"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." - Matthew 18:5
from my journal...
How do I even begin to process today? After a good night's rest and delicious breakfast in our hotel, we boarded the bus and drove north to a Compassion project. The hills are sandy with very few rocks, and squatters set up their communities in the hills. The further we got from Lima, the more extreme the poverty became. Many houses in these communities do not have electricity or running water.
It was a very strange feeling as we pulled up into the Peruvian slum in our big bus. We were clean, well-dressed, bellies full and many had cameras around their necks. Many in our group got off the bus and began taking pictures of the people and houses nearby. The bus was not parked outside the church as the roads leading to the church were too crude for a big bus, so the people we were initially seeing may or may not have been part of the church and Compassion's project. I had this overwhelming feeling that we were being "those Americans", smiling and snapping pictures. I know our motivation is pure. As advocates we want to document and share the great need that is so prevalent, but I also really want to respect these people and not rob them of their dignity. They are not on display or here for our entertainment. Their situation is very real and this life is all they know. Because of the internal conflict I was experiencing, I did not take too many photos outside the Compassion project or home visit we did.
When we arrived at the church, some of the young CSP children were dressed in costumes, holding American flags, waiting to welcome us.
The particular church and Compassion center we were visiting today houses CSP, CDSP and has been the recipient of CIV funds. The focus of our morning was learning more about CSP. Compassion's CSP has four areas of focus: physical, social emotional, intellectual and spiritual. We learned specifically how these areas of focus are implemented by hearing from the CSP staff, looking at the beautiful display they had and doing a CSP home visit (more on this later).
I was amazed at how much of what they do, I take for granted. In the physical area, they teach nutrition and hygiene. In the social emotional area, they seek to improve self-esteem by celebrating kids birthdays and graduations, provide photo albums and take photos of the children as they grow and provide developmental toys for the children to use at home. For intellectual focus, they not only help the children develop through academics and skills, they also help the mothers learn how to make things (crafts) to generate extra income. They passed around sample items and we were all impressed with the quality. Finally and most importantly, in the spiritual area, they disciple the mothers, doing Bible studies at the center and in the home. They also baptize mothers when they become believers. Each child receives a children's Bible and each mother receives a Bible to have in the home.
After the CSP presentation, we were encouraged to visit the classrooms (stimulation rooms). In the first classroom I went in, the children were learning how to cut with scissors. I loved listening to the teacher sing a little song about cutting as she encouraged the children to keep trying. What a joy to watch the mothers and children working and learning together. They also did a little music and played different toy instruments.
I visited the next classroom where mothers and children were playing with educational toys. I love this picture of the toothbrushes and washcloths - a visible sign of the physical focus of Compassion's ministry. I noticed there were toothbrushes in every classroom of the student centers we visited.
The Child Survival Program exists to ensure children are surviving and thriving, so that by age 4 they can enter the Child Development Sponsorship Program. CSP sponsorship is only $20 a month and I cannot recommend it enough. You will not have an individual child matched up to you, but you will receive letters and updates from the mothers and pastors participating in the CSP you support. Each CSP aims to serve 50 mother/child units, ranging in age from pregnancy to age 3 or 4. Our family sponsors a CSP in India and have enjoyed being able to support the most vulnerable of the poor. Please prayerfully consider CSP sponsorship, especially if you are wanting to do more, but can't afford to sponsor another child or aren't particularly good at writing letters to your children. Let me know if you are interested and I will get you the information you need. You can go through Compassion's website, but I would appreciate you going through me so I (and Compassion) can keep track of my influence as a result of this trip. I can't wait to hear from you....