Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Losing compassion for Compassion International.

Now I shall open a can of worms. Let's see if the snit will hit the fan with this one. I'm losing compassion for Compassion International. (Wow...I'm already barraged by guilty feelings just by typing this!)

In case you don't know, Compassion International is a major non-profit Christian organization that works around the world to save children from poverty. They provide opportunities for people to sponsor children in developing countries, and the money goes to the child for food, clothes, school, and Christian education.

MY INTRODUCTION TO COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL

I first heard about Compassion back in the early '90s when I began to notice that Christian Rock Musicians were promoting the organization from the stage, at their display tables, and even in their CD inserts. Not too long after that, some musical friends of mine became "Compassion Artists" and included promotions for Compassion in their own performances. By the mid-'90s, some of my personal friends had become Compassion sponsors, donating money each month to help an individual child (or two, or three), with the kids' photos on their refrigerator.

When I would play shows on tour, and share the bill with Compassion bands, and hear keynote speakers do their presentations, I'd always get a slight case of the willies...something about the way that the artists did the pitch from the stage, and the huge stack of children's photos in plastic wrap at the back of the venue. And then, the frenzy of audience members after the show sifting through packets of kids, deciding which kid they'd like to "take home" and sponsor. Of course, I also felt a thread of guilt about my own feelings...how could I be so cold, that I didn't "get" this kind of service project? The years went by, and I never sponsored a child.

SHOWBIZ TEMPTATION

By the early 2000s, I had been hearing about Compassion International for a decade. Some friends of mine (who I really trust and respect) had even gone on to work full-time for the organization, working out of the corporate offices in Colorado. These friends show nothing but dedication and complete belief in the cause, so I always think to myself "Well, if THEY believe in the work so much, it MUST be really awesome."

I continued to connect with musicians who had become Compassion Artists, and I was quite amazed at the opportunities that these artists received. Compassion flies their artists around the globe to the areas where the sponsored children live, and the artist can personally meet and connect with the child(ren) they've been sponsoring, and see the effectiveness of the ministry in person. Then when the musician returns to the concert tour, they're even more passionate and committed to the work that Compassion is doing and they'll promote it even more from the stage. Personal friends of mine were jetting around the world to developing countries and seeing some truly powerful things.

A few years ago I was at a meeting with an up-and-coming Christian Rock musician who had really experienced a boom in his career. We weren't talking about outreach or service...we were talking about showbiz...and when asked "What was one of the best decisions you made in your music career?" the performer talked about the benefits of affiliating with a child sponsorship organization....they'd gather the artists for training sessions in retreat centers, offer free seminars with Nashville producers/consultants on improving your performances, fly you around the globe to meet your sponsored child, allow you to network with and befriend successful Christian rock stars, and get you booked on major festival stages with big name acts. Of course, he was very good about couching all of this in the context of "ministry" and "saving children from poverty," etc. He wasn't acting like a jerk about it, but man, it sounded pretty glamorous to me.

Despite the lures of good networking, world travel, bigger gigs, and yes, the opportunity to connect a little self-less-ness to my personal musical ambitions, I never signed on to be a Compassion Band. The whole thing still gave me a very slight case of the creeps.

THE GUILT COMES ON

A couple years ago Tony Campolo was speaking a few blocks away from my house at a big church. If you don't know about Tony, he's one of the most influential Christians in America, and Lutherans have sort of "adopted" him as one of our own (he's Baptist, I think), because he's got a real ELCA-like approach to social justice. I'd seen Tony speak at a bunch of Lutheran events, and I always enjoy his talks, so I went to see him in my own neighborhood. As usual, his lecture was exciting and funny and loud and emotional, and he whipped the audience into a frenzy, like he always does. At the end of the talk, he launches into a pitch for Compassion International. I didn't know Tony was a Compassion Artist! Interesting. Now, as a Lutheran, I'm very sensitive to calls for works-righteousness, and I can always see the red flags waving when that kinda stuff is coming around the bend.

Tony looks at the crowd and says "I'm not saying you have to sponsor a child tonight, in order to get to heaven....(uh oh, I'm thinking)....BUT, when you die and you walk up to St. Peter at those pearly gates and he reads from the scriptures 'whatever you've done for the least of these, you've done it to me,' and asks you 'What have you done for the least of these?' ...then you can know you've sponsored a Compassion child and rescued them from poverty!!" And I got that queasy feeling that I've felt before at non-Lutheran, fundy-Christian events...and I left feeling depressed and ticked. BUT, over the years I've been sort of brainwashed to think that Tony Campolo is the best Christian example and best Christian thinker/spokesman that we could ever ask for, so I'm actually BELIEVING what he said!! I'm having these feelings like "Campolo said that if I sponsor a child, I can prove my worthiness at the gates of heaven! Maybe I'd better do it, just in case all this Lutheran talk about grace doesn't pan out in the end." Like I'm gonna use Compassion International as a Tony Campolo-sponsored insurance policy for eternal life. I still didn't sponsor a child that night, but man, the pressure was on.

I CAVE

Last Fall I was just about to tell Dawn (my wife) that I thought we should sponsor a Compassion kid. I had seen the mess that was Hurricane Katrina, the ongoing crap in Iraq and Darfur, natural disasters in China, and everything else in the news, and I wanted to do ANYTHING to make some sort of positive difference in this world. It seemed like Compassion would be a good way to help out a bit. But I never told her...I was just thinking about it.

I'd also been reading the blog by Christian musician Shaun Groves. I've never met Shaun or heard his music, but he's a good blogger, so I always checked out his commentary from the road. He's a Compassion Artist, and throughout his career he became so dedicated to Compassion, that rather than being a musician who promotes Compassion, he became a Compassion advocate who happens to play music. Here's a link to a typical Shaun blog post...these days his blog is pretty much all Compassion International, all the time. Perhaps I was being brainwashed by Shaun Groves. He was gonna come to Minneapolis a few months ago to do a free seminar with Christian musicians about affiliating with Compassion, and I thought about going to hear the pitch, but the seminar got canceled.

Finally, we were visiting some friends last October, and I knew that they'd sponsored a Compassion child for many years. I'd always seen the kid's photo on their fridge. I told our friend "You know, I see that you still sponsor a child through Compassion, and I've been thinking it's time that Dawn and I do it, too." My friend got a shocked look on her face, and the whole room got really quiet. She stood up and walked in the other room, came back to where I was sitting and dropped a Child Packet on my lap...a photo of little Emily from Ecuador. My friend said to me, amazed: "I had agreed to help Compassion with a promotion, and I had committed to find a sponsor for one child by October 26th. I've been so busy that I have not done any work to get this child sponsored...today is October 26th, here's the kid." It was one of those coincidences that someone like Sarah Palin would call "The Lord at work." Dawn and I took Emily's packet home, did the paperwork and sponsored her. I was now a Compassion sponsor, after more than a decade of avoiding it. We put her picture on our fridge.

SECOND THOUGHTS

Soon after Emily's photo went up in the kitchen I began to have some regrets, but I couldn't explain why. As 2008 began, I got some signs that maybe we should back out of the deal. After we agreed to sponsor Emily, Compassion International sent us the big kit with instruction on how to write to her, encourage her, and develop a relationship with her. Sadly, I was not surprised to see what was written in the literature for new sponsors. Here are some direct quotes:

from the guidebook entitled Compassion Answers Your Questions About Child Sponsorship:
"we will not forward materials depicting ...the living out of a homosexual lifestyle."

and, from the "Your Letter" form, where you can write a message to your child:
"Please do not send communications...or comments condoning sexual relationships outside the heterosexual marriage covenant"

I also found out that Compassion shares a Statement of Faith with the National Association of Evangelicals. Yes, that's right, Ted Haggard (okay I shouldn't have brought him up, I regret it, he has nothing to do with my general point about the NEA...thanks Shaun for helping me not distract from my point), and all the Biblical interpretation that comes with that crowd.

Aw man, I didn't know any of this when I signed up!! As a Christian who stands for full inclusion (ordination, marriage, etc.) in the church for gays and lesbians, what am I supposed to do about this?

I know it's a free country, and Compassion is free to include or exclude anybody they want. If they want to pass a rule that they only take heterosexual donations, that's fine. But, that doesn't mean I have to like that rule, or stay in this arrangement with them. I know some wonderful gay couples at my church who would have a fifty dollar bill that would really help some kid in Ecuador, and I think it's lame that they're forbidden to have both their names on the return address label.
(YES YES YES, before you angrily comment, I know that the local churches in these other countries that Compassion partners with share their same conservative values, and Compassion is trying to support the values of the local congregations! I get it. I just wish it wasn't so, and I don't like being involved with it. If you love it, then you and Sarah Palin can sponsor a Compassion kid and feel great about it.)

EVEN MORE SECOND THOUGHTS

Now here's the icing on the cake. As I struggled with this problem, I went to my mailbox last winter and received an issue of The Lutheran magazine, featuring an in depth article on the work of Lutheran World Relief and the ELCA World Hunger Appeal. It was a crystal-clear and inspiring article, and right there was a column called "Why Not Child Sponsorship?" Again, it was one of those moments that could be interpreted as divine intervention. Now I had actual evidence that giving all this money each month to Compassion International might not be the best stewardship of my funds.

WHAT NOW?

So, I'm really temped to pull the plug on my sponsorship of Emily, and write a polite but clear letter to the folks at Compassion International about the reasons I'm getting out. I haven't done it yet. I'm still sending the money to Emily, and none to LWR. I haven't had time to think much about it, or actually write the letter and do the paperwork. I'm too busy changing diapers and folding laundry and driving to preschool and making sure Svea doesn't fall down the porch steps.

I've been wanting to share this story for months and months, and feels good to blog about it. Does anybody relate to what I've been through? Any opinions about what I should do?

By the way, here's another blog about a Lutheran struggling with Compassion International.

58 comments:

g9ine said...

Jonathan,

You've done an excellent job communicating your journey and concerns in this post. I recognize and applaud the sincerity of your heart. I pray that you find the clear answer you are looking for.

Chris Giovagnoni

Bridget Delaney said...

I completely understand your concern about that. At one point, I was all convinced that I should help a Compassion Child when I start making enough money per month to afford that (freelance writing doesn't pay that much).

However, after Hurricane Katrina, I heard and read all about the great things being done by LWR and Lutheran World Relief and then did a VBS type thing (before the whole terrible experience with St. Paul that caused us to attend an Episcopal church) where we collected for the Bangladesh wells.

I have nothing against people who support children through any of these programs and nothing against it being done. It is good, but I feel there are many better ways to donate, too, so that whole communities get help and compassion, etc.

Bridgt

shaun groves said...

Thank you for your transparency and for reading my blog. I'm honored - really.

Because there's no competition between Compassion International and any denominational mission organization (or anyone else for that matter), I applaud you doing anything to "lend to the poor," regardless of who you choose to partner with in doing so. Compassion International partners with many Lutheran churches around the world to minister to sponsored children. There's no disagreement from me that the Lutheran denomination makes great contributions to the lives of those in spiritual and physical need. So, go for it. If sponsoring a child through Compassion is a a compromise for you of core beliefs and is keeping you from partnering with an organization with whom you share all core beliefs, then stop sponsoring a child and dive into the work of the Lutheran church - give yourself fully to that work.

However, I take issue with your interpretation of Compassion's sponsor correspondence guidelines.

"we will not forward materials depicting ...the living out of a homosexual lifestyle."

Why would anyone depict their sexual lifestyle to a sponsored child, whether that lifestyle be homosexual or heterosexual? I'm not Compassion needs this rule, to be honest. I think a general rule asking sponsors not discuss sexuality with their sponsored children would cover the bases and keep sponsored children safe.

"Please do not send communications...or comments condoning sexual relationships outside the heterosexual marriage covenant"

Same thing here. Would you or any homosexual actually write to your sponsored child about sexual relationships of any kind? It wouldn't be age appropriate or just plain appropriate to do so would it? So, again, the rule doesn't need to be worded this way, in my opinion.

It's a mistake also to link Compassion's beliefs to Ted Haggard or any other single individual. I could do the same with Lutherans couldn't I? I was in a community recently in which a Lutheran minister had molested a child - or was being accused of it. Would it be logical or fair to then discard any Lutheran beliefs that this sinister clergyman also adhered to and promoted?

So, again, I think you're wise to decide what your core issues are, the non-negotiables. If homosexual theology is one of those and if you believe Compassion is opposed to your view (and I cannot speak for them on this), then you are right and free to partner with someone who shares you core values. In fact, you'd be a hypocrite not to.

Thanks for thinking about ministry and not just doing it.

-Shaun Groves

Jonathan Rundman said...

Hey Shaun, thanks for posting!

Thanks for the gentle butt-kicking about the Ted Haggard mention...it was a useless addition to my general comment about the NEA, so I struck it from my blog. I want to be clear and baggage-free with my blog posting, and a mention of Haggard is only a distraction. I wish I never typed it. And of course I don't think that the NEA endorses any kind of infamous and scandalous behavior. I'm glad to streamline my thoughts, and get rid of any excess hoo ha.

Yes, I know there's no competition between Compassion and any other mission organization. The tricky thing is, for most people there are only so many dollars they have to give, so eveybody's gotta figure out how they're gonna share their money, and how they be the best stewards of that cash. It's very complicated, I think.

Regarding Compassion's correspondance guidelines, of course they don't want people sending graphic sexual stuff to little kids in the mail. Nobody from any denominational/theological tradition would want that. What Compassion is implying by saying "do not send communications...comments" or "the living out of a homosexual lifestyle" is this: they don't want the sponsored child to receive a family photo of a Dad and a Dad and their kids. And they don't want a sponsored child to read about the family life of a Mom and a Mom and their kids. And they don't want to see the sponsors' names written down if the names' genders aren't male AND female. So if a gay couple wants to sponsor a kid, they've got to lie about or hide just who exactly is a part of that sponsoring family. And that's the real shame of it all.

Oh man, I didn't want to even write this blog, and it took me months to get around to it. I don't want to be a jerk, and I don't want to dis people in poverty, or those who are trying to help.

It just sucks that faith is so complex and messy. We're all just trying to help!

Blog on, Shaun!

Benjamin said...

You seem to really agonize over a $28 a month commitment to a child in the third world where that amount of money is several weeks worth of wages. The issue of global poverty is not a myopic issue, and it is only outside poverty that someone can agonize over a faith and conduct position - which most para-church ministries have to have in place - which may lead to someone preventing themselves or others from doing what is right. I guess I just don't see the complication, or the fact that providing for Emily in some way contradicts your person as someone who also provides for your gay and lesbian friends.

Maybe I'm just way too pragmatic for my own good. I guess I'm evangelical, I have several Compassion clients here in the Springs, and my wife and I sponsor Doris and Eric in Kenya. But I align myself with typically liberal and social issues constantly. To me the big question Compassion asks is this: "how can we not help those in the depths of poverty?" That's the big question. They are one of the rare para-church ministries that is really unconcerned with a political agenda, and more on doing the work of the kingdom, to orphans, widows, children and aliens. "True religion".

Nathan said...

http://www.freegoodnews.com/2006/01/reformation_pas.html

if you scroll down about 3/4's of the way you'll see that Bernie has chosen to give his money to Compassion instead of John Hagee. In this case Compassion is no longer the enemy but a short stop on the way towards those of us with a more inclussive understanding of the salvation story. Otherwise known as leftyliberalnutjobs.

Nicole said...

Hello Jonathan!

I found your post by following the link on Compassion's blog. First I have to see that in many respects, I completely agree with you. Yet I still continue to sponsor childen and indeed, love Compassion International. Perhaps that makes me a hypocrite, but I don't lose sleep over that at night. ;)

I too discovered CI by way of a Christian rock concert. There in my seat was a package with a picture of a beautiful child and I, not having heard of this organization before, was completely smitten. At that time my beliefs were very similar to Compassion's regarding homosexuality. Over the years, however, my views have changed drastically, but I have continued to support the organization and my child, and have even began sponsoring three more children since then.

What it comes down to to me, is that no organization will ever completely fit with my personal beliefs. Not one. I will have to "compromise" in one or more areas, whether it be in helping a Christian or other religious organization, or by helping a completely secular organization. In some ways, I will never feel completely like my beliefs are completely in sync with those I am supporting. That is okay. I support with all my heart Compassion, although I do not agree with some of their views on homosexuality. In the same way, I support certain "secular" organizations even though I do not agree with their stance on say, abortion. There will always be compromises, but the good will almost always outweigh the bad.

I love Compassion because I have seen how it has changed lives and yes, perhaps even destinies. I love my children, their families, their communities, their countries. My heart has grown and spread out further than I thought could ever be possible. Things (wars, natural disasters, famines, etc.) don't just happen to "them" anymore, they happen to "my" children, to those whose face and handwriting and smile I could tell a mile away. When I signed on to sponsor my first child I made a commitment, in my heart and with God, to sponsor her until she graduated from the program. I made the decision that even if I had to go without a meal or give up something that I "thought" I needed, I would make sure she was provided for. The money has always been there since then, even if I had not seen it before. Perhaps the one thing that has made me understand the impact of Compassion the most is when I send family gifts, and letters and pictures are sent back. I have cried over words and smiling faces, and over wrinkled hands holding tightly to bags of rice. I feel very small in that moment, very humbled.

So I encourage you to follow your heart, follow where God is leading you. God lead me to Compassion, and lead me to a small amount of compromise and out of it my life has been forever changed. No, I will not compromise much. But in this case, the good outweighs the bad a hundred fold. But if, deep in your heart, you are not comfortable sponsoring Emily, then maybe you should "let" her go. I do not say this lightly as I have seen the impact that lost sponsorship can have on a child, but I also believe wholeheartedly that it is not the best scenario at all, for either yourself or the child, if you do not believe deep down that what you are doing is "right". Think about it. Pray about it. As I wrote before, in life we all must compromise in some form. The question is, is this a compromise you want to make? Your heart will give you the answer. I applaud you for caring so much about the widow and the orphan, and for wanting to help and make a difference. And I want to thank you for writing this post, for giving everyone a little food for thought.

May you, your family and your career be blessed!

Zack said...

I just found this on the net and thought it was a pretty interesting read. Very thought-provoking, thanks for your honesty on such a taboo subject.

However, I had a hard time mentally digesting the implications of a few points. It seems to me that if you withdraw your sponsorship of Emily simply because of your disagreement with Compassion's evangelical approach and beliefs, that you would actually be punishing Emily far more than Compassion. I understand not wanting to align with an organization you can not fully support, but the vast majority of your money is going to Emily, not Compassion. I just checked CharityNavigator.com, and according to their numbers, Compassion spends about 83% of their funds on their "program" - meaning that $26.50 of your $32 each month goes directly to Emily. That number is likely even higher because the 83% figure includes all donations, not just child sponsorship commitments.

So, I found myself asking whether or not it would be worth withdrawing sponsoring from a poor girl in Ecuador because you didn't want to contribute a couple bucks each month to promote Compassion's mission - because the rest is going straight to Emily.

Just something to think about.

Zack

Amanda said...

I too have had this struggle with Compassion. I am also what I guess you would call a socially liberal Christian and have sometimes been ill-at-ease with supporting this organization. But for me, it just boils down to the child I have sponsored. The social issues I am concerned with in America are a complete non-issue for the child I sponsor in Rwanda. His concerns are being able to go to school and have decent meals because of my sponsorship. I am not condoning blindly giving to charities without any consideration of their core beliefs, and you need to do what you feel is right. But for me, I have just decided the good Compassion does in the lives of children around the world outweighs the theological differences I have with the organization.

That being said, I plan to continue sponsorship of my current child until he is an adult, but I do not plan to sponsor another child through Compassion. I think in the future I will look more carefully into the organzations I support before becoming personally and fiancially invested in them.

Krista said...

Following some links here so I'm new to your blog.
Thank you for writing such an honest post about the way you feel.

I just have a couple of questions/points though.

You mentioned Tony Campolo and his speech about using this as proof when you get to heaven. I find it incredibly sad actually that people would resort to guilt tactics to get children sponsored. As if there is not a world of good we can do in our own backyards? I bet there are some hungry needy children both in your town and mine.
However, I also know that Tony Campolo is his individual person and that Compassion does not necessarily endorse his every last word, even if he is a spokesperson for them.

Secondly, when you talk (and link) to the article about Why Not Child Sponsorship, I would have to disagree with the reasoning behind their choice. I'm not saying they are wrong to focus on the whole community. But I am saying they are wrong to find fault with individual sponsorships and therefore speak poorly of them. Just like there are multiple ways to solve problems, there are multiple ways to help those in need. They ALL have plusses and minuses.
Child sponsorship gives individual children hope, you can't deny the hope you hear in their letters and see in their faces. It gives children an education and possibilities for the future. yes, they need clean water to get to the future, but Compassion does help with some of these types of community projects as well. It's just not their main focus.

I'm not trying to change your mind. You have to do what you feel God leading you to in your heart. But I hope you won't think of Compassion as poorly in the future. They are trying to help in the way they see best, just as you are. Isn't every little bit better than nothing?

Brett G said...

Compassion has no rule, like you imply, about having only heterosexual sponsors or that anyone who doesn't live that lifestyle can't sponsor a child. There is not rule saying you can't have two guys or two girls names on as a single sponsor. There are tons of groups and friends who sponsor that way. Granted, there will be some difficulty explaining if the child asks.
Just like someone said earlier, if you don't agree with the core values of an organization, you are doing both yourself and the organization a disservice.
I can agree with Compassion's statements you have issue with, but also can come up with reasons why the wording is biased unfairly. The Bible does say not to be gay. It also says not to lie. It says not to hate. It says not to have sex with someone you aren't married to, gay or not. Why did Compassion give the blanket statement about not sending communication inconsistent with the Christian values and philosophy they share with the partner churches, then only give specific examples about one sin (that happens to be a hot-button topic).
Jesus hung out with "sinners". He never talked down to them. He never condoned their actions or listened to their excuses either. He loved everyone. His life is our example of how to live and treat others. It's hard to treat everyone the same because we are imperfect humans and he was a perfect human.

Juli Jarvis said...

Jonathan -- I appreciate your transparency, and appreciated everyone's excellent comments. I think it is important (as some of you implied) to keep Emily front and center. What is best for her? You will know as you pray about this, Jonathan. But I do believe Compassion's ministry is the best answer for her needs (whether you end up continuing as her sponsor or not) for these reasons: Compassion is the only major child sponsorship ministry that works exclusively through churches to implement its program, the only one to ensure that every child will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and the only one that seeks long term discipleship for each and every child. Through Compassion's ministry, the entire family benefits -- through nutritional classes for the parents, health care needs met and ministry from the church and project.

I agree that no one should ever sponsor a child out of guilt -- it should only become a part of your life when God directs you to do so. When He began speaking to me about helping a child in need, I prayed for months about which company I could trust. One day, I was out for lunch with a missionary Doctor friend from Haiti. She was telling me about a recent hurricane that destroyed all the homes, just as the recent ones have done. I said to her, "What do those people do? How do they get by? What do they eat?" She said, "Well, of course -- the children that were on Compassion didn't miss a single meal." I asked her if she was talking about Compassion International (she was). She then proceeded to tell me about the excellent values, effectiveness and integrity of Compassion's work in Haiti. In fact, several of the nurses in her clinic were formerly sponsored children!
I knew this was the right one for me to partner with -- and was especially pleased, because God had answered my prayers. I immediately called Compassion and asked for a child from Haiti. I sponsored him for 16 years until I finally got to go visit him, and now sponsor his little brother. I found out, through the visit, that their father is a Pastor that walks 4 hours every Saturday to the church he ministers in, and back home again on Sunday.

I also have a girl in Thailand that I've sponsored since she was little, and she has been accepted to Compassion's Leadership Development Program (which means she is currently in University studies). I continue to sponsor her and only hope & pray I can be there for her graduation! I can vouch for the fact that Compassion's ministry works, and it is what they say it is. I wonder what Emily's future will be?

Dave said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking piece, Jonathan.

I also thought "we will not forward materials depicting ...the living out of a homosexual lifestyle" might mean sending a letter or photo from a family with two Dads or Moms. What else could it mean? Nobody should be depicting sexuality to a child, regardless of orientation.

(Bonus question: What would depicting a "heterosexual lifestyle" look like? From what I gather, Donald Trump's a hetero, as am I, yet if you put Don's "lifestyle" next to mine, you wouldn't see too many similarities. Discuss.)

I don't think the column on child sponsorship was saying it's wrong to focus on the individual ("all gifts given in God’s name are doing wonderful things"), I just think it's saying that that approach has some unfortunate side effects and a broader focus, while it may be less personal, doesn't create those types of situations and can be much more effective at providing lasting help.

LWR's annual report says 87.4% of their funding goes to international programs, so more of your money gets to those in need.
(My brand's relief organization, UMCOR, distributes 100% of contributions because we UMs fund its infrastructure through our denominational structure.)

LWR may even be working in Emily's community as well. If not, there are lots of other Emilys in many communities that you'd be helping.

compassiondave said...

The way I look at, satan laid open a big ol bear trap with a sign reading, "Step HERE" and you obliged him. As clumsy as that act might be, no one can fault you for that--we all do it.

The question that remains is how to get out of satan's snare. The flesh screams for a worldly solution, in this case, "kill the messenger," (or more accurately, dump the child whose sponsorship led to your revelation).

But alas, what WOULD Jesus do?

Jesus would opt for forgiveness. He would say find it in your heart to forgive those who do not agree with you; who have assaulted you understanding of righteousness, and in so doing enjoy the forgiveness Christ has afforded you and your debts.

Adam Wright said...

Is this about Emily or about you... If you can't love her as your own... if you can't mentor her because of that hurt you feel knawing at your ego, then maybe you shouldn't be a sponsor. Your post belies a jaded view of Compassion.... beginning with sponsored artists and Christian speakers, and settling in on your personal theology. Sponsorship is about relation building and encouragement. If you begrudgingly give to Compassion, you're not helping Emily. Allow her have a sponsor that will show her the love of Jesus... and don't worry... when you withdraw your sponsorship, Emily will continue in the Compassion program. You'll be doing her a great favor.

Molly said...

Wow Jonathan, what a thought provoking article. I really appreciate you writing it and your point of view on the topic. I have been a compassion sponsor for almost 3 months...Just long enough to get my first letter from "my" child.

I struggle with what to say that isn't going to be COMPLETELY foreign to him because not only of economic differences but cultural. For me the request by Compassion to not talk about (homo)sexuality would also translate...mmm how about you not mention sex at all...HOW inappropriate! But, then I pulled out my handy dandy Compassion Sponsorship folder and right there in the Letters, Gifts and Your Sponsored Child brochure were a list of topics that work well and those that don’t. I wouldn’t be comfortable in telling a 9 yr old American child about homosexual relationships either-there is an age appropriateness with all things and for me, it falls more under that.

Regarding Mr. Campolo-he is one charismatic speaker and VERY passionate about poverty. I have also had the pleasure, in this case he was at an event to raise money and awareness for water systems and he offended a lot of people when he suggested that most of us could write a check for a treatment plant before we left that night, he saw the cars in the parking lot! WOW. But, he was also correct. We could, if we chose and that was the problem-no one wanted someone to point out that WE COULD help-but we really weren’t interested in “the least of these”.

You very well may decide that you can not get past that one line in the brochure-I can’t say that I would be ok with that, because honestly, it doesn’t effect me. There will be another sponsor for Emily, if it comes down to that. I would just hope that you could find a similar venue that does meet with your criteria where children of the world could benefit.

Brandon said...

Sponsoring is about letting God use us to bless a kid, it's not about us. It's about embracing the challenge to play a part in building His Kingdom. As with our lives, it's about dying to ourselves and submitting to Him. Surely God will move us beyond our comfort zone, if we decide to play a part in His team. And in the process we'll never be the same. We'll grow more like Him.

At the end, your motivation to sponsor in His name should be simply that you love Him and you want to teach that clearly and in a powerful way to a kid somewhere.

Wendy W said...

It took my husband and I 6 months to decide if we were going to sponsor a child-researching multiple agencys. Another 3 months looking at the web sight We did this for a couple of days putting kids in our shopping cart and taking them out. We prayed "Lord which child needs us right now?" Hikma stayed in our cart.

I tell Hikma that we lover her and her family so very much that we hold them so very close to our heart. We feel that we are not sponsoring a child but helping a family, our neighbors

God lead you to your friends house to find Emily. He knew what was in your heart to speak out about your loss of Compassion to address all that are reading your post and making comments.

I am just one person, giving a clild something to look forward to (our next letter). That child shares the love and joy that she has, and it is now spreading.

Danielle said...

I sponsor a child through Compassion as well as another child through another organization. I have had some difficulties with this other organization and have debated whether or not to continue with the sponsorship. Now my difficulties are not along the same line as strongly disagreeing with a belief or position they have taken so I can't relate on that point. I have gone back and forth on what I should do and I keep coming back to the decision to continue to sponsor her. I can't give up on this child because the truth is they probably don't have a lot of people to support, provide, and stand by them. How can I let her down? I believe God lead me to sponsor this child. I believe that God can use what I give to change a child's life. I believe that what you are doing, through Compassion, will change Emily's life. Yes, there are other organizations and worthy causes to give your money to, which God may very well be leading you to do. I do know that sponsoring a child makes a difference and I ask for Emily's sake that you stay with it. On the other hand because I do think it's important to want to be sponsoring her it may be better that it's discontinued. I pray that if the decision to end the sponsorship is made that it will be done quickly so that another sponsor can be found for her. I also pray that if the decision to continue sponsoring is made that it wouldnt be done out of guilt or obligation but out of a willing heart.

Thank you for your openness and willingness to share.

Mark said...

Hi Joanathan, I to Am a Lutheran,but I am on the other side of the fence. Homosexual acts are still a sin. If you don't believe me go on a sponsor tour and visit the children's Pastors and ask them what they think on the issue. All the arguements you can come up with will not sway their point of view. Why? Because they are scripturally sound just like Compassion.

katiescarlet said...

I started sponsoring because of a Christian artist too. I have been on 4 tours to 4 countries to see my children. And each time, I am amazed at what Compassion is doing. Yes, it's child based, but if the child's father needs surgery, the medical fund pays for it, yes, it's child based, but it works thru a local church and therefore reaches a whole community, it's child based, but an unbelieving family sees the change in their child and the christians who are willing to help and become believers. It's child based, but thru the leadership development program, the Compassion kids can change their countries for Christ, it's child based, but Compassion funds will build wells in communities that need it's child based, but it affects the entire country.
I have gotten letters from my children, and their parents. One child said she never even thought she'd get to go to High School, and now she is thinking she might even get to college. One child sees his friends, who are 13 like him, working in the fields instead of going to school as he does. One parent thanked me for providing clothes for his son, because he couldn't. This isn't about pushing for homosexual rights it's about helping a child grow in the love of Christ and keeping her alive and healthy so she can change the world around her. You were led to your friends house, on the very day she had to find a sponsor. You were led to bring it up, and I do think Satan is trying to distract you from continuing to help her. Please keep praying. God bless.

katiescarlet said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, Compassion does get to the root of poverty, they provide med's for those with aids, malaria shots, training on how to have clean water and they have training at their programs, for the children to give them job skills, so that as adults they can support themselves. I have even read that some prior sponsored children now have the ability to sponsor a child themselves!
God bless.

bdraeger said...

This would be one of those situations where I really don't have much to say, as my dad said it already. I can appreciate where you're coming from, and my thoughts are with you.

Thanks for phrasing your ideas graciously. You bring up a valuable discussion in a productive way. Thanks, Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your heart in such an open way. It sounds like you were "guilted" into sponsoring. Doing something out of guilt never works very well. It almost seems like you have been searching for a way out of sponsorship for a long time and I think it's our human nature to find excuses for why we don't really want to do something we feel like we should, so when you read that article, it was your way out. Even so, I don't think it's a good idea to do something just because you feel guilty about not doing it. In the end your relationship with your child will suffer because you feel an obligation to help. Even if you and Compassion don't agree on this one issue, can't you put your anger aside so you can see clearly what you are supposed to be doing? It's ok if sponsorship isn't for you. There are many other ways to help fight poverty. Even Compassion has other ways to help. They have funds for medical emergencies, disasters, water projects, food relief, AIDS, and so many other things you could give to each month that help the children. It sounds like you might be struggling with some much bigger God issues, and I pray you find the peace you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan,
Let me first of all reassure you, Satan does not have you in his grip for being a critical thinker. The God I believe in is happy with us when we seek discernment and wisdom when it comes to how to do justice in the most effective way. In fact, social theory is very clear that when we attempt to help without the know-how, we actually can harm/debilitate/humiliate/etc.
For you to be very careful before you engage in a relationship with someone across the globe is not necessarily a bad thing. If there is not a mutuality in the relationship of another one of God's children, their dignity is wiped away, as well as ours. So, before we engage in these "partnerships" we need to be intentional about them so that they are indeed mutual. Jonathan, what you might be sensing in Compassion is the lack of mutuality in the relationship that robs both parties of feeling like they contribute fully to God's family. Putting kids in poverty on display at the back of a concert and then having people choose the child they find worthy of their support feels off (energetically) to me, also. We are really great at "service" in our churches and not as great at "justice". While service feels good short-term, what I hear you seeking is justice. This actually lets me know that you have LESS ego, not MORE ego. People with ego need to help a kid now because and see the fruits of their labor (maybe even to give them some comfort about their salvation status as the "Campolo" speech seemed to do), but people with less ego take the "long view" as Bishop Romero once quoted. He also recited the words, "we are prophets of a future not our own". That means a big part of our justice work should be about creating sustainable structures that will foster long term transformation, not necessarily today.
Just a random thought...you know how most policies are in place for a reason? It made me wonder, were people sending photos to their kids of them making out or was it just some preemptive homophobia happening there? Strange, huh?

Anonymous said...

I do understand your viewpoint on this and would not expect you to do something that went against your beliefs.

As a sponsor of three children through Compassion, as well as an Advocate, I am aware of the statement you mention as well. I happen to agree with it. However, it's not the only topic which could get the "not forwarded" decision. They will also not forward photos or letters containing or depicting violence, etc. They won't send a picture of your family (whatever it may consist of) standing in front of your large, sprawling, urban home either. Children in third world countries have no idea what living as most Americans do is remotely like (and vise versa). Do send them something like that could cause great harm. They also don't forward your personal address, email, etc. This is for the protection of the child and you. Unfortunately in our society today, it becomes very necessary to implement these practices to keep everyone safe. Do you think that pedophiles do not lurk on child sponsorship sites (and other places containing photos of children) and even try to sponsor one in hopes of a future meeting? It's sad that it's even something we have to guard against, but it's true nonetheless.

Having said that, I have to say that the homosexual lifestyle is sin. It is viewed no differently than any other sin as far as God is concerned. It's just a political hot topic and gets lots of attention.

Your viewpoint on any behavior (or anyone else's viewpoint for that matter) isn't the deciding factor is what is and isn't sin. Only God's viewpoint matters. He wrote The Book; literally. Love the sinner, hate the sin pretty much fits the bill. It's not my place to judge the actions of non-believers, but as a Christian, it is my responsibility to speak The Truth in love; always; and hold fellow believers accountable. That's not a job we're particularly fond of these days, which is why there's such a problem in the church today.
Do whatever you feel is best for you, but please don't make the decision based on the unwillingness to deal honestly, thoroughly, and accurately with the Scriptures.

Anonymous said...

"The homosexual lifestyle is a sin" is a correct statement as "homosexuality" was defined in ancient Greek culture. The bible is not fond of pederasty (Old dudes with young dudes) as well it shouldn't be. What was not available at the time, however, was the model we now have of mutual, monogamous relationships with care and respect. This, to me, is a much different ball of wax. If our relationships with one another are producing the "fruits of the spirit" then I suspect God might be thrilled. I think we all know a healthy relationship when we see one but we have to see it first. I have many gay friends involved in very healthy, life-giving partnerships and I know some hetero friends involved in some awful ones. I know some of them well enough to see the fruits their relationship is producing and call them out in love (if needed) if it is not producing love. Calling folks out in love has to happen within the context of a relationship, not yelling through a bullhorn at folks across the street (which, ironically, feels like what I am doing right now).

I agree that a responsible reading of scripture needs to happen. Not one that approaches the bible as a cookbook with two-sentence recipes, but as a narrative of the redemptive work of the Creator of the Universe. When you read the story in its entirety, it is difficult to deduce that a loving God would not also consider the advancements of our understanding about sexuality and take them into account.

And to those with a literalist, cookbook reading, it is important to note that Jesus never addressed homosexuality directly. If you take every word of scripture literally (what does "Mary had a little lamb" mean), and consider yourself a Christ-follower, how much should you address it? How big are the fish that you have to fry (Jesus had bigger ones like feeding the hungry and stuff)? Interesting stuff..

Brett G said...

To the last anonymous comment. Jesus didn't speak directly about a lot of issues. So does that mean we can frolic in what used to be 'sin'? Heck no. That is ridiculous to make such a claim.
Jesus did say that he didn't come to abolish the law and the profits. Is not homosexuality addressed in the Law? Yes.
Your philosophy/theology is quite wrong. I have issue with your comment, "it is difficult to deduce that a loving God would not also consider the advancements of our understanding about sexuality and take them into account."
God is God. He is I AM. He is never changing. He cannot change. Your statment makes it sound as if God made a rule and perhaps didn't know what would happen in the future. That would make God not God. He knows everything. He cannot learn anything, or be surprised by anything, or not see something coming as you imply.

Is it just Jesus' red lettered words that we live by? No. The entire Scripture is God Breathed, written for us. Numerous times in the New Testament sexual purity and immorality are discussed. So there I find another problem in your comment.

Anyways, I can understand where you are trying to come from and can appreciate your comments, although annonymous.

I too have some gay friends and they are awesome people! Certainly gay people can have great relationships and love each other. Most certainly straight people can hate each other and stare daggers through each other. The fact that their is love in the relationship doesn't cause God to overlook the sin. The fact that a straight couple are hating each other and seeking divorce doesn't make God overlook the sin in that relationship either.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Rick Warren's book,"The Purpose Driven Life?" I would suggest it to you, one of the main themes is, "it's not about you." God will provide for Emily, you don't hold her fate in your hands. God will continue to raise up sponsors. Compassion will continue to do God's work, change lives, and win souls for Christ, with our without you.

JLane said...

I had some similar questions about the "better stewardship of my money". I actually sponsor a child through World Vision but also love what Compassion does.

Anyway, my questions stopped when I realized that I couldn't pull the plug until I had that money already re-assigned and auto-drafted into that "better place".
I just think that doing something is better than the alternative of nothing that most people choose. And I could see myself falling into that without the auto-draft accountability.

Also, Emily, or Sefilina in my case, doesn't really care much about inclusion or religious stuff, they just need the money.

I've built a relationship with Sefilina through letters and think that by ending my sponsorship I could be an unfaithful representation of Christ in her eyes. Whether it is true or not, she may see it that way.

I would pay $100/month to ensure that there was no chance of that happening.

Rely on your relationship with God to make this decision... ask and He'll speak.

rainbowdoc said...

Jonathan, I appreciate your thoughts. My husband and I have sponsored Matthew from Uganda for about 4 months now after researching many organizations. We will continue our sponsorship. However, your information indicates that compassion uses significant amount of funds to "woo" Christian artists to be spokespersons. This is more bothersome to me than the other issues you mention. Can anyone add information to this part of the discussion? Again, we will not withdraw our support from Matthew through Compassion, but it may give us cause to not sponsor additional children through compassion and is certainly a disappointment. Thank you for your honesty.

BigBearyFairy said...

As a homosexual believer, I'd like to thank Dave and JR for their incredible compassion and insight. It's folks like you who help me still have faith, period.

Michael said...

I too have great admiration for Tony Campolo. I podcast him weekly, and have read some of his books. Often I strongly disagree with his politics, but I listen and try to have an open mind so I can challenge my own beliefs.

I've read Shawn Groves "Shlog", and been angered by some of his posts. Then I find myself thinking about those things, sometimes for weeks, and really examining my own beliefs. On the other hand, I often agree with him. Shawn - I have come to really love your blog!

I've met sponsors who have vastly different beliefs than mine. Yet I choose to focus on what we share... a love for our Father in Heaven, and a desire to serve Him the best way we know how.

I have seen, in person, how Compassion serves children and their families, and am forever changed by the experience.

Rarely (never?) do I agree with everything an organization stands for. Even when I agree with the basic philosophy on an organization, there will be individuals with whom I disagree. Nonetheless, I have decided to remain a sponsor, and volunteer my time as a Child Advocate because of what I have personally seen happening at Compassion Development Centers.

You blog post encourages us all to examine our choice to sponsor or not. Thank you!

Nate E. said...

Hey Jonathan. I sincerely appreciate not only your music, but the way I've been challenged by your thoughts over many years. I have probably sung the words to Xian bookstore to more people than I can count, in the course of normal conversations about how un-Jesuslike the Christian subculture tends to be.
I have felt really creepy being in the same space with you at youth conferences where much of what was presented was more about a gospel of sin-management, knowing that you must be just crawling inside. I've had that knot in my stomach too, but believe that God works in spite of us at least as much as through us, and I have never been ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Many worthwhile comments on this Compassion post have already been made, so I'll only add a few, and they come with the disclaimer that I receive biweekly paychecks from Compassion, even though I don't play music for a living. It's been 14 years since I witnessed some horrific poverty, and felt called to spend my life doing something about. For the last four years I've found myself at Compassion, wholeheartedly, warts (mine and Compassion's) and all.

I love what Lutheran World Relief does, believe that the ELCA does fantastic relief and development too, and believe there are some horribly mismanaged child-sponsorship programs out there. However, the link
http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article_buy.cfm?article_id=6959
throws around some sterotypes about sponsorship, and is simply justifying the ELCA's non-sponsorship approach, without regard to ways that appropriate child-centered development is extremely effective. The article is as much a piece of marketing as anything else, implying that giving to the the World Hunger Appeal is the best way to "focus on the root causes to eradicate poverty long-term." Implied is that child sponsorship is just too surface-oriented to really get to "the root causes or make a recognizable difference in the life of the child's whole community."

Compassion's model is always more development-than-relief oriented. And most importantly, Compassion's prime strength as I have witnessed it is that we work through the strength of the local church. Even the local Lutheran church. Every Compassion sponsored child receives his or her development through the system of a local church, and the root causes are dealt with one person and family at a time, by people in community who care.

Ahh, it's a messy world we Jesus-followers live in. I am glad it's an open conversation, glad you hold your convictions firmly enough to confidently write about them. We can all use the challenge to examine our purpose and approach closely, and we can continue to pray together that God's Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

All that, and I really stopped by today to drop you a line recommending you catch Sam Phillips on her current tour. I thought of you when I saw her last week, with spare, creative instrumentation.

Peace.

Tony said...

Either God made us all, or he made none of us. Remember why Jesus died on the cross. To make judgments and slice-n-dice the population into good and bad because of sexuality, shape of eyes, color of skin, gender, etc. is not right. Go with your conscience. Do not live with regret and uncertainty. Live your ideal, it is more positive to you and others.

I enjoyed the experience at Huachuca Oaks this weekend. I am blessed to have met you.

Nate E. said...

hey rainbowdoc. Here is a great link commenting on Compassion's collaboration with performing artists:
http://www.shaungroves.com/shlog/comments/an_answer_for_kate/

Lisa Herlocker said...

Holy Cow! Nice long explanation of lots of stuff I've thought about. If you want to sponsor a child and have a relationship with him/her talk to me about the students in Rwanda that people from Bethel sponsor. We pay their tuition.

I love BTW when you get all Lutheran geek and discuss things like works righteousness because I think that stuff all the time!

Clint said...

Jonathan, I may have overlooked a comment like mine, but essentially your decision should be one of dollars and cents, imho. Who has the least overhead, and who gets the most money committed to direct relief rather than administrative costs like flying rock musicians around the world? Give to the one that commits the highest dollars to what you believe in.

Second, you might want to look at which ones do development and create long-term relief strategies. That is why our household gives monthly to LWR. We believe they are a great organization doing great long-term relief around the world. I don't get fancy letters with photos of a child like I did back in my college days when I sponsored a Compassion child, but I know the money I give is being used well.

Gloria said...

Jonathan,

I've felt many of the same things as I've considered sponsorship with Compassion. In fact, I sponsored a little girl from El Salvador for two years before deciding to end my partnership with Compassion - because I could not continue to support an organization that furthered beliefs and ideals I felt were harmful to the sharing of the Gospel.

Does this make me a bad person? I don't think so. I know that someone else who supports Compassion and it's mission (which at its heart is good) will support Yesenia. I have chosen to support Lutheran World Relief and Disaster Reponse instead. One person cannot support every good charity - we must go where we truly feel God is calling us, in good conscience, knowing that God will take care of the rest.

I appreciate your honest struggle and your willingness to share. May God bless you as you discern what is right for you, and for Emily.

Dan Trumble said...

Greetings all!

I am a 15 year employee of Compassion and want to clear something up. Zack, on Sept 10, posted the following as part of his comment:

Compassion spends about 83% of their funds on their "program" - meaning that $26.50 of your $32 each month goes directly to Emily. That number is likely even higher because the 83% figure includes all donations, not just child sponsorship commitments.

While it is true that in fiscal year 2006/07 Compassion spent more than 83% of total expenses on program activities, this is not the same as saying that Emily receives $26.50 each month. Please realize that what is included in this 83% certainly includes the amount that goes to Emily's project on her behalf but it also includes other programmatic expenses (inlcuding managment and oversight of the program functions). If you want to see more detail of what the program expenses went to, I encourage you to look at page 4 of the 2006-07 audit report from KPMG. This report is the Statement of Functional Expense and the link is this

http://www.compassion.com/NR/rdonlyres/eahxjrbsvlgdjbzo6kjfstrysa5zbuwbtqqkp2hcpobrvfnpmtt4d5h6uafzsrfuu4cx45oiwkm7ut4qdb5tkhefd4f/GT06.pdf

Compassion has a great story to tell but I want to make sure it is an accurate story. We desire to be a ministry of integrity and I don't want to let this misunderstanding go without addressing it.

If you want to discuss this issue further, contact me at dtrumble@us.ci.org

Thanks,
Dan

DelsFan said...

rainbowdoc wrote: "However, your information indicates that compassion uses significant amount of funds to "woo" Christian artists to be spokespersons. This is more bothersome to me than the other issues you mention."

When I read how Compassion "woos" Christian artists I knew some people would have a problem with it. However, think about the large sums of money every organization of this type finds necessary to spend in order to secure donations. In the case of Compassion it is around $27MM per year, approximately 9% of their income (sadly, this is better than most other organizations of this type). That's a lot of dough! If there was a way to raise funds spending less than 9%-12% of their income, I'm sure most organizations would be doing it. Perhaps Compassion feels that the "little" money they spend sending artists around the world pays off much more effectively than other methods, so they stick with it.

I read recently that Caterpillar, a huge (well run) worldwide corporation, had reviewed some of their sporting sponsorships. They said they were dropping some, but remain committed to NASCAR because they believe the sponsorship (and all that goes with it) continually translates directly into increased sales.

I expect Compassion feels the same way about the money they spend on Christian artists - I'll bet, per dollar spent, it is much more effective than mass mailing or e-mails or web sites. I'd be willing to bet it is their most cost efficient form of advertising/fundraising.

Therefore, I applaud Compassion for sticking with a form of advertising that is both effective and efficient.

While no organization can be perfect, it should all be about helping the "really" poor - and it seems Compassion does this well. So I'll be sending my end-of-year contribution to Compassion today.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate your honest posting. I didn't read all of the replies,and forgive me is someone already mentioned it, but I know that in most countries, especially the developing countries Compassion works in, you could be beaten or killed for homosexual behaviour. I believe you will find this another reason, and a good one at that, why they use that language. To protect the child and his/her family.

I believe most people do not realize that being gay is just not as tolerated and accepted as it is in North America and Europe.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan,

I appreciate your acceptance for Compassion International. (My family sponsors a child in Indonesia.)

Here are my views on your concerns about CI only letting heterosexual people sponsor their children:

Compassion has made that rule to protect these kids from lifestyles that may be frowned upon in other cultures. Compassion isn't trying to be exclusive about who can sponsor, their decisions are in the best interest of the children they help on a daily basis.

As for your question to sponsor or not to sponsor:

Continue to sponsor Emily, sponsorship means the world for these children. Your sponsorship can easily mean the difference between life and death. Don't forget to write letters to her, too! A project staff member can help her if she is unable to read/write letters herself. Please don't stop sponsoring Emily...she needs your support to grow mentally and spiritually!

Anonymous said...

Jonathon,
it sounds like you are struggling with more than just this issue... I try and do very little expression of my "opinion" on scriptural issues when the Bible presents things so clearly. I have selected a few that may help.
God bless.

GAL 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?

"I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:36

Ephesians 4:3
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

JOH 13: 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above
yourselves.

Do everything without complaining or arguing,
Philippians 2:14

PRO 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to
mutual edification.

Rom 12:16
Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

2 Timothy 2:7 
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Eph 5:10
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

1Cor 6:9
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts."
Romans 6:12

"Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Hebrews 3:13

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Eph 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
2 Peter 3:18

John Senig said...

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." --James 2:17,18 (NIV)

Amy Lynn said...

Thanks for the interesting, thought provoking post. I have had similar thoughts, and sponsor two children through Compassion (and a third through correspondence only). I've been very honest that my live in partner and I are not married (yet) and that my father is gay, and I have never had Compassion censor my letters, and my sponsored children talk fondly of my family, and think of them as my family, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this blog...meditating on it...this was 2008...are you still sponsoring? I have 2 children in Ethiopia and received a letter from one last week ~ the gratitude for helping him with his education, his spirituality and physical needs goes beyond any rhetoric or doubt ~ my other child is 4 years old, she wrote and asked if we had flowers here, they can't grow where she is ~ it broke my heart, so I sent stickers, cards, anything I could get my hands on with flowers on it ~ now she has flowers, maybe not the kind you can put in the earth, but I think God in His Mercy planted them in her heart ~ I should write a new song about it...that is the bottom line. I pray that you see the priceless beauty of that above all else...

Blessings in Jesus ~
B Wolfman

Rob said...

I'm sorry, after reading that whole thing I am even more impressed with Compassion and less than impressed with you.

So you walk around all this time like a self-righteous "Christian" who shares nothing with the beliefs of Jesus, avoiding any sort of help or charity like the plague (because of course those evil "works" or any sort of true love or compassion will somehow destroy your works-free philosophy).

And the only complaint you can level against them is that they want to protect their kids from overt homosexual influence? Something that 99.99% of Christians believe is a sin?

They back up their claims, you can actually see that unlike most other charities they actually make a huge difference with their donations and unlike others (that ) they encourage you to visit and verify those claims, and give these kids love, support, a full childhood, education and morality.

But no, stick to your homosexual agenda for deciding what's important in life and continue claiming to be Christian. Obviously it's not about love for you, because wow your amazing anti-charity spider-sense totally had them figured out.

Anonymous said...

The true source of your anxiety may be two-fold. You may be expecting that your money is granted to the recipient. World Vision and Compassion International apparently believe it is Christian to help provide microfinance loans to their recipients. Jesus teaches against this. Also, World Vision appears to have certain influence with the United Nations and something called World Bank. What does this mean in light of the coming one-world government and the mark? This may be the source of your anxiety.

http://www.opportunity.org/press-releases/compassion-joins-forces-to-combat-poverty-in-uganda/#.TyI5m4Hh12A

Luke 6
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

http://watch.pair.com/wof.html
“World Vision works with World Bank on the programmatic level and works with other NGOs to bring about policy and operational changes in World Bank."

VitaeErgo said...

I came across this link after performing a google search looking for someone who shares the same struggle. I've been sponsoring a child through Compassion since the mid 1990's and just today received a letter asking for a picture of my girlfriend.

Over the years, I've given money, special family gifts, helped rebuild my child's family home (physically), made trips to Asia to visit the family on numerous occasions and have always welcomed the idea of "paying it forward" to assist my child in overcoming a poverty barrier and setting the stage for the siblings and remainder of the family. I consider myself active in my child's life and fully support the Compassion teachers and volunteers in my child's local student center.

My struggle has been that I'm gay and have always known this. It's never been an issue for me and have never regretted nor worried much about this in regards to my sponsorship. After years of growing up with criticism and disdain, at best to downright violence and hatred in society towards me, at worst, my goal has always been to overcome this in my heart, turn the other cheek and walk in the way I know God would want me to. I do not agree with disguised hated in the form of love, but it's not my place to withdraw support for a child and family that needs me and others just like me.

I have struggled over the years with Compassion's "rules". I've never condoned nor understood any desire to share sexual charged materials (graphic or political) and its never crossed my mind to do so. However, often we, as sponsors, are encouraged to share family photographs or describe proud moments in our lives, important people or witness to the power of faith. Often, these have included someone of the same sex who, while not in a sexual manner, has been important to me, visible in my life or has walked alongside in my faith journey. I've chosen not to include these items in my correspondence with my child even though my heterosexual counterparts are encouraged to do so.

More importantly, my child is now about to graduate from the Compassion program. I have witnessed their development from a small child to a full-grown adult and have encouraged and believed in them for many, many years. I've hoped to have been a small example of having hope in such a forlorn part of the world and remaining strong in their faith during times of adversity or even when others' may not like or agree with you. I firmly believe in this advocacy and the "spirit of Compassion's cause", yet I do feel on the outside.

I feel I cannot send a response that I do not have a picture of my girlfriend. However, I cannot send a photo of a boyfriend. I do not wish to lie. I also wish to respect, as some have mentioned, the child's culture, familial and faith belief systems. It is not place to lecture nor promote any agenda.

However, I cannot do good at the expense of my integrity. I can, and do, turn the other cheek. i can combat injustice, hurt and scorn with peace. I can, and do, focus upon the child's welfare and the greater good. I can not, however, do any of this at the expense of my integrity.

I'll continue sponsoring my child. I'll continue placing my child ahead of my personal objections to some of Compassion's policies and I'll see to it that I continue to do whatever is within my power to promote the welfare, education, faith and life journey that Ive been witness to for many years. Perhaps one day my child (or shall I say, my young adult that my sponsored child has grown in to) will understand my dilema from all these years past, but that is perhaps for another day. I do believe that once my child has graduated, my time with Compassion will be over and the torch will be alighted somewhere else.

Mandy said...

I just canceled my sponsorship now that my child has grown out of the program. There are other wonderful child sponsorship organizations that I can work with that do not partner with local congregations who hold what I believe to be false and harmful theologies. I appreciate the work Compassion does so much, but for my gay brothers and sisters who are essentially forbidden from speaking about their families, and even more so for the sponsored children who may be struggling with their own gender and sexuality issues, I am opting out of Compassion sponsorship. How many sponsors will Compassion be willing to lose before moving into the new century?

Anonymous said...

Mandy said...
"How many sponsors will Compassion be willing to lose before moving into the new century?"

I can't speak for Compassion but I suspect they would be willing to lose them all. Yes, society's opinions about what is right have changed over the centuries, but until God publishes a new and revised version of His word, I'm too scared to let go of what He said the first time, ya know? And I am not saying that tongue-in-cheek. I'm serious. I didn't give my life to the Lord until I was 29. By then, I had many gay friends and was passionate about the injustices against the gay community. So, when I became a believer, I dug into the Bible determined to prove Christians wrong on their stance. And I'll be honest, I was downright angry with what I found. God's will did not line up with mine. But through humility, I came to realize that since I did not make God and He made me, then I had no choice but to accept this truth. It was not an easy pill to swallow.

But the Bible also says He knew we could not overcome sin on our own so in His grand love and mercy, He gave us Jesus.

So, why we still hash out this one sin in light of Jesus, is beyond me. Why can't we just stay silent and let each person work it out their struggles directly with the Lord (unless they ask for our help)?

I still have gay friends who've been hurt by well-meaning but hateful Christians. But God's grace is bigger than our inability to know how to handle it. So that's where I am.

I've been sponsoring with Compassion for 3 years and I'm in deep. I am a sponsor (financially or volunteer correspondent) to 17 children so it's obvious I'm "all in". These kids don't have the luxury of pontificating on social issues. They have nothing and they believe they don't matter. I have the means and the desire to help them by partnering with Compassion so that is what I choose to do. Compassion doesn't go in and feed them or throw money at them. They hold their hand and guide them through life while meeting their physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual needs. The Bible says we are to make disciples. Well, people don't want to learn Bible verses when they are hurting. They can't pay attention when they're hungry. They don't even want to try when they are depressed. Compassion understands that a structurally sound community is no good if the people are stuck in a poverty mentality. I applaud ministries that focus on the community but a child that is released from poverty can do wonders in making positive changes in a community. And hundreds of children in a community who have been released from poverty can completely turn that community around. And it's happening now. I am thankful for the artists and bloggers who visit those countries and report on the success so I don't have to travel to see it. This program works and I feel really good about supporting it.

- Stephanie in Alabama

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Anonymous said...

I no longer believe that gay marriage is a sin. I'm a bisexual Christian and I've struggling with the issue much of my life, researched, prayed, researched, prayed... Anyway - we sponsor two Compassion children. The reason I am okay with their statement is because many of the areas where these children are located are dangerous for gay people. If a child sponsored in Uganda had sponsors who were openly gay, something horrible might happen to him. They are burning people alive over there. I can't imagine Compassion would be allowed to stay if the people there found out. I feel like it's for the safety of the child, overall.

Giovanna said...

I found your blog after reading of Rachel Held Evan's deep disappointment in World Vision for caving to evangelical bigots. I immediately went looking for Compassion International's policy on LGBT donors or employees. I have sponsored a series of children into young adulthood through CI for 30 yrs, but like many of those commenting on your blog, I will see my current child through his "graduation" from the program, discontinue my association with CI, and start supporting relief efforts through inclusive organizations.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate and applaud your thoughtful discussion. I felt very compelled to respond. My immediate thought was that Emily really doesn't care what the "rules" are. If you discontinue sponsoring her I deem it a win for no one. I am biased for Compassion. I have been to several Compassion projects and the work they do is truly life changing for these children. In parts of the world where people are simply trying to survive, people aren't concerned about any "rules" that us Christians like to argue about! Again, I appreciate your openness and the thought you give to how to be the best steward you can be with what God has given you.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan - it really boils down to one's beliefs about homosexuality. If a person accepts it, then aren't they implicitly saying, "It is good"? Compassion Intl. is a Bible based ministry. To say that homosexuality is good is not biblical.

Anonymous said...

Really??? Wow!!! I was searching for Compassion International and I found your blog. I researched Compassion International and found them to be a 4star Charity on Charity Navigator. They are also accredited by the Evangelical Christian Financial Association (EFCA) and they meet the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability. That is what should matter! This helps us all to know to the best of our ability that we are giving God's money to fulfill his word and work to help orphans and widows and fulfill the Great Commission to tell them about Jesus! Not whether they believe in a particular doctrine! Repent!!!