisa, and here they are waving goodbye to me on the bus.
Here are some photos of some of the neighborhoods we passed on our way to this church and student center.